Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Vroom, Vroom

I confess, I have an addiction. And it's my father's fault. He's the one who introduced me to my compulsion of choice. But if I'm going to admit to something so shameful, I should follow the appropriate steps. So let's do this right.

Hi. My name is Melia, and I'm a Top Gear fan. I watch it on YouTube. I watch it at my parents' house. I search it out via Google. I need a fix at least every other day. I've seen every episode at least one--some more than five times. Like the race to Blackpool, or the amphibious cars challenge. Those were awesome. Oh, am I getting off topic? I guess so. Anyway, I love it because it makes me laugh--and because it captivates my toddler sufficiently to give me ten minutes of peace at a pop. And it's educational.

How so, you ask? Well, I can now speak somewhat coherently on the characteristics of the Bugatti Veyron. I can discern between a Ferrari and a Lamborghini at five paces. Those are vital skills in some settings, I'm sure. I have no idea what those settings may be, but when I find myself in one, I will be ready.

Furthermore, this knowledge is applicable to my life. No really. Stop laughing. True, I no longer drive. And even if I did, a half-million dollar supercar would hardly be a practical. Fun for a carefree weekend, yes, but not helpful for a mom who spends most of her time hauling things like multiple children and big packages of toilet paper around. You know, those things don't even come with luggage racks on top, so no possibility of stashing superfluous humans or tissue purchases there. But, because of my addiction I have recently made a discovery: my stroller is a Porsche.

Think about it: a Porsche has two seats, so does my stroller. A Porsche is open-roofed (well, some of them are), so is my stroller. A Porsche draws attention from crowds, so does my stroller. Here's the kicker: a Porsche's engine is at the back. My stroller's engine--that would be me--is also at the back. True, my stroller has more carrying capacity than a Porsche, but in all the really essential things like number of wheels, ability to steer, and transportational capability, they are the same.

So, the next time you see me walking down the street with my hair blowing in the wind as I stylishly stroll along with my convertible two-seater, I give you permission to be just a wee bit jealous. After all, I am driving a Porsche.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


A lot can happen in five months and four days. A LOT.
For instance, one could give up homeschooling after four years and six weeks.
One could learn that all one really wants to do in the morning is take a really long walk to exhaust the dog or to take care of one's errands.
One could start eliminating all excess (or at least most of it) in one's life.
One could do all of these. That's what I did.

Let me explain--because, really, after a multi-month blog silence, some information is in order.

I loved homeschooling. Really. I loved the freedom; I loved the time with my children; I liked the possibility of them finishing the chores on their lists. But I have a son who is not only intelligent and curious, but also very good at pushing buttons--especially the ones marker "drive Mom crazy" and "drive Mom ballistic". I'm not going to name any specific infractions or repeated errors in judgement. I'll simply say that hazard pay was a consistent negotiating point when my husband and I discussed the budget. So, I would wake up every morning, full of zeal and determination to keep my cool, and within the space of not more than twenty minutes (thirty on a particularly determined day--or right after General Conference when I had been once more admonished to "love the sinner") I would be a wild-haired, bug-eyed, spittle-flecked raving lunatic. I'm pretty sure that's not the way education is supposed to work.

One day (I believe it was a Tuesday, sort of warm, but partially overcast) I had had it, as in HAD IT! (Moms will get this. Dads will shrug and chalk it up to hormones. That's why most of those who are reading this are moms.) The die was cast: "I am putting you boys into school, so help me all that is holy!!!!" They started on the next Monday. (There was a delay while we convinced the school that we were responsible parents with wonderful children who desperately needed their school. It required some red-tape cutting, some ego-massaging, some smooth talking, but it worked.)

It was an interesting transition. At first, I had no idea what to do with myself. For a major chunk of time I had defined myself and my life by the educational process taking place in our dining room: I am a homeschooling mom. Now I was adjective-less: I am a _________ mom. With nothing to fill in the blank. I moped around for the first week, stewing in my own perceived failure. (It was September in the Desert Southwest--stewing is inevitable even on good days.) Then I started walking.

At first I walked the dog. She had been chewing up household items: rugs, toys, furniture, and I thought the exercise would use up some of her energy. It worked, and I liked it. So I started finding new reasons to walk: books needed to be returned to the library, or there was a sale on toothpaste at the store. Almost anything became a good reason to drop the laundry basket, pack up the toddler, and head onto the pavement.

My walks started getting longer--two or three miles at first, then four; now we're up to around five to seven. Anything else doesn't seem worth the time. Mileage, people; it's all about the mileage. It's amazing how much I can get done on foot. (I'm not looking forward to summer, since I know that will put an end to my mobility, but it's been nice while it's lasted.)

It's also been good for the budget, since there's only so much one can fit into a two-seater stroller. (Twenty loaves of 50 cent bread is about the limit, although I did fantastically the other day with bread and Valentine's Day supplies, but I was in some sort of stroller-packing zone.) So I've stopped buying anything that wasn't strictly necessary. Apparently I had been buying frivolously, because I was able to cut my spending by one-third. That adds up. In the last five and a half months, I've been able to save up enough to take the family to Disneyland, to send the kids skiing for a day, and to sign them up for a week-long summer arts camp--all of which I would have said was impossible last year. Granted, there are days when the total age of my clothing equals that of my children, and I'll never be as glamorous as I want to convince others I am. It's a trade-off.

So really, what I've done is stripped life down. (Notice I did not write I've stripped down. That would imply less clothing, and there is no way in Tahiti that will ever happen!) I've eliminated some of the things and practices I considered necessary for years. And I like it. (Of course, there may be a day when my son comes to his senses and we can homeschool again. Then we'll have to change again. Change is good.)