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IconJust Say No....and Challenge Yourself By Carrie Myers Smith Saying no is tough! But it's a necessity if you're to become a woman inwellness. Recently, a friend and I were talking. Her son was playingbasketball (among other activities, including karate and snowboarding),our boys were not. She wanted to know how we did it. "How do you do it? How do you say no?" "Simple," I replied. "I open my mouth." Okay, so it's not really thatsimple. In a nutshell, you first need to desire a certain outcome. Inthis case, we didn't want to confine our entire winter-weekends and week to basketball. Secondly, you need to make a choice-either go withwhat you desire, or choose what you know in the end will not make youhappy. We chose to not do basketball. Our boys do soccer and baseball,and we thought that was plenty. Since we live in the Northeast, they didoutdoor activities instead-and didn't suffer because of missing out onbasketball. Finally, you need to act on your decision. That's whereactually saying no comes in. If you live in a small town, you understand the pressure for your kidsto be involved in everything. And because everyone knows everyone, smalltown people really have a knack for slathering on the guilt when youdecline. But you need to decide what is best for you and your family,not what's in the town's best interest. In our case, it definitely paidoff. The parents whose kids played basketball complained all season longbecause of the crazy schedule. Weeknights and every weekend wereengulfed in basketball. Some games were more than two hours away. Andsome days, they had a game somewhere in the morning and another gamesomewhere else in the afternoon. Did I mention these werenine-year-olds? Learning to say no is one of the first steps in becoming a woman inwellness and building the healthy life you and your family deserve. Now,go to a mirror and practice saying it: no, no, no. You can do it! Challenge Yourself Have you come to a point in your life where you feel good rather thanguilt for saying no? Obviously, there are times we have to say no tosomething we really wish we could say yes to. But so much of our livesis filled with fulfilling other people's expectations of us. How manyhours a week are you spending on fulfilling other people's expectations?How many hours a week are you at your home? How much time does yourfamily spend as down time-together? I want you to do a littleexperiment. Keep a log for a week of your schedule. I don't just mean acalendar. I mean, really keep track of what everyone is doing. Tally upthe time each day that everyone is together. If you're single, keeptrack of how much time you're at home or doing something you reallyenjoy-work doesn't count! At the end of the week, figure out how muchtime you actually spent with someone else in your family. How much timeis everyone in the house at the same time? Sleeping doesn't count! Nowsit down with your family and show them the results. Discuss whatactivities each person could consider cutting down on. I'm notadvocating quitting half-way through a sports season or otherresponsibility. But begin today to practice saying no. Stop and think ofthe implications it will have on yourself and your family if you take on"just one more thing." One other thing I encourage you to do is considereach of your children's true gifts and talents. Are they being nurtured?In our Super Woman ways, we try desperately to create Super Offspring,often at the expense of nurturing their true gifts. There is so muchcompetition in today's world to have well-rounded kids. They know alittle bit about a lot of things, but each child has a special talent. Ichallenge you to sit down with each child and discuss this with him orher. Kids get stressed out, too, and they may be relieved to have yourblessing to cut down on some of their activities. Carrie Myers Smith is a Wellness Coach, contributing editor for Energymagazine and founder and president of www.womeninwellness.com . Click here for a free 30 day trial toCarrie's Women in Wellness Life Coaching Program. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconThe "Marriage Advantage" Married Men Earn More Joanne Watson Studies show married men earn an average of 10-40% more money than thosewho have never married, yet have similar education and work experience. And in the current economy, being part of a team, is one way to giveyourself a real advantage. If you are a stay-at-home mom (or want to beone) you can contribute to the family income by helping your husbandmake more money, while being home with your kids. Here are some tips for couples who want to work together to boost theirincome. Build your husband's confidence. Confidence will open a lot of doors.Get him to tell you about the five accomplishments he is most proud of,and write them down. Then add his best qualities to the list. Is heeasy-going? Dependable? Persistent and methodical? Creative? Once herealizes how valuable he is to an employer, it will be much easier to goafter a raise or a higher-paying job and get it. Husband and Wife networking. Think about who you know that could giveyour husband an introduction to a great, higher-paying opportunity. Itcould be someone you meet on the job, at the PTA, a volunteer activityor any number of places. If you are the social type, you may also wantto have parties or host charity functions to give your husband a chanceto connect with his business contacts on a social level. Help "Market" your husband. He may be great at his profession, butthat doesn't mean he is great at marketing himself. Help him get aterrific resume done, send a mailing to employers, and help make him theemployee they just have to have. Practice with him. Asking for a raise or interviewing for a job can beawkward. If you practice over and over, your husband will be preparedfor the possible questions and responses and will be ready with his"come-backs". By practicing with him, he will be cool, calm andcollected and you will increase his chances of success. Share his dreams. Having someone who believes in your dreams andgoals, and talking about them can help them materialize. Every greatcompany was once just an idea, and most top executives started outsomewhere less prestigious, but they had a goal and they accomplishedit. Listen to his dreams and offer support and encouragement, and youmay help him accomplish his goals as well. There are many ways you can help boost your husband's earnings. Byforming a team, couples can make the "marriage advantage" work for them,and help make at-home parenting affordable. Joanne Watson is the author of How to Help Your Husband Make More Money,So You Can Be a Stay-at-Home Mom (Warner Books Jan. 2003). Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconFour Ways To Take Back Your Family's Time Together by Leslie Godwin, MFCC, Career Life-Transition Coach Year-round school makes scheduling family vacations next to impossible. Sports practices often take precedence over family dinners. Pagers, cell phones, and laptop computers keep us tethered to work no matter where we are. Many families are bossed around by schedules on steroids and are starting to fight to get their lives back. You may not be ready to declare war on school officials, team coaches or your boss, but you can improve the quantity AND quality of time together by putting these ideas to work: HOLD FAMILY MEETINGS: A weekly family meeting provides the time and place to discuss family priorities and goals, as well as major and minor disputes (everything from "Kelly went in my room again and borrowed my clothes!!" to "I want to sleep over at Stephanie's house this weekend. I can get my chores done Thursday.") BASE OUTSIDE ACTIVITIES ON FAMILY PRIORITIES: Your family meetings will give you a chance to create family guidelines or rules. Base family and outside activity levels on those agreed-upon priorities and values. This has the wonderful side-effect of teaching your kids how to plan the details of life based on the Big Picture. ENSURE UNSTRUCTURED FAMILY TIME: Kids and adults need unstructured time to read, play, and just hang out together. Too much structured time doesn't allow spontaneity and doesn't teach your children that grown-ups can play and have fun without needing fancy vacations, trips to amusement parks, or other pre-packaged ways to enjoy themselves. (Don't you wish your parents taught you this lesson when it would have been easy to learn?) Enjoying time together is easier when you have a playful attitude. What if you acted playfully and relaxed in these everyday situations: bathtime, when preparing dinner or when helping your child get dressed. (Within reason, of course. I understand that as soon as parents step inside a supermarket, children become inhabited by aliens.) TEACH YOURSELF, SO YOU CAN TEACH YOUR KIDS, HOW TO VALUE BEING IN THE MOMENT: Many young children know this but forget it when social and family pressures to "do" and "accomplish" start to crowd out the more subtle appreciation of being in the moment. This is best taught non-verbally by your example. So here are some ways to teach YOURSELF how to be more present in the moment: Meditate a few minutes every day to quiet your mind and feel centered. Be aware of when you are getting caught up in an emotion like fear or excitement about something that MIGHT happen and calmly ground yourself in the present moment as much as possible. Don't schedule activities too closely together. When you're rushing, you aren't in the moment. Instead, make an effort to do your chores, work, and other activities on your body's natural schedule so you can relax and enjoy (most of) them. You'll probably save time because you won't make as many mistakes as you would if you were in a hurry. Life isn't going to slow down so we can catch up. So the next time you find yourself saying, "Let's go, we're running late!" take a deep breath, remind yourself that you're getting off track, and refuse to be bossed around by your schedule. Leslie Godwin, MFCC, is a Career Life-Transition Coach specializing in helping people put their families, faith, and principles first when making career and life choices. She publishes a free email newsletter on career and life transition. To subscribe, email godwinpss@aol.com and mention that you'd like to be on the email newsletter list. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconOne Income Beats Two Two income families aren#146;t getting what they want#151;and it#146;s costing them more. In a poll by Survey USA, 73% of moms surveyed said being a two income family doesn#146;t allow enough time with the kids, and 87% said they would prefer to be home if they could afford to. Yet, if one income isn#146;t enough to pay the bills, many women will go to work when they would rather be home. However, a better solution is to help your husband make more money. Take this example: Sam makes $40,000. Sam and Donna#146;s family expenses are $50,000. In order to cover the $10,000 shortfall, Donna would have to earn $25,000 out of which she would pay child-care for two children, office wardrobe, possibly a second car and insurance, office lunches and more meals out or convenience foods due to busy schedules. Even if Donna#146;s income were higher, the same expenses would have to be deducted. And, the higher combined incomes might put Sam and Donna in a new, higher tax bracket, which would mean Sam would take home less than what he was taking home before Donna went to work. Instead, Donna and Sam could just work together to boost Sam#146;s income by $10,000 for the same net result, but with Donna able to stay home. Something that isn#146;t that hard to do when armed with the right information. In fact, couples working together have an advantage. Helping your husband may not sound #147;politically correct#148;, but working as a team to increase one income may be the ticket to having a lower-stress, family friendly lifestyle, and still being able to pay the bills. The joys and rewards of being home with your kids makes one income beat two, hands down. How to Help Your Husband Make More Money, So You Can Be a Stay-at-Home Mom by Joanne Watson (Warner Books Jan. 2003) is available in Dr. Laura's Reading Corner bookstores nationwide. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconMoments for Mom a Wife February, 2003 I'm going to take you on a little tangent this month, ladies. We'regoing to talk about the men in our lives seeing as it is the month oflove (according to Hallmark, at least). I don't know about you - but laughter is hugely important to me. I loveto laugh and my husband, Kevin, in his unique way, makes me laugh harderthan anyone else can. (Definitely one of the reasons I married him.) The other day, I told my husband, Kevin, that I wanted him to come upwith a nickname for me. Something other than honey or Beth. Somethingthat meant something to both of us. And something that was actuallynice. I explained to him that two of our couple friends' husbands havenicknames for their wives and I thought it was really sweet. He sighed,rolled his eyes, and said, 'You're kidding me, right?' But he startedthrowing some out nevertheless. 'Toots?' Um, no. I'm looking for a tad more personal, please. 'Slim?' Why? 'Because you're slim.' That's sweet, but no. 'Winnie?' Winnie?! 'You say, 'I win' a lot.' No I don't, so no. 'Blackie?' What? 'You look good in black?', he said with a bit of aquestion, his weariness showing, his creativity waning. Again, thankyou, but no. 'Peri?' Why Peri? 'Your favorite color is periwinkle.' No, no it'snot. I actually dislike periwinkle. (By this time, I'm beginning towane.) Til he tossed out his final offering, and quite confidently I must add,'7.' 7? Are you kidding me? Why? 'It's your favorite number.' Noit's not, I said with a sigh of resignation. 'Well, what's yourfavorite number then?' 63. '63?! Whose favorite number is 63?! Andwho calls anyone 63?!' No one calls anyone by their favorite number! Sigh. So 7 it is. Just a peek into our goofy life. And there's only one reason I gave youthis glimpse, because I want to encourage you to laugh, to find theidiosyncrasies in your relationship that make it so unique, to remindyou that your lives are so intertwined that the bond is unbreakable, toremind you that you have a history and a present and a futuretogether, and to remind you that all of this is a gift from God. HappyValentine's Day, ladies! copy; Elisabeth K. Corcoran, 2003. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com Elisabeth K. Corcoran is the author of Calm in My Chaos: Encouragementfor a Mom's Weary Soul (2001), which can be purchased directly throughher publisher, Kregel Publications at #1-888-644-0500 or www.kregel.com ,or at chrbook.com or familychristian.com, or through yourlocal Christian bookstore. This column is original and not excerptedfrom her book. More >>

IconMyths and Misunderstandings of the Grieving Process by Brook Noel Pamela D. Blair, Ph.D. It is the rare school or family environment that teaches what to expect either emotionally or pragmatically, when life collapses in tragedy, especially the advent of sudden and unexpected death. A sudden loss can put one into a whirlwind of emotions and visceral responses, twisting and turning us until we are set down in a place that feels as foreign as another planet. Like a hurricane, there is nothing like it, and nothing can prepare us. We can only follow suggested guidelines, i.e. evacuate, board up, etc. However, unlike a hurricane where there is often advance warning, with sudden death there is no such warning#151;no way to prepare. We are ill-prepared to handle sudden death because we don#146;t expect life to be so tenuous, so fragile. However, once our lives are touched by the experience of tragic loss, we never look at life in quite the same way. We become acutely aware of the delicate nature of the human organism, and life becomes precious in a way it never was before. You can consciously shift from feeling grief is #147;something that happens to you#148; to #147;grieving is something you do to heal.#148; Remember, when life feels out of control, and it#146;s bound to during this time, that you do have control over how you will grieve and this can be very empowering. In this article we will cover many of the common myths that people hold today. You may have encountered some of these already or been feeling pressured by them yourself. By examining the myth we can create a more well-rounded picture. Myth #1 - Death is death, sudden or long term and we all grieve the same way. Of course there will be some commonalties in the grieving process. Truth is, depending on our life experiences, age, sex, resiliency, number of previous losses, health, cultural expectations and relationship to the deceased, we will each #147;do grief#148; in our own unique way. No two of us are exactly alike in our histories and in our relationship to the deceased. Myth #2 - By keeping busy I can lessen or eliminate my grief. In an attempt to avoid the pain, grievers may choose to keep busy. We may find ourselves cleaning the house, dusting bookshelves, cleaning closets and engaging in other non-important tasks. However, you will find this #147;busyness#148; is simply a sidetrack that will only work for a short time. There is clearly no way around grief. Myth #3 - I am going crazy and I#146;m afraid I will stay that way. Sudden death creates trauma for the survivors on many levels. Trauma victims may not behave as people would expect. Many people report feeling numb and indifferent. Those around you, may expect you to be more openly distraught and you may hear comments like, #147;My, you sure are taking this well,#148; or #147;I expected to find you in a more disturbed state.#148; You may find yourself walking around in a fog with an inability to make decisions. You may behave in a matter-of-fact way and you may appear to be functioning at a rather high level. Blank stares are common as the mind tries to grapple with the unimaginable. You may not weep, cry or wail for some time. All of these behaviors may puzzle onlookers and family members, and all of these behaviors are normal and temporary. Myth #4 - I will need to make sure I don#146;t grieve for too long#151;one year should be enough. Sometimes societal and religious beliefs impose rules like time limits for grief, what we should wear, how we should behave, when and where we should talk about the death and to whom. With sudden death, as with any death, we must find our own way through to embrace life again. Most recoveries from sudden death take at least two years, and in some ways we never #147;get over#148; the loss completely. Our expression of grief needs to come out of our need to make meaning or sense from what feels like meaningless tragedy, and no time limit can be set on that. Myth #5 - If I express my anger at God or the circumstances of the death, I am a bad person and will #147;pay#148; for it. Anger is an extremely uncomfortable emotion for some of us, but it is one of the most important ones to express. If you become angry with God, don#146;t judge yourself too harshly. As Earl Grollman writes, #147;It#146;s okay to scream at God. He can take it.#148; The Psalms are full of raging at God about injustices. We believe God can handle anything we throw his way. However, if you find your anger is becoming out of control (i.e. breaking valuables, threatening or preparing to kill someone, wanting to burn the church or hospital down or you have suicidal thoughts) immediately seek appropriate professional help and guidance. Myth #6 - I won#146;t have to grieve as much and I will feel better if I use alcohol or medication to alleviate my sadness. Some survivors will use, or increase their use, of alcohol or antidepressants. By doing this however, they distance themselves from what they need to feel to heal, and they distance themselves from their family members and support systems. The grief simply goes underground and waits to be expressed. They may mistakenly believe that #147;If I drink (drug) to get over it, then the grief will be gone when I#146;m sober.#148; Nothing could be further from the truth. Some will need the temporary relief that medication can provide in order to function and a competent therapist should help make this decision. Myth #7 - If I talk about my loss I#146;ll feel worse. You cannot move through your grief unless you experience it. Hiding it or denying it will only prolong it. Meeting and talking with other people who have been through this process will help you. Ellen Sue Stern writes in Living with Loss: Meditations for Grieving Widows, #147;It#146;s essential to allow yourself to talk as much as you want; healing is hastened by reminiscing about your husband [or loved one] processing the last days of his life, the funeral and any other details surrounding his death. For now choose only to spend time with people who are supportive and understanding, who can lovingly listen as long as you need to talk.#148; Myth #8 - After a while I won#146;t think about it anymore. You may be ambushed by grief when you least expect it. To believe you can forever put the loss and the circumstances surrounding the death #147;out of your mind#148; is a completely unrealistic expectation. You will, from time to time, throughout your life, re-experience feelings associated with the loss. Myth #9 - I should be relieved that they didn#146;t suffer a long and lingering illness. You may hear some say #147;well at least he died quickly#151;be happy for that.#148; Perhaps you are thinking this way if the person you lost suddenly was much older or had been suffering. But for most of us, the sudden death was an untimely one#151;one that occurred way too soon for the person and those left behind. There may be little, if any, relief in the knowledge that they died quickly. Myth #10 - Once I am done with one stage of grief, I will simply move on to the next. With the popularity of the well-known #147;Five Stages of Grief#148; (Kuuml;bler-Ross,) some people mistakenly believe that grief is a linear process. Like we said before, recovery is not like an elevator that takes you from the basement of despair to the penthouse of joy. It is more like a maze where you go forward a bit, move back a few steps, cover the same ground again and find yourself at the beginning. Like a fun house hall of mirrors, you see yourself over and over again, distorted and misshapen until you come out the other side. Myths can prohibit the process of recovery. Use the above Myth-Busters to work past the myth to reality. Excerpted from I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye: surviving, coping and healing after the sudden death of a loved one by Brook Noel and Pamela D. Blair. Available through your favorite bookseller or at www.championpress.com Brook Noel is also the founder of GriefStepsTM www.griefsteps.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

IconGoals for the New Year By Patricia Chadwick www.parentsandteens.com As the New Year dawns, now is the time to think of your goals for the coming year. I'd once heard a saying, "If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time!" I found this to be quite true and have strove over the years to write down my goals and review them often. I find this helps me to accomplish the things that are important to me. I suggest that you get away by yourself for a day in order to really think about the goals you want to set for you and your family. You will benefit by having several hours alone without any distractions. That way you can really think deeply about the things you want to accomplish. If you can't take a day, split your goal setting session into 2 or 3 hour sessions until you are done. If your teens are in school and your husband works outside the home (2 things that I don't have!), you can spend your time when they are gone setting your goals. Turn off the phone and television - and don't go on the Internet! Since I don't have this opportunity, I've done it several ways. One year, I went up to our summer cottage, lit the wood stove, and spent the day goal setting. Another year, I took a drive to a small, quiet restaurant in a neighboring county and spent the day sipping hot cocoa and setting my goals. Another year, my husband took my family away for the day and I stayed at home, spending the day writing out my goals. Anyway you can, make it happen! Setting your goals down on paper will help you attain them throughout the year. As we think of these objectives, we might wonder what types of goals we should be setting. This is something personal. To set my goals I use a loose-leaf notebook with a yearly calendar in it. I break the notebook into 12 categories. You may find that more or less works for you. Think about what is important to you and set out to attain it! Below are some ideas to get you started. Spiritual Goals This section will help you focus on what you would like to accomplish spiritually during the year. You might want to include things like: Studying the Bible more in depth Reading through the Bible in a year Practice the spiritual disciplines (prayer, fasting, journaling, etc.) Learn to be quiet and listen to God's voice and then do what he says! Read a certain Christian Book Develop a certain character trait Work on loving your neighbor as yourself Family Goals In this section you will focus on what you wish to accomplish as a family. It may include character traits you wish to instill in your children. You may want to include items such as: Work on treating each other with respect Discuss sexuality with my young teen Help your teen prepare to get his license Work on developing a closer relationship Help teens become more independent and self-sufficient Train teens in various practical living skills Continue to develop Bible study skills Have family devotions Strive to eat supper together at least 5 times a week You may also want to break it down into separate goals for each member of your family. Marriage Goals This section will help you focus on improving your marriage relationship.You may want to include things such as: Work on understanding my spouse better Read 2 marriage enrichment books this year and practice what I learn. Remember to show respect and love Find a counselor who can help with marital difficulties (if needed) Plan a "date night" at least once a month Pray meaningful prayers for my spouse Personal Goals This section will help you focus on yourself. What goals do you want to attain personally in the coming year? Do you have hopes and dreams for your own future? This is the place to write them down! You may want to include items such as: Take a college class community college Learn how to use the internet more efficiently Learn how to design web sites Read at least 3 books "just for fun" Make one new friend Work on living healthy - eating better, exercise, etc. Financial Goals This section will help you focus on making ends meet and saving for the future. You may want to include items such as: Stay out of debt Tithe regularly Work on living more simply Begin saving $40 per month in savings Eat out only once a week to save money Work out an investment plan Business GoalsThis is a section every WAHM will want to work on. You many include items such as: Develop a business plan for a new home business Research new marketing techniques Read at least one book on improving your home business Find a new customer base Education Goals Some families homeschool, others have their teens attend public or private day schools. Some have children in college. This section will help you develop educational goals for your family. You may include items such as: Decide whether homeschooling is right for your family Decide on which school your teens should be attending Help teens plan their schedule for next year Help teens develop ideas of what careers they'd enjoy as adults Look into colleges and scholarships with older teens Develop a savings plan for college House Goals This section will help you to put (and keep!) your house in order.You may include items such as: Shampoo Rugs Spring Clean Paint the Kitchen Clean out closets toss old clothes Read a book on organization Have house powerwashed windows washed Keep lawn mowed After you set your goals, put your notebook in a place where it is readily available to you. You don't want to just write the goals down and forget about them! Throughout the year, make a special effort to get out the goal notebook and review it and see how your doing. If you need to work harder on certain objectives, then make a note of it and work harder! If you've accomplished a goal, check it off. If you do this consistently, by the end of the year, you will be amazed at how much you've accomplished and will have the satisfaction of knowing that you did indeed hit what you aimed for! Patti Chadwick is a freelance writer and creator of two websites, www.parentsandteens.com and www.historyswomen.com . Visit her sites and sign up for her FREE weekly newsletters. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

IconMarathon Mom Homebodies By Cheryl Gochnauer Cheryl@homebodies.org copy2000 (The following is an excerpt from Cheryl#146;s latest book, #147;Stay-at-Home Handbook: Advice on Parenting, Finances, Career, Surviving Each Day Much More#148;, InterVarsity Press 2002.) As I write this handbook, my daughters, at ages 8 and 12, are neither toddlers nor teens. I like to tell people that I#146;m in the relatively easy years, and it#146;s true. But don#146;t think I#146;ve forgotten what it was like when they were younger! For those who are still tackling 2-foot-tall tornadoes, I say, #147;Hold on, Marathon Mom. It gets better, I promise!#148; When my husband, Terry, proposed, he didn#146;t use the classic #147;Will you marry me?#148; line. Instead, he asked me to be the mother of his children. Misty-eyed, I agreed. I didn#146;t realize I had just signed up for the race of my life. Now don#146;t misunderstand me. I would do anything for our 2 jaunty little redheads. But I#146;m learning motherhood has a lot more to do with running shoes than baby booties. The glorious days of hitting the snooze button are over. Each morning, the alarm beside my bed fires off like a pistol shot. My naiuml;ve images of Madonna and Child left in the dust, I#146;m off on a fast track unlike any I experienced in the working world. Relatives and friends cheer from the sidelines, shouting their favorite child rearing pointers and admonitions. There are no set rules for this tough course, however. I#146;m going to have to figure it out as I go, as the road ahead veers with twists and turns to challenge the most determined marathon mom. Flipping on overhead lights and whipping back bedspreads, I tickle little bottoms as my kids grope blindly for their covers. #147;Time for school! Let#146;s go!#148; This morning#146;s hurdles include dressing my preschooler, Carrie, who is yelling, #147;I can do it myself!#148; -- but can#146;t -- and beating my third-grader#146;s rumbling bus to the curb. With a hurried hug and a half-zipped coat, Karen is on her way. Her sister perches expectantly at the window, then waves a pudgy hand and oatmealy spoon, splattering the TV, our cat and herself as she belts out, #147;Bye-Bye!#148; Bounding up the stairs with Carrie in tow, I dash back to their bedroom. On the floor are five or six discarded outfits that didn#146;t make the first string. Peeling off the soiled garment, I find myself back at the starting line. Howling #147;I CAN DO#133;umph!#148; Carrie#146;s demand is muffled as I do it myself, pulling a stubborn turtleneck over her carrot top. As the whipping whirlwind continues to swirl, my husband is caught up in the fun, too. Smoothing bedspreads and plopping breakfast dishes in the sink, Terry jogs along beside me for a while, then veers off to his own job. Running in place, I watch him leave, wondering at the ease with which he separates the track at home from the track at work. How do guys do that? Even when I worked full-time, my mommy track plotted a course right through the middle of my office. There is no time to think of that now, though. Gathering speed, I face into the headwind. Snatching various hats on and off throughout the day, I sprint through my various roles: accountant, chauffeur, cook, interior decorator, laundress, maid, physician, secretary and preschool teacher. That is just for today. Tomorrow, the course will change, and so will the hats. By the time Karen bursts in the front door with a backpack of homework and serious case of the munchies, I#146;m beginning to get winded. But there is still dinner to be prepared. Uh, oh. Mother Hubbard#146;s cupboard is bare. Ready or not, it is time for that most thrilling of all challenges: grocery shopping with the kids. An hour later, we are back home, with fast food. After streaking down aisles, rescuing teetering boxes and bottles in the wake of my two mini-tornadoes, I decide to let off the pace a bit. The local hamburger joint can do the dishes. #147;Daddy! Daddy!#148; Karen and Carrie race to open the door as Terry#146;s key turns in the lock. Together, we sit at the kitchen table, munching fries as I don my counselor#146;s hat. Workplace traumas, schoolyard adventures, and household mishaps shared, the course finally begins to wind down. After homework and splashed-to-the-ceiling baths, it is time for songs and books. With a kiss and snuggle-hug, I tuck in each of the girls and flip off the light. As I cross the finish line, the imaginary crowd fades into a peaceful contentment. I haven#146;t set a new world record or anything like that, but I have run a good race. Maybe I didn#146;t realize the implications of saying #147;Yes#148; to Terry when he asked me to be the mother of his children. But I wouldn#146;t trade my marathon for anything. Tomorrow, I get to hack out a fresh course. I#146;m looking forward to seeing what is around that next curve. Cheryl loves to hear from readers. Write her at Cheryl@homebodies.org or visit www.homebodies.org , where you can interact with lots of other at-home parents in the active message forums. Also check out your Homebodies Columnists #150; there are now more than 20 talented writers who will encourage and equip you in your family-focused lifestyle choice! Books make great Christmas gifts. Your Homebuddies have several titles they'd like to recommend, including Cheryl's own "So You Want to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom" and the #147;Stay-at-Home Handbook#148; excerpted above. Check out this link at Homebodies. To read a sample chapter of "So You Want to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom," click here . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

IconA Lousey Plan Is Hatched Judy Gruen www.judygruen.com My husband and I had just landed in New York for a weekend getaway, ourfirst in three years. After working day and night for a week to get readyfor the trip, I felt heady with excitement. I had even managed to getthrough airport security without having to take off my shoes or surrender mytweezers. Life was good. We were still in the car heading to the hotel when my cell phone startingthrumming in my purse. I sensed this was a bad development. The only peoplewho call me on the cell phone are my kids, and they only call to alert me toa crisis, such as the discovery that we are out of ketchup and it#146;s hot dognight. I answered fearfully, the way one does when one suspects it#146;s the principalcalling again, saying it#146;s time to reconvene to discuss young Cheyenne andher #147;need for excessive socialization during class.#148; #147;Hello Mommy?#148; It was my charming young daughter. #147;Bad news, Mommy. Me andthe boys have lice.#148; Now I like to think I#146;m a pretty good mom, and as such, I had contingencyplans for many emergencies likely to strike during my absence, such as earinfections, civil unrest and earthquakes. But tiny disgusting insectscongealing to my children#146;s heads was one I hadn#146;t figured on. #147;You have lice???#148; I fairly screamed across the nation. #147;Are they sure?#148; #147;Yeah. You need to pick us up. They don#146;t want us in school.#148; #147;I can#146;t pick you up, because you are in Los Angeles and I#146;m on the LongIsland Expressway!#148; After stating this simple fact, I broke down in tears.Why had the good Lord done this to me? I tip fairly. I hold doors open forpeople. I don#146;t even eat the last donut in the box, and don#146;t think that#146;san easy thing. Where was the justice in this? For the next several hours, I cursed the fact that I hadn#146;t coughed up theextra few bucks for the national calling plan on my cell phone, because Ihad to make about seventy-five calls, all of which entailed cripplingroaming charges. But I had no choice. Hours of time spent making elaboratechildcare and sleepover arrangements were down the drain. Who would take myplague-infested children now? I started calling in favors (real andimagined) from friends and relatives. No amount of pleading, begging orgroveling would be beneath me. It would take a village to de-louse mychildren. And the villagers would have to -- I was on vacation! I mean, talk about a bad hair day. But that wasn#146;t all. Because, as everyone knows, once lice are in the house,you also have to launder every scrap of material under the roof, everystitch of clothing, bedding, and teddy bear, (no matter how fragile). Or, ifyou are unwilling to do 450 loads of laundry, you can simply take all thecontents of your household, including the children, and have themhermetically sealed for two weeks, after which time experts claim it is safeto unseal them. Later that evening, I basked in the comfort of knowing that I had real, true friends, the kind who buckled under the pressure of my threats and cries of desperation. I had friends who actually came over to lather up my kids with expensive anti-lousing agentsand launder my every possession. I also discovered who wasn#146;t my friend #150;namely, the Commandant of Lice at the school. She was the one who at firsttold me not to worry, she would take care of my kids till the end of the dayuntil their carpool picked them up. She made it sound as if she was justdoing it because she was filled with the milk of human kindness. She thenpresented me with a bill for two-hundred and fifty smackers upon my returnfor services rendered. I still didn#146;t get off so easy. Even now, two weeks later, yucky things arestill hatching on my kids#146; heads, we are still laundering like crazy andoiling each other#146;s heads as if we are getting ready to be anointed Pope.Feeling paranoid, I even had the kids begin to check my own scalp, whichthey were happy to do and which elicited many gasps of #147;Oh my God! I didn#146;tknow you were so gray!#148; and #147;I think I see something! Oh, never mind, Ithink that#146;s just rust.#148; We are now resorting to more drastic measures, and one of my sons now sportsa military crew cut. If these diabolical creatures don#146;t stop erupting inour hair, the rest of us will do the same thing, and I will end up lookinglike Sigourney Weaver in the movie #147;Aliens.#148; (Well, since she#146;s eight inchestaller than me and we have other, trivial physical differences, maybe I won#146;t look exactly like her, but once you#146;re walking around with a shaved head,who notices the rest of you, anyway?) All this goes to prove one thing, in my opinion. During these times whenmany of us still fear the threat of domestic terrorism during air travel, wedon#146;t even know the half of it. The real danger may be nesting in our kids#146;hair. Judy Gruen is the author of "Carpool Tunnel Syndrome: Motherhood as ShuttleDiplomacy." Sign up to receive Judy's free, twice-monthly email humor columnat www.judygruen.com , and enter your email address on the Newsletter page.(c) Judy Gruen, 2002. For permission to reprint, either electronically or in print, please contact the author at judy@judygruen.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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