Five things a family can do that doesn’t involve the TV

For many families Thanksgiving isn't just a one day of celebration, it's a whole weekend of time together. I'm thankful my kids like a variety of activities so when we get saturated with too much TV (or computer) we break out the cards or go outside.

1) Board games. Our favorites are Monopoly and Apples to Apples.
2) Take a walk. The best part of a brisk walk is when you go inside for some hot chocolate!
3) Play anything with a ball.  Remember Four Square? All it takes is a bouncy ball and a driveway. Basketball, touch football, soccer, it's all good.
4) A Craft or Cooking project. There is absolutely nothing like chocolate chip cookies from scratch.
5) Card games. Gin Rummy is just challenging enough to engage the older kids. If the kids are little, War or Go Fish is fun.

Yesterday we walked to a park close to my in-laws'. Armed with a soccer
and basketball we played for an hour. We did a lot of shouting and running and generally were very silly.
The family that plays together….

National Day of Listening

You could say therapists are professional listeners but even we need to be reminded to shut up and listen. Some clever person had this idea to create National Day of Listening. Today is the first one ever.

Grandma's hands

photo courtesy of McBeth

Studs Terkel practically invented oral histories. He listened to common folk, survivors of the Great Depression, tell their stories. He revealed the truth, that everyday people are the true heroes of history, as much as generals or presidents.

Whether we record our conversations or not, I like the idea of listening to the adventures our elders experienced with no purpose other than to appreciate and respect them. And it sure beats wrestling with the crowds at the mall.

My Vintage Romance

photo by Jen Chan

Next year John and I will be married for twenty-five years! That’s 175 in dog years and sometimes I feel every bloody year. No joke.

It’s a cliché. The couple that lives in the same house year after year, eats together in silence, beaten into boredom by familiarity, forgetting what brought them together in the first place. For the last year John and I worked extra hard to start a new company, opening my new office, and dealing with more lawyers then I ever want to ever see in my life ever again. Talk about fun suckers.

After twenty-five years how easy is it to fall into a routine of dinner, TV, sleep? Too easy, especially when 30 Rock is on. That’s why when I was home sick recently, what went through my fevered brain was, “I need a date with my husband.”

One of the first things prescribed by relationship counselors (I know this because I am one) is reconstituting “date night”. A mini-holiday away from the kids, the chores, the email, to rediscover that sexy guy you married. It’s a great idea but despite our best intentions we end up with yet another night of dinner, TV and sleep.

So it was like a little Christmas miracle when I was interrupted last Saturday afternoon standing in line at the library checking out this month’s book club selection. My phone chirped and it was John. Didn’t he say he was going to work all day?

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m at the library standing in line,” obviously, right?

“I’d like to invite you to a wine tasting,” he said, mysteriously.


“Right now. Wanna go?”

“Wow!” Just like that, I felt young and frisky. Doesn’t take much does it? I’m so easy. In a snap I jumped in the car and away we went. Where were the kids? Who cared? When was dinner? Whenever! I was on a spontaneous date with my husband that he initiated!

And I’ve been smiling ever since.

~Photo courtesy Jen Chan

Three Cool Sites I’ve Discovered Recently

You might like them, too.

Woulda Coulda Shoulda. The blogger, Mir, started this blog as a way to deal with the anger and frustrations of a messy divorce. I love her subtitle quote, "Maybe the best we can hope to do is end up with the right regrets." ~Arthur Miller

Conscious Weddings. Preparing for your wedding and wondering why you're having panic attacks instead of trip to ecstasy land? Sheryl Paul takes a pragmatic view of the whole getting married thing. I wish it was around when I was getting married. Wait! What am I saying? The Internet wasn't around when I got married!

The Happiness Project. After I got over hating Gretchen Rubin for having a book deal, I could enjoy into her site.  There is a ton of info here, from the academic to the hilarious, all about happiness from all kinds of points of view. It's encyclopedic so take your time looking around.

The Up Side of Being Sick

Or What Is Secondary Gain?


Monday night my throat closed up as if someone were very deliberately trying to choke me. My temperature spiked up to 102º. For two days I was pretty miserable

Today the choke hold loosened a bit and so far no fever. Probably because of heavy Tylenol dependence, but whatever. My doctor wanted me to take something for what ailed me. Being home alone, I had to run to Wegman's to pick up the script. As long as I had to drag my sick self to the pharmacy I was going to make it the best trip ever.

Therefore, along with the medicine, I bought the essentials. My husband had already provided the chicken soup and orange juice so I didn't need that. My throat was crying out for something cold. That called for rainbow sherbet, a big box of popsicles and an ice cold diet Coke. At the check out, aka Impulse Buy Lane, in my weakened state I couldn't resist a copy of People magazine. Already I was feeling so much better.

When I was a kid I'd fake sick hoping I could stay home and be pampered by Mom. This was in the days when kids actually got illnesses like the measles and mumps. When it was real (no way did she fall for the lame "I don't feel so good" whine) she would tuck me up with blankets and pillows, coloring books and even the TV sometimes. My meals came to me in bed and (and this was the best) I got to wallow in all that warm mommy attention. For the middle kid of five that's heady stuff. What am I saying? For ANY kid that's heady stuff.

Psychologists have a name for this. It's secondary gain which is defined as: Interpersonal or social advantages gained indirectly from organic illness, such as an increase in attention from others. 

Secondary gain is innocent enough but like most good things it can be overdone. A little overdone is just annoying. A LOT of overdone is called malingering. Psychologists have a name for everything. But I digress.

Back home I unpacked my booty, served myself up a cup of sherbet, opened my diet coke and, with a sigh of contented exhaustion, curled up on the couch with my People.  When we're not feeling well sometimes the best attention is the attention we give ourselves.

Happiness with Four Legs & a Tail

100_0076My dog Quico is eight and a half years old. In doggy years he's my peer so of course I'm in denial.  We can't possibly be that old!

A visit to the vet yesterday shattered my delusion. Not only is he a senior dog, he has the beginnings of cataracts! It's amazing he doesn't need a fork lift to jump onto the couch, poor thing. After a bit of poking here and there by our wonderful vet, Quico was pronounced a healthy dog "for his age".

What else I found out at the vet's:

A dog's life expectancy has recently been given a bump to 13-15 years. This is good news for dog fans. Mutts, or the more PC 'mixed breed', are usually heartier than pure breeds. I'm prejudiced. Most of the dogs I've loved have been mutts.

About 43% of our dogs will get cancer. This is a total bummer. My vet said many of our dogs won't show signs until the cancer has metastasized (spread from the original tumor).

It's a good idea to know the signs of canine cancer.

On the brighter side

Research has demonstrated that having a dog or cat is good for our health.  Our little friends encourage stable mood, exercise and lower blood pressure while reducing stress. A good dog is the essence of unconditional love. Cats act all superior but they are so entertaining.

Five Great Things About Being A Single Mom

by guest blogger Michele Slater

I've been a single parent since my children were one and four years old, the worst demographic in America.

As single moms we struggle to get by.  If we work, we pay higher taxes than married people but have only a single income coming into the house.  We can't date because sitters cost a fortune and how many men want to date a woman with young kids anyway?  Not many.  And where would we find a guy even if we had the energy and money to date?  We're tired all the time,  generally doing fifty things at once, and rarely get any time to ourselves. 

Depressing?  Can be.  But we have the most valuable piece of life anyone can have…our kids. 

So here are all the great things about being a single mother:

1) We get to read to our kids every night if we want to.
2) We know things about them no one else does, not even their Dad.
3) We get to experience every sorrow and every success.
4) We form a bond with them couples never do because there's either Mom or Dad as a buffer. 
5) This bond will last between us and our children into their adulthood.

The Devil Invented Low-Fat Ice Cream

 Once in a while I take a tech break; no TV, no computer, just music, cooking, home
puttering, conversations with the kids, my dog, my husband. Yesterday  was sort of like my sabbath. It's
cleansing but it also means I didn't journal my eating. Today I can't
have breakfast until I journal. So yesterday I ate….

Breakfast: one egg omelette, English muffin with butter spray and strawberry preserve, 1/2 orange. coffee

Lunch: 1 cup chili with dollop of light sour cream, 1/2 orange.

Afternoon Snack: Steamed spiced apple cider.

At Wegman's,
where my husband and I do our shopping for the week, I detoured to the
coffee bar first thing. They provide a nifty beverage holder I snap
onto the shopping cart so I could sip on my hot cider while I cruise the aisles. Treating myself in this small way makes the chore of grocery shopping actually not such a chore.

Dinner: Four pan-seared sea scallops, with Iron Chef Sesame Garlic sauce, Uncle Ben's wild rice, stir-fried asparagus.

This meal
was really yummy, fast and easy.  Scallops are an iffy choice for a
family dinner. Ever since my kids were in kindergarten they usually eat what
the grownups eat or they starve. Sounds mean, but there was never time to cook a
separate meal for them and I was concerned that as adults their
future spouses would wonder why they only eat mac & cheese, hot dogs and pizza.
Last night  my teenagers and their guest for dinner each had a
scallop and pronounced it "not gross"

Evening Snacks: popcorn, three flats of graham crackers, hot chocolate, one shot of amaretto (sipped very slowly) a handful of almonds and cashews.

Not eaten all at once it was still more than I wanted to eat during that time between dinner and
bedtime. I was tired but wanted to stay up until my kids were back from
their evening activities. A friend of mine says look out for hunger when you are tired.
That's what happened to me last night. If I had just gone to bed when
my body was telling me to (around 9PM) I wouldn't have had the popcorn
or nuts. Thank God there wasn't any ice cream in the house!

PS. I did exercise yesterday! Before breakfast I ran/walked about 1 & 1/4 miles on my treadmill, twenty minutes. A good day.

Don’t Let Those Turkeys Get You Down

This happens to me too often; maybe it happens to you too. I'm feeling all noble and righteous because I'm doing something good for my body, then someone comes along to burst my bubble.

Yesterday it was a story on NPR about the correlation between the risk of nasty diseases and the size of my tummy. The New England Journal of Medicine says that a woman with a waist measurement over 35 inches has double the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and abnormal cholesterol levels. Yuck! I think it's 40 inches for men but I didn't hear it for sure because I was running for my sewing basket to dig out the tape measure.  My waist is 35 inches exactly! Yikes!

The same story says that you have to exercise 60 minutes to lose weight. That is so discouraging to me. It's really hard for me to find just 30 minutes. This is where I need to talk myself down.

Exercise is good even if it's ten minutes a day which is better than no minutes a day. I may not be losing weight but I'm improving vascular efficiency, oxygenating my blood (good for my brain), kicking up my metabolism and toning my muscles which will reduce my waist size.

There, I feel better.

The Devil Invented Low Fat Ice Cream

Self-discipline isn't working for me so I've decided to go public. My weight is up to where my clothes are really tight and I hate that. Worse, my muscles are losing tone. I'm flapping all over the place. It's gross. All this effects my self-esteem, energy and over-all happiness. Losing weight isn't as important to me as getting fit is. Of course I want to look good but I believe we all look good when we feel good. Basically, I want to be as fit as my fifty-four year old body can be. I know what I need to do, it's a matter if doing it.

So for the foreseeable future I will journal everything I eat and every exercise I do on my Fighting for Fit @ 50 page (over on the right side bar under Email Me). Using the new category Fit @ 50, I will post fitness info and insights. I do not endorse any particular diet or regimen, only healthy living.

Research shows that journaling is key to a successful fitness regimen. So that's where I'm going to start. If you'd like to join me I'd love the company.

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