Saturday, November 19, 2011

Old Mom, Albeit with a New Trick

A new mom friend queried Facebook, asking for forward facing car seat recommendations.  The first responder suggested Britax.  I've never heard of Britax and I've had kids in car seats for 16 years now.  How surprised I was to see the next 8 or 9 comments all praising Britax.

From this, I concluded--as if being a 44 year old mother of a two year old wasn't conclusive enough--that I am an old mom.  Britax must be a new brand dazzling the 30 and under crowd.  I remembered back to when I was a young mom and the ancient-of-days 40 year olds all wanted to tell me how they put their kids to sleep on their stomachs.  Had I become that person?

Turns out, I'm not.  It's way worse than that.  In researching Britax for this little post, I learned that they actually began selling car seats in the U.S. within a couple of years of when I started turning out mini-clones of Mr. Wonderful.  Why had I not heard of them?

Not because I am old, but because I am cheap.  The Britax model the moms most seemed to love will set you back about $280.  Don't let the cute leopard pattern, fashion forward material fool you.  These seats are quite safe, routinely garnering top awards in crash tests.

Wonderful, I thought, not only am I cheap, but I am an endangerer of my childrens' welfare by stuffing them into I-don't-even-know-what brand of car seat.  My primary definition of a satisfactory seat is one which the kid can buckle himself into by age four with a material that doesn't show poop.

But wait!  Nimbly, I shifted into what John Ortberg categorizes as our "staggering" capacity for self-deception.  If I remember correctly, didn't Freakonomics conclusively demonstrate a few years back that car seats are no better at preventing fatalities than seat belts in children over age 2?  Ha!  See?  Problem solved.  I am a good mother and a wise steward of limited resources to boot.

Not quite.  Deciding I should fact check Freakonomics before hurling it into cyberspace, I discovered that while Freakonomics did indeed assert that and while it may even be true for fatalities, it is most assuredly not true for injuries.  Kids in boosters get injured less often and less severely than those in seat belts.

Drat.  I was back to the unflattering image of myself as cheap and wildly unsafe.  My Ortbergian self soothed me, "At least you're not really all that old."

Feeling chipper, I ran into that new mom, who asked me to present our family's Christ-focused Christmas traditions at the monthly women's ministry gathering.  Me?  Traditions?  Having a tradition means that you've done something over and over and over for a number of years.  Hey, I don't like where this thought is leading!  I am old!  I cursed myself for ever telling that young thing that I jog in a sweatshirt older than she is.  Not all truth needs to be spoken.

I rushed to speak first at the gathering this morning, certain that the real experts--those with children functioning as capable adults in society as compared to my endearingly awkward and still dependent teens--would share all my ideas before I could.  Then I'd just be sitting there all old and clueless, like in the Britax conversation.

I needn't have worried.  God arranged the chat perfectly with one mom passionate about evangelism sharing all the fun outreach activities they did, another mom talking of how one can use even non-Christ focused Christmas objects to point people toward God, and I shared our Adore-naments and Jesse Tree ornaments and devotions.  Few in the group had heard of a Jesse tree before and I was secretly thrilled to send them a $5.99 link to purchase their own set after the talk.

Maybe being old and cheap isn't so bad after all.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lion's Den

"OH!  Look at you! LOOK at you! You look fabulous--LOOK at that necklace!"  With a shriek and jumping up to hug me, my friend Emily, the very person who had picked out and forced me to buy that necklace, ensured that an entire lobby full of people stopped their own conversation, turned to me and stared, each performing individual fashion autopsies.  As they reached the "nothing unusual, just another middle aged woman" conclusion, conversations slowly bubbled back to life.

I decided to count this as desensitization training.  In just over an hour, I had to walk into a room filled with strangers and all eyes would be on me, performing a different type of autopsy.

Dead woman walking.  Those who easily speak in public really can't understand the anxiety I felt all week leading up to this presentation.  Or how I tried to wriggle out of it, contacting the gentleman who invited me, wondering if his agenda had filled and if he might prefer me to provide a written comment instead?  "Of course not!" came his quick reply.  "Come whenever you can, we will work the meeting around your availability."


How bad could it be?  I mean, yes, it's a State Board.  But's it's a State Board of the Science Olympiad competition.  That must mean teachers, right?  Maybe 10?  Sitting around a table informally discussing what-ever-it-is that sciencey people discuss?  I could do that.

"How many folks should I prepare for?  Can you send me more particulars?"

About 30 came the reply.  Ok, more than I bargained for, but not an unmanageable number.

"...people from all over the state.  Associate Chancellors, deans of colleges and universities and some regular classroom teachers too."


"You can't even spell chancellor," my (former) BFF who has known me for 26 years asserted.  "You have no business speaking to this group.  What are you talking about again?"

The homeschool rule.  I launched into my reasoning as to why the rule was unfair and the chilling effect it was already spreading to other organizations that included home schoolers.

"Oh, rules?  Homeschool?  You'll be fine.  You love to talk about that stuff.  Just don't be antagonistic and self-righteous."


"Praise God!" shot back another friend when I wrote of how I wanted to throw up just thinking about talking to these highly credentialed people.  "Look who God is putting before you.  Step out in faith and see what He will do."  Maybe she had a point, but seeing as she directed training seminars and used to be in charge of a whole continent for a large corporation, speaking to groups probably didn't require quite the same leap of faith for her extroverted personality.

"Oh, and spend some time telling a bit about yourself to build rapport.  Don't just complain.  And stick to the point.  Don't veer off into controversial areas.  Remember, people get defensive over educational choices.  Be careful in what you say."

Beginning to sense an unflattering theme as to how my usual talk strikes those who know me best, I became even less sure I was the woman for the job.

The rapture didn't happen on my drive to the meeting, despite my fervent prayers.  I neither fainted nor puked during my presentation.  I didn't speak nearly as well as I had wanted to nor nearly as poorly as I expected I might.  The sciencey folks were for the most part warm and polite and moved to ask Science Olympiad to reconsider their national rule vis a vis Illinois.

Most importantly, God saw fit--wouldn't you know that friend of mine was right!--to place in the audience not just State Board folks, but a Science Olympiad National representative.  Not just a representative, but the man who will be in charge of all of Science Olympiad next year.  Whatever I said, God pricked that man's ears.  The grand poobah followed me into the hall, gave me his card, said he wanted to speak to me more about this and it was definitely something that needed attention.  He thought perhaps we should get together for lunch.

Food?  One on one?  Talking about homeschooling?  This I know how to do!

Yet, when I think I know how to do something, that's usually when the trouble starts.  Perhaps you should pray that God continues to keep me a bit off-kilter.  He seems to do his best work in those circumstances.