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Published: Sunday, December 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Life only follows Plan A in books

My third-grader explained to me what it takes to read, summarize and write about a book. "First you read it," he said. "Then you regurgitate it, and then you regurgitate it again. So basically, what you end up doing is barfing up barf."

"Good," I told my son. "I'm glad you're learning how to barf up barf now, because that's a needed skill for life."

Learn it. Think about it. Do it. Then do it again in a whole new way.

Processing ideas and applying them to reality is an essential part of adulthood. Thank goodness a weekly essay isn't required (at least for most of us).

Take cooking, for example. This week, you roast a chicken. Night one has all the bells and whistles; chicken, potatoes, carrots and onions. Then, on night two, you mix the leftover chicken into a casserole with cheese and broccoli. A few days later, you make soup from the remains of the chicken carcass.

"This tastes like barf!" your kids say.

"Exactly," you answer with pride. "Aren't I good at meal planning?"

Taking the ideal and making it real is important in home decorating, too. Every time you open a Pottery Barn holiday catalog, you're inspired. A few moments later, you laugh with scorn. You've never seen a front porch wrapped in a myrtle and olive leaf garland in your entire life!

But that catalog gets you thinking. Maybe you could re-create the look with cedar cut from your back yard.

You're all ready to get the clippers until you look over and see your Christmas tree bottom loaded with ornaments. Your kids "helped" a lot with the decorating.

"Forget Pottery Barn," you think. "I'd settle for basic symmetry."

Or here's another one. Have you ever read one of those books about personal finance that advises saving for the holidays in advance, one $20 bill at a time?

That sounds great in theory. So in June, you plan for success. You squirrel away an envelope in your sock drawer. Twenty-dollar bills start adding up fast. You're definitely on track for a Christmas that doesn't hurt.

Then the plan barfs. Back-to-school shopping needs extra funds. Flu shots cost more than $100 because your kids want the nose spray instead of the jab. There's a dashboard light on your car that won't turn off.

Your Santa fund develops a serious leak.

But it's OK. You've got this! You take a deep breath and regurgitate the plan. You crank down the thermostat, cull your Christmas card list, and switch the holiday menu from rib roast to chicken potpie because you've still got some leftover chicken.

Resourcefulness is almost as good as a jingle-bells war chest.

I think I read about that in a book somewhere …

Jennifer Bardsley blogs at teachingmybabytoread.com.

Story tags » Parenting

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