Reframing the Poison Hour

What does the poison hour mean to you?

The first time I heard this phrase, “the poison hour,” I was in a marriage seminar led by Reverend Don Harp.  He told all of us newly married couples that spouses need about 30 – 60 minutes at home to unwind before we start asking about their day at work.  He called this critical time “the poison hour.”

I found this was so true.  In our early marriage, I got home from my job about an hour before my husband did. I already had time to unwind from my day. The minute he walked in, I so wanted to connect with him. The most logical way to connect would be to ask about his day, etc. Remembering the warning about the poison hour, I gave my husband space – time to change clothes, watch the news and relax. Later, we’d talk about things and connect.

I remember at that marriage seminar someone asking, “What happens when I need my husband to help me with the kids? I can’t give him 30 minutes to unwind.”

I don’t remember his exact words, but the minister basically told us that all the rules change when children come along.

Five years later, we had kids.

The poison hour had a completely different meaning for me. It was the time from about 4-5 pm – after nap time, but before dinner – when I had the most challenges as a parent.  The kids were fussy and I had no backup as my spouse wasn’t home yet.

Over time, I adjusted and incorporated a couple of coping mechanisms. Often, I would take my children to a nearby playground and push them in the toddler swings. Also, I joined a play group in my neighborhood that met from 4 – 5:30 once a week.  These were lifesavers for me.

As my children are getting older, the poison hour is changing yet again. It is now the time my pre-teen children get home from school.

In the early elementary school days, they were glad to see me after a long day. I was the “good mommy” that asked all about their day, how much homework they had and what was served at lunch. Now I get surly responses like, “I already told you. It was fine.”

I’m coming up with new coping techniques. Although it goes against my human nature, I’m finding that things go much better if I greet her with a simple “Hi there.”


No questions.

Nothing else.

No, “How was your day?”

As hard as this is for me, I have to remember when I was in middle school (or junior high as they called it back then)  and my mom would ask me questions all the time. I didn’t feel like talking. I had been busy at school or piano lessons or ballet. Of course it went fine. Wouldn’t I tell her if it didn’t? Her questions just bugged me.

When had I turned into my mom?

But this not asking questions of my children right after school is so hard for me. Why? Because I’m so used to when they were little and were happy to see me when I picked them up from preschool.  That was the routine. “How was your day!” “What did you learn?” “Who did you play with?” It was the time when mom could fix everything for them.

But I can’t fix everything for them and now they know it.

I have to remember that they don’t have the luxury of time by themselves until the get home. Even my husband has a little time to unwind in the car on the drive home. Yes, he’s navigating through traffic, but he can choose to listen to the radio, change the station, listen to CD’s or turn it off completely.

So, now I’m learning to let my children “be” for a few minutes – let them have quiet time, let them unwind before starting homework. One daughter comes home and immediately heads for the swing outside. She’ll spend at least 20 minutes out there and I realize this is her poison hour time.

Trip to the Warner Robbins Museum of Aviation


This past Labor Day weekend, our family drove down to Warner Robbins, Georgia to visit the Museum of Aviation located next to the Robbins Air Force Base. First of all, the museum is free – completely and totally free. No  paid parking, no huge requests for donation, but free — and well worth the trip.

The museum complex consists of four large buildings, an outdoor amphitheater, picnic grounds and areas for planes. In fact, a B-1 bomber is located right outside the main entrance.

The most extensive building and the one I suggest starting with is the Eagle building. Inside, an F-15 (remember Tom Cruise in Top Gun) is given center stage in a round, three-story atrium.  To the right, is an exhibit on the Flying Tigers beginning with the history, the key players and planes.

Personally, I was fascinated by this as my mother’s brother, J.P. was a navigator for the 491st bomb squadron of the 341st Bomb Flying Group. He was shot down and presumed dead in March 1944. The building also hosted an exhibit on the Korean War, as well as a gift shop, cafe and administrative offices.  From the second and third floors, pictures of the F-15 could be taken.

En route to the WWII hangar, we passed by several planes including a Lockheed C-141C “Starlifter” cargo plane.  This hangar had an excellent program on the D-Day invasion and the Battle of the Bulge, including a short movie with actual soldiers narrating their thoughts on those events. A section was devoted to the Tuskegee airman.

Next door was the Century of Flight Hanger, which housed a significant number of aircraft. Then, there was the Georgia Hall of Fame exhibit upstairs and a brief history of Delta and Eastern Airlines.

Lastly, we went to Hangar One, which was dedicated to the Vietnam War. By this time, our children were ready to leave so we didn’t get to explore this as much as I’d like. It will have to be for the next trip down there. For more information visit the museum’s website at

Dance Camp

My first dance recital

My first dance recital

Last spring, my husband and I purchased a month of dance classes for my daughter at our school auction.  I called the studio where I was told Thing 2 could try out a class before committing to the month.  After printing out the class schedule, I finally convinced her to go to a jazz class.

Afterwards, she kept saying how she wasn’t flexible enough to do dance and that all the other students were so much better. I explained that it was March and these girls had danced since the early fall. We decided to postpone enrolling for classes until this fall.

When I was signing her up for summer camps, I noticed they had a three-week camp, but didn’t look further into it because of travel schedules. Towards the end of July, I just happened to run into a friend who was enrolling her daughter for one day of the camp.

“You can do that?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied. “They cover all the genres of dance so the kids get a feel for everything that they offer.

“But I thought it was a three-week camp”

“No, no, no. It’s a three-week session and they get a discount for doing the entire three weeks, but they can do one week or drop in a do a day here and there.”

I filed this information in the back of my mind and when we returned from our beach trip, I confirmed with the studio that Thing 2 could come on any day of the camp and that there were spots open. In fact, we could just show up without a reservation. I broached the subject with Thing 2 who had already looked into the class schedule for the fall. We talked about it and she decided tentatively that she would try it for one day.

Over the weekend before she tried it, she kept asking questions. “Is this camp for people who have already been taking dance?”, which is her code for if the girls would be better than her. “Have you already signed me up” – her code for finding out if it was too late to back out. I didn’t think she’d end up going to it and I was regretting that we had spent money buying the month of dance classes at the auction in the first place.

On Monday morning, we arrived at the studio and she was the only dancer there. The owner explained that they have a lot of sleepyheads and that people roll in late on Mondays. When another student arrived, I left as I didn’t want to hover around and act like a helicopter parent. That day, I kept looking at the clock and wondering what they would be doing at that particular time. Sometimes I would think to myself, “It’s noon. She only has another two and a half hours if she really hates it.”

At 2:30 I drove up to the dance studio to pick her up.

The verdict?

She loved it!

Now, she wants to enroll for the rest of the week.

Girl Scouting in the 1970’s

My girl scout sash and badges

My girl scout sash and badges

My daughter joined Girl Scouts this year and it brought so many memories of my own scouting experiences.  I joined the Brownie troop in 2nd grade in the 1970’s. It’s just what we all did. I think every girl in my grade belonged.  All I can really remember about those two years in Brownies – 2nd and 3rd grade – is that we had a scout hut and did arts and crafts after school one day a week.

But Girl Scouts was a different story altogether. Maybe because it was harder to get in.  For whatever reason, there wasn’t a Girl Scout troop at my school. However, there was one at another private school that several of my classmates joined. My mother called Mrs. H. to ask about me joining the troop. They were at capacity, but I could join on one condition – that my mother be the Cookie Chair! My mother agreed and that February, our hallway was lined with tons and tons of Girl Scout cookies.

I remember being so excited the night before my first meeting that I had trouble going to sleep. We didn’t do arts and crafts as busy work, but we worked on real badges. We did camping trips. We learned how to build a fire, to cook, to use a compass.  I remember going to Palais Royal, the big department store where they sold Girl Scout merchandise. I got my Girl Scout uniform, a knife, a canteen and a sleeping bag. I still have the sleeping bag today.

I remained in Girl Scouts for three years from 4th – 6th grade. One year, we met in a classroom, another year in the cafeteria and the last year in the drama theatre room. We learned square dancing, how to put on a play. We even had Girl Scout workshop weekends where we would spend the day at Mrs. H’s house and work on badges.

Overall, I enjoyed my Girl Scout experience except for camping. I was always a homesick child, but by 6th grade, I conquered that too and survived those experiences intact.  It wasn’t easy. I refused to go camping after the first camping trip when I got homesick. The next year, my dad took me for the day and took me home that night making up some excuse about having a previous commitment the next morning. Another year, my parents were the camp chaperones.  By the end of my scouting years, I managed to go camping without my parents and actually had fun! Maybe it helped me in the future go to church camp and eventually live 600 miles away from home.

One year at camp, we made paper boats, lit a candle in them and sailed them into the lake at night while we sang “Old Lady Leary.” Another year, we were dropped off in the middle of camp and told to use our compass and map to find our way back to base camp. One time, we made an oven out of a box and baked a cake. It seems the box had coals under it so it took all day to bake the cake. We made homemade frosting and were preparing to eat it after dinner.  When the big moment came, a large green moth, made the top of the cake its landing pad. We still ate the cake. The frosting was good, but the cake itself tasted like wax.

When I look at all the badges I earned, I can remember some of the projects I did to earn them. I had to comparison shop at the grocery store. Maybe that’s why I’m such a good bargain hunter now. I had to publish a small troop newspaper, learn how to make a lanyard, boil water and cook hotdogs. All were very valuable skills to have.

What’s so funny about all this reminiscing is that I don’t remember being so appreciate of the scouting experience at the time. My mother used to say that I’d look back one day and be glad I hung in there with the scouts. That day is today.