Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best-laid Plans

Our New Year's Eve plans in years past have been simple. We first hit a party store for streamers, noisemakers, and silly hats. Then the whole family heads to the local market's frozen food aisles where each member of the household picks an item of their choice (nothing is off limits) to create a fairly disturbing end-of-year case of heartburn. We hang out drinking sparkly beverages out of tall glasses and watching t.v. or a movie. It's generally pretty low-key.
Last year we opted for an alternate plan: poker with candy for ante. (I always have a big ol' "Whoo-Hoo!" for candy.) Except we never made it to the party where the poker games were held because a certain 90 pound lab ate a pink bath fizzy then had a seizure. Ew. Needless to say, there was no way any humane soul could crate the oversized baby who looked like a rabid Barbie dog courtesy of the steady pink foam dripping from his muzzle--- not to mention the falling on the floor and twitching.
Should the assorted critters avoid falling ill, we are going to attempt to attend poker night for at least a portion of the evening. The mister and I are not big fans of driving on the same roads with geniuses who think their reflexes are "just fine" after knocking back a few celebratory beverages. So we will likely head for home before the clock strikes twelve, but maybe not. It's a hang loose sort of an evening as we look toward the coming of the New Year with anticipation.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sock Monkeys and the Pottery Fairy

Sure enough. We did find the Christmas jammies were not all gone from Target. And there was something even better than pink Christmas kittens. Or even gingerbread sock monkeys. There were--- oh, be still my heart, Santa Sock Monkeys with strings of lights, presents, Christmas trees, stockings, and candy canes strewn about a bubble gum pink background. Kitschy. And absolutely laughter inducing.

And. The something that gives me a bigger jolly than sock monkeys is Polish pottery. A week or so ago, the FedEx guy dropped off a box with lovely pottery tucked inside. "Whoo-Hoo!", says I. But yesterday something even better happened. While I was sleeping off the yuck-fest of a post-infusion hangover, the Pottery Fairy dropped by and left a lovely bowl. and. a. free. donut. coupon. Pottery Fairy, you rock! Thanks.

First Thing

Ooooh. I woke up this morning to the usual lovely scent of coffee wafting from the kitchen. And some ridiculously loud banging on the front door which set off crazy over-protective dog barking prior to 8:00 a.m. The banging would likely have inspired something of a less-than-pleasant greeting, except that the banger had something that made up for the banging.
The lovely new range and dishwasher (washer to be installed tomorrow) have arrived. The range is ready to go, and now the only real question is "Whatever should the inaugural use be?" Something mundane like a grilled cheese sandwich or a casserole seems wrong. There would be drama if I found myself cooking another big holiday meal like the ones that killed off the pretty's predecessor. There's not anything I feel like baking right now. So the range will just have to sit in it's spot looking lovely for a bit while I try to determine the answer to the Question of the Ages: "What's for dinner?"

Monday, December 29, 2008

If You Can't Say Anything Nice

They are mighty cute without the soundtrack of constant arguing.
Unless one is really intrigued by Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Mr.'s travel plans, how tired I am of the insurance carrier's stupidity, or my medical junk--- my conversation leaves much to be desired today. Instead I figure it's going to be a day or three of picture posts...
I think I am going to have to go back to Target for a grown-up pair of either the pink kitty p.j.s featured in today's photos or maybe the red sock monkey/ gingerbread house ones because I would have a laugh just looking at them. They are bound to be on super clearance if there are any left. One can only imagine the ha-has to be had in actually wearing such things.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Running Time

Whoo-Hoo!!! There is already a bonus involved in switching infusions. The new medication will only require about 2/3 of the volume that the previous IVIG involved. It can also be infused (run through the I.V.) at a higher rate of speed if tolerated. Infusion times could be cut to a mere two or two and a half hours. And the hour with the nurse hanging out preparing the medication for administration (because the new one comes in a liquid form that will not have to be rehydrated) will not be necessary any longer. Welcome news all around.
We will start the thing tomorrow morning at 7:00. And if all goes well, it will be done around 10:00--- the same time we usually manage to start the actual I.V. with nurses arriving at 8:30! It's a good night to let the kids stay up late so they can miss out on most of the procedure, and they might just sleep through the majority. I wonder if this medication might not have as many side effects... and if maybe it will be less expensive? Here's to hoping!

Wide Open Spaces

In three weeks something crazy will happen. There will be three days when there is no one in the house except me and the furry friends during the day. This happened in August, 2000 (or maybe it was 2001?) while the kids were at my parents and Don was in Lubbock to play with his old band... That was the last time I was alone. Don will not be here, and the kids will all be in school. There is potential for over six hours per day on a three-day stretch that would be solely my own. (Except the kids may be out of school for one of those days now that I think about it...)Practically unprecedented.
Even when away, I am accompanied by the other members of this household. The phone keeps me accessible. When I am away from the assorted people here, I have usually promised to meet other people somewhere else. In between, I am probably that fool on the phone in the Mom-mobile. The up side is that I genuinely do not comprehend true loneliness. Yet, the lack of privacy is sometimes keenly felt.
Turning off the phone would likely lead to a mama hunt. The family would crater. Autism speaks, and it is a bit obsessive about the phone and my whereabouts. Tween girls need to tell their latest drama to their mothers quickly before there is escalation to full-scale trauma. We need something from the store, someone has an asinine question, or there is something no one but me actually can answer, etc. It's good to be needed, but occasionally it would be nice to be a little less hunted, mmm--- make that sought-after.
No clue what I'll do, or if I will just be a little weirded out from not being wanted for a little bit. It is most likely to be time that is somewhat solitary. Because solitude is not loneliness, but simply an opportunity to finally Be Still.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lost Weekend

Whew. Today, I finally did exactly what this body has been needing to do for weeks: stayed in bed. Bumping infusions is apparently a dumb thing to do, but the idea of being ill with post-infusion side effects over Christmas held no appeal. The tired of last week is now utter exhaustion, but with 2008 tucked safely amongst the ghosts of Christmas past rest is finally possible. It is a much-needed day of rest that finds this tired mama tucked up in bed reading Alison Weir's Eleanor of Aquitaine and the intriguing young adult series including Uglies, Pretties, Specials, and Extras by Scott Westerfield. With the oven blitzed, we're gnoshing left-over bits from our Christmas feast and indulging in a bit of take-out to finish off the meals. Come to think of it, this sounds like an excellent opportunity for a weekend lost in other people's words and images so long as the house doesn't get wrecked before the nurse comes Monday. Then again, so what if it does?!

Friday, December 26, 2008

New Black Friday?!

Apparently retailers can no longer count on the promotions, mobs, and extended hours of the day after Thanksgiving to boost flagging sales from the proverbial "red" and into the "black". So instead of the "Day After Christmas" we have "The NEW Black Friday" as internet headlines dub today's post-holiday sales. And our household has done its part to boost the ailing economy today by dutifully spending at a local retailer this morning.
Except our sale shopping was not exactly planned. Yesterday's sudden death for the oven highlighted the slower downward spiral of the dishwasher. Neither appliance is all that old, but both were replaced this morning. Having done our comparison shopping over the past few months while contemplating the possibility of replacement in the dim future, and brushing up on price points by scouring the internet yesterday, we were prepared to make a decision today. We had not managed to fully settle on any one direction. There were choices to be locked in on regarding features. And the inevitable color consideration.
Our kitchen has almond appliances because I have a general prejudice against white (except for socks, t-shirts, and linens), if it can be avoided, and black tends to be super shiny and show fingerprints. Stainless might be given preference, but it causes too much of a contraction in the pocketbook to be appealing. Except that the sign in-store said the stainless range with the dual-size element option and giant 3-rack oven had no price difference between black and Clean Steel (all the pretty and most of the price of stainless typically, but not prone to dings, dents, or fingerprints). That's not the sort of thing we have come to expect when mooning over upgraded finishes. Sound too good to be true? It was, but because the sign was wrong, we were given the price by an unhappy store manager.
I'm still a little nauseous over making a major purchase today, but it will give our somewhat antiquated, er, Retro kitchen a much more modern look when the new range and it's accompanying dishwasher (might as well get the most out of the delivery fee that will be rebated...) arrive in their gleaming "Clean Steel" finishes to boost us into the 21st century.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

White Christmas

It is definitely a white Christmas here. Unfortunately, the white is not snow. A flurry of baking soda flew to put out the fire in the oven (the heating element was on fire). Sparks were shooting and flames were attempting to consume the roast beasts intended for our dinner. The flames were hot enough to burn through the heating element and the oven door is cracked, so it may be time for a whole new range rather than simply replacing the busted bits. Uh-oh. Or, precisely, oh but no.
We carried the food over to our friends' home where we are due for a shared dinner in about an hour. Their oven is now really full. The stuff for the stovetop, I will finish up here before going back over there. Fortunately, we had a certain amount of duplication between the cooking mamas. And we will have a really good story out of this year's Christmas dinner to tell in years to come.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hoping

Sunday I informed Don that Christmas celebrations were not feeling very special. He agreed, but the wise man actually knew why. Repetition is not special. I suspect that Don is on to something here. "Christmas" has been a long drawn-out affair that just won't come to an end. And we still have the actuality of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and some sort of visit with my brother and his wife to go. At least Christmas Eve and Day will be spent among friends adding a little variety to the stream of parental visits that saw last week out, the three day stretch of Christmas performances from band concert to Christmas Festival, and the holiday music selections practiced around here since late September. Not to mention the shopping (nightmarishly drawn out) and the baking (generally therapeutic)...
Last night, in an effort to snatch back some small measure of what could be a joyful season, Don suggested we go look at lights. Last year we walked all over surrounding neighborhoods. It was a ball, and we carried flashlights and sang Mommy's Christmas Medley (a blend of bits from every holiday song Mommy ever knew some words to...) while hiking about "ooh"ing and "aah"ing over all the pretty, sparkly lights. Except that we have a thirteen year old male in our household. In case you do not have one, they are generally a bit egocentric. Ours is also rude enough to announce that he finds looking at Christmas lights pointless. His father explained that the Boy's beloved video games were also pointless, but that they were entertaining... which was a point shared with Christmas lights.
So we went. And it was fine for the kids, including Mr. Grumpy. But it was not fun like it was in years past. Because it is Mommy's job to bring the fun, and Mommy was not in the mood for more Holiday Joy. Hello. Only Mommy can make "Mommy's Christmas Medley" work. (No one else is willing to sound that dumb by themselves until the others loosen up and join in...) Instead of walking, we drove in the car. And Mommy noticed that the lights seemed not-so-magical without the soundtrack of butchered Christmas lyrics and laughter. They were just electric strings of colored glowing glass wound around tree trunks, draped over shrubs, and tacked onto rooftops and doorways. And the memory of last year served to highlight the hollowness of this year.
Maybe tonight will see some of that vaunted Christmas magic revived? It could happen.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nother Mother

Yesterday was a bit of a riot around here. Again. In a slightly demented, "Bloom where you are planted!", the unexpected can be fertilizer rather than the stench of having stepped in something. Sylvia's breakdown was an uh-oh of the blooming variety, and it brings to mind the years and years that she lovingly served our youngest child as a "nother mother".

Admittedly, there is also a maudlin twist in my knickers because infusion is due today, but has been postponed (with doctor's permission) to next week. (The postponement is to avoid the potential for yucky side effects over Christmas, and it will give us an extra week to coordinate new home health and insurance companies with job change.) The first infusions were nightmarish things taking eight hours to complete the administration of the I.V. and came with a host of side effects that lasted for a week or two. And during those years the two big kids would go away to school, or visit a friend if they were on break because the infusions were scary things for a child to have to see. For Erin, infusions were a little like Christmas thanks wholly to Sylvia.
Sylvia would coordinate her arrival with the infusion start time. Early on, she would have play days for Erin and Dylan. Once Dylan went off to school a year ahead of Erin, the play days continued, but they were all about Sylvia loving on Erin. Any emergency, surgery, or hospitalization would leave Erin happy and content with her Mrs. Sylvia--- sometimes even overnight. And Erin was a quirky child with sensory and speech issues. In the years when Erin's mommy could not lift her into the air to simulate flight or even just carry her around, Mrs. Sylvia could and did. It was not the same, but it was precious. Every seemingly small thing that Erin's mama could not give to her, came in the form of Mrs. Sylvia. The blessing here was not only for Erin.
The love given to Erin was just the sort of gift that embodies what we claim to celebrate at Christmas. How appropriate that Sylvia would have her sleigh crater in front of my home so that her elves could hang out here while the reindeer got juiced up over at the dealership days before the official celebration of the Big Event.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Juiced

We have surprise visitors. We were actually talking about the likelihood of having some other surprise visitors when Sylvia (expectedly) stopped by to pick up yummy holiday breads baked for her family and hand-me-downs for a family in need. While Sylvia was here, I discovered to my horror that raw chicken juice had leaked all over the bottom shelf of the fridge. Ew. This required an immediate response with bleach because few things gross me out more than raw meat and anything associated with it. (The raw meat bleah was strong enough to fuel a vegetarian diet for a while; however, I happen to like the stuff cooked so that eventually had to be worked out.) We cleaned up the badness, and I gathered up the mountain o' hand-me-downs which were then loaded into Sylvia's car with the help of our collective seven kids.
I returned to my warm kitchen still thoroughly unhappy over the chicken juice incident. Fortunately, having delayed my breakfast, I was able to self-medicate with yummy breakfast casserole left over from yesterday's big buffet with the in-laws. Contemplating the banana bread with nuts in the oven, I lamented that Sylvia was not going to get any of that fresh batch after all. Just as the microwave signaled caramel french toast goodness was ready to eat, there was a knock at the door. Don said, "Sylvia's back." Heh?
Sylvia is having trouble with a lack of juice... she needs a new battery. Sylvia's kids and my kids are all hanging out here while Sylvia has the opportunity to do what the other mommies dream of today: being forced to simply stop for a moment. Sylvia is getting a new battery. Sylvia will also be getting some of that banana bread batch that was put together with her specifically in mind. (It's bonus #1.) And since it is almost lunch time, she and her kids will also have an invite to join us for the noon meal. (There's bonus #2.) I suspect she will be content with lunch, treats, and a battery that works as the family heads back out into the cold to resume the celebration of her eldest son's 14th birthday.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Offer

After spending ten years at a telecom company, the mister plans to give his notice in the morning. Most of his previous team has moved on over those years as the feast of the late 90's became famine with the .com bubble blowing out early in the millenium. Himself one of the casualties who received the dreaded lay-off marching papers from his employer around 9/11, Don was brought back on board the same crippled behemoth by coworkers with a pre-approved requisition.
As further job cuts and pay freezes came over the years, many chose to jump from the oh-so-slowly sinking mother ship while others were told to walk the plank. Don stayed put because the mother ship still had the best and most comprehensive insurance coverage around, and our family has some fairly spectacular medical bills. The medical coverage is worth more than the actual pay checks. Except that has changed over the past two years as our opportunities to "cost-share" have increased to place a heavy yoke around the mister's neck.
The first interview with the new company arrived back in the Spring, and eventually there were two candidates left on the field. Don's then group leader from the telecom company was chosen for the position, but noise was made about the decision being difficult and the new company wanting Don's skill set. Whatever. Except they meant it.
As the economy spiralled in the weeks prior to Thanksgiving, Don was approached regarding his ongoing interest in a job change. Told to expect an offer as soon as there was approval from the highest levels, the waiting began. And no offer came as Thanksgiving came and went followed by the passing of days marked by Advent calendars everywhere. Last Friday, the offer came after expectation had generally curled up for a long winter's nap.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Pod Person

My parents have been here and gone in the space of a day. They came to give gifts, enjoy a meal or two, and then headed out again to do the same at my brother and sister-in-law's place before heading back up on their mountain for Christmas Eve and Day at home. They chose to surprise the kids with crazy pie-in-the-sky sorts of gifts this year. The prize for funniest response to a gift goes to Erin.
Grandma and Grandad had an iPod Shuffle and a speaker/docking station wrapped and under the tree for the littlest missy. Unfortunately, the order was a bit off in the opening, and the speakers were opened first. Not a problem. The package opened to display a midget box that looked like a shuffle in the slot where a real one would go. Erin exclaimed with absolute delight, "A NANOPOD!!! I got a NANOPOD!!! Whoo-Hoo!!!" A few minutes later she opened the Shuffle meant to plug into the speakers. She could not believe the good fortune of having, not one, but two "nanopods". She was a little perplexed as it was explained (see photo on right) to her that one package held speakers and a dummy music player while the other box held the actual Shuffle. She clutched the blue Shuffle tightly as the silver one evaporated. All ended well and our girl is free to listen to all the High School Musical, Hannah Montana, and Third Day she wants without anyone else being required to join her.

That's my girl. On so many levels.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Polar Express

There's a dense fog severe weather advisory in effect. Not so great for my Mom and Dad who drove in from out of state yesterday night, but an awesome start to the day for Happy Suburban Elementary. The kiddies at Happy Suburban will ride on The Polar Express all day today. The kids came to school dressed in their pajamas. The day's plan consisted of hot cocoa served up as a treat while watching the animated film. The new classic Christmas book would be read, and each class period be filled with various thematic activities. How magical to travel through thick fog and a wintry chill in one's jammies, exit the Mom-mobiles, and then continue on with a special holiday adventure that lasts the whole day?
Who needs Calgon?! Polar Express, take me away! Since there is only one person around here in elementary school, we seized on the recent Ice Day to watch The Polar Express from home. Cocoa and chocolate bread were the treats du jour. While it wasn't the all-day extravaganza the kids will have at school, it was a warm reminder that the unexpected sometimes beats all expectation. A surprise day off the week before school lets out mid-year, snuggling into a warm home on a cold day, baking special treats for munching and giving away... what's not to love?!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brrring

Whoo-Hoo! Today the school called to say that we have a two-hour late start due to ice. It takes very little ice to make Texas roads unsafe because of all the drivers who think they can drive on ice. The ones that know they cannot tend to stay at home.
As soon as the vet's office opened, I called to reschedule Bad Bella and her canine cohorts from their 9:40 appointments because we would be in the midst of dropping off kiddies at the assorted middle and elementary schools. I finally gave in to the guy who seemed determined to fill the 11:40 slot today even while thinking that later in the week would be better, but when?! Assorted relatives come in and out from Thursday until next Tuesday. I wonder if any of them would enjoy an excursion to the vet? Like a field trip. Anywho.
Then the school called back. Guess what?! The darlings are out all day. So I called the vet back hoping we would not incur the wrath of the receptionist, er, a fee for a no-show and total lack of cooperation in rescheduling. The only available slot ths week is Friday morning at 10:20, and one set of grandparents will be on the way to Austin while the other will be not yet here. Mmmm. Okay, I'll take it. And I will rearrange a little bit more.
Time to call the doctor with whom a people appointment was scheduled at 10:30 Friday (in between the holiday preparations) to beg for a different appointment time. Except they are probably home with their kids who are out of school, too. The answering service opted to not give me a new appointment, but they did connect me to voice mail so I could leave a bright and cheery plea for a new slot. I was then able to get that appointment moved to the following Monday. I do hope it won't coincide with the Boy's appointment that day, and that my parents won't mind too terribly that it was the only way to squish everything in on the offices' availability.
The mister suggested that a people doctor appointment should have precedence over the vet visit. I goggled at his lack of understanding. A necessary explaination of my logic followed so he could decide that I had not quite lost the ability to reason. There is more flexibility to slip a half hour appointment for just me (in Pleasant Suburb) into the schedule than to fit in an hour-and-a-half appointment (in another Pleasant Suburb) for three totally uncooperative patients who will be rebelling by shedding all over the car or yowling for the forty minute roundtrip.

Still. I'm hung up on that big, ol' Whoo-Hoo moment of realization that the whole day is wide open with us all at home unexpectedly. Except for Erin who has a birthday party to attend this afternoon, and Don is still working since the path from the bedroom was pretty clear of ice. It's 25 degrees and liquid keeps falling from the sky. Imagine driving a herd of squealing girls to Build-a-Bear this afternoon on slick roads with inexperienced winter drivers. Another Mama will likely be making phone calls soon, too.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Decompression

Apparently one ought not to resurface from the depths too quickly. Otherwise one gets the dreaded "bends". And so it was with me attempting to have my head above water this weekend after the craziness of the past weeks. No dice. Nuh-uh. Because the kids needed to be wrangled back into some semblance of order after spinning out of control along with our wack-o schedule. It is a "herding cats" kind of situation. The return to normalcy is beginning to work, but they didn't get to the current level of wild, wilder, and wildest overnight. So it will take time to reel them back in to normal. (Or at east what passes for normal around here.)
There is general rebellion and chaos because Evan needs super-structure and he has not had that at all. Erin has been a little too free and a lot too tired. Meanwhile, Katie is trying to have us prove that she is precious by being a pain. (It totally makes sense. She needs us to express that she is wonderful no matter how difficult she might actually be--- because she is a tween.)
The idea around here is that we build one another up. Because the second we exit these walls, there will be someone waiting to tear us down. (My father-in-law planted this seed after a fairly yucky scene many years ago. It has put down roots and flourished, but sometimes the idea can still hit a dry spell.) Home must be a haven. The safe place where one is loved, accountable, and understood. It's just a matter of taking the time to resurface slowly enough that we do it right.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Gingerbread

The band concert, every other day rehearsal schedules, Christmas Festival, and my mother-in-law's shopping and wrapping are behind us. I went AWOL Friday with Shelley who is mercifully home for Christmas. We met for coffee and some much-needed silliness and laughter. Morning coffee ended up including lunch and ran right on into the afternoon. Glorious. While we were out, the pre-baked gingerbread houses took on a certain appeal as visions of laughing children a little high on sugar plums danced in my head.
The reality of the gingerbread house was slightly different, and probably indicates a need for at the least therapy, and perhaps even an intervention of some sort. As the house went together, the gingerbread man was sealed inside purposely with high-pitched mock gingerbread man squeals and pleas. Anywho. The house took a while to assemble, and perhaps next year the extra dollar will be spent on the pre-assembled model. Once it was completed, something was mentioned about waiting fifteen minutes for the royal icing to set. Sage words which were totally ignored.
Don snapped away taking pictures of the whole affair. The children tried to keep their squabbling to a minimum after two other incidents earlier in the day earned them all correction for "explaining" their actions and then arguing about whose "explanation" was accurate. At least, they tried. Right up until the gingerbread man saw a glimmer of hope. The roof of our gingerbread house was headed south at an alarming rate as the gumdrops and frosting rained down through the gap to reveal our prisoner.
At which point the kids started to argue. The gingerbread was confiscated and hauled off. The kids then argued about whose fault that was--- to the annoyance of their sainted parents. Until Mom remembered that saints are typically martyred. (Really now, no one likes a martyr.) Mom stomped off to the computer in general disgust with the whole failed attempt at a little "family fun". Evan went off to fume in his closet. Don headed back to talk to the Boy. Erin went from room to room assessing everyone else's states of mind. And peacemaker Katie made a beeline for the kitchen to salvage the gingerbread house (and in her mind: the evidence of family togetherness) with her pastry education gleaned from Food Network Challenges and Ace of Cakes episodes too numerous to count.
Ah, the holiday season is definitely upon us. Now if we can only recapture the fun instead of the dysfunction all might be Merry and Bright.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Kneeling

"So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor. Give all your cares and worries to God, for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:6-7

Ah. There it is. The words are striking, and I am thankful for the friend who shared them not knowing how they were needed. Care-worn and sick of being bombarded with worries which I would normally just put aside in relative confidence after addressing them, I am completely burnt out. Adrenaline can get a girl through a moment of uh-oh, but constant adrenaline to push, push, push and go, go, go just makes for weariness, irritability, and eventually anger. So walking or running, I try again to pass my cares and worries to the One with the ability to carry the burdens that bring me to my knees.

Almost There

Today's the day. The Christmas Festival that ate fourth quarter is upon us. Tonight and tomorrow night will see the thing come to its completion as the assorted performances run their course in multiple venues from "street performers" to musical extravaganzas. Middle child's band concert is now blissfully in the past taking Christmas Festival's over-extended rehearsal schedule with it. The hope was to crash on Sunday after all the hullabaloo is officially past. Except that Middle Child and The Boy are "on" this weekend for tech in children's ministry and nursery duty. At least the festival performers and their personal shopper and transporter are not the ones serving Sunday.
The Little One has become progressively wilder after rehearsals where I have divided attention while seeking to handle whatever fool thing her siblings are up to and somehow simultaneously being aware of what she is doing (using the sanctuary railing as a balance beam, missing her ballet rehearsal because she was nowhere to be found, and being late to get miked for "Imagine") at any given moment. I wonder if she will be able to rein it in for tonight? Then, tomorrow during the day and all of Sunday can be about bringing her back into some semblance of a rested, good-natured munchkin.
The Boy and Middle Sister will also be benefited by the end of this Christmas Craziness. Their Daddy will be back to full-time parenting instead of seeing the kids not at all, or only vaguely from his perch on the stage during their available time Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Their Mommy will be less overwhelmed because she will have a full-time husband again.
Two more days. Just two more days.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Hours

Eeeee. As in "Eke!" There was an error made in which someone decided to start tracking the number of hours going into purely holiday related activities vs. normal activities.

In the past 16 hours:
1.5 hours baking brownies & blondies for church bake sale
4.5 hours wrapping gifts
2 hours shopping, including driving
.5 hours pouring over holiday budget
4 hours half watching "ELF" twice on t.v. while doing other things
.25 hours considering preparing child's outfit for band concert
.5 hours returning child's outfit because it is ill-fitting for band concert tonight
.75 hours replacing ill-fitting band concert outfit

Hello. Is it just me or does this somehow account for 14 hours?! And there was comparatively little accomplished. Except that someone was (Drum roll, please.) multitasking. Even the down-time for Mama is squeezed in while "accomplishing something". It's an imperfect system, but at least down-time has been worked into the craziness before Mama has a teensy stroke. Oh, yeah.

2 hours of the gift-wrapping was spent at a friend's house talking and letting three-year-olds apply the tape to the packages because it was way more fun to tote the gifts and assorted wrapping stuff over there (and have a girly visit including much-needed coffee) than to do the task at home. A trip to pick up gift cards for grandparents to give the kids was tucked into the time slot spent waiting for Katie to finish at the orthodontist. Holiday budget, grandparent shopping accounting, and checking account tracking were all lumped together with a headache. Additional wrapping supplies were picked up while grocery shopping after the discovery that the boxes were not really much more expensive. The brownies and blondies baked while kids were getting ready for school. Laundry has run throughout all of the above, and a hot bath fit in around 1:00 a.m. with a new personal high score on my favorite time-sucking on-line game.

Whoo-Hoo! There may be hope yet for a Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Expansion

I'm looking for inspiration to write a brilliant, or at least passably appealing, recruiting message for volunteers to serve up a quick cup of coffee or hot tea along with a moment of conversation for a couple of hours one Sunday morning a month. The coffee shop in our church is looking to expand their volunteer staff, and I am hoping to be helpful in administrating the volunteer calendar for that expansion. I'm amused to be sending and receiving e-mail from an address including the tag "morethancoffee". Yep. Mmm-hmm. Because it is about more than coffee.
One favored former pastor used to say that giving someone a cup of coffee helped them to relax and feel more comfortable in an awkward or new situation. I started observing myself and sort of spying on others (in a surreptitious way of course--- otherwise it's called "gawking") to see if the coffee cup (or other beverage of choice) really did ease social anxiety. Sure enough, the most fidgety and uncomfortable social moments were repeatedly diffused by the seemingly humble cup of joe.
So. When we entered our new church home, what should I see? A whole coffee house just waiting for me. Well, it was not quite waiting for me, but I was drawn into it from day one. Only to discover that the coffee house has a global missions base and purpose. How cool. It is the very place I dreamed of as a mission field in Poland. Except that I do not have to build it. Or cross an ocean. And every weekend people already come. I can just show up.

Advent

Aside from the baking, cooking, shopping, driving, driving, driving, wrapping, decorating, and "voluntary" appearances at assorted functions I will know that the Holidays have ended by certain key events that will mark the passage. My countdown:
3 days to the Winter Band Concert
3 days to Christmas Festival Dress Rehearsals en mass
4 days to Day One of the Christmas Festival
5 days to Day Two of the Christmas Festival
7 days to my auntie's surgery
9 days to my daddy's new hearing aids being fitted
10 days to my parents' re-entry into the home state
11 days to elementary class parties and my in-laws' arrival
12 days to the start of Christmas Break
13 days to my in-laws' departure
15 days to my parents' departure
16 days to Christmas Eve
17 days to Christmas
21 days to the next infusion
24 days to starting afresh
I am thinking that a wee piece of chocolate should be behind each and every day of this countdown just like the kids find behind the little cardboard doors of the Advent Calendars that have become part of our traditions thanks to the precious German Mother of a friend who provided the first few calendars. Or maybe a Prozac to get me through the next 23 days and facilitate that fresh start!?

Friday, December 5, 2008

OPC

Why, one might ask, is Miss Holly up at 2:30? Because the other option was to lie in bed with the early 90's (or was that late 80's?) anthem about being "Down with OPP" (ahem... "Other People's Property"--- how quaint.) running through my head. While that tune is not really my thing, back in the day, MTV actually had music on it which expanded my horizons into distant lands I might not otherwise have bothered to visit. And that particular bit of stupidity was highly popular. Not that any level of popularity explains adequately why it wakes me in the middle of the night.
Except that in my own unique brand of mental gymnastics, the lyrics twisted to morph into "Down with OPC... Yeah, you know me!" OPC is "Other People's Children"--- and I do have the best time playing with them. It says to me that people are not terribly careful who they leave their lovies with that I keep ending up in possession of additional children beyond the three who call me "mawwwm". I'm so very, very glad because kids seem to naturally bring adventure to every situation. Yesterday's adventure involved five hilarious hide-and-seek playing champions and a pair of waffle-thieving doggies. Evan was phenomenal with the younger kids (as he often is), and he made it possible to love on the darlings despite the continuation of the post-IVIG headache that has followed me for the past week and a day. Later in the day, I managed a drive-by diaper change and crib retrieval of the FBG (Favorite Baby Girl in a twist on Roald Dahl's BFG or Big Friendly Giant) during a quick visit to drop off a little something for her Mama.
Don claims that we have an entire drive dedicated to photos of the FBG and her sisters. He's close, but the lense of my camera captures far more than my own and Ab's kiddies. Last night I observed something of a parade of middle-sized kids who have been left in my care at various points as many of them too to the stage in a Christmas Festival rehearsal. As I watched them, I flipped through mental images of hundreds and hundreds of photos I have logged of OPC. Not creepy stalkerazzi photos, but funny, honest photos of children being their precious, unique selves. And occasionally catching mommies or daddies in those sweetest of moments is the best sort of fun.








Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bubble

Stretched too thin. Which by definition will extend to make one thin-skinned. That is where I am at right now. That bubble that one just kept blowing into to see how big it would get? That's me. If things don't start to give soon I'll earn a lump of coal in my Christmas stocking for sure.
Maybe tomorrow I will be cheerier. Because some cheer would fill my over-extended, fragile bubble self with something much better than the current empty pressure extending relentlessly outward.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Love it...

Yes. That's it. Protesting the church indicates that there is actually something interesting going on there.

Dating

The mister and I ran off for breakfast/coffee yesterday a.m. after dropping the assorted children off at their schools. It's a good thing we did, too. School breaks are always a little challenging for us in our general codependency because we have three people who fail to see us so much as a couple as, well, their parents. (Nobody wants to really dwell on the idea of their parents as a couple, so this is not selfishness on the part of our offspring so much as trying-to-not-be-grossed-out. Very reasonable.) Katie has stated when talking about the emotional upheaval of a friend's family during a messy divorce (after the daddy started dating someone other than the mommy) that she doesn't worry about "that sort of thing" with us. That security is exactly what we want to give our kiddies even if they do think it creepy and weird that their parents act like they are still dating about half the time. Because we are still dating one another.
Except that Junior is out of school for the next two days. And he is, no-holds-barred, an in-your-face sort of guy. Thursday is date day, but if we attempt to keep our date tomorrow at lunch he will be calling or texting. Because he will be compelled to convey some assinine information or ask questions that could wait until later. So it is doubly good that we attempted a secondary date because we would likely have missed out on this week's date entirely. We will fit in some alone time by driving one another to some destinations like his Man Coffee this morning before the boy is actually out of bed to begin his rounds of phone tag. And tomorrow will bring the knowledge that the following day will see Evan off to school for what presumably will be a few hours. And two of the three kids have overnights scheduled for Friday night that just might enable a real night-time date. It could happen.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

ohbutno again

Well, we have prayed for Evan to be held accountable for his actions without much success until today. Last year he had a blow out after being given a detention that caused school administration to be hesitant to give him consequences according to his behavior. Which left him a bit too free to be himself. Until our middle school had a near total changing of the administrative guard this year.
This morning I sat in a meeting with Evan's special ed advocate preparing for our annual meeting with assorted school personnel to set the plan for the following year of Life with the Boy. As we talked about Evan's tendency toward avoidance and escape mechanisms, the door opened to reveal people there to inform us that my child's current location was unknown. He was not in class. He was in the library without a pass at one point, but he had since moved on to some new destination. They were looking for him. I called Don so he could join in the excitement.
When the boy was found we hear that he was avoiding Mrs. B's class because he decided to leave it early the day before, and he figured she would be mad. *sigh* So Advocate and I hang out while the principal gives the boy a two hour detention for Thursday. Then we walk the Boy back to Mrs. B's class.
Thirty minutes later the committee meets to discuss Evan. This group includes Mrs. B as the representative from the general education classroom teachers, the same principal who just gave the boy detention, a new special ed lead teacher, and three of us who have been working with Evan for years. Joy has been Evan's counselor since mid-elementary, and Patty's had Evan in her excellent care as a student for two and a half years. I have only been his mother for thirteen years, but I still have a voice. And it is both a resigned voice and a resolute one. I know my child, and I love him with all his idiosyncracies.
The meeting shuffles along for an hour and a half. We get everything settled nicely for Evan to handle daily life at school, testing, and answer behavioral questions like how to address episodes such as the one faced earlier in the morning. After the meeting, I stayed to talk with Patty and Joy. As I start to leave the building, the school receptionist asked that I remain to talk to the principal for a third time today. Because my son had been in a physical altercation with another student.
Joy came out to request that Evan be pulled out of class to meet with her. Instead she cooled her heels with me in the principal's waiting room. We talked with the principal, and were told that Evan bumped into a bully by accident. A kid who by all accounts is a hot head, and someone who pursues trouble. On a day when Evan had "trouble" written all over him already, and Evan is not one to submit to a bully anyway. So there were words exchanged. And someone was put in a headlock. And there was kicking. And my son has been suspended for the next three days.
I am holding onto the simple reality that he is being held accountable for his actions. And he is going to be spending these days doing chores and schoolwork. There is no t.v. or goofing off because he responded to provocation inappropriately. In a bit of irony, he was going to miss out on a writing assignment that required a partner for the topic of walking in someone else's shoes. Until I volunteered. That should be interesting.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Conflict of Interest

My brain is tired. It is all full of numbers. Numbers that overlap and trip one another up. Numbers that represent conflicting interests in the family's various talents. Numbers that have begun to take on the nightmare role of Walt Disney's Winnie-the-Pooh's "Heffelumps and Woozles". The date and time numbers are today's primary concern. The only date I cannot seem to reconcile is the band concert and big Christmas Extravaganza rehearsal.

In a way I have yet to understand our family will somehow all attend Middle Child's Winter Band Concert and a simultaneous full dress rehearsal for Christmas Festival. That should be interesting. Maybe the costumed shepherd child can just try to be unnoticed during the Beginner Band's rendition of "Ode to Joy"? The Mr. will be dressed all in black (like a ninja), moves silently (again like a ninja), and has the added benefit of being a bass player--- no one ever notices those (like a good ninja). So he will not detract from the great herd of middle school students killing Christmas one note at a time on stage as he and the little shepherd have to slip out to run for their rehearsals the second Katie's band is finished. Which will leave me sitting with the Boy (who is likely to be "bored" and who finds it incomprehensible that people in Canada can hear him when he "whispers") until the absolute first second we can politely collect our band student and escape.
I wonder if I can go to the band concert in costume. Then no one will know it is me with the loud boy, the escaping ninja and shepherd, and the irritable sixth grade horn player who feels slighted because her family has more than one commitment the night of her concert. It could work.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Christmas Cheer

This Mom is fighting the desire to light her Holiday pom poms afire and watch 'em burn. The Christmas Cheer has already gone up in smoke and it's not even December yet. (That does not bode well.) I love most of the people parts of the holidays, but cringe at the shopping, pressures, and grossly inflated expectations. We do not celebrate X-mas around here, but Christmas. Yet, most of the holiday-related hoopla centers around juggling the rings of Holiday Hell.
What to do away with? Every aspect that can be trimmed down is important to someone. And the assorted someones are all precious. Selfishness wants to shriek, "Enough! No. No. No more can be added without Mom being taken away by the elves in white coats to Santa's Special Holiday Home for Grinches!" Except that no one is asking for anything that is too much. Each single request is reasonable.
I wonder if installing a long roll of paper on the fridge for holiday requests from "Will you drive me to rehearsal?" to "Can we bake cookies for my class?" and another next to that for regular stuff like "Please pick up a jug of milk." and "I need someone to watch over me so I do not get distracted while completing yet another Social Studies project." would be tacky? It might help the family to understand why Mom is less than enthusiastic about seemingly mundane requests and the fun, fun, fun additions to the to-do list if they could all see what the others are asking. Otherwise there is going to be one more Prozac Mom mechanically driving her Mom Taxi from place to place while grinning a frighteningly vacant chemical smile and waving slightly charred pom poms.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Blackness.

Exactly how I feel about Black Friday shopping.
Except that Mark isn't shopping. He's having dessert. Which one would expect to be way better than shopping. Perhaps not.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Twas

Twas in the weeks before Christmas, when all through the house, several creatures were stirring, all larger than a mouse. The stockings were piled on the arm of a chair, in hopes that someone--- anyone, would take the decorating from there.
The children kept popping up out of their beds, pursuing the ideas that come into their childish heads. And the Mister and I had just begun to settle in, having turned off the t.v.. The drowsing was just about to begin.
When from the kitchen there arose such a clatter, that we looked at one another in horror of what might be the matter. Away to the dining room I flew like a flash, prepared for the worst and ready to make the kitty hash.
With the flick of a switch, the lights shone down on the objects below, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but twelve furry feet all scrambling in fear.

With three kids not far behind, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment we'd be in for a time.
Despite my shouts of , "Be careful!" and "Stay back!" still onward they came, so I called them by name:
"Out Buster! Out Maggie!
Bella, you terrible, very bad beastie!
Hey, Evan! Hey, Erin!
No, Katie, not you, too!
Go back to your rooms!
Get back in your beds!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

Knowing better than to stand around and gawk, my observers fair flew off to their nests. Each one figuring it was better to lay low than chance being blamed for the mess.
Once all the wee beasties were quit of the room, I reached for my broom.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard kitty paws patter back across the floor. That dreaded feline beastie was back on the counter! As I drew in my breath, and was turning around, the mister saved Bad Bella from what was about to come down.

She was covered in fur, from her head to her foot, but all I could see was the trail of broken crockery and glass--- her sins black as soot. A bundle of dinnerware lay where it fell after crashing to the floor.

Stupid cat.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hurdles

In school my Dad ran hurdles. So did I. It's a little like miniature bursts of flight. Actually, it's a lot like that. This week I have been confronting hurdles, but I have been slamming into them rather than sailing over smoothly. It's a little too "America's Funniest Home Videos" for my taste. Then I ran across a video a friend posted. Because I am apparently incapable of posting video, check out Enter the Story at adventconspiracy.org.
The spend less, give more is not so much the issue. What I so needed to hear was the reminder to give of myself when I just do not feel like it. On a day when I want to stay in bed with a heating pad, and there is frustration with the nursing agency's inability to cover their staffing, I just need to care for someone else rather than focusing on me. To look outside of myself, my home, my family, and see the needs of others without turning a blind eye to the ones that seem too messy, too big, too inconvenient, or too hard.

Garlands

I am no longer interested in wiring little shiny ornaments onto garlands. In fact, I have a big, ol' "Bored Now." for the very idea. But the windows look festive. Yay!

Heights are not my Happy Place. That is where the Mr. steps in to make things pretty. I only had to be on the ladder long enough to undo some minor bow squashing and rearrange a few wonky bits of greenery. Whew.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Swirly

Infusion is tomorrow. And this weekend saw multiple slowdowns thanks to joint and bone pain. This morning there ought to be a mile-long to-do list, but an ADHD moment is keeping the list from happening. Which makes it doubly difficult to accomplish the tasks that should be neatly lining up on said list rather than swirling in no particular order through my thoughts only to surface briefly before being carried away as some new bit of whatever floats to the top of the maelstrom. Argh. I know the following should happen:
  • Food. And paper towels. We need the food for Thanksgiving dinner and for eating on the days before the holiday. Because sometimes infusions leave me in worse shape than I was in before. I feel like I should have most of the meal prepped as much in advance as possible. I wonder if this is paranoia or reasonably thinking ahead?!
  • Decorations. All the Christmas stuff is scattered around the house waiting to make everything pretty and festive. Waiting on me. I'm thinking we decorate the tree tomorrow during the infusion, or maybe on Thanksgiving Day between the turkey and the pie?!
  • A trip to the dump. Because I need to clean out the weird little places that seem to accumulate stuff that should have made it into the bin. And there always seems to be way more stuff in way more places than should be possible.
  • Storage bins. This year we are going to replace the boxes that have become more duct tape than box with those nice plastic bins that one can see into... and that is where the holiday stuff will live during the off months. In my mind I can already see how neatly the bins will stack in the attic rather than the leaning towers of collapsing cardboard that have served as holiday storage for a decade or so.
  • Orange oil. Because the cat knocked over the tree last year, and she is far too interested in my garlands already for her own good. The cat will not survive another tree toppling. No. Hopefully the citrus scent will make the breakables wholly unappealing to our curious kitty.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Girly

Miss Katie and I went out in search of nearly-naked make-up yesterday. We found some shades that are so close to flesh tones that your mamas would all be proud of us. My not-so-little Missy ended up choosing mascara, lip gloss, and eye shadow for her first cosmetics, and she looked like herself but with a bit of highlighting. Once she's learned to apply the assorted powder and goo, then there can be more color. It's a process.
More importantly, we had a great afternoon together. We talked about the parts of our lives that have diverged somewhat since she entered the halls of middle school. The 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. stuff. We laughed. We rolled our eyes. We ate cake and sipped our beverages. We smelled everything in the Yankee Candle Co. We tried the samples in World Market and discovered we both like rooibos with spices in it. So we brought a tin home, and we will drink it to the general disgust of everyone else in the household.

Oh, Christmas Tree

Oh, my. Christmas blew up in my house. And the debris has yet to be fully surveyed, much less cleared. Christmas decorating used to be a fairly simple affair. Don showed Katie photos last night of the tree we shared for Christmas the first year of our marriage. One of us loved the small tabletop model purchased on clearance at a discount store, and found it a charming and festive addition. The other (who shall remain nameless except for the spelling of "D-o-n") not so much. He and Katie thought that wonderful little tree was pitiful. While that tree still has fond memories for me, it is not the sort of Christmas Tree about which I obsess.
The Year of the Teeny Tabletop Tree was also the year that I received my first piece of Spode Christmas Tree china. And so the seeds planted in childhood by an auntie who lived for a time in jolly, olde England where she began a collection of Christmas china began to sprout. Into the beanstalk of last Christmas when I discovered that *GASP!!!* my china had been outsourced to no longer be "Made in England". Wrong-o-moosebreath! So we found a temporary source, and then later my auntie sent me a treasure trove from her own collection. My mother and my mother-in-law were both greatly relieved to hear that the china set they and others had been thoughtfully building one Christmas gift at a time would feature enough dinner plates for our whole clan. (We are women who actually concern ourselves with this sort of thing. My daughters are being trained to a combination of concern over the dinnerware matching, and an understanding that paper plates do not have to be washed so long as one is okay with killing the planet. The girls are still a little confused, but they will get it all sorted out before they are responsible for such things.) Yesterday I assembled all of the booty amassed during last year's frenzy to find every possible piece of "Made in England" Christmas Tree china available within the state.
And then, I just sat in the dining room with the most foolish of smiles. And goggled. And giggled. And perhaps a bit too reverently held up pieces of china for my long-suffering spouse to admire. It was an occasion of such magnitude that the thirteen year old boy came into the room and managed a comment about all that Christmas China. Hee.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sweet Celebration

Whoo-Hoo! The kids are out of school for a whole week! Instead of dragging them from their nice, warm beds too early, the option to let them sleep in exists for a few days. The school year brings a series of logistical headaches to start every day, but Thanksgiving Break is opening with cinnamon rolls. Hanging around the house enjoying sweets is so much better than rushing around the house and zipping off to assorted destinations!
I'm abuzz with thoughts of "What shall we do today?" because the possibilities feel so unlimited compared to ordinary days. Don has gone off to meet a friend for coffee, Erin has a choir rehearsal in less than an hour, and Evan has a friend coming over this afternoon. This is a real change from our typical day's jam-packed 6:00 a.m.- 9:00 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.-bedtime schedules for the kids. I think Kate and I will run off for a little Mother-Daughter bonding in the cosmetic aisle that ends with a trip to La Madeliene (because that's our girly spot).
By the time we return home, Don plans to have pulled the Christmas goodies down from the attic for me. We'll sort through the assorted pretties, and it will begin to feel like the holidays are imminent. (Because they are!) This year we're hosting a Black Friday open house so I have an excellent excuse for dragging all the Christmas goodies out a bit early. My hands are just twitching at the thought of unwrapping the Christmas china and ornaments for this year... oooh. Hooray!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sharing is Good

Leanne over at Tired Mama says she will show me her Polish Pottery if I show her mine. Since my hands are stiff with arthritis this morning, today is another good day for a picture post.






Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tears of a Clown

Evan finally had the opportunity to tattle on Katie yesterday. He was positively gleeful about conveying the news that his sister was experimenting with Mom's make-up. I answered the phone to, "Uh, Mom?"
"Yes, Evan?"
"Um. Katie is into your mascara?
"Mascara... are we talking about the same sister?!"
"Yes!" (He's giddy.)
"Are you sure she's in the mascara?"
"That's the black, goopy stuff that goes on your eyes, right?"
"That's the stuff. Alrighty, then. I'll deal with it when I get home."
"Uh, Mom? Should tell her to wash it off?"
"Well, she can try, but that stuff is super waterproof. It's unlikely to come off."
*sigh*

Later that evening, I consult a group of Other Mothers on the wearing of make-up. I am consulting because Katie didn't break any rules by experimenting, but there probably do need to be some guidelines put in place. (Make-up is not something we have even discussed, so it's not as if she snuck off and put on great gobs of goo at school or a dance like I recall kids doing who were not allowed to wear make-up in middle school. ) The other moms do not have a daughter over five years among them though. None of them has gone beyond letting their preschool daughters wear clown lip gloss in pretty, pretty princess shades of pink and purple. So there are no opinions I can make my own. *sigh*

Later, Don and I curl into bed to watch a t.v. show about Windsor Castle while Katie finishes up her homework assignment. I tell him that the Other Mothers are not weighing in, and that I wish I had asked the mommies with older daughters what their family policies are on Daughters Wearing Make-up. Still thinking, I then say that it really doesn't matter what other parents are doing other than to get ideas, and what does Don think. Don proceeds to offer up his two cents consisting of, "I don't really care if she wears make-up, much less what kinds, but if she looks like a 'ho' or a clown, she's washing it off." He then throws in a rendition of the little song Ringling Brothers uses to announce the arrival of the clowns in their tiny car while I laugh myself into breathlessness.

So. We still have yet to resolve the questions of tween and teen cosmetic use. I am thinking that nail polish, cologne, and sheer lip colors are fine because these goodies have been allowed since the girls were still into Disney Princesses. Foundation, blush, and eyeliner are absolutely off limits. Mascara, a single shade of eye shadow, and powder are currently up for discussion.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mom's Taxi

There is too much of this in my life.













I would like more of this instead.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

To Market We Go

Oh. I married well. This morning Don and I ran away from home to have breakfast at our local Market after dropping off Youngest Daughter at school. After our meal, he says, without so much as a sigh, "Okay. Let's go look at the dishes." I am silent. Because I am soaking up the sheer pleasure of being with my Beloved who intimately knows how oddly pleased I am by wondering amongst pretty breakable bits of glass, china, crystal, and pottery. And that he loves me enough to wander with me almost weekly despite the knowledge that I might find some treasure I am convinced should share our home. And if I do, he will say, "Can we afford that?" or "Do you need that?" If the first answer is "No", then we will move on along. If the second answer is "No", then he waits for the inevitable, "But..." This is a man who has the patience of Job when it comes to me and my love o' dishes.
Last week after I ran away to Bargain Basement with Lisa and Shelley, I commented that he might collect bass guitars if we were ever independently wealthy. He responded that, no, he would not... but that he does apparently collect Polish Pottery. Hee. Yes, he does.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Basic Theology... for KIDS!

A friend has released an on-line version of a book he co-wrote with his son. Basic Theology for Kids is now available from Pastor Steve Lucas and son David! Steve is headed out to Costa Rica to support and equip other pastors through The Brook. AND. Steve is offering a freebie of his Kids' Theology text to bloggers willing to offer him a link. So. Here's a two-fer, Steve because we also appreciate your work to help equip parents who don't happen to be pastors. Sample download available at Steve's web site

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Surprises

Oooooh. Friday night was full of surprises. My parents brought unexpected gifts of Polish pottery. A stunning batch of pretties including a coffee pot, egg plate, sauce boat and plate, and a flower-shaped bowl were all unwrapped just in time to put out for our first potluck dinner!
Mom and Dad with Katie also had a hand in a surprise for Don. His birthday is coming up, but since we had friends over, I figured a cake and "Happy Birthday" would be in order even if the date was a little off. The three of them went out to pick up a few things that I wanted for our guests... and a birthday cake. Dad slipped into the kitchen with the cake reading "My Dad Rocks!" while Don sat in the living room talking. Everyone headed into the living room, and the children started off the singing of the birthday song as the cake was brought into the living room. Don was looking around wondering who everyone was singing to as the cake was presented to him. It's pretty rare that we are able to surprise him!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Passages

A woman beloved by many who are precious to me passed away late Thursday after spending 2008 battling aggressive cancer that spread throughout her body costing her a leg and eventually this life. But what a life. I am tickled by the desire and level of activity going into developing a suitable way to celebrate a life well-lived. I saw the lady one time after she began her fight for life, but I never actually met her. Don knew her only to say, "Hello!" Yet our lives are strongly influenced by her effect on all the mutual friends who knew and were loved by her. What more can we hope for than to have loved so well that all who share our lives carry a bit of our torch forward to continue lighting the way to Christ?
An interesting counterpoint to the loss and celebration came an hour later when news of my sister-in-law producing a bouncing bundle of boy was relayed. Don and I were pleased that all went well for the mother and the little one. They should go home Sunday where my dynamo of a mother-in-law is waiting to help the family adjust to life with baby.
The news of these two common, yet once-in-a-lifetime, passages came an hour apart. There is an appreciation of the symmetry. We will pray for the peace of those who mourn, for the quick recovery of the new mother, and with all joy for the eternal life and the new life to be celebrated.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Time and Tied

Despite the officiant looking suspiciously like David Koresh, Don and I made it through our wedding vows to be introduced as husband and wife. We ate fajitas and cake, dumped our wedding clothes, tossed the garter and the bouquet, and headed off for our wedding night. Which was almost as ill-fated as my attempts to stay dry-eyed during the ceremony.

A couple who drove in for the wedding from another town were staying the night at our house. As were we. Shared quarters do not an intimate honeymoon make. As we unpacked my assorted toiletries on arriving at our first official residence (with our first official house guests), I discovered that something was missing. So I called my parents, and asked that they bring me the small plastic case left in the bathroom so we could avoid celebrating a honeymoon pregnancy a few weeks later. Mother said she would finds the missing pills before I was missing pills.

Except she could not find them. So she sent my Dad and his good friend (the father of the flower girl) over to the drug store connected to the home health agency where I worked. My father and his pal requested a refill of my prescription and explained the circumstances to my co-worker. (Oh, Privacy Practice laws how I love thee...) Dad and his friend delivered the by now much-discussed birth control pills to our house. We have wedding guests, and fathers of the wedding party all along on our wedding night. At which point the doorbell rings.

One of the nurses I worked with had been in the pharmacy and overheard my Dad broadcasting my birth control needs. Which she found very funny. So she proceeded to purchase every other method available in the store, tossed in pamphlets on everything from pregnancy to certain indelicate diseases, and came right on over to join in the fun. In case you are counting, there are now five more people involved in our wedding night than there ought to be.
Which brings me back to that study I joined a few years later hoping to find a cure for an all too common marriage and my husband's lack of attention and interest. Beginning to learn what Scripture had to say about marriage, I discovered that the pattern we set on our wedding night was still the one we were reproducing--- and that it looked nothing like what the Bible said our relationship could be. There were too many other people involved in our marriage. We needed to cleave--- both away from other people and to one another. While our children were directly affected by our marriage (and we remain responsible for loving and teaching our offspring), they were not participants in this particular three-legged race. And the race was bound to be smoother once we cut ourselves loose from our friends and parents. They were likely to have opinions, but not one of them was tied to the quintessential unit of one comprised by Don and I.
The long process began of trying to learn how to put Don in a place of higher priority than every other person. More challenging lessons came as we walked, ran, limped, and sometimes crawled along together. Sometimes we struggled against the ties that bound us together, but eventually we began to understand how to support one another while developing a fairly smooth gait by working together. Everyone else in this marathon is a spectator, coach, cheerleader, even companion, but none can be tied to us without hobbling our marriage by throwing off our rhythm or introducing a lack of harmony.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Radical Idea

I cried all the way through our wedding vows. And my nose ran. And I didn't have a tissue. And my maid of honor was all of 16, and she didn't realize I needed a tissue. So the most memorable moment I have from our ceremony was Don making the first of many sacrifices. During the prayer at the end of the vows, he let me wipe my nose on his suit jacket sleeve. (Ew.) To spare me from having great embarrassment before our guests. Except that the wedding video was rolling away to capture the moment forever. Hee.
No wonder that I have little real memory of the whole "in sickness and health", "for richer or poorer", and certainly I missed the "for better or worse" bit. I did catch the "to have and to hold from this day forward", and I was especially enthusiastic about the Mr. kissing his bride whose drippy nose was temporarily relieved. At twenty and twenty-one we were young... and really stupid. Which was good because our stupidity prevented us from giving up on one another and our youth left plenty of time to sort out our marriage.
I read a line in a book yesterday talking about how some kinds of love are "responsive", and I am drawn back through the haze of memory to the first three years of our marriage. Responsive love was exactly what we had signed on for, but neither of us was giving anything good to stimulate the other one on to love in response. Which means we were both miserable, and we each blamed the other. (Yeah, that helped.) I signed up for a group study thinking I would learn how to fix my clearly busted spouse at that point.
Except the other women in the room all seemed different from me. Different from any experience I had with examples of marriage. And the study was not at all what I expected. While I was ready to create my list of What's Wrong With My Husband, and it's sister How He Needs To Change, the ladies and the study all advocated something far more radical. And unappealing. They actually suggested that perhaps Don was not the Problem.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Completer

I answer my phone this afternoon to hear some really crazy news. Lisa and her sister Shelley have taken themselves off to our local bargain store. And guess what the two of them have discovered crammed in amongst the what-not littering the shelves in Bargain Basement? Polish pottery! The real deal--- and they would certainly both know exactly what they were seeing! So I hop in the car and race off to Bargain Basement. Oh. My. Goodness. Yay! We gorge our little peepers on all the pretty bits of pottery exclaiming over the fun of finding such treasure in this unexpected place.
I received a beautiful creamer and sugar bowl as a surprise gift a while back after posting my wish to build a coffee and tea service. (And yet people ask why I blog?!) I have since added a matching spoon, but today we found a little tray in the matching pattern to hold the whole lovely set. Shelley, quick with the rationalizing, suggested that the tray was a good buy because it both completed my sugar and creamer set and it was a lovely decorative item for my kitchen.

Calendar Crunch

Birthday, birthday, birthday. Erin's birthday is almost here. Unlike her siblings who would be on some demented Birthday High at at this point, Miss Erin is looking forward to the day we celebrate her, but she is too busy for much self-absorption. She has dancing lessons today, and on Thursday she has two friends coming for dinner, a rehearsal for Children's Choir and a second practice immediately after choir for her role as a shepherd in the grown-up Christmas programming.
Here's where it gets sticky. There are two more rehearsals on Saturday. When we have scheduled a birthday party. While waiting on confirmation, there is hope that Erin is not in either of the sections rehearsing this weekend since both appear to involve primarily the speaking roles for the Children's Choir production. I suspect that Erin would be perfectly fine with racing from rehearsal to birthday party, but her grandparents would probaby like to see her at some point on Saturday rather than racing along with her from one activity to the next. Had Erin's mama made the minimal effort to read the rehearsal schedule prior to last night, then the stress level of possibly squeezing too much stuff into too little time could have been avoided, or at least minimized. Bad Mama.
At least I know that she is a shepherd now. There was confusion created by requests for information from the costume mistress last night for Erin's clothing sizes because I still had not seen the script for Imagine (the show where Erin will serve as one of four shepherds reading Luke 2). The motivation to look back at a previously received message regarding Children's Choir came as I realized that, in addition to not knowing her specific role, I had no earthly idea what my child was doing, where she was committed to be, or when. Uh-oh. Not knowing the role was because the scripts had not been sent to the children yet, but the schedule whoopsie is all on me because that was sent two weeks ago and has even been referred to by two other moms!
The days of the December festival will make for one crazy weekend. Erin will perform not only in the two productions, but her ballet class will likely dance during the intermission. And her Daddy is playing bass in both the adult productions of "Pop Goes Christmas" and "Imagine". Oh, Boy. This is why I needed to not be involved in the organization roles for the intermission performers. I can hardly keep track of two performers--- much less a whole list of them!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Whoops.`

Sorry. I worked in an Operating Room for a couple of years. Cuts and bruises don't faze me, but I do apologize for giving others a turn. Not intentional, so much as unthinking. If you have not already read "Multitasking", then the apology will make little sense. The offending photo of Miss Erin's eye injury has been pulled down to avoid causing any unintentional "Ewwww."

Multitasking

Our weekend involved a series of commitments that kept us on the run right up until our youngest caught a frisbee with her left eye during a party--- just as we were preparing to take our leave to head for her school carnival. Instead, we headed for the E.R. where little missy's eye was determined to be undamaged although painful. The M.D. made it glow-in-the-dark which was exciting. She wore shades to church yesterday and to school today because she finds the look of her now full-blown shiner unappealing.
This week will be no more quiet than the last one. We have company coming for the weekend (my parents), the opening of a friend's daughter's play Wednesday evening, a pair of kids visiting Thursday night for dinner before they and Erin go off to choir rehearsal, what may be a full house for a our Second Friday Potluck, and a herd of second grade girls for a birthday party on Saturday, and the baptisms of five children belonging to two families dear to us.
So. While I ought to be doing things to prepare for the craziness of later this week, I am in no mood to do anything because it is a cloudy, somewhat rainy day which makes me want to curl up and sleep despite the household chores that need doing. Which is precisely what I will do while the modern conveniences of the washing machine, dryer, and dishwasher proceed to wash clothes and dishes for me. That is my kind of multi-tasking.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Not Polish

Whoa. Shelley and I had some yummy Polish food at lunch yesterday because the sklep is also a restaurant. Everyone else... mmm. Not so much. Because the results of our hours shopping for ingredients and preparing a really... um, involved meal were not so good. I will spare the details of our thoroughly misguided attempt at preparing pierogis (dumplings) and sernik (Polish cheesecake). Thankfully, we did have kielbasa to salvage the dinner.
Unfortunately, we also had the cheesecake. I was sadly going to forgo eating any of the delicious sounding cheesecake topped with a layer of thinly sliced peaches, meringue, and finished off with a crumb topping. (The operative word in that sentence was "sounding".) Everyone at the table sampled a bite of the treat that oddly resembled scrambled eggs with peaches. Shelley looked thoughtful. Don proceeded to scoop up a bite of the stuff to offer me saying, "You won't be breaking your fast [from sweets] with this..." before putting the single most vile bite of food into my mouth ever created. Holee cow. I can now say that I have eaten something so vile that I spontaneously cried. Wow. Whoo. Oomph. Apparently there are two kinds of "twarog" cheese, and we did not use the right one. Imagine dry cottage cheese with (Oops.) twice the butter called for in a dish that ended up reminiscent of cake batter with cottage cheese, a hint of peaches, and finished off with a highly bitter aftertaste. Oh my, my, my.
I still stand by the company. Despite five hours invested in a meal that I would feel guilty serving the dogs, I can honestly say the day was fun. I am not a Polish cook. My appreciation of good Polish food grows every time I attempt to prepare it. But I would not trade the fun of watching Shelley try to get instructions from three women all speaking rapid-fire Polish as they each weigh in on how much bacon we need for the pierogi filling... only to discern that one of them is underestimating because there are two pounds left in the meat counter--- and she wants one pound. Or watching the girls roll out the dough and cut circles for the dumplings before everyone gathered in the kitchen to begin filling and sealing our little pockets of potato, cheese, and bacon, followed by all three kids anxiously peering into the pot to see if we had any "floaters" that were ready to eat. Or the combination of chagrin and laughter at the discovery that the carefully filled pockets had all stuck together on the plate while waiting for cooking. Any day filled with laughter is okay in my book even if I eat something that literally brings me to tears.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Polish American

Yay! My favorite Polish American or Amercian Pole is home for a bit. Last night Shelley and I met at my favorite coffee shop in Suburbia just to hang out for a bit... and make plans for today's festivities. Today is something of a "Celebrate Poland" day at our house. Shelley learned to make pierogis in Poland. I made some truly bad Zurek (a kind of soup) for our family after returning from Poznan last Spring. Today, the opportunity to make both will be part of our day as Shelley comes to visit. I'll meet Shelley and her Mom to go have lunch and fulfill our specialty shopping list at a Polish grocery (sklep) in a nearby suburb. (The grocery store photo is from a previous grocery trip with Shelley... except it was a Polish grocery that was in Poland rather than Suburbia.) Then Shelley and I will be attempting to duplicate the feat of making pierogis which will be part of our dinner along with what will hopefully be good Zurek.

In addition to Don and I, the kids, and Shelley, Shelley's sister Lisa and Lisa's husband John will complete our dinner party! Hooray! While I am sincerely hopeful that the dinner will be wonderful, I know the companionship will be the best. After our yummy Polish dinner, we will all load up for the drive to the church. Erin is performing tonight (along with her adorable friends from dance class) at the church's monthly artist's gathering where original material is shared. It is awesome that we are all sharing so much with one another tonight from our home, to Shelley's Polish cooking expertise, to John and Lisa's ready laughter, and the children's corny jokes and talent. Whatever we each bring to the evening, it's bound to be memorable. Both my glimpse into Shelley's Polish world and her American world will come together tonight. What's not to love?!

Footnote:
Last night Shelley shared the raw footage of her support-raising video with me. As we watched, it struck me that several talented people were in the building who might share their expertise with her to create a piece that would truly communicate the spiritual need in Poland. We showed the video to our church's generally brilliant programming director Jan who had a couple of helpful comments, but was not really struck by the images that had me turning away from the screen to avoid sobbing. The message was not coming across in the video. First thing this morning, my phone rang. Those images that were not communicating the needed message did stick with Jan. So much so that she was calling with a makeshift verbal storyboard communicating the very real spiritual starvation in Europe. Whoo-Hoo!!! I am hoping that Shelley will be able to communicate why she goes out through the images and words with the addition of Jan's keen mind and eye to the creative process.