Thursday, December 31, 2009

Begin Again

2009. Hmmm... if there were a pencil or pen involved in this writing, it would be twisting and turning a la Anthony Michael Hall's character in The Breakfast Club during his consideration of the "Why Are You Here?" essay. Which could beg the question, "Why am I here?" Except that is hardly the direction Mama's thoughts wish to wander today. Today is more about yesterday and tomorrow.
Yesterday, there was a measure of satisfaction in packing away all of the Christmas decorations from the china to the stockings. The feeling of industry in storing away all the glitz and glitter of the Christmas season was capped off by the procurement of next year's gift wrap to be kept in wait with the recycled ribbons, tissue, and boxes of Christmas Past. The china wrapped and rewrapped in additional bubble cushions before being boxed up, so that the places of honor could be assumed by all the lovely goodies delivered by the Polish Pottery Fairy this year. The final act was tossing the last slice of apple pie which was mistakenly left out last night, and eating the final piece of pumpkin in unadulterated glee over the latest Breakfast of Champions of 2009 a moment of dietary weakness. It was lovely to make a late night drive to retrieve Middle Child from a movie with friends, and to enjoy the Christmas lights knowing they'll either be gone today, or the HOA will be in fits until it is so.
Today, despite the pie breakfast, the mister and I were out watching our breath precede us as we walked the dogs a couple of miles in case we have more freak December snow or freezing rain. (Buster hates water. He fails to see the charm in the stuff regardless of the form it takes.) The mister leaves freshly baked cinnamon rolls for the children to discover when they wake. My fingers fly over the keyboard in anticipation of an outing with him while they yet sleep. We're just running to the store, but it's still somewhere we are going without any of our offspring or any sort of medical practitioner.
The afternoon will be filled with preparations for a poker party tonight to see out the final hours of this year amidst friends and food. Both of the latter are special favorites. And the poker? Candy is the designated ante for tonight. It has been said that the amateur players in these games tend to win the most candy. Woo-Hoo! I am both terribly inept and untutored at card games, and have a tremendous liking for candy. This is bound to end well.

Anywho. The thoughts on this night and the day to come?

New Year's Eve holds a treasured place as the night that ushers in a new beginning. A beginning arriving whether greeted with bated breath and great fanfare as the clock strikes midnight, reached by the solitary soul staring as the lighted ball drops on a backlit screen, or creeping quietly past those sleeping. The New Year begins a clean sweep of the old moving unseen across borders and time zones with the earth's rotation. And in a day the old year will be done.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Refill

Ouch. In the end-of-year get-it-done-while-the-deductible-is-met medical and dental blitz, the calendar for today was packed with a trip to the dermatologist, followed by the immunologist's office, back to the endodontist, and capped off with the regular dentist. Oh, joy. Oh, dear.
The dermatologist visit was expected to be a quick 15 minute in and out. Except it wasn't. The biopsy results that could have been nothing? Were something. Precancerous cells with edges not contained in the original sample meant a minor surgery in office to remove a bit more of the offending uh-oh from my upper left arm. For the record? This was answered prayer that anything of just this sort would be found--- and removed rather than allowed to grow unchecked until truly dangerous. Oh, well.
The immunologist was the stop for H1N1 vaccination which really could have been just the 15 minutes it takes to sign in and let the nurse poke what was now destined to be my upper right arm. Except it wasn't. The sinus infection that took hold before Christmas? Was still in effect. So there had to be an exam and an extension of the antibiotics keeping the badness somewhat at bay in hopes of completely clearing the infection. And thanks to the biopsy results? The always unpleasant discussion of the increased cancer risks for those with my specific immune deficiency. Then it was decided that the vaccine could still be given after all. Oh, brother.
The endodontist? Did exactly what was planned; although, it was a bit of a toss up trying to decide which arm to volunteer for having blood pressure taken. No surprises whatsoever, and the icky infection in my jaw appeared to be all cleared up. Concluding their business early, the lovely people in that office sent me home to a pudding lunch, my mister, and Mansfield Park. Oh, goody.
One can never tell how these things will go, but it is rather hopeful that the final appointment of the day will end even half so well as the third one did. While not quite managing to begin the day as I meant to go, it is shaping up rather nicely at the midpoint. After all, how can one possibly be unhappy with a day that involves an uninterrupted hour with a well-loved book? Or a few minutes spent making faces in the mirror with half one's face numb? And, of course, there were some valiant attempts to deliver a single smooch to my mister that were entirely unsuccessful due to said numbness, but still highly entertaining. Laughter and a bit of escapism do wonders for refilling a glass that was precariously poised at half empty.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Prep Time

With Christmas, 2009 past, and 2010 looming imminently, our church is getting ready for The Apocalypse. Seriously. We're not lining sidewalks with sandwich boards proclaiming the doom of all mankind or anything, but we are preparing to study Revelation perhaps in the interest of recognizing why speaking of one's faith is of necessity. Before The Apocalypse arrives toward the end of January, as a congregation we will spend 21 days studying and focusing on prayer. I cannot think of a better pursuit for those who wish to chase after the Creator of the Universe than to simply spend time with Him. And in spending moments, hours, and the coming days in pursuit of the One, we will be better prepared to serve Him--- and to live in expectation of the coming of the end of all things known.
Because eventually the world as it is will pass away. I choose to worship God who exits outside of time and this world. And to try to recognize that God is bigger than my small mind can know, more immense than my wildest imaginings might conceive, and that this unknowable Lord patiently reveals Himself through scripture. How astounding. And how great is my anticipation of what will come of our congregation purposefully spending weeks practicing the simple awe of communion through prayer before attempting to wade into the Revelation of warning and hope given to John.
It's going to be some year.

Friday, December 25, 2009

White Christmas

The snow flurries of Christmas Eve failed to disappear overnight thanks to temperatures well below freezing. According to a Facebook post by an old acquaintance, it was colder in Pleasant Suburb than it was in Canada. Shelley in Poland reported rain in Gdansk while noting the freak snow in her home state. How very odd, and how utterly delightful, to creep from our beds to peer out the window at a field of scarcely broken white. Unbroken until we marched out into it for a Christmas morning snowball fight.
A good hour later, we returned to the house where a breakfast casserole and fresh biscuits awaited. Slipping back into our jammies, we each checked our stockings. Thanks to the snow outside, we have seen the first time ever in this household that stockings went unchecked on Christmas morning. Of course, it's also the first White Christmas in mine and the mister's married life--- and the first one in Pleasant Suburb since the 1920's.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Surprising

This was a year for surprises large and small. The mister expected to find a "cowboy shirt" (as he dubbed the lovely item I'd personally chosen for him) under the tree, but was instead pleased to discover that the cowboy shirt had left the building to be replaced by something more the mister's style. In like fashion, the mister tucked a pair of slim jewelry boxes into a Polish pottery shipping box with a small weight to completely fool me. My guess on picking up the package and removing the wrapping was a berry bowl. Another box revealed a new apron that had been admired in store only the day before and picked up on a super-stealthy shopping expedition by the mister and Middle Child.
The "Gotcha!" moments seemed to have passed once the packages had all been taken from beneath the tree. Don told the girls to, "Unload the dryer," despite the newly unwrapped gifts drawing their attention away from those boring, everyday chores. He slipped into the master bedroom where I stuffed a box and a slim card into my pockets to be covered by my sweater before hurrying back into the living room to grab the camera with the mister coming behind at a more measured pace. He came through the door, calling for Erin, and in his hands was a bright, cobalt blue, bass guitar.
Middle Child turned away from the room trying to damp down her own disappointment. Valiantly fighting the green-eyed monster that reared up as her sister received an extra special Christmas surprise while Kate's own greatest wish went unfulfilled was no easy task. Tapping Katie on the shoulder, I produced the gift card that would fulfill all sorts of tween iTunes wishes. As a smile broke across our formerly disappointed darling's face, I pulled the iPod Touch she really hoped for from the other pocket. The mister and I were rather pleased with ourselves. So were the girlies, for that matter.
We exchange our family gifts on Christmas Eve. This year, as we proceeded to shower one another with Christmas wishes and treats large and small, something completely unheard of began to fall. A White Christmas was coming to Texans big and small. Scrap the visions of sugarplums, and grab a snow ball... but first, may we wish you a Merry Christmas, one and all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Collectibles

The children, and sometimes the mister and I, choose or are given a special ornament to mark each year. Some reflect interests or hobbies while others are simply expressions of personal taste. This year, staring at the rows of ornaments in the store, it was with an overwhelming awareness that The Boy would not get to choose an ornament. Turning to leave empty-handed, I narrowly avoided crashing into a stand with small sled ornaments featuring names. Selecting one with each of my children's names regardless of where they call home this year, I proceeded to the checkout with a heaviness not typical of this usually fun errand.
This was not the spirit of the tradition. We joyfully select ornaments when given choices, and are typically tickled when someone opts to give us one such as the hand-carved works of art (2007's angel representation is shown at left.) my parents bring from Arkansas each year. While the pride of our tree are absolutely the handmade ornaments of paper, aluminum foil, pipe cleaner, and toilet paper roll created by our children over the years, Mama collects Hallmark ornaments which means the offspring receive them. (Those no longer go on the tree after discovering that cats climb Christmas Trees. Now they are primarily attached to the garlands that are not going up this year. When the lovies are grown, their collected Hallmark ornaments from over the years will go with them to begin their own trees. Ours? Will still be covered in the children's handmade treasures.) The girls and I made a trip to the Hallmark store after they asked about those ornaments. Faced with the clear indication that this was important to them, it was back to standing before the ornament display. To avoid my previous situation, I suggested a family ornament this year. The only one the girls agreed on was "The Corpse Bride". Really. *sigh*
The girls each picked out their own ornament with the caveat that anything dead or the representation thereof would be vetoed. It tickled me no end that Middle Child selected the fra-gee-lay Major Award of "A Christmas Story" fame. Little Bit went with a star of Bethlehem ornament. Loving that the girls had rather nicely represented both our Christian celebration of the birth of Christ and a bit of favored pop culture goodness, I was rather glad to see the new additions on the tree despite the dangers of not one, but two, cats and the pair of rough-housing dogs.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mercy

With both sets of grandparents having been here and gone last week, life has returned to something resembling normal. The church's Christmas Festival behind us, kids out of school, and many of the regular weekly commitments are on hiatus for a couple of weeks... and yet, we remain busy. Not so much with fun stuff. Today's big misadventures included not only my trip to the men's room, but also an endodontist cleaning out the infection in my jaw (ew.), standing in line at a government office because my auto registration is due, and two trips to Bullseye Big Box for stuff I have forgotten on previous trips.
Despite a sore jaw, it seemed like a grand plan when the mister offered a pasta dinner out instead of my proffered nitrate-laden haute dogs. (The "fancy ketchup" makes them haute.) Since he left his debit card at the restaurant, we dropped the girls back home and made a return trip that is likely as close as we'll get to a date this week. We wandered Bullseye in search of stocking stuffers until the offspring phoned to say one of them had attempted to break up doggie play and been injured for her efforts. We headed home in a hurry to find the child perfectly fine, but possessed of a keen desire to bake cookies. The mister and I crawled into bed to watch "My Fair Lady" while the girlies baked. We watched t.v., and eventually munched on the fruits of our lovies' efforts. All in all, it was just the sort of night we all needed.

Attention Deficit

With all the busy-ness of the last few weeks, it feels reasonable to boycott productivity in these final days before Christmas. Still, there are a few last minute gifts to pick up. With that in mind, there was a quick stop at Mega Mart to pick up a couple of pairs of chenille socks and yummy lotion to pair with them.
Except there had been prodigious coffee consumption prior to the stop. Deciding that concentration on the lotion choices would go better without the extra distraction, I zipped into the restroom. The dash to the stall didn't leave time to look around. Exiting the stall I noticed something odd. Urinals on the wall. Oh.but.no.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Present

I'm something of a gift person. If someone happens to present some token of affection that is just exactly right, they have scored a winning hit. It's not the cost or size of the gift, but the personal nature of such things.
For example, someone gave me a pair of skillets this year. The very skillets I have carried around stores only to put them back. Once, I actually bought the things, but then decided to return them. Imagine the surprise of finding them tucked into a gift basket with my least favorite holiday treat (It won't make me fat if I won't eat it. The family loves the stuff, and it was intended for them as well as my skinny jeans.) and two (published!) books by an author who was once only available in amateur online circles. This is not a gift basket to appeal to the masses. (Harry & David were probably cringing somewhere.) It was, quite simply, lovely. A basket of treats that say, "I get you." Outta the park, people.
That's not to say that I am good at giving gifts. Nope. My mother-in-law who genuinely dislikes cooking and only does it out of necessity and duty? We gave her kitchen related gifts for years. Having discovered only last year the inappropriateness of our past attempts, the girls and I cruised the petites sections of several retailers this year to pick out clothing that would both suit the MIL's frame, and that looked like her taste. Imagine the shock when she opened her gifts this year to discover an outfit she clearly loved instead of the usual assortment of cutesy potholders, fancy trivets, Christmas china, and kitchen tools.
It's not that there is a lack of desire to choose appropriate gifts. Or that I do not listen throughout the year for small hints as to what might tickle others' fancies. It's the pressure of gift-giving at Christmas. The compulsion to have a little something for everyone means there is not necessarrily something personally suited to each one on Santa Mama's list.
That delight found in a thoughtful gift received? It's a thousandfold when one is the giver of such a gift. That is the source of much holiday stress around here. It's the simple hope of giving good gifts--- fallen prey to indecisiveness, a pocketbook with reasonable limitations, recognition of some individuals' feelings of the need for reciprocation, and the lack of time to thoughtfully choose something for each individual.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Assortment

  • My parents were in town for an early Christmas this week.

  • My in-laws will be here tonight for an early Christmas.

  • I have somehow managed to develop both a sinus and a jaw infection that will interfere with my holiday weight gain. Here's to the silver lining.

  • For some reason it was truly upsetting that The Boy would not have Chocolate Bread for Christmas. To me. And to him. Someone who is able when I am not made it for him. I heart people who are kind.

  • The house has been moderately company ready off and on all week. I like that, too.

  • My glass is half-full. And I think there's a refill headed my way. Woo-Hoo!

Oh, yes... the nameless cat? She is now officially saddled with Zoe Cupcake Sparklepants for her full name. I? Suggested "Jelli"--- as in Jellicle since we'll never really know her name, but I was overruled. Besides, she really does look like a Zoe.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Shuffling

Running from one place to another, there was a real squeeze on time, extra traffic to complicate matters, and simply too much going on for one day. After racing from one appointment to another in Neighboring Town with no time to spare, I parked and sprinted as fast as my gimpy knees would allow for the sets of automatic doors leading into the doctors' office building. An older woman was very. slowly. shuffling. along. the. sidewalk. She passed through the first of the doors just before I could zip past her. *sigh*
The initial flash of irritation and panic that I would be late after all my rushing passed quickly, and I stood waiting with the elevators within sight, but beyond reach without rushing past the woman making her way oh. so. slowly across the few feet separating the doors. Patience kicked in as I opted to stand quietly waiting while the lady took one careful step after another across the space between the outer and inner entry doors. I ceased to feel the seconds ticking as I imagined her progress to reach this point from the parking lot. Once she cleared the second set of doors, I went on past her to the waiting elevator in hopes the pair of drug reps inside would not allow the doors to close on me as the rush resumed.
Except the pair not only held the door for me, but the gentleman leaned out to ask the still. steadily. shuffling. lady if she was going up. And she was. And my patience was not required because another person was taking up the baton of Patience to run with it. Eventually, Shuffler joined us asking for the floor before the one where my own doctor was located. When the door opened there were two women waiting to board. One was a stranger to Shuffler, but she immediately stepped forward with a nurse in scrubs to assist Shuffler in stepping off. Stranger offered to go along with Shuffler to her eventual destination in the third leg of our relay. The nurse stepped in calling Shuffler by her Mrs. Name, and took the final leg to see the lady to her appointment rather than proceeding with whatever errand she had been about when the elevator arrived.
As soon as the elevator doors closed behind that scene, the seconds began to tick again. Pshaw. Banishing thoughts of time, I offered up a prayer of thanks for the opportunity to see a series of people choosing kindness over convenience. Patience over busy-ness. How entirely lovely. Walking into the office minutes later to sign in, there was a sense of general amusement to discover that I was two minutes early for my own appointment.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Postal

The UPS site showed that the mister's Christmas gift left the local distribution hub at 4:08 a.m. Mental calculations failed to explain how to avoid his receiving the package since he works from home. He mentioned that my Christmas gift was likely to arrive via mail. To which I replied that his was also due in, and it would be best if he leave UPS to me while he took care of any regular mail.
The mail came first. The mister snagged his package while telling me, "Don't look!", as he sped past into the haven of our bedroom shutting the door behind him. He offered up the wrapped package shortly thereafter, but I refused to so much as touch the box for fear I would guess exactly what surprise was inside.
UPS showed up next with the mister's goody and a magical mystery surprise package from JC Penney. (Turned out one of the neighbors had ordered a toy metal detector. I re-taped the erroneously opened package, and we dropped it off on the proper doorstep. Oops.) Checking the other box to be sure the mister's gift was both in there and undamaged, I removed the packing slip before resealing the box. Tearing off the shipping label to make it an anonymous brown box, I shuffled it to the side until I was ready to wrap the thing.
This year we are all about the surprises. I cannot say more because both the mister and our offspring read Mom's Blog. And surprises are no fun at all with spoilers.

Talk

One can only imagine what was said around the water cooler well in Nazareth a couple of thousand years ago. Somehow, it seems likely in my imagination that Mary had traded her normal life that was planned to include Joseph, a home, and their children for being a topic. And I doubt many were buying immaculate conception aside from Elizabeth, John, and Joseph.
I wonder at Mary. She took on the likely ridicule of sporting the best known baby bump ever, and in return had the opportunity to raise the only perfect child ever born. She also followed her sinless firstborn to His death so He could save us all. I really wonder at Mary. I can only imagine the kind of Faith that would allow one to put aside ordinary dreams to step into the most extraordinary circumstances of any mother throughout all of time.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Open and Shut

It has been pointed out that most individuals would opt to redo something indoors, like a bathroom in winter and replace doors in warmer weather. Not us. We tear up the bathroom before it gets so hot that everyone feels perpetually sticky from heat and humidity. And doors? Well, we finally pulled the trigger on the patio doors despite temperatures cold enough to allow Texas to see an early snow recently. Because we can bundle up if it happens to get cold inside, but once one is maked there's little to do about the heat. Not that we run around here naked in the Summer with or without workmen on the premises. This is solely an example intended to clarify the logic in our out-of-season home improvement projects.

The mister and I tend to set a glacier's pace in our replacement plans. The old sliding glass door was installed when the house was built in the 80's. The seals on the glass gave way around 2004, but there were some hiccups in replacing them. We could not simply replace the glass, but would have to rip out the whole door. If we were ripping the doors out, then why not explore the option of french doors? It turns out that the hole in which the original doors fit is no longer a standard size for either a sliding glass or french door to be found in-stock at every Big Box Retailer. Nope. Big Box also seemed conflicted as to whether the sliding glass door or the french door was the variety unavailable for our patio entry and exit. Oh, and, just so we could prepare for the added demolition needed for installation of our shiny new doors? Head's up: the builder opted to fit the door in before covering the frame over with brick and mortar on one side and drywall on the other.
The new doors were delivered a couple of weeks earlier than the expected post-Christmas arrival. While we were in the midst of the church's Christmas Festival. Uh-oh. The installer opted to work Saturday, and "Ta-Da!" The whole thing looks rather nice, I think. Better still? In addition to the job being completed earlier than expected and at the price quoted, the doors will qualify for a tax credit. Bonus.

Friday, December 11, 2009

IMG

Eye. Em. Gee. Um? Maybe I'm missing something here... One more time? Eye. Em. Gee. "Idk" is, "I don't know." "OMW" is "Oh, my word..." Surely, ".IMG" is not indecipherable. Oh. Wait . That dot at the beginning matters. *sigh* I have been texting with Middle Child to the point that I can no longer read things like the indicator that a computer file is an image file without trying to translate the strings of letters into abbreviated phrases. Awesome.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

In the Spirit

Ah, about that holiday challenge? May I just say that the spiritual goal is beyond my wildest hopes. This week's prayers of thanks have been exponentially multiplied with the release of Rebecca Sehnert's "Make That Mountain Move". (Check it out on iTunes!) The offerings range from pop to blue grass influences, but the feeling is pure worship. Rebecca shared her testimony years ago at a women's event, and her faith is lived out day to day as well as spilled out in her writing and singing. I've been wandering around all week singing or humming snippets from the cd in a near-constant worship service.
The physical? Well, tonight Walker and I took advantage of the only night this week free from Christmas Festival commitments and rehearsals to pick up two miles. Resting the knee yesterday meant there was time for the luxury of an afternoon nap. Despite avoiding pie, I am still eating the treats that signal the holiday season like that lovely white chocolate raspberry cake. Oh, yes, it was worth it!
In the all important category of relationships, last night saw a reunion of women involved in ministry at our old church who have gone their separate ways over the years. In my heart, it felt like walking among giants. These were many of the Titus 2 women of the early years of the mister's and my marriage and parenting, some of those who lit the path I follow today and those with whom my steps are in sync. I was especially tickled to look through the photos at the numbers of mothers and daughters present. It was an evening of sheer joy.

The Women: In the Beginning

Over a dozen years ago, a neighbor told me all about her wonderful church, and how we could visit. Ivet was sure our toddler would love the Sunday School. (Since Ivet, the pediatrician, and the grocery clerk were the extent of my weekday social life, I listened closely to everything any of them said.) My mister was raised in church, and he wanted nothing at all to do organized religion. I wanted something. As the next weekend approached, I told the mister that I was going to check out this church, and that he did not have to go. That was where the children and I would be Sunday morning if he chose to join us.
The four of us walked through the doors of the middle school where the church was meeting while waiting for a building to be completed. We were greeted by a man who was married to a woman who would be an incredible blessing to our son in years to come. She was the only person to look at him in his toddler years and suspect Autism affecting his development and social skills. (How I wish she had been advising me in those days rather than the pediatrician we mistakenly trusted.) The Sunday School teacher handled my anxiety over leaving and Evan's subsequent hissy fit with equal ease and aplomb. She found something to compliment him on each week whatever his behavior, and she avoided criticizing me for the wildness in The Boy. The pastors did not tell us we were going to burn, but instead suggested we had an alternative should we choose to accept. They spoke of a sin nature, and that it could be defeated. The music was contemporary, and the band talented enough to capture the ear of my musically inclined mister. We continued to return week and after week.
In the loneliness that led me to seek out Ivet, and to accept her counsel, I signed up for everything and anything that would allow temporary release from our small apartment with or without the stroller. A women's retreat was held in a hotel near our apartment, and someone anonymously gifted the attendance fee for me. Seeing the women in the retreat venue, a yearning for the kind of fellowship they shared began to cautiously unfurl. Sitting at dinner with two women, grossly outside what I felt was my social sphere (who would later become two dear friends), I was enthralled by their camaraderie. The three of us had daughters born the same year in February, March, and April respectively. Peeking into their lives, seeing their friendship, I wished for such friendship. And I began to pray for just such a friendship.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cake

It all started off well enough. I dressed in double layers in anticipation of walking a good five miles in the damp and cold, but Walker opted out. Pleased to get a jump on the morning's tasks, there were quickly two of three white chocolate cake layers baking before the lovies were all in school. Then I realized the makings for the filling, frosting, and third layer were all on the grocer's shelves rather than in the pantry.
After relentlessly pestering Erin into readiness early, I wandered the house with my coffee cup in hand searching for the car keys.
Turning up the car keys just as the first two cake layers were perfectly baked, I discovered that my wallet was nowhere to be seen. The last place I recalled seeing it was... uh-oh. It was definitely in the console of the mister's car. The mister's car was miles away where he was sipping coffee at his weekly Man Meeting. Remembering an envelope of cash earmarked for something else, a resolution quickly became apparent. Jabbing the button to stop the timer, I popped open the oven door. Slipping on my oven mits, I leaned in to pull the hot pans from the oven. Down I fell as something very bad happened in my left knee--- while maintaining a death grip on the hot pans and escaping any hot metal parts touching bare skin solely because of the double layer of winter workout wear.
A couple of hours later, my left knee was in a brace that looks like a prop from last summer's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra for the next couple of weeks and pumped full of cortisone. (Well, actually, the doctor prescribed a brace for the other knee, too. Really, it was only a matter of time.) I was back home to stack the three cake layers with raspberry filling. Slapping on a coating of made-from-scratch white chocolate frosting, I decided it was time to take a teensy break. For the rest of the afternoon.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Warm

It's chilly outside. The landscape has a hazy overtone that speaks of winter's imminent arrival despite the still fiery leaves drifting from tree branches. It is sweater weather in truth, and a pot of soup is bubbling merrily on the stove. This is the sort of day when snuggling deeply into a quilt with a copy of a well-worn, perhaps even dog-eared, novel seems like the thing to do. And I just might do precisely that as soon as I knock another item or two off the To-Do List.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Unfinished

Not too many years ago, I would have been laughed out of publishers' offices for suggesting that a children's book could sell. Then came the incomparable Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling started a frantic scramble by agents to search for books about magical anything. At that point, there would still have been gleeful hysterics had I traipsed into a publisher's office with a book about vampires running amok in Washington state forests. Except that the young people who made Harry, Hermione, and Ron single monikers on par with Madonna and Cher, have grown up. Enter Bella, Edward, and Jacob. (For the record? Team Edward.) There are now whole tables of magic and vampire books at the local booksellers' shop. It amuses me to sit imagining what utterly improbable settings and fantastic characters will next grab the popular interest.

The single greatest factor affecting my enjoyment of these youth series? That each one has a nice, neatly packaged ending. Having spent years reading The Wheel of Time fantasy series by Robert Jordan who claimed there would be a dozen books needed to tell his story, an end is a real priority. He halted at book 11 to write a prequel. Then he did something truly incomprehensible. He. died. with. the. final. book. unfinished.

A young author (who hopefully has no imminent mortality looming) was found to take up the torch, and complete Mr. Jordan's unfinished epic. Although not entirely won over by this solution, I resolved to read book 12 until a fellow obsessive fan reader revealed that the massive volume on the bookstore shelf was not the last book in the series. There will now be 14 books because of the sheer volume of notes left by the departed. Because he was too busy scribbling his notes and revealing back story to get on with telling the tale he began spinning out.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tree

The tree has been up since the day after Thanksgiving. It stood naked inviting all sorts of feline predations for the first couple of days. Then the mister stepped in to apply lights, garlands, a tree skirt, and the star so the thing would look less pitiful. The girls and I wrapped gifts and tucked them beneath the largely bare branches. The cats continued their games in the newly created maze.
Last night, the mister and I put on our party clothes and headed into Dallas for a dinner out with his coworkers and their spouses. 3 Forks was decked out in all sorts of greenery garlands and wreaths while our home featured a half-naked tree. After the Christmas Party, it began to seem a bit odd to have a partially decorated tree parked in the living room. (Then again, there's a still as yet unnamed cat hiding beneath the tree in living testimony to my failure to meet convention.) The mister and the girls rather wanted the tree decorations completed, so the ornaments were applied tonight. And the whole effect really is rather festive. Especially with the reemergence of last year's pink flannel sock monkey pajamas.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Flexible

Um. The spiritual, physical, and relational goals set on Monday? The ones that are going to lead to a Merrier Mama for Christmas? The fulfillment is not quite as I expected when setting the goals. Because meeting the people over projects Relational Goal calls for flexibility in the physical goal which would have been a major consumer of time in this busy season. At least that is the official excuse reason for dumping the walking goal.

What was intended, was to walk 25 miles this week, but the reality is that the cold is disagreeable. And my left knee is doing something tricksy. And there are a zillion commitments and appointments on the calendar along with increased errands. All of that to say that the 25 miles per week plan is hereby repealed in favor of sanity. There has been 100% resistance to the siren song of pie. (That's the goal I would most like to toss.) The abstinence from pie will remain, but added to that will be 6 consecutive hours of sleep per night.

The spiritual goal of making a time of prayer more about thankfulness than want is becoming easier. With the changed purpose to this aspect of my recent prayers, I have discovered an almost rote feel to my prior moments of praise, and I wonder if I would even have noticed it had it not been for this challenge?

The goal that is requiring change in both thought and action is the Relational Goal of choosing people over projects. Rather than making Erin unload the dryer, we played in the snow. Instead of getting in the car right on time to head for an appointment, time was spent in conversation with our plumber--- who, in turn, accepted a dozen tickets to bring guests to our outreach-oriented Christmas Festival next week! Somehow, even with choosing the people in both situations the laundry load was still done, and we were on time for our appointment.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Damage

Today's skype download allowed Shelley in Poland to call so we could talk face-to-face via web cam. My girls had a ball playing with different features such as causing me to appear to burst into flames on Shelley's computer screen 2,000 miles away. Shelley helpfully suggested that it was a bit distracting for her to carry on the conversation with me periodically catching fire so that little function was eventually turned off.
She gave a virtual tour of her new digs in Gdansk which led to a discussion of how she could not really drive a nail through the walls to hang stockings or decorations with ease. I decided to show her the Contact non-damaging hooks we use on our walls. Except that when I jiggled the hook, I pulled it too hard. Way too hard. Because the "non-damage hook" did some damage. In fact, my tug took the paint right off the wall. It also took the texture along with the paint leaving 3"X1" spot of smooth drywall showing where the hook's adhesive had been moments before.
The mister chose that moment to reenter the room. Hand covering my mouth, eyes wide with horror, I edged away from the site. The hook was not-quite-casually tossed under the couch. Don informed me later that Shelley-on-the-screen-from-Poland also had her hand over her mouth, but her look was one of pure glee. There was somewhat strangled laughter on this side of the Atlantic and flat out belly laughs from hers', but I do not think I made a very good case for the adhesive hangers.

Hamper

I am a verbal processor. This can create problems of the ranting, whining, or gossipy sort. (None of which is the least bit appealing, one might add.) Still, I need to go through the process of sorting through all the dirty laundry in order to "Get it all out," in the proverbial wash. Because failure to properly sort that stuff out can allow one's reds to bleed all over the whites. And the whites really did not have anything to do with the reds. Taking a moment to examine a spot and determine how to pretreat is preferable to rubbing it in or letting a stain set to permanently damage an item... or a relationship. *sigh*
Cryptic? Perhaps. The "reds" tend to be my hot button issues, and they certainly do bleed all over everything else if allowed to soak. If they hit the spin cycle? There will be an emotional splatter pattern of epic proportions. Nothing will get that out. Once the reds get sorted out of the pile, it is usually easier to run most of the loads remaining. I try to save the delicates for those moments when I have time to give them the attention necessary to prevent unnecessarily rough handling. Fripperies out of the way, and the last load will be whitening the bleachables. Then life hums along with the regular loads, free from the relational hamper created by piles of Dirty Laundry.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Picture Post: Flurry

It has yet to snow in Chicago this year; yet, snow flakes tumbled in their madcap dance toward earth in Texas this morning. The same child who is a chore to awaken on an ordinary morning fairly flew from her bed when the mister called out that it was snowing. With a brief detour by the closet, Erin was out the door to enjoy the all-too-infrequent snow flurries whirling across the yard.

There was not a child to be seen on the street except for those whose parents were already driving them to school. Our youngest child? Was out trying to catch a snowflake on her tongue. I may not be the most responsible Mama on the block, but the child arrived at school on time--- and supremely happy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Stuffing

Two blog posts per week on the way to Happier Holidays? Can do. Deal with all the boxes and piles o' Christmas decor and wrap scattered around this dirty house? Not so much. Instead? Throw a wee little hissy, then flounce out the front door toward Starbucks with Walker. Walker is also doing the Christmas Challenge, but she is doing it well. Which in turn inspires me.

After our miles today, the lids finally came off the Christmas Tree china storage boxes. Walker has happy memories of the same pattern associated with her Grandma, and that causes me to finally pull out the mountain of dinnerware. And because I remember my introduction during a Christmas Past to the pattern by my Aunt Dee who knows all there is to know about such things. Hopefully, the continual act of stuffing down my inner Grinch and bidding a "Bah!" to my Humbug will result in a brighter season celebrating our Savior.

As to the goals set for myself?

  • Spiritual: The biggest challenge in my Hallelujah! chorus is simply not letting my prayers become petitions when the purpose is to praise God. The goal was simply to honor what God already does rather than to focus on whatever I would like to see on His to-do list. Shelley in Poland provided all sorts of gems with news of the fledgling ministry in Gdansk, Poland and the team's growing relationships with Poles in their new city.
  • Physical: The mileage on my caboose this week is at a paltry 6 miles on day 2. Because it is cold. And I am a weenie.
  • Relational: The Christmas Tree china is on display because of its associations with people. And I will give Little Bit an apology for not making her desire to take treats to her class as important to me as it was to her because I ruled that one a "Project" when it should have been a "People". Because she is very much my kind of people, and treating her classmates was not a project in her mind.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Acceptance

Okay, so into every year a few holidays must fall. And I admit to being a bit hit-or-miss with putting the Merry into Christmas. The Ragamuffin Soul has issued a challenge that Jan has seen fit to not only accept, but pass along. So, I think I shall opt to play along because my own ragamuffin soul tends to feel more ragged during this theoretically joyful season.
I think I can manage two posts per week on the progress in meeting the following goals:
  • Spiritual I will set aside a time of prayer solely for praising God every single day.
  • Physical I will walk 25 miles per week. I will put down the pie. I will dance when no one is looking.
  • Relational I will choose people over projects.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tacky Gifts

The girls and I were wrapping gifts tonight at the dining room table. The paper was purchased at 90% off during a way, way after Christmas sale at the Hallmark store. It never occurred to me to read the labels because gift wrap is gift wrap. It's all paper.

Upon closer examination this weekend, it turns out that some of our super sale paper has a most unfortunate feature. It is self-adhesive. And the stuff tears... repeatedly while one is trying to unroll it. I like to position, and reposition the packages to maximize paper use, but that is not possible with gummy goo on the back of the paper. It sticks to skin. And hair. There might have been some teensy shrieks of minor fury from the dining room. I'm not really sure what was happening outside the growing red haze of a narrowed focus on the persistently uncooperative paper, but I do recall the mister coming into the room and promising to replace all the paper with new at any price if I would just put down the self-adhesive stuff.

Eventually the screaming stopped. The girls opted out on the self-adhesive paper, but I can say that it looks rather nice once it is carefully smoothed over the planes and angles of a box. The great irony of the stuff is that once one folds down the ends there is still a need for tape to close the ends because the folds cover the adhesive. The stuff sticks to itself very well. Fortunately, the paper can be peeled oh-so-slowly back in a Herculean exercise of patience to be replaced in a new position without any real reduction in tackiness.

There are two rolls of the self-adhesive stuff still unopened, and there is the option to include gift wrap with our Angel Tree goodies. It is time to take the mister up on his offer of new paper because it would be wrong to wish the frustration of sticky paper on our Angel Tree recipient's parents. It's one thing to demand such rigid "Waste Not!" measures of oneself, but quite another to impose them on someone else.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Nameless

My mister likes cats. He likes to take the kids to look at cats. They all like to "ooh" and "ahh" over all the kitties.. My job? Is to be the official veto. I look all the feline cuteness right in the fluffy little face, and say, "ohbutno!" Then the family walks away from the kitties. Except that my veto broke. We walked into Pet Supply to stare with goony eyes at fuzzy creatures. The mister and Little Bit continued past the Grandma sitting at the adoption table. I? Stopped.dead.in.my.tracks. So much for "ohbutno!"
The ball of growling fur curled in Grandma's lap was transferred to my own where (he? she?) it made a valiant effort to hide in my sleeve. My kitty was a tortoise shell ball of variegated black and tan without so much as a spot of orange anywhere on her. We learned that kitty's supposed name was "Penelope", and we filled out the papers to be able to a) bring her home and b) change her name. Having decided that the kitty is not "Penelope", we have yet to determine what name does suit her. The list of possibilities is downright disturbing. Stella Cupcake? Alice/Alyce? Jinx? Perhaps she shall remain Nameless.

Leftovers

We roasted an extra turkey breast on Thanksgiving Day so we could enjoy it through the weekend. Except that the remaining sides and desserts were minimal. At 3:00 p.m., a text message solved my quandary. some friends had plenty of sides leftover from their turkey dinner, but not quite enough turkey. We piled into the car and headed over to enjoy the latest feast with friends armed with turkey and a fresh batch of turkey gravy. Our entree combined perfectly with the leftovers, and the assorted kids disappeared to watch Elf while the grown-ups settled in for Four Christmases.
This morning I crawled out of bed to snag a remnant of the pie of Thanksgiving past with my coffee. (The breakfast of champions, y'know.) I plunked my behind into the chair at the computer to mindlessly play a color block game on Facebook while washing down the last creamy bite of pie with caffeinated goodness. Checking the status updates to reveal that either no one else is doing anything interesting, or they are doing such interesting stuff that they do not have a moment to post.
Me? I am going to rile up the dogs by saying words like, "eat!" and "walk!" in my most exciting voice. Then the mister and I will go out to get boxes for a couple of oddly shaped gifts. Later today, we will do something about the naked tree parked in the center of the living room. And later still, something about the bad cat stalking the tree in the living room. Because that's not going to end well when the tree is covered in pretties.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Angel

I slipped out of the house in the wee hours. I made a quick trip to Big Box to pick up a couple of things which were neatly stowed away before the girls awoke to, "Get up. Get dressed. Or get left." Relative normalcy, except that it was 3:00 in the morning.
The girls and I loaded into the car to ghost down our dark, quiet street. The main artery through Pleasant Suburb was empty and still. At least it was until we neared Big Box with all the light and activity of people scurrying after $9 baby dolls and cheap electronics. We passed Big Box while reassuring Erin that no one was trampled in the shopping at our Big Box last year, but that we would still avoid it. She gave a shudder, and we proceeded on down the road toward the anchor stores of our expedition.
Penney's at 4:00, Macy's at 5:00, the coffee bar at 5:20, Steinmart at 6:00, Old Navy at 6:15, and World Market at 7:00. Our purpose with this mission was to do some Christmas shopping, but mainly to select gifts for our Angel Tree recipients. Pleasant Suburban Elementary adopted a Sister School, and Erin chose a girl a year younger who hopefully has similar taste for our family from the school's Angel Tree. The girls and I sorted through the paper angels at church before picking one who is in her senior year at one of Pleasant Suburbs high schools. For these young ladies, we went out into the pre-dawn shopping extravaganza to maximize our giving. By 8:00, we were at home boxing gifts for wrapping while sipping coffee or cocoa and nibling on peppermint bark.

Loop

Thanksgiving night disappeared into history as I fell asleep to the end of "Meet the Robinsons", and I've been hearing that song from the end of the movie repeating, "... these small hours..." since I woke. The song, which I happen to like, is playing on a loop that emphasizes the small moments that are adding up to the sum of our lives.
The Thanksgiving dinner with our beloved friends who treat us like family. The remote control cars skidding around Ally's kitchen as Katie and Erin try them out. Marsha saying she has plenty of wine, only to be told her glass is, "dry as a bone" as it is refilled. Cheering for the running football player only to discover the runner is an Aggie. (Oops.) Curled on the couch talking with Susan while enjoying the hum and thrum of our loved ones' voices from the kitchen. Carting home the big bag of hand-me-downs for Erin because Ashley has outgrown her. Jose attempting to make off with the chocolate bread. Bryan agreeing to take a car load over to Old Navy for the Thanksgiving Day specials. All of us satisfied with the shared meal produced by our collective kitchens.
This is not quite the life I chose. Or the one expected. But these small hours are adding up to days, weeks, and years worth cherishing. For which I am infinitely thankful.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Low End


It's low, and I admit it. I have resorted to bribery. The girls have been promised a candy bar of their choosing in return for 180 minutes of bass guitar practice this week. The thrumming of a bass guitar is a sound irresistable to my ears, and a couple of candy bars seem like a reasonable price for 360 minutes of happiness.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Missing Piece

We are in a holding pattern. Maintaining The Boy's privacy, it will suffice to say he is not living with us at the moment. We sent him a card for Thanksgiving because he will not be home. It had a joke about a turkey crossing the road to get to a side dish. He had the grace to say that our family really likes "jokes like that" instead of labeling it lame. I so wish he were going to be with us, but there are circumstances beyond any hint of my control that require otherwise.
He is changing, maturing, growing... and there is a bittersweet joy in these changes. It is bitter to be apart from him, but incredibly sweet to see him, hear him, and dream of him returning to our home. In the meantime, I can send him goofy cards that are no longer really right for him. Because he is shedding his adolescent goofiness like the ugly duckling morphing into a swan.

So. Tomorrow we will celebrate Thanksgiving with our loved ones sans one. We will miss him. There will be too much cranberry sauce without him at the table to inhale the stuff, and an undercurrent of sadness and longing running beneath the thanksgiving and celebration slated for the day. Still, we give thanks nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Honestly

Middle Child has started reading my blog. She is mildly scandalized by the tales I tell about her. However, she does have the developing sense of right and wrong not uncommon to a 12 year-old. There are some things which offend her greatly, and others that fail to do so, but really ought to do so. She recently informed me that in a previous post there were comments that seemed to indicate that tattoos and piercings were out of the question. While I have a couple of holes in each ear, and no ink whatsoever as of this writing, there is a formal policy in our household stating that the offspring may poke all the holes and be adorned with as much ink as they wish at the age of 18. (Yes, I know they will be legal adults able to make such decisions themselves. Eventually, they will know that as well. Probably as soon as one of them reads this post.) The point of this policy is not so much to prevent the lovies from covering themselves in permanent cartoons or hanging chains from their noses (or worse), but to ask that they wait for a bit of maturity before making permanent decisions about their bodies.
I am less alarmed by the potential for their appearance to shock the casual bypasser than I am that they will do something dumb in the bloom of youth that won't go away. Because taste changes. And so do bodies. Walker and I once saw a woman in a tank top go by us who had failed to consider that the location of her tattoo was one given to stretching and sagging. Oh, dear. That little guppy looked suspiciously like a postpartum whale. Ew. Not to mention the possibility of infection or poor workmanship by individuals who would be willing to apply permanent decor to the bodies of underage youth. Those stretching rings that go in the ear lobe? I bet that cannot be undone without surgery, and I wonder if it can be undone then... Anywho. The tween's need for Mama's complete honesty with the bloggy world should be satisfied.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Eh?!

Um. Little Bit turned nine this weekend. And I was completely prepared for that even if it does mean she has less than a year before she hits double digits. What I was not prepared for was a photo editing session involving some quick snapshots of Middle Child. I wanted photographic evidence that she dressed up for a band field trip to a Big Metro Symphony Orchestra performance last night. (If you were the "older couple sitting in front of us"? I am so sorry they were too uncouth to shut up instead of commenting on the conductor. Thank you for suggesting they do so.) I edited the photos, and the results were good enough to be added to an album on Facebook entitled "Centered" that starts with Miss Kate's newborn photo (awww.) and ends with whatever has been recently uploaded.
And when those photos are viewed in order? The inescapable reality that our first precious, longed-for baby girl has somehow slipped over the threshhold from childhood into adolescence. It's one thing to know this, but quite another to see it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Picture Post: Morning at the Museum











Ice


We took three tweens, Erin and her best friend McClain ice skating since school let out at noon. Erin and McClain were celebrating Erin's 9th Birthday. The tweens were helping. McClain hugged the rink wall valiantly for a half hour before declaring that she does not like ice skating. Erin discovered that skating on ice is hard, but she definitely liked it. She found it hilarious to fall flat on what she insisted on calling her, "gluteous maximum".

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Plumbing

A letter arrived in the mail today inviting me to take part in a medical study. And to recommend it to my friends. All I need to do is visit a web site specified in the letter to be part of ending bladder leakage with sneezing, coughing, laughing, etc. Really?! I'm kind of wondering if The Boy or Middle Child's tech savvy friends have found a brilliant gag to pull on their parents. Anybody else get one of these?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday

Today started out so well. Then it went all Monday. The mister and I dropped off kiddies at their assorted schools, and we knocked out today's "Must Do" errands first thing. There was even time to drop in at Big Box to schedule the measurement of our currently busted back door for replacement purposes. How very un-Monday.
Inside the doors of Big Box stood our dream refrigerator in the oddball looks-like-stainless-but-is-less-likely-to-dent-or-show-fingerprints finish marked down by 1/3. We decided to jump on the opportunity to finish out our kitchen with a fridge to match the other appliances. Upon returning home, measurements to double-check the space for the new machine reveal that it is 1/4" too tall for the opening. How very Monday.
Despite the mister's offer to cut the cabinet facing (!) to allow for the new unit, I declared that the fridge which required a saw to touch the cabinetry was not going to do. Taking the call-a-friend option, I discovered that her husband had in fact cut a larger opening in their cabinet facing but with the knowledge that the cabinets will have to be replaced. This information clarified that a return was the only option that suited this household. In a reassuring return to un-Monday bonuses, Friend's husband will be tutoring Middle Child in math next Saturday to help her make up for the information missed on her recent sick days. The call wasn't a total loss.
As soon as I hung up the phone, it rang again. Middle Child's eyes are swollen almost shut, red, and she has a 99.2 temp says the school nurse. Could I bring her contact case and solution to school? Sure, it's on the way to Big Box anyway. Except that Middle Child needs to go to the doctor before she puts in fresh contacts in case of an infection. The first available appointment coincides with her Math class. Of course. And her back-up eyeglasses are broken. Of course.
All these little hassles have yet to put a dent in the morning's initial pleasure that today's planned errands are complete. Because I have plenty of time to check off the new additions to the To Do List.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Crusty

Oh, my. In lieu of dinner tonight, there was bread and water at my table. A fresh, hot loaf of bread straight out of the oven is hardly a sign of deprivation. It would have been a feast fit for a king with only the bread, but a bit of jam and cheese accompanied the crusty loaf. Which is what made it a feast fit for a Mama. Mmmhmm. With a definite emphasis on the "Mmmm!"

Friday, November 6, 2009

Women's Ministry

This morning Walker and I were completing our trek when I spied a neighbor coming along the sidewalk. Walker headed off, but I decided to walk along with Neighbor G. We talked of the wonders of clay soil and shifting foundations, and eventually ended up in front of my house again. We chatted about the various news of the day with Next-door Neighbor who happened to be in the front yard as we strolled up, and then the ladies headed off to their own homes.
Flash forward to dinner time tonight, and our family was sitting in a neighborhood restaurant. Who should come through the door? Next-door Neighbor--- and the hostess was seating her alone at the table next to us. Until we pulled up a chair and sent in her expedited order with our server. We had a wonderful meal with even better conversation thanks to our surprise guest.
After we completed our meal, I saw a woman as we were leaving who looked familiar. My favorite coffee buddy flew out of state this week for a family emergency, and the mystery woman was none other than out-of-state's mother-in-law. We shared a greeting, and a laugh about Grandma's absolutely fabulous four-year-old granddaughters who had spent the previous night having a Pajama Party at her house. Which meant she was not in any mood to cook for herself, but was definitely looking forward to bedtime.
Returning home, I received a message about a women's event at church tomorrow which I am not attending. Because I am not really comfortable talking with the other ladies at women's ministry events. Except for a reunion of just such ladies coming up in a few weeks. Besides, I didn't have much time to devote to thinking about that statement because I needed to call another friend about our upcoming Thanksgiving plans. In the course of our conversation, I was instructed to call that friend's mother tomorrow while I am avoiding the uncomfortable setting in which I would be expected to talk to other women. Ah, the irony is rich today.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Vessel

Hmmm. In 2 Corinthians chapter 4, there are several words that have caught my eye this morning. In verses 6 and 7, "For God, who said Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the glory of the knowledge of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;" Oh. This imperfect body is simply the container into which the gospel has been poured. I would never think to pour a fine, valuable wine into a pitcher one of the children formed out of mud from the back yard, but that is precisely what God has done in filling my imperfect self with Christ. Because a fine vessel would be a thing of beauty regardless of what it contained, but the flawed container filled with treasures leaves one with awe for what is within without glorifying the humble container.
Better still, followers of Christ are analogous to pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns. Seeds are planted and tended. The harvest comes, and choice pumpkins make their way market. Select pumpkins are hollowed out, and a light placed inside. The gourd is simply a shell lit up from within that can illuminate a dark place or serve as a beacon in the night. I'm a jack-o-lantern. How about you?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Strength in Numbers

Our family is in counseling, and I feel for our therapist. Yesterday, she had excellent intentions of helping us all to recognize that we each bring strengths to our family relationship. Our first task was to use a series of clues to identify certain information. We were each given a strip of paper with a clue, but we could only resolve the questions with the information on our individual strips of paper. We had three minutes to work out the resolution. It took me all of two seconds to declare that we were not going to be able to answer the questions with the limited information available on our individual paper slips.
Bonus points awarded for recognizing that we need to communicate with one another and pool our individual information (a.k.a. strengths) to reach the solution led to instructions to use a single sheet of paper and refrain from verbal communication while sharing our clues to come up with a corporate solution. Erin informed the therapist that she, "used to sign because she couldn't talk." I explained that we used sign due to Erin's initial speech delays to force her to use some form of language in communicating rather than meeting her needs in response to gestures or non-speech sounds. We were then given permission to sign, but Erin explained that we don't use it anymore and don't remember it.
Meanwhile, Don and Katie had developed a chart to indicate the three categories of information we were supposed to be gleaning from our clues. Erin moved to the other side of the table and began writing on a second sheet of paper. I wrote on Don and Katie's paper a question, "How much do we care about [pursuing the information]?" because I really could not have cared less about the exercise at that point, and Erin was drawing on her separate sheet of paper while ignoring reminders to share a single sheet of paper. At the end of the 3 minutes, Don and Katie pointed out that not all the information was in the clues. Our therapist discovered that there were two essential elements missing, and we could not have solved the puzzle. She also mentioned that she had a migraine.
She sat across from us in a chair, and stated that she liked the way we all crowded together on the sofa. This brought to my mind the image of us lined up in a shooting gallery, but she seemed to see it as a positive sign that we are all together in our seating preferences. Okie-dokie. She asked us to identify our strengths, and then to identify each other's strengths. It was a little concerning when Katie identified Erin's primary strength as being, "an Evil Genius" and Erin named her own primary strength as being, "good at manipulating others". She then answered the therapist's queries to show that she did in fact understand the meaning of the word "manipulation" and that she had been "living in a box" in response to Dad's statement that she is an "out of the box" thinker. *sigh*
We were running over on time by this point, and our therapist's head was likely about to explode. Still, we explained that the microwave had died the preceding week, and the replacement came in a big box. The big box was now situated in the middle of the living room where our youngest child climbs inside to watch television through a hole in the end pointed toward the t.v. We are unlikely to hear a recommendation to discontinue therapy anytime soon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Replacements

Walker and I are not so much with the walking today. We were all about the sitting and partaking of coffee and the Evil Empire's pumpkin cream cheese muffins. We'll be similarly sedentary in our meetings until the Good Doctor clears me for walking. My follow-up appointment is tomorrow, and I expect to be traipsing about the mean suburban streets sooner rather than later. Good Doctor expects to do partial replacements of both knees in a time frame now set at six months to two years.
In other news, the microwave proved that, "They don't make 'em like they used to..." applies to more than my knees by dying last Thursday night. Despite my drugged, post-operative state, I still wanted to be part of the decision-making process of choosing the replacement. Stiff-legged with giant bandages causing my legs to look more Michelin Man than Mom, I teetered through the appliances with my mister while considering the available options. After the combined excitement of the microwave's demise and searching out the model that matches the range, I was worn out. That led to my conveniently sleeping through the mister's removal of the broken unit and installation of the shiny new one. Which was likely beneficial to both of our mental health.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bees Knees

Out the door for the surgery center. Here's hoping the M.D. will clean up the mess I call knees so I can get back to wearing out those walking shoes!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dry Roast

This morning saw a coffee date with a friend who packed up her family and headed to the hills to escape the suburban life only to discover God had other plans placing her temporarily back in the very same burb. It's been a pleasure to know she is transplanted here in Pleasant Suburb. (It doesn't hurt that she is usually accompanied by a cup of java and some sort of treat when we meet up.) I never know where conversations with her will go, but I'm usually willing to go along. Today we plunged into some topics not frequently found in standard conversation.
We tumbled into a verbal chasm of sin and sacrifice. That valley is one of dry bones, but I'm not too sure if I could fathom its depths. (Or if I really want to.) Christ came to love the unlovable. And the very next thought was that Christ came as a sacrifice. What an unpalatable thought that I (you? we?) might be called on to sacrifice for an undesirable someone else's benefit. And in some meaningful, personal way. Not just giving up a little cash, some possessions, or time, but something deeply rooted in the most hidden depths of the soul.
Because I claim to seek to become more Christ-like. And that means sacrifice. Am I ready to begin to apply that idea to the sorts of things I find most repulsive, or am I still holding tightly to my own belief in being somehow more upright than another because in my mind their sin or crime is somehow worse than my own?
I need another cup of coffee.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Soup

Overheard at lunch today:
(Warning: mild gross-out ahead.)

M: "Do you like to dunk your sandwich in the soup?"
E: "I don't like the soup."
M: "Do you hate it? I love it."

(Note: E is eating all the noodles, chicken, etc. from the soup. M is eating the broth and floating bits of herbs. They are a perfect soup-eating pair.)

M: "If you dunk the sandwich in your soup it tastes like licking a boo-boo."

(M is served another grilled cheese. It's too hot to eat, so she must be content with using her spoon. Thinking the adults are not watching, M attempts to breathe in the soup from off the spoon.)


Mom Intervention: If you suck that soup up your nose it will burn like crazy.
E: Once, my sister sucked her soda right up her nose through a straw.
M, whispering: She must be a bad influence.
E: No. She just misunderstood. I meant she should use her mouth. It did burn. A lot.

I wonder if they still need lunchroom monitors over at Pleasant Suburban Elementary?

Over

It's a weekend for overnights. Katie is gone for a weekend at camp with her youth group. She'll come home tired, but with a million anecdotes and stories to relate in a pre-teen exhalation of jumbled words, giggles, sighs, and eye-rolling. Her absence means there was an empty bed in the girls' room, so Erin invited a friend to spend the night.
Erin's friend does not have a cat. Erin's friend really likes cats. Really, really likes cats. Our Bad Bella is relatively tolerant of our children. Their friends? Well, not so much. The cat's looking a little frazzled this morning. She finally made a somewhat wild-eyed escape (paws scrabbling for purchase on the smooth floors while little hands grasped the writhing furry midsection with an excess of enthusiasm) when the mister appeared with donuts to distract Bella's captors.
I think the cat will be the most thrilled to see the tail end of Erin's overnight guest and the return of Kate from overnight camp. She's definitely over the current arrangement.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Blogher

On a day in the somewhat distant past, I attended a women's convention. Imagine my surprise to discover a Blogher sitting a row behind me when the programming convened. (I recognized her from her online profile. I could practically hear Middle Child's voice in my head saying, "Stalker!") Anticipating the break after the first session, I intended to introduce myself. Until I found myself missing large portions of the program because the Blogher that I happened to run across was talking and giggling in the seat behind me throughout the presentation.
Rather than an introduction at the intermission, it was time to attempt to find a new seating arrangement. I was irritated, but my companion was threatening to light up Bigmouth Blogher with a cell phone spotlight so we could see what all the noise was about in Row 8. What came across as bubbly and fun in a blog turned out to be incredibly rude in public. Without an introduction, we moved our seats, and after returning home I removed my follower status.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Crash

Despite a couple of glorious sunny days in the past week, the clouds returned with their gloomy drizzle yesterday. Erin cruised the house with a baby blue balloon. Somehow, her balloon came in contact with the wall where Mommy's Polish pottery saucers live in perfect peace 363 days a year. (The other day involved the mister's bass guitar. It was an accident.) In my Terribly Calm voice, I asked Erin why she would possibly think it was okay to play with a balloon in the house while gesturing between the pottery on the wall, the bits of pottery on the floor.
Gathering the remaining seven saucers from their hanging hooks, I carried them off never to be seen again while we have children living at home. Returning, I measured the space on the wall covered in hangers spaced precisely for nine saucers. The measurements would ensure that I was not patching holes in the wall which would likely prolong my ire at Little Bit who was, after all, just behaving like a child who has been cooped up off and on for over a month between rain and the flu. Then I took my mad self off to the bedroom to glare at the t.v. until the mister bravely entered to suggest we go out in search of something suitable to hang over the accusingly empty Wall of Shame. The man knows me well. Filling the empty wall did wonders for my disgust with childhood foolishness. Besides, now I have somewhere to hang my apron.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Greek

Middle Child's seventh grade English Language Arts Reading (ELAR) class is finishing up Riordan's The Lightning Thief. To celebrate, the classes have the option to attend school on Monday dressed as assorted members of the Greek pantheon, and they may bring cupcakes or Greek food. (Three guesses whether stuffed grape leaves, baklava, or cupcakes will be more common.) Katie is excited about participating, and her teacher this year definitely gets kudos for inciting enthusiasm in her students.
Most of the kids' teachers have developed a system of evolving instructions and warnings for their students as they gain classroom experience. Katie's ELAR teacher is no exception. She is also a veteran of the middle school classroom. One can only imagine what sort of "Oh, my...." moments caused the series of specific warnings that included the following:
  • If you come as Aphrodite, do not dress as a stripper.
  • Anyone portraying Dionysis may not come to school drunk.

Really?! And, again just for good measure, Really?! One can only wait with bated breath to hear which god or goddess Katie plans to portray, but there is every reason to expect that she will opt to take in cupcakes over any sort of remotely authentic Greek cuisine.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Proof

After reading a blog post asking suggestions about baby-proofing for visiting relatives, a memory of my children visiting one of our relatives swam to the surface of the memory pool. The trio were old enough not to require baby-proofing measures. At least, that was true in theory. The reality was that at the ages of 10, 8 and 5, they were still entirely capable of getting into things that they ought to leave alone.
On this particular occasion the three were half-way across the state from the mister and I when they discovered their hostess's purse and keys sitting out. Rather than leave items belonging to another alone, the two eldest children sent the youngest off on some sort of errand because she might "tell". The Boy then dared Middle Child to spray the tiny bottle attached to the key ring. She tried, but it would not cooperate. He got behind the wee bottle and depressed the trigger for her. The pepper spray inside was spontaneously released into her unsuspecting eyes. Uh-oh.
The relative phoned with the child screaming bloody murder in the background. In her panic, clear thought was not happening. I instructed her to call Poison Control and to go wash out Katie's eyes before getting off the phone. Then I sat waiting for the inevitable return call. A short time later the phone rang again. Thinking that the call would be the, "All clear!", I answered. Um, no.
While the eye-washing of Middle Child went on, our youngest daughter had wandered into the kitchen and found the keys. With the pepper spray. And shot the stuff into her eyes. There was more screaming. (Have I mentioned that our youngest child has some sensory issues including water on her face? Uh-huh.) And more eye-washing. And more screaming.
We don't keep pepper spray here. It might scare off some mythical assailant, but I have more than a little trepidation about what we might do to ourselves with the stuff.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Walking the Plank

About a month ago, Walker and I had a day that saw us both complaining of knee pain while we covered our weekly walking distance. Walker emphatically proclaimed she was not going to get her knees looked at by a doctor. My immediate thought was that someone was being stubborn. Of course, the very next thought was the recognition that the pot would be calling the kettle black should I comment on her seeming stubborn stance. Perhaps I ought to go get my own painful joints examined rather than pestering my friend? The situation definitely had all the signs of someone being overly concerned about the speck in her friend's eye while ignoring the plank in her own eye.
Weeks later, Middle Child's orthopedic specialist gave a brief consult on my knees during one of Katie's ankle appointments. He suggested I book an appointment of my own very soon. The appointment arrived this week. The result? Both knees are scheduled for arthroscopes on the 29th. Hopefully, the view under the microscope will show that we can wait on replacing the joints. If a double knee replacement is not needed, the surgeon will simply clean up the places where bone is rubbing against bone (ew. ow.) and remove any debris. We would then follow up with injections to help lubricate the joint until the time ultimately arrives for replacements.
Somehow, I rather doubt that my adventures with the ortho will result in Walker making a similar appointment of her own, but I am glad to have the prospect of keeping up my activity level with less pain in the near future.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ritual

The mister is a very, very patient man. When we walk in the Fall, I do an odd sort of capering step along the sidewalk until I fall behind. He will walk for a time before slowing to an eventual stop. He will turn, and stand waiting. Waiting for what? For me to step on all the green acorns that have fallen prematurely from the trees all along the way. The man and the children all find this particular idiosyncrasy either odd or annoying, depending on their perspectives and moods on any given walk. Still, I have spent years stepping on all the green acorns, and it's a habit unlikely to die off anytime soon.
This morning Walker and I headed out on our familiar route. I was surreptitiously (or so I thought) stepping on only some of the green acorns crying out to me from the sidewalk. (Because I'm not a total weirdo.) Walker piped up about three-quarters of a mile into our 4-5 mile trek that she particularly liked to step on the green acorns. She mentioned the satisfying "pop! crrrunch" resulting from smashing the little nuggets. (Precisely! Yes! Exactly!) The final quarter mile would likely have been entertaining had any observer chanced upon us. There were very few green acorns missed in our mincing dance along the street toward home. I rather suspect the image was not dissimilar to the look of trying to run across a series of tires on an obstacle course. Except without the tires. And with a certain measure of unadulterated glee.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oink

Head's up: H1N1 flu needs a day or so to show up on a swab. Erin's swab turned positive in nothing flat Monday morning at the pediatrician's office despite a clearly negative swab Friday evening. She has also developed a nasty secondary respiratory infection. Theoretically, the so-called swine flu should be letting up as today is Day 5 of her illness. Erin was completely confused as to why "people are freaking out about swine flu--- it's not that bad".
At least she was confused until it was pointed out that she enjoys certain advantages. She received a doctor's visit and medication to alleviate her symptoms right away. Her parents can stay home with her when she is sick without fear of job or income loss. She had every sort of food and drink that she liked, new books, a computer game, and endless Disney (because we still have no remote) to see her through the weekend. When her symptoms worsened, she had another visit to the doctor with the expectation that new orders for care, isolation, and medication will all be fulfilled.
At the end of this exchange, Erin only had one thing to say, aside from acknowledging that she is very blessed, "So that's why everyone is talking about healthcare reform!"

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sanitized

Last week saw the step up from "Food Handler" certification toward "Food Manager" certification. Theoretically, the day-long training class prepares one for an increased level of responsibility in food service settings. At our church one must be a Food Handler to set foot behind the counter, but at the middle school football game one must simply be accompanied by food handlers to volunteer in the concession stand. Still, the food manager will allow some added flexibility in the tasks that can be assigned and the level of supervision that must be afforded when I serve in the kitchen.
Much of the training centered on foodborne illness, and the prevention of such yuckiness. Having completed the class last Wednesday, thoughts of every sort of germ and how to minimize them have continued to dance at the edge of thought with periodic bouts of center stage exhibitionism. One such moment occured with Little Bit's onset of a wicked cold late last week. The discovery of an impressive fever brought on a trip to the urgent care center, but both flu and Strep swabs were negative pointing to a nonspecific infection. Her mother kicked into high gear cleaning every surface including the odd ones from phones to assorted handles in hopes of stopping the illness from spreading. Thank you Food Safety Class for this heightened sense of paranoia and the expectation that perhaps it is possible to sanitize our household.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Never Neverland

Tween parenting looks very different in Middle Child than in The Boy. He clutched childhood in a death grip. This isn't Neverland, and there's no pixie dust to allow for flight. It's a fight against gravity the whole way. On the other hand, our girlie shoves younger days away while grasping for the growing independence and influence of peers that characterizes the teen years. She's less Peter Pan and more Wendy. The challenges are different, but the hormones and the needs for us to chase after them with the parental battle cry of, "I love you!" remains the same despite the vast differences in their approach to take off.
The struggle to push Evan from the proverbial nest has been ongoing, but one of these days he will fly. (Even if the desire to rise up comes only in response to freefall, we'll have no Lost Boys here.) Meanwhile, his sister flaps frantically trying to reach a soaring altitude. It wears her out, and is tiring to watch. Still, the Mister and I constantly renew our attitudes from eye rolling to cheer these fledgling attempts as our lovies attempt (or are pushed) toward winging their way into the days when they will put aside their childish things.
The littlest one finds all the hormone hilarious. Free from parental dictates, she can indulge in plenty of eye rolling. Erin brings much needed comic relief to our days of parenting through her siblings' Difficult Ages because her own tween days remain hidden in the future for the moment. It will be interesting to see how our clowning baby approaches the runway. Based on experience, she will likely skip the usual "spread your wings" routine and opt to go over land, by water, or perhaps underground in her journey toward adulthood. Thankfully, we still have a year or two before that begins.