Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Dear Child(ren) O'Mine,

Please note the following:

  • Duct tape/Glue and band-aids are not interchangeable. In the future, please refrain from the utilization of band-aids for home repairs. In case you were wondering, I found the lamp you shoved in a closet that looks like a victim of a junior scout first aid lesson. It's better that I remain ignorant of the reasoning behind the hatchet job repair.
  • Computer and video game privileges on school days are again in revocation. The opportunity to retain recreational electronic babysitter usage on a limited basis this year has been sacrificed. Complaints may be registered with the sibling who forgot to shower despite utilization of an hour on the computer night before last or the ones who now have "Chore Charts" hanging on the fridge as reminders.
  • Please check the sizes on clothing before putting away laundry. Middle Child's shirts are obscenities on Mom's middle-aged torso. Dad's shorts expose the Boy's backside. (No one really wants to be certain of the answer to , "Boxers or briefs?") If one should mistakenly receive delivery of another's clothing, items may be returned the owner without a detour through the washing and drying cycles.



Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The schedule. It's lovely to have all three children out the door by 7:30. The school day mornings are lovely since the mister and I are early birds, but the aftermath afternoon revealed that this year is going to be a wild one if these first few days are any indicator. There's not really time for the kids to knock out chores before school since they are just bleary-eyed zombies wandering around seeking breakfast, clothing, shoes, and backpacks in the wee hours. That means they come in the door hungry, with all their chores still waiting, homework/supply needs/extracurricular stuff/"Let-me-tell-you-about-________!" to be crunched into the time between the end of 2:30-4:00 carpools, dinner, and wherever someone(s) need to be by 6ish. Riiight.
I did not exactly do this to myself. Or to the family, for that matter. There are commitments that have been made that are likely to lead to my eventual Commitment, but there really should not be an overlap. Except there is initially. Monday night saw the middle school athletic meeting plopped into the dinner hour of 6:00. The volunteer orientation for the children's shelter included a TB test that could only be read by the volunteer performing the screening on Monday night at... 6:00 in a location at least thirty minutes from the athletic meeting. During rush hour traffic. The Boy did not have a supply list at all until the first day, so his supplies needed to be purchased on Monday after school. The Boy has a standing Monday evening appointment that requires whomever takes him to leave the house by (uh-huh.) 6:00. And people needed things like dinner.
Gentle Reader should be spared the scariness that made up today's similarly wild afternoon and evening hours. There was an early swimming session with Walker, and I whined away about my frustration with the schedules that were not supposed to coincide, but were all holding extra meetings that were not necesarily forseeable and not flexible. She suggested just not going. Heh? (Yes. This.could.work.) And that is how some of it is working out. I flaked on the athletic meeting, and Middle Child will just have to get the paper work home so I can sign off on her riding buses to meets, taking Tylenol, and being randomly drug tested from the comfort of my own home. I went to have the TB test read, and picked up the items not available from the school supply list at the stores nearer our house on the way home. The mister took the Boy to his appointment while the girls stayed home to knock out chores and get showered. Hopefully, tasks and meetings divided, together we shall stand. Or I'm going to start saying a whole lot of, "No."

Monday, August 23, 2010

Picture Post: New Day

The offspring were not entirely enthusiastic about pictures, but they tolerantly arrayed themselves on the stairs for a couple of shots and put up with another one or two as they headed out the door.

New Day

This year's First Day of School is a little different from previous years. In the past, we've made much of the offspring sending them off with special breakfasts, taking scads of pictures despite the protests of the subjects, and generally drawing out the morning before relinquishing the kids to another year of public education. Not so much the plan today.
Rolling out of bed at 4:30, and the mister was already up, covered in mosquito repellant, and headed out to walk the dogs. Middle Child had to be pried from her covers just after 5:00 (per her request last night) to hit the shower. Today the Boy gets to sleep in sinnce schedules won't be handed out until 6:45 at the high school, but every other morning will require him to arrive at 6:00 a.m. ready for Cross Country practice. Little Bit will have to be roused somewhere in the six o'clock hour as well. By 7:15 we'll drop off Middle Child for Cross Country, and Little Bit can arrive at the elementary any time between 7:15 and 7:40.
We are not taking First Day of School photos in the dark. The only thing special about today's breakfast is that the mister and I are going out for ours' as soon as our precious youngest child steps onto the pavement during our rolling stop through the carpool lane. Not that we love them any less than we did on those first days of school when we devoted an extended morning ritual to celebrating this annual rite of passage. We are coming to accept that the teens are less comforted by those rituals and more embarrassed by them these days. The tween informs us of those ceremonies which she considers important to mark, and this is not one. She didn't really want us hanging about on her first day of kindergarten. And told us so.
Maybe I'll just go put out the cereal stuff and some fruit... kind of a nod to days past that doesn't trample all this early-morning hormone-driven independence. One or two pictures might even be okay... because sometimes the habits are still important. As long as the Embarrassing Mom behaviors that can be observed by others is kept to a bare minimum a compromise might just work out since the whole herd of offspring will only be half awake anyway.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Little Bit has spent the past few months trotting out her budding English accent. She is enamored with the idea of sounding British. Occasionally, we have discussions about all sorts of British things. Words like "trainers", the "lift", and the "loo" have slipped into occasional use. Sometimes we sit around making up sentences that use as many words as we can think of in a single sentence that are not common to American English. With this quirk firmly established, Erin prepares to enter the fourth grade at Pleasant Suburban Elementary in a few days.
Yesterday, her teacher phoned for an initial introduction. Erin will have Mrs. Howard, and she is delighted after talking to Mrs. Howard over the phone yesterday.
Because Mrs.Howard.has.a.real.English.accent. (Ooooh. Ahhh.) We have Meet the Teacher Night today, and the usual anticipation has grown by leaps and bounds since Erin will again get to hear that lovely accent. It ought to be a banner year since there should be no difficulty at all with the child's willingness to listen to her teacher.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Carpe Diem

What to do? What to do? Last weekend's training at the church yielded the possibility of serving in a lay counseling role at our church. There also arose opportunity to be an active part of the East Pleasant Suburb initiative called Neighbor to Neighbor. This weekend holds the much awaited volunteer training, TB test, and background check for filling in a slot on the schedule for a local emergency removal children's shelter. All of these opportunities are good ones; yet, they present a challenge, too.
Knowing that my mister is not enthusiastic (at this time) about fostering, it's worthwhile to seek ways to care for children who might not have the same benefits my own lovies enjoy in place of that particular desire. There is a caution to all these good opportunities, though. There are a pair of teens and a tween in our home who need their own Mom, too. The mister has a rather strong claim as well. The same may also be said of the precious friends who share our lives.
Commitment to one or any of the Good Things outside of our existing relationships and commitments is something withheld for the moment. Not out of stinginess, but out of a desire to genuinely give a full commitment to whatever service is undertaken. The next couple of weeks are for mining data--- determining what our family's needs are going to be with the new school year starting, the mister working a couple of days a week in an office rather than solely from home, athletic schedules, regular meetings and appointments, new school start and release times, etc. Then it will be time to determine which of the Good Things can be opportunities seized.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Age Before Beauty

Oh, I do love purple. It reminds me of my Mammy. She drove my mother to distraction, and sometimes irritated me, too. Her idiosyncracies were endlessly entertaining, and with every passing year I grew more glad to receive her little nuggets of wisdom. In 2000, she passed away, and this day is not an anniversary of that passing. Today is not her birthday. Or her anniversary of the day she wed my Papa who turned 90 last Spring. It is just a day when I saw the purple swirls in a graphic design that reminded me of how she embodied the poem, When I am an Old Woman that still leaves a smile on my face. A face that has begun to show etchings of that smile even when it is not present. In noticing the signs of age, there are still more memories tied to this titan of my childhood who so often uttered the words, "Pretty is as pretty does!"
Her attitude toward aging was delightful, and I hope to echo that celebration of life in the acceptance of age so foreign in our culture. The full head of gray hair was refreshing in an atmosphere born of the Boomers' anti-age sentiment that has since spawned a host of women struggling to live up to advertisers' claims that products can make one, "You... only better." She was more of a, "Good enough!" sort of a gal; although, there were beauty products cluttering her bathroom. They were more about taking care of herself than halting the clock marking time on her face. I know this because we gave each other the loveliest facials with all sorts of delightful stuff from those fascinating jars and bottles while she debunked the claims on the packages. The scents of Tone soap and Palmer's cocoa butter products were hers more than any cologne ever spritzed on for a special occasion. Slathering on moisturizer dispensed from a pretty, purple bottle and looking for hints that my own grays are going to take over one of these days, I miss her.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fish Stories

This morning our church held it's annual volunteer training conference. The girls and I attended a session called, "Ministering to Those in Poverty" facilitated by a missionary couple. This couple serves not across an international border, but across the interstate running through Pleasant Suburb. Their ministry on the east side of our city has given them valuable perspective on social ministry. Their calling is to social ministry, but their goals are not to put resources into the hands of those living in need. After a brief introduction, Jimmie King jumped in with a seemingly simple question. He asked, "What do you do if a needy or homeless person approaches and asks for money?"
Uhhhh. The room was quiet, and I thought that when this has happened to us... I have not given. Guilt rose up at the memory of refusal. Except that Jimmie was not suggesting that handouts were helpful. Someone suggested offering to bring some sort of food to the asker. There was a general murmur of concern regarding the possibility that cash could be quickly translated into drugs or alcohol, and one man piped up that giving to one person might result in non-stop asking if one were regularly serving the population where the initial gift was given. Of less concern than the possible mind-altering chemical possibilities to Jimmie was the idea of being unable to minister due to a constant stream of outstretched palms looking for hand-outs.
He made a distinction today that rang with truth. Do not simply give resources to those in need. He defined, "betterment" as giving from one's own stores to meet another's need. This giving improves the recipient's situation. It is appropriate in an emergency situation. Betterment applied on an ongoing day-to-day basis can become part of a crippling cycle that fails to value the recipient's abilities and gifts. For ministy to those living in poverty, "development" is a far more valuable gift because it describes giving that helps the recipient to meet their own need. Very much the model of teaching a man to fish so he has food his whole life rather than just giving him a fish for a single meal, this is not a new concept. It was one that struck me in a whole new way, though.
Because it echoes the words of our sweet friends Alex and Laura Waits who have just completed their first week of language school in La Ceiba, Honduras. We are less than 100 days from our much-anticipated reunion with their family at Thanksgiving. They, like Jimmie and his wife, have big dreams of caring for people in need. That care is with an eye toward a future unimaginable to some of those to whom these families minister. Both missionary families hope to reach children caught in generational cycles of poverty, and the dream of teaching children that they can grow a garden to provide an ongoing source of fresh vegetables for food is not terribly different from that of teaching and tutoring to help children and adults attain literacy, obtain a G.E.D., or gain job skills. If you are a praying person, take a moment to lift up the Kings and the Waits and their ministries a world apart.

Friday, August 13, 2010


A friend's child shot his mouth off. She promptly banished Sir Mouths-off-a-lot to his bedroom. He went to his room. He took his cell phone along. Once the door was closed, he proceeded to call his Daddy to complain about the meanness of Mommy. Daddy presented a united front with Mommy, and the fellow who came out of the bedroom after the chat with dear Daddy was apologetic and respectful. Of course, Mommy was less-than-thrilled to discover that this change of heart had been initiated by Dad.
I know all of this because it was on Facebook. I started to commiserate as I imagined Middle Child being sent to her room only to whip out her cell phone in a fit of temper. Except that MC would probably hop on Facebook rather than call her Daddy for wise counsel. I began to type a comment saying that she could at least be thankful that the whole disagreement was not being aired on Facebook for the whole world to read... oh. Yeah. Hee. Delete. That would've gone over like a ton of bricks--- however well intended the commiseration.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ranty Pants

Long legs are supposed to be a good thing. Except that most retailers do not stock ladies' pants or jeans in lengths for those over 5'7". Despite a penchant for clearance racks and bargain shopping, an offer for free shipping finally lured me into ordering the so-called Perfect Khaki pants in a 2" longer than average length since the regular length sits at my ankles waiting for a flood. After much dithering over whether to buy the slightly bigger-than-me size or the exactly-me size, followed by the application of a tape measure, ambition drove me to order my jeans size. The package arrived in just a few short days as promised. And.the.pants.are.not.a.good.fit.
The middle is snug in a front pockets-pulling-slightly-apart, not-even-a-thong-could-avoid-a-panty-line sort of way. The added fabric in the length is not indicative of any additional length in the, er, crotch which makes for a potentially irritating situation in a pair of pants that feel a half-size too small. The desired added length? Somehow, my two inches and ON's two inches have enough variation to make the casual pants long enough to need either a tailor or a heel. This ill-fit was supposed to be avoided by the whole tape measure to the midsection and inseam exercise. *sigh* Not so much.
Slipping out of my ranty pants for a second, the mister thinks the pants look fine. This is one of those small things on which we can just agree to disagree. So. Back they go so some other tall girl can achieve the dream of unexposed ankles in her Perfect Khakis. Despite the sense of having been mislead by ON.com I will give them another opportunity to produce at least a Closer to Perfect Khaki. This time ordering the more generous size so that my midsection is not feeling the squeeze, and waiting to hit a tailor until after a laundering since cotton from that retailer always shrinks.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


"Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you; and on earth He let you see his great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire." (Deuteronomy 4:36, NASB) This verse is smack in the midst of Moses proclaiming idols bad and reminding the Israelites that God's laws are for their benefit. As a Mom, the whole passage is one which brings to mind thoughts of how easily a parent can get caught up in one's child(ren), and that someone can become an idol if that person takes precedence over God in daily life. This is increasingly evident as our household ramps up for Back-to-School.

This morning's quiet time occupied all of ten minutes, but it will have to see the heart, mind, and soul through Cross Country practice pick-up, middle school schedule pick-up, athletic locker assignments, year book pictures, Cross Country team pictures, finding Middle Child a new swimsuit after she suddenly grew just in time for a water park outing, and whatever else comes up today for the offspring. Had that few minutes not come early today, this would likely be a day without an infusion of scripture. The Bible is where the voice of God is found if only there is enough desire to seek Him and the discipline to do so when there are many other distractions. (Many of those distractions are beneficial, but...) Really, no desire exists to get to that fire part that tends to singe one when the focus becomes centered on anything other than God. (Whether kids, self, activities, work...) In fact, I'm pretty content to read the words and commands given by God to the Israelites without getting them firsthand from the Creator who inspires no small amount of awe.

There was a time when I wondered with a lack of humility how the Israelites could get so much wrong so much of the time, but these days it is crystal clear how easy it is to become caught in the snares of activity and commitment that leave little energy for prayer and contemplation. For today, I'm just uttering a small prayer of thanksgiving for a start to this day that honors what I say I believe over the suburban American Dream the mister and I have been busy building for so many years.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Guilt Trip

Friday saw the Boy and I headed off on a series of errands to include our usual stop at the food pantry. Wishing there was time to take the camera in another attempt at capturing the makings of a photo essay, that exists only as a still formless idea, we instead loaded only the groceries into the car. The food was packed in along with a bag of hand-me-downs for a friend's daughter (eldest of several girls so that all feminine clothing is going to be used by someone eventually) and a bag of items headed for the Goodwill. Middle Child's computer finished up the list of items to be remembered as it heads back in to Electronic Big Box for another repair. With multiple stops, this was no day for an extended visit to the food pantry seeking photo ops.
During our outing, someone suggested in response to our plans for the Thanksgiving Honduras trip that it would be good to at least attempt to teach the offspring about serving those in our community. Eh? We.should.be.serving.those.closer.to.home. My mind immediately responded with concern. Oh, dear. Oh, my. We are so busy caring about the people in La Miskitia that we are failing to care for those right here in our own neighborhood, city, county...
That is patently, utterly false. The Boy grinned as I began to verbally list ways we ought to be helping others. He said, "Mom, where have we been today?" Oh. Yeah. "The food pantry... where they know us by name," I respond. He adds, "And Goodwill. And we are dropping off clothes to help another family. Mom, again with the Really?!" He is right. The friend who received the clothes for the household full of sweet, little girls commented on how easily guilt can be triggered, and that friend and the Boy are both certainly right in this instance.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


The Boy and I sat in the counselor's office at the high school in June making sure he had a schedule for the 2010-11 school year. She suggested that we call in August so he could walk through the building and find his way around before the first day. This morning Evan phoned to discover that he has a new counselor. The new guidance counselor could not find him in the computer system. Uh-oh. The grades from summer school reflected that Evan had received A's for both sessions, and he has been diligently running mile after mile with the Cross Country Team. Despite these activities that would seem to indicate his status as a student of Pleasant Suburban Independent School District, a glitch had caused him to be un-enrolled. Eh? Oh.but.no.
A flash of, "Say what?! Really?!" burst out, but was quickly contained. Assuring the counselor that we would be right over with a set of new registration documents including shot records and proof of residency, the phone was replaced in the base while Mama steamed. Some choice words were spoken, and the Boy and I hopped in the car to run over to the school right away. After registering our son for high school, I walked with him back to the front office. We waited until the counselor came to retrieve us so that a schedule could be created. The last counselor signed Evan up for the least challenging possible schedule and seemed less than enthusiastic when he insisted on taking Latin. It was not an experience that built our kid up, and it was not one that really needed repetition.

Except that sometimes a re-do is exactly the thing. The new counselor who we met with today? Was all over the Boy. He took one look at test scores, previous grades, and began to ask questions. In the end, Evan signed up for classes that likely will challenge him, and he has received a thorough pep talk and words of encouragement from a guidance counselor who clearly has a passion for seeing kids work to reach their potential. He even left with the assurance that his final schedule had been created complete with first period Athletics, the surprise of an AP History class, and the much-desired Latin class.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


The Reach Out Honduras board met last night in anticipation of the Waits family's imminent departure Friday for Honduras. The original three directors of Reach Out Honduras, Alex, Laura, and Wendy (who all signed on in order to incorporate the organization in the state of Texas and begin the process of gaining 501c3 non-profit status with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service) voted to expand to a larger party of 14 people with a heart for the Moskito people in Puerto Lempira and for the mission of the Waits family to serve. It was sweet to hear of the future dreams and possibilities, to imagine what might be.
There was sadness at the meeting's conclusion as Laura pointed out that the meeting was good-bye-for-now, but bubbly, cheerful Amy, who made the Spring Break trip and will lead the Thanksgiving group, presented her phone with an app responsible for counting down the days to the Honduras Thanksgiving trip and reunion with our precious friends. Amy happily displayed the counter with its "108 days," reading. That's not-so-long in grown-up time. After all, those days will be full of back-to-school preparations, the First Day of School, middle and high school cross country seasons, the initiation of our youngest daughter into the double-digit birthdays as she turns 10 this Fall, and a whole host of the everyday that fills our days.
This morning, waking to this new day involved the recognition that these eyes are unlikely to see the Waits again for months. Still fresh is the memory of three-year-old Aaron's arms wrapped around my legs in a good-bye hug, well wishes exchanged with Dad Alex, Aidan, Arlee, and Adam, followed by one more big hug for Mom Laura as farewells were exchanged once more. Last Saturday, the mister and I were part of a circle of friends surrounding the Waits clan in prayer at a larger farewell potluck held at their home church. And there have been a couple of more private Moms Only meetings over coffee or brunch with the knowledge that such opportunities were limited in these last days of the Waits's suburban citizenship. All of these formalities have built up anticipation of seeing this sweet family off on the adventure of their lives. These many good-byes are sweet in light of the expectation of a reunion highlighted by seeing how God will use these lives so fully given over to His purposes. Just 107 days to go.

Monday, August 2, 2010


The mister and I dragged ourselves out of bed to walk the dogs at 5:00 a.m. Despite the darkness, the shape of a skunk was easily defined in the grass behind the middle school. We opted to avoid a closer inspection after making out the telltale shape. Our dogs? Not so much getting the idea that there are some things best left without investigation. The mister and I veered away from the skunk after seeing the tail stand up in readiness. It trundled off into the first row of available hedges as we reached the concrete sidewalk. Whew.
Buster was sniffing the air in hopes of determining what he had just been forced to miss when his giant doggy head ever so slightly nudged my hand. The hand with five butter-fingers holding on to my phone non-too-tightly. The phone made a suicidal leap to the pavement landing flat and the screen giving the telltale crack that announces trouble. Oh, but no.

By 6:00 a.m. I was wishing for a do-over on this day, but also glad to not be bathing in tomato juice in an effort to kill the skunk stench. That would have added some serious insult to the phone's near-terminal injury.