Saturday, July 31, 2004

Mr. Snowman Blows a Fuse

Saturday morning means donuts at our house. My husband usually heads to the hole-in-the-wall donut shop and brings home a dozen warm donuts, which our kids then pounce upon. Babygirl ate the frosting off three of them this morning. Sometimes, there are a few left over for breakfast on Sunday morning.

This morning, my husband delivered the donuts, then went to the church for a pre-marital counseling appointment. I decided--what in the world was I thinking??--to sort through the storage room (10 x 10 feet of stuff) to find cast-offs I could donate to the church rummage sale, which takes place in two weeks.

Anyone with children understands the freakish nature of clutter. You have a child--or twins--and then suddenly, your garage is full of carseats and booster seats and outgrown toys and boxes of baby clothes and random wire hangers and ten thousand boxes of junk you can't quite figure out how to handle. Not to mention four years' worth of Martha Stewart "Living" magazines.

My parents saved everything--which explains why my mom has a stash of about ten boxes of worthless junk in my storage room. She lived with us for almost two years and left a trail of her belongings when she went. When my dad died, I held the Mother of All Garage Sales to get rid of the accumulated jetsam and flotsam of his forty-seven years of life. He was a ham radio operator and a computer fanatic from way back in 1977, when he built a computer from a kit. In those days, he actually programmed the thing using cassette tapes. He died before The Internet became what it is today, which is unjust. He would have loved The Internet more than anyone alive. He'd just been accepted into a program to study writing technical manuals at the University of Washington. Anyway. Apparently, I have become sidetracked.

Junk, clutter, stuff. It's everywhere now that we have kids. This is particularly troubling to my husband because his idea of perfect interior design is a dorm room. And not a fancy-schmancy dorm room with a built-in loft. No. He'd love nothing more than to live in a room with bookshelves, a bed, a refrigerator (for his beloved Dr. Pepper and rootbeer popsicles) and a television. All this other stuff--the stuff that keeps us afloat, like winter coats and toys for the children and a bike rack for the car we keep just because some day we might actually take the bicycles somewhere and ride them, the mostly used buckets of interior paint--all this he considers worthless junk. He wants to live in austere simplicity.

But we have kids. And we have kids' stuff. And we have a house. And Christmas decorations.

I do my best to weed through the excess now and then. This is the first time we've actually lived in a house longer than four years, so I haven't had the built-in pressure to throw dead weight overboard so we can sail to another port. This time, I just have to fling open the closets and toss stuff into black garbage bags and ditch it before the kids notice.

Which brings me back to the storage room. I thought Babygirl might be distracted enough and cheerful enough that I might accomplish sorting through at least the surface layer of debris in that room. I started--and handed her a bin of Fisher-Price Little People, the old kind that are choking hazards. She busied herself and I plowed forward, throwing stuff into a bag. Then she returned the bin to me and I found a play-toolbox for her to look at. That bought me another few minutes.

Then she saw Mr. Snowman.

Mr. Snowman is a plastic Christmas decoration that stands about four feet high. It plugs in. I figured she wouldn't remember about the plug since she hadn't seen Mr. Snowman since Christmas-time. She wanted him, so I carried him to the family room and plunked him on the floor, plug-side in, out of sight.

Next thing I know, TwinBoyA has plugged him in. Babygirl is thrilled and I peek in to see her hugging Mr. Snowman. I hurry back to the storage room, sort through eight-hundred Play-doh related toys, then hear shouting. Mr. Snowman is broken.

YoungestBoy has been smacking Mr. Snowman with a pillow. I told him to stop once, but he ignored me and now Mr. Snowman no longer lights up. This is a crisis for Babygirl, and how do I handle it, being the mature mother of four that I am?

That's right. I yell. I yell things like, "Why can't you just listen to me? Why did you have to plug in the snowman? Babygirl didn't even know it would light up! Arg! Why didn't you stop hitting it? Arg! I can't get anything done around here! Arg!" (Yes, I say "arg" just like a pirate.)

Okay, fine. I call Babygirl into the storage room. She notices a package of markers--extra school supplies from last year. I have a serious addiction to school supplies and always over-buy. I say, "You already have some of those. Here, how about this?"

She will not be deterred. She wants those markers. My frustration level has reached orange now. Is that the higher level where you should look out for terrorists? That's the level I mean.

I say, "FINE" and swoop her up, stomp into the kitchen, plop her into her high-chair, realize I can't find paper, rip off some freezer-paper for her to use, tape it to the high-chair tray, open the drawer to get a bib so she doesn't write all over herself and--HEY! The entire drawer front comes off in my hands.

Now I am really mad. I wonder for a second if I could be suffering from my week of PMS already. No, not possible. I am just angry because I can't get any task finished. Babygirl is crying and rejects the marker after all that.

I take her out of her seat, comfort her and sit down with pliers and a hammer and Liquid Nails to repair the stupid drawer. This is the second drawer to break in my kitchen. I fix it, then retrieve the other broken drawer from the storage room and fix it, too. By the time I finish, I am calmer. I return to the storage room. Babygirl fixates on Mr. Snowman again.

So, I get a screwdriver and replace the bulb in Mr. Snowman. It still doesn't work. I investigate further and conclude that Mr. Snowman has blown a fuse. As I am doing this, the boys are in the next room goofing off. I tell them to be quiet, to stop, to STOP! Moments later, YoungestBoy is crying because TwinBoyA did not stop and now he's hit YoungestBoy in the eye with a stuffed Barney--the purple dinosaur.

Alert! Alert! I'm immediately back at Orange Level, yelling stuff that sounded to my kids like "Wahnk-wahnk-wahnk-wahnk-wahnk-wahnk" just like in a Charlier Brown special. I should be carried off to solitary confinement and have my vocal cords severed. I have blown a fuse of my own.

I give up. I fix lunch for the younger kids and the older kids make themselves something. By the time my husband returns home, I am normal, no longer frothing at the mouth and convulsing, but my kids gleefully tell him, "Mom is having a bad day." I feel like I'm going to be sent to the Principal's Office at any second.

That's what I get for attempting to accomplish anything.

I managed to fill my trunk with donations for the garage sale. After I put Babygirl to bed, I delivered the bags to the church basement, then went to Target to buy more school supplies. My addiction to spiral notebooks (10 for $1.00) needs professional attention. When I returned home, we went to the pool where we met my mother and my neice and nephew. We swam until we were water-logged.

The warning level has returned to purple, or wherever it is that all you have to be concerned about is someone giving you a dirty look. Tomorrow morning, leftover donuts and then we head to church, where hopefully I can be redeemed.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Friday Five

Five things I am thankful for this Friday:

1) My Babygirl's new soft-shoe routine, where she swings her arms together, forward and back, as she taps out a barefoot dance. Out of nowhere, she'll break into this joy-filled routine.
2) Books. I'm reading three books at once at the moment and finished two others this week.
3) My husband's steady presence in our home--and his sense of humor.
4) The upcoming weekend which is completely void of obligations.
5) Cooler weather!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Here is irony: reading a chapter in a book about mindful parenting while I ignore the children playing nearby and when they interrupt me, offering them distractions of television or a snack.

I do have to make note of the remarkable appearance of the moon tonight. I left the house after Babygirl went to bed (clutching dolly and her blanket) tonight. My mission: to return two videos and one Nintendo game and to stop by the grocery store.

The benefits of running errands after bedtime are as follows:
1) Listening to Laura Ingraham's radio show is hilarious and fun.
2) Shopping without children is soothing and hypnotic.
3) Occasionally, the moon makes a guest appearance in the sky and I remember the perfect October nights of my college days when I realized with a start: There will never again be an October night as beautiful and magical as this night, right now. And the melancholy of that thought--or maybe the heartbreak of homework or the loneliness of being human--made me want to cry. And I was right. That October night is long gone. So is my youth!

But tonight's moon just made me think of a glowing stone nestled on a navy-blue velvet expanse. The moon is a little more than a half-moon tonight, and because I am a mother of a toddler, I thought to myself: Moonbear loves the moon. He loves her when she's new. He loves her when she's half. He loves her when she's three-quarters. He loves her when she's full. Moonbear loves the moon . . . all the time.

I do, too.

I apparently also love the colon tonight. I may have used my colon-allotment for the next three years. (Yeah, that would be "colon" as in the punctuation mark, not "colon" as in the digestive organ.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

I read a whole book today. I finished Anne Lamott's Blue Shoe last night, so this morning I picked up the used copy of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret that I bought at Goodwill recently. I read the whole thing today between changing diapers and fixing lunch and watching babies and cleaning the kitchen and folding laundry.

When I was going into sixth grade myself, I remember my new friend, Misty Frizzell, telling me about this book. Back in the day (1976), Judy Blume's book about a sixth-grade girl's yearning for her menstrual cycle to begin and her search for a religious identity was scandalous. I thought it seemed very tame today, as I read it in this century as a 39-year old woman, but back then it was a book you read secretly, so your mother wouldn't notice and ask questions.

Misty Frizzell was an exuberant new friend. I met her at the local Assembly of God church and as quick as a wink, I was spending days and nights at her house which was at the far edge of our town. Her dad, Doug, looked like Survivor's Rupert. He had a hearty laugh and a shaggy beard and Misty told me in a stage-whisper that he had a hairy butt. She knew this because sometimes he would walk around naked. I couldn't recall seeing my own father without his shirt and shoes on, so this bit of information scared the beejeebies out of me. Would he prance around in his birthday suit while I spent the night? I kept my eyes averted when I walked to their bathroom.

I remember they had wicker furniture in their living room. Misty had naturally platinum blond hair and a horse she kept out behind her house. Her parents were funny and played jokes on each other. I couldn't believe my good fortune in finding a friend like Misty. I needed a dependable, fun friend to pal around with when we all went to middle school.

And then, sixth grade started and I wasn't in the "cool" group of kids and Misty abandoned me like some kind of reptile skin she outgrew and shed. Throughout the rest of our school years, we never really spoke again. But I thought of her today when I reread Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. Misty was so much like the protaganist of the story--longing to develop, longing for her period, longing to kiss boys and willing to follow the crowd. No wonder she loved the book and wondered if I did, too.

Now. I finished Blue Shoe last night and can give my hearty recommendation. Here are my favorite two lines:

"She did not mind this weather, and certainly preferred it to the tyrrany of a bright blue day, when old voices told you to get off your duff and go outside."

"And by God, ten minutes later, Mattie was gently bathing one of Abby's feet in a salad bowl of warm soapy water, wiping the grime off her ankle and heel and toes with a dish towel and Ivory soap, working the cat litter out of the cracks in her sole."


This morning, I sat outside while Babygirl and DaycareKid played. I didn't see it happen, but Babygirl apparently gave DaycareKid a little shove and he landed with a little splash in the small, orange wagon that contained a small puddle. When he stood up, I saw his backside was wet. I said, "Bummer!" Babygirl eyed me, surveyed DaycareKid's soggy britches and said, "Bummer!" Then she gave an evil little chuckle and said, "It's funny!"

"Bummer" is her newest word. "It's funny" is her best new phrase.

This afternoon, the boys' twin friends came over. All five boys immediately headed for the backyard, where they proceeded to work on their new creek. The backyard slopes a little, so my boys discovered quite by accident that if you water the flowerbed closest to the patio, the water heads downstream along the edge of the flowerbed. The boys worked with a shovel and hoe, taking turns to dig and hack at the hard dirt so the dribbling water would pool in their hole.

Periodically, one of them would spray the hole with water, which is why they all have dirt in their hair. At one point, I glanced out the kitchen window to see one of my boys dangling his feet into the "creek."

Then YoungestBoy came rushing inside. "Mom!" He had a smear of dirt on his forehead, a scowl on his cherubic face and was drenched. "Mom! They sprayed me and now I'm going to have to take a bath!" Babygirl stopped dancing, gazed at him and said, "Bummer."

YoungestBoy growled at us and stomped upstairs to change clothes. Babygirl resumed her crazy, whirling dance, clad only in a diaper.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Without a Microphone, Am I Invisible?

I noticed something during the week of Vacation Bible School. For the first year in quite a few years, my role was completely behind-the-scenes. I didn't speak into a microphone even one time. I did not lead a song, I did not shush a crowd, I did not appear on stage.

And it was strange. Surprisingly, I missed it.

I am a good administrator, an excellent detail person. Yet, when I was in college, I discovered my talent for communication--especially with children. I worked as a Children's Ministries intern for Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker at Heritage U.S.A., in Charlotte, North Carolina. My boss was a goateed man with black hair that was firmly Aqua-netted into place. His wife was a short, squat woman with matching black hair. He was a ventriloquist and a puppeteer and he was kind of forced to accept me as an intern because I had inadvertently weaseled my way past Human Resources and into a job by introducing myself to Dick Dortch, who ended up being not only an old family friend, but also Jim Bakker's right hand man.

Boy, was the woman in Human Resources mad at me.

Anyway, instead of working on the grounds crew, I ended up working in the children's department and that's how I ended up on a stage in Heritage U.S.A. entertaining the passing crowds. Speaking into that microphone and performing the little skits we created and telling crazy knock-knock jokes energized me, thrilled me, gave me confidence that I didn't even know I lacked. It's wacky to find out that you happen to be good at captivating a crowd, especially when you are a solitary soul at heart who prefers to sit home than to mingle and make small talk.

When you speak into a microphone, people notice your work. They pat you on the back and write you thank-you notes and tell you what a great job you've done. When you spend hours at home with spreadsheets and registration forms and to-do lists and self-created forms, no one notices. It's like housework: people only notice if your floors have not been mopped.  They see smudges on your mirrors, but don't notice the absence of smudges.  If those forms had not been created, if the children had not been organized into acceptable crews, if people had not been recruited and trained and if the supplies had not been ordered, people would notice.  But a smooth-running organization is like the skeleton--invisible, unless, of course, you are Mary-Kate Olsen (sorry, anorexia joke just popped in there).

Really, though, the invisible work makes an event run smoothly and so people notice the things they are supposed to notice--the public speaker, the music, the decorations, the happy faces of children. It's strange, though, if you are used to being noticed.

This year, we have a new youth pastor and I immediately assigned him my usual role. For the past two years, I've done the closing program, the twenty-five minute wrap-up at the end of the day. I wanted to pass along the burden, but also, I wanted to see how he handled the microphone and the challenge of speaking to 80 children. He did a fantastic job and I was really thrilled to hear him keep the attention of the children while teaching and entertaining them. And I am relieved to not have the job myself. But I did notice that I noticed the lack of attention.

And it's always a little weird when you see your own foibles, when you notice the 14-year-old inside who clamors for attention.

So, to answer my question--yes, without a microphone, I am invisible. Does that make my work less valuable? No. Do I mind? Not so much. Well, okay. Maybe a teeny, tiny bit. Will I reclaim the microphone next year? No. It's all right to be see-through. I always thought that transparency would be a cool superpower to have. Although, I'd really rather be able to fly. Or spin straw into gold. Is that a superpower?

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Hot, Hot, Hot

Today, the temperature nearly reached 100 degrees. I know that's just summertime for some parts of the country, but for us, it's a new record high. This is Washington, the Evergreen state. We depend on overcast days and frequent drizzle to maintain our greenery. And even though July is our driest month, normally our temperatures are milder--like 75 or 80 degrees, tops.

We have air conditioning--which is rare in these parts--but tonight, when I walked into our house after running late errands, it was warm inside--warmer than the night-air outside. Our poor heat pump was just tuckered out from trying to combat the hot air, I guess. I turned everything off, cleaned the filters and opened the windows. Overnight temperatures are supposed to be in the 60s, so hopefully we don't spontaneously combust in our sleep.

My husband returned home safely yesterday. He says he never plans to move to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The kids took his return in stride and then resumed bickering. We expected to get together with our vacationing friends last night, but they stood us up. We figured that's what was happening, so we waited until 6 p.m. and grilled burgers at home and stayed put all night. This morning, our friend, David, called to apologize. They remembered about our plans last night at 1:30 a.m. on their drive back to their hotel. No problem, I said. Don't worry about it. I did clean my house for four solid hours, but no problem. I needed the motivation to pick up Legos and vacuum and deal with the kitchen-counter paper piles and scrub the sink and wash the bathroom mirrors and put away folded laundry and on and on.

Any motivation to clean house is good motivation, I say.

Today, I informed my newly returned husband that I would be leaving the house when Babygirl went down for a nap. He's such an easy-going man. I couldn't decide where to go or what to do. I ended up at two different thrift stores for a little "retail therapy." I bought books, some Legos made just for babies, a doll for Babygirl, and a few items of clothing. Oh, and "new" sandals. I love a bargain, though I have to say that my fellow-thrift shoppers sometimes scare me. A man totally invaded my space at the checkstand and tried to engage me in conversation. I completely ignored him with the same steely determination I use with street people or obviously insane people. And then I made sure I was in my car with the doors locked when he came into the parking lot. I blame this weirdness on my mother.

Babygirl has been talking a lot these days. Her first real sentence was "I got it!" She says that frequently. When I gave her the "new" doll today, she looked at it and said, "OH!" Pause. "OHH!" For the past few days, she's developed a new attachment to a stuffed dog and a pink blanket. Puppy and blankie. My twins (now 11) still sleep with their baby blankets. (Shhhhh, don't tell.) YoungestBoy was never very attached at any particular objects, but he did bite his nails from the time he had teeth.

I sense that I'm beginning to ramble, so I think I'll head to bed and read another chapter of Anne Lamott's fabulous book, Blue Shoe. Why am I so tired when I have so little to show for my time?!

Thursday, July 22, 2004


My husband returns tomorrow. He's been out of town since Monday. Since he was gone, I accomplished a few things:

1) Kept all children alive.
2) Fed all children.
3) Washed laundry, lots of it.
4) Took children to beach on Monday.
5) Went to meeting about on Tuesday. (Took Babygirl. Left big kids with a babysitter.)
6) Took kids to Weight Watchers meeting on Wednesday, but weighed in and missed meeting part so they could play on slides afterwards. Bribed them with ice cream to leave play structure, ensuring future Weight Watchers customers who have Food Issues. I didn't lose weight, nor did I gain, which I consider a victory considering I went out to eat twice this week, then had a small skirmish with a carton of low-fat ice cream in my husband's absence.
7) Scrubbed my shower stall and cleaned bathroom sink.
8) Vacuumed family room, though why? There are popcorn crumbs and kernels scattered everywhere, just from tonight. A family of mice could survive for a decade on the provisions found on this carpet.
9) Cleaned the twins' room and washed their bedding more than once. (Don't ask.)
10) Met my mom at the swimming pool tonight. Ate dinner and swam for almost 3 hours.
11) Cared for daycare baby a total of 36 hours.
12) Went to the zoo with five children.

What I did not accomplish:
1) Mopping floor.
2) Writing thank-you notes to volunteers from last week.
3) Ironing of any sort.
4) Eight million other things that nag at me every day--from smudged windows to grimy floors to scattered toys and the ever-present pile of papers on the kitchen counter. The very idea of the clutter in my storage room drives me to distraction. My living room cries out for paint. The back yard needs mowing, the front yard ivy needs trimming.

I did not exercise.
I did not make any overdue appointments with the children's doctors.
I did not arrange for the kittens to get vaccines.
I did not scrapbook.
I did not find the cure for cancer, nor did I compose a heart-wrenching love ballad to my husband.

The thing about being a mother and being me at the same time is that I cannot work in the manner that is comfortable for me--working sequentially and systematically on projects. The "me" part needs to work in order. The "mom" part of me is constantly interrupted, day and night. A constant stream of noise squeezes the thoughts out of my brain. Tonight, on the way home from the pool, all four of my children were making noise at the same time, talking, chanting, babbling. And the radio was on. I clicked the radio off, because that was the only noise I could silence.

I often feel like I'm not getting a thing done. So why am I so exhausted?

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

A Book Review

I just finished reading Candace Bushnell's Four Blondes.   She's the author of Sex and the City, which I have not read, nor have I seen the show.  She talks about Four Blondes here.

Let me just say how thankful I am that I purchased it at a garage sale for a quarter, because that's exactly how much it was worth.  She should pay me for the time I wasted reading it.  I read the entire dreadful book--which I don't always do.  When I was young, if I hated a book, it didn't matter.  I had to finish it, according to my self-imposed standards.  Not any more.  Now I will abandon a book without a flicker of guilt.

But I kept reading Four Blondes, thinking it would get better.  It did not.  This book purports to be the tales of four different New York women.  It read more like a rough draft of a college creative writing project.  No plot, no theme, no underlying meaning to her stories of shallow women living sorry lives.  As far as I'm concerned, Candace Bushnell owes me $28.00--minimum wage for four hours of time I spent reading this book.

Now, I'm reading Anne Lamott's Blue Shoe.  The writing is beautiful and stands in vivid contrast to the clunkety writing by Candace Bushnell.  Anne Lamott rocks.

I'm also re-reading A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle.  I love this book so much.  I penciled in comments the first time I read it.  Everyone who aspires to write or create should read this book--even though it was written in 1972, it's timeless and inspiring. 

The Zoo

I feel so much pressure this week to do something fun with the kids. My husband left early Monday morning and returns Friday afternoon and while he's gone, I have the car. And the kids. Normally, I only have the kids, so I wanted to take advantage of the situation and seize the day.

Only two things stand in my way. Okay, three things. The first obstacle is DaycareKid. It's tough to go anywhere with a toddler, but add an additional toddler and truly, you have double the trouble. Or triple the trouble. For instance, there is no way I'd take him to the ocean or up to Mount Rainier. I just couldn't. The second obstacle is nap-time. Nap-time is sacred around here. So, we can't be gone for longer than three hours. We must return home by noon. We can't go after nap-time, either, because that's when DaycareKid's mom comes to pick him up. These two obstacles alone leave me pretty well boxed in.

And then, admittedly, the last obstacle is one of my own making. The last obstacle is my inertia. An object at rest stays at rest, right? That's me. It's just easier to stay put than it is to muster up the momentum to get us all moving forward in the appropriate direction. It's easier to just watch The Wiggles, then go outside to play, then watch Sesame Street while playing in the family room, then having lunch, then watching more Wiggles before nap-time. Taking a toddler anywhere is like plopping a live grenade in your purse and just hoping no one jostles you. Too many things can nudge a toddler into a full-blown tantrum. It's a chance I am loathe to take.

But this morning, I propelled us out of our normal orbit and off we went to the zoo. We left before 9:30 a.m., which seems like a minor miracle since I didn't decide we should go until 8:30 a.m.

The zoo is on the smallish side. They've just redone a habitat featuring tigers, but my kids loved watching the elephants eat hay and spray dirt all over themselves. We spent a good deal of time watching sharks swimming by in the South Pacific aquarium. The bigger kids loved the dark tanks full of jellyfish and mysterious unfamiliar fish in the lower aquarium, but Babygirl was not so fond of those eery, spooky places, so we hurried through that part.

Half-way through our adventure, Babygirl decided she would no longer ride in her stroller. She wanted to walk and push her stroller herself. So, she did. Fortunately, the zoo wasn't crowded or she'd have been bashing into people every two minutes. Thus, we entirely missed the polar bears and the penguins and scarcely glanced at the beluga whales and--my favorite--the grotesque, pinkish, gigantic walrus. He floated between two submerged stones, as still as a stone himself, but for the flaring of his nostrils and the flickering of his whiskers. Normally, he does a ballet around and around his tank.

It wasn't until we left the zoo and I buckled Babygirl into her carseat--overriding her wishes to do it herself--that she screamed and cried. I thought that was pretty lucky since I had five kids with me and anything--literally anything--could have gone wrong at any step along the way. My big kids were very, very cooperative and helpful. Some days they are like that. I should fall on my knees and thank God.

We went through a McDonald's drive-thru on the way home, thus accomplishing two goals: feeding the kids and keeping the little ones awake. When we got home, it was just about nap-time.

And during nap-time today, I was a responsible grown-up and I balanced the checkbook. I know. I should get a medal of some sort. Or a brownie. Or a day off.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Look Away

I am crabby.  Really, really, really crabby.  So crabby that Child Protective Services should come to my front door and remove my children.  So crabby that the sound of my children eating popsicles annoys me.  Now they will be all sticky and a sticky cellophane wrapper will stick to my sock when I am least expecting it.
Everywhere I look, I see stuff I want to unsee.  I see piles needing organization.  I see messes needing cleaning.  I see crumbs needing sweeping.  I see children needing nail-clipping and tooth-brushing and lessons from Miss Manners.  I see unfolded laundry and wrinkled shirts.  A stack of videos balances precariously on top of the dusty television.  I've decided I am just going to dump my unread magazines into the recycling bin.  As soon as I shake this crabby lethargy.
Oh.  My.  I'm living in a Goodwill store. 
Tonight, I have to attend a meeting about a new school program.  At 6:30 p.m., with my almost-2 year old in tow.  That will be fun.  Big sigh.  Tomorrow night, I have another meeting.  When was it that I thought I'd gallivant around our beautiful state with the children?  That means no pool today, no pool tomorrow.  Thursday, maybe, is our zoo day.  The ocean is positively out of the question since Friday--my day "off" with no daycare baby to care for--is the day my husband returns and then we're having a barbecue at the pool with our friends that evening.  And I have to make and take all the food.  In my spare time.
I'm such a whiner.  Please.  Someone, shake me. 
And make it a chocolate malt, if you don't mind. 

Monday, July 19, 2004

Afternoon Delight

The minute DaycareKid's mom picked him up, I herded the neighborhood boys out the door and loaded my kids up in the car and drove them directly to McDonald's.  Thus, marginally nourished, I drove to the beach where we spent the next two hours. 
I just want to know--why, oh why, do I have children who are fixated on swings?  My older boys (you know, the adopted ones who are on the lower tier of my affection) hated swings.  They would freak out if I pushed them too high.  YoungestBoy has always adored swinging and tonight, Babygirl fully embraced the whole swinging experience for the first time.  Her hand muscles are probably going to be sore tomorrow morning when she wakes up because she spent close to an hour clutching the metal links while clamoring "more swing!  more swing!". 
Why are so many motherhood activities so mind-numbingly boring?  I mean, pushing her on the swing for fifteen minutes--perfect!  Half an hour?  Uh, I'm losing interest and I'd like to sprawl out on the lawn and watch the sunlight shimmering on the Puget Sound.  A whole hour?  Puh-lease.  Boring, boring, boring, boring, boring.  Of course, I put on my Good Mother face and push and then tickle her when she swings close to me again and I do all this while trying to keep an eye on my boys who have joined in with another boy in making water balloons.
Anyway, first she did slide for awhile.  Then the swings.  Then we all went down to the edge of the beach and the boys waded in--YoungestBoy went to his waist and then lost his flip-flops and then sort of plunged in to swim after them, giving me heart palpitations.  Babygirl would have nothing to do with the waves as they splashed on the rocky shore.  She climbed the retaining wall, saying, "Swing.  Swing."  She would not be deterred, so I made the boys come back up to the swingset, which is when they found the Water Balloon Kid.  Then I was stuck pushing the swing for an hour.  Or so.
We bribed her out of the park with a promise of ice cream.  At first, she said, "no," but all of the sudden, she said, "Okay.  Fast!" and she started to run.  She ran all the way up the wide walking path, all the way across the railroad tracks, all the way up the hill to the parking lot and then all the way across the parking lot to the car.  I think she will run marathons when she grows up.
We went to McDonald's again for ice cream.  I know.  There goes my Mother of the Year award. 
By the time we returned home, it was almost 8:00 p.m., her bed-time.  The boys will be going to bed in minutes and finally--Mom is Still a Grown-up Time begins!
By the way, I noticed a couple of days ago that Babygirl's hair is exactly the color of a dead lawn.  Just in case you were wondering.

I'm So Sure

When I was a teenager, my most overused phrase was, "I'm so sure!"  I still say it.  For instance, when I woke up early this morning and realized I have a cold, followed by this week I'm home alone with no help from my husband.  I thought, I'm so sure!
But, I took Advil, I ate my usual oatmeal breakfast and I don't feel too bad.  It's 10:10 a.m., so naptime is less than three hours a day.  How pathetic that I'm counting down the hours.  I used to do that when I had a really boring customer service job way back in history when I used to have a job with benefits--benefits other than the benefit of wearing black scuffy slippers all day.  I had to clock in for 7.5 hours each day and I counted down starting at about 6.5 hours.  Back then, I longed for a baby and for this life, the one I have now.  Lucky me, dreams come true.
Last year was my 20 year high school reunion and it was so much like high school.  I sat at a table with the two smartest high school girls (both still single) and we chatted while everyone else drank a lot and talked loudly.  Okay, maybe not everyone, but it did remind me a lot of high school.  I'm glad I went, though, because I reconnected with a few others from high school and it's such a surreal experience to see the high-school kids you remember transformed into balding, pudgy men and actual grown-up women with colored hair that you can't really recognize.  Why do all these people look so old when I am still so young and spry?
One of the women from high school has a blog and that's how I know that last Saturday she and her husband went to Seattle, bought tickets to see The Lion King, did a training run with a marathon group, went to the Bite of Seattle, met someone for dinner, and then ended the day by seeing American Idol in concert.  They don't have children, and I know that was not their choice, but still.  Why didn't I enjoy my life more before I had children?  Oh yeah, that's because we had no money and no time. 
Jealously is such a waste of time.  You know the last time I went to Seattle?  Um, that would be two days before I gave birth to Babygirl who is almost two years old.  The last concert I saw?  That would have to be about 8 years ago.  The last time I went to Bite of anything?  I can't even remember that far back. 
My life is so small now, confined to this house, in this neighborhood.  It's like one of those sponges--when you put it in water, it expands to ten times its current size . . . well, my life has been condensed to one-tenth of its former size.  Not that I would trade this life, but sometimes it does feel a little cramped.
But Friday, we have a day of freedom coming.  I think I'm going to take the kids to the ocean for the day.  And throw them in.  Just kidding
[My toddler has refused to wear a diaper this morning.  I just said to her, "Tell Mommy when you need to go pee-pee, okay?" and she looked at me with teenage defiance and said, "No!"]

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Seventeen Years and Counting

My husband is leaving me tomorrow.  Today we celebrated our seventeenth anniversary.  It's always this way because we got married on July 18, right in the very middle of the summer when he always has to jet off for an annual church-related meeting.  Some years, he's even gone on our actual anniversary day.
But we are a very low-maintenance couple.  I'm an extremely low-maintenance wife, in fact.  He should thank me for that.  While the baby was napping, we had brunch at a very hoity-toity restaurant overlooking the Puget Sound.  We spent $50.00 on our meal.  And wouldn't you know it?  Someone gave us a check for $50.00 today for our anniversary.  I like to think that God is looking out for us.
We never linger in restaurants.  We're kind of that couple who speaks a little, but mostly sits in companionable silence, gazing out the windows, trying to eavesdrop on other patrons (I'm the eavesdropper--he mostly wishes he had a tiny little television screen attached to his wrist so he could always keep tabs on Fox News).  We finished so quickly that I dropped him off at home and went to the grocery store.  We need provisions during these five days he'll be gone and I most certainly do not want to take four children into the grocery store.  That would be financial suicide.
We agreed not to exchange gifts or even cards.  I'm unsentimental like that.  I've heard people talk about renewing their vows and stuff like that, which I find to be a silly idea.  My vows haven't expired and I hated putting on the whole wedding the first time around.  I didn't like all those people watching me walk up the aisle, I didn't like the long session with the photographer, I didn't like having to make small talk with so many people.  Why would I do that to myself again? 
Anyway, so happy anniversary to me.  It really is easier to stay married the longer you've been married.  If, of course, you chose wisely.  I chose a man who is kind, calm, diligent, trustworthy, dependable, funny--very, very funny--a man with good friends and a consistent, solid world-view, a man who seeks to understand theology and who longs to be an authentic follower of Christ.  He also puts up with me, which is quite an undertaking since I am 1)  a woman and 2) always right and 3) ridiculously sequential in the way I deal with the world.  Also, he laughs at my sarcastic jokes.  How can I not stay married to a guy like that?
And now, I have to go clean out our 1992 Buick.  It's sitting in the church parking lot with a trunk full of hamster cages and a Lego table and other assorted junk.  I need to empty it because we are donating it to charity.  The last time it didn't start we decided enough was enough.  The poor thing has 265,000+  miles on it.  From now on, we're a one-car family.
My husband leaves at 6:20 a.m. and what better way to spend our last night together--our anniversary night--than for me to be cleaning out the old car?  Happy Anniversary, Dear!

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Anonymous Speaks!

Welll, looky here. Anonymous' real name is Melinda and she left me a wordy comment on yesterday's post. Although she says she's read "enough filth" here in the last two days, I thought I'd answer her questions anyway because I find those members of the Reading Incomprehension Club so amusing and endearing.

First, I want to remind my readers (all three of you, how pathetic, right?) that my original post about Michael Moore's movie was really just about going to the movies. I did not offer a political commentary, but just a description of my strange experience going to see this particular bit of propaganda as a Republican in my fiercely Democratic state.

Here's what Melinda had to say in response to my Open Letter.

Dear Mel,

Please accept my most sincere apology. How silly of me to think that your "blog" was for the expression of any and all opinions. Clearly it is only intended on for those opinions that mimic your own. Nice to have a posse of like-minded buddies to give you the old thumbs-up isn't it? Interesting though, the posse seems to only include such a precious few. I'm still not sure how I stumbled on you or why I felt compelled to respond. And yet here I am again.

Well, thank you, Melinda, for the apology. You are most certainly welcome to post whatever opinions you wish, but as this is Mel World, I am the Queen and therefore, I am right. But it was nice of you to stop by--I've had such fun responding to your comment from that post I made so long ago. Oh, and I don't actually have a posse. This is a blog, you know, not a rap video. Are you trying to insult me by pointing out my lack of readership? Oh, boy, that hurts. Ouch, ouch.

I said in my previous post: 1) Do the parents of the dead babies in Iraq deserve less respect that the survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attack?

Melinda says: You bet they do! My intention was to defend the concept of not showing the same gruesome photos again and again to incite panic in an effort to engender support for a baseless cause. And maybe, just maybe, those horrifying images of dead children might just wake up the masses. Uh hello-The United States purposely attacked Iraq and didn?t give a tiny rat's - - - about collateral damage.

Ah, there's the pesky problem of reading comprehension again. I asked if the parents of dead Iraqi babies deserve LESS respect that the relatives of the 9/11 victims. You said "You bet they do!" So, it doesn't matter to you if Michael Moore exploits the grief and loss of Iraqi people? You would find it abhorent if images of the 9/11 massacre were shown, yet you do not find similar photos of Iraqi nationals also abhorent. How strange. Do you refuse to see the double-standard here?

And um, how exactly do you know that the United States doesn't give a "rat's - - -" about collateral damage? Oh, that's right. You don't know.

In my previous post, I said: 2) Did I mention how I feel about our government's attack on Iraq? Do you think it's possible to be horrified by dead Iraqi civilians and horrified by Michael Moore's movie at the same time? ?

Melinda answers: True, you don't mention how you feel about this despicable war--perhaps you should have.

Well, my post about my experience going to a movie was not intended to be a dissertation on my political views. If you want to read a blog about political views, there are literally millions of them to choose from. This blog is a personal journal. And you are taking great offense to my viewpoint about propaganda a movie.

Melinda continues: I'd like to think the human mind has the capacity to think/believe 2 things at once. And yet you disprove that. Do you think it is possible to love one's country and be horrified by involvement in a war that makes no one safer, removes no threat to our nations sovereignty and only lines the pockets of the Bush's cabinet?

I disprove your theory about believing two things at one time how exactly? So, you do agree with me that I can be horrified about dead Iraqi civilians AND hate Michael Moore's ridiculous movie full of half-truths at the same time? Well, at least we have found common ground.

I absolutely think it's possible to love one's country and be horrified by the Iraqi war. Do I think that the war "makes no one safer, removes no threat to our nation's sovereignty and only lines the pockets of the Bush cabinet"? No, of course not. How simplistic. But if it makes it easier for you to deal with a world that you've painted in only black and white, please, feel free. Just don't call me narrow-minded.

I continued in my previous post: 3) How was I personally duped by our president, oh, All-Knowing Anonymous One?

Melinda says: The "all-knowing anonymous one" can only assume based on information provided. Maybe you weren't duped, although you give every indication that you support the murder of hundreds of children, women & men--many of who are your compatriots. Forgive my rush to judgment.

I forgive your rush to judgment. Oh wait, did you just say I support the murder of hundreds of children, women and men? Oh, yeah, you've got me all figured out now! Now, if one dares to criticize Michael Moore's movie, one supports the murder of hundreds of children, women and men. Oh yes, I see how that makes perfect logical sense.

My previous post ended: Thank your for your interest in my opinion. Next time, how about playing fair and signing your actual name? Otherwise, your opinion doesn't count.

And by the way, saying something out loud does not make it true. Neither does publishing something in a book. You might want to make a note of that for future reference.

Melinda says: Interesting closing statement. Safe to say this would apply to the trash you suggest we all read by Christopher Hitchens. Guess what I did. I?m actually rather well read. And in "my opinion" he is no different than Michael Moore. Stating his opinion, supporting his cause. We choose to believe what jives with our own value structure. You have yours and I have mine and never the 2 shall meet.

I actually believe in absolute truth, so I'll have to disagree with you here. There is truth and then, there is Fahrenheit 9/11.

Melinda says: Lest you marginalize my opinion as invalid by lack of a name, allow me to introduce myself, Melinda from not so far from where you live. No need to get your dander up. I won't be visiting or responding anytime soon. I've had enough filth for 2 days.
Oh yes one last thing. I took a moment to cruise "about you". Do you think your adopted children will grow up and appreciate being differentiated from their "homegrown" siblings? Gosh shame on you again!

Nice to meet you. Now, Melinda, do you really think that featuring your comments as post in my blog is "marginalizing" your opinion? I could have deleted your comments immediately after I read them, but guess what? I didn't! If anything marginalizes your comments, it would be your name-calling and your insults to the Queen of this blog (yeah, that would be me). Didn't your mother teach you any manners?

For the record, my "dander" is not up. I laughed my head off when I read your comments and have been cracking my husband up for two days now, reciting your words to him. My original post was meant to bait as well as entertain. Glad to see it worked. Sorry you won't be back. Just pull that door shut behind you, will you? Thanks.

Oh, and thank you so much for your kind concern about my "adopted children." Oh dear, you're right! Shame on me! I should be keeping their adoption a secret from them! I do call them "Hey, Adopted TwinBoyB" and "Hey, Adopted TwinBoyA" here around the house. Do you think maybe I should stop doing that? Should I let them sleep in the house? They seem so comfortable in the shed, after all. We tell them all the time that we could send them back to the orphanage. You really think that's too harsh?

Well, thanks again for stopping by, Melinda. It's been fun.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

An Open Letter to Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

I received your comment today in response to my post about Michael Moore:

Anonymous said: "Thankfully there are very few responses to your narrow-minded and bigoted perspective to Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. It gives me hope that I am not alone and you represent the minority. It is outrageous that people can actually be this ignorant after all that has been revealed to support the so-called "satire" exposed by Michael Moore.

Shame on you for condemning him for having the respect to not show the charred and mangled remains of the victims of 9/11 for the millionth time. Shame on you for not having the common sense to be disgusted by your own government who inflicted that gruesome death on children in Iraq for their own financial gain. Shame on you for not being able to recognize when you have been duped by a greedy presidency. And shame on you for being so intolerant and insulting to those of us who can only laugh in the face of a president who does not even posses a basic grasp of the English language. Did it ever occur to you that the giggles and laughter you heard where based in sheer humiliation because "that" is our president with the vacant gaze???

The reason the theater was not empty and you were a "Republican Island" is because the rest of us seek the truth that our government seems unable to provide. And from the sounds of your post, you are clearly not smarter than everyone you shared that theater with...just more myopic!!!!!

And I reply: Thank you so much for your anonymous opinion about me. This kind of reminds me of the time I received an anonymous note from a disgruntled church member: "Stop playing the hymns so fast. I hate the music." It always brightens one's day to know that a completely anonymous person has such strong opinions about my opinions.

Now, I just want to point out that this entire blog is, in essence, my opinion piece, just as Michael's Moore's movie is his opinion piece. Apparently, you grant Michael Moore the right to criticize people he disagrees with, yet I am not granted that same privilege in your eyes.

Also, I have a few questions:

1) Do the parents of the dead babies in Iraq deserve less respect that the survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attack?

2) Did I mention how I feel about our government's attack on Iraq? Do you think it's possible to be horrified by dead Iraqi civilians and horrified by Michael Moore's movie at the same time?

3) How was I personally duped by our president, oh, All-Knowing Anonymous One?

Thank your for your interest in my opinion. Next time, how about playing fair and signing your actual name? Otherwise, your opinion doesn't count.

And by the way, saying something out loud does not make it true. Neither does publishing something in a book. You might want to make a note of that for future reference.

" . . . and I've got the t-shirt."

I hated to do it, but last night after I put Babygirl to bed at 8:00 p.m., I had to grocery shop. I drove to the store via the route along the beach and was rewarded by the amazing sight of the sunlight sparkling on the Puget Sound as the sun began its descent from the sky.

I thought of all the times my dad would inform us we were going for a "drive,"--a roving journey with no destination. We almost always headed for the mountains. My mother would grip the dashboard with her hands and dig her foot into the floorboard as if she could control the car from the passenger seat. She has a little issue with heights and never could get comfortable driving on a narrow road along the edge of a steep incline.

This was way before the days of GameBoys. We didn't even have a cassette player in our car, so we'd just sit and stare out the windows--and, of course, poke each other and complain and ask ten thousand times, "Are we almost there?" as if we were actually heading somewhere.

And then, there it would appear. A scenic vista with a sign and a place to pull off the side of the road. We'd scramble out of the back seat and stand at the edge of the lookout and peer into the distance--and often see more trees and more valleys and maybe, if we were extremely lucky, a stream or river or even hit the jackpot and see a waterfall. We'd stretch our legs and breathe fresh air and maybe shiver because mountain air is always chillier than low-land air.

And then my dad would say, "You've seen it. Get back in the car."

This phrase became a family expression, one of those things that glues you and your dysfunctional siblings together. Thirty years later, you say to your brother, the one who was a skinhead for awhile: "You've seen it. Get back in the car," and you are eight years old again, staring at Nature and the world is full of possibilities and hopefully, a snack somewhere. And you both laugh, because you both know exactly what it means and what it meant.

(Our other family expression was "It's in a box in the garage." We moved when I was 11, after my parents' divorce, and some boxes were literally never unpacked. When something came up missing, my dad would say, "It's in a box in the garage." My siblings and I still say this to each other, as if it makes perfect sense.)

So, I reached the grocery store. I shopped quickly and almost finished, when I realized I had to walk all the way back across the store to find a cube of Diet Pepsi (on sale, $4.99). That's when I ran into Suzi, a woman from church.

Suzi is probably about 50. We had a nice long chat, right between housewares and best-sellers. We discussed Vacation Bible School (going very well, thanks for asking), menopause (she's better now, but a couple years ago, the hot flashes almost killed her, but a pill takes care of that), my husband's ability to preach (she actually grew teary-eyed and I thought she might cry right there in Fred Meyers, which is always kind of strange for me, even though my husband is an extremely gifted preacher), mornings (she's not a morning person), kids (she stopped at one), Texas (our husbands are both from there), weather, housekeeping (her daughter-in-law: she's not a housekeeper, but she is really good with the kids). It went on and on. I was just happy I hadn't hit the frozen food aisle yet.

And then--I don't remember the topic--she said, "I've been there. Done that, got the t-shirt." And I thought "You've seen it. Get back in the car." Same thing.

I returned home after 9:00 p.m. and found my husband watching television and his brand-new George Foreman Grill still smelling like the salmon he'd grilled earlier. The kids had been invited to spend the night at their friends, but he couldn't find one of the sleeping bags, so I put away the groceries, filled the dishwasher and found the sleeping bag. By then it was 9:30 p.m. and I hated to leave my house again.

My reward, though, was a view of the sky just before it fell asleep. The edge of the horizon was still pink, but the islands had become dark blue outlines in the periwinkle water. I dropped off the sleeping bag.

Then took a final look at the sky and the water and thought, "You've seen it. Get back in the car," and went home to finish my paperwork for today's exciting episode of Vacation Bible School.

Monday, July 12, 2004

And The Race Begins

My alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. and I actually heeded its buzz and immediately rose and got into the shower. Today is the first day of Lava Lava Island: Where Jesus' Love Flows, our church's annual Vacation Bible School. I've been spending lots of my spare time preparing for the arrival of one hundred children and thirty volunteers. This morning, I was at the church by 6:00 a.m. to photocopy schedules and maps and to make nametags for all the kids and to deliver clothesline to the preschool room and to organize, organize, organize.

I am a detail-oriented person, so most of this gives me great satisfaction. I love to do things sequentially and orderly and neatly. I think we are all set. Of course, there will be last-minute snafus and glitches, but as I like to tell myself: next week, this will all be over!

I returned home by 7:00 a.m. so I'd be here when DaycareKid arrived. While I waited for him, I heard a baby's cough. Oh no. I just wiped the kid's snotty nose. Looks like another cold, or a resurrection of his last cold.

My own kids are all asleep still--why they can't all sleep on a morning when I, too, can sleep is just one of those unfair things about life. But in one hour, they will all be ready to go. I'll take the babies with me at 8:20 a.m., take DaycareKid to the nursery for childcare and then cart Babygirl around with me because she will not stay in childcare. She's one of those babies who gets hysterical if I leave the house without her. I left her in the nursery for about ten minutes during church yesterday and I could literally hear her shrill screams all the way upstairs, through closed windows and doors. I know I could desensitize her to my absences and train her not to scream her head off when we leave her in a nursery or with a babysitter, but I also know that she will outgrow this. Why put her through any unnecessary trauma? (I used to sneer at moms like me when I was a teenager who knew everything.)

After I leave, a friend will pick up my husband and the bigger kids to bring them to church. We don't have a car big enough to transport two adults and five kids, so this will have to do. It took me a long time to even figure out this solution. One of my earlier solutions involved my husband pushing Babygirl two miles to church in a stroller.

Hey! One of my kids is awake, so I'm off to get him dressed and ready to go.

On your mark, get set, GO!

Friday, July 09, 2004

Stuck at Home

I'm stuck at home. When I was a teenager without a driver's license, I thought that a car and a license were my ticket to freedom. And yet, now I have both, but I'm here. Stuck.

Yeah, I know. It's all in how you look at it, but I tend to be a glass-half-empty kind of girl, so these kids in my house sometimes seem like handcuffs and ankle chains to me. Our 1992 Buick Park Avenue died recently and so I am stranded on this desert island. I wish it were a dessert island, because then I'd be gorging on chocolate mousse and cheesecake drizzled with caramel sauce and carrot cake with thick cream cheese frosting. But I digress.

Even if I had a car--no, a van, I am trapped here by Babygirl's nap-time. It's not exactly that I'm inflexible. It's just that I will not, cannot, choose not to alter her naptime in any way. Okay. I'm inflexible. Some things are sacred, though. Cows in the streets of India and my baby's naptime. Mess with either and you risk coming back in your next life as a gnat. Or a politician. Or me.

But if I had a car, I would have to figure out a place to take these children that:
1) They would all enjoy;
2) Would not cost me a fortune; and
3) Isn't too far away.

That rules out hiking, going to the ocean, Chuck E. Cheese, malls, restaurants, museums, zoos, water parks, stores, and pretty much all public places and areas where almost-2 year olds are apt to throw fits or get kidnapped or run into traffic or get scared. For instance, how fun would it be to go to Pike's Place Market? All the sights, sounds, smells?

It would cost twenty dollars just to park. Then my kids would want to eat and they'd probably get kidnapped or they'd need to go to the bathroom and then Babygirl would have a fit and I'd have to carry her kicking and screaming past the tourists and the fish-throwers and drive back home in heavy traffic while the baby shrieks in the back seat and the kids complain that their feet hurt and they're thirsty and can we please stop by McDonalds?

My kids seem happy, even though they are just here, stuck at home. With me. The twins are watching an old movie (Lion King) from their preschool days and YoungestBoy's out in the backyard wearing a red bandana as a cape and Babygirl is napping. I've had three Diet Cokes and half a bag of baby carrots and have avoided carrying the laundry downstairs for as long as is reasonable. Maybe we'll go to the pool tonight.

Someday I won't have a two year old and I won't be Stuck at Home and we'll go somewhere and do something. But not today.

Now, if I could only figure out a way to get stranded on a Dessert Island, I'd really have something to anticipate.

Thursday, July 08, 2004


I can write. I can read. But I cannot write html code, so I cannot put a reading list on the side of this blog. So, instead, I'm just going to write a periodic entry about my reading adventures. Kind of a summer reading thing.

Last week I read Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven. Excellent book, well-researched and interesting, too. I learned stuff I never knew about the founders of the Mormon religion. Of course, I had to actually pay attention and think hard sometimes, so that's why my next book was The Nanny Diaries.

I read it in two days--two days of ignoring the bits of popcorn on the family room floor, two days of closing the laundry room door on the ever-growing pile of laundry, two days of not looking down at the unclean kitchen floor. This is the kind of book that makes me think, "I could do this. I could write this book." There are some books--Poisonwood Bible, for instance--that leave me convinced that I could never, ever pen a novel. But these other novels? I could do it. All I need is time, time, time.

I even have an idea.

My husband thinks I fritter away so much time that if I just applied myself I could write a best-seller and he could buy a bigger, better house. I just smile and nod at him, because he's insane. Even if I wrote a book and had it published, that doesn't mean we'll be rolling in crisp dollar bills a la Demi Moore in "An Indecent Proposal."

And just because all the idle moments in my day add up to a couple of hours does not mean I have long stretches of time, thinking time, daydreaming time, essential time where I could rearrange characters and situations and dialogue in my head without kids constantly trampling through my thoughts. I'm half-crazed as it is now by the never-ending interruptions God gave me.

Oh, and that reminds me. I have a little writing assignment. I really should get to that instead of letting this time trickle through my fingers like sand in the sandbox.

(Just in the time it took me to write this, I answered the phone, told YoungestBoy that I would NOT cut the bottom off a frozen water bottle so he could play with the bottle-shaped ice, told my other boys to eat a sandwich if they are still hungry after popcorn and Mountain Dew, cut the bottom off the water bottle to keep YoungestBoy from slicing his fingers off with a butter knife, answered questions from the boys at least five times and decided it's official. My week of PMS has begun.)

The Barbie is a Tramp

Last night, I took Babygirl with me to Weight Watchers. She's been unusally clingy and even when my husband takes her for a ride in her stroller around the block, she whimpers "mama, mama" like a malfunctioning talking doll.

I told her we were going to a meeting and she said, "Meening!" I weighed in (lost another 1.7 pounds, woo-hoo) and then we found a seat at the very back. Normally, before I leave the house, I bring a Zip-loc bag of pretzels for her to snack on, but I purposely didn't bring her a snack because this is Weight Watchers, where we're all trying not to snack and who needs to hear the crunch of pretzels while they are trying to listen?

Apparently, the little boy with glasses in the row ahead of us didn't get that memo, however. One hand held a Jack-in-the-Box bag while the other clutched a handful of greasy fries. Obviously, he's being raised by wolves. Babygirl shouts, "Sies! Sies!" That would be "fries" in Babygirl-talk.

I try to distract her because the speaker has begun, but she will not be deterred. "SIES! SIES!"

We left the meeting and drove straight to McDonald's, where I bought fries (for us both) and a cheeseburger (for me). Don't worry, I saved points for it. I actually ordered a Happy Meal because it comes with a small drink and the portion of food is reasonable for a weight-watching person.

The toy inside was a Barbie figure. And not just a figure, but a figure, if you know what I mean. This Barbie is a tramp. She wears black platform shoes with heels which would be at least six inches in the real world. Her pants are low enough to show her belly button, which surprisingly enough is not pierced. She's wearing no bra under her one-shouldered shirt. Over this ensemble is a short, black faux-fur jacket. As always, her hair is bleached blond and long enough to reach her tiny little butt (no panty-lines--I suppose she's wearing a thong or going commando).

In my day, Barbie was not a tramp. Sure, she had a killer bod, but she did not dress like a hooker or a rap video chick. What executive decided that Street-Corner Barbie was appropriate for a Happy Meal? What's next? A Ron Jeremy action figure?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

If I Scream, Will I Feel Better?

Next week, our church's annual Vacation Bible School will begin. I am in charge, as I have been for the past three years. Why? I broke the rule I made for myself when we arrived here six years ago: I will be happy to volunteer, but I will not lead. Normally, people assume the pastor's wife will do everything, and pretty soon, she does. I won't. Not here. Not this time.

But I did agree to do this and now, five days before it begins, I get a call from my crafts leader. Two days' worth of crafts kits are missing. Back-ordered. No one knows when they will arrive, but my contact person in Minnesota is checking for me.

And I realized yesterday that I am short about five warm bodies. I have my main station leaders recruited, but I need people to be "crew leaders," essentially escorts for small groups of children. If I don't recruit a few more people, my small groups of kids will be big groups of kids and the quality of our program will suffer.

Then, the other problem that looms over my head is the number of preschoolers we anticipate. I limited preschool registration to twenty slots this year, and they quickly filled up. People registered their preschoolers without checking with me, as the website instructed. I am terrified that on the actual day of VBS, I will have to turn away disappointed four year olds. I really, really don't want to do that, so I'll probably allow them to register, even though we aren't equipped for more than twenty kids.

Well, I guess this is why I get the big bucks. Oh wait. That's someone else. I'm doing this for free.

At least this will all be over in 10 days and then I'll have a break. Oh wait. That's when my husband will be gone for the entire week on business.

I'd better go make some phone calls. The last one I made sounded like this, "Hi, just calling to see if you will be able to help us out next week. If not, I'm just asking you to PRAY FOR ME! Thanks! Bye!"

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


Last night at 11:20 p.m., the phone rang. A late night phone call means one of two things: 1) Really, supersized bad news or; 2) Some drunk guy looking for someone. Last night, a woman's voice said, "I'm sorry to call so late, but I just got home and there was a message on my machine from Ruby Dunlap saying that Grandma was not at home and there was some type of emergency. Do you know what's going on?" I said, "Hold on, let me give you to my husband," and then I passed the phone to him. He was already asleep, while I was just watching the last part of the news with half-closed eyes and trying to read the final page of Vanity Fair.

He listened for a moment, then handed the phone back to me, saying, "It's one of your relatives!"

Oh. It was my Aunt Geri (I didn't recognize her voice because we seldom talk on the phone). I asked her if she called my mom--she said my mom's line was busy. (My mom has dial-up internet, no wonder.) I told her I'd call my mom's cell and figure this out.

Now, my grandmother is 98 years old and we've been thinking for years that she's going to die sometime. Every Christmas we say, "This could be Grandma's last Christmas." Every birthday, every Mother's Day, same thing. Yet, she just keeps on living alone in her immaculate, little house, blinded by macular degeneration, keeping the thermostat at eighty degrees because she's always cold.

My mother's phone rang and rang and then I left a message, hoping she'd pick up. Then I called her cell. No answer. Then I called her regular number again and this time she picked up.

My mom told me that the big emergency at my grandma's house was that her phone didn't work. And during the day my mom had picked up Grandma and brought her over to her house and they tried to call Ruby (my grandma's friend who calls her every day) so Ruby wouldn't worry, but they hadn't been able to reach her.

So, Ruby, worried so much that she drove all the way over to Grandma's house, found Grandma missing and alerted the media! Okay, she only called my Aunt Geri, but still. In the meantime, my mother returned my Grandma home and they called Ruby and all was well. And it turns out that the "phone trouble" was simply a handset that wasn't quite hung up properly.

Except no one remembered to call Geri. So Geri called me. So, after my mother, Queen of Detailed Stories That Go On and On, told me all this, I called Geri back and told her the short version: Grandma is fine. She was just at my mom's house.

My husband said, half-asleep, half-joking, "Next time, don't hand me the phone when it's your relatives." I had mistakenly assumed it was a church member, because we occasionally get those kind of church-related calls. A few times, my husband has sprung out of bed into the middle of the night to sit by a hospital bed or hold hands in the emergency room.

My baby, sensing my weariness, called to me at 5:40 a.m.: "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" in a tone that suggested she'd been abandoned without food or drink for days on end. I don't know why she woke up a full two hours earlier than normal, but she did go back to sleep by 6:45 a.m., after I sat and rocked her.

I face the day, then, shrouded in the kind of tired that prompted George Costanza (on Seinfeld) to actually build a bed into the bottom of his desk at work, the kind of tired that reminds me of having mononucleosis, the kind of tired that convinced me to crawl back into bed until 7:00 a.m., rather than shower. Nothing like facing the day bleary-eyed and dirty-haired.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Too Much of a Good Thing

Here's what is Too Much of a Good Thing: My daughter, the almost 2-year old Babygirl, at 6:00 p.m. on a Sunday night.

I have just had enough of her by then.

The darling is asleep now at 8:20 p.m. . . . a two full hours before fireworks are scheduled to begin. My husband will stay home while she sleeps and I will take my boys to my mother's house to view the "rocket's red glare." She has a view of the Puget Sound where pyrotechnics will light up the night sky.

Babygirl also slept through today's parade at 1:00 p.m. After church, we strolled through the three blocks of the street fair, bought nachos and then I left the boys with my husband, came home and put Babygirl down for a nap.

I enjoyed a gloriously quiet (though messy) house for two hours, which was way better than a parade. Even though I do love a small-town parade, I love solitude even more.

I might just be a recluse in my old age. Or maybe by then, I will have recovered from having Too Much of a Good Thing and my appetite for non-stop human interaction will return.

I'm looking forward to Independence Day--and by that, I mean my Empty Nest, which will occur in only 16 more years. Not that I'm counting. Really.

Moore: Smarmy Champion of the Feeble-Minded

With all the scattering of ashes at sea and weddings to perform, my husband's weekends have been harried. So my weekends have been exactly like my weekdays--that is to say, daily laundry, the routine of caring for a two year old and fixing food for people to eat.

Last night, then, I went to a movie. Just me. I love to go to movies alone. And not just because I hate sharing my popcorn. No. I like the solitude in the midst of a crowd, the vast stretches of time in which to think. If you are with someone, small talk intrudes and your thoughts are disrupted. I like to sit, to eavesdrop, to daydream, to ponder.

I hated to do it, but I saw "Fahrenheit 9/11", the Michael Moore satire-disguised-as-documentary. I arrived early at the theater and sat smack in the middle, screen at perfect eye-level. For a long time, there were only a few of us in the theater--a couple behind me and over a bit and some others behind my back.

I thought, "Wow, well, I guess the theater will be empty," and then it gradually filled until I became a Republican island in the middle of a fiercely Democratic ocean. The seats on either side of me were empty. Other than that, I was surrounded and hoped that I wouldn't accidentally get Tourette's Syndrome and shout out "That's a load of crap!" at one of Michael Moore's ludicrous, yet solemnly-intoned statements (like the one about how Iraq had never killed any American prior to the most recent war). More than once, I wanted to protest, "But that's just not true!" but I preferred not to be lynched on a rare Saturday night out, so I kept quiet.

The crowd around me, however, laughed uproariously at things that were not funny. They thought facial expressions of people who were waiting off-camera for the cameras to begin rolling were hilarious. Ha ha ha. Boy, it's so funny to see someone waiting to go "on-air." Let's make fun of how people look. How mature and fun-loving we are!

What I did not find the least bit funny was the fact that Michael Moore showed no footage from the 9/11 terrorist attack--no mangled bodies, no people burned to a crisp, no bloodied faces--yet he lingered over gruesome footage of dead Iraqi babies and severely injured Iraqi children. Uh, hello? The terrorists purposely attacked and killed Americans. These poor dead and injured children were not purposely attacked. Our soldiers did not intentionally main or kill any innocent civilians. Furthermore, how about showing a little footage of Saddam Hussein's cronies hacking off the hands of people who dared disagree with him or his dictates? Oh, no, wait, that would actually be full disclosure of truth. Can't have that!

I found Michael Moore to be a smarmy man with an agenda and I wondered if those in the movie theater around me were so feeble-minded that they would swallow whole whatever irrational story he fed them. And please, would someone explain to him that parents do not enlist their children in the army as if they are signing up their children for summer-camp? Furthermore, those who enlist in the army are not children. They are men and women, capable, rational, thinking people who join of their own free will.

Just saying something does not make it true. Michael Moore surely must realize that, but I don't think the giggling, critical crowd in the movie theater last night understands that fact.

So, here's what I thought when I sat in the theater last night:

1) I am outnumbered.
2) These people obviously have not read what Christopher Hitchens has to say on the matter.
3) Our country is in serious trouble if people think this is funny.
4) I am smarter than everyone here.
5) Is this movie almost over? This is so boring. I probably should have seen Spiderman, even though I hate action films.
6) Michael Moore is an idiot and perhaps he'd like to spend a little time living under a despot like Saddam Hussein and get back to us. Now, that's a documentary I'd like to see.

Friday, July 02, 2004

I Want A Saturday!

When I was in my twenties, I used to watch television's "thirtysomething" with love and devotion. I never missed an episode and I cried almost every week while watching the interaction between Hope and Michael or Nancy and Elliot. I broke down completely and wept when Gary died. (Ironically enough, that happened after my own dad had died and his name was, you guessed it, Gary.)

One episode was all about Hope's fervent wish for a "Saturday night," an old-fashioned date with her husband. All sorts of things go awry, of course.

I've been thirtysomething for quite some time now. Almost the maximum allowable time, actually. You can see my approaching expiration date if you look very closely under my bangs--why do you think I have bangs? And while I haven't experienced much of what I viewed as a dreamy-eyed twentysomething, right now, today, I am full of longing for a Saturday. Not a Saturday night, just a plain old Saturday.

I need a Saturday so I can sleep late, eat brunch at a cafe', run errands, stroll along the beach, chat with old friends on the phone, drive along a scenic highway, hike on a trail, or just get out of the house. The last time I got out of the house, I was shopping for a miracle, and the time has come for another break!

This Saturday--tomorrow--held great promise. Last Saturday, my husband had to literally go out to sea for a cermonial scattering of ashes.

He mentioned just awhile ago that he has plans for tomorrow. Who'd like to guess what he has on his agenda? ::::Big pause for you to ponder::::: That's right! A wedding!

Guess what I'll be doing tomorrow?

Taking care of four kids within the walls of my insane asylum house.

Someday, my day will come. And I hope it's a Saturday.

Pretty in Orange

 Posted by Hello

I have a cousin named Cindy who is five years older than me, almost exactly. So, when I was 6 years old (as I am in this picture), she was 11. My Aunt Martha used to give my mother hand-me-down clothes from Cindy for me. We were always very grateful because we never had enough money. My father had spent the first five years of his marriage to my mother informing her that they were moving. He didn't like his job, he could do better, so pack up, we're hitting the road! On one of those occasions, they left in such a hurry that what couldn't fit into the car--including my mother's wedding gown--was left behind. My mother cried when the car broke down miles away and they ended up having to rent a U-Haul truck after all. They did not return for the left-behind stuff, though.

In their first five years of marriage, they brought three babies into the world--I was smack in the center, sixteen months older and sixteen months younger. Do you suppose I got enough attention? I still remember how frustrated and sad I was when I told my mom, "It's not fair! I never get to hold the popcorn!" But phooey on my emotional needs. My dad was busy trying to find a better job, a job that deserved him. That's why my parents moved us twenty-five times in their first five years together. And when I say "moved," I mean from Wisconsin to Missouri to Montana back to Wisconsin with a U-Haul truck hooked to the back of our decrepit car. No down-the-block moves for us. I still remember during one move I could actually watch the street through the rust-eaten floorboards of the car.

When we finally settled into our house at Whispering Firs, I was in kindergarten and that's when the bags of hand-me-down clothes began to arrive. My cousin's daddy was a minister and consequently, she had lots of pretty dresses. For some reason, many of them were orange, so my school pictures from first grade, second grade, and third grade featured lovely orange attire. I thought I looked pretty hot at the time. I also nursed a fierce jealousy of Cindy with her fancy duds and her preacher daddy. My daddy slept all day and worked all night and had rough, calloused hands and a stern face. Her daddy's hands were soft when he shook mine and his hair was smoothed perfectly into place and he always said, "Hi, Beautiful!"

The main problem with Cindy's clothes, though, was the size. Cindy was a petite bird of a person. I'm more of the sturdy, frontier-girl type. Some of the beautiful clothes just wouldn't fit around my normal sized waist. Which explains why I thought I was fat as a child. I was normal, but I was trying to fit into a Barbie doll's clothes.

Today, Cindy lives not so far from me. I see her occasionally and she might weigh 90 pounds on a particularly "fat day." I'm just thankful that I don't have to try to fit into any more of her hand-me-downs. My grown-up self-image is wobbly enough as it is.

And here's a tip for all mothers of girls: When your normal-sized girl says, "Mommy, am I fat?" please, please, please, just say, "No, of course not. You look perfect to me."

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Endless Chatter

You are sitting in the middle of an auditorium before a concert starts. Around you, the cacophony of voices simmers and boils and eventually makes you want to scream "SHUT UP! JUST SHUT UP!" and then plug your ears and run screaming from the irritating, never-ending noise. And then, afterwards, you walk into the cool night and the silence envelopes you. Blessed, blessed quietness.

For the past hour, I have been answering emails, reading a message board, instant-messaging while submerged in the endless chatter that spews forth from my children. For background noise, they have a Pokemon movie playing. Periodically, I look over and say, "PLEASE! Be quiet! Sit still! Stop talking! You! Get out of this room!" It doesn't matter. They just never stop making noise, these children that God gave me. Me, the one who loves silence, the one who prefers solitude to crowds, the one who avoids parties, the one who'd rather read than make small-talk.

Real funny.

I used to torture myself when I was a child by trying to figure out which I'd rather be: deaf or blind. I would miss music, I decided, but blindness would be intolerable, because then I couldn't read. Now, I know for sure, that deafness would be the way to go. Peace and quiet.

(I also used to try to figure out the best death. I settled on drowning or freezing to death. I think drowning quickly would be the better of the two. I was a quirky child, with entirely too much thinking time on my hands!)

I loved when the children were babies, because despite the occasional crying, babies are pretty quiet. Well, when they aren't screeching and babbling. At least they didn't talk back, or as my twins said when they were kindergarteners, "back-sass." Nowadays, these kids are just plain loud. They don't nap like babies do. They just keep polluting the air with noise. Can something be done about this? Aren't there organizations that deal with the problem of noise pollution?

Well, now I hear the baby crying, so my break time has ended. Boy, do I feel refreshed.
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