Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Party Hearty

My daughter's birthday is Friday and so tomorrow, we're going to party like it's . . . well, 2005. She'll be three.

She was born on Labor Day, which pleased me no end. How appropriate to labor on Labor Day! Plus, I thought, we can always celebrate her birthday on Labor Day weekend.

Except I forgot that people sometimes leave town for Labor Day weekend. To get around that fact, I decided to have the party tomorrow, a day early, at the pool. Because I have daycare kids, the party will start at 6:00 p.m. and end by 8:00 p.m., at which point all the children will have bluish lips and goosebumps and chattering teeth.

The high is supposed to be a balmy 75 degrees tomorrow.

Tomorrow I need to bake a cake (from scratch, of course) which will be half a sphere, decorated like a beach ball. I'd originally thought I'd bake cupcakes, too, but it occurred to me that I can make cupcakes on her actual birthday. I have a sudden obsession with cupcakes. But I know my limitations.

I'm serving make-your-own sub sandwiches, grapes and canteloupe chunks on skewers, mini-bags of chips, blue Jello with a bear cookie floating in a gummy lifesaver and juice. I don't usually make Jello, nor do my kids eat it, but the little clear cups of pool-blue Jello look so cute! So, they are a decoration more than a food, I suppose. I bought ten beach balls at the dollar store and I'll float those in the pool and pick up ten mylar balloons from the dollar store on the way to the party. Voila! Decorations!

My sunburn has gone from ouch-don't-touch-me to I-can't-stop-scratching-and-my-nose-is-peeling. Fun times.

So, if you don't hear from me tomorrow, you can safely assume I'm eating frosting by the spoonful frosting a cake with homemade buttercream frosting and scratching my shoulders with with my chin and juggling the wants needs of seven children while worrying about my impending party.

Helping A Little

When people are camping out on overpasses because their homes are flooded, it seems silly to be talking about my own internal mini-angst. In a way, Hurricane Katrina has peeled back the layers of those cities and towns and now we can see the poor and destitute, the ones we ignore under normal circumstances. Today, the television brings the faces of those desperate people into my family room with its second-hand furniture and I feel guilty for the luxury of my life.

We have so much.

That's why I'm sending a donation to The Salvation Army. I once had a friend who lost everything in a house fire. She went to run errands and came home to a sooty shell of her home. People gave her family stuff, trying to help. At one point, they had seven couches in the garage, but no cookie sheets and no silverware. So, even though people are having their children go through their toys and are loading up clothes to send, that's not really the most helpful idea.

Send some cash. (We donated to the Salavation Army online, but you can also go to the Red Cross website.) A hundred bucks will pay for dinner, a babysitter and a movie. Or it can buy meals for a family of four for two days, a case of water and cleaning supplies (mop, buckets, etc.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

This Made Me Cry

This afternoon, I sat feeding a baby, watching the news, crying while I watched television coverage of the disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi. A CNN reporter wiped away tears as she interviewed Harvey Jackson, and I wept, too.

I simply cannot believe the devastation from Hurricane Katrina. I have a friend who lives in New Orleans with his family and I can only hope they are all safe and sound.


A few days ago, this thought barged into my head: Is this enough? What if I never write a book? What if I never figure out what I want to do? What if this is the last house I live in? What if I never do fill the flowerbed in the backyard with top soil and plant five hundred daffodils? Is this enough?

Early in my marriage and in the midst of our infertile days, I thought, well, fine! I'll just go to school (more) and become a nurse. And even though I didn't have children then, I had a full-time job and my husband was starting a church. I was the song-leader, the pianist, the youth pastor and the children's church leader. I enrolled in a biology course at the local community college, the first step to nursing school. My life was full to the brim and I was exhausted and miserable.

Then one day, in class, I doodled a list of my goals. My first goal was to be a mother. Nothing else mattered to me. I finished the class and put aside the goal of becoming a nurse. Now I wonder if that was the right decision. The clock is tick-tocking and although I know I could dust off that old dream, that doesn't change the fact that if I went to school when my daughter does in three years, I would be be 45 when I finished. Too old? No, you'll all say. That's not too old! My dad at 47-years old had just enrolled in the University of Washington. He would have started in September 1989, but he died instead. He didn't think it was too old.

I can't think of anything else I really want to do. I am an efficient and organized office-worker, but, alas, a clock-watcher. I can't stand the feeling of being chained to a desk in a cubicle somewhere. I loved working retail--I worked in an office supply store one holiday season--but the pay is dismal and the hours unreliable.

And I don't want to work just to earn a paycheck. If I have to devote my time to a job, I want it to be a job that matters. Which, of course, takes me back to nursing.

But in the meantime, is this is enough? What if nothing ever changes?

And I realized, this is enough. Today I count my blessings instead of the number of milk encusted glasses in the sink. I kick shoes out of my path and scoop poop from the litterbox and carry baskets of clothes upstairs and think this is enough. If my picture appeared on the obituary page, I'd be okay. Well, I'd be dead, but I'd be satisfied with my life.

Tomorrow will come and the tomorrow after that, and then the seasons will change and before I know it, the path will split into two and I'll have decisions to make. But for now, this is enough.

(Although, maybe this is just a way to excuse my lack of career ambition.)

Oh Really?

Now I remember why I stopped allowing anonymous comments. I wake up to things like this in my email box, which frustrates me. Who is this? Why doesn't she leave her address so I can respond to her lengthy comments? Does it feel good to some people to vent on other people's blogs? Am I expected to answer or just feel scolded? I don't feel penitent when I receive criticism like this. I just feel annoyed by people's assumptions and self-righteousness.

Anybody want to comment about this? (Scroll down to the last anonymous comment.)

Please, people! If you want to have a dialogue, you have to leave a name, an email address, and the link to your own blog. Otherwise, I truly will think you are just a troublemaker without a sense of humor. Lighten up!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Everyone Can Comment

Just to let you know, I changed the comment feature so everyone can now comment. You no longer have to have a blogger account to do so. Of course, I reserve the right to revert to my former policy if necessary.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

More Stupidity

Speaking of stupid, let me give you another example.


Today, I took my boys to Wild Waves. The weather forecast promised cloudy weather, sixty-nine degrees at best. Only a few miles from home, sprinkles of rain dotted my windshield. A perfect Pacific Northwest summer day!

All of this was fine with me. After all, the worse the weather, the fewer the crowds. The fewer the crowds, the less standing in line. The less standing in line, the happier I am.

Only, the clouds parted and the sun shone.

And now I--the daughter of a man who died from skin cancer--I have my first sunburn of the summer. And my kids are kind of pink, too.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. I know better. I even heard that little voice in my head say, "Stick that bottle of sunscreen in the bag, just in case," but that voice was drowned out by my actual voice shouting, "FIND HIS SANDALS! WE NEED TO LEAVE! I AM BEGGING YOU! FIND THE SANDALS!"

We did have a fine time, though, despite having to pay $35.00 for lunch at Subway inside the park grounds. A small soft drink was $2.99 and a 6-inch sub sandwich was $5.49! Since Six Flags took over the park, everything costs a whole lot more. We rode a couple of roller coasters as soon as we arrived and didn't have to wait in line at all. The twins refuse to ride roller coasters now, perhaps because of my coercion this summer at Disney MGM, so they waited while my youngest son and I rode each one twice because he loves coasters as much as I do.

I had a moment, a flash of panic, really, when I thought, I am not going to wear a swimsuit in public! And then I did anyway. If you spend your whole life waiting for the day you are fit and cute enough to play at a waterpark, you might never do it. Meanwhile, your kids grow up! And plus, have you ever looked at people at a waterpark? Occasionally, you see a "perfect" body, but mostly you just see all sizes and shapes and degrees of flabbiness. And a lot of belly-button-rings and permanent ink designs on backs and arms and questionable unsupportive swimsuits in dire need of "What Not to Wear" help.

So, we rode tube slides and water slides and floated in the wave pool and meandered around the river rafting pool on innertubes. My youngest son, aka The Reason We Went to the Waterpark, became more and more listless, less and less joyful and finally, when I asked what was wrong, he admitted his head hurt.

He has the virus my twin boys had a week or two ago. Starts with headache, ends with coughing. At least we had some fun before his head exploded and our skin broiled right off our bones.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Judgment of the Day

Here is stupidity: The parents who took their three year old boy to the movie,"Red Eye," a thriller in which a woman is terrorized by her seatmate, who happens to be a really bad guy. These people were walking ahead of me when the movie ended and I heard the man say to the little boy, "Did you like that?" Meanwhile, I'm thinking to myself, "You have GOT to be kidding me!"

Stupid people. Don't take preschoolers to movies that are meant for adults! Hire a babysitter or take the kid to a movie meant for him. What is wrong with people?

Friday, August 26, 2005

A Sunset Picnic

After the last baby's mother took her baby home tonight, I took my kids to the beach to meet some friends for a picnic dinner. My friend brought the picnic and six of her seven children. Our children ran and climbed and threw rocks into the water and talked Nintendo and took turns on the slide.

And then we watched the sun set.

The sky was stretched out without a wrinkle or a cloud. When the sun slipped behind the islands, the sky blushed and gold rippled on the periwinkle waves.

The light is so perfect at that moment, just after the sun has gone. But, alas, I had no more film. I'd taken the last picture on my roll earlier when the children all clambered onto a tree, christened "The Bird Tree," by my 3-year old. So I gazed fully at my daughter's face as she stood with her toes in the sand.

And then darkness fell.


My dad married his second wife in September of 1976. I wore a polyester dress with large peach colored polka-dots and looked as ugly as a twelve-year old girl can look.

My father wore a plaid jacket of some sort and my stepmother-to-be wore a cotton wedding dress she sewed herself. It had a collar and buttoned up the front and looked exactly like a suit shirt, except it had a voluminous skirt, billows and bilows of white cotton fabric.

Someone drove us to the wedding, which took place at a private residence overlooking the Puget Sound in Anacortes, I think. I'm sure my mother didn't have the task of chauffering us, but I can't remember who did.

The wedding itself was odd and took place on a patio which sat on a bluff. I remember my father declaring in his wedding vows that his children would come first. I really had no idea he felt that strongly about us or even that he felt any particular way about us at all. In fact, I kind of wondered why we were even going through this ceremony because if we were truly first, why did he leave our family?

I think now that it was a bad idea to tell his new bride that she had to stand in line behind us. But that is not the point of my story. Neither is the fact that they had cheesecake instead of wedding cake nor the fact that I didn't know any of the other wedding guests.

About six months after my dad's wedding, my mother married her second husband. He drove a yellow van and had blond hair and he made me a little queasy. But no matter. The second she married him, my dad took custody of us and just like that, my mother was free of the burden of having four children. I never lived with her again until she moved in with us in 2002. (She stayed for almost two years--I think the noise got to her.)

That Christmas--1978--I was thirteen. My dad and stepmom thought it would be easier on us, the children, to spend Christmas away from home. Our previous Christmas had been a surreal experience--my dad brought his new wife to his old home and my mom invited her new boyfriend and they all acted like it was fine and dandy. All the photographs show children slouching with dead expressions on their faces--except for my baby sister, who was only 5. To her, more people meant more presents and more attention.

So, Christmas of 1978 found us driving across the country in our little blue hatchback, a Renault, I think it was. (My dad drove a series of little hatchbacks in his lifetime, due to the superior gas mileage. He'd keep track of the odometer reading every time he filled up his car with gas and write it in a little book in pencil.) As soon as we crossed the Cascade Mountains, we realized the heater didn't really work in the car. We'd sit on each other's feet in the backseat to keep them warm. We rode bundled in our jackets all the way to Ohio.
And once there, we spent a dismal Christmas in my paternal grandparents' home that smelled of moth balls and canned tuna in oil. I can't recall any presents, nor a tree, nor a church service or Christmas music. In short, it was a truly horrible Christmas.

But my dad and stepmother were right. That Christmas trip did distract me from the shambles of my broken family, which was their hope.

At least when I try to distract my children, I use chocolate.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Ukka, bukka

I said awhile back that I hadn't been bored since 1983, which was when I graduated from high school. I loathed high school. I thought it was a giant waste of time because I could get straight A's, even though I never took books home. (I did my assignments sometimes while the teacher took attendance or during my lunch hour in the library.) I had more Important Things To Do, though I hadn't figured out exactly what those things were.

As it turns out, I understated how boring my days actually are. Repeating the same mundane tasks over and over bores me silly, as do the games and shrieks of toddlers. Washing twenty-seven glasses a day and folding clothes and stepping on Cheerios in the kitchen is dull.

Great stretches of my days are boring, leaving me with nothing to write about beyond, "I woke up at 7:43 a.m.," and "the three-month old spit up in four places on my blue shirt and I'm still wearing it now."

But, the boredom is peppered with funny little moments, like yesterday when my husband took our 7-year old son with him to the marsh to release the three captive frogs. My blond son gently freed the frogs and said wistfully, "I'm going to miss those frogs." Pause. "They grow up so fast."

My husband reported to me that he couldn't tell if our son was joking. That boy can keep a straight face and sometimes you just can't tell.

My daughter sings all the time. The tunes are familiar, but the words are often nonsensical. She belts out these words (to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"):

Swinkle, swinkle, little star;
How I wonder what you are;
Ukka, bukka, world so high;
Like a diamond in the sky;
Swinkle, swinkle, little star;
Ukka, bukka, world so high;
Like a diamond in the sky . . .

And so on. It's the song that never ends. My favorite part is the "ukka, bukka."

She ambles around the house, making up words to songs, cradling her babydolls. And every morning, she greets DaycareKid's mom or dad with the cheerful promise, "Today, I will not hit [DaycareKid]."

On the way to the store tonight, she yawned and then piped up from the back seat: "I am not tired. I did not yawn."

And before I put her to bed she says earnestly, "Tonight I will not cry."

Really, it's the little things I hope I remember, the sporadic dots of vibrant color in the gray monotony of my day-to-day routine. Because soon, she'll realize that little stars twinkle up above the world so high and the ukka-bukka will be forgotten like so much dust under the bed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Photographic Proof

Last month, I mentioned a night when my daughter was plucking petals in her pajamas. Here's one of the photographs I took. (Not only do I not have a laptop, I also don't have a decent digital camera, so these things take time.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Rushing Forward

I'm standing still and the world is rushing by at an alarming rate of speed. I'm lying on the ground watching the world fast-forward and I'm not sure if I feel the clouds skittering across the sky or the earth rotating at double-speed. I'm walking steadily, but people keep passing me, rushing, rushing, like whitewater over hidden boulders.

These last few weeks of summer erode the sand right off the shore, leaving me stranded, pining for the way things were. Except I never am content with the way things are, which tomorrow will be how they "were." My eyes are always peering ahead or lingering on the rear-view mirror. It's so hard to just be here, still, as the globe spins on its axis and the moon shifts in tiny but sure increments from a sliver to a shimmering orb.

Nothing stays the same, except perhaps for the pile of papers on the kitchen counter which are orphaned, doomed forever to wait for a real home.

Why is it that we mostly forget to feel the sands slipping through our fingers and yet, other times, all we notice are the particles of sand, one by one, drifting, falling, gone? These days remind me of that machine at the arcade where the Birthday Boy or Girl stands inside and tries to grab tickets that blow crazily inside. You've seen it, haven't you? And in the rush to grab everything, the excited child can't quite grasp more than a few?

The twins are almost my height now. My baby boy is heading to second grade, where he insists the kids will call him "The Cool King." My baby girl will be three in a couple of weeks and when I scold her, she retorts in a teenage tone, "No! You stop it!" My husband's gone gray and the leaves on those bushes by my front door are starting to turn fiery red. I look at my hands and see my mother's hands instead.

Nothing I do can stop this headlong rush forward.

And I still need to dip my toes into the Pacific Ocean before the summer ends. My kids ought to dig in the sand and feel the whip of the ocean wind at least once this year. I promised to take the boys to the waterpark. I want to stroll through Pike's Place Market.

Only a few weekends remain before we all climb back into our school routine and buckle up, just in case. I'll bid farewell to the summer my children were 12, 12, 7 and 2, this fortieth summer of my life. And so we speed along, faster than I ever imagined we could.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

On Not Falling to the Sticky Floor in Mirth

I read this review of "The 40 Year Old Virgin," and decided that I had to see a movie that is "that funny. . . Howl-aloud funny. Choke-on-your-popcorn funny. Convulse-on-the-floor-and-roll-around-in-the-Gummi-Bears-until-you-get stuck-and-dislocate-something funny."

Roger Ebert gave it "thumbs up" and a great review.

So, Saturday afternoon, when the thrill of garage-saling faded, I went to see what all the hoopla was about. I was prepared to shoot Diet Coke from my nose, choke on my popcorn and fall out of my seat onto the sticky floor.

No one mentioned that you must find the f-word hilarious to find this movie funny. My eardrums are still bleeding from the profane battering they endured. The humor often relied on the expectation that people will find obscene language uproariously funny. At least 68 times, they invoked the f-word.

Well, call me a prude, but I find the use of the f-word offensive and stupid and distracting. I expect it from fourteen year old boys who are proving how cool and grown-up they are (though, I reserve the right to wash out my boys' mouths with soap if I ever hear that coming from them) but to include foul language in every scene, coming from every character in the movie? I don't think so. What is the point?

I must be living in my own special bubble because while everyone else was laughing, I was thinking that this movie was not funny.

Oh, sure, there were funny moments, but I did not howl. I did not clutch my stomach. My face did not ache from laughter, nor did I spew any carbonated beverages from my nasal passages. While I did appreciate Steve Carell's portrayal of the 40-year old virgin--the hair-waxing scene had the potential to be a really classic laugh-out-loud funny moment--the language ruined it for me. I found his use of a string of profanity to be completely out of character for him.

I know. What did I expect from an R-rated movie? I expected to laugh a lot. I just didn't realize that what passes for humor these days is the frequent use of profane language. I really wanted to like this movie--I like the idea of this movie. I liked the end of this movie. I did not like the fact that I saw a 6-year old boy in the front row with his family. Call me judgmental, but children do not belong in movies intended for adults. Surely I'm not the only woman in America working actively to protect my children's innocence?

I find it irresponsible to use coarse words as a shortcut to a punchline. I think it devalues language and underestimates the audience. It's just offensive. Using the f-word like a common adjective is a lot like using a cannon to kill a fly. Ease up. A fucking fly-swatter will do.

Unless, of course, you're trying to make a point.

And my point? Quit using extreme words for ordinary circumstances. I shocked you when I said that word, didn't I? But when everyone says it routinely, no one is shocked anymore--except me, and maybe--hopefully--that 6-year old in the front row. If everyone uses the f-word all the time, the word itself becomes about as pungent as an old stale lavender sachet. Save it for when you really need the firepower.

Meanwhile, while everyone else is chortling, I'll be wondering why movies are written in the vocabulary of a fourteen year old boy (no offense to fourteen year old boys, of course) and thinking that I am a fuddy-duddy.

Now, I need to go wash my mouth out with soap and disinfect my keyboard.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Garage Sale Bargains

Here are my garage sale bargains, purchased today:

Lane recliner, same shade of green as my current recliner. Perfect condition. Overstuffed, rocks and reclines. $10

Memorex television, medium size. Works great. $10

Rubber stamps, large zip-loc bag full. $2

Chunky stamps for walls, including entire alphabet. $2

Videos (Blue's Clues, Tigger movie), 50 cents each.

Books (Too many to list), 25 or 50 cents each.

Garden tools, bread machine (used twice), basket of real eggs (emu, rhea, peasant), leather gardening gloves, $17 total.

Cordless electric hedgetrimmer, $15.

Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy (Playskool), $1.

Brand new box containing Pledge Grab-it sweeper and 10 cloths, $1.

Spending a morning alone in the car, priceless.

(I am totally the most boring blogger on the internet tonight. My most sincere apologies.)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Long Days, Revisited

I began my day with an expired chicken. I needed to use it or freeze it by the fifteenth and somehow--how? I demand to know--it's already the eighteenth. How time can simultaneously rush so quickly and slog so slowly is one of the great mysteries of life. (The days are long, but the years are short, that voice in my head intones solemnly, while the tune from "The Cat's In the Cradle" plays hauntingly in the background.)

I ended my day at with a recalcitrant child who did not want to leave the pool. She cried, "But I don't want to go home," over and over again as she trailed behind me, climbed into the car, sat in her booster seat and rode home. I rolled all the windows down to dilute the screams and turned up the music on the Christian radio station to add to the cacophony. If you can't beat them (and you can't beat them), join them. I broke a major rule of motherhood (Rule Number Three: Early Bedtimes for Small Children) and allowed her to watch all of the "Heffalump" movie because I couldn't bear to hear her cry again.

And so, my evening has been quite short, just like this post. Tomorrow--Friday! Rejoice and be glad. Only one more day until the town-wide garage sale, that glorious Saturday when books can be purchased for a quarter and my children will shriek with glee over the toys I bring home and my husband will caution me, "We already have enough stuff!"

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Frogs and Intense Scrutiny

Three green frogs--tiny little things--are now hopping and swimming in their new plastic home, complete with blue rocks. Tomorrow the kids will have to catch bugs to feed their new little friends. At least they aren't hamsters. Or gerbils.

The front tire on the 1993 Mercury Sable was completely flat this morning, so my husband spent a lot of his day fixing that. He ran a lot of errands, which made me so jealous because I like nothing more than gallivanting from place to place in the car, listening to the radio and letting my thoughts wander.

I spent my day with kids, kids, kids. Nobody slept as expected. CuteBaby woke up at 9:20 a.m., rather than 10:30 a.m., as usual. Three-month old BabyBaby slept from the time she arrived at 12:15 p.m. until 3:00 p.m. She was supposed to wake up at 1:00 p.m. CuteBaby's afternoon nap was out of kilter, too. I put him in the crib at 1:00 p.m., then checked him at 1:30 (crying), and 2:00 (poopy diaper) and finally at 2:30 p.m. (sleeping). The older kids were so noisy--if I'd given them each had a megaphone, it wouldn't have been any louder. They talk loudly, they fight loudly, they laugh loudly, and the last couple of days, they cough loudly--which makes me think that I would be a terrible nurse because that coughing annoys me. STOP COUGHING!

My daughter and her almost-three year old playmate can not seem to get along. For one thing, she keeps turning on the hose outside and then spraying him. Then, she throws sand at him. Last, but not least, she hits him.

I'm raising a hellion.

The funny thing is that she scolds herself. "Do not hit!" she'll say. And then she'll say, "I will be nice!" When she hits, I put her in her bed and she'll actually suggest it, if I am distracted. "Do not put me in my bed!" she'll say with a mischievous look in her eye and then when I swoop her up, she starts kicking and screaming. (The other day, she wet her pants in the family room--she's been totally potty-trained for almost a year--and we didn't say anything. She, however, gave herself the riot act: "Do not pee in your pants!" "Pee in the potty!" "That is bad! Do not pee in your pants!" "I will not pee in my pants!" And on and on.)

By 10:00 a.m., I was ready for vodka. Only I don't drink.

I daydreamed about leaving my house and going for a long walk and I knew that could never happen. I fantasized about baking and eating enough chocolate chip cookies to make myself sick. Again, no. I said to my boys, "STOP MAKING NOISE! STOP!" And then, when they asked, I agreed to let them invite their twin-friends over, because I AM INSANE AND MUST USE CAPITAL LETTERS TO SHOW YOU THE DEGREE OF THAT INSANITY! (And apparently I'm channeling Dooce, aka Heather B. Armstrong.)

So, it was a long day. And then, my youngest son went to a friend's house to play. Then my husband took our twins to run errands and the other twins home. And one by one, the little ones I babysit left, leaving only me and my daughter for a moment. It was sort of quiet, if you didn't notice her babbling.

I reminded myself tonight as I drove away from my loud house that these days won't last forever. In a few weeks, my daughter will be three. One day she won't insist that I hold her and she won't follow me so closely that I bump into her when I turn around suddenly. She will not holler out my name first thing in the morning and she will not hug my neck and tell me, "You are my best friend!" She won't compliment my clothes and stand on the counter in the hope that she can use my eye shadow.

So, I'm trying to enjoy her constant company. But I feel like I'm under surveillance and I hate people staring at me, even if they are only three years old.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

As Long As I Don't Have to Kiss Them

Because I don't have enough living creatures to keep alive each day, my twin boys brought home three frogs today.

And it's my job to figure out how to care for them.

Have I mentioned I'm a little squeamish about creatures that have the potential to hop and land in my hair?

Actually, only one of the frogs is ours. (Lucky us.) The other two belong to the other kids who helped catch them in the marsh. I'm not sure why we are now babysitting frogs.

In other news . . . well, there is no other news.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Yesterday, I took the kids to the church picnic at a local beach. The start-time of the picnic coincided with my daughter's naptime, but we threw caution to the wind and partied on.

She ran from the slide to the swings, then detoured to the shore to throw rocks into the Puget Sound. Then a quick trip to the bathroom, where she refused to use the potty, though I knew she needed to go. Back to the swings, the slides, the shore and then, the bathroom again. This time, she did the deed.

While I stood in line for lunch--a good old-fashioned potluck--she crouched near two moms with young babies who sat on the kelly-green grass. My daughter adores babies and risked being distant from me just to linger in the presence of drooly, crawling little ones. (One of them is CuteBaby, the 9-month old we watch every day.)

We ate lunch and by then, I noticed one of the other 3-year old girl asleep on the ground. Asleep. On the ground. They had to do a three-legged race around her. Later, I saw yet another 3-year old girl sleeping peacefully on the ground. My almost-three year old girl was running, jumping, splashing rocks into the water, climbing, swinging . . . we were there for four hours. (The boys went on boat rides and had a water balloon fight and drank pop from the cans. Good times!)

Last night, I washed her hair in the tub. She hates to have her sparse curls washed, but she held a hand-towel across her face and told me, "I will not cry!" And she didn't.

Afterward, she told me, "I did not cry!" Then, she thought a second and said, "But I will cry later!"

That about sums it up, I guess. Always reserve the right to cry later. Not a bad policy to have.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Book Reviews for "Diet of Bookworms"

I interrupt my regular programming to bring you some book reviews. I'm participating in a program at Diet of Bookworms, in which I agreed to review some Christian books written for children.

Most of All, Jesus Loves You, by Noel Piper (illustrated by Debby Anderson) is a cheerful picture book which reminds children of all the people who love them. One page reads, "Mommy loves you, and Daddy loves you." The pictures feature children of all races engaged in a variety of settings--watering the garden, visiting the zoo, going to school. One picture shows a smiling girl in a wheelchair reading a book with her friend.

Not only do I love the thoughtfulness that went into the illustrations, I also appreciate the rhythm of the words. My two-year old daughter listened to me read it twice, then sat down alone and "read" it to herself.

This is a lovely book, perfect for preschoolers and anyone who loves beautiful illustrations.

God Knows My Name was written and illustrated by Debby Anderson. I have long been a fan of the colorful illustrations of smiling children in her books. This book begins with the declaration that "God made everything and God knows everything! God knows me." Each page expands on this idea, exploring how God watches over us and helps us. You and your children can look up the scripture references the author includes at the bottom of the pages.

As in the previous book, Debby Anderson features children of all ethnicities and one who uses a walker. The illustrations include children cooperatively playing a sandbox, an undersea scene, lots of animals, a rocket ship, various seasons and more. This is the kind of book I don't mind reading again and again and again.

The Big Picture Story Bible, written by David Helm and illustrated by Gail Schoonmaker, summarizes the entire Bible in big pictures . . . summarizing the "big picture" of the Bible narrative. In thirteen Old Testament segments and thirteen New Testament segments, David Helm distills the Bible into its most basic storyline, which is creatively illustrated with simple cartoons by Gail Schoonmaker.

Each segment is seven to ten pages long and perfect for reading aloud to younger children at bedtime. Older children will be easily able to read this book and see the "big picture," while younger children will be content with each Bible story as it unfolds. The entire book is 451 pages, a hefty and certainly worthwhile addition to any Christian family's library. I love this book.

Big Truths for Little Kids: Teaching Your Children to Live for God, by Susan Hunt and Richie Hunt, features stories the authors explain "are an application of the truths taught in First Catechism. A catechism is simply a series of questions and answers that systematically teach a body of information."

Each story begins with catechism questions and answers, before moving on to a story which illustrates the questions. Questions at the end of the story help the child review the story and connect it to the catechism questions. A final section helps you lead your child in biblical prayer.

The book includes thirty-six stories and all the questions and answers of the catechism. I did not grow up in a church which emphasized the catechism, and so I appreciate the systematic structure for teaching children the fundamentals of the Christian faith. I look forward to using this book in devotional time with my children.

These books were provided through Diet of Bookworms as gifts from the publisher.

She Already Met With Him

Cindy Sheehan already met with President Bush, over a year ago.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

My Grandmother's Gift

She was twenty years old when she married H.G., a minister who was ten years her senior. Her rose-colored dress featured inlays of lace and three panels of lace in the skirt. She wore pearls and carried tea roses and baby's breath. After the ceremony, the new couple went to the photographer's studio where they were photographed, but she said this was the only picture that turned out, and she didn't think it was a very good picture, either.

Then, they boarded a train in Minnesota and journeyed toward North Dakota, where his family lived. He was the youngest of seven boys, four of whom became ministers. The train stopped overnight before reaching their destination, so they spent their wedding night in a hotel before continuing on their trip.

He pastored several churches and she described each place by which child had been born in which place. She had five boys in twelve years and then, four years later, her last child was born. At last, a baby girl! That baby girl is my mother.

The Depression was hard on everyone and my grandparents felt the pinch of poverty and desperate times. In the midst of the dark days, my grandmother cut apart her wedding dress and fashioned into a little girl's dress for a girl in the church who had no Easter dress.

My grandfather was a minister all his life and my grandmother tended the home. She loved to sew and sewed all the clothes, even the dress shirts the boys wore. She gardened and preserved food for her family and tended to her rambunctious boys while her husband was often traveling and working. But when the children all grew, she worked alongside my grandfather in a nursing home. I suppose that was when she developed such a soft place in her heart for elderly people. When I was a child, she and my grandfather would take me with them on their visitations to the nursings homes. I'd stand and sing Sunday School sings and we'd make the rounds and touch the hands of as many wheelchair and bedridden folks as we could.

My gradmother was a meticulous housekeeper. Never in my life have I ever seen a pile of papers on her kitchen counter, nor a stray sock on the floor. Her home never saw a speck of lingering dust until she lost her eyesight a few years back.

She wore her hair long until she was well past eighty-five years old, but it became too much for her to twist and pin up and she finally had it cut into an old lady's curly perm.

My grandmother does not believe in clutter nor disorganization and even now, she knows where every item she owns belongs. She can locate anything in an instant. She lives alone, still, in the last house she and my grandfather purchased. It's a tiny three bedroom in a rapidly deteriorated neighborhood, but the flowers near her driveway are always in bloom. My aunt replants each season so something lovely is growing and showing off. When I was a child, my grandparents lived in a different house and I can still see the wildness of the lilies blooming alongside the garage and the round gooseberry bush with its sharp needles and green marble-like berries.

My son asked her a half-dozen questions. He wondered how she lives without sight, what she misses about being young, how she gets groceries. She told me she misses reading a lot. He said, "Great-grandma, you should have memorized books when could still see." And I said, "Did you know Grandma did memorize a lot of the Bible?"

And so, she quoted Psalms 1 and then Psalms 23: "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever."

She was old when I was born, already near sixty, but she seemed ageless to me. Several summers I spent a week with her and my grandfather--for awhile, until his death, my 98-year old great-grandfather, her father, lived with them. I remember him giving me pink mints and playfully hooking me with his cane when I walked close to him. He was a small, crooked man by then, but he'd been a harsh father when my grandmother was a girl.

One of my clearest memories of my summer stays was the day I unexpectedly opened the door of my room and saw my grandparents locked in an embrace. They loved each other steadily, passionately, gently until the day my grandfather died on their sixty-first anniversary. He was 91.

And now, Grandma has lived alone for over eighteen years. She has friends who help her with things she can no longer do, like sending out the birthday cards to every grandchild, great-grandchild and great-great grandchild. (There are nineteen grandchildren.) Yesterday, when she answered the phone, I wandered over to the piano to look at family pictures and opened the cover of a book that my uncle had written. Inside the front cover was a twenty dollar bill, which I thought was a funny bookmark.

She had set out that book for me, a little gift.

She must know that the gift I left with, though, was much bigger than that slim volume. Throughout my forty years, she has given me a living example of steady faith. She has given me love, the kind of love that prays for me each day and believes in me and keeps really old pictures of me and my junior-high haircut on her wall. She's the only person on earth who calls me by my first and middle names. She still sends me birthday money in a card every January.

I can't begin to imagine a world without her, yet I believe that my grandfather awaits her arrival and I know she's looking forward to being with her beloved husband again. Meanwhile, she sits and she prays and she studies her Sunday School lesson, eager to learn more about the Bible and the God she has served all these years.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Another Mish-Mash of a Day, Minus Two Babies

I hate mornings. Yet, I was ready for business when the doorbell rang at 7:30 a.m.

I called Amtrak and arranged a refund of our unused "Hurricane Dennis" tickets and a voucher to make up for the hellish Amtrak journey. Then I took four kids with me to the post office where I mailed them registered mail.

Then, on to the park. As I was saying, "Look out for that swing, DaycareKid, or it'll hit you in the . . . lip," it hit him in the lip. Sometimes I hate to be right. We stayed an hour, went to the bank, then to McDonald's and then home.

At naptime, I left my husband in charge and took my youngest son with me to visit my 99-year old grandmother who lives alone in a tidy little house, despite her blindness. My son is fascinated by her old age and by disease and so on the drive there, we discussed death and cancer almost the whole way.

We visited for an hour and a half and then it was time to leave. (More about the visit in days to come.)

Came home to find the little ones awake and having pretzels for a snack. My husband continued his hacking and chopping in the back yard, while I climbed a ladder and did some trimming myself. DaycareKid left early--there were no babies today--it's funny how just my own family can seem like a vacation compared to my usual routine.

The boys rented video games and had to clean their rooms and shower before they could play and oh boy, did they ever! I've never seen them move so fast, other than when I say, "I have a job for you."

I feel a great sense of accomplishment tonight. I did two things that I needed to do--returning the Amtrak tickets and visiting my grandma. She only lives a half hour away, but it's so incredibly difficult to carve out time to sit with her and ask her questions and listen to her stories. I need to do that more often. After all, she is ninety-nine, and as my son likes to speculate, she only has nineteen more years until she becomes the Oldest Person in the World. Time's ticking. Life is short. I could see that when her vacant eyes stared off into the distance and she saw 1926 so clearly.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A Long Rambling Post Going Nowhere, Really

If you had told me thirteen years ago that the day would come when I wouldn't long for a newborn baby, I would have slapped you and then collapsed in my bathroom in a heap of self-pitying tears. For those were my infertile days, the days when everyone had what I wanted (babies) and I had what I didn't know was valuable, namely sleep and free time.

This was my second week of babysitting an almost-3 month old baby girl. She has chubby thighs and a baldish head and the loudest scream I've ever heard come from an infant. She has no "fussy" stage. She is either deliriously happy or screamingly furious. I only have her half-days and every day has been different. She appears to have no rhythm whatsoever, so I can only hope that she'll ease into some kind of schedule. And I hope she stops spitting up down my back.

I've been in the same mode--childproofed house, toys in the family room, sippy cups in the cupboard--for twelve years. And I'm tired of circling. I'd like to land and do something else, ride a shuttle to an airport, for instance, or go sightseeing (figuratively speaking, of course). My friend yesterday reminded me that the children will fly out of the nest before I know it. (And yet, I'd like to have a schedule which doesn't revolve around naptimes--I'm intolerably demanding.)

My own almost-3 year old daughter has been hitting her playmate and "best friend" who is also almost three. Yesterday, she had four or five time-outs. When I scold her, she crosses her arms, purses her lips and shouts "NO!" at me. Which is cute and all, but must be nipped in the bud. He throws a cup at her. She smacks him. She tosses sand his way. He pushes her.

Today, I had nine children at my house at one time. Nine.

I thought I'd be a whole lot more like the mother in "Little Women," which is nonsense, of course, because I don't even wear dresses on weekdays or do needlework. And I don't have four girls. I really did picture myself with a set of docile children, doing craft projects, sewing, reading, pleasantly remarking to one another about ideas contained in those books. Ha! This afternoon, the boys were all in the back yard brandishing fake swords at each other.

In my kitchen this morning, I found an overflowing sink full of dishes--which accumulated since dinner last night. I did every single dish last night before I left. I am so sick of washing dishes I did not dirty. I know, I know. I should make the boys do their own dishes. I should.

At least they fix their own lunches. That's something. TwinBoyB spent thirty minutes yesterday lovingly making himself scrambled eggs. Then I saw him take a bite, then another. Then he stood, put the plate on the kitchen counter and walked away. I said, "HEY! You made them, you eat them!" He smiled sheepishly and said, "They have eggshells in them."

My husband has been working diligently on our overgrown yard. For some reason, the previous owners planted every manner of invasive plant you can imagine. We have English Ivy everywhere, laurel hedges that never stop growing, holly bushes that keep sprouting up, bamboo which is determined to take over the neighborhood, and just for fun, blackberry vines which will not die. Ever. The world will end and the blackberries will sustain the lone survivor who was down in the subway bathroom during the Last Catastrophe on Earth.

Yesterday, he took one thousand pounds of stuff to the dump--the old yellow couch I painted the living room walls yellow to match and a cat-scratched hand-me-down ugly brown recliner. Our living room's kind of empty now, but we are getting another hand-me-down couch which we think will be better. Since he was going to the dump anyway, we gathered all the broken things scattered in the backyard and tossed them, too. The yard seems so much more sanctimonious and self-righteous, which is only fitting, really.

Anyway. The other night, we were all outside. The kids were playing basketball with my husband and I was yanking waist-high weeds. Then he came over to clip more ivy. I gave him some helpful pointers, and he said, "Dear, when I want your help, it will sound like this--'Mel, will you tell me how to do this?'" And I retorted (in love, of course), "Well, when you do it right, I'll say something like this, 'Hey, you did it right!'" (I've never said, "Hey! You did it right!") We've been married eighteen years. We joke like this all the time.

Then he pointed out how I put the "mean" in meaningful and we brainstormed about possible uses of that slogan. I think it would be a great blog tagline. "I Put The Mean into Meaningful." I like it.

Now, a true confession. (I read this on a blog and I can't remember which one. . . sorry!) Someone was complaining about people who don't return shopping carts. Well. Sometimes I don't. But only if I have a cranky baby in the rain far from the shopping cart return thing. I never park in handicapped spots, though, and that's got to count for something. Doesn't it? And I never scratch my key along the shiny side of cars that park badly and annoy me. That counts for something, too, right? And I've never smashed a windshield or even written my name in the grime of someone's back window.

And now, my judgment for the day: This woman is stupid. What an idiotic series of things to do--marrying that man, helping him escape and then committing murder.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Digressing and blabbing and then, a great link!

I met a friend for dinner tonight. I've known her informally from message boards for quite a few years. We discovered we lived in the same area and tonight, we met for the first time.

She is much, much smarter than me and also doesn't ramble on and on as I do. I told a story about a decapitated hamster and also one about my parents taking away my Christmas puppy without warning me. My mother no longer remembers me even having that particular puppy named Midnight, but I was devastated. Did my parents not realize I might notice a missing puppy when I returned from school that day?

But I digress.

Which is what I did a lot over dinner. Sometimes I'd be in the middle of a freakishly long tale and realize I had forgotten the point. Or I'd stop for breath and wonder how I got started and if I have an off-button. I digress a lot when I'm chatting. And I have the weirdest stories that bubble up, unbidden.


Without further ado--and changing subjects abruptly--I offer up this blog for your reading pleasure. This man is a writer who is riding along with troops in Mosul, Iraq. (The father of the baby I watch each day is stationed in Mosul and has been since last October.) Fascinating first-person accounts, unlike anything you will read in the newspaper.

That's all.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

"Eleanor" Replies

I know. I know. I promised some judgments today.

But to amuse you, I thought I'd point out "Eleanor's" reply (I'd hate for you to miss the fun--I can't miss the fun because it arrives in my email box)--which lucky for us, includes her email address--not that I personally would email her. An email address doesn't really prove much. What I'd really like to read is her blog--or perhaps she doesn't have a blog, which would be sort of ironic, wouldn't it, that she would be stomping around here in my blog, hiding behind her anonymity, attempting to shame me when really, we have no idea if she's been out bombing abortion clinics, do we? Or if she's dressed in a Tigger costume at Disney World or if she's panhandling by freeway exits. "Eleanor" is suffering from a lack of biography and a lack of history.

Poor "Eleanor" has nothing to back her up. All we have to judge her by are her words, which (aside from being poorly punctuated and occasionally misspelled) do not show her in a very positive light. This is so sad it almost makes me feel sorry for her.

Perhaps "Eleanor" needs the Church of Scientology to whip her into shape. That and some vitamins. With iron. Maybe "Eleanor" is anemic.

At 10:19 PM, Eleanor said...
My, would appear someone can dish it out, but cannot take it! Not surprising. Happily the "subtle" message of my post was not lost on you. My comments were intentionally rude, arrogant, inflammatory, and harsh to illustrate a point. Just like everyone, you really don't like being judged, stereotyped, or ridiculed. And yet, having spent considerable time reading through all your posts, you do this quite a lot. As do all your friends it would appear. Don't assume this is the way I ordinarily dialogue with people of contradictory beliefs. Quite frankly, you just pissed me off!

[Mel says: Why would I assume anything else? All you have to show for yourself are your self-admitted harsh comments! I am sure you'll be disappointed to hear how amused I was by your comments. And my "friends" will be disappointed to hear that you've lumped them all together, for they are a fairly diverse crowd. I did not judge, stereotype or ridicule Lance Armstrong in the first place, so at this point, I think you must have me confused with someone else. And yet, you spent over four hours reading my blog. Don't you have access to a library? Maybe you should check out some books since my writing so infuriates you.]

To be fair, my comments on The Commander & Chief were indeed based in my personal reality and thus, I have fallen victim to the evil judgement monster in all of us...touche! I still, however, think he is an ass!!!

[Mel says: I accept your apology.]

Hey, one last question. Did I miss some internantional rule of blogging that requires that persons who leave comments of opposing beliefs must leave their email address? No one who agrees with you leaves their emails that I can see. For your records I can be reached at...

[Mel says: If one wants to be taken seriously, one should leave an email address AND a link to one's blog. Almost everyone who comments on my blog leaves both. In fact, everyone who commented on this post is accessible by their blog URL or their email address. Common courtesy. Elizabeth disagrees with me on most everything, yet I know her email address and her blog URL. And I like Elizabeth a lot. I think she adds a lot of spice to my blog, and I appreciate diversity.]

Toodles, Eleanor
p.s. You should have been a school teacher. You seem obsessed with punctuation.

Well, what do you know? "Eleanor" ends her comments with a compliment--isn't obsession with punctuation a good thing? In my world, it is. Unless, of course, you overdo it with the exclamation mark! Which I have done a time or two! I just can't help myself when I get all narcissistic and judgmental and--lest I forget, sanctimonious!!!

So, "Eleanor," I accept your apology!!! Thanks for stopping by!!!! Have a fantastic day!!!

(And today's judgment: I tend to think people who don't capitalize are lazy. I KNOW! I know! Not true at all, but there you go. A random, unfair judgment. More tomorrow . . . anybody else care to share a judgment of their own?)

The Red Stripes

By popular demand . . . . okay, two of you asked. Here is my son, standing in front of my red-striped wall.

And yes, I handpainted all those stripes. And now, four years later, I'm getting a little tired of them and I may repaint, but I can't figure out what would replace the joy and whimsy of red stripes. So, they stay for now.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Me, Me, Me

Let's talk about me.

I am a middle child.

I earned straight A's in school, but a choir teacher gave me a B+ for a semester grade my sophomore year of high school and thus ruined my life. I am still bitter. I never took another fine arts class in school, though I love art and music.

I have brown eyes and what used to be naturally blond, curly hair.

I read Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders when I was younger than ten years old. What were my parents thinking?

My first job (involving a W-2 form) was as a clerk at a natural foods store. I think I was fired (or did I just quit?) when my boss got word that I said to a customer, "I don't know. They don't tell me anything around here." I was fifteen.

I once shook hands with Jim Bakker on a dare. I was working at Heritage USA on the grounds crew at the time.

I was voted "Outstanding Junior Girl" in my high school class of four hundred. If not for that stupid B+ in choir, I might have been one of the three (or four) valedictorians. I graduated fourth out of four hundred students. My parents did not have a graduation party for me.

I traveled to Jamaica when I was seventeen with a church group. I hated Jamaica. That could be because when I was sixteen, I traveled to Tahiti with a church group and Tahiti rocks. Just look here.

I don't drink alcohol and the one time I sipped champagne, it reminded me of Nyquil. I always thought I'd probably like drinking so much I'd probably end up sleeping under a bridge and living in a cardboard box.

I've been in the following states (which I can type in alphabetical order by singing a song I learned in Miss Brittingham's third grade class): Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

I play the piano, but I never practiced enough to become excellent. I can't play by ear very well at all, much to my chagrin.

I am an introvert.

I like to watch "The Real World" and have watched almost every season.

My favorite television show of all time was "thirtysomething." Oh. And "Seinfeld."

I hate raw tomatoes and Kraft macaroni and cheese.

I've been deep-sea fishing off the coast of Florida. You haven't really ever seen navy blue until you've looked down at the ocean and seen navy blue.

I swam in the Pacific Ocean when I was younger and didn't mind my whole body going numb from cold and didn't realize I was risking my life.

I swam in mountain streams in my youth, also not realizing the danger. I white-water rafted once and loved it. Today I might be too afraid of dying.

I hate to camp. (This might be because I don't drink alcohol.)

I have red stripes on my family room wall.

I bought a Lifecycle exercise bike at a garage sale over the weekend for $50.00.

The last movie I saw was "Must Like Dogs." I really wanted to like it because it features a Newfoundland, but it was a rotten movie. Stupid, stupid dialogue and ridiculous ending. The dog was cute, though.

I owned a Newfoundland for two years. She nipped two of my kids and was returned to the breeder, despite many tears and begging by the children (even the bitten ones).

I bought a hamster cage at a garage sale this weekend, too, for $10, including all the supplies you could dream of. It has a hamster bed and a hamster potty. I don't want to own any rodents, but my youngest son is a fan of animals and has been begging for another pet. If I soften my stance, I am prepared. (The cage still had its original sticker--$49.99.)

I am sarcastic, smart, an excellent typist. I hate coffee and adore books. I am a pessimist. I never read historical romances. I like depressing stories. I am critical and defensive and never forget a slight.

Well, I could go on and on about me, you know, since I am completely narcissistic and all, but I am boring even myself. Tomorrow? Judgments. Let's see how many I can make in one post.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Fan Mail

Oh, I just love signing on to the computer and finding lovely fan mail waiting for me. You can click on that link, review my post about Lance Armstrong's failed marriage, then scroll down to the comments and read the last one from "Eleanor." Or you can just keep reading.

Here's what the gracious "Eleanor" had to say:

Wow, Mel! It was suggested that I visit your blog as it was shockingly judgmental and narcissistic! I am happy to see that this is indeed so!

Do you really think you are in any position to judge a man you do not even know? That would be like me saying, "well of course she is opposed to divorce, she is after all a pastor's wife". I am curious, does your personal experience cloud your perspective on the subject? Do you really feel that you are qualified to make such statements about a man you've never met? One would think losing a father to melanoma would enhance your "sensitivity chip".

Forgive me if I sound harsh. But who died and made you God? If you were as Christian as you purport yourself to be you would seemingly stand a little less in judgement! I don't see that. In the immortal words of Atticus Finch, "You just don't know until you have walked around in someone elses shoes." Why not spend a little more time figuring out why your kids get harassed on a regular basis and back off Lance!


P.S. George Bush is despicable, but of course you support him. You are after all, a pastor's wife!!!

Well. Let's give "Eleanor" a round of applause for speaking her mind. I hope she feels better. (I would direct my comments directly to "Eleanor" in email, but she failed to leave her email address. I know. How shocking.) So, follow along as I address "Eleanor" (who reminds me so much of someone else, hmmm, who could it be?):

"Eleanor" . . . you have so many questions, and yet, already answers. You know my husband is a pastor--a fact I haven't mentioned recently (not since July 8) and in fact, something that has no bearing on my posts. You know my father died from melanoma--even though I haven't mentioned that since September 22, 2004. Strange that you find me so repulsive, yet you've spent so much time reading my "narcissist" and "judgmental" blog. How that must pain you!

And yet, dear "Eleanor," your comment reeks of judgment and self-righteousness. Have you never heard the words of an old Indian prayer that say, "Oh, Great Spirit, grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins."?

I find great hilarity in someone doing the very thing they accuse me of doing. I was merely wondering in my original post--"And sure. I know. It takes two people to make a marriage work and there is no possible way we can assign fault. Marriages, even celebrity marriages, are private. Who knows what happened behind closed doors? But I can't help myself. When the world showers confetti on someone for grit and sheer determination, I can't get past wondering what the ex-wife thinks about all this. And how the children feel seeing daddy holding hands with someone who is clearly not their mother."

How does Lance Armstrong's ex-wife feel after standing by his side for the more than five grueling years? How do his children feel? Does his seventh Tour de France victory have all the sheen of the previous victories in the eyes of his ex-wife and his little children? I don't know. But I wonder.

Apparently, wondering is just too much for sweet "Eleanor." She gets all sputtery and starts to confuse wondering for judging.

And then she expresses such great concern about my children! How sweet! (I can guess that "Eleanor" was the type of girl who in her younger years used to taunt other kids who were different than her. After all, here she is, judging me, a "pastor's wife." What impeccable behavior, a credit to society, really.)

But I digress. Let me answer "Eleanor's" questions:

1) Do you really think you are in any position to judge a man you do not even know?

Yes. I do believe I am in a position to comment about the marriage of a public figure. Do you really think you are in a position to judge a woman you don't even know? (That would be me.)

2) I am curious, does your personal experience cloud your perspective on the subject?

What do you think? I stated that it did. Do you have a problem with reading comprehension? Because I can go back over that part if you need. Now. Do you think your personal experiences shape your perspective? Clearly, they do. Everyone's personal experiences shape their viewpoints. Duh.

3) Do you really feel that you are qualified to make such statements about a man you've never met?

Wait. Didn't you already ask this? Well, here's the thing, "Eleanor." This here is a blog, where I speak about my life as it relates to the world around me. I am extremely qualified to express my own viewpoint on current events. In fact, I'm an expert on what I think about things. I'm an expert on what it feels like to be a child of a divorced parent--my parents racked up six divorces between the two of them (and their assorted spouses).

4) But who died and made you God?

Oh, such originality. I'll have to say "none of the above."

Now, for your last comment about President Bush . . . I'd like to know, "Do you really feel that you are qualified to make such statements about a man you've never met?"

"Eleanor" . . . thanks for stopping by. Next time, feel free to leave an email address or a link to a real blog or a self-addressed stamped envelope. Otherwise, your words are like passing gas in the wind. Stinky for a moment, but worth less than nothing.

Love and kisses,

p.s. I stand by my original statement. I can't help but wonder about how Lance Armstrong's children and ex-wife feel when they see him on television with his new girlfriend. I know I hated it when my parents broke up, but perhaps some people really enjoy going through life with divorced parents. I know it always gives holidays that extra-special complicated something you just can't get from a mix!

p.p.s. "Eleanor," can I recommend you read Elements of Style as soon as possible to help with your little punctuation problem? Take care!

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Potty Dance

My daughter has perfected The Potty Dance--you know, that way kids squirm and jostle when they need to use the potty?

And today I noticed that as she sauntered toward the bathroom that she was strutting exactly like a runway model on the catwalk.

I Hate to Talk Politics, But . . .

I know everyone hates George W. Bush. But I am sick of stories like this one.

Why doesn't anyone ever point out that Congress takes off the whole month of August, too?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

One Less Sunset

I went to pick up my 7-year-old son this evening, on the way to the pool. He'd spent the afternoon at his friend's house, so while he was busy gathering his stuff, Friend's Dad and I chatted in the driveway.

His yard is impeccable. He just built a deck in his backyard. I've seen inside their home and it's lovely and meticulous, despite their two children. Everytime I stop by, he's power-washing or mowing or trimming or building or painting. He began to lament the end of summer. "We haven't even been anywhere," he said. "We have a place up at Hood *Canal and we haven't even spent a night."

It seems like you have a choice. Would you like what's behind Door Number One (House Beautiful, regularly dusted and maintained) or Door Number Two (Free Time, including sand between your toes and a sunburn on your nose). (Or, if you can find a paperclip in your purse, you can have what's behind Door Number Three: Mystery prize!) Let's Make a Deal!

I leave my house almost every day in some degree of disarray so my kids can cavort at the pool. Food drying on dishes or laundry waiting to be folded, dust on the coffee tables and a few toys scattered around for good measure . . . I can't be bothered, really, for summer is fleeting. I want to live in a perfectly tidy house, I really do, but I just don't want to be the one doing all the tidying. Especially with four kids wreaking havoc wherever they go.

My daughter spun around and around at the pool tonight, falling down in a dramatic heap. "I'm so busy!" she said, confusing "dizzy" with "busy," but then again, maybe there's not such a big difference.

Time's flying! Get on board, quick! There is one less sunset at the beach as of tonight. Catch one while you can.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Experience No Longer Needed

Just when you get really good at something, you don't have to do it anymore. For instance, I am an efficient diaper-changer. When the current daycare babies are no longer in my care, my diaper changing days will be pretty much over. All that practice and boom! No more need for my skills.

Years ago, I was very good at wallowing in my grief over infertility. I filled pages of journals with morose "why me?" sorts of writings. I could turn any situation into a cryfest--a dinner with friends and a pregnant teen turns up? My face would fall and I'd cry all the way home. I'm good at grief and feeling sorry for myself. Practiced and nurtured, one might say.

In high school, I excelled in all my studies, but math came especially easy to me. I never took another math course again after I graduated. My math skills are not just rusty--they're like a stripped and stolen car, abandoned and now overgrown with blackberry brambles in a ditch somewhere. I remember algebra faintly, like a dream you can't quite invoke when you wake up.

So, what are you good at that you never do anymore?

(Though, life is cyclical and I am not stymied by the math my boys are learning. And being a Grief Expert helps me empathize with people as they cope with loss--and I'm sure I'll grieve more as my time on earth grows shorter. As for diaper changing? Someday there will be grandchildren. At least one can hope that I'm changing grandbabies and not my mother.)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

You Might Want to Skip This

I remembered tonight the time I tried to talk someone out of getting an abortion. She was twelve weeks pregnant, ready to vacuum her uterus clean, while I was trying desperately to get pregnant.

I wonder if she still hates me.

I thought of my dad today. He's been dead for almost sixteen years. Since he's been gone, computers have become mainstream. He once built one from a kit--and programmed it with cassette tapes. He died before everyone had cell phones in their pockets and video cameras in their closets. There are a few mysteries. For instance, what ever happened to his handgun? I found bullets, but no gun. Also, what was in the locked briefcase that I willingly handed over to a woman friend of his--she told me it contained letters and pictures from her children to my dad. (He'd been a mentor of sorts to her children.) I never quite believed her and I wish I had pried the lock open instead of giving the case to her.

When the phone rang at 10:00 p.m. and he'd leave the house, where was he going? Who left roses at his grave every week for the first year after he died?

These are things I wonder.

I remember tonight that winter day in college when I rode in van full of my friends. We were taking a fellow student, our friend, to the airport. He'd been kicked out of Bible college for drinking with my friend, a girl of seventeen, who was underage. The underage part wasn't why he was kicked out, though. Drinking alcohol was so against the rules at that midwestern college. I sobbed on the snowy days and for days after wept, wondering what just happened. He had been a potential boyfriend--we'd danced around the idea for almost the entire year before--and then he picked up my friend, the one who'd attended that college based on my recommendation--and they'd gone out, drinking.

Betrayal, loss, stupidity. That was a bad year for me and not such a good year for him, either. Our friendship flickered on and off for a few years after that and died a sudden death before my wedding. I wonder if he still hates me.

A local church just built a new building. The plan was to expand their existing food bank which served almost two thousand people a month, but not enough money came in for the project, so the food bank, which has existed for years, was shut down. I wonder what Jesus would think about that. I know people who've had to use food banks and sometimes, a food bank is what stands between you and your kids going to bed hungry.

What a cheery post! To bed I go, hopefully to dream happy dreams and not dreams filled with mysteries and faces of those who aren't fond of me.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Light In, Light Out

My almost-year old daughter has begun protesting bedtime. A week ago, instead of turning off the light and stretching out in her crib without a fuss, she cried. Every bedtime since then has been an annoying, yet heart-wrenching portrayal of Girl Who Hates Sleep.

Actual tears roll down her cheeks and she cries, "I don't want to go nighty-night in my crib!" Then she does that thing where you change the emphasis on each word.

"I DON'T want to go nighty-night in my crib!"
"I don't WANT to go nighty-night in my crib!"
"I don't want TO go nighty-night in my crib!"
"I don't want to GO nighty-night in my crib!"
"I don't want to go NIGHTY-NIGHT in my crib!"
"I don't want to go nighty-night IN my crib!"
"I don't want to go nighty-night in MY crib!"
"I don't want to go nighty-night in my CRIB!"

After each recitation, I repeat after her. I'm trying to empathize. But the fact remains: she has to go nighty-night in her crib and her tears do not affect me. Much.

My husband put her to bed last night and his solution to her sorrow was a nightlight. He found one and plugged it in, but when he did so, he had to unplug her cassette player.

Tonight, she wanted music, so I unplugged the nightlight. For some reason, we can only plug in one or the other. (We have stupid outlets in our house.)

She cried--wailed, actually--when I closed the door and he went in to soothe her. He said she wanted the nightlight, so he unplugged the music and plugged in the light.

It's one or the other around here, and not just lights or music. I can do one thing, but not everything. At least not all at once. And that's why I feel like a rotten mother. Time's ticking away and I can't do everything I want to do with my children or by myself, either, for that matter.

This summer, I still want to go to the ocean. I need to visit my 99-year old grandmother. (She lives close by.) I keep thinking about driving up north to visit my dad's grave--the sixteenth anniversary of his death is approaching. I'd hoped to catch up on my scrapbooks this summer. The weeds are maturing and dispensing even more weed seeds. We promised a trip to Wild Waves Waterpark. We have missed every single Concert in the Park and we haven't been to the beach once.

Too much to see, too much to do, too much. I am frustrated.
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