Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Public Service Announcement and More!

You should be thankful that I just deleted my original paragraph. I'll just leave you with this link which details everything you might want to know about noroviruses. Did you know you are considered contagious from the moment you show signs of illness to at least three days later? And some people are still contagious two weeks later. (But my twins show no signs of illness. Yet.)

How did I get to be forty-one without knowing all that? Study carefully, Young Grasshopper. You may need this information sooner than you think.

So, my deadline still looms. I have three great ideas, but no actual words strung together like pearls or even like popcorn strands, the kind you hang on your tree at Christmas. I did send back a cheery email: "I'll have everything to you by midnight!"

I've just made my daughter cry because she won't stop asking me to blow up spit-slimed balloons. Pardon me while I go tend to the angst of a 3-year old.

Okay. I'm back. I am never going to earn my Mother of the Year tiara at this rate.

See you when I finish my assignment. Or when I get back from Tahiti, whichever comes first.

Photo courtesy webcam.

Monday, February 27, 2006

In Commemoration of Our Long Marriage

Utterly ridiculous, that's what this is. It's 11:22 p.m. and I'm wrapped in a somewhat hideous purple bathrobe that my in-laws sent one Christmas (what? now we send sleepwear to people we never even visit?) and the old navy blue velour Lands End pajamas I bought the year my son was born (1998) and I have work to do, actual important work with deadlines and everything and what am I doing? What? I'll tell you!

I'm procrastinating and reading your blogs and listening to the local late-night news and occasionally hollering to my almost-teen boys, "BE QUIET! GO TO SLEEP!" My husband woke up early with the stomach virus I suffered through on Friday and now he's exhausted from the rigors of trudging to the bathroom ten thousand times today. I said with barely restrained glee, "And now, do you feel sorry for me?!" because last Friday when I had the same virus, my daughter never left my side and for half the day, I was babysitting the 15-month old. Never mind the fact that my boys were entirely on their own and that my now-8-year old invited two friends over to play in the backyard without even telling me or the fact that I was up and at a birthday party the next morning by 10 a.m. Never mind that because having the stomach virus is not a time for healthy competition. Sick competition, perhaps.

For the record, he does feel sorry for me. And then he said, "Yes, I was neglecting you while visiting the dying in the hospital." Which is entirely true and spotlights the life we lead. The dying in the hospital trump a stomach virus at home, unless of course, the roiling stomach belongs to the pastor, in which case, the youth pastor will have to do (as he did today when a church woman called for a pastor today--she was having an MRI on her head to see if she had a stroke). (And, wouldn't you know it, a different woman, the one my husband has been visiting frequently the past weeks--she died last night at 1 a.m. And he couldn't go and do his pastor-thing and sit with the family today. It's such a tough time and he normally makes a point of being with the grieving family.)

Before my 8-year old left for school, I looked into his green-gray eyes and said, "Now, listen. If you get a stomach ache and if you have diarrhea, tell your teacher and I'll come get you." I wrote his teacher a note to inform her that we have a stomach virus here which is highly contagious and that if he showed signs, I'd come pick him up.

At 9:30 a.m., the call from his teacher came. My husband threw off the covers of his sick bed and came downstairs to sit with my daughter and the toddler while I drove three minutes away to the school. My son looked fine and I confess I didn't believe he was sick. I confined him to his room, relegated him to playing the old Nintendo 64 system and for a long time, every time I checked, he seemed bored, but healthy. He insisted he'd had diarrhea and I gave him a little speech about being truthful, yada, yada, yada.

At 3:00 p.m., he threw up all over his bedroom carpet.
At 3:01 p.m., the doorbell rang.
At 3:02 p.m., the telephone rang.
At 3:03 p.m., the nice church couple who rang the doorbell sat at my kitchen table while I pretended not to be mortified by 1) my messy kitchen counter; 2) the toys scattered all over the family room; 3) the stacks of laundry, folded, but still; 4) my unmade-up face and humidity-induced crazy hair; and 5) my daughter's nutty outfit (sundress and too-short wildly unmatched purple stretch pants).

And with great hilarity, I must tell you that we are replacing our van (aka, "The Deathtrap," the 1991 Chevy Astro van which was given to us a couple of years back) with another van, a pretty, powder-blue Chevy Astro van which was manufactured the very same year we were married. That's right! Bonus points for those of you who shouted out the correct answer. Nineteen eighty-seven!! Yes, people, that means our "new" van is four years older than our "old" van and; not only that, but it's guaranteed not to break down within a twenty-mile radius.

No, really. We are so grateful for this donation to our sad, pitiful cause. Our old van quit running and the brakes were deemed unsafe by our mechanic friend. Our regular car, the 1993 Mercury Sable randomly stops running, despite the assurances by the mechanic (twice, now) that they've fixed it. (The last time, it cost $300.) So, driving that car very far feels unsafe.

Hopefully, next year, we'll buy an actual vehicle manufactured in this century. Or decade, even.

So, they signed over the van. I cleaned up the vomit as best as I could. The telephone call was for my husband--his aunt died. As I knelt over the vomitous carpet, the toddler woke from his nap, screaming his little blond head off.

I did scurry around this afternoon, then, fueled by my mortification. Of course, now that it's tidy, no one will stop by. That's always how it works around here.

I expect my twins to be clutching their bellies and pushing their way to the toilet tomorrow. In a way, that would be great because then I could work on my work, the work with deadlines. Because, otherwise, it will interfere with "American Idol" and honestly, a girl has to have her priorities.

I said to my husband tonight, "Don't you just love our life?" as I thought about the vomit and the old vans and the singing preschooler in the tub who wouldn't stop calling out, "MOMMY! MOMMY!"

He said in a very serious voice, "Yes. I do, actually."

The next time I came into the room (putting away laundry), he said, "Seriously, think of all the things we've been through. We've been poor. We were infertile. The unemployment. Your dad's death. Our families' divorces."

Getting into the spirit of things, I said, "Don't forget your cancer!"

His point, though, was not to dwell on the difficult stretches of our life together, but to remember that our pain helps us help others. Our pain has made us stronger. Our marriage has endured--and now we have a concrete reminder of just how long we've been together. What cracks me up is that the reminder isn't a giant sparkly anniversary diamond ring, but has flaky powder-blue paint and is parked in the driveway.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A Note Before Sleep

I knew she was feeling better when she appeared in the kitchen wearing her powder-blue pajama shirt with the pink flowers, the navy blue striped with red swimsuit bottom from The Gap, and a red homemade knit cap with matching scarf wrapped around her neck and tossed jauntily over her shoulders.

She woke up last night, though, at 11:45 p.m., needing to use the bathroom. Then she woke up at 6:00 a.m., again needing to use the bathroom. I put her back to bed again, and she slept another hour, then had a bath and watched a video for awhile before crawling into bed with me and her daddy. We were all sleeping at 8:30 a.m., when my son, The Birthday Boy, quietly opened the door and asked if he should get dressed.

Since my daughter seemed better, my husband thought I should go to the birthday party and so I hurried to get the boys and myself ready to leave by 9:40 a.m. We had to stop to buy film and a gift bag, but managed to arrive on time. The party was "the best party I ever had!" according to The Birthday Boy.

I napped with my daughter this afternoon while the boys played and my husband ran errands. Though the symptoms of the virus subsided, both of us were so tired that we slept an hour and a half. (She's napped already earlier.) So far, no one else shows signs of the stomach virus. Time will tell. (One commenter suggested it sounds like the "Norwalk Virus." It sure does!)

Tomorrow is my son's actual birthday which means that eight years ago tonight, I was awake, timing contractions, having no idea that the smart thing would be to sleep because I still had twenty-four hours to go before delivery!

What were you doing eight years ago?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Get Out the Disinfectant!

Warning: Don't read this if you have a queasy stomach or a big bowl of split-pea soup by your keyboard.

I cancelled school today. I met baby boy's mom at the door at lunch and asked her to please not bring him back after lunch. I did two emergency loads of laundry. I lolled around in my pajamas, startling my daughter by jumping up and darting to the bathroom every ten minutes for, oh, about six hours.

And that's really all you need to know about that. Except that, just as I was putting dishes in the dishwasher, thinking I felt a bit better (at 4:30 p.m.), my poor curly-headed daughter did three things:

1) Whined that her stomach hurt;
2) Coughed;
3) Vomited all over the couch cushion, leaving herself in a puddle of puke.

Tomorrow morning is my son's 8th birthday party at an arcade/laser tag place. He's having a 2-in-1 party with his best friend who has the exact same birthday. My husband will have to go while I stay home with the ill child. I figure soon my husband will be clutching his stomach, felled by the same virus.

You might want to disinfect your keyboard now, lest you get what I had.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Awake Too Late

This reentry week has been difficult in many ways. The transition from the roar of the ocean to the roar of children arguing has made me squint and yell. I've been ignoring the increasing soreness in my throat. I can't seem to keep the dishes all washed and the kitchen clean for even thirty minutes at a time.

Tonight, I am up too late, watching Olympic figure skating and cringing when Sasha Cohen fell on a couple of her jumps. She won the silver, but still. How devastating.

My daughter has been wearing old swimsuits for the past three days. She's even wearing one to bed at night and switching into different ones throughout the day. I cannot understand this. Yesterday, she played in the backyard in this crazy outfit--a swimsuit and sneakers--no jacket, no coat, no hat in the nippy February air.

Oh! Tonight, my son told me he was a fun boy. I said, "Are you one hundred percent fun?" and he said, "No. Seventy-five percent." Yesterday, when I begged him not to grow up (his 8th birthday is Sunday), he said, "Mom, it's the law of physics!"

So it goes. The kids keep growing up and I can't stand to lose them and I can't wait to push them out the door.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

In Lieu of Three Thousand Words

I took each of the following photographs at Long Beach, Washington, last weekend, using my trusty pocket Olympus (because I haven't figured out the intricacies of the Canon Rebel someone gave me).

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Weekend Update

If I wait until I have a leisurely moment to write, I will never write again. So, I'm going to begin this, even though my daughter is whining because "Max & Ruby" ended and she wants to make cherry juice, just like Ruby, and my sons are making noodles for lunch and the dryer buzzer sounded long ago and in fifteen minutes the 15-month old baby will return from his lunch with his mommy.

* * *

So, now it's 2:30 p.m. The boys finally finished their history assessments (on the Constitution) and math problems (Probability and Statistics, which they don't get "get"). My daughter is upstairs "napping," which mainly consists of watching PBS instead of sleeping and the 15-month old sleeps soundly, despite the boy noise coming through up the heating vents.

Last Friday, a huge, unexpected windstorm blew through our area. I was about to drag myself out of bed at 7:45 a.m. when the electricity shut off at 7:40 a.m. I drowsily thought I ought to get dressed, just in case a tree fell on our house (I'm often an alarmist), but first, I called my husband to see if he had power at the church. He did not. (As it turned out, some 50,000 customers were without power, some for days.) I joked, "I am going to be so mad if a tree falls on our house and ruins my trip!"

A few minutes later, after I dressed and ambled downstairs, I heard a noise outside, a noise besides the howling wind. I peeked out an upstairs window and saw a firetruck with lights flashing near the cul-de-sac, so I put on a jacket and went out to see what happened.

My next door neighbor was huddled with the middle-of-the-cul-de-sac neighbor (and friend) and her 7-year old and 5-year old. She clutched the leash to her dog in her free hand. The children had only socks on. I said, "Do you want to come to my house?" and they did, leaving behind their van with one door open and a large tree covering it. We put the dog in our fenced backyard because their fence was demolished.

This is what happened. First, a big tree uprooted and fell onto another neighbor's house, actually sheering off a corner of the house and narrowly missing the home's occupants who were in their car in the driveway. After that, my friend rushed her children out to their van so they could leave their home. She worried that another tree might fall on their house. (We have a lot of trees in our neighborhood, giant, stately Douglas Firs.) She put the kids in the van and as she stood in the driveway, about to climb in, she heard a terrifying sound and looked up to see an enormous tree falling toward the van. She didn't know what to do. The kids were in the van. So, she got in, too.

The roof of the two-story house broke the fall of the tree and literally broke the tree, too, so only half the tree landed on the van, smashing the roof a little and breaking the back window. The repair will take six weeks.

So, I spent my Friday morning with my neighbor while her kids played with mine in our powerless house. Her husband eventually arrived and they made calls and before we knew it, guys with chainsaws were cutting up the fallen trees. The roof of the house was caved in a little, but all things considered, the damage is minor. You can still see into the bedroom of the other house through the lopped off corner. The neighbors departed about noon, I guess, and the power finally came on at 1:45 p.m., so I was able to shower. At that point, the temperature had dipped to sixty degrees in the house.

By 5:00 p.m., my friends arrived to pick me up. By 6:00 p.m., we were eating in the bar of a local restaurant, sharing appetizers and eating big salads. By 9:30 p.m., we'd arrived at the ocean cottage. By 10:30 p.m., our Hostess with the Mostess had figured out how to get the gas fireplace burning . . . she followed all the steps, yet the flame stayed small until her dad told her (via cell phone held in the driveway where she found a tenuous connection) to smack the thermostat on the wall. Of course! Forget logic and following directions and just give the thing a whack!

When we crawled into our individual beds around midnight, the sheets were so cold--and stayed cold even an hour later (I had to read before sleeping, of course). So I went to sleep huddled shivering and woke to warmth and sunshine.

I have a little anxiety--performance anxiety, you might say--and feel a little self-conscious about describing the weekend because my friend (The Hostess) raved about my blog to the other three women. And now they have the address, so "hi!" to them. Welcome to unvarnished world of Actual Unretouched Photo.

Let me just say that my worst fear came true and they were all beautiful and thin and sported lovely manicured fingernails and cute haircuts and jeans much smaller than I've ever worn in my life. None of this is fair, of course, but I did get more scrapbooking pages done because I do simpler layouts and they all had to be extravagantly creative and use embellishments and computer-generated fonts and digitized photos.

I walked on the shore a couple of times, soaking in the sunshine and trying to hypnotize the sun into setting slower and taking pictures which I can only hope capture a fraction of the beauty of the vast ocean. We went to "town," where we bought more scrapbooking supplies and tacky souvenirs from a shop overflowing with kitschy junk I wouldn't pay a dime for at a garage sale. (Well, maybe a dime.) We viewed the lighthouse up close, photographed it, posed by the chain-link fence (me thinking, if I stand behind her a little and turn sideways, I will look almost as narrow as these tall, thin women--I'll let you know if that worked out for me).

We watched a terrible movie (Must Love Dogs.) "I saw that," I said. "Was it good?" they said. "Uh, not really. But it should be. But it's terrible. You'll see." Afterwards: "I can't believe I watched that whole movie! It was awful!" (I only watched half of it and wandered back downstairs to scrapbook some more.)

We ate, we laughed, we talked (someone stop me, please--at least I didn't tell the decapitated hamster story), we snipped, cropped, stuck pictures in scrapbooks, we read, we slept, we gazed at the ocean. I searched in vain for an unbroken sand dollar--I have such a fixation with them. Saturday night, I saw a bicyclist riding near the waves at low tide with a horse tethered to one hand and a dog leashed to the other. I hope that silhouette turns out.

Three nights, four days, two complete scrapbooks (almost). Good times. Our hostess encouraged us to make the best of our re-entry into the real world so our husbands would be inclined to send us away again for a long weekend.

What a glorious weekend!

And now the baby is crying, my son's due home from school, my fingers are cold and I have to go.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Well, Blow Me Down!

I had my day completely planned, but strong winds blew my plans away! The trees fell on my neighbor's homes (no joke) but not mine. Still, the weather disrupted everything today.

I'll be gone for a few days, heading to Long Beach, Washington, again, with five other moms. My children have made it possible for me to not miss them one bit by being loud and messy and particularly annoying during the seven hours in which we had no electricity. Good times.

Don't do anything I wouldn't do. Be good. And if you can't be good, be careful.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Where's the Baby?

No babies were harmed in the making of this photograph. (This is my daughter when she was younger and more willing to pose as ET for a photograph. Okay, okay. I admit it. She couldn't get away from me and I tortured her a la Anne Geddes. But how cute is that picture?)

Girl Gone Wild!

While I sat here at my desk, my daughter crawled beneath it on a hunting expedition. She pulled up a plastic dolly she usually plays with in the bath, a Barbie from McDonald's, a perfectly sharpened Ticonderoga pencil (the only brand worth buying), a piece of a wooden zucchini from the velcro set, a plastic hairbrush, my NIV Bible, a calendar, an old photograph, foil wrappers from Hershey's kisses (how'd that get there?) and more. I really had no idea a hidden treasure trove existed under there.

My daughter started using the phrase "okey-dokey" yesterday. When I ask her or tell her something now, she sings, "Okey-dokey!" sometimes adding the rhyming "pokey" or "smokey." I've been using this phrase with my kids for years and years and years and this is the first time anyone has caught on and played along.

Finally, I just remembered something from a few hours ago. My kids received Valentine cards from their out-of-town relatives. I had the boys immediately write thank-you notes because otherwise, it would never get done. I had my 3-year old daughter draw a picture of herself on her card. She scrawled a circle, added some eyes, eyeballs, legs, arms, a mess of hair and then finally, a "vul-va."

I hope her grandparents don't ask what "that" is. I'm not sure they've ever used that word out loud.

Another Commercial Interruption

I love to read and I read a wide variety of subject matter, including the backs of cereal boxes and "Reader's Digest" every month. But I hardly ever read romance novels and even more rarely, would I even think of picking up an "inspirational romance." I mean, does anything shout "HORRIBLE WRITING! TRITE PLOT! FLIMSY CHARACTERS!" any more than the back of an "inspirational romance" novel?

So, I probably wouldn't have picked up this novel by Brenda Coulter based on the banner across the front of the book which says, "HEARTWARMING INSPIRATIONAL ROMANCE," and yet, when I read on her website that she was offering free books to bloggers willing to review them, I jumped right on that bandwagon. And Brenda Coulter sent me one of her books, autographed and everything. (How I love books!)

I'll let you check out the description of the plot on Amazon, but let me just say that I was shocked, stunned, taken off guard by how much I enjoyed reading this book! Brenda Coulter is a fine writer who weaves a terrific tale of love, romantic and otherwise. I actually sniffled my way through the last couple of chapters.

And remember, I don't even read romance novels or (true confession) "Christian" fiction. But I can recommend this book to you if you 1) like romance novels (without the gratuitous, uh, scenes, if you know what I mean) ; 2) like good writing or 3) feel like supporting a new writer. (You can read Brenda Coulter's blog, "No Rules. Just Write." here. Oh and here's an interesting fact. She started writing her first inspirational romance novel the same afternoon she finished reading one for the first time. A Family Forever is her second novel, available from Steeple Hill Love Inspired in stores after February 28. Or, more easily, you can just order it from Amazon.)

I will keep my eyes open for Brenda Coulter's new book and recommend her to my friends who are particularly fond of this genre.

Thanks, Brenda Coulter, for the free book and the chance to review it.


A Commerical Interruption

Quite a long time ago, I heard about a new CD put out by Sovereign Grace Ministries. " Sovereign Grace Ministries is a church-planting ministry with a family of 65 churches in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Bolivia, Ethiopia, and the U.K. [Their] primary purpose is to establish and nurture local churches to God's glory. Indeed, [their] greatest desire is that the members of these churches ? both corporately and as individuals ? would bring glory and honor to God in their public and private lives." (That's from their website.)

Anyway, this new CD is called "Awesome God." This is the first CD of worship music they have put out specifically for children. The twelve songs "express God's characteristics and nature in words that kids understand."

I agreed to review this CD in exchange for a free copy of it. I'm not sure what I expected, but I have to say that I was surprised by the excellent quality of the recordings. The vocals (mostly by children) are beautifully done and the lyrics are easy to understand. Many of the songs are upbeat and all of the words are in keeping with a theologically reformed viewpoint. This music is a terrific way for kids to learn about "God's greatness," (as it says on the back of the CD case) and it's gorgeously done, too.

I will be passing along this CD to our church's children's choir director so all the children in our church can benefit. I heartily recommend this CD to you, too, if you are looking for Christian music for your kids.

You can hear clips of the songs here.

(Oh, and my 12-year old son gave this music "thumbs-up.")

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Elastic Post, Fully Expanded

I will be back later to expand am back! Here are the topics:

1) Valentine's Day, what really happened;
My husband spend Valentine's Day with another woman. Gasp! But he did come home during the day to deliver flowers, chocolate, and a teddy bear (which was immediately confiscated by my daughter, even though he brought her one, too). I said, "Uh, I have a card around here somewhere." But his visit was unexpected and I didn't have the card signed until today. I told you. I'm no romantic! I did stick up a bunch of Valentine window-clings, though, which my daughter said were, "Pretty! So pretty!"

My daughter and I baked pink, heart-shaped cookies and then the children and I ate a heart-shaped pepperoni pizza. My husband finally dragged in after 8:00 p.m. Oh, and that other woman? She's in the hospital, very near to the end of her life on this earth. My heart goes out to the whole family. They've been very good friends to us and we hate this sad and painful good-bye.

2) Runny noses, and who has them;
My nose is past the runny stage, but currently my daughter's nose is red, raw and runny, and so are the noses of the two babies in my care. You needed to know that, didn't you?

3) Living in a shoe, with children;
I've been trying to stick close to home in the evenings, in anticipation of my upcoming weekend away. And the past two weekends have been very busy, running to and fro and back to again. I haven't had a decent break away for a long time. In the story of the old woman who lives in a shoe, I would be currently starring as the shoe insert, down-trodden, stinky, and sick of children climbing all over me. Really, the thing that can get to you when you work at home and live with a bunch of kids of varying ages is the sheer isolation (from adults with brains)and the house-induced monotony. At least, it gets to me.

4) Sleep, and why I'm not getting enough, sleep, that is.
As mentioned in #2, my daughter has a runny nose. The past two nights, she's screamed out my name around midnight, rousing me from sleep. Yesterday morning, at 4:44 a.m., she sobbed hysterically for me. This morning, it was 5:25 a.m., and she was determined to stay awake and watch a DVD. Fine. Watch a DVD. See if I care. I'm going back to bed. That's what I said. (There goes that Mother of the Year Award.) By about 6:00 a.m., she crawled into bed with us and we dozed until 7:00 a.m., at which point I moaned to my husband, "If it were possible to die from exhaustion, I'd be dead right now."

But for now, the dryer is buzzing, my eye is twitching and my house still contains four children who do not belong to me. It's now 10:45 p.m. and I've just returned from the grocery store where I purchased fixings for the Sunday night meal at the ocean cottage. (Each of us are responsible for one meal during the Girls' Weekend.) I drove a cute Kia Spectra because our car is in the shop for the second time in as many weeks. It spontaneously quit running again. Last time, the mechanic declared ("I do declare!") that he couldn't find anything wrong.

Stupid car. So I have a dead 1991 Chevy Astro van in my driveway and a broken car in the shop and a rental car in my driveway. It's a veritable junkyard around here. All I need is a mean dog with yellow teeth.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy VD

I uncovered this in my storage-room clean-up last weekend, and so, while I type, my daughter is behind me, pressing buttons, switching from one Mozart tune to the next.

Meanwhile, one of my sons watches Cartoon Network while his twin plays on the other computer. My third son is at school for another thirty-minutes. And the two babies are sleeping. In the distance, the clothes dryer squeaks with every revolution.

My daughter keeps asking, "Can I watch the glue dry?" This morning, we cut out a red construction paper heart and wrote a message for daddy in glitter glue. She climbs onto the table to watch the glue dry from time to time. I think we'll make heart-shaped sugar cookies soon.

I declared today an official sick day so we didn't do any school work. My daughter woke up screaming at 4:44 a.m. She sobbed, "I am so sick!" but went back to sleep after a trip to the bathroom and a few minutes of rocking. I, however, struggled to fall back to sleep as I am suffering from cold symptoms myself.

And the two babies have snotty noses and I knew everyone would want attention and rocking. So, no school. The boys made their own Valentine hearts while I rocked with my daughter and one of the babies.

I must note that we have blue skies and sunshine today. Also, the purple crocuses and one yellow crocus are blooming. How I love the reliable surprise of spring bulbs. Oh! And while I stood at the kitchen sink, a raccoon waddled across my small back yard in plain view.

I remembered another Valentine's Day. On Valentine's Day, 1996, my twin boys had chicken pox. The worst symptoms had passed, but on that day, they were pockmarked and spotted and horrific. I tried to find a picture that wasn't already fastened into a scrapbook, but I was unsuccessful. I did, however, find a lot of unorganized photos which made my head sort of explode. I intend to spend my evening sorting and organizing pictures and wondering why I wasn't thankful for being young when I was young.

Incidentally, I have always had a warm spot in my heart for Roseanne,yes, that Roseanne, mostly because my dad thought she was funny (way back in the stand-up days, before her show). And she was funny. I remember the line about why men think women can find things because, "Like, they think the uterus is a tracking device." But this "Rockin' With Roseanne" DVD made for children scares me. All that based on some clips I saw while she was making the talk-show rounds.

You know me. I like to share the judgmentalism whenever I can. It's Valentine's Day, after all.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Fashion Advice You Must Heed

Nordstrom sells them.

Target sells them.

My mother used to wear them.

But I will not. Ever. Never ever. No gauchos. No culottes, even if you spell it "c-o-u-l-o-t-t-e-s."

Some fashion trends must be resisted, rejected, refused. Join me. Please.

Because if you don't, you realize what we'll have to wear next, don't you?

High-waisted jeans. Then pretty soon, we'll all be wearing leg-warmers and ripped sweatshirts and headbands, and not in a cute-Reese-Witherspoon way, and really, do you want to go there?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Sequential Saturday

Do you have one? A place where you stash your giant roasting pan, a folder full of papers from third grade and the playpen, even though you only use it for visitors and loan it out at Christmas to that lady for her grandchild? Do you keep slides from thirty years ago and clay handprints from your kids' kindergarten class? And craft books for that day you imagine will come when you wake up bright and early with a determination to refinish and decoupage furniture? Do you run across two birdhouses from a couple of summers ago waiting for paint and rolls of Christmas wrapping paper lolling around with a music stand from those months when your son took up the flute?

Or is it just me?

We have no garage, which is fine, I suppose, considering the garage was converted into a large room which now serves as a bedroom for the twins. (We moved into this three-bedroom house with three kids, thinking we weren't having any more.) The room is large enough for a computer desk and computer which the kids use for school and play, a piano, a second desk, and a huge shelving unit which houses the Nintendo and random boy belongings. Both the laundry room and the storage room branch off from the boys' room, so their space is almost a common area in our house, not a private spot.

It was not my goal, as such, to clean out the storage room today, but when I peered into the future, I hoped I might get to it eventually. After all, every time I walk into that room to find a hammer or to stash a pile of stuff, I'd cringe. Last week, I cleaned up the upstairs rooms and once a week or so, I return the boys' room to a habitable state, but the storage room fits into the category, "Out of Sight: Out of Mind." And it drives me out of my mind when I flick on the lightswitch and stub my toe on an old printer the boys carted home from somewhere.

The boys had to go to a writing workshop today (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.!) and my husband went to a brunch and my 7-year old went to his buddy's house, so my daughter and I were home alone. I worked and she appeared from time to time to beg me for a toy or a snack. I uncovered a few forgotten toys and she uncovered a bin full of Play-Doh toys (which she emptied in the family room, which is typical, isn't it--I'm cleaning up one mess while a child makes an equal and opposite mess in another room).

The storage room clean-up was actually not the destination on my sequential chore road. My goal was beyond the storage room clean-up, but first, I had to clean up the kitchen. Then I had to get the laundry underway. Then I had to sweep and clean my boys' room. Then, finally, I could tidy up the storage room. And when the storage room was clean, I could look for my photographs from the years 2002, 2003 and 2004. For you see, on Friday night, I'll be heading to the ocean for a Girls Scrapbooking Weekend. Six of us (I think) will be spending Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at the beach. I intend to get my scrapbooks up to date. I had been keeping up until my daughter was born and since then, my pictures sit abandoned in their envelopes rather than festively displayed in scrapbooks.

The only thing standing between me and a weekend of bliss and acid-free, lignin-free scrapbooking paper (and stickers!) is the upcoming week in which no crisis will be permitted to occur and no emergencies will be allowed to require the presence of my husband, because next weekend, he will be me, minus the compulsion to clean, and I will be me, minus four kids and a husband.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Squinting in the Sun

The sun shines today in Western Washington. Glory be!

(Picture is of North Cascades - Newhalem, WA-- courtesy of webcam located here.)

(By the way, my statcounter at the very bottom of this page indicates that I'm reaching the magic 100,000 mark--I took a picture of it at 99,273. If you happen to be my 100,000th visitor, save a picture of the statcounter and let me know.)Update: You have to scroll way, way, way down to see the actual statcounter. Sorry about the confusion!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Don't Tell Me Things Will Get Worse

"Worst decision I ever made," she said. She spoke of adopting nine children.

"Hardest time in my life," she said. She spoke of giving birth to three children in three years.

"Just wait until they're teenagers."

"Small kids. Small problems. Big kids? Big problems."

"I thought age two was hard. But age three was worse!"

Why, oh why, oh why do we do this to each other? At each turn in the path through motherhood, women have stepped out from behind trees to tell others of the horrors ahead. Teething and tantrums. Sassy middle-school sneers. Teenage trials and tribulations.

While I waited to adopt, an adoptive mother of nine told me adopting was her biggest regret. When my boys were terrible toddlers at two, moms warned me that age three was much worse. When they were in elementary school, trying my patience, the warnings were of adolescence. Just wait, they say. Just wait! I had a daughter, after three muddy, loud, video-game-playing boys. If I should mention how much easier she is, what a delight after the sword-fighting and hollering, I'm told that girls are much harder when they are teens. So look out! Don't let your guard down! Beware!

And to the naysayers and the doomsday prophets, I want to say just two words. Shut. Up. Isn't it difficult enough to trudge through the days of making dinner again and washing socks the kids wore outside without shoes and worrying that you aren't doing anything right? When a mother complains and worries outloud, the remedy is not to say, in essence, oh, but things will get worse! Thank your lucky stars, because right now is as good as it gets, as bad as it is.

Here is what I want to hear:

Take more pictures! I know you aren't sleeping much, but those fingers will never again be so tiny. Revel in the newborn moments. It goes by fast, but it gets better. You will sleep again. Meanwhile, look! Memorize that tiny nose.

These baby years, when you wear sweatpants, sitting on the floor and picking boogers from his nose and lint from between his toes, pause. Enjoy the boredom. Take more pictures! Because you will hardly remember this moment. And it gets better.

Because soon, that little one will talk. And when he starts to fling himself to the ground, take heart! Things get better.

See how that works? I don't want to hear about the treachery ahead, the heartbreak waiting around the bend, the steep hills I must climb. I want encouragement. Company for the journey. Understanding, perspective, hope.

So, please. Stop saying stuff that rains on my parade, dampens my frail enthusiasm. My daughter might hate me when she's a teenager, but right now, she delights me, even on days she doesn't nap. My twins, on the cusp of adolescence, are still sweet at the core, innocent in a way that won't last much longer, sorrowful when they are wrong. Only five or six more summers and they'll be slipping out of my orbit and careening into their own lives. And my little boy, the one with Personality, the one who makes me cry on Sunday mornings when he sings with his whole heart with the children's choir, off-tune, but earnestly . . . he'll keep growing up and growing away.

But I have now. And I want to look forward to the future without the cautionary tales of disappoinment. My imagination has its own dark side and I don't need any help picturing possible dismal outcomes. I'm good at that already.

I want to hope. I want to hug today close. I want to loosen my grip and trust that the future will unfold like a paper snowflake, full of holes, sure, but unique and beautiful and just as it was meant to be.

So I will plug my fingers into my ears and hum, if that's what it takes to ignore those who tell me the worst is yet to come.

And I will shine light for those coming behind me on the path. And while it's light, I'll take more pictures because today is the last chance I have to be here today. Blink. It's gone.

Equal Opportunity for All Holidays

Some have cried out in dismay about my stance on Valentine's Day. You'll notice that I didn't say I don't bake heart-shaped cookies and put up a few decorations and teach the little ones how to cut out hearts. I just don't need a big production for my own benefit. That said, I do my best to notice and celebrate the holidays as they rush toward me.

I really don't need or want a giddy celebration of Mother's Day, either. I tell you--I'm low-maintenance and unimpressed with the demands of society which tell me I must celebrate in a certain way on a certain day or else be branded a curmudgeon. Or a bad mother.

And I was [ ] <-------------- this close to eloping, too, because I didn't want to go through the whole traditional wedding thing. I only endured it because 1) a family friend convinced me it would mean a lot to my dad; and 2) my husband-to-be informed me that if we didn't have an actual wedding in Seattle, we'd have to have one in Texas. I am glad my dad walked me down the aisle. How would I have known that two years later he'd be dead? But still. My wedding was not the happiest day of my life.

No matter what you say or what psychological magnifying glass you peer through, I still don't really care about Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Mother's Day or any other day in which I could--but won't--purchase a card for five bucks at the local Hallmark store. I'm unapologetically unsentimental that way.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Valentine's Day Grinch

I have to confess. Valentine's Day means nothing to me. I used to love it . . . in elementary school when the holiday promised heart-shaped cookies and lacy hearts and an afternoon party during school. My mom would make sure I wore red or pink to school. What's not to love?

But for the last thirty years? Valentine's Day has been a non-event. Oh, wait. I remember my first married Valentine's Day. In 1988, it must have been on a Sunday, because I remember after church spending the day with my husband . . . and a bunch of young people from the church we were attending. I wanted to confide in the mom of the house--she was probably forty-five, maybe fifty--and I wanted to ask her about marriage and did she worry that her husband didn't think she was pretty anymore and would she please be my mentor and my friend and help, help, help, I'm lonely, even though I'm married. You're okay. Am I okay?

I can't remember other specific Valentine's Days, though my husband always brings me chocolate and a card and sometimes a teddy bear or something. But a gradual realization has dawned over recent years. I'm not very romantic. I have a very low need for romance. Perhaps I can blame this on Maslow's hierarchy of needs . . . I'm always stuck in the "need sleep" stage of life, it seems. I'm just pragmatic, sensible, apt to choose comfort over fashion. I have no poetry in my soul, other than the tried and true: "I had a little tea party, this afternoon at three; t'was very small, three guests in all, just I, Myself and Me; Myself ate up the sandwiches, while I drank up the tea; T'was also I who ate the pie and passed the cake to Me." (Thank you, Miss Brittingham, third-grade teacher.)

My husband, though, appears to be moving closer to the romance spectrum of life while I inch away, bit by bit. And so, with some alarm, I opened my eyes wider in dismay when he announced, "I thought of the perfect Valentine's Day gift! And it's not too expensive, either." (He already brought me two dozen red roses with the reassuring thought that they are less expensive now, only $19.99 at Costco and they are really quite lovely.)

Oh no! We're doing Valentine's Day? I mean, beyond a card and chocolate? Does this require creative thinking on my part? My creative powers are exhausted by the challenge of examining the American Revolution, battle-by-battle, while comforting the baby who bit his lip and negotiating with my little terrorist daughter who wants to cut with scissors right now and wondering, all the while, what we'll have for dinner that will take ten minutes to prepare because I forgot to get something in the crockpot again.

I'm a married woman. Nineteen years in July, as a matter of fact. As I see it, that's my own personal Valentine's Day. Is this not enough? Can we not leave Valentine's Day to elementary schools?


Monday, February 06, 2006

Forging Ahead

We've had mostly rainy days since December 18. Today, the sun shone brightly and the children drifted outdoors and promptly began digging in the dirt behind the deck. I think the hole may now be large enough to bury a small animal. They came back inside with dirt in the creases of their hands and mud caked on their shoes and faces glowing.

My husband sent the 12-year olds outside with orders to sweep the Douglas fir needles from the driveway. We own no Douglas fir trees, but the neighbor does and those trees shed as if it's their job, which they take very seriously.

The boys did not take their job very seriously and my husband remarked, "Those boys have a terrible work ethic!" And I tried not to take it to heart, this criticism, so I just glanced his way and turned my attention back to the little ones. I told myself he was not talking about me and then thought, I must google "teaching children work ethic" even though I think it's something "caught, not taught," which is further proof that I am a horrible role model and human being and someone please stop me from this destructive train of insane thought.

Later, I stepped out the front door and the boys appeared, red-cheeked, clutching brooms. "Do you think this is good enough?" Reluctant Student asked. I said, "I don't know. What would dad say?" And then the other boy piped up, "This is child abuse!" and I said, "No, this is good parenting."

I am in uncharted territory as a mother. My own mother left her children when we were younger than twelve. (My dad had primary physical custody and we had no formal visiting agreement but I'd see her from time to time and during those visits, my siblings and I would struggle for her sole attention.) For the most part, I have shrugged off my family of origin and its dysfunction, but in other ways, I can feel the gaping wounds, the missing spaces where a functioning family would have simply passed on traditions by osmosis. When I was my twins' age, I was waking myself up in the mornings, foraging for my own breakfast, riding my bike to school, dealing with peers, babysitting, studying, going to church by myself. I sequestered myself in my room after school if I were home. I had virtually no interaction with the adults in my family.

I wonder if I'm broken in some fundamental way or if the brokenness healed and left me crooked or if everyone is like me, damaged from something or another. I forge ahead--I'm good at facing the right direction and moving along--but I feel desperate for a map and assurance that I'm doing okay at this parenting thing. So much is at stake and I'm raising boys with a terrible work ethic and a daughter who thinks I'm gorgeous when I roll out of bed in the morning which can only mean that she lacks not only judgment but good taste. And perhaps she should see an ophthalmologist.

On the other hand, my husband and I have been married over eighteen years, which is nothing to sneeze at, and our children have no idea who Brad Pitt or Jessica Simpson or Kanye West are. We must be doing something right.

What a Shame: I Can't Get No Satisfaction

The last art class I took was in eighth grade. I loved Mrs. Parr, the tightly-controlled, but quiet young art teacher. She assigned us to draw an item encased in a bottle. I drew a man upside down, stuck in the bottle. I adored watercolor painting and still have the fruit bowl "still life" I painted. My creative-souled father seemed to have passed his artistic gene to me.

And yet, the second I entered the ninth grade, I avoided all art classes. I did sign up for chorus, which was an 80-voice choir. I sat in the middle, between the sopranos and altos and, although I considered my voice unworthy of singing solos, I sang in tune and enjoyed the respite from academics. Until, of course, the choir teacher gave me a B+ for my final grade and destroyed my perfect grade point average. (Yes, I'm still bitter.)

That only proved my point. Avoid subjects graded subjectively. Art? No. Music? Never. Not if I can't guarantee the outcome.

I thought of this again last night when I watched the Seattle Seahawks lose the Super Bowl. I never realized before how the subjective opinion of referees could affect a game. I mean, certainly, I've seen games in which bad calls were made, but none so heartbreaking (to a Seattle fan) as the bad calls which changed the outcome of the game yesterday.

My husband says winners never make excuses for their losses. I placed my right hand on my forehead, giving the universally recognized sign for "LOSER" and said, "THAT'S WHY I'M A LOSER!" I couldn't be as gracious as the Seahawks players who were being interviewed after the show. And then I thought of how much I loved art and music and why I avoided those subjects in favor of academics, where 2 + 2 always equals 4.

Even this guy thought the officiating crew made errors. I wish I had live-blogged the whole Super Bowl, but then again, I don't want French Onion dip on my keyboard. And I'm rarely a sports fan. I'd rather read.

After the half-time show, I said to my husband (who was playing Yahtzee with the 3-year old in the kitchen), "That was the most boring half-time show ever!" And he said, "That's exactly what the producers wanted you to say!" (Because, really, those of us unfortunate enough to have glimpsed Janet Jackson's bejeweled mammary region prefer being bored during half-time and who better to bore us than a guy old enough to be my dad? Please, Mick, don't reveal your flappy triceps again!)

In other news, I'm squinting, blinded by the sudden appearance of the sun. We resist the urge to fling off our long sleeves and dive directly into the Puget Sound as it is still mighty chilly here. Sunshine awakens the gardener in me. I want to put the sunroof in my convertible down and feel the wind tangle my hair as I motor over sunlit country road, only I don't have a convertible or a sunroof.

Soon, though, I'm heading into the muddy back yard to cut down last year's perennial daisies. Hope springs eternal as the daffodils remind us by peeking out of the sodden dirt of the flowerbeds.

Friday, February 03, 2006

What Was I Going To Say Again?

I sit, pondering, longer than usual. My brain turns over and over, like those chickens you see at Costco grilling behind the meat counter. And yet, nothing.

Earlier tonight, while steering my old car down dark streets, I happened upon two topics to discuss. I can't remember the first one and I don't want to describe the second one tonight. Which leaves me only with a recitation of the day's events.

Have I mentioned recently how much I loathe dark mornings? I hate taking a shower. I hate brushing my teeth. I hate drying my hair. And I especially hate talking to anyone. And so, as a joke, God gave me a very talkative daughter who wakes up suddenly and with great cheer. She sits on the toilet while I shower and asks me to get her a cookie. She opens the shower door to let in a cold gust before I'm dry. She climbs on the counter to brush her teeth while I blink at my reflection.

I do not enjoy this start to my day. This morning, however, I readied myself alone because I had to be presentable by 7:15 a.m. Which I understand is not that early in the scheme of things, but still.

We're concentrating on history lessons this week, so the boys and I sat at the kitchen table while I read the history textbook out loud. Intermittent whines, screeches, hollers and plaintive cries for help upstairs interrupted our study. Have I complained lately how stressful it is to coordinate schooling-at-home with the ravings of a three-year old and the needs of a baby or two? At one point, I rendered a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence, which was nothing more than a veiled attempt to outshout "Blue's Clues."

I learned something, too. And not just about the Battles of Bunker Hill and Breed's Hill. No. I learned something far more important.

Laundry does not wash itself, even if you are preoccupied with the laundry generators. That hardly seems right to me.

So. We finished history. Fed the little kids. Rocked the baby to sleep. Put the little kids down for naps. Read the newspaper. Welcomed home the second-grader. Agreed to let his friend come over for the afternoon. Created a last minute dinner (frozen ravioli, frozen homemade spaghetti sauce and frozen corn . . . see? I have a frozen theme). My husband, God bless him, called to inquire about my day and I said, "I am so tired of this. And the rain."

And he said, "At least you have tomorrow off." And I said, "Oh, yes, at home with my four kids, that is a Day Off!" with perhaps less enthusiasm than is right. And so, a few minutes later, he called again and asked if I'd like to run his errands in exchange for leaving the house for the evening.

Of course I would! And that's how I ended up browsing for cards at Barnes & Noble, viewing "Capote," in the movie theater, shopping at Target, and buying three dozen Krispie Kreme donuts. (Two dozen for his workshop tomorrow. One dozen to appease the children in the morning. Okay. Who am I kidding? Half a dozen for the children, half a dozen for me because I need those calories to get through the day, tight jeans notwithstanding!)

"Capote" was a remarkably well-done film. I immediately purchased In Cold Blood, Truman Capote's last book. Now I have two thousand and ONE books to read before I die.

Here I am now, home again, home again, jiggety-jog. Tomorrow, a wind storm is predicted to bring us gusts of 60 miles per hour. I am looking forward to that, oddly enough. The wind is already flinging raindrops at the window with an admirable show of force.

The end.

Seattle Rain

Don't you wish you could live here, too?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I Need Therapy. Or Sunshine.

It's a minute until 11 p.m., my self-imposed bedtime, yet I haven't blogged. I spent my morning reading the boys' history book to them, quizzing them, discussing U.S. history with them, waiting for them to find a sharpened pencil and to stop grabbing at each other. I learned more than I did in high school, and not just about history.

And so, I didn't get as much laundry done as I should have. And my formerly clean kitchen is a disaster.

Tonight, I'm feeling jealous of the most famous Mommy Blogger of all, which is undeniably the stupidest feeling I've had this week. I want someone to give me a plane ticket and sit me at a table and think what I have to say about blogging and motherhood is worthwhile. I also want to fit into her pants.

As I said, stupid emotion. I can't even believe I'm confessing.

What else? Well, today, our main television died with a click and the smell of smoke. The picture had been flickering and fading in recent days, so I was not surprised, but my 3-year old daughter was sorrowful and said, "Mommy, I'm sorry I broke the t.v." I went right out tonight and bought a new one at Target. To my great mirth, a teen aged boy was sent to fetch my 27-inch television and load it into my car. I could have beat him arm-wrestling and I certainly outweigh him. And my skin is clearer. But still.

He and his cohort finagled that television out of its gigantic box and into my front seat. I probably should have given him a tip. (Tip: Never mix bleach and ammonia.)

Tomorrow's Friday, which should bring waves of joy to my heart. And yet. Saturday my husband will be attending a daylong workshop. Woe is me. I thought about taking the children somewhere on Saturday, but honestly, the boys would be annoyed if I interfered with their Saturday morning cartoons and my daughter's nap time is at 1:30 p.m. Kids! How can we have fun if they are so inflexible!?

My desk looks like an office store exploded.

Could I possibly be any more inspiring and fun?

Now, go read someone with 40,000 readers a day.

Gray Day

If it's before 5:30 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time) and dull gray light still lingers, you can click here and see what I mean.

I'm so sick of the monotony of gray.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

At Least My Kitchen's Clean

I tend to be moody, morose, melodramatic. No, really. And I used to nourish that part of me, that glass-half-empty, woe-is-me, gloom-despair-and-agony-on-me personality. Your dad is sick? Mine died. Your pants are tight? Mine won't zip. Your hair is frizzy? Uh, did you see what is rooted to my head?

That sad fog creeps in tonight, blotting out the horizon and erasing the forest, but not the trees. All I know is that my Reluctant Student has issues with sequencing, with memory, with his multiplication tables. I'm in the lull between reading books. January 2006 was the rainiest January ever here. My right pointer finger hurts. I'm retaining water and I have a cavity but no dental insurance.

See how good I am at that? I wandered through my entire adolescence in a melancholy mood. I can mope with the best of them. I know that once I start, I could end up drowning in my own bad press.

At least now I know it's just a mood, not a fact. The rain will stop. The fog will lift. A forest lurks behind the trees.


I removed some code from my template, then added an underline or two and now my sidebar has been demoted . . . to the bottom. I have no idea why. Anybody here capable of fixing this? Email me . . . please?

Update: Nevermind. I am woman. Hear me roar. I can fix html code, even though I have no idea what I'm doing.
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