Friday, December 28, 2007

A Dozen Years Ago

These two young people, dreamy-eyed and hopelessly enamoured, pledged their love to each other in front of God and all their family and friends. It seems like only yesterday.

Happy Anniversary, Greg!

and may my bangs rest in peace. Amen.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tired of Leftovers?

Oh, so sorry to hear it, because that's what I'm serving today. Actually, this is some writing I did just before I started my blog, so consider it a little taste of summer in this cold season.

August 1, 2007

Today we went to the city pool. My son Tommy has a love/hate relationship with the pool. He desperately wants to jump in and swim, but he doesn’t quite trust his own abilities and mostly stays close to the sides and the steps in the shallow end. He watches his friends jump and slide and swim without a care, and he is just eaten up with the longing to do the same.

I'll just stop right here and say that my kids have never had swim lessons and I feel guilty about it. My friend Julie, whose family went with us to the pool, has her kids in lessons year round. They know more strokes than I knew existed and they swim competitively at the ages of 6 and 8. They are wonderful athletes, and my kids are deprived because I am too broke and/or too lazy to take them to swim lessons. There. I got that off my chest.

Today was the day Tommy decided he wanted to go down the slide like all of his friends were doing. He begged and pleaded and whined about how much he wanted to go down that slide. I told him that he could certainly go down the slide, but he needed to be able to jump into four feet of water and swim to the edge without help (and without floaties) before I would let him go over there. So he climbed out of the water, trotted over to the only slightly deeper side, and proceeded to have a meltdown on the side of the pool because he was too scared to jump in. Then he started to go back to the shallow side, but something inside his little heart called him back to the edge, and he turned around and came back.


This continued, back and forth, for about 15 minutes. When I told him to just forget it and go swim in the shallow end, his crying intensified, and I felt myself considering having a meltdown of my own. There was no reasoning with this child at this point. He was in such turmoil, deeply desiring to do something that terrified him.

Finally, he mustered up the courage to jump off. He coached me about where I need to stand, (“Closer, Mama, closer!”) and then, after much cajoling, heartily went for it. He leaped out into what he thought would be my arms, only I moved away at the last second so he would hit the water. In a moment of sheer panic, he reached out for the only thing within his grasp, which was, unfortunately, the top of my bathing suit. He used the leverage he gained after pulling my bathing suit down, which caused me to lean in toward him, to hook his other arm in a chokehold around my neck. So there we were in the water, me struggling to disengage his arms from my windpipe while making sure my girls were all covered up, and him screaming and crying over the betrayal and the sheer frustration of being afraid to swim.

Thankfully, the whistle blew for adult swim and we had ten minutes to regroup. It was past time to go, everyone was tired and getting cranky, but Tommy was haunted by that slide. I looked at Julie, and said, “I think I’ll just let him go down. The lifeguard can fish him out if he gets in trouble.” And, good friend that she is, she agreed. We also agreed that if he did have to be rescued by the lifeguard, we just wouldn’t come back to this pool for the rest of the summer. It would be too embarrassing.

As soon as the whistle blew, Tommy solemnly climbed the stairs up to the slide. I positioned myself close to the roped off area in the pool to cheer on my brave boy. He reached the top of the stairs and stood behind the giant blue tube that would transport him one step closer to manhood. And froze. He wouldn’t budge. His mind was terrified, but his heart wouldn’t let him back down. I tried encouraging him. I promised him a dollar. I begged him. I ordered him to just come back down the stairs. He would not move.


Finally, the calls of the children in line convinced him to come down the steps in humiliation. To my surprise, he walked right back to the end of the line to wait for another chance. He stood in line, smiling. “I’ll do it this time, Mama.” This continued for another five minutes or so, climbing up, freaking out, climbing back down again to wait for another chance.

At last, my loyal friend Julie looked at me and said, “Do you want me to push him?”

“YES,” I replied, sorry I hadn’t thought of it earlier. This is why Julie’s kids can swim and mine can’t.

Julie marched right up there to the top of the stairs, pried his hands off the sides of that slide and gave him a good shove. I could hear her sweet little voice saying, “Come on, you can do it!” as she heaved him into the tube. Tommy came flailing down the slide and into the water with a splash. Almost instantly, his head popped up, his eyes wide with shock, and he lunged in my direction. As soon as he reached my fingertips, he began crying. Screaming, actually. He resumed his death grip around my neck, and continued crying inconsolably as I trudged up the steps out of the pool and began trying to pack up my belongings to go home. Julie looked slightly remorseful, and I was trying to hide my smile.

Naturally, about this time, three year old Katie started crying because she wanted to be picked up, too, and my six year old, Grace, started whining because she wanted a turn to go off the slide now that she realized Tommy was getting a dollar and she was not. (On a side note, she had done the dance up and down the ladder four or five times that day and had never mustered the courage to go though with it.)

We made quite a scene exiting that pool, with all three of my children whining and crying, me threatening them with bodily harm if they don’t stop fussing, and Julie and her kids walking quietly and oh-so-well-behaved behind us.

Later that evening, I heard Tommy proudly telling his Daddy that he went down the slide at the city pool.

“All by yourself?” Greg wanted to know.

“Yeah! (pause) Well, Mrs. Julie pushed me.”

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

In My Mind I'm Gone To Carolina...

And in person, too, it seems.

We decided at the last minute to take a trip out East, a very spur of the moment thing to do, also pretty much insane for a family of five plus a dog, but we've packed and loaded the car and we're headed out in the morning.

It'll be a pretty quick trip, meaning the drive time will be almost equal to the visiting time, but I have two new baby nephews to snuggle, and I can't wait. It's always hard to be away from my loved ones at this time of year, especially when they're all under one roof eating gumbo and promising to e-mail me pictures. So I'll show them, I'll just bring my crew and crash their party. Ha.

Meanwhile, I'll be away from the ol' blog for a while, but I do have a few extra posts up my sleeve, so be sure to come back and visit soon. I promise, it'll be worthwhile. I'll give you a hint: you'll get to see me with some lovely tall curling-ironed bangs. All crunchy with hairspray. Oh, it'll be fun.

I hope y'all had a wonderful Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Reason I Celebrate Christmas

Luke 2:4-20

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Have a wonder-filled, peaceful, merry Christmas!
Love, Chrissy

Friday, December 21, 2007

Guess Which Celebrity Crashed our Neighborhood Christmas Party?

The Big Guy arrived to an onslaught of paparazzi and hordes of squealing, adoring fans.
Some were more reserved.
Some began to grow suspicious of his authenticity. They questioned his nerdy glasses and creepy, gnarled hands. Others were unsure about wiry, loose-fitting beard.
Some just didn't like him at all, and wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. But they were all won over by his gifts of chocolate.
Until he drove away into the night in his Nissan Sentra, and the questions began again.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

In Which the Chaos Finally Swallows Me Up

I'm not the kind of person that's good at tending to details. Details don't bother me. I don't sweat them. I'm not meticulous about anything. I do not make excuses for my children when they dress themselves in mismatched clothing. I do not lose sleep at night if there are dirty dishes in the sink. I'm perfectly comfortable reading a book (or a blog) with two baskets of laundry strewn on my couch.

In fact, I'm comfortable with a certain level of messiness around me. I function well in it. I feel at home in it. I'm just a left-handed, right-brained, scattered-about, disorganized mess, and I'm okay with that. If I lived alone, I would have no conflict whatsoever with my natural inclination towards chaos.

However, it seems that I have found myself in charge of running a household. A household filled with other messy, disorganized, scattered-about messes who continuously need me to manage the whereabouts of petty little things like socks and cold medicine. They are constantly expecting me to be able to identify where their mittens are and where the black sparkly tights are that go with this pretty Christmas dress, with matching hairbows that we haven't seen in a couple of weeks, which I suspect are on the floor of my car.

I gotta tell you, I'm flunking out in this department. I just don't have the organizational skills to stay on top of this stuff. I am constantly searching for things.

Which brings us to Monday. Brownie meeting day. In the afternoons, I must leave my house by 3:25 to arrive at the carpool lane at school just in time to meet my daughter and Brownie friends at the curb. So of course, I sat at my computer on Monday until the clock read 3:23. (I just had to check a couple of blogs and leave my witty comments, you know, because I know how much people crave my witty comments.) At 3:23, I rounded up my younger kids and headed for my car, but.....where are my keys? Not here. Not there. Not in the kitchen. Not by the front door. Not in my coat pocket. Not in my purse.

I looked everywhere for my keys, and my frustration level rose as each minute ticked by. Finally, at 3:35, I found my husband's keys and dashed out the door, only to remember as the door was slamming that he doesn't keep a house key on his car key chain. (Why, honey? Why do you do that?) I pushed on, and arrived to find my little girls in brown sitting dejectedly on the curb at 3:39 while their teacher patiently waited. I apologized profusely and zoomed back home to find the rest of the Brownie troop waiting at my front door to be let in.

At the end of the day, exasperated at my inability to find my keys, I checked one last place for them: on the hook in the kitchen. Where they belong.

Yeah. I need help.

But I'll settle for your witty comments.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I've always wanted to hire kitchen help...

but it turns out I have access to unlimited free child labor right here in my own home. Here they are, working diligently to mass produce sugar cookies for my consumption:

Pay no attention to that cluttered kitchen you see behind her. My minions will clean that up next.

And quit looking at my 1970's wood paneling. It's coming back in style, I swear.
At my cookie factory, we are all about the business of making cookies.

No smiling is allowed. Back to work! And no sampling the icing!

You can tell by his bedhead and beleaguered expression that this one was up before dawn to begin his labor.

Look alive, kid. You haven't met your quota.

Never mind that sewing machine in the background. I'll put the littlest one to work on that after her cookie shift has ended.

She's still got a good eight hours or so left before her next cocoa break.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Snaggle


The little sucker finally let go. At last, Grace is free from the public scorn and humiliation of being the only first grader with all her baby teeth. She can now add 'tooth pulling' to her resume, which also includes such recent additions as: 'bike riding', 'shoe tying', and 'chapter book reading'.
She has excellent credentials for a seven year old.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Best Christmas Party Ever

I attended a Christmas Party this weekend that you people would not believe. I work part time at a group home for teenage girls, and the party was for the girls who reside there as well as the staff.

The Junior League does a lot of volunteer work for our group home, and a few weeks ago, they sent out these mysterious, unsigned invitations to come and have a "Shopping Party". They solicited donations of jewelry, shoes, clothes, and purses from all their folks, and set up a banquet room at the Hilton with racks and tables like it was a store. When we arrived at the party, they gave each of the girls and staff an envelope of Monopoly money and told us to go and shop. (Have I mentioned that I LOVE the Junior League?)

Now let me say that all of this stuff was second hand, but you could tell it was donated by the type of women that shop at Neiman's and that wouldn't be caught dead in last season's Banana Republic off-white cashmere sweater. So they donated it to us. Yeah.

(And by the way, last year's fashions are still five years ahead of the way I currently dress, so I have no problem with them.)

Anyway, another good thing about the fashion mavens that donated these clothes is that, well, they just don't dress like teenage girls. So when I found nice things, like say a fabulous J. Crew burgundy corduroy blazer, or an Ann Taylor sweater, I tried, I really tried, to offer it to the girls, so they could have something nice, you know, and every time, they would look at me, roll their goth-eyeliner eyes, and say:

"Ms. Chrissy. Ewww."

And I would cackle wildly and stuff the item into my shopping bag.

The girls did get a lot of good stuff, and we went home and spent the afternoon trying on clothes and squealing and exclaiming about how cute we all were. Then we went to the movies to see Enchanted and I wore my new pink sweater complete with matching pink and brown belt and necklace, and my new Gap leather jacket and matching purse and boots. It was a good day at work. It was truly a blessing poured out on me by God. I loved it.

As for the cashmere sweater, the one with the $178 price tag still attached (!), I quickly did the math and calculated that:

Off-white cashmere sweater + Living in my house = Certain heartbreak for me

So it went to live with our staff therapist who has no kids and can care for it properly. But I did get to hold it and snuggle it for a while before she pried it out of my hands.

**Oh, the girls had a good time cracking jokes about my awesome pink and purple KangaROOs (you have to capitalize ROO, according to Google), but I just told them, "The shoes are quirky, and so am I, so we go together." And they all agreed.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Guess What Just Became a Part of My Life...

These babies.


That's right. KangaROOS, circa 1982. Except mine are spring green on the bottom, making them more 80's-liscious than ever. Now all I need are some leg-warmers, a side ponytail, and some Love's Baby Soft, and I'll be ready for anything.

I got them as a gift at a Christmas party this weekend, and I also scored a red ankle-length trench coat, so now I am also prepared for detective work, should the need arise.

The first mystery to be solved: What should I put in my zippered pouch?


Edited to add:
Mystery Solved!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Christmas Cards? Check!

Oh yeah, they're done. Sorry to rub your face in it, but I actually got them done early. You mean you didn't? (gloating laugh).

Truthfully, I rarely get them sent out before December 23rd, so I have no right to ridicule any of you late-senders. Or early-to-mid-senders, as it is still the first week of December.

As it happens, I entered a blog giveaway contest back around Halloween or so and won a free set of custom-designed cards, which forced me to orchestrate the annual Christmas photo shoot when it was still ninety degrees outside, which felt wrong. So don't hate me for being on the ball. In real life I'm not at all organized.

I hesitated to put them up on the blog because, well, they have my last name on them, plus, I didn't want to spoil anyone's gleeful surprise when they got theirs in the mail (I'm just certain that's how people react when they get my cards).

Anyway, last night I found my card posted on Weelittledesigns, which is, incidentally, the website that gave me all the fabulous free cards, and it cracked me up because they had put a pseudonym on them, so of course I had to post it:

Aren't they darling? I told Pete just the other day how darling these cards were, really. Just darling. And then he said to me, "Sweet Caroline, good times never seemed so good." Then we just laughed and laughed.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Another Tree of Christmas Past


This is the tree from the first Christmas we celebrated after purchasing our first home. We were both out of college and working full time by then, and children were still a year or two in the future. I remember coming home from work every evening and plopping down on the couch to watch TV until Greg got home, when we would debate which restaurant we wanted to eat at, and whether or not we wanted to see a movie afterwards.

I really thought my life was stressful back then. I had such a strong desire to fill one of the empty bedrooms in that home with nursery furniture. I fantasized that if I could just have a baby, then I could quit my job at the children's psychiatric home and be a stay-at-home mom, and my life would be so much better.

That year, we drove out to a Christmas tree farm, picked up a hand saw, and wandered through the acres until we found just the right one. Then my lumberjack hubby felled the tree and dragged it what seemed like two miles back to the car.

We got it home, wrestled it into the tree holder, and spent hours perfecting the location of each and every ornament. This was before the days of popsicle stick crafts from Sunday School, before the days of putting the breakable ornaments up high so little hands wouldn't grab them. After meticulously measuring the exact symmetry of each decoration, I placed a giant stash of previously wrapped presents under the tree, one of which happened to be a box of Whitman's chocolates I had bought for a coworker.

See that sweet-faced little dog in the photo? Back in those days she was a pampered pooch, and was used to royal treatment like baths and grooming and pretty little bows. (Now she's scraggly, stinky, and forgotten, I'm afraid). Perhaps she had a premonition of her future mistreatment, because while I was at work the next day, she sniffed out that box of chocolates and chowed down on it, and in the process knocked down the entire tree.

When I opened the front door that evening after work, I was greeted by the tip top of the tree right in my face. I wrestled my way in the door and attempted in vain to return the tree to its former glory.

I learned a lot of lessons that day, not the least of which was how to induce vomiting in a dog. I wouldn't have thought so at the time, but looking back now I think of the days in that house as happy ones, maybe tinged with a little sadness and longing for what I didn't have. The years we spent there were the last years we would have before children, the last days of freedom before the real work began. Had I known then the three little blessings that God would pour out on us, one after another, I could have spent less time worrying and hoping, and more time just enjoying the gifts I had already been given.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Unto us a Nephew is Born!

My baby sister had a baby this morning, Trystan Liam, who arrived after just two hours of labor and no pain medication. Way to go, Stace. I'm proud of you.

Here are his stats: He is nephew #5, and he is 1,200 miles away from his aunt who desperately wants to go see him. Oh, you wanted pounds and ounces? Right: 7 and 2.

Welcome to the world, baby.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Charlie Brown Christmas

This is the Christmas tree that Greg and I put up the first year that we were married. We called it our Charlie Brown Tree.

So scrawny and pitiful. There were probably six ornaments on the tree, and apparently only one present. The bow on top was recycled from my wedding bouquet. Don't you love that disco ball ornament? (Yeah, we still have that one.) What a magical thing it was to see the reflection of the disco ball against those lovely cinder block walls.

And I especially love how we had to squeeze the tree in between the kitchen table and the living room love seat, so no one could sit at the table without the tree poking them in the back of the head.

We were seniors in college, going to school full time and working part time, and we were B-R-O-K-E. We had an "apartment", if you want to call it that, that was part of the school's married housing dorm. It was actually two dorm rooms connected by a bathroom with a stove thrown haphazardly into one of them. No countertops, no cabinets to store kitchen stuff. Our pots and pans and dishes were stored in crates stacked on the floor, and we had two of those little dorm-sized refrigerators. The rent was a whopping $250 a month, and we used to say it was worth every bit of it and not a penny more.

The apartment was situated right smack in the middle of the men's dormitories, with whom we shared a laundry room and a prolific population of cockroaches. I'll never EVER forget the time I went to get my laundry out of the dryer, and there was a dead cockroach that had been dried right along with my clothes. Of course, I got some more quarters and started them over, and from then on I never forgot to look inside the machine before I put in my clothes.

Such fond Christmas memories. Feel free to share your own poverty-or-cockroach-related ones. Or any other for that matter.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far....

My son woke up this morning and informed me that the Cowboys would be playing tonight at 7, and wondered if he could stay up late and watch the game. A football game. He wants me to put on a football game while his Daddy is at work. He wants me to give up my sweet kids-to-bed-early-while-Mommy-mindlessly-watches-TV-Thursday-night-routine so he can watch a football game. He actually wants football to be on our television while his Daddy is not even home.

Well, obviously that's not going to happen. Still, I think it's sweet that he's growing up to be more and more like his Daddy every day.

my 2 favorite Cowboy fans

Monday, November 26, 2007

Say Cheese

Yes, it's that time of year again. Time for hanging our stockings by the chimney with care. Time for baking Christmas goodies. Time to pause and reflect on the wonder of this season, and the blessings of our families. Time to dress those families up in coordinated clothing and force them to smile and sit still for extended periods of time while we attempt to capture on film what we seldom capture in real life: children who are simultaneously clean, well-groomed, sitting unnaturally close together, smiling blissfully, keeping their hands to themselves.

I do this every year, and every year I have this vision in my head of a laughing, perfectly lit, professional quality, spontaneous moment of love and joy caught on film. What I get instead are offerings like these:

Really? Can't at least one of you look at the camera? And what exactly are you looking at?

Another favorite...

Hey, now that's just uncalled for. Nothing says 'Merry Christmas' like an blurred-but-potentially-obscene hand gesture on your Christmas card.

Needless to say, it went quickly downhill from there...

Merry Christmas...Blehhhhh.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ask and You Shall Receive


Yeah, baby. My favorite soup. In powder form. So from now on, I'm just going to name all the things that I want and then wait for them to arrive in the mail. Who knew I wielded so much power?
I promise to use my powers for good instead of evil.
Or maybe just to get free stuff.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Highlights

It was a very good Thanksgiving at our house. The grandparents came from Georgia, bearing gingerbread men....


...new furniture for Katie made by Grandpa...


and making cornbread dressing with "helpers".
Add some smoked turkey and eighteen casseroles, and you've got yourself a great time. We had twelve people for dinner, which is a formidable task when you only own eight chairs, but it was really fun. My cousin and his family came over, who I hadn't seen in years, and the kids ran and played while the adults chatted over coffee and red velvet cake.

This weekend it's cold and rainy; perfect weather for turkey soup, watching movies by a fake fire, and tree-decorating while listening to James Taylor Christmas music.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lord, make us truly thankful

Every year at Thanksgiving, I ask my children what they have to be thankful for. They are still small, and the most devastating thing in their lives so far has been to wait to eat until supper is ready, so most of their answers come at my prompting. "Mama and Daddy, Brother and Sister, Grandma and Grandpa, Grammy and Grandpa C.", they repeat, echoing their nightly prayers. When I try to emphasize all they truly have to be grateful for, the food on their table or the roof over their heads, their eyes just glaze over, uncomprehending.

The other day our World Vision gift catalog came in the mail. Inside are pages filled with real needs of real people throughout the world, and a price is listed next to each need, so you can "buy" it, and if you choose, send a card to someone describing the gift that was given in their honor. You can buy 5 ducks for $30 to provide eggs for a family in need or a well for $18,000 to provide water for a village, and pretty much anything in between.

I've been getting this catalog for a couple of years now, and every time I read through it, I am moved. Every year I vow to really focus on giving this Christmas and not getting caught up in another onslaught of toys. But eventually my thoughts turn to the Wal-Mart sale paper or the Toys R Us book, and I end up spending more on my children than they really need. And I do end up giving my charity donations, but as I do so, to be truthful, my mind is calculating my tax deduction more than the genuine needs of others.

So this year I decided to let the kids pick something out to send. Grace and Tommy sat down to peruse the catalog, and were astounded to learn that people needed things like vaccinations, school supplies, and seeds to plant crops. For one thing, it was hard to convince them that the crying baby in the picture needs those vaccinations to survive, and that by paying for them we would be helping her and not hurting her. But mainly, I think they just assumed that everyone has been given the same things they have. Things like school and homework and doctor visits to them seemed like things they have to endure, rather than gifts from God.

We put the catalog away and eventually, yes, they started looking some more at the Toys R Us flier. Then Grace and I went grocery shopping together for our Thanksgiving meal. We loaded down our cart with pounds of butter and pecans and sweet potatoes and green beans and cornbread mix and marshmallows, and then lugged it out to the car. I couldn't help but think of the excess of food that will be doled out at my home on Thursday, and while my heart was glad (especially for the sweet potatoes), I was again reminded to be thankful.

I asked Grace as we drove home what she is thankful for this year. Here is a partial list of things she named:

Our family.
Jesus.
Our house.
Good health.
Clean water to drink.
Enough food to eat.
A heater that works.
A country where we have freedom.
A school to go to.
Clothes to wear.
Shoes on our feet.

I could add so much more.
Thank You, Lord.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Evicted from the Internet

Four days without the Internet! Gasp! Has my life really come to this, that I found it such a difficult thing to bear? Weren't there years of my existence that happened before this thing was invented? What did I do back then? Maybe I should Google "Life before the Internet" to find out.

I had no idea I relied on my computer as much as I do. Then suddenly it was gone from my life until the AT&T repairman could fit me in, and I felt so lost. Payday came and went, and I couldn't balance my checkbook because I download my transactions online. I couldn't do my online bill-pay. I couldn't order my Christmas cards. (Sob) I couldn't even check my comments, y'all.

On about day 2, I couldn't take it any more and decided to go to Kinko's to score a fix. I actually walked into my home office, thinking I could Google to see where the nearest Kinko's might be.

O, Internet, you have infected my brain.

It was interesting to watch the kids go through withdrawal, too. They asked me about every 20 minutes the first day or so if they could play Noggin. I had to break the news to them about 12 times before it really sunk in. The birthday girl mourned the loss of her new Webkinz' cyber-shopping ability. The baby wanted to watch 'Wow Wow Wubbzy'. It was brutal. After a day or two, however, they adjusted. They actually ventured outdoors to play without being pushed. They rode their bikes. They interacted with each other. Then they fought, and my first impulse was to send one of them to have computer time so I could get some peace and quiet.

Well, today my computer geek hero finally arrived, punched exactly 12 buttons, and rode off into the sunset in his AT&T truck.

Now, at last, I can isolate myself from my family in peace. Until they find me, at least.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How to Throw a 7th Birthday Party

First, you must decide that you want a Fairy Tea Party above all other themed parties. Then you must invite all the girls from your Brownie troop, and request that they don their best ballet clothes. Next, the decorations:
To make a FairyLand out of an ordinary dining room, simply drape it in tulle, sprinkle silk flowers and candy on the table and floor, et voila.
After your home has been transformed into a magical land, you then await your guests by the window.

Don't forget to ask your mother when they are going to get here...

...every minute and a half for thirty minutes...

...while your brother waits for his friend's mom to come pick him up because he doesn't like all of this girly stuff.
When your guests arrive, have your mother tell them that they are not dressed for the fairy tea party, so they must go outside and find some suitable fairy wings* hidden in the enchanted wood (backyard).

*these fairy wings must be made by your mother out of pastel knee-high stockings, wire, hot glue, and spray glitter, but only after she checks at the Dollar Store to find that they don't carry fairy wings. After the wings are completed, your mother's friend must call to tell her she found fairy wings at the Dollar Store across town.
But they are worth the effort.
After your mother has taken a few dozen pictures of the fairy wings in action, the fairies must return inside to create their magical fairy wands. The wands must be covered in sticky glitter-glue, and the fairies must proceed to smear it on every surface in the kitchen.

Once everyone is suitably attired in head-to-toe glitter, they may enter the FairyLand Tea Room, where they must be served at least a pound of sugar apiece, in the form of cupcakes, ice cream, pink M&M's, clearance Halloween candy, and red fruit punch.

Make sure you include your baby sister in the partaking of the sugar.

After the sugar has been consumed and the presents have been opened, the fairies must proceed directly to the enchanted wood (backyard) and play soccer until their parents arrive.

There you have it. All the ingredients for a Happy Fairy Birthday Party.
Suggestions for how to clean up massive amounts of glitter are not included in these instructions.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dear Grace,

You're seven years old today! It's hard to believe that time has gone by so fast. It seems like just a few minutes ago, I was holding you in that hospital bed, with tears of relief and joy streaming down my face, looking upon you for the first time. It was in that moment that I fell instantly, irrevocably, irrationally in love with you.

We took you home and proceeded to photograph your every move, every outfit, every expression. I spent the first few months with my nose in a parenting book, trying to decipher every cry or need that you had. Thankfully, you not only survived my ministrations, you thrived, and you taught me quite a lot about trusting my own instincts.

It seems like you have grown in the blink of an eye. You are such a big girl now. You are smart. You love to read. You are an excellent artist. You have a beautiful face, a gorgeous smile, and most importantly, a kind and loving heart. You have a strong love for God and a compassionate spirit for others.

You are such a good big sister. I love how you care for Tommy and Katie, how you play with them, how you comfort them when they are sad, and help them when they need it. My favorite times are when the three of you dance in your jammies right before bed, your laughter filling the whole house.

Grace, you are a wonderful daughter. Every day, I give thanks to God that he sent you to be my child. You have brought such joy and laughter into my life. Today is a happy day as we celebrate the day you arrived into our lives, but at the same time, I feel sad that the years have flown by as quickly as they have. You are growing up, and while I am proud of the big girl you are becoming, I will always think of you as that sweet little red-faced nine pound four ounce pink bundle in my arms.

As strong and unbelievable as my love was for you in that first moment that you were born, I can honestly say that it has grown steadily stronger since. You are a precious treasure to me. You are truly a delight to my soul.

Love,
Mama



Saturday, November 10, 2007

She Sells She-Crabs by the Seashore

To answer the She-Crab Soup queries of my Canadian and Louisianian readers:

She-Crab Soup is a delicacy served in Charleston, South Carolina, made from female blue crabs and their eggs. The best place to get this soup is Hyman's Seafood Restaurant, and I just learned they have a pre-made mix you can order and just add frozen crab, so now I am wondering if they might send me some free soup mix for advertising their product to literally (2 or 3) dozens of people. (Hyman's Seafood: It's the Best Restaurant Ever.)

You can find the recipe here. Bear in mind of course that I have never tried to make this soup, so I can't vouch for this recipe. However, I have now been thinking about the soup all day, so I might give it a shot, if I can get my hands on some good frozen crab. (Frozen Crab: It's the Best Frozen Seafood Ever)

Now you know why I didn't go into advertising.

Friday, November 9, 2007

7 Random Things About Me Meme

Me me me me meme.

Ahh, a good topic for writers' block. Or is it bloggers' block. Either way.

1. My favorite soup is She-Crab Soup. I love it. I can't get it where I live. I pine for it. It is an unrequited love. I had a scrumptious quart of it last summer while I was on vacation in South Carolina, and I can still recall the taste. Mmmmm.

2. I rode on a tour bus for the 1996 'Colin Powell for President' campaign. Colin Powell wasn't actually on the bus. People kept coming up and asking for him, and when we said he wasn't there, but we were getting out a petition to get him on the ballot, people walked away disappointed. I was a college student who knew nothing about politics, but my boss was running the campaign and wanted me to ride along for 3 days, and it seemed like a good reason to skip class. Come to think of it, any reason was a good reason to skip class. Plus there was free food, so there you have it. My short career in politics.

3. I hardly ever leave the house with everything I need for my destination. I almost always have to turn around in the neighbors' driveway and come back to get something. The other day I did this 3 times.

4. I am frequently late. See #3.

5. I take a bag of Twizzlers on every long road trip. Also, we always eat at Cracker Barrel on the way home.

6. I get the same thing at Cracker Barrel every time I eat there. Grilled chicken tenderloin on grilled sourdough bread, squash or sweet potato casserole and sweet tea. Chocolate cobbler for dessert if there's room.

7. Trying to think of a non-food-related thing....I know all the words to Beethoven's 9th Symphony in German. I sang it in college choir, and for some reason it has chosen to stay in my brain. I can't remember where my keys are, but this I can recall.

Anyway, since this I am the last person on the internet to complete this meme, there is no one else to tag. I propose that we start a new one called "The 7 Most Boring Things About Me", which is what this post was frequently veering toward to begin with.

Here's a sample for you of the boring things I thought of while writing this post: 1. I still have my natural hair color. 2. I love 'The War' documentary on PBS. (hey, stop yawning!)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Things I am Thankful For Today

Clean house.
Laundry done.
Kids in bed.
Pumpkin-scented candle.
Clean sheets.
Down comforter.
Good book.

My precious new healthy baby nephew, Brody Austin, whose birthday is today. (and praise God his mom is healthy, too)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Suburbia Morning News

Workday Declared at Local Eyesore

SUBURBIA, TX - In a quiet little neighborhood in the south part of town, there is one house on one street that is known to all the neighbors. At first glance, the house appears to be vacant, due to the layers of leaves covering the tall and unkempt grass, but after peering in through the windows, it becomes clear that the home is in fact inhabited by an extremely messy family.

"They mostly keep to themselves," said one of the neighbors, speaking on terms of anonymity. "I'll tell you one thing, I never see them doing yard work. Most of the time, I see the husband going to and from work, and every time I see the woman, she is trying to hurry those kids in and out of the minivan."

The Suburbia Morning News was able to land an exclusive interview with one of the residents of the home, who would only identify herself as Chrissy.

"I know the place is a mess," she said defensively. "I went on a trip a few weeks ago, and they just trashed the whole house while I was gone. I've been trying to catch up with the laundry, but then the kids got sick, and I just haven't had time to get everything cleaned up, okay?"

Although her claims of not having enough time seemed sincere, our investigative report has uncovered that 'Chrissy' (if that is her real name) in fact spends much of her time on the computer. She reportedly has a website where she inflicts her readers with picture after picture of her family and her vacations. After obtaining her internet records, we have learned that she spends a marginal amount of time on the writing of her blog (which can be surmised by her incoherent and badly worded posts), yet she compulsively checks her comments and site meter in a pathetic display of her need for the approval of others. She spends the remainder of her time online reading other people's blogs and leaving poorly-spelled comments for them to decipher.

According to city records, the residence has been cited in the past for having a vandalized mailbox, as well as an unruly lawn. It would appear that the grass has only been cut after receiving a warning letter from the city, and based on our observations, another letter appears imminent. 'Chrissy' referred us to her husband to discuss these infractions, but he could not be reached for comment.

As a result of our investigation, the family has declared a Cleanup Day, starting Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. Reportedly it will start with laundry, and will be followed by a thorough cleaning of the floors and bathrooms, which are in a terrible state. Chrissy has stated she expects to have very little cooperation from the other residents of the home, whom she conveniently blames for much of the mess.

We have learned from a reliable source that the family is planning to host a birthday party in the home on next weekend. Our source also claims that she dropped her child off for a playdate at the home last week, and was shocked to discover that the girl had been exposed to a wicked virus. We can only hope the home will be sufficiently disinfected during this Cleanup Day, or else untold numbers of partygoers could be affected.


(this post was written for the Monday Mission, and the assignment was to write in the style of a news article. Go to Painted Maypole's if you want to read some more. Happy Monday!)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sick of Candy

Okay, I woke up this morning with a candy hangover. Seriously. My neighbor was handing out candy last night, and for some reason she gave my youngest child of those gigantic Hershey bars. The really big one. The other kids gave a collective "Oooooh" in appreciation, and my husband immediately responded, "Oh, that is mine."

His it was, half of it, and the other half was mine, all mine. So yummy. I need to confess to you right now that I am a total candy junkie. I ate candy for breakfast today, people. Butterfingers, with milk. It's really bad. I am powerless to control my addiction. Do they have a 12 step program for sugaraholics?

Anyway, apparently the amount of caffeine contained in half of a giant Hershey bar is just enough to keep me awake until 1:30 a.m. reading people's blogs, but not enough to keep me awake with enough energy to do anything productive, like last night's dishes or yesterday's laundry. So of course, this morning was rough. Hence the need for Butterfingers for breakfast. It's a vicious cycle.

Meanwhile, Katie has been acting horribly for the last two days. She has been fighting with everyone, whining, complaining, and just generally uncooperative. She had a friend over to play today and she was just being absolutely terrible. At one point, she was whining like a puppy dog. Being the nurturing, intuitive mother that I am, I fussed at her for not speaking like a big girl, and told her she needed to stop that incessant whining, and when I picked her up to put her in time out, I discovered she was burning up. 101.9! Oh, I'm just the mother of the year.

A teaspoon of Tylenol and a nap later, she is back to her genial self for now. And she's eating a box of yellow and red Nerds. I hope that doesn't come back to haunt me later. Literally.

Edited to add: Tommy joined the quarantine this evening with a fever of his own. Looks like I'm going to need a lot of chocolate to get me through this.... Meanwhile, my friend who let her kid come over here to play is really loving me right now.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Overheard

Katie: Mama, whass dat book?

Me: That's the Bible.

Katie: Tells me so?


---------

Tommy's standard answer to the question, "What do you want for breakfast?":

"A cinnamon waffle cut up in wittle pieces with syrup on the pwate and syrup on the waffle."

Every time I've asked him for about the last year and a half. He's a very specific child.


----------


Last night at the dinner table:


Grace: Mama, why is there a bear on the Jungle Book movie when bears don't live in the jungle?

Me: I have no answer to that.

---------

Today I'm getting everyone's Halloween costumes ready. I've informed the kids they are shopping in their own closets this year (again) because we have fifty dress-up outfits. I'm thinking of putting together a costume of my own for the first time in years. I'm going as laundry. Feel free to steal it. I'm cutting a hole in a dollar store laundry basket, putting it around my waist, filling it with laundry, and safety pinning socks and a dryer sheet to my shirt. I thought about adding fairy wings and going as the laundry fairy, a mythical creature that I am always alluding to at my house. Example: "Why are these clothes on the floor? Did you think the laundry fairy was going to come by and get them?"

Total cost for the costume: $1.00

Embarrassing myself at Bible Study tomorrow morning when I'm the only one who shows up in costume: priceless.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Public Appearances

In life, I have discovered, unfortunately, that it is often necessary to take my children out in public. We tend to make a regular practice of it, actually. Frequently, our public outings go well, and we get our shopping or errands done without attracting too much attention to ourselves. My children, in my opinion, are generally well behaved out in public.

Now I'm not saying they don't have their moments. I can personally name at least 10 retail establishments in a five mile radius where I have carried one or more of my children screaming out of the store. In fact, I had the pleasure of doing so in Sears just earlier this week, after a mishap concerning a Spiderman coat. (They had all of the sizes except the one that fit, it seemed, and my son could not contain his disappointment.) The scenes my children can and do cause in public are brutal. They are not fun. And they are obvious to all who witness them.

Today, that did not happen. Today, I took my children on the train to go to the zoo, and they sat in their seats and chattered happily for the 40 minute ride. They exclaimed over the sights flying by outside the window: "Oh, a tunnel!" or "Here comes a bridge!" or "Look at the skyscraper!", but I did not really see this as misbehavior. In fact, it was a pretty pleasant, although crowded, ride.

When we boarded the train, it was difficult to find four seats together. A young man dressed as a thug stood up and gave me his seat, which allowed the four of us to sit close together. (On a side note, I have found that young men dressed as thugs on the train are always the nicest people. They always help me lift my stroller on and off the train or give me their seats. Every time. Go figure.) At the same time that we were sitting, an older middle-aged woman was heading toward the same seats. We got there first, and I apologized awkwardly, figuring since we were four people and she was one, and there were other single seats available, it really wasn't that much of a slight. Apparently it was.

We proceeded on our train ride, the children conversing at an excited, but reasonable decibel, and the woman standing near us, scowling and clinging to a pole. At one point, Tommy needed to be corrected, and I did so, and he cried. Loudly. But just for a moment. He caught my eye, which was giving him a mean Mommy look, and he immediately quieted down. (This is huge progress for him, by the way, especially compared to the Sears incident, and I was pleased.) The woman swore loudly, glancing over her shoulder at my son, shaking her head as if she was disgusted.

Tommy and I exchanged glances across the aisle, I smiled at him to let him know that he was fine, reminded him to keep his voice down on the train, and the ride continued as before. Twenty minutes later, the woman disembarked at her stop. Before she exited the train, she turned and said pointedly, "I sure hope those children don't treat your mother the way they have treated me!" and she got off in a huff.

Huh?

Now, I know there are crazy people on the train. Crazy and rude. In fact, another young man dressed as a thug made it a point to remind me of this as I picked my jaw up off the floor. I know that this woman clearly had some issues that didn't have anything to do with us. But it stayed in my mind for the rest of the day, and I found myself questioning my perception of what really happened. Were they really being too loud, and I'm just so used to the noise level that I don't notice it any more? Do my children seem obnoxious to the general public, while I think their behavior is fine?

I've been around people who let their kids run wild. I see these children misbehaving, and I watch their parents just sit there, oblivious. I get annoyed at these people. Just last week, when I was enjoying a few days without my kids, a woman near me was holding a screaming toddler and it grated my nerves. It wasn't that the baby was misbehaving, he was doing what babies do, and I could not stand it. I found myself muttering that she should just leave. But today, I found myself wondering if I had become that oblivious parent.

Today, my children were just doing what children do. They were talking. They were laughing. They were playing. And it was offensive to this woman.

Obviously, she was way out of line. However, she did strike a nerve in my own heart, revealing to me again my own sense of uncertainty when it comes to the huge responsibility that is Parenting. That nerve is a tender one, and it has been struck before, on playdates with super strict moms or in Sears when my child is having an absolute meltdown. I can't quite get that nerve to heal, it seems.

Thankfully, on the train ride home, there were some truly obnoxious children running up and down the aisle, and I smiled proudly to see my brood sitting obediently in their seats. It restored my faith in my own parenting back its normal level of inadequacy.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

For the Last Time

This really is the last day I post on this trip, I swear. To make up for the creepy spider from yesterday:



We continued our outing on Saturday by going just outside the park to Terlingua, TX for lunch at a Mexican restaurant (what else) and to buy junky souvenirs. There were a lot of weather-worn buildings and people, as well as an old cemetery, and here are some of my favorite photos:





We also did a little prison ministry. Actually, these are my goofy friends, Julie and Laura.

We returned Saturday afternoon for some more good cooking at the campsite, one more beautiful sunset coloring the mountains orange, more laughing and carrying on until the ranger shushed us, some more stargazing before going to bed, and one last visit from the skunk in the middle of the night before it was time to go home. The kids asked me why I never got a picture of the skunk. He came around almost every night, sniffing at our tent, and the ranger told us that if you keep food in your tent, the skunk knows how to unzip it with his nose. Well, thankfully we didn't have an 'encounter', but I wasn't about to chase it with a camera, either.
(the campsite at sunset, with Casa Grande Peak looming over)
My sister and I squeezed in one last hike on Sunday morning, a 5.2 mile round trip to the Window, which ends at the top of a waterfall.
(yes, that's me on another cliff, and Wendy didn't like it one bit)

That last hike was a worshipful one, fitting for a Sunday morning. We were just continually amazed at the beauty of God's creation, and I can't express how moving it was. At one point in particular, we came into a section of the trail that was just filled with orange and black butterflies. They were fluttering all around our heads, landing on plants, sitting on rocks, and it was just amazing.

At the very end of our hike, we were surprised by a doe and her two fawns, and it was just the perfect ending to a perfect vacation.


Well, if you've hung in there until this end of this, you must be either related to me or very resilient. Thanks for reading all of it, and I'll be writing about tantrums again very soon, most likely.

The kiddos

The kiddos

Kidney Peril Updates

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