Saturday, December 29, 2007

A LETTER TO FRITO LAY'S...

December 29, 2007


Dear Chester Cheeto,

First, thank you.

Thank you for your (NATURAL) White Cheddar Cheetos puffs. They are simply out of this world.

I enjoy these delicious puffs of white cheddary goodness for a number of reasons.

First, because they are WHITE cheddar, they do not leave an orange residue on my hands or mouth when I have eaten a few (dozen). They still leave a powdery residue but it doesn't show as badly when I wipe my hands on my pants.

Second, they are NATURAL - it says so right on the bag. Surely, that means they are a healthy snack. Right? So I can eat as many as I want. Right?

Third, they are just so darn delicious. But therein lies the problem.

See I can't stop eating them. I have been known to eat a standard size bag, which is 8.5 ounces, in two or three sittings. As I munch away on them, letting the powder build up on my fingers (invisibly of course) and wiping my hands on my pants, allowing my teeth to become coated in the (NATURAL) powder of white cheddar; I lose all track of time and reality. I allow myself to think I'm having a (NATURAL) snack.

I mean, at least I'm not eating the WHOLE bag in one sitting. That would be outrageous.

Right?

Imagine my surprise though, when I read the "Nutrition Facts" on the back of my bag of White Cheddar Cheetos Puffs and saw that there were "about 9" servings per container.

NINE?!!?

So that leads me to assume that there are people out there who actually stop eating these delicious powdery puffs after enjoying only "About 32 pieces."

ASTOUNDING!!

That also leads me to assume that this 8.5 ounce bag is not meant to be a "Snack size bag! Great for lunch boxes and after school snacks!"

OOOPS!!

I guess a snack size bag would be more like...say....1.5 ounces? (Sigh...that seems so small)

Which leads me to my request.

Could you please, PLEASE, in the name of all that is good and holy (and low fat and healthy) start making SNACK SIZE bags of NATURAL White Cheddar Cheetos Puffs?

I had actually stopped buying the NATURAL White Cheddar Cheetos Puffs for a long while because I could not trust myself to behave like a rational human being while they were in the house. I only just bought them this week to share with our Christmas company.

I'm generous like that.

So, if you would PLEASE start making them in snack size bags, I will start buying them again.


And again, and again, and again.


I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours covered in White Cheddary Goodness,

HW

Thursday, December 27, 2007

...AS LONG AS I CAN HAVE YOU HERE WITH ME, I'D MUCH RATHER BE FOREVER IN BLUE JEANS BABE...

Blue jeans.

The quintessential comfort wear. The all purpose clothing. Pair them with a sweater for a day of shopping; a sleek blouse for a date with your husband; a school t-shirt and tennis shoes to sit on the bleachers at you kids' sporting events.

Ah, blue jeans. We all love them.

Except, well...I don't. At least not anymore.

In high school, back when Calvin Kleins were the most coveted article of clothing, I wore jeans everyday. Lee jeans. I never had Calvin Klein jeans. I think I had some Gloria Vanderbilt and some Vidal Sassoon (sp?), but no Calvins. Mostly Lee jeans. And I wore them with oxford blouses or polos, tucked in, a matching belt and white tennis shoes - the whiter the better. And we purposely bought our jeans too long so we could cuff them.

I guess I was semi-preppy. Not completely preppy because none of my tops had a little alligator on them.

Jeans were so easy back then. We bought our size, paired them with the appropriate top, made sure they were cuffed just right, shielded our eyes from the glare of our ultra white shoes, and went on our way.

Ah, the good old days.

Now jeans are just...well...stressful. Jeans have become a thorn in my side. My back side to be exact, and my waist and my thighs.

Let's start with the waist. Could waist bands get any lower? The first time I bought "below the waist" jeans, I knew I was entering territory that really should be off limits for 40 year old mothers of teenagers. Actually for any 40-year-old. It is not attractive to lift your arms and have your stomach show because your jeans are sitting too low on your body. Of course, not MUCH of your stomach shows if you happen to be wearing high waisted under pants, which evidently are not the foundation garment of choice when wearing the latest style of jeans. That is all I'll say about that.

When I wear the low waist jeans, as I am today because that's all that's out there to buy, I spend my day feeling as those I'm about to lose my britches, therefore constantly pulling up on my belt loops; or fearing that if I bend over I'm going to expose my backside to my children which would certainly send them running from the room, hands covering their innocent faces as they scream "MY EYES!! MY EYES!!" Or at least put them in therapy for a good while.

I do not need this added stress in my life right now.

Teenagers are used to these low waist bands because that is all they know.

But I am not a teenager. Nor do I want to dress like a teenager. I do not want to dress like my 13-year-old daughter. Not that I don't think she looks darn cute all the time, but she does not need a mother that dresses like her. She needs a mother that dresses like a mom. A mom who tries to look hip and stylish while still maintaining some sense of sophistication and appreciation for this phase of life. A mom that looks like a mom without wearing "mom" jeans. A difficult task.


Now we will talk about the "cut" of the jeans. There's boot cut, straight leg, flare, extra flare. Oh and the boyfriend jean. I don't know what in the world a boyfriend jean is. Since I don't have a boyfriend, I'm not going to worry myself over that.

I do know that the boot cut is made with a little flare at the bottom and is usually pretty long so you can wear them with those really nifty pointy, high heeled boots. Those boots that scare me.

Those boots that look so cute and, alright, sexy, but that I can't bring myself to buy because I simply cannot see myself spending a day in boots that squish my toes together and bring on a bout of vertigo. The kind of boot that would surely make my chiropractor and my podiatrist frown. If I had a chiropractor or a podiatrist.

But if you buy boot cut jeans, you almost have to have some sort of boot to wear with them to achieve The Look. Another level of stress in the blue jean dilemma.

Straight leg jeans are making a comeback. And I like those ok. These are made shorter than the boot cut jean, because they are meant to be worn with those cute little ballet flats. You know the ones that have no arch or support of any kind, therefore the enemy of all podiatrists, I'm sure; and are supposed to be worn without socks regardless of the temperatures outside. I have my straight legs on now. With socks and a pair of "mom" slip on shoes. Seems no matter how hard I try, I can't achieve The Look with any of my jeans. There is always one element of The Look that I can't pull off.

The Look. That is the problem. Designers are making jeans for a certain look. A look that can only be achieved by a certain kind of woman.

I am not that kind of woman; though I certainly envy that kind of woman.

I am just not cut out for today's styles.

I blame it on my jean-eology.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

THE WRONGNESS OF IT ALL

Last week I heard the local news report the death of a Marine corporal in Iraq. He was from a tiny town near where I went to grade school. I remember thinking two things: "That's close to home" and "Corporal? That means he was very young."

This morning, the news reported that the body of this 21-year-old marine had arrived home and that his visitation and funeral would be held at the local high school. This made me think two things: "How tragic for parents to have to wait for their child's body to 'arrive home.'" and "High school? How heart wrenching."

There are, in my mind two reasons for the funeral to be at the high school.

First, in a tiny town like this there would be no other place big enough to hold the crowd of people coming to pay their respects. As one who has always lived in small towns, I think I am safe in saying that in this small town, most people knew this young man. They played sports with him. Or taught him in school or Sunday school. Maybe they gave him his first job. Maybe they disciplined him for adolescent mischief. Maybe they shared kisses with him after a high school dance. Maybe they drove around with him on Friday nights, cruising the small town square. Maybe they walked down the aisle with him for graduation. Or they worked with his parents. Or they baby sat for him. Somehow, they knew him. That is the nature of a small town. And in cases like this, I think it would be a comfort to his parents to have "everybody know everybody."

But to me the other reason for having his funeral at the high school is more heart wrenching.

High school was likely his most recent milestone in life.

Until he fought and died for his country.

A mere 3 years ago, he was probably sitting in class in a small school building in the heart of Amish country, surrounded by corn fields and family owned businesses; counting the days until Christmas break. Counting the days until graduation. A mere 3 years ago, he was planning his weekend. Basketball? Video games? Final exams? A mere 3 years ago, could he have envisioned life beyond this rural community? Could he envision the stark difference he would be facing when he arrived in Iraq? A mere 3 years ago, did he even know he would become a marine?

His funeral was not held at the church where he got married, because he had not yet had the chance to get married.

His funeral was not held at the church where his child was baptized because he had not yet had the chance to have a child.

He will not have co-workers at his funeral, because his co-workers are still in Iraq fighting this war. And he had not yet had the chance to decide on a civilian lifestyle, a civilian job where he would move on to another set of significant relationships.

He was still in the phase of life where his most significant relationships, besides his fellow marines, and his family, were most likely high school friends. Because that was his most recent milestone in life.

Until he fought and died for his country.

This is not about the rightness or wrongness of this war. Nor is it about the rightness or wrongness of the man who presides in The Oval Office.

It is about the wrongness of a life being cut short before milestones are reached. It is about the wrongness of a family having to wait for the body of their loved one to arrive home. It is about the wrongness of a mother having her heart wrenched out of her. It is about the wrongness of a father looking at the body of his son... marine... hero, and seeing a baby taking his first steps, a 5-year-old at a tee ball game, a teenager driving for the first time. It is about the wrongness of knowing there will never be grandchildren by him. There will never be another Christmas with him

It is about the wrongness of having to wonder, forever, about your child's last terrifying moments in life. Did he cry for his mother? Did he cry for a young sweetheart?

As one of our ministers said recently, death just feels wrong. No matter when, no matter who, there is a wrongness to death. To somebody, in some way, for some reason, there is a wrongness to any death.

And so today, as my son walked out the door, to get in the car with his best friend, and drive away to school, I wanted to follow him. Not to keep him at home, but to engrave in my mind his long lanky frame, backpack and wrestling bag both on the same shoulder, ball cap, high tops, football coat unbuttoned despite the freezing temperature....climbing into the car to head off to his day.

But I just stood at the door and watched. And saw a chubby toddler pushing a plastic lawnmower, a 6-year-old at a Chicago Bulls game, a 7th grader who broke his finger in kickball, a 16-year-old learning to drive....

And I thought of a heartbroken mother in a tiny town in the middle of Amish country who knows what it means to measure milestones, to measure life, by the blink of an eye.

Friday, November 30, 2007

BUYIN' THE BLING...

By noon today I WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE BEEN breathing easy after a frustrating week.

First there was the annual checkup. By the way, I almost went to that a day early. Wouldn't that have been fun? I would have looked pretty eager...

Yesterday my daughter stayed home sick from school. But I also had to go for my annual mammogram. Perhaps we'll talk about that another time.

Daughter is still home sick today, but I had to go to the grade school to do an ArtsPals presentation. I am involved in this group where we work with our Downtown Arts Council to present classic works of art to grade school students. I chose 3rd grade because my memories of 3rd graders are happy ones. The print was to be at the school waiting for me, and I was told "no I shouldn't pick it up early because somebody else may need it...." which didn't really make sense to me because each print was specifically chosen for each class and the schedules of each presenter were also carefully relayed to other presenters. It really went against my nature not to have the print at home for a few days so I could become very comfortable with my presentation.

Whatever.

The print wasn't at the school today.

I know!! Can you believe it? Those prints are NOT supposed to leave the school. I'm tellin'.

I was all ready with two activities for the kids to do that would familiarize them with the techniques the artist used. I had my note cards all ready to prompt discussion. I had traded e-mails with the teacher to schedule 30 minutes out of her busy teaching schedule.

And no painting.

So I told the teacher I could choose a different print and wing it, and there would be no activities, or re-schedule. We chose to re-schedule because the kids would really benefit more with corresponding activities. I was truly embarrassed and felt terrible for the mistake. I am still trying to get the bottom of the missing print.

So I left the school mumbling under my breath about "I thought I'd have this over with today and now I have to plan another day for this and what if I don't find the print for the TWO other presentations I already had scheduled for next week, and this wouldn't have happened if I'd been allowed to get the print two days ago so that I could be fully prepared and who would have the print anyway? Nobody else is supposed to present that piece. It is a THIRD GRADE print, for Pete's sake, and nobody else is scheduled to present it and so much for keeping each other informed on our schedules if somebody is going to take my print when I need it....grumble, grumble, grumble....

Then I drove to the mall because we are going to the company Christmas party tonight, and I "needed" some stuff to finish off my outfit. I needed some "diamond" earrings to go with my sparkly sweater. I found some very nice faux bling for around 10 dollars. I found some very nice black suede flats with a little shiny black leather on the toes, and finished with a bow. I really wanted the leopard print ones but they didn't have my size. Boy those were cute.

And I found a darling little party purse. It's red.

And that right there is the problem.

I just bought my fourth red purse.

I know. I have issues.

My first red purse was a gift from my daughter. She was about 8 when I showed her this purse I liked, so she got it for me for Christmas. A week before Christmas she said "Mommy I can't tell you what I got you, but it's red and it hangs from your shoulder." Tricky, wasn't she?

Then there is the more-maroon-than-red, red purse. It's a great size and shape and just an all around great purse. Can't remember where or when I got it, but I love it.

Then there is THE red purse. From Herod's. Of London. It is a darling purse and oh-so-chic. But it is too big and...um...sporty... for a holiday party.

Thus, the new red purse today. It is entirely too small for me to carry to anything but an office party, because I like BIG purses. But it is exactly what I had in mind and will be a great accent to my all black outfit. Well, all black except for the bling on my sweater and my ears.

So there you have it.

I've been a naughty, naughty girl.

Don't tell Santa.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I CAN'T BELIEVE I SAID THAT....

I'm going to give you gentlemen a chance to leave the blog because you won't be interested in this. Or if you are, you won't be able to relate. Or you might be embarrassed. So why don't you head on over to espn.com, or cnn.com, or the sofa and put your feet up with the paper. Go on. Scoot. This is girl talk.

Any men left? Are they all gone?

Ok. Good.

Today was my annual checkup. Yeah. I know. We all love them. My doctor schedules them for 9:30 or 1:30 so that they are the first appointment of his morning; or the first one after lunch, so we ladies don't have to wait very long.

You know. For the fun to begin.

I think that's really nice of him, actually. This is a family doctor, so he is also seeing babies, elderly people, men, women. So he sets aside certain times of each week, just for women to have their annual exam.

I really didn't have to wait long. I had to wait for a couple of drug reps to get done with him. My apologies to drug reps, but this drives me crazy. I especially wasn't thrilled to step on the scale while the drug reps were lingering in the hall right beside it.

Then I had to wait for a sweet older lady to give the doctor a bucket of homemade Christmas treats. It's that time of year. He actually gave her a hug and kissed her cheek for it.

Other than that, not a bad wait.

I always go to my annual check-up with a list of questions. And my doctor knows this about me, and I think he appreciates that I come prepared. Some years the list has been quite long. Today, he looked at my little index card and said "That's it?" And I said "Yep, no legal pad this time..."

So we get through all my questions (only 6 this year) and while I'm getting ready to "assume the position" I ask him if the socks are still on the stirrups.

See, he used to keep these socks on the stirrups so they'd be warm for women who were barefoot. They were just white men's crew socks. I always thought they looked tacky, even though I commended him for his efforts.

Turns out the socks are gone because some drug company has made stirrup covers, advertising a drug of course. I think it was Boniva. These covers looked like those little mittens you put on newborn babies so they won't scratch themselves. Except they were bigger.

I looked at the nurse and said "Those are still not very pretty. He needs pink fuzzy socks. You know? Soft pastel things that women will enjoy."

And from somewhere at the end of the table, doctor B says "Ok. I have until next November to get pink fuzzy socks. But you better notice them if I do that for you."

So I said "Oh sure, Dr. B. whatever it takes to make this experience better for YOU."

And he started laughing so hard he had to scoot his stool away from the table to compose himself.

Yep. I bet he'll remember today's visit for a while.

Lucky me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

THE MRI...

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (or Mom's Really Irrational)

Ever have one?

I had one yesterday. My second in 10 years. On my brain.

I've been having terrible dizziness and light headedness for about 6 weeks. The last time this started, my family doctor referred me to a great neurologist and she started me on some medication that helped tremendously. A few years ago, we started tapering off the dosage, and I did fine, but now the dizziness is back. I hope, pray, we can just increase the medicine again, but Dr. S wants me to undergo a few tests to rule out some things. I tried to explain what my self diagnosis was and that increasing my dosage was all that was needed; but she insisted on having it her way. Something about all those years in medical school and having so much intricate knowledge about how my brain works, blah, blah, blah, evidently makes her think she is right about this.

Whatever.

So the MRI. When they scheduled it, the nurse asked if I'd need a sedative to help me, in case I was claustrophobic. I said no but that I was dreading the noise more than anything. I know. Weird. The nurse seemed to think so too. But I am VERY sensitive to loud noises, due to my migraines, and that is what I could remember from my previous MRI. That machine is VERY loud. Plus, if they medicated me, I would be loopy for a while and I'd need somebody to go with me and I didn't think that was necessary.

So I arrive at the Imaging Center "15 minutes early to fill out some forms" only to find I was answering the same questions on the form that they had asked me over the phone on my "pre-screening call." Seriously. What's that about?

I changed into a gown and scrub pants. Let me just say - those scrubs are very comfortable. Are you allowed to wear those if you aren't in the medical field? Cause I totally am thinking of getting some. I mean if there's not a law or something.

So then I walk into the Imaging Room and look at the machine and all my confidence melts away. Not only does the memory of the noise start flooding back, but I see the table I will be lying on. It is about as wide as our piano bench. When you are having dizziness and balance issues, you do not want to be lying on a piano bench that will then be raised even further off the groud so they can scoot you into the tube.

Then the tech says I had to have something for my ears - "radio, television, or ear plugs." When I said "ear plugs, please," She said "REALLY?" I don't bother to explain that the noise of radio or television mixed with the EXTREME noise of the machine would be just the thing to send me into a migraine. So I put my ear plugs in and lie down. Then she brings the face cage down and I start sweating and thinking "I don't remember THIS; this isn't going to work...I cannot do this." Seriously it was like that thing they put on Hannibal Lector -is it Lector or Lecter? Hannibal the Cannibal - in those horrible Silence of the Lambs movies. Then she sticks these little pads up under the cage over my ears. I don't know if that was to further protect my ears from the noise of if it was to prevent me from moving my head. But I suddenly start feeling very helpless.
All this time I'm lying on the piano bench grasping the edges because my dizziness and panic have made me feel like I'm going to fall off.

Then she gives me this little squeezie thing and says "squeeze this if you need to come out. Of course if you sqeeze it; it will scare me to death."

Nice.

I tell her "I don't mean to be any trouble, but I am just much more anxious about this than I thought I'd be." So she says to just try thinking of other things "Are you preparing Thanksgiving dinner at home?"

"No."

"Do you work?"

"No."

"Wow you do have an easy life."

Now that kind of ticks me off but I can't jump up and throttle her because I am restrained with the face mask thingee. But it did give me an idea for a blog post.

So in I scoot to the middle of the tube. Ironically I start to feel more comfortable in there because I do not have the sensation that I am going to fall off the table. Plus there was a little fan blowing all around in there and the cool air felt nice. Hot flashes and panic don't mix.

And then the noise.

Good Lord the noise. There were four basic noises: staticky radio on high volume, obnoxious buzzer, jackhammer, and what I called the cobbler's bench, because it made me think of the little wooden pounding board (cobbler's bench) my kids had when they were little. The noises came in patterns. For one portion there would be seven loud buzzes in my right ear, then seven poundings from the cobbler's bench in my left. Seven buzzes, seven pounds. That went on for awhile.

Then the static.

Then the buzzing.

Then the jackhammer.

Then the pounding.

Thirty minutes of that, then I was scotted out so they could inject me with some dye; then scooted me back in for another 15 minutes.

Static.
Buzz.
Jackhammer.
Pound.

Repeat.

All the while I'm in there I try to keep my mind busy, first by singing praise songs in my head, then by thinking of my Christmas shopping list, then by composing blog posts. I spent some time trying to figure out how to scratch my chin without moving. Finally I decided to play some word games and went through the alphabet and came up with a noun, verb and adjective for each letter. I tried to think of obtuse words. I know. Weird again. But you spend forty five minutes restrained in a tube and see where your mind goes. Also, tell my what you do when your chin starts to itch.

After it was all over, she showed me some of the pictures, especially of my inner ear, where she had been instructed to get several shots. I tried really hard to see if there were any suspicious spots on the screen but... well... what do I know?

As I was leaving the parking lot, my husband called to ask how it went and to ask "So did they find a brain?"

Um...I forgot to ask.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I AM WITHOUT WORDS...

But apparently my son isn't.

Each week or so, he has to write a paragraph for English. I do not see these paragraphs until I sit down at the computer to proof read them for him. I have been struck by his use of words, his apparent ease in putting his thoughts on paper. At 16, he is a man of few words much of the time. But apparently when asked to put words to paper, he just has a way.

This past weekend, he asked me once again to proof read his assignment. The assignment was to write about your greatest moment, and what you regret in life. I asked him, before he started, "Are you going to write about winning regionals in wrestling?" And he said, "No, because I don't think I've had my greatest moment yet."

Below, is what I found, untouched by adult hands, when I pulled his paper up on the computer. I simply read it and sat silently for a moment and said to the empty room "I am without words." This is reprinted with Blake's permission.

Still waters run deep.





Blake W_ _ _
English 2

Persuasive Paper

11/17/07



In my short life I have experienced many highs and many lows. Has there been a moment or situation in my life that I would change or undo? Have I ever been so close to rock bottom that I would change a moment in my life? On a lighter note; what is my greatest moment? When have I been at my best? When have I been at the top?
American chess player and a grandmaster, Robert Byrne once said “The purpose of life is a life of purpose”. If we as a society truly live lives of purpose then why change something that has a purpose? I would not want to change one thing in my past nor would I omit any event, situation, or even second of my 16 year long life. Just imagine if everyone on this planet walked around regretting past events in there lives. Our planet would be a very unhappy place.
Today, the current average of years a human being will live is 67. I am 16 years old. With my calculations I have exactly 51 years of life remaining on my timer. That is a prolonged amount of time remaining on my clock. But, what is the best moment of my first 16 years? When was I closest to the clouds? Truthfully, I don’t believe I’ve had my greatest moment. I certainly hope that is the case. If one was to have a greatest moment what is there to look forward to? Why continue to strive to be the greatest? What is the motivation to be the best if you have already done your best? I feel that a human being cannot have one great moment. There is simply no way to choose that one great moment.
Overall, No one should go about their life regretting or second guessing every other move they have made. Why torment yourself with those negative thoughts? Also, why choose one great moment that defines your life on earth? Shouldn’t all of us want to make each new day our best and forget about the problems of yesterday? I feel we should.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

LET'S TALK ABOUT "DOG"...

This morning while I fixed breakfast I was watching Fox News. Dog the Bounty Hunter was on it. My husband walked through and said "I can't believe THIS is what our news coverage is all about..."

Basically Dog the Bounty Hunter is in the news for using the N word. A despicable word, a word of hate. He used it several times in a phone conversation to his son; going into a rant about why his son should not date a Black woman "because we use the N word and I won't have our life's work destroyed by someone hearing that and turning it over to the National Enquirer." So his son taped the conversation and sold the tape to the National Enquirer.

Thanksgiving Dinner will be interesting at the Dog House.

There are many many things I would consider questionable about Dog the Bounty Hunter. And I admit I list these without knowing the man personally:

1. He obviously lacks common sense and common courtesy. He failed to jump to the obvious conclusion: STOP USING THE N WORD. Seems he had decided it would be easier to surround himself with other people who accept such vile language than it would be to clean up his act and enlighten himself.

2. He is self-centered. He had chosen to pressure his son to end a relationship that he perceived would impact negatively on his own career. Nice dad.

3. His name. Come on, folks. Where else would it be considered a positive thing to be called a dog?

4. His hair. I am nearly without words on this. Is it a mullet? Is it a mullet gone wrong? Is it a mullet...super sized? Is there NOBODY in his bounty hunter camp that loves him enough to pull him aside and say "Uhm... Dog? It's your hair. See....well...MAYBE if we tried a deep conditioning treatment? Perhaps take 2 inches off the back....or 10? Maybe we could get some publicity out of this and turn it into Locks of Love...? I'm just makin' suggestions, Man. You know, now that we're in a bit of a pickle with your image, maybe now's a good time to make a change toward the more clean cut look. Again, just a suggestion. I'm not lookin' for trouble."
You know, something like that. Maybe somebody could be lovingly honest with him about his hair.

So Dog has been deemed important enough to be on all the news casts for nearly a week.
I believe anybody can change and I will be hoping for that. And I am certain the news will be covering those changes.

I hope he starts on the inside and works his way out.

Monday, November 05, 2007

ANOTHER GLIMPSE...

A recent cell phone conversation between my daughter and myself:

Me: Hi Sweetie, are you with S?

Daughter: Yeah, we're at the mall.

( I mean where else would they be?)

Me (with a little bit of dread): Are you spending your money?

Daughter: Yeah, we picked a name off the angel tree and pooled our money to buy a present for a six year old girl. We bought her some "My Little Pony Stuff." We already turned it in to the angel tree people. I also picked up a tag for a 3-year-old boy that I thought our family could do.

Me: *gulp*

I don't remember the rest of that conversation.

I was listening to the sounds of my bursting heart.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

DO NOT ASK ME HOW MY EVENING WAS

Can I say HELLACIOUS on here?

Yes? No?

Cause that is the kind of evening I've had.

This morning I drove Kayla to school and then ended up at Wal-Mart by 8:00. I was feeling pretty good about that, assuming that I would beat the crowd by arriving so early.

Turns out the other 20 people in the store were all in the same checkout line as I. Apparently Wal-Mart stays open 24 hours, but doesn't find it necessary to actually STAFF their store adequately the whole time. Now if I'd been there at, say, 3 in the morning, I could understand there only being one checkout line open. But at 8:00?

I'm just sayin'.

Anyway, while I was unloading groceries, I noticed one of my tires was low. Now my husband thinks I am paranoid about my tires being low, but this one was FLAT. I know because the little color gauge on the air thingy was red instead of green. And also, it was pretty much deflated - definitely not just my flat tire paranoia surfacing. And, upon closer inspection, I found the slit in the tire.

No problem. I will not panic. Sure the husband is gone for the week, but I have another vehicle and a teenage son that can help when he gets home from wrestling practice. He even has buddies that will help. Right? I'm sure to get this tire taken care of tonight, and if not, there's always the jeep. The mustang is parked in the airport parking lot, 45 miles away or we'd have TWO vehicles to fall back on. But, SURELY Blake and I can manage to share ONE vehicle (gasp) for 3 days. Right?

Well, the idea of having to share a vehicle with me for 3 days was enough to motivate Blake to get busy changing that tire, with the help of his friend Cody. When I tried to say "Look, this is not an emergency, we have another vehicle. We can make do and everybody will still get to where they need to be," You'd have thought I was beating him with a chair. I see a lecture in his future. I am already planning it in my mind.

"Mom, we can do this. Just don't be checking in on us."

"Fine. I'll be inside. Just don't let that van fall on your heads. And if it does, don't come crying to me..."

Inside is where I needed to be helping Kayla with her Social Studies project (a time capsule) and where I needed to be making the chicken enchiladas I had PROMISED her I'd make for dinner, thus the need to go to Wal-Mart this morning. Amid the search for the perfect time capsule and items to go in it, neighbor children kept coming by to deliver the cookie dough I'd purchased for the school fundraiser. Good Lord. Did I buy from EVERY BODY'S child?

Anybody need cookie dough?

I finally decided to take a quick walk to clear my head. As soon as I walked out the door, the boys gave me a look. You know, a look that said "Don't even ask." "I'm just taking a walk, I'm not saying a word," I told them. After a quick mile, I returned home and chatted with my neighbor in her driveway. I told her I was concerned because the boys were changing my tire and I hear lots of hammering.

I don't think you're supposed to need a hammer while changing a tire.

Are you?

Of course, it wasn't a hammer, it was the lug nut wrench they were using as a hammer to try to loosen the spare.

That made me feel much better.

Still I went inside to try to decide just how much time to give them to finish the job. Or completely total my van, whichever came first. And also to check on Kayla and her time capsule. And to put another bucket of cookie dough in the freezer.

The next time I looked out, Cody's dad was under the van.

Now I'm really embarrassed. I went out and said "You know, this could have waited. I absolutely did not mean for them to call you." And he, being the kind, chivalrous man that he is, said "No problem at all. You can call any time you need something like this." And I said "Well, it probably was time for somebody to step in because I didn't think they should be hammering on anything under there." And he said "No. Hammering definitely isn't called for when changing a tire." And the boys just looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders.

So he proceeded to guide his son and mine in changing the tire.

In the meantime I have allowed Kayla to become weak with hunger. There were no chicken enchiladas for supper. I tossed Blake some money and said "Treat Cody to dinner. I appreciate your help, guys. Oh, and Cody can you drive?" and loaded Kayla into the jeep to buy her supper at Panda Express, her absolute favorite place in the whole world.

As we passed the van in the driveway, she said "That spare looks pathetic. Now our van looks ghetto."

So I was just wondering.

Can I say HELLACIOUS on here?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

LIFE IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR...

I ask him to follow me.

After keeping his grandparents' van in our garage for a week, it was time to take it back to the parking lot to which they would be returning late tonight after a bus trip to Texas. I would drive the van, park it, and then hop in the jeep to pick up his sister. Always picking up. Always dropping off. This is my phase of life.

We are at a stoplight and I look in the rear view mirror.

There he is in the vehicle behind me, sitting taller behind the wheel even than his dad; red hair spiky and disheveled in the just-grown-out-buzz-cut look. He has left two buddies at home playing x-box to help me with this errand. He's like this when Dad's gone - solicitous, chivalrous, protective, responsible. And funny. Always funny.

Suddenly, I have about two blocks to pull myself together. One look in the rear view mirror and I am a puddle of goo in my in-laws mini van. His life, my life, becomes an instant movie in my heart. His life as viewed in a rear view mirror. Scenes from a car seat.

The rear facing infant car seat that appeared empty the first couple of weeks, because he was too tiny for his head or feet to show out of either end. Then catching glimpses of the top of his head, in that same car seat, covered with just a little bit of red fuzz; and the tips of his toes, clad in tiny socks and soft baby shoes.

The front facing car seat where I could watch him as he watched passing cars, played with a toy, drank from a sippy cup, pointed out diggers and dumpers, looked at his baby sister. The days I became adept at driving with one arm twisted behind me; picking up dropped toys, handing back suckers from the bank, passing out french fries. The days where errands were never a quiet affair. Squabbles. Questions. Why? Can I? What's that? Giggles. Tears. Long days.

No car seat. Nothing but long legs twisted at odd angles as he tries to get comfortable in the back seat. Size 13 high tops sticking up in odd places. Disheveled hair (always) as he leans back against the head rest, sleeping. Always sleeping on a family trip.

And now, a SEPARATE vehicle. Driving behind me. Following me. Pitching in.

I get behind the wheel of the jeep and resist the urge to turn the radio down.

I have to move the seat forward. HOW? HOW did he get so tall? Could he be six foot already? I think he is. I should measure him tonight. He'll love that.

"Mom, I'm going to church with Jake tonight. I'll be home by 9. " And out the door he goes, size 13's jumping off the porch, spiky hair still going every which way. "Love you Mom."

Always the "Love you , Mom" even when his buddies are here.

Blessed. I'm so blessed.

Long days. Short years.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

ACCEPTING MY ROLE

Last night I decided to take a break from making change for swindlers (see previous post) and wander into the hallway to get a little fresh air. The gym was quite hot and stuffy so I left my husband with the cash box to sit on the steps in the cool hall way.

I had just gone into the school office to purchase a book, DREAM SEASONS; by Scott Wentworth and J. Thomas McNamara. It's a nice little book about the dual championship our high school earned last year in football and basketball. I doubt it will be a New York Times best seller, but what a great memento for the community, especially for the players and their parents. Many thanks to the men who took the time to capture this history making year in book form.

As I sat on the steps with my book, I did what I usually do first with books like this. I flipped to the photo section. I love photos. Especially photos that capture emotion. You can be sure there was a lot of emotion captured between the covers of this book.

One photo I keep coming back to is of my favorite player, Dustin. They call him D-Moe. I've mentioned him before. What an incredible young man. What an incredible role model for younger kids. He was such a positive influence on my son, on everybody, while he was in high school. And I'm not just talking about sports. He has to be one of the most respectful, diligent, friendly, humble young men I have ever met. EVER.

He is a gentle giant.

The caption by his photo, taken during a basketball game says:

As a defensive and rebounding specialist, Dustin M_ _ _ _, typified the Trojans' acceptance of their roles. Despite being a starter, Dustin took fewer than three shots a game in 2006-2007. "The whole team accepted their roles to perfection," (one coach) says of the Trojans.

This caption describes Dustin so well. At 6 foot 5 inches tall and 260 pounds, according to the football roster; I'm sure this young man is quite intimidating on the football field. I am sure if I had to face him in any competition, I'd simply put my hands up in the air and say "look, fella, I don't want any trouble. Just take the ball. It's yours. Ok? Are we cool?"

And the ease and finesse with which he moved on the basketball court was always a surprise, considering his size.

I'm not an expert on sports but I know enough to know that I would certainly not want to be the man in Dustin's path on the football field. If his job is to move you out of the way so his teammate can score, he WILL move you out of the way. Over and over again. And if his job was to stop you from scoring he, along with his fellow linemen WOULD stop you from scoring. Sometimes even if you only had one yard to go. With 3 attempts. Really. We saw it happen.

And in basketball, if his job is to rebound the ball, or steal the ball, he WILL rebound the ball and steal the ball. Over and over again.

In both sports, his job is NOT to score. His job is to make sure his teammates score. The ones who have THAT role. Doing his job so well, despite the fact that he was not a headliner, gave him a fantastic reputation in the sports pages, in the school hallways, and in the community.


So all this to say; I cannot get this caption out of my head "....accepted their roles to perfection."



What is my role? Am I accepting it to perfection?

Probably not, since right now I cannot seem to define my role. Oh, I know I am a wife and mother, daughter and friend, Bible class teacher and school volunteer. DAUGHTER OF CHRIST. But what am I DOING with my role? How am I EMBRACING my role? How am I, for lack of a better word showcasing my role? How am I going to use my role to shine a light?

How do I know what my gifts are? How do I know how to use those gifts to glorify Christ, to set an example for my children so that they will one day use their own gifts to glorify Christ?

My prayer of late is that God will open my eyes, my heart, my spirit, to the knowledge of what my role is; and that He will enable me to embrace that role, ACCEPTING IT TO PERFECTION so that I may touch hearts.

Even just one heart.

Monday, October 15, 2007

AN OPEN LETTER

To THE spectator at the Junior High Girls Basketball Game (You know who you are)

First, thanks for coming out to support your very special player. Our girls need our support. All kids need a cheerleader. We were thrilled to host you this evening, along with all the other visitors. Especially since you had to drive over an hour. In the Rain.

But.

Please remember that we are a small school in a tiny town. But you are a small school too, or you wouldn't be playing against us. Remember, the town you were in this evening does not even have a traffic light. Seriously, it has a cafe that closes at 2 in the afternoon, one gas station, and one questionable little "greasy spoon." Oh and a tavern.

So why, may I ask, did you think it was a good idea to show up at the door to pay admission to a JUNIOR HIGH GIRLS BASKETBALL GAME, where there were probably 75 people in attendance, and hand me a HUNDRED DOLLAR BILL? Did you think for a moment that you were at Madison Square Garden? Is that why you acted all surprised that I couldn't make change for you.

I have a sneaking suspicion that you were hoping I'd say "Oh, I can't make change for that. Just go on in with no charge." Well, fella, I was on to you. That is why I handed that HUNDRED DOLLAR BILL right back to you and said "I'm going to send my husband down to get more bills so we can break that for you. I'll find you in the stands in a few minutes so we can take care of this." After all, it WAS $14 you owed us for your two adult admissions and 4 student admissions. I don't set the prices. I just take the money on my appointed day.

So when you came back down the bleachers and said to me "How much did you say that was again?" and I said "Fourteen Dollars" and you said "Oh, I have that with me," I was a LIT.TLE suspicious.

And then when I had to take the bills back to the other cash box from which my husband had borrowed; the ladies there heard my story and said "Sounds like someone was hoping to get in for free." And I said "AH! HA! I thought so too. " I couldn't prove it, of course, but I was just picking up a bad vibe, you big spender you.

So, Sir, may I suggest you take that hundred dollar bill to a bank, or even a grocery store and have them break it into smaller bills for you? That way you won't be tempted to try to swindle anybody else.

If that doesn't appeal to you, may I suggest another place for you to put it?

Thank You.

Friday, October 12, 2007

THAT EXPLAINS EVERYTHING

Those of you who have little ones who still snuggle in your laps for stories, do you have Little New Kangaroo by Bernard Wiseman and illustrated by Theresa Burns?
If not, please pick it up the next time you are at the library or the book store.

It is about a baby kangaroo who is riding around in his mama's pouch and, every time he spots a friend, he offers them a ride. By the end of the story, mama is carrying a koala, a bandicoot, a wombat and a platypus, along with her own baby. Each page shows mama getting more and more tired; until she eventually drops them all off at their homes for bedtime.

It was one of our kids' favorite stories and still sits on the bookshelves in our basement where the treasured children's books remain because I could not part with them.

I always told the kids I could relate to mama kangaroo because it seemed our mini van kept filling up with children. No matter where we stopped, there were more children getting in or out than had been there originally. No kidding, sometimes I feel a little worried if I only have 1 or 2 kids in the van.

Well just now I heard a reporter on Animal Planet say this about kangaroos: Most of a kangaroo's waking moments are spent searching for or eating food. At least this week I have related to that because it has been, well, a bad week to be a woman. You know, one of those weeks where it is best to avoid the kitchen if you can or you might just open the bottle of Hershey's syrup, tilt your head back and chug-a-lug like a football player drinking Gatorade.

OK, that never happened. Seriously, it didn't. I just thought about it.

Or you might stop at Mrs. Fields to pick up a few cookies FOR THE CHILDREN and end up eating two before they come home from school. That's all I'm going to say about that.

I KNEW Mama Kangaroo touched me in a peculiar way. I KNEW there was some connection there that went way beyond a simple children's story. Now when somebody asks me "If you could be any animal, what would you be?" I know how to answer.

Kangaroo. Definitely a kangaroo.

Friday, October 05, 2007

CHOOSING THE BATTLE....

So last week was parent/teacher conference week at our kids' schools.

We usually go together but, because this has been an excruciatingly hectic time for our family, we parents split up. My husband went to our son's conferences Thursday night because he had to be at the high school anyway. I went to our daughter's Friday morning.

I always get a good report on our daughter. A sampling of comments from teachers:

- If all my students could be like her, it would be great.

- She is so fun, but also a hard worker.

- She is going to do so well in high school. She wants to succeed.

- I just LOOOOVE having her in class.

I always end the meeting with each teacher by asking "And her behavior? Is she respectful and cooperative in class?" And they always say "Oh my, yes."

And that means more to me than her straight A's.

The general consensus from our son's teachers:

If he tried a little harder, he could be a straight A student. He doesn't work to his potential but he really is a fun, respectful kid.

And again we always ask the question "Any behavior problems? Is he respectful.?" You know? just to clarify things.

And they say "Oh yeah, he's great. I really enjoy his personality."

It has always really bothered us that our son does not do better in school. Not because we expect perfection, but because we expect our kids to work to their fullest potential. We simply cannot comprehend NOT putting forth your best effort in school.

But I have come to terms with his B/C average because I have learned that perhaps he is working to his fullest potential in one regard; and that is to show the character and values we have tried to impart to him. At least most of the time.

When he was in sixth grade his teacher explained to me that she had to move our son's seat and she wanted to clarify that it was not because he was misbehaving. It was because he was the only kid in the class she could trust to sit by the boy whom nobody liked. He was the only one that tolerated him and showed a little kindness and compassion to him. I told him that meant more to me than if he received straight A's.

And so yesterday when my husband reported the same old thing "he could be a straight A student if he tried, but every one of the teachers loves him and says he's respectful and lots of fun..." I didn't feel the familiar twinge of frustration that I usually feel at conference time. Instead I just told myself "Character counts for something."

For now I have called a truce in the battle for good grades, which in this case is the battle to work to one's fullest potential. I will not wave the white flag in this battle. But I have decided to lay down my arms for a time and choose to focus on another battle we parents fight daily.

The battle to build character, impart values, turn our children into decent, pleasant members of society. Because at this point in life, I am seeing more success in that battle than in the grade/potential battle. Like all parents, there are moments I slap my forehead and ask the good Lord above "Will I EVER get them raised?" There are times when I am so completely floored by his (lack of) logic, and his outrageous requests, that I actually throw my hands in the air and say "NYAAAAAAAH!"

Each of my children has heard me say to them "I have to choose my battles. Well I CHOOSE this battle and you WILL NOT WIN," when dealing with certain situations. I choose to fight the battle of potential. At a later date. I choose to fight the battle of character daily - minute by minute, hour by hour. Because, in the end, this has been my j0b - to raise these two kids into people that others enjoy, people that love other people. In the end, the grades on a junior high or high school report card, are NOT what are shaping them into the people they are destined to become. Am I making excuses? Maybe. Am I shirking my responsibility? Maybe. But I think I'm just trying a different approach, hoping that if I lay off, the good grades will appear to be his idea and suddenly look more appealing and attainable.

For now, I am going to allow myself the small pleasure of enjoying the fact that the teachers at
our schools like my kids.
Cause I kinda do too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

NO BULLIES ALLOWED

I just saw a news story about a mother who got on a bus and confronted the kid who had been bullying her daughter. Seems she kept poking him in the forehead while she warned him to leave her child alone.

She has been brought up on some kind of charges.

This is not the way to handle a bullying situation, but there is a part of me that wants to applaud her. After all, don't most of us as parents WANT to attack the person who has attacked our child?

My kids have never been bullied, thank God.

We did have an incident on the school bus once that made me fear we were in for some bullying, though.

When The Princess was in the 6th grade and The Smart One was in 8th, she came in after school crying, and he came in stomping mad. Seems an older boy had been teasing her and even her brother was mad about it. I listened to the story and then called the bus driver. I did not want to raise a big stink but I truly wanted to prevent a bullying situation from starting. So I told her what had happened and asked her to keep her eyes and ears open because this is how bullying started. She was very understanding and eager to help.

In the mean time, 3 of The Smart One's friends came over and were all hanging out in his room. After speaking with our daughter for a while and helping her feel better, I went into his room to talk to him. "Do you know anything about this kid?" I asked. And all the boys chimed in with little tidbits "He's a freshman." "He's a big fat loser..." "He's always picking on somebody..." "He quits everything he starts..." And then as I was leaving his room The Smart One said the sweetest thing to me. He swept his finger around the room, indicating his friends, all of whom were wrestlers and/or football players; and said "Mom, do me and the guys need to take care of something?" And his buddies chimed in with "Yeah, we could totally do that."

And the crazy fierce mother in me wanted to scream "YES! I want you to TAKE. HIM. DOWN!! I want you to use every move you've learned on the wrestling mats and the football field to teach him a lesson! I want you to let him know that NOBODY. NO. BODY. makes your little sister cry......Except you!"

But I didn't.

I simply said "Oh, that's really nice, guys. But, we can't handle it that way. We have to take the high road."

But wasn't that sweet of them to offer?

And the princess? I had told her I would drive her to school from now on if she wanted to avoid the Big Fat Loser. But the next morning, she got up and marched right down to the bus stop and climbed on as usual. And there were no more problems after that.

My kids.....My heroes.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

TELL ME AGAIN WHY I HAVE A DOG....

Yesterday I had to take Cookie to the vet. She needed her rabies shot, and her ear was bothering her AGAIN. When I called to make the appointment and told them what I needed, we agreed upon a day and time and then the girl said;
"Okay, so we have Cookie down for heart worm check, full exam, rabies, and ear check..."

And I said "UHM....yeah." I really just was hoping to run in and get the shot, have them peek in her ears, give me the drops and let me run out.

But, NOOOOOOO!

I cannot even relate how stressful it is to take this dog to the vet.

So I won't. I will just say that she trembles like a leaf on a windy spring day, and she drools so much she leaves a trail of dog spit every where she goes. She gets that nervous. They have to muzzle her to check her ears. I hate every minute of it.

So as I was leaving and putting my checkbook away - after writing a check for $326. THREE HUNDRED. TWENTY. SIX. DOLLARS. - plus another $10.00 to register with the county for the rabies shot - I decided it really was easier to take 2 small children to the doctor - healthy or sick - than to take this dog. It was also cheaper.

We have used a family doctor since our children were born. I love the continuity of care a family doctor offers. If I have been diagnosed with strep throat, I can call two days later and say that my kids have fevers and sore throats, and he'll prescribe for them. If one of the kids has an appointment and something comes up for me or my husband, I can call and say "could you pull my chart too, and let me see the doctor when I bring my son in?" And they are always so good to do that. Of course, since this doctor was also my OB doctor with my first, and arrived 15 minutes after my second was born to hold her in his arms even before I did, we do have a special rapport with him. He does tend to think of us as his special patients. And I will admit to using that status to my advantage from time to time.

Of course it was never easy to take little ones to the doctor.

There was always the wait. The waiting room wasn't so bad because there were toys, but it was the wait in the exam room that was sometimes enough to send me over the edge. One time when our son was about 6 and my daughter 3, I had both children waiting in the exam room. We had waited quite a while and I had just about exhausted my magic tricks for keeping them happy. When the doctor finally came in, Our son said "WE. HAVE. BEEN. WAITING. TEN. HOURS." And without missing a beat, the doctor said "I bet it seems like longer for Mommy..."
So true.
But I really never mind the wait at our doctor's office because he spends LOTS of time with us and never makes me feel rushed. I just figure he's treating all of his patients like that.

Another time- I think the kids were 5 and 2 - we had an appointment at 11 in the morning. Knowing that would run into lunch time, and then ruin nap time, which would in turn ruin the whole day; I did the only safe thing I could think to do. I packed two lunch boxes and took the kids' lunch to the doctor with us.
At noon, when we were in the exam room waiting, I pulled their lunches out and started feeding them. Of course, that's when the doctor came in. He smiled and actually told me it was a great idea. He was thrilled that I wasn't letting the kids get hungry and cranky while they waited on him. Then he proceeded to listen to hearts and check ears and throats around fingers sticky with bananas and little mouths ringed with jelly mustaches.
I will always remember him then taking my children by the hand, our daughter holding a banana and our son holding his pb&j, and walking them to the sticker box - a child on each side of him all mushy and sticky from their little lunches.

And I would get a warm feeling and smile because there was one more person in the world that loved my children, and that my children weren't afraid of their doctor.

But after an appointment with the vet?

No warm feeling. No smiles that someone else loves my dog. No cute little things to remember to tell Daddy about our visit.

Nope. Just a headache, cold sweats, a twitching eye and three hundred twenty six dollars gone from our checking account. Plus ten dollars for the county.

Oh, and today is the dog's birthday. She's nine years old today, and in "amazingly good health; and so spry and active. She's got many good years ahead of her," according to the vet.

Greeeeeaat!

Monday, September 24, 2007

BURGER KING MEMORIES

Last night the Don and I had another of our incredibly romantic Sunday night dates.

We went grocery shopping at Wal-Mart.

After we bought many necessities for the week - ice cream, pop tarts, cat litter; we stopped at Burger King to take home a late supper. I cannot eat at our Burker King without remembering my first visit there.

We had just built a house in the town in which we still live; so had not lived in the neighborhood long. Another young mom and I decided to take our kids to the new Burger King that had a very small play area. My daughter was 2, and my son was 5. Her daughter was 3 and her son was 5, so we had the perfect set up. We went for an early lunch so there would not be a big crowd.

After feeding the kids, we grabbed a table right by the ball pit, where we could watch through the windows as our kids got to know each other. Luckily there were no other children there, and the restaurant was not real crowded. See, eleven years later, I still remember the fun of this day...

My daughter had toddled through the balls and climbed onto the rope bridge that would take her to the small slide. I watched her reach the bridge and then turned away. My attention was brought back right quick, though, when I heard my son yelling. I turned to see him standing thigh-deep in the colorful balls, hands cupped around his mouth yelling "CALL SECURITY!! CALL SECURITEEEEEEEE!!"

Seems his little sister had her foot stuck in the rope bridge and was immobile. Rather than tap on the window to get my attention, he chose to treat it as a bank robbery and scream for police assistance.

My daughter was remaining surprisingly calm. My neighbor's kids were standing in the corner watching in silence, as my son continued calling for security.

I looked at my neighbor and said "I'm going to have to go in and get her aren't I??" And she said "Yep."

So we walked to the entrance to the ball pit. It was a round entrance about the size of a large pizza. We just stood and looked at each other for a minute and agreed that the only way to get in was to slither in head first. So I started in and when I was half way in I stopped and looked back at my neighbor and said

"Are people looking at my butt?" And she said "No, No, No, you're fine."

My son was still calling for security, my daughter was sitting calmly on the rope bridge with one little foot caught, smiling at her mommy coming to rescue her, and the neighbor children were enjoying the sight of the crazy new neighbor lady coming in to play in the ball pit.

So I slither into the pit of primary colors and waddle over to my son and say "You need to stop calling for security. Mommy can handle this, and we really don't need any more attention..."

Then I waddle to the rope bridge and untangle my daughter and get her settled. Then I stop and stare at the little round doorway and realize now I have to get out. So I stick my head through and start to come out.

When my head was out but my backside was still in the ball pit, my neighbor said,
"Heidi?"

"What?"

"Now people are looking at your butt!!"

Good times.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

LET'S TALK ABOUT ETHICS, SHALL WE...?

Our son has been driving for almost two months. In our state, the kids have to have 50 hours of driving time with parents, once they get their permit, before they can be issued their license. We kept track of the time on a sheet provided by the Secretary of State - destination, weather condition, night or day, amount of time spent driving.

As we got within a month of his birthday, we were getting a little worried that he would not have his 50 hours in. So I sat down with him and told him something like "with 30 days left until your birthday, and so many hours needed, you need to plan on driving this many minutes a day." And our son responded something like this: "If you two weren't SO ETHICAL, this wouldn't be such a problem. Do you know how many 'trips to St. Louis' R has taken, on paper, to fill his sheet up? His dad just marks the sheet and doesn't make him drive."

Seems there was a lot of that going on.

So I tried to explain that their parents were not doing them any favors, and that we needed to follow the rules so he'd be experienced and confident behind the wheel, blah, blah, blah....

Fast forward to the first week of school. Sophomore biology. The students are required to bring a paper home each Friday to have us look at their grades for the week and sign it to let the teacher know we looked at it. I thought once we were out of elementary school, I would be done signing papers, but...Well, our son forgot to have us sign his the first week and so got a zero for that assignment.

His classmates, however, also forgot to have their parents sign theirs, but signed their parents' names right there in the classroom before handing it in.

My son, the ethical one, got a zero, bringing his grade down to a C for the week. The kids who chose not to follow the directions and took the easy (and sneaky) way out, got full credit.

I have to believe the teacher knows this is going on. I cannot believe that anybody with a lick of sense and ANY experience with teenagers would not at least suspect this. Can she not see that the handwriting for the "parent's signature" looks suspiciously like that of the student? Does she not wonder about the shuffling of papers and the desperate search for pens and the hurried writing on the papers before they are handed forward?

I told our son that I was prouder of his "C" that week than I would be of an "A" because it meant he chose the ethical route. And I told him I might be having a talk with this teacher when conference time comes around.

Life is not always about taking the easy way out. I wish it could be. I wish every day of jr. high and high school could be easy for my kids. But it can't be. I wish they didn't have to learn some lessons so early.

But they do.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

BAD MOMS....

In January of '06, we went through a terrible parenting ordeal.

We watched our son make a dangerous mistake and then saw the consequences come tumbling down around us. I don't know if we handled it all correctly but, looking back, I do think we were able to temper our discipline with just the right amount of mercy.

There is something, however, from that incident that I cannot seem to crawl out from under. That is the response I got from someone when I finally decided to share with them what our family had gone through.

As I was telling the story, tears welling up in my eyes, voice quivering, this is what I kept hearing: "you should have done...." "you shouldn't have...." "next time do...."

That's right. In my most vulnerable state as a mother, in my desperate need for validation and encouragement, I got nothing but harsh criticism on the way I handled things.

And so, I basically share nothing with people now on my struggles as a parent.

Because we as parents are judgemental and critical of each other. And ladies? Moms? I think we're worse than the men.

Oh, I've done it too. I've uttered many a criticism about my fellow mothers:

"Did you see the way her child acted at the table? Let's teach some manners..."

"I CANNOT believe she lets her child do that...."

"I CANNOT believe she won't let her child do that...."

"Her kids wouldn't do that if she'd only..."

And the best of all:

"I don't think my child would ever...."

Let me just say, parents, NEVER SAY NEVER. You could be going along just fine, putting everything you've got into being a great parent and raising great kids, and WHAM! You could be blind sided by something that will turn your world upside down. If you're lucky, it will be relatively minor and short lived. If not, you are going to long for a soft place to fall in your search for answers. You are going to long for other parents who will continue to love you AND your child. Other parents who will simply listen and not judge or criticize.

I'm not saying I'm proud of it, but I've done it - this criticism thing. But I am trying really hard to stop. My experience a year and a half ago has helped me learn to stop and think before I open my mouth about something that is none of my business, unless of course, I can ENCOURAGE and not CRITICIZE. You know? Build up and not tear down. I am praying to become "that parent" to whom others could turn when they are in that dark corner of parenthood.

As I raise my teenagers and see that as children get bigger, so do their mistakes; I'm trying to soften my heart to my fellow mothers. Now I honestly try to see things from a mother's perspective. I've started many sentences lately with "As a mother, I can certainly see how bad the parents must feel about...."

This is on my mind lately because, in the last several weeks, I've come across a lot of blogs, articles, TV spots, and conversations about parenting. And people are so judgmental, to the point of being angry and venomous about their views; spewing words like "ignorant" and "lazy" and even "abusive" when some one's view is different than theirs. And I'm not talking about REAL situations of abuse; I'm talking about views that are different and, to make their point seem more valid they throw the word "abuse" around.

Based on some of these opinions I've decided that I'm a bad mom because:

- I had c-sections. In fact I had two. And I don't hate the doctors that performed them. I was deeply disappointed to have c-sections and the competition we women create among ourselves to have the best, un-medicated, most "natural" birth experiences ever recorded, did not help that sense of disappointment. But. I have two beautiful, healthy children. So there.

- I did not breast feed exclusively. THAAAAT'S RIIIIIIGHT! I supplemented with formula. That means my babies had a bottle every now and then. AND! There was no nipple confusion. AND! The child I breast fed longer had more ear infections than her brother. AND! Even though I breast fed for less than a year, there are NO food allergies in my kids. ZERO. NADA. ZILCH. I totally agree that breast feeding is best. And I totally agree that it is great to do it for the first year. But, ladies, the guilt we heap on each other is UNNECESSARY!

- I spanked my children. Yep. When they were pre-schoolers, we spanked them in certain situations. We truly feel that spanking, IN SOME SITUATIONS, is what got the point across. Preschoolers CANNOT always be reasoned with, cannot understand consquences when given a long verbal explanation. If a spanking saved my child from being injured or doing the same dangerous, or rebellious thing over and over, so be it. AND! I've asked my children if they resent it and feel betrayed when they remember the spankings. Their answers "Uh, No!" So, in the words of the Great Lt. Colonel Henry Blake "You can hang my butt from a flag pole if you want..." but we spanked. We did not abuse. We were both spanked as children, and we don't remember it, nor do we feel betrayed and angry by it. I feel betrayed and angry by the other selfish things my parents did while raising me, but spanking? NO. If you still feel betrayed and angry over spankings you received as a child, perhaps there are deeper issues to explore. If you don't want to spank, then don't. Just find a way to discipline your children, and don't tell the rest of us that we abuse ours.

- I let my kids watch TV. I used to joke that my kids learned their numbers from the remote control, but it wasn't that bad. My kids grew up with Gulllah Gullah Island, Thomas the Tank Engine, Mr. Rogers, and the old black and white Lassie episodes. And of course Sesame Street. I even let them watch Rugrats. We also spent a great deal of time at the library, the children's museum, and of course at home playing Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Barnyard Bingo, Candyland. And doing puzzles. Lots of puzzles.

- I let my kids eat sugar. In fact, I never monitored their sugar intake; preferring instead to emphasize the healthy choices, while still having sweets available. I've written before on this. Their favorite snacks are yogurt, popcorn, carrots, rice cakes, mandarin oranges, apples. Not a lot of sugar going on in those choices. I know a mom who says sugar makes her little boy act like a monster, so she NEVER lets him have it. The thing is, the child is rude and out of control most of the time. Seriously. So maybe, in that situation, sugar is not the culprit.....but I know it effects some kids differently than others. I also know that other additives effect some children more severely. But in our house? Not a problem.

- I allow, even encourage my kids to be friends with kids of all different backgrounds and family situations. I monitor the friendships; and there are some in which I prefer (OK sometimes insist) they spend their time together at our house and not the other child's house. But if two children get along and love spending time together, I don't care if the other kid's parents work, or if they are divorced, or if they are Hindu, or Muslim, or Catholic, or Baptist. I don't care about the other child's race, or their parents' income. I simply care that my child has a friend with whom he enjoys spending time; and sometimes our house is a refuge, a safe haven, for that other child. And frankly, we might be doing something right, because our house is always full of kids. I only gave birth to two children (by the dreaded c-section) but there are usually 4,6,7...9 kids here.

- I do not make my kids go to church with us; although, they do most of the time. This is a hard one for me to talk about, because sometimes our Christian friends are just as judgmental (or more so) than the rest of the world. But there comes a point when it seems silly to me to drag a teenager to church and allow them to sit and sulk in the pew. I told my husband that we can certainly drag them to the table but we cannot force them to partake of the feast. I believe you cannot FORCE faith onto anybody. And being in a church is not building faith. We cannot "guilt" our kids into being the spiritual beings we want them to be.

- I send my kids to public school. Homeschooling is a great option, but we public school moms have also put much thought and prayer into our decision. Some, and I mean SOME, homeschool moms have been rude and condescending to me about my choice to send my kids to public school. Just because my choice is DIFFERENT doesn't mean it's bad, and it certainly doesn't mean I do not value the safety and moral upbringing of my children. For every criticism you can give me about my choice, I could give you one back about your choice. But I choose not to.

Let's see. I think that's if for now.

Let's take it easy on each other moms! We all can use a little encouragement in this most precious, yet difficult of jobs.

And for the record..."As a mother, I think you're all doing great!"

Thursday, September 06, 2007

HOME

...home is where nurture lived, where strength thrived. Home was that place that fed the soul, healed the broken pieces of a life. Home is where you'll find what you're seeking...

Jane Kirkpatrick

This is what I strive to give my children. I strive to give them a place that feeds their souls. A place where they can heal their wounds, regardless of their stage in life. A place that shelters and warms them when life is stormy. A place where, even if they arrive weary and broken; they can collapse into a bed of love and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that rest and healing are imminent. A place where love and mercy are always more abundant than judgment and anger.


I have always wished for that kind of home.

Oh, I live in that kind of home now. But I wish for that kind of home to go back to. My home of origin, I guess.

We built this house 6 years ago and have every intention of growing old here, hearing our grandchildren's laughter here. But we started building our home 20 years ago. And we keep adding to it; building and adjusting and rearranging. Learning over time how to best move things around to fit our phase of life, how to build the home that will feed our souls, the souls of our children, the souls of our grandchildren.

But when things are stormy here, when life has worn me down, when I feel like I'm surely failing at this job of wife and mother, when I have doubts... I have nowhere to go. No soft place to fall. No parents waiting with open arms to say "It's okay. Come and rest."


When my husband travelled for weeks at a time and I had two tiny children, I longed for a home
where nurture lived and strength thrived. I longed for a place where, after 3 or 4 weeks of raising these children alone, I could show up and just say "help me." Or better yet, a place where I would have to say nothing at all. I longed to hear the voice of one of my parents say "Come home and rest. Come home and let us help. Let us carry you, while you carry this burden."

But I did not have that.

And I grow in acceptance of that every day. I've learned to look elsewhere for the things that I've missed.

And I am determined to give my children those things.

One of the most important things I've learned from my childhood is what NOT to do as a parent.

And that's not a bad lesson to carry through life.







Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A FRIENDLY REMINDER...

Dear God,

I know you are REEEEALY busy, what with watching over the world and all. And I know you have about a gazillion people bending your ear with their many urgent requests. I mean, just overlooking my faults is a full time job.

But I was just thinking that, with your busy schedule, you might have forgotten to look at your calendar. Or maybe you have someone who does that for you. But I just wanted to let you know, in case time got away from you, that it is September. And this is Illinois.

And usually, in September in Illinois, it's not 97 degrees outside. I know it's not technically autumn, but we do think of it as the beginning of autumn; and therefore, tend to expect a break in the temperatures.

I mean, schools have started again. The corn is nearly all brown, and the farmers have started harvesting. Friday nights are full of football games. The Halloween decorations are out at the stores. Or should I n0t bring up Halloween to you? I never know. Oh, and we can't wear white anymore until May.

So really, we are all treating it as though autumn is upon us, anyway. So if you could maybe, you know, if you have a minute, turn the temperature down just a bit? If you don't want to do it for me, maybe you can do it for the farmers, or the athletes or, more importantly, the little children who are sitting in their sauna-like classrooms. I know for a fact that you love little children.

Now, God, I don't mean to be nagging here. If you choose not to turn the temperature down, then, believe me, that's just fine. You have blessed me with a fine air-conditioned home; and I don't mind one bit just staying inside. I really don't want any trouble. I'm not looking for lightning bolts, or hail storms, or swarms of locusts. Just some cooler temperatures.

But only if you really want to.

Thanks for listening,

HW

P.S. Great job on that whole creating the world and saving mankind thing. Each day, I'm more amazed at your work.

Friday, August 31, 2007

CHANGES....

A big congratulations to The Princess for making the basketball team.

After FIVE days of try-outs in an un-air-conditioned gym in 90 degree weather, she bounced to the van at 5:00 this evening and said "I made it!"

I am sorry for the couple of girls that did not make the team. It is a difficult thing to be left out of the chosen group.

And this evening, I have spent time filling in my little red date book with all of the 8th grade girls basketball games - all 26 OF THEM!!

Now that she is in the 8th grade, she will be playing the second game of the evening on game nights, instead of the first game like last year. Also, there will be the 8th grade honors night at the end of the season to bid the players a fond farewell as they leave jr. high basketball and get ready for high school basketball.

Am I a little nutty for already choking up over that?

*********************************************************************************

In other news, The Smart One got a job at the local steak house. And this was completely his idea. I kind of wanted him to wait a few weeks to get used to his class load at school before he added a job; but how can we refuse to let our child work if he wants to? I think that would kind of be squelching his work ethic.

He has been grilling his dad on CD rates and the best way to save his money and pull in the most interest on his earnings. What's not to love about that?

So he comes home after school and, depending on when he's due at work, spends time doing his homework, or"chillin' on his bed for awhile" and then comes down in his jeans and steakhouse t-shirt, tucked in with a belt (you know - dressed up) and says "Bye Mom, I Love You." And I say "Bye Bub, I love you much." And I watch him walk to his car, wearing his sunglasses and dangling his keys. And sometimes I stand on the porch and watch him get in and drive away. And I say a little prayer that he'll come home safely to me at the end of the night.

And I think "My mom told me not to blink."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I THINK I MAY BE DOING SOMETHING WRONG....

So, yesterday I ran to Target to pick up a couple of things.

On my way home I drove through McDonald's and ordered some french fries.

I live VERY close to McDonald's and yet, the fries were still nearly gone by the time I pulled into my driveway.

A few other things I nibbled on yesterday:

- Peanut Butter m&m's. Now I have to go buy more because they were my son's.

- Cashews

- Chocolate chips

- Cashews and chocolate chips

- Peanut Butter fudge ice cream (but only half a cup)

- Froot Loops - right out of the box

- grapes

Yeah. I tend to eat pretty healthy like that.

But seriously I don't usually eat like a Hoover sucking up everything in sight. I think it's because I'm working out at our new local gym. And my appetite is enormous from all the extra energy I'm expending.

Yeah, that's it.

And I can't seem to convince myself that this new exercise routine will do ABSOLUTELY NO GOOD if I come home and start shoving sugary and fatty treats into my mouth for the remainder of the day. So today I am turning over a new leaf. No more Froot Loops.
No more chocolate chips. No more m&m's (because they're gone). No more ice cream. No more sugary fatty treats. At least not one after the other all day long.

Oh, and what had I bought at Target?

Slim-Fast.

(Hanging my head in shame.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

THANK YOU, TITLE IX

My picture post from yesterday prompted me to post about something that comes to mind every time my daughter puts on a uniform, whether it's softball, basketball, volleyball, or track.

I am not an athlete.

I have recently joined the new gym in our town and I try to walk a few miles most days, but I was never good at sports.

In high school, I ran track for two years. After that
I realized it was not worth it because the coach was just plain mean. Seriously mean. Looking back as an objective adult, I can still see with great clarity that she was mean. Except to the track stars.

Most of those stars were in the grade above me (my husband's class) and they were the jockettes. The jockettes were mean too. Even at class reunions 10 and 15 years later they were mean. The mean girls had become mean women.
But I digress.

Aside from my lack of talent, there was also my lack of confidence to participate in sports, which my husband says is interesting since I spent four years performing in school plays. Whatever.

Because of my lack of talent, confidence and well, alright, interest in playing sports, I was pleasantly surprised my daughter has chosen to be athletic. Many times I have said I was surprised she loved team sports so much because she was painfully shy when she was very young. Sports have helped her to overcome her shyness.

A few years ago, another mom and I were discussing the schedules we would soon face when our daughters entered the school sports phase, as opposed to just summer sports. She mentioned several articles she had seen regarding the correlation between athletic participation and sexual activity, or rather LACK of sexual activity. You can check out this website: http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/ Or this one: http://www.teenpregnancy.org/ to read more.

At the risk of causing your eyes to glaze over, making you slide off your chair, I will sum up a few interesting points.

-Teen girl athletes are more likely to remain virgins longer than non-athletes.

-Athletes are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, which are linked to risky sexual behavior.

-Athletes have higher grades and higher graduation rates.

-Practically speaking, athletes are busy in supervised activities during the after-school and early-evening hours; therefore making it less likely they will engage in risky behavior.

It seems that female athletes gain stronger respect for themselves and their bodies than non athletes. They feel more in control of their bodies and are more able to assert themselves to make safer decisions.

And so I want to give a big shout out to Title IX, and say Thank You. Without Title IX, our girls would not have as many opportunities to participate in sports.

I don't know what sports programs are available in your areas, but I personally consider dance and cheer leading both to be athletic activities. Dance is big in our area, and the dance squad at school is VERY busy at most sporting events. And they work hard. Their routines are amazing. And the cheerleaders are VERY busy too. They show up for practices to encourage the boys, they spend time making signs for lockers and yards, and they do push-ups every time our football players score a touchdown. They do push-ups to equal our total score. EVERY TIME we score. And last year, when our team was the undefeated state champion, they had to do A LOT of push-ups on the sidelines. So I definitely consider these to be athletic activities.

So moms....dads? Go on out and sign your girls up for some activities.
Let's empower our daughters.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

SHE'S STRIKING....

This is my daughter. She's a pitcher. She loves softball. LOVES it. Each evening in the summer, when we weren't at a game, her dad would sit on a five-gallon bucket and catch her pitches. I tried catching her pitches once and ended up in a near fetal position.

I am afraid of the ball. Don't tell my brothers.




Did I mention she loves softball. She loves it so much, she can't keep her feet on the ground.


Look at that concentration. Look at that sweat. You go girl!!



Why, she's even kickin' up some dust at the end of her wind up.
Yeah, what's that about "throwin' like a girl"?



And here we are on first base, taking the lead-off. Go back Go back Go back!!!! She's throwin' to first!! GO BACK!! Your mother is too old for this kind of excitement.



And she was safe!!!!


Whew, that was close.
And thanks to our lovely neighbor J.S. for the great action photos.















Saturday, August 18, 2007

Our Brief Encounter with Gus

The other evening as I was walking by our back door, I saw our three neighbor children (ages 2,5 and 6) saunter onto our patio, plop down in our chairs, put their feet up and start eating popsicles. I went to the window to watch them and when they noticed me looking out, they all waved with a big, surprised smile as if to say "Oh, hi! What are YOU doing here?"Then I went out to visit with them. When I saw their mom, I yelled over, "I have found 3 stray children. I do not know if I should adopt them or call the pound." And she said "They're for sale."
So then we started visiting. And before long, a big stray dog wandered into our yard. I am not happy to see stray dogs. We have a leash law in our little town and it drives me crazy when people don't keep track of their pets. We have an underground electric fence that keeps our dog contained very well. The only problem is that, while she can't get out, other dogs can get in. And when I see a dog wandering around for too long I always say something like "We've paid good money to keep our dog contained like we're supposed to....."

But this dog was very good natured and it was obvious he was used to people. The only problem was that when the kids would run, he'd run after them, thinking they were playing. And that scared the little ones. Plus he had some white foam coming out of his mouth. The men thought it was because he was hot. The women thought it was because he was rabid. As much as we tried to get him to leave, and as harsh as we tried to sound, he was not going anywhere.
When we were all settled in for the night, our dog Cookie stood at the front door and started barking. Sure enough, there was the big black dog lying in front of our door as though he'd adopted us. Even The Don felt bad for him because he took him a handfull of food and a big bowl of water. The Princess of course wanted to keep him and asked what we would name him IF we kept him. I suggested "Gus" since he appeared on a hot August evening. She agreed that IF he was our dog, we'd call him Gus.

At midnight I was just getting ready for bed when I heard Gus barking out front. So I looked out and noticed that Gus had cornered a baby opossum. Well I did not want to wake up in the morning and find an opossum corpse in our yard, nor did I want any of the kids finding that, so I ran downstairs and opened the living room window, and whisper-yelled "no,no,no" And Gus looked around and ran back to his spot on the porch. Every time he'd leave the porch, I'd whisper-yell "NO" and he'd look around to see where the voice was coming from and run right back to the porch. This went on until The Smart One heard the commotion and came downstairs. When I told him what was going on, he grabbed a flashlight to run outside and said "can I shoot that opossum with my bb gun?" And I said absolutely not. So instead he just stood up on the electrical box in our front yard and pointed the light at the opossum and started taking pictures of it with his cell phone. And Gus would head over and I'd tell him "NO!" And he'd look around all confused at where the voice was coming from and head back to the porch.
For about 10 minutes, the opossum did not move a muscle, except to open its mouth to make a little hiss or squeak. So The Smart One got the garden hose to try to spray it just enough to get it to run off, which it did. Thank goodness, because I did not want Gus getting hold of that poor little thing.

Then The Don woke up and came downstairs and I explained what all the commotion was, and he said "I'm taking that dog across town." So he walked the dog over to the mustang and opened the door. The Smart One, who is still standing on the Electrical Box sees this and whisper yells "What the Heck, Dad!! I don't want dog slobber and wet fur in my car!!!" Meanwhile, The Don is standing over by the mustang with the dog saying "Come on. Get in! Get in the car. GET. IN. THE. CAR. Come Oooooon!"And Gus was tilting his head to one side just listening and knowing that he was winning this battle.

And Me? I was still sitting at the open living room window. Laughing my head off at The Don's argument with the dog.

So then The Don decides he will get the leash and drag Gus into the car. So he comes back out and puts Cookie's collar and leash on him and this time goes to the jeep and opens the back door and has the same conversation with the Dog. "Come on! Get in!!! Come on, boy!!! GET. IN. THE CAR."

And I'm still laughing through the window. I mean, I don't know what else to do. And I know how much The Don appreciates it when I laugh in situations like this.

Having no luck with the jeep, The Don, walks the dog back over to the mustang and opens the door. This time, Gus jumps right in and The Don walks around to the driver's side.
And now from my post at the window I hear "Move over! Come on, get out of that seat! GET! GET. OUT. OF. MY. SEAT." Seems Gus had hopped right into the car and immediately moved into the drivers seat. Things were not going well for The Don. Did I mention that Gus probably weighed 100 pounds? I did not see how The Don actually got in the car because I had to leave my post at the window to get some tissues to wipe the tears that were rolling down my face from laughing so hard.

Except evidently I was no longer laughing; I was cackling. At least that's the way The Don described it the next day.

Anyway, then the Don revved the engine and roared off in the mustang with Gus sitting happily by his side. The time was 12:36 AM.

The Don told me when he got home that he had taken Gus across town and that the dog actually seemed to perk up as though he was in familiar territory. He let him out in a neighborhood behind our local library and he actually headed off like he knew where he was going.
I really hope Gus is ok. I hope his owners are more careful with him.

And I hope that in the next stressful situation I can be just as helpful to The Don as I was this time.

Yeah. It's just a gift I have.