Thursday, December 30, 2010

Eat. Laugh. Shuffle. Shop. Pound. Repeat.

That title explains what's been happening around here for the last week and why I haven't had time to write. I have been busy, y'all!

Eat: There was eating on Christmas Eve. Then further eating on Christmas day. Then there was more stuffing of the face. Then there was a nice dinner out with my parents. There was mass consumption of Oreo balls, Irish Cream cake, homemade turtles, Christmas cookies, dipped pretzels, lemon bars, potato salad, Italian beef, pork loin, mashed potatoes, breakfast casserole, potato pancakes, and more. Someone needs to superglue my mouth shut. I don't need to eat another thing for at least a week. I feel half sick just looking at that list! But it sure was good.

Laugh: We laughed with friends and family on Christmas Eve. We laughed with our children and family on Christmas morning. We laughed at movies. We laughed during card games. We laughed while we ate. We laughed so much that I really wish laughing burned more calories than it does. Then I wouldn't be forced into using the superglue.

Shuffle: Of course, we played SCAT. That's a given in my family. Nickels were bet and the pot was won--I am a dollar and some change richer--yea, me! But we also dusted off the Uno deck. We used to play with my dad's family all the time and my dad had a reputation for cheating. And not just the throw down a 9 on a 6 kind of cheating, either. We played so fast and were all so busy gabbing, my dad could throw a blue 8 on a yellow 2 and call it green and nobody would catch him. We are all much more careful around him these days. This is the first time Mary has joined in at the table and she was hilarious. At one point, after winning a hand, she stood up on her chair, shook her little booty around and did a victory dance. She fits right in, that one. And the words "ninety-four"--said in a sort of drawl/sob (niiiiineteeee fooooaaaahh!!) have become a catch phrase around here since my mother was stuck with that after one hand.

Shop: I am not normally a big shopper. Well, Goodwill excluded. I don't like to walk around malls and see what's what. I have never shopped on Black Friday. I stay holed up in my house and let other people have the screaming deals and swarms of humanity. But. My mom and I like to go out to a few specific places on the day after Christmas and see if there's anything worth our trip. We always go to Hallmark, because she can pick up her Christmas cards for next year at a discounted price. We always go to a little independent gardening/decorating/tea room/landscaping shop not far from my house. I always give my kids a new ornament when we are putting up the tree and this shop has been a fabulous place to find unique and beautiful ornaments at a good discount. The owner is so sweet, and I always get a good deal because she just wants it sold so she can head south until April. We also head to a couple of clothing stores that we love and usually find one or two things to spend our money on. This is alot of shopping for me. But with my mom along, it is a fun time.

Pound: You have all heard me lament about my mudroom and its lack of functionality. Because of the height of the hooks and lack of shelving, my mudroom always looks as if it has barfed up coats and boots and backpacks and sports equipment. Starting the day after Christmas, my beloved and my dad spent three days building cubbies/coat hooks for my mudroom. There has been pounding and sawing and sanding and nailing. It has scared the bejeebers out of the dumb dog. I almost felt sorry for her. It makes me silly with glee. It is all finished but the painting. I will show it to you in all of its beautiful glory next week.

And how about you? How did you spend Christmas? What did you do that was fun? Goofy? What was your favorite present? Do tell.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Longfellow Knew. Do You?


I have always been taken with Longfellow's poem/hymn "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." This year, after hearing it at my daughter's advent program, I was struck by it anew. This verse in particular caught my attention:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead; nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with Peace on Earth, Good-will to men."

It was a reminder for me that even when God is quiet, He is not absent. He is not dead. God is here, with us, a Living God. He is still in charge, still in control, still loving us no matter what.

I pray that on this Christmas, you are amazed by Him. I hope that you are surrounded by the Love that came down from heaven and put on flesh, for you and for me. I pray that you know--deep in your bones know--that living, loving God.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Love Comes In All Shapes

When I was visiting my folks over Thanksgiving, my mom and I went for a walk. At one point along this walk, I looked down and spotted a piece of asphalt shingle in the middle of the sidewalk. It caught my eye because of its unusual shape.

I stopped to pick it up and then caught up to my mom. "Hey!" I panted. "Look at this! What does this look like?"

"A shingle," she replied, unimpressed.

"Yes, but look at the shape! What does the shape look like?" I pressed.

"Ummmm...."

"AFRICA!" I squealed. "It looks like Africa!"

My mother was not as worked up over this as I was. Clearly she didn't understand the potential here. I had found an asphalt shingle. In the shape of Africa! Just lying there on the sidewalk. Why, think of the possibilities! I might possibly find all the other continents too--although I will have to study up on the individual shapes of Europe and Asia, as I am used to seeing them connected on maps--and then I could display all of my wondrous finds for the world. Everyone would be amazed.

When I explained this to my mother she cracked up. The woman has no vision. (Kidding, mother. I love you.) So I told her that when we got back to the house, I'd show it to everyone. I was certain that everyone else would see Africa right away and that at least one or two of them would be like-minded at the miraculousness of it.

Well, I was partially right. A few responded like my mom did with "It's a shingle." But some other creative geniuses with brilliant minds like me of the others saw Africa as well. Nobody, however, was as taken with the serendipity of the find as I was. We did have a fun time talking about how I might find a South America shaped rock or a candy wrapper shaped like Australia and then I could have this very cool mixed media display.

I decided to keep the shingle. And even though I joked about it, I made up my mind to keep my eyes open for the other continents because I am, as I might have stated somewhere before on this blog, slightly unbalanced. Unfortunately, in all the business and chaos of packing up my family for the drive home, I left my shingle behind. I figured that it would wind up in the garbage bin.

I hadn't counted on my sister in law (Uncle Grumpy's wife, who cannot, by any stretch of the imagination be called grumpy. In fact, by comparison, she is downright chipper!). When the family sat down to open gifts at our family Christmas, this past weekend, my mom announced that Aunt Chipper had a presentation to make. Aunt Chipper reminded everyone of my weird and slightly off-kilter joy at finding a shingle in the shape of Africa. She then proceeded to hand me a gift bag. When I opened it, it contained this:



I cannot lie. I cracked up. I also thought it looked pretty amazing. Aunt Chipper explained that when I left it behind, she called my parents and asked if they would keep it so she could frame it, explaining that she had a frame. Then my mom chimed in and said that my dad did the matting and that Aunt Chipper forgot the frame, so my folks framed it. We all laughed as this is sort of typical for Aunt Chipper. But who can blame the woman? She's the mother of six children. She's just a little busy.

I really do love the gift. And aside from now feeling like I really do have to find the other continents to go with such a neatly framed gift, when I look at it I feel some other things. I feel supported by my family. I know that whatever I pursue in life--even a quest for the continents made from garbage--my family will back me up. I feel joy, because I am fortunate to have a family that gets along and has a good time together. I feel love.

Who knew all that could come from an Africa-shaped asphalt shingle?

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Tradition Continues

When I was growing up, the adults on my dad's side of the family held a Christmas grab bag gift exchange. This wasn't for nice generic gifts though, this was a gag gift exchange and the worse the gift, the better. There were plenty of truly awful and uproariously funny gifts over the years, but the best had to be what the family called The Lady in the Bathtub.

The Lady was found (by yours truly when I was about 8) at my elementary school chili supper/white elephant sale. She was a wonder to behold; the lady was sitting in an old claw foot bathtub and she was submerged from the waist down and wearing nothing but a very large hat decorated with fruit. The bathtub and hat were painted gray while the lady and the bathwater were painted a glossy black. The lady was an older woman who was amply "blessed." Yes. She had enormous boobs. And the only bit of color on this whole darkly painted ceramic form was the fruit on her large hat and her breasts--which were painted to look like daisies, with the nipple being the center. All in all it was rather um, striking. And funny.

Our entry into the grab bag that year was The Lady in the Bathtub. It was wonderful. And she became a tradition. Whoever got the lady would keep her for a year and then wrap her up and put her back in the exchange. It became a bit of a contest in creativity to disguise her come gift giving time so that people wouldn't dodge her due to the size of her box. Someone put a slip of paper in a small box that read "You are now the owner of The Lady in the Bathtub." Someone else kept her out of the running one year to lull everyone into a sense of false tranquility. Unfortunately, as the grandchildren grew up and lives got busier, we stopped having a Christmas get-together with my dad's family and the grab bag exchange was no more. I don't know what happened to the Lady. But she is a fond memory for my family.

These days, my side of the family does our own gag gift exchange. There have been some memorable gifts--the Guy Fieri hat my dad won and the badly hand-painted Chief Illiniwek ceramic wall hanging come to mind--but there hasn't been a gift of the caliber of The Lady in the Bathtub. Until now.

Meet The Owl Family.

Why yes, yes they are made up entirely of seashells! And yes, those are googly eyes! So, um, special!

I found these lovelies a year ago at Goodwill and my heart began to race. I just knew that they had the potential of becoming another Lady. Last year, when I put them in the grab bag, I was excited to see who would get them. I was also really hoping that it wouldn't be me or my beloved. I didn't want them coming back home. Fortunately, my brother, Uncle Grumpy got them. He was not amused. He hated them on sight. It was perfect.

He tried really hard not to take them home with him. In fact, he left them behind at the last minute on purpose. Then, my loving mother hid them in the bag containing my children's presents and they went undiscovered until we got home.

Curses!

Not to be deterred, we made sure to bring The Owl Family back to our next family gathering last Easter and Maggie was assigned the task of hiding the Owls in one of her cousin's suitcases. She did and we were elated when we got home after that visit and The Owls were not among our stuff.

Then, in August, right around her birthday, Maggie received a box in the mail from her cousin. She thought, "Cool! Jill sent me a little something for my birthday!." She didn't think it weird that her cousins had never sent her something before for her birthday and she just went ahead and opened it. The Owl Family sat there snugly in the box staring creepily up at her with their big googly eyes and a note that said "No tag backs".

Curses! Foiled again!

This time, The Owls went back into the exchange, but disguised as a slip of paper informing the recipient of the great gift they received. Guess who got them? Did you guess Uncle Grumpy? HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

He did his level best to hide them in my parent's house so he wouldn't have to take them home. He would have succeeded when he hid them in my mom's china cabinet, but my eldest nephew saw them and said "Why are the owls in Grandy's china cabinet?"

Yes. He and Maggie should not be let loose on the world. (Just kidding you two! You are both brilliant and I love you!)

At that point, everyone was on their guard, keeping an eye or a hand on their bags as we were all packing up to go. It got hidden three times and discovered twice, just in time. Unfortunately, the third time was the charm.

As my family and I were walking out to wave goodbye to Uncle Grumpy and his family, he was pulling out of the driveway in a hurry. He rolled down his window and yelled, "Have fun keeping The Owls in Indy!!!!" His children where hanging out the windows laughing and hooting with amusement and unfettered glee.

When we got to the van, there were The Owls, perched on the front seat, ready to go home with us. Again.

Curses!!!!

In the confusion of packing our things into the van and saying goodbyes, I hadn't locked the van. Then again, I didn't think I had reason to since we were in a safe area and around family. Boy was I wrong! Lesson learned.

Also? Uncle Grumpy, just so you know. It. Is. SO. ON!!! You'd better keep checking over your shoulder, because you never know where or when or how The Owls will show up. They're creepy that way.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

All This Beauty

It was supposed to be fun. It was meant to be time together to enjoy the beauty of the lights. It wasn't. Everyone was tired. Final exams and progress assessments and holiday shopping and busyness had made us stressed out and cranky. A short jaunt in the car had devolved into a long, argument-filled, tear-inducing ride.

"Look!" my beloved would point out. "Those lights right there are really pretty!"

"Hey!" I'd call out. "Those people have lights in Colts colors. And they even have a lit up horseshoe on their door!"

"Wow," declared my husband. "Those are really bright. See?"

"Ohhhh..." I'd whisper. "Those are beautiful!"

"All this beauty and it's free to us!" we'd say, delighted.

It was to no avail. It didn't matter. Everyone was stuck in their own little bubble of misery and they couldn't see the good things--even when they were pointed out to them--because they were unwilling to be moved.

Soon enough, my beloved and I were sucked in. There was some yelling. There was some martyred sighing and some muttering of self-pitying phrases. The whole van had become a black hole of hard feelings and stony hearts.

Eventually, apologies were offered all around. One apologized to another for hitting. Someone else apologized for yelling. Yet another offered an "I'm sorry" for impatience. We all apologized. We all forgave.

It could have been fun. It could have been beautiful. But it wasn't. The whole experience was marred by our own selfish behavior; our own inability to see past our own noses.

After we arrived home and had everyone settled in to one activity or another, my mind couldn't let it go. My heart was pricked and my spirit was heavy. How often had I done this very thing to The One who had given me so much? How often had I refused to see the Beauty because of my selfishness?

"Look!" He'd say. "See this mercy? Isn't it amazing?"

"Hey!" He'd call out. "Do you see the abundant love and care and provision I've given you?"

"What about that grace?" He'd ask. "Isn't it beautiful?"

All those gifts and they are free to me! Lord, help my mind and heart and spirit be quick to see them. Forgive me for being unwilling to see past my own nose. I want to always be moved to whisper "Ohhhh! Those are beautiful!"

Monday, December 13, 2010

Random Thoughts On A Snowy Day

We have an Elf on the Shelf. Do you know about the Elf? He is a little elf that sits someplace in your home and each night "magically" travels to the North Pole to report to Santa about all the good and not so good things that you do and every time he comes back, he finds a different place to perch. This elf is supposed to help your children be a little better behaved at this very exciting (and fit-inducing) time of year.

Apparently our elf (named Ned) has his work cut out for him, because someone around here *coughMarycough* is having a very hard time with her behavior. She has seen more of her room than usual because she has become a big ball of sass. Sassy enough that when remind her that Ned will report both good AND bad behavior to Santa, she replies with a very emphatic 'I DON'T CARE!"

Can I just state here for the record that if the phrase "I don't care" died a very sudden and violent death, well, I wouldn't care?

Also, I cannot tell you the number of times that someone* has had to jump out of bed either very late or very early to make sure that the elf finds a new location to perch? Stupid elf. He should move his own damn self. Magical, my booty.

*You know that that someone is me, right? I didn't really need to spell that out for you, did I?


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

I grew up in Central Illinois where there is a sandwich called a horseshoe. It is an open face sandwich consisting of toast topped by some kind of meat (usually a hamburger patty, a chicken patty, or shaved ham or turkey) which is in turn smothered in a delectable cheese sauce--NOT CHEEZ WHIZ-- and then topped by fries. Delicious? Absolutely. Healthy? Um, not so much, which is why I only make them about once a year.

Most people here in Central Indiana have never heard of them, but I think that they would go over big.

Now, this next bit is seemingly unrelated, but bear with me. My husband used to own a couple of guns. I had never been around guns growing up and had only seen them on the hips of police officers. When we were first married, my beloved took me to a firing range and taught me how to shoot. I shot a .22 and it was a very fun, very powerful, and curiously freeing experience. However, when we started a family, we decided that they served no purpose in our home and my husband sold his guns.

Recently he has taken to perusing the Sunday fliers for Dick's and Gander Mountain and wistfully declaring that he "needs" a gun. My reply is always the same: "Have you met our son, Sean? We don't need a gun. That's a combination that never needs to be seen." He then responds that he needs it for protection or for the end of the world when he will have to defend our home from looters or Tea Party activists. I usually end the discussion with "You'll shoot your eye out, kid."

Lately however, I have been rethinking my argument. I am thinking that my beloved and I could go into business together and we could serve the hungry gun enthusiasts in the area. Here's my idea: we open a combination lunch counter/guns and ammo store. We'll have a very limited menu. In fact, we'll only serve horseshoe sandwiches. We'll call the place Horseshoes and Hand Grenades.

Whaddaya think? Will we make a million billion dollars and be able to afford college for our offspring?

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Snow days for my children=awesome.
Snow days for teachers= a surprise, much-deserved day off.
Snow days for me= a sudden urge to brave the negative windchills and build my own igloo to move into. By myself. Alone.

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I just finished making homemade turtle candies and I defy you to find a better combination of things. It is a flavor trifecta of perfection. And if you get to enjoy one while looking out the window and watching your child build a snow fort? Well that's just bonus perfection. (It is too a term!)

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I think the writers for "The Middle" have a camera hidden in my home.

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My husband is much nicer than I. He spent an hour or so this morning snow blowing our driveway and the walks and driveways of some of our neighbors. Even the crazy, nutbar, neighbors that don't think much of us.

I would have spent that time thinking of ways to write, um, "stuff" on their snow. In urine.

Yeah, his way is probably nicer.

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I think that every weather forecaster should be required to live in a Northern state (Minnesota, Michigan, Upstate NY, Montana, etc.) for several years before they are let loose on the public. That way, they don't spend a solid week talking about a big storm that might be coming that might possibly bring snow in amounts that haven't been determined yet but could be measurable. Maybe. Possibly.

After they have plugged block heaters into their engine during the winter, then they can forecast.* After they have shoveled out of 20+ inches of snow, then they can forecast.* After they have thrown warm water into the air and watched it change into ice crystals, then they can forecast.* After they have had a governor cancel school for an entire state, then they can forecast.* After they have driven a vehicle across a frozen lake, then they can forecast. ** Until then, they need to remember: it's just snow. We live in Indiana. It's December. Snow happens. Two inches is not a lot--even when the wind is blowing hard, chances are pretty good that things will get better in a few hours. There is not really any reason to spend 20 minutes of a 30 minute news broadcast talking about the what-ifs. (Can you tell this subject makes me a little cranky?) And yet they suck me in every time.

*All things that I did when living in Minnesota.
** Something that I saw others do but was waaaaay to chicken to attempt while living in Minnesota.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go calm myself by eating a turtle. Or seven.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Life, It Is So Fun*

You know how there are times in your life that there is so much going on, so many things happening, so much news to share that you are just breathless in the midst of it all and don't know where to begin?

This isn't one of those times. Ahem.

I am sorry to say that the most interesting thing I have to report is a rather aggravating case of plantar fasciitis. Would it make it more interesting if I told you that it's totally self-diagnosed (I had a consult with Dr. Google, who, by the way, completely concurs with my diagnosis) and that I am now an expert in taping my own feet? No? Well, you might change your mind about that if you saw me actually trying to tape my own feet. I have to get rather acrobatic with myself and it turns out that I am not so bendy any more. I guess if I injure myself whilst taping my feet that could sorta kinda be entertaining but I dunno, saying that you injured yourself in a foot-taping accident lacks a bit of glamor, don't you think?

I can report that the dumb dog has been given the most evil gift ever. It is a jingle collar. What's a jingle collar, you ask? It's a piece of elastic wrapped in red and white velour--a canine scrunchy, if you will--that has bells attached around it. It is a torture device for the dog. When she wears it and hears it jingle, she looks behind her and runs as if she were being pursued by a rabid gopher. It's seriously hilarious. Guess who gave it to her? (Insert maniacal laughter here.) I couldn't help myself. It was calling my name from the shelves at Petco. I just thought it was cute and that the dumb dog would look festive in it, I didn't know that it was going to freak her out. That was just a lucky bonus. But I'm not cruel. I've only put it on her twice. I'm saving the real fun for Christmas when she can wear it and tear around the house and knock people over.

I can also report that the Christmas lights that I've put up in several places around our home are conspiring to make me crazy. They were all working perfectly when we put them up. Now they are taking turns burning out and dying--but only half a string at a time. You'd think I'd have wised up and purchased several boxes and kept them stashed here so that I'd have them when the lights decide to fizzle out. But that would be what a smart, sane person would do. I, on the other hand, have made at least three trips to big box stores to purchase a new string of lights. I am a jeenyus. Nothing makes me lose my will to live faster than having to stand in line at a store that has 35 register lanes but only four of them are open.

And do you know what else is fun? When the credit card you pay off every month through electronic banking somehow hasn't posted yet and so when you are paying for your stuff--the single box of lights among that stuff--with the credit card that you think has a zero balance, it comes back declined. So fun!

Know what's even more fun than that? When you scratch your head and ask the clerk to please run it again because it must be an error and the clerk runs it and then says loudly "You denied," to which you reply, "That must be a mistake. We pay off our cards monthly. Would you try one more time?" while nodding apologetically to the man behind you in line.

And the most fun is when the clerk runs it, then says very loudly so that people in the other three open lanes can hear, "YOU DENIED!" while giving you the stink eye. So fun! Yeah.

I can now report that that problem is resolved and that instead of doing more Christmas shopping, I stayed home. I'd like to tell you that I did some wrapping or baking, but what I really did was watch "Elf" while I taped my feet. Nothing screams Christmas like Will Farrell and sports tape.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that I don't know how to have a good time.

*Only if today is Opposite Day.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Before And After: Who's Crazy Now?!

Remember this?

She's all finished and sitting in my entry hall. I may be crazy for taking it on this time of year, but my crazy got some good results. I love her. I shall call her Blanche because she reminds me of a southern belle who was forlorn and past her prime, but with a little care became a beauty once more.


Also? Blanche is very handy to have around since Goodwill came last week and carted out my old dining room table and china hutch. I needed some place to store the very few things that I kept after cleaning out the hutch and Blanche is happy to oblige. Gotta like that in a girl piece of furniture.

What? Don't you name your furniture? Truthfully, this is the only piece of furniture I have named in my home. But I think it fits. (Will you think I'm crazy if I tell you that while we haven't named furniture, we did name our van? Never mind. Don't answer.)

I was lucky that all of the hardware was in good shape. I was able to spray paint it with oil rubbed bronze paint. It photographed black, and it is dark, but it's not really black. I used some paint I got free from Glidden to paint her and if she gets scuffed up--which, let's face it, in this house is likely to happen this week--I'm okay with distressing her a little bit. I think she can take it. So this project cost me nothing but what I paid for the cabinet ($40.00 at Goodwill) and a few hours of my time since I had all the supplies I needed already, leaving me a little extra green to use at my discretion. (Hello, nice bottle of wine to add to my Life List!)

Now, just so you understand, there will be no more of this project madness until well after the holidays. I have stuff to do--stuff that involves making Oreo balls and Irish Cream cakes so that my family will not feel neglected over the holidays.

And who will ever know if some of those Oreo balls disappear on their way into the freezer for safekeeping? Shhhh....

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Crazy Continues

Who doesn't spend several hours hot gluing hundreds of coffee filters onto a wreath? What's that you say? Sane people? Oh. Well then.

I am definitely insane. And I've lost several fingerprints due to glue gun burns. If I ever wanted to commit a crime or disappear to Brazil, now is the time, since I don't think I can be identified through fingerprints any longer. Hmmm...new identity, sipping frosty adult beverages on the beaches of Brazil...things to ponder...

Anyway! I needed something to go over my mantel this holiday season. Usually there is a very large, very pretty picture of tulips over the fireplace, but somehow the colors orange and green don't scream Christmas, do they? So after seeing these beautiful coffee filter wreaths around the Internet, I decided to feed my insanity by making one.




I am happy with how it turned out. It's large enough to fill the space and it looks nice with my white mantel. It's just how I pictured it in my head. I fully intend on making a smaller one with natural colored coffee filters. AFTER Christmas, that is. I am crazy, but I'm not barking mad. Shut up.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Am Crazy: Reason 7,853

Who takes on a big furniture refinishing/painting project on the threshold of the busiest, most stressful month of the year? A crazy person, that's who.

Really though. Look at those lines! And she is just the right size for my entryway! And it's wood! And the drawers are dovetail construction! And the price was right! And what else do I have to do this month anyway?

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Yeah. Total. Lunatic.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, Turkey!


Happy Thanksgiving!



Gobble, gobble, gobble!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful

I visited Mary's class for a small Thanksgiving celebration. It was wonderful. After the children sang for us, they presented their parents with a thank you card. This is Mary's.



I'm grateful for the same things as my daughter. But I have a few things to add.

I'm thankful for a healthy family. I'm thankful for a husband who loves me in spite of the many ways I am unlovable. I'm thankful for my eye rolling, foot stomping, fit pitching, picky eating, dirt making, hug giving, laugh sharing, awe inspiring children.

I'm thankful for an overabundance of food and clothing and a home that in most of the world would be seen as terribly rich and spacious.

I'm thankful for friends who lift me up in prayer, make me laugh, and for some reason keep on being my friends despite my tendency toward navel gazing and self-pity.

I'm thankful for blog readers (y'all are also my friends even though some of you are friends that I haven't met face to face yet) who encourage me, laugh in all the right places and make me want to write more.

I'm thankful for wine. (You knew I would get there eventually, right?)

I'm thankful for parents who cared enough to say "no." I'm thankful that I get to see them often and speak to them daily if I wish.

I'm thankful for a Savior who loves me enough to pursue me even when I am pushing Him away with all of myself.

What are you thankful for?

Monday, November 22, 2010

I'm Like The Bionic Woman's Twin. Except Not Really.

I have a bionic eye. Okay, not really. But that's what my beloved calls it. You see, five or six years ago, I had a lens replacement in my right eye because of a cataract.

Now, I have no idea what caused me, in my mid-thirties, to get a cataract. It's something my ophthalmologist and optometrist have spent much of their time quizzing me about:

Doctors: Did you ever have a head injury?
Me: Does being whaled on by your older brothers in childhood count?
Doctors: Not unless you were hospitalized.
Me: Um, then no.
Doctors: Were you ever hit in the eye?
Me: Like hit with....what exactly?
Doctors: A hard ball or another very hard object.
Me: Would I have been hit so hard that I can't remember being hit? 'Cause maybe that's what happened and now I have amnesia about the incident.
Doctors: ......(crickets chirping).....
Me: So...um, no.
Doctors: You know you're very young to have a cataract. This is unusual, but not unheard of.
Me: Could you please call my mother so that she will be convinced? Also, do you expect me to break a hip anytime soon?

The gist of it is, that I lived with my cataract until I couldn't any more, at which time I underwent lens replacement. Then, for several weeks afterward, I was the only person south of 60 to be in the ophthalmologist's waiting room and roaming the streets wearing those oh-so-cool big black sunglasses that old people wear after they've had cataract surgery. And, because of the shape of the surface of my left eye, I was not a candidate for Lasik. I was, however, a candidate for something called--and I swear to you this is the name--Phakik (pronounced fake-ick). But, since it wasn't covered by insurance and also, not inconsequentially, because it was named Phakik, we opted not to have this procedure done on my left eye. Seriously, Eye Procedure Marketing Guys? You might want to rethink the naming of that one.

The upshot is, that for several years, I've had very good vision in my right eye, requiring no vision correction and I've had very poor vision in my left eye, requiring very corrected vision, meaning that I only wear one contact. It also means that I haven't worn eyeglasses in lots of years because yo, that's one crazy prescription--Coke bottle thick on one side and virtually nothing on the other. Having no eyeglasses makes for some interesting happenings in the middle of the night when I'm no longer wearing my left contact. I walk around with my left eye squinched shut trying not to fall over from my lack of depth perception. Again I must say: My beloved? So. Lucky. Me so sexy.

The replacement lens in my right eye has excellent mid-range vision and pretty fair distance vision, but my up close vision in my right eye is not so great. Meanwhile, the mid-range and distance in my left eye is rotten but my up close vision is great. My poor optic nerves. They are so confused. I use my right eye for most distance and my left eye for up close vision. I am continually closing one eye to see. It looks like I have a tic or that I am big on winking.

Recently, I noticed a change in the distance vision of my bionic eye. I hadn't been to the eye doctor in several years and knew that it was time to get a new contact (read: I used the last one in my box and it was getting old) and figured that I would probably need some distance correction in my bionic eye. This was not surprising. The ophthalmologist told me that this might happen, although some people are lucky enough to never need their vision corrected again, except for reading glasses. (Damn you, up close vision!) And so it was that I made myself an appointment to have my vision tested and to be fitted for contacts and eyeglasses.

So last Wednesday, I sat myself down in the hotseat chair to have my vision tested. I prepared myself for a whole lot of "which is better, 1 or 2?" confusion only to be pleasantly surprised that my choices were pretty easy. I'm not sure if this is because my vision is so changed or so unchanged, but I was grateful not to have to say "um...I'm not sure" more than one time. It's so much pressure! It always feels like a test. Am I the only one anxious that I'm going to get the answer wrong?

I am? Oh. Okay then.

It turned out that the contacts that the doctor wanted to fit me with that came in my prescription were ones that they didn't have on hand. The doctor said they would have to be ordered. Fine, I said. Order them. The doctor could give me a sample in her second lens choice that would fit my vision but wouldn't correct for my astigmatism. Fine. Gimme. It's better than nothing and free is free, right? It would only be a week until my prescription contacts came in. In the meantime, I could pick out a lovely pair of glasses and they would be ready in an hour and they would be my prescription. Fabulous, right?

And this is where I would love to say "right" in answer to my own question. But, it turns out that my very stylish, smart-looking glasses aren't exactly right. Only I didn't know that right away. I also didn't know that I would be relying on them so much since it turns out that the freebie contacts make me crazy. You see, the fact that they don't correct my astigmatism means that while I can, indeed, see that big Mack truck coming my way, it also means that the big Mack truck--and everydamnthing else is BLURRY. And since I haven't worn a contact lens on my right eye for half a decade, well, when I put it in, my right eyeball was all What the WHAT? WHAT IS THAT THING ON ME? THERE'S SOMETHING ON ME! GET! IT! OFF! What I'm saying is it's taking a little getting used to. So I've been relying on my eyeglasses more than I thought I would.

I mean, my glasses are stylish and smart-looking and I kinda channel Tina Fey when I'm wearing them, but oops, I can't really see out of them either. I'm not entirely sure, but I don't think they've corrected for the astigmatism in them either.

So now I'm back to where I was before I went to the eye doctor. I'm wearing these glasses, but I'm relying on my right eye for distance and my left eye for up close vision. Except now my right eye is pissed because I'm sticking a lens on it for a good part of the day. Lovely. And for this privilege I got to lay out several hundred dollars. Sweet.

Looks like I'll be heading back to the eye doctor to see if they can fix my glasses. The answer had better be yes.

Or I might have to let my right eye do all the talking.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Things I've Recently Learned About Myself

I like Mexican hot chocolate. I've always loved hot chocolate, but had never tried Mexican hot chocolate before. I must say, it's a fiesta en mi boca!

I can tolerate my own clutter better than I can tolerate the clutter of other people. I don't know why this just occurred to me, but it was like a light bulb went on somewhere inside my little brain. I'm not sure how knowing this will help me out, but for some reason just being able to put my finger on that makes a difference.

I feel guilty honking my car horn at someone--even if it's justified. I recently honked my horn at a young woman who was texting and driving. She was not paying any attention to where she was going and was weaving back and forth between my lane and hers and I was seriously worried that she was going to cause an accident. I honked at her. Twice. And when I passed by her, I looked at her and said very loudly (because of course she could hear me) "PUT THE PHONE DOWN AND PAY ATTENTION, SWEETHEART!" and honked again. I don't think she noticed because she didn't even look my way and was still looking at her phone. But even after I got home, I felt bad. I was all "ohmygoshIhonkedmyhornIhopeIwasjustifiedwhatifthatdriverthinksI'macrochityoldwoman!?"

I think I may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. I am seriously grumpy and kind of sad. I'm sure there could be other reasons for my grumpy sadness, but SAD seems reasonable enough to hang blame on and much easier to say out loud to other people than to say "Oh, I'm not really sure why I'm feeling this way. Now go away while I curl up into a ball and cry."

I am a procrastinator of the first order. I usually pin this label on my beloved. I don't think he would deny it. Much. But after seeing some things that I really need to take care of get shuffled around and put on the back burner, I have discovered that I am indeed The Pot. (But hey, I'm married to The Kettle and he's one hot fellow.)

I'm not sure about blogging anymore. I still love to write. I just am not sure that I have anything at all to say that anyone wants to hear. Not that that has ever stopped me before. Heh heh. I'm not sure I have anything to say that I want to hear. I'm kind of sick of myself, you know?

Okay. So there you go. Just a few more things about me that will only matter if you are ever: a) on The Newlywed Game with me, which just seems silly since I am already married and definitely not a newlywed, b) stuck on a deserted island with me, in which case I must say man, I hope there's some wild boar around because I'm not much for seafood and also pick up your socks already!, or c) making hot chocolate for me, in which case I say add that cinnamon!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Obsession

This is the face of obsession.


Every morning when she comes downstairs, she waits for me to raise the blinds. Then she sits and waits.


She knows that the chipmunk could show his little face at any time and she is not about to miss it. So she sits.


Occasionally, a leaf is blown by the wind and she gives a start and a growl. Then she settles back down to wait.


But when the chipmunk makes his appearance? She tries to paw her way through the (very dirty, dog nose smudged) window.


It's almost as entertaining as watching her chase light.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's Never Good

It's never good when you've seen your kids' pediatrician so much that you joke "We've got to stop meeting like this," when you take yet another child in to be seen.

It's really not good when you sort of mean it.

It's never good when you have a plan in place for the day and it gets blown to smithereens.

It's really not good when you decide that since you can't tackle the whole plan, well, you'll just blow that plan off and watch bad television.

It's never good when your neighbor's house doesn't sell.

It's really not good when it happens to be the crazy neighbor and they actually had a deal, but then the deal fell through because the crazy neighbor couldn't agree on a date to vacate the home. What the what?!?! I totally would have helped them pack!!

Side note: Both times we have sold our houses, we have had less than a month to vacate--and one time we didn't even have a house to move into (Thanks Margie and Tim! We are still indebted to you for letting us live with you for a month!) but we wanted to sell our house so we got out.

Mental note: Do something to make crazy neighbor want to get out of their house quickly. Perhaps something along the lines of the Brady Bunch haunted house episode. Or something dumb dog related. Or offspring related. Or maybe I could just get schnockered and sit in a lawn chair on my front lawn wearing a tube top and cutoffs and sing really loudly. That would probably do it.

It's never good when your child is up in the night with bad dreams.

It's really not good when you have taken an Excedrin PM and your child comes into your room FIVE TIMES. This often leads to hissing unmentionable words not so under your breath.

It's never good when you have been to the grocery store and you can't think of anything to fix for dinner.

It's really not good when you have, for various reasons, had to go to the grocery store three days in a row and you still can't think of anything to fix for dinner so you wait for your husband to offer to buy fast food. Not that that happened around here. Last night. Ahem.

It's never good when you run out of wine.

It's really not good when you realize you didn't run out of wine, you just have three different bottles open that you forgot about. Nice. Lush.

It's never good when you see that someone has punctured the toothpaste tube.

It's really not good when you realize that that someone had used a pocketknife that your 12 year old swore he would guard with his life and then left sitting unguarded on the bathroom counter for just anyone --and by anyone I mean my 6 year old--to find and use to puncture the toothpaste tube.

It's never good when someone denies something obvious.

It's really not good when those someones happen to be your 12 and 6 year olds.

It's never good to drink too much soda.

It's really not good when you are on your second Diet Coke of the day and it's only 9 a.m.

It's never a good idea to keep writing when you've run out of things to say.

It's really not a good idea to keep writing when you've run out of things to say because you are avoiding doing other things. Like laundry. And cleaning up toothpaste globs from the bathroom counter.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Surest Sign of Fall

The weather has cooled off around here. It's a nice change from the 90 degree temperatures we were experiencing even into the end of September. After changing leaves and football season, the surest sign of fall at Chez Ganey is dining on hearty soups. I love soup. It's easy, can be relatively inexpensive, and tastes so yummy. Oh, and you can often enjoy soup for days after your initial meal. What's not to love? I had me at leftovers.

The latest offering on the menu here was Creamy Chicken Noodle and Wild Rice Soup served in bread bowls. This one pleases my whole family.


Okay. You got me. Not Mary. She will not partake of the soup, but she is happy to make herself a sandwich out of the bread bowl. Er, the one lump of bread that I don't cut into a bread bowl, that is.

But everyone else? They are in Soup Nirvana.

And because I would like you, too, to be in Soup Nirvana, I will share the recipe.

Creamy Chicken Noodle & Wild Rice Soup
10 c. (80 oz.) chicken broth, reserve 1 cup
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 (12 oz.) package Reames frozen egg noodles
1 (6.2 oz.) box of 5 minute long grain and wild rice*
1/3 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 c. half-and-half
2 c. diced, cooked chicken
1/2 c. thinly sliced green onion**

In a large pan or Dutch oven, combine 9 cups of the chicken broth and chopped onion. Bring to boiling. Add the noodles, return to boiling. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes (or until noodles are desired tenderness). Add rice and seasoning packet, cook for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile , in a small bowl, stir together the 1 cup of reserved chicken broth, flour, salt, pepper, and seasoning; stir until smooth. Slowly add flour and broth mixture to cooked noodle and rice mixture, stirring constantly. Bring to boiling; cook 1 minute or until thickened and bubbly. Slowly add half-and-half to cooked noodle mixture, stirring constantly. Add chicken; heat gently, stirring frequently until heated through. Stir in green onion before serving.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.
*I use the Uncle Ben's 90 second microwavable pouch and it works great.
** In our family, green onions are always optional. Meaning, most of the time my family opts not to have them. I am sure that it's wonderful with green onions, but I cannot tell you for sure, as I've never included them in this soup.

We like to eat these out of bread bowls that I make using frozen bread dough. Although, my beloved eats his from a regular bowl with his bread on the side because he is difficult a purist who wants to eat more of this soup than a bread bowl will hold.

And because I was feeling particularly autumn-ish, I also made apple dumplings. Guess who didn't have to clear the table after this meal? That's right. It was all so yummy, everyone else willing cleared off the table because they thought I had worked so hard to serve them such a delicious meal. Well, they were half right. I had served them a delicious meal. Ahem.

I keep telling you people that I am a giver. Now do you believe me? Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vocabulary Day

Two of my kids have vocabulary day at their school. Do you know about vocabulary day? Essentially what happens is you choose or are assigned a vocabulary word, then you have to dress up as that word and give a short presentation on the part of speech and meaning of the word. Even the staff dress up. I suppose it is meant to bring focus to language and act as a form of enrichment. For my third grader, it was yet another thing to get mad about and another reason for him to rant over the unfairness of his life. (Gawd! Being nine, is like, so horrible!) For my 8th grader, it was yet another thing for her to give the sorta-kinda-effort that she gave her Halloween costume.

Maggie's word was somnolent. She dressed in a white v-neck shirt, pajama bottoms, and moccasin slippers. I suggested an eye-mask or giving herself dark circles under her eyes and taking a blanket with her. This was met with an eye roll and head shake of utter disdain. She always enjoys seeing the way people dress on vocabulary day and she has come home with fun stories in the past, but God forbid she be one of the people that goes all out. That would be weird. And possibly not cute. We cannot have that!

Sean's vocabulary day was worth a pretty hefty grade, and he had some stricter guidelines so he needed to put some effort into his project. Rather, he needed me to light a fire under his butt so that he would put some effort into his project. His word was circumference. We decided to dress him as Sir Cumference (like the character from the books). He was The Knight of Circles. He had a tunic that we made together, some shin guards and a helmet that we bought--that were in fact, Roman rather than medieval, but we didn't care that we were mixing our countries and eras. He also had a shield that we made bearing his vocabulary word because it had to be written somewhere on his costume. Instead of a sword, he carried a ruler. Then he had to give a speech about his word.

The fact that this all fell on the Friday before Halloween just about made me lose my tiny little mind. It also just about made him lose his. As well as his life. Because I was ready to kill him. He was more worried about his Halloween costume than his school costume and I had to keep reminding him that if he didn't worry more about one, he wouldn't have to worry at all about the other. Yeah, he didn't care for that idea, so suddenly he became very cooperative and complimentary. He made Eddie Haskel look like a surly ne'er-do-well.

So this is what his costume looked like--minus the football pants and Under Armor.

So help me, if he doesn't get a good grade, then next year I'm just going to let him do it all without help. If he winds up writing his word on a paper scrap and pinning it to his clothes I'll call it good.

And I might just use some words that would never be approved for Vocabulary Day.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trick or Treat! Now Gimme Some A Your Candaaay!!!

I have a confession to make: I hate Halloween. I'm sure that I didn't as a kid. I mean, what child in his right mind would? Your mom does everything and you get to go beg for candy and get all hopped up on sugar and your parents can't even get mad about it. That right there is a holiday designed with kids in mind. I'm not completely sure that it wasn't kids who came up with it in the first place. I know the origins of Halloween. Or what they say the origins are. But I'm starting to think that perhaps that's all subterfuge and smoke and mirrors to cover the fact that children came up with the day. What a perfect evil plan.

The reasons I hate Halloween are numerous, but they can all be encompassed by this statement: I have to do it all.

And also: Since when did people start decorating for Halloween like it is some major holiday and when did they start putting their stuff up in September?

Related: I am certain my one carved pumpkin as our only decoration made our house look like the house with the least Halloween Spirit.

Also related: I just don't care.

Anyway, my children, just like most, were out there in it last night, knocking on doors and trolling for candy. Three of my children were old enough to go either with a buddy or with a group. That just left Mary, who wasn't feeling well and stopped after a few houses (Still, she came home with half a pumpkin bucket full of candy. Not a bad haul for quick work.) for us to take around. Rather, for my beloved to take around. I sat outside on a camp stool trying not to freeze my bupkiss off and passed out candy.

The kids chose some winners for their costumes this year. Maggie chose the perfect outfit for a teenage girl. She taped Smarties all over her pants and went as "Smarty-pants." She was thereby able to justify her begging for candy by having a sorta-kinda-but-not-really-costume. I thought it was perfect as she is a smartypants (and sometimes a smarty mouth) and is sometimes happy to give only sorta-kinda-but-not-really-effort to things. Things like Halloween costumes. She thought it was perfect because she could still "look cute" and not have "gross hair." I don't have a picture of her, as she went to a friend's house and got ready and went Halloweening there.

James went as the Grim Reaper. This is just a variation of the same costume he's worn for the last three years. This is so James. When he was three, he dressed up as a firefighter. Then he wanted to be a firefighter again for the next two years. Same with his birthday. For about four years in a row, he wanted a wienie-roast for his birthday party. This is the same kid who complains that he misses "the old wallpaper" three years after we've removed it. Still, he was funny about it. He would point a crooked finger at you and growl "You're next!" and his Facebook status read: "i am death." Made me laugh out loud.

Sean decided to dress as a wrestler from WWE. The WWE is what I call a soap opera with violence for young boys. It's like a tween version of Gray's Anatomy but with more makeup, testosterone, and rhinestones. Oh and choke slams. Some of his buddies were dressing up as Seamus and Rey Mysterio, so Sean decided to be Jeff Hardy. I needed lots of coaching on the costume and makeup needs because while I was familiar with Seamus and Rey, I had never laid eyes on Jeff before. I must have done okay, because when Sean looked in the mirror, he said "BEST. COSTUME. EVER!!" In my humble opinion, his best costume ever was when he was two and I dressed him up as Harpo Marx but what do I know?

Mary was a Native American princess. Now the costume bag just said "Native American girl," but when you are six, you have the right to add princess where ever you want. She was quite happy with her costume and loved her fake braids. She kept twirling them in her hands. Mary had been up in the night for the last couple of nights, complaining of a sore throat. However, she wasn't so sick that a dose of Motrin couldn't pep her up, so rather than causing a hell storm that would come from making her stay in on Halloween, I dosed her up and sent her out to contaminate the neighborhood beg for her share of the neighborhood's candy. After she came home, she curled up on the couch with her daddy while I continued to pass out candy. Yeah. We're going to the doctor today.

I might've sorta kinda had a little Halloween spirit when I caught glimpses of cuteness that made me want to die and cleverness that made me have a glimmer of hope for the next generation.

What made me want to die of cuteness:
--A two year old dressed in a monkey costume--complete with fat belly and banana sticking out of his pocket.

--Our neighbor's kids. Our neighbors across the cul-de-sac have two sets of twins. Two. Sets. Of Twins! They have a pair of 7 year old boys. And a twin girl and boy that just turned two. The big boys went as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. The younger twins went as Yoda and Princess Leia. When I saw them coming down their driveway, I had to call Patrick off the couch so he, too, could die from the cuteness. We are now corpses, the both of us.

What made me have a glimmer of hope for the next generation:
--3 junior high boys who made their costumes (suits, hats, ties) out of neon duct tape. Seriously cool. These same boys last year were and ipod and a claw machine. The cynicism might have crept back in when after I commented on how cool their costumes were, one of the boys said "Oh, yeah. You get way more candy that way."

I guess I'll have to get used to the idea that Halloween isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I suppose I'll get through it. Knowing that I can raid my kids' treat bags and sneak a Snickers while they are at school will go a long way in alleviating any bad feelings.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Photo Friday: Flower Shower

On my last day at work, my wonderful students and their families gave me a "flower shower." They all brought in a single stem, a small bouquet, or a small plant for me. I had two very large (think plastic gallon size pitcher) bouquets to take home and enjoy as well as a book of very sweet letters and pictures from my students. See what I mean about them making it hard to leave?

The flowers were a diverse bunch. There were purple mums, blue, green, and a never-before-seen-before-by-my-eyes purple hydrangea, yellow roses, pink roses, lavender roses, red roses, yellow spider mums, sunflowers, stargazer lillies, purple irises, some decorative berries, and a couple of pretty flowers that I cannot name. There was also an orchid stem. I was able to have five different arrangements of flowers from that lot. My home smelled wonderful and looked lovely.

Having only admired orchids from afar, because I fear that they are far too temperamental to withstand the neglect they would receive from me, I was delighted to have one in my home that I could photograph. I had a great time experimenting with my camera and admiring the beauty and intricacy of this flower.



All that remains of the lovely bouquets now are the pictures I took. Although when I walk into my bedroom there is a hint of the scent lily even now and it makes my heart happy.


Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Twelve Things I Love About You


1. Your sense of humor is well-honed. The fact that it so closely matches mine only makes things better. We get each other. We play off of each other. We like to make each other laugh.


2. I love that you are a peacemaker. You are quick to apologize, even though I know sometimes you hate that it's almost always you that says "I'm sorry" first. You don't like discord. You never have. And even though you are quick to apologize and smooth things over, I know that you will not be a pushover, because you are stubborn--which can be a good thing if used well--but being a peacemaker is a great trait to have. And you have it in spades, my boy.



3. I love your smiling hazel eyes. I love how your eyes change color depending on what you are wearing and the mood you are in. I adore being able to see your smile in your eyes before I see it anywhere else on your face. Even as a baby with a pacifier in your mouth, we knew when you were smiling because it showed in your eyes. Those eyes are lady-killers and they have slain me.


4. You are passionate. When you love something, you love it all the way. When you were little, it was trains you were crazy over. Now it is football. You breathe it the way the rest of us breathe air. You love the Colts and root them on, but last year, you became devoted to the Steelers as well, and there is no swaying you.

I joke that it's your way of hedging your bets come Superbowl time. When you love something--trains, football, video games, Gary Paulson books, my burgers on the grill--you LOVE with your whole heart.

5. I love our shared love of books. I love that sometimes, we are sitting in the same room, contentedly reading and off in our own worlds. I love that when you are reading a new book, you want to tell me all about it. I love that when I am reading a new book, you want to hear all about it. I love seeing the light coming under your closed bedroom door and knowing that you are reading yourself to sleep.



6. You are driven. You work hard and you have high expectations for yourself. Your father and I have tried very hard to let you know that as long as you are doing your best, that is enough for us. I'm not sure it's enough for you. I know that you will succeed at whatever you put your mind to. I pray that you will grant yourself some leniency and allow yourself some room to know that your best doesn't have to be perfect.



7. I love your modesty. You are smart. You work hard. You play hard. You never boast about yourself. You are quick to give others credit and praise.

8. When we are in an unpleasant situation, when things aren't looking so great, you find ways to make the best of it. You encourage others. You find something funny to laugh about. You think of ways to help. You are a good guy to have around in those situations.


9. I love your squealy, crackly-voiced laugh when you are being tickled. And you are very ticklish. I love that you still let me tickle you and hear that laughter.

10. I love that you are the only one in the family that likes green beans. And I really love that you don't want fresh ones or cooked ones. You want them cold, out of a can. I try to keep a can in the pantry, because I never know when you'll request them. (Blecch!)

11. I am enjoying seeing the young man you are becoming. You are maturing in body, mind, and spirit and it is a delight to behold. I get full-body shivers when I catch a glimpse of the man you will be someday.

12. I love that you are my very own. Of all the children that God could have entrusted to my care, He gave me you. And for that I am blessed beyond measure.

Happy 12th birthday, son. You are my favorite James.

My apologies for the lateness of this post, but your birthday was full of football and friends and scaring your mother with the possibility of you having cracked your ribs. So this didn't get published in time. Instead, you are my Love Thursday post for the week and my 200th post. And since your ribs are fine and I have forgiven you for scaring me, I hope that you will forgive me. ;)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Letters To The Past: What I Wish I Could Tell My 23 Year Old Self

Dear Sara,

You know what? You look good. You look so much better than you think you do. Trust me--your 33 year old self will be jealous.

Trust yourself. You know how to do your job. It's hard, but you can do it. And those kids that you are working with, well, you don't know the impact that you are having on them. You may never know. But you are definitely impacting them in a positive way. Don't get discouraged.

On the other hand, don't be in such a rush. You're only 23 years old. In the span of an average life, that's not very old. Work will always be there. Responsibilities will always be there. Yes, you should "be responsible," but now is the safest time in your life to take some chances and make some mistakes. Take time for new things: eat things that you never have before, learn something new, buy something frivolous, travel to places you've always wanted to go--you may never have another chance.

Along the same vein, be more open to making new friends. Don't be so shy. Be BOLD! What have you got to lose?

Relish your independence. It won't be long before others are fully dependent on you.

Call your grandparents often. Time moves faster than you think it does. You will never regret spending time connecting with them.

Oh. One more thing. That "hippie" shirt? That's a bad idea. You might want to rethink that one. Because, trust me, someday you will be explaining your fashion choices to people who already think that you don't have a clue. Don't give them ammunition.

You are doing great. Good things are in store for you. Take some leaps.

Sara

Monday, October 25, 2010

The First Day Of The Rest...

Today is the first day of the rest of my unemployed life. Or something like that. Remember how I was overwhelmed? After mulling and stewing and praying and crying and seeking advice and deciding and backing out, I finally got things straight and made the decision: it was time to quit work and stay at home again.

It was a painful decision because that's not who I am. I am not someone who undertakes a big responsibility and then backs out. I am not a person who thinks that a job is just a job. That's not how I was raised and that's not how I'm raising my children.

But.

I was so torn. I didn't feel as if I was doing great work either with my family or at school. My part-time job took up more time than I'd estimated--not through any extra expectations on the part of the people I worked with, but because that is the nature of part-time work. I just couldn't catch up. I was feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and even a little bit resentful and that's not a good way to live.

So.

Last Tuesday was my last day. And I have to say, if you are ever going to quit a job, my old workplace is the place to do it. I was met with hugs and gifts and love and wonderful words of support. It made me want to take it all back. Well, almost.

Actually, as my kids had fall break on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I hadn't really had the chance to think about the relief of not having to battle it all. But last night, knowing that I wouldn't be going in today, knowing that I would be home? Well, it felt like I'd lost 300 pounds from my shoulders and that feels pretty good.

Now I have to order my week. There are things to do around here. Things like catch up on the blog--there was a birthday on the weekend and I need to get stuff posted for it. I need to read utter crap that has no literary value whatsoever. And I need to do it while consuming large quantities of wine, cheese, and chocolate. I need to visit craft stores and Goodwill because they are starting to forget who I am. I need to catch up on all the shows that I've got sitting in the queue on my DVR and have been to tired to watch. Too tired to watch TV? Now that's some serious tired, my friends! I need to play with the dumb dog and take her for long walks. I need to start running again. I need to clean out my pantry and refrigerator because I keep grabbing empty or near-empty containers that my offspring leave in them. I swear once I do that, both will be nearly bare. I need to do an actual with-a-list grocery run, not just an oh-crap-I'm-out-of-____-and-I-should-pick-up-a-couple-of-_____-as-well grocery run. I need to dive into the closets and drawers in my kids' rooms and clear them out. I need to paint furniture for James' room. I need to paint Maggie's room. I need to paint Sean's room. I need to paint the kids' bathroom. I need to clean the blinds. The garden needs to be winterized. My bedroom needs a deep cleaning. The planning desk in the kitchen needs to be relieved of the 65 metric tons of crap. I need to go to the eye doctor. I need to get my mammogram. I need to schedule a visit to the vet for the dumb dog.

Actually, I think I might need an assistant. It would only be part-time work and I couldn't pay them much. In fact, I can't pay anything. But I'm fun to be around and I would totally share my wine, chocolate, and cheese. Any takers?

Friday, October 15, 2010

She's No Boots. In Fact, I'm Not Sure She's Really A Dog

When I was growing up, we had a dog named Boots. She hated squirrels. We had a big silver maple tree in the back yard and the squirrels used to sit up in that tree and taunt her. She'd sit at the bottom of the tree and bark and carry on at those squirrels.

Sometimes, when we were in the house, we would look at Boots and say "Get that squirrel!" and she would run barking to the window or door. The thing is, we didn't even have to say those words to make her crazy. We could say something like "Hit that girl!" or "Knit and purl!" and she would lose her mind. This was big entertainment for us.

Now I have Tilly. Of all the dogs I've ever owned, Tilly is the most, um...special. I would never say this in front of her for fear of giving her a complex, but I don't think she's the sharpest knife in the drawer. Okay. You caught me. I would totally say it in front of her and she would look at me with a blank stare because what she would be hearing is "Tilly blah, blah, blah. Tilly blah, blah."

The other day when I was out in the back yard with her, she was sniffing along the treeline and we heard a frantic chirruping at us. I was looking around trying to spy what was chattering at us and suddenly I saw this about three feet away:



It was decidedly unhappy with our presence and it was not holding back. I kept saying "Squirrel! Tilly! Squirrel!" and pointing it out to her, but she just couldn't find it. She was sniffing excitedly on the ground but when I would point up to the tree rat squirrel, she just looked at me with a quizzical expression. There was no doubt that she was excited; her ears were pricked up, her tail was up and wagging, she was on full alert. She just didn't know what she was on alert for.

Meanwhile, Mr. Squirrel finished bawling me out and then scampered up the tree and jumped from branch to branch, tree to tree. Tilly, nose to the ground, sniffed in circles and missed it all.

I swear I heard that squirrel laughing at her as he scampered away. If she were still here, Boots would disavow her as a member of the species. Shameful, really.

Dumb dog.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Love...


...brightly colored smiley face cookies that are as big as my 6 year old's face.

...when, after several weeks of trying, friends are finally able to get together to celebrate and catch up with each others lives.

...starting a new book and finding that I cannot put it down because it's so compelling.

...watching my 11 year old son wrestle the dog.

...the bright smell of oranges and how it permeates the lunchroom when a student peels one during lunch.

...the satisfying crunching sound as I walk through leaves on the ground. If the leaves are so deep they bury my feet up to my ankles I am really happy. If I can send them flying skyward as I walk I get stupidly happy.

...the satisfaction I get from crossing a job off a list. Even if the list is as long as my arm and I know that I'll never finish, just crossing something off feels like a small accomplishment.

...hearing my kids yell "Daddy!!" from different locations around the house when my husband walks in after a trip.

...talking with my brothers on the phone. It doesn't happen very often, but it makes me feel happy and connected.

...watching the dog's eyes widen in anticipation when I hold my hand claw-like in front of her and say in an evil voice "You can't. Escape. The CLAW!!" Then watching her leap as I bring the "claw" toward her.

... the crazy-dog play time that comes about after a round or two of "The Claw."

...the coolness of my pillow and the softness of my bed when I first lay down at night.

What do you love?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Coming Up For Air

I spent a few hours this weekend--it only felt like days--long, torturous days--cleaning out my 14 year old daughter's room. We are not finished. We made an excellent dent in the closet. And by "dent" I mean we came up with 4 garbage bags for Goodwill. To be fair, some of those clothes were hand-me-downs from my college age niece. She used to give my daughter her castoffs as "dress up" clothes. Now they are just clothes. Regular old "I can wear this! And this! And OMGEESH! This is legit!" clothes. Maggie's taste is a bit different from her older cousin's so naturally some of the clothes get the "thumbs down" and thus get sent to Goodwill. Except some of these clothes had been sitting in her closet for, um, awhile. Ahem.

What?!?! I've been busy, remember? Just barely keeping my head above water! How was I supposed to get into that seventh circle of hell known as my child's closet to clean it knowing that it would be a Project? (Notice the capital "P"?)

The good news is that her closet is organized and there is actually a floor. True story! I've seen it with my own two eyes. The bad news is that I can say with 99% metaphysical certitude that it will not stay that way.

I had to quit the project early to go to James' football game. The game in which he didn't get to play due to last week's concussion. (Yes, it's official. My son was concussed. He missed a few days of school and all of practice last week as well as the game. He is back to himself now and will start hitting again on Wednesday. None too soon in my book. He gets grumpy when he doesn't get to play.) The game that was played at 2:30 on Sunday afternoon. When it was 88 degrees. IN OCTOBER. Let's not even talk about how it happened to fall right in the middle of the Colts game. Thank goodness for DVRs.

Um...I digress...(Surprise, right? Shut up.)

Maggie wants her room painted. We've been promising since we moved in. Which was two years ago. Her room is very juvenile and she's been waiting patiently until we finished some other "must do" projects around this not so old house. By the by, did you catch the word "patiently" in the last sentence? I'm totally lying. If you now anything at all about teenage girls, you know that patience--delayed gratification, in particular--is not something they have a lot of. Hm. Maybe it's just my teenage girl. Correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway! We cannot paint until the black hole that is her room gets cleaned up and sorted out.

It's been delightful. She tosses three things in a pile, puts one thing on a shelf and then gets sidetracked by old pictures. Then she lays down on her bed and moans "UGH!! This is soooooo boring! I'm tired! Are we almost through?!?" And as I look around the room at the 635 metric tons of detritus of a teenage girl's life I think "UGH! This is sooooooo gross! Are we almost through??!?"

But what I say is "NO! And we won't get through when you have the attention span of a meth-addled feral goat! Get up! MOVEMOVEMOVE!!"

And then ten minutes later I spy my watch and say "Oh, would you look at the time! I've got to get to your brother's game. Darn! We'll have to finish later!"

I know that I'll pay the piper and have to get back in there later. But for now, I'm enjoying not being trapped in an over-crowded, smelly, sweet-cracker-sandwiches-how-long-has-this-drinking-glass-with-left-over-and-now-dried-something-been-in-this-room kind of room.

I'm only coming up for air. I'll have to dive back in there soon so the painting can start. But, man alive! Does the air out here smell good!