Monday, July 31, 2006

No Such Thing as Free Fruit

I love being a parent because I get to be the boss. I also love it because I'm always right, I know everything, and I'm the most beautiful woman in the world. (Remember, my oldest is only 4. So far, all these things are true.) As a first-born child, this is right up my alley! I love the fact that my children listen to everything I say, agree with it, and copy it themselves.

Changing subjects, I took all three of the little people out Saturday morning. Some small, inconsequential piece of the seatback in my minivan was missing, and my husband made an appointment for me to go to the dealership to get it installed. As we pulled out of our neighborhood and made our way down the road, the railroad signal arms started going down. We were the fourth car back, and we watched as the first, a truck, weaved its way through the arms and sped on down the road. The second car stopped obediently, regardless of the fact that the train was still a long way off. The third, another truck, slammed on its brakes behind the car, then shot forward, in front of the car, and also through the arms, and squealed its way past. As we pulled into the spot behind the car that waited, Caiden commented, ever-helpful, "Mama, do you know the police man's number? Because we should call him! That man in the truck BROKE THE LAW!"

I then launched into my that's-right-honey-that-man-wasn't-patient lesson. We talked about how dangerous it is to beat the train, and how I know a Real Life person who was killed doing just that. (Actually, I know another person who was hit by the train but didn't die. You get to share these kinds of stories when you grow up in a small town and know everyone in the obituary pages!) After we discussed train danger, I smoothly moved into my patience-is-a-virtue-and-it's-a-good-thing-we're-so-good-at-it speech. As the train passed, and we drove through the intersection, I laughed out loud to see the man in the truck, still sitting at the traffic light just ahead of the tracks. He looked a little sheepish as we all stared him down, laughing.

Then I turned on Steve Green's Scripture CD, and we belted out the Fruit of the Spirit song, emphasizing on patience. It was a beautiful, self-righteous moment in the minivan.

Back to the dealership. I pulled into the breezeway and let the service rep know I was there. I really thought this would be a five minute install, and that we'd be able to wait in the car.

Wrong.

After promising the man that I really did have three children, each in carseats, in the back of my van, and that I really was the mother of all three (Before that moment, three children didn't strike me as that many.), he helped me herd them out of the van, diaper bags and all. We sat down in the waiting room.

I hate that phrase, "Waiting Room".

It was the typical car dealership service center waiting room--dingy, greasy carpet that makes me thankful for shoes, with gold-framed prints of beautiful things like Michelin tires and axles. And of course there was the TV high enough I couldn't change the channel, set to baseball. I hate baseball.

So we sat down--or actually I sat down, and Grayson and Caiden took stock in the room and its possibilities for fun. Once they realized the options were endless, they proceeded to play with every brochure, walk from chair to chair along the walls, and pluck leaves off the plastic plants. I handed out some crackers and settled in for what would surely be only a few minutes.

Wrong again.

After about three minutes of entertainment, the boys got restless. Plucking plant leaves is only fun for so long. Grayson started darting out of the room, jabbering in Manderin Chinese-ish language to the only other person in the room, an elderly man who clearly spoke little English himself. I think he and Grayson understood each other. The man had a cane, which delighted Grayson to no end, as he played tug-of-war in hopes of snagging the prize, while the man tugged just as hard, trying to reclaim his property. At the same time Caiden spied the water fountain in the hall and escaping repeatedly, cleverly waiting until I was busy prying the cane out of Gray's hands.

After twenty-five minutes of this fun, Addison woke up howling, ready for food. Blessedly the man left the room to pace the hall (Gee, wonder if Grayson had anything to do with this?), and after my own mental tug-of-war of whether I really wanted to breastfeed her in the middle of this male-dominated domain, I tried my absolute best to discreetly nurse her. I had to repeatedly remind myself that her nutritional needs trump my modesty, seeing as how she's emaciated and all. If it were Grayson, I might've let him starve. He had fat to live off of for weeks.

Now, my boys are smart. They know that when I nurse Addison, I am virtually helpless. They took advantage of this vulnerability and really got creative. Caiden started venturing further and further out, while Grayson discovered the antique car display behind an unsteady wall of glass--how fun! Let's bang on this until we shake the entire wall! As I'm frantically trying to cover myself and maintain a steady tone of voice while still commanding the boys to COME BACK IN THIS ROOM THIS VERY MINUTE!, the car rep decided to make an appearance. He stood in the doorway and chatted with me, I kid you not, totally oblivious to the fact that only a very thin blanket stood between him and me--literally. I think I played it off well, patting her like she was sleeping, all the while praying fervently that the blanket wouldn't slip. Dear Lord, the thought of that happening makes my blood run cold right this moment! After no less than five minutes of delightful conversation, he lured the boys back into the room--glass-walled, I might add, so the entire hallway of people could observe us like monkeys in the zoo--and shut the door for me.

This is when I changed sides, and Grayson started eating crackers off the greasy carpet, drinking out of somebody's leftover coffee cup, and licking the half-eaten yogurt container he found in the trash. Normally, I'm not a germ-a-phobe. I always tell my sister-in-law, Janae, that germs are the foundation of our immune systems. However, in this very moment, seeing my chubby, healthy little boy lick the germ-infested yogurt off the container, in pure delight, I started shrieking. Loudly. Oblivious to all the visitors to our zoo. "GRAYSON TATE PUT THAT YOGURT DOWN RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE BEFORE YOU DIE FROM THE GERMS IN THIS GOD-FORSAKEN PLACE!!!"

My husband is a pastor at our church. He speaks a couple times a year. This weekend, including that evening, happened to be one of those times. We have 20,000 people who attend our church, and the services are on the Internet and on television. So he was a little um, preoccupied, when I called him at work, mere hours before he was to go on stage, and ask him why, for the love of all things sacred, did he think it was a good idea to make me an appointment for a time when I had to drag all children with me, and did he know that this was taking FOREVER? Needless to say, I hung up dissatisfied with how the conversation went.

I sat and fumed, and hemmed, and hawed, and belly-ached about the length of time this was taking, when the man reappeared and brought the joyful news: the repair was finished. He didn't even make me wait for a receipt, and he helped me with all three children, including a little boy covered in disease-inducing leftover yogurt, crackers, and coffee. He never blinked an eye at the carpet, now littered in billions of pieces of Ritz crackers. Maybe he thought the carbohydrates would soak up the grease?

Fast forward to the trip home. As we flew down the road, sunroof and skylights open, Steve Green blasting, Caiden and I happily shouted the words to the Fruit of the Spirit song, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control!"

Plain and simple, I am a hypocrite. And as I listened to the human sponge behind me, soaking up everything I say, and more importantly, do, I felt a little sheepish myself.

So Thursday, when I have to sit in a waiting room for about five hours (sans children, thankfully), awaiting news that Addison's heart surgery was successful, I'll try to remember that if I want the fruit of the Spirit, I have to accept the situations that come with it. It's not free fruit, after all.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

You might have to be really bored or really crazy to do this--but you'll love the end result!

Several people have asked me about my kitchen cabinets, from the Tour of Homes . I'm always happy to oblige helping people desecrate "Real Wood," as my husband used to refer to it! Nine years of marriage and many a painted table, bookcase, door, and cabinet later, he doesn't even raise an eyebrow.

In fact, he's so impressed with the outcome of my many projects that when we've looked at homes for sale lately, he'll be quick to point out wood that's crying out to be painted. (So Boomama, go ahead and paint those cabinets if you're dying to!) Besides, my kitchen is not custom, and neither were the plain Jane cabinets. I don't really think much was desecrated here! Every time I open one, I think I might hear it whisper, "Thank you, Queen of Painting, for dressing me up!" So if you're feeling adventurous and want a cheap makeover for your kitchen, here's how to do it:


Supplies List:
  • Clean cotton rags (several)
  • Liquid sander (one medium size bottle should do the trick)
  • Medium sized roller and roller handle (three)
  • 1 1/2 inch angled paintbrush (three if you're not fond of thoroughly cleaning them, or 2 if you're more fastidious than I am)
  • Gallon of interior latex white primer
  • Semi-glossy interior latex paint--choose a color that complements your kitchen and family room. I used Montpelier Olive, from Home Depot, I think. (Ask the paint guy/girl how much you need; it depends on the number of cabinets)
  • Small can of wood stain. I used Walnut.
  • Large non-angled brush
  • Quart of semi-glossy or glossy polyurethane--make sure it says "non-yellowing" somewhere on the can

Steps:
1. Remove all doors and hardware. Don't skip this step, even if you're tempted--your quality of work will show!

2. Wipe down your cabinets doors, inside and out, with a damp cloth. Rejoice in this step, because it's the easiest.

3. Using a clean rag, apply some liquid sander to all surfaces to be painted. This removes the glossy finish, so your new paint will stick. Note: You need to do this right before you start painting, so you might want to work in sections.

4. Using a sawhorse, lay each door across it. Paint all surfaces on top with a primer coat of white. You can also have your primer tinted to the color you're going to use, if you want. Use a roller on all the larger sections and an angled brush to get in the nooks and crannies. Let dry at least 4 hours before turning over and painting other side. Let dry another 4 hours. You can work on the cabinets themselves while the doors dry. Make sure you paint any surface that will show when the doors are closed AND open, except the actual cubby itself.

5. Once all surfaces are painted, repeat step 4. It depends on what color your cabinets were to begin, and what color you use, but when in doubt, add another coat. I used three for these green cabinets but had to use four when I painted my cabinets a shade of harvest red in my old kitchen. Yes, it takes forever, and half-way through you'll doubt how much you really cared to begin with, but it will be worth the work!

6. Once everything has been painted enough coats to look professionally done, you're ready for the last step of color. Take the larger paint brush, dip it BARELY in the stain, and starting at the top, make a straight vertical stroke down the cabinet/door. Start again at the next space of the top, and repeat until you've covered the door or surface. Then take a clean rag and lightly stroke down, to wipe off/smudge the stain. Let a little bit of the stain pool in the four corners of each door, to look more authentic. Don't overthink this step, just do it rather quickly and not try to make it look perfect. Perfect is overrated. (Note: Skip this step if you want the paint the cabinets but not make them look aged. My cabinets in my old kitchen weren't aged. I will say, however, that the stain hides any brush strokes or imperfections--or fingerprints, nose residue, dog slobber, etc.!)

7. Now that your color is on, you're ready for the last three coats. (Yes, I said three. Don't lose heart, this will end, I promise!) Using a clean brush/roller, coat all surfaces with a very thin coat of polyurethane. Let dry the time stated on the can. Then repeat, at least twice. The more you use, the more durable those cabinets will be!

8. Let everything dry at least 24 hours, then reattach all doors and hardware. Voila! You've gotten a beautiful, custom look, for only the cost of supplies and some serious elbow grease. And the cost of takeout, if you're like me and can't handle the thought of cooking while doing a painting project:)

If you decide this sounds do-able for you, and you tackle the project, please let me know, so I can check out your new look! And I accept no responsibility if your husband doesn't like it:)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Come on in, just don't ring the doorbell!

*Update: For everyone who wanted to know the color of the walls, it's Ralph Lauren's Tangier Island. In some lights it looks slightly yellow, in others it looks slightly tan. It's really sort of a camel color. Regardless, it goes well with almost any accent color. I love it so much I repainted almost my entire house in it! And for those of you who've made such nice comments about my home, IT'S FOR SALE! Buy it, Buy it! :)

I hesitate to write this because I'm going to sound a little like a stalker, or even a peeping Tom, but I love to take walks at night and look into my neighbors' windows. With their lights on, I can see the inside of their homes--their family rooms or dining rooms--and catch a little glimpse of their lives.

I feel like I know someone better once I've seen her home, and her decor, and the way she lives. And on the more practical side, looking at other people's decorating gives me ideas for my own house. (Sometimes it's more like ideas of what not to do in my own house!) So since there are many of you I won't get to meet this side of heaven, here's a snapshot of my home--and then the next time you hop on over here, we can pretend you're really sitting at my kitchen table with me, drinking a diet Coke and eating a brownie (or two--or the whole pan, which is more likely!).

This is the first thing you'll see when you walk up the sidewalk to the front door. One of our volunteers in the student ministry at our church made this for us and left it at our front door, a long time ago. We've brought it with us each time we've moved. It reminds me that God has blessed this house, and to be thankful for the people who enter my front door. It's also great for holding up the Carolina Jasmine.

I'm a paint-aholic, and I can never let my front door live in its original coat of paint! I painted this one black shortly after we moved in, and then my husband installed the glass door when I told him I needed to be able to see fall out the front door when it arrives. And that would be me, the photographer:)

This is where the blogging mania magic happens. The kitchen cart was once a microwave cart from Wal-Mart, which also served as our first entertainment center to hold our first TV. Then we moved, and I painted it red and stuck rooster wallpaper on it. It used to hold cookbooks, but now it's the throne for my Mac. If you're not a Mac owner, you won't understand the throne reference. :)

I obeyed Boomama and didn't pick up the toys and shoes littered throughout the room. Besides, with three children four years old and under, the odds that I could pick up the room and snap the picture before somebody messed it up again are slim. The leather chair is a recent addition, thanks to Leslie. It's officially Daddy's Chair, but we all love it. The boys love to snuggle up together and watch cartoons in the morning. This is Family Central in our house--it's where the stuff of life happens.

This is another instance of my insane need to paint all surfaces. The kitchen cabinets begged to be a different color, and I happily obliged. The counter space is marginal, but it's a nice central kitchen that is open to the rest of the house, and it's stocked with tons of diet Coke. In my book, that's all a kitchen needs. (You can tell how low cooking falls on my priority list, by the simple fact that my comments about my kitchen center around the paint on the cabinets!)

So many of you have prayed for our sweet little Addison, so I wanted to show you a picture of her sweet little room! The bedding and decor are Wendy Bellissimo, from Babies R Us, and every time I walk into her room and catch a glimpse of all the pink, and bunnies, and generalized sweetness, I get downright tickled all over again that I have a little girl!

My backyard is tiny, there are two pitiful little trees in the front, and we have no shade whatsoever. HOWEVER, I can live with this sad landscaping simply because I have a tub fit for some serious bubble baths! I've read more books in this tub than I did in four years of college, and my habit has led my husband to rename our water bill, "The Bath Bill." I think I'd need counseling if I had to go without it.

Well, now that you've had a peek around, next time you come over, be sure to bring the diet Coke, and I'll bake you those brownies!

My Social Butterfly

When I was in the sixth grade, my mom framed my report card and hung it above my bed, right next to a poem, also framed. I've never met anybody else whose report card was displayed above her bed, but I imagine other parents might keep their kids' report cards, if they had trouble in school and then showed improvement.

This had nothing to do with grades.

I am a talker. I love to talk. I also like to listen, but really only if I'm going to get to say something, too. (Just being honest.) But I don't like one-sided conversations. I don't want to be the only one talking; I get a little nervous and embarrassed if I'm telling a story to several people and then realize, mid-sentence, that they're all looking at me. I start to feel clammy and red-cheeked and just stupid in general.

What I really love is a good, old-fashioned girly conversation with my friends--you know, the kind where words are flying around and above and on top of each other. The kind where we discuss 38 subjects in the space of 10 minutes, never finishing a topic before moving on to another, only to return to Point A and wrap it all up at the end. It's the kind of conversation that drives my husband batty, but it's supremely satisfying to me. My closest friends, Brittani and Bridget, are also talkers. So when we three get together, you better be able to hold your own conversationally, or you'll get interrupted to death. It's a veritable talk-a-thon.

Anyway, back to my report card. (Do you see what I'm saying here? Even when I'm the only one talking, I can't finish a topic before launching onto another!) This particular one was framed in a pale pink plastic frame that only a 12-year old could find cute, because it was the very first one that didn't have an "N," for Needs Improvement, next to the Controls Self category. The very first one, after six others that clearly stated my Need for Improvement.

The problem is that I'm social. I like to share. I like to find friends I can identify with, and laugh with, and talk with, endlessly. Bridget and I call each other for absolutely no reason, only to hang up an hour later, and then call back later in the day for another completely random, completely satisfying conversation. And bless my husband's heart, if I didn't have friends like this to talk to, his ears would literally dry up and die from all the words I'd need to get out by the end of the day. I believe he treasures Brittani and Bridget just as much as I do, for this very reason.

So my mother, in a moment of immense pride at my ability to refrain from constantly buzzing over to my neighbor's desk in the classroom to talk, and talk, and talk, framed this report card. She hung it next to a poem called "Talking," also framed in pale pink plastic. Those two pink trophies of my social skills hung above my bed until, in high school, I realized how terribly uncool that was, and took them down. They're still in one of my keepsake boxes, though, and whenever I see them, I remember telling my grandma, when she asked me as a four-year old why I talked so much, that if I didn't talk, I couldn't breathe. And I truly believed that. It's a legacy in our family.

Early Childhood Intervention came out this week to test Addison's development.

There are tests for adaptive and cognitive behavior, and for gross and fine motor skills. Addison did well on all of them, which was encouraging beyond words.

However, on the last test, she was a superstar. And it probably doesn't surprise you, or me, or my poor husband, that it was the personal/social skills test. She scored in the five month range. She's only 11 weeks old. Scary, isn't it? The legacy lives on.

I might just frame it and hang it above her crib.

In pale pink plastic, of course.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Hidden Princess, a Hat Store, and a Heart Surgery

Dear Bloggy Friends,
My heart surgery is going to be on Thursday, August 3rd! By nightfall, my heart will be healthy and whole. And a healthy, whole heart means I can start plumping out a little!
Good thing, since my princess hat is still a bit too big for my wee little head:)
Love,
Addison

Middle Child Meme

Grayson is the proverbial middle child. He's quiet, easily entertained, affectionate, and picks up on everything his brother does. But sometimes that middle child gets overlooked. I didn't order his birth announcements until about a month ago. Yes, I know he's almost two, but I didn't want to have to explain to him someday why Caiden has a birth announcement, and Addison has two sets of them, while he has none. So I ordered his with Addison's. The company's customer service rep called to let me know I'd mistakenly typed in "October 2004" on the template. I explained the whole middle child thing, but I think she thought I'm a little bit crazy. Even my husband thinks that, though, so I wasn't fazed :)



Anyway, to combat some of the grief I know I'll later hear about how neglected he was throughout his childhood, being squeezed between First-Born Son and The Only Girl, I'm letting him do this Baby Meme, so I can scrapbook print it out and put it in the keepsake box.

3 Things that scare me:
1. The thought of no food in the house.
2. Large crowds of cheek-kissing, roll-pinching women.
3. The sight of Mama in the van, without me! Fortunately, that rarely happens.

3 People who make me laugh:
1. That cute kid in the closet mirror.
2. That cute upside-down kid I found in the tub spout.
3. That cute kid hanging out on the stainless steel trash can.

3 Things I love:
1. My thumb.
2. My blanket.
3. My big brother.

3 Things I hate:
1. Being left out.
2. Having my blanket washed.
3. Meat--except bacon.

3 Things don't understand:
1. Why Mama screams when I jam things into those cool little holes in the wall.
2. Why Mama screams when I stand on top of the kitchen table and dance.
3. Why Mama screams when I give Addison hugs and kisses.

3 Things on my floor:
1. My uncle's 23-year old Fisher Price airplane and airport.
2. The neighing rocking horse that my Grammy and Papa gave me for Christmas.
3. Nothing else. My mama is a little overzealous about clutter control.

3 Things I am doing right now:
1. Taking a nap while
2. sucking my thumb and
3. fiercely clutching my blanket.

3 Things I want to do before I die:
1. Stick objects into those cool little holes in the wall, before Mama catches me.
2. Stand on the kitchen table and dance, before Mama catches me.
3. Hug and kiss Addison as much as I want, before Mama catches me.

3 Things I can do:
1. Eat blueberries at the speed of light.
2. Suck down milk at the speed of sound.
3. Throw Cheerios on the floor faster than a speeding bullet.

3 Ways to describe my personality:
1. Funny
2. Calm
3. Content

3 Things I cannot do:
1. Exist for more than 4.23 seconds without my blanket.
2. Figure out that pacifier thing. What's up with that? My thumb is SO much better!
3. Share.

3 Things I think you should listen to:
1. The "Come to the Cradle" CD by Michael Card.
2. Any of the Praise Baby CDs. They rock!
3. Me. I am the boss!

3 Things I don't think you should listen to:
1. The word, "no."
2. The word, "share."
3. The words, "Let's change your stinky diaper."

3 Favorite foods:
1. Club crackers.
2. Fruit snacks.
3. Blueberries, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, strawberries--you get the picture.

3 Beverages I drink regularly:
1. Milk.
2. Water.
3. Diet Coke, if I can sneak it from Daddy before he notices. Long live the silver can!

3 Shows I watch:
1. Praise Baby
2. Veggie Tales' Jonah movie. Not my choice, but Brother loves it.
3. Finding Nemo. Again, not my choice. Hey, maybe I'm not the Boss after all!

Note: Mama would like to thank Kelli for her strikethrough html tutorial:)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Too Much to Bear . . . By Myself

Christians, as a whole, have a lot of great qualities: we create organizations to support orphans, write great worship songs, man food banks and homeless shelters, and support missionaries who go and preach the gospel throughout the world.

Christians, as a whole, also have a few not-so-desirable ones: we tend to be hypocrites (Not trying to offend; haven't you ever been guilty of hypocrisy? I sure have.), we pick out some sins and highlight them while downplaying many others, and we misquote Scripture.

Actually, it's not that we usually misquote it; we generally just take it out of context.

We quote Scripture to others to comfort them, to encourage them, and to teach them, just like Paul tells Timothy to do in the New Testament. That's good. But the problem comes in when we take a verse out of context and then use it in a way that wasn't intended. It's like using the "Ask and you shall receive" passage to promote the Name It and Claim It mentality--if I ask for a luxury car and a 10,000 square foot house, I'll get it! There are a lot of believers out there who do just that. (And believe me, if it actually worked that way, I'd be sitting in a new house with adequate counter space and a plethora of walk-in closets!)

Lately, I've heard the verse, "He will never give you more than you can bear" thrown around left and right. I hear it from friends, from family, from people I hardly know. When they hear about Addison's heart/kidney/brain/genetics scares, they say, "Sarah, you know the Lord will never give you more than you can bear."

They mean it well.

It doesn't come across well.

What it says to me is this: "Sarah, you need to buck up under this incredible pressure because, praise the Lord, this isn't too much to bear."

Well then what on earth, I wonder, is "too much to bear?" Because if this isn't it, I'd hate to see what is. It might resemble something like King Kong meets Armageddon.

I'm not confrontational. I want people to like me. But I promise you that on more than one occasion I've had to bite my lips to keep from saying, "Well, if that's the case, then you take on this tremendous grief, strain, fear, and chaos. You look at your newborn daughter and say the words 'open-heart surgery,' 'geneticist,' and 'brain scan' without feeling overwhelmed and terrified and heart-sick. Because it's not too much to bear, after all. "

I don't. I'm a little too timid to be quite so sassy. But I think it.

And I felt a little guilty for reacting this way, wondering why on earth I couldn't handle what the Lord had given me and why those words bothered me, until I found something beautiful: After much frustration, I looked up the specific verse in the Bible, and I read that this passage is not dealing with grief or stress or sorrow, it's about temptation! The Lord never allows us to be tempted in such a way that we cannot escape. Temptation!

This verse is in no way, shape, or form saying that we'll not be given too much to bear. In fact, nowhere in the Bible is that remotely suggested.

And you know, when I think back on Job and see that he lost all of his children, his home, his financial security, and finally his own health, it seems more than a little obvious that he had more than he could bear. None of us is superhuman; there's only so much we can take.

A woman who loses her husband? That's too much to bear.

A mother whose daughter has devastating health issues and needs a second heart transplant? That's too much to bear.

A woman who finds out, after discovering that four of her five children have muscular dystrophy, that she also has it? That's too much to bear.

A mother who finds out she has cancer when her child is only one? That's too much to bear.

A family who loses one son to a disease, knowing that the same disease will someday take their remaining son? That's too much to bear.

We are only flesh and blood. We can only stand up under so much strain, and sorrow, and defeat.

Even Jesus, knowing the crucifixion that faced Him, said it was too much to bear. He repeatedly asked God for some other way. If Jesus, the Savior of the world and God Himself, found a situation too much to bear, why should I expect to be able to hold up my corner of the world?

If I could handle the devastation that sometimes makes its way into my life, I wouldn't need Jesus. I also wouldn't long for heaven. I've always wanted to go to heaven, of course, but it wasn't really until I was faced with a long struggle with my daughter that I began to see the complete relief of a place free from pain, from sickness, from sorrow. We don't recognize our need for a Savior until we reconize our own inadequacy to deal with life. Jesus doesn't just save me on into heaven; He saves me from my own weakness here on earth. He saves me from the swirling waters of fear and despair. He holds me up when I have no strength left in me.

I'm sure there are a lot of things I've said to someone in a crisis that didn't come across well. I habitually stick my foot into my mouth. But I can say, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I will never again tell another that what they've been given is not too much to bear. Instead, I will gently encourage her that although her load is too much to handle, and that the journey with that load is long, and hard, and lonely, that Jesus will walk it with her, and that He will help her carry that load. And that the invitation to a place with no heavy loads is there, if she wants it.

And on the hard days, I'll remind myself of the very same thing. Sometimes it is too much to bear, but I don't have to bear it alone.

Now that is something worth quoting.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Bible Lesson Gone Awry (or A Rye, maybe?)

I love making bread. I can't say why, exactly, since I really don't love cooking that much, but something about the kneading, rising, and baking processes make me feel homey. Maybe it's my prairie ancestors rising up in me, I don't know. I'm not terribly natural in other ways; I drink artificially flavored beverages, wear makeup (a blessing straight from Heaven), and happily eat processed foods. But bread just tastes better when I make it myself.

My current favorite is challah bread. I read the first book series that Bodie Thoene wrote, The Zion Chronicles, and the Jewish culture really interested me. So I started making loaves and loaves of challah bread, which is the bread eaten on the Sabbath. It's braided and pretty and delicious, not to mention that it makes my house smell great! So it's worth the work.

Caiden has been asking me to make "Jesus" bread lately. I told him once that challah bread is what Jesus likely ate, and now he's hooked. If Jesus had any part of something, Caiden wants it! Come to think of it, I might tell him Jesus ate salad, and maybe Caiden will try that, too. Maybe.

Today in the car I told Caiden we could make bread later today during Grayson's nap. He suggested we make an extra loaf for Jesus. I explained that while that was a very nice idea, Jesus didn't need our bread because He is the Bread of Life, and that He's probably not hungry, up in heaven. And then I went on, in a moment of brilliant inspiration, to tell him that in the Bible, God says He doesn't want our offerings, He wants our obedience. I was sure this would buy me good behavior all day.

Caiden, nonplussed, looked at me and said, "Well, that's great." Then he stared intently up at the ceiling of the minivan and said, "Um, God, I'll try my hardest to obey, but in case I can't, would You like some bread?"

Well, you can't say I didn't try.






Thursday, July 20, 2006

Holding Our Hearts

Updated at bottom of post:)

Tomorrow is a big day for us. We're meeting with the heart surgeon to schedule our daughter's open-heart surgery.

It's funny; Chris and I have both said that we're actually looking forward to this. It's an odd feeling, this dread tinged with anticipation. I've never sky-dived, but I wonder if it feels similar, the jumping off into a great unknown, at break-neck speed. Normally we'd only feel dread, but Addison is still so tiny, and her heart and lungs are just working so hard, that we want her to be healthy and able to grow and develop like she should. Repairing the hole in her heart will help her do that.

This surgery, while scary and huge and mind-boggling to me, is the "bread and butter" of heart surgeons (So says our cardiologist, anyway.). So while it is, after all, open-heart surgery, it's not that scary and huge and mind-boggling to him. This is the most common of congenital heart conditions, and our surgeon has performed this surgery countless times. Knowing that brings a measure of comfort to calm our fear, at least a little.

So tomorrow night, after we get home from our day at the hospital, I'll take my pen and write the words, "Addison's Heart Surgery" on some date on my calendar. That's something I never fathomed I'd ever have to write. Instead, I might write, "The day Addison's return to health begins," or "Today Addison will have a healthy heart!" And while the surgery still looms ahead, large and scary in my mind, I'll try to remember those phrases. The surgeon may be incredibly skilled, but God is more so. Scripture says, "He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their sorrows." So I do feel some anticipation, knowing that I will get to witness a healing like I've never seen, and that soon we can put to rest this chapter and begin to move on.

Whether or not the next chapter is as hard, only time will tell. But each year, on the anniversary of her surgery, I'll write it down on the calendar, remembering the day God held my heart in His hands while the surgeon held my daughter's in his. And both were healed.

Scripture is Psalm 147:3

Update: The Lord must know I still need work in the Patience Department, because we have to wait until Monday to schedule the surgery. The congenital heart program coordinator had already left for the day by the time we were done meeting with the surgeon, so I'll be calling her bright and early Monday morning! And then, of course, I'll be calling my entire family and all my friends, as well as posting, to let everyone know The Big Day! So this weekend, will you do me a favor? Click on over to Boomama's site to read about her friend, Paul, and then pray for his wife, Elise, and their children, okay? Thanks:)

Thirteen Things I've Heard in This House, This Week





1. "Mama, what's CPS?" (After I explained to Chris that if he let Caiden ride in his lap to steer our car in the parking lot, CPS would come visit me.)

2. "Mine!" (Grayson)

3. "There is to be no strangling of any brothers today, Caiden!" (me)

4. "No!" (Grayson)

5. "Speak to me, Gray Gray!" (Caiden, at 90-decibel level, when I thought Grayson was choking on an apple.)

6. "More!" (Grayson)

7. "Stinky Dinky Doo is all yours!" (Chris, referring to Addison--it's his nickname for her when she has a dirty diaper, from the show Pinky Dinky Doo.)

8. "Mine!" (Grayson, of course)

9. "Sure, I can schedule two more doctor's appointments in this week. Seven isn't too many for four days!" (me, somewhat sarcastically, I might add)

10. "No!" (Who do you think?)

11. Your baby has a very terribly big head." (Caiden, to my best friend Bridget, about her newborn daughter. Bridget, to her credit, was not offended. Addison is so tiny any other baby seems big! Besides, her daughter is beautiful.)

12. "More!" (Any guesses?)

13. "Sure, honey, go ahead and sleep in, while I draw you a hot bath and then serve you breakfast in bed, before we jump on our jet to Hawaii for a month-long vacation." ( Oh, that's right. That was only in my head.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What would you have done?

I wrote recently about not judging other moms, but I did today, and with complete justification, I think.

I was cruising the aisles at the library, when I heard a phrase being hissed over and over: "Shut up. Shut up. Just shut up!" Now, that's one of my family's "Hate Jar" phrases, so it got my attention. The cutest little girl, probably around 2 years old, was crying between two of the shelves. She wasn't throwing a tantrum, and she wasn't even really that loud, she was just crying. But her mother bent down, grabbed her face, squished her little lips together, and was shouting--in that whispered form we've all perfected--that phrase, over, and over, and over.

I almost crawled out of my skin. If there's anything I absolutely cannot tolerate, it's saying "Shut up" to a child. Especially to a two-year old who's crying, for pete's sake! And I don't know about you, but any attempts I make to get my children to be quiet fail if they're being delivered in anger. I wanted to pick that woman up--and I could have, she was a skinny little thing--squish her lips together, and give her a what-for. I also wanted to remind her that although we were in the library, we were in the children's section, and children talk. And they cry.

She hauled that baby out of there, and I was sorely tempted to follow her and make sure she didn't hurt that sweet little girl. Because I really think she might have. But seeing as how I was pushing two strollers and watching Caiden to protect him from any lurking pedophiles, I couldn't. But let me tell you what, I would've if I'd been alone. Of course, she'd probably have beaten me up and left me for dead. But I might've held my own, I was so angry!

Now I know we all lose our temper with our kids sometimes, but I hope anyone who's reading this never says those two words to their children. If you do, STOP. Just stop. Nobody should be treated that way, and that phrase says a lot more than "Be quiet." It's demeaning and it crushes the spirit. It's just hateful, that's what it is. And I bet you that thirty years down the road, that little girl says it to her own children, because children practice what we preach. And since nobody can reach through the computer and beat me up, I'm saying this now, since I didn't say it today in the library. But I wish I had.

So let me ask you, what would you have done in my situation?



Sunday, July 16, 2006

It's Confirmed . . .

I am nerdier than 35% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out! I've always suspected it, and tonight, thanks to Wendy, it's a confirmed fact: I am officially not hip. And according to this quiz, which you've got to check out, I'm not quite a nerd. Not quite. Gee, that's encouraging! Wendy, by the way, is only half the not-quite nerd that I am. I'm not sure whether I'm embarrassed or proud of that fact!

I didn't really need this quiz to prove my almost-nerdiness to myself; in high school, I was the Chemistry Student of the Year. My picture's in the town newspaper with the words plastered at the top. That'll hurt your reputation! What's funny is that I'm not a science type of girl; physics left my brain reeling. I think chemistry was up my alley because it deals with symbols and words more than numbers! (Well, high school chemistry does. I never attempted college chemistry.)

I have more proof of my not-quite-nerdiness: in my English class, I'd choose "fun" reading off the "required reading" bookshelf. You know, the books we weren't going to get to that year. And I read them in my free time instead of doing cool things, like going out with friends.

I also crochet.

And I'd rather stay at home, reading a novel in the bathtub, than go to a U-2 concert. My sister-in-law will think this is blasphemy when she reads it, but then again, she's definitely hip.

I also like to take notes, make lists, pick out spelling errors on billboards, and fill in medical forms with tons of questions. If that's not nerdy, I don't know what is.

In final proof of my almost-nerdiness (and I'm starting to wonder why on earth I'm trying to prove that I'm a nerd!), I am standing here, in my pajamas, typing away at the kitchen counter, when I could be in bed, asleep. My husband, two sons, and newborn daughter are all asleep. And a truly hip woman would recognize the need for beauty sleep and go get some. But I'm almost a nerd. And if you're reading this at 11:40 p.m. instead of sleeping yourself, then you might be one, too. Take the test; I dare you!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Prayer Request

I try to make sure most of what I write is either helpful or encouraging. Tonight, though, I'm writing just to ask for prayer from those of you out there reading.

Our vacation was over the top wonderful. Sunny skies after the first couple days, cool temperatures, long walks in the mountains, naps, and lots of time in the hot tub. But then we came home.

In the last 36 hours, I've:

1. Broken my toe. And it's really poor timing for two reasons: I need a pedicure, and I was going to start running again Monday.
2. Weighed and realized that I gained weight. And I don't need to gain weight, I need to finish losing my baby weight!
3. Weighed Addison and realized that she not only didn't gain the 1/2 pound she should have, but she actually lost weight. This is really discouraging and makes the possibility of the cardiologist going ahead with surgery earlier than predicted more likely.
4. Unpacked several suitcases of stuff, which is strewn all over several rooms and is begging me to put it away, but I'm just too tired to. And if our house weren't on the market, I wouldn't. Maybe ever.
5. Found out that the major builder in our neighborhood is offering "Christmas in July" deals, which means our house will further languish on the market, maybe forever. Which makes #4 more stressful.
6. Received several major medical bills, $1300 of which I'll have to fight to get paid by my insurance company, and the other amounts I just have to pay. And the thought of having to call, and explain, and argue, and plead just makes me more tired.

To top it off, we have five doctor's appointments in the first three days of this week. One will be an uncomfortable procedure for Addison on Monday to see the extent of her kidney reflux, and another will be with the cardiologist, to discuss and possibly schedule her open-heart surgery. I'm dreading both, and I can't find a babysitter for the boys, who aren't supposed to come to either appointment.

To say I'm overwhelmed is an understatement. I know I just posted about the peace that God gives, but tonight I'm just too tired to grasp it. And I'm not in the seclusion of the mountains anymore. I'm home, hobbling around, exhausted from a 16 hour drive, and inundated with the details of life.

So pray for me, please? It's going to be an intense week, and right now I need some supernatural help to face it.

Thank you :)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Sad Realization . . .

Today I've come to a sad realization: my boys are getting spoiled.

This didn't hit me like a bolt of lightning, quickly; it's something I've been mulling over for a while. But since we've been on vacation, it has become more apparent. For the long drive, I bought several DVDs, books on CD, and toys to keep them entertained for hours on end. What happened, instead, is that we heard the words, "Can I have another surprise?" every hour. Sometimes sooner. Rather than being highly entertained and eternally grateful for such great parents, they just belly-ached.

I can't stand spoiled children. Call it a pet peeve. All the whining, discontent, boredom and restlessness, and bickering over not wanting to share drives me crazy. So imagine my dismay when I realized that I have spoiled children! I don't respond well to it, either; I get irritated and snappy and generally mutter under my breath all day.

So I'm on a mission. This is the same mission I was on about two years ago, after I read John Rosemond's book, The Six Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children. He basically says to go back to the basics: cut down television and videos, play more classical music (because it's "brain food"), force the kids to play outdoors, read to them as much as possible, and pare down the number of toys.

When I first read the book, and Caiden was 2 1/2, I really questioned whether it would work. He followed me around all day, not able to entertain himself. I wondered how on earth he'd occupy his time with little to do the work of entertaining for him. Much to my surprise, the method worked! I let him watch one program each afternoon, after nap time. Other than that, TV was pretty much off-limits. Instead, I played music. I put away, sold, or gave away any toy that made noise or worked by itself. And what I found was that he started playing with toys that build imagination: Lincoln Logs, Legos, building blocks, cars. He could play in his room for an hour at a time, contentedly. I started reading to him on a daily basis, choosing books from Jim Trelease's book, The Read-Aloud Handbook. And I didn't buy them, I requested them online from our library. We started with one or two short books at a time and worked up to an hour or more. And his behavior improved, dramatically. He became more respectful, less whiny, and more pleasant in general.

So why on earth did I stop doing this? Well, I had a baby. And we all know what happens when a new baby arrives: anything productive pretty much halts for a few months. Learning how to juggle two children required all of my time, effort, and sanity. And once I got really good at it, when Grayson was 10 months old, I got pregnant. Again. And I might mention that I am one of the lucky few blessed with nine months of morning sickness. To top it off, those of you who have been around here for a while know that my family had the stomach virus something like 13 times while I was pregnant. So TV became The Entertainer.

My other downfall is that I like to shop. And I love Target. That combination makes for a lot of toys. And a lot of toys makes for whiny children. A lot of toys also make for a frustrated mom who is constantly trying to keep the house neat while it's on the market. So we've somehow gotten back to Square One. And now I have spoiled children. Sweet, and cute, but spoiled, nonetheless.

Which brings me back to today. During the 8 days we've been on vacation, my boys have had very few toys to play with. And we've watched TV very little. And you know what? They've played together, or separately, contentedly, almost all of the time. I haven't heard one single "I'm bored." I haven't really had to remind them to share. And I haven't spent a large portion of each day picking up behind them. The peace is bliss!

We've gone on several walks a day. We've listened to music while reading. Caiden and his daddy have been having a shared quiet time each morning. And we've just hung out, enjoying being together.

So I'm looking forward to going home tomorrow--well, not actually, but I am looking forward to changing a few things once we get home. First, I'm going on a toy rampage. Chris told Caiden early in the trip that they would be giving many of his toys to children who didn't have many. And after we donate some, I'm going to box others up and put them in our storage facility, to decide on a later date whether or not to keep them. We're going back to basics: blocks, cars, Lincoln Logs, Legos, dinosaurs, pirates. And books. I can't bring myself to get rid of books, despite the lack of space in our house.

I'm also giving away many of the kids' videos. We hardly watch them, anyway. And I'm making a hard and fast rule about the DVD player in the minivan--I will not turn it on unless we're on a trip of an hour or more. Even Grayson points to it the minute we get in the car, and that's just a little sad. And embarrassing.

The real test will be when the boys' birthdays are here. My husband and I are both gift-givers by nature; but we've promised each other that we'll only be giving Caiden one toy. It's a good one that will foster much imagination and creative play. Other than that, we'll be taking the training wheels off his bike and taking him out, without the other two children, for a special date. And I think I'm going to make him a small scrapbook of this past year, since he loves to look at pictures of himself and talk about fun memories. We want his birthday to be about how special he is to us, not about adding to the toy closet.

So wish me luck; the first couple of weeks will be hard. Forming new habits always is. But I know from experience that this will bring peace, and creativity, and content children. And that is worth the work.

If you have any suggestions for me, I'd love to hear them! I'm always on the lookout for ways to make life simpler. Just don't tell me to buy anything;)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Prestigious Award



I jokingly suggested that I could win the Best Diet Coke Drinker Award, if one were to be given. Boomama, being the hilarious friend that she is, immediately turned around and created the award for me.

Now I realize that many of you think this is an award without merit, but trust me, it takes lots of time, effort, and dedication to win such a prize. I mean, you have to be willing to forego coffee in the morning, hitting the silver can instead. You have to be able to turn up your nose at restaurants that serve Diet Pepsi (gasp!), patronizing only the faithful ones. You must have a clear preference for either can, bottle, or fountain drink. And if you actually drink Diet Coke with Lemon, then clearly you don't understand the importance of this award. Because personally, I think Diet Coke with Lemon tastes like it has been laced with Pledge. And while my opinion counts in very few instances, this is one. After all, I am the first recipient of this prestigious prize.

So thank you, Boomama, for the time you took to create The Best Award Ever. And don't forget to bestow it on yourself, since I know you are worthy. And if you, reader, feel like you qualify for this monumentous prize, contact Boomama--she just might let you have it, too. :)
If you take this post seriously, then you are definitely worthy!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Leaving a Legacy



I'm not a man. That seems to be an obvious truth, but sometimes I think I forget it when it comes to raising my two boys. Or maybe I forget they're not girls, like me. Either way, I sometimes struggle with expecting them to squeeze into a mold God never intended for them to fit.

I expect Caiden to talk in a "library voice" when we're in restaurants, to walk, not run, down hallways at church, to be gentle with his little brother, and to be calm and quiet when we have company. This is a losing battle, primarily because Caiden is exuberant. He's 100% boy, and there is nothing calm or quiet about him. God made him to take the world by storm. And although Grayson is much quieter, and much calmer, than Caiden, he's still 100% boy, too. At 21 months he already instigates wrestling matches with his daddy and will readily thump his brother on the head if pestered past a certain point.

My husband, on the other hand, understands them. He knows that little boys like to wrestle, splash water, pick up worms, and yell like banshees, especially indoors. He realizes that this is how God has made them. So it makes sense that he is the one the boys most pattern themselves after. They walk the way he walks. They put their ballcaps on if he's wearing one. They already know how to whistle (sort of), spit, and cast a fishing rod. They're not very interested in learning how to crochet, although I can make a mean baby afghan.

And so I've gotten so much joy in watching my boys grow up to be like their daddy. He is a man's man, with an obnoxiously large Jeep, an obsessive fishing habit, and a love for loud music. He's also an adrenaline junkie, jumping out of planes without fear, careening down mountains on skis and bikes, and exploring caves with total disregard of the Do Not Enter signs. He is fun to live with, in a way I never will be. And my boys, even at their tender ages, already see this, and they want to be like him. And there's nothing more I want for them.

So it was with such sweet satisfaction that I snapped this picture of Caiden and his daddy, both having their quiet time this morning. Because of all the traits I want my boys to inherit from their daddy, a passionate, active love for God is at the top of the list. And I get the fringe benefit of watching this legacy being born.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Walk in the Woods


I went for a walk yesterday. The rain had stopped for a little while, and the boys were all asleep, so I grabbed the Baby Bjorn carrier, stuck Addison in it, and headed out. She had never been in the carrier before and liked it immediately, snuggling up against my heart and going to sleep.

I walked down the bike path that runs next to the Snake River, which is nestled in between banks of pines and aspen trees. The mountains are all around, some of them covered with evergreens, and some of them shooting higher into the sky, rock-topped and snow-capped. It was beautiful. And peaceful.

Peace is something that has been fleeting lately. Sometimes I feel lifted up by an unseen Presence, sheltered under the Everlasting Arms. During those times, open-heart surgery, kidney problems, and the uncertainty of Addison's genetics diagnosis seem less scary, and less pressing. Other times, I feel hedged in by fear, knowing that the next year will bring with it much difficulty. During those times, the weight of our future seems impossible to bear under.

But on my walk, the fresh scent of wildflowers and pines, the rushing of the water over rocks, the whirring of hummingbirds flying overhead, all brought such a tangible feeling of peace. The knowledge that these mountains, which are so lofty and impressive, are mere pebbles under God's feet, reminds me that He is a big God. He is capable of taking care of not only Addison during her surgeries and development, but also of my heart through it all. Being in the mountains reminds me that while this world is a big, big place, my life matters to Him. The intricate details of my life matter to Him. I matter to Him. And if He can not only put the mountains in place but also care for each hummingbird that flies through the trees, He can be trusted with my fragile heart.

While I was pondering these things, I passed another mom. She, too, had a daughter in a Baby Bjorn carrier. We stopped and talked. Her baby's name is Amelia, and she was born only three days before Addison. She, too, was a little stir-crazy and was out walking to get some fresh air. We marveled at the commonalities that we, as strangers, shared. We admired each other's babies, laughed about escaping the rest of our clans, and wished each other well as we parted. I smiled the rest of the way back.

There's something so common about motherhood that makes me be able to befriend just about any other mom. We may have little else in common, yet we can laugh and talk and relate anyway. Even the sympathetic looks we give each other in the line at the grocery store when my toddler or hers throws a tantrum speaks of friendship. And somehow, that thread of empathy is a comfort to me as I travel this real-life road of uncertainty, sorrow, difficulty, and fear. Knowing that I am cradled in the arms of my Savior, and that I am lifted up in the prayers of other mothers, is a balm to my battle-weary spirit. As I walked home, I thanked God for other mothers on my path, and for the reminder that I am not alone.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Overheard

These are the things I overheard while on our marathon road trip to Colorado:

  1. "Ooh, I want some rum!" (That would be from Caiden, who heard us talking about rum flavored salt water taffy.)
  2. "I have to go potty!"
  3. "Are we supposed to be in New Mexico?" (After driving on the wrong road for more than 50 miles.)
  4. "I have to go potty!"
  5. "Wow!" (After realizing we were on the wrong road, we had to drive 107 miles down a two-lane road--in a rainstorm, in the pitch dark, and never passing another car, house, light, or town. We did, however, pass over several very large toads, who then passed on, themselves, into another life. We also realized that if our van broke down on this road, we would very likely pass on ourselves, before a single soul found us. A little scary.) Anyway, the "Wow!" came very softly from the backseat at about midnight, from Grayson, who woke up to see the hills of New Mexico against the pitch-black night. He said it over and over in his tiny little voice. It almost made the extra 107 miles worth it. Almost.
  6. "I have to go potty!"
  7. "No vacancy," after trying to check into the only decent hotel around, at 1:15 a.m., after having traveled for 13 hours.
  8. "I have to go potty!"
  9. And saving the very best for last: "Sarah, I think this house has wireless Internet!" Which is why, after traveling for approximately 32 hours with three small children, and getting only 4 hours of sleep--and not even all at the same time--am I sitting at the kitchen table in this rented house, on my laptop. Instead of sleeping. Because I'm on vacation, and I can. So good night, sleep tight, and I'll be back tomorrow!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Road Trip

There is something so tangible about the memories I have of road trips from my childhood. Piling into the van in the early, early morning, sleepy-eyed and with bed-head hair. Dad and Mom have their steel Stanley thermoses filled to the brim with coffee, and we kids have our pillows and blankets. After a few hours on the road the sun rises, and we stop for breakfast at Denny's, where Leslie and I order hamburgers because we're not breakfast fans.

Sweet Valley High novels, listening to Tiffany and Richard Marx on my Walk-Man, trying to sleep all twisted up in the backseat, seatbelt still on, to make the long hours go faster. Listening to my grandma's voice on the tape player, reading us a book, complete with a "ding" sound to let us know when to turn the pages.

Then, after a long day, the sun sets, and we're still traveling. The sky goes black, and from the third row, as I doze off, I can hear my parents' voices, softly, as they drink more coffee and spend some quiet time together, listening to Neil Diamond, George Strait, and the Oak Ridge Boys. The sound of the miles peeling away from under our tires is hypnotizing, and the feeling of safety, that this is my family, and no matter what else happens in my junior high life, I have this family, lulls me to sleep.

We pull out later this morning for Colorado. Two days in a minivan with three very small children doesn't sound like much fun, but I know that this first trip with all five of us is the stuff great family memories are made of. We're loaded to the brim with all sorts of entertainment to make the days go more smoothly, and I know many of the miles will be spent with me squeezing into the backseat, picking up dropped toys, soothing a fussy baby, and negotiating arguments. But I hope that as my children grow up, they will be able to look back on their childhood and feel the same things I felt as I lay quietly in the backseat, listening to the murmur of my parents' voices--that family is a safe place to be, and that they are loved.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Girls' Night Out

I've wanted a daughter for as long as I can remember. I also wanted a son, and then I got two, so I moved on to wanting a daughter. And now, I have a daughter. My very own daughter. And since I now have my very own daughter, I've already started immersing her in Girl Culture. You know, I pop her into her bouncy seat and put her on the kitchen counter while I cook, and I've already explained the supreme importance of bubble baths, pedicures, and moisturizer. So far, so good.

But we really hadn't had any time away as girls (since she's been alive all of 8 weeks), so my thoughtful husband sent us off to have a slumber party. Monday night, I drove to the Gaylord Texan (Opryland) hotel with Addison. You've got to love a hotel with a real cow in the atrium!
(Dead, but real.)

We checked in and went to a restaurant that has gourmet Tex-Mex cuisine. I realized after eating that I prefer just un-gourmet food. Portions are bigger. We actually sat in the margarita bar, I'm guessing because none of the other couples wanted us to sit by them. We abstained from the margaritas, in case you were wondering.

After dinner, we went up to the room to indulge ourselves in girl delights: Addison took a nap, while I blogged, emailed, and downloaded music onto my laptop.

Then Addison took another nap while I took a bubble bath (with hotel shampoo for bubbles) and read a novel. (And yes, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to sit down in a hotel bathtub, but this is the Gaylord, for heaven's sake. Their tubs are probably cleaner than mine!) The counters were actually granite. And there was a vanity stool in the bathroom! How fun is that?

Then Addison took yet another nap while I journaled and stood in front of the picture window to watch the sun set over the lake. Then I decided to sleep, which is of course when Addison decided to wake up. After I convinced her to go back to sleep, we slept--the two of us in a huge king-sized bed, complete with down pillows, waking up to watch the sun rise and then going back to sleep.

We ate breakfast at the Riverwalk Cafe, which is patterened after the River Walk in San Antonio, and walked around taking pictures and looking at fountains, miniature rivers, and amazing plants. (How on earth do they maintain a gazillion square feet of foliage? I can hardly manage to keep my four plants alive.) We went back up to the room to hang out until time to check out, and then after the valet parkers brought me my minivan (I'm cruising in style, I know.), we went to a beautiful town square shopping center to shop at Bath and Body Works.

So for 18 hours, I got to feed myself without cutting up anybody else's food or leaving the table to get somebody another glass of milk, I didn't have to do the dishes, I blogged to my heart's delight without having to assure anybody that I'm not really addicted, I read as long as I wanted in a huge tub without worrying about running up the water bill, and I didn't take care of anybody except myself and Addison, who's pretty low-maintenance.

Around noon, we went home, where my husband went and got us lunch, and then we spent the 4th of July hanging out as a family. Now that's my idea of bliss. And as for this girls' night out, I feel a sequel coming in my near future . . .

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Big, Hairy Truth

Every family has a story they like to hash and rehash. My family has several. I'll spare you from hearing about the bear that chased us, the moose that charged us, or playing Hose Head on Thanksgiving, because I have a better story. It's called, "Don't Bother Naming Your Beloved Pet Because Eventually Your Mother Will Give it Away." Here it goes:

My dad shot my cat when I was a little girl. On Easter, if I recall. I can't remember why, but he had to. Not because he hated cats, although he does, but because it got hit by a car, I think. But maybe not. Memories are a little muddy when you're only three. We had a dog at the same time, a German shepherd that was so intimidating the mailman wouldn't deliver our mail. My parents gave him away when they got divorced. I remember the dog, but not the cat.

We moved to North Dakota when my mom remarried, and she adopted a cat she found on the top of a barn roof. She weighed about 48 pounds or so (the cat, not my mom), so we named her Chubby. Chubby was our only pet for a long time. Several years later, after moving to Illinois, we got a golden retriever we named Lindy. Lindy was named after the breeder we bought her from, who later turned out to be my algebra teacher when I moved in middle school to a small town elsewhere in Illinois. Imagine my 7th grade embarrassment when my new teacher asked me what we'd named the dog. Lindy and Chubby were our only pets who lived with us until they died. Natural deaths, that is.

My mom has already detailed the story of the original pet purgings, so I'll spare you the details. But you should hop on over to her site to find out the back story. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Okay, what she failed to mention, probably to redeem her reputation, is that we also had a beagle before we got Lindy. His name was Bert. He peed on my dad's boss' wife when they came to dinner. We affectionately referred to him as Bert the Squirt. He also had an unhealthy attraction to our new golden retriever puppy, if you catch my drift. So one day I came home from school to find out that Bert had run away. I spent the afternoon making missing posters and going door-to-door to see if anyone had found him. I did this for quite a while before giving up. Years later, I was clued in to the secret that Bert had "run away" to the Humane Society. We didn't tell my brother and sister until about a year ago.

Mom also left out the minor detail that she found one of our favorite cats, Spike, in the street, after his second hit-and-run accident (He was the one hit, not the one who ran, in case you were wondering.) She buried him under our neighbors' tree, so my brother wouldn't find the funeral mound. Spike, like Bert, had also "run away." My brother was in the dark about that one for about a decade, too.

And the cat she recently put to sleep for reasons unmentionable? That was my cat. Given to me by my first boyfriend.

And the sins of the mother have been revisited on the daughter. When my husband and I got married, we weren't allowed pets in our married housing. So we got guinea pigs. We reasoned that they were rodents, not pets. We named them Bailey and Eppie (short for epidermis) and kept them for four long years, until Bailey developed some sort of large growth, and Eppie started shaking constantly. I took them to the vet, asked if I were a terrible person for putting them to sleep, and left $15 poorer and feeling only slightly guilty.

At the same time, we already had two dogs, a husky named Aspen that I nicknamed Satan, or Dog from the Pit of Hell, and Macey, a 145 pound mastiff. We also had two cats, Gracie, and Tipper. And a newborn. Child, that is. The day after the guinea pigs ascended into heaven, I took Tipper to the humane society. He weighed 22 pounds, was antisocial, and marked his territory on anything that didn't move. I'm not thinking he was adopted. And before you judge me, know that Caiden was only a few months old, and I'd already gone through a 4th degree episiotomy, postpartum depression, and Caiden's emergency stomach surgery. Shaking, tumor-y guinea pigs that refused to die on their own and a groundhog-sized, peeing cat were just were too much for this girl to handle.

Fast forward about a year. Aspen, aka Dog from the Pit of Hell, was next on the list. That canine had already eaten: my wedding pillow, my husband's leather coat, my Ann Taylor Easter dress, part of our couch, one of the baseboards, and the wallpaper off the study wall. I'd had it! Unfortunately, my husband hadn't. But when Aspen and Macey started fighting, the clock started ticking. One day the dogs drew blood, spraying it all over my entry walls, broke pieces off my antique hall tree, and had me standing on the stairs, holding Caiden, screaming bloody murder, and frantically calling my husband, sobbing. He was in the middle of a staff meeting and mistakenly put me on speakerphone. That's when he saw the light. Aspen was given to a single woman who had no other pets and ran five miles a day. Good stinkin' riddance.

In the short years that followed, Aspen was replaced by Cosby, a pug. After he ate a foot-by-foot hole in our brand new carpet and peed in the dining room, he made his way to a family who had another pug and tolerated such behavior. In the meantime, Tipper, the cat who peed profusely, was replaced with Amity. Amity really had no obvious flaws, except that she was the world's clumsiest cat. There was none of the feline grace she was supposed to have. She knocked over glasses, vases, figurines. She also was a leech. Wherever I went, Amity followed. And rubbed against my legs. And tripped me. And rammed her head into my hands. And smeared her face into mine when I was sleeping.

Add to the mix that we were stupid and bought another mastiff to keep Macey company, Tucker. Besides the fact that a mastiff is ridiculously expensive, he also developed some rare bone disease after only two months. He was hospitalized twice before finally just dying. That little trip cost us over $2,000. In the meantime, Gracie, the only pet I actually liked, started peeing all over my house. (Gee, do you think it was post-traumatic stress disorder?) We had to rip up the carpet and replace it with wood=$3,500. Then we got Scout, a golden retriever, to replace Tucker and keep Macey company. After paying the breeder and getting all his shots, that ran us about $1,000. Oh, and have I mentioned that we are not independently wealthy?

You'd think we'd have learned at this point that we don't do well with pets. But oh, no, the stupidity continued: I asked for and got a 30 gallon aquarium for my birthday. I loaded it up with fish, who ate each other daily. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I was pregnant. Picture me hauling 5 gallon buckets of water up and down the stairs, while 9 months pregnant. And cleaning up after Gracie, who continued to pee in the house, despite behavior therapy (no kidding), pheromone spray therapy, and kennel therapy. We even put her on anti-anxiety drugs. I also forgot to mention that this is when she started doing the other outside her catbox. Daily. And then add Amity, the obnoxious leech-of-a-cat, who would trip my hugely pregnant self every time I walked down the stairs. And did I mention that Macey decided she hated Scout at this time? And a 145 pound mastiff is nobody you want to tick off.

So I gathered my tremendous ability to say no, and the Pet Purging began again. I gave the fish away to a friend who teaches. Then I sent Amity to my sister, who sent her to my brother, who sent her somewhere that only he knows. And then I took my sweet Gracie, the cat I truly loved, and the only pet I really wanted, and sent her to heaven. (Please don't bash me on this; I cried so hard the blood vessels in my face broke.) Now we were down to two dogs. And my husband said we would always have two dogs, despite the fact that I maintained that since I didn't want any dogs, one would be a great compromise.

But then Macey did something so horrible I won't even write about it. So she now lives on some farm with a family who tolerates bad behaviour in animals. And now we're down to one dog. Just one. A nice, calm golden retriever who doesn't mind it if we don't walk him and doesn't jump up, chew things, or bark. His only bad habit is shedding, and I think I can forgive him that.

So I guess that this epic-length story could also be called, "If You are a Pet Store or Shelter, Under No Circumstances Allow My Family to Get Another Pet." In light of this history, the fact that we still have all three children is amazing, isn't it?

Monday, July 03, 2006

AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!

I lost all my comments! I, who am trying SO hard to get high-tech in the blogging world, added Haloscan to my site so I could be good and do Trackback, like Shannon suggested, and didn't realize that meant I'd lose all my comments. It's like losing old friends! And in fact, I'm in danger of losing new friends, since some of you have commented, and I hadn't added you to my Bloglines yet. Now I don't know where to find you! So please indulge me and leave me a comment, so I can know how to find you! (And if you're related to me, you're exempt from this. Unless you just want to.)

Thanks! And if you use Blogger and know where to find the Trackback URL field, so I can type in Shannon's Trackback URL to link to her, please help a sister out, and educate me. I can't, for the love of Pete, figure it out. (Aarrghhhh--technology makes me crazy.)
commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Two hours, 24 minutes, and a handful of seconds to go

It's actually happening today. Today! I get to go to church, for the first time since the last weekend in April, whatever day that was. I'm sort of breaking the rules, since the doctor said not to take Addison anywhere with large crowds and air conditioning until she's three months old. But you know what? I'm losing my sanity. Today while my toddler clung to my legs and cried for food, I blindly typed away, answering an email, since that's about my only method of communication with friends these days. My husband stared in disbelief, and then imitated: "Mama, I'm huuuuuuuungry," followed by pretending to type madly in the air. Then he said, in a terribly placating tone, "Grayson, it's okay, DADDY will feed you." I felt bad for a minute, until I saw him grab a bag of snacks out of the pantry, toss a couple of bowls on the table, and let the boys feed like they were at a trough.

I NEED to get out of my house. I need to go where I have friends, more than one in one place. I need to go show off my baby, since she has an enormous wardrobe and nowhere to wear it all! (Doctor's office do not count.) I need to send my children to the preschool, where they will consume mass quantities of somebody else's Cheerios, learn about Jesus, and paint and play with play-doh. I need to eat bagels, drink lemonade, and visit with people I like but don't normally keep in touch with outside of church. I need to feel like a real human again, not just somebody stuck in a crisis. Crisis mode? It's overrated. Once in a while, I have to come up for air and do something normal.

My husband, however, is a stickler for doctor's orders. So until this week, I haven't even asked. But earlier this week, he made the mistake of saying he wanted me to meet the wife of a worship leader who's coming in to sing at our church. And then he was momentarily without sense and suggested I cook dinner and have the couple over, after church. Right. I think he forgot that we have three children, four years old and under, and that I barely manage personal hygiene each day. So after I explained that very fact to him, I sweetly suggested, "Hey, but I could come to church and meet her." Just trying to help him out, you know.

It took five days of subliminal messages, outright pleas. and promises that nobody, NOBODY, would be allowed to touch the baby, kiss her, breathe on her, or even look at her, if he would please just let me go to church! And this morning, right after teasing me about not feeding the children, he looked at Grayson and slyly said, "Hey Gray, aren't you excited to go to church tonight?" I could've kissed that man. Come to think of it, I probably should've.

So it's almost 2 p.m., and I only have two hours left until I get to pile the kids in the car and pull out of the driveway, headed to my favorite place on earth. I get to wear pretty clothes, put on makeup, put nice clothes on the kids, take them to people who love them and want to spend couple of hours making Jesus crafts with them, and then visit with people I've missed so much over the last nine weeks. I can't wait.

Of course, that also means that I only have two hours left to feed Grayson lunch (yes, I realize it's 2 p.m. ), get both boys into something matching and clean, get Addison fed one more time, put her in her little dress (which I picked out last night in high hopes), find something to wear that makes me look way skinnier than I am, lug the double stroller into the van, after fixing the bum wheel that keeps popping off, pack both diaper bags, transfer the contents of my purse into one of those bags, let the dog out, and make sure my house is presentable in case someone wants to come look at it while we're gone.

And then, once we get there, I have to figure out how to get both little ones, as well as the obnoxiously-huge double stroller, both diaper bags, myself, and Caiden into the church. Without having people stare. Probably not possible. But oh, so worth it!