Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mommy Guilt - Just Say NO!

The mom guilt - it can start as fast as two blue lines appear on a pregnancy test!
Oh, no, I think I had caffeine last week.
Uh, oh, I think I may have eaten unpasteurized cheese.
I forgot to take my prenatal!
I despise Mom Guilt.  I rail against it.  I encourage every mom I know to not beat herself up, to do her best and leave the rest to God.  I do my best to ignore the uncivil shouters of the world who try to convince me that their way is the only right way.  But, even I, the champion in the fight against Mom Guilt is susceptible.

Today, I go pick up my girls from school, they get into the car, chattering about the lunches I had packed for them.  We get home and I work on homework with both girls.  The Engineer gets home and asks the Hedgehog about her day.  She promptly bursts into tears.  She'd had a bad day.  she doesn't like one of her teachers at school.  One of the boys that she's working with on a project isn't helping.  It all pours out, all over her Daddy, as I sit by, shocked. 
Why hadn't she told me?  Did I even ask about her day?  How could I not tell that she was having a hard time?
Sigh.  Attack of the Mom Guilt.

Time for the girls to go to bed and I'm feeling somewhat better because I've helped Hedgehog brainstorm some strategies for dealing with the situations at school.  I feel like I started late, but I finished strong.  Go Team Mom!

But then, there is screaming.  The noise is coming from the girls' bathroom and the Engineer goes to investigate.  He comes back in a few minutes holding a nightgown with monkeys on it.  "Whose is this?" he asks, waving it at me.  "I don't know," I confess, and he wades back into the fray.  He eventually determines that it probably belongs to Hedgehog, based on the size, and she puts it on, gives kisses and goes to bed.  Monkey, despondent, cries in my lap for another 30 minutes.
What kind of mommy doesn't even know which pjs belong to which kid?  For good grief's sake, there are only 2 of them!
Even more Mom Guilt.

There are too many topics that prompt guilt to count:  vaccines, co-sleeping, disposable or cloth diapers, make-your-own organic baby food or jarred, work or stay at home, breast or bottle?  And as the kids grow, the topics just change:  public or private or homeschool, how many extra-curricular activities, hairdos, piercings, attitudes, DATING!

We can drive ourselves crazy, second guessing every choice, wondering if our kids' mistakes are our own fault, and listening to every side of each and every issue.  But, all we can do is try our best.  After we've done what we hope to be right, we need to give ourselves a break.  We need to make a choice based on what we know of the situation and our child and move forward.  We need to silence the ugly voice inside our own heads that says horrible things we would never allow to be said to a friend and we need to ignore all the "advice" givers in our life.

Mommy, just say NO to Mom Guilt.  You deserve better.  So do I.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Bully

I've always hated bullies.  My sense of justice just gets all offended when someone bigger, stronger, more powerful or smarter picks on someone who simply isn't equipped to fight back.  My junior year in High School, I met the worst bully I had ever know, in the person of my U.S. History Teacher.

I shouldn't have even been in her class.  It was a Freshman subject, but I had transferred from another state, and had not had it yet.  This teacher liked teaching scared, vulnerable Freshman.  But I wasn't a Freshman, not scared and not vulnerable.  She didn't pick on me.

She was a poor teacher.  U.S. History had the potential for being a great, interesting class (we wouldn't have appreciated it, we were teenagers, but she could have tried!)  Her class consisted of reading from the textbook, aloud, in turns and then answering the questions at the end of the section.  Homework was the same routine, read a section, answer the questions.

Reading aloud has never been difficult for me.  I love to read, have an extensive vocabulary and can usually muddle through pronouncing difficult words.  Not everyone was so lucky.  Several students got nervous when reading, causing them to trip over their words.  Some students couldn't pronounce all the words and some were just plain slow.

Her classroom had an odd arrangement.  There were four long rows of desks that faced her own desk, and three short rows that faced the long rows and were sitting to the side of her desk.  The slow kids, the poor readers, the ones who stumbled over their own words, or mispronounced things sat on the short rows.  These were her favorite targets.

If someone was reading slow, she'd lean on her podium and dramatically drum her fingers on it with a "we're waiting" look on her face.  She made faces when people stumbled when reading, causing the class to laugh and the poor reader to squirm.  But the worst was always if you mispronounced something.

There was one boy in the class, James, who was slow.  He wasn't with the Special Education kids, but he was probably pretty close to being eligible.  Just like many slow kids, James was unpopular.  Some of the kids called him "Booger".  But he was such a nice guy.  He was always smiling, always tried hard and I just never could be mean to him, it seemed too much like kicking a puppy.

But picking on Booger got big laughs, so our teacher did so nearly every class. Every time it was his turn to read, without fail, he would mispronounce something.

"Noooooo, James" she'd say, in a voice dripping with sarcasm.  "It's gov-er-N-ment, NOT gov-er-mint," she'd say, and roll her eyes as our classmates tittered.  He would smile, re-pronounce the word and soldier on through the drumming of her fingers and her mocking faces and the laughter of his peers.  He never acted like he disliked her, and I never was even sure if he understood that she was being awful to him, which, in my mind, made it worse.

I never did confront her about her treatment of poor James.  In truth, I'm not sure that I had any idea how to do that.  But, to this day, I get perverse pleasure from the fact that I ticked her off and still got an "A" in her class.

Homework, though unoriginal and useless, was required in her class, every night.  If completed homework was not brought to class, we had to fill in a form.  I was generally a conscientious student, but for some reason, one day, I had no homework and was required to complete her form.  And, that day, I was in no mood for her.  The question on the form read, "Why had you chosen not to complete your assigned homework?"  I thought about half a second before responding:
I had better things to do than waste my time on moronic busywork
and I passed my form to the front.

I then watched as she leaned on her podium as we read in turns, idly marking checks on completed homework and 0s on forms.  I knew when she reached my form, because she suddenly stood up straight.  Then she went scarlet and then purple with anger.  She stalked out of the classroom while a student was still reading.  I sat, as my befuddled classmates wondered what to do, and felt an odd cross of horror and elation.

She stormed back in, holding my form plus a copy of my form.  She waved them both at me while barking to me to stay after class.  Those seated near me gave me sympathetic looks, fearing for me, but strangely, I wasn't afraid.

After class, she hotly informed me that a copy of my form was going in my "permanent record".  She said that my bad attitude was going to prevent me "from going anywhere in life" and that I would be "lucky to pass her class and not have to re-take it as a Senior",  She pronounced the last bit as vengefully as any Disney villain, but I shrugged and walked out.

The next week we got progress reports.  I had a solid B in her class and promptly decided to use my marks to torture her.  Several times a week, during class, I would pull out my calculator and all my papers, averaging my grades according to the rubric in the curriculum.  She would glower at me as I cheerfully determined my grade.  I turned in only the assignments that were absolutely necessary to keep my grade rising.  My final grade in her class was a 90.  An "A" that I know it pained her to give.

It didn't solve the problem, but I felt victorious nonetheless.  I thought I had fought her and won.  I hope to teach my girls that there are all kinds of fights out there to win.  This time, I picked the wrong fight.  I should have been fighting for the underdog, the poor bullied boy, not my grades.  I hope they'll choose better.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Memory Monday: Karma's a Bitch

"Whaaaa!  Whaaaaa!  You ready for 3 a.m. feedings, Joe?"  Dale teased, rubbing his eyes in an imitation of crying.  "Ready to change some diapers?"

The crew laughed, and Joe grimaced good-naturedly.  One of the perils of working for your brother-in-law was the boss knowing all your business.  He shook his head and tried to focus on the siding job in front of him.

He and Lily had thought they were done having children.  This little "surprise" would be a full 9 years younger than their son.  He really wasn't looking forward to the long nights again.  His elementary school daughter and son were at a low-maintenance age, and he enjoyed that.

Too distracted to work, he pulled his Marlboros from his pocket and walked out to the driveway before lighting up.  Dale, having finished talking with the homeowner, was headed for his truck.  Just before pulling out, he rolled down his window and said "Hey, Joe, you wanna come see the boys play tonight?"

Joe took a long drag, considering the question.  Dale's twin sons, one year younger than his daughter, were fair athletes, but one little league game is about the same as the next.

"Nah,"  he shook his head, "Lily's been tired.  Better stay home."

"Better get ready", Dale grinned, miming rocking a baby.

Joe half-waved at him and crushed out his cigarette as Dale drove off.

Later that night, on the ball field, Dale mentally patted himself of the back, it had not been easy to get all 3 of the kids ready and there on time, but he'd done it.  He'd be glad when Susie got back from the doctor, though, it was hard to coach first base and keep an eye on Jillie at the same time.

A few minutes later, he saw her walking over to the bleachers and signed in relief.  It was so much easier when they could divide and conquer the supervision duties.

He smiled and waved and immediately tried to concentrate on the game.  For second and third graders, the Blue Jays were a pretty good team.  He coached a runner to steal second and waited for the next batter.

Susie, however, had finally reached the stands and was talking with some of the other moms on the bleachers.  Her high, excited voice was carrying onto the field, in pieces.

Dale heard, "Doctor....shocked...pregnant" and whipped his head around, completely missing whatever was happening on the field.  There was a crack of a bat and wild cheering but he heard nothing but his wife say "....twins"

For the rest of the game, he was useless.  His mind whirled with thoughts of two more children, how to provide, expanding the house and, annoyingly, "What will Joe say?".

This is a true story of Belle Mère and Big Poppa.  Joe and Lily has a son, and not long later, my in-laws, Susie and Dale, had their second set of twins, Elizabeth and David.  Joe graciously didn't tease Dale too badly.

Memory Mondays

I've had so much fun posting about my Grammy and my Mimi, that I've decided to make it a regular feature.  Memory Mondays will feature a treasured family story.  Some will be funny, others scary and all of them precious to me.  Hope you enjoy them like I do!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Making Changes

I've just finished reading the September/October issue of MomSense magazine and a great article called "Changing Directions" by Sharon A. Hersh (  She writes all about how to parent differently than you were raised.  She says:
"Researchers have discovered that the single most important predictor of how we will parent is how we were parented as a child.  It's as if we have a GPS programmed in our brains that directs us in our parenting.  This can be a blessing if we learned to respond with patience and encouragement.  But it can be a curse if our internal programming directs us to yell and to criticize."
Her article is very encouraging, with helpful suggestions to those who wish to parent differently than they may have been.  One of the lovely things is that is it not one of those "bash your parents" articles, either.  Rather, it is asking us to take a long, hard look at our own parenting and make changes if needed.

I have seen first hand that this CAN be done.  The examples I have seen in my family's history lead me to believe that I can change and be the kind of mommy I choose to be.  For example:
  • My Grammy's mother was a bitter, controlling woman.  She used guilt to attempt to get her children to do what she wanted them to do.  She didn't even go to her daughter's weddings because "they were leaving her".  Grammy didn't like that side of her mother's personality and decided not to emulate it.  As a result, my Grammy was a positive person who never tried to control her family, just guide them, if they needed help. 
  • Momma Bear's mom (my Mimi) is a complainer.  If you call Mimi, pull up a chair, because she's going to tell you all about her ailments for a LONG time, in a most dramatic fashion.  And if you call her, she's going to tell you who all hasn't been calling her lately (funny phone she has, only takes incoming calls, apparently she can't call out....).  Momma Bear has some crap stuff in her life that would be complain-worthy, but she doesn't gripe.  She does what has to be done and goes on.
  • Big Poppa's mom (Engineer's Mammaw) tried to be controlling.  From her nursing home, she attempted to boss around her entire family.  The Engineer and I went to see her a few days after returning from our honeymoon and took her a chocolate pie.  Her response was "Now you can come back every week and bring more pie".  Her domineering attitude guaranteed her few visitors.  Big Poppa lets his family do what they want.  He has plenty of advice, to be sure, but bossing isn't his style.
All of this gives me hope.  When I look back at a day where I lost my temper too quick, raised my voice too often, threatened instead of taught and spanked instead of using a time out, I remember.  I remember those before me who fought to be different, and I know that someday, I will be too.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tantrum Theology a.k.a Why Monkey Shouldn't Have to Clean Her Room

It started our innocently enough.  The Engineer told the girls to clean their room.  We've had a long-standing problem with Monkey playing while Hedgehog cleaned the whole room, so he divided the room in half, assigning each child a half.

Monkey exploded.

By the time I arrived, the full force of her five year old fury was on display.  She was crying, kicking and screaming about the unfairness of the system.

"Her half is smaller and has less stuff," Monkey shrieked, loudly enough to be heard by the entire tri-state area.*

The phone rang.  It was Belle-Mère.  The Engineer left the room to talk with his mother as I tried to reason with Monkey while Hedgehog swiftly and steadily cleaned her half of the room.

After completing her half of the room, Hedgehog got on the phone with Belle-Mère.  Seeing this, Monkey screeched that she wanted to talk on the phone, too.  I explained that she would have to stop yelling to talk on the phone.  This proclamation was answered with an ear-splitting shriek that instantly terminated her telephone privileges.

She was sent back to her room with orders to stay until it was cleaned, or she would not get to dine with the rest of us.

Defiant, she crossed her arms and shouted "I will NOT clean, I WILL eat dinner and I WILL call Belle-Mère!"  She refused to even return to her room until I counted to number two of three.

From her room, she continued to rail about unfairness, until she suddenly changed strategies.  The cries were now "I can't do it, I can't help it, I just can't do it!" in a most pained, overly-dramatic way.

She burst from her room and ran to me.  "Mommy, I can't do it, I can't help it.  My brain's not right for it!  I'm not smart for cleaning!"

I told her she was a very smart kindergartner and she certainly could clean.

I picked her up, put her in my lap, and said "Monkey, whose hands are these?", holding hers up for inspection.

"God's" she answered.

Recovering far slower than I would've liked, I said "Well, who did God give these hands to?"


"That's right.  And you can use them for fun things like playing with your toys AND for cleaning your room."

"But I don't like to do that" she whined.

"I know.  That happens sometimes.  Mommy doesn't like doing the laundry.  But these,"  I plucked at her pants, "were clean and folded and in your drawer this morning, right?"

"Yeah", she said sullenly.

"So what does that mean?"

"You really do like laundry?"

"No," I chuckled, "I still don't like laundry.  But we all have to do things sometimes that we don't like.  It's part of growing up.  Understand?"

She gave me a grudging nod.  I sent her, still sniffling, back to her room to clean it.

I smiled at the Engineer, mentally patted myself on the back and contemplated sending my story to ScreamFree Parenting.

Then Monkey screamed, "I don't know why God made me this way!"

It took another hour and a half of screaming, kicking and throwing before she finally cleaned her room.

I may need to go to seminary before her next fit.

* Obscure Phineas and Ferb reference

Friday, September 9, 2011

Blue Jeans: A Cautionary Tale

I want to tell you the story of a time when my tight-fitting jeans nearly cost me my life.  Sounds overly dramatic, I know, but the older I get, the more I realize what kind of trouble I really could have been in.

It was a gorgeous spring day during my college years and I had the day off and no plans.  I woke late, de-frizzed my natural curls as best I could, and got dressed.  An off-day meant my favorite pair of Rockies jeans, boots and a cute top.  Rocky Mountain Jeans were designed with no back pockets, so were perfect for showing off my cute, tiny little tush.

I hoped into my red Geo Metro and drove to the local Wal-Mart for a few college essentials (caffeine and junk food).  I whipped into a fairly close parking spot next to a Bondo-grey van.  I hopped out, and dug around in the back seat for my purse.  As I did, I heard appreciative comments coming from the van.  Van drivers were NOT my type, so I ignored them.  I continued to ignore lewd comments about my backside and what one could do to it as the three van occupants ambled past into the store.

I found my purse, shouldered it, and set off in the opposite direction at a quick, determined pace.

Inside the store, I gathered my few purchases and headed for a check-out lane.  From the check stand I could see that the three men had joined a fourth and they were all standing in the jewelry department.  And I was still an object of their attention.  As the cashier made small talk, I noticed the three heading for the exit and inwardly sighed with relief.  I purposely took my time going to the exit, giving the men ample time to leave so I would not encounter them again.

Just before I left the building I saw the fourth man, leaning on the counter in the jewelry department.  I looked at him and he grinned at me.  Disgusted, I looked away, took out my keys and left the building.

Instantly, alarm bells were going off in my head.  To my left, near the pay phone, was one of the three, on my right the second, and I could see the third man standing in the parking lot facing me.  If I walked a few feet more, I would be surrounded.

I froze.  I stopped mid-step, looked at my watch and turned on my heel to go back into the building.

Just two steps inside the building, I saw the fourth man again.  He was grinning again.  He walked past me, getting so close that there were mere molecules between us.  I could feel his body heat on my skin.

I stopped at the nearest employee and asked for an escort to my car.  It took several minutes to find someone, and I'd almost convinced myself that I'd overreacted until we walked back outside.

The grey van was stopped right behind my car, completely bocking it in.  I pointed at the van, and it sped off.

I believe that if I had not heeded my inner alarm, I would not be here today.  I would've been in the back of that van, unspeakable things would've been done and I would have been gone.

Blue jeans designed to highlight a woman's backside aren't really dangerous.  But some men are.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

If I Were a Hoarder

OK, so, in my head, the title goes just like "If I Were a Rich Man" from "Fiddler on the Roof", so I have to get it out of my system.

There, now I feel better, and a little Russian.

I needed that, because the subject of hoarding hits just a bit too close to home with me.  My Mimi is a hoarder.  She can barely move around in her house, despite living by herself in a three bedroom home.  The Momma Bear is quickly following in her shoes.  It wasn't that way when I was a child, but recently, it's getting bad.  The boys coming back to live with them was one factor, now the detritus of two little guys is everywhere, their backbacks and laundry stacked in various places.  But after Grammy died, it got worse.  They brought back boxes and boxes and furniture that they have no room for.  So, I worry that one day, my home will be too cluttered for the people who live there too.

Currently, the clutter isn't winning any battles.  Things are mostly put away and I have a place for most things.  I've even cleaned out the kitchen cabinets and the hall closet since the kids went back to school, and my trunk is full of things to donate.  But, with that said, there are a number of large totes in the hall closet, filled with craft supplies and unfinished projects.  There is one whole corner of my bedroom dedicated to "crafting" that currently looks like a crime scene.

I don't know that I really "hoard" craft things, but I sure do have a BUNCH of unfinished projects around.  I've been working on cross-stitching Christmas stockings for all of us since before Hedgehog was born (yeah, she's seven, I know) and the stitching still isn't completed on the Engineer's.  I'm YEARS behind on my scrapbooking, and the sewing projects are in a tote under the bed.  And don't even get me started on the two unfinished furniture projects in the garage.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I AM a hoarder.

Don't be surprised if I don't post for a while, I have some things to do, apparently!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Plastic Cows

They are among some of my favorite things.  To someone outside of my family, the attraction to these little black plastic cattle might seem odd.  But I love them.

Grampy used to work out of the country.  They lived out of the country, in fact, until my dad was in high school.  When Grampy retired and planned to move back to the States, there was a party for him.  Since the family was haded to a state with lots of livestock, the tables were decorated with plastic horses and cows and tractors.  It was a lovely party, and when it was over, Grammy had the cows.

I have no idea why she kept them.  My dad was in high school and his siblings were already out of the house.  Maybe she planned to give them to nieces and nephews.  Perhaps the hostess insisted on her keeping them.  Maybe because she lived through the Depression, she couldn't stand to throw them out.  I really don't know.

At Grammy and Grampy's house, the toys were kept in a laundry basket in the middle bedroom closet.  The cows were in that basket all my life.  We drug them out time after time, and despite other choices, the cows were among the favorites.  The adults would usually remark on our choice and Grammy would remind us all that those had been on the table at Grampy's retirement party in 1964.

After Grammy died and we all gathered to clean out the house, we pulled out the laundry basked to entertain the kids (I'd brought all 4) and paid them little mind as we wrapped up and packed up the treasures of our departed's lives.

Hearing a commotion in the other room, I went to see  why the children were being so rowdy.  They were fighting over the cows.  The 40+ year old playthings were still a favorite.  I laugh-sobbed as I took them from the kids and carefully packed them away with Grammy's china.

The cows live in my house now, my kids enjoy playing with them.  I hope one day my grand kids will enjoy them too.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Miss My Childhood

I miss my childhood.

In my childhood, family loved each other. Period. It didn’t seem complicated. As an adult, I sometimes don’t EVEN like the people I’m related too. My mom made a cross stitch from my Grammy that said Grammy was “not just his mother, but also my friend”, so I thought being in-laws was simple. But as an adult, I’ve discovered that sometimes his family’s brand of crazy and mine don’t mesh. Sometimes we butt heads. Sometimes love is hard and complicated.

In my childhood, death and disease were not everyday realities. The people I knew and loved were generally safe and secure. I did not even know anyone who died until my cousin’s suicide when I was 10. As an adult, I have lost three of my four grandparents, and the Engineer has lost all of his. Our parents are growing older. Mine seem older than their years, no doubt due to the strain of raising my sister’s children.

In my childhood, I had no ideas of wills and trusts and guardian ships. Despite having an active duty military father, the thought of what “could” happen never occurred to me. As an adult, what would happen to my children if something were to happen to my husband and I actively bothers me. Our will had always appointed the Engineer’s parents as guardians if something were to happen to us. But, as I watch my parents aging before their time, I know that isn’t the right choice anymore. There doesn’t seem to be a right choice now, and I don’t know what to do.

In my childhood, there were no such things as mortgages. Seriously. We always lived In the military base provided housing, so I had no idea about house payments and premium mortgage insurance and property taxes. As an adult, I know about these things all too well. They are a source of consternation more frequently than I could’ve imagined as a child.

In my childhood, reading and imagination were daily, constant companions. My mother would pry books out of my hands to convince me to eat, bathe and sleep. When I wasn’t reading, I was frequently daydreaming. I was off in my own little world most of the time. As an adult, mundane things occupy such a large part of my brain that it usually takes a lot of time to break free of the cobwebs enough to write a few paragraphs. Reading takes time, which is all too often, in short supply.

Since I know that I won’t be magically transported back to my childhood anytime soon, I try to spend my time creating a wonderful childhood for my children, and for my nephews. It’s tough sometimes to create a safe bubble for them, without lying or keeping them too sheltered from the realities of the world. But, I know it’s worth it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Don't Call Me Grace

I fell off the stage at my high school graduation.  And not like "We started that party before the ceremony, so I was drunk" kind of a fall.  No, this was a regulation "I am so very clumsy" type of fall.  I heard my name called, got my diploma, shook some hands, caught my heel on who-knows-what and fell down the stairs onto our school's football coach.

My mother used to say "There's a reason I didn't name you Grace".

It was a life of near constant humiliation.  I once tripped over the air at the roller rink.  I wound up spread out like a bearskin rug on the floor for the entire church youth group to see.

Unfortunately, my poor girls are just like me.  Monkey has literally walked right into walls.  Just this week, getting out of the car, she fell out on her face.  If Hedgehog runs faster than a trot, she inevitably winds up sprawled out, face down.

I guess it is a good thing I didn't name them Grace.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


"Catherine!  Catherine we MUST go to the storm cellar!"  Miss Medders said firmly, and a bit desperately.

Catherine crossed her arms and continued to huddle under the teacher's desk.  The cellar was dark, dank, and scary and she didn't want to go.  She scooted further from her teacher's hands and listened as the blowing wind caused the whole building to creak.

"Honey, it'll be safer down there, this storm sounds bad."  Even as Miss Medders spoke, the wind howled and hail began pelting the building.  Obstinately, Catherine shook her head again.  Miss Medders tried crawling in after her, but the drawers of her desk were too low.

"Catherine, please!"  Miss Medders half-shouted, sounding fearful.  "Oh thank God!  Ray, can you help me please?"  Before Catherine could react, one of the older boys had tipped Miss Medders' desk on its side, exposing her to her teacher's hands.

Miss Medders took her by the hand, but Catherine pulled back and dug in her heels.  Miss Medders responded by grabbing her around the middle, tucking her under her arm and racing for the back door of the schoolhouse.  Ray held the door open and soon all three of them were outside in the eerie midday darkness.  The rain and hail were coming sideways and the wind gusting so hard that Ray and Miss Medders had to hold on to each other to go the few feet to the cellar.

Once they arrived at the cellar, the wind practically threw the door open for them and Miss Medders dumped Catherine unceremoniously onto the steps.  She, Ray and two of the other bigger boys were fighting against the wind to close the cellar door.  They got it shut and the cellar was pitch black.  Catherine heard her teacher say, "The latch doesn't seem very strong, we'll need to hold the door closed."

Catherine shook on the steps.  In the darkness, she could hear her classmates breathing, but could not see any of them.  The cellar door was rattling hard on its hinges as the furious wind outside shook it and loud, unidentifiable thumps and bangs were sounding all around outside as the storm raged on.  Catherine screamed.  There were no words, just volume as she gave vent to her terror.  She screamed and screamed until several classmates clapped hands over her mouth.  Then, she cried.

Suddenly, it was quiet.  The thumping and banging had stopped.  The door was no longer rattling, and although she could still hear rain falling, Catherine didn't think it sounded dangerous.  A few minutes later, cautiously, Miss Medders opened the door to the cellar.

"Oh, my word.  Oh, my God!"  Miss Medders said, and Catherine knew her teacher was crying.  Running out of the cellar with the other student, Catherine gasped.  Their school was gone.  All that remained was some scattered bricks from the piers of the foundation.  The huge oak tree from in front of the school was twisted in half and crumbled on the ground.

"We could've all died." Miss Medders said in a hoarse whisper.  Catherine surveyed the remains of what had once been their school and silently vowed to never go to school again.

This is a story from my Mimi's childhood.  She was either in first grade or kindergarten.  Even today, in her mid 80's, she hates storms with a passion.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Oxygen Mask

I'm working my way slowly, with exercise and St. John's wort, out of a funk.  Something that I have been doing during the process of funk-busing is trying to evaluate whether I could've done some things differently to prevent winding up here in the first place.   As much as it hurts, I have realized that I probably should've done some things differently.

Now, I'm not saying I could've prevented school starting, or my family's particular type of dysfunction from sucking, but I could've been in better shape to deal with it.

I had NO social life this summer (outside of the 4 kids).  My schedule with my Bunco buddies worked out that I only went and played once this summer.  Additionally, my best friend has moved away and I only made the trip to see her once.

Spiritually, I didn't take good care of my soul.  The Bible study that I had been in ended in early June, and I didn't sign up for another.  I thought "I don't have time".  Additionally, due to family obligations and our family vacation, I missed three Sundays in a row at church.

Physically, I was tired.  Vacations are always fun but exhausting for adults, especially mommies.  I also hadn't been exercising.  The Engineer and I had been working out together (sporadically) before school ended, but it got back-burnered once summer arrived.

All in all, it was the "perfect storm" of factors that kept me from dealing well with my situation.  I should have taken better care of myself.  I matter too.  I've always hated that thing the flight attendants tell you about putting on your own oxygen masks first, and THEN helping your child, but I know it's true.

So, my oxygen mask is this:  I'm trying to write every day, I've joined a Zumba class and I going to start a Bible study on the 12th.  What about you?  What's your personal "oxygen mask"?

Friday, September 2, 2011

God Winks

I've been reading  When God Winks at You: How God Speaks Directly to You Through the Power of Coincidence and whole-heartedly recommend it.  (Not being paid for the opinion, wish I was...)  It is all about how God uses circumstances in our lives to point us in the right direction.  Often times, those who don't share my faith will call these events coincidence.  The stories in the book are very compelling, so I wanted to tell one of my own.

Before the end of the last school year, I was struggling with a decision.  Earlier that year, my younger sister has asked our parents to raise her two sons for an unspecified amount of time, "while she got herself together".  She said she had an addiction to prescription pain medicine.  My parents had raised her sons previously when she had struggled with an addiction with illegal drugs.  So my parents had taken in her sons again.  But both had full-time jobs, and as summer approached, what they would do with the boys for the summer was a problem.

They were thinking of putting them in the local YMCA's summer program but the boys had both been bullied there.  "They can come stay with us,"  I had said.  "I'm home with the girls anyhow, so it's no big deal."

But my parents worried that it was too big for a "burden" for us.  And, deep down, I wondered if I could really handle 4 kids. Plus, our guest room only had a full-sized bed.

So, one Friday morning, after the Engineer left for work, dropping Hedgehog off at school on his way, I got Monkey and I ready to go garage-saling.  In my bathroom that morning, I prayed.  I told God about how uncertain I was, and wondered if I was getting in over my head.  I told Him I would really love some bunk beds, preferably twin over full, to use the mattress I already had.  And I distinctly remember telling Him that the bed was a want, not a need, but it sure would be nice.

So Monkey and I set out.  We went to several disappointing garage sales before time for my annual eye exam.  Once I was finally done with the eye doctor, it was nearly lunch time.  I almost decided to go on home.  I figured all the good stuff would be sold from the remaining sales, but decided to go to one more sale.

As soon as I walked into the barn of the last sale, I saw them.  Wooden twin over full bunk beds, standing in the corner.  I saw a piece of paper on them, and sighed, assuming they were already sold, but looked 'just in case".  The paper was the price, which was in our price range!  I bought them immediately.

Doubters will say that it was coincidence that the DAY I prayed specifically about twin over full bunk beds I "happened" to find them at a late garage sale in our price range.  But I believe that it was God telling me that taking the boys in for the summer was the right thing to do.  And that He would provide the strength and patience, just like He had provided the bed.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


"Addie, they're coming!"

Addie glanced at her sister.  Deborah looked panicky.  Addie looked past her sister up the dirt road to assess the reason for her sister's dismay.  Pounding up the road, lunch pails clanking, ran the Maddox boys.

"We'll get switched for sure if they get our dresses dirty again!" Deborah wailed.

Addie sighed.  Every day so far this week the boys had splashed much from the road onto the girls' faded, worn dresses.  They liked to pull their braids and tease, too, but the mud was the big problem.  No amount of pleading had been able to convince Momma and Poppa that it wasn't their fault.  A hickory switch would surely be in their future if they couldn't stop the boys.

Running wasn't an option.  The boys were bigger and faster than Addie herself, and little Deborah was much slower than Addie.  They needed a plan.

Addie looked around.  There were plenty of puddles in the road, due to the chilly drizzle they'd been having lately.  There was no escaping, the barbed wire fences on either side of the road would snag and tear their dresses, insuring a switching.  But there, in a fence row to the right, stood a big patch of stinging nettles!

"C'mon", she said to her younger sister and marched over to the patch of painful plants.  Her first thought was to try to push the boys into the nettles, but she quickly rejected that plan, fearing she would end up in the itchy, burning leaves.

Handing her books to her sister, Addie fumbled in her jacket and got out a handkerchief.  "Remind me NOT to use this later," she said as she wrapped the handkerchief carefully around the stem of the biggest nettle of the bunch.  Grunting with effort, she broke the plant off from the ground, and held it behind her back.

The boys, Jesse and Kenneth were close enough now to begin taunting.
      "Hello, widdle girls!"
      "All ready for school, children?"

Their sing-songy chants grated on Addie's nerves.  "Go on up the road," she ordered Deborah.  She watched as, laden with their books, Deborah hurried on down the road.

Seeing her sister mostly out of the way, Addie began stepping determinedly around puddles toward the boys.

As she neared, Kenneth, seeing her deliberate tread, got quiet and stepped behind his older brother.  Kenneth was a little scared of Addie.  Everyone around knew she could shoot as well as any man.  Jesse, however, didn't have enough good sense to be scared.  He grinned at Addie and sneered, "Gonna get the soaking for the both of ya?"

Addie glared and shouted, "You leave us alone!"

Jesse's reply was to pull up his foot and hold it threateningly over the nearest puddle.

"You'd better not!" she hollered.

He laughed and stepped around the puddle but reached out and pulled on her braid, hard.

Addie yelped in pain and pulled the nettle from behind her back to slap Jesse clear across the face with the plant.

"YEOOOOW!"  He screamed, letting go of her hair to grab his own face, which was already showing signs of a nasty rash in reaction to the plant's sting.

Addie waved the plant in front of him, and then his brother.  "Now, you leave us along," she stated again, firmly.

And without a backward glance, she marched past, nettle still in hand, and walked on with her sister, in clean dresses, to school.

(This was one of my favorite stories my Grammy used to tell, about her childhood, in response to Mama Kat's writing post)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Magnetic Monkey and Other Vacation Magic

We were just hours from leaving for our vacation.  All the suitcases were packed, and I was in the kitchen, cleaning out the refrigerator.

"Mom, I am SO mad at Monkey,"  Hedgehog stated, in her tattle-tail voice.

"Huh?"  I said as I tried to decide if leaving iced tea for 10 days would be good or bad.

"She broke the magnet off the back of my necklace and swallowed it!"  she pronounced, with much indignation.

I froze.  "What do I do now?"  I thought.

"Monkey!  Monkey, get in here!"  Monkey shuffled in, looking at her feet, knowing she's done wrong, trying to be contrite enough not to be punished.  "Did you swallow a magnet?"

Monkey nods.

"Does your tummy hurt?"

Shakes her head no.

"Did you swallow more than one?"

Again, no.

"Can you breathe OK?"

Nodding again.

"OK, everybody come in here and watch TV while I make some phone calls,"  I call, trying to keep fear out of my voice.

I make several rapid-fire phone calls.  I leave a message for the nurse at the pediatrician's office, Grumppa tells me that Granny Bear is at work, at at Granny Bear's hospital (she's a nurse) she says to take Monkey to the doctor.  The pediatrician's office calls back, they say to take her to the ER for an X-ray.  I call a local clinic and they say they can do an X-ray.

"Everyone into the truck" I announce to the surprised children.  On the way to the clinic, I call the Engineer, who thinks I am overreacting.  "Kids used to swallow coins all the time and no one got an X-ray.  She'll just poop it out".  But everyone else I've talked to says we have to make sure it's not in her lungs, so we continue on.

A 45 minute wait with 4 kids late, the X-ray is taken and it is confirmed that the magnet is in Monkey's intestines.  I am instructed to "inspect" her feces until the magnet is out.  On vacation.  Fun.

The next day, about 10 hours into our drive, the A/C in the Engineer's truck starts stinking.  It smelled foul.  We were driving in the mountains at that point, and see some burned place, so at first we thought it was from smoke.  But the smell continues for the entire next 8 days of the trip.  All six of us in the truck with a stinky A/C.  Fun.

On day 6 of the trip we get to our hotel room and schlep all our stuff up to the second floor and discover the room is 80°.  When I called the front desk, I was told  "None of our accommodations have A/C".  Fun.

From all of my griping, you may think that we didn't enjoy our trip, but really, it was a lot of, well, fun.  But every trip has a few down sides, and the magnet and the $800 repair (heater core) to the truck were two really big ones!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Funk

I've been in a funk lately.  It has felt oppressive, like very high heat and humidity combined.  It's been too heavy to lift on my own and too dark to see through.

It started before school began again.  The Thursday before school began, I took Handsome and Rascal to Grumppa for the school year.  Grumppa and Granny Bear raise the boys during the school year so that they live close to their mother.  Grumppa is 63 years old and works a full-time, physically demanding, outdoor job.   So, when we met up for him to take the boys home, he was coming straight from work, and he looked like hell.  And I knew that there was no way he would get any rest with two boys, 11 and 8, in his house, and it broke my heart.

I went home that night sad, but I didn't talk to the Engineer about it, the situation is just impossible, and I was afraid I'd start crying and not stop.

Friday and Saturday passed in a busy blur of "Meet the Teacher", getting school uniforms ready, converting the boys' room backing into a guest room and preparing for friends to come over on Monday.

Sunday was filled with church activities, making gifts for teachers and well-meaning friends asking if Monkey was ready for kindergarten.  And she was.

And before I knew it, it was Monday.  I took the girls to school, took pictures, got them settled in their classrooms, and left.  I came home and got out the refreshments I'd made for my friends and set out Grammy's china.  My friends came and we talked and cried "first day of school" tears.  And then they left.

And the quiet of my house echoed.

And as the week progressed, and the laundry, grocery shopping and housework started getting "caught up", the silence grew louder, and more frightening.  And I didn't tell the Engineer because I didn't know what to say.

I spent an entire half of one day in my sweats, eating Cool Ranch Doritos on the couch, watching "reality" TV.  When I finally got up to get into the shower, I wanted to cry.

I've felt worn-out, worthless and unwanted.  I've felt lonely and purposeless.  I miss the children, sometimes so much that I think I can't breathe.

And the funk wrapped around me like a hot, heavy, wet blanket and I couldn't move or breathe.  But I recognize the funk and am fighting back.  I've told the Engineer and I have a plan.  I'm telling people, and I'm taking care of myself and I'm going to win this fight with the funk.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Top 10 Summer Don'ts

Summer is quickly winding down, but I still thought I'd mention some ideas for you special folks out there who don't seem to be able to enjoy summer properly without getting on the nerves of every blessed person near them:

10.  Do not complain about your sunburn.  Sunburns are highly preventable.  Lotions, creams and sprays with high SPF are in most grocery stores, convenience stores, and dollar stores and they are easy to use.  Double don't complain if you get made fun of for raccoon eyes, or lobster face.

9.  Do not go to the pool and stare disapprovingly down your nose at all the children who are splashing and yelling and goofing around.  If you want a nice, quiet pool to read your book by, you'll have to get one for your own backyard.

8.  Do not go to a community attraction and complain about how crowded it is.  People go places during the summer, frequently in groups.  Double do not ask "where did all these kids come from?", as if you have exclusive rights to the zoo, museum or park.

7.  If you attend a public celebration that involves fireworks, do not take your canine companion unless you are visually impaired.  (In if you are visually impaired, why are you going to the fireworks display?)  Dogs don't like loud noises.  They will be very upset, and since you are obviously VERY busy, videoing the fireworks, there will be no one to comfort your poor doggie.

6.  Do not smoke over the heads of small children, yours or anyone else's. Period.

5.  Don't take your children to a local church for Vacation Bible School when they are outside the ages stated on all of their literature, signs and doors.  They haven't recruited workers to deal with your (non potty-trained) 2 1/2 year old, so you'll need to deal with your own little darling at your home.   

4.  If you MUST plan your outdoor wedding in July, please evaluate the terrain.  Folding chairs, plus a hill, plus sweet Great-Aunt Millie may not be a good combination.  Also, if YOU plan YOUR outdoor wedding in July, you MAY NOT complain about how hot your clothes are.

3.  If you part of a happy couple, keep your happy-coupleness to yourselves.  There is no reason that parents should have to worry that the local pool, grocery line or theme park is rated NC-17 due to your PDA. 

2.  Don't use the temperature as an excuse to gripe about the town/county/state you are currently living in.  Even if you are here temporarily, most of us are here by CHOICE.  We like it despite the heat, crunchy grass and all.

1.  Don't get in my sun, don't knock over my margarita, and don't drip on my book!

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Why Yes, Stranger, I'd LOVE your Opinion!

One of my absolute pet peeves is unsolicited advice.  From anyone, but double especially from strangers.  And for some reason, this seems to make me a magnet for well-meaning little old ladies and buttinskis everywhere.  I run into the advice-givers in the grocery store, at church, at my children's school and even in my own family.  Here are some witty* comebacks that I thought up WAYYYY after I was insulted by someone presuming to know more than I do:

1.  To the old man at the grocery store who yelled at me to "stop having children and get off of government assistance":  I ignored you, because I assumed that there is something wrong with you.  However, you should know I get NO assistance, from anyone but the Engineer and half the kids you saw with me aren't "technically" mine.  And we support them anyhow.  Mind your own dern business!

2.  To the old ladies who always said my child was undressed/overdressed for the weather:  This baby has colic.  I've been up for 35 1/2 hours straight.  The fact that the baby and I have clothes on is amazing.  If you would like to take this cute little ball of screaming home with you, I might really let you.  Otherwise, mind your own dern business.

3.  To the lady at church who "complimented" my shorter hair cut while mentioning that the "other way was weighing me down", and "made my face look long".  I grew my hair for Locks of Love.  Obviously, you are too shallow to consider doing something that would make you look in a way you consider less than perfect, but I'm not.  And, you aren't all that.  And, if you can't say anything nice, mind your own dern business.

4.  To the brother-in-law who advised us on the best time to have children and have "as good a marriage as theirs" pssssshhhhbbbbb.  We've seen your kids and how you treat your wife, you have NO room to talk.  And oh yeah, mind your own dern business.

5.  To the other-brother-in-law who advised us, while WE were dealing with a screaming toddler "not to become upset with irrational beings".  You have no children, and so far, no spouse.  Having two dogs does not qualify you to give parenting advice.  Talk to me after you've lived through colic.  AND  mind your own dern business.

If you don't have enough to do, volunteer at a soup kitchen, go door-to-door spreading the gospel, or watch some daytime TV, but unless I ask you, I don't really want to know what you think.  That is all.

* Hopefully, but even after thought, there is a whole lot of "mind your own dern business"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Misty's Shoes

My friend Misty only wears one kind of shoes. Ever. Seriously, I have spent TONS of time with her through teaching and attending the same Sunday School for years, plus we've coordinated Vacation Bible School together for the last two years, so I've had plenty of time to observe what she wears, and the shoes? They never change.

She's a teacher, of young, special needs children, so you would think that she'd have some boring, sensible, supportive shoes, but no, that's not what Misty wears.

She's a softball coaches' wife, so you would think maybe, sometimes, she'd rock some cute little sneakers or athletic shoes. Nah, that's not what Misty wears.

Easter Sunday usually calls for fancy dresses and teetering heels, but not Misty, that's not what she wears.

Hear young son has medical issues with his brain and his heart, so she spends a lot of time in COLD hospitals, so you would think that some warm, comforting shoes would be in order, but that isn't what Misty wears.

Misty ALWAYS wears sandals or flip flops. We live in a warm climate, but it isn't THAT warm year-round. So why? It's as if Misty's toes yearn to be free. It's like her feet need air to breathe and be free from the constraints that the rest of us put on our feet.

And that is so like her. There is great freedom in being Misty's friend. Freedom to say what you really think, without fear of judgement, freedom to laugh and freedom to be goofy whenever the mood strikes. So if you see a lady wearing sandals in January, you might want to be their friend, my flip-flop friend is amazing!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Happily Ever After

Where did we get the idea that getting married = happily ever after?  I blame Disney.  All the movies end after the wedding!  Ariel gets married, the end.  Cinderella - married, the end.  Aladdin and Jasmine tie the knot and boom - movie over.  Same thing in Tangled, Sleeping Beauty, Robin Hood and even Lady and the Tramp (kind of..he gets a collar!)

The fact is, marriage is hard work sometimes.  There is too much to do, and only the two of us to do it, and frequently, we have different ideas of who should do what.  Huge amounts of compromise and forgiveness are needed in any successful marriage.

And I want my kids to know that.  But I don't want to scare or worry them.  How do you do that?

I NEVER saw my parents fight.  In fact, I was in college when I first remember seeing my mom mad enough that she didn't answer my dad when he said "I love you" as he left the house.  I cried all the way back to my college.  I called as soon as I got there and asked my mom if she and daddy were OK.  She sounded confused when she answered yes.  Turns out it was a small argument of no real consequence.

I want my kids to be prepared for the fact that God uses marriage in wonderful ways to get rid of a great deal of our selfishness.  I want them to know that disagreeing doesn't mean that you don't love one another.  I want them to know that sometimes you may go to bed angry.  Some times you might not like each other for a bit, but you can still love each other and work through it.  I want them to not be as bewildered as I felt in the early years of our marriage.  I want them to be better equipped.

But I don't want to try them like adults and reveal to them every discussion that gets heated in our house.  I don't think it is helpful for them to know all the inner workings of our marriage.  Kids need stability, so I don't ever want them to feel that our home isn't solid.  There are so many things that they do have to worry about, homework, bullies and peer pressure are all things they MUST deal with now, and I don't want to add to the stress.

How do you balance educating and equipping versus scaring and stressing?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My Mind? I Think I Packed That....

So, we're going on "vacation", the Engineer, Hedgehog, Monkey, Handsome, Rascal and me.  The packing and planning, I am good at, I think we have all we will need and we will have a good time once we arrive.  The climate where we are going is a good 20° cooler than where we are now, so I'm excited about that.  However, we are DRIVING.  15+ hours on the way there, and 17+ on the way back.  All of us, in one vehicle.  Yes, I know, that makes me certifiably crazy.  Nuts, nutso, insane, bonkers, unhinged.  I agree!  Pray for me people!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Am Not Like the Others

Did you like that song on Sesame Street, One of These Things is Not Like the Others?  I used to, until I realized that it was completely talking about me.  My friend Kassidy and I have been talking about that a lot recently.  Whenever she calls, the kids all just go find something to do, cause they know it'll be a while.  We usually talk so long that I have to switch phones, because the battery is dying in the one I'm on.

I used to think that the song only applied with how my family related to me.  I am the one that is not like the others in my family.  Always have been.  Mom used to have to PRY books out of my hands to make me bathe.  Neither of my siblings like to read.  They both smoke and drink and party.  Me?  Well, I have an occasional drink, but even people who love me think of me as uptight and nerdy.  They've both held, and lost dozens of jobs, but I worked my way through college and kept one job after college until I married, and the next job from one week after the wedding until we left the country for the Engineer's job.

But the bigger thing is our differing attitudes towards our parents.  My parents pay my brother's and sister's bills routinely.  I would throw up if my folks had to pay my bills once, much less every single month.  And my siblings seem to believe that they are entitled to this type of treatment.  They seem to think, that my parents should pay for their bills and still give them gifts at holidays and, in my sister's case, raise her children for her.

I don't really fit with the Engineer's family either.  One reason is the physical differences.  I am short.  The Engineer is 6 foot 2, as are both of his brothers, his brother-in-law is 6 foot 7, and two of my sister-in-laws are over 6 foot tall.  The other sister-in-law is at least 4 inches taller than I am.

Also, there is the whole Engineering thing.  The Engineer, one of his brothers, one sister-in-law are all Engineers.  The other brother thought about being an Engineer.  Me?  Well, I like words, but numbers, not so much!

Kassidy has been frustrated with her family and her in-laws lately, too.  Sometimes we'll talk for the first 20 minutes about how nuts our families are, and spend at least the last 5 minutes reassuring one another that we won't become like our families.  I may not be like the others in my family, and I may not be the same as the Engineer's family, but me and Kassidy?  We are the same!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Growing Up

I've seen lots of posts lately about how we know when our kids are growing up, and it happens in the blink of an eye, but what about US?  Are we growing up and maturing and progressing right along with our children?

There are so many of us out there that just aren't growing up.  Failure To Launch on a nationwide scale.  So many people still depending on mom and daddy, or even living on their own but living like children.  So many people living outside of their means to have grown-up toys.  (The above soap-box was free of charge...)

While I was pregnant with Hedgehog, I prayed, and prayed and prayed for her not to be like me.  And God laughed.  She is a mini-me.  She looks JUST like me, and in so many ways, she acts just like me too.  And that frightens me.  I don't want her to have to fight the same demons that I fight.  I don't want her to have the emotional immaturity and social retardation that I struggle with.  I want her to be better.  So, I HAVE to grow myself up.

My growth, like that of my kids, comes in fits and starts.  Sometimes I do better than others.  This weekend, I was proud of myself.  I don't, in my own personality, like big gatherings.  I would rather be with one or two friends.  But this weekend, there were THREE family functions for Engineer's family.  One of them he wouldn't attend, but I needed to be there for all three.  I dreaded it.  I thought of all kinds of excuses not to go. Engineer's family contains some people who cut loose in ways that blow my skirt up, so to speak.

But KNEW that I would eventually enjoy myself.  When my imagination started going overtime, imagining horrible scenarios where people could possibly be unkind, I told myself that was not going to happen.  I pushed past my fatigue and actively loosened up to enjoy spending time with people.  And my kids benefited.  They enjoyed the family and played with all their cousins and even danced in public (which I practically NEVER do).

How do you know that YOU are growing up?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

You Can Take a Child to Potty, But You Can't Make Her Pee

So, I like to be the boss.  I am a bit of a control freak.  Once you've read me a while, you will laugh until you cry, and maybe pee just a little, about how big of an understatement that just was.

Hedgehog potty trained just fine.  She was on schedule, and relatively obedient, so I was highly relieved that we had passed this hurdle without too much ado.

However, as a kindergartner, we started having potty issues with her.  She started being afraid of public potties.  She hated automatic flushes, didn't like anything that was not standard white, and if the potty didn't touch the floor, that was a problem too.

We went on a long driving vacation with the mother-in-law, the Belle Mère, and every time we needed to go to a public restroom, I had to drag her, kicking, flailing and screaming into the stall.  There is NO horror quite like feeling you've failed as a parent in front of the mother-in-law.  I held her in my lap and let her pee through my legs on more than one occasion, and had to let her leave the bathroom, not just the stall, before I could flush the potty.

We tried everything.  We tried being tough with her, we tried taking her on a "potty tour", to acquaint her with lots of different kinds of potties, we tried making sure that she pottied before we left the house, and we even tried earmuffs, but the problem persists.  She still hates public potties.  And now, it's not just the look or sound of the potties, when we went to a recent baseball game, she "held it" for 10 1/2 hours because the potties at the M.L.B. park smelled bad!

So many times, I will see a undesirable behavior in someone else's child and think "I wouldn't allow that", but the fact is, there are just a bunch of things in parenting that we can't really control.  There are battles that she will have to fight, that I can't win for her.  Her potty issues, have to be hers, not mine.  This is something that I cannot be the boss of.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What Are We Waiting For?

While we were cleaning out my late grandmother's house (more about that later, maybe, still too painful), my aunt was wearing my grandmother's perfume.  It smelled just like her, and it made me tear up.  When I mentioned it to her, she said "Life's too short to save your good perfume".  That has really stuck with me.

When my mother called to asked if I wanted my late grandmother's china, I asked her "Don't you want it?" and was SHOCKED when she said she had china.  I have never eaten on china at my mother's house, or ever even seen it displayed.

As I cleaned out and reorganized my table linens today, I came across some tea towels my other grandmother embroidered for me for my wedding.  I've never used them, never even had them out in my kitchen.  I put one out today.

While on the phone with a sister-in-law (the Tall One) we were talking about food for an upcoming family event and she mentioned a dish that we both love.  I was so excited to hear that we were having it and she exclaimed "Why do we save all the good recipes for the special occasions?"

It feels like God is trying to tell me something.  This life goes by so quickly, and the time since I had the girls has flown so fast that it makes my head spin, yet, so often I hold back the "great", the "special" and the "expensive" and never enjoy them.  Why do we do this?  I'm going to stop.  So, from here on out, I'm going to eat asparagus sometimes on a yucky Tuesday.  Occasionally, I'm going to break out the china for my family, not just for guests.  And I'm going to smell great!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Today we went to a Major League Baseball game, the nephews, the girls, the Engineer and I.  The last time I went to a MLB game was more than a decade ago.  I was not expecting to enjoy it.  I went just because the Engineer could not take the girls to the restroom and I worry about safety in a place as large as the ballpark.  But, it was just lovely.  We had a great time.  Seriously!  Highlights included:
  • we sat in the all-you-can-eat section, so we stuffed ourselves with popcorn, nachos, peanuts, hot dogs and sodas
  • we sang "take me out to the ball game"
  • we watched the kiss cam
  • we were appropriately "into" the game, that our team eventually won, in the bottom of the 11th inning!
  • Hedgehog refused to use the "stinky" restrooms, and had to "hold it" all day
  • Rascal dumped over and entire soda
  • we shelled our peanuts and threw the shells on the floor
  • stood and sang the national anthem
  • cheered like maniacs at every hit
  • took a bazillion pictures
It really wasn't that unusual of a day, for a day at the ballpark.  But, I'm hoping, that today is the kind of thing that they'll remember.  I think, too often, the memories I provide on a day-to-day basis are of me saying:
  • pick up your shoes
  • keep your hands to yourself
  • why are there socks on my couch?
  • get your hands out of your mouth
  • clean up your mess
  • go get a bath
  • use our inside voice
  • no
  • because I said so
  • that is not something we cry about
  • go get a bath, NOW
And I know, that these things are necessary to raise adults that have clean houses, good manners, good hygiene, etc., but I really hope, and really pray, that when they are grown, they'll remember that I tried to have fun with them too.  I hope they'll look back and realize that I wanted to enjoy them, and not just raise them.  And I hope that I'll be mindful enough to enjoy them, not just raise them.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Over the Baby Blues

One of my sisters-in-law (The Coach) and her husband (The Bald Coach) have just had a baby.  She's a gorgeous, fat, smiley baby and I adore my newest little niece.  During family vacation, I walked and bounced and cooed with and over her little 1-month-old self.  And when she cried for too long, I handed her back to her parents with a smile.  It hasn't always been so simple with me and babies.

On the one hand, my babies nearly killed me.  Both of them had colic, so the Engineer would come home to me crying along with our baby.  With Monkey, it was worse, a crying mommy, toddler and baby.  And then, after she outgrew colic, she started having ear infections, like every 2 weeks.  It was a miserable time It is a wonder the poor Engineer didn't run for the hills when they were babies.  He slept many a night on our couch with an infant on his chest, just to give me a few hours of rest.

BUT, both Hedgehog and Monkey are girls.  Lovely, frilly, sparkly little girls, and I had always wanted boys.  Little miniature Engineers to carry on the family name.  I had visions of the Engineer playing catch with him in the front yard, and thought about them hunting and fishing together.  But, you can't just put in an order for a boy baby, and we didn't want to keep trying indefinitely, so I got my tubes tied after Monkey.

Some time during my sleep deprived, crying baby Monkey fog, Jeff said to one of the in-laws that we'd just adopt if we wanted a boy.  I latched on to the idea like a drowning person grabs on to a boat.  And for another year, I dreamed of going and picking me out a little boy to take home with us.  The in-laws weren't excited and even my own parents had some pretty old-school ideas about adoption.  So, we both prayed, and I was sure I would be able to pray the Engineer into going along with my plan.  God, and the Engineer, however, were not on board. 

And I was MAD.  I could not fathom why the answer was no.  It felt as if God and the Engineer were being unloving by denying me a son.  Every friend who had a new son was a fresh pain in my heart.  Being happy for pregnant friends was difficult for me.

Much, much later, my sister got a divorce.  And her substance abuse problem resurfaced.  And my nephews went to live with my parents.  The nephews now spend most of their school holidays at our house.  And I thank God that we didn't adopt, that we have a spare room in our house for these two little guys, who look nothing like the Engineer but that we have the privilege of helping to grow up.

So now, babies make me happy again.  I can trust God a tiny bit more, now that I can see that the "no" was just part of the plan.  I don't need a baby any more to convince me that I am loved.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why I Wasn't At the Meeting

I am sorry, dear Pastor and church family for not attending this month's meeting, I was detained by a number of unforeseeable events. It started like this:

My brother-in-law announced his engagement back last May. She's a lovely girl, they seem very happy, so, naturally, we're very excited. The wedding date was set for January. She asked my daughters to be flower girls. They were delighted. We bought dresses. They were $150 each. The wedding date was then moved to April, and then "sometime this summer", and well, it is now June and there is no date set, just not going to be this summer.

So, at the urging of some of the 95 in-laws, I called the Bridal Sh*t Palace and ask if the dresses can be returned for store credit. After a series of questions, they say yes. I arrange to meet some of the in-laws in the same town as Bridal Sh*t Palace (a 2 hour drive away) and pack up the kids, the nephews, the dresses and myself.

We arrived at BSP to discover that they don't open at the normal boutique hour of 10 a.m., but instead at 11. Annoying. Regardless, we head across town to visit the zoo with the in-laws. ALL of my nieces and nephews are there, and it is just my mother-in-law and I to supervise all of them. It was, um, an adventure.

We had a hugely overpriced lunch at the zoo, and then proceeded back to BSP, where they unceremoniously inform me that there is NO WAY they can possibly take it back, and they cannot IMAGINE who told me that on the phone. I asked to speak to someone else and I am told that they can EMAIL customer service and I am welcome to wait for someone from customer service to call them back. With the 4 kids. Who are all smelling of duck food pellets and sweat from running around the zoo. In a bridal boutique. Uh. Sure...sounds like fun.

Instead, we went to the park, the one with the spray pad. The kids had fun, and I got a call from BSP informing me that Customer Service has called and said "NO".   There was a storm blowing in, so we decided it was about time to go. I gave the keys to Handsome so that he and the other 3 kids can get the towels out of the trunk of the car, and walked over just in time to see him slam the trunk with the keys inside. And then it started raining, HARD.

I called the Engineer and he looked up a locksmith on the Internet for me to call. They assured me that it would only be a 25 minute wait, in the rain, for them to get there.

When they arrived, they charged me $10 more than we had discussed on the phone.

When we finally got on the road, for the two-hour drive home, the kids were getting hungry and cranky, but there was no money to eat out because I'd had to pay the locksmith, so I sped along, trying to get back to town in time for the meeting, until it starting hailing. Then, I just pulled over and cried.

And that I why I didn't come to the meeting.  Thanks for noticing I wasn't there.
Linking up to Mama Kat's. This is writing prompt #3.) A bad day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What Goes Around....

A post your mom would write if your mom wrote posts, yes, yet another prompt from Mama Kat's. They were just all so good this week that I just wanted to keep writing... that's a good thing, I think.

To my eldest daughter:
It is so much fun to watch you parent. I smile, not just because your children are so adorable, so precious and so much fun, but also because payback's a bitch!

Every time you call to talk about stubborn, eye-rolling, door slamming children and I don't laugh or say "I told you so", the joy in my heart is almost too much to contain. When you moan about the drama over simple silly things, I recollect my own years enduring sob fests over Cabbage Patch dolls. And when you lament that your children treat you like you are stupid, I wonder, "when was it that she realized that I am smart?"

When you call to tell me about your child wanting you to wait to talk to her "until I finish this chapter", I can't help it, I laugh out loud at your consternation. There were years that I couldn't get your attention because you were buried in Nancy Drew.

You, my dear, are paying for your raising. You, no doubt, tell your children "Because I say so" and that if they're going to cry "you'll give them a reason to", despite telling me that BOTH of those sayings were STEWPID and that you would NEVEAH say them to your children.

What goes around, comes around. One day, you'll think it's funny when it happens to them. Until then, have a glass of wine and call your mother.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Googling Down Memory Lane

Do you love it or hate it? An open letter to your child’s latest obsession.  This was the writing prompt from Mama Kat's Writers Workshop that began this little post:

Dear Google Maps:
You became an all-out obsession in my house today.  I know that technically the obsession is supposed to belong to one of my children, and my nephew isn't really mine, but he's living here for the summer, and that's close enough, right?

For some reason Handsome decided to look on the local weather web site's map to see if he could find the house.  After finding that very unsatisfactory, I decided to show him Google maps.  Apparently, that was a terrible idea.  We looked at satellite images of my house, his mom's house, and grandma's house before we discovered street view, and then, it was all over!

We looked at the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, "walked" across the Golden Gate Bridge, saw Times Square, the Empire State Building, Big Ben and more.  And then I went to fix dinner, and I have NO idea where all Handsome "travelled" with you, but I know that it was a "safe site", so it was fine, except....

Well, he's not the only one who's obsessed.  He's been in bed for at least an hour now, and here I sit, happily clicking away, looking at the street view of old neighborhoods from my past, cultural sites I'd love to visit and generally wandering around the world, one street view at a time.

I hope our his obsession passes quickly, so that we he can get back to appreciating the world around us him.  Could you please quit being so darn fascinating, please? It would really help us him out.

Auntie Bad Example

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Who's Driving this Thing?

My grandparents always had a little John Deere mower and all of the grandkids rode it and drove it and generally thought it was the best thing ever. Occasionally, however, it bit us in the butt. One time in particular, my two younger siblings and I wanted to drive the tractor. The adults (my grandparents, parent and the next door great aunt and uncle) were sitting in the back yard in lawn chairs, enjoying the evening air, so they consented to let us ride together. I sat in the seat, along with my sister, who is three years younger than I am, and our brother, who is a full 7.5 years younger than me, sat on one of the wheel covers, and we ALL held on to the steering wheel. In retrospect, that was a bad plan. I had my feet on the pedal, there was just one, you pushed it to stop and let out to go, and I let up and off we went. Along the way, we got into an argument about which way to go, sister and brother wanted to go around both houses, while I want to go between the houses. A struggle ensued over the steering wheel and the result was a crash into the purple flox growing in the side flowerbed of my great aunt and uncle's house. The adults all thought it was pretty funny, except my parents, who were horrified at their offspring's behavior. Tractor riding was DONE for that visit, to say the least!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Changing Channels

So everyone else over at Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop seemed to have so much fun with this list, I just had to join in!  Here is my list of 10 shows I'd love to see come back and why, in no particular order:
Full House
1.  Full House - made practically everyone else's list too.  I can still hear the theme song playing in my head.  I loved Uncle Jesse and Becky was soooo cool, plus Kimmy cracked me up.
2.  Everybody Loves Raymond.  This family makes me laugh!  Partly because they are so weird, I mean, really - Robert and the whole touching food to his chin?  And partly because they are so relate-able - being in-laws is HARD!  (Favorite Moment:  Marie:  I am NOT just a trophy wife!  Frank:  What contest in Hell did I win?)
Frasier: The Complete First Season
3.  Frasier - I don't really miss Cheers, I didn't watch it too much, but the writing on Frasier was sooo funny, and I LOVED the storyline with Niles being in love with Daphne for so long.
4.  Family Matters - Urkel was annoying and funny all at the same time, a very hard combination to pull off.  I wanted to be just like Laura.  Felt a little odd, wanting to be a Winslow, seeing as I'm, not African-American...

5.  The Cosby Show - The parents were funny, the kids were cool and there was singing and dancing sometimes.  I actually love it MORE as an adult, because I can relate to the frustrations of parenting and dieting (poor Cliff, never getting to eat a sandwich!)
Doogie Howser, M.D.
6.  Doogie Howser, M.D. - He was cute (still is) and successful and my age, so what was not to love?
"Who's the Boss?"
7.  Who's The Boss?  I loved bossy Angela, thought Tony was cute and was rooting for them to get together from the very first episode.
Growing Pains
8.  Growing Pains - Mike was so cute, Carol was just soooo relate able and Leonardo DiCaprio was on it for just a little bit.
Still of Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker in Perfect Strangers
9.  Perfect Stranger - Balki was funny.  Period.
Family Ties Online
10.  Family Ties - the awesome artist's rendition of the family as the opening, plus Mallory and Alex sparring was awesome.  And you just gotta love anything with Michael J. Fox!

There you are, my list - what would be on your list?

Friday, July 8, 2011


What is your definition of luxury?
  • Egyptian cotton sheets?
  • Huge flat screen TV?
  • Room service?
  • Champagne and caviar?
  • A limousine and chauffeur?
  • A maid to dust, iron and clean the ceiling fan blades?
  • Fillet Mignon?
  • Shiatsu massage?
Today, mine is this - sitting on the floor at my church's gym while the kids are gloriously occupied with skating to write in my notebook for a (mostly) uninterrupted 45 minutes!  Oh, the bliss!  Carving out little niches of time to write is difficult, much less a big chunk like this.  So they're busy with skating, either speeding back and forth perfecting their skills or just learning to make their way, wobbling around the floor.  And I, pen in hand, curl up with my notebook to write, say and dream whatever I want.

So, what's your idea of luxury?  (And if you are giving away anything from the list, send some my way, OK?)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Independence vs. Community

In early July the word "independence" gets thrown around a lot. Now, I'm a BIG fan of not being a British colony, and I appreciate our freedoms as a nation, but lately, I've been thinking a bit differently about the whole concept of personal independence.

As Americans, we're raised on the idea of the "independent spirit", told to grown up to be "strong, independent women" and the "Do-It-Yourself" culture has thousands of devotees, and I think we really believe  that independence is good.  But is it?

Does our independence make us lonely?  Does our insistence that we can do it ourselves mean that we never accept any one's offer of help?  Is "independence" just another word for "pride"?  Is it the way we keep others from seeing our flaws and making ourselves vulnerable?  When we die, will we think "I wish I'd been more independent?"  Or will we want a community of friends, family and loved ones by our side?

Having been raised in a family that would politely be described as quiet, and possibly more accurately as anti-social or eve hermetic, the whole development of a personal community is tough for me (even with the built in social structure of 95 in-laws!).  I would be the last to bemoan the fact that neighbors don't talk over the fence anymore.  Reaching out and accepting help is foreign and receiving advice and constructive criticism is unheard of.  And who am I hurting with my self-imposed, all-important independence?  Mostly me.

I cut myself off from those who know more and shut out opportunities to learn when I refuse to ask for help, or even accept offered help.  I miss out on a chance to make someone better of myself when I angrily draw myself up instead of trying to see myself through someone else's eyes.

Community, of course, isn't just one sided.  I could help others learn things.  I could tell people parts of my journey to encourage them on their way, and they could be better for it.

Depending on others to help me become better, and possibly help someone too might not be such a bad idea.  Today is my Declaration of Dependence - I can't do this alone - becoming better will take all of us!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ugh, Editing

Being kind of new to the whole blogging thing, I've discovered that editing may be a never ending process for me.  The previous post (about my grandmother) was SO hard for me to write, I cried, drank a big glass of wine, cried some more, and wrote and re-wrote.  I published it accidentally, before I thought it was ready, and now I find that every time I look at it, I am wanting to change it.  It seems so incomplete, so unfinished, so inadequate to try to capture what she mean to me.  If I ever completely convey what I am wanting to say, I may stop writing entirely, because THAT would be an accomplishment.  I'll keep trying!

Friday, July 1, 2011


Is "homesick" a weird word to use how you feel after someone dies? Probably. But, today, in my life, it is true anyhow.

My dad served in the Air Force for the first 16 years of my life, so we moved around a good bit. By Air Force standards, it really wasn't too bad, we only moved in the summer, so we didn't miss school and I had only lived in 4 states and overseas twice by my Junior year of high school. And, I thought it was normal. All my friends were air force kids too, so it wasn't a big deal. We even had a cross-stitch picture on the wall that said "Home is where the Air Force Sends you". So. home was where I was, kind of. But I had another "home" too, in the person of my dad's mom, Grammy.

My Grammy and Grampy lived in the same pinkish brick, tile roofed house my whole life and their home was where I spend almost every vacation growing up, where we lived while we awaited temporary housing and was my "dorm" during my college years. Being with them was comfortable, familiar and gave me a sense of consistency. But their home, as much as I love it, wasn't "home" as much as they were.

Both of my grandparents were amazing people. Growing up, I thought they could do no wrong. There is an old country song, "He Walked on Water" by Randy Travis and I believed it was written all about Grampy. He's been gone now since 1997. He was there for my college graduation, smiling as proud as if it was his diploma, but he was gone shortly after that.

When the cancer took him, I really wasn't sure that my Grammy would make it. I guess I had forgotten how strong she always was. She lasted for nearly 15 years without him by her side, most of that time in her own home. "All my memories are here", she'd say, and "it all reminds me of him". They had made thousands of memories together, for over 50 years, they'd lived their lives together. Some of their memories were hard ones too, the loss of their parents, the suicide of a granddaughter, their son's two divorces, but through it all they had each other. It was hard for her when he was gone.

She was, I think, the strongest woman I have ever known. She grew up dirt poor. She was the oldest child of only five and frequently had to work to help support the family. She told stories of her father arguing that she should be paid a full "man's wage" for picking cotton, since she could pick as well as any man. She hunted and gardened and, at least once, was hired out as a domestic servant to help feed her family. When she met and married my Grampy, she was able to escape the life of such hard labor. She often said "Marrying him is the best thing that ever happened to me", but that had more to do with loving him than escaping hardship.

I think that one of the main reasons that she helped me feel so rooted was that she didn't ever try to bind me to her. Her mother had been an angry, controlling woman, who frequently used guilt to get her children to come see her or do what she thought they should. But Grammy was the complete opposite. She made up her mind that she wasn't going to be that way, and wasn't. She often commented that she wanted her children and grandchildren to come see her when and if they could. She never made me feel guilty if it had been a while, and was as happy to see me if it had been 4 hours as if it had been much, much longer. It was really amazing to feel that the relationship was built on mutual adoration, not a familial obligation.

Going to see her was always so fun, partly just because I could eat whatever I wanted! She was an amazing cook, and I am extremely proud that I can make a chocolate pie she'd be proud of, passable cream puffs and excellent empanadas. All from her recipes, and all from seeing her do it, hundreds and hundreds of times. Maybe one day I'll master fried okra. I'd wake up in the morning and she'd ask what I wanted for breakfast, and for a number of years was able to eat what she called "a bull's breakfast", which usually meant I'd eaten nearly my body weight in eggs, sausage and toast. By the end of breakfast, she had supper planned and lunch was just whatever was in the fridge, but in between meals, oh the glory! We'd make teacakes, or angel food cake, or jellies from the fruits of Grampy's garden, or just get an ice cream sandwich from the certain spot in the deep freeze!

She had a way of making everyone feel so welcomed and accepted with her. I grew up knowing, beyond any doubt, that I was loved. She used to say "I don't have a favorite, but you are kinda special." I loved that, and believed it. It was years before I finally realized that she said that to all of us, and meant it every single time. I may not have been her favorite, but SHE was someone special, and she will be terribly missed.