Friday, February 29, 2008

Corrections

I must change what I say. I say, "A Hex upon the Unknown rash hex!" We discovered that my MS probably does not have the chicken pox after all. When I called the dr. office on Thursday morning, I had to describe the rash as more splotchy than pimply. He had no fever. Having just finished a round of antibiotics for his ear infection, my husband thought perhaps it was a reaction to the medicine. The nurse decided to call it "a rash of unknown origin." She said it is probably viral. Today, it has faded quite a bit and didn't really bother him (although both little boys have developed a croupy sounding cough - so who knows what is on its way).

And, as for missing the Parent's Day Out this week. Well, perhaps my fall from the stool was God's way of saying, "Here's your little lie-around after all!" I spent a good long time on the couch, waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in. Then, today, my husband (bless him) allowed me to take a nap with my YS in the morning. I'm still sore today, but thankful that nothing was broken. I did take a moment to talk my MS through calling 9-1-1 if anything should render me unconscious in the future. We'll have to wait and see if that was such a good idea. I did explain that it is only for EMERGENCIES.

Also, I recalled that I did indeed take my wedding ring off on a few other occasions. I removed it for the last three or four months of my pregnancies (for fear my fingers would swell - yet, they never did).

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Comment, Not a Post

This is really a very lengthy comment to Cardiogirl's post today at www.cardiogirl.net :

Did I really just read my name in your post, Cardiogirl? Even if I'm not a celebrity, I feel like one now. O.K., let me qualify that statement. Physically, I DON'T feel like one. I went downstairs this morning and stood on a small wooden craft stool to reach something high (I'm short - there's a detail for you - only 5'4") and the darned stool broke beneath my weight and I landed on my wrist and tailbone. I was thrilled to discover that I could get up and could walk. I headed upstairs to lie down on the couch nearer to my sons. All day, I have been plagued by thoughts of what would have happened if my head had hit the metal shelves behind me and knocked me unconscious.

Thanks for making me feel special. You asked what shampoo I use? I use whatever shampoo I can get for free at Walgreens. For the moment, that is Garnier Fructis (I've actually gotten three bottles for free in the last two months). My husband hates it. He uses Tresemme.

I have a cheap watch that I keep replacing because I love it and get so many comments on it. I found it at Target and bought it twice. But, the present one, I bought for just $5 at Kohl's. It was $20, marked down to $15, and I had a $10 off any purchase coupon since we just had one open in a neighboring town. What is distinctive about it, is that it matches the shape of my wedding ring (ah, there's another post, because my wedding ring was chosen by my husband's ex-fiance). The top part of the band curves to the left of the face and the bottom part curves to the right.

Now, wedding rings. I keep mine on all the time (except for a few years there, when we were separated and even though back together, I felt my husband hated me, so I couldn't bring myself to wear it). I don't understand it, but my husband takes his off all the time (and loses it, I should say). A few weeks ago, my MS brought it to me and said he found it at the back of the couch.

We always manage to find it, which I'm grateful for, because even though it is a simple band, I had something special engraved inside it. He'll take it off at work to put lotion on his hands and then slip it into his bookbag/briefcase. He'll set it on the table. One time I found it and feigned ignorance when he explained he was looking for it. I don't think I let him stew too long (maybe a day), but he's such a careful guy that this really seems out of character for him. I suppose I'll use that, next time I need him to cut me some slack for getting my foot stuck in my purse strap and almost losing the cash carelessly stuffed into my purse. Ha!

I drive a silver Nissan Quest. It took me a while to get used to it, because I had always driven cars. Unfortunately, I had recently driven my car into a telephone pole on the short trip from our home in DeKalb to the school (two and a half blocks away). My husband picked it out without me, while visiting my in-laws. At first, it felt like a tank. Now, I love the roominess and the ease with which I can get the two little boys into their car seats.

But, I am very much like you, Cardiogirl. I'm curious about little details in people's lives. I love to eavesdrop. I, too, look in people's windows. We had friends who lived around the corner from us in DeKalb and after they moved to a new house, I found myself always looking in the window to see what changes the new owner had made in the front room. When my son went back to DeKalb to visit a friend, he actually went to our old house and looked in the windows to see what changes had been made and he filled me in on all the details.

My husband, is more like Mr. C., in this respect. In fact, I was just telling him yesterday that "people must think I'm such a lazy-bones because I stop at the end of the driveway, open the back hatch, put the two garbage cans in and then drive up the driveway to our garage where I enter halfway and un-load the garbage cans before pulling all the way into the garage." He laughed at me and said "Who in the world could possibly be watching you? And who would want to stop and see what you are doing? And who would care if you ARE a lazy-bones?" He marvelled that I would worry about the thoughts of a passing motorist! I guess I worry because it is the kind of thing I would see and then later think about. Ha!

I love blogs because I get to eavesdrop on other people's lives and learn things about them. I do love the fact that I know lots of little details about you, Cardiogirl, and yet we've never met. I don't know if our personalities would mesh or not, but I love learning all these things about you and hearing what you are thinking about on a daily basis. I love that you have made me your friend, sight-unseen. I love that you wonder about details in my life. I know that you are a kindred soul. Perhaps, because we are both writers.

One of my favorite quotes is one I gleaned from a writing book way back when I was in high school. I used it in the preface to a paper I had written about Charles Dickens. It was taken from Rudolf Flesch and A.H. Lass's book, A New Guide to Better Writing.
"You have to go through the world with your eyes and ears wide open and soak up experiences like a sponge. Day and night, you have to be a reporter on the job, and your mind has to take down in shorthand whatever happens around you. Impossible? No, not quite. There are people like that, men and women who seem to be natural journalists or novelists, born writers whose minds automatically store up what they see and hear."

So, Cardiogirl, it is just the natural journalist in you that makes you crave these details. It is what makes you so good at what you do. Just another reason I like you.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I Say "Apox Upon the Pox"

Tonight, my MS has frustrated me again (not that it is his fault, but really couldn't these things have popped out tomorrow night?). He has the chickenpox. Yes, YS just experienced the pox, too, a few weeks ago, after receiving the chickenpox vaccine. He was feverish and wimpery for days, but only had a day or two of a very mild rash.

MS did receive the vaccine when he was a little over a year, so I'm hoping it means he will only have a mild case. However, he already has more spots than the youngest one had. Hence, he will not be able to attend his Parent's Day Out Program tomorrow morning.

Thursday is one of my favorite days of the week. My MS loves to don his backpack and grab his lunch and head to "school." At one point, in discussion with his teacher, she had commented that he really should be bumped up to a higher class (he is in the 2 year old class because his birthday fell in September). I think she was concerned that I might think he was not learning enough. I laughed and explained that, unfortunately my decision to enroll him in the program was more about me than about him. He does need the socialization, but, more importantly, I need four hours each week away from him. The fact that he has so much fun there is just an added bonus.

Oh, how I dread giving up my four quiet hours without him. My YS is usually pretty good to take a morning nap or at least quietly babble in his crib. This is the time when I get the most accomplished at home. And some Thursdays, I just take a nap, too, or read and enjoy the silence. There will be none of that and I feel like whining like a child. Aw, why can't he just go to school anyway. He'll probably be his exuberant self, hardly aware of the rash which is covering his body and which is ... alright, CONTAGIOUS!

The only thoughts saving me at this point are:
  1. Experts suggest having the child soak in a cool to warm bath for a half hour or hour every three hours (and he loves to linger in the bath).
  2. I actually have a haircut and highlights appointment on Saturday afternoon, so I will still get two hours of quiet and pampering this weekend. Thank the Lord.

Link for No Beaks Interview

I had planned on posting my interview with Mr. W. and Domb Squad here on my blog, but alas, it turned out to be really long and I had something else I wanted to post tonight. So, I will merely link to the interview. You can find it at http://nobeaks.typepad.com/no_beaks/2008/02/the-interview.html.



It was interesting to interview them, even though I don't have a lot in common with them. I still hope to interview Leah at www.ciboulette.blogspot.com. I believe she said that her interviewer hadn't sent questions yet. Mr. W. also had some difficulties with this experiment. He tried to contact the two individuals he agreed to interview, but they never responded. I suppose an experiment is only as good as the participants involved.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sensitive Soul

I'm often exhausted by my MS. He is a talker. Indeed, lots of days he talks the whole day long. His verbal skills have always been very strong. He spoke in sentences far earlier than my ES. He hears a word or phrase and it quickly becomes part of his vocabulary. On several occasions, I have discovered particular words or phrases that I tend to overuse unconsciously. Suddenly, he will begin using them constantly and a lightbulb clicks in my head - "goodness, I do use that word a lot!"

Last week, I had to drive him to the ER late in the evening. He complained that his ear hurt. Then, his complaints became whimpers, then sobs, then almost screams. I think they tried to see us quickly, if only to quiet him. It was the first time I had ever heard him say, "I hurt so bad, I'm going to die." I thought it unusual, but then, he is very verbal.

Once he received the pain-killer and antibiotic, he transformed into his ever-loquacious self, telling her that he IS SPIDERMAN and he fights crime. He then informed her of his last visit there, when they had drawn blood by wrapping a rubber band around his arm and cutting off his circulation (he only knows this word because he had become familiar with rubberbands and circulation already at home!). The attending nurse was amazed. She looked at me and said, "And how many do you have?" I replied, "Three ... boys ... but they're not all this talkative!" She said, "He's a kick!"

But I'm learning that he's not just verbally astute, he is also very sensitive and impressionable. Tonight, he was downstairs playing with Daddy and little brother. When I heard crying, I assumed one of them had gotten hurt. However, ten minutes later, I headed downstairs to find him rocking on Daddy's lap and still crying.

My husband explained that they had been talking about his great-grandparents (since we live in my husband's grandmother's house) and he explained that it isn't their house anymore because they died. He went on to explain that some day Grandma and Grandpa will get old and die, too. I think he explained this because my FIL has been ill for some time (and at Christmas was even temporarily in a nursing home for care after another surgery).

Apparently, my MS asked "Are you and Mommy going to die?" My husband told him that everyone eventually dies. At that point, he lost it. He began to worry that we are going to die. We both tried to tell him that we intend to stay here and take care of him as long as we can and that we take care of ourselves because we want to be with him for a long time. His tears did finally subside. Although, he mentioned it one more time before he went to sleep this evening.

I suppose, without really realizing it, I am the one who introduced this topic to him. In mid-September of 2007, I found Boothe Farley's blog at www.conorbootheandgirls.blogspot.com and began to pray for their daughter, Copeland, who was born with Trisomy-18. A few times my MS was nearby, and we began to pray together for Copeland. Every night, he would include her in his prayers.

Copeland went to be with the Lord on September 26, 2007 and I cried. My MS saw my tears and we prayed that night for her family and that God would take care of her in heaven. Without any prompting from me, he continued to mention Copeland in his prayers for a few more weeks.

I can't really remember if he was around when I learned of another tragic death, when Julian Avery (whose caring page is called "Julian's World") passed away about a month ago. However, I'm starting to think that he is more aware of my emotional responses to these deaths than I have realized. I'm beginning to wonder how you handle a sensitive soul.

I have always been sensitive. My mother used to tell me that I "wear my emotions on my sleeve." Even when I was younger, I realized that I felt things deeply, perhaps more deeply than others. I know that I have a very difficult time letting go of friendships. To this day, I agonize over several friendships that have soured or simply disappeared without explanation. So, I am coming to see that my MS and I share a similar emotional make-up. I have to say that scares me, somewhat. My emotional excesses have been hard to deal with.

I want to nurture his sensitive nature. I love the fact that he might grow up to be a very sensitive and caring man. Surely, there are not enough of those in this world. Yet, I don't want to burden him with things like "death" if he is not old enough to emotionally handle this.

I will pray for extra wisdom in raising him. I will watch my words and actions more closely. I don't want to say that I will shield him from knowledge of things that are difficult, but I do want to be more intentional about what I allow him to over-hear or take in. I have already witnessed the depth of his compassion and love and know that he is going to be, like me, (whether I like it or not) someone who feels things deeply.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Is My Paranoia Warranted?

I've been feeling paranoid today. My paranoia comes from several sources. This may be a winding road, but stay with me.

On Saturday night, I watched "Runaway Jury," a movie based on John Grisham's bestseller, starring John Cusack, Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman. We had started this movie a few weeks back, but my husband didn't like it within the first 20 minutes (of course, this could be due to the fact that the first two actors mentioned are not his favorites). I, myself, was interested in watching it because I may be called upon to serve jury duty this year.

Normally, I would welcome such an event. In fact, when I was in London, I attended a court case one day as an observer. It was fascinating. But, I have to say, when I received the letter informing me that I might serve jury duty, it was less-than-welcome news.

They clearly state that under no circumstances are you to bring children with you. Yet, lack of child care is not a valid excuse to get out of jury duty. I really stressed for a few days over this, thinking "how in the world can I be called away for jury duty? My husband works. I have no family nearby. I don't even know of anyone in this area whom I would trust to watch my children to allow me an evening out, let alone asking them to care for my kids every day while I serve jury duty for who knows how long.

My husband finally convinced me that my panic was borrowing trouble from tomorrow. It doesn't say that I will definitely be called for jury duty, just that my name is on the 2008 pool of names. And, I probably won't be called upon to serve on a case anything like the one profiled in the movie I just watched.

Still, that movie has my head reeling. It was very suspenseful and, I thought, well-done. It is the story of an important court case, where jury consultants are being paid big bucks to secure the outcome they desire. What they didn't expect was John Cusack's character, who has his own agenda and is going to try to buy either side in exchange for giving them the desired verdict. Clear to the end, you don't know which side is going to prevail. Throughout the movie, they show how people can find out all kinds of things about members of a jury and use this information to manipulate them.

Plus, I'm listening to a riveting book right now by Khaled Housseni, called A Thousand Splendid Suns. I have been shocked at how difficult it is to listen to. It details many historical events over the last three decades in Afghanistan and I find myself grieving over the conditions women live under in such countries. Moreover, I'm wondering if Housseni fears for his life for publishing this book.

Then, Cardiogirl at http://www.cardiogirl.net had some glitches with her computer service and missed a day. She is a member of Blog 365, so this bothered her. She finally posted a humorous post blaming Comcast not only for her computer service problems, but for every problem of the day. Wouldn't we all like to have one entity we could just place all the blame upon? I know I would.

In the comments to Cardiogirl's blog, I noticed that Guilty Secret at http://www.gs-whatnext.blogspot.com (who is British) said she is going to start using Cardiogirl's phrase, "I blame Comcast," even though nobody will have a clue what she is going on about (since they don't have Comcast in England). Ha! That made me chuckle.

But, Cardiogirl also received two comments from ... Comcast ... on her blog post. Cardiogirl is far more computer or blog-savvy than I am and she checked to see how he found her complaining post. Apparently, he had googled "comcast dog" (???) and wound up at Cardiogirl's site.

So, this has me paranoid. The government recently interrupted my boring life by adding some new stresses ... because they are the government and they CAN. I'm being intentionally vague here. I'm too paranoid to blog my true feelings about this recent turn of events because now I'm wondering who is out there logging onto my blog to find out every little detail about me. If I complain about the government, is there someone googling on-line to discover which bloggers are providing dissenting comments.

Of course, we don't live in Afghanistan and I dont' expect to have my fingers chopped off. However, I'm still feeling a bit spooked and paranoid. Big Brother is not too far-fetched an idea. The internet is allowing so many people to publish their own opinions and thoughts on things. Could this one day be used against us? I don't know. What do you think? Should I be worried?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Happy 8th Birthday, Andre

While I was living in London, shortly after completing college, I met the only individual I have ever known who celebrates a birthday on Leap Day! His name was Andre' and he was celebrating his 3rd birthday the year I met him. He was turning 12.

So, this leap year, he will be celebrating on his actual birthday for the 8th time - even though he is turning 32. At 12, Andre' was a spunky, clever, funny individual and I enjoyed spending time with him and his older sister, Catherine (they lived down the street from Sarah, whose family hosted me for Christmas that year). They kindly invited me, along with Sarah's family, for breakfast on Easter morning, my last morning in England for that wonderful extended visit.

Thinking of Andre' recently, also got me thinking about golden birthdays. I didn't know about golden birthdays in time to celebrate my golden birthday. When I headed over to Wikipedia to read their definition, I learned that the golden birthday is not known or celebrated everywhere.
It read:

"One's champagne birthday, also called a golden birthday, is the day when the age someone turns is the same as the day in the month he or she was born. It is also common for the birthday individual to have champagne, thus champagne birthday. For example, someone born on January 31st would celebrate his or her golden birthday when he or she turns 31. According to the Dictionary of American Regional English, this meaning is most prevalent in Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota, although it is used elsewhere. "


Poor Andre'! He will never officially celebrate his "champagne birthday/golden birthday." He would have to turn 29 on the 29th. Impossible! On his 29th birthday, there was no 29th of February. By the time he celebrates his birthday for the 29th time on the actual date, he would be 116. He's a lawyer; he'll never make it to 116. And if he did, well then, he'll really be 116, won't he, and not 29!


Hope your day was special, Andre'!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Great Interview Experiment

Niel over at http://www.citizenofthemonth.com/ was writing about blogging and blog awards. He commented that normally people who are interviewed have some book coming out or some outstanding achievement. He suggested an experiment to get bloggers interviewing other bloggers.

I signed on and Leah of http://www.blogger.com/www.ciboulette.blogspot.com sent me six questions. She has posted my interview over at her blog, but also suggested I post my questions and answers over here. I loved her questions and really enjoyed the process of selecting answers. Since I already posted my answer to her first question, I will start with her second one:

2. What's it like being the only female around for miles?

For now, it has been kind of lonely. I was five months pregnant when we moved to this isolated farm house a little over a year ago, to enable me to stay home with the little boys. I had my youngest in December of 2006 (the start of the cold/flu season) so we didn't get out much at first. I don't have family nearby and haven't been able to find a sitter. In fact, I rarely get breaks from the constant caring for my boys. That has been the most difficult thing about our move.

The boys have a great time here, though, because we have lots of space for them to roam. My eldest son loves inviting his friends over and tramping through our woods. He recently acquired a three-man slingshot, so they all love to shoot water balloons across the meadow and fields. We have a tractor and wagon that we use in warmer weather to take treks along our property. We see all kinds of animals: deer, raccoons, skunk, coyotes, and foxes.

Where we used to live, I had a stimulating, well-loved job. I had daily conversations with other teachers and moms. I had a writer's group and several girlfriends to get together with for pie or a movie. Here, I tend to spend every day with my boys and that can get tough. It would be great to find a friend here and get back to enjoying some girl's nights out.

Still, I feel that the first five years in a child's life are a crucial time for establishing stability and emotional well-being. I would hate to miss these moments, even if the nitty gritty of daily cleaning and bathing and disciplining are sometimes stressful and draining. I will be happy when they are all in school and I can resume a separate work life and spend more time making friendships for myself. But, for now, who can beat the days filled with wrestling on the floor (yes, all three of them tackle me), baking special treats, reading books together, taking walks in the park and watching them play.

3. Before you had each of your sons, did you have girls' names picked out? What were they?

Prior to having my first son, I was solidly convinced that the baby was a girl. Every dream I had was of a girl. It was a very deep gut feeling. The curious thing is that I actually wanted a boy. And, I had specific wants. For as long as I can remember, I wanted my first to be a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy. My husband, on the other hand was convinced it was a boy and he wanted a daughter.

We had several girl names chosen for the first baby: Aubrey Anne, Lindsey Marie, Kelly Jean and Danielle Nicole. What we didn't have were boy names. My oldest son was three weeks late and we only settled on his name two weeks prior to his birth. My husband casually mentioned that he had once had a girlfriend who had had a boyfriend named B-------. He asked me to look up the meaning. When I discovered that it meant "quick moving one," I was hooked because my first one moved constantly in the womb. Of all three sons, his is the name I love the most.

When we decided to try for another child, we actually tried for a girl. We read all sorts of things suggesting you could sway the odds in favor of a girl. God decided for us and he decided on another boy. I had not really cared one way or the other, until a few months before we started trying for another child. For some reason, I came to strongly desire a daughter and intended to stop at two if baby #2 turned out to be a girl. We had a 3-D ultrasound for this baby and the technician informed us that it was a boy. I was quite sad, but did come around to it and merely changed my thinking to "I really would like to give this second baby a closer sibling and perhaps our third will be a girl." We didn't bother with girl names because the ultrasound was VERY CLEAR!

We tried even harder for a girl the third time (timing, diet, etc). By this time, I really was hoping hard for a little girl. I longed to buy adorable clothes, to french braid hair and to go shopping together. I knew that this was our last shot, since I would be 41 when the third one arrived and it would be my third c-section (they discourage women from having four c-sections and always felt that I would have to have c-sections because of the circumstances of the first birth experience). I was so very hopeful.

At the second ultrasound, which was only like 15 weeks along, I had to bring my two sons along (we moved during the pregnancy, so my first two or three visits, I drove from IL to visit the dr. in IN - I don't remember why they had to accompany me, perhaps my husband had a job interview). I would not have even asked, but my oldest son said, "Is it too early to tell whether it is a boy or a girl?" The technician said, "Well, Mom, what do you think it is?" I said, "A GIRL????" with a hopeful lilt. She said, "Well, this is a leg and this is a leg and it is this little piece in between that tells me you are getting a boy." I asked if she could be wrong and she said "having done this a lot, I'd say it is a 97 percent chance you are having a boy." I cried on the way home (even though I didn't want my sons to know how disappointed I was). It took me a longer time to accept this news.

We didn't bother with girl names because I had several ultrasounds and in most of them he was a very PROUD boy! I think I was still grieving up to the day my youngest son arrived. Then he came and he has been so perfect and is just the sweetest, happiest, good-natured little guy. And the three of them get along so well together. And, hey, I know how to do boys. We didn't have to buy anything new. Plus, when I think of girls and dating and hormones and the many dangers girls face, I guess I'm pretty happy to be surrounded by all this testosterone. My moods are enough for our whole family, I think.

4. You read a lot! Please recommend three or four books that you think are must-reads.

I do love to read. If only I could find a job where I am paid to read - that would be fantastic. I used to primarily enjoy classics and loved teaching the books that English teachers teach. But in the last ten years, I have shifted and now tend to read more current books. I do a lot of children's and young adult reading because I have been trying to write books in those ranges and also because I love to read them to my own children and to the students I used to work with (I still like to give my teaching friends suggestions for new books that are great read-alouds).

I would have to say that until 2006, I never kept track of what I read. But a writer friend of mine, Bob Hostetler, wrote an article on intentional reading and that made me think about my reading in a different way. For someone who wishes to write, it is important to be intentional about what you read. However, having said that, I have read too many books where I kept reading just because I wanted to say that I finished the book, not because it was a good read. It will be hard to answer this question because you only want three or four. So I will answer it in two ways: first a list of must reads in various categories and then a list of some of my favorite authors (ones whose books I always know I will enjoy).

Absolute must read: The Bible (more wisdom than any other book will ever hold)
Classics must reads: Great Expectations, Wuthering Heights, The Brothers Karamozov, Les Miserables
Modern must reads: The Kite Runner, The Five People You Meet in Heaven
YA must reads: The Giver, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Authors I love: Mitch Albom, Jeffrey Archer (I've only read his short stories, though), Maeve Binchy, Bill Bryson, Alexander McCall Smith, Khaled Housseni, Torey Hayden,
Kids/YA authors I love: Kate DiCamilla, Blue Balliett, Lois Lowery, Richard Peck, Kate Klise (only her books in journal/letter form), Louis Sachar

5. Which websites do you visit regularly?

Up until the fall of 2007, I really only visited blogs and websites of people I knew. But, a friend sent me an e-mail about a funny e-bay auction by a mom who blogs and I went to her site. From there, I started bouncing around and really began to consider writing my own blog.

Here are the few that I visit daily:

www.caringbridge.org/visit/ameliagorton - my niece's leukemia site
http://www.mom2my6pack.blogspot.com/
http://www.testosterhome.net/
http://www.cardiogirl.net/
http://www.catherinewheels78.blogspot.com/
http://www.ladolcevitathesweetlifewiththreesons.blogspot.com/
http://www.lifeisaspasmwhoflow.blogspot.com/

Here are a few that I enjoy visiting less frequently:
The Maternal Optimist - her puns are fun;
boothe farley's blog - she writes about the recent loss of her daughter born with Trisomy-18 and her posts are always well-written and inspiring;
don't drool on my blue seude shoes - she actually gave up her blog for lent
kyle l white - a writer friend
bob hostetler - a writer friend
blisters and dimples - a friend's blog
soggy cheerios - her cakes are awesome
who's going to tell you? - funny
are we there yet - davisfarmmom - beautiful photos of CO, and amazing mother of 10
my semblance of sanity - quirky children's writer
ramblings of a madman - I might try his photo story challenge some day
momentary madness
existentialdilemmas.blogspot.com
the two regrets
flamingnet book blog

6. I am a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) radio junkie. The other day while listening to Spark (a program on CBC) I heard this: "The greatest disadvantage/advantage of the internet is that everyone is a publisher." I promptly wrote it down on an old receipt because it got me thinking. As bloggers we are bound to think it is an advantage. What are your thoughts on this quote?

I completely agree with the statement that "the greatest disadvantage/advantage of the internet is that everyone is a publisher." I appreciate the advantages of publishing on the internet. I have never felt so much freedom with my writing. I thoroughly enjoy going on when I feel like it, when I feel like I have something I want to write about. I love getting feedback on my words from others. I love expressing myself. When I was a teen and young adult, I wrote letters passionately. People saved my letters. When I wrote them, I sometimes even photocopied them because I thought I could never again communicate what I had said as clearly. When I went to the mission field briefly, I sent letters back to my church, and always received comments from many who appreciated reading my letters. Now, I feel like writing my blog is, in a way, writing an open letter to friends and a family and anyone else who might find an interest in my words.

However, I do agree that it could present itself as a disadvantage. Anyone can publish a blog. Some of the blogs I have visited have very little content, indeed, nothing to keep me coming back for more. Of course, I don't return. My ultimate goal is to get a book published one day. When I think of that goal, I think of all the millions of manuscipts that pass publishers desks each day. It is not an easily won prize. But, I wouldn't want it to be. Many people encourage writers to self-publish. I'm not opposed to self-publishing, but it seems like if something is really good, someone else should want to read it and, for that matter, want to publish it.

I think that self-publishing has a place. My mother has asked me to write a book of memories for our family (a memoir of sorts, but a familial memoir). If I did that, I would probably only seek to self-publish. It has meaning for a particular set of people.

I think blogging is kind of the middle road between these two options. I am not packaging what I write for sale - anyone can view it for free. But, I am self-publishing it because I am deciding that what I write is important enough to be put out there to be read by others.

I am thankful for blogs, though, because the blogosphere has become, for me, the writer's group that I lack in my new location. I can read other writers and encourage them. I can put my writing out there for comment. I can make new friends who share my interests or obsessions. What a gift at this time in my life. I don't know if I will always need blogging. But for now, I would say that I really do NEED it in my life to keep me sane.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Feeling Proud and a Bit Relieved

Today we recieved a large envelope in the mail from my ES's middle school. It contained a letter of congratulations from the principal, three certificates and three prizes. His school gives out an award for student of the month for each discipline and for each grade level. My ES received one of these earlier in the year. I believe he was student of the month in math for October. (He was quite proud then, because he had the highest percentage of any 6th grader, with 107%.)

This month, he received three. He was named Student of the Month for Physical Education and Band. On top of that, he was chosen by the Sixth Grade Team teachers as the top student for the entire sixth grade. He received coupons for free movie rentals and a gift card. He had told us on Friday that his name appeared on the television announcements when they gave out the student of the month awards.

I am, indeed, quite proud of him. And, to be honest, I am quite relieved as well. One year ago, we would have never expected to receive such a welcome envelope from his school. He hit a really rough patch during the spring semester of his fifth grade year.

We were aware of many factors involved. We had moved from a school where he was very well-known, and his mother was on staff, to a small, isolated community where he was the only new student in his grade. We had moved from a location where he routinely visited friends down the block, to a location where any friends who visit must be driven to our house. We welcomed another baby and were completely overwhelmed by the chaos of two small children.

In an effort to get him move involved, we had encouraged him to go out for basketball. Unlike his present involvement with wrestling, it was a disaster. Basketball is known to be an intensely loved sport in Indiana. Let's just say, it was very clear to the other kids on the team that ES had only recently taken up the game.

All of these things, led to some intense acting out. At one point, he even served an in-school suspension. My mil, having grown up in this small community, was very concerned that he was establishing a bad reputation. It was a hard walk as parents, trying to discern how best to temper discipline and consequences with understanding and grace.

I'm not sure if we achieved the right balance or not. In fact, I believe he could have gone either direction when he started middle school this year. He could have continued trying to draw attention in negative ways. He could have chosen friends who encouraged failure instead of success. Instead, thankfully, he decided to seek attention by excelling in his studies (a very new thing for someone who always claimed "school is for nerds" - in fact, when we first moved here, he made me laugh with a sign he posted on his door which read "If you like school your a really big NERD!" Ha! if you are not a nerd, you don't know how to spell you're!).

So, today, the awards are his. He earned them. He worked hard and made some good choices. But, I'm also being rewarded. I get to feel that mometary glow a parent gets when someone recognizes your child. I get to brag on him and celebrate his success. And, who knows, I may even get to watch one of those videos with him.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Another Interesting Tea Story

A short while ago, I signed on for an interesting opportunity called "The Great Interview Experiment." Neil Kramer at www.citizenofthemonth.com came up with this great idea to have bloggers interview other bloggers. It sounded like fun, so I jumped at the opportunity. I signed on in the comments and received some questions from the person who commented prior to me.

I am still in the process of coming up with questions for my interview of the person who commented after me, but wanted to share one of my answers to a question that Leah at www.ciboulette.blogspot.com had asked. She will be posting the answers to all my questions on her blog in the near future, so be sure to check out her blog. (She's also an English teacher, so it made me wish that I could interview her as well - perhaps she'll let me anyway.)

Leah's first question referred to my recent post on tea at Buckingham Palace. She asked if I had any other great stories involving tea. Indeed, I do.

While I was living in London and attending that Salvation Army corps, I met a young Salvationist couple from New Zealand. I was thrilled to meet Andrew and Lynley Stuart and to hear what brought them to London. They were taking a year and travelling the world (apparently a trend with young marrieds in New Zealand at that time). They rented a small flat in the London area for about six months, purchased a small van and secured odd jobs here and there. During that time, they invited me for tea.

Being an American, I wasn't sure exactly what they were inviting me for, so I asked for clarification. Sometimes, people are referring to a cup of tea and a few biscuits (high tea), but sometimes they are referring to a meal (the evening dinner). In this case, Andrew and Lynley were inviting me for dinner. I had a fabulous time and remember standing outside with Andrew waiting for a bus and having great conversation. I also remember thinking, "That is what I have to do when I get married - take a year-long honeymoon and travel all around the world." (This was obviously before I met my travel-loathing husband.)

We got together a few more times and then they headed off for their next destination. I assumed I would probably never see them again.

I returned to the States in April of 1988 and that fall began graduate school at the University of Illinois. As a break from my studies, I decided to take a weekend trip down to Wilmore, Kentucky, to visit my brother and sister. We had a great time and ended our weekend by attending the Lexington Salvation Army corps. I was surprised to meet another pair of one-time visitors - Andrew and Lynley!

We almost shrieked out loud. The reunion was so unexpected. The pastor (corps officer) there took us all out for lunch and I enjoyed introducing them to my siblings. They filled me in on more of their travels. Sadly, they had travelled through Europe without complication and the first day they arrived in the United States, they had all their gear (including their trip photos) stolen at the airport. It was really incredible to see them again.

I haven't seen or spoken with them since. Still, it was a lovely coincidence - an American meeting a couple of Kiwi's (this is what New Zealanders call themselves) in England and then parting, only to meet up again on the one single day that found all of us in Lexington, Kentucky.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

That Boy is Too Darn Cute - so maybe I will buy him more special soap!


Friday I purchased two things for my MS: a spiderman power toothbrush and Squid Soap. Since older brother tends to favor power toothbrushes, my MS has been begging for one of these. He was due for a new one and it was clearanced, so I splurged. I figure that I am helping him to form good hygiene habits at an early age. And if you want to read some funny stuff about hygiene habits, you only have to hop over to Cardiogirl's blog at http://www.cardiogirl.net/.


The other hygiene habit I wanted to nurture was handwashing. Now, I must admit - as I did in my very first post - this is not really a habit that my MS lacks. This boy loves to wash his hands. However, he loathes the fact that my husband insists on assisting him. I will hear him cry out, "Let mommy help me, cuz' she doesn't SUPERVISE. She let's me do it all by MYSELF!" Indeed, I do believe he does far better than the average toddler.


The great thing about this new Squid Soap is that I think it will convince my husband that my toddler has been effectively trained. The box clearly touts "Teaches Kids Proper Handwashing!" The child presses the pump and the lid inks a small dot onto their palm. They must wash for 15-20 seconds in order to remove the ink. Once the ink is gone, they may rinse with the assurance of clean hands.


This product cost me $4.00. I know, I know. I said I would not spend such outlandish prices on soap for my MS after that last incidence with soap. But, I'm all about independence for these boys! (Actually, what I should be supervising is the toilet aim, not the hand-washing!) He has been washing up a storm (but thankfully, not washing the sink). I have informed him that once this container is done, he will be trained and can go back to regular CHEAP soap.


He has also fallen in love with the removeable rubber squid which comes with the dispenser. The very first night, he insisted on taking it to bed. He has played with it constantly. I guess I could consider it $4 well spent, since I got a container of soap and a beloved toy.


This toy has become so beloved that today was our first crisis over the squid. Upon rising from his nap, he was distraught that he couldn't find his squid. We searched high and low. No, he didn't take it to church. He had it this morning at breakfast. Where did anyone last see it?


After an extensive search, I gave up, assuring him that we would find it somewhere in the house. He stood next to me at the computer and said, "It is a sad day without my squid." But, seeing that I wasn't going to continue looking, he headed over to two toy bins which I had briefly checked. Wanting him to be occupied, I thanked him for re-checking those bins.


All of a sudden, he shrieks, "Mom. I found it! You forgot to look on THIS (a round toy with a purple squid neatly camouflaged on the top)." But, he continued, "And there, standing in the moonlight, was THIS!" I busted out laughing and headed downstairs to tell hubby what he had just said.


After listening to me relate to Daddy how clever he is, I bent over to ask him what made him say "there, standing in the moonlight ..." He looked at me as if I was daft.


"Mom, it is from the Wiener Dog book, remember? 'And there, standing in the moonlight, were a couple of ornery cats.'"


This boy is going to be worth his weight in gold. Almost enough to make up for older brother's lack of interest in books. At age 3, he is already quoting books! Ha! He was quoting from The Hallo-Wiener by Dav Pilkey. That squid soap was definitely worth the four bucks!

More CVS Savings - but I promise I won't blog about this all the time!




O.K. Several of the people who have blogged about CVS already warned me that it was addictive (like I am also hearing and discovering that blogging is addictive). I was truly worried that I wouldn't be able to find things that I needed to use the extra buck overage on. On Valentine's Day, I had used some of it to purchase the card for hubby and the medicine for baby (before almost losing money in the parking lot). I picked up the ad and headed back to the store (alone) on Friday.




Here is what I managed to get: a candy necklace for MS (who was sad when all six previously purchased ones had to go to classmates at his PDO), a small something to give hubby next v-day, two cans of chips, 36 count Benefiber, Colgate toothpaste, chewable aspirin, spiderman toothbrush, 2 boxes of Kleenex, Gatorade G2, and Squid Soap. I paid $15.19 after using 7.99 in extra bucks overage. On the receipt, I received $6.08 in extra bucks to use next time. I can see why this is addictive!
If anyone else is interested in learning how to do this CVS Savings game, you should really check out www.moneysavingmom.com.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Book Review: Grow Up!


I had to mention this adorable board book which my two littlest sons have fallen in love with. Grow Up! by Nina Laden, is a brand new book at our library, so, alas, we weren't allowed to renew it. It is a delightful book with windows, developing a story line of what various things grow up to be (ex., kitten -> cat, puppy-> dog). It culminates with a window that shows that baby grows up to be "Me" and the child looks into a mirror. This is a clever board book sure to appeal to infants and toddlers. My youngest will miss this one, so I might actually go out and purchase it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sweetie Pie Surprise



This is the dessert I made for my hubby to celebrate Valentine's Day. I found the recipe on the Betty Crocker web-site and decided to give it a try. The crust is made from a Bisquick/cream cheese dough and baked. Then chocolate chips (the "surprise" in the recipe's name) are melted on top of the crust. Next, comes a layer of cherry pie filling, followed by a drizzling of white chocolate.

I thought it looked great. However, it looked and sounded better than it tasted. My hubby concurred. I usually make him a cherry dump cake (one of those classic easy recipes where you dump 2 cans of cherry pie filling into a pan, dump a yellow cake mix on top, drizzle with melted margarine and bake at 375 for 45 minutes). He thanked me for trying the new recipe, but declared his love for the dump cake! Not quite as pretty, but give a man what his stomach craves!

Sick at Heart

I don't often get on the computer before 9 p.m. at night. However, yesterday, I had logged on to quickly locate a recipe I wanted to make for my hubby for Valentine's day. It was about 4 in the afternoon and my little boys were sleeping and ES was at a wrestling meet. After printing out the recipe, I decided to quickly peek at my mail to see if there was anything interesting. Sadly, I did have an e-mail which drew my attention. One of the workers with Campus Crusade for Christ, back in DeKalb, IL, where we used to live, had sent an e-mail regarding "Gunman on campus." This was sent in the midst of the chaos which exploded at Northern Illinois University yesterday and he explained that all the buildings were still on lock-down. I immediately called my hubby to tell him.

I have to say, I have been thinking about this horrendous situation ever since I opened that e-mail. My heart is sick with a longing to embrace all in DeKalb who are dealing with this tragedy. I think about the school I used to work for and wonder how they are discussing this with their students today. I feel for the father of the gunman both in the loss of his son and in the difficulty of sitting with the knowledge that his own son took the lives of innocent bystanders on his final day. I wonder how and why these type of events continue to occur in our world. I wonder how best to respond. I want to send words of sympathy to the families of these college students, even to the family of the perpetrator, to share in their grief. I offer up my prayers for these families and for the wider rippling effect that this event will have on so many people.

It also makes me reflect on the fact that there are so many things I will not be able to shelter my children from. I will send them off to school hoping that they have a good day and learn much, but I cannot know what evil might befall them. I can seek the best for my boys, but will always have to submit to the fact that life may and probably will bring them into some difficulties unforeseen. I can pray for their protection, but I cannot, by any means, guarantee it. I have to leave them in the hands of God and trust that, should evil befall them, He will either protect them or give grace to deal with the outcome.

I have no way of making sense of this senseless crime. I pray that good will triumph over evil, that more good than bad will come out of this tragedy. I believe that is possible. Campus Crusade for Christ hopes to distribute copies of Philip Yancey's book, Where Is God When It Hurts? I can think of no better author to point students to at a time like this. In the presence of evil or pain in my life, I have had to choose my reaction. Either, a) there is no God, b) God has abandoned me, or c) evil is inevitable in a fallen world but God can work around it to bring grace and peace. At moments of tragedy in my life, I have often succumbed to the second reaction, but come around to the third. It is my prayer that those intimately involved in this situation will know God's grace and peace, despite this evil.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Grateful for His Love

Today is Valentine's Day and I had failed to purchase a card for my husband until this morning. I guess I thought I would do it earlier this week, but then got sidetracked with a sick baby. So, this morning, after dropping my MS off at PDO (Parent's Day Out), I rushed into the store to purchase more acetaminaphin and a card. In trying to get the baby back in the van quickly, I stepped in to secure his car seat straps and managed to secure my foot on the strap of my purse. As I exited the van, my purse tipped over, spilling the contents into a dirty, slushy puddle of snow on the ground.

Immediately, I was hunched over grieving the loss because my travel Bible fell apart and into the puddle. As I scrambled to pick up the various pieces (and a few photos I always keep tucked inside it), I began to realize that several other things had fallen out also and were blowing away in the wind. An appointment card for the YS's next immunizations, a receipt and ... no, it can't be ... money. I ran to the other side of the van and quickly siezed two twenty dollar bills and another one dollar bill. Let me tell you, my first thought was of my husband!

I can honestly say that it hasn't always been easy to purchase a Valentine's card. When my ES was a toddler, my husband and I separated for about a year and a half. We sought counselling (British spelling here!) and worked hard on the issues in our relationship. It was a very difficult road. And, I can remember standing in stores wondering where I'd find a card that said "we're not doin' so well right now, but we just keep pluggin' along," or "some days you really make me angry, but I'm still trying to love you." At that time, I sought out the most generic one possible and wrote out some of what I was feeling.

This year, thankfully, I could have really looked for the mushy, grateful ones. That is, if I didn't have a cranky, feverish infant in hand. Alas, he will have to receive a card that was quick and easy and not one I anquished over to find the exact right sentiment.

But, I can truly say that I feel more and more love and gratitude for my husband as the years go by. Here are some of the reasons I love my husband:
  1. He is a thinker and makes me think more deeply about things.
  2. He loves books almost as much as I do.
  3. He is a musician.
  4. He loves God and believes that His rules aren't to restrict us, but to help us grow and receive His very best for us.
  5. He takes time to play and really connect with our sons.
  6. He has very high ideals.
  7. He is organized and efficient.
  8. He challenges me to be better than I am.
  9. He admits to his flaws and failings.
  10. He loves me in spite of my flaws and failings.

You see, the reason I thought of him as soon as I saw the money flying is because he has often asked me to be more careful with my money. I have such a tendency, when in a hurry, to tuck it back into my purse without enclosing it into my wallet. Sometimes, I stuff it into my pockets and then place it on my dresser, intending to shift it to the pockets of tomorrow's pants. My husband will scoop up the money or change and put it away (often in his own coffers, thank you). But, thankfully, he is gracious. He knows that this is one of my many weaknesses and he loves me in spite of it.

He cares for me when I get too sidetracked with the needs of our family to remember to take care of myself. He lets me know of his love and admiration. When I leave him home with the kids, he always makes a point of saying he doesn't know how I can do what I do day in and day out without pulling out my hair (my boys are very active and very demanding). I love him for who he is and for what he has brought to my life. I also love him for the ways he has forced me to grow. I love him for sticking with our relationship back when it seemed doomed. I love him for allowing time to meld us more together.

Now, he'd better read my blog, 'cause I don't know if I'll have time to write all this in my quickly-purchased card once the baby wakes from his nap. Ha!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Well Rounded Life

For the last two days I have been practicing the art of babywearing. I suppose this is a good thing since I won't really be able to call the YS a baby for much longer. But it has made me think quite a bit about the blessing of a well-rounded life. If I never experienced days of illness, I would probably take health for granted. Into every life a little fever must come, I suppose.

I had taken both of the little boys in for a lead screening on Monday (now that we are living in my husband's grandmother's house, we're not sure how much lead they might be exposed to). YS was scheduled for his immunizations on the 19th (or I should say re-scheduled because he was sick for the date in January). They both did fairly well for the lead testing (it is just a finger poke) and the nurse at the health department said that she could go ahead and give YS his shots and save me another trip out next week. I thanked her and we went out to wait in the waiting area again.

Several hours after the shots, the poor little guy started to spike a fever. It has been up between 101- 102.7 ever since. Of course, I give him acetaminaphin, but even with the medicine, he is clingy and miserable. He is normally such a happy, independent guy, that these days have felt weird. But, I am counting my blessings. All he has wanted to do is sit in my lap and listen to me sing (yes, he wants to listen to me sing - unlike MS who often says, "Mommy, can you stop singing now?"). What a blessing that is! Who cares that our meals have been easy things like cereal, yogurt covered raisins, bologna & cheese? Who cares that my house looks like a tornado has swept through it? Who cares that my laundry is piling up? I have had the opportunity of holding a sad, sleepy, loving little boy on my lap for hour upon hour.

Plus, I have to chuckle because every time the little one goes down for a nap, my MS decides that he really needs to sit on my lap for a cuddle and a story, too. How observant they are when one is getting the lion's share of the mothering! How fortunate I am to be given days of long, quiet cuddling to round out those many days of constant blur of motion and activity!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Joy of Blogging ... One Month In

Many years ago, when my ES was little, I started a writer's group at my church. The first night only three people showed up and I worried that perhaps no one was interested (though several had indicated they would be). We kept plugging away and eventually our numbers reached closer to ten.

What wonderful writers I had a chance to meet with. Our youth pastor, Kyle, left his post to pursue his writing more. He is an incredible poet and has a great gift for drawing a picture of one thing and then making the reader realize he is really talking about something with far greater depth and insight. You can read his essays on Wisconsin at his blog http://www.kylelwhite.blogspot.com.

Our pastor's wife, JoHannah, wrote essays and romance novels and did some ghost-writing. We all chuckled when her first book, Cover Girl, Uncovered, was published (she ghost-wrote this autobiography for... you guessed it ... a supermodel). Anne was a poet who had already sold quite a number of her poems in frames with her husband's accompanying artwork. Julie wrote memoir pieces that made us all laugh. Now she is writing things for Christianity Today. Michelle came to me one day and said she wanted to join our group, but didn't know if she could manage the time for it. She had a book on body image to write and write it she did. It is called Wanting to Be Her and you can buy it in bookstores now.

Marylynn wrote wimsical little stories for her grandchildren and always used props (bringing the prop which inspired the story she would read that night) Laurie was working on a difficult, but fascinating book about their journey with adoption. Jane wrote essays and encouraged us with her knowledge of books. We were a really bonded group. Several of us attended a writer's conference together and shared much laughter and encouragement in the commute there and back each day.

As I watched others in the group achieve outstanding success, I always felt a little sad because I wasn't getting published (I have been published, but in a very minor way, twenty years ago - a small article in the British War Cry). I began to believe that my primary role in the group was to encourage others to write. I enjoyed hearing what they were working on. I enjoyed sharing the things I wrote. I worked on my young adult novels, I wrote a children's book, and I sent off a minimal number of things.

But in the last month of blogging, I have had more fun with my writing than ever before. I was glad to see that Lucy at http://www.lifeisaspasmwhoflow.blogspot.com likes my blog name. I have to chuckle when I remember the first night when I bit the bullet and started this blog. After I wrote up the first post, my ES looked over my shoulder and asked what I was doing. Then he read it and said, "That's a really stupid thing to blog about." I said "thanks" and went on without his words of encouragement (although I did later blog about his prowess on Guitar Hero, which was his suggestion instead of soap).

Now, I write for the joy of writing and I am having more fun than when I felt I was "pursuing" my writing. Moreover, I am probably spending more time writing than I did when I worked on novels and books and marketing and queries. What freedom to look at a page and say, "What do I feel like writing about today?"

My writer's group back in IL has recently reconvened. I miss it immensely. I found myself wishing I could drive back for their monthly meetings or send something to be read and critiqued from afar. But, for now, I will devote myself to blogging. So, if you are reading and feel encouraged by something I write, let me know. If you have words of critique, share those as well (I no longer have the group, you know). If you disagree with my take on a book, tell me why. I welcome your comments. Feedback always helps a writer grow. But even if you don't comment, keep coming back, cause I intend to keep on bloggin'.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Oh Yeah - Tea at Buckingham Palace

When Cardiogirl sent me the Classy Blog Award, she mentioned my visit to Buckingham Palace. I should back up a bit to explain. When I was around my ES's age, my parents had the opportunity to visit England. At that same time, I was asked to do a major report in school on another country and I selected England. Ever since, I have been an intense anglophile (indeed, if I had secured a boyfriend over there, I would have probably moved there permanently).

In college, I took the opportunity to spend a summer studying at Oxford. Alas, the summer went by all too quickly and I started hatching more plans to return. I found an organization called BUNAC, an acronym I can't even remember (Britain Undercover, Neatly After College????), which allowed me a six-month student visa and offered to help me find a job. I decided to forego their job placement and made contacts myself through The Salvation Army (since my parents are Salvation Army officers).

There are so many blog posts crying to get out of my brain right now, I feel like I have MPD (multiple-personality-disorder). Ah - yes... the target: tea at Buckingham Palace.

I secured a wonderful domestic position at The Salvation Army's International College for Officers. Then, I sought out the nearest Salvation Army corps to attend on Sundays. One of my first Sundays at the Upper Norwood Corps, I was approached by a young man named Ray. He was in the band and I play an instrument, so we conversed quite easily. Towards the end of our conversation he asked if I would like to come to his place for tea some day. I agreed and walked away.

Several others pulled me aside and asked if I knew where "his place" was. Of course, I had no idea! I think I may have said, "Should I? Is it in a bad part of town???" It turns out, Ray worked as the Queen's butler and resided at, none other than, Buckingham Palace. To be honest, we didn't meet for tea at the palace right away - perhaps he felt he had to screen me?? After all, I came from Chicago - perhaps I was in a gang??? We met at a Pizza Hut and I don't think he was all that interested in getting to know me because we spent the entire time discussing a younger girl he had a crush on. However, he did ask again and explained that I would have to fill out some paperwork (here comes the screening - I had to pass a security check to be allowed in the palace - this was back in 1987 before they started giving tours). I remember that when the construction workers (who were doing some work at the college) discovered that I was going to the palace for tea, they were miffed. They said, "Flippin Ay, I lived ere' me ole' life an' I aint neveh been to Bug House (I don't know why they called it that)."

Well, the day finally arrived. I appeared at the side door as instructed and gave them my name. They produced a badge with my name on it (I wonder if they still have that old thing on file there after all these years, or do they purge visitors who only bothered to come once?) and then paged Ray (or should I say, "paged the page" since his actual title was "Page of the Presence."). He escorted me to his rooms. Basically, I saw lengthy hallways in the basement (no regal chambers) and I think I remember a stack of paintings up against a wall in the hall. His room was a real thrill though. On his bed, he had a bedspread dating from Queen Victoria's reign (this meant a lot to me, since I was primarily interested in Victorian British literature). Ray had accompanied the Queen on various tours around the world and the walls were covered with posters and maps from these tours. I felt privileged to have had such a rare opportunity.

I am so grateful that during my time in London, I was able to rub shoulders with real British people. I didn't want to go and spend my time as a tourist (especially an American tourist - you can spot one of those a mile ... or a kilometer ... away!). I wanted to live among them. To pretend, for a time, that I belonged with them. Thankfully, I met many people like Sarah at http://www.ilsters.blogspot.com/, who allowed me to feel that sense of belonging and became a life-long friend as well.

As for Ray, well, I received one royal Christmas card bearing his seal "Page of the Presence," and a postcard or two from ski-jaunts in Switzerland or France. Then, in 1990, shortly before my wedding, I returned to Britain for a Salvation Army Congress and actually ran into him on one of the tube platforms (oh the voices in my head are crying to be heard immediately). Haven't heard a word from him in 18 years. Don't think he did ever hook up with that young girl, though!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

My First Award


Today Cardiogirl's blog, at http://www.cardiogirl.net/ was about loving the alternate reality of the blogosphere. I had to send out a resounding yes. I have been emotionally and creatively fed, in feasting mode, through my new venture into the blogosphere. I don't know if I'd be sane today, if it weren't for these late evenings spent eavesdropping on other people's lives and finding such interesting stories and connections. I love finding a new blog where they talk about books they read. I love blogs about cake decorating (one of my hobbies). I love reading about mothers of sons.


A few days ago, CG gave me my first award - the Classy Blog Award. I have seen these things before and so I knew I had to come up with three other individuals to bestow this lovely title upon as well. Having only recently started blogging, it really made me pause. Who would I select? Many of the ones I view daily already have loads of readers and awards. It was such a difficult decision that I know I will have to create a blogroll (one of those sidebars where you can list all of the blogs you like to "stalk").


So, first of all, I must say "Thank you" to Cardiogirl for sending other readers my way by nominating me (and for encouraging me to start this blog in the first place). Now, for the three I selected? My Classy Blog Awards go to (drum roll, please ...):


Bia at http://www.ladolcevitathesweetlifewiththreesons.blogspot.com/. I think I found Bia through http://testosterhome.blogspot.com/ in the comments section. Ever since, I've loved visiting her blog. Sometimes Bia's posts are down-to-earth, sometimes funny, sometimes contemplative, sometimes spiritual, but always interesting.


I can't even remember how I stumbled onto this one (ah the beauty of links and awards), but I have recently begun reading Lucy's words at http://lifeisaspasmwhoflow.blogspot.com/. You'll have to read for yourself how she came up with such a memorable and unique blog name(Hint: it has something to do with pen-pals from another country - something I think everyone should try). She writes about books and boys (hence my kinship). In fact, her most recent posts were about an author I have loved my whole life (Charles Dickens) and about a book I have wanted to read for months now (when I get done reading all those other books I've wanted to read), called The Book Thief.


And Lucy, in her awards, led me to Chloe at http://www.existentialdilemmas.blogspot.com/ who doesn't really blog about my usual interests (she's single, so no kids; she runs - I've always been impressed by marathon runners; she has time to socialize - I'll try not to be too green), but I think her blog is really classy and she does one unique thing that I would return again and again to read. Her "Dear You" posts will have you dying laughing. She is so clever and creative in these posts that I couldn't read enough of them. I know that the most recent one she posted was on January 25th, but you can access all her "Dear You" posts by searching in the search box at the top, so check it out. A great read.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Book Review: The Prayer Chest


Today, I finished reading The Prayer Chest: A Novel About Receiving All of Life's Riches by August Gold and Joel Fotinos. This is one I picked up in the new books section of our library and quickly placed in my bag, without perusing. It is small and a quick, easy read (I found its story compelling and easily read it in a few days). One of the quotes from Publishers Weekly inside the cover read, "A spiritual parable that will appeal to fans of It's a Wonderful Life ... this easy, inspirational read will warm the hearts of seekers everywhere." The back cover informed me that it was written by the cofounders of Sacred Center New York, "one of the fastest-growing spiritual churches in America."


Why is it that when I read words like "fastest-growing spiritual churches" I immediately know that the book I am holding will be filled with touchy-feely, easy-breezy, wishy-washy, whatever-floats-your-boat spirituality. It was! The story is about a widowed father of two, who is about to lose his farm when he discovers a prayer chest in his attic and reads a notebook filled with the three golden rules about using the prayer chest. The man had previously placed his faith in the actual attic (he felt that it held some sort of spiritual power since when he verbally asked for things in that location, he received strength). Upon finding the chest, he transfers the object of his faith from the attic to the wooden box before him. The power of the prayer is deemed to come from the box and from following the three important rules of the prayer chest.


What are these three important rules?


  1. Prayer is answered through you.
  2. Prayer is answered when you listen.
  3. Prayer is answered when you welcome everything.

I have to admit, the story was a good one and it was an enjoyable, inspiring read; however, I feel that it clashes some with my own beliefs about prayer and why and how prayer works. Even, for that matter, the purpose of prayer. Is prayer really about getting what we want? That is what the book seems to imply. I take issue with the idea that following certain steps is what ensures the answer to our prayers, although I do think we can learn something from these three steps mentioned. If you pray for something to happen, but then sit back and expect God, like a genie, to do your bidding, without being involved in the quest for its resolution, you are, indeed, trusting in something akin to magic. If you pray and pray, but never stop to listen to what God might be saying, you are only interested in your own perspective, your own desired outcome. Moreover, if you will not accept a "no," does that really allow God to be God?


I think many people will respond to this new book because it hits on a common yearning within mankind. We desire to see God work in our lives and we desire to truly hear the answers to our heartfelt prayers. We struggle when we think God has abandoned us or allowed something inexplicable to enter our lives. We question whether or not he hears us when we pour out our groans and our longings. We petition Him and even justify our requests when we know that what we are asking is clearly within His will (say, perhaps a loved one to be drawn into deeper relationship with God), yet wonder why He remains (from our perspective) silent. Many believe in the power of prayer to heal, to minister and to comfort. I will feel sad, however, if people come away from this book thinking that they can pray to whatever God they choose to establish, be it a particular room or box or talisman. I believe God is not in a room or box or talisman. I believe His perspective on our prayer is something we will never be able to fathom fully because He's God and I'm not. Or, as Bryan Duncan sings in his song "God Knows" - "God knows, and I don't, what's good for me."


I do hope that those who read this book are inspired to think deeply about prayer. I hope that they will be open for God to enter and work in their lives. I'm just a little concerned that the God part of this book is too "relative" or "fill-in-the-blank." But if this book encourages you to be a vehicle for answered prayer, to spend as much time listening as requesting and, finally, to be more open to what God may have in mind for you, then it will have reaped a good reward.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Take Time to Help a Kid Cope

I'm a complete and total WIMP when it comes to getting shots. I even have a bad history with something as innocuous as having blood pressure taken. When I was a child, we headed off to a clinic to receive our physicals for camp. There were many kids in attendance and I had to stand in the doorway as one of the nurses came around checking blood pressure counts. Believe it or not, I fainted and slumped down the doorway - just over the phsycological trauma of having my blood pressure checked.

Or, on another occasion, my mother had taken myself, my sister and my youngest brother to receive our immunizations. We argued over who would go first. Finally, my mom suggested we go oldest to youngest. I ended up fainting, while my brother quietly took his shot and sucked on the lollipop they offered.

I have always had difficulties in this area, but I can explain why it is so traumatic for me (even now as an adult) to receive a shot. When I was three years old, I developed a case of double pneumonia (this is where both lungs are congested with mucus and fluid). My mother tells me that I received 64 shots in the space of the 8 days I was in the hospital. I was like a human pin cushion, because they often had to give a shot in the same spot as before. (Someday, I'll have to share the miraculous story of my recovery from this illness -another post, another day). Ever since, I have had to give a preliminary warning to doctors and nurses who have assisted me in the difficult process of giving birth to three sons.

As I've said before, my niece, Amelia, has leukemia. She has spent countless hours in hospitals and received so many scans, injections, blood draws, spinals, etc. that she has a long chain of beads symbolizing each event on her cancer journey. Her bravery amazes me. Today, on her blog, Amelia's mother suggested a way to help children who are facing devastating and terrifying illnesses. It takes just a moment of your time, but it could help a child cope with very difficult experiences. Here are her words to describe how you can help:

"I have a favor to ask of all of you reading this. There is a competition going on between three Wisconsin hospitals (St. Vincent Hospital – Green Bay, Childrens’ Hospital of Wisconsin, and American Family) to get a Colgate-Starlight Starbright Fun Center donated. Now in order for St. Vincent to be in the competition they need people to vote for the hospital. I was wondering if all of you would vote for St. Vincent Hospital. The way to vote is going to www.colgate.com/starlight. Then you have to scroll down and click on 'wisconsin' on the us map. Then just click the button next to St. Vincent Hospital and 'Submit'. Obviously, some of you may have your childrens’ care done at these other hospitals so I understand if you vote a different way. But it would be great if we could get everyone that reads this to vote on St. Vincent Hospital. I have included below a description of what a Fun Center is. Anything that can make these childrens’ lives a little brighter in the midst of what they go through would be great.

A Fun Center is a mobile entertainment unit containing a flat-screen television, DVD player, and Nintendo Wii™ system. Whether hospitalized children are nervously awaiting surgery, sitting restlessly during a long treatment, or feeling lonely in their hospital room, the Fun Center helps them cope by providing endless hours of fun and distraction.

To date, more than 4,000 Fun Centers have been sponsored by companies, foundations and individuals and are being enjoyed at hospitals across North America. However, the need is great and the waiting list is long. To your part to help this come to St. Vincent Hospital. Thank you very much! Remember, you can vote once a day!"


It only took me a moment and I'll try to head back again several times this month to vote again. Please take time to help a kid cope.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Book Review: Winter Birds


At my friend, JoHannah's suggestion, I read Jamie Langston Turner's Winter Birds. It tells the story of an elderly woman, Sophie Hess, who has auditioned several members of her family for the privilege of caring for her in her final years in exchange for her money upon her death. She settles upon her nephew, Patrick, and his wife, Rachel, because they don't seem overly concerned with her money and they can offer a quiet, fairly private room. Patrick and Rachel have been touched by tragedy (losing their two toddler children) and the old spinster is a little bit curious to see how it has colored them. Her own view of marriage was altered when she discovered a dark secret just prior to her husband's death. She is a cynical, bitter old woman in many ways. She acknowledges that she was unattractive and that her professor husband only married her because she would be able to type his papers and help care for his two children. A difficult character to like, yet by the end, I did feel a sense of compassion for her character. She scorns Patrick's religious verbiage and his dreams of writing, but admires the quiet, grace of Rachel. Her life is caught up in watching birds (each chapter opens with a description of a bird and these characteristics are exemplified in the chapter), old television re-runs and reading Time magazine obituaries. The novel is full of references to Shakespeare and other great literature. But, its greatest strength was its fully believable characters and the insight into human nature which they provide. I enjoyed this book, but did find it a tiny bit depressing at times, because the narrator is very pessimistic and critical. Still, I was glad that the author didn't try to make the novel a soap-box or have the main character make some remarkable transformation at the end.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Creek is Flowing (Plus Extra Footage)

This is the second week in a row that our area has been pummeled by bad weather. Last night, we lost power briefly and the storm lasted for over two hours. This morning, the creek was almost up to the top of the banks and I felt a compulsion to check our basement every few hours. We had a flood in the basement of this house several months prior to our move. All of my books and board games were stored in the basement. My husband, being super-organized, had already moved his books out of the boxes and on to the shelves when we had visited over spring break, but I had wanted to use the time to relax. Alas, I lost a box full of irreplaceable books; many of them had been purchased in England, several were antiques and one was a photo book of England which had been a treasured gift from special friends of mine. I also lost my British Monopoly, Stratego, Life and several small card games (each seemed to have some sentimental hold on me and I grieved their loss for quite a while).

So, the creek makes us nervous. It is pouring as I write and I will probably check the basement every time I get up tonight. But, I thought I would use this news as an excuse to try my hand at including video in my blog updates. My camera doesn't have a sound feature with the video, so you can expect silence.


I attempted to upload the video of our creek, but, alas, an error message came up. So, I went back in and tried to upload a different video (a very short one - of my YS meeting Santa for the first time - all of 6 seconds long). So now, here I have a Santa clip and no creek clip. Some day I'll master all this stuff. Until then, bear with me.





O.K., I'll try one more time.

Victory! Perhaps next time my videos will be more interesting. I'm leaving the extra one (of YS and Santa in) because Grandma will enjoy it and because, now that I look at the two videos, it is the more interesting of the two, despite its brevity.


Later on in the day, I looked out the window to see a long skinny brown animal crawling along the bank near the tree roots. Then, it splashed into the water and then back out again among the roots of the trees. By the time I got the boys to come look, it was gone. I was thinking it was a muskrat or mink - it was very thin and low to the ground. My hubby thinks it was perhaps an otter. One of the perks of living in the middle of nowhere is that we get rare glimpses at wildlife and birds. I'm astonished at how excited I get each time I see another animal here. The simple pleasures of life. Perhaps one day I will be able to snap a shot of the blue herron that used to come all the time last winter. One morning he perched on the frozen creek for almost an hour. I believe he was looking for fish under the ice.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Touching New Song by Randy Owen


Tonight I headed over to my niece Amelia's website at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/ameliagorton to hear their news. As I said before, Amelia was diagnosed with leukemia two days after her second birthday, back in December of 2005. What a blessing to be able to access information about her on a daily basis without inundating her parents. Their website has always been an inspiration and an encouragement.

Tonight, they directed us over to http://www.randyowen.com/ to hear his new single entitled, "Braid My Hair." It is a beautiful song and a fitting tribute for my niece (not that it was written for her, but she embodies the words to this song fully). She has a strength that I cannot fathom. Her ability to take the medicine required, without complaint, to battle the crummy days and still wear a vibrant smile, to glow with hope and praise for God in spite of less-than-pleasant circumstances is phenomenal.

It was ironic that I heard this song tonight, since I just wrote out a check to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital tonight. My ES participated in their annual Math-a-thon and I made a pledge. Randy Owen's purpose, in recording this song, was to draw more attention to St. Jude's work and encourage more giving. Take a moment to listen to this song and, if you can spare it, send a few dimes, quarters, or dollars to the St. Jude's Foundation. There's a little girl in my life who will be glad you did.

Big Savings at CVS


O.K., I will have to admit to you that I'm one of those kind of people who used to save receipts from my best saving adventures. For me, there is no greater thrill than heading out into a shop and coming home with more than I should have for less than I should have paid. SCORE! Granted, I do acknowledge, that sometimes it is in fact coming home with "more than I should have" in that we didn't really need what I got a good deal on.


When I first began really exploring the blogosphere, I came across Catherine's site at http://www.chatherinewheels78.blogspot.com and loved reading about her saving adventures. She mentioned Walgreens, which I have utilized for years - getting all kinds of free toiletries and medicines. But she also mentioned CVS, and up until that point I had never stepped in a CVS. Well, in late fall, I received a promo for up to two free $25 gift cards with a new or transferred prescription. It just happened that I had both a new and a transferrable prescription to fill, so I headed off to CVS. At that time, I signed on for their Extra Bucks card, not really sure if I would ever attempt the savings (because it is far more complicated than Walgreens' program).


Well, today, I had to return to refill my prescription and decided to look over the ad. My ES thinks I'm completely "lame" for including this on my blog - but here is what I purchased for a little over $5: One Garnier Fructis 16 oz. shampoo, two 6 oz. Colgate Total toothpaste, one Colgate Motion toothbrush and one 11 oz. Palmolive dishwashing liquid. Thankfully, as my hubby noted, they were all items that we really did need and would have purchased anyway. Furthermore, since I used my $25 gift card, you could even say, it was FREE! You can't beat that!


My only complaint is that with the CVS program you get the money back as an extra buck coupon and it has an expiration date. So I must use the $9.99 extra bucks by March 5th. With Walgreens, the money back is placed on a gift card which doesn't expire. Let's hope CVS has some more good deals on things I need, and soon!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Disappointed but Not Disappointed

We have been trying to be much more intentional about scheduling date nights (once the third son arrived, I'm sorry to say we let almost a whole year slip away with perhaps only two or three dates in that time). Of course, we always know that there will be difficulties to maneuver (the chief one being that we still have NO babysitter). We usually plan to skip naps for the little boys and put them down by 7:30, so we can start with our meal and movie (yes, it is a limited routine, but better than nothing).

The first date in 2008 went well. We watched "About Schmidt" which had its funny moments and sad, touching moments. For the second date, I picked up two movies at the library (one called "Runaway Jury" - since I have been called as a possible juror for the year 2008 - groan - another blog on this one, for sure; the other, an old Hitchcock made in 1936 - "The Lady Vanishes"). After 20 minutes of the jury movie, my husband said he really didn't like it at all, so we tried the Hitchcock. Oh, my. The first half hour was so slow and hard to follow, that ... alas, my husband gave up and went to bed. I finished watching the whole thing - especially after he had looked up the movie on-line, while I was watching, to tell me where to look for Hitchcock's cameo appearance. It was not one of Hitchcock's best, but I enjoyed it slightly.

So, last night, we determined ahead of time what we might like to watch and agreed upon a Sandra Bullock movie called "Premonition." We allowed ES to have a friend sleep over and made arrangements to take them to a middle school lock-in at an indoor, inflatable jump center in a nearby town. Here is where the thread of my tale begins to unravel. After the friend arrived, I attempted to call the jump place (to be sure I didn't drive twenty minutes to discover locked doors). Alas, due to poor turnout when they started these events in December, they have discontinued the option. The boys were bummed. So, we juggle our plans and decide to take them to select a video game on the way to pick up the pizza. Half-way through dinner we realize that the friend isn't eating much. He explains that he is feeling sick. We send them to the room to game while we clean-up and agonize over our desire to just send the kid home (who wants another child, sick, in their home - hands anyone?). I head off to put MS down, while hubby agrees to put YS down. Somewhere in the middle, the friend decides he'd better have his mom come get him, so as hubby is seeing him off at the door, I emerge from MS's room to find YS in the toilet (no, not face down, thankfully, but arm-deep!). Nobody knows who left the door ajar but my husband thinks I suspect it is him (I have no suspicions, just frustrations). After cleaning this disaster and getting YS down, we finally settle in for our movie.

By about 10, and only half-way into the movie, hubby can't stay awake. It is a common problem we encounter, since he usually heads to bed by 9 or 10 and rises at 5 each morning, while I sleep as long as the little boys will allow and stay up until midnight or 1 a.m. Ships passing in the night, I know. He headed off to bed and I watched the whole thing (despite several spots where the DVD went bad - I was determined).

This is the part where I was not disappointed. The movie was very good. It is about a woman who wakes one morning to learn that her husband has died in a car accident. However, when she awakens the following morning, he is alive and well. She discovers that it is an earlier day of the week (I guess I could understand how a mom could lose track of the days of her week). Her days are all disjointed, waking one day to find him dead and the next, to find him alive still. She is trying to make sense of the premonitions (for they apply to other things besides his death) and take some action to avoid the date with death. At first, it was a little hard to follow, but I did get into it after a bit. The story takes several different twists. I watched the alternate ending offered, but was more satisfied with the ending the editors finally chose. It was certainly worth watching ! Now, if I can get my hubby to watch the last half with me again, some night when we can get the boys to bed early and survive possible illness within the next four days. That's not asking for much, is it???

Friday, February 1, 2008

Never Trust the Weatherman

Alas, for ES, we only received sleet and a dusting of snow. Still, he had a two hour delay for the start of school. I have twittered away my time this evening in Facebook finding friends - what fun. It is amazing how I can spend my days isolated in this "little house on the prairie" and yet log onto my computer for my mommy-downtime in the evening and meet and talk to so many people - old and new friends. Thank you internet! May I learn more of your secrets.

Cardiogirl is graciously trying to walk me through the process of downloading book images, so hopefully you can see the funny cover of Diary of a Wimpy Kid soon. I will try to fix that tomorrow. For now, I wanted to download some humorous photos of the boys. My husband has been worried about my posting photos on this blog - so here are two of the little guys (plus one which he will not approve of - my ES playing Guitar Hero - see earlier blog - I'll have to ask Cardiogirl how you link to a previous blog entry, since she does this all the time). Have a great weekend.