Monday, June 30, 2008
A few readers expressed a desire to know where they could purchase a similar button. This particular one was distributed in exchange for a donation to the Families of Children with Cancer, Inc. in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where my niece, Amelia, lives. The donations for the buttons benefit children diagnosed with cancer in Northeast Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
I feel very grateful to this organization. I have witnessed the many ways they have reached out to my brother and his family as they battled my niece's leukemia. I think any family personally familiar with childhood cancer recognizes the great role these supporting organizations play in rallying strength and encouragement for the journey they must travel.
If you wish to contact the Families of Children with Cancer, Inc. in Green Bay, WI, you can view their information at www.ourkidswithcancer.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm sure they would welcome any further donations.
I'm glad I was able to play even a small role in increasing the awareness of Childhood Cancer. Wearing the pin will bring more opportunities to share my family's personal story.
When I was working at Littlejohn Elementary in DeKalb, IL, they held a fundraiser to aid kids with cancer. It was called "Caps for Kids with Cancer" and for a small donation, students were permitted to wear a cap in school for the day. On the day the caps were worn, I was blown away by how many students had participated. I attempted to get a photo of the event (some of you know what a lousy photographer I am). I had to pan the group three times to include everyone and I was standing on a very tall ladder. It literally moved me to tears that day, because I knew that just a year before it would have been just another fundraiser to me. But, watching my niece fight her battle with leukemia made it a very personal thing and I appreciated every child who contributed that week. The following year, shortly after our move to Indiana, Mrs. Brown, the teacher I had most recently worked with at Littlejohn learned that her own son, Michael, had a brain tumor.
Perhaps, you don't have a personal connection to the fight against cancer, but every donation and every ribbon displayed represents your support of these children. And if you can't afford to give or obtain a button, please remember to say a prayer for children battling cancer. I know I'm saying many prayers of thanksgiving these days on behalf of my niece, Amelia, along with prayers that God would continue to protect her and use her life and testimony.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
As a young girl, I remember that I used to love sleeping on my stomach. I especially remember this, because it was quite noticeable when I found that I could no longer sleep in that position, due to growth into my adult body shape (wink!). At times, I would try to return to that beloved position by placing an additional pillow underneath my belly. Eventually, I gave up and switched to my back.
During my first year in college, my sleep position shifted again, from necessity. I had a room-mate who snored. I mean she SNORED! For a while, I employed the "clapping strategy." I would hang over the top bunk and clap loudly. This would rouse her, just enough to make her turn over or to her side and the snoring would subside for a bit. I tried ear plugs, but found them uncomfortable. In the end, I merely began sleeping on my back with my arms up over my head beneath the pillow (which forced the pillow to serve as a sound buffer to my ears).
If I tried to sleep that way now, I doubt I could manage it, but back then I kept that position for several years. In fact, I was in agony several years ago, when I had surgery on my toe and had to lie on my back with the toe elevated for several weeks. I have become, in marriage, a side sleeper. Perhaps, that is because it was the first time I ever had to share a bed.
Still, I have been wondering if my husband has shifted his sleep position because a year or so ago, I began to find it really difficult to sleep with him. He has always wanted the left side of the bed (as you face it, the right side as we lie in it). I don't remember this ever really being a problem before. Perhaps, I am the one, once again, who has shifted. I think I used to always sleep on my side facing the outside of the bed. At some point, I must have begun to favor facing the middle of the bed and am now discovering that he favors facing the middle of the bed as well. I'm sure years ago that wouldn't have been a problem, but now, I feel like we are breathing right into each other's faces and it annoys me to no end.
Early in our marriage, I also used to sleep on my side, with my hands folded together underneath my pillow supporting my head. For the past five years, though, I find that I experience tingling up and down my arms (to the point where it wakes me) if I try to sleep with my hands tucked under my head. Thus, another shift, I began to sleep with my arms out in front of me or dangling off the side of the bed (which alleviated breathing another's exhaled air).
The above mentioned AOL article, declares this "the yearner position." How apt! How I yearn for a good night's sleep now! Of course, I would say I'm a yearner in other aspects of life, as well.
I guess my husband was "yearning" to share a bed again, because in June he returned to our room. He had been sleeping in the guest room merely because the little boys have been waking so often in the night that it disturbs his sleep and renders him drowsy at work. So, instead, I'm the one who gets to be drowsy at my work! Ha! Of course, if he is drowsy at work at the bank, it could lead to a bit more difficulty than if I am drowsy while tending to the boys at home. I'm sure his customers appreciate his quality sleep!
While it makes me happy to know he yearns to share our bed, I also miss my yearner's position. I think if I'm going to keep this position, we will have to upgrade to a king size bed. It doesn't leave him much room if I sleep on my side of the bed with my arms outstretched to the middle of the bed.
I don't think I really buy the personality assessments, though. My YS often sleeps with his butt up in the air. What does that say about him? It is a variation of what they call the "fetal position" since his knees are tucked up under his chest. Maybe he's gassy. Maybe he's worshiping his bed. Maybe he just wants his derriere to get the best air! I don't care what position he sleeps in, as long as he stays asleep the whole night through!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I know that I could use a little help with my blog. I have so many questions: Do I want to blog just for myself (which has been my primary motivation so far) or to increase readership and possibly make money? Do I want to join other circles, like the Mommy blogs and such? Do I want to know how many people are visiting my site? Or will that information merely send me into spasms of self-doubt?
I'm really grateful to Renee, at Mom to My Special Ks, because she plans to mention my contest on her blog. So far I only have three participants. When I only had two, I thought, "Well, that will really be a bummer for the one who loses. --> sorry to tell you, you are the only one who lost the contest."
Truth is, sometimes I feel like I don't have very many friends these days. I know that is the isolation of motherhood talking (plus moving to this isolated house just as I entered the stage of having two small children at home). I have memories of some truly great friendships, but lots of those friendships are gone and I doubt those people even consider me a friend anymore. My husband could write a whole blog post himself on my difficulty with letting go of friendships. Long after a friendship has died, I am still pining away. He tells me to just let it go, but I never seem to be able to.
Thankfully, my ES has so many friends that he seldom experiences a dull moment. In fact, my husband recently changed his cell phone plan because all his friends were taking up his minutes by sending him so many text messages. We really only bought the phone so that he could contact us when he is needing to be picked up from school or from a friend's house. We had lengthy conversations about why it is just WRONG to sit in someone's driveway and call them on your cell phone to tell them that you are there.
Still, I am grateful for his experiences with friends. He went to a friend's house on Tuesday afternoon with plans to spend the night. By Wednesday afternoon, I finally tried to call his cell phone to see if he ever planned to return to live with us. I heard it ringing in his room. Drats! But, a short while later he strolled in with a big grin on his face and an old guitar in his hands. His friend had purchased a new guitar that day and decided to just give his old one to my son!
Now, I had asked ES if he would like a guitar for his birthday. NO. I had asked if he would be interested in taking guitar lessons. NO. I had suggested that guitar or piano might be a good thing to pair with his percussion study. NO THANKS.
But, within an hour of being home with his new/old guitar, he had already tuned the four strings (it is missing two, he informed me) to the appropriate pitches so that he could play snippets from one of the songs from his Guitar Hero game. I think we should get these strings replaced and get the boy some lessons. Lessons? I guess that sounds too much like school or work.
Both my husband and I took music lessons while growing up. My husband has a master's degree in trumpet performance from Indiana University. You can tell his lessons really paid off. My lessons, on the other hand, were always free - the help from friends.
When I was in elementary school, an elderly man and a friend of my parents (or perhaps he was just a Salvation Army board member with a good heart - no, wait a minute, I take the good heart part back) gave me and my older brothers piano lessons. Unfortunately, we only lasted three lessons. (Here's why I took the good heart part back!) The gentleman died of a heart attack three weeks in. We tried hard not to consider it a reflection on the challenge of training us.
When I was in high school, I became obsessed with my instrument. I played an E-flat Alto horn in several Salvation Army bands, including my beloved Northern Illinois Youth Band. I also attended an annual music camp called Central Music Institute and I was determined to make it into the top band - the Wonderland Band. So, I began practicing five and six hours a day. My brothers called me "Metallic Lips."
My devotion caught the eye of the principal cornetist with The Salvation Army's Chicago Staff Band, Peggy Paton Thomas. She offered to give me private lessons for free. She was a fabulous instructor and I worked very hard for her. Boy, if I could bring back those days and relive them again. I deeply miss being involved in the banding and playing my instrument. I often pop onto e-bay to see if there are any E-flat Altos listed which I could afford (I really can't afford any since I have no time to play one and no band in which to perform). I certainly hope that my son is able to grasp a tenth of the opportunities I had in the realm of music.
I feel sad and a bit guilty that I didn't go on to make something of all those lessons. Does Peggy regret investing her time in me? When I married and left The Salvation Army, an officer raked me over the coals for all of the investments the Army had made in me. I found this offensive. My question to him was, "Did the Army invest merely for the Army or for God?" My opinion, then and now, is that if it was an investment for God, then God will certainly see that those investments produce the desired return!
To all those friends who helped me to get by, in various ways, musically and otherwise, I just want to repeat something my MS said to me at the dinner table tonight (get ready, he's such a card!) when I informed him that he could have dessert:
He looked at me and said, "I don't know what to say. Thanks!"
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
At some point, we also decided that it was better to get a hotel nearby than face the drive at the end of a full day. Two years ago, we even allowed our ES to bring along his best friend, Michael. That was the summer we were in the process of moving to our Indiana home. That year, we got a lovely room at the Best Western which included a small kitchenette. Our MS was just a year and a half and it was nice to have a place to bring him for his afternoon nap. (That was also the year that he got his finger stuck in the door of the van as we arrived and were unloading - he saw a ball in the front seat of the van and reached back at the last minute, just as I was shutting the door.)
This year, we decided to allow ES to bring a friend again. However, when my husband called to make the hotel arrangements, he learned that a legal limit of five to a room would require us to have two rooms for each evening (our plan was to arrive Sunday afternoon, check in, visit IB, swim in the hotel pool, then spend all of Monday at IB and leave the hotel Tuesday morning). This was going to double our housing expenses for this brief trip, so we opted to cut our stay down to one night and I would drive home (since I am a night owl and evening driving is really no problem).
A few weeks ago, we learned that ES's friend couldn't go after all, so we cancelled one of the rooms, but still kept with the one-night stay. I think if we had it to do over again, we would have stayed two nights. We had a wonderful time, but there were a few glitches which might have played out differently if we had stayed two nights in Monticello.
Sunday was a wonderful day. We had a leisurely lunch here and then departed for our drive to Monticello. After securing our things in the hotel room, we headed to IB to walk around, have dinner and play games (this is where the entry fee without rides comes in handy - although I did notice this year that they have added options where you can purchase the ride wristbands for two days at one time and reduce your costs). We had dinner at the Tig'rr Den, which has fabulous toasted cheese sandwiches. The boys chose smoothies this time. I think we'll pass on that next time, since they were syrupy and overly-sweet and really only left you more thirsty (I know because I had to drink MS's, since he wouldn't touch it after one sip).
We were also blessed with a random act of kindness that night. A man approached us and offered us the remainder of a booklet of ride tickets. He said they were leaving and he noticed that our little guys didn't have wristbands. He didn't really have to give them to us because you can use the individual tickets on another visit, but perhaps they weren't intending to come again soon. The ticket booklet is the best option if you don't know whether your small children will actually ride rides or not. Two years ago, we purchased a wristband for our middle son, assuming that he would be a ride enthusiast like his older brother. During the whole day, he only rode the train twice (which, thankfully, I could ride with him while pregnant) and the carousel twice.
It was a real god-send that someone handed us tickets, because I would have now assumed that my YS might respond the same way MS had at a year and a half. But, no, when he saw MS going on the airplane ride, he wanted to go on as well. I was a bit hesitant, since the ride goes up and down as well as around, but YS was very vocal about wanting to go, so I decided to give it a shot. He loved every minute of the ride. Both of the little boys ended up riding three rides together that first night.
We headed back to the hotel and went as a family to the pool. I must emphasize "as a family," because often my husband opts out of the whole pool scene (even though I always pack him a suit, sometimes surreptitiously, in hopes that he will cave and go in). We had a wonderful time in the pool. MS was independent with his floaties on and YS took turns being held by Mom or Dad. ES was preoccupied with the sauna (and I found myself wanting to call Cardiogirl to ask her exactly how the sauna works). He kept filling a bucket with pool water and pouring it over the coals. There were no instructions posted (apart from the warnings about pregnant women and small children). I'm not really familiar with how it is supposed to work and we were quite concerned that he wasn't supposed to be doing that, so we came down hard on him and made him leave the sauna. I tried a few minutes with him and found it unbearably steamy. I'll owe him an apology if he was in the right.
Monday morning, we enjoyed the hotel's continental breakfast and began packing up to load the van. I couldn't find the extra diapers I had packed, so I was thinking we might have to swing by Wal-mart to pick up some more. ES was also teasing MS mercilessly, so my husband sent him down to wait in the lobby (there went an extra set of hands). As we headed out the door, I handed a small bag to MS to carry, gave YS his sleepy bear to carry, and grabbed up almost everything else. This meant no hands free for dragging slow toddlers, so I trudged with them out to the van.
Shortly after arriving at the amusement park, my husband asked where sleepy bear was. Oh, the terror, to be without sleepy bear. My two older children never really had a particular lovey they were attached to. My sister-in-law had encouraged me to give them one, but they never really took to anything, although MS did suck a pacifier and liked to carry around a cloth diaper (but we had oodles of cloth diapers, so one was always within reach). YS, on the other hand, has developed a strong attachment to a little blue Carter's bear blanket which my sister-in-law, Miriam, had sent when he was very small. It had always sat in his crib, but about a year ago, we noticed that he began to hold it in a particular way to get to sleep. He pushes it against his right cheek and inserts his two left middle fingers, up-side-down, into the roof of his mouth, while using the fore-finger and thumb of the left hand to stroke the silk bow at the bear's chin. Here is a picture from back in April, which somewhat shows this uncomfortable stance he favors, though he's not pinching the bow.
We had visions of great anxiety because as soon as YS heard Daddy mention sleepy bear, he began to fuss. ES headed off to ride rides alone. I took MS on several rides (he was even eager to ride the Sky-ride, which surprised me) and my husband took YS back to the van to search for sleepy bear. When they didn't find it in the van or luggage, he drove back to the hotel. My husband said YS was utterly inconsolable. Thankfully, someone had found the bear in the lobby and turned it in at the front desk (hubby said he would have searched the trash there if his efforts at the front desk had been in vain!) From the moment, sleepy bear was retrieved, YS didn't want to let go of him for the rest of the day.
After lunch we took a relaxing boat ride. Hubby was now very fearful that somehow YS would drop the bear over the side. I was hoping the movement would lull him to sleep, but MS wanted to go up top and I couldn't bring the stroller up, so YS merely was restless in our hands throughout the ride. A kind man offered to take our picture. It is a horrible picture of me (MS was mad that I decided to wear my hair up in a pony-tail, but I figured with water and rides, there was no point in washing it and leaving it down). You can see that my husband wore his new head sock (gift from MS) for the day! When I see him with it on, it takes me back to those early days in our marriage. My mother even remembered that he always wore a head sock then. She said, "Oh yeah, he called it a 'dew-rag' and said all the other philosophers wore them, too."
After the boat trip, MS wanted to head to the beach. Unfortunately, I wasn't very clear when I went through the line to get our tickets. We had a buy one get one free admission coupon for the full-day wristband from a local advert. My husband used that and went through the line with my ES. I used my Kroger Plus Card to receive a $5 discount off each ticket (you can also use Coke cans) and I said "One adult and two children under 44' for the rides." By not specifying the beach as well, I actually paid for the morning rides-only wristband. I had thought the price seemed lower than expected.
But, this little glitch was also handled easily. We went to a ticket booth and they allowed us to upgrade all three for just $10. This meant that we now had access to the beach-front until closing (6 p.m.) and the rides until 10 p.m. I decided to let my husband take MS to the beach, while I headed back to the van to attempt YS's nap. Despite the presence of sleepy bear, he refused to go to sleep. After 30 minutes, I gave up and took him to the beach as well (where he loved frolicking in the sand).
Our two little guys hung in there for the whole day. They stayed at the park riding rides clear until 8:30 p.m. (although, they were getting somewhat cranky by the end). Then, my husband took them back to the van, to ride around, while I searched out ES and rode rides with him until the closing.
He loves the roller coasters. We rode the Tig'rr twice (since that is my favorite) and then headed to the Cornball Express. On the first drop, my denim baseball cap flew off my head (I thought I was safe since it has a very tight clasp for adjusting the fit). I was sad. I asked ES if he would mind looking for it. He decided that it probably would be near the train tracks. Sure, enough, he spotted it floating in the water in between the train tracks and the log ride. It was too far away, but he found a stick and retrieved it for me.
All in all, it was a very wonderful day. I highly recommend Indiana Beach to families with children. It has a wonderful family atmosphere. I did think it felt just a tiny bit more commercialized this year (since they are adding a new steel roller coaster, called the "Steel Hawg" - up, but not running - and have increased the number of gaming booths), but it was still a great time, with something for everyone and many options. We always find weekdays to be less crowded than weekends, and there is very little wait time for rides. If you have a camper, there is a Yogi Campgrounds, which might reduce the price of lodging. Plus, I did read at their web-site that they have a day in early June when all the rides, plus hot dogs and drinks are a quarter after 3 p.m., but I don't know how crowded that day usually is.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
I will send money for the extra button to my sister-in-law. But I am offering this gold ribbon button to some lucky reader (sorry the photo is such poor quality). My sister-in-law mentioned that someone asked about her button and wondered why it wasn't pink. She was able to explain that the pink ribbon is for increasing awareness of breast cancer, but the gold ribbon is now designated for increasing awareness of childhood cancer.
On the Card bearing the button it states:
"The gold ribbon is the symbol of Childhood Cancer Awareness, representing our children in these and other ways: * it is a precious metal, as our children are precious; * it is the flame of hope; * it is the purity of our children's hearts."
If you leave a comment on this posting, I will enter your name into the contest. On Monday, June 30th, I will put all the names in a hat and allow my MS to select the winner. At this point, I received the largest number of comments on my pole-dancing post. 11 comments, but I contributed 3 of those comments in response to others. Competition shouldn't be too rigorous; give it a whirl!
Friday, June 20, 2008
What did surprise me was how quickly my MS got into the water. When he was not quite two, the summer we moved, he would actually waddle over to the edge and climb in all by himself (with floaties on, of course). Last year, when we visited, he recognized the length of time he had been away from a pool and was actually afraid of the water for a bit. This time, he climbed in by himself and began to show me all the things he used to be able to do in the pool (spin around in circles, blow bubbles in the water, float and put his head under). At one point he said, "This is just like that other pool!" I had to remind him that it IS that other pool, we just can't go to it so easily any more.
We had a wonderful time at the pool and lasted a whole three hours. The weather was perfect. It was a bit overcast, so the pool wasn't crowded. The water was a comfortable temperature. I saw quite a few kids from the school where I used to work. Last year, many of the kids came running up to say "You're back." This time, only one actually approached me (Puja), but the others did acknowledge me when I spoke to them. My MS took an interest in Hunter and wanted to follow her all over the pool. After the first hour, my YS seemed less reserved and he walked all over the baby pool area (he was only sad that he couldn't go down the slide, since I couldn't set him at the top and trust MS to give him a gentle push only when I got to the bottom). If it had been a sunnier day, we might have run into more old friends, but we also might have had to leave sooner because of YS's sensitivity to the heat and sun.
We tried to stop by to see my MS's old babysitter, but it looked like they weren't home. I stopped by to see the student I used to work with in Dekalb and was pleased to see that she was home. We had dinner at Baker's Square because MS wanted macaroni and cheese. On our way out the door, I ran into Paula, who used to live across the hall from us when we lived in the apartments next to Hopkins Park (this was 11 years ago). She did a double take because my YS looks an awful lot like my ES did at this age. Of course, since I had two with me, she realized that they were merely younger siblings (her own son must be in his late teens now). It was fun to unexpectedly run into her.
It is always wonderful staying with our friends, the Mills, because they make us feel right at home. We visited for a bit (they had just been to a retired officer's encampment with my parents) and then headed to bed (both boys slept through the night without waking, but they did wake too early - at 5 a.m. and I had to tell them to go back to sleep for a bit longer).
We had told ES we would pick him up between 10 and 11. As I drove through our old neighborhood, I took in several details. Two of our neighbors were having garage sales, but I didn't stop because I was feeling a time crunch. In front of our old house, we noticed two girl's bikes and wondered if our landlord had a change in renters again (since the woman who moved in after us had no children). We also noticed that our landlord lost his very large tree from the front of his yard.
Of course, ES wasn't there. He and Michael had taken a bike ride to visit another friend, Brett. I had to call him on his cell phone (thank goodness, it was that easy to resolve). I took advantage of those extra moments and dashed off to Aldi to try to return a pair of shoes I had purchased one month ago at our Aldi in Indiana. I was worried that the return policy would expire. Here's the good news. When the clerk rang up the return she gave me twice what I paid. I pointed this out to her, but she said she had to give me back that amount because that is what her register is expecting (something about our Aldi being in a different district). Moreover, I not only profited some money that morning in my visit to Aldi, I also ran into a former teaching colleague, Darla Massier.
It seemed like a blitz trip to DeKalb. We weren't even there for 24 hours. I didn't see nearly as many old friends as I had hoped. However, it was nice to merely run into a few by happenstance.
By the time we arrived in Janesville, we discovered the other large event going on that day. Traffic was blocked as a large parade of motorcycles sped past us. We estimated that we had seen 1000 bikers. My brother said we missed the first half, then, because there were 2000 bikers. Ha!
I was almost wishing I had been able to attend sans children! There was a lovely slide presentation. I saw snippets of it, but only in between chasing my two whirling dervishes. Plus, my ES was hungry and didn't think he'd be satisfied with the appetizers (I failed to point out to him that if he had been ready at my instructed departure time, we would have had time to grab lunch), so I gathered the three boys and took them away for a quick bite. When we returned, I determined to leave ES in charge of MS and YS in the nursery, so I could spend some time talking with the other guests and especially with my parents and my aunt and uncle. ES didn't last too long (perhaps I had twenty minutes to visit), but soon they began water balloon activities and kick ball, so we headed outside with other children at the celebration.
I do find that when I attend anything by myself with the boys, I feel completely scatter-brained (shifting focus from what is going on to, o.k., where is ES?, where is MS?, where is YS? - they never seem to all three be in the same place). At one point, I lost tabs on MS and was becoming quite frantic. My brother began to help me look and someone said, "is that his head out there by a bush?" He had gone outside and was standing near the nursery window among the bushes.
When it came time to leave, I stopped at a special table to buy a gold Childhood Cancer Awareness Button. I left the suggested donation amount and grabbed up my things. Only later did I realize that I had scooped up an extra button (more on that in the next post ).
We arrived safely back at Grandma's and had a pleasant visit with Grandpa and Daddy for Father's Day. My husband's brother did bring ice-cream (but a homemade batch, instead of an ice cream cake) and his daughter had made a cake, so I was glad I hadn't bothered with a cake.
After we returned on Monday, my parents came for a visit, staying until Thursday morning. We had a wonderful time visiting. They have recently purchased an old 8 mm film projector (at an estate sale for $5 - one of the benefits of living in FL, I'm guessing) and are in the process of transferring all of our old family movies onto DVDs. It was fun to sit and watch some of those old family vacations. We watched the one to Salt Lake City, the Grand Canyon, Disney World and the large sand hill run in California. The sand hill one is particularly memorable because each of us kids had a different approach to going down. My younger sister, Dawn, was too young to go up the hill, so she stayed on the beach with my mother and meticulously brushed any offending sand from the soles of her feet. My oldest brother, David, went down rolling sideways. I would take a few steps and then sit. My older brother, Mark, decided to just run down at full speed. All was well until he ran between two men, then he was a maze of arms and legs and mouthfuls of sand. Of course, when we were younger, we would force visiting Salvation Army cadets to watch those movies with us and my dad would make the film go forward and backward as we watched Mark's demise over and over again.
We also had a lovely time walking and playing at the park. My parents took us all out for dinner on Wednesday night to a Chinese buffet. However, my favorite aspect of our visit (besides watching my parents read countless books to my boys) were the hours we spent reminiscing and telling old stories. My mother often says that I am her memory. She doesn't remember all these stories, until one of her kids begins to retell them. I can remember my nieces and nephews always begging me to tell our family stories (David and collecting glass bottles to turn in for money at the confectioner's; David and I playing our instruments at the Christmas kettles at the Famous Barr store, when I was only 10 - he was just at the other door, in case I needed him; Mark and Stella's spaghetti; my scar stories; my tree story; Dawn and the canteen pickup; Tim and a few accidents, etc...). It is also interesting to hear the varying shades of memory as a story is retold. My mother will remember something in just a bit different detail.
I'm supposing that is one reason blogging is such a good thing. It gives one a chance to set things down as they happen. I'm sure there are still a variety of perspectives. For example, until my parents came here for their visit, they didn't know the reason I had run out of the building at Amelia's celebration so suddenly. They thought that one of the little boys had run out in front of a car in the parking lot. Close, but really, it was that my MS was sitting atop someone else's car in the parking lot. A couple were entering the building as I chastened him, saying "You should never climb on someone else's car! That is someone else's property!" The couple quipped something like this: "Yes, by all means, if he is going to climb a car, it should only be your own vehicle." I was mortified. They were amused. Let's hope that the car's owner had the perspective of blissful ignorance!
Thursday, June 19, 2008
When I headed to the licensing office, with my wallet bearing my Illinois license, I knew it was going to be a hassle. My husband has made numerous trips to this BMV and every visit has been a nightmare. They revise and change the necessary documentation you must have. He has been utterly frustrated with the process. So, I went in expecting defeat and I got it. I didn't expect to need my social security card to prove my identity.
I know exactly when I lost this valuable document. It was around the time when people began to stress how valuable this document is and common warnings were given to remove it from your purse or wallet. My husband asked me to remove it and put it somewhere safe. I removed it and put it somewhere very safe. It is so safe that I haven't known where it is since I took it from the home it always had (my wallet). I know the number by heart, so it has never really been a problem until now. Now, I must find time (and childcare) to visit two offices - the SS office and the BMV, and all of this before July 1. Wish me luck. I'm going to need it!
But, losing things isn't something new to me. In fact, I was grateful to my husband for cleaning up my little boys' room while we were gone. He found a thank you note which my neighbor had sent to me recently when I gave her a loaf of banana-chocolate-chip bread. My husband had handed me the note just as I was going to put the little boys down for their nap. I set it down, unopened, in the boys' room and it entered the twilight zone. Toddlers do have sticky fingers and tend to pick up stray items and set them down in entirely illogical places, but I would have been capable of losing it all on my own.
I'm trying not to beat myself up about it too much. Indeed, I'm discovering that other people actually lose things, too. When I told my parents about the license issue, my uncle freely admitted that he had lost his SS card and easily replaced it by visiting the local courthouse (now where would my local courthouse be????).
My father just lost something he called an "i-pac" (similar to an i-pod, but it holds personal information). He had plugged it into the only available outlet he could find in their hotel room in Milwaukee in order to recharge it. The next morning, when they checked out, they failed to retrieve it. Of course, calling the hotel was an unsuccessful venture. Is it a sin to curse the sin of dishonesty?
My sister-in-law recently accidentally dropped her cell phone into the recycling bin. She told a humorous story of passing the town dump and hearing her son suggest that they go look for her phone! Upon hearing that story, my cousin mentioned that she carries a big bag to and from work containing things to be dealt with in spare moments. Whenever their family loses something, her "bag" becomes the notorious culprit. I think I need to get a bag like that; perhaps then, we could eat on the kitchen table more freely.
Side note: The real problem comes when I remove my clutter from the table in an effort to tidy up for company. I just went through some "moved clutter" and found coupons for the electrician we used, the air-conditioning repair service we used, the Orkin policy we signed on for because of a recent ant problem and the restaurant we ate at for my husband's birthday. Disorganization is costly!
Of course, these are all fairly small losses. I know a writer friend who was struggling to make ends meet. She took several of her poems, framed and illustrated by her husband, to a craft fair and made a significant amount of money. On her way out to the car, she stopped off in the bathroom and set the money bag down. This was a devastating loss because they desperately needed that income.
I guess it makes me feel better to know that other people (even really organized individuals like my sister-in-law) lose or misplace things. So, I'm wondering if you could relieve my conscience even more and tell me that you've lost something important, too. It won't help me get an Indiana license in time to avoid the rate increase, but it will make me feel like less of a loser!
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Tuesday, my parents arrived for a brief visit. At the end of the day, when the kids are finally in bed (and my MS is no longer TALKING and demanding that all the attention be on him), I have been enjoying conversation with my parents instead of my usual computer time. Perhaps it is just as well. Sometimes, I feel driven to try to write something every day, even if I don't have anything particularly important or profound to share (especially because on many days, I haven't spoken to a single grown-up besides my husband, and our conversations are often a recap of the behaviour of the children). I have missed posting this past week, but I have also enjoyed the break from it (does that make sense?). What I really have missed? Faithfully visiting other blogs. I have lots to catch up on and not much time or energy.
Of course, once my visit with my parents ends, I will have to pick up the slack on this house (especially the boys' bathroom - groan). I don't usually obssess about the house being in a state of perfection when my parents come to visit. My focus is entirely on spending time with them. They live in FL and we don't see them nearly as often as I would like. Needless to say, I've let things really slide. The bookcases have been raided numerous times as MS asks Grandma and Grandpa to read to him. The idea of taking one book out and putting it back is unfamiliar in this house. Both the little boys tend to just pull out all the books so they can look for the particular one they are wanting. I must catch up on laundry (MS is very eager to get to that - especially since Grandma has informed us that we probably can actually wash the white gloves in the washing machine) and try to get a bit more sleep (as I am fighting a summer cold).
I promise I will get back to this blog. I want to get down the details of the trip, so that I will not lose them from memory. And, I'm even thinking of giving my first contest/giveaway. So, in the words of Ms. McKee (often spoken to her third grade class), "Stay tuned!"
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
That is not to say that I am not looking forward to this weekend. I am very excited about our trip, just a tiny bit worried about the logistics. We plan to attend my niece's end-of-treatment celebration up in Janesville, Wisconsin, on Saturday. Since Janesville is so close to DeKalb, I knew my ES would be anxious to include a visit with his best-friend, Michael.
In order to break the drive into chunks, we plan to leave tomorrow night and spend the evening at my in-law's house. We will continue on to DeKalb Friday morning, arriving as early as possible. We are all hoping to be able to spend a good part of the day at the Hopkins Park Pool. We have so many fond memories of our times at that pool. From the time ES was 1 to the day we officially moved, we spent every summer practically living at the pool. It was only two blocks away from our house and we often went twice a day (in early morning and late afternoon to avoid too much sun exposure). My ES was such a "pool rat" that all the lifeguards knew him and gave him special privileges and treats.
This is where my worries come in. When I had my first two sons, I was always careful to slather them up with sun-screen whenever we headed out in the summer. Then, I discovered that their complexion is much more like my husband's than mine. Those boys tan nicely. We still do the sun-screen, but I don't worry about them burning as much. My YS is also very blond, but we really haven't had many opportunities to determine what skin type he has.
Recently, I have begun to notice that whenever we are in extreme temperatures, my YS grows very pink in the face and limbs. I have always struggled with heat exhaustion and with severe burns or reactions to too much sun. I am wondering whether my YS will have a similar experience. So, a long time at the pool might not actually work out for us.
Then, there is the little question of the weather. If it rains, I will be in DeKalb, with very little to occupy two small toddlers. We have made arrangements to stay with friends on Friday evening and ES is sleeping over with Michael. I don't really want to put them out with our presence the whole day. I'm going to just see how the cards fall. Hopefully, all will be well. Best-case scenario: the weather will cooperate, we will spend several hours at the pool, see lots of old friends there, pop in on a few others and have an enjoyable evening visit with our friends.
Saturday morning we will retrieve ES and head up to Janesville. I am hoping to arrive early because I have always enjoyed visiting at the house of my sister-in-law's parents. The celebration is in the afternoon and should be a very joyous occasion. I can't wait to see Amelia's face when we give her this:
This is the namesake which Michelle Kemper Brownlow created for me as a gift for Amelia. Half of the proceeds of her namesakes go towards pediatric cancer. She is getting ready to open up another 24 hour window for placing orders, so be sure to visit Michelle's blog or her 4theKids site.
We will spend Father's Day back with my in-laws and my hubby will join us there. I headed out this morning to purchase supplies to make a special cake to honor hubby and grandpa, but when my husband came home for lunch he noticed the supplies and told me not to bother because his brother always buys an ice-cream cake. So, I guess I will have to postpone another cake adventure until we reach YS's half birthday at the end of this month. It is just as well, because I'm sure we'll have more than enough adventure this weekend.
This was a delightful read. It tells the story of a twelve year old girl, Livy Two, who lives with her parents and eight siblings in a holler in North Carolina. The cast of characters within this family are amusing and endearing. The father keeps hoping to write a best-selling banjo hit. The older brother is dealing with his role as eldest among so many girls. The younger sister, Gentle, seems to have something wrong with her eyes, though they can't afford a doctor. Despite being unable to feed his family, the father decides the kids really need a dog. Plus, a cranky grandmother, shows up after an absence of five years.
Although the book is laced with difficulties and tragedy, it is a lovingly-told tale and the narrator's voice is strong and true. Author Rosemary Wells, considers Livy Two to be "as bone-real and as endearing as Kate DiCamillo's Opal in Because of Winn-Dixie." I couldn't agree more.
In researching, to learn a bit more about Kerry Madden, I discovered that she intends this to be one of a trilogy. I believe the second book, which features the sister, Louise, is already out and is called Louisiana's Song. The third book is supposed to follow the tale of the older brother, however, the first two seem to be billed as middle-grade fiction and the brother's book is more of a young adult book. I will definitely keep my eye out for the sequels to this lovely book.
I should have done a bit more research than I did. I appreciated the comment from Kerry Madden. She has already published two sequels to Gentle's Holler, entitled Louisiana's Song and Jessie's Mountain (which reveals a journal from the mother, Jessie, set in the 1940s). For more information, check out her website.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
We have been having many difficulties since the storms of last week. One of those difficulties is that our air conditioning continues to fail. It went out last Monday and someone came out to fix it on Tuesday. By Friday, it was no longer working again and we had another serviceman come out (thankfully, I had paid a bit extra and signed a service agreement!). Yesterday, we lost power briefly in the afternoon, and soon realized that the a/c was not working again.
So, my morning began with another phone call to request further service. They put me on the afternoon schedule, so I planned to take the boys and get grocery shopping done in the morning. By the time I left the grocery store, I was in sore need of some precious snapshots to elicit an ounce of charitable feeling towards my older offspring (the youngest was a cherub throughout the entire day!).
Our first stop was with the expressed intent of purchasing Father's Day cards and wrapping paper. Do children ever get to the age where they can enter a store and not think that something will be purchased for them? At least with the toddler, I can put him off because he will happily say, "Maybe I will get that for my birthday or Christmas." The older one, really amazes me because everything he desires to purchase now is in a much higher price range and, for goodness sakes, he just had a BIRTHDAY!!! Still, I remained resolved and we left the store with four cards and a roll of wrapping paper (which MS unwrapped and tore while we were in the van).
The grocery store wasn't really a bad behavior issue. More of a melt-down issue. MS was wearing his Spiderman costume and rain boots. Another mother, with small children, passed by us and her kids said, "Look at the baby dressed up as Spiderman." For the rest of the shopping experience, we had to deal with MS's outrage, first, that they thought he was a "baby" (how insulting!) and then, that they thought he was dressed up as Spiderman (how dare they not perceive that he is THE REAL SPIDERMAN!). To encourage their belief in his superpowers, he began to climb everything imaginable (poles, freezers, etc.).
Why did I think I could commandeer ES to help in this situation? He made matters worse by taunting the poor boy with comments like "See, you're not really Spiderman. Nobody believes you are Spiderman!" Then, he thought he would help by attempting to physically remove MS from the poles. I'm sure you've all seen a family like us in the store before. Are you like the ones who were cringing and thinking, "Why doesn't she get control of that monster? Indeed, those boys are bad news!"
The cashier pleasantly said, "My, you have your hands full." If only I had a dollar for every time I have heard that line! She went on to explain that she was one of four girls and she figures she'll probably have all boys because she'll have no idea what to do with them (was that a veiled comment meaning I have no idea what to do with boys???).
At home, they helped unload the groceries and went straight to their rooms until I called them for lunch. A message on the answering machine informed me that I now had to call the service people to reschedule (I was on the afternoon schedule. I made it home by 1:15 p.m. Isn't that the afternoon?). Thankfully, they assured me that I would be next on their call-list.
MS didn't nap (curse that call of nature which he manipulates us with at every sleep time and meal time, but which we cannot ignore since he struggles with issues in this area already). Then, instead of remaining in his room to do his duty, he stealthily slipped out and headed for the downstairs bathroom. When he came to me for changing, he asked how he smelled. I assumed he meant, "Isn't it smelly?" Alas, no, he was trying to impress me with his counter-approach. He had slathered ES's AXE deodorant all over his body in an effort to squelch the foul odor of his movement! What a clever, infuriating boy. Of course, this led to battles anew between ES and MS, so they were both back in their respective rooms.
ES was fuming because I required him to do a visual sudoku. After all, he reasoned, it IS SUMMER. He shouldn't have to use his brain in the summer. I had made a copy of a recipe in my War Cry Magazine and half of the page held a visual sudoku. No point in throwing it away. Besides, ES clearly needed some stimulation to divert him from teasing his brother.
At some point, MS must have slipped out again because when my husband arrived home from work (around the same time the service man finally showed up), he discovered evidence of MS in two other bathrooms! In one, the sink was plastered with toothpaste. In the other, half a tube of ES's toothpaste was floating in a small bowl.
Thank goodness, I got that toothpaste for free at CVS! Thank goodness, YS can't really talk yet (or at least he can't argue or tease)! Thank goodness, YS still plays quietly on his own without too much toddler curiosity (although, I know our days are numbered). Thank goodness, I can bring up memories of child-joy, even if we didn't see much of it today.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
I began the day by making pancakes for the boys, even though I was feeling pressure to make the house presentable for a visit from my husband's folks. I always make three different kinds because my ES loves whole wheat pancakes with chocolate chips, my MS gets whole wheat with mashed bananas and chocolate chips and my YS gets whole wheat with mashed bananas. I had barely finished preparing and cutting the two little boys pancakes, when my ES begged for two more. I have few culinary specialties to claim, so I ate up their expressions of delight.
This afternoon, my boys presented their dad with birthday presents they had picked out. It was really quite funny because I had taken them shopping two days ago and offered to drive further away to shops with more options, but the older two both wanted to go to Walmart (I'm sure ES just wanted to get this family obligation out of the way, so he could head off to his friend's house.)
My MS, usually can't keep a secret to save his life. I was very impressed that he didn't tell Daddy right away (even though he helped me decorate the white wrapping paper and wrap the presents and place them up high to wait for today). I'll never forget how disappointed I felt one Christmas, when I was in college, because the little girl I babysat for told me ahead of time that they had purchased a pair of leather gloves for me. They were lovely gloves and I keep them to this day (even though they are weather worn and trash-worthy) because they were a special family and it was a significant disappointment to know the gift before opening it.
My MS beamed as he handed Daddy a small box. My husband was a bit confused after opening it, so MS explained that it is a head-sock. There are several reasons I cherish this moment. MS truly picked this out himself. My ES was looking for a nice black belt (something Daddy had expressed a need for) and MS slipped away around a corner. He popped back out holding a head-sock covered in skulls. One of MS's other favorite costumes (besides the superhero theme) is a skeleton costume with a skull mask. Plus, he has recently been repeatedly asking for a story and song, from the Bible, about the bones which come to life and walk around. I fully understand the appeal this object had for him. It was only $3, so I let him choose that for Daddy. But, the thing that really makes me smile, is that MS will never really know that Daddy used to wear head-socks quite frequently when he was a graduate student in philosophy (back when we first moved to DeKalb). He probably won't wear it often now, but it did give MS great pleasure to give that gift! Perhaps, I can still get a snapshot of this.
Later in the afternoon, my husband glanced out the window and spotted a large turtle walking near the banks of the creek. He called out for MS (YS was napping) and I ran to grab their shoes. We shuffled out the back porch door, but as we did so, I noticed a beaver walking towards the turtle along the banks. In my excitement, I squealed and the beaver headed under the bridge and out of sight. We scurried down the hill, but by the time we got to the bottom, the turtle had disappeared (probably into the creek). It was a sizeable thing. Its shell had been at least a foot in diameter. MS would have loved to have visited with that turtle up close, but this must have been the turtle that beat the hare! He was FAST!
After a delicious supper, we headed to the Dairy Bar for a birthday treat with Daddy and Grandma. Upon arriving home, we let the little boys roam in the yard for a bit. They discovered a tree circled by a puddle. Both MS and YS had an a blast stomping around in that puddle for over a half an hour. Usually, I can't sit much when they are out. But, tonight, Grandma and I savored a relaxing sit, watching their revelry! I thought about running to get my camera, but literally couldn't tear myself away. Their delight was contagious. Their evening bath was murky.
All in all, it was a delightful day. I didn't manage to get photos, but I made mental snapshots of the memorable moments in this day. I pretended to push the slow-mo button while they were occurring. And, I truly should have taken a photo of the house, because it rarely is as tidy as when I have company coming (indeed, once company has arrived, the boys have usually already reduced it to a state of chaos and the "lived-in-look"). But, as Heath pointed out in her wise words, God won't be asking me if my house was spotless, but He will be glad that I savored moments of their pure child-joy!
Thursday, June 5, 2008
This book was a very enjoyable read. It is a fictionalized account of Louisa May Alcott's actual experiences during her family's attempt to create a more perfect life on a farm called Fruitlands. Gloria Whelan, who does extensive research for her books, based this account on the nine remaining journal entries Louisa wrote in her journal during this time (other entries were possibly destroyed by her father).
Her story is set up by juxtaposing a journal Louisa keeps for her parent's perusal and one she keeps as a private diary to contain her most honest, personal thoughts. I found this idea intriguing. Indeed, I often think about how different my blog might be if I were writing anonymously with the intent of pouring out my deepest, most intimate struggles. I have to acknowledge that my blog is sanitized. I do write it primarily for myself, but always with the niggling thought that others are also reading what is written here. Those honest, personal thoughts seem only fit for a private journal, so I can appreciate Whelan's decision to reveal two journals side-by-side.
In fact, I will share a particularly poignant quote from Louisa's first journal entry:
"Father says that a journal is the way to come to know yourself, and it is only by knowing yourself that you are free to become yourself."
I wish I knew if this is an actual quote from Louisa or from her father, Bronson Alcott. It is a great truth about the value of journaling.
I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the life of Louisa May Alcott or early American utopian communities. I would also recommend it for teachers of students ages 8-12. It gives a faithful and humorous account of the difficulties encountered while trying to do something noble. I would even recommend it for anyone living in the shadow of those who claim high ideals (pastor's kids definitely fit this category), because ... it ain't easy tryin' to be perfect!
Someday, I would like to read those actual nine journal entries from Louisa May Alcott's pen. Someday, I would like to visit the museum of the Fruitlands experiment, in Harvard, Massachusetts, to see the attic where Louisa slept with her sisters (will it be tiny and cramped, like Poe's cottage???). And, of course, someday I will come to know myself and really feel free to become myself!
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Alas, another severe storm moved in, so we shut everything down and even unplugged it. Apparently, it rained all night and the tornado sirens went off twice. My husband woke me the first time, but I was so tired I went back to sleep. I think he didn't sleep all night.
This is what I woke to (and my husband said it was a whole foot higher before I woke up):
I tried to pan down to show the window pane and how close the water was to the house. The basement was leaking water and ruined the rug in my husband's workout area, but it wasn't too bad. What amazed me was that, when my ES awoke (at 10 a.m.), he went outside with the camera and took some amazing photos of our creek and backyard (one and the same, this morning) and other areas nearby. His photos will tell the story far better than my shoddy video clip:
The four tree trunks you see are in our backyard. The two on the right are close to the edge of the banks of the creek (and the banks are actually quite steep - I'd say at least three feet). You can just barely see the bridge.
This photo is of the other creek which runs closer to the barn.
Having viewed the devastation in other areas around Indianapolis, during the evening news, I am certainly grateful that we still have a home. The storms continue to ravage this area. We even had more tonight, but they passed south of us. It was supposed to rain all day today. We were blessed with sunshine, which helped dry things up and by afternoon, the creek was back to the edge of the banks. It continues to flow rapidly, but doesn't feel as threatening.
And now we know what happened to the logs of our bonfire. Friday night's storm probably flooded the banks just as significantly. The sturdy logs were carried by water downstream (the opposite direction of the wind that evening), which is why ES found some of the logs under the bridge on Saturday. So, Bigfoot, you are off the hook, for now!
Monday, June 2, 2008
The evening of the storm, I was putting my MS to bed (groan, must I think about that horrendous task when I am away and finally blogging). We thought of the poor baby bird out in the storm on its own. We said a small prayer for the bird. Saturday, when we headed outside to pick up sticks (we still can't come up with an explanation for the scattering of the large logs which were circled around our bonfire and are now in odd places - certainly the winds weren't that strong! Bigfoot, maybe?), we were thrilled to find it perched in the same tree as the last photo. The amount of bird dung below it makes me think it weathered the entire storm while clinging to that branch!
We tried to take a walk in the nearby park, but couldn't even go there - the bridge we usually cross to get to the walking trail was completely submerged under water. We walked, instead, in a different park (with no tree coverage, but no major puddles, thankfully) and I now have my first sunburn of the season. Of course, with no internet, I have been getting to bed at a reasonable hour. Still, depression hovers above me, threatening to submerge me like the bridge to our walking trail. May our new router arrive soon and may my hubby survive this break I am taking from my mothering role!