Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fine Photographer - NOT!

Sarah, of BritGalUSA, has started another blog for her photography. She has some wonderful photos there. I promised to show her a stellar example of my photography. We had three large deer in our front meadow and I was desperate to get a photo. My husband assured me that they would bolt if I tried to open the window for the shot, and the little boys were happily taking in the moment, so I snapped away.

Can you tell that one of the bucks is standing by a tree, not far from our trampolene? Can you see the doe off to the left of the tree? Can you really see anything?

There was a third deer (a buck as big as a horse), but we only saw him after I clicked the first picture and, sure enough, they began to amble away. I did try to sneak out the garage door and hide behind the car, but instead of heading off through our woods, they walked between the woods and our neighbor's corn field.

My fine photography skills go way back. When I attended Wheaton College's "Wheaton-in-England program" back in 1985, the instructors held a final party and passed out gag gifts to each student in the program. I was given a plastic black camera (squirt gun) because I had so many disasters with my camera during our studies in England. I actually filled my scrap book with my photos paired next to post-cards, so that I would be able to remember, more CLEARLY, what I saw!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Are You Well-Read?

Amy did a post a while back about the National Endowment for the Arts' Big Read Top 100 List. Apparently, their theory is that the average person has read 6 of the top 100. They are hoping to encourage people to read more - always a worthy goal.

To participate in this little (show-off) event (now, would you really list it on your blog if you had only read one out of the hundred????), you copy the list and then bold the ones you have read. Amy added the interesting elements of providing personal comments about the books and also underlining books that she LOVED! I like how she did it, so I'm going to copy her magnificent style! Instead of underlining, I will star my favorites.

Here's how I fared:

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 *Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 *Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (I've only read half of them, but do intend to finish the series)

5 *To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 *The Bible

7 *Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman (started, but due back to the library - will check it out again)

10 *Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (for a long time, was my favorite book)

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 *Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch-22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (though I have read A LOT of them - a dozen of the plays and all of the sonnets and poems)

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier (loved the movie - should read the book - even own it already)
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 *Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 *David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis (can you believe I haven't yet????)

34 Emma - Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis (part of Chronicles, so why separate? but it works for me, since I've only read this one of the series)

37 *The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie-the-Pooh - AA Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 *A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 *The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding (have seen the movie, never read it)

69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

70 Moby-Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 *The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray (I know I read much of it, but can't remember if I finished it before going to see a play of it in Oxford)

80 Possession - A. S. Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro (again, saw the movie, never read the book)

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte's Web - EB White

88 *The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom (Seriously? this book is on here?)

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 *Hamlet - William Shakespeare (Why include this if complete works is above? Not sure)

99 *Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 *Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (though, I read the abridged version - I was a senior in high school at the time. Loved the movie version and was thrilled to see the London production from the second row!!!)


Not as good as Amy (she had roughly 49). Must get reading!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Best Big Brother

Here are just a few of the reasons the little boys are thrilled to have big brother back home with us:

He moved the play equipment near a slight hill in the front meadow and set up the Spiderman Slip-n-Slide. How cool is that!

He builds awesome train tracks!

And, every once in a while, he reads them a book.

Sorry, there's no sound. My camera doesn't have that capability. My husband has promised an upgraded one for Christmas. Now, if he could upgrade my own photography skills, that would be great.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Bit Overwhelmed

Today, I had my appointment with the recommended dermatologist. Joy of joys, I had the privilege of bringing along my three sons! When I was complaining about it later on, my MS suggested I should just ask God and He could make a babysitter for me (he is fixated lately on the topic of how God makes things, and this afternoon he asked "How did God make me get into your tummy, Mommy?" which made ES chuckle).

Actually, I had originally planned to include one of ES's friends and make a day of it (figuring that would be two 12 year olds to help with two toddlers). The pool that we visited last week is out in a similar direction to the dermatologist, and I wanted to save gas and combine trips. So ES informed his friend that we would have to leave by 9:30 this morning. Then, in discussing my plans with my husband last night, he strongly encouraged me to change my plans, so that the little boys would be home for their normal nap time. I asked ES to try to call his friend, but he got no answer.

Last night, I scoured my medical file and took the time to write down every date, doctor seen, diagnosis given, and prescription tried. This morning, I reminded ES to call his friend about our change in plans and we headed out on time (alas, ES forgot). I brought a bag with books, stickers, cars and snacks. I instructed ES to keep them in the waiting room as long as possible, but that if they became too unruly, to leave the things, pick up the baby and carry him - with MS walking - to the van, which I would leave unlocked for this possible eventuality. He was to strap them in and leave a door open until I returned. I also advised the nurse and doctor of my children's presence in the waiting room, in case there were any problems (really to let them know that my brain was partially processing all the various scenarios which could be occurring in the waiting room).

I was very impressed with this doctor. He listened attentively. He encouraged "No this is not all in your head!" You don't know how wonderful it is to hear that. He provided me with a plethora of informational sheets on a plethora of problems I am experiencing (do I really want to list them all? - eczema, xerosis, warts, folliculitis, a/g pruritis, and lichen simplex chronicus). After buying that expensive Aveeno body wash, I have now been instructed to eschew all liquid soaps and body wash, and all moisturizing lotions which come from a pump (favoring instead bar soap, Cetaphil products, ointments and creams). The doctor also performed a skin biopsy on my thumb.

Forty-five minutes later, I emerged to find the waiting room full of lots of people, but none belonging to me. The books, cars, stickers and MS's shoes were on the floor. I gathered them up and raced to the van. ES informed me that MS was the problem (surprise, surprise!). He was apparently running all over the waiting room, crashing into YS, and throwing his Spiderman clogs (note to self: next time, be sure they are all wearing lace-up shoes, double-knotted) (further note to self: what about tying the lace-up shoes to a chair in the waiting room? - nah, I guess that might present its own difficulties and ramifications!) YS didn't want to be carried to the van (further surprises). MS raced out in front of ES in the parking lot (o.k., who am I kidding? None of this is surprising - welcome to my world!), but ES did manage to secure them in their seat belts and he wisely kept them occupied for the final twenty minutes in the van by discussing poop, butts and farts (boys will never tire of those laughs).

My thoughts: We survived. I was able to provide all the pertinent information and secure valuable feedback. I didn't scream out in pain at the shot (must blog about my miracle story, so that you will all understand why I usually scream out at shots). I was able to inform MS and YS that, due to their behavior, the pool was out and to back it up with the further explanation that Mommy's huge thumb in the bandage couldn't get wet for 24 hours (true!)

However, when we arrived home for lunch and naps, I discovered that ES had not informed his friend (who was rather miffed that we never showed up and never called). When ES called to apologize, he felt bad and decided to tell him that we would still be going back to the pool for the 4-7 reduced price swim time. I wanted to cancel, but I felt bad, too (do you recognize a generational pattern starting here?). I kept the little boys occupied at a nearby park, CVS (to purchase bar soap and Cetaphil cream), and back to the park again. By the time we returned home, we were all exhausted (plus, ES says he doesn't feel well - please let it just be exhaustion).

We plan to leave for Grandma's house on Friday and then drive up to CBLI on Saturday. I have a little more than 24 hours to pack, clean the house (hubby is having some work done on the house during our absence), load the van, and begin treating all these skin issues (not to mention, one of the prescriptions is being delayed because they have to secure insurance clearance - groan).

Did I mention that the doctor said STRESS and DEPRESSION can trigger the itching? Feel free to scratch along with me. No - I take that back. I am trying to stop scratching. Mind over matter. It is possible not to scratch. It is possible to pack up four people for a 10 day trip before Friday. It is possible to lick these rashes. It is possible to manage these boys on my own (including nap time when one naps and the other doesn't, and meal time, when we will need my hands to carry three trays). It is possible for us to go and have another wonderful year at CBLI. It is possible to survive with a smile. This is my mantra from now until I resume blogging in person (I have prepared a few scheduled posts for your enjoyment during my absence). I am claiming the verse which my sister-in-law used on Amelia's blog today: II Corinthians 4: 8-9!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Son's Success at Camp

It is wonderful to finally have my ES home from camp. On the last day of camp, there was a final concert and awards ceremony. We were invited to attend and, at first, I intended to go. However, when I realized that my husband would not be able to accompany me with the two little boys (because of work) and that it would take over two hours to drive to the camp, I changed my mind. I really would have enjoyed going, but had to decline.

Instead, we headed to our local corps, the Indianapolis Eagle Creek Corps, to pick ES up on Saturday evening. (I say local, but it takes us 25 minutes to drive there!) There he stood, wearing his Indiana Music Institute shirt and two medals around his neck. It turns out, on his first year at music camp, he made the A level band (top band). Plus, he was one of five A-band campers who were asked to accompany the faculty band.

He participated in the solo competition. He hadn't intended to, but one of the faculty members (Glenn Welch) wrote up a solo for him to perform. ES was amazed that he was able to write something like that up in just about 15 minutes. Some day, I'll have to sit him down and tell him my stories of Glenn Welch (sitting on the logs at camp and listening to Glenn play original songs on his guitar).

Curiously enough, both my husband and I have connections to Glenn. My husband didn't grow up in The Salvation Army, but met several Salvationists while he was in school at the University of Illinois. Then, when he attended Indiana University's School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana, he met Glenn and used to go over to the corps building in Bloomington to practice his trumpet. Glenn would invite him up to his apartment (over the building) for Thai food.

I asked ES if he mentioned who his parents were, but he didn't. Anyway, by playing Glenn's little solo in the competition, ES managed to earn second place. In addition, he earned third place for all-round camper (this award is judged based on musicality, deportment, attitude, participation, etc.). He was thrilled with the awards, but has his eye on the prize. He told me he wished he could have won a scholarship to Central Music Institute, but he wasn't old enough yet. That would be thrilling.

I remember my dad commenting on how it made him feel to drive my brothers and I to CMI every year. My dad attended CMI when he was a teenager, so it gave him a great sense of satisfaction to see us carry on that tradition. I felt that way, when I began taking ES to CBLI. I had attended CBLI for three years as a teenager (and was only vaguely aware of the family track). It was fun to see my own offspring enjoying camps I have loved for years.

Our corps was very pleased with ES's accomplishments. The Eagle Creek corps also managed to win an award for having the most band students at the camp (surprising, since we don't even have a band at the corps). Perhaps, they will start one. I know that ES is rounding up all his friends, who now wish to go to church with us, so that they can go to camp with ES next summer. Ha!

ES also took a guitar elective class. He was excited to learn how to play actual chords. Then, he asked me if I knew what a chord was! HA! Kids can be sooo funny! He also said that his instructor praised his abilities. He only acquired the guitar a few weeks ago, and yet he has learned and advanced as far as some people who have played two years (at least that is what ES says the instructor told him). I know he certainly has a passion for it. The summer reading was not much of an issue that last week prior to his camps, because I had picked up two books on guitar playing at the library. Of course, he spent just as much time on You Tube, finding videos to teach him how to play things on his guitar.

He enjoyed paintball at camp again. This time, he even said one of his injuries was so bad it bled (no pictures this time around). He went fishing again. He really had a blast and has spent most of his time at home telling his friends all about his camp experience (that and showing his friends the funny Jib Jab video on my blog - ha!). They all want to go, too, now!

Let's see, our van holds how many? Perhaps, we'll have to look into a bus. Then, the Eagle Creek corps band will resurge to life again (they had a vibrant band back when I was a teenager). Oops, sorry! Slipped into another Becky Bloomwood moment! Happy just to say he enjoyed fun and success!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Book Review: Blessed Child

This is the second Ted Dekker novel my parents have given me. The first, entitled Blink, was a book I couldn't put down. It had fast paced action and drew you in right from the beginning. I don't believe Blessed Child held me quite as riveted, but it was still a very compelling and life-changing read.

Dekker definitely knows how to hook the reader within the first few pages. A young orphaned boy has been raised for ten years in an Ethiopian monastery. Jason Marker, a relief worker, has agreed to transport him to America. From the moment he meets Caleb, a remarkably pure and unusually special boy, Jason is on the ride of his life. They barely escape as the monastery is wiped out. Caleb has amazing powers and is caught in the middle of controversy and debate.

The story itself was gripping, but so many aspects of the book caused me to pause and reflect, to dig deep within myself. I suppose I found it refreshing that non-believers played a role in rescuing this strongly committed boy. Jason struggles with the fact that his own son died, despite prayers on his behalf.

Caleb is brought to see a dying evangelical leader, Dr. Paul Thompson. This is where several things began to stir within me. Dr. Thompson mentions a famous illustration from C.S. Lewis where Lewis compares Christians to children who are stuck in slums happily making mud pies, unaware that there is a vacation paradise available to them at the sea. I have heard this illustration before, but once again it spoke to me.

When Dr. Thompson is questioned as to why such miracles don't occur more frequently, why God doesn't intervene more powerfully into the shambles of our world, he replies by saying:

"The Spirit of God doesn't frequent places where he is not eagerly sought. Like the pearl of great price Jesus talked about - if you want it, you seek it."

This line was powerful to me. There was a time in my life, when I walked much closer to God than I do now. I sought His guidance and wisdom in every aspect of my life. I had a very child-like faith, firm and strong.

Life has a way of throwing unexpected curve balls. I entered into some very trying circumstances. At first, I continued to seek Him. I entered into what some would call "the dark night of the soul." It felt as if God were strangely absent from my life, no matter how desperately I sought Him. And, in very subtle ways, things began to change in my spiritual life. I began to accept the darkness with a little less longing for the light. Trust became more difficult to muster. Questions loomed. But, I think the real key was that I stopped seeking with abandon.

Oh, how I wish to regain that foothold. If I could back up my life to the first moments I wavered in seeking Him before other things, I would. Darkness is never preferable to light, even when we are choosing the darkness.

This book renewed within me a desire to seek Him again like the pearl of great price. I want to trust Him again with the fervor of my youth. And that brings me to another powerful line from Dr. Thompson within this book. Everyone is in an uproar over the physical miracles taking place, but Dr. Thompson is eager to point out that spiritual miracles are just as intense. He pronounces this telling line:

"Whoever said that a straightened hand was more dramatic than a healed heart anyway?"

I believe this book will be a powerful tool for good in the hands of any reader. I hope that it will draw others to a deeper hunger for both the evidence of His spirit and the presence of His spirit within our lives. It is an action thriller which could easily spark just as much action within your spirit. In other words, not just a good read, a good meal as well!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I Want a Kinder, Gentler World

ES is home and I am eager to share about his week, but tonight, I will write about criticism instead. In my effort to miraculously trim my middle in the space of the one week I have left before our CBLI camp, I took the little boys to the park for a walk. We have a beautiful park with a mile-long walking trail set back in the woods next to a creek. It is fairly hilly and provides a good workout with the benefit of shade from the trees and interesting scenery for the boys. Last week, my husband went with us for one of our walks and I discovered the single stroller in the back, instead of our usual double stroller. It wasn't a big loss, since hubby was with me and we intended to take a more leisurely stroll.

I knew at the time that it was setting me up for some whining later in the week. With daddy along, the boys picked out a few stones to throw in the creek prior to the beginning of our walk. Plus, daddy allowed them to stop numerous times to check things out. When I walk with them, it is my exercise! I can't be waiting for them to move up to speed. I can't be stopping for every bug and beetle they spy on the ground. We do stop for dogs (if the owner looks agreeable to such a brief visit), but otherwise, I keep the whole production moving right along. If the boys are good, then I finish up with a trip to the playground part of the park.

So, we have our routine and we usually stick to it. This morning, I sensed something was up, when it took forever to make the turn into the park. It was mobbed with cars parked everywhere. There was an arts and crafts fair going on. Since we walk on the trail, I made my way down to that part of the park and secured a spot close to the bridge we usually cross at.

Looking back, I realize that traffic was much heavier and thus, I should have gotten out the double stroller and whisked the kids right into their seats and locked them down. My MS is eager for his independence and he immediately begs to be released from the seat so he can look for rocks. I let him out, opened up the double stroller and let YS out. YS followed MS's lead and began looking for rocks (not hard, since the parking spaces are all rocks). MS shot out over to the bridge. I was trying to keep an eye on MS while letting YS grab a few rocks from the ground. YS was directly behind me and MS shifted over to the side of the bridge (a bit unsafe!). I took a few steps towards MS, telling him to get back to the main part of the bridge. When I turned around, YS was at the edge of the back of our van and a car was standing still in the roadway. I hustled back and scooped him up and the driver flashed me a look of utter incredulity.

As I began my walk, I was mentally stewing about what the driver was thinking about me. Why do I do that? Why do I get all worked up over someone else's momentary impression of me? I was shocked that YS had scurried off to that point so quickly. Obviously, I should have kept both of them within an arm's length of me. I put them in their seats and began my walk with a bit of indignation to fuel my exercise.

I was even still fuming and fretting about it by the end of my half hour walk. Ridiculous, I know. Plus, I was second-guessing my every move. I often allow my MS to sit in the very back of the van while I drive from the walking trail part of the park to the playground part. It is a brief drive (up a hill - otherwise, we would just walk to the playground and walk back to our van) of about 45 - 60 seconds. He sat in the back this morning, and I was worrying that someone would see him sitting in the back and call to report me or something.

As I obsessed over these thoughts, I passed the part of the creek where a family was wading in the water. MS again mentioned how much he wished I would let him walk around in the creek. This brought me up short. I am often thinking critical thoughts about other moms who allow their children to swim and wade in this dirty creek water. I suppose, I need to be kinder and gentler myself if I want a kinder, gentler world.

This was only reiterated again this evening when I logged on to write my blog. I visited Rachel Balducci's blog again and followed her link to a new site where she is now writing reviews (a Catholic family magazine) in a column called "Rachel Raves." I read one of her reviews, which was for double-seater shopping carts.

We all know that pictures benefit our blogs, so Rachel had taken a photo of her two youngest sons in the cart. When I entered the comments section, I was appalled to find a critical comment from a woman who felt it necessary to point out that children should be required to walk in stores. Rachel did respond in the comment section to say that she made her second youngest son sit in it for a moment just to snap the picture.

So, not only do I want a kinder, gentler world when I am out in public with my children (who are not always angels and who are not always completely under the control that I SHOULD exercise over them), but I also want a kinder, gentler blogosphere. Somehow the anonymity of writing comments on a stranger's blog or web-site, brings out the critical beast in some. Rachel's rave about double-seater carts was well received by mothers rearing multiple small children.

And, this reminds me again of how I have been guilty of wielding a critical eye. Back when my ES was an only child, I began working as an individual assistant at his elementary school. I assisted an overweight boy with autism. He was very difficult to manage. I can remember times when he would throw his body to the floor and simply refuse to get up. There I stood, trying to rouse a 105 pound kindergartner.

One day, I was out shopping and heard his familiar wails. I peeked around the corner to spy my student in the back of a shopping cart, his younger (also autistic) brother in the seat, and his mother pushing them both. My jaw dropped to the ground. I thought my share of critical thoughts. My first thought was, of course, "how in the world did she get that large boy into the back of that cart?" Then, I thought, "She should really make him walk!"

Now, the difficulties this mother deals with on a daily basis are light-years beyond the trials I have with my two little boys. I really don't know how she manages. But, the response to Rachel's review made me think of this incident and cringe. I use the double-seated stroller as a disciplinary tool now. I threaten to put MS in the cart if he can't seem to walk through the store without climbing things (in his constant effort to prove he is Spiderman) or throwing unwanted items into the cart (something Dawn is familiar with).

So, I guess the kinder, gentler world is going to have to start with me. I vow to try to be a more understanding by-stander when viewing other mothers. I will remind myself that I haven't walked a mile in their shoes. I will step back, take a deep breathe and say a prayer for them, instead of thinking critical thoughts. I'll especially say a prayer for those mothers I've overheard cursing their children. I'm still liable to think the critical thoughts on that one, but I'll definitely still say a prayer for them. And for their children, too!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Humor Deficiency Cured with Jib Jab!

My faith is restored!

After last night's frustration, Rachel had suggested I try again. This is something I suggest to my boys all the time. I can hear my MS now, chanting "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again." I'm so glad I took her advice. You are seeing my boy's faces now, instead of those crazy man faces, right? Isn't it bloody brilliant?

So, here is my official apology to Jib Jab. Your company did indeed advertise and provide a great FREE e-card! I tried once last night, with similar frustrating results. But, today, I remembered reading (was it fine print somewhere? I can't remember) that sometimes AOL has a problem with accepting the fine Jib Jab product. Shall I shift my hex to AOL now?

I went in through Internet Explorer and found success. I did appreciate Jib Jab's advertising finesse under the "dance" category cards. This is their clever sales pitch:

"Something missing from your life? Feeling down and out, gloomy or just plain mopey? We think we know the problem. It's a humor deficiency, curable only by putting your face and the faces of friends and loved ones on the bodies of some of our crazy dancing fools. Who knew that funny eCards were all you needed to turn that frown upside down? JibJab Sendables eCards: the Prozac of electronic greetings!"

Thanks to my electronic Prozac, I'm smiling again!

These Boys Rock My World!

Send a JibJab Sendables® eCard Today!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

All I Can Say Is ...GRRR!

This afternoon, I popped on briefly while my littlest one was napping. I headed over to http:/ and saw a clever little video of Rachel and her husband dancing. It was similar to the recent photo I saw of my Aunt Audrey (with the really ripped body of Princess Leia's mother!). After viewing it, I chose to make my own and uploaded photos of my sons. My husband and two little ones watched it several times, just chuckling away. It was bloody brilliant! I must say!

So, I proceeded to follow the instructions to share the supposedly-FREE sendable e-card to my blog. I headed over to my blog and viewed the funny thing one more time. Then, we headed off for an afternoon of swimming.

We just discovered a pool that is only 25 minutes away and has a decent kiddie area, a lazy river, slides and a diving board. The price for the 4-7 session was unbelievable. We paid only $6 for the four of us (since the two little ones are free). This is less than we would pay for one person to enter the DeKalb pool. We plan to go again when ES is home with us. They even have a skate-park near the pool! ES will be stoked!

After swimming and fine dining at McDonald's (where YS ate an entire cheeseburger by himself, along with half a small fry and a few apple dippers - also unbelievable), we headed home for baths and bed. I logged on again to view the funny video on my blog.

Here is where the GRRRR comes! There was the Jib Jab video, but, alas, the faces were no longer the faces of my sons, but the crazy man faces they offered in the regular version. I scanned my mail and discovered an e-mail which stated that I was so close to sharing my clever video that I could smell it. All I supposedly had to do was enter a code in the verification line.

I returned to the Jib Jab site and looked at my account. No verification box. Plus, the video in my account showed my son's faces below the video, but when I clicked play it always inserted the crazy man faces! GRRRR! I finally deleted the post from my blog.

I'm guessing that this is a classic example of the bait and switch method. Offer me something clever for FREE! Get me all excited! Get my taste buds tantalized for sharing my clever boys doing their dancing groove and rocking my world! Then, make the video unavailable to share in this way, unless you purchase a paid subscription to Jib Jab! (I'm really screaming, I just didn't want to inundate you with all-caps)

A hex upon you, Jib Jab! However, if you want to see a video for yourself, head over to Rachel's blog (it is worth it, even without her funny video - in fact, she posted another great dance video a little while back). Then, just for the fun of it, make your own. At least you can view it while you make it. Who knows maybe you'll even be able to send it for FREE! Maybe they just don't like ME!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Book Review: Blue Shoes and Happiness

I have finished another enjoyable installment in the Ladies Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith. Once again, I chose to listen to the audio version. I absolutely love listening to Lisette Lecat. Hearing the stories read in the intended dialect adds to the beauty of the experience.

Alexander McCall Smith has a gift for voice. I feel as if I know Precious Ramotswe personally. When I enter into these books, I feel as if I am watching life unfold in Botswana. I came across an unfavorable review of the first book in this series (the person thought the book was boring), and thought, "This person must not appreciate a finely-drawn character who moves in a foreign sphere and makes it come alive."

I'm not sure if our library has the next installment on CD yet. This will determine how soon I tackle the next book in the series (Book 8: .The Good Husband of Zebra Drive).

Sound Advice

We were just headed home from a pleasant walk in the park, when I said aloud, "I'd like to send something to Aunt Dawnie's kids, because they've been away at camp all summer" (my sister and her husband are Divisional Youth Secretaries for The Salvation Army in Mississippi and spend their whole summer at camp).

MS piped up, "We should send them some SOCKS ... with spiders all over them ... like mine!"

What a kid! He was dressed up in his long-sleeved Spiderman outfit today, with his Halloween spider socks! Despite the fact that it was 85 degrees F. I'm sure Aunt Dawnie's kids are really wanting knee-high spider socks!

Here he is holding some toys. He's been playing with the stuffed snake today, walking him through the motions of killing various stuffed animals (a lizard, a puppy, a monkey). This, after watching a You Tube video of a snake eating a mouse.

When he held up the snake-coiled dinosaur he said, "Now, the snake is eating a Trinocerus! He squeezes him until he can't breathe and then he eats him."

I tried to correct him and explain that it was a Triceratops, but he insisted it was a Trinocerus. Perhaps that is what they should have called them after all.

A few days ago, we found an Incredible Hulk Christmas ornament at a garage sale. Unfortunately, YS decided to use it as a missile and threw it directly at MS's nose. I heard shrieks and ran into the room to see what was going on. MS explained that YS had thrown the Hulk right at his nose.

It felt vaguely reminiscent of something, so I looked at MS and said, "You know, when somebody throws something at you ... this is what you should do (and I jumped aside)." He looked up at me with a smirk that clearly communicated his understanding of my irony!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Silent Snippet of My Life

This afternoon, I was counting my blessings. After getting completely filthy this morning, I had put the two little guys in the tub and then prepared a quick lunch for them. We sat eating our lunch on the porch and I was basking in the joy of our isolated lifestyle (granted, most of the time, I am complaining about our isolation). MS kept repeating something my dad had said when my parents visited this summer, "It feels like we're eating right in the woods!"

So, here's a glimpse of what our life looks like when we are enjoying a relaxed pace, eating lunch on the back porch:

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Lord Provides

My ES has never been to a music camp before. This is somewhat amazing, since the boy has always exhibited a passion for music. My husband says, "No wonder! It is in his genes!" My husband has a master's degree in trumpet performance and I began playing an instrument at the age of 7.

ES's elementary school back in IL had a fabulous music instructor, Dr. Sherry Jones. One of my favorite things about working as an individual assistant was accompanying my student to the twice-weekly music class. Dr. Jones taught the students a vast amount of musical knowledge. They learned rhythm and note identification. They received instruction on keyboards, recorders and drums. They learned about famous composers. I will cherish the memories of those classes for myself, but also for my son, because I had a chance to glimpse what he was learning as well.

Dr. Jones, with assistance from another fabulous teacher in that school, Ms, Sharon McKee, also offered a drum club for after-school participation. My son was very keen on this and anxiously awaited the time when he would be old enough to join. Then, once he became a member, he began to desire an instrument at home. For his birthday, in either his third or fourth grade year (my memory is fuzzy here), he paid half of the purchase price for a soprano marimba. He memorized other student's parts. He was just crazy about the whole enterprise.

Prior to our move to Indiana, we came to view his elementary school here. We were thrilled to find out that this school also offered a drum and marimba club and gave fifth graders their choice of instruments to play. We anticipated more sound instruction and further participation. ES joined the group at his first opportunity.

As their first concert approached, I began to wonder why I wasn't hearing much about it. Finally, he said, "You really don't need to come. The songs are all boring and the students complain that they are too hard." He showed me his music and revealed songs full of whole and half notes. Poor guy! He was thoroughly bummed. We attended anyway, and came home with a pervasive sadness shrouding our family. To bring us out of the doldrums, we pulled out home video of ES's final concert with the IL school drum club. Let me tell you, they rocked! I must try to figure out how to share some of this video on my blog.

When ES approached middle school sign-up, he was vehemently opposed to taking band. He tried to argue that band was for nerds and none of his friends were going to be taking band. My husband and I simply stated that the decision wasn't his and he would be taking band.

Within a few weeks, he changed his tune. He did have friends in band and it was something he came to really enjoy. We had to rent an instrument packet (which included a set of bells, a drum pad, sticks and mallets and stands) for the first month. We decided he was clearly going to remain interested, so we purchased the packet and he began pounding away in the afternoons. He was proud to point out that his instructor almost always put him on the snare drum because he knew ES could handle the part.

I'm guessing that his band friends turned him on to Guitar Hero. We loved having some of them come over from time to time. My husband would pull out one of his many trumpets and begin to play a little bit (he never showed off, which he could have easily done). I'd sometimes grab the instrument as well and belt out a little bit here and there. His friends were astonished that we could play (they didn't know our backgrounds). Now, when they come over, they tend to spend more time on the Guitar Hero game, but we still enjoy their visits.

Guitar Hero led to the friend giving ES his old electric guitar. This was a god-send, since ES signed up for an elective guitar class at camp. The camp required campers to bring their own instruments. Now ES had a guitar for the elective.

He had been wanting to get a drum. One of his friends, actually owned two drum sets (one at his father's house and one at his mother's), so ES approached him and asked if he would like to sell one. Surprisingly, the answer was yes. So, a few weeks before ES was due to leave for a camp where he was supposed to provide his own instrument, he purchased a used drum set for $30.

We took both the guitar and the snare drum to the music store and had them serviced. He is already scoping out other friends for a drummer's stool to sit on. Ha! I'm thrilled with his enthusiasm and thrilled that the Lord provided the instruments we needed for this week of camp.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Not Just Fun and Games

I have been thinking about my ES a lot today. He is at a Salvation Army Music Camp. I can't begin to explain how wonderful that makes me feel. I grew up going to these types of camps and having such a good time. I made lots of great friends. I grew musically and spiritually. That is my hope for my son. I want him to experience the fun and games, but I also want him to soak in the spiritual instruction as well.

I don't know how it would feel to arrive at music camp and have the second day be the day of worship. In my memories, the Sunday services seemed to fall after we had already established friendships and a sense of place at the camp. I know when I was growing up, it sometimes felt like the Sunday services were a bit manipulative. It felt like the underlying goal was to get as many kids up to the mercy seat (what The Salvation Army calls the altar) as possible. But, having sat through many a music camp Sunday service, I can also admit that there were plenty of times when I barely paid attention during the service, but somehow at the end, felt the Lord tugging on my heart about some spiritual issue and found myself going up to the altar.

Like the music camp, where I sat huddled around a group of my closest Salvation Army friends up at the altar and confessed to them that I had come very close to lighting a joint with friends (upon a dare) on my way home from school. Moments later, one girl pointed behind me. I followed her finger to see my dad, a Salvation Army officer on staff at the camp, praying with another teen. And to think, at the time I was flipping out because I thought he might have overheard that I ALMOST lit a joint. This is comical now. Those who know me, know that I loathe the very smell of smoke and could never have possibly took it up as a habit (although I wasn't quite as outspoken as my sister who used to launch spasms of coughing fits when someone would light up near us in a restaurant).

I know that my ES is not as well versed in these Sunday services, but he has been to a few S.A. camps before, and has noticed that these services always end up with a lot of kids ("especially girls," he says), up at the altar CRYING. In the past, his description has indicated that he wasn't quite sure what they were going on about. However, this year, when he returned from Jr. High Camp, he seemed eager to talk about the religious service they held the last night of camp.

I was dumping his suitcase to begin his laundry and he immediately apologized for possibly ruining his nice pants. I asked him how he ruined them and he began to explain that at the final night's service, the program was something called "The Stations of the Cross," and at several points they were asked to kneel in the grass. I didn't really say, "Tell me more." In fact, there was no need, because I had experienced a "Stations of the Cross" service when I was at Wheaton College. I'm sure they are fairly similar.

But, ES went on to tell me more about it. He told of things they had to do at each stop. He told of what Christ went through. At some station, they were given cotton balls (I think he said it was the point where Mary poured perfume on Jesus' feet) which he explained when he saw me pulling them from the pants pockets. I was really impressed. Impressed that the camp leaders gave such an in-depth portrayal of Christ's sacrifice on our behalf . Impressed that my son paid attention and obviously absorbed some of the message. Impressed that ES didn't try to distance himself from the spiritual aspect of what the camp had to offer.

I'm really praying that today was another day of proclamation of the gospel. ES accepted Christ as his Savior back when he was five (and begged a few years in a row for us to allow him to be baptized in the baptismal ceremony our old Evangelical Free Church used to hold at our annual family camp - at the time we wanted to wait until we knew that he fully understood what he was doing - if I had it to do over, I would have let him). I've heard him tell his friends that he is a Christian. But, still, he's hasn't been very verbal about his faith or spiritual things. Typical kid, he usually doesn't want to go to church.

If his experience this week is anything like last week's Jr. High Camp, then he will have another great week. He'll make new friends, play lots of paintball, go fishing (he said he caught two good-sized ones last week), and enjoy playing his drums and guitar (that was a new thing for me, loading his instruments for camp, since I only had to take my mid-sized Alto horn). But, I'm really praying that it is not just fun and games. I'm praying that the Lord will draw ES closer to Himself during this time of fun and frolic. If it is just a week of fun and games, it will produce many happy memories. If it bears spiritual fruit, it will affect ES on earth and for all eternity. So what, if he comes home with grass stains on a nice pair of pants - who cares!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Gotta Love CVS!

When you sign on for a CVS Extra Care Bucks card, you can sign up on-line as well, and thus receive additional promotional offers on-line. A few months ago, I received an on-line offer to triple the extra bucks received for prescriptions filled. Apparently, every time I fill a prescription, CVS attributes $1 to my ECB account. With this coupon, they would increase that to $3 per prescription through some date in June.

The only problem I have encountered is in actually using these on-line offers. When you print up the coupon, it fails to print the bar code. It tells the clerk how to deal with this and it also informs the customer that some parts of the coupon might not print out thoroughly. Anyway, when I headed to CVS to take advantage of this deal (I had two prescriptions to fill that day), the clerk summoned the manager. They had never been informed about the coupon and couldn't get it to work. The manager took my name and number and called me back a few days later. It did require a second trip back to the pharmacy, but eventually the manager corrected the problem to allow my access to the deal.

A few weeks later, I received another on-line coupon. They sent $5 to apologize for the difficulties many people had in using the previous coupon. No complaints here.

When I filled my most recent prescription there, the receipt included the windfall from that original on-line deal. I received $9 in Extra Care Bucks to be spent at CVS. Plus, tonight I logged on and noticed an AOL story about people's preferences in pharmacies and that reminded me that CVS had sent me another on-line coupon valid only this weekend (good for $3 off any purchase of >$15). So, with kiddies tucked in bed, I headed off to CVS alone (the only way to bargain shop!).

Here is a photo of what I came home with. I purchased two cans of Pringles, two boxes of Fiber One Oat & Chocolate bars, 2 packs of 22 CVS pantyliners, four small bottles of Dawn Dishwashing Soap and a bottle of Aveeno Skin Relief Body Wash. Everything but the body wash was on sale. I will admit, I paid more for that than I normally would for body wash, but I am interested to see if it will alleviate some of my itching issues.

At the checkout counter, I handed over my CVS card, my $3 off coupon and my $9 in ECBs. This brought the total price I owed down to $8.57! Plus, at the bottom of my receipt, I have $5 in ECBs to spend at my next visit and a coupon for a free CVS hand sanitizer spray pen.

It reminds me of Catherine's post where she told the story of two Indianapolis CVS stores which were robbed. Catherine is another die-hard CVS fan and she wondered why anyone would bother to rip off a CVS, when the store basically pays you to shop there! As I said before, gotta love CVS!

Of course, Catherine's really amazing because she dressed up her entire family in cow costumes (simple act of magic marker spots on white t-shirts) and headed over to Chik-fil-A's Customer Appreciation event on Friday night. By dressing up, her entire family received free meals at Chik-fil-A! Now, there's a woman who knows how to stretch a dime!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bruises Will Heal, But Fun Memories Will Last a Lifetime!

My ES returned from Jr. High Camp this afternoon. What a joy to see him and hear all his happy tales. Our corps officer's wife pulled me aside to inform me that he had a girlfriend and they were holding hands before leaving camp. I grinned and told her I was actually glad, because he has quite the crush on a girl here at home, but she seems to be stringing him along. She "went out" with him for two weeks, but then broke up with him. Now, she continues to send him pictures of herself (sometimes with another guy). We've had a few conversations about this, but he doesn't open up about his feelings as much as a daughter might.

The little boys were thrilled to bring ES home. The entire trip was filled with almost constant talk. ES clarified that he had more than one girlfriend. Indeed, he claimed that bunches of girls were crazy about him this week. They were fighting over who would get to hold his hand. They wanted to touch his hair. They told him he was "hot." I am blown away by how forward young girls are these days.

Still, I am happy in his glow. I found myself musing about my years of attending summer camps. I would always go hoping to find a boyfriend for the few days of camp, but seldom came home satisfied. In fact, one summer (I think I was 16 - what a hard age!) the boyfriend issue resulted in a talking strike with my closest brother, Mark.

We were very close back then (sadly, not so much anymore) and consulted each other regularly in that realm. That summer, I had a crush on a guy named Al, who was, ironically, from Indiana. My best friends, Darla and Kathleen, were also from Indiana. We spent the whole ten days hanging out in a big group together, but Al decided to make Darla his girlfriend. I must admit, there is a ride at Six Flags Great America, which I cannot ride without thinking of Al. I had ridden it with him and it was an emotional high back then.

As we were driving home from that encampment, we were discussing the week and all the fun that we had. Mark had been in a cabin with Al and I confessed to my intense crush. My brother casually informed me that they had actually had a conversation about me one night and here is how it went:

Al: I need your advice. I like two girls and I can't decide which one I want to go out with.

Mark: Well, who are the girls?

Al: Darla and your sister, Wendy.

Mark: I, personally think you should go out with Darla. If you go out with my sister, it will only be a fling (his reasoning was that I lived in Chicago, whereas Darla lived in Indiana, thus Al would continue to have more steady contact with her).

So, Al took Mark's advice. If asked today, I would say his advice was sound. But during that drive home, I was seething. I really liked that guy. He was funny. We laughed a ton. He was blond (very helpful, since I always wanted my first child to be a blond haired, blue-eyed boy). I didn't speak to Mark again for at least a week, possibly two. I was crushed (of course, this wasn't any different from any other drive home from camp, because I can only remember two camp "flings" and both of them were wrought with confusion).

Still, history bears out evidence of his wisdom. Al and Darla became a definite item. In fact, a few years later, they got married. Here's the sad bit. They ended up divorcing and I think he's been married twice since then. Thankfully, Darla (who still lives in Indiana, but I never get to see her) remarried and now has a beautiful family of boys. She even named her first-born son the same name I gave mine without knowing it.

So, my blond, blue-eyed first born was a hit with the girls. I bet that made him feel good. I don't know that I want him to follow his dad's footsteps (my husband was always a BIG hit with girls - many girls), but I don't want him to follow mine and feel like nobody was ever interested. They gave each camper a t-shirt and my son's is covered with autographs from various girls. (Ex.: "Lola heart's U"; "I L Y! Lexie"; "I heart U! Taylor"; "heart Jakanda heart"; "Candice J - I heart U!"; "Jamie heart U"; and "Diana hearts U!")

The other thing he couldn't stop talking about was paintball. His team won the championship, beating four other teams. He proudly showed me his bruises. I asked if they hurt and he said, "Yeah, but they were worth it."

I have washed his clothes and stacked them to re-pack the suitcase tomorrow morning. He did typical boy things: he threw all of his dirty clothes in a bundle into the suitcase, including his wet towel (despite the fact that I sent a separate plastic bag with instructions to put all the wet things in it), he lost his flashlight, and he piled all the toiletries into the suitcase pocket without placing them in the ziploc bag I had packed them in (so, the pocket was a mess of AXE shower gel - YAH-RAH!).

He'll probably play more paintball at Music Camp this coming week. He'll probably acquire more bruises. But, he won't forget these days any more than I have forgotten my old camp days. My bruised heart healed. I have a loving husband now and even though he has dark hair, I still managed to have three blond, blue-eyed boys. Plus, I have lots of happy memories. What a thrill to watch my sons make their own happy memories.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Summer Haiku

Bia has been on a campaign this summer to get her family to write haiku (she does all these clever little things to create memories for her family - like having her kids send postcards home to themselves while they are away on a family trip).

So, to honor Bia, here is my summer haiku for today:

Life with two, not three,
Should be easier than this.
Sad to say, it's not!

If I weren't so gosh-darned wordy, I'd leave it at that. If you want to stop reading, you can!

This morning, MS slept until 10 a.m., so it was really no problem explaining to him that if he had actually gone to bed when I put him down at 9 p.m. instead of repeatedly coming out for bathroom trips and to check on Mommy, he would have woken earlier and we wouldn't have missed the "Bee Movie." I still made him hustle, though, because I intended to head to our nearest Aldi store (a fabulous grocery store where you save money and the food is often better than the name brands being sold in the big chain grocers) which is a 25 minute drive away (I'm thinking maybe I should calculate the money spent on gas versus the money saved, to see whether this is still a worthwhile venture).

Alas, I didn't move as quickly as we should have, so our morning was frantic clear up until nap time. I had scheduled a doctor appointment with our family physician (they always seem to make you do that before seeing a specialist - even though you know you need to see a specialist) for 1:30. We arrived home at 12:45 and I hadn't even fed the boys lunch yet. I had to feed them in the van, while I unloaded groceries. MS managed a Kraft Bagel-fuls (convenient and delicious, but too pricey without introductory offers and a coupon) and a banana without too much mess. YS munched Quaker Oatmeal Squares from a bowl (and, yes, spilled the bowl while I was running back and forth, but managed to retrieve the pieces which fell into his car seat) and a banana (he seemed to be ready to throw his last bit right across the van, but thankfully, with many pleas from me and extra correction from his helpful older brother - "DON'T THROW IT, BROTHER! DON'T THROW IT, BROTHER! NO, BABY! NO, BABY! DON'T THROW IT, BROTHER!" - he held it in his hand until I took it from him).

As I signed in at 1:40, I apologized. The receptionist replied, "Your appointment was for 1:45, so you're doing fine." I just made the appointment this morning! You would think it wouldn't be possible to forget the time. You would think.

During our 15 minute wait (thank goodness, it wasn't longer), the boys played with the germ-ridden toys in the waiting room (sorry, my husband is a germophobe and it has rubbed off on me). Gee, will we find ourselves back in that office before the week is out, for new ailments? When they tired of that, they began to climb the furniture and pull on the mini-blinds. MS had a very intriguing question which I couldn't answer:

"Mommy, look at the roof of the building down there (roof of the entryway). Why are there all those rocks on the roof?"

Now I'm thinking I should have answered, "To keep superheroes from trying to walk on the roof of a building!"

When climbing furniture was no longer appealing, they decided to chase each other from one side of the waiting room to the other. Then came wrestling moves. When I told MS to sit on a chair, he said he really wanted to wrestle me. Then he shouted, "T-BAG!!" (must be some wrestling move ES has taught him.)

The real fun came when I was shown to an examining room. I'm trying to communicate the history of these rashes and all of their various forms, plus the numerous creams and treatments I have already tried, all while trying to rein in two rambunctious, barely fed, nap-ready boys. Perhaps, this is why I haven't sought professional help again recently. And let me tell you, I need more professional help than just rash relief!

The end result: The doctor referred me to a dermatologist. Thankfully, the name sounded familiar because it is the same dermatologist my ob/gyn referred me to when I was dealing with the rash during pregnancy. Unfortunately, at that time I was living in IL and didn't really want to schedule another doctor appointment in Indiana, so I went with the Rockford dermatologist. We'll see if this dermatologist can get to the bottom of my itching issues.

So, you see, I am really missing the third son in our package. If ES had been here, my day might have played out differently. Here's what I envisioned: With ES's help, we would have made it out the door more quickly this morning. Then, he would have groaned about having to go shopping and would have begged to be allowed to stay in the van with the two little ones. I would have given in and rolled down the windows, locked the car, and left him in charge while I scurried through my Aldi shopping in quiet comfort and haste. This would have put us home earlier. Again, with ES's help, I could have unloaded the groceries faster and had help with hand-washing. After a similarly easy lunch, I probably would have put YS down for a nap (he naps in our room in a pack-n-play because MS is a reluctant napper now), put MS in his room with a book on CD and left them home with ES.

Think of that quiet, magazine-reading wait in the doctor's office. Not giving the slightest notice to the looks of other patients while waiting - there'd probably be no looks. Stepping on the scale without trying to keep watch on MS who had been told to hold YS's hand to keep him sitting on the bench instead of running off. Being able to talk with the doctor uninterrupted. Listening every minute for the cell phone and loving every minute when it didn't ring. Coming home to find ...

Okay - let's ditch the romantic dreams. It wouldn't have played out any better, probably. ES may have killed MS. That would have been an interesting phone call to receive. Plus, they would have bickered, whined and fought all morning, right?

Really, the day went fairly well considering our tight schedule. MS skipped a nap. YS had a brief nap. They both ate lots of fruits and veggies at dinner. They were both in bed and asleep by 9:30. Success!

Well, I still hope ES is having fun at camp. And, if I could get my hands on a paintball gun, I think it would be really good therapy. Who knows, maybe the rash would go away on its own if I just had a week at camp on my own!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lift Up Another Devastated Family

Just wanted to quickly ask readers to be remembering another family dealing with a devastating cancer blow. My sister-in-law, Mary, mentioned it on Amelia's site. The parents of Aaron Quevedo, a little 11 month old boy, have been told to take their son home because there is nothing more which can be done for him. This must be devastating news. If you wish to drop them a line of encouragement or support, visit Aaron's site.

Itching Issues

In reading the comments to my last post, I find myself thinking, "Why don't I get myself to a doctor about this immediately?" I know life is busy, but if one of my kids manifested such a rash (in fact, MS battled several severe outbreaks of eczema when we first moved here) I'd take them as soon as possible. I suppose partly, it is a mother's way (we often remember to take care of others, but forget to take care of ourselves). Partly, it is a distrust of ever finding a real solution or a true diagnosis.

My itching issues began about seven years ago, in various forms. I saw my regular doctor. Then I saw a specialist gynecologist. After multiple tests and blood work, nothing was determined. The itching may have abated for a while, then began to appear in more various places. I consulted a dermatologist who ruled it "dry skin." When this answer and his treatment didn't help, I went back and he did some sort of scratch test and ruled that my skin shows lines when you scratch it. I forget the medical term, but do remember that it had "graph" in it, which means to write. Anyone want to write a novel on my body? Illustrated Woman , anyone?

By my third visit to this dermatologist, I didn't really have much faith in him and basically just gave up. The rash must have gone away (or at least enough to lessen my drive to have it treated).

Then, I became pregnant with my third son and began the itching issues all over again (this time more intense than I had ever before experienced - incapacitating almost). I visited a specialist in Chicago and was given a steroid cream (the same one recently prescribed for my ES when he had an outbreak of poison ivy). I visited yet another dermatologist in the midst of our move to Indiana. She prescribed something, but we were very busy and I took a while to fill it and then didn't even use it before I entered the second trimester and the itching just disappeared.

It remained dormant through the rest of the pregnancy and into the months that I was breastfeeding. Six months ago, the itching resurfaced, but in a minimal way and I would alternate between treating it with the Fluocinonide - Lidex - that our IN dermatologist had prescribed for MS and the other steroid I had been prescribed. I've sought out natural cures for itching. I've tried drinking water with apple cider vinegar (something about improving the pH balances within your body). I've tried applying ice. With its sporadic nature, I wonder if it is somehow hormonal?

I guess I just doubt than anyone will be able to figure out what is up with my body. I should have called today, to schedule yet another doctor appointment (especially now that I have such visible evidence of my dilemma). Did I? No.

We had a wonderful day. We took a long walk in the park (side note: why must you other families bring your children to wade in the horrendous creek water every time we walk in the park? MS is convinced that I should let him wade in the creek just like those other families, but I know that my husband would be livid if I did that! ah the filth! the disease! the possible skin infections you could get!), did some grocery shopping, had lunch and fat naps, then headed off for a Customer Appreciation Party at a Chik-Fil-A in a nearby town.

They had advertised free samplings of their food, jump castles, pony rides, games, face painting and, the clincher, SUPERHEROES! We were not disappointed. MS had a blast talking to Spiderman, Batman, and a Power Ranger. He had worn his own Batman get-up, so Batman felt a bit of kinship with him. Of course, I don't think Batman appreciated MS's fervor entirely. Especially when he was up on the top of the building, throwing down stuffed Chik-Fil-A cows and MS called up that he wanted him to jump down so that we could watch him scale the walls!

After having so much fun today, I doubt I'll try to manage the free "Bee Movie" tomorrow. If MS complains, I'll just inform him that Mommy needs to schedule a doctor appointment for her unexplained rash. Of course, he will just look at it and say what he always says, "Mommy, you just need to put some BFI powder on it (this was found in the cupboards of this old home - who knows when my husband's grandmother purchased it - and it did help ES with his poison ivy, so MS swears by it now and wants to sprinkle it on every available itch). Anybody ever hear of BFI powder? Anybody know why it is no longer available?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Random Thoughts

Read a blog tonight about a family's vacation to Mackinac Island in Michigan! - Here is one destination I would love to visit as a family. If you have ever been there, what do you recommend during such a visit? And, if you've been there, but haven't viewed the movie "Somewhere in Time," starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, then you have a lovely treat awaiting you. The movie was filmed on Mackinac Island and is one of my favourites (yes, that's a British spelling!).

Am praying for the following people tonight: Kennedy Garcia (post-surgery); Coleman Larson & family; my niece Amelia & family (as they return from a family trip and have Amelia's dr. appt.); and my in-laws.

Not sure if my father-in-law will live to see his next birthday (I believe it will be his 86th).

Don't know if my mother-in-law will survive the emotional toll of caring for him in the midst of all his pain and relentless medical difficulties.

Our house will sure seem quieter this week (I couldn't write QUIET because MS will still be here!): This morning I dropped ES off at the corps (Salvation Army church building) because he is headed off to Jr. High Camp for five days. He returns on Friday afternoon, but I will turn around and take him back to the corps to attend Music Camp from July 12-19th. I am hoping he has a wonderful time and praying that he takes in as much spiritual nourishment as possible. I know he is looking forward to playing paintball there!

Must Lose Weight! - Our annual 10-day Bible camp (CBLI) begins in less than three weeks. I am very much looking forward to it, but feeling a bit self-conscious since I have gained a bit of weight in the mid-section in the past six months. Of course, our cook-out at my brother-in-law's house on the 4th didn't help things in that area. He grilled and also presented us with his homemade ice-cream (chocolate peanut butter). I hope my nicer clothes still fit (since I hardly ever wear them while caring for these messy boys).

The prizes at the library might not keep my reluctant ES reading this summer! - This morning we popped into the library quickly so that he could get his weekly stamp and prize for reading. Last year, as I mentioned before, he was thrilled when one week they offered a ticket to Indiana Beach. The librarian was nice and let him pick from two different week's prizes (since he had also listened to a book on tape with the family during a car-trip in June). Get this: One box held small wrist tattoos and the other held pirate key-chains. He cheerfully decided to give them to MS. Thankfully, he will still be entered for the grand prizes (one of which is a free guitar lesson at the local music store).

How many text messages will have accumulated on ES's cell phone by the time he returns from camp??? How many phone calls will we get from his friends? So far - only one, but it was a good one. Michael, ES's best friend from IL, called and it was confirmed with his mother that he will be able to come home with us after CBLI for half a week.

Overwhelming desire to figure out how to convince hubby to let me attend Blog Indiana. So far I have mentioned it in passing and he laughed it off. Don't know if he was serious or just kidding. Would it be wrong to sign up for it without his consent and then just meet him at the door when he returns home from work that Saturday to say, "Hi, Honey. Here are the kids. I'm going to a blogging conference. See Ya!" Probably.

UGLY - is the only word that would describe my legs right now. I'm not sure if it is an outbreak of eczema or not, but I'm really going insane with all the intense itching on my body (various patches besides legs, too - seems to crop up from contact areas as well, like bra straps, watch band, waist, etc.). Had a similar outbreak prior to son #3 and have been to many doctors, but never seem to get relief. Groan.

Grateful for my evening hours of quiet! - I don't know how I'd get by if I didn't have a few hours to myself each evening. Tonight I read, then rode the ancient exercycle downstairs (a relic from my in-laws), then logged on to read mail and other blogs. I feel recharged.

Hoping I'll still get enough sleep, despite getting recharged on the computer.

Tempted to try to take my MS and YS to a free movie this Wednesday. It is called the "Bee Movie" and MS had wanted to see it back when all the commercials were showing. Perhaps it is an insane prospect, since YS is only 18 months old.

Summer is going by so quickly. Once ES returns from his two camps, we have one week at home and then head off to CBLI. After CBLI, we will try to fit in a trip to the Indiana State Fair. Then, school resumes shortly after that.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Warning! Every Mother of Toddlers has to Share at Least One Poop Post!

Feel free to skip this post if you'd rather not read about toddlers and poop! I know there is a limited readership who will read this with relish because they are in the midst of raising toddlers, too. But, if I were out of this stage, I would skip this post!

I'm not sure what the answer is to our dilemma of MS and bathrooms. After Wednesday, I put a lock on the bathroom doors upstairs and accompanied him to the bathroom every time he needed to use it. But, that isn't really working either. That boy seems to always come to mischief when he enters the bathroom.

On Wednesday afternoon, I attempted to put the two little boys down for a nap. YS seemed to go down very easily, but MS fought it desperately. After two short books, he pulled out the ultimate manipulation weapon. He declared he had to poop!

The child CAN poop in a toilet. He has done it at least three or four times before. With my ES, that was all it took. The first time he had success on the potty, he was entirely trained. MS knows that he will get a tattoo for each time he goes #2 on the potty and will get to play with a special toy (last time it was finger paints, but he used them all up). However, he still requests a diaper and the privacy of his room.

This time he decided he wanted to watch a video while taking care of business, so I put on the video and headed off to clean the kitchen from lunch. I checked on him from time to time, but he does often take quite a while (he has had issues in this area and been on Miralax since he turned two).

The next time I checked on him, he was in the bathroom by the sink. I assumed he was getting into his usual mischief (taking toys in and cleaning the toys and the sink with soap and a sponge). However, he had that look about his face which clearly states, "All is NOT WELL."

I asked what he was doing and he mildly replied "cleaning the sink."

I said, "It wasn't even dirty! I just cleaned it this morning."

He replied, "But, I got it dirty."


"Well, I put some poop in the sink."

"Your diaper is still on. ..."

"I know. I put my fingers down into my butt and then wiped it off on the sink. So then, I had to clean it."

I said, "Oh, just GREAT! You know you are not supposed to put your hands down in it!"

I wish that were the end of the conversation, but it wasn't. He then informed me that I would have to throw his toothbrush out, because he used it to scrub the sink. (Two praises: He did do a good job - I didn't see a spot of poop on the sink or his toothbrush! I'm also thrilled that he understood we would have to throw out the toothbrush. He could have just decided to brush his teeth once he was done cleaning the sink!)

After cleaning up his bottom, I headed back to give an adult cleaning to the bathroom and throw out his toothbrush. Alas, I noticed a small spot of something on YS's toothbrush. After calling MS to the carpet again, he admitted that he used his little brother's toothbrush, too, but not his older brother's (he's gotten in trouble for that before, because ES has special tools for his braces). Oh, joy!

For the rest of the afternoon, I kept him right by my side, until it came time for dinner preparation. The two little boys were on the back porch playing. At some point when my back was turned (probably putting something into the oven), MS must have slipped off to the downstairs bathroom. This is where my ES showers. My husband was downstairs exercising. When he headed upstairs for his shower and dinner, he stopped off in that bathroom and discovered MS had been up to no good again. MS had taken ES's shampoo bottle and drawn a circle or something on the rug outside the shower. The bottle was almost empty.

When confronted, he always admits his actions and realizes that he will be disciplined. He doesn't like the discipline. So, why is he a repeat offender?? I suppose God is wondering the same thing about me (and countless others who know what is right, but choose to do wrong repeatedly). Thankfully, God never asks to get out of His job, right! He just keeps loving me in spite of my poop and mischief.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

This is Where I'm At

Lately, I've been dissatisfied, petulant, frustrated, angry, ill-equipped and bored. It's my job! I find it is getting to me. I'm 100% behind the idea of being the primary care-giver to your children during the first five years of life. I'm just not always sure that I'm capable of being the primary care-giver for MY children during the first five years of their lives (indeed, we wonder if one of them will make it through the first five years of life!).

In a lot of ways, I love being home with my kids. I get up in the morning when the first little boy wakes up (we've been having late nights recently, so that is usually 8 a.m. these days). I love being able to decide, on the spur of the moment, that we will go and walk in the park. I love watching them play (today has been full of tickle fests, since MS discovered that he can rub his chin into a particular spot just below ES's collar bone and it elicits uncontrollable laughter). I love reading to the little boys. I love singing songs to them at night before bed (the big request for the past week has been "Little Bunny Foo-Foo," but someday I want to do a post about some of the songs we sing). I love the care-free nature of our days.

But, there are quite a few things I have trouble with. Many days, I feel like I have accomplished next to nothing with my day. I look at my house and wonder if I have made even the tiniest dent in what should be going on (especially in the areas of cleaning and organizing). Lots of times, I feel like I am three steps behind these boys, finding their new messes just as they finish making them. How tired I get of waking up to the task of preparing food, cleaning up from preparing food, cleaning up from the messes made while I was preparing food and cleaning up, etc. ad nauseum. Endless care-taking. Endless cleaning (not my favorite task in the world, I'll admit). Endless intervention. Endless requests. Endless regret when I haven't been as diligent with watching what they are up to as I should have been.

I think to myself, "I'm not the right person for this job!" Of course, I've had those thoughts before in a few other jobs. I remember sitting in the church office where I was a secretary, thinking, "What in the world am I doing here? I want to be teaching, but instead I sit here fielding everyone's questions about what should be included in Sunday's bulletin."

I remember typing thousands of addresses into a data bank for Solo Cup Company for some promotion they had in exchange for sending in box-tops. It was work. It was an income. But, I found it hard to find meaning and significance.

Then, there were the times when I was working as an individual assistant. I have a full teaching degree, plus a master's degree. I took the job for very specific reasons and those reasons were well worth the step down on the totem pole (I was able to have the same schedule as my son, without taking home all the grading, lesson plans, administrative details of a teacher; I had insurance for the pregnancy we were contemplating; I was able to work with students without being entirely responsible for discipline; etc.). But, it doesn't take much to bring me back to moments sitting in a basement with an autistic student. I would listen to his wail, watch his physical stims, look at the wall and wonder why in the world I was there.

I know my role as mother is very meaningful and significant. I understand the magnitude of the gift I've been given. But, blimey, there are days when I'm just not up for it. There are days when I think God must have made an error in assigning me this task. It is too boring, too mundane, too tiresome, too frustrating. There are days when I long for something where the rewards are immediately visible. I think, if only I had a different job, I would feel like I am really accomplishing something.

I have to remind myself that I have felt this way in other jobs, because I know that whatever else is out there, isn't really the answer to my restlessness in motherhood at the moment. I have to call to mind encouragements from the past to get me through today.

One of those encouragements I have been trying to dredge up, without quite the success I had hoped, was a story I remember someone sharing in a Salvation Army Home League meeting (or perhaps my memories are just fuzzy, because I don't really ever remember belonging to Home League). I think the person was reading from a Salvation Army lesson book prepared specifically for Home League meetings (for non-Army readers: Home League is a women's group).

I remember the story clearly, but cannot find any documentation on it anywhere. Here is what I recall: I believe the story is about Mrs. Lt. Col. Lyell Rader. I believe it told the story of her early life and the longings she had to become a missionary. This woman longed to be used of God on the mission field, yet the Lord led her down the path of motherhood here in the States. The denouement to the story was the clincher for cementing it in my memory. If you look at the line of her off-spring, you realize that this woman nurtured many missionaries (one of her sons even went on to become a General of The Salvation Army). I wish I could find the exact story. Perhaps my mother will remember this and call to say she actually has the print version of this.

Anyway, I have been reminding myself of this story. Not because I think I'm raising missionaries (that would be a surprise to me). I'm just hoping that my efforts here (even when I am in the dumps feeling ill-equipped and unprepared for my calling) will see fruit that I wouldn't have dreamed.

While looking for documentation for the "Mother Rader Story," I did stumble upon something by Lt. Col. Damon Rader (oh, more blog fodder - and stories very dear to my heart). It was only a brief letter written in response to gifts for a radio station for Chikankata in Zambia. But at the end of his letter, he shared a passage from 2 Thess. 1:11 - The Message:

"Pray that our God will make us fit for what he's called us to be, pray that he'll fill our good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy, so that it all amounts to something."

How I needed those words! How I needed his encouragement! May God truly make me fit for this challenging job of raising challenging boys (no - I'm not telling what MS did yesterday just yet!). May He fill me with His own energy for this task. May He remind me to relish this task while I have it. May He one day say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Book Review: That Wild Berries Should Grow

That Wild Berries Should Grow is another of Gloria Whelan's earlier novels. This one was published by Eerdman's in 1994. I tried to find the same image that graces the cover of the library copy I read, but alas, it was unavailable on the web. Once again, I would have to say that Gloria Whelan has written a book which is well-worth reading.

I suppose the description of the book hooked me because it tells the tale of a young girl who must leave her life in the busy, exciting city of Detroit, to spend a summer improving her health by living with her grandparents in the country, in a cottage beside Lake Huron. This book is like a romp in the country. It is a leisurely stroll through one girl's summer and how her attitudes change towards life in the country. Not much in the way of plot, but many of the passages are just beautiful to read. Each chapter begins with a poem.

The book appealed to me on other levels as well. Elsa's grandparents are German, so the book has smatterings of German words and phrases throughout. My maternal grandmother was from Germany and my mother spoke a bit of German while we were growing up. So, when I entered high school and needed to select a language to take, I chose German. Then, I took German again in college and finally a brief amount while studying for my master's degree. I should be able to speak it, right! Nicht so gut! Ein bisschen.

And one more personal observation: In one of the final chapters, Elsa gives a description of her grandmama, prefaced with a beautiful poem. I won't quote the whole poem, but here are a few key lines I must respond to:

I shadow her, surprised

at what her clever hands can do,

thankful for her silence,

for sometimes when she speaks

her words are sour as

green apples.


Her bread dough swells

and puffs and browns

to perfect loaves,

for everything

my grandmother touches

with her hands

undoes her angry words.

Ah, a cold hard German woman! At the end of the chapter devoted to Grandmama, Elsa remarks, "Whatever had made Grandmama angry in the morning had disappeared into the clean clothes and the bread and the garden and the jars of perfect peaches." So, my response? Well, I think today I have been a cold, hard German woman. Like Elsa's Grandmama, I have been full of anger. I suppose this wouldn't be a bad thing, if I could harness Grandmama's productivity as well. Alas, I get the German anger but not the productivity or hard-working drive!