Saturday, August 30, 2008

Heat, Goldfish and Bad Water - Oh, My!


I knew that my hubby had to work this morning. Yet, for some strange reason, I decided to take all three boys to a parade and festival in a tiny farm-town nearby. It was billed as the biggest parade of our county and boasted the special attraction of an Olympic medalist as Grand Marshall, leading the parade in an Indy 500 pace car. My little guys have never been to a parade, so I thought it would be a good experience.

ES had a great time hanging out with friends and getting his hair spray-painted blue. MS had a great time. YS and myself? Not so much! YS, we have found, is very sensitive to the heat. After a few moments outside, he often turns a rosy shade of pink and sweat drips from his hair. I had brought a sippy cup of water for both of the little boys and they polished them off within the first half hour.

I'm not sure exactly how long the parade route is. We simply pushed through the crowds near the first intersection until we were blocked in and couldn't really move any more if we had wanted to. Thus, we were sandwiched between a few nice older individuals sitting on the curb and a couple of people standing behind us, leaning against a building. YS was furious that I expected him to stay in the stroller (compounded by the fact that MS was walking - I didn't have the energy to bring the double stroller and plow through crowds). In an attempt to snatch a tiny bit of shade, I had pulled the stroller up next to a large pot of flowers. YS decided to express his frustration by ripping several of the petals off.

MS continued to complain that he didn't want to come to a parade. He wanted to play outside at home and catch "toadies." His attitude improved when he began to realize that the people in the parade were tossing out candy from time to time. I couldn't keep a close eye on MS, since I was people-locked (is that the equivalent of land-locked, when trapped on a parade sidewalk?), but thankfully, the older people in front of us seemed to help him out into the street to scoop up candy and often brought him some (I think they thought he was missing out, because he would tend to get one piece and then turn and run back to me in wonder showing me his new piece of candy).

All was going reasonably well (apart from the temperature - in the nineties, on pavement, in direct sunlight), until both boys drained their sippies and we experienced a five minute gap while waiting for some alumni association from the local high school to finally pass (others in the crowd were actually yelling "Hurry Up!" - I couldn't muster such boldness, but I did notice this as the beginning of the end for us!). I was concerned about YS getting heat stroke, so I told the little boys we would head back to the van, turn on the air conditioning and call ES on his cell phone.

On our way back to the van, we passed a booth selling tenderloins, ice cream and drinks. I purchased two bottles of water. I poured the first one into the two sippies, drank the last few ounces and dropped the second bottle of water in the stroller basket. Unfortunately, I saw a sign for garage sales and was, I thought, "momentarily" diverted.

This diversion ended up being a lengthy one. For, in the cordoned off street near the houses holding the garage sales, the kiddie rides were set up. After the great bargain of a large dinosaur for ten cents and a sturdy pair of rain boots (MS loves his present pair) for 75 cents, MS begged me to let him ride the ponies. I purchased 10 dollars worth of tickets and stood with YS, whining in the stroller, watching MS ride the ponies, then go down an inflated slide, then jump in a jump castle (YS finally perked up and decided to join brother for this, but only lasted 30seconds because he kept falling over when bigger kids jumped - good thing for the bargains at the garage sale, in the face of this $2 loss).

In the midst of the crowds, the heat, the whining toddler and the toddler who wanted to ride 'til the cows came home, I managed to hear my cell phone ring. ES was at a booth? house? - who knows where? - where they were giving away free boxer puppies. He wanted to know if we could "pretty-please" bring one home (this after a similar request regarding free kittens yesterday - alas, hubby is allergic to cats). I informed him that there was no way in the world I was going to greet Dad this afternoon with a pup. ES persisted and decided to call his Dad. Of course, Dad called me to say "Who gives away boxer pups? We don't know if they have papers or shots or anything. This is the last thing we need. We're going to have to say no." Thank heavens we were both on the same page on that one!

After hanging up, I noticed my own thirst and grabbed for the second bottle of water. Lawd Almighty! It was the most disgusting water I have ever tasted in my entire life. I couldn't take more than a sip. The bottle even seemed old. It looked like the label had been torn off in parts (how come I didn't notice that when I bought it? could it be the two hot, whining toddlers prattling in my ears?). When we finally connected with ES and his friends, ES begged for some water as well. I offered him my bottle, with a personal disclaimer. He couldn't drink it either.

While waiting for ES to get his hair painted blue, MS noticed a small game for a dollar (5 attempts to toss a ping-pong ball into tiny goldfish bowls). I agreed. He won. The prize was a goldfish. He was thrilled (at least it is better than the pet snake he has been begging for or the cat or the dog)!

On the way home, ES and I were having a conversation about the possible source of the bad water. We are seriously wondering if the vender refilled an empty bottle with tap water or well water. Of course, ES offered up other worse scenarios, but I chose to ignore them. I was happily drinking the warm water I had left for myself in the van, when suddenly, I dropped that as well, all over the van floor. UGH! Thankfully, no library books were doused.

I wanted to urge MS to greet Daddy with the thrilling news that we brought home a new pet. I figured he would flip out and think that I had decided to give in and get the dog. Alas, MS greeted him with the fish in hand (and actually carried the little plastic bag around most of the afternoon). He has been using our regular little fish tank when he catches "toadies" every day, and managed to crack the plastic on the bottom. Unfortunately, "Scooby Doo" - such a clever, unique name MS chose for his fish - will have to reside in a fish bowl (the worst place for a goldfish, I know). Odds are, he'll be dead by morning anyway! I think this is probably the first in a long line of pets for my middle son (not counting the dead cicada he identified as his pet when his teacher asked about pets)!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Slogging Too Much to be Blogging

One of my favorite aspects of Cardiogirl's blog, is that she blogs with anticipated regularity (Monday through Friday) and she responds to all comments in her comment section (calling it her VIP Lounge), so that it feels like participating in a community discussion. At one point, she even had a telephone option for her VIP lounge and I was able to call in, as well as hear other regular readers. In teen-speak, she is "the bomb." (Unfortunately, that may no longer be teen-speak, since I've been out of that loop for a few years while home with little ones.) I love logging on every weekday and knowing I will hear something from Cardiogirl.

Although I would love to have the following she has and would be thrilled if my comment section felt like a community discussion, I haven't been able to muster it this week. I'm really dragging. I can't stay awake in the evenings. When I have tried to come on and write, my brain has been severely muddled. Plus, I'm feeling somewhat discouraged (not sure exactly what is the cause, but it may have to do with the vague, inconvenient illnesses which we have been battling). Then, I log on and read about other families who are facing serious illnesses and even devastating losses and I feel guilty for my discouragement over unknown issues which merely inconvenience us.

I have so much to be thankful for. One would think that I could find something positive to write about at least every other day. However, this week has been a serious no-go! MS has said some precocious things, I wish I had preserved here. YS is doing well taking his inhaler twice a day. We are awaiting the results of some further tests taken to determine the source of ES's stomach woes. My hubby has been exercising regularly in the evenings in an attempt to stave off the pre-diabetes state which his doctor warned him about. Yet, when I try to write, everything lacks a luster or enthusiasm.

So, for now, I have nothing of great interest to share. I have no enthusiasm with which to share it. I'm hoping this passes soon. For me, not wanting to write is a sad state of affairs (sometimes it seems like that is my life's-blood). I think I'm physically and mentally anemic. Anyone got some iron? I'm slogging off to bed now.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Brilliant New Words for the Dictionary

About a month ago, my friend, Jack Getz, sent me a forwarded e-mail with some new words created by individuals in the Mensa Society. I actually knew someone affiliated with Mensa at one point. It was the woman I babysat for while I was attending Wheaton (oh, the stories behind that!). She was an astoundingly sharp lady and she had an equally bright daughter. Missy, the daughter, had a very high IQ (I don't want to try to say what it was for fear that I will have remembered it wrong). They were both incredibly creative. Some of my favorite memories with the mother, Kate, were of times when we would sit in front of the television late in the evening. We would turn the sound off and create the dialogue ourselves. It was a hilarious exercise, especially because Kate was so good at it.

The e-mail attributed these words to a Washington Post article. I tried to follow the link and find the source, but couldn't. Still, these words are too funny not to pass along. I originally thought I would try to make up a whole paragraph using the words and then provide the definitions. Alas, I am not a member of Mensa, and I got stuck in the bozone layer. I'm not an ignoranus, but I'm not smart enough to use all these words in one paragraph. Darn!

So, here it is as I received it:

"Fresh Words

Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year's winners. Read them carefully. Each is an artificial word with only one letter altered from a real word. Some are terrifically innovative:

  1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
  2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
  3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people, that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The Bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
  4. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
  5. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
  6. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
  7. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
  8. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.
  9. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
  10. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
  11. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
  12. Glibido: All talk and no action
  13. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly - or when you're drunk.
  14. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
  15. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out
  16. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.
  17. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an ass."
Hope you enjoyed the laugh as much as I did. Maybe I should offer a special prize to the reader who can use all 17 words in your comment!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Oops!

My mouth quite often gets me into trouble. In fact, using this topic alone, I could probably blog a whole month of daily posts. It distresses me, too, because many times I feel deeply saddened by the outcome my verbal vomit produces (sometimes it is even penned puke - you would think that in the process of writing something down, I would realize that it isn't the best thing to say, but, alas, the knee-jerk tendency even occurs when I am writing).

A few days ago, I found myself re-hashing one of these incidents to my ES (I don't even know what brought on the conversation, although I know Amy's blog post about teaching prompted tonight's thoughts). It was yet another of those oops moments, where I instantly regret having spoken without really thinking. But, at the same time, I meant every word I said and only regretted the fact that someone may have been offended or hurt by it.

Back when I was teaching high school, I had my fair share of difficult students. Oftentimes, I found that the difficult students were the ones I remembered fondly at the end of the year. In the midst of the behavior I would feel supremely irked, but over time, I would come to appreciate that student and realize that those irksome moments were all part and parcel of the individual.

Brad J. was just such a student. He was a sophomore who was delegated to my freshman English class because he had failed freshman English at the school where he had previously attended (even his school switch had been prompted by behavior, I believe). He was fearless and outspoken. Crossing teachers seemed to be a challenge he eagerly anticipated. Quite often he would question my authority in front of the entire class. (I wonder if he has any regrets??)

By the end of the school year, I thought of Brad with a mix of frustration and deep fondness. You see, he was as colorful as he was defiant. One day, we were reading a play aloud in class. He raised his hand to volunteer for a particular part and I (what was I thinking?) agreed. In his usual way, drawing all attention to himself, he read with more expression and enthusiasm (and probably a fair amount of sarcasm)than I had ever heard before. The class was in stitches. I laughed along with the students. It was a day of teaching I would happily live over if I could. It was a day I wish I had been recording. Would I find it as funny in re-play? I don't know, but it was such a clear example of this student's vibrant personality and character.

Several years later, I was in counselling, struggling with a troubled marriage. I went for marital sessions, individual sessions and group therapy. (With all that counselling, I should be entirely fixed now, right? HA!) One day, as I sat waiting for my appointment, I was passing the time with the only other individual in the waiting room (I believe she was a member of my group). Suddenly, Brad J. bounded up the stairs of the entryway, without really even looking at me, and knocked on my counsellor's door. A moment later, a young woman entered and took a seat in the waiting area. I resumed conversation with my friend and commented on the appearance of Brad (I think we were both a bit stunned that someone could just go up to the door, knock and be allowed to enter, in the midst of the counsellor's schedule).

I began telling my friend about my knowledge of and experiences with Brad. I explained that he gave me quite a bit of difficulty in my classroom but that I had come to really like him. I told her about how colorful he was. I may have even told her about the day where he stole the show!

Our conversation only lasted a few minutes. Brad exited the counsellor's office and, with the young woman now trailing away with him, left the building. Immediately, I realized the young woman was probably "his young woman." She would, no doubt, recount to him my every word. I hadn't said anything rude about Brad, but I hadn't expected my words to be repeated to him.

I mentioned it in my appointment and the counsellor explained that Brad was hired to do some construction work. This was one of my more harmless moments. Knowing Brad, he probably sloughed off my teacher's opinion of him. Perhaps, he even wanted the girl to think he was a troubled student who both harassed and humored his teachers. For me, it was just one more time when I should have learned to think before I speak. Unfortunately, that lesson just keeps coming up again and again.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Book Review: The Good Husband of Zebra Drive



I didn't expect to read the 8th book in The Number One Ladies Detective Agency series so soon after reading the 7th book, however, I discovered our library did indeed have an audio version of the 8th book, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, and I was looking for another audio book for my drive to and from CBLI. The sad thing was I didn't end up listening on that particular long drive. Alas, when we headed off to camp, my ES brought along his CD player and had to sit in the front seat (the back seat was down to accomodate all our luggage). Of course, he had just burned a CD full of songs and listened to it almost the entire trip (at top volume, I'm sure). Even when the little boys were asleep, I didn't feel like listening to such a fine story with the background buzz of ES's music.

Alexander McCall Smith has done a splendid job of keeping this series going without running out of steam. He always seems to come up with a new wrinkle or distressing dilemma for the returning main characters, plus curious new cases for the detective agency to solve. One of the apprentices at the repair shop (which shares the detective agency offices) decides to start up his own business. Mma Ramotswe's "good husband," J.L.B. Matekoni, decides he would like to try his hand at solving a case, and Mma Makutsi decides to quit her job with the agency.

I always get a smile and a chuckle out of these books. I enjoy returning to hear the continuing saga of these well-loved characters. I especially enjoyed listening to the description of Mma Makutsi's job search. Of course, the narrator, Lisette Lecat, always does a fabulous job and I can honestly say, I will wait until the library has the 9th book, so that I can listen to her rendition. (I am struggling with the sadness of reading the next book in the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella because my library doesn't have the audio version. As I read, I still hear the British narrator in my head, but it isn't quite as thrilling!)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Freedom

I know that children grow at the speed of light. You blink and they are full grown and you wonder how that happened so quickly. However, over the last two years it has not FELT like my little ones were growing at the speed of light. When my ES was little, it didn't seem to go slowly, but I had a lot of other things in my life. I taught a high school Basic Life Skills class, I attended La Leche League meetings, I sang in a church choir, I went to Bible Study. I had an identity apart from my child.

For the last two years, the entirety of my identity has been caught up in these two little boys. They are like my right and left arms. When I move, they move with me. When I go shopping, they must go shopping, too (most of the time). When I want to exercise, I must find a way to do this with them (thus, my walks in the park pushing a double stroller with two hefty boys!).

But, the past two days have afforded me more opportunities to embrace freedom (from the bondage mothers sometimes feel when constantly saddled with small children). Yesterday, my ES was home sick from school. I had arranged an afternoon appointment with his doctor and my husband actually asked to leave work at lunch time, in order to stay with the two little boys.

When I returned home, I found that my husband had already put my YS down for his nap and MS was quietly playing. I headed to the kitchen to fix myself some lunch and my husband said he would get his lunch as well. I was surprised that he hadn't eaten yet. This is what freedom does to you. It quickly removes you from the reality of what life is like with time-consuming, demanding, needy children. He explained that, although I had gotten them in their seats with their lunch, the entire time we had been gone had been spent taking care of their various needs and cleaning them up, changing a diaper, finding sleepy bear, transitioning them to quiet time, etc.

Later, he stayed with the little boys again, as I headed to the middle school for "Meet the Teacher Night." The parents received their child's class schedule in their homeroom and then followed it for a mini-introduction to their child's typical day. Of course, I responded to this evening both as a parent and as a teacher.

I enjoyed listening to the teachers introduce their class, their expectations, their personal style. I chuckled as one teacher tried to explain his approach after two students had sat on the desks, telling their parents that this particular teacher doesn't ever talk, but just lets the students talk and do projects. I'm sure the students were trying to communicate why the teacher was cool. I'm sure the teacher was concerned that parents were thinking he "didn't make them do anything."

When I arrived at the 7th Grade Language Arts class, I revelled in paging through the brand new textbook. I wanted to see what my son would be reading this year. It was like a mini-fix to an education addict. A hit of what I enjoy doing - teaching literature.

Of course, I met with the teachers briefly, too (especially since ES thought I'd be good for bringing home his missed work). I mentioned to the language arts teacher that my son is a reluctant reader and that it pains me because I was an English teacher. I told the band instructor that even though ES has acquired a used drum set, he has now set his sights on a better drum set. It was an enjoyable evening, away from my children, but still focused on my children.

When I returned home, the little ones were already in bed and ES wanted to know what I thought of his teachers. He informed me that one of his teachers "doesn't like him." I asked why he thought that and he indicated that the teacher had made an example of him and yelled at him a few times already. I found it interesting that I had the same impression, prior to even knowing that my son experienced any difficulty with this particular teacher. I suggested he "kill the teacher with kindness" and give a glimpse of the brain behind the long hair.

Today was the first day of school for the little boys. ES woke up feeling sick again and stayed home from school. I gave ES a dose of Prevacid (we'll see if this helps) and gave YS his Flovent treatment. MS, happily, chose normal clothes! I had laid out backpacks, supply bags and lunches the night before, so we were relatively close to being on time. I was worried that YS would have a hard time, but after delivering him to his class, I dashed back out to get the supply bags and when I returned he was already quiet, sitting in the teacher's lap.

By the time I returned from taking the little boys, ES felt better, so I took him to school. When I arrived at home, I walked to the mailbox to get the newspaper. What a glorious feeling of freedom. I was home alone, walking back to the house with the paper and thoughts of a warm cup of tea to accompany it. I almost did a little happy dance!

I spent the morning tackling the little boys' bedroom. The amazing thing? I didn't even mind it. I enjoyed it. I'm sure it helped that I didn't have little boys underfoot, pulling down every pile that I completed sorting, interrupting with requests for a video or a snack or a story. I even pulled up the rug and hand washed the hard wood floor in their room. I played my own music (Shania Twain was the choice for today - who knows what it will be next Thursday morning) instead of listening to Halloween songs or Disney songs.

They had a wonderful time at school and were even allowed to sit next to each other for lunch. I had a wonderful time away from them. We all three took glorious naps this afternoon. And, when my husband returned home from work, he packed up his things, grabbed MS's bag and headed to my in-laws house with MS (he is going to help my niece move into a nearby apartment tomorrow and Grandma will keep an eye on MS).

After a quiet dinner with ES and YS, I prepared them for bed, knowing that the little guy probably wouldn't go down by 8:30 as I had intended because he had taken a three hour nap. I had made arrangements with my neighbor to go out for ice cream after YS went to bed. ES told me I should still go. He said he would let YS watch a video until 9:30 and then put him to bed. I decided to give it a try. I took my cell phone and headed off.

What a glorious treat to come home and find both boys asleep in bed. The ice cream was sinful (a brownie topped ice cream treat), the conversation enjoyable, and the time in adult company was refreshing. Oh, I see a light at the end of the tunnel. Things are beginning to speed up a bit. Maybe I'd better stop blinking so much now! I'm still licking my lips at the taste of freedom, though!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Book Review: Fablehaven


My mother recommended this book (although I don't believe she has read it, just heard good things about it). I searched our library, but couldn't find it. When I asked if I could secure the book through inter-library loan, the librarian said they would merely buy the book and I would be the first person allowed to check it out. I'm very sure the library will not regret this purchase! (Indeed, I couldn't even renew it because someone else had already placed a request for the book.)

Fablehaven, is a fantasy novel by Brandon Mull, which is sure to appeal to both children and adults. It tells the story of Kendra and Seth, two siblings who are sent to visit their grandparents while their parents go on a cruise. The grandparents are very mysterious (in fact, the grandmother is, somehow, missing and the grandfather institutes several strict rules, without explanation). They live on an estate called "Fablehaven," which is actually a sanctuary or preserve for mythical creatures. The children are expecting a boring two weeks (especially when they discover that the house, deep set among woods, offers no television or computer). However, life without technology proves to be exciting, intriguing and dangerous. With a quick moving plot and interesting characters, this story is sure to dazzle and will, no doubt, be made into a movie.

In fact, as I was searching for the cover photo to include with my review, I happened upon this comical You Tube video made by some amateur book-lovers. I will admit, it is probably hard to understand their video if you haven't read the book, but quite hilarious if you have. I did note that they have posted two other videos for the second and third books in this series, but I'll wait to view those since I will definitely be reading the other books (even if I have to purchase the set). The passion these young film-makers display is further evidence of the book's appeal. I would have loved to see something like this from my students when I asked them to interact with literature in a creative way!

There are so many people out there enjoying Brandon Mull's series, that a MySpace group has been formed. For individuals who have neglected the Harry Potter series, Brandon Mull offers a delightful alternative (more like C.S. Lewis' Narnia books). He provides a magical read with worthwhile moral lessons. He presents the juxtaposition of good and evil, without glamorizing evil. How I wish I were still working in Mrs. Brown's classroom, so I could read this to the fifth graders there! It would certainly be a read-aloud the students would anticipate during the day. I highly recommend this book for any parent searching for a good book to read with their children (or listen to on a car trip, since I noticed Amazon offers an audio version of the first book in the series).

Monday, August 18, 2008

I Need My Blog Because My Brain is Dead

Today I took YS into Indianapolis to Riley Children's Hospital to see a pediatric pulmonologist. I'm truly thankful that hubby was able to stay home with MS, so I didn't have to concentrate with both little boys in the room. I was a bit anxious about this trip because I'm not the world's greatest driver (alright, I've said that now! Also note, I'm not the world's WORST driver - this note is primarily for my immediate family, but I doubt I'll change their minds) and I get flustered when I am trying to find a new location. More thanks for the wonderful directions Riley sent.

I'm wondering why we always seem to schedule extra things in on a stressful day? My husband was supposed to take his car in last Monday. He shifted the appointment to this Monday and then we learned of YS's appointment. He said, "Not to worry, we'll just get the car to the shop by 8 a.m." I had to be at Riley at 9 a.m.

ES was being pokey this morning (still adjusting to getting up earlier for school), so my hubby graciously offered to drive him to school on his way to the shop. A while later, I dashed out the door with MS and YS and the papers for the appointment (minus several important things: a diaper bag, a stroller, and my cell phone). When I arrived at the shop, my hubby wasn't there. A man came out to ask who I was picking up. I gave the name and car description and he said "We don't have anyone fitting that description on the schedule today."

As Becky Bloomwood would say, "DON'T PANIC! DON'T PANIC!" Sorry, I DID panic. Where in the world could he be? It is the only shop we use! Did I misunderstand him? Oh rats, I don't even have my cell phone, so I can't reach him. What am I gonna do? I can't take MS with me - he's in his pjs with no shoes on his feet and no breakfast in his tummy.

I drove to the only other shop we had used in this area. No car and no hubby. MS suggested we should drive home. I decided to swing back to the original shop. There stood my husband. He was berating himself for agreeing to drive ES to school and was convinced that I would either be late to the appointment or get involved in an accident (such faith could move mountains, but there are no mountains between our home and Riley).

I followed the directions to a T and arrived in the parking garage at 8:58. By 9:02, with YS and his two Thomas cars and Sleepy Bear in my arms, I arrived at the reception desk. First question: YS's social security number. I don't know it. Husband's ss number? Again. I don't know it.

In the examining room, the doctor asked me to provide his health history. When I said that he really hadn't been sick at all until the 3 episodes of croup in the last six months, she probed further asking questions about breathing problems. A vague memory drifted in. Ah, yes. I did have to take him to the ER when he was 4 months old (hubby later informs me it was 2 months old, and he could probably even give the exact date!) for something related to breathing. Was it RSV? What was it? My brain couldn't even remember! I explained that I had called the "Ask-a-Nurse" number and held the phone to the baby's mouth and she told me to call an ambulance. I figured it would be quicker to drive (since it might take the ambulance a while to locate us out in the boonies) and that was my first frantic ER trip. That was also our first purchase of a nebulizer for breathing treatments.

The appointment went really well, I just wish I could retain medical information and questions more thoroughly. The doctor noted a hemangioma near his neck (this is a birth mark). After the questions, which I answered to the best of my (limited brain cell) ability, she diagnosed YS with recurrent croup, asthma (with a question mark) and noted the hemangioma on his file for future reference. He is in the age range/size range for bouts of croup. He could just be unlucky in encountering the virus which causes croup. However, many patients she sees for asthma were individuals who had recurrent croup at a younger age.

They cannot test for asthma at this point. However, she did indicate that it would be best to treat YS as if he has asthma as a preventative measure. I will administer two puffs of Flovent (a steroid inhaler) twice a day and will also use an albuterol inhaler, as needed (or the nebulizer, if we prefer that method).

In discussing the hemangioma, she indicated that sometimes infants who are born with one externally, may also have one internally (or on the trachea, and this might cause problems). The only way to determine if that is the case, would be to perform a bronchioscopy (where they put a tube down the throat, usually without sedation). Thankfully, she felt that this step would be unnecessary at this point. She noticed that he was very clingy with me during the examination and during the nurse's assessment (YS is already 36 inches tall and is not even two yet!). I was thankful that she didn't want to traumatize him (although he did have to get x-rays today - he didn't seem to mind afterwards, when they gave him Thomas the TE stickers).

She did offer to provide a prescription for an oral steroid which we could keep in our refrigerator in case another bout of croup came up, but I didn't feel comfortable (I guess I would prefer to take him to a professional, rather than making it my decision to administer the steroid). Perhaps, I will change my mind on that. All in all, I feel like YS is in good hands. We will return for a follow-up appointment in 2 months. If this is more medical news than you wanted or needed to read, realize that my blog sometimes serves as a substitute (or back-up disk) for my dead brain!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Held Hostage in Facebook Land

O.K. I'm not being held against my will. However, it is amazing how much time I have spent on Facebook in the last three or four days. It all started with one little friend request and then I noticed tons of people from my past whom I could re-connect with. It has been so much fun. Seriously, some of these people (I'm referring to Salvation Army friends from my past) have over 600 friends! It takes me forever to toggle through them all to see if there is another person hiding in the shadows of the Facebook Lounge.

I'm sure some of you are thinking, "Yeah, but they have that whole Friend Finder bit in there." I guess I just never really took the time to use it. I did search for Wheaton people, but that didn't really net many results. Suddenly, I'm finding between five and ten people a day. Wow! My sister even joined and she already has pictures up on her profile!

So to all my new/old friends on Facebook - I'm having the time of my life re-connecting with you. We'll see how many figure out that I have a blog (or care to come by and check it) - hee-hee! Wait a minute. I can't really figure that out unless they comment, since I still haven't bitten the bullet and added a Sitemeter.

I do need to cut back on this, however. YS is still in the throes of lingering croup and is waking quite a bit at night. He has an appointment with a pediatric pulmonologist on Monday. Hope that goes well.

I think I definitely need to read that Max Lucado book, Facing Your Giants, now, because I'm addicted to blogging and Facebook. Every night I promise I'll be in bed before midnight and every night I try to sneak in without waking my husband. It never works! He always says "I thought you were going to try to get to bed earlier!" Busted!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Book Review: God is More Than Enough


This was another book recommended by Mary, during my CBLI stint. I don't think I've read anything else by Tony Evans. It was very easy to read and held great encouragement. I have to admit, at first I was a bit leery, at the prospect of reviewing Psalm 23 word by word. It brought back memories of doing an inductive Bible study (you know the kind where they have you study Bible verses one word at a time, underlining and circling in different colors of highlighter - groan - not my favorite way to study the Bible). However, this was anything but tedious.

The interesting thing is that Mary said that she laid out the book recommendations before I even walked in her door. Once again, I get the feeling that God knew I needed to visit with Mary and knew she needed to offer me some books to read. I had packed a Maeve Binchy book. Oh, how I love a good Binchy book. But, the books I consumed during CBLI were definitely beneficial! And now, she's talkin' about sending me another book to read! Maybe I should just let my library card lapse (I have to pay $80 to renew it at the end of this month)!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Boys are such BOYS!

There are times when I chuckle to myself and say, "I just don't understand boys." This afternoon, I chuckled in that way when I looked out the kitchen window while preparing a quick dinner for MS. ES was in the back yard with his friend, Ian. They had built a bon-fire and were holding sticks with burning tips. Suddenly, Ian put one to his pants to pretend that it was a part of his body. Of course, my son had to follow suit. I stood there wondering why boys feel such a need to do that all the time.

It didn't stop there. Next, they proceeded to whip their real parts out and pee on the fire. They put it out with their dual streams of urine. Even viewing it from afar, I could tell that this was a moment of triumphant accomplishment. What's up with that? When I mentioned it to my husband, he said, "Yep, they're boys all right!"

Now, there are other times when I don't chuckle when I say, "I just don't understand boys." Unfortunately, I had one of those moments this evening. As MS and I left for the Preschool Open House, I had to stop and yell at ES. He and Ian were in the go-kart and had driven across the street to our neighbor's fine circular driveway (I think ES views it as a mini-go-kart range).

Earlier this week, he tried that for the first time and I told him he must first seek their permission. He didn't bother to go ask, but that night, our neighbors arrived at our door with a treat brought home from England (their son lives in London and they went over to welcome their first granddaughter). I mentioned his actions and they granted permission any time he likes (this is their country house, where they keep their horses, so they spend much of their time in a different home in Indianapolis).

Last night, my husband had informed me that he cancelled that permission because he caught ES crossing the road from our house to theirs ... right in front of an oncoming car. Hubby said ES didn't even look. So, I leaned my head out the van window and reminded him that his father had forbidden this. He began to argue about it being the best smooth track. I reminded him why he lost the privilege. I should have instructed him to put the go-kart away. Alas, I was in a hurry to get going.

When I returned home, after a lovely time out with just my MS, I was greeted by my ES. He informed me that he and Ian had crashed the go-kart into a tree and wanted me to come see it. What? Did he think I was passing out awards for kids who could wreck a vehicle? Did he think I would ooh and aah? He took me around back, while explaining what led up to the accident.

"It was Ian's fault. He was driving and I was steering (WHAT?) and we came around the corner and instead of releasing the gas, he pushed on the gas and we went right into this tree! The steering wheel came off. This bar right here is bent a little bit. Oh, and this thing back here is kind of off place now."

I was furious. And he couldn't seem to figure out why. I began to launch into him. Last year, he was content to ride around the meadow. He was careful enough, we would let him take MS for a ride. At the beginning of the summer, my husband watched him carefully take YS for a ride.

In the last few weeks, things have gradually deteriorated. He started having friends come over and ride with him. They attached a sled to the back and would go go-kart sledding. This led to allowing other kids to drive it (something my husband and I had a few conversations about, but never came to a final agreement on).

Then, the boys discovered some sort of bee or hornet nest in the ground out in the meadow. They brought out fly swatters and would drive by swatting at the things. I expressed my grave concerns, but my husband said to let ES get stung to learn the hard way. Next, he began riding the go-kart down the hill in the back yard and up around to the front meadow (uneven terrain). Of course, the speed gradually increased. Then came the venture to the neighbor's driveway. And finally, tonight ... full speed, into a tree!

I tried to replay this video (of the gradual deterioration - not an actual video) so that he could see how his recklessness has increased and caused him to take bigger and bigger risks. He tried to shift the blame. It is HIS go-kart and HIS responsibility to drive it safely and HE bears responsibility if HE allows someone else to drive HIS go-kart. And, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING HAVING ONE PERSON STEER AND THE OTHER CONTROL THE GAS!!!!!!! Of course, ES felt that my husband didn't blow up nearly as much about the whole thing.

I informed him that he would be paying for the repairs and I'm also thinking the go-kart is no longer HIS! He lost the ownership, when he didn't take care of it properly. I had just been mentioning the go-kart to my nephew, Eric, and asking him to come visit so that he could take a ride on it.

When I asked my husband why ES thought his response was gentler, he suggested that it is probably because he is a guy himself and knows how guys think. He understands that boys think they are invincible. Boys think that nothing will ever happen to them. Boys think that a crash is cool. Boys think the experience is worth whatever ill comes as a result.

Well, I might just be my son's worst nightmare for a few days. I doubt I'll be able to change the way he's hard-wired. The thrill of the crash may still seem worth his mother's wrath, but I have to vent my inability to get my brain around this kind of behavior! Half of me is jumping up and down inside, thanking the Lord that both boys weren't injured in the accident. The other half is jumping up and down, fuming that they didn't at least get whip-lash to teach them a lesson!

School Anticipation

Tonight, I attended the Open House for our Parent's Day Out/Preschool programming which MS and YS will attend this year. MS was very excited to go and meet his new teacher, since he moved up to the 3 year old class. Thanks to Indiana's cut-off date, he was in the 2 year old class all last year even though he turned 3 a few weeks after the class began. YS will have to meet his teacher on the first traumatic day.

We had a wonderful time together. When we got in the van, MS noticed one of ES's clothes pins (from the CBLI tweens activity) on the floor. He picked it up and clipped it on to the side of his shirt and said, "I will tell my teacher that this pin reminds me that Jesus loves me!" It thrilled my heart to hear him retaining lessons from our time at CBLI.

Side note: ES also thrilled my heart in a similar way last night. He was having trouble going to sleep early and asked if he could watch TV. I told him to read in bed, instead. When I entered the room a half hour later to switch out his lights (he has a loft bed), he handed down three books to me. One was a guitar book, one was a book called E-mails from God for Teens, and the third was a Bible. So nice to see that the resounding impetus for our attendance at the camp is bearing fruit!

As we headed in the door, MS wanted to go into his old classroom. We were directed to his new room and he saw his name on the bulletin board. Inside, many parents and children were milling around and meeting his new teacher (isn't it horrible, I can't remember her name now - I want to say Miss Janice, but I can't remember clearly). At first MS gravitated towards the toys, but soon headed for the book shelf. We sat on the floor and read a few books (I did my typical eavesdropping on the teacher's conversation with other parents while trying to read and follow a book at the same time). I think MS will have a wonderful year.

Here are some of the positive things I noticed. His teacher has two sons, ages 5-1/2 and 2-1/2, so she understands boys. Her oldest son loves to dress up. She plans to bring in a costume box. (Some leaders had already come into the classroom and asked where MS's Spiderman suit was - it was dirty. He was sad, but agreed to wear a Batman shorts set his cousin Caleb had given him.) She also plans to have a pajama day and a crazy socks day (he's already well-prepared for that).

When the teacher knelt down to talk with MS, she asked him about his loves and he regaled her with descriptions of his costumes. Then, he started telling her about how much he loves animal. She asked if he had a pet. It is always fun to wait and hear the answer. He replied, "Yes, I have a pet cicada shell."

She chuckled. I added, "Well, you know. Easy to care for. You don't have to feed it or walk it and you don't have to worry about killing it by squeezing it too hard because, hey, it is already dead!" (He did kill a toad this afternoon because he held it too tightly. Then he inspected inside its mouth, trying to see its guts!)

The teacher informed MS that they will be going on bug hunts. I think he loves her already. I know I'm feeling pretty keen on her myself.

Medical News

I ended up needing to take my YS in to the doctor again this morning. He had a very rough night (oh, why did I stay up so late blogging???). His chest wasn't heaving and the cough didn't sound like a seal, so I wondered if it had turned into pneumonia. Apparently not.

The doctor said that it is still croup he is coping with. He suggested that sometimes the oral steroids aren't effective enough. It seems like each time YS comes down with croup, it gets harder for him to get over it. The doctor administered a shot in the office and asked me to use our nebulizer (I thought the ER doctor had said that albuterol doesn't really treat croup very well, since the constriction is in the tracheal area, not lower down - but WHAT DO I KNOW, REALLY!)

We have now been referred to a pediatric pulmonologist. We shall see what that brings. My husband is worried (especially since YS will be going to Parent's Day Out one morning a week now) that with every virus, it will turn into croup and require a trip to the ER. Time will tell. YS is still highly irritable and clingy and doesn't rest well.

I did also receive information about the skin biopsy which the dermatologist did on a section of my thumb a few weeks back. He diagnosed it as "granuloma annulare." It seems I am just one big skin condition after another. Thankfully, the over-all itching is abating. I'm hoping to spend a bit of time doing more internet research on all of this once the little boys are gone for a whole morning one day a week (hopefully, I won't waste that precious time ... showering alone, going to the bathroom alone, shopping alone, staring into space while ALONE).

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Power of Love

Tonight I'm feeling especially burdened to pray for some perking up. It was so heartbreaking to return from camp and discover that the results from Coleman Larson's MRI were not favorable. I guess the mazes of locating the right treatment and fitting protocols are pretty frustrating. They planned to head to New York this week to seek further treatment on his behalf, but he ended up in the hospital with a fever. Please keep Team Larson in your prayers. You can visit their care page at http://www.carepages.com/carepages/ColemanScott.

I'm also hoping that my YS will perk up tomorrow. MS caught a cold and pink eye just before we left camp. YS then caught the cold and began to sound a tad bit barky. On Friday morning, he woke and sounded bad. My husband had already left for work and both MS and ES were still asleep. I finally just decided to wake ES and tell him he needed to look after MS once he awoke and give him breakfast. I headed to the ER, fully knowing that it was croup and how they would probably treat it.

Sure enough, they administered an oral steroid and a breathing treatment, then ordered x-rays. This time they did x-rays on his neck as well. The doctor mentioned tracheomalacia (a term I had heard when MS was a newborn). When the x-ray results came back it was indeed croup. The doctor said he was surprised because YS is 19 months (not so little) and this isn't even croup season. This time, YS was given a 3 day dosage of the steroid.

He has been not himself these days. He is normally such a contented little guy and now he is lethargic and cranky. All he wants to do is lie on the floor pushing his Thomas trains and watching Thomas the Tank Engine. I was hoping he would perk up today, since he received no more steroid today, but he still seemed the same (we had to cancel a trip to the zoo - bummer).

Thankfully, I've been able to devote more cuddle time to YS since both of the bigger boys have been spending their time outside together (ES usually with a friend over, fishing in our creek - no trout or bass, but they still seem to have fun). MS could sit all day with a bucket of toads and catalpa worms. Today a worker came to check on ash bore beetles in our trees and MS talked her ear off about his love of toads and worms and SNAKES. He said he asked his Daddy to buy him a pet snake and Daddy said "Yes!"

Just before we left for camp, MS discovered something interesting in the bush right next to the garage door - a snake skin. The handyman who tore down our wall-paper and painted the walls (during our absence) told my husband that he saw a long snake on the stairs next to our retaining wall. For goodness sake, we don't need a pet snake. We already have snakes living right next to the house!

I should be thankful it is only a snake he is begging for. Knowing MS, he will one day assert his love for animals in a more aggressive way. I did have to show him this video I found on Dace's blog. Another tender reunion. Another testament to the power of love.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Fresh Look at CBLI

I'm donning my rose colored glasses to give you a further glimpse at our experience of CBLI this year. Although we had great aspirations of arriving at camp for the 1 p.m. opening of registration, we fell short of our goal (thus I never placed a sign requesting any form of help). Part of our delay was caused by our desire to stop in at an old favorite haunt near where we used to live.

My ES was a huge train fan when he was a toddler. We fed that love frequently and one of our rituals was to head over to Rochelle, Illinois to buy lunch at Wendy's and then eat it at the spot where two train tracks cross. There was a small gazebo and picnic benches. Other train enthusiasts head there to take photographs and log in information (always interesting to watch those men who sit in their cars and write down detailed descriptions of the time the train went by, the engine number, the model, etc. - who knows maybe they even counted the number of cars being pulled, like we usually do).

Since YS holds a similar fascination with trains, we decided to stop there for lunch. We lingered for quite a while because the boys were having so much fun. Over the years, the location has grown to include a gift shop, a small eatery, and train cars which children can climb on.

What a thrill to finally arrive at camp and take care of our registration. One of the first people we ran into was our niece, Kari. She had just celebrated her 14th birthday (was out as a teen) and had smashed her finger in the door of the car (weird way to celebrate, no?). Her brother and sister were both out, as well, so it was fun to bump into them from time to time.

The welcome meeting on the first night featured an officer's kid I grew up with: Randy Bonifield. I mentioned before that he had been a rousing worship leader during our first years out at CBLI. He now performs concerts. The tweens were included in this service and I was thrilled to hear ES's impression of Randy's performance. He said, "That guy was funny! I liked his songs!" (Remember boys can be very terse in their communications habits.)

Randy sang a song about eschatology. What is eschatology, you ask? It is the study of the end times. Being a pastor's kid, he grew up in the midst of the eschatology craze as well. His song referred to that famous Larry Norman song we all remember (I remember it, don't you?), called "I Wish We'd All Been Ready." His point, which is something God seems to be hammering into to me these days, was that God has all that under control. The lyrics were really funny though. I tried to remember some of Randy's lyrics, then did a search. Lo and behold, you can watch him perform this funny song for yourself.



Monday evening, we were treated to the performance of "My Name is Daniel" by a group called Theater for the Thirsty. Believe it or not, you can view a brief clip (not the whole performance, sorry). You can also visit their web site (where I found the clip).

Thus ends my virtual tour of CBLI. On to the things you had to be there for! Tuesday evening, special guests, Aaron and Cherie White presented about the 24/7 Prayer movement which has been sweeping across the nations.

Wednesday evening the camp showed "Ratatouille" for those families who failed to see a whole day at Great America as an adventure worth partaking. I was surprised that my two little guys lasted for 45 minutes. It was followed by baths, books and bed (these are a few of my favorite things, when they all go smoothly - and they did that night, so I was able to read Mary's books until my weary ES dragged in at 11:30 with tales of his fabulous day).

Thursday evening was the night of the adult banquet. How I love this event! It is the one meal during the encampment where I get more of an opportunity to fellowship with friends. The food and service was catered by one of The Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Centers and I must say, they did a splendid job. The food was delectable, the atmosphere cozy (round tables with tablecloths, centerpieces, the works), and the entertainment (a barbershop quartet of sorts) fun.
Friday evening was the World Mission Night service. We get a chance to hear reports from all the young people who went on summer mission teams. This is always interesting to me, since I once served on a SA summer service corps to the Philippines. At the end, they always invite former team members to come up on stage for a time of prayer. I must say, this was a bit difficult since my mind was focused on being apart from my husband during a time when his father might pass away. So our cell group prayed for my father-in-law, in addition to missions.

Saturday evening, I had to take MS with me for the Children's program and Award's Night (yes, those campers who attend ALL of their classes and participate in extra-curriculars and athletic events can actually win awards - often a scholarship to return to CBLI the following year). I coaxed quiet behavior by promising that he would see a video of himself at his own class and of YS at his class. Plus, he would get to see super heroes (because the 6-10 year old track had a super hero theme this year) and also get to see ES perform. He did remarkably well, apart from a loud response of "Why wasn't I on the video?" when he realised that they had taken pictures of everyone else in his class but him. See, that's what happens when you take a lax view to class attendance!

NO WAY! You can actually view the video of the Kid's Tracks here. (The link didn't work when I tried it, so try this one or search under "CBLI 2008 Kids Track.") Too cool! YS is wearing a green t-shirt and plaid pants in the video. Oh, and he's the one who gives a big yawn. From the looks of it, you'd never believe how much he squalled when I left him! They did get a few shots of the petting zoo - one of MS's favorite activities that week. He got to pet a snake. Now he thinks we are going to buy him one. Think again, young son!

Now, if I could only find a video of the Tween track doing the ropes course. It would give you an idea of why I may never try it. Very high. Very perilous. Plus, you have to really trust those you are tethered to (and I have problems trusting God, so I don't know if I'd do so well at this activity - hee, hee). Plus, their video showed footage of their afterglow (when they did activities like trying to eat a doughnut dangling from a string, bobbing for Ding Dongs, etc.).

For myself, I really enjoyed the Bible teaching of the special guest, Dr. Roger Green. He did a study called "Portraits of Paul from the Prison Epistles." Here were some of the highlights of his comments:

"The health of the body (church body) is more important than the health of any individual within the body." "Christianity is a very personal religion, but should never be a private religion." "The gospel is good news, but it is also hard news." He quoted someone by the name of Siprian as saying "You cannot have God as your Father, without having the Church as your mother."

I also appreciated his discussion on how hierarchy is a fallen, human way of relating. He felt that Paul's goal was to abolish hierarchy as a way of establishing relationships and to restore relationships to the way they were meant to be, which is mutual dependence (which is why our desire for independence from God leads to such problems). It was a wonderful study, and I wish I had been there for all of his classes (new wonder - I can listen to the classes on-line!).

As for my elective classes, I attended one half of the class on "Facing Your Giants." I discovered that this class focused on a book by Max Lucado. They did not provide the book this year (in previous years, books have been provided), so I will attempt to check it out from the library. Perhaps I will still be able to glean wisdom from this class, despite missing half of it.

So you see, when we look back, we will view this as any other CBLI year. It is kind of like childbirth. During the pain, things feel bleak and not so fun, but the end result always makes up for the momentary pains. We were fed. We did receive more than our share of rest. What's more, none of us were stung (yes, one year MS was stung by a yellow-jacket and had an allergic reaction of a high fever for a few days, which meant lots of worry and loss of class time) and my father-in-law is even home from the hospital (see, good thing we had all those extra prayers of the missions teammates!).

Saturday, August 9, 2008

CBLI Re-cap

A few weeks ago, I was busy highlighting all the things I love about CBLI. I painted such a beautiful picture that several readers wanted to go, too. However, in all honesty, I must admit that not all years are picture perfect! I can remember several bummers associated with CBLI.

For instance, the first year we went, ES woke up the second morning with pink-eye. By the middle of the week, that was under control and hubby was supposed to meet us at Great America, so that we could all spend the day together. While waiting for his arrival, ES (then 3) kept asking me for a jacket because he was cold (despite the 90 temperatures). Fearing ear infections, my husband took him back to DeKalb to see the Dr. and I was supposed to drive home to pick him up and return to camp. However, in the next town over from the camp, I ended up in a car accident and totalled my car. My sister-in-law, headed with several other ladies to do laundry, drove by and stopped because she recognized me [she was the only gawker I welcomed, Cardiogirl ;-)].

The second year went well until the day after Great America. ES and I were in one of the cheaper housing options (a small room with two twin beds and shared bathroom facilities). He spent two days throwing up. He was only 4. We were trapped in a small room. I couldn't leave him to go to the dining hall, so I subsisted on snacks until I finally managed to catch a neighboring camper who agreed to go pick up a meal tray for me. When we finally emerged on Saturday, I was surprised that no-one had bothered to check on us (especially my brother). Then my brother jumped all over me, assuming that I would bring ES back to class before he had passed 24 hours without a fever or illness. I had not intended to, and I guess being worn out (which I'm sure my brother was as well, since the workers who run the children's programming really devote many hours each day to those responsibilities - and my brother's programs were among some of the best children's programming there!), my temper flared. I ended up packing up and leaving then and there (and made quite a scene, which I now powerfully regret).

The year that I was 7 months pregnant with my MS, I trudged with arm-loads of luggage to the door of our cabin, only to discover upon entry that someone else's belongings were already inside. I had to load the stuff back into my vehicle, drive back to the office and explain my dilemma. It turned out that another family, who had been intending to stay - for the cheapest rate - in their trailer, required a room because their trailer broke down. The administrators gave them the key to the room on the other side of mine. Apparently, the family opened the door between the two and believed that they had been given a suite. Instead of informing this family of the error, I was simply moved to another room. In a cabin. at the top. of the very. highest. hill. on the entire. campgrounds!

So, you see, not all CBLI years are equal. But, we do still come away feeling thankful that we had a chance to attend. Now, why do I preface my re-cap with these remarks? I'm sure you have guessed; it was not our best year ever!

To sum it up, the drawbacks resulted from three things: changes, challenges and criticism. There were so many changes this year: new directors; a new cook; new policies in the dining hall; a change in the class schedule; and failure to effectively communicate these changes at the outset. I'm not sure why there was a new cook, but boy, do we miss the old one! Don was warm and welcoming and bent over backwards to be helpful.

In the past, families with small children were allowed to cut to the front of the line. This was absolutely necessary. But, of course, you can't understand this as a necessity until you have stood in a dining hall line with five-or-six hundred other campers, listening to your two hungry, irritable toddlers bellow.

This also affects the seats we were able to secure. The tables are long and narrow, so we always have to look for an end (to accommodate a high chair). This year, there were many times when we finally got through the line only to discover no high chairs available and no end spots. At one point, I saw an empty table set off next to the drink machine, so I pulled two chairs over and pushed the double stroller up for YS. The cook chastened me and said they really couldn't have us sitting there.

Other changes in the dining hall posed different problems. They no longer offered the screen with an indication of what the next meal would be. The salad bar no longer offered fruit, soup or crackers (just lettuce, cheese, croutons, and the like). It is hard enough to wait in line with a double stroller holding two ornery toddlers, without getting through the line and realizing that there is nothing your children will eat.

For example, one evening they served a personal pizza on the tray. I'm sure they assumed that this, plus a salad and drink, would make a fine meal. My two little ones wouldn't touch the pizza or the salad, so there they sat with a container of milk. I went up to ask if there was some way I could secure some fruit for them. The response was caustic. I was told there was no way they were opening a can of peaches for two little boys. The cook did finally bring two small packages of apple dippers. I know Don doesn't even know of my blog, but I wish I could tell him how much my family missed him (his cooking and his demeanor) this year!

The second day of camp, I had to miss the morning Bible study. I figured I would head over for the class time. However, I discovered that classes had been moved to the first time slot with the Bible study following. I made it to class the next day, but discovered that this class only met for two days (so I had basically missed half of the class). Sadly, I missed all of the other class.

My poor class attendance stemmed from several challenges we faced. The very first morning, my ES awoke complaining of a stomach upset (we now think that he picked up cryptosporidium at the Indiana camp he had attended). He was sick every morning for the first three mornings. I told him to stay in the room until he felt better. He usually headed to class, late, by 11 a.m.

My little boys really struggled with going to their classes this year. YS was inconsolable every time I tried to duck out of his classroom. At first, I lingered to spend more time getting him used to his environment. Then, I had the bright idea that I would show up for class 15 minutes early so that I wouldn't be late for my class, but would still give him time to adjust. In order to do this, I had to bring along MS. Instead of helping YS, it merely multiplied my problem. MS became Sir Echo and began behaving the same way, only with words. "Don't leave me Mommy! Hold me just a little bit longer! Don't go to your class!" The whole thing was very hard on them and very hard on Mommy. I would come to pick up YS and find him sitting against the wall, with his fingers in his mouth, Sleepy Bear tucked under his ear and his other hand draped over his eyes (apparently if he couldn't see his classroom, he could make it go away in his head!).

During all of this, the little boys were exposed to Strep Throat. Yah rah! Amazingly, they didn't come down with strep, although they both picked up a cold and Saturday morning I had to take MS to an urgent care facility because he developed pink eye. This meant he could no longer go to his classes - so, of course, he threw a fit because he now COULDN'T go to his class and had to go with Mommy to her meetings. Isn't that just the way it goes with small children???

On Friday, my husband called to say he would not be able to join us for the final weekend. His father had developed a large protrusion in his abdomen and was in the hospital on what we thought was his death-bed. Because of this, we cancelled our plans to pick up ES's best friend in IL and bring him back with us (something I knew would crush ES, so I agreed to let him go fishing and miss half a meeting).

The final damper on our good time came from other campers who felt a strong need to criticize my decisions (everything from ignoring a temper tantrum MS was throwing when I finally ended the phone tag with Mary and was trying to make our arrangements, to allowing my children to say they wouldn't eat something on their tray, to my failure to attend classes faithfully, to my permission granted to ES to go fishing during half of the missions meeting). Needless to say, this became a hindrance to my enjoyment of camp.

I still am glad that we attended. ES had a blast, despite his illness and despite the absence of a few of his regular friends. He spent his afternoons swimming, fishing, riding the zip line, doing the high ropes course, enjoying the giant swing and playing Guitar Hero in the teen area. He was very helpful. A few times, he stayed with the little boys at a table so I could go through the line alone and more easily carry two trays (minus pushing the double stroller). He stayed with the napper while I headed to get ice for our cooler. He took them to the park while I packed and loaded (since by that time, I couldn't take MS to his class).

I overheard him, this week, telling one of his friends about the ropes course. He was explaining that the guides draw spiritual parallels while instructing. They were told that the ropes represented Jesus. They had to cling to the ropes, but also support one another on the trek across. At one point, ES slipped and fell but was still connected by the ropes to the other individuals crossing the course. He joked, "Hey, Jesus is choking me!" Leave it to ES to find humor in a good spiritual lesson. However, I was thrilled that he related what he was learning!

They also did a cool activity in the tweens group. It was something about clothes pins. They had to clip their clothes pins onto another person and tell them Jesus loves them. ES tried to pin one on MS, but MS was going to have nothing to do with this little testimony. That is, until he was informed that he was to go clip it on someone else. No surprises, he decided to pinch YS with it, all the while saying, "Jesus Loves You."

The two little boys benefited from their classes as well. By the end of the week, MS was sad that he couldn't go and YS had adjusted to being left with someone other than Mommy or Daddy. This is especially good since they will begin attending Parent's Day Out and pre-school together on August 21st. Even if I didn't get as much class time as I had hoped, I still enjoyed many sessions of the Bible study and had a few relaxing mornings in the cabin with ES.

We did get a lot of rest. I think we slept in until 9 most days and missed breakfast all but three times. Too bad breakfast is one of the meals where I know my boys would happily eat the healthy fare! Happily, MS took naps with YS most afternoons. On those afternoons when he didn't, I was able to set him up in the lounge directly across from our room to watch a DVD.

We even made it to the pool one afternoon. I put a life-jacket on MS and managed to keep both of them fairly close. We only lasted an hour, but it was better than I expected. Believe it or not, I did take the two little boys fishing. I pushed the double stroller onto the pier and left YS strapped in, while assisting MS in casting out his mini-fishing pole. Sadly, we didn't catch anything, and MS really only wanted to dump the expensive worms into the water for the fish.

Next year will be much easier. The little boys will be 2-1/2 and almost 5. It will be ES's last year staying in a cabin with us. When he is fourteen, he will attend CBLI with the teen track and stay in a teen cabin. Who knows, maybe my husband will even manage to get the time off work! I wonder if I could get permission for Cardiogirl to go with us. She said she might even give The Salvation Army in her local town a try (after reading my glowing commentary on CBLI). How cool would that be! I know I'll have to make a repeat visit to Mary's house (an oasis above and beyond the CBLI oasis).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Book Review: The Shack


One of the books my friend Mary encouraged me to read was The Shack by William P. Young. She was surprised that I hadn't heard of it. Apparently, this is a book many have been talking about. Mary gave me five books to read between Wednesday evening and Sunday afternoon. I only managed to read two and skim a third. The Shack was the only novel and it sounded like an absorbing read.

I was not disappointed. If anything, I was thrilled. It was indeed a riveting read! I must recommend it to anyone who is struggling with acceptance of God's plan or with numerous questions for God. Of course, the book of Job (from the Bible), would be the primary place to start, but I've read Job many times and this was a modern take on similar themes. I am equally surprised that Mary intuited that I needed to read this book. She had only finished a few chapters prior to lending it. A cover blurb suggests that this book will be for our generation what Pilgrim's Progress was to its generation. It is truly a great story illustrating issues that many Christians and non-Christians struggle with. What a rare find, to discover a book with a powerfully moving story accompanied by significant philosophical and theological fodder to chew on!

The narrator, Willie, begins by explaining that he is telling the story of his friend, Mack. Mack and his wife, Nan, have five children. When tragedy occurs for their youngest daughter, Missy, it hurtles Mack into a "Great Sadness." Until one day, Mack receives an invitation from "Papa," (his wife's name for God) to meet him at the same shack where criminal evidence had been found. What happens when Mack returns to the shack is life-changing for Mack, for Willie and for the reader of this book.

I found myself wanting to write down bits that resonated with me. I could entirely relate to Mack. This description of Mack, could be written of me, "The tragedy had also increased the rift in Mack's own relationship with God, but he ignored the growing sense of separation. Instead, he tried to embrace a stoic, unfeeling faith." Some circumstances in my life (and the life of my immediate family) have led to a sense of distance from God, despite my attempts to cling to what my head and heart have always firmly believed to be true about God.

I have longed to regain my former level of trust, but have struggled with feelings of abandonment. At one point in the novel, Mack comes to this very same place and is told "You cannot produce trust.... It either is or is not. Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved."

Mack's journey, although at times requiring quite a bit of "willful suspension of disbelief," ministered to my weary soul. It caused me to step back from my own pain and gain a glimpse of God which I have been unable to see. The discussion of how we subjectively decide what is good and what is evil reminded me of the importance of trusting God's discernment of what is good rather than my own. If taken as a "Pilgrim's Progress" type of story, this book gives great food for thought. The main character traverses through a valley, lives in a shadow, and returns to recognize the true light behind the shadows.

I guess the main theme I came away with was that God is in control and I'm not and that's a good thing because my view is very limited and quite subjective. Sometimes evil, wicked things happen, even to those who call themselves Christians, and God knows the full score. He weeps with us. He loves us deeply and desires for us to relinquish the independence and self-sufficiency to which we so often cling.

Having said that, I have now read some negative reviews of this book. The naysayers point to heresy in the presentation of the trinity. They allege that the book denies the importance of human sin and guilt and fails to recognize God's authority. I would agree that some of the theological issues presented in the book did not strike me as Biblical; however, I wasn't looking to the novel to be a Biblical presentation of God.

I don't believe I came away from this book feeling that sin is no longer an issue. I'm sure that the evil which infiltrated my own family, as well as the evil which claimed Mack's little girl, began with the root of sin, many times rippled forward into the beast which makes this world a mess and reminds us to long for heaven. I don't think I opened the book hoping to be instructed on what the trinity really looks like (again, God has that under control, too!) I was uncomfortable with two of the trinity presentations, but did understand the author's motive for presenting them in that light.

What ministered to my soul was the realization that God doesn't want my focus to shift from Him to my circumstances! Like Peter, attempting to walk on the water, I often allow my eyes to dwell on the tumult and waves rather than on the One who walks above the waves and offers to hold my hand as I traverse above the storm.

While at camp, a friend asked what I was reading. Upon mentioning The Shack, she indicated that her instructor had just mentioned this book and urged her students to read it. I caught up with this instructor later in the week and had a chance to share my impressions of the book. She indicated that she intended to read it again. She found that during her first reading, she was absorbed by the story-line. Next time, she will focus more on the issues the book presents and grapples with.

I have to say, I plan to re-read this book, as well. Thankfully, Mary realized that she had a second copy of the book (gifted by her father-in-law), so she offered to let me keep her copy. It is not The Bible, the final authority, but it is a powerful book worthy of several good readings!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A True Friend

Since my move to Indiana, I have been faced with a relatively new problem in my life - lack of friendship and, especially, companionship. I'm an extrovert. I love people! I love being around people. But, I've been thrust into an introvert's paradise - seclusion from people. What is paradise to an introvert can often feel like hell to an extrovert.

Several things contribute to my isolation:

  • a house in the country
  • two small toddlers who require a lion's share of my time
  • an inability to get away due to lack of known, trustworthy baby-sitters
  • attending a church where there are few other women my age
  • attending a church at some distance, so that any extra contact becomes problematic.

It has often felt like travelling in a desert. When I do meet someone (like my closest neighbor), I worry about coming on too strong because of my desperate need. Will I drive them away because I appear over-enthusiastic? Will they understand that my parched social life has created an insatiable thirst for human contact (and believe me, sometimes all the boys in my family seem other-than-human!)?

Even as I attended CBLI (our family Bible camp), I found myself feeling very isolated. Opportunities to freely fellowship were rare because when I wasn't in class or at a meeting, I was shuttling around my anxious toddlers (who were having their own share of anxiety adjusting to the new environment and to the temporary separations from Mommy, their normally-constant companion). Thank goodness for the adult banquet on Thursday evening. It was the only meal where I experienced free adult conversation, unencumbered by frantic leaps for straws for milk, napkins for spills or dives for YS who would attempt to exit the stroller or high-chair on his own.

But mid-way through camp, I made arrangements to visit a college friend, who now lives in a town close to our camp. I haven't seen Mary in twenty years. We only re-connected recently when we found each other on Facebook. I took the two little boys (since ES went to Great America with others from camp) and arrived at her house around noon. We had lunch, talked and parted ways at 5 p.m., when I had to return to camp and she had to shuttle her eldest daughter to a piano lesson. But, in those five hours, somehow I managed to drink deeply. I fully believe that God was orchestrating our visit. I left feeling thoroughly refreshed and a bit surprised.

The amazing thing, too, is that we were never really best friends. We lived across the hall from one another in a dorm during our freshman year at Wheaton College. Yet, I would characterize Mary as a true friend.

First of all, she offered availability when it was clearly a busy time. Her mother is ill. Her husband's busiest business months are July and August (and she handles the phone). A housekeeper was scheduled to clean that afternoon. A refrigerator repairman was due. And the recycling crew failed to pick up all of her recycling, so arrangements were being made for them to return, as well.

She was approachable. She didn't put on any airs. She acknowledged her lack of make-up and the state of her house and then went on. She made me feel right at home and was genuinely interested in my life. I clearly felt as if I could let my hair down and be entirely myself around Mary. In fact, I found myself giving her a far more in-depth portrait than I expected. She was easy to talk to and I didn't wonder how she would react. That was very refreshing.

She listened and asked questions to draw out more. But, she also shared some of her own struggles, so I didn't feel as isolated in my issues. We were amazed at some parallel pathways we have been travelling. I was eager and willing to hear her advice.

Finally, instead of moralizing (which is what some Christian friends feel led to do when you open up and share a weakness or problem), she offered resources. She immediately began to look on the Internet for other church options for our family. She said my struggles sounded like some she had recently encountered. And she sent me off with some books to read and return. She offered encouragement without a sermon or a lecture. She didn't condescend with spiritual arrogance, despite the fact that she is clearly on more solid spiritual ground than I have been treading.

Mary gave me her time, her self, her support and her encouragement. I came away feeling fully blessed. I came away thanking God for our crossed paths. Moreover, I really thank God for a true friend (she wasn't a mirage - hurray!). When I swung by her house on Sunday afternoon, to return her books, I found a letter and two cd's Mary made for me. Included were special notes with each song, words of encouragement and challenge. I had headed to CBLI, hoping for rest and refreshment and my time at Mary's house was probably the best dose I received all week.

Friday, August 1, 2008

What is CBLI?

I have mentioned CBLI several times on my blog. I am referring to a camp which The Salvation Army runs annually at the end of July. It is officially called, Central Bible and Leadership Institute, but when I first began attending, back as a teenager, it was called TBLI - Territorial Bible and Leadership Institute. The best way to explain it is to merely say that my boys and I are being FED!

When I married my husband, he was not a Salvationist and we attended a Baptist church. However, he does have Salvationist connections. His brother, Rob, was once an officer and still attends the Army. His mother attends the Corps in Champaign, Illinois. For the first few years of marriage, we continued to attend Baptist churches. However, we eventually began attending an excellent Evangelical Free Church in DeKalb, Illinois. So, for many years, I have not been attending an Army corps regularly.

However, my family is deeply entrenched in the Army. My parents were officers. My eldest brother and his wife are officers at a vibrant corps in the Chicago suburban area. My younger sister and her husband are Divisional Youth Secretaries for the AL-LA-MS division. I have missed the Army in many ways, but mostly have missed the music and the feeling of wide-spread family you enjoy when you belong to The Salvation Army.

When my ES was 3, my husband and I separated for a year and a half. It was a difficult time for all of us and my sister-in-law suggested I might benefit from being fed at CBLI. It was one of the best suggestions I have ever taken in my life. ES quickly came to love CBLI and has begged to go every year since.

My sons enjoy going because the youth programming is excellent. They have loads of fun, make wonderful friendships, and learn more about what it means to be a Christian. Apart from a brief stint in Bible Study Fellowship, I have never found a program which engaged my ES so thoroughly. When he was in first grade, his teacher asked the students to write about a special place in their journals. ES wrote about going to CBLI. We have lots of happy memories of times spent together at this camp.

I love CBLI because I get a break from my mothering role, while still being able to enjoy lots of family time together with my boys in a tradition that we have all come to anticipate eagerly. We have a small room with a private bath. The boys share the bunk bed, YS will be in a pack-n-play and I get a comfortable queen-sized bed (one of these days, my husband will manage to secure the time off from work and join us - probably when the boys are no longer so small, when they basically run off and have fun on their own - HA - said with equal parts humor and sarcasm). This year, my husband will be able to join us for the final weekend. The boys always look forward to his arrival.

Every morning we enjoy breakfast in the dining hall and then I drop the boys off at their respective classes for the morning. I then head to a morning Bible study (usually taught by the special guest), snack and then a morning class. I have had some awesome classes in the past. One class studied the Old Testament temple, and was very informative and interesting. Another, about praying for our children, followed a Stormie O'Martian book. A class on God's grace followed a Philip Yancey book. The puppetry ministry class was fun and informative (I purchased a large stuffed reindeer, with the hopes of following class instruction and turning it into a puppet. I still have it, but have never managed to create a puppet from it. It has merely decorated our house at Christmas, but I cling to the hope that one day ...). I have always enjoyed the studies and the fellowship, not to mention the time away from my kids (hee-hee!).

After classes, I pick up the boys and head for lunch in the dining hall. ES now wants to eat with his friends, but does sometimes join us (and I will probably insist on his help some time, since I have to secure trays for myself and the little boys). The dining hall has greatly improved since we first began attending ten years ago. Television screens inform you what the next meal will be, so I can plan ahead if the fare will be something my boys don't care for. Plus, they offer a salad bar, so I can always manage to get raw carrots and some kind of fruit for them.

The entire afternoon is available for free-time activities. ES enjoys fishing at the lakefront. We have also used the paddleboats, canoes and kayaks. There is an in-ground pool (as a teen, we only had the lakefront and the water was always murky); however, that should be challenging this year, since their rules require a parent to be within an arm's length of every small child. It would be a miracle if I could keep both of those little boys within an arm's length at any time, let alone in a pool. Still, I know they will be clamoring to go. MS wants to go fishing this year. I'm bringing the double stroller, because I just don't trust those two little boys at the edge of a pier. One year, ES won the fishing competition and caught the largest fish for that encampment. It was 18 inches long, but I was in the cabin napping with MS, so I didn't even get to see it before he released it back into the water (after taking it to the office to confirm the length).

After dinner, the kids return to their individual classes and I attend a large evening meeting. I am very excited about this year's camp because I have heard that Randy Bonifield will be there (at least for one night). I have such fond memories of our first years attending CBLI, because Randy led the worship team and I have never experienced a more rousing worship. I remember he would lead the teens in a song about stomping the devil and it felt like the very rafters of the building were quaking. The enthusiasm was infectious. I would sit near the back, with several others who used to attend TBLI with me as a teen, and we would marvel at how old we all are now!

Sometimes after the evening meeting, we head over to the Dairy Queen in a nearby town. Sometimes, we just go to the snack bar for a candy bar or ice cream sandwich. When it was just ES and myself, we would sometimes visit with a friend in their camper. Last year, I missed an awesome fireworks display over the lake, because I felt the little boys really needed to get to bed. This year, if they have something like that, I will let them stay up and then sleep in the next morning.

This is just an overview. I will come home with many tales, I'm sure. Every year we have such fun and count ourselves deeply blessed to have been allowed to attend (especially during those years when we weren't even attending a Salvation Army corps, yet the SA allowed us to benefit from the emotional, physical and spiritual nourishment of this fantastic camp). I can't say enough good things about CBLI. It is definitely one of "my favorite things."