Thursday, December 31, 2009
At the moment, (11:52) I am typing this while the little boys watch TV, struggling to stay awake to see in the new year. This is the first time we have allowed them to attempt this. It doesn't look good for 2010. We have experienced lots of tears, noise and general mayhem as we attempt to stretch their daylight hours to the midnight chime. Not to mention the fact that I am very loathe to give up my own quiet time in front of the computer in the late evenings. Perhaps, next December, I will try the suggestion of rigging the clocks to look like they are at midnight.
Anyway, I feel bad for neglecting my blog. Thankfully, I can say that the days were full and fun. Wishing all my blog readers a happy new year and God's best blessings in 2010! Praying for more energy, a stricter schedule, and firmer focus in the coming year.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Last weekend, a good friend from my former writer's group, Kyle White, hosted a book signing at the Borders in DeKalb. I decided to bring the two little boys with me, so that I could provide them with memories of the many traditions I used to share with ES at Christmas time, back when we lived in DeKalb.
We had a fabulous time. Such a good time, in fact, that MS claimed on Saturday evening that it had been the "best day of his life." This was especially endearing since the majority of our activities were geared towards appealing to my train-loving YS.
We started with a free carriage ride through downtown DeKalb. This was something we had always tried to fit in when we lived in DeKalb. The last year we were there (Christmas 2005), it was bitterly cold and ES and MS and I huddled together on our supposed "final DeKalb carriage ride." This year, the temperatures were more agreeable.
Next, we waited to enter Santa's little cottage. The boys were overly excited and
running up and down the ramp and trying to grab handfuls of snow less than cooperative about standing still in line, as I tried to contact a few friends to arrange visits. I'm glad that we had already visited Santa in Indiana, because a mother and grandmother in line behind us began to pressure me to give up my spot in line because they were scheduled to attend the 2 p.m. showing of the Nutcracker and had decided to quickly squeeze this little visit to Santa in.
If I had been living in DeKalb, I would have happily granted their request, but I was feeling a bit put out since I only had a few mere hours to enjoy the town I still remember fondly as home. Thus, I told them we were under time constraints as well and merely rushed the boys through their visit with Santa. Thankfully, I'm sure the people behind us still made it to the Nutcracker on time.
After Santa, we enjoyed visits, first, with my friend Laura M., and then, with Andy & Renee and their kids. The little boys had a blast. They fed goats at Laura's house and played with her dogs and toys. They also thoroughly enjoying playing with the toys and kids at Andy & Renee's, but did mourn the fact that they couldn't play in their back yard, as we had the last time we visited.
We then headed off to Waterman, Illinois, where for years ES and I attended the annual Halloween and Christmas train rides. A small train runs around the local park, which is decked out in Christmas lights. They have a building where you can warm by the fire, drink hot chocolate, munch popcorn and visit Santa. All of this is offered free of charge (donations accepted inside) and they have always been so friendly and nice (offering blankets for the train ride). I think both boys want to return next October to experience the Halloween train (which also boasts a haunted house).
A tunnel provided shelter from the winds, as well as some indoor train sights:
YS wanted to stand in line again and ride a second time, but we returned to DeKalb, as freezing rain began to come down. We enjoyed our dinner at The Junction Restaurant where the boys were able to watch a small train running along a track above us. They are not practiced or skilled at sit-down restaurant deportment, so I filled their head with the theory that the train stopped when their behavior deteriorated and started up again when they were sitting or eating nicely.
By the time we arrived at Borders, both boys were like whirling dervishes and completely out of control. I tried to talk with Kyle, but the boys were busily wrestling each other on the floor. I then attempted to calm them by shifting them into high backed bar stools near Kyle's daughter, M., who is my ES's age. I was explaining that she knew their older brother.
Soon a boy with long blondish hair came over to stand near M. MS piped up, "Hey Mommy, he looks just like B-----! (ES)" Then, he cracked us all up when he continued, saying, "He smells just like him, too!" Ah, teenage boy odor! Apparently, you can place it anywhere.
What better way to end a night, than an exciting motel experience. Every time I entered the bathroom, they commenced with jumping from bed to bed. When I finally emerged, weary and ready for sleep, they fought over whose bed I would share (ah, if I had been smart, I'd have stuck them in bed together and had a bed to myself, but I was somewhat worried YS might fall off the bed ... instead he kicked me most of the night). "The best day of their lives," indeed.
The next morning we were able to attend our old church. This was such a balm to my soul. The boys thoroughly enjoyed their classes. During the service, we ended up sitting behind a family we used to know from cub scouts and AYSO (soccer). MS managed to sit quietly until he was released for children's church. I was able to greet people without the frazzled look of a woman reigning in wild horses. Moreover, the service was such a blessing. The only part I could have done without?? That would be the time when I was in the foyer saying my farewells and realized that I had lost MS. I found him outside the front door, standing in the front driveway, throwing snowballs at cars. Yikes. Good thing we only get back every once in a while, huh?
Before we left DeKalb, we stopped to visit one more friend, Sandy. She had two dogs as well. I think my MS remembered this because he ran ahead of us to her door. When we left, she said it felt like a tornado had just blown through her house! I replied, "Welcome to my world!"
During our visit at church, I had managed to talk with Kori (who heads up the plans for the annual women's retreat). She encouraged me to come again this February, since it would be the last year that they will hold the retreat at the church (they plan to return to the outings held in retreat settings after this). As much as I enjoyed this opportunity to make memories with my boys, I'm really hoping I can attend their women's retreat in February. Perhaps it will be a beautiful weekend, without so much of the blur. Perhaps, I will return feeling rested, nourished and with memories of therapeutic laughter (like last year).
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
During the performance, MS got to stand next to Andrea, his "girlfriend." It is so cute. He draws her pictures of the two of them holding hands. He gets upset if someone else plays with her on the playground.
Monday, December 14, 2009
I don't really like to have it ring out loud either, so I have taken to putting the phone on vibrate. Of course, when it is on vibrate, you have to carry it in a way that assures you will feel the phone pulsing when someone is calling. I used to try to carry it in my coat pocket, but didn't really feel it going off. Since I have recently gained weight, I don't enjoy carrying it in my pants pockets either.
I thought I had stumbled upon the perfect solution for this dilemma. I began shoving it down into my bra (again, it is rare for me to receive a phone call so I can only remember one time that I had to dig it out while in public).
On Friday, I attended MS's pre-school Christmas program. I had spent most of the day shopping and had really forgotten that the phone was tucked away in my clever safe spot. I chatted away to other mothers during the refreshments time after the performance. We tossed our trash, picked up YS and headed home.
At home, I stood in the bathroom preparing to assist YS as he washed his hands. Suddenly, I noticed something strange. From beneath my black turtleneck sweater, I could see a round blinking red light in the middle of my chest. It dawned on me that my cell phone had been blinking (it blinks every few seconds continuously when it is on) the entire time I talked to others after the program. Oh my! I'm wondering what they were thinking. Perhaps, they wondered if I had a pacemaker!
Note to self: When wearing cell phone in your bra, you must be careful to insert it so that the blinking light is facing the flesh of your chest and not flashing through your clothing like a ... blinkin' beacon!
Friday, December 11, 2009
Yesterday, I took the little boys to see Santa. They were very excited. They had a chance to mail him a letter in the special North Pole mail box at the library. In a few weeks, they will receive a handwritten reply (last year, the return letters were so much fun). Then, they each had a chance to sit on Santa's lap and tell him their requests.
YS repeated the same thing over and over - "a wooden Gordon train" (from the Thomas the Tank engine set). I hope Santa has really good connections because I've tried, in vain, to find the wooden one. However, he shouldn't be too disappointed since he already earned a Take-Along Gordon for his potty training strides (still in pull-ups at night, but does wake and go to the bathroom occasionally).
MS asked for a Batman Bat Cave (not happening, either), a wooden snake (he already has one), a remote control snake (like he wouldn't have that broken in two seconds?), and a REAL VIPERFISH. MS is thoroughly "into" viperfish. So much so, that at a recent Bible study meeting, he slipped away from the sitter and drew a fabulous viperfish, with pen, on the floor of the church gym. Yikes!
Santa first asked what a viperfish was (I can just hear MS's brain clicking with questions like why Santa wouldn't know about viperfish if he can do such magical things as delivering presents to all the good boys and girls of the world, making his reindeer fly, and seeing when you are awake or asleep!) and we explained. Then, poor Santa, tried to tell MS that he couldn't really bring a live viperfish to Indiana because it would die without water. MS suggested he also bring a really large aquarium. How large an aquarium do you think a viperfish would need, I wonder?
At this point, even though I can see questions flitting through MS's mind, he still attempts to justify it all. He observed that it can't be the real Santa, because he is up at the North Pole getting ready for the big day. Then, he wondered aloud how they get the mail up to the North Pole since that is very far away. Finally, at night-time he has been telling me that "Santa is magical."
As for me, seeing my boys with Santa, is magical:
I will have to provide further updates after the weekend because, as I said, Christmas activities abound. Exhausting, but great fun!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Amazingly, we managed to scrape together enough snow to build a snowman. Sadly, when I looked out the window after returning inside, it had already toppled over. This morning it was merely an abandoned pile of accessories and it made me think of the novel I have been listening to (for ages): The Time Traveller's Wife.
I spent most of my time trying, unsuccessfully, to convince MS that it isn't really a good idea to eat snow when you have a dog (yuck). They did have a lot of fun jumping on the snowy trampoline:
And, before I go, a few updates. Nothing like a face shot attempting to reveal missing teeth, eh? He's quite proud.
And what was this strange sight I quizzed you on?
It was another of our favorite toys, a magnetic stick from a set of magnetic sticks and balls (wonderful toy, called Roger's Connection Magnetic Building Set, for making geometric shapes, but the little boys tend to disperse them widely). This particular one must have been thrown up in the air and somehow it managed to land and connect to the metal on the top of the lamp in the little boys' room. Of course, the acrid smell dissipated once we allowed MS to leave his room because we reached under the lamp shade and turned out the light. It was only when the smell resurfaced again that my husband found the stick melted onto the light bulb.
Tonight, I took the boys to the dollar store during ES's drum lesson (because they had completed a behavior chart). MS picked out a paddle ball and YS picked a miniature Tech-Deck style bicycle. MS spent most of the evening jealous of YS's toy choice and before the day was done, both the bicycle and the paddle ball were broken. Obviously the behavior chart they filled in was not one for handling their toys with care! It was for brushing teeth faithfully. Methinks it is time to shift our focus from brushing twice daily to better bedtime habits and greater care for toys. No?
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Let's start with the dog: Harley came from a home where there was a one year old baby who dropped food from her high chair often. Even though he is still officially a "puppy" (his birthday is in February) he is large enough to easily reach the table when he smells something he wants. Thus, we have taken to putting him on the porch while we eat. He can see us through the sliding glass doors and once we are done he is allowed back in.
The other day, I was on the computer when the little boys finished eating their breakfasts. They went to play with Harley and immediately came running to tell me that I wasn't going to be happy. I came onto the porch and found strange pink stains all over the couch and the dog's mouth and paws.
After a moment or two, we realized what the dog had been chewing on:
No more complete set of those apple ornaments! I keep meaning to try my spot bot on the old couch, but at least it was an old couch (perfect for young boys to romp on and use for making forts).
Then, the next day, he began chewing one of the hand-made ornaments. Urgh! Thank goodness these decorations won't be up more than a month!
The boys haven't been very gentle with the decorations either. They keep messing with this Santa countdown decoration. Every day I find it in pieces around the house. You can see the white ball from his hat, to the left of his foot.
MS threw a lighthouse decoration (from the bathroom) across the room and it shattered. I pulled out the glue and fixed it before I remembered to snap a picture. But here are some recent toys that have been decapitated or drawn and quartered by the boys:
Poor Buzz, went the way of Woody!
MS tried to hide this one at the bottom of the trash can without telling us of the Green Arrow's demise!
Ten points for the reader who can figure out what this might be. Here's a hint. MS was sent to his room for some infraction. When we went to retreive him we detected a faint burning smell. He claimed he never got up off the bed. A few hours later, hubby was still hunting to figure out the source of the odor. Not much to go on, I know, but think like a destructive boy and you might figure it out.
Now, I must go. I have to make sure the tooth fairy has a smooth mission, because this afternoon the dog jumped up on MS and knocked out one of his front teeth. MS is now missing one on the top and one on the bottom. I guess he can sing, "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth." Who knows, maybe Santa will bring a lump of coal AND two front teeth?
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Are they nuts? Down from $22, for four dollar store items: a slinky, a yo-yo, a small container of silly putty and a box of crayons?? Don't forget the shipping costs! You've got to be kidding!
Saturday, November 28, 2009
MS and YS left this afternoon for a two day visit with Grandma. Initially, this idea was a buffer in case I didn't make it to 50K words on my NaNoWriMo project. I thought they should postpone the trip, since Grandpa is in the hospital recovering from yet another surgery. But, Grandma said she was desperate to see them. So they packed up YS's new (garage sale find) Thomas luggage and headed to Grandma's house with Daddy.
Hopefully, I will get the house whipped into shape and decorated for the holidays while they are gone. They both wanted to help me put up the tree and decorations. I think I will do better without their endless, frantic energy!
I think the dog has been missing the little boys. After they had left, ES and I noticed that it was very quiet (of course, this is typical once MS and YS leave). ES asked where Harley was. We found him lying by the door to the garage, with his head propped up on the step. He hadn't moved since they walked out that door and left. He looked so sad and bereft. Those boys certainly do adore him, even if they drive me crazy by pestering him.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
What a thrill to hit 50,074 words and see the fireworks and winner banner come up on my NaNoWriMo account! What a feeling! Of course, I have not yet reached the denouement (oh, I hear my freshman teacher rolling that word off her tongue - day-new-m-wah!) of my novel. The action is speeding to that point and I will continue to write. But, I'm very thankful to be able to take Thanksgiving off.
I'm not writing a single word tomorrow! I'm eating turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing and pumpkin pie. I'm going to see if the 2 year old will allow me to resurrect our old tradition of doing a puzzle over Thanksgiving weekend (if he will keep his hands off the puzzle pieces).
Thanks to all those supporters out there who were cheering me on! It was amazing how motivating it was to leave behind the inner editor and merely focus on writing to get it all down. There was such freedom and excitement in the process. I never stopped to worry about how something would pan out because I reminded myself that I could always change it when I'm done with the first draft and rehash the whole thing. The deadline did wonders for me and really kept me writing when I might have just gone to bed and valued my sleep more than the words.
Now, I can't wait to finish the rough draft, polish it and send it out. What a wonderful feeling it will be if one day I can offer a copy as a give-away on my blog! I'm just one more step closer to that possibility! Woo-hoo!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I have always been a committed correspondent. I love to write letters - especially ones on paper with gel-tipped pens. As a teen, I was known to send out 25 page missives from time to time. I have fantastic memories of the blessings reaped because those friends were willing to correspond with me, willing to pick my brain and then have their brains picked back, so to speak.
Several years ago, I had a clear insight that the best way for me to break into the task of novel writing (since I had already started two or three novels, but couldn't seem to finish them for the life of me), was to follow a format which utilizes letters within the novel. For my research, I began to seek out as many books like that as possible. This is how I came to love the enchanting books of the Klise sisters and also how I found Deborah Wiles.
My first Deborah Wiles book was Love, Ruby Lavender. Oh, how I loved Ruby Lavender! It was a dear, sweet book and I couldn't wait for some opportunity to share it with a classroom full of students during read-aloud time. Alas, I don't think that opportunity ever availed itself.
Then, shortly after my youngest son was born, I listened to Each Little Bird That Sings, during our daily (and lengthy) feeding schedule. Once again, I was mesmerized by Wiles' ability to people a town with interesting characters and life-changing events. I can still remember the emotions being tugged by the words of that novel. The moment I finished it, I had to jot a quick note to teacher-friends, alerting them of another outstanding read-aloud book, especially for students encountering a death in the family.
Now, I have finished this third book (all of which are set in Aurora County, Mississippi) and am subconsciously sending impulsive mental messages to my two younger sons: grow more quickly because I want to read this book aloud to someone! Please!
Although I am not a huge baseball fan, this book was a delight to read. I loved the references to Walt Whitman's poetry, the tender portrayal of a boy missing his deceased mama, the pairing of an elderly man with a young boy (how I wish I could force my eldest son to read to an elderly gentleman like Mr. Norwood Rhinehart Beauregard Boyd!), the inclusion of Ruby and Comfort (characters from the previous books), and the particular voice this author always seems to nail.
In the acknowledgements, I learned that this novel came about as a result of an invitation to write a serial novel. Deborah Wiles studied the Victorian serial novel and patterned the story using those elements. Being a devoted Dickens fan earlier in my life, I can appreciate this! But, I appreciate it all the more because I am in the process of writing my own novel right now. I read with a mindful ear, listening for the cliff-hanger chapter endings and noticing the oaths of secrecy, moral dilemmas and matters of identity. It was no accident that I read this novel while working on my own. It was ... a necessity.
These are excellent stories for kids ages 8 and up. The characters are compelling and they grapple with serious issues. Moreover, the books incorporate great life lessons. In fact, to this day, I use a phrase from Each Little Bird That Sings, whenever my children request something. I often reply with, "I live to serve." Of course, sometimes a hint of sarcasm can be detected, but it is a great life lesson nonetheless! You may also want to visit the website for Deborah Wiles, where you can link to her blog.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Then, last night, as I was trying to concentrate on writing my daily 2000 words for my novel, I was continually interrupted by the squeaks and squeals of the Mama Mouse. No she wasn't birthing any more (she had another 10 - thankfully, we had taken 5 of the previous babies back to the pet shop, to become snake food, on Saturday night). She was adamantly trying to fend off Mr. Mouse, who wouldn't let up on her and pursued her relentlessly for about an hour and a half. Methinks we will be watching this process again and again. That is, until we get rid of Mr. Mouse (my suggestion after the first brood, but I think hubby wants to let him stay until after the new year).
Saturday, November 14, 2009
One of my favorite things about my job back at Littlejohn Elementary in DeKalb, IL, was the opportunity to write to some of the students I encountered during my days. They had a wonderful program called Wee Deliver and I enjoyed sending and receiving letters. I recently found a letter in my photos/memorabilia box downstairs. It was from my son and sent with Wee Deliver during his second grade year. It was spare and perfunctory. Next, I opened the next letter and it all came back to me. He never wrote back when I sent him a letter, so I finally bribed him. I offered him a trip to Chuck-E-Cheese's if he would write back. Hee-hee.
When I moved away from DeKalb, I continued to keep in contact with a few students. I sent a birthday card to J., the student I had served for three years as an aide, for a few years. Then, when she reached her teen years, I thought she probably didn't want to receive a card from me. I skipped her 13th birthday. This past year, I was in DeKalb and stopped by to see her. She actually mentioned the birthday cards and wondered why I hadn't sent one last year. I will try to resume that practice.
I am presently in a 6-week Bible study, using Dr. Leslie Parrott's book, You Matter More Than You Think. Her goal is to remind us of our areas of passion and to encourage us to continue to make a difference in the lives around us.
I want to say a special thank you to Mr. Stroup (who just happens to be from my present neck of the woods), for reminding me of the little ways we make a difference in the lives around us.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I am thrilled to report that last night, I made it halfway to my goal of writing 50 thousand words of my novel. This whole process has been such a rush for me. Despite nights where I feel like going to bed early, instead of attempting to flesh out another 2,000 words, I have been really energized by the NaNoWriMo method of novel writing.
I show up every night and watch my brain unfold more pieces of the puzzle. Since I am writing a mystery, I was aware of certain elements from the beginning (elements I haven't shared with anyone, because I can't wait for everyone to be able to read it for themselves, unspoiled). What has blown me away is how often I sit down to write, unsure what I should do with a passage of time or a nagging plot problem and then the muse billows down into my ear and I think, "Wow, that is perfect. This will add even more suspense!"
There is something magical in pushing yourself to keep up with the pack (especially, Cardiogirl, who is already at 39K!), to abandon your inner editor, to reach for more words and worry less about pieces which can be trimmed or cut or recrafted later in the game. I think I'm going to be sad when November comes to an end. Sad, and very tired! But then, I'm tired all the time anyway. In the meantime, this is one fun puzzle to put together, with a deadline.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Let's see. Here's $24. I'd like one 2 year old girl baby and a bag of 2T clothes for her, please. Do try to leave the bag open a bit for the little girl to breathe. Thank you.
(You can click on the image to enlarge it. Found this enticing ad in the paper a few weeks ago. Too bad my plate is already full.)
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Then along came these:
Now they are almost fully weaned and we are hoping to take the ten babies back to the pet store before Mrs. Mouse bursts forth with another litter (she is due any day, I'd say).
Then, of course, there's Harley. We have already been threatening to get rid of him because the two little boys tease and provoke him mercilessly. MS loves to lift Harley's front paws and make him dance. Only problem ... he thinks the dog won't mind dancing like that for minutes instead of seconds. YS drapes his entire body over the dog, whenever he finds him lying on the floor or couch. I think he believes he could ride him like a horse, if only Mom wouldn't flip out about it so much.
The boys are very much in love with this dog. Mom and Dad ... not so much.
We should have gotten a few ZhuZhu pets. It would have required less money, less work, and less patience.
Still, I can't complain about even the most minimal steps in responsibility which my boys are taking. YS loves to fill the dog's food bowl (he scoops a cup from the bag and dumps it in the food bowl - no more food in the water bowl, thank goodness). This afternoon, when I was putting YS down for a nap, MS took it upon himself to attach the dog's leash and take him out to go potty. He even wiped the dog's paws off with the towel when they came back in. ES often offers to spray the dog with a deodorizing spray and brush out his coat in the mornings.
And speaking of deodorizing ... YS decided to try my deodorant this morning. He came to me and said, "Mommy, I need to brush my teeth cuz' I ATE that stuff that goes under your arms." Yippee-skippee! Life with a two year old. I called Poison control and they said the worst that could happen is vomiting. We managed to get through it without that.
Lord, watch over the brood of 17 that are in my care. And, please, give me an extra dose of patience. Remember, Lord, I'm an OLD mommy, in my mid-forties!