Saturday, February 28, 2009

Our Special Eccentric Toothless Boy Wonder

It seems like every family has one! That odd individual who is just a bit different from all the rest. This afternoon, I overheard my husband talking with my ES about MS. At first he described him as "special."

I think ES was a bit worried by this term. He said, "You mean he's special, as in special ed?"

"No, he's just unusual. He's ... what's the word I'm looking for ... he's eccentric."

ES said, "What does that mean?"

I jumped in, "Eccentric means out of the ordinary, different."

Hubby then clarified, "Eccentric means out of the center. Off from what you would normally expect."

I, of course, was trying to think of what words I would use to describe my middle boy. He is intense. ES was intense, but in a physical way. MS is intense in a verbal/imaginative way. He doesn't have interests; he has obsessions. He doesn't just like Halloween; he eats, sleeps and breathes Halloween all year long (especially in costumes).

I know that those little boys have taken the pretend dog play a bit too far lately. In the middle of the night, I heard one of them barking. I went in to check on them, but they were both asleep. Before I left the room, I heard it again, "woof. woof. woof-woof." Hope he found a good bone in that dream!

Anyway, I distinctly remember how old my ES was when he lost his first tooth, because I was working in a kindergarten classroom that year. All of my kindergartners were losing teeth, left and right (or should I say top and bottom?), but ES, who was in first grade still hadn't lost his first tooth. One finally came out during the last few weeks of first grade, when he had just turned 7.

We had an inkling that something was up, earlier this month, because MS began to put his fingers in his mouth constantly. On Monday, he showed us that the tooth was loose. ES offered to pull it out for him, but MS ran away screaming. He wouldn't pull it out, but he wouldn't let anyone else near it either. Plus, he wouldn't eat anything (despite efforts to convince him that slurping a smoothie wouldn't bother his tooth at all).

Finally, Tuesday, his teacher informed me that the tooth came out, effortlessly, at lunch time (not that he had eaten a bite). They put it in a plastic baggie and he began to talk of the tooth fairy. Apparently, MS believes the tooth fairy is a man, since he keeps referring to the fairy as "he."

I'm pretty sure ES's tooth fairy was indeed a "he" and he gave more money than my own tooth fairy ever brought me or my siblings. However, I think MS is wrong on this point. I'm pretty sure his tooth fairy is a "her" (some things seem oh so obvious!). And I think she had a tough time making the exchange. Like I said, MS is intense!

Next came the talk of a wallet. Now that the boy had paper money, he felt it was extremely necessary to have a wallet like his big brother and his dad. I took him to the thrift store on Friday and he picked out a zippered coin purse for 99 cents. I couldn't argue. Big brother shot him down the minute he laid eyes on the "wallet." He declared it a "girl's wallet."

MS didn't back down. It was the one he picked out and he liked it! But, he did happily go along with me when I said that I would buy him a Spiderman or Batman wallet, if we ever came across one.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Favorite Things Thursday: Laughter with Old Friends

I love to laugh! If there were one intangible thing, I would never want to live without, it would be laughter. Okay, now my brain is going, "yeah, but what about love?" Well, like those plaques I've seen in stores, my three top intangibles would be life, love and laughter.

Recently Cardiogirl wrote a post about her most treasured memory. She drew a vivid picture (with words) of the deep side-splitting laughter which is characteristic of her relationship with her brother. Her explanation caught me off-guard and plunged me into a bit of a nostalgia chasm. It was like I was hit by a brick and picked up the brick and said, "Oh yeah, I remember these bricks. They were really solid and made a good foundation."

For the past two and a half years, my life has been devoted to caring for our two young toddler boys. In order to make this a priority (time-wise), we felt it was necessary for me to leave my full-time job and stay home with the boys. And, in order to do that, we made the move to my husband's grandmother's home on farm land outside of Indianapolis. Although this home is idyllic (and an absolute haven for boys), and although I love this opportunity to spend such a large chunk of my time with my boys, it has rendered me literally friendless. Despite efforts to develop new friendships by finding a suitable church home and getting involved in playgroups and such, I have fallen into the common trap for women with several small children - a deep and abiding sense of isolation.

Then, a few weeks back, I popped over to Kori's blog and read one tiny sentence in the middle of a post, saying she was preparing for the annual women's retreat for our old church back in DeKalb (must have been around the same time as I read Cardiogirl's treasured memory post). My mind brought up all kinds of memories of those women's retreats.

We would pay over a hundred dollars and stay in a retreat center in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Our evenings were always filled with riotous, roll on the floor laughter. Several stories were staples, like Cheryl L's prom story and Laurie C's snake story. We also played several wild games. I remember one included us ad-libbing various actions while rotating seats in a pretend car - vague memories of someone going into labor. Another one, which left me forever feeling like the final moron in the room, was called "The Broom Dance" - I never did figure it out, they had to tell me the answer! Groan!

Thankfully, when I popped over to the church's website, I discovered that they have a new format. The retreat cost was only $15 and included a Beth Moore Bible Study from Friday night through Saturday afternoon, right at the church. When I ran the idea by my husband, he was eager to make it happen for me (i.e., he recognized the dehydrated nature of my heart and soul).

My friends, Andy and Renee, let me stay with them, which gave me a chance to see their five kids (man kids grow quickly!). I also sent out an e-mail to several of my old writer's group buddies, hoping we could get together on Saturday night to eat Giordano's pizza (Sycamore now has a small store-front Giordano's - when we lived in DeKalb, I would sometimes drive to Rockford to eat at Giordano's because their stuffed spinach pizza is fantastic) and watch an Anne Lamott DVD (passed on to me from Cardiogirl's husband).

The retreat was wonderful (and I will have to post more about it at another time), but the very best medicine for my relational drought came on Saturday evening. Sadly, by Friday night, I hadn't heard a positive response from anyone in the writer's group. Saturday morning, I made a general announcement inviting the women from the retreat. The retreat was slated to end at 4:30 and I set a meeting time of 6:00.

At lunch, I happily ended up sitting by a woman named Allison, who is in the current writer's group. She asked me if I had contacted Kyle (who is sort of the head honcho now that I've moved away), because he has an e-mail list for all of the writer's group. I chuckled and informed her that I was the person who started the original group, and did send the invite to Kyle, but only to the others who had been regulars back in my day.

That night, five women showed up to enjoy pizza. Four were old friends of mine, and the fifth was Allison. We had such a wonderful time, that Saturday night, when I finally got to bed, my mind was abuzz with words for a post to describe the benefits my soul experienced. Alas, I was too tired, and the bed too cozy, to get up and write down those thoughts (note: this is a writer's no-no!)

As Laura (my funny friend, who last year commented that my Valentine treat might have been more appealing if I hadn't served it on a toilet seat lid - ha!), Yolanda and I sat around waiting for others to come, we perused the newest church photo directory. This brought lots of memories and humor (from past photo shoots and stories of retreats and events).

Laura updated me on her kids, including a story about texting her older kids. She explained that her daughter, Lisa, loves the "Back to the Future" movies, so when she noticed on-line that Christopher Lloyd's house was burned in recent forest fires, she texted the information to Lisa. Lisa sent this reply, "That is sad! I can't help but feel somewhat responsible."

Her mother texted back, "Why would you feel responsible????"

Lisa wrote, "Because someone once told me - 'Only YOU can prevent forest fires!'" I think she gets her sense of humor from her mother.

Laura also told me about how she responded to her youngest son's recent report card. She said she looked it over and told him, "Well, at least you are doing good in SCIENCE!"

Of course, this floored her son, who retorted, "I got all A's, Mom!"

Laura responded, "Yeah, Sciene - A plus! But what about these two MINUSES???"

When Allison arrived, it was clear to see that she was just going to slip into an easy banter as well. She told a story that led Yolanda to burst into a song, which only she knew. We were laughing pretty hard, both at the story and Yo's song. Later, while eating, Allison jumped up and said, "I'm a plumber's wife! I hear a drip!" As she made her way over to the kitchen to check it out, Laura said, "Oh, I thought she was going to adjust her pants!"

We ended up laughing the night away. Several times, Allison mentioned the DVD and we did intend to get to it, but it never happened because we were having too much fun enjoying each other's company. I ended up leaving the DVD with her so that she can share it at a future writer's group gathering. And I certainly didn't mind another reason to keep in touch with a new funny friend.

Now, I just need to find some funny friends down here in Indiana. I think my sons are quite humorous, but it was sure refreshing to laugh with other women. If God could somehow transplant our idyllic home to the outskirts of DeKalb, I'd be most grateful.

As I was washing my hands this afternoon, I decided that the problem lies in our soap. While vigorously scrubbing the germs away, I noticed that the label on the soap container reads "Hypoallergenic * Non-Comedogenic!" Who knew I was washing away all the funnies in life??

This is just a season. New friends are around the corner (these little boys just refuse to stay little). But, for now, I'm clinging tightly to this favorite thing, laughter with old friends (how I wish I had taken a picture).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Book Review: The Miracle at Speedy Motors

I have never, myself, read a single book in the "Number One Ladies Detective Agency" series. I suppose this is due to the fact that I so relish hearing the narrator, Lisette Lecat, give life to the words of the texts. She does such a splendid job, that I am quite sure I will not read the next installment in this series (which is due out next month under the title, Tea Time for the Traditionally Built) unless our library purchases the audio book.

But the last two audio books I have listened to have driven home a few drawbacks to listening to the books without ready reference to the written words. While listening to Richard Restak's book, Poe's Heart and the Mountain Climber, I found myself wanting to look back over the chapters to fully absorb details like quotes and statistics. I even popped back into my library to see if they had a hard copy of the book. Alas, they did not, but the librarian kindly took down the title. A few weeks later (too long to wait to write the book review), I picked up an inter-library loan copy of the book.

After finishing that audio book, I began the next audio book I had checked out, The Miracle at Speedy Motors. I'm really not sure when I began listening to this, since I had several other books I was reading in hard copy at the same time. Primarily, I listen to books while driving back and forth from taking my little boys to school or my ES to and from wrestling practices.

Alas, midway through the book (and just as I departed for a four hour drive - perfect opportunity for listening to a book), the library CD became stuck in the van's CD player. It felt like approaching the summit of the largest drop on a roller coaster, only to find yourself, suddenly, in the exit line. I had only purchased gas for the van, so I actually turned around and returned home to grab a portable CD player. I knew I couldn't log 8 hours of drive time and not finish another grand "Number One Ladies Detective Agency" novel.

As I began to write this review, I flipped the recorded book case over and read these three summary sentences:

"Searching for the truth behind the death of an American tourist, Precious visits a game reserve and is rejuvenated by the exquisite beauty of Botswana's landscape. But trouble brews back at the agency, where her assistant Mma Makutsi launches the Complaint Half Hour, providing herself a forum for her grievances. And Precious' dependable husband Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni suddenly decides to mortgage his auto repair shop."

I have to be honest, I don't remember a thing from the first two sentences (although, I thought there was a situation matching the first sentence in a previous book in the series). My understanding of the four primary plot lines revolved around threatening letters received by Mma Ramotswe and her assistant, the conflicted purchase of a new bed for Mma Makutsi by her fiance, the challenging case of discovering a past for a woman who believed she was adopted at an early age, and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's rash decision to pursue a miracle for their crippled foster daughter, Motheleli.

I am always amazed at writers, like Alexander McCall Smith and Maeve Binchy, who can populate their books with certain key characters and then create further plots and conflicts for those characters to muddle through. It, indeed, feels like one is merely eavesdropping on the life of a real community. The various events might run together a bit in my mind, but it is still a pleasure to become a fly on the wall in Mma Ramotswe's Botswana! And if you want to become a fly on the wall of Smith's study, head here, where you can watch a brief (3-1/2 minutes) monologue Smith gives to explain how he came to write the series and how the main character has remained true to herself while plowing through adventure after adventure.

And when I finished listening to this installment (after returning from a welcome weekend getaway), I had to rewind and jot down the closing thoughts which Mma Ramotswe shares at the end of this book. She tells her husband, "It is not foolish to hope for miracles ... there are many miracles." Then she goes on to muse to herself, "One should not ask too many things in this life, especially when one already had so much."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Favorite Things Thursday: Collier's Junior Classics

It is not surprising to me that I love to read. Both my mother and father were avid readers. Our home always held loads of books. When I was a senior in high school, I took a class called "Individualized Reading." The course goal was to read a certain number of pages by the end of the class. I can remember my mother's enthusiasm in looking over the list of book options. I remember her encouraging me to read Les Miserables, The Good Earth,Gone With the Wind, and many other classics from the list (hmmm, I bet I still have that list ... somewhere ...).

I also remember my mother having a set of books that she had loved from her childhood called The Honeybunch Books. She originally read a set belonging to her grandmother, but happened upon a set later in life and snatched them up. Here is what her Honeybunch books looked like (although she did say that her grandmother's set looked different):

This same exact thing happened to me shortly after my husband and I moved to DeKalb. I don't believe we even had children yet. I was spending a leisurely afternoon (there will come a day when I have those again, right?) in a used book store and chanced upon a complete 10 volume set of Collier's Junior Classics for only $15. I knew immediately that I had to have them.

My parents had purchased the Collier's Encyclopedia set when we were children. They probably decided that this extra set of junior classics would be beneficial. I clearly remember being read stories from these books (as well as reading them on my own when I was a bit older).

Sadly, while my ES was in the best years for exploring the stories, my set was in storage (we lived in a small house in DeKalb and just didn't have room for all my books). Lately, I've been reading from the set to my younger boys and they are really enjoying it (plus I've noticed my husband and ES also listening in). At this point, we have only read from the first volume, but I can't wait to get to the others (perhaps a good goal for summer reading).

Volume One is entitled, A,B,C, Go and contains nursery rhymes, folk tales and poems. My absolute favorites from this volume would have to be the story of "The Five Chinese Brothers" by Claire Hutchet Bishop, and the poem, "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod," by Eugene Field.

Volume Two, Once Upon a Time, contains fables and folk tales organized by country of origin. This is the volume which clinched the deal for me, since I have never seen my favorite from this volume anywhere else. It is a folk story called "Soap, Soap, Soap," retold by Richard Chase. We loved it so much, while growing up, that my older brother Mark memorized the entire three and a half page story and would recite it with a southern drawl.

Volume Three, Magic in the Air, holds more favorite stories: Pinocchio, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Borrowers, Winnie-the-Pooh, Mr. Toad, Twenty-One Balloons and others. Volume Four, Just Around the Corner, features stories from other lands (but none of them stand out as ones I remember loving). Volume Five, In Your Own Backyard, contains stories from our own country. It includes many, but my favorites were "The Wolf Pack," by Laura Ingalls Wilder, "Experiment 13," by Robert McCloskey, and "The One Hundred Dresses," (which I remember reading numerous times) by Eleanor Estes.

Volume Six, Harvest of Holidays, provides selections for the many holidays we celebrate in America (selections like "Lincoln's Gettysburg Address," and Walt Whitman's "O Captain, My Captain." Volume Seven, Legends of Long Ago, presents tales from the "Arabian Nights", mythology, epics and tall tales. Volume Eight, Roads to Greatness, is a compilation of many short biographies, including such individuals as: Robert E. Lee, Helen Keller, Gandhi, Samuel L. Clemens, Thomas Edison, and Edgar Allen Poe.

Volume Nine, Call of Adventure, holds some of my favorites like: "Johnny Tremain," by Esther Forbes, "Lassie, Come Home," by Eric Knight, and "Black Beauty," by Anna Sewell. Volume Ten, Gifts from the Past, contains stories from many classic writers like: Twain, Verne, Austen, Stevenson, Poe, Dickens, Bronte, Irving, Scott, Cooper and Alcott.

I recently found out that my parents still have their set of Collier's Junior Classics and even have it on a shelf. I suggested they loan them, for a time, to my youngest brother, whose kids are still under 10. I wouldn't dare suggest that they give them away, since I know how I feel about my own set. I may never willingly part with them!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Book Review: The Calder Game

What are the things you can count on in a book by Blue Balliett? Mystery, art, literature, math, history and puzzles. In The Calder Game, she delivers once again. Following in the same vein, and with the same characters, as her two previous hits, Chasing Vermeer, and
The Wright 3, this third book is a bit lengthier, but every bit as provocative.

Calder Pillay gets the chance of a lifetime when he is allowed to join his father on a trip to a small town in England (especially since his new teacher, Ms. Button, doesn't inspire, or even accept, the passion for individual exploration which Ms. Hussey had always nurtured). Just prior to his departure, we get a chance to see Ms. Button in action on a field trip to the art museum to view an Alexander Calder exhibit.

Both Calder and his father are surprised to discover an actual Alexander Calder sculpture, newly established in the small town they are visiting, near Blenheim Palace. Even more surprising, is the adverse reaction of the townspeople. Calder is enjoying his time, exploring mazes and playing his own Calder game, until the night he and the sculpture vanish.

When Calder's mother is laid up and can't come help her husband search for the boy, Calder's father decides to enlist the aid of Calder's friends, Petra and Tommy. Though each child has a particular gift (Petra - words, Tommy - discovery), they team up and try to think in the mathematical way Calder would, in order to solve the mystery. They find that, like the garden mazes they explore, there are lots of twists and turns and dead ends.

Balliett will certainly get young readers thinking about patterns, symbols, history, and ideas (i.e., the purpose of art and the evocative nature of words, among many other ideas). She does a fantastic job of creating an enticing story which propels kids into exposure to art, literature, history and mathematics.

Moreover, Brett Helquist's illustrations add to the mystery of the novel. I have never taken the time to focus on his illustrations and unlock hidden messages or codes (I know the first book offered this further activity), but do love his style. I'm sure young readers enjoy searching for clues in the illustrations.

I made a point of suggesting Blue Balliett's books to my son, in case he needs a new book to read for his English class. ES is more interested in math than literature, so perhaps these books would hold his interest. However, with the length of this one, I'm guessing he'll turn it down (still, I'm all for starting with the first book in a series!). Maybe my copy of Chasing Vermeer, will mysteriously appear on his desk in his room. Too bad Vermeer wasn't one of the artists included in that Artists card game he enjoys playing. I'm all for incorporating games with literature. Perhaps that is why I thoroughly enjoyed The Calder Game.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Maybe We All Just Need a Detox

Frankly, I don't know if I'm focused enough to write, but as my hubby often says (when I am wanting to double-check grammar, word choice or accuracy), "It's only a blog!" My mind and heart have been whirling over the past few days. Sorry if this is a bit like trying to follow (or predict) the path of a tornado.

First of all, my aunt had written last week to ask for prayer for my cousin Chris. Chris had been battling a desmoid tumor since 1997, but a large hole in her intestine required emergency surgery. She asked that I forward the e-mail on to the siblings she didn't have addresses for. Although I did personally pray for Chris, I didn't forward the request on at all.

My father wrote on Saturday to say that Chris passed away last Friday night. I must say, I felt like I hadn't done enough. Even though I know that the Lord determines the outcome, I felt guilty for not forwarding on the information that I had learned, for not allowing others to join in the prayer chain.

Immediately, my mind went back to earlier days ... days when Chris was a member of Future Officers Fellowship (a Salvation Army group for those who intend to become ministers with The Salvation Army) ... days when our families were both at my grandparents' house for a visit and my father made a clever little video of all of us walking into a tree and then walking out (giving the illusion that we had all disappeared into the tree). Unfortunately, I had to seek memories of earlier days because we really hadn't had much contact since our early teen years.

I had thought of Chris often over the years because I knew that she was battling cancer. About ten years ago, I experienced some unexplained stomach issues. I was advised to seek genetic counselling because so many individuals in my paternal grandfather's family had died of cancer. My grandfather's family carried the FAP (Familial adenomatous polyposis) gene, which is what killed Katie Couric's husband. Offspring have a 50% chance of passing on the gene. The counselling session made it pretty clear to us that my father was the clean offspring and my aunt, sadly, was the gene carrier.

Despite the determination that I don't carry the FAP gene, doctors did encourage me to have a colonoscopy every ten years. Even if I don't make it in for a colonoscopy, I'm considering doing a full body cleanse. Perhaps if I cleared my body of unhealthy toxins, it would function better and I would feel better. It sounds so promising, doesn't it? All those annoying peripheral problems might disappear. Plus, there's the added benefit of dropping some weight in the process. I've met several people who believe there is a link between diet and environmental factors and depression and fatigue.

Of course, after I detox, I'll need to continue making significant lifestyle changes (more exercise and better food habits). Today, our newspaper told of a 20 year old who lost his life this weekend in a car accident caused by what they called OWI (Operating While Intoxicated). I thought the term was DUI, but perhaps times and expressions have changed. What hasn't changed is the fact that toxins in the body cloud our ability to function at an optimum level. I turned to my hubby and said, "Why do they do it? Why do they continue to flood their bodies with toxins, when the risks and dangers are so great?"

Of course, practical hubby, replied that we all do this to some extent. We know that diets full of cheeseburgers and processed foods aren't healthy, yet we enjoy the taste and convenience of these foods. Yes, I'm guilty as charged. I've pined for our more frequent fast food fixes (now that we live in the country, we eat out less often because it is actually more convenient to fix it at home). How I miss our weekly Taco Bell meals! How I long for more frequent trips for pizza and french fries!

Now my mind is reeling with further complicating thoughts. I was reviewing some of Team Larson's recent posts and checking comments as well. One individual left a comment saying she wished that she had found the Larson's Care Page earlier, before Coleman's death, because she wanted to pass on the news of dramatic turn-around for a nine year old girl named Josie, who was sent home to die. In desperation, this family turned to a California naturopath. The individual commenting left a link for the family's page.

Of course, I followed the link and marveled at the simple suggestions there. Then I watched the videos of the doctor explaining his ideas. The naturopath suggests that cancer isn't the problem. It is a problem of acidosis - the build up of a bad acid level in our saliva which allows the cancerous cells to multiply and grow. He suggested taking a pH reading of the girl's saliva several times a day. He directed the family to monitor the pH levels and to cut out all man-made/processed foods. They have been giving Josie the suggested natural concoctions (raw fruits and vegetables) and the evidence of cancer has vanished from her body.

While I believe we do a ton of damage to our bodies, it can't really be that simple, can it? Is it truly just a matter of getting back to eating and living the way God originally intended (by the fruit of the land and the labor of our backs instead of relying on machines to process and make things more convenient)? How would such information make Coleman's parents feel? If I were them, I would be angry. All I had to do was change my child's diet and exposure to harmful toxins and they would still be here?

My mind keeps buzzing over these issues. I still hope to do a full body cleanse sometime soon. I still hope that it eliminates some of the harmful build-up of toxins in my body. Can the detox and lifestyle changes solve our problems, including cancer? I don't know. What do you think?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I Still Love You

As I was cleaning the house this past Thursday morning, I was jamming to an old tape I love: Bryan Duncan's the last time i was here. When I heard the third song, on Side one, I thought to myself, "I have to post these lyrics for my Valentine post!" (yeah, yeah, I know! Easier to post someone else's words than to come up with my own!)

I looked up the lyrics on the computer and copied them. Before I got a chance to paste them into my blog, I began to wonder what Bryan Duncan is up to these days. The last time I heard him sing was at a recovery conference of some sort about a decade back (we were all recovering from a variety of addictions and dysfunctions). It was a wonderful evening and I felt so fortunate to hear his testimony and more of his songs. At the same conference, I had the wonderful opportunity to hear Brennan Manning speak (his talk was about Don Quixote and was exceptional, also).

I discovered his most recent release in September of 2008 with a band called The NehoSoul Band . As I skimmed the lyrics and the credits, I began to realize that Bryan has moved into a new chapter in his life. I read that his marriage ended.

Immediately, I thought, "Do I still post lyrics from a song written by a guy whose marriage has since collapsed?" Just as quickly, I thought, "Yeah, I do, because those words ring true for me right now. Who's to say whether my marriage will still be intact ten years down the road. It looked doubtful as little as six years ago."

That is the beauty of this journey of life. In some ways, I wish I could see what tomorrow holds, but in a lot of ways, I'm glad I can look at life from the perspective of this day only. What Satan means for evil, God can and will use for good. That doesn't mean all marriages will be restored and we will love perfectly, as He loves us. But it does mean that God will redeem whatever we hand to Him.

I handed him my marriage a long time ago. For a while, it seemed (perplexingly so) that God wasn't going to redeem it by restoring it, and yet, here we are, one year away from our 20th anniversary.

So here are those lyrics to the chorus of Duncan's song, "I Still Love You - Simple as That":

"In all we've been through
I still love you
Simple as that
Simple as that fact
No regret and no revision
I'm not looking back
I'm not looking back, no
I'm sayin' I made the right decision
And I'm gonna stand by you
As long as you'll have me, too."

It is interesting. I always thought that the chorus ended with, "as long as You'd have me to," directed at God. I don't know anything about Bryan Duncan's marriage or divorce. I feel bad because divorce always brings pain. He has my best wishes.

You can check out his blog and read about what he's doing these days (some pretty funny comments - laughed out loud about his pastor's name and his "Dear God" letters). As for me, on this Valentine's Day, I'm thankful for my marriage relationship. Even more, I'm thankful that God is absolutely perfect and faithful!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Favorite Things Thursday: Wedding Teapot

Every morning, my husband brews a four-cup pot of coffee. He keeps trying to sway me into joining him for a cup. I love the smell of coffee, but that's about it. Not to mention, there is no way in the world I am getting up at 5 a.m. with him to drink it, even if it would perk me up in the morning.

We also both drink tea. He drinks green tea, for the health benefits (antioxidants and all that jazz). I drink Earl Grey, to help get me moving in the (later) morning. And we both have loved this beautiful teapot, which we received as a wedding gift from one of my college friends.

It is a lovely Portmeirion pot in the Botanic Garden pattern (from 1972). I don't have any other pieces, but my, how I have loved that teapot. From the moment I saw it, I fell in love with it.

Beneath the delight, lurked horrid embarrassment. My friend had gotten married while I was living in England for several months. Originally, I was supposed to be her maid of honor. Alas, my 7 month stint in England/Europe stood in the way. I mailed her an absolutely horrendous wedding pillow (of course, that is how I remember it now - at the moment of purchase, it was something beautiful, purchased right in the middle of the Covent Garden craft mall). I'm pretty sure my gift to her was tossed long ago.

If my husband had his way, our teapot would have been thrown out by now. For ages, we both would boil our water in this teapot in the microwave and then pour it over our teabag. Then, one day, the lid was dropped (can't even remember who, but can guarantee it was in DeKalb and long before the two little guys were born).

I glued the lid back together. For a while, I persisted in removing the broken lid whenever I used the pot. However, one year for Christmas (again, in DeKalb), my husband purchased a stove-top whistling teapot. I did like the whistling version, but couldn't part with the botanical teapot, so it continued to sit on our counter.

After we moved to Indiana, I had both pots near the stove. Alas, shortly after YS was born, I put a batch of water on for tea and went off elsewhere in the house and forgot about it. By the time I returned to the kitchen, I was greeted with a pungent smell and my husband's gift (shhh!) went into the trash (really, he would have wanted it that way, anyway).

Since then, we boil our water in a regular Pyrex measuring cup. Boring, I know, but it certainly does the job just as well. Problem is, I still can't bear to part with the broken teapot. In fact, I have even spent a few evenings whiling away my time on e-bay searching for an exact replica to replace it. Even though I found one once, I didn't bid on it because I was sure my hubby would say, "doesn't the measuring cup work just as well?"

Now that I have taken these lovely photos of the teapot, perhaps it won't be so painful to throw it out. I doubt my friend, Anne, even knows how much I have cherished that gift! The sentimental value has been immense. It is amazing that I am willing to wash the darn thing when it gets dusty. I just have to have it out to look at because it brings me such comfort. Perhaps even more comfort than a hot cup of tea!

Some People Just Don't Get It!

Lately, my two little guys have been pretending they are dogs. They crawl around on paws, pant, bark and occasionally lick me. They ask for their cereal, in the morning, without milk, so that they can eat it like a dog from the bowl on the floor. If YS can't find his sleepy bear, he will walk over to MS and say "Doggie, doggie, find sleepy bear."

Most of the time, I can deal with this (although I will say, I wasn't pleased to turn around and find MS rolling on the floor of the hair salon, waiting for YS's cut to be finished). This is a game that they enjoy playing together. If it occupies some of their time, then I'm pleased (so long as they are not crawling all over me and licking endlessly).

However, ES, at age 12, sees this as a new mode of attack. When MS was Spiderman, ES would delight in tormenting him with the phrase, "You're not REALLY Spiderman!"

Tonight, I overheard ES beginning to taunt MS: "Why do you keep acting like this? You're NOT a dog!"

Exasperated, MS replied, "Don't you GET IT??? I'm just PLAYING DOG!" Get a little imagination to go with that attitude, big brother!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Book Review: Super Smoothies

Ever since I became pregnant with my first son, I have been enjoying the smoothie recipe I found in one of the pregnancy books. My kids tend to favor my husband's smoothies (he prepares them with milk and fruit and the little guys love to help), but I have stuck with my standard recipe (3/4 c. skim milk, 1/4 c. orange juice, 4-6 oz. yogurt, frozen fruit - usually bananas and strawberries or pineapple).

Last week, I stumbled upon a gem of a book at the thrift store. Even in skimming, I knew I couldn't pass it up. Although I have yet to try one of these recipes, it was tremendous fun reading the book.

The first forty pages are chock full of nutritional information. The authors, twin sisters Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford, offer ten tips for super smoothies, fruit and vegetable glossaries (outlining the various benefits of each fruit and vegetable suggested for use), a listing of a variety of binding ingredients, nutritional information and advice on preparing ingredients for use. Several of the tips I plan to use include using flavored ice cubes (teas, juices, etc.), using fresher ingredients and incorporating some new binding ingredients (like silken tofu - don't know if I'll like it, but am planning on giving it a whirl - literally!).

The recipes, themselves, are divided into categories like: "Energy Elixirs," "Immune Boosters," "Weight-Conscious Concoctions," "Stress Reducers." There are also sections devoted to women, men and kids. Too bad, I'm already past the point of needing a smoothie to combat infant teething pain.

I was thrilled to find that the previous owner had written "good" over various ones, even though I know my opinions might differ. A few sound like ones I will never try, either because they call for unusual ingredients or ingredients I wouldn't be willing to purchase just for a smoothie. One recipe called for beets, and even though I like beets, I'm unlikely to buy a raw beet and shred it to add to my smoothie. Now, having said that, though, if I were to make cooked beets for myself, since nobody else in this family enjoys them, I might be tempted to freeze the leftover portion and attempt that particular smoothie. Then again, it calls for carrot juice, frozen diced papaya, and grated fresh ginger.

I doubt I'll be needing the "Hangover Helper" smoothie, but it did sound delicious with watermelon and strawberries. I will definitely try the "Flu-buster" next time I find myself needing a souped up dose of vitamin C. Other ones I intend to try are "Heart-throb," "Guiltless Pleasure," "Peachy Lean," "Lite'n Luscious," and "Cold Flash." Plus there were some other delicious sounding mixes calling for chocolate milk, peanut butter and bananas.

I only paid 69 cents for my copy. You can find an inexpensive used copy (under a dollar) on Someone (my sister-in-law??) told me once that a smoothie is like a healthy milkshake. I could go for a healthy milkshake every day of the week.

Monday, February 9, 2009

New Life Makes Me Smile

My last post was about death. We never know when that will come and when confronted with its possibility, we tend to focus more on living well. I've thought a lot about Amy Welborn the last few days (I even looked up a bit more about her and learned that she lived in DeKalb, Illinois at one time!). The transition she is facing. The life and testimony her husband had. The children he left behind.

The image I get in my head is of a mountain climber. Our lives tend to ebb and flow. Sometimes we are in the valleys. Sometimes we feel lost. Sometimes we are on the summit of the mountain top and lose our footing and plummet to a lower spot with bruises and pain. Unexpected loss probably feels a lot like that.

I remember talking with a good friend shortly before my first son was born. Her life was going very well and the enthusiasm in her voice was infectious. However, shortly after my son's birth, I received another call from her and she explained that she had to work up the energy to make the call and get through it. I think, perhaps, she was worried I might call her to share the joyous news of my son's birth, because new life makes people burst with the news. He was born the day before her 10 year old son, unexpectedly died of an undetected birth defect. It certainly seemed like she had plummeted from a high elevation.

She struggled for many years. Thankfully, I recently reconnected with her on Facebook and have learned that she is remarried and steadily climbing out of the valley. She still misses her son more than she can express, but the fall off that mountain isn't quite so fresh and life has brought her to a different stretch of land on her journey.

Tonight, I received an e-mail from my pen-pal, Katja. I found myself grinning from ear to ear as I read about her doctor visit and the health of the baby at this point. New life has a way of doing that to me. I'm so thrilled over the little life growing within her (partly because I know how much she has longed for this blessing). Life is, indeed, a journey, and the beginning is so sweet and tender.

I am praying that everything goes well with Katja's pregnancy. I am praying for a new life (in more ways than one) for Katja.

Today, I logged on to my niece Amelia's St. Baldrick's participation page and made a donation on her head (she is already half way to her goal, but every little dollar helps her get closer). Oftentimes, survivors have to deal with survivor's guilt (although probably Amelia's mother feels this more than Amelia does). That open question of why their child thrived while another child's life ended. Amelia is doing what she can to honor those who are still fighting cancer, to aid those whose fight has yet begun and in memory of those whose journey is over.

Amy Welborn's husband wrote a post on his blog in January (definitely worth a look), reflecting on the new year. He wrote:

"So at the top of my list of goals for this New Year is the resolution to surrender everything to Christ, to be a steward of what God has given me (my life) and continues to give to me (my children). I also want to commit others to Christ through my prayer—to lift them up in prayer, so that they too will accept the gifts that God gives to them." He went on to say, "This is a special time of the year to recall the gift of life—our own (and hence the need to once again eat well and exercise) and all of God’s creation—from the moment of conception to natural death. Do we want a holy, peaceful, and sinless day? Then we must commit ourselves entirely to Christ our God."

I want to give my best to my own life's journey. I want to climb well and really enjoy the view during the moments God gives for resting on the journey. I want to make each day count, because life is such a blessing, no matter how long it is lived. And new life, well that really makes me smile.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

In God We Trust, No Matter What

I've had my share of difficult circumstances in life (some too intense to share on these pages), and I've been tested. It would be wonderful if I could say that my response to those testing times was always "In God We Trust, No Matter What!" However, in all honesty, it was often, "In God We Trust, No Matter What?"

I marvel at those whose faith remains rock solid in the midst of tragedy and perplexing wilderness walks. I have not lost my faith, but must admit that at times I have felt like I am walking on stilts instead of solid ground. I look back and see only one set of footprints, unable to recognize the Lord carrying me.

This morning, I logged on (in an effort to wake myself - why is it that when I'm tired, in the evening - or morning, as I'm now finding - reading and writing on the computer brings me to full alert?) and tried to catch up on a few blogs I enjoy visiting. I headed to Rachel's blog and noticed that she mentioned a friend, Amy Welborn, who had just lost her husband. Following the link, I discovered this beautiful article written by her husband just before he passed away.

I know that my life will hold plenty of further difficulties and sorrow, plenty more occasions where I struggle to see where the Lord is leading and why he seems absent. However, I certainly hope that I get better at saying "In God I Trust, No Matter What!" instead of "no matter what?"

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Favorite Things Thursday: Criss-Cross-Crash

I've noticed that lots of blogs create patterns for their postings (things like Wordless Wednesday or Works-for-Me Wednesday, etc.). I've often wanted to jump into this pool of fun, but am somewhat squeamish about the water. (Indeed, I really can't put my face into water - I think perhaps I suffered some sort of early trauma - fell into the tub at age 3 months, or something? - so when I swim laps, I always keep my head above the water - a wuss, I know!)

At Christmas time, I was toying with the idea of sharing some of my favorite decorations and the stories behind them (because so many of the things that I value are valued for their stories and not for their tangible natures). Alas, I didn't even get around to listing one. However, I still feel that it would do my heart and soul some good to document some of my favorite (or should I say, favourite) things. (After all, I loved seeing BritGal Sarah's purse collection!) Can you hear the song from the Sound of Music? When I'm feeling sad, perhaps if I think of my favorite things, I won't feel so bad.

For my first Favorite Things Thursday, I want to show you a garage sale purchase which has been worth its weight in gold. I purchased a Hot Wheels Criss-Cross-Crash for one dollar, back when my ES was around 5 years old. It was one of those purchases that I immediately regretted when I arrived home. My husband is very skeptical with Hot Wheels products, because so many of them just don't work as smoothly as you are led to believe. So, I know he was thinking that a second-hand Hot Wheels product would really fail us.

The day after I purchased it, my ES and I sat down to begin to put the thing together. Alas, we quickly discovered that the set was missing one piece - a small, black, curved track piece. Remembering where I had purchased it, I headed back to this house to ask if they wouldn't mind looking for the missing piece. They were very kind about it, but ... couldn't find the missing piece. I returned home and determined to get the thing to work without the missing piece. We rigged up the track pieces with tape to cover a slight gap and it worked fine.

Despite its missing piece, ES spent quite a bit of time playing with this toy. Now, MS and YS are both enjoying it as well. YS loves to put a still car at the intersection, in order to create a crash. MS loves to keep the cars moving consistently through the loops. As with video games, he often gets too excited to contain his various body parts and facial expressions.

I should note that when I looked on-line, I discovered that Mattel still makes this toy. However, many of the reviews say that it was a disappointment. One review mentioned having the older version (which is what ours is) and the newer one is simply a let down compared to the older, sturdier tracks.

We'll hang on to our old-school Criss-Cross-Crash until the little boys outgrow it. Then, I'll try to sell it for a dollar. Who knows maybe it will turn out to be free fun, after all those years of good use! And when I'm sad, I'll remember my boys enjoying one of their favorite things.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Redeeming Qualities

A friend mentioned, on Facebook, that she has always longed for a boy. God only blessed her with girls. I replied, in jest, that we should make a temporary trade (noting, alas, that her girls were already far too old for me to french braid their hair or dress them in beautiful dresses). Of course, although a day or two away from my boys might be a blessing, I would never trade them for any other child (as I said in the last post).

This morning I was, once again, lamenting my feet (for a visual, see my last lament). The bottoms of my feet are normally very dry, but in the winter, they get dry to the point of ripping holes in the bottoms of all my socks. Ugh! Plus, I have a new wart growing in on the bottom. I'm not at the point where I'm willing to contemplate getting a shot of Novocaine to allow a dermatologist to cut it out, but I'm at the point where it definitely bothers me. I thought, "Boy, I'd love to trade feet with someone else (preferably, another woman, obviously)."

Who, in the world, would be willing to trade for MY feet? Their feet would have to be pretty objectionable, themselves. Perhaps their feet are gargantuan (apparently Paris Hilton falls into this category) and they would love my petite size 6-1/2. Maybe their toes are so long that they look like fingers.

Then again, there's the Filipino girl whose feet were so clubbed that they were upside down and turned backwards. She certainly would have welcomed my feet with open arms! Ha! I doubt she would have cared that the two large toenails were missing. Even the inconvenience of the wart wouldn't bother her. She would jump up and down on my feet and do a host of things I take for granted.

So, just so you know, my feet are not up for trade. I'm keeping my feet and my kids (even the one who sprayed urine all over the toilet and wall shortly after I finished cleaning their bathroom today!) and a host of other things and situations in my life, which at times seem less than perfect. After all, everything has some redeeming qualities, right?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Book Review: About Alice

Before picking up this book, I had never even heard of Calvin Trillin. Although, when I asked my husband, he replied, "Sure, he's a journalist and a humorist and wrote regular columns for ..." O.K., I can't even remember what my husband said about him. I just was surprised I had never heard of him, given the fact that this book was so poignant and touching.

So, who is Calvin Trillin? Wikipedia tells all!

"Calvin (Bud) Marshall Trillin (born December 5, 1935 in Kansas City, Missouri) is an American journalist, humorist, and novelist. He is best known for his humorous writings about food and eating, but he has also written serious journalism, comic verse, and several books of fiction." He wrote articles for Time, The New Yorker and The Nation magazines. He is also known for his poetry, often political satire.

I even found some hilarious quotes from Calvin Trillin, on-line:

--"Health food makes me sick."
--"The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found."
-- and "Anybody caught selling macrame in public should be dyed a natural color and hung out to dry."

When I picked up About Alice, I was interested in listening to a memoir written by a husband about his wife. I don't know that I could have made a better choice, as we approach Valentine's Day. Calvin Trillin adored his wife. He cast her in many of his books and relied on her for grounding, inspiration and editing. He, himself, declares that he "wrote everything for Alice."

Alice Trillin was quite an individual in her own right. She was a writer, educator and television producer. She was beautiful, classy, compassionate, intelligent and articulate. Calvin Trillin paints a beautiful portrait of his wife in this biography, one which makes you wish you had been able to meet her and one which makes you want to be like her (including her valuable asset of having a doting husband, like Calvin).

Of course, it was fun to listen to stories of how the two met at a dinner party and how she told him later that, that night was the funniest he had ever been! But, my favorite part of the book was listening to his description of his wife as she battled cancer and supported so many others who were fighting similar battles. Her husband notes that she firmly believed in "the transformative power of pure, undiluted love."

They both volunteered as counselors at The Hole In the Wall Gang Camp. At one point, Alice gave a little speech about her time volunteering. She shared about a young camper she had taken to, that summer. The little girl had two different disabilities (a growth issue, making her smaller than average, and a digestive issue, which made eating difficult). During Alice's speech, she admitted that at one point, while holding some mail from the little girl's mother, she had peeked at her letter. Alice explained,

"I simply had to know what this child's parents could have done to make her so spectacular. To make her the most optimistic, most enthusiastic, most hopeful human being I had ever encountered. I snuck a quick look at the note and my eyes fell on this sentence: 'If God had given us all the children in the world to choose from, L., we would have chosen you.'"

How pleased I was, that my own son (ES) happened to be sitting in the car with me, listening when this very section was being read. I was feeling deeply moved, but I also felt an intense urge to bring it home to him (if he was truly listening). I turned and said, "What a beautiful thing to write, and that is exactly how Dad and I feel about you, too!"

The audio version of this book only takes one hour and 18 minutes to complete. As I said before, I can't think of a better book to recommend as we approach Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Lesson in Perspective

This week, Indianapolis was hit with about a foot of snow! No complaints from my boys, since they got some snow-days off from school. The little guys really appreciated extra time with merciless teasing from their big brother. On the first day of the snow, ES took MS out to play in the snow and I stayed inside with YS, who was battling the dregs of post-croup sinus infection.

Today, however, it was a beautiful day and I decided to take the two little guys out in the snow to play. MS threw a fit because I forced him to change from his Spiderman suit (with the big gap up his back) into sweats. When will he learn, "function before fashion," I ask?

He finally got with the program and I headed to retrieve snow-pants and boots for YS from the front hall closet. As soon as I opened the door, YS noticed an old pair of Thomas the Tank Engine sandals (patiently waiting, amidst cobwebs and spiders - since we hang our frequently used coats and hats in the hallway closer to the garage). He threw a fit to clarify his age (terrible twos) and to show that he hasn't learned the F B4F lesson, either. To clarify my authority, I persisted in dressing him in snow-pants and boots and coat and gloves and hat (ah, the dreaded hat, which YS loathes x10).

By the time we were suited up, I wondered why the mere process of getting ready to go out and have fun can sometimes drain the fun right out of you? On my way out the door, I grabbed my camera, hoping to snag a few good shots of our "fun."

As soon as we got out the door, their spirits brightened. MS took off for the back yard and YS trudged a few steps before stopping to say, "Stuck! Carry you, Mom!" Yeah, I'd love it if he'd carry me, but I knew he meant for me to carry him.

For a while, we checked out animal tracks in the snow. This is quite fascinating, though I'm not very good at determining which are squirrel tracks and which are rabbit tracks, etc.

When we got down closer to the creek, MS started throwing snow-balls. I'm taller and he's not a very good aim, so no problems!

Here is a cute little snowman which MS made. (YS had to wear his lighter jeans coat because the zipper on his warmer coat broke - why does that always happen with boy's jackets???) I decided to make a larger snowman and began rolling the bottom part. At first, MS climbed on top and was sitting on the large mound. This must have given him an idea, because moments later he scurried up with a stick and poked it into the back, declaring it a tail.

I followed his lead and decided to attempt to turn our bottom of a snowman, into a horse shape. The whole time I was concentrating on making spindly front legs bending out in front of the snow-horse mass, MS was throwing snowballs at YS (directly at his face, most of the time).

I must have grown too absorbed in what I was doing. I had begun to craft the neck and head of the horse. Suddenly, I was brought back to reality, when MS dropped a huge clump of snow on my head and down the back of my coat! By this time, I could no longer ignore YS's petitions for me to hold him. I scooped him up, thinking ES could help MS finish the horse, when he returned from a friend's house.

After a good half hour, shaping the torso and front legs of a horse, MS declared that he didn't want a horse, but rather, a spider. Instead of loping off the top and adding more legs, however, he proceeded to kick off the two legs I had worked so hard on.

Without saying a word, I began to carry YS up the hill to head back into the house. Of course, MS didn't want me to leave without him. Next, he began begging me to carry him as well (give me a break!). He had to settle for holding my hand. As we were trudging through the snow to head back inside, I began to think about how much work this little window of outdoor fun had required. The snow was no longer a foot deep, but still ... trudging through eight inches of snow while carrying a toddler and dragging another ... it was hard work.

I think I'll remember this, next time I'm complaining about how difficult it is to get the boys into their coats so we can hop in the van and head to the store. I think we need to start the third book in the Little House series. We'll drink some nice warm honey milk and sit together on the couch. under a blanket. eating the Oreos. we bought at the store!
Update: My good friend and past co-worker, Mrs. Brown, lost her son, Michael, yesterday afternoon (brain tumor). So, this is a further lesson in perspective. What a joy to have been able to head outside in the brilliant sunshine and make memories with two of my boys. Every day is a blessing. So glad we were able to fully live this day (despite temper tantrums, broken zippers, hat defiance, heavy toddlers, frustrated efforts and a pile of wet laundry)!