Saturday, October 31, 2009

Comedy in the Midst of Chaos

Top Ten Chaotic Happenings in our lives lately:

10) YS keeps getting into my deodorant and rubbing it all over his face and clothes. Why?

9) Spilled milk. No, I'm not crying.

Updated: We did have spilled milk, but I truly forgot a more pressing chaos - YS keeps locking various doors around the house and then pulling that door shut, so we can't get in without tools.

8) Harley keeps peeing on the floor when he is excited to see someone. URGH.

7) Harley will not stop humping all the boys in the family. He never jumps on me or attempts this.

6) YS will not stop taking dry food from the dog's food bowl and dropping handfuls into the dog's water bowl. Have still not discovered a discipline which will counteract this behavior.

5) Youngest two boys continually bait the dog to bite. MS can't seem to just pet the dog, but must put his hand in the dog's mouth every few seconds or try to take the rawhide chew out of the dog's mouth. YS thinks the dog is a horse and wants to ride him.

4) ES seems to think it is his job to intervene when the little boys are baiting the dog, but this just makes things worse.

3) Can't get family photo taken because the boys have scratches from the dog on their faces.

2) Boys break floor lamp in basement while playing with Harley. Glass flies everywhere. Must carefully extract 1 dog and 2 boys without injury, then leave them alone, unsupervised, while I clean up the mess.

1) We now have 10 squeaking mice babies. Hubby suspects the mommy mouse is already pregnant again. (Stay tuned for photos.)

Thankfully, we've had some laughs, too.

On one particularly awful day, my husband and I sat the three boys down on the couch, across from us, to discuss some of these behavior issues. I was quite upset. As I started off, talking to ES, I attempted to curb his parental stance. I said, emphatically, "Listen, I AM THE MOM." At this point, YS looked up at ES next to him and said, "Yeah, and he is the dad!" (pointing to my husband). Took the angry wind right out of my sails, I'll tell you.

Another day, we were sitting in the living room. ES held up MS's transformer toy. He looked at MS and asked, "Is it a man or a truck?"

MS replied, "A man."

ES quickly shifted things to turn it into a truck and said, "Nope. Is it a man or a truck?"

MS replied, "A truck."

ES quickly shifted things again and said, "Nope. You got it wrong."

You could see MS's wheels turning. He walked over to the toy basket, picked up Spiderman and turned to ES. Then he displayed a coy smile and said, "Is it a man or a spider?"

We all cracked up at ES gave the final answer: BOTH.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Survived the Dentist, but Still Feel Buzzed

I'm sorry to those many legions of individuals who have been waiting with bated breath for my next blog post (har-dee-har-har!!!). I have been a bit under the weather. Nothing serious, but enough to make the days very long and sleep much more necessary.

Last Friday, I had my first dentist appointment since we moved to Indiana. This is a horrible thing to admit. Why not embrace full honesty and explain that I hadn't been for five years. Shortly after my MS was born, our elderly dentist in DeKalb passed away. Then, we were busy planning a move and moving, then expecting a baby and constantly caring for a baby, then ... well, you get the picture. It just never loomed large on my radar.

Needless to say, it was not very surprising that they discovered two cavities in need of filling. Not wanting to schedule an appointment in November (my high-powered novel writing month), I accepted an appointment for this morning.

The more I thought about the anticipated shots into two sides of my upper gums, the less I figured I could handle this appointment. So, I took the coward's way out and requested nitrous oxide.

What a trip that stuff is. As the nurse applied the mask to my face, I could hear the dentist conversing with another patient in the room next to mine. Slowly, things began to all roll together and I could hear various familiar songs playing on the radio, then someone asking me to open wider, a vague sense of the drilling sound. It is like your head is floating above the ceiling. I don't think I opened my eyes once. I'm not sure if I would have even been able to open them. Perhaps they gave me too much juice.

All I know is that when I came out of it, everyone was looking at me like they were very fearful for me. They asked if I felt sick to my stomach. I said no, but a minute or two later had to reverse that assessment and request a receptacle.

When the dentist made a final check-in, he apologized for the vomiting episode and said next time they will give a bit less nitrous. I'm thinking, "let's not be talking about a next time at this point, please!" I said it was quite all right, since I would far rather toss my cookies than feel the pain of a shot. It was only then that he informed me that the gums are actually the least painful spot you can receive a shot. Go figure! I would have thought gums would hurt like the dickens!

Still, I survived. I did, however, battle a lingering headache the rest of the day. I am hoping tomorrow will reap a bit more productivity, since it is my last day to whip this house into shape (sorry, another har-dee-har-har!) before I enter into the month of novel-labouring. I can already picture the book-to-be, so that is a good sign. Names are selected. The enthusiasm and excitement is beginning to mount. November ... bring it on!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Book Review: The Hot Flash Club

Nancy Thayer's book, The Hot Flash Club, was billed as a "coming-of-age" novel for women on the brink of menopause. The author begins by introducing us to four women: Alice (a dynamic, outspoken black executive), Faye (a widowed artist), Shirley (a hippified masseuse), and Marilyn (a dowdy academician working with trilobite fossils). These four women meet at a retirement party and form an unlikely alliance, drawn together by their experience with menopause and aging.

During their meetings, they set out to solve their various problems. Alice, on the heels of a recent merger, wonders if her new associate is after her job. Faye wants to know if her postpartum daughter's husband is having an affair. Shirley dreams of starting up her own business but lacks the funds and business acumen. Finally, Marilyn wants to know if her son's fiance is really in love with him or just after his money.

I felt like this plot premise offered a lot of possibilities. Sadly, I found myself feeling very disappointed with this book. I suppose if I had seen the above cover, I might have known that this would be a trendy, chick-lit book offering little substance. However, I did not see this cover until I sought an image for my review.

I listened to the book in audio form. It was, sadly, one that I could not listen to when any of my children were in the vehicle with me (unless I wore earphones). One never knew when the topic would veer off into an unnecessarily graphic account of some sexual situation or topic. Even listening by myself, I often felt a tad bit uncomfortable and wished for a book version so I could skim quickly past the bits I had no desire to read.

The characters felt like characitures. The hippie character is all hippie, with her fragrances and ditsy manner (though, she supposedly had a problem of significant proportions as a reformed alcoholic). There are numerous references to male gay hairdressers. The plastic surgeons who hide away their disfigured daughter. The intelligent researcher who is so caught up in her work that she doesn't even give a moment's notice to her appearance or socialization.

Sometimes the writing made me laugh out loud because it was just too ridiculous, like when Alice is describing her own breasts and says they were like two dolphins rising in the ocean, or some drivel like that. Actually, most of the descriptive similes ended up sounding just as silly. The book is full of lengthy discussions about the troubles of menopause and comments like so-and-so "couldn't remember the last time she had" ...

Once again, it may just be that my worldview is at odds with the author's. I found it hard to believe that not a single character in the book paused for one moment before jumping in and out of bed with others. Indeed, towards the end of the book, Alice meets a man and hopes to bed him. When he kisses her and gets her aroused, she is offended and confused when he abruptly leaves and says he'll call. I hoped, finally, there would be a character with ..., well, character. I hoped to discover that the man found her attractive, but valued the sexual act in such a way that he reserved it only for marriage. Alas, my reasoning was far too "puritanical." The man had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer. No, he wasn't hesitating because he was concerned with how she might take the news, but rather, he wasn't sure if it was good for his tools to be exercised in that manner. Yeesh!

If you are looking for a light-hearted read to pass some time with, and you don't mind dabbling into discussions about sex from a modern, unrestrained perspective (or can skip over those), this author has offered up a whole series based upon these characters. I don't think I'm going to waste my time on another one.

However, I did just recently read about an interesting exercise for would-be writers. It might be an interesting challenge to take her premise and her plot structure and rewrite the book (after wringing it through the washing machine and then giving it a bit more unique coloring and some actual substance). No time for that now, however, since I am busily outlining my novel for NaNoWriMo (only one week away)!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

10 Signs it is Time to Quit

I found this article on AOL quite enlightening. It is titled, "Ten Signs it is Time to Quit." Of course, it was intended for individuals in the career track, not those of us toiling away in the non-lucrative, but highly rewarding job of raising the citizens of tomorrow, our children. Let's see if it fits for a mother. (I've only posted parts of Kate Lorenz's article. To read it in its entirety, click on the link above.)

"Sign No. 1: Your co-workers are annoying."

Well, I can't really register this complaint. My only co-worker is my husband. Since he makes a good share of the meals and is more likely to pick up messes than I am, life is good in that respect. The only time he gets annoying is when he draws attention to something I have missed (vitamin distribution, tooth-brushing agenda, hand-washing upon returning home or prior to eating) in the multitudinous details of raising children with healthy habits.

"Sign No. 2: The environment is toxic. Do you work in a less-than-nurturing atmosphere? Is morale constantly low? Have you been complaining for two solid years? It could be an organizational problem that applying feng shui to your cube just won't fix."

Yep, the environment is often toxic. Less-than-nurturing fits, too. But the real nugget in this sign is the comment about it being an "organizational problem." Of that, I am sure. If I were a more organized, detail-oriented mother, the load probably would seem lighter and things would run like clock-work.

"Sign No. 3: You're mentally exhausted by the end of the day. Stress can cause low morale, decreased productivity and apathy towards work. Plus, it can spill into your personal life and even have a negative effect on your health."

Most definitely, mentally and emotionally exhausted by the end of the day. This is why bedtime can become such a nightmare. All the patience has been used up for the day.

Personal life? What is that?

As for the negative effect on health, perish the thought that mother ever get sick. Not allowed, so don't even think about it.

"Sign No. 4: Your boss is a nightmare.... If you have a lousy boss, even the best job in the world can make life a living hell. Your relationship with your supervisor plays a big role in your overall professional happiness and success.... If you are working for someone who is always absent, unavailable, self-absorbed or untrustworthy, it's time to look for a better supervisor and a better opportunity."

This might be a significant factor in mommy burnout. I thought, "Well, who is my boss?" Then, it came to me that the person who hired me for this job is none other than the Lord God, Himself. Oh, He is anything but a nightmare. And, I wouldn't dare call Him a "lousy boss."

When cast in that light, I'm quite certain that the most essential thing I needed to get from this article was the sentence reading, "Your relationship with your supervisor plays a big role in your overall professional happiness and success." I need to work on my relationship with my supervisor. In fact, I need to remember to recognize my supervisor. After all, He is always present (omnipresent, indeed), available, and entirely trustworthy. I doubt I could find a better supervisor. If only, I turned to Him for His assistance and instruction more often, this opportunity might continue to present itself as a rewarding opportunity with eternal significance!

"Sign No. 5: You're watching the clock... every 10 minutes."

The article actually mentioned being bored and under-challenged. Hee-hee. As if. We mothers tend to watch the clock, because we are waiting for that golden moment when the little dears finally, finally fall off to sleep and silence descends upon the house.

"Sign No. 6: You get no respect."

Too true!

"Sign No. 7: Your co-workers act like animals.
They live for themselves and only themselves. They irritate you. They offend you. They have no manners or ethics. And you work with them all. There's the Office Thief who steals your ideas. The Shirker arrives late, leaves early and disappears whenever work is near. The Buck-passer unloads her work onto everyone else and blames others for her mistakes. The Procrastinator delays things until the last possible minute, slowing you down by not having the information you need to meet your deadlines. The Interrupter stops by your cubicle 10 times a day to chat about her latest boyfriend despite your ringing telephone and pressing deadlines. And don't forget the infamous Elevator Person who rides up only one floor instead of taking the stairs."

Absolutely! The co-workers kids act like animals! With comments like "Where's my breakfast? Did you wash my plaid shorts yet? How come I'm out of socks? How come we never get to do anything fun?" etc.

Indeed, they lack manners and ethics, but I do work with them on it. They're thieves (getting into my own private dark chocolate stash), shirkers (whenever asked to help clean up a mess they have made), buck-passers (when questioned if they were responsible for the glitter strewn all over the carpet or the crayon marks on the hearthstone), ultimate procrastinators (when bed-time rolls around) and interrupters.

I'm thinking the work-world couldn't possibly be that bad a place if the complaint is for an Interrupter who stops by 10 times a day. If you've ever spent your days with a 2 year old and a 5 year old, you know that 10 is such a paltry interruption level, it must be sneered at. Try every 2 minutes. Try hearing your name called a thousand times each day.

Today, we have ES thrown into the fray, since he is home sick. More water. Medicine for a headache. Recharge my I-Pod, please. Did you call about getting my homework? Don't forget to go to my locker and pick up my Johnny Tremain book, 'cuz I have to read 100 pages in it.

"Sign No. 8: Nobody communicates.... the breakdown of communication can be frustrating and detrimental to your job. It can cost you an account, make you to miss a deadline, cause you to lose a client, and even get you fired."

Wait a minute! If I stop communicating, I could get fired? I doubt it.

"Sign No. 9: You're not valued. Recognition is important, and good companies implement programs to let employees know they are valued. Is your company doing anything to reward your efforts? Do you ever receive bonuses, perks or positive feedback?"

Being taken for granted is a given when you are a mom. Bonuses, perks, positive feedback? Good grief, I work 12-14 hour days and have to ask for permission to take a weekend off to visit friends. If they all leave for a weekend, I usually spend a good portion of that time cleaning up my work-place "environment."

"Sign No. 10: You feel stifled. What kind of quality of life do you have? Is your 40-hour week turning into a 24/7 grind? While salary may seem like the end all and be all, your quality of life determines your overall happiness. How much time you spend on the job, working conditions, supervisors and subordinates can positively and negatively impact your job outlook. If you dread the time you spent at work, it should be a clear indicator that it's time to break free. A job shouldn't stifle you creatively, mentally or physically."

If salary were the end all and be all to me, then I would be working in a lucrative job and placing my children in full-time day care. Yes, quality of life sometimes seems lacking. No, I can't just take off whenever I feel like it. Yes, my work week often feels like it is a 24/7 grind. No, I'm not always happy (when all three are fighting, the house looks like a tornado swept through, my clothes are all stained and out-of-style), but I'm sure I will look back on this time and say it flew by too quickly. I will miss the stories and the cuddles, the opportunity to peek into the mind of a child, the joy of watching them grow, the mini-milestones and the major victories. I will be glad I didn't throw in the towel and seek out some other "job." And, what doesn't kill me, will make me stronger, right? Now, I'm off to spend some time with my Supervisor to work on improving my job, or maybe just my attitude towards my job.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Like Minded Individuals Fan the Flame

I have just visited the NaNoWriMo website and selected a home region. This allows you to retrieve information about up-coming NaNo get-togethers. There are several write-ins planned for a coffee shop in downtown Indy, but I'm not sure I'll be able to leave the boys long enough to attend those. Who knows.

How thrilling it was to discover other writers in nearby towns who will be participating in this bold challenge. I am especially interested to meet another participant named Linda, from the Avon area, who has worked as a 5th grade teacher for many years. She is also interested in writing middle grade fiction, so we seem to have a bit in common.

Perhaps, even if I don't manage to win, and write a full 50,000 words, I will at least meet some other like-minded individuals. I have been missing my DeKalb writer's group something fierce, but when the two littles were still small, it seemed impossible to even manage to attend the writer's group which meets at a nearby library once a month.

Oh, I'm seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. The boys are getting bigger. I can leave them with my ES on occasion. They have to ONE DAY head off to school. My life, as I knew it, will return. And, I may even find a new group of cheerleaders to keep me running on this writing marathon.


Funny tid-bit: As I was typing away on the computer this evening, MS came out of his room with his eyes barely open. He passed me and went for ES's door. As he began opening it, I had to remind him that the bathroom wasn't until the next door down. I can just imagine ES's surprise if I had already gone to bed (as if that happens very often) and MS had walked into ES's room and piddled right on his floor. Hee-hee. Perhaps, I can use this as ammunition for my hubby on why I must stay up late at night typing on the computer.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Time Is Now

My mind has been chewing over a verse of Scripture these days:

"Where there is no vision, the people perish." Proverbs 29:18

This verse sums up my life these days. No vision, check. Feel like I'm perishing, check. Perpetual state of limbo, check.

Then again, when I looked up the verse, I did note that some translations use a slightly different terminology. These other versions say that without vision or revelation or restraints, the people "are naked." Oh, my!

I shouldn't shrink back too much at that, however, because I suppose those words could, indeed, fit as well. Without vision, I feel as if I have nothing to show for myself. Nothing splendid to look upon - only the wrinkled, failing flesh of my humanity.

Bob Hostetler, in his Desperate Pastor blog, wrote a post recently about when a pastor feels like quitting. He quoted Jonathan MacIntosh as saying,

"Mark Driscoll calls them “bread truck Mondays.” A Sunday that was so difficult or draining that the day after makes a pastor wish he was anything but a pastor – even the driver of a bread truck.

Not every pastor wants to quit all the time, but from time to time discouragement sets in and often it’s hard for pastors to find a safe, anonymous place to talk about it."

As I read that, I thought to myself, "Boy, I'm having bread truck days in response to my mothering role."

Yesterday, knowing that my husband would be available to manage the boys, I couldn't bring myself to pull the covers off from over my head for a long, long time after I awoke. I would have happily driven a bread truck. I, not so happily, rose anyway and started my day by reading some books to my two little boys (one of the true joys of my job).

Of course, this isn't the first time in life when I've experienced those gnawing questions like "What in the world am I doing here? Am I really supposed to be dedicating my whole self to this job??" And, usually, those are the very jobs I look back upon with wisdom and recognize how very much I learned.

Still, I'm finding it hard to keep my eyes trained on the vision of raising responsible sons (perhaps this is because I fear that I'm not really all that successful at this job and the only reason I haven't been fired is due to a shortage of possible replacements). Days seem to run together with the same themes playing out time and again.

Tonight, it was the standard bedtime ritual: put the boys to bed at 8:15, deal with the bathroom excuses - first #1, then #2 for both boys, listen to a horrendous teen phone conversation accidentally caught on the answering machine without ES's knowledge ... resulting in much fuming and gnashing of teeth in his direction, followed by a grounding, leave to buy a gallon of milk and return at 10 p.m. to find the two little boys still awake and my husband on the verge of murdering them (not literally - no need to involve DCFS).

It is no surprise that when the dust finally, and I mean FINALLY, settles, I sit in front of the computer writing on my blog (or staring into space enjoying the silence). However, for as long as I can remember, my dream was not to write a weblog read by a handful of family and friends, but rather to write a novel. Sadly, I have pursued this dream (especially back in the days when I was bolstered by encouragement from my writer's group) but have usually given up midstream. I have a handful of novels started and another handful of novel ideas constantly percolating.

So, I have decided that the time is ripe for a new vision, even if it is a somewhat temporary vision. I have decided to become a participant in NaNoWriMo. What is that, you ask? That little acronym stands for "National Novel Writing Month" and it takes place every November. I have signed on and set a goal of writing 50 thousand words in the month of November. The blessing in this exercise is that every participant is encouraged to set their sights on quantity rather than quality. They encourage you to write "on the fly," while waiting for a red light, while kids bicker in the background, in whatever moments you can grab and to write whatever you can get down on the page, whether it is worthless drivel or gems of inspired prose. Like Dory's mantra, in "Finding Nemo" they encourage you to "just keep writing, just keep writing ... writing, writing, and more writing."

I'm not sure which of my novel ideas I'm going to chase. Every night before I fall asleep, I seem to latch onto another new idea. Then, I spend the following day trying to determine whether that particular idea has enough steam to sustain me for 50K words.

I may fall flat on my face. I may write next to nothing. Or I may write a fantastic novel about a mother who is toiling away in a dungeon, never seeing the light of day, and then suddenly wins a dream vacation to tour the Bodlein Library in Oxford, England accompanied by a small group of recently acquired blogging friends. Who knows. May the vision keep me from perishing. May God bless my pen (or keyboard) with productivity instead of procrastination.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Promise not to Sink This Low

I hereby promise, despite my difficulties adjusting to the presence of our new canine family member, that I will never sink so low as to render my pet an "unidentifiable animal." Apparently, this dog was carrying around 9 pounds of filthy, matted hair on its 11 pound frame.

I can't even begin to imagine what that percentage ratio would mean for our Harley. He is approximately 50 pounds. That would be 40 pounds of dirty, matted hair. Groan, sigh. He would definitely win the walking war, then.

Today, the two little boys and I ventured out to the park to take Harley for his first official walk. I was up late last night scanning websites regarding dog training. I made a mental manifesto of sorts. I have declared that our dog will be a joy to encounter. He will NOT
  • jump up on unsuspecting guests (when he greeted Grandma this way, she declared "You haven't adopted a dog! You got a horse!"),

  • chew on people's clothing or extremities,

  • race and chase in the house (this is as much for the boys as for the dog),

  • beg for food at the table,

  • or drag me along on a walk.

Today's walk took a long time. I followed the suggested advice. Every time the dog tried to pull me along, I would hold it at a stop until the dog allowed the leash to relax. Of course, as soon as I took two or three steps, Harley would begin to pull again. We won't even talk about what happened when we encountered other people or pets along the pathway. Still, we must have made some progress.

When we were done, we loaded the dog back in the van and headed to a special sale to raise money for a local girl who is requiring a service dog. The sale was held by 4 Paws for Ability. After reading this article about a dog who assists an autistic boy, I was eager to help their cause.

We scored a nice blanket for Harley to lie on (he loves to lie on the bottom step to the garage for some reason) and 2 videos and 2 books for the boys. When we returned to the van, he was lying quietly on the back seat. It was good to know he wasn't obnoxiously barking at every person who passed by.

Now, if only someone could teach me how to keep the dog from scaring off our herons!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sorry, Today it's a Half-empty Cup

If you're in need of some inspiration or a good warm fuzzy, you'd better just head to another blog today. I'm not going to be able to fill that bill. If I were Cardiogirl, I would start this post with a gray Converse low-top covered with lightning bolts and acknowledge that today's mood is whiny. Alas, I don't have a Converse low-top theme. I won't be offended if you head for the exit now.

One of the things I enjoy most about living in this old country house is the opportunity to see the blue herons that sometimes frequent our creek. I'm feeling terribly frustrated this morning. My mother-in-law has been here for a visit since Wednesday afternoon. This morning, she was out on the back porch washing the windows for us. Harley Dogg followed her out there. I was standing in the living room when I heard the dog launch into an attack of fierce barking. I looked out the window to see what had attracted the dog's attention. A beautiful blue heron spread its colorful wings and flew away. My heart sunk clear to my toes.

Of course, it should have been obvious to me that by welcoming a dog into our home we would be scaring away some of the wildlife. As for me, I'd far rather have the wildlife than the dog. I'm not really a dog person, I guess.

I love the idea of a dog and can imagine myself growing to really love Harley when he sits on my lap and rests his head on my legs. But, then my mental bubble bursts and I remember all the things that come with dogs. Things like ... muddy paws to traipse in tracks on the floors, extra laundry when the dog pees in the crate (because everyone is leaving it to me to get up and let the dog out and I don't get up very early), chewed up toys, tearful boys who have been nipped because they play in a teasing way, an eager dog tongue waiting to lick on our floor and tablecloth during and after our meals, etc.

The boys, on the other hand, are really loving the dog. I agree, in principle, that boys do need a dog. Think of all the wonderful boy and dog pairs from television and literature. But, when it comes to the actual caring for a dog, that may stretch me in ways I wasn't prepared for. Especially, if it means I won't get to see the blue heron. Or if I have to give up my evening hours, so that I can rise early enough to be responsible for letting the dog out to do his business.

I suppose the second thing bumming me out is my internal quandary over Fridays. This is the only day I could secure for both boys to attend the Parent's Day Out program. Thus, from 9-3 on Friday is the only time I have with all three boys gone.

Sadly, Friday morning has become a major struggle. MS thoroughly hates his PDO class on Friday morning. He loves attending his afternoon pre-school program, but the morning class is, in his words, "boring." I have tried to talk with the two teachers in his classroom about this dilemma, but every time we arrive, they are seated at tables with two or three children, working on shape and letter worksheets. I would side with MS, that the classroom doesn't feel welcoming, but I can't really tell him that. He needs to know that sometimes he has to do things he doesn't want to do and whining won't change the requirements (she says, in her whiny post). Still, it makes for emotionally charged Friday mornings.

Then, I struggle with my day because my husband is home from work on Fridays. Today, both he and his mother are eating lunch in the dining room. Why should that be a problem for me? Why do I require such an extensive amount of time to myself? Why can't I seem to write anything (or work on what I choose) when there is someone else around? Even though nobody is hovering or looking over my shoulder, I feel a sense of limitation in fully enjoying the limited hours I have away from my mothering responsibilities. Moreover, why do I find those mothering responsibilities so smothering? I always assumed I would love staying home full-time with my children.

Now, it is clear that my whiny soul could find a reason to whine no matter what, because the final thing that is niggling at me this morning are the mounting comments my husband has been making about my returning to work. We have indeed been spending more money lately. The dog has not helped in that regard. So, now, I am struggling with internal resistance to the idea of going back to the work-world (even if it ends up being a part-time job).

Alas, there are no real answers to this post. I am merely writing out my angst. Wish I knew how to take charge and secure what I need. Wish I could figure out exactly what it is that I really need. Oh well, maybe tomorrow it will seem like the glass is half-full again.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Funny Family Photo

We added a new member to our family when we adopted Harley last week. Want a laugh? Check out this family's photo to see if you can find their extra member.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Book Review: Double Identity

Double Identity, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, is a Young Hoosier Book Award nominee for 2009. Although the book is low in action, it manages to deliver a great deal of suspense. Plus, the subject matter yields a lot to think about.

As the book opens, twelve year old Bethany is in a car, wondering where her emotionally distraught mother and frazzled father are heading. When they drop her off with an aunt she doesn't even know (after years of never letting her out of their sight), she is mystified. What's more, before her parents leave her, she is sure she overheard them telling the aunt, "She doesn't know anything about Elizabeth."

From that point, things only get more perplexing. People in the small town react as if they've seen a ghost when they meet her. Her parents' cell phones have been disconnected. Then, her father sends a package containing four birth certificates for her and a small bundle of cash.

I enjoyed all the twists and turns in this novel. It was a quick and easy read. I would highly recommend this book to young readers who love a good mystery. If you go to the bottom of this Amazon listing for the book, you can read an excerpt from the first chapter.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Meet the Newest Member of the Family

When we moved to this house in the country, three years ago, we promised the boys that we'd get a dog. Of course, at the time, I was expecting YS, so we put it off until after his arrival. After his arrival, life entered a state of chaos we hadn't encountered when we added the second son. Now, we had two small children and a dog seemed beyond what I could manage.

Several weeks ago, while driving to ES's drum lesson, ES began to complain again about our empty promises for a dog. When we arrived to pick ES up, the little boys spotted a woman walking a stunning dog. The boys approached with their typical questions, "Can I pet your dog? Does your dog like kids?"

My, this dog liked kids. As he romped with the boys, the woman and I talked. It was a Wheaton Terrier and the woman was merely walking the dog for its owner. I explained how much my boys have been begging for a dog and how we live out in the country. Just then, the owner walked up, saying "Want him?" The three boys were delirious with excitement. I took down her number and told her I had to check with my husband.

Suprisingly, hubby was willing and told me to call and ask her price. Before I called, I went on-line to look up the dog breed (since I had really had my heart set on a Goldendoodle). Several things gave me pause. It said that Wheaten Terriers tend to be like little kids, full of life and energy and will bolt, unless kept on a leash. Heck, I already have three bolting boys; I figured I don't need a bolting dog as well. I called back and said I didn't think it was going to work out for us.

This past Wednesday, I noticed an ad in our local paper for a 9 month old Goldendoodle (crate-trained, potty-trained, neutered, up-to-date on shots, good with kids). I showed ES and he said, "Dad'll say no."

That evening, I didn't even get a chance to show my husband the ad before he burst in with, "We've got to get these boys a dog! One of our customers came in today with her poodle and it was just adorable."

My husband's family had two poodles while he was growing up. His arguments for a poodle were that they don't shed and are good for individuals with allergies. My argument against poodles has always been that they're so yippish! Plus, his poodle used to scratch me to pieces whenever I tried to get near him (which I must say left me with a less than favorable attitude towards poodles).

I asked if the poodle was for sale. He said no and I whipped out the ad. We were all shocked when he gave the go-ahead to call.

The owner returned my call from St. Louis and said that they have had to drive back and forth to St. Louis a lot lately and with her two kids and the dog, it was getting to be too much. We made arrangements to come view the dog on Friday afternoon.

Meet Harley D. (short for Harley Dogg):

The owner seemed really sad to sell the dog. She threw in the crate and all the supplies she had for an extra $25.

YS loves crawling in the crate and pretending to be locked in. ES loves to actually lock him in.

All three boys are completely in love (and say so, all day long). At this point, we have stuck with the original owner's name for the dog. YS makes me laugh. He keeps saying things like "Is it Charlie? Is it Gnarly?" Then, when I say it's Harley Dogg, he says, "NO, it's Harley D!"

We feel truly blessed. The previous owner did a fabulous job of training the dog. He does tricks. He has a steady, calm disposition. The entire first day, we didn't hear him bark once. On Saturday, he barked when hubby came home from work and also when ES got out the go-kart (he went crazy then).

When we loaded Harley D. and his crate and supplies into the van, the owner was feeling so overwrought that she hugged me. I told her to feel free to come visit him at any time. She did call on Saturday, to see how the dog is doing. I'm very grateful to her for providing us with such a wonderful dog (and for handling that whole puppy stage, which is what would have driven me insane).

Friday, October 9, 2009

Book Review: Confessions from the Principal's Chair

Great writing advice suggests taking a problem and turning it on its head. Moreover, ask the invaluable "What if?" question. Anna Myers has done just that in her comical adolescent tale, Confessions from the Principal's Chair.

Robin Miller is a 13 year old girl whose mother is abruptly moving her to a small town in Oklahoma because she has gotten herself in trouble by hanging with the wrong crowd and bullying another student. Determined to prove to her mother that her life is ruined, she dresses in a business suit on her first day, figuring that her fellow students will reject her outright because of her odd choice in apparel. Imagine her surprise when she enters the office and is mistaken for the young, expected, interim principal, who happens to share her name.

As Robin plays along, she gets the rare opportunity of sitting on the other side of the desk and sees her problems in a new light. She is determined to make a difference during her two day stint as principal. If she can secure the attention of the cutest boy in 8th grade at the same time, well then that is just a perk of the job.

This delightful romp of a read is sure to appeal to middle schoolers across the board, whether they've ever been summoned to a principal's office or not. It would also serve as an excellent read aloud for classes where cliques rule and unpopular students feel singled out. Besides that, what kid hasn't dreamed of an opportunity to be in charge and call the shots.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ronald Gibberhoffer Saves the Day

I have always loved to write and come up with stories. I suppose you could say that it was passed down to me, since my mother always loved to write and come up with stories. For a short time, I used to offer to make up a story when I put the two little boys to bed at night. However, after several months of doing that, I found that I began to like it less and less because my MS always wanted to dictate what the story would be about and how it would end. Perhaps, I should cast it in a positive glow and declare that he is following in my footsteps. But, seriously, it puts a damper on story-telling when the listener becomes too adamant about the various details.

Besides that, I somehow lost my bedtime role. The boys began to ask for their daddy. He doesn't make up stories at all, but he does sing songs that I don't know (the Scooby Doo theme song, Barney songs, Thomas the Tank Engine songs, and one rip-roaring song where they insert an assortment of friends' and cousins' names into the song ... I'm not generally a fan of that last song because then they are completely wound up, which seems contrary to the goal, no?).

I'm really not terribly good at making up stories on the spur of the moment. My nieces and nephews would often clamor to hear my stories about growing up and the crazy things their parents did. I do perfectly well at those stories because my memory for old family tales remains strong.

My mother, on the other hand, is not so good at remembering old family tales (some she even denies ever happened, but hey, I have siblings who vouch for me). However, she far outscores me when it comes to her extemporaneous story-telling skills. Granted, it has been quite a while since I have heard her creative mind at work, but back in the day, she was TOPS!

If asked, I'm certain she would claim that the skills were merely a survival technique. We spent more time, as a family, in our car (or some other waiting scenario) than the average family. My parents were Salvation Army officers and this meant that we were at The Salvation Army corps building most days/nights of the week. If my dad had something to do on the way home from the corps, he would merely stop, leaving us all out in the car to await his return. Many times, it was a stop at Radio Shack, that he felt he just had to make.

Indeed, I think every single vacation we ever took, included the last minute drive to the corps so my dad could run in and take care of some last minute details (for, oh, say, an hour or two ... it seemed). My poor mother! How do you keep a car loaded to the brim with luggage and five eager children quiet while you wait for a man who could easily discover 100 things to tend to, when he went in to take care of one thing?

My mother created a character. Well, actually, the character was already in our lives. The character was my father. She merely altered his name and made him a bumbling hero (instead of a busy man with always one more thing to do). And what a name she made up! My dad's name is Ronald Gorton. My mother's famous character was called Ronald Gibberhoffer! If you ask me, that is pure naming genius. (I tried to consider what I would call my husband, if I were to tell stories to my young brood. The only thing that came to mind was John Higgenbottom. Sadly, that name sounds preposterous and makes me think of a persnickety British gent.

Our Ronald Gibberhoffer was a well-loved guy. I wish we were able to remember more of the stories, because they were legion. I faintly remember one story where Ronald Gibberhoffer was trying to find a new job. After looking into several unacceptable options, he settled on a job replacing light bulbs in those tall metal towers you often see off in the distance from a highway (what in the world are those things called??? and what purpose do they serve, anyway??). My mother pulled us all along as Ronald Gibberhoffer climbed rung after rung on the endless ladder. When he finally reached the top and secured the new light bulb into the socket, he lost his balance and began to fall. Perhaps, at that very moment, my dad returned to the car. I think Ronald Gibberhoffer landed on the floor next to his bed and rubbed his head.

In another story, (this time, I am positive we were sitting in the car while my father shopped in Radio Shack) Ronald Gibberhoffer was driving around. Suddenly, a siren sounded and he noticed swirling lights in his rear-view mirror. He timidly pulled the car over to the side of the road and watched with dread as a police officer approached the car. The officer looked in the window and asked for his driver's license and identification. After verifying his name (I suppose it is not every day that an officer runs into a man who claims to be Ronald Gibberhoffer), the officer returned to our car and leaned in to say, "I'm afraid I'm going to have to give you tickets."

My father Ronald Gibberhoffer looked back at the officer with a pained expression and repeated, "Tickets?"

The officer then clarified, "Yes, here are your tickets to the circus. When you are ready to go, I will be happy to escort you there, Mr. Gibberhoffer."

I doubt my own boys would settle for killing time in a car with home-spun stories. ES would be plugged in to his I-Pod. MS would be clamoring to create the story himself. And YS would be happy enough with sleepy bear and his two tasty fingers. Plus, they'd be out of luck anyway because the one who tends to dawdle or go back in for one last detail is usually me. They'd be stuck with my husband and some Barney songs. But for my siblings and I, somehow Ronald Gibberhoffer always saved the day!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Book Review: Gilead

Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer prize winning novel, Gilead, was recommended by my virtual friend (i.e., blogging friend) Lucy. I must admit that the very title itself seduced me because it brought to mind the old spiritual, "A Balm in Gilead." The title was apt because the book, although intellectual, rather than plot-driven, is comforting to the soul. I think, for me, the great appeal in this novel was the opportunity to explore the relationships between fathers and sons and to glean the spiritual wisdom which the narrator has culled over many years of isolation.

The Reverend John Ames is a minister in Gilead, Iowa, following in the footsteps of both his father and grandfather. At age 76, he is setting down his life and thoughts for his seven year old son. Although he was married briefly in his younger days, his wife and infant daughter died. He considers it a miracle that he met and married a much younger woman and was given the gift of a beloved son.

He outlines the difficulties between his abolitionist grandfather, his pacifist father, and his atheist brother. He also discusses his friendship with a fellow pastor, Old Boughton. Boughton names one of his sons after John Ames. This son, whom they refer to as Jack, is another wayward soul, creating more drama and friction.

There were so many passages which spoke to me. I have mentioned before that I feel as if I am in a wilderness experience, of sorts. This concept, and the benefit of such an experience, came up repeatedly in the novel.

The narrator spends some time discussing many long years of isolation and loneliness after the death of his wife and daughter. He talks about how much of that time was spent in reading and writing. He says, "For me writing has always felt like praying, even when I wasn't writing prayers, as I was often enough. You feel that you are with someone."

Then he talks of the many sermons he has written out and stored: "That's sixty-seven thousand five hundred pages.... That's amazing. I wrote almost all of it in the deepest hope and conviction. Sifting my thoughts and choosing my words. Trying to say what was true. And I'll tell you frankly, that was wonderful. I'm grateful for all those dark years, even though in retrospect they seem like a long, bitter prayer that was answered finally."

And later, he adds, "Now that I look back, it seems to me that in all that deep darkness a miracle was preparing. So I am right to remember it as a blessed time, and myself as waiting in confidence, even if I had no idea what I was waiting for."

He also emphasizes how nothing is all good or all bad. I felt encouraged to find the blessing in the midst of adversity. Of his life, he says, "The worst misfortune isn't only misfortune."

When speaking of the Boughtons, he says, "But good fortune is not only good fortune, and over the years things happened in that family that caused some terrible regret."

Discussing a sermon on Hagar and Ishmael and God's provision for them, Ames remarks, "That is how life goes - we send our children into the wilderness. Some of them on the day they are born, it seems, for all the help we can give them. Some of them seem to be a kind of wilderness unto themselves. But there must be angels there, too, and springs of water. Even that wilderness, the very habitation of jackals, is the Lord's. I need to bear this in mind."

In another comment on Abraham he says, "any father, particularly an old father, must finally give his child up to the wilderness and trust to the providence of God. It seems almost a cruelty for one generation to beget another when parents can secure so little for their children, so little safety, even in the best circumstances. Great faith is required to give the child up, trusting God to honor the parents' love for him by assuring that there will indeed be angels in that wilderness."

Moreover, he addresses another issue I have struggled with - the difficulty of forgiving an offense against one's child. Ames records, "He could knock me down the stairs and I would have worked out the theology for forgiving him before I reached the bottom. But if he harmed you in the slightest way, I'm afraid theology would fail me."

Through it all, the novel inspired me to hope, to cling to faith in the darkness, to offer others the benefit of the doubt, and to place my own children firmly in the only hands capable of truly carrying them. Marilynne Robinson has a superb gift for both eloquent prose and a solid voice. I will eagerly seek out her third novel, entitled Home, because it covers the lives of the Boughton family during this same time.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tied Up With a David Bow ( but not David Bowie)

Today, I have been thinking about my oldest brother, David. Older brothers can be a marvelous thing. They can be fiercely protective, incredibly inventive and thoroughly cool; plus, they can help you gain access to circles you might otherwise have missed out on.

Every Sunday when I attend The Salvation Army corps here in Indianapolis, they conclude their service with a united benediction called "Total Praise."

Lord, I will lift mine eyes to the hills
Knowing my help is coming from You
Your peace You give me in time of the storm
You are the source of my strength
You are the strength of my life
I lift my hands in total praise to You.
You are the source of my strength
You are the strength of my life
I lift my hands in total praise to You.
Amen, amen Amen, amen
Amen, amen Amen, amen

I would love to say that when I sing this chorus, I focus on giving my total praise to the Lord. However, every Sunday, my focus is distracted by the actual music itself. You see, the sound track they use features an ensemble which includes my brother, David, and my sister-in-law, Miriam. For the life of me, I can't listen to this song without thinking about my brother (and about Miriam).

When I hear their voices rising over everyone else's (which is what happens for me), I am assaulted with feelings of love and longing. I feel great love for David and Miriam. But, I also feel sad that distance and the busyness of life have become an obstacle to the closeness I feel for them. I suppose that is why I have spent some time thinking about David today.

- David and Miriam and their youngest daughter, Kari.

He was always a protective big brother. When I was a freshman in high school, my parents had just moved to Chicago. I attended Carl Schurz, a large public school. My brother, Mark, who was only one year older, had managed to secure a spot at Lane Technical High School, so he didn't attend the same school. If David, who was a senior, had not gone to my school (even though he only attended about half of the day ... how did he manage that?), I would have felt terribly overwhelmed. I knew David would look out for me.

He was also a master at grand ideas. When we were younger, he gathered us together to look for old discarded Coke bottles. Dragging our wagon behind us, we would find as many bottles as we could, then walk with him up to the confectionery and purchase small candies with the deposit money we earned.

Moreover, he was just plain cool. During our high school years, we participated in the Northern Illinois Youth Band together. Several of the older kids, the ones who were David's age, would get together to make zany films together. Even though I wasn't really a part of their crowd (they were mostly guys), I was allowed to tag along for many of these adventures.

It was always obvious that the older girls would seek out my friendship, not for me, but because getting closer to me meant a chance at possibly getting closer to my ultra-cool, very good-looking big brothers. I was just the younger sister (in fact, several of them called me "Gidget" - somehow they said I reminded them of Gidget), but I didn't mind the extra attention via my brothers.

- Back in the day ;)

I fully realized that my older brothers were responsible for most of the social circles I frequented. What a blessing it was to walk in David's shadow. He had great friends and, as a result, they often became my friends.

In fact, I have spent quite a bit of time this weekend praying for some friends who are my friends via David. When David and Miriam first encouraged me to attend CBLI, they worked in the children's program with their good friends, another set of officers, Todd and Cathy T. Through David and Miriam, and through our numerous years at CBLI together, Todd and Cathy became my friends as well. In fact, Todd has always been kind to involve my sons in his fishing exploits at camp.

This weekend, I discovered that their 19 year old son, Trevor, had surgery to remove a brain tumor. Trevor and his wife are mere days away from welcoming their first child. At this point, the news is good. The doctors were aggressive and believe they removed most, if not all, of the tumor. Plus, he is eating and is up walking around.

Still, they will remain in my prayers. And as I pray for them (and yet another cancer victim), I will also be lifting praise to God for my brother, David, because through him God has blessed me with an extended circle of friends. I'll also say a word of thanks that even though I can't see David as often as I would like, I can listen to him preach whenever I want (another blessing). Plus, I get to sing (of God's peace in the midst of storm) with him on Sundays, even when he's not standing next to me.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Missed the Boat by Ten Minutes

Shortly before 11, the boys asked to play with the mice. I told them they could, but that I had to use the bathroom first. I came out, straightened the mat, got down the cage, grabbed a tissue (for the endless pee and poop which seem to flow from the terrified rodents when my boys are terrorizing holding them) and logged back onto the computer. Can you believe that at 11:10 a.m., all four shows in the Indianapolis area are sold out (actually, they can't be SOLD out, since the tickets were FREE, but that is what they are telling me at

I feel so sad that I missed out. I did mention it to several people this time around. I'm wondering if any of those individuals managed to be at the computer and log onto the site in time to receive a free ticket.

Ah well. The one I really wanted to see was the Agatha Christie play and since it was playing in Shelbyville, IN, I don't think the tickets were as expensive as an Indianapolis show. Perhaps, I will actually try to pay for tickets to the theater and go anyway. My friend Leti, said she would be willing to go with me.

I did look at a few other locations to see if they sold out. Chicago's offerings were snapped up pretty quickly as well, but I could still get tickets at the Red Tape Theater to see a showing tomorrow night of ... wait for it ... "Mouse in a Jar." Thanks, but no thanks.

You can't win em' all.