Saturday, January 30, 2010

Movies Worth Seeing

Tonight, we determined to attempt another date-night/movie-night. Somehow, small children really throw a wrench in those kinds of plans. It is actually easier now, to get the little boys ready for bed and leave them with their older brother while we head off for dinner (usually a fabulous Mexican restaurant nearby, where we order the same meals every time: he gets the veggie fajitas and I order the quesadilla verde with one spinach quesadilla on the side - their spinach quesadilla is INCREDIBLE!). We are only five minutes drive away and can be reached by cell phone if necessary. But, still our minds are concerned about their safety, while we are gone.

So, anyway, back to the movie attempt. We have come to expect wrinkles and interruptions. Tonight, we experienced a few. ES had a friend over and the dad came to the door to pick the friend up. The dog was terribly excited by this extra commotion and piddled all over the front hallway. Moments later, MS called to say he was finished doing his business (why my little boys always take care of this at bedtime is a mystery - maybe I should insist on two bowls of bran cereal for breakfast each morning). Hubby went to in to discover that he had peed all over the outside of the toilet and on the floor and his clothes. Any other night, these things are easier to take in stride, but hubby has a short fuse when we're attempting a movie night.

By 8:20, the boys were in their rooms, and we started our movie (they did come out a few times, but two or three interruptions is considered a successful venture for us). It was my choice and I had picked "Fireproof," because I had heard so many good things about it. Actually, when the movie was first released, several churches in this area offered free viewings. I had tried to drag hubby to see those. Now, I am so grateful that I didn't see it first in a church surrounded by strangers. My tears flowed freely as we watched.

The movie tells the story of a firefighter, Michael Holt, who spends his days saving people and yet his marriage is a shambles. His wife wants out and he feels the same. He feels that she doesn't show him respect: she feels unloved and invisible. Michael's father asks him to promise not to pursue divorce until he works through a journal called "The Love Dare," for 40 days. As Michael goes through the motions, initially without very much motivation, he begins to see that he has pushed God away the same way his wife is rejecting his attempts to show love.

The movie is full of suspense and humor. Of course, it is also clearly a Christian movie. It emphasizes the value of marriage and encourages not only a commitment to one's spouse, but a commitment to the One who makes such an often impossible commitment into a reality.

I enjoyed the movie and would highly recommend it. Another movie that I can't wait to go see (and hopefully in a theater, but we'll see) is a movie called "Letters to God." (If you click on the link, you can watch a trailer for the movie.) Inspired by the story of a boy who fought cancer, it tells how the little boy's letters to God encouraged and changed the lives of others around him. It is said to be coming in April.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Tonight, as I was making dinner, my five year old shouted out: "Ewww, what's that STENCH???"

Before I could even reply, he added, "Oh yeah, it's YOUR dinner!"

I find this especially funny since I wasn't even making a malodorous meal - nothing like salmon or bean soup. We had broccoli casserole. They had "slurpee noodles," as they call it (Marie Callendar's Fettuccine with Chicken and Broccoli).

It worked out well since slurpee noodles happens to be their favorite meal and hubby and I love this broccoli casserole so much that we have it once a week.

It is a Bisquick recipe, which I have altered to add baby carrots because hubby loves those. I searched for it on-line to provide an illustration, but alas, the recipe is not listed (despite the fact that I have a recipe card from General Mills, go figure). I did see a similar recipe that added cooked chicken, but it also called for eggs, which would give a different flavor to the crumbly topping. I may have to try adding chicken cubes to this recipe sometime.

Creamy Broccoli Bake

Steam 1 cup baby carrots and 2 cups broccoli, then place in the bottom of a casserole dish. Mix 1/4 cup milk with 1 can cream of mushroom soup and pour over vegetables. Sprinkle on 1/2 to 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Blend 1/4 cup firm margarine with 1 cup Bisquick (or any baking mix) until crumbly and sprinkle over the top. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Yum! And I promise it doesn't really smell bad.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Book Review: The Purpose of Boys

I'm always willing to pick up a book that catches my eye about raising boys. This relatively new book at the library, is the third book in a series by author/therapist Michael Gurian. I haven't read the previous ones, The Wonder of Boys, or The Minds of Boys. The sub-title alone, to this third book, would have hooked me: "Helping our sons find meaning, significance, and direction in their lives."

I will admit this is somewhat of a personal fear of mine, that we will not provide our sons with a good road-map for finding their ultimate purpose in life. As I read the book, I juggled dual motivations, wondering whether the author could provide guidance for assisting my own husband in discovering meaning, significance and direction in his life.

Sadly, one of the frustrations we have faced in our marriage centers on the fact that my husband really doesn't have a strong idea or passion for what he is supposed to do with his life. We both have experienced a great deal of grief over his lack of clear-cut direction. I certainly believe that boys and men suffer when they cannot determine their call in life. If only a book could give me all the tools I need to assure that the men and boys in my family recognize their potential and take responsibility for following their dreams and serving their family.

In the first part of Gurian's book, he presents societal trends which are putting boys at a disadvantage for determining their role in this world. He also discusses how boys develop and why steering them towards defining their purpose is so important. In the second half of the book, he provides strategies and tools which can be used to help your son discover who he is and where he is going.

One of the most useful aspects of this book are the sections Gurian devotes to sample questions to explore with your sons. Here are a few suggested questions to discuss:

  • What is the most important thing you did today?
  • What will be the most important things you do when you are a man?
  • What kind of work do you want to do when you grow up?
  • What is the role of a man in today's world?
  • When does a boy become a man?
  • What do you want to do to help people?
  • Do you have activities in your life that show you're becoming a good and important man?
  • What parts of yourself must you manage better so that you can succeed? Who can help you learn to manage these parts of yourself?
  • What are your strengths?

Another section I appreciated focused on ten values to teach your sons: 1) The Value of Legacy, 2) The Value of Give and Take, 3) The Value of Failure, 4) The Value of Independence, 5) The Value of Identity, 6) The Value of Self-Reflection, 7) The Value of Ethical Action, 8) The Value of Self-Discipline, 9) The Value of Self-Doubt, and 10) The Value of Faith.

The book gave me quite a bit of things to chew over in my mind. These were things like a boy's need for physical movement and energy release while he is learning, a boy's need to conquer (thus the attraction and pull of video games), a boy's need to identify with older males, a boy's need to experience a rite of passage, and a boy's need for work and shouldering responsibilities. I found myself evaluating all kinds of things in our life: the amount of time we allow our boys to spend playing video games, how many chores we should be requiring, how we can nurture more focus on others, the importance of seeking out opportunities which exercise their strengths, the importance of male role models like coaches, etc.

Although I have not had time or opportunity to discuss any of these questions with my ES, I do hope to copy them down and save them for future discussions. Plus, I was able to express more understanding to my son for his fixation on the video games (previously, I think he's only heard me complain that he spends too much time and question his desire to play violent games). He is presently in another addiction phase with a game he received for Christmas. His obsession (and lack of concern for the needs of others) led me to call for information about volunteering at a nursing home. I'm sure he will balk, but I do think it would be helpful for his development.

There were a few aspects to the book that I didn't enjoy. The author used the biblical story of Joseph as an analogy for the process of becoming a man, but so many of his points seemed to miss what I consider to be the central lesson from the life of Joseph. The author presents everything in a very new-age, politically-correct manner. He places a strong emphasis on similar thoughts to "it takes a village to raise a child." His value of faith allows that it could have absolutely nothing to do with religion but rather focus on faith in oneself (really?).

Still, this book provided an excellent sounding board for determining what things we may need to address in order to help our boys find their purpose (or discern God's will for their lives). It caused me to think critically about some of our weaknesses. Although I may not agree with every interpretation or strategy this author presents, I am certainly in full agreement that boys have a distinct, genuine need to grow into men of purpose, who can give back to their communities and enrich the lives of others.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Reading Favorites from 2009

I must admit, as I looked over my list of books read in 2009, it seemed like a somewhat short and boring list. I guess it wasn't my best year for reading. Still, I did try to pick out my favorites.

My favorite grown-up books were:
  1. Gilead
  2. Poe's Heart and the Mountain Climber
  3. Magic Hour
  4. The Weight of Heaven
  5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society

My favorite kids books were:
  1. Savvy
  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ah, The Irony!

Yesterday, I mentioned my brother-in-law, David, and his efforts with The Salvation Army to provide disaster relief services to the people of Haiti. He is returning home this evening, while my own corps officer, Captain Geffory Crowell, is arriving there to continue those efforts. I'm sure my sister, Dawn, and their kids, will be eager to see him arrive home safely.

There's a funny story that I must share about Dawn and David. As I said in the previous post, our parents were Salvation Army officers. Thus, there are many aspects of life which Dawn and David shared automatically while going into marriage. Life in The Salvation Army is a particular culture and sharing that culture with your spouse has to be a great blessing. When both individuals are officer's kids, there are numerous shared experiences you could expect.

When we all gathered together for David and Dawn's wedding (19 years ago), David's sister, Julie, stood to share some words. As she spoke, she began to share a story about a time when her father went to pick David up from middle school in the only vehicle available, the Army's canteen.

If you don't know what a Salvation Army canteen looks like, here are a few examples (one from the present efforts in Haiti and one from a Salvation Army news blurb):

These are small recreational vehicles, equipped with refrigerator, microwave, cooking supplies, etc., which are used to distribute food and beverages during disaster relief efforts.

As Julie continued her story, all of my family began to stifle chuckles and glance furtively at each other. She went on to say that David was not going to have anything to do with being picked up from school (middle school, no less!) in the canteen, so he dashed back inside the school and hid.

I don't remember if the story ended exactly the same or not, but my whole family was in stitches. The exact same scenario played out in our family. My dad had gone to pick up my sister, Dawn, from middle school in the canteen. Dawn ran back inside and called a cab.

As we sat there, enjoying a good chuckle, none of us knew that David and Dawn would go on to become Salvation Army officers. None of us had a clue that they would become so extensively trained in disaster relief themselves. I imagine God had a good laugh, as well. He knows the plans He has for us!

Now, I'm wondering whether or not they have ever pulled that stunt on their kids. Their oldest child, a daughter, is the same age as my eldest son. If they ever renew their vows, I suggest they ride off in a Salvation Army canteen, dragging cans, with a sign saying, "Give us your poor, your tired, your hungry ... we truly care!"

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

For Such a Time as This - Haiti

A few weeks back, my brother, Mark, gave me a word of encouragement over the phone. Apparently, in my previous phone call I had been voicing frustration over the boys and my role as mother (sometimes I don't even realize how intensely my anxieties are expressed). He wanted me to know that after he hung up, he felt very strongly that he should have expressed a particular word of encouragement to me. He said that he should have said, "You were made for this! All those years you spent aching for a life's partner and for a family ... it has come and you were made for just these very moments. This is what it all was leading up to."

Of course, he's right. Despite the fact that I pursued a master's degree and had career goals, I did indeed yearn for a spouse and children. I resolutely prayed that God would bless me in that way. Sometimes, I forget that, in the midst of my daily struggle to be content in my role as mother (especially, when I am plagued by doubts as to my fitness for the job).

This past week, my thoughts, like those of millions of others, have been focused on Haiti, in the wake of the devastation from the earthquake which decimated Port Au Prince. Initially, this was near to my heart because I have a friend, Steve Diaz, who has ministered for The Salvation Army at their children's home there. I have seen many photos of the children and the facility and watched loads of other friends visit them there.

However, it quickly became even more personal. My sister wrote to say that her husband, Captain David Worthy, was being sent to Haiti to assist with the international emergency relief work. I can think of no better man to send.

David grew up, like my siblings and I, in the home of Salvation Army officers. His parents were stationed in Charleston, South Carolina, when Hurricane Hugo hit. Thus, David was inducted into the realm of Salvation Army disaster services. When Hurricane Andrew hit, his dad was moved to the location to minister and then hired my sister and brother-in-law to come assist him. From that point, my sister and brother-in-law became Salvation Army officers and have garnered loads of education and experience in disaster services work.

David has been sending photos to his Facebook account via his mobile phone to keep us up-to-date on their efforts. It was thrilling to notice that another friend, Craig Arnold, was also on the team with David. Craig is also expertly suited for this role. He works in the shipping business. As David put it, this evening "he's a machine" (he was apparently still working, even though they had all shut down for the evening).

Finally, The Salvation Army agreed to send Steve Diaz back to Haiti as well. I have been imagining the joy on the faces of those children at seeing Steve back on their home turf. He has such a heart for Haiti and loves the people he has ministered to. His Haitian wife, Ketsia, remains in their appointment in Saint Louis, with their one year old son, Kyle. She was relieved to get word that her own family members, though homeless now, are safe. They have been in my thoughts and prayers often this week.

My own corps officer is being sent to Haiti tomorrow, to join my friends and the other workers with The Salvation Army. I am praying for their safety as they minister in what has been declared one of the most dangerous parts of the city (I'm guessing this is because of the looting that has been going on). I am praying that they will be able to be the hands and feet of God as they minister to this grief-stricken and impoverished country. I am thankful that the Lord has made a way for them to be a part of the restoration process, since in sending them, it has stirred the thoughts and prayers of so many who know them personally. God truly raised these men up, for such a time as this. May He also give them rest and renewed vision so that they fully realize how providential it was that they were prepared and called, for such a time as this!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Book Review: Have a Little Faith

Generally, you know when you pick up a Mitch Albom book, that it will be easy to read and will involve interesting stories about interesting individuals. This book delivers exactly that combination - an interesting story about two interesting individuals who cross Mitch Albom's path and enrich his faith in God. He gets to know two ministers. One is the Jewish rabbi of his boyhood, Rabbi Albert Lewis, and the other is an inner city pastor in Detroit, Henry Covington (formerly an addict and a criminal). Mitch Albom, himself, introduces the book in this video.

Although I cannot say that it is my favorite Mitch Albom book. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the stories of these two men. Albom's premise throughout this book is that we should allow our faith to bind us together instead of creating a divide. This is an honorable goal. It was fascinating to follow Albom's encounters and perceptions of both the rabbi and the unlikely pastor of the I Am My Brother's Keeper Church/Homeless Shelter. When the rabbi's eulogy was finally pronounced, I had come to love the rabbi as if I had known him personally. Moreover, I said a prayer of thanks when I discovered this video, showing that the damaged roof of Henry Covington's church has recently been fixed.

Albom is clearly drawn to these ministers who express faith in the midst of adversity. He encourages his readers to develop a closer relationship with their God and to band together to help each other out. I did find the take-away a bit wishy-washy (have faith in whatever you believe, whatever form of religion takes your fancy, in whatever manner you choose), but I was inspired to recognize again how often God steps in and ministers to our human frailties and unexpected trials.

I've known some very interesting individuals in my life-time (one even allowed me to interview her for an oral history project, similar to the process Mitch Albom takes), but I don't think I could ever present the life of another person as eloquently as Mitch Albom. Boy, it would be fun to try, though!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Good Laugh

These days (typical for me in the month of January), I can use all the good laughs I can get. Thus, I had to share this funny commercial which I discovered on the Testosterhome blog:

Friday, January 15, 2010

You Can Hear a Pin Drop

I was sitting at the computer, eating a bowl of cereal and re-reading Cardiogirl's hilarious post about leading her youngest daughter's Daisy troop, when I recognized a sound I seldom hear ... absolute silence. It dawned on me, I am in the house alone. Oh my goodness! I can't even remember the last time that happened.

The boys are all at school or Parent's Day Out. Hubby went to run some errands. The dog must be off somewhere in the house sleeping. We're down to just me and my thoughts. Amazing.

Is it possible to be both an introvert and an extrovert? Since moving to this isolated locale, I have found this dichotomy perplexing. On the one hand, I tremendously miss having people that I regularly have contact with. I miss my writer's group. I miss my old church. I even miss BSF (Bible Study Fellowship - would have tried it here, but it is quite a drive to the nearest one). I miss getting together with a couple of friends and going to a movie or out for pizza and laughter. Those are all oppportunities that, somehow or other, haven't presented themselves to me here in Indiana.

Yet, at the same time, I miss time to myself. It seems like I am rarely in the house alone. I do take advantage of the moments when my boys are all sleeping, but still, that is not without interruption when one of them wakes from a bad dream or has to go to the bathroom and cannot manage the zipper to the blanket sleeper (I'll admit, we usually wear sweats to bed for this very reason).

I wouldn't normally consider myself an introvert. I very much like to be around people. In fact, I'm not an especially quiet person when I AM around people. If anything, I often leave a social gathering and wonder why I didn't restrain myself more. However, I have discovered that I crave time to myself ... to process my thoughts, to breathe without constant demands, to remember that I am separate from all these bodies in this house that require something from me almost every minute of every day!

For a while there, we were making a concerted effort to carve out a few hours a week for me to get away. That, sadly, has fallen by the wayside. Hubby usually wants to exercise when he comes home from work. Plus, I'm not really one to look forward to shopping as down-time. My ideal down-time is exactly what I am experiencing in this moment: a house completely to myself, time to hear myself think, space to listen to the cars driving by, and the wisdom to drink it in deeply ... because hubby will interrupt this solitude within a half hour's time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Book Review: Wisconsin River of Grace

"Ghosts and kielbasa. Blow guns and flying whitetails. Abraham Lincoln and the Wisconsin-Illinois Truce of '07. Aldo Leopold's warning. Icelandic immigrants who wave. These are just a few of the mysteries of Wisconsin River of Grace, a book that explores the irresistible pull of God's Country.

"Kyle White's essays are full of humor and reflection, delving into that sense of place for which we all long. Pining for Wisconsin, White resides in northern Illinois with his wife and children."

I decided to begin my review with the brief blurb found on the back of Kyle's book, because I have a faint suspicion that I will not stick with description of the book. To me, this book is so much more than just what fills its pages. I loved every minute of the "read." Then again, I will admit that I am slightly biased.

When I lived in DeKalb, Illinois, I took the correspondence course on writing for children which is offered by the Institute of Children's Literature. For my tenth and final assignment, I decided to select the novel option. I had a sound idea. I had interesting characters. I had intrigue. I had plot development. Still ... I got stuck. Month followed month and I failed to turn in my assignment. I began to moan about this fact to other members of my church, members who were clearly interested in writing just like me. My complaints morphed into a small writer's group.

We met once a month with the hope of spurring one another on. Did I ever finish the novel assignment? Well, no, not really. I did turn in the first three chapters and my instructor did say that she really wished she could use the idea (because it was a good one - indeed, one I should be spending time on these days, since that book is actually set right here where we live). However, I did come to relish the grand opportunities I had for spurring on other writers. Many of the members of our motley crew writer's group, went on to achieve success and publication. I still sit in the wings cheering them on.

But, I continue to cheer because I know how often words written by someone else will bless and move me right down to my soul. That is how I feel about Kyle's writing. Back when our group met, he would bring his poetry. We always knew what to expect ... some clever image drawn, some laughter and amused chortling, followed by a slight pause as the understanding of a deeper image, a more significant parallel suddenly made its way into our consciousness. Kyle has a true gift for drawing his reader in with frivolity and humor, which gives way to deeper insight and meaningful wisdom.

For example, one of my favorite pieces has to be the one about the circus museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Kyle begins a light-hearted vignette of a family trip to visit the circus museum. After describing all the amazing things one can see at this circus museum though, he begins to point out the error in logic for a circus museum. The circus was something that went on the road, taking these amazing spectacles out to the people, not expecting the people to come to the museum to find the greatest show on earth. As he drives this home, you begin to see that he is no longer talking about the greatest show on earth, but has shifted to key insights about the greatest news on earth ... the gospel.

Other essays in the book, carry equivalent depths of meaning as he discusses death, the way a place can shape and mold us, the writer's goal of capturing words, the significance of relationship and the importance of the seasons (love his letter of recommendation, titled "To Whom it May Concern," on behalf of autumn for the position left vacant by summer). It is packed full of fun, insightful vignettes. A perfect choice for a few minutes snatched here and there. And if you also pine for Wisconsin, well you'll get the feeling you are glancing through someone else's scrapbook of their experiences with that state.

As for me, I was born in the state of misery ... I mean, Missouri. I'm not sure it would be safe or wise to attempt to pattern my writing after Kyle's. I'm also not sure I'd be able to plumb depths of wisdom from my experiences there. Most of my memories are from time spent in Bourbon, Missouri. We didn't drink there (alas, Kyle, I don't think I will ever come to drinking beer ... although I might come to drinking coffee late, as you did). We attended a Salvation Army camp there every summer. Although, I might be able to dredge up a fair amount of nostalgia for Webster Groves (a wonderful place to live - and when I looked it up, it appears their slogan is something like "a great place to live, work and play!" Although, then I looked up West Plains, MO, my birth town, and their slogan is "a great place to live, learn, work and play," so maybe more is going on there, although I don't remember quite as much, especially since we moved when I was 3 weeks old - hee-hee).

Kyle's book can be purchased through Cornerstone Press. To view a sampling of the essays in the book, you can visit Kyle's blog here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

You Thought Your Kids Were Demanding?

This was another post I had intended to add prior to Christmas. Back then we were on Mama Mouse's third litter and Daughter Mouse's second litter - a combined total of 17 pinkies (although in the videos they already have their white hair). I was just flabbergasted to watch the mama mouse feeding all 17 one night. Later, I captured a second video of both mothers working together to feed the vast litters.

At the moment, we have another combined litter - this time 22 total. If hubby doesn't take Papa Mouse back to the pet store soon, we may end up with wall to wall mice in that meager aquarium.

Plus ... the dog HAS TO GO! I placed an ad in the paper today. We are praying we will find a family to love him and at least get a small portion of our expenses back. Poor Harley! I think the only one who will miss him is YS (and he's already missing Sleepy Bear, who has been lost ... inside the house somewhere ... for a record FOUR days!).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Christmas Revisited

Over the past two weeks, I've composed many a blog post ... in my mind. Sadly, they failed to ever materialize. But, I did want to recap our Christmas experience, even if it is only for the purpose of returning some day to see what went on.

I'm not a very good manager of my time. I had great intentions for the holidays, but most of them went the way of my mental blog posts. I had wanted to bake cookies with the boys. We only managed to do those easy pretzel-Hershey's kiss - M&M kind. However, the little boys always have fun making those and we switched out Reese's peanut butter cups for the kisses on some and liked those ones even better.

I also wanted to make our own advent calendar. We made a list of fun treats (activities, trips, games) for all 24 days. That was as far as we got. In the end, I purchased a half-price chocolate filled one a few days into December and had the little boys alternate the days. Even today, they were chiming, "No, wait - you're odds and I'm evens!" I'm not sure why they were bringing it up. I can guarantee I wasn't passing any candy out to them today (three chocolate milk spills on the carpeting - thankfully, the dog licked up the last one, but I will still need to get the spot bot out tomorrow and clean the area).

I tried for weeks to get a decent family pose so that we could actually order Christmas cards and send them out. (I have discovered that every year here in Indiana, I receive fewer cards. It makes me sad. It also makes me determined to keep sending mine out, in the hopes that others will still think of me and send their ... ahem ... beautiful family photos.) This was the best I could do.

I tried to take care of the red-eye issue and ended up with a pose covered in green spots around our eyes.

Lovely, don't you think? Maybe, like the blinking under my shirt, people would merely think we were trying to be festive! HA!

But, even with all the intentions that fell by the wayside, we still would say that it was one of our better Christmases. (Oh, the stories I could tell of Christmases past ... ill with a parasite, ill and trapped at someone else's home, the year when everything required batteries we didn't have or didn't work as the box touted and none of the boys were happy with their gifts and hubby accidentally put the handle on the brand new wagon upside down ... Christmas JOY!)

Each of the boys were receiving one gift that was difficult to wrap, so I put them together and left them out around the tree. This turned out to be a real blessing, because they had something to play with immediately. I was so fortunate this year to find a wonderful bargain on second hand toys. Another mother at the boy's preschool sold several of the toys her sons no longer played with. Thus, I scored a Step 2 mini-golf course for MS for only $15 and the Geo Trax Grand Central Station for YS for only $20. They were beyond thrilled.

While we were sad that my father-in-law had to spend Christmas day in the hospital, it was a blessing that he didn't have to meet or experience our immense dog. Most of the visit at our in-law's house seemed to include feeling sad that the dog was trapped on the cold porch, then bringing her in and feeling angry that the dog peed on others in his excitement or bounded up, knocking them down, or tried to jump on Cocoa (another family's dog that weighs only a few pounds compared to Harley's 58 pounds). The cousins had great fun playing together and hanging out. We were blessed with ample amounts of good food and sweets (something I can take no credit for, since I am hopeless in the kitchen, especially when it comes to feeding large groups).

The day after Christmas, I drove back with ES and began attempting to whip our house into shape. I'm not sure I was successful enough (since I only had a few hours that evening and a few hours the following morning, before hubby returned with the little whirling dervishes we call MS and YS, here in blog-land). I tried to solicit the help of ES. What a laugh. I asked him to wash the windows. When he finished, they looked smudged and streaky (I suppose that is better than the zillion finger and hand-prints), and I discovered almost an entire roll of paper towels crumpled up in the trash. An. entire. roll????

What a wonderful blessing that we had a kennel appointment for Harley. I dashed off to the kennel and the grocery store on the Monday morning following Christmas and by lunchtime, guests from my side of the family began to arrive. Sadly, my sister called to say that they had chosen to remain at home and spend some time as a family there. I knew her kids would have enjoyed the snow and sledding with cousins (since they have primarily lived in the deep south and only recently moved to Virginia), but understood that they needed time with their kids (they are Salvation Army officers and had barely seen their kids during the previous four or five weeks).

Next, my older brother, Mark, called to say that their youngest daughter had been up all night with the stomach flu. I think he felt really torn. He wanted to come with their sons, but we were all really paranoid about getting sick. My older brother is due to leave for a ten-week course in London any day now. Plus, my retired parents headed up the Salvation Army kettle campaign at a corps in Florida, so their resistances were certainly low. We all missed seeing them, but were grateful that the visit didn't include illness.

We had a wonderful visit together. One of the highlights was a little surprise. My cousin Karin wanted to come visit, along with her husband and son, and we decided to make it a special surprise for everyone else. What a wonderful time we had sitting around the table and talking and then opening gifts together. We hadn't seen Karin for almost 15 years, and had never met her husband and son. She's such a blessing, with the sweetest, giving personality.

Karin's son, Mike, is also a drumming enthusiast, so everyone had a great time listening to my ES jamming on the drums downstairs (pardon the mess behind him - garage sale fodder piled high). Plus, the kids all enjoyed playing Rock Band together and building with the Magnatiles. Then there was the sledding - loads of fun. I only wish it could have lasted longer. Thankfully, we're already talking about future visits. I can't begin to express how much I need these times with family. The little boys continue to rave, daily, about the clothes and toys their cousins passed on to them. I'm hoping some of us can get together again this summer .

Monday, January 4, 2010

Already Fighting Over Girls

Today was MS's first day back to school (ES is grateful not to return until tomorrow). As we were leaving the building, Andrea and her mother were walking in front of us. MS said good-bye and waved to her repeatedly. When YS tried to also say good-bye to Andrea, MS snapped at him and said, "She's not your friend, she's my friend."

I: "She can be YS's friend, too."

MS: No she can't. He might try to steal her from me.

I: He's not going to be able to steal her. After all, she'd be more likely to pick a boy who is closer to her age. She'd like a boy who is five more than a boy who is three. But he can still be her friend.

MS to YS: I hate to rain on your parade, but she's my girlfriend.

I (chuckling to myself - that boy picks up every phrase he hears!)

YS: No, she's MY girlfriend.

MS: No, she's mine. She wants her boyfriend to be like her in age and she's four so she would want me as her boyfriend.

I: She's only four? I thought she was five, like you.

MS: No, she's four.

I (mentally): Oh brother, just imagine when they are 13 and 15 and fighting over a 14 year old girl! Yikes. Somehow, I'm not so sure MS will have the advantage. Although his personality is charismatic, I wonder if YS will be more attractive to girls.

At least he has his art to fall back on. Once we returned home, MS headed to his art table to create a valentine for Andrea. Knowing she likes the Jonas Brothers (yes, she has an older sister), MS drew all three Jonas brothers (HA!) and then asked me to dictate the spelling for: "Please be my girlfriend."

I feel like I waited the first half of my life for a boyfriend. Yet, here are my sons, at ages 3 and 5, fighting over one girl to be their first girlfriend. Good grief!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Book Review: The Time Traveler's Wife

I have wanted to read this book ever since I first heard of it. I heard several things about it. First, that it is a very interesting concept the author hit upon. Second, the movie is not nearly as good as the book (is it ever?).

When I attempted to request it from the library, I discovered that the book form would take forever, but the audio version required only a short wait. Thankfully, another patron didn't request it while I was listening to the 16 CDs. Thus, I was able to renew it several times.

I must admit, for weeks now (ever since I finally finished listening to the book) I have had in the back of my mind that I would merely refer my readers to a review written by one of my favorite bloggers who already cranked out an excellent review of the book. Alas, I have searched through several of my favorite bloggers and cannot for the life of me figure out who had reviewed the book. Now, I must recap it myself, urgh!

I really enjoyed the book, but found that I couldn't listen to it when my children were in the vehicle with me. I never knew when it would venture into forbidden territory, thus, it took extra long to complete the listening. Still, on those late night runs for groceries or Christmas shopping, it was always an interesting way to pass the time of driving. Plus, it seemed appropriate listening, given the fact that the novel I was writing during the month of November centered on the interactions between a girl from the past and a girl from the present.

Here is the gist of the novel: Henry, a librarian at the Newberry Library in Chicago, suffers from chrono-displacement disorder. In unexpected moments, he merely vanishes, leaving behind his pile of clothes, and appears (sans clothes) at important moments in either his past or future. When he is 28 (and Clare is 20) he meets his future wife, Clare, who claims to have known him since she was six (when he appeared unexpectedly in a field near her home). The story develops in a jagged way, crossing time frames and changing voices between Henry and Clare, yet the tale is riveting.

It was indeed an interesting concept and made for an enjoyable read/listen. Sadly, you could tell that the author is an agnostic. Thus, the lives of her characters fail to achieve any form of satisfying redemption. There is no purpose driving this chrono-displaced person's life. His illness is not cured. His wife lives life the best she can, while left behind.

Still, I wouldn't say that this negated the value of the book. I would recommend it as an interesting read. Now, I am kind of interested to see how they chopped it up to create a movie version (given the fact that it was over 500 pages long ... in book form). If I get around to that in 2010, I will be sure to provide my assessment of the movie. I'm still guessing the movie will not be as good as the book. The only instance I can think of where the movie was better would be for the movie "The Man Without a Face," which stars Mel Gibson and is loosely based on a book by Isabel Holland. That film rose to heights the book didn't touch and carried a more fulfilling theme.