Monday, December 31, 2007

A long reflective Meme

End Of the Year Meme

1. What did you do in 2007 that you’d never done before?

  • Ran? Walked? Crawled? Participated in a 5k. It was not fun. I am wondering if I can get myself back in shape enough to repeat this torturous event this year.
  • I started a blog.
  • I sang a duet with my daughter. This was something on my list of "things I want to do before I die." Who knew I would accomplish it when she was ten.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Every year my New Years resolutions are almost identical. I will carve out time every day to spend in Bible Study and prayer, and I will get this booty back in shape. The fact that I make the same resolutions every year should be a good indicator of my previous lack of success.

This year I am keeping my New Years Resolution simple. Try to stop leaving the house looking like I rolled out of bed. Stop using the excuse of having four children and being overweight as a reason to stop caring what I look like. Wear a little makeup. Try to avoid pants with elastic waists in public.

Stacy and Clinton would be proud.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

This is a question that is going to get me in trouble. I am in my early thirties. People I know are giving birth left and right. If I start listing them, I'll leave someone out. But no one I am closely related to.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No. Not close to me. Besides my cat.

5. What countries did you visit?

Really? Not, "Where did you travel?" but "What countries did you visit?" Is there really a large segment of the population that visits new countries each year? I visited New York for my cousin's wedding and South Carolina for a family trip.

6. What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007?

A waist.

And money. This has been a hard year for us financially. I am sick of pinching pennies and worrying about bills. I know, without a doubt, that God is trying to teach us - me in particular - through this process. I just wish I would hurry up and learn the lessons already so we can all move on.

I would also like to have a a beautifully decorated (not by me) self-cleaning home and a personal chef. I found those things lacking in 2007

7. What dates from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Allie and I singing at the wedding. Putting my cat to sleep. Clara finally starting to walk.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I home schooled my fourteen year old son through second semester of his ninth grade year. This was an all out war that included taking Geometry with him. I did okay with Geometry this time around. I also managed not to throw myself, or him, in front of a bus during this process. I found this to be a very big achievement.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not learning how to adjust my lifestyle to a smaller income, and being happy in the process. Looks like God's going to give me another chance to perfect this though.

Also, not being gentler and kinder to my husband and children.

10. What was the best thing you bought?

As much as I have tried to find something more meaningful, I think it was our television. Our old one went kaput and The Man upgraded us to something wide screen and Hi-Def. I was uncomfortable with spending the money and I haven't really noticed a big difference, but The Man just loves it. He's like a kid about it, six months later still commenting almost daily about how much he loves it. Simply for how happy it makes him, it makes me happy too.

11. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Ben's progress in eating has been cause for much celebration in this house. Yesterday he ate one green bean and a couple kernels of corn. We clapped and cheered like he scored a home run.

12. Whose behavior made you appalled and disgusted?

Sometimes my own. Also, The construction company who over a year ago tore down a couple acres of trees down the street from my home, to make some kind of shopping center, but still to this day have not made a shopping center. Instead have just left this big ugly scar of scalped red earth where trees used to be.

13. What song will always remind you of 2007?

This song because Brandon and and his friends would all listen to it on their IPods on the bus everyday and come home singing it. Also, Til there was You because it's what Allie and I sang at the wedding. I will never hear that song again without remembering that experience.

14. What do you wish you’d done more of?

More Praying. Exercising. Outings with my kids. Keeping in better touch with my friends.

15. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Questioning. Worrying. Yelling. Eating. Maybe blogging.

16. Did you fall in love in 2007

Sort-of. With my nieces.

17. What was your favorite TV program?

Heroes. The first season.

18. What was the best book you read?

My Antonia by Willa Cather & The Road by Cormac McCarthy

19. What one thing would have made your year measurably more satisfying?

NOT gaining 20+ pounds. Shallow, but true.

20. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007

Frumpy Housewife. See my New Years Resolution.

21. What kept you sane?

My husband. And my friends. And this blog. And my husband. Especially him.

22. Who did you miss?

Some of my friends that I have done such a poor job at keeping up with. And strangely my cat.

23. Who was the best new person you met?

I honestly can't remember a brand new person I met this year who made a big impression on me. But I have gotten to know some people, especially in my Sunday School Class, that have really inspired me in a positive way.

24. Tell us a valuable lesson you learned in 2007

That while this frazzled hectic time of motherhood is difficult, I will someday look back at it with wistful longing, and I should stop and try to find the joy in the moments before they are gone. And that God is big enough and small enough to handle my questions and doubts and help me find my way through them.

25. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I am weary of the answers
More theory and cliché
They raise the letter of the law like a banner
'Til you're small and far away

All the questions in my head
Are from my heart instead

Be real to me now
That's all I'm asking
Be real to me now

I saw this Meme and decided it was a good way to reflect back on the year. I won't tag anyone because it took me forever to do, and I wouldn't want to inflict that pressure on anyone. However, I would be very interested to read your answers to it, so feel free to tag yourself for all, or a portion, of it.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Literary Year In Review

Several of my favorite bloggers have been ending their year with a synopsis of their reading endeavors over 2007. I have previously rejected any impulses I may have had to review books on this blog. Because, the thing is, nothing makes me feel more ridiculous about my own pitiful efforts at writing than attempting to critique someone who actually does it well. I end up feeling illiterate and silly. I finally decided to break this resolution because I would like to keep a record of the books I read and whether I enjoyed them, and because I really do love knowing what other's thought of books, I am going to be brave enough to do it here.

Unfortunately, it turns out my literary memory is as potholed as the rest of my mind. Once I have completed them, I return my books to the used bookstore for credit, except for the rare few I can't bear to part with. As a result I can now only account for my most recent reads of 2007 along with a handful of books that made a lasting impression.

So here they are already: my opinions on some of my recent and/or remarkable reads from this year...

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
I started with this because it affected me more than anything else I read this year. Oprah and I are at last in agreement, because I, too, thought this book was phenomenal. It was dark, and disturbing and sad, but ultimately a story about love and survival and it haunted me for months after I read it. And made me think about my life.

Harry Potter and the Half Blooded Prince by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
I am not going to review these books because it has been done a thousand times over by people much more capable than I. I loved them. Especially the conclusion. I will mention Deathly Hallows was the only book off of the The New York Times 50 Notable Books of 2007 list that I have read. Because I don't buy books new or in hardcover.

Seaglass by Anita Shreve
The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve

This is a new author for me this year, and I enjoyed both of these books. I found her writing thoughtful, easy to read yet engaging. I was immediately drawn into the pages of The Pilot's Wife while Seaglass pulled me in more slowly. I plan to read more Shreve in 2008.

Little Children by Tom Perrotta
I chose this book because it was a critically acclaimed novel which spawned a critically acclaimed movie. I have to admit I didn't enjoy it at all. I found the actions of the characters to be bizarre and self destructive in a way I couldn't identify with. Unhappy suburbanites dealing with their wrong choices by making even more wrong choices. I didn't bother seeing the movie.

Freakonomics by Levitt & Dubner
I almost never read non-fiction unless it's part of a Bible Study I am involved in or research for something in particular, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to explain what it was about or remember how it applied to economics, but it did make me think and I found myself reading passages out loud to my husband. A really entertaining read.

Jarka Ruus by Terry Brooks
Tanequil by Terry Brooks
Straken by Terry Brooks
I am a long time fan of Terry Brooks but hadn't read this particular trilogy. I found it to be what I expected for the author but not exceptional in any way. I came away a little disappointed.

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult
Jodi Picoult is not a new author to me. The first book I read of hers was The Tenth Circle followed by My Sister's Keeper. I enjoyed both of those novels much more than I did this one, I think because the characters were just typical suburban families, and so it was easier for me to imagine myself in their circumstances. This book kept me interested but was definitely not my favorite by this author.

Plain Truth
by Jodi Picoult
I read this book close to the beginning of this year and I am really having to wrack my brain for my impressions of it. I do remember I was intrigued to unravel the mystery of the story even if I did find the concept of the Lawyer living with her client in the Amish Community to feel forced and not particularly original.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
I hear this author mentioned often as a point of reference in young adult fantasy circles so I had high expectations. I wasn't disappointed. I plan to pick up the rest of his books for our home library if they ever make their way to the shelves of my used bookstore.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
This book came highly recommended to me by many people. I resisted it for a long time because, I am sorry to admit, of it's setting in Afghanistan. I didn't want to read a political novel. I am glad I finally did. This was one of my favorite reads of the last several years. While I did come away much more educated about the heartbreaking history of the country it was the story and the characters that really resonated with me. I am very much looking forward to reading his next book.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
This book also came highly recommended, but I just couldn't get behind it. While the premise was interesting I just couldn't connect with the characters or their motives. I became frustrated with them. I just didn't love it.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Another recommendation. It was beautifully and intriguingly written although it had a slow start and I couldn't let go of the heavy fatalistic feeling. While that may have been intentional by the author, I found it was like a weight, keeping the pace down. Yet, I cannot dispute that this author has great talent in painting poignant scenes and characters.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
I always read chic-lit on vacation. It's a rule. And this year for my trip to the beach I picked up this light and fluffy book. While basically it was a trashy love story with a dash of mysticism, I have to admit I liked it more than I expected to. I found the way the author painted the home and garden in the story as a character, in it's own right, enchanting. A quick, enjoyable read.

My Antonia by Willa Cather
I'll end with this book, because I recommend it most of all. I chose to read it because it was on several of my favorite blogger's lists of favorite books. I confess now, I had never even heard of it until then. The story, it's so simple it's hardly worth mentioning. The life of an immigrant girl as she grows up on the plains of our country. But the words, I wanted to savor them slowly, repeatedly, holding the flavor of them on my tongue like hard toffee. It was really, truly beautiful writing. So just in case, I am not the only person left who hasn't read it...well please, go read it.

And...here is the list of what is sitting on my nightstand right now waiting to be read in 2008:
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve
Light on Snow by Anita Shreve
Love in the Time of Cholera by Garcia Marquez
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquirel
Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
Lost Horizon by James Hilton

So what were your best and worst books of 2007 and what are you looking forward to reading in the new year?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Okay I admit it...I totally bought Clara and Allison matching pajamas in pepto hot pink. I couldn't help myself. I mean how often is it that one stumbles upon PJs in girls size 14 and toddler 24 months in the same obnoxious holiday fabric? Not often enough for me, apparently.

But look how cute they are...

Can't you just see Allie's radiating enthusiasm? She liked the pajamas, but seemed slightly less than overwhelmed with the idea of her baby sister having the same ones.

Oh and here's Clara giving Allie love...

How adorable is that blob of hot pink sweetness?

And I also admit that at the point these pictures were taken they had been wearing these same pajamas for the last 48 hours. At least. But today the madness ended. Hot water and soap and clean non-VonTrapp family like clothing prevailed.

And the man seemed relieved. Because my girls were not the only one sporting the same PJs for two days straight. And I think he was worried I would soon start drinking vodka for breakfast and developing an unhealthy attachment for the residents of Salem. I looked that up by the way. I don't watch Soaps, I promise. Or drink Vodka. For Breakfast.

And then we took our newly clean and clothed selves out to dinner. Our family goes to dinner together at least once a week. And typically it goes well...but we could tell almost immediately this was not going to be the case tonight.

First we lost Ben.

Oh relax, it was just a little BBQ place. But somehow when they sat us we managed to leave Ben in the entryway, and it took us a few minutes to notice. Because with a big family, plus an extra, it takes a few minutes to arrange a highchair, get coats off and decide who is sitting where. Which is when we discovered we had an empty place. I ran back to find him standing very dejected in the entryway. Poor little guy. But really he should learn to keep up.

I kid. I felt guilty, I swear. But I still can't help but wonder why the hostess didn't bring him over to us. Did she think he was waiting for the rest of his party to arrive?

The rest of the dinner was a downhill slide from there. Ben dumped his milk all over himself and Allie's friend. After we told him repeatedly to stop playing with it. And I scooped him up dripping and said harshly "Now, look what you did!" Ah yes, one of my finer parenting moments. So he started wailing and I apologized and hugged him while convincing him to stop crying, as I ignored the condemning glares of the other patrons. And man, those barbecue eaters can stare you down. I have found the crowd at the Mexican restaurant to be much more forgiving. Maybe it's the margaritas.

And then Clara cried the entire time because we wouldn't allow her to play with her milk. And there seemed to be an exorbitant amount of getting in and out of the booth: potty runs and something about Allie's friend being left handed. I guess they were clashing elbows. Lets just say the restaurant seemed to give a collective sigh of relief as we herded everyone out the door.

And when we got home? We all got back in our pajamas. Okay different pajamas. Clean pajamas. But still...some days getting dressed is just overrated.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The most wonderful time of the year...

Christmas Day is behind us, and it is without even a twinge of wistfulness that I bid it farewell. We enjoyed it, all of it: Christmas Eve at my moms with tons of cousins and laughter and the hot roast beef on hard rolls of my childhood. Followed by a less cherished, but equally steadfast tradition of wrapping presents from Santa long after midnight. A bleary eyed Christmas morning of five minutes of unwrapping the same gifts and two hours of taking them out of their packaging and assembling them. Brunch, utilizing our new waffle maker, and then a tradition I implemented last year of simultaneous mommy & baby Christmas naps. Lastly, over to The Man's family gathering that evening, where all the children entertained us by singing their favorite Christmas Carols. Because my children and their cousins come from generations of hams performers. There's not a shy one in the bunch. It was like Norman Rockwell meets the karaoke Bar.

Just Priceless.

Overall I would say it was one of our better years, judging just by it's failure to produce any truly memorable events. We are known for ruining holidays with illnesses in our home. We have had pinkeye on Christmas morning, head lice on New Years Eve, and a plethora of other viruses that have caused tears and disappointments over the years. But this year we were all healthy and well behaved. Even Clara was an angel when we put her to bed at 10PM two nights in a row.

But today, this week starting with December 26th, truly is my favorite time of the year. When the planning and preparing is over and the family is home together. The children are still giddy with new toys and leftover goodies and the days go by lazily and unplanned. We go to the movies and play board games. We invite friends over and sleep in late (Someone please tell Ben he is supposed to sleep in late!). Today the children and I stayed in our new pajamas the entire day, sending The Man out at one point for batteries to feed our new toy frenzy.

And even now, as I sit writing this I do it to the soundtrack of my little boy and my husband crashing cars together. There is nothing like listening to your three year old squeal "Yeah baby! I smashed you up!" to his father to bring on the post Christmas warm fuzzies.

And so it is with a genuine light heart, at last, that I wish you all - Zipity Do Dah, pass the wine & throw another log on the fire, because Christmas is over until next year - Holiday blessings.

Here's a family snapshot from yesterday at The Man's family gathering. Brandon isn't in the shot because he was at his mothers. I am sure he was enjoying himself, but his cousins were all there and we missed him greatly. Our family just doesn't seem complete without him.

Oh and someone asked me why Ben was pouting. It's because he is three. And he didn't get his way about something so trivial I can't even remember it. And because he's three. Did I mention that?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Oh Christmas tree

I have made it known that I struggle to find joy in the Christmas season. Things like baking, and shopping, and countless places to be - which I imagine, maybe erroneously, bring other people merriment - feel like drudgery to me. What will I buy? What will I wear? How will I get it all done? For that reason, when we go through the trouble of getting our tree, dragging it home, and decorating it, I want it to be where I can see it. We have a front window of our home that would be perfect to display the tree to our neighbors but I am adamant that I want it in the living room where our family spends most of it's time. Nothing softens the hard edges of my scrooginess like hanging out in the living room with my kids by the soft light of the tree, the air pungent with the aroma of pine.

Unfortunately for us, there really isn't a good place in our living room for a tree, so we shift some furniture around and stuff it in a corner by the chair and a half. Even with this cluttered, much less than elegant appearance, it's still worth it to me. A slumpy sofa. A cup a cocoa that I don't get to drink until it's cold. A fire to make me nervous and a tree. It's how I most enjoy the season. And no one would really describe my home's style as elegant anyway, we go for more of a romper-room feeling around here.

This year, however, has been one ongoing battle to keep Ben and Clara out of the tree. Clara, in particular, can't keep her hands off the thing. With an amazing amount of dedication she will systematically strip the tree of everything in her reach. We find bows and ornaments strewn everywhere in our home. And I have become weary of reassembling it twenty times a day. What typically brings me joy has now become the biggest of my Christmas chores. So I made the decision that for this year, and maybe next our tree would look like this.

It's really quite charming don't you think. The top half is so weighed down with all my kids ornaments that they are often prompted to throw themselves to the floor in a suicidal quest for elbow room. Either that or the tree throws them down, disgusted with it's naked bum.

Overall though, it has brought me a twinkly toddler friendly version of peace. And that's really all I ask for these days. Toddler-friendly peace.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Milestone

When Ben was 13 months he started therapy. At that point he had just started crawling and was eating nothing but stage 2 babyfood and cheerios. It was determined he had an aversion to textures on his hands and feet and particularly in his mouth. With nominal occupational & physical therapy we were able to get him walking by 18 months and playing with Play-doh and other aversive textures by two. However...Despite extensive therapy with both a speech and occupational therapist, our progress in the feeding department was virtually non-existent. By age 2 & 1/2 we had exhausted the resources of 3 therapists and made the collective decision to discontinue therapy at that time. The therapy sessions were torturous for Ben and myself and seemed to only produce the results of making any attempt at feeding him, even just for meals, an all out war. At one point he regressed to consuming nothing but milk and a few crackers for almost a week.

So feeling hopeless and defeated we decided to let Ben eat his baby food, if it meant he would just eat something and take an extremely low pressure approach to introducing any new foods. Age three came and went and while we had been able to get him to try a few other things, he was still eating oatmeal for breakfast and babyfood twice a day, with yogurt and crackers for snack.

And then, a few months ago something changed. While I cannot be certain, I attribute the change to Clara. She was no longer eating babyfood and was sitting with us at the table eating what we ate. Ben suddenly seemed to really want to eat "big-people food" as he called it. He would point to the baby on the Gerber jar and say, dejectedly, "This food is for babies". It hurt my heart for him to see him want to be able to overcome his aversions, but be unable. Ultimately it did have a positive effect. He started occasionally, spontaneously, randomly, trying small bites of table food. Most foods were rejected because he couldn't get past the texture, or the taste, but little by little we were able to add a few new foods to his repertoire. And a few months ago we were down to eating baby food just at dinner time. To let you know what a huge deal this was for us, here is a picture of him -a few weeks ago - feeding himself waffles for the first time.


This was monumental not just because of the waffle, a previously rejected food, but because it was the first time he had fed himself with a fork. Yes, at 3 and a half he had never used a fork. Because when you only eat babyfood and yogurt there is little opportunity to try.

But tonight... tonight I made breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, eggs, bacon & apple sauce. It's one of the other kids favorite meals. I made it as a celebration for being finally out for Christmas break. And tonight, as usual, Ben sat with us at the table while we ate. And as usual, we offered him some food to try. But to all of our surprise, tonight he accepted. And even more shocking, he ate an entire pancake, and three pieces of bacon and some applesauce.

For the first time, my family of six sat around the table and all. ate. the. same. food. for. dinner.

It's something I have been praying for, for nearly two years. And have shed countless tears about. At one point, I had actually just accepted that Ben would still be packing yogurt and crackers for lunch when he started elementary school. And while we are certainly not off babyfood yet - Even if he does continue to eat these foods, the boy can't live on pancakes and bacon - and probably won't be for a long time to come, this was a very big first step. And I am terribly, terribly excited. And for the first time in a long time, full of hope.
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And in the spirit of celebration I give you this dizzy video of Ben & Clara celebrating tonight. Because, as cliche as it sounds, I really couldn't have asked for a better Christmas present.
video
My little wired-on-too-much-Christmas-candy cuties. Oh and Clara's seventeen months now. And as you see, still bopping around on her knees. Which, when you have a three year old who just learned how to use a fork, doesn't seem like such a big deal.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pride and Apprehension...

A couple days ago I was snooping around in Allison's email account. Yes, I am a snooping parent. And I am unapologetic about it. Especially in things involving the internet. I require Brandon's MySpace password and Allison's email password or they are not allowed to have these accounts. I am not flexible on this. I don't check them daily, but periodically, randomly, I do. Knowing who they are talking to and what they information (true or false) they are sharing about themselves is something I feel I need to know.

While snooping, I read an email from Allison to a friend of hers. This girl is popular, obviously wealthy, gossipy and boy crazy. She is so unlike Allison, who is not popular and makes known to all her disdain for boys, that I have always been curious and a bit wary of Allie's friendship with her. But they don't see each other often and their relationship has not progressed much past the casual level. Allison's email to her said something along these lines:

"Please do not send me any more emails. I do not want to hear the bad things about all the people you don't like, or about all the boys you do like"

I was very surprised to see such a harsh email and spoke to Allison about it. Apparently, this friend was regularly sending emails to Allison and all her other friends disparaging people she didn't like, or gushing over boys that she was "In love with". Allison was bothered by it, and asked her not to send them to her anymore.

She emailed the girl and asked her not to send her mean, gossipy emails anymore.

I am still reeling from this. That my middle school daughter of her own accord took a stand. And I am not saying she is never mean or gossipy, but in this situation, she chose not to be a part of part of something she knew was wrong.

And I am so proud of her I could burst.

And a little bit worried. Because I am concerned about what this, this one tiny stand, might mean for her. And a little part of me, a part that I would never share with her, doesn't want her to be the one taking a stand. When it means she might get hurt. Because while the mother in me wants her to be strong, and just, and good, the mommy in me just wants her heart to be safe.

But quiet voices and safe hearts are not God's desire for me. Or for my child. Or for His own.

Which is why it's good I didn't write the plans.

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And for completely unrelated reasons, I am heartsick today. An anxious. And sad. About things that I can't talk about here. And I am not sure I would, even if I felt at liberty. Because some things seem worse when you put them into words. But I ask you to pray, even not knowing what you are praying for, because God knows. And that's enough. It is.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Scroogie Conversations from our weekend...

Allison-Mom, my black pants smell really bad.
Me-Your concert is in an hour, why are you telling me this now?
Allison-I can't wear them like this, they smell.
Me-Well try not to inhale.
Allison-Mo-om!

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Me-Ben, Please put baby Jesus back in the manger.
Ben-But I love baby Jesus.
Me-I know Ben, But you might break him.
Ben-Wide Eyed - Break baby Jesus?
Me-Yes, Ben, you know that's not the real baby Jesus, it's just a decoration.
Ben-Oh. The real baby Jesus is tougher?
Me-Yes Ben. Much tougher.

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Allison-Mom, I signed up to bring chicken wings to our party on Thursday.
Me-Chicken Wings?!?!
Allison-tentatively -Yes
Me-Allie, we discussed this.
Allison-Mom, They said they already had all the paper products they needed.

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Me-BEN STOP! I told you that present was for Gramma. What are you doooing?
Ben-Sheepishly- She needs help unwapping it.

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Me-giggling-Look Brandon, here's your Michael Vick ornament from last year.
Brandon-Oh great, we're hanging convicts on our tree now.

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Me-Ben, please, put that ornament back on the tree.
Me-Clara, don't touch the tree!
Me-Ben, stop playing with the ornaments.
Ben-Cwara's taking off the ornments!
Me-Clara, no!
Ben-She's breaking it!! That's MINE!
Me-BEN & CLARA GET AWAY FROM THE TREE! Can't you just watch TV?

Cross posted at Worst Mama.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Question for my Blogging friends...

Last night while I was, as usual, not sleeping I was skimming some of my old blog posts. I originally started this blog as a kind of record of my life as a mother of four. Since then it has become more about using words to fill some kind of need for expression or organized thought. And even a bit about this illusion of community. But I haven't lost sight of my original purpose, to preserve something. To hold on to memories more solidly than my mind has been able to manage in the past.

Nearly all of what I write about is my children, and I have often thought I would like to find a more concrete way to preserve a portion of those writings. Just a fraction. For myself and also for them. Someday my children may be parents themselves and I would love for them to have the opportunity to read how they drove me crazy how much I joy I received, and maybe a wee bit of how I struggled, parenting them.

I would give a lot for such a record of my own mother's thoughts while raising us.

So my question is, do any of you print any of your posts to save? Is there anything that you write that you then put in hard copy for yourself or your children to see when years down the road the archives, and memories, may not be available? Or am I the only one so self-importantly deluded as to think that my offspring would even be interested?

I have been wondering about this for a while now and would love to hear some thoughts.

Friday, December 14, 2007

We wish you a merry Christmas - you and your kid.

In the spirit of my previous post: of 3 year olds yelling carols and cherishing moments with my children, I give you my Ben...

video

He really is just a shy whisper of a child, isn't he?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

These are the days...

Here I am.

I know that you have missed me, you whole seven people that come by here regularly. And I have missed you too. I have been itching to write so badly, it's embarrassing really. But it's Christmastime. And Christmastime leaves no time for anything but Christmastime. With four children it becomes an all encompassing black hole of a thing, sucking up time and thoughts and money until there is nothing left. And I admit I don't handle this gracefully. More like with whining and frazzledness and plastic smiles when my children are involved.

Saturday night I sat on my couch with The Man, a worn blanket pulled over my knees despite the unseasonably warm weather weather outside. After a busy day of Christmas activities, I was exhausted and strongly feeling the martyrdom of my role as Christmas-maker. I needed the coddling of a fuzzy blanket and a hot drink. As I was sipping tea and trying to will my mind to stop making lists, I looked up to see Allison and Ben standing in front of the entryway table.
Their heads were almost touching as they bent close to the nativity we had just put out that day. I nudged The Man to look their way, and we watched in silence as Allison pointed to each figure and introduced them to her little brother.

"These are the shepherds.
This is the Angel that came and told them that Jesus was born.
These are the kings who came on camels to see Jesus.
This is Mary, she is the mommy.
This is Joseph, he is the daddy.
And this is Baby Jesus in the manger" she said lightly, carefully lifting the little porcelain baby and putting it in Ben's hands.

Been gasped.

"I love baby Jesus!" he exclaimed excitedly clasping his small hands around the even smaller figure and pulling it up to his face.

And tears came to my eyes as I watched my daughter try to explain The Christmas Story to her baby brother. It was one of those perfect gooey parenting moments that I knew I would want to remember forever; etch it into the walls of my mind so I can gaze at it again and again.

This moment has been with me for days now. Singing to me. Whispering to me a secret over and over until I finally started to hear it.

'This is as good as it will ever be'

Today I woke up and dressed Ben and Clara in Christmas outfits for Ben's three year old program at school. We dropped him off, went to buy our designated food item, and came back to watch a room full of three year olds jingle bells and yell Christmas Carols at their parents. It was delightful.

It was also about ten minutes, and constituted half a dozen items on my to-do list for this week. Wash and press red shirt for Ben. Check. Buy preschool music teacher gift. Check. Buy sodas for reception. Check. Charge movie camera. Um...not so much.

And sadly, this is what Christmas had become for me, one incredibly long list of things I must get checked off, by tonight, this weekend, or Christmas Eve. And try as I might, I can not seem to get this list shortened one iota. I have four children with four different Sunday School teachers and parties and church and school programs. And I am always behind. There isn't even a tree in our home yet, something I am acutely reminded of by the stack of this years handmade ornaments sitting on our kitchen counter.

Truthfully, I had actually come to dread this time of year. Something that was miraculous and magical and exciting to me my entire life had simply become one big extended chore.

But Saturday night I feel that God gave me new perspective on this time in my life. What is it that I wish was different? Someday soon, my kids will be older. The days of countless parties, and programs and teacher gifts will be behind me. I will be able to shop for gifts without the whining of toddlers. Will I really find this a relief? Or will I sit nostalgic for the days of three year olds yelling carols and middle schoolers making their first attempts at 3-part-harmony? Surely I will miss the feeling of lying awake unable to sleep on Christmas Eve because of my own excitement at my children's joy. Of living rooms on Christmas morning knee deep with boxes and wrapping paper and bows.

Won't I cry when Allison no longer wants to have her annual caroling party? Won't my heart ache when there are no more babies to share the story of Jesus with? Do I really wish I had less people in my life to love and buy gifts for? Which grandmother or niece or faithful Sunday School teacher would I like to do without? Am I honestly longing for a day when the kids are old enough to not jump with excitement at the thought of going out to buying a tree or baking cookies? How could I possibly wish for days when no one here cares if we have one?

Yes it is busy. Extremely busy. The things to do pile on like weights sometimes. But aren't the things I am doing (Okay not All- but many) things of value? Yes, it is a materialistic holiday fraught with consumerism and irreverence to the newborn King. Yes, my son's one true wish is to get an XBOX 360 for Christmas and we can't afford it and might not buy if we could. But isn't the fact that I am miserable this time of year simply a heart issue and not a world issue; born from my inability to appreciate the life I have. And my failure to realize that in some ways, These will be the best Christmases of my life. Days that I will look back on with a sense of loss when they have passed.

I don't know if I will have much time to blog between now and December 25th. My new found perspective hasn't made my lists any shorter. But I hope that during all the scrambling to check things off, that I will be able to hold tightly on to the knowledge that I should stop and appreciate the small joys of my children in this season. Before they are only memories to grasp at with regret.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The great card fiasco of 2007 - Update AGAIN

They sent me the same cards again!

The same. blue. dark. holly-less. cards. Again. When I opened them I almost cried. Proof that this card thing has gotten way out of hand. I am making one last ditch effort with another photo company using the silly photo from this post and am going to pick up the cards at Target momentarily. Suddenly Ben's expression just seems to represent the entire Christmas card experience.

The errant photo company will be giving me a refund and there will be no longer be any love between us. It's over. Finished. I will move on to another. Oh and if anyone knows someone, I am open to blind dates.

I should have stuck with the bad-picture cards I received originally. They would have been in the mail a week ago. Instead I now have ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY bad photos of my children. One hundred and fifty.

So I am hosting a contest inspired by Chrissy's comment. The most creative idea on what to do with the cards will receive a copy of this new book:

25 Easy steps to making Christmas as stressful and complicated as possible.
By Chaotic Joy

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Using Kodak Gallery I had my one-pose not great (particularly of Allison) - but not awful & kinda funny cards printed at Target and they were ready for pick up about 20 minutes later. When I picked them up they were cheaper than my Shutterfly order and miraculously looked just like I was expecting. Cue Hallelujah Chorus.

Thus my Christmas Card saga of 2007 ends with a semi-happy ending. Next year... I'm splurging for professional.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sweet Sunday Night Nothings

Oh the weekend....It was simply fabulous. My children woke up fever free on Friday morning and my house was cleaned by someone other than I. A fact I have given God heartfelt thanks for probably a dozen times. I have so many posts about the deliciousness of this weekend, barely started and flitting about in the wide open places of my brain. A few words dancing here, a whole couple sentences trolling about over there. But I can't seem to find the desire to sit and reign some of them in, or the discipline to add to them.

So I am going to leave them be, even with the knowledge that not captured they will likely fade away and tomorrow I will be left wondering what I ever thought I had to say.

And tonight I leave you simply with my thoughts that I have great friends and crazy, wonderful kids. And a God much bigger and wiser than I will ever be. Thank goodness.

Oh and go read this post by my friend Lisa, who I don't really know, but I wish I did. I would love to have her over for coffee and wallow in our mutual scrooginess and talk to her about how she got so wise. And I know for her, I wouldn't even have to clean my house.

And that's good people.

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Oh and pssst...since you are all so sweet to be worried: I still have no new cards from the online photo company. The newest rumor is they will be arriving tomorrow.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Do you see what I see?

On Monday I ordered Christmas cards from a certain online photo center using these two exact pictures in a two photo collage.


Today, I received the cards in the mail and they looked like this:

Um...Anything seem off to you? The color? The dark and dreary quality?

Yeah me too.

Oh and see that reddish part on the side. It's part of the design. A design that is called"Red Holly Leaves". I am guessing because online it has red holly leaves. Not on my card though. I am calling my card "Rust Imagine-the-Holly Leaves." Maybe the leaves are like one of those optical illusion paintings. If I stare at it long enough, they will suddenly appear. In 3-D

I am starting to get a feeling that a decent Christmas Card is not in God's plans for me this year.
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In fairness to the online photo service, I have just ended a 30 minute long phone call with a very nice woman, who spoke very marginal English, in their customer service department. After emailing her this picture (a version that included the missing Holly part) she finally admitted that their may have been an error in their printing process and is overnighting me a new shipment.

It's possible that tomorrow I will receive much-improved cards and we will be all kissy kissy again.

One up, one down.

Well Clara's fever is better, although the snot is still an issue. I'll kindly spare you the details on that! She seems to have passed her germs onto her brother - no surprise there, those two are on top of each other - and he is now feverish. Which means that I had to cancel my sister-in-law who was supposed to come clean my house tomorrow.

And no it wasn't pity, I was paying her. She does it as a part time job. And so desperate was I to have this pigsty less, well, totally-freakin-disgusting before Saturday, I was even willing to let a member of my husband's family see it at it's worst. But now, she can't come because she was bringing my nephew, and Ben is sick. Which just stinks.

That, and...Ben's sick! My poor little guy never gets sick. He isn't complaining but he has that glassy, feverish, red-cheeked look, and he doesn't really want to get off the couch. And seeing my silly, mischievous boy in his footsie spider-man pajamas so quiet and still gives me a little heartache. Which makes me just want to curl up with his hot little body in my lap for hours on end.

And I think I will. Because, today there just isn't anything that seems more important. He's my heart, that boy.

Oh and I am posting over at Worst Mama Today too.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I've got whine...who's got cheese?

Clara is sick, sick, sick. Feverish, miserable and a veritable factory of snot. Too much information?

Yeah. I know. Sorry.

I am thinking she might have an ear infection but I am trying to wait it out. I despise taking my children to the doctor and am a firm believer that the body will fight off most things on it's own. This has been going on for a few days now though and if I don't see improvement by tomorrow, I'll make the call. Just because it is killing me to see her so miserable. And because I can't get more than two feet away from her. Which is kinda hard. When you have 3 other children.

My bins of Christmas decorations are still sitting in the hall. I am hosting my annual holiday brunch for my girlfriends from highschool and their children on Saturday, but things like cleaning and shopping and decking the halls just aren't happening. Sitting on the couch with Clara-bear for hours and hours watching recorded episodes of Sesame Street over and over, while using 543 tissues...that's what's happenin. Much to Ben's very vocal dismay.

Oh and blogging, that's not happenin either. Besides this post of course. And probably won't be happenin anytime soon. Because eventually I do have to clean and shop and deck the halls. Or at the very least calling a cleaning service.

You know while I lock myself in the laundry closet with a bottle of wine.

*************
Oh and I have a confession. You know those really awful Christmas cards I received last week. I ordered new ones. I couldn't get past the awful pictures. So I created a collage at Shutterfly which should be here this week which I am much happier with. But it totally throws my "Oh I am not going to stress about perfection this year" theory out the window. Along with the $30 I spent on the first batch.

I am so weak. And predictable.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Shameless bragging

Allie has a blog. I just set it up for her this weekend. It's set as private so it's doubtful anyone will read it besides her father and I and if she's lucky a kind friend or family member. But seeing what she writes is so much fun. This was part of her entry this morning

"Today is definitely my favorite day of the week, also known as "Sunday"! I just love Sundays! Do you ever get that feeling where all your problems are put away and you are full of happiness?! It may sound a bit extreme, but I do! It kinda gives you that feeling as if the house is clean without you ever cleaning it! Cool, huh? But it's not the day that puts me in this mood, it's church! If there's only one thing important in life, it "is" definitely the experience of leaning new things about Jesus! Living in a house full of Christians, is a complete blessing to me. In fact, if it was still November, thats something I would be thankful for."

Really. How can you not smile reading this sweet and peppy post. I love that girl.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A bit of bizness

I decided to go back and delete the posts on our adventures with Brandon this week. As I predicted, I have decided I have gone too far. I would never want them to cause hurt if discovered at a later date.

Sometimes I let me own need for an outlet, and support, cloud my judgement.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The last day of November!

Computer is dying. Something about blogging made it sick months ago. And it has been in a state of gradual decline ever since. Getting out of Google-Reader to comment on blogs is like trudging through a pool of sludge. It requires much patience and prayer. And if there are graphics, or ads or layers on your page, it's almost hopeless. I click that link and walk away, to get a cup of coffee or fold some laundry, then come back to see if it was able to accomplish the task, or if it locked up passed out from the effort. And sometimes now, mid keystroke, it just turns itself off. Jumping ship. Grumpy and overloaded, it stubbornly refuses to do one thing more. I know how it feels.

The Man has been voicing loudly the need to reformat. That the best thing for computer is a fresh start. While I know this may be true, I have been resisting. Because The Man, while very nice to look at, and quite accomplished at many things, tends to leave things in a slightly altered state when he fixes them.

He's actually quite a whiz at computers. He has written code for program after program to do tasks as simple as manage our contacts or as complicated as run his business. But the last time he reformatted he wiped the information out of said contact manager completely, leaving me floundering on how to reach the voice teacher. Or my mother.

And it's not just computers. The toilets he has repaired do work, but with little irritating quirks that weren't there before. "Someone go jiggle the toilet thing" is now a daily request around here. And so, I have been understandably resistant, worrying what I would lose.

But I have surrendered. Computer is in pain and we need to do what's best for him. You know, so I can get back to surfing and commenting at will. Because I have a lot to say. And because it's Christmas time. And I need to s-h-o-p people.

So I ask you all to say a prayer for computer and his trip to The Man's hospital this weekend. That we would come through the other side new and refreshed and without any significant memory loss. That afterwards he would be able to do his work easily with the passion he once had. Opening up window after window with ease. That he would be well again, completely well.

With no jiggling required.

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What I am thankful for today. That November is over. I have posted 36 posts in November. THIRTY-SIX. Talk about self-indulgent ridiculousness. And the idea that I had, that I would just be popping on to write a quick line of thanks. That was pure stupidity on my part. It's been a time sucking machine. So when next November comes, if I even think of participating in this daily posting thing, someone please shoot me. Seriously.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Day 28

Today I am thankful for my children who were, all four of them, conceived without difficulty. Who were carried to term, with no problems beyond those of typical pregnancy discomfort. Who were born healthy and strong in deliveries that were relatively complication free. I am thankful for the sleepless nights I spent in my home feeding them, rocking them, walking with them until I could barely stand. I am thankful for the anger they have caused me and the tears I have shed on their behalf.

This week some friends of mine delivered twins at 25 weeks after years of trying to conceive and several rounds of IVF. Those babies are struggling just to to take a breath. We are all praying just for their hearts to keap beating. Each day we get an update, because for their parents each day is simply another battle that wasn't lost.

I have friends who have recently lost babies and those who have never been able to conceive them. I have cried for them. My heart breaks for them, but I don't know what it's like to be them. I couldn't possibly.

But today I know that each day that I walk on this side of that darkness is a blessing. A fragile blessing that I have not earned. And for the days that I have forgotten this, and the days, too soon, that I will forget again - I am truly sorry.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Day 26



Today I am thankful for my sister-in-law who sent me this adorable shot of Ben and Clara from Thanksgiving. (I should have had her take my Christmas Card picture.)
Also for Rotisserie Chickens from our grocery store for those voice lesson/basketball practice days when I just can't get my act together.
And for my supportive bloggy friends, who occasionally get stuck listening to reading my confessions, and are gracious about it every time.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The great newsletter debate.

The Christmas cards I actually ordered before Thanksgiving arrived today. I admit I was kind of hoping I had exaggerated the not-so-greatness of the photo in my mind. I hadn't. There they were, my four children squinting through the sunshine with forced smiles on their overexposed faces. It's amazing how I can get such wonderful shots of my children individually but put them all together and it's hopeless. I think next year, I may just pick a great individual shot of each of them and do a type of collage. Or maybe actually splurge for a professional photo. Imagine that.

But this year, in an effort to fore go my quest for a perfect Christmas in exchange for a peaceful one, I am sending them as they are. And the picture isn't horrible exactly, it just fails to capture all their gorgeous personalities. Which I doubt anyone would appreciate quite as much as me anyway.

Which brings us to the next part of the Christmas Card process - the annual newsletter. Several years ago, I decided it would be fun to write a newsletter updating the world on what we had been up to that year. Yes, I actually thought it would be fun. I only had two children at the time, and I must have not settled into my roll as "The Family Scrooge" yet.

And I think it was fun the first year. But what no one tells you is once you have decided to enter the world of Christmas Newsletters, there is no returning to the simple days of stuffing a photo in an envelope. Unwittingly I had added one huge item - recap our entire year in a witty, non-boring letter that doesn't sound too much like the previous year, and keep it as short as possible so someone might actually read it - to my Holiday to do list.

And every time I suggest that I might not write a letter that year, a handful of people - most of whom live in this house - let out a loud protest. Oh, and my mother-in-law. She loves the letter. Bless her proud Gramma heart.

But I am finding it increasingly difficult to be witty or original or interesting. And I wonder if anyone - besides my mother-in-law, of course - even enjoys receiving them.

So I am asking you, my bloggy friends, do any of you write a newsletter? And if you receive them, do you like it? I understand by asking people who read/write blogs that I am asking a portion of the population that generally likes reading about other's lives, but I would still like to hear your thoughts.

**************
And today I am thankful for Brandon. I stay on his case more than any of my children because he is, well, a fifteen year old boy. But every night when I am making dinner, he helps me occupy the weekids. Most of the time, without complaint. And sometimes, like tonight, he volunteers to do things like give baths, or feed dinners. And I am grateful for him. For many reasons of course, but tonight particularly so, because he preserves my sanity.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Day 24

I had a longish post planned for this evening, but The Man and I decided to watch Amazing Grace. , which was inspirational and informative and I highly recommend it. But now it's late and I am tired so just another quick list from me: Today I am thankful for:
  • Dictionary.com - which is also Thesaurus.com, and Reference.com. I am such a word nerd and I just love this site. I am there everyday: To make sure I am using a word correctly, to find another word, to check out the word of the day, or to discover the meaning of something I have read on one of your blogs. I think this really solidifies my dork status, you know, in case there was some debate.
  • Sunday Afternoon Naps
  • Watching Ben & Clara run (crawl? knee-walk?) after each other laughing and screeching with glee. It's a dream come true for me to see my children so completely enjoying each other's company, even for a few moments.
  • DVR-Really isn't this just the greatest invention? Before we had this I would rush through dinner and plop myself in front of the TV on the night of my favorite show, obnoxiously shushing any family member brave enough to speak to me - or each other - during the episode. Our new system is a vast improvement.
  • A post it note I found on my fridge. Allie put it there before she went to bed. It says: Mommy, Daddy. I heart U. Allison. Sigh - The happy kind.
  • A wonderful Thanksgiving weekend spent with my family, which has sadly come to an end. Sigh - The unhappy kind.
Ya know, this thankful thing gets easier the more you do it. I guess that was the point, wasn't it?

I just can't help myself.

So I have been running around the Blogosphere entering contests. Because I recently won a couple things on some blog contests and now I have the contest bug. And because we are broke as a joke this year and I am trying to pad our under-the-tree-offerings for Christmas morning. Even though I recently wrote a ranty post about how that's not really what Christmas is about. I know, I know, I should just walk around with the word "Hypocrite" stamped on my forehead.

Anyway, the one contest I would love to win most of all, is this one for the old fashioned pedal car for Ben and Clara. And while I know, that if I did miraculously win, I would choose this gender neutral work of art, I just can't help but think that this

picture of retro pink perfection is the cutest thing I have ever seen. I mean really, can't you just picture the adorableness of little Clara tooling around in it? Couldn't you just eat it with a spoon?

So go enter the contest already, and if you win instead of me, I promise I won't hate you. Well not forever.
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Oh, and I'll be back in a bit to do my thankful post on the things I ALREADY HAVE in my life. Cause I am. I swear. Even if they aren't pink. And convertable.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Day 23

Today I am thankful for:
  • My messy neglected home. I am ashamed of all the times I have complained about it.
  • My children, all four of them. Because the break me out of my solemn, grumpy shell and make me laugh-out-loud every day. And sing. And dance. And play games. And tell stories. And hug. Even when I don't feel like it. And it's a balm for my soul.
  • Baby Nathaniel, who was Christened today. And for his family, whom I love.
  • Footy pajamas.
  • "You've Got Mail" Allison and I watched it tonight and I forgot how much I love that movie.
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • These moments of near complete silence, and solitude, and peace.
  • This verse: For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Phillipians 1:6. Because lately I feel very unfinished.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ooomph!

I walked out the door to the garage this afternoon to run an errand. I found Brandon in the driveway playing basketball with Eric; a likable kid from our neighborhood he's been hanging out with for years. I gave a friendly greeting and went to get in the van. As I was pulling out I saw Eric hopping in a red jeep that was blocking me in. I hadn't been able to see it from the garage.

"Sorry" he yelled as he backed out of my way.

I stopped. Frozen in something like shock. It took me a moment to continue my commute out into the street.

That's his jeep. He drove here. My son's friend. He drove his own car to our house, and now he's moving it out of my way, all nonchalant like its NO BIG DEAL.

Phrases like, "Eric, will you move your car?" are going to become part of my everyday vernacular.

It's amazing how I could know something was coming. This new phase. The next step. I even knew that it had arrived; The Man and I had talked about it. Yet somehow, actually seeing it still knocked the wind out of me, like a punch in the gut.

My son's friends are driving.

I think I need a drink. No better yet, I think I need to pray. A lot. For like the next five years straight.

I am so not ready for this.

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What I am grateful for: A lazy day. A clean kitchen. Taking my daughter and my niece to a charmingly gooey girly movie and loving it. All of us.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I read a post by Painted Maypole today that moved me on what it really means to be Thankful. So for my Thanksgiving Post, I am going to send you her way.

My gratitude today is for my family. And I will show them being with them this weekend, completely, and patiently and without distraction. Thanks for the lesson, PM.
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:17

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rain

Here in Georgia, the weather has been perfection for the last month. Glorious fall days with temperatures in the 60s and low 7os. Gentle breezes sending leaves spinning from the trees in showers of red and gold and green. On days like this it feels almost criminal to stay inside. And so we have ventured out more this past month than all year. Visiting parks and taking walks. Throwing ourselves into crunchy piles of leaves and lying flat our our backs to look up the contrast of the blue sky through the red leaves. Playing soccer and basketball and football in crispy brown grass. Thinking how heavenly it would be, if it could last forever.

And yet, therein lies the irony. It has lasted for months, and we have paid a significant price in return. In Georgia we are in the midst of the worst drought in our history. All outdoor watering is banned. We cannot wash our cars or preserve the life of our trees. Showers have been shortened as we watch in unfamiliar fear, as our drinking supply ebbs dangerously close to nothing. What will happen if it's exhausted? I don't think anyone really knows.

It paints a picture for me, of how imperative balance is in life. I cannot count how often I have heard people pray for the absence of rain: to prevent flooding, to enjoy a lovely day planned outdoors, to ease travelling, even to win or lose a sporting event. And yet, all throughout Georgia, people are now praying for the skies to open up. For day after day of earth soaking rains. Because we cannot live without it. Because balance is a requirement for life to continue.

It's representative I think, of our own need for duality. As much as we hate to admit it, isn't our joy incumbent on a certain amount of pain or sadness for it's existence? Without this dichotomy wouldn't we also become dull and parched and fade from life? Is it possible that we should thank God for our disappointments simply because of their power to define our delights?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It's supposed to rain. In fact, the forecast for this week calls for rain five out of the next seven days. We won't be venturing outside to revel in the sunshine. Our leaves will become a sodden, brown mess. We will cover our heads, and pies, and children and run for doorways. And yet, we will not complain. We will be thankful for the rain in a way we have not been before. Because we have new perspective, and sunshine, without rain, it's simply incomplete.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: Eccl. 3:1

I am taking the day off tomorrow. Not from gratitude, but from blogging. To focus on family and food and our loving Father whom I am grateful for most of all. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. This blog brings me much joy and I count you high in my blessings.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Day 19 - Clara 16 Months

Clara-
My impossible, irresistible, baby girl. Sixteen months have passed and yet I still feel as if I am just getting to know you. In just ten short minutes you were this:

and this:

and this:


You shuffle around now walking on your knees. Wearing out the knees of your pants and the toes of your shoes and adamantly refusing our promptings to walk another step. Stubborn and strong willed, you spend many days rubbing my nerves raw with your temper. But seconds later you are bubbling joy and warm soft cuddles. You laugh and sing and say a new word almost every day. You are a mischievous risk taker and an avid conversationalist. You are loud and rough and boorish. Yet you are gentle and unsure and adoring.
I wonder if it's possible I will ever know all the facets of your capricious personality.
And I wonder how my life ever felt complete without you.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Day 18-Thanksgiving

This morning Ben woke up at 5:45.

"It's the middle of the night!" I growled at him, and sent him back to bed. And when I woke up 2 hours later, all was quiet in my home. A small miracle actually. I drank my coffee in peace as it dawned on me...It's Thanksgiving week.


Lest you think that I am jaded and disenchanted with all Holidays, I have to say - I just love Thanksgiving. I know, I know, it's the official start of the Holiday-that-shall-not-be-named, but even that doesn't dim my enthusiasm. So today, I am Thankful for Thanksgiving. And here's 7 reasons why.
  1. Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, so it makes for a short week. Allie woke up this morning singing "It's not really Mooonnday...it's actually Thurrrrsday!" And I concur with her conclusion. The kids only have two days of school this week, and The Man only works three. Glory. Glory!
  2. I. Never. Host. Thanksgiving. It's true, and I couldn't be happier about it. No stressful cleaning of the house or planning menus. I have never cooked a turkey and I am willing to postpone that experience as long as possible. Repeat after me: Gizzards are gross. (Which is why I am profoundly grateful for my mother and my sister-n-law who graciously host us each year.)
  3. We get to see our families. I know for some people this is a chore, but I genuinely love it. My kids have lots of cousins on both sides who we don't get to see nearly as much as we would like. I love the chaos that comes with a house full of excited children. I'll be sad if it ever changes.
  4. My mother hosts the celebration for my side of the family the Sunday before Thanksgiving, to keep us from having to run like crazy on the actual Holiday. God bless her. So...I get to eat Turkey and pie all week long. It also makes for a lazy day on Thursday. We get up, watch the parade. make casseroles. watch football. Give the kids their nap. And head over to The Man's celebration late afternoon. All Holidays should be this stress free.
  5. I am thrilled that in America - where we truly are blessed - we have a Holiday simply to stop and recognize it. I love discussing with my children the things they are thankful for, and watching how their lists change over the years. They never cease to surprise me.
  6. The food. 'Nuf said.
  7. Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday so we all have a long weekend off together. Practices, Games, Rehearsals, Lessons...all take a break. As a family we have really come to look forward to this. We do things together as a family. The Man watches an astounding amount of football. I read books. We watch movies, and play games. For a few days life moves at a slow pace, and I recognize that for the rare gift it is.
So what are your thoughts on the Holiday? Do you love it? Dread it? Does your family have any special traditions? We don't travel and I think if we did, I would feel differently about it. What do you think?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Day 17

Yesterday morning I attempted to take our annual Christmas Card picture of the children. The last two years I took their picture less than a week before Christmas, had them printed overnight and mailed them out December 22nd. I was determined to do better this year.

My children had other ideas.

They poked.
They shoved.
And most of all, they whined:

"Don't poke me. Don't push me. Look at the camera. Scoot over. The sun is in my eyes. Are you done yet?"

I took about 25 shots and didn't get one decent one of the four of them. Here's a sample.



I think Ben's expression says it all.

I ended up frustrated and depressed that my efforts to be on time were thwarted. I started planning when we could do a retake. Or maybe I should just spend the money and take them to a studio.

I didn't.

Tonight, on impulse, I picked the shot that was the least offensive of everyone and ordered my cards. I settled for mediocrity and I feel liberated.

My cards are ordered, it's not even Thanksgiving yet. And THAT'S what I am thankful for today.

**************

Oh and pumpkin pie. We had Thanksgiving at my Mother's house today and she sent me home with a pie. I ate pie for dinner while ordering cards. It was like a hug, with spices. Thanks Mom.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Day 16

Last night I went out with two of my girlfriends, Debbie and Melissa. I can't remember when I had a better time. We were giggly and obnoxious like 15-year-olds, which is appropriate since we all knew each other when we actually were. I have said this before, but I can't say it enough, there is just nothing like old friends. Friends that knew you when, and love you still.

We then went to the 10:15 showing of "Dan in Real Life." I know! Can you believe it? We went to a movie that started after ten o'clock. We're a regular bunch of party-moms. The movie was predictable and hokie in places but we laughed tons. And Steve Carell really is a gem, so I would recommend it for that alone. I also recommend having a glass of wine before you see it. It worked well for me.

Today has been a lazy kind of day. Nausea and a seriously tenacious sinus headache have rendered me pretty much useless. I only ventured out once, and that was to the used bookstore for an emergency book run. I actually made it to the bottom of the stack. I didn't know it was even possible. I thought that thing continuously replenished itself.

As for gratitude? I actually have 3 for you today.
  1. Well my fabulously immature girlfriends, of course. They totally rock.
  2. Some bloggy friends introduced me to the word Callipygian today. I shared it with my family and we are enjoying trying to find ways to use it. :0)
  3. Look what I found in my messy kitchen today:


~Magically Delicious.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Day 15 - It's The Man, again.

The Man just walked out the door. He bundled up Clara and Ben in coats and packed snacks and sippy cups while I was blow drying my hair. He nagged Brandon, and Allie and one of her friend's to get their shoes and coats while I was rummaging through sweaters to wear. Then he corralled all 5 kids out to the minivan to take them out to dinner leaving me here, sitting at the computer. To say I am thankful wouldn't do it justice. I am beholden, but even more so, I am smitten. There is something about a man that will take 5 kids out to dinner without batting an eye.

And in a few moments I will grab my small purse and get in the small car and go meet two girlfriends for wine and Hibachi.

But right now I going to sit here and savor this deliciously foreign experience of being here, in my own home, alone.

Humbug

It started months ago. Back in September, or maybe even August. Just a whisper at first, before the flood. A precocious harbinger of the storm to come.

I noticed it first at the mailbox. An additional weight. A little less room. Gaining momentum with each passing week. Until now, each day, I am met with stacks of glossy catalogs depicting heart-stirring scenes illuminated by twinkling lights. Porcelain people glowing with contentment and bliss. Offering their secret. The keys to the picture of perfection.

Peddling personalized toys, Fair Isle sweaters and trendy trappings in the guise of memories and joy and fulfillment. All with free shipping.

And then overnight the subtlety is replaced with a garish barrage on my senses. The radio waves become saturated with countdowns, and promises. Slipping words like cherished and love and always remember between jingles for diamonds and electronics at unbeatable deals. "Do your carpets need cleaned? Will your family feel loved? Will your home look beautiful? Will you?" Until even the songs that once made me sing are sending the same message. This is love. This is celebration. Can you measure up?

At home the onslaught continues. Movies framing overflowing tables and breathtaking homes. A man with a beard making dreams come true. Reconciliations. Perfection. And, maybe worst of all: Bleating in and out in the spaces between my children's television shows, with a steady hypnotic beat: "Don't you want this? Shouldn't you have this? Won't this make you happy? If they love you they will. If you love them you will." Happiness for sale at a price much larger than a credit card payment.

And I find myself dreading it. All of it and what it has come to mean. Surely a baby in a manger, hope for the world, a selfless gift of love, was not supposed to become this. This machine that pumps out nerve wracking pressure, and unmeetable expectations, and consumerism in the place of peace and gratitude, hope and love.

Surely we have gotten it wrong.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Giving Thanks...Revisited

Okay, so I am having kind of a bad week. I doubt this is much of a shock, I haven't exactly been hiding it well. My kids are driving me c.r.a.z.y. Ben's trying out this new thing where I tell him to do things and he pretends I didn't speak.

Yeah. It's really charming.

Then I repeat my request, louder this time, and the battle commences. He didn't go to school today, because I told him if he didn't come here right now and put on his shoes, he wasn't going. I think it took him about an hour for it to register that I really wasn't taking him. And then we had another meltdown.

And Clara, bless her little schizophrenic heart, has been a whining, crying, fit-pitching monster for the last week. I think it's related to a molar coming in, but it's possible she's just conspiring with Ben to see if my head actually will explode.

None of this is really a big deal. One of the benefits of having been down this parenting road before is that I know this phase will soon be behind us and, most likely, replaced by a new challenge. It has however, had the unfortunate effect of making me grouchy and short tempered. Because, really, who can keep a pleasant demeaner when your toddler is whining 12 hours a day?

I've also been busy. Crazy busy. Thus the late night trips to Kinkos and for tap shoes.

All of this has made my "I will post something positive every single day in November" resolution a bit of a challenge. By the time I make it to the computer at 11:00 every night I am exhausted, and frazzled and would really rather not post at all. So I end up posting something like "I am thankful for wine. Or locks on bedroom doors....Or tubal ligation."

But that's not really gratitude. It's just another way of complaining about my day. Which couldn't be more contrary to the point.

So for the rest of this month, I am going to stop and find something I am genuinely grateful for each day. Even if it's small. Even if it makes for boring blog reading. Because the point of this wasn't to be entertaining. It was to count my blessings. Even on days when I don't feel blessed. Especially on days when I don't feel blessed. Doing it publicly on the blog, was just a way to keep me accountable.

And puleeze, if I end up posting something like I am thankful for Clorox Wipes (which I seriously am by the way. How did I ever get by without those things?) don't feel like you have to comment.

And today?

Today I am thankful for the woman at the mall. Ben and Clara were strapped in the double stroller to prevent another Ben disappearing act. Ben was whining because I wouldn't buy him something and Clara was in a full out turn-blue scream fest because I wouldn't pick her up. This kind woman stopped and tried to calm them down. And then she told me, without a trace of sarcasm, that I had beautiful children and I was very blessed. I almost hugged her. I wish she could know what a difference it made in my day.

And I am thankful that last night it rained. But I think everyone in Atlanta is thankful for that.