Friday, April 30, 2010

Give Me One

Many years ago, I went to a conference where the speaker related the following story:

One day, her high school aged daughter came home from school telling about how one of her best friends said something super insulting. The mother bear quickly jumped out. How could her daughter's "friend" say something so mean? She wanted to know what her daughter was going to do, how she was going to punish the friend for her thoughtless comment. The daughter was not upset. "Oh, you know, Mom. She's not usually like that. I'll give her one."

It has stuck with me all these years because we all say and do stupid things, now and then. Some of us (ME) do and stay stupid things often and I'm always hoping that people will give me one. In other words, if you know that a person isn't mean spirited or intentionally hurtful, forgive them. Figure that they are having a bad day, that they don't realize what they are saying, or that they simply had a slip of tongue. (Joette, I still feel bad about my major slip of tongue in the hall of our high school that one day!) We could be hurt or mad and fume or cry for days on end; or we could be understanding and let it roll off our backs.

A recent post apparently "shocked" at least two of my readers. I am sorry about those feelings. One of my personal traits is to torture myself over and over about the possibility of hurting someone. The purpose of this blog is NOT to hurt feelings.

I have the pulpit, here, and I am sorely tempted to call you repentance, like you tried to do for me (you said it was "enlighten" me, but really, you wanted me to repent). Since you already compared me to being one those in the great and spacious building and accused me of being gluttonous, a covenant breaker, an instigator of negativity, having behavior unbecoming a daughter of God, mocking, disappointing, and hypocritical, I am determined to prove you wrong. Your comments, which were three times as long as my original post, drew many false conclusions about the post and myself.

If you continue reading my blog, you will find that I am frank about being imperfect. I've posted pictures of my massive laundry pile, my children get cavities, my cabinets are full of high fructose corn syrup, some of the media I view has stronger language than Veggie Tales, I've read books that take the Lord's name in vain, and I can't catch a ball.

Please, give me one (and I'll do likewise).


This is one of my favorite pictures in my 2010 folder.  It was taken by this six year old.  I keep waiting for a perfect story to go along with it, but I can't come up with anything that beats my daughter's face.  I decided to just post it.  Here she is, keep an eye on this kid. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Look Back

I'm having a very hard time not wishing time away.

Our Family (minus Dad, who's holding the camera) six weeks before classes started.

Five years ago, we made the decision for my husband to go to college. He had done some work at a technical college, but had no credits from an actual university. To start at the very beginning and end with a Doctor of Pharmacy will take a total of six and a half years.

Here, at the last week of the semester, four and a half years into this gig, I find myself looking back.

The First, then and now.

The Second, then and now.

The Third, then and now.

The Fourth, then and now.

The Fifth, then and now.

We made the decision to put ourselves into self-imposed poverty to do this thing and our time here has felt temporary from the beginning.

But six years is not temporary in the life of a child; it is a good portion (if not all) of their total existence. I have made a concerted effort to make sure the family feels grounded, but I know that this is not forever. I try not to wish the time away, knowing we will always look back on our college days with a great deal of fondness, but I am ready to be done with this!

I think I need to go write in my gratitude journal now.

Monday, April 26, 2010


I want to be politically astute and globally aware. I listen to the BBC News Service, NPR (often left), and talk radio (always right). I read the news from a range of sources on the internet and from our local paper. As I gather all of this information, I then try to use my intellect and values to establish an opinion. Since I am a very busy woman, however, I can't possibly do all the research necessary to discover whether talking points or sound bites are TRUE.

Enter the Truth-O-Meter.

They rate statements made by politicians, lobbyists, pundits, and media at the extremes of True to Pants on Fire False. (To see how they come up with their ratings, check here.)

They leave room in the middle of totally true and totally false (which, truth be told, is most of politics) and then they tell you WHY the rating was given.

PolitiFact is a project of the St. Petersburg Times to help you find the truth in American politics. Reporters and editors from the Times fact-check statements by members of Congress, the White House, lobbyists and interest groups and rate them on our Truth-O-Meter. We’re also tracking more than 500 of Barack Obama’s campaign promises and are rating their progress on our new Obameter.

This is a great website that seems to be non-partisan. I just thought you might want to be aware of this resource as well.


The MotherShip

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Danny Eats

This is Danny. I've blogged about him before, but in case you don't want to go back and read, he is my younger brother whom I dearly love. Danny has what you might call food issues. Due in large part to neglect in his first three years (before he came to our home), Daniel thinks he must always eat when there is food because there may not be food when he is actually hungry. That's how it started, at least. Now, however, I think he loves food because, well, it's food. A lot of people love the stuff.

When I was in about the tenth grade, there was a game at the high school I wanted to attend. My parents had a much more urgent appointment, so I was babysitting Daniel (he would have been about ten at the time). No big deal; I figured he would like the game too.

Have you ever been to a high school sporting event? The gymnasium was loaded with nachos, fountain drinks, potato chips, Hostess Cupcakes, hot dogs and kids who apparently had no better way to spend their parents' money. Always frugal, I had fed Danny a nice, big meal before we even left the house so he wouldn't need the high priced sporting event food.

He didn't enjoy the game. All he could see was the concession food on everyone's lap.

About half-way through the game, I lost control. I can't recall the order of events leading up to it, but somehow, Danny got away from my side and had begun wandering the bleachers. "You gonna d-d-dink dat?" he asked. Well, no one could say no to a sweet, starving(!) Down's boy, a fact he well knew. "Umm, no! You go ahead."

"Oh, reawy? Th-thank you!" he exclaimed.

Filled with the satisfaction of helping one of God's most beloved children, they, of course, offered their hot dog, too. "Ohh, th-th-thanks, guys!"

Once they were cleaned out, he moved on to the next.

Scooching down the bench, I could hear, "Dat for me?"

"Oh," looking longingly at the freshly salted pretzel, "Yeah, I guess."

"Ohhh, thanks!"

On and on it went. Poor suckers who couldn't refuse someone so dang cute and so dang hungry and Danny who knew how to work the system. Normally I would have stopped such behavior, but that night, for whatever reason, I didn't. In fact, I hid. I kept a keen eye on the kid, but I slumped down behind the person in front of me. And, forgive me, I was giggling. A lot.

Most people who don't live with retarded people--especially Down's--only see the super loving, thankful, trusting, jolly hobbits. Most people don't see the broken valuables, the tantrums, and the other things that go along with staying at a toddler's mentality forever. That night, I decided it was time to share the full fun of living with Danny.

Up and down the rows he gathered armfuls of Doritos, licorice, M&M's and other usually forbidden treats. As each new generous victim folded to "C-c-can I have it?" my amusement increased. I soon found myself about a dozen rows behind Daniel, wicked tears of mirth streaming down my checks. Alas, it couldn't last forever. One of my friends recognized him and started looking for me. I claimed him. He sat next to me for the rest of the game with this goofy I fooled them smile on his face.

Last week was his 27th birthday. Guess what he asked for. Yep. Food.

Specifically, birthday popcorn.

There are a lot of people who love Danny. There are even a lot of people who give him food.

I am so glad he belongs to us--broken whatevers and all.

Friday, April 23, 2010



I know, I know. The good people are always the ones who "fought a hard battle against cancer and never complained," or "raised a mentally handicapped child and never said one word of complaint," or "walked on the stumps of her amputated legs while raising six kids and never issued a complaint (this one from a true story I was recently told)." I guess I'm not a good person. Should I be embracing this fact or combating it? Hmmmm.

I'm totally going to complain in this post. Skip it if you feel that you only want sunshine and tulips.

My son was finally awarded his Arrow of Light from the Cub Scouts last night. This is quite the undertaking and is the only badge they earn while Cubs that they wear on the Boy Scout uniform. He had earned it months ago, but was assured that if he waited to receive it in April, the pack would make a big deal out of it. We waited and he kept going to cubs, even though he really wanted to start going to the Boy Scout troop.

The ceremony was lame. LAME. He may as well have been earning his Tiger badge. He was actually upstaged by the den mother's son who earned his Conservation badge. Parenthetically, once they are Webelo's, all of the pins and advancements are to be done as a den, rather than the family-heavy awards of the younger dens. Somehow, this son of the den mother earned a heck of a lot more awards than any of the other Webelo's. I, being mature like that, leaned over to my son and told him that if I was the den mother, he would have had a lot more crap on his uniform. He told me to be quiet. If they are supposed to earn awards as a den, wouldn't all of the kids have completed the same goals? Sheesh.

But, my kid didn't care at all. He was just glad that I didn't start screaming at the ref and throwing punches at the other parents to be done with Cubs and on to bigger things.


I kept my cool last night as I didn't eat the dessert that wasn't provided and gave my obligatory thanks to those who didn't do much to help my son get those patches.

There now. I've shown my true colors by not only complaining, but doing it publicly. I am also ready to move on.

Way to go, son. We are proud of you, not only for achieving the highest honor a Cub can receive, but for being way more mature about being slighted than your grown-up mother. I love you.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dumping Coffee

I refuse to make my own laundry detergent. It is kind of a fad right now--as are all things frugal. I am naturally a frugal gal and pinch pennies all over the place. So why don't I do this making my own detergent thing? I just can't handle one more fiscal sacrifice. I like the smell of Downy.

There is a fabulous book called A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It is about a very poor immigrant family in Brooklyn, New York in the early 1900's. This is a family that looks for the tin from cigar wrappers in the gutters so they can melt it down and sell it to the junk man. They buy the hard, week old bread and use the crusty chunks as a base for their meals for the week. They go without as a regular thing. However, coffee is an important part of their family culture and they cut corners in other places so they could buy it.

Neeley and Francie loved coffee, but seldom drank it. Mama poured Francie's coffee and put the milk in it even though she knew that the child wouldn't drink it. At the end of the meal, it went down the sink.

Mama had two sisters, Sissy and Evy, who came to the flat often. Every time they saw the coffee thrown away, they gave mama a lecture about wasting things.

Mama explained: "Francie is entitled to one cup each meal like the rest. If it makes her feel better to throw it away rather than to drink it, all right. I think it's good that people like us can waste something once in a while and get the feeling of how it would be to have lots of money and not have to worry about scrounging."

This queer point of view satisfied mam and pleased Francie. It was one of the links between the ground-down poor and the wasteful rich. The girl felt that even if she had less than anybody in Williamsburg, somehow she had more. She was richer because she had something to waste. She ate her sugar bun slowly, reluctant to have done with it's sweet taste, while the coffee got ice-cold. Regally, she poured it down the sink drain feeling casually extravagant.
Smith, Betty (1943). A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. New York. Harper & Brothers. pg 13.

I'm not nearly as destitute as this family, but I do make clothes out of old tablecloths, build my new deck from someone's old wood and feed my family a lot of beans. I will keep using Tide and Downy, however, drink out of glass glasses, and buy Kraft Macaroni and store-bought Popsicles.

Until our next money crisis, at least. Then, we can swap detergent recipes. K?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What I Can't

Also on the list of Things I Cannot Do: cross my eyes. I can only do it if my finger is on my nose. I've tried and practiced, but can't make them stay crossed. It is a skill I've always envied in others. It would be a most useful expression.

"We were going to be on time, until we were stopped by a train with 189 cars (cross eyes)," for example.

How about, "I just sat in a high school gym, with dance music blaring, for six and a half hours watching a dance competition. Oh! and I had all of my children because my husband works on Saturdays (cross eyes and add an exaggerated head role)."

Hollered up the stairs an eye-crossing statement might be, "Someone dumped out Monopoly, again!"

or, the obvious, "The toddler escaped again and is running around outside--and she's naked."

But, of course, these are completely made up, unlikely scenarios. Actually, now that I come right down to it, I doubt I would ever use crossed eyes. Hum. Well, never mind.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Staring at the Fire

I recently read:

The first day of spring and the first spring day are sometimes months

That is definitely true in my area.

Yesterday was certainly a first day of spring. We worked outside, played outside and got a healthy dose of vitamin D. After it all, we built a fire (we have this very cool, very old rock fireplace in our back yard) and roasted s'mores. I should have take fabulous pictures of children with burning marshmallow bombs, sticky fingers, people eating desserts that are too giant and awkward to fit in anyone's mouth with any kind of grace, but I didn't. I was too busy keeping children alive holding my dear ones close.

We sat in the perfect evening cool, staring into the fire, letting it's hypnosis take us away. There are moments and sometimes whole days when I feel overwhelmed and unable to do it all. Then, there are those bits, like last night by the fire, when I can feel the peace creep back into my soul. I can take a breath, no one is fighting, everyone is happy and laughing.

Parenthood is hard--probably the hardest thing one could ever do. I think that is what makes the reward times so rewarding. And, even though I often think I can't do it, I'm glad that I somehow do, because then, I get the moments by the fire--marshmallow kisses and all.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A New Mix Tape

Last week, on the long drive to my parents' house, I grabbed a bunch of cassettes to play in the car. (Yes, my car is old enough to have a cassette player, but it works!) I have a whole bunch of children's books on tape that helps the time pass more quickly. (No, we don't have a DVD player in our car. WAH!) Mixed in with Tiki Tiki Tembo and Little Red Riding Hood were several homemade mix tapes. They had titles like Love Songs or Emily's Mix or Dance Mix. Some of the songs so carefully selected have not withstood the test of time; some were great songs that I hadn't heard in years; all delivered a treasure trove of memories. One tape was a particularly delightful find.

In the olden days, if you didn't want (or, more likely, couldn't afford) to buy an album, you would try your luck at catching the song on the radio and recording it on your cassette. Sometimes, one might record hours at a time, then dub the songs you wanted on a second tape--with a lot of rewinding and pausing and fast forwarding involved. The sound quality was terrible, but it was good enough for the likes of Wang Chung, Sister Christian or Hungry Like the Wolf. There were more advanced machines, but mine was the kind that you pressed record then put it up to the speakers on the family stereo. This particular mix was recorded in the kitchen. In the background, I could hear the noises of a big family, but not clearly. I knew Mom was doing dishes, the phone rang and I could hear one side of the conversation (because the phone was hooked into the wall). I found myself wishing I could turn the music part of the tape off and just listen to a day in the life of my youth.

There is an act in Our Town where Emily chooses to go back to her thirteenth birthday. She is aggravated by the commonness of the day with, "We never look at each other." While Wilder makes some good and valuable points, I think he misses an important idea: There is love in those common actions. As my mother patiently scraped and washed the dishes in the background of the mix tape, there was love in that. When someone was needed on the phone, the holler down the stairs was not done in anger, it was a familiar and exciting message being delivered. Mom let the crappy dance music blare into the kitchen so one of us could record whatever song to which we thought we needed continual access. That is love.

So, yes, we do need to stop and look at each other. We do need to take moments and sit quietly, but it's also okay to be busy doing all of those things that show our love so much better than constantly gazing at each other.

It made me want to give that gift to my children. Some time this week, I'm going to take the tape recorder, set it in the corner of the room and press record. I know how I loved those few glimpses into my past, I think they will love hearing a day in their lives. I will label it "Don't Throw Out" and let them find it at some random moment in the future. As they hear the normal sounds of our everyday life, I'll bet there will be a big smile on their faces as they marvel at how young they sound, how sweet the laughter of our baby is, and how this home was mostly filled with joy. I hope they will realize that, even though I'm doing the dishes and teaching phonics and not "just look[ing] at each other," there is love in that.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Where I've Been

**This post may contain too much information, especially for you brothers**

Here's what happened. I had been hyper emotional for several days (I do this every once in a while) and it seemed to come to a head on Tuesday. I did some electrical work in the morning and, like all projects in this house, it took ten times longer than it should have. After a series of frustrations, I sat down at the computer to find this picture:

Tears instantly welled up in my eyes. A dear friend's father recently passed away. He wasn't much older than my dad and I keep finding myself calling my dad just to hear him. So that was part of the reason for my tears. But, look at this picture. My parents have been married for thirty-eight years and they just fit. Dad's posture shows that he has a claim on his good woman and the way Mom is tucked into his shoulder says that she is in the very place she most wants to be.

Then, I clicked on the next attachment to find this: "I need my Mom!" I wailed. This picture gives away the fact that she is wise. Her arms give me respite, her heart gives me understanding and her mind gives me direction.

But, I had commitments, it's a long drive, and we only have one car. The comfort of my parents' house could not be had.

All of Tuesday, I kept crying for no good reason. (Though one major reason was the negative pregnancy test that I was SURE would be positive.) When my husband came home, I sat on the couch and blubbered about all of my nothings that add up to something so huge.

"What do you need?" he asked.

"I just need my mom."

"Well, why don't you go?"

I explained why I couldn't. We finally determined for me to leave our oldest home with Dad, rely on the help of a friend and his car and take a girl's trip.

It's a fairly easy decision, but a huge undertaking. I rushed around catching up on laundry, cleaning out the van and checking it's vital signs. My son and I went to the grocery store at eleven o'clock at night in order to have the kinds of food that an eleven year old could prepare for he and his dad. After the house was in order, the giant task of moving my army of girls was next. Clothes for everyone, don't forget socks and shoes. The toddler is potty training so we'll need to bring every pair of underwear in the house. They will need hair ties, activities for the nine hour drive, individually packaged trail mix since there will be no other adult to pass out portion sizes to the impatient baby birds in the back seats. Make sure the ones staying home have all of the instructions they'll need during my absence then try to get a little sleep so I don't fall asleep driving my precious cargo.

And so, I dropped everything and went to my mom's arms. It was what I needed--it was what my girls needed. (More about that in another post.)

On Tuesday I was falling apart, by Wednesday morning I was driving. About 300 miles in to our journey, I started my first period since September 2007. Yes. 2007. It's arrival explained a lot.

We are home, now. It's a funny thing about running away from your problems; they wait for your return. Today I'll try to repair all that is broken, clean all that is dirty, organize all that is scattered, and not be frustrated with the lady who was trying to help when she brought my six and four year old home from the corner (50 feet away) because "I have small children, too, and it's just not safe for them to be that close to a busy street." I almost flipped her off.

Off to work. Catch y'alls latah!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Teeth

I had braces for three years and twenty-five days. That's a long time. I was faithful about wearing my retainer for many more years, until it was one day gone. I was told that since I got my braces when I was young (ten), my bone structure was soft enough that once my teeth decided where to be, that's where they would stay. By early adulthood, I figured it was okay that my retainer was lost because my bones had surely hardened and fixed forever in their place.

Fast-forward some years; my son will begin his second phase of braces in a few weeks. When we went for the consultation, the orthodontist said that his arch is very high so his teeth would look pretty and straight long before the shape of his mouth was fully corrected. "Otherwise, he would have front bite problems." "Oh, he gets that from me!" I exclaimed. "My teeth don't even touch in the front." He had me show him my teeth. "Have you ever thought of having a second correction?" No, I hadn't. I've always been happy with my smile. If he could change my skin, I'd be open to that. Nope. He explained that over the years, the way I both hold my tongue and swallow had pushed my arch too high, causing the front of my teeth to disconnect. I waved him off and he went back to my boys' problem mouth.

Ever since that appointment, my mouth has been driving me crazy. How do I swallow? Where am I supposed to hold my tongue. If I hold it back here, I feel like I'm choking. If I hold it like this, it pushes the soft part of my chin down, giving the illusion of chub. Will my teeth continue to change or are they finally set in their ways? (I need to know the answer to this question because if they are there to stay, I'm going to quit worrying about my tongue.) My teeth don't fit! Why didn't this bother me before? My jaw hurts. It's because my arch it too high? Are my teeth going to start chipping because the way they connect acts like a chisel over time? Is cold or hot better for my whites? I wonder how I should dye the curtains I just made for the kitchen so they will match better. Will I ever be able to find the right shades for my new pendant lights? Why are there crayons all over the floor?

Er . . .

What I'm trying to say, is that ignorance is bliss sometimes. If only I hadn't been told my mouth was screwed up, I would be happy today.

That's my only problem.

Monday, April 5, 2010

I Want to be a Marsupial

I love being pregnant (I'm not, right now). I love my thick hair and smooth skin. I love the joy that comes with the first fluttering movements; how you want to jump out of your skin with excitement, but hold perfectly still so you can feel it again. I love the quiet, intimate connection between my unborn baby and myself that comes with each tiny kick or shrug thereafter. I love the end, when, after what seems like a lifetime of waiting, I finally get to hold that wet, warm, tiny being. No wonder I have so many kids! Of course there are things I don't love about pregnancy, but my mother taught me to always look on the bright side, so I'll spare you the complaining.

One of the things I don't like is all the wondering. Is she a she? Is she healthy? Is she growing like she should? What does she look like? Is this insane heartburn really due to her full head of hair? After reaching high above my head, is she now breech? Are her fingernails long? 'Cause sometimes it feels like she is trying to claw her way out. Is that a foot or a hand or a tailbone that is permanently changing the shape of my ribs? Is she trying to stand up?

Think how nice it would be to just be able to open your pouch and take a peek. From the earliest days (after the insanely painful birth of your half inch newborn), you can simply check in now and then. You can begin discipline right away: "No, honey. You can't squeeze Mama's bladder in a vice grip. Let go, please." or "I asked you to try to hold still when I lay down to go to sleep. You need to obey, right away, without delay. Okay?"

You can check progress--when the gonads decide to be ovaries or testicles, when the club-like hand becomes separate fingers, when that crazy fur starts to grow (although, not being in amniotic fluid might de-necessitate that feature). You can allay fears or embrace a different life because you'll know right away if the spine is protected, if the chromosome count is off, or if the cleft isn't closing.

As you choose names, you can test them out on the baby you can see. "No matter how much I love the name Betty, that name does not fit you! What about Eowyn?" (In some future life I will name a baby after that incredible character, no matter how hard it may be to pronounce from reading. And that's all I have to say about that.)

And, in the quiet of the evening, after all of her siblings are sound asleep, you can do more than rub your belly to connect with your baby. You can open the pouch and have an eye-to-eye visit.

If she can open her eyelids, that is.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Easter Egg Hunt

This morning, walking to the Easter Egg Hunt.

We were sure the crowd would be small.

We were wrong.

There was even a few of these guys:

Shorts, while we were all decked out in our snow clothes.
It was possibly the funniest and most memorable Easter Egg Hunt ever.

Happy Easter, friends!