Monday, December 8, 2008

Snow Day

Winter was on a Sunday this year, according to my kids. November 30th. It started snowing Saturday off and on, and then stuck overnight. Immediately after church they took off toward the south field by the pond to check for ice and dead frogs. I barked strict orders at them as they ran to STAY OUT OF THE WATER YOU DO NOT HAVE WINTER BOOTS ON YOU ARE WEARING GOOD CLOTHES DO NOT BRING ANYTHING BACK TO THE HOUSE STAY OUT OF THE WATER OR ELSE!
Once they saw the tiny pasture between the pond and the hedge apple trees, however, the pond was forgotten.
Remember that sight from when you were a kid? Or maybe last winter? The blanket of sparkly white stuff that looks solid but isn’t? That freaky substance that practically screams “Come play with me!” and no matter how old you are you can hear it? Oh, yeah – snow.
I watched them stop and just stand and stare at the field. Then as they took off at a run again, I trudged inside to get my camera. And my boots. And a decent hat for Ben.
Before the kids got there, this field had a beautiful coat of snow that was just barely beginning to melt because it had the longest grass. It’s probably just under an acre, and it’s a funny shape and I don’t like to mow it because there’s more unpleasant surprises in that tiny field than anywhere else on the property. The biggest toad I’ve ever seen in my life hopped in front of the mower for a good 25 yards one day; I finally just got off and chased him to the side with a stick. I’ve had to swerve (and if you’ve ever driven a mower with zero-radius turning and a 60 inch deck, this is not easy or particularly fun) to avoid stray beams and piles of scrap steel. And since this field is between the pond and the hedge apple trees, the perimeter is a delightful experience – sandy slopes on one side, branches with 4 inch thorns on two others. Look up osage orange on the web and you’ll see what I mean. These trees are the strangest things too – it’s not like this ‘fruit’ is edible or good for much. I don’t see what the tree is protecting, but it is very well protected. And for those of you who think hedge apples keep the bugs away, I gotta tell ya that bugs crawl all over them when they fall in the yard, so… if it works for you, great, but I’m just sayin’…
Anyway, back to our Snow Day.

I made it back out to the field in time for a snowball fight, and the snowman that Abby had so desperately wanted to build since, well, last winter. There has been a bowl with buttons and sprinkles in the china cabinet since August, just waiting for the snow to fall. Baby carrots are always on the grocery list because baby carrots make cuter noses than big ones.
The snowman didn’t get a name – they couldn’t agree. The artists did agree to pose with their creation, and then I said I had to go inside. “Are you cold, mama?” Ben asked, incredulously. It’s 34 degrees out, he’s only keeping his coat zipped because I threatened him, the hat I brought him is on my head, and his three pairs of gloves are somewhere in the abyss known as their room. They are more costume than practical winter apparel.

I remember not caring how cold it was – there’s SNOW!!! I think I was about his age. It must wear off earlier in girls, because Abby followed me inside. The Capri pants she insisted were okay to wear today apparently aren’t good for playing in the snow after all. I resisted the urge to snort loudly at her. Elliott and Ben stayed out another 20 minutes or so throwing snowballs at each other and the snowman, and then we all had hot cocoa.
Monday morning, the snow was almost all melted away, and as Ben and I ran our errands, I heard a big sad sigh from the back seat.
“What’s up little man?” I asked him, thinking we’d forgotten some toy crucial to his road-trip enjoyment.
“Winter’s over, mom. I’m just sad, that’s all.”
I only spent like 14 seconds trying to explain that winter had not even really started yet. No matter how many times we look at the calendar, the concept of seasons just isn’t clicking for him. He seemed happier to hear that there would be more snow days, and then he moved on to a charming oration about what might happen if we moved to Alaska. He can dream of moose and drifts higher than our house, but the southern Midwest is just fine by me.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

In Remembrance

Today is the 10th anniversary of my father’s death. He was 51 when he died of bladder cancer. I miss him every day, and I still get teary thinking about all that my kids and I have missed in the last 10 years, not having him around. These are my memories of my dad. They are my memories – if you are reading this, please keep that in mind. I was his only daughter, and he was my only dad, and these memories are what I have. They are mine – they may not be perfect and they may not always be flattering to either myself or my dad, but they are my memories, and that’s what I have left. Those, and the brown eyes. And being short. That’s probably from him too.

My earliest actual memory of my dad – not one I’ve seen a photo of and can vaguely recall being there – is of his shoes. They were white. It was the 70’s and I was maybe 7 or 8, my brother was 3. Our house had a pool in the backyard, and we were all out back one summer evening. My brother and I were toasting marshmallows on the grill. Suddenly a bug – a rather large bug – flew onto my brother’s shoulder and began crawling toward his head. I’m sure I was paralyzed by the sight of a bug, or maybe I didn’t care, or more likely I was too dumb to have done anything except watch. The bug reached my brother’s skin and he began screaming and doing the getitoffme dance. My parents both came running, thinking of course that he was on fire, and I remember the sound of my dad’s shoes on the concrete. Dad got my brother’s shirt off and shook it, and out fell the bug. He squished it with his white shoe, and I think we went back to toasting marshmallows, but I don’t remember much more. I think he was wearing white pants, too, and a purple shirt. It was the 70’s.

My dad was always “Dad.” He died before we had the chance to get to know each other as adults. I only knew him as Dad, and looking back I think maybe he wanted it that way. That role was important to him, and he needed to maintain it. I learned more about him as a person at his funeral, more bits of information and insights into his personality from his friends and the more than 300 people who came than I ever learned about him in our life together. I was just starting to get hints about him as a person when he got sick. Some of that lack of knowledge is my fault. I was incredibly self-centered as a young person, and so na├»ve about the world, yet I thought I was smart and talented and wonderfully worldly. I believed I knew everything I needed to know about my family, and therefore spending time with them was superfluous. I believed that I knew so much about my family they were predictable. I thought I knew what would make my Dad angry (most of the things I did), what would make him happy (very few of the things I did), and what he liked to do (work and mow the lawn).

Please read that the way I wrote it – I THOUGHT I knew him. I THOUGHT that’s the way he was. I was in my 20’s and at the pinnacle of self-centeredness, give me a break.

I’m sure that’s not really the kind of man he was at all. Now that I’m a mom, and almost in my forties, I understand. He had a life, pet peeves, things that he enjoyed that made him a complicated person, so much more than just The Dad. I’m so sad that I didn’t get to know the real man, so sad that he didn’t get to know the grown-up me, that sometimes I’m physically ill. All that we have missed…
Sifting back through my memories I can sometimes pull out snippets of conversations, mental pictures of him that make me think I am a lot like him, and I get a lot of comfort from that.
I think about the few ‘grown-up’ conversations I had with him and I realize we may now share some of the same philosophies. I mentioned in my last entry a comment he made to me about Democrats and communism. My father was not bigoted or racist or mean spirited. He was an intelligent man with an incredible sense of humor (which I’m proud to say I inherited), and when he made that comment I took it for what it was worth – my father’s dry, sarcastic opinion about a serious topic that his 11 year old daughter brought up at the dinner table one night.
I sat across from my Mom and on my Dad’s left at our dinner table. My brother sat next to my mom, and the rest of that 8 person table looked exactly like mine does now: piles of mail, school papers, keys, pens, the Sunday newspaper, and that document from that place that you’re supposed to sign and return asap. I remember sitting in that chair for eternal, silent moments when I had done something stupid. I remember sitting in that chair and laughing at something he’d said. I remember sitting in that chair, so close to him but always feeling very far away. He was The Dad, after all. I always knew he loved me, never doubted that, I just wasn’t ever sure how much.

I remember my dad being opinionated, quietly intimidating, having high expectations, and working a lot. I remember having everything planned out, nothing ever felt spontaneous at my house. I remember doing similar things year after year after year. I remember feeling like nothing I did was going to be quite good enough for him, like he wasn’t really on my side, and that he really didn’t try to understand ME or treat me special because I was his daughter. I always felt he just wanted me to fit into the world the way it was and deal with it. I do remember a moment of comfort when a boy didn’t ask me to skate one night, and I do remember the pleasant surprise on his face when I sang a solo at church. But I also remember being on my own a lot. I remember feeling distanced from him.

Now that I’m an adult (and oddly enough, craving time on my own and just a little distance from my own kids), I look back and see the wisdom of what I believe were his opinions. I think that he believed in hard work, careful planning, and in educating yourself. I think he believed that things don’t just get handed to you, and you don’t always get what you want or think you deserve, even when you work hard, are educated and plan well. It is in those moments that you depend on family, you call in your reserves of love and energy from friends, and you make lemonade from those lemons. You don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for you – you ask for help and say thank you, but you certainly don’t expect anyone’s pity. When things do just get handed out, it diminishes the accomplishments of those who work hard. When you are coddled, it decreases your desire to work hard and earn things for yourself. There’s absolutely merit to that – I just wish I’d learned it from something other than so much example.

Then again, now that I’m a mom, I think I understand what he thought his role was, and what he may have thought he needed to do and be as a dad. If I don’t teach my kids what the world is like, how are they going to survive in it? How are they going to succeed? I do agree that the work ethic he passed down to me is a keeper. I’m a better cheerleader than he was, though. I have taught myself to be a praise freak – always hugging my kids and saying “Great job! That was awesome!” and yelling louder than anyone else out there, because I don’t remember him doing that when I was a kid and I always wanted him to. I thought my dad didn’t want to look silly. I wonder if he thought that might have tarnished his image in my eyes, or made it harder to be the bad guy when he needed to. More than likely it was just his personality. I just never got to know that part of him. I wasn’t a bad kid, but I wasn’t perfect, and I do know now that he loved me so much he couldn’t stand the thought of anything happening to me. I love my own kids the same way, I’m just more expressive, more outspoken, more straightforward about what I expect of them and why. I learned from his example, and I just put my own spin on it.

I hope I turned out okay, I hope that I’m someone he would have been proud of. I don’t do all the things I do trying to please him; I do them because they are the right things to do, and I think that would please him. I look back and realize he was a good father, and he taught me a lot even when I didn’t realize I was listening. He would have been an amazing grandpa, too.

The weather was so beautiful the year that he died. He accepted his own illness and fatal prognosis with incredible grace and dignity. Even sick and dying he never let me see him as anything but Dad. True, I only came up on weekends in the last few months of his illness, and I was (again) in my own universe, pregnant with Elliott. But I don’t think that, even had I still lived at home, been single, or even been the most selfless person imaginable, he would have shared any of his fears or frustrations with me. He was still my Dad. So I will always remember him as Dad. I miss that Dad. I miss the man I never got to know even more.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ah, democracy...

I just voted. For the first time in years, I was alone, no kids to keep quiet and out of the way while I contemplated my ballot. There were only two races and one issue that I hadn't heard about or researched, so I had to consider those a little more than the others, but I was startlingly well prepared for this election. And I voted with my kids in mind this time, especially with the presidential choices.
I have a political prediction: Obama will win, and my kids will have a heck of a mess to clean up.
I remember being in 5th or 6th grade and asking my father what the difference was between Republicans and Democrats. Subtle man that he always was with me, he told me that Democrats were the closest thing to Communist that were allowed in this country.
This race has made me think more about what he said than I ever have before.
While I certainly don't think Democrats are Communist or even really have communist tendencies, I wonder about the strange Socialist-sounding phrases that are bouncing around the airwaves this campaign. "Spread the wealth." Really?
I'm certainly no genius when it comes to this stuff, but let's see if I have this right: A capitalist or market-based economy in a democratic (small d) nation provides me the means to be a millionaire if I choose to and work hard and smart enough. That economy and political structure allows us all to be millionaires if we are doing the right things and making the right choices, COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT of our birth situation, our health, our skin color, or anything else that defines us as a unique individual.
I didn't choose to be born in Nebraska to the parents I have, I didn't choose their economic standing, and I didn't choose the towns or houses I lived in growing up. My husband didn't choose his birthplace, parents, or the situations he grew up in. My kids aren't making those choices about their young lives, either.
We own a decent house and a nice plot of land, my husband works very hard at an awesome job that enables me to stay home with our kids and we don't have to worry about groceries or health care, we have 3+ well-running vehicles, I have a college education to help me through the volunteer organizations I'm privileged to be a part of, and that education will also provide me with job opportunities once my children are all in school full time. We have a savings account and retirement accounts, and we both have life insurance. My kids participate in lots of activities, and they have lots of wonderful things to entertain and educate them.
All these good things are the results of choices my husband and I made AS ADULTS. These things are ours, earned with hard work and good choices. I feel good about these things.
I'm not unsympathetic, I do care about my fellow human beings. I give at church, and I support food and clothing drives, I give when asked to help out a friend or family who's had something unexpected happen. It's my choice to give, and I hope I'm setting an example for my kids about giving and caring.
But here's where I think my kids are not going to be able to live out my example. Obama speaks to and is heard by and adored by an alarmingly large group of people in this country who, for whatever reason, believe that the governments in our country at all levels should provide them with the same things that my husband and I have just because. Because they are disabled, because they were injured at work, because they grew up in a dysfunctional household, because they grew up in an orphanage, whatever.
We have a family friend who has not had an easy life. She has a child and is dependent on state aid for food, basic household supplies, rent, healthcare and childcare. Her child has medical problems, and she herself has medical problems. She only works a few hours a week, because if she worked more she'd lose her state benefits. I would like to help her, but she really doesn't need anything: she gets more money from the state for groceries than I spend in a month. Her paycheck goes toward her clothes and cell phone bill every month, because she really doesn't need it for anything else, she simply likes the time she can spend away from her child. Recently she told me she thinks she might be pregnant again, but her new boyfriend may not be the father.
She's not the least bit embarrassed about all the state aid she gets every month. Not embarrassed at all about her living situation, the haphazard way she raises her child (soon to be children), and has absolutely no shame at all about being totally dependent on government workers for her existence. In fact, she complains about them, saying they are not nice to her when she goes in to get her vouchers. I asked her once if she didn't want to try for a better situation, try to change things so she could get off state aid and have a better life. Her only answer was that she didn't think she had any choices. Her mom was a drunk, and abusive, so she didn't have a chance to learn in school, wasn't going to be able to go to college now because of the kids, and anyway, why bother? She was doing just as well as me, and didn't have to go through all that work stuff to get there.
She's voting for Obama.
He's catering to this 'entitlement' generation, these people who really think that the government should step in and help everyone get what their neighbor has because they don't have it and they want it. Where does that leave my family?
Here's my prediction: I can see the spiral from here. Under Obama's programs, very wealthy people and businesses will start paying huge amounts of taxes, so they will stop contributing to social causes, and those organizations will begin to depend on middle-income folks for contributions but we won't be able to contribute because we have to make a choice: church and local organizations, or the big national ones, and we'll choose local for a while. But because these big companies are paying so much in taxes, they'll have to raise prices on their products and services, which means we'll be paying more for all the things we need everyday, so then we'll stop contributing to our local service organizations completely so that we can afford the necessities. Those organizations will then apply to the government for help, or just fold. Meanwhile, people who are getting so much government assistance they don't need to work will be desparate for things to do, and the rates of things like teen pregnancy, crime, and drug use will rise. Colleges nationwide will start to close because fewer people will see college as a need, and then there will be even more people unemployed and looking for goverenment handouts. My kids are going to see the death of our market-based economy, because the people who want more government handouts are going to squash it.
Maybe it won't be that bad. Like I said, I'm not exactly qualified to make these kind of predictions, but I do understand what my dad was talking about. I personally want the government to stay where it belongs - in regulation, not regurgitation.

Monday, October 27, 2008

No Mo' Mojo

This is going to be a photo entry. I don't have the brain cells to write creatively this time. But the month is almost over... Here's what has eaten up all my mojo:
Football and Cheerleading:

Occupying Ben during games:

My dining room since October 14, when we started in on Abby's costume:

My kids no longer think it's cool to eat standing up in the kitchen, and frankly I'm tired of it too, but the dogs thought it was awesome.

The church fall party:
The costumes (a mermaid, Darth Vader and Annekin Skywalker):
And the Fire Fighter's Association Annual Halloween Party at the station. We went from working fire station to party central and back again in 8 hours. We had a full house this year, and I was so grateful for all the help. I ran around like a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest, and the fire fighters (my husband included) and other association helpers were great to just do what I asked and not argue, and even better, they just did stuff that needed to be done. I'd go in to make coffee and find it already brewing, I'd go to bury"treasure" in the hay wagon only to find a fire fighter directing my children to do it. It went very well but I'm really glad it's over!

Now all that's left to do this month is 19 loads of laundry, a week's worth of dishes and fast food trash (that's mostly in the van, though), and compile and submit the scout's popcorn orders. Oh, and clean out the fridge, clean off the dining room table, clean the bird cage, vacuum, bathe the dogs (spring pond water is one thing, fall pond water is too disgusting for words, but they swim in it anyway...), plan a game and a craft for the class Halloween parties this Friday, and get over the cold I got for some strange reason...
At church Sunday someone asked how many days there were 'til Christmas.
I nearly punched him.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Nursing the Baby Stage

Ben started preschool right after Labor Day. He goes Tuesday and Thursday mornings for two and a half hours. His teachers are Miss Jenny and Miss Ruthie, and they greet him with big smiles and hugs. He gets a snack and does all kinds of cool stuff - they've hunted for hidden things in sand, painted a picture with actual grape jelly, and sat under an umbrella to hear a story. He's charmed all the girls in his class (surprise...) and plays Star Wars and Indiana Jones outside with the boys. When I get there to pick him up, he runs to me and says he had "SO MUCH FUN! THAT WAS AWESOME!"
So why does he work the tears from the minute I get him up until Ruthie or Jenny steer him away from my side and into an activity?
It's not like he's bawling from bedroom to classroom, it's more like this uber-big-kid thing: his eyes get red and teary, but he scrunches up his mouth and looks anywhere but at me, and clears his throat a lot. He's five, for goodness sake, and I feel like I'm watching Matt Damon gear up for a funeral scene. And even though this does have an effect on me, I help him get dressed and find his shoes and buckle him up, drive him there and walk him in the door. If I say, "I wonder what letter (of the alphabet) you'll get to learn about today?" he answers, "maybe M for Mom." If I wonder if any of the little girls he's introduced me to will be there, he sniffs and says, "yeah but I'd rather stay and play with you."
It's a 10 minute drive, and by the time we've crossed the state line and entered town, he's asking for details on our afternoon: "Are you going to come and get me? Are we going to spend the rest of the day together? Are you going to be busy or will you read to me? How many minutes do I have to stay here? Can you bring my lunchbox with a surprise in it when you come back?"
Tuesday and Thursday are not very productive afternoons - Ben "helps" with everything, so things that may have taken me 30 seconds are now taking 30 minutes.
But we are having fun, this last year of being full time mom and kid, just the two of us. I missed out on some of this with Elliott and Abby because I had them all so close together, and it's only Ben's late birthday that has kept him from being in Kindergarten now, granting us this one last year. In a lot of ways this is nice. He's potty trained, verbal, and of all the kids he actually does what I ask him to (I have to re-do it sometimes depending on the chore, but he tries). We spend more time reading and playing games than on housework or any of the other things I need to get done, but that's okay. I have the days when he gets to sleep in to get to that stuff. And now I try to get as much done as I can before I go pick him up; then I don't feel so bad sitting for an hour reading every book he brings me.
But boy, those first few days after I dropped him off? Well, okay the first day I stayed in town, close to my cell phone just in case. There were actual tears that morning. But the second day and that next week? Oh, bliss...
I came home and went to the bathroom and NO ONE KNOCKED ON THE DOOR OR SCREAMED FOR ME! It was awesome! I fixed and ate a bagel with cream cheese, and NO ONE INTERRUPTED ME! I GOT TO EAT THE WHOLE THING IN ONE SITTING! I made coffee, watched the weather channel and actually got to see the important part, and then...
Well, by then it was too quiet in the house and I wondered where everyone was. For the next 90 minutes, I felt like I was missing something, like I'd forgotten something somewhere. I talked to the dogs, the cats, held the guinea pig, played with the bird, picked up toys from the kid's floor and grumbled to myself about being the maid. I found stuff to do that was great - I read a magazine, organized some craft things, drank coffee - but I still felt a little lost.
I realized that when the kids are around, I have a schedule set by them. I have to feed them, dress them, clean them, untangle them from each other occasionally, and make sure they get where they need to be. When they are all gone... wow. I can do my own thing. But what is it that I want to do? Of course there's stuff that has to be done, and since that first week of aimless wandering, I've gotten much more organized. But I still have some flexibility and can do those things that I want to do. I've worked in the garden, researched some things for church and scouts online, sorted through kid clothes and gotten lots of toys ready for a garage sale (shhhh). I have also started turning all the televisions on in the house while I'm here alone.
It's just too darned quiet without all the kids. Remind me of that next summer, will you?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Faith on Two Wheels

Don bought himself a birthday present this year. On the one hand, that made my life easier - he's not exactly the easiest guy to shop for; and the size and coolness factor of this gift made everything else look like a really ugly tie in comparison so I didn't even bother to shop.
On the other hand... it's an item that makes me nervous and gives me gray hairs every time it gets used.
It's a Harley. A 2003 Softail Deuce.

He's wanted one for a long time, and finally found the perfect bike, already built and in great condition for the right price at the right time in our financial lives, so I guess this was the time to do it. He's also very conscious of the fact that he has a wife and three kids who love him and need him around (after all, who else would clean the cat box, change my oil, and let the kids watch Family Guy?). He's an extraordinarily observant and careful rider, I know. What makes me nervous is all the other drivers out there who are texting, putting on makeup, eating, and just generally being idiots. I don't text and I don't wear makeup, but I have eaten while driving before - how else would I get sustenance some days? I know how it takes your attention from the road and other vehicles.
So while I'm really glad he's got his Harley after all these years of waiting and wanting, I have to admit some trepidation about him actually getting on it and riding around. Not only am I concerned about other drivers, loose gravel, and strong wind gusts while he's out on it alone, but I can't fathom going with him. Instead of being able to buy a helmet and enjoy this with him, I'm a big chicken, paranoid about tossing away our ability to walk or even our lives if a car or truck driver isn't paying attention. I think about our children going to a relative I haven't even spoken with about taking them just in case, being raised in another state away from friends and our church family. I think about the wind tangling my hair into a matted nest of "oh just cut it off already" and the very real potential for bugs splattering painfully against my face, and the idea of a motorcycle ride just loses a lot of it's appeal for me.
And then I wonder where my faith is.
When you're on a motorcycle, you experience going places in a way you just can't in a car. You can feel things, see things, smell things you miss when you're cruising along shut up in your airtight cocoon of conditioned air. Easy Rider is a cult classic, and Harley owners have their own world-wide fraternity for some very good reasons. Being part of that group opens the doors to amazing things in this world, and what's wrong with experiencing some of them? Don wants to, I know, and I love him, so I should at least support his adventure even if I can't wholeheartedly take part in all of it.
And I do have faith that God would take care of me and my children the way He takes care of Don each time he's been out for rides since the day he brought it home. Perhaps having the bike in our garage now is God's way of suggesting that I stop being so over-protective and let Him do His job. And enjoy some of His world and His people in the process.
Maybe I'll go look at helmets this weekend. And maybe I could get a cool leather jacket and some new sunglasses, too.
Don does look very, very good on the bike. He rode into the driveway this afternoon as I was picking up walnuts with the kids and I just stood there and stared at him until I had to wipe the drool off my chin. Trouble is, he knows exactly how good he looks.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Weather or not...

Another Children's Message, Sunday 9/14:

It's football season. My grandmother used to get really excited about football season, but I think that's because she had two daughters and never had to go to a Little League game and sit in the rain or stand in the mud. That's where we were last night, soaking wet, but it was Elliott's first official game and we wouldn't have been anywhere else. Even the cheerleaders had as much spirit as they could muster up.
On the way home, Elliott said that he was glad his team won, but he said, "Mom, I kinda sat out most of the game."
Well I wanted to say something that would make him feel better and also inspire him to keep trying, but we got interrupted. I know, that shocks you - interruptions in my family...
We didn't get to finish that conversation, so I'll tell him now what I wanted to say.
"I know you feel like you sat out, but you did get to play some, I have pictures of you on the field. And some of the boys have more experience than you, but you're doing great - the coaches tell me so. So you just keep practicing and keep learning, and when you do get a chance to play, you do your best. The coaches are always watching, and if they see you doing your best, they'll play you more often."
Well, now that I say that, I'm wondering if I set a good example for him. I'm part of a lot of teams - church, family, volunteer groups. I know my teammates are counting on me, and I know my Coach - God - is always watching. Wow, I can think of some times when I've stood on the sidelines and hoped that someone else would do the hard stuff. Did I even say thank you to my teammates when they did stuff that might have been my job? I might not have.
Gee, I guess I have some practicing to do, too. But I bet we all can think of a time when we've stood back and hoped that mom would clean up that mess, or dad would put those toys away, or even just took for granted that our parents would make sure we had everything we need. So we can all pratice being better teammates, can't we? At home, at school, here at church, and in our community.
Being part of God's team means that we are all winners, and that's the team we have to work hardest for. Being on that winning team makes it easier to do a good job for other teams. And the best part is that if people are counting on you, you are worth counting on. So play your heart out today and every day!

Friday, September 19, 2008


Let's see... if lightly burned food is "toasted" and burned food is "roasted" or "broiled," and really burned food is "char-broiled," why do I not have my own show on Food Network?

Roasted zucchini muffins, anyone?

Thursday, September 18, 2008


The kids did not have school yesterday, so I took them to a place called Zonkers - like Chuck E Cheezits (as Ben calls it) but nicer.

Here's the count:

200 tokens - $40
Tickets to ride the snake coaster and carousel: $15
Minutes it took Elliott to go through his: 41
Times I had to play Whack-a-Mole with Ben: 6
Different locations Abby left her shoes: 4
Kids too tired to fight on the way home: Priceless.

After we got home, I begged them to clean up their room so I could vacuum and I went out to mow, and here's the count for that:

Times I had to redo the starting sequence on the mower: 2
Acres mowed: 3
Mosquito bites: 7
Bugs in my nose: 3
Frogs who narrowly escaped: 2
Grasshoppers who didn't: hundreds - YAY!
Believing my dad is watching from heaven and enjoying the smell of fresh cut grass with me: Priceless.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Change and the Cable Guy

I've been delivering the Children's Message off and on for a few years at our tiny Presbyterian Church (active membership - 37!) but lately I've gotten several positive comments on them. I must be divinely inspired, because they have been occuring to me in the shower on Sunday mornings while getting ready for church, but they seem to work. I thought I'd share a few with you. Here's a little background on this one -
We have had trouble finding a Presbyterian minister to work for us (as have a lot of smaller churches) because we just can't afford to pay anyone a decent salary, but we've had a slew of really great fill-in pastors over the last few years. A wonderfully engaging woman filled our pulpit all summer, and it really looked like we might be able to hire her part-time. Alas, another church closer to her home had a full-time opening, and she had to take it. She's trying to support her family, and we understood, but the change was going to be difficult. Even my kids were asking what we were going to do after Jodi left, she had made that much of an impact on everyone. It occurred to me that change in life is inevitable, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Here's the Children's Message I gave the week after Jodi left.

Last week, the cable guy had to come to my house. One of our satellite boxes wasn't working, and this was frustrating. It's the one clear in the back of our house, the one the grown-ups watch a lot, so we called the company and they scheduled a service call. On Friday afternoon, a short stocky guy knocked on the door. He checked out the tv in the living room, and determined that one was indeed working fine (because he's the expert he couldn't just take my word for it...) and I showed him to the back of the house where the other tv was. I don't think he stopped talking for longer than about three seconds the whole time he was there.
"Wow this is a long house, you must get your exercise around here! So the other box is back here? Do you have them hooked up to the phone line? Is there a phone in this room, cause I think I'm gonna need one, depending on what the problem is. Okay, here it is, now where is this plugged in? Wow, this is an old box, you've had this for quite awhile! Where is the dish? Can I get out there to see it? Okay, let's just hook up my monitor to this outlet and see what we have here. Okay, I see the problem, you're going to need a new box! I've got one in the truck, let me just hike back up there and get it. Do I cross a border or anything coming all the way back here? I'm getting my workout today, huh? Okay let's get this hooked up and I'll just need to call in and get it activated. Good! You're all set - here's your new remote and please just sign here!"
Now the old box was big and black and had this tiny green light and a remote that fit really nicely in your hand - my thumb knew where all the buttons were. The new box is small and silver and it has a really bright blue light and the remote is huge but all the buttons are in new places, and the abbreviations are different. It works, but these changes take some getting used to. I can still find my favorite shows, it just takes me longer to figure out which button to press.
Scripture tells us that change is part of God's plan. You know that verse - everyone can sing along if you want: to everything (turn turn turn) there is a season... So changes at church must be part of His plan, too. We have a new pastor today, and while we are going to miss Jodi, I'm sure that Matthew will do a great job. And even though he's new, there are lots of things about church that haven't changed a bit. I see all the familiar faces in the congregation, Sunday school was the same group you've been with all summer, and things are all still in the same place as last week.
With my new remote, I can get new and different information about the shows I'm watching, and I can find out about the different channels, and I couldn't do that before, so I'm learning something new with the change at my house. I'm sure we're going to learn something new and different from Pastor Matthew too. Change is an adventure, and we need to trust that the changes God brings our way are part of His plan for us.

I'm not used to the remote yet. I have to hold it at arm's length and then some to see some of the abbreviations (and even then I don't know what they all mean yet), but I can still find CSI reruns to entertain me while I cook dinner, and that's what counts, I guess.
It's probably a good thing that the cable guy came. I knew I wanted to have my message be about change, but I was going to take in baby pictures of the kids and embarrass the heck out of them...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

September 11th Anniversary Thoughts

On September 11, 2001 I was at a doctor appointment with my month-old daughter and my 2½-year old son. Elliott raced small cars around the floor with another toddler, Abigail slept peacefully in her baby seat, and the adults in the waiting room silently watched the horrifying events on the wall-mounted television.
I wondered what political belief, what religion could possibly be so powerful to inspire these horrible acts. What institution promised its members so much to get them to take their own and other’s lives? What could possibly be worth that? I decided I didn’t know.
As I drove home that afternoon I spotted a huge American flag, billowing at half-mast. My chest tightened, the tears sprang to my eyes, my stomach dropped to my feet and I realized: I do know. I, too, have something worth fighting for, worth protecting, worth dying for. It’s called The United States of America – my home.
So what’s the difference? The United States of America was born, flourished and continues to thrive because it’s purpose is to ensure life, liberty, and opportunity for all its citizens. Terrorist groups exist simply because they have an enemy. They have no higher purpose, and their failure is inevitable. They have no foundation but hate.
September 11th is now my New Year, my resolution day. I resolve to teach my children love, compassion, charity, tolerance, goodwill, understanding and peace. I resolve to practice these things myself, for in them the higher purpose of the United States of America, and all its children, will live forever.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Into the Fray

August 1st really marked the start of the school year. The kids didn't start classes until the 14th, but we started football and cheerleading practice on the 1st. Which meant, "where are my tennis shoes? Do I have to take my pompoms? Can you put my hair up? When do I start tackling? Did you get me a water bottle? I can't get my helmet on! Are you staying to watch? Where do these pads go? Is dad going? How long will it last? Watch me - I remember all the cheers from last year! Do you have to bring Ben? I'm hungry. Black practice pants? Everyone else has white! I forgot to go to the bathroom!"

It also meant that I had to plan dinner far in advance, prepare the ingredients so that when we got home at 8:45, I could throw together something that resembled nutritious food and get them all fed and in the shower before they collapsed from exhaustion. I'm getting that figured out, and we've only had to have frozen pizza once. So far.

I can't just sit, so I talk to the other parents and crochet. Yes, it's kind of an ancient hobby, but it keeps me busy, and the kids' blankets are finally getting done. Some of the other kids are actually quite interested in watching me make a square of fabric from a bundle of yarn. I now have requests for blankets from four of Abby's cheerleading buddies.

The question they all ask is so cute - "do you know how to do that?" Well, yes... obviously. I tell them the story of Mrs. King, who lived across the street from us when I was little. She had two hobbies: crochet and gluing sequins on felt calendars. I didn't understand that one then and I still don't get it, really, which was fine because she wouldn't let me near the piles of sequins and toothpicks and dried drops of Elmer's glue on the card table in her living room. Instead, in between games of Go Fish (during which she would occasionally ask me for a deuce and I would stare blankly until she reminded me that was a 2), she taught me to crochet. I remember ending up with a huge pile of single chain from some scrap yarn she had and holding it up for her to examine. She would look and point out the places where the stitches weren't even, watch my hand position, make little corrections. I don't know if I actually thought this was fun when I was younger, but I'm very grateful for the lessons now. It gives me something to do while I'm sitting and waiting, and the result is a blanket or dishcloths for someone I love. I'll take requests, but be prepared to wait. :)
Football is going well - Elliott got ready for a shower last night and came running naked to the back room, pointing to his upper arms. "Dad! Look! Check out these bruises! Aren't they cool?" Dad's response: "Yep. Chicks dig scars." Please don't let my son marry a 'chick.' Cheerleading is going well, too. She remembers cheers from last year and is helping the new girls. A W E! SO! ME! Awesome awesome awesome are we! Go Vikings! No cool bruises, though.
First games are September 13th. Where? Don't know yet. What time? Not a clue. Why? There are no moms on the football coaching staff.