Friday, August 29, 2008

Unusual Treasures

Why is it that girls collect things like dolls and hair accessories, and guys collect things like rocks? My boys always have unusual things sitting around our house. Right now in our master bathroom there are several fist-sized or bigger rocks sitting on our countertop. In the downstairs bathroom is a "sea biscuit" in a styrofoam bowl. I guess I shouldn't complain. The sea biscuit was on my kitchen countertop for a week. I asked why it was there and my son told me he was cleaning it. The thing is round, a little larger than my fist, and has a hole in the middle. It looks--a little weird. I finally told him to clean it somewhere else or I was throwing it out. The next day I found it in the bathroom. I told him I meant for him to keep it in his room, but it hasn't moved there yet. It has, however, moved from the styrofoam bowl. There is now a little pile of sand and dirt in the bowl, and the sea biscuit is on the other side of the sink. I'm going to assume the thing can't move on its own and that my son turned it over. My big question is: what's he going to do with it when he finally finishes cleaning it?
On the counter by the kitchen downstairs I can find an assortment of keys and keyrings (of course!), but I can also find tips from my husband's paint sprayer, a cool-looking potato chip, and a G.I. Joe. One day as I was straightening the kitchen, I found a small round plastic piece with a hole in it. It finally dawned on me that it was a helmet to one of the boys' G.I.Joe's.
Every once in a while I will find a stash of seeds in the kitchen. These are seeds from peaches or watermelons even that someone has decided they're going to save so they can plant them outside. Somehow the seeds never make it that far, probably because I toss them when I find them. We don't have room for a garden, and if I want any more trees in our yard, I want them to match the landscaping.
My boys will occasionally catch a lizard or a frog, but they know better than to bring them inside the house. Although, Luke is not above waving one around to scare any ladies that happen to be nearby.
Sometimes I will find a few fishing poles in the corner of the living room or a pair of swim fins in the family room. The other day we had a hand towel in the freezer. (One of the boys wanted to see what would happen when it froze.)
My boys can save a broken piece from a game controller for months, hoping to be able to repair it or use it elsewhere one day, but a button came of my iron and no one seems to know how it happened or what happened to the button.
I put up with most of these weird things that show up in my house, but there's one area where I absolutely draw the line. I positively hate finding nightcrawlers in my refrigerator. I don't care of they're in a sealed container and they're for the fishing trip the next day. My boys know to store those in the refrigerator in the garage. In this area, my husband is the worst offender. Once or twice it's been even worse because the fishing trip got cancelled and the nightcrawlers forgotten. They all know that if I happen to find them in the fridge, they'll go in the garbage no matter how fresh they are. (Ugh!)
It is funny how they can find the oddest things and decide they want to hang onto it for some project. The projects don't always get completed (or even started), but hey, I'm not going to squish their imaginations. If it's not gross and it's not in the way, I'm willing to put up with odd treasures once in a while. Especially if it pleases my own little treasures to hang on to them. Love you, guys!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

O Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say

So Obama picked Joe Biden as his running mate. And immediately the republicans countered with an ad that showed Biden saying that Obama wasn't fit to be President of the United States. Of course, he said that when he was running against Obama for the Democratic Nomination. Then Obama was unfit. Now he's a great leader that chose another great leader to be his running mate. (I've heard that Biden has a bit of an ego.) I'm sure when Biden was running for President, he expected to win. They all do, don't they? He never expected those words to come back and haunt him someday. But that's the technologically advanced world we live in. Whatever you've said or done, someday it can and probably will come back to haunt you.
In my case, I don't often make gaffes on video. There just aren't that many news crews following me around. But they still manage to become known. After all, my husband is a pastor. Sometimes he uses illustrations from real life. And since I'm a part of his real life, sometimes those illustrations include me.
This past Sunday night was one of those times. He was using the concept of a woman in labor to illustrate a point. He's only seen one woman in labor and that's me. He's seen that six times. So he told the congregation about the first time I was in labor. (In my defense, the baby was 10-1/2 pounds and I went through thirty-one hours of labor to give birth. A fact I never let my son forget.) Not too long before then, my husband had watched one of the Rocky movies. He watched the trainer yelling "No pain!" through intense training scenes. So as I struggled through agonizing contractions, he decided to encourage me with the words, "No pain! No pain!" I promptly grabbed his shirtfront and yanked him down to my face where I told him to shut up in no uncertain terms. He deserved it and I think I was justified, but I still didn't care to have the story told to everyone in the congregation. But it just goes to show that absolutely everything you say and do is fair game. The more you don't want it out in the open, the higher the chance that that's exactly what will happen.
In the meantime, I wonder who McCain will pick for a running mate?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Vanity, Thy Name is Me

I think most people that know me would agree that I have a sense of humor. I don't just have a sense of humor, though. I can laugh at myself. After all, I've gotten into enough scrapes and situations that I'd almost have to be able to laugh at myself. And while I don't aim to be a cut-up, when life inevitable hands me a lemon, I laugh while it spills lemonade down my dress.
However, just because I often end up in embarrassing situations and laugh at them, doesn't mean I look for embarrassing situations. It's not really my most favorite part of life. But as you can see from this picture, sometimes I end up there anyway. This is Terry, my husband, and me celebrating our birthday. Not by choice.
Terry told me earlier this week that two couples from church wanted to take us out to eat, which I thought was pretty nice. We went on Thursday, the worst night for storming from Tropical Storm Fay (see yesterday's post). They took us to Kobe's Japanese Steakhouse, one of those places where the chef cooks the food in front of you and puts on a big show. I thought it was all really nice until the waitress asked if anyone at our table was having a birthday. Immediately everyone pointed at Terry and me. My birthday was the seventeenth, and his is--well, his is today, actually. Even then I didn't think too much of it until several waitress entered our little area, beating a gong and singing happy birthday. They were addressing someone at the table next to us. And they put this big striped paper hat on their head. I immediately muttered to the lady next to me, "I do not want to wear the hat." But alas. After dinner, here came the gong-ringers again. The entered and insisted on placing the hats on our heads before singing. (The gong-ringing never let up, though.) But my hair has a mind of it's own, and sometimes it has good taste too. It grabbed that hat off my head and flung it on the floor. The waitress picked it up and smashed it back on my head. My hair flung it off again. Then she picked it up and squished it down on my forehead. Hence the less-than-thrilled look on my face for this picture. The hat came off again as soon as they were through. They gave us the picture before they left. I laughed and thought that was the end of it. But noooo!
Tom, one of the men that went with us that night, does the church bulletin. Guess what picture he put in the bulletin this Sunday?!? I was horrified. I felt a little better when he cracked up and said all the other bulletins were normal. He just put the picture in mine to give me a jolt. Nice guy. I wonder when his birthday is???

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lessons from Hurricanes

Okay, so we didn't actually have a hurricane last week. What we had was Tropical Storm Fay. Still, it was our first experience with a tropical storm since we moved to Florida this year, and I have to admit, I was nervous. I wasn't sure what to expect. I sure didn't expect the three solid days of heavy wind and rain. People here told us this was unusual. Most tropical storms do their damage and move on through. But Fay stopped and stayed for a while. Actually, they predicted the storm would hit on Tuesday. We laid in a supply of bottled water, batteries and peanut butter. We didn't even get a drop of rain on Tuesday, and there was no more wind than usual. I thought maybe we had escaped this dreaded weather phenomenon, but it was not to be. It started raining Wednesday. The wind picked up and slanted the rain in every direction. And that's the way it stayed until Friday afternoon. There was no let up at all. No slackening in the downpour or lapse in the wind. We did manage to survive the storm without any damage, and I learned a few things. In my generous way, I am now sharing them with you. Listen closely.

1. Stock up on bottled water early. It tends to disappear in Florida like bread and milk do in Alabama when a weatherman says "snow".

2. Stock up on batteries even earlier.

3. Make sure you have a battery-operated radio. Otherwise the batteries don't do a lot of good.

4. Move your patio furniture indoors unless you intend to give it to your next door neighbors as living room additions.

5. You can never have too many flashlights or candles.

6. Candles don't do any good unless you buy matches.

7. Lighting a candle from your gas stove can be hazardous to your health.

8. Cheap umbrellas were not made for Florida. The wind whipped three of mine inside out in one day.

9. An expensive umbrella will last longer, but the tropical storm winds will still eventually turn it inside out and break it.

10. Peanut butter is a much better staple than rice and beans. It's easier to clean up, too.

You should also plan on being wet for the entire time the tropical storm/hurricane is in your area. Going in and out to work and to the car, I got soaked no matter which direction I held the umbrella.

So there you have it, folks. This is the kind of stuff they don't tell you in the disaster-preparedness lists and seminars. Remember you heard it here first.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ten Stitches in Time

So yesterday was pretty interesting. After I got off work I stopped at home for a brief minute and then ran some errands. I got a call from Matt (my nineteen-year-old) a short time later.
"Where are you?"
"I'm over by the church. I just have to stop at the post office and then I'll be home."
"Forget the post office. You need to come home now."
My stomach clenched. Come to find out, Paul, my eleven-year-old, had just mopped the kitchen floor. I know, remarkable, but that's not why I had to get home. When Paul was through, he walked across the wet kitchen floor, slipped, and smashed his face against the floor. Matt told me he was definitely going to need stitches. I asked the usual questions: was he conscious? Was there a lot of blood? I told Matt to sit Paul down, apply gentle pressure and I would be home as fast as possible.
When I got in the house, I found Paul sitting on the couch with a dish towel against his face. I pulled it back to see the most gaping hole I could imagine in someone's forhead. The skin had split along the eyebrow, almost two inches. It was wide open and very deep. I tried not to cry. He also had a black eye, red swollen face and cheekbone. Immediately I worried about fractures. Thank goodness the hospital is less than two miles away!
In the emergency room I peeled back the towel and showed the triage nurse. Thankfully they didn't make us wait long. Ten stitches and a CAT scan later we found out there were no broken bones. But in the meantime ...
The physician's assistant that took care of Paul didn't seem to care for our story. He kept asking Paul over and over what happened. Did anyone see him fall? Did he hit something on the way down? Did he lose consciousness? Did anyone see him? What happened again? Did he remember the incident? I wasn't sure if he was checking Paul's recall and memory, or if he thought I'd clocked my son with something. It didn't help that I was just in there three weeks ago with another of my sons who had a broken collarbone. I'm beginning to get nervous about taking my children in to the emergency room anymore. That's our third visit in five months. These things tend to make us look questionable.
So the upshot is, Paul will be fine although he has an awful headache. Also, shortly before he got hurt he and Joel were skating across the wet kitchen floor. Supposedly that entertainment stopped before the incident in question. Umhmmm. How on earth can I possibly explain to the medical profession that this is normal behaviour in a house full of boys? Maybe I'll think up an explanation on my next trip.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How Many Alarm Clocks Does It Take to Wake A Teenager?

This is a serious question. How many alarm clocks does it take to wake your teenager? How many times do you have to tell them to get out of bed? And why on earth are they so exhausted all the time that they can't wake up?
In my house it takes two alarm clocks to wake up a teenager. Why doesn't he just hit the snooze on one clock? Well, sometimes he hits the snooze for the next hour. That tends to wake up everyone in the house except him. I'm not sure how two alarm clocks differ from a snooze, but apparently they do. There is a little twist, though. He's not using actual alarm clocks. No, instead he's using cell phones. That's right. Apparently they have alarm clocks built into them. (Am I the only one that uses their cell phone as a phone?) But even that's not enough. He has three different alarms programmed into each phone. So unless he turns them completely off, he still has some sort of alarm going off every five minutes for the next half hour. How is that different from hitting the snooze?
There's another problem with cell phone alarms as well. They go off whether you put them by your bed or not. One of the cell phones got left downstairs last night. It went off for ten solid minutes this morning. No one took care of it because we assumed our son was having trouble getting out of bed. Finally one of my other sons told me that the phone was downstairs. So we turned it off. I'm not sure if my teenager even heard the phone. I'm not sure if he set an alarm.
Which brings me to his backup. That's me. On weekends he doesn't set the alarm at all. He just assumes I'll wake him up in time to get ready for church. How come I can't count on someone to wake me up? Because I'm responsible, that's why! You know what else I noticed? No matter what time I wake him, it takes him that amount of time to get ready. But that's a whole different blog post! So how do I wake him? I call him from the doorway until he answers. (His room is not always accessible due to the amount of clothing on the floor.) Then I tell him what time it is and that he needs to get up. Does he respond right away? Not always, but he's gotten better about getting up when called. I'm a very persuasive person. I also don't have much patience so here's how it goes when I'm his alarm clock. I wake him up. Sometime within the next ten minutes I'll revisit his room. If he's not up I have a variety of creative (torture) ways to bring him to consciousness. For one thing, it's always a good idea to keep a bag of marbles in the freezer. Have you ever handled a cold marble? Empty those into his bed. Not only will they wake him, but they'll roll with him whichever way he turns. No more sleeping! My other method is a little more drastic. I dump a pitcher of cold water on his head. (No ice cubes. Those can hurt!) On more than one occasion he's awakened to a big splash of cold water in the face. Hey, he knew it was a possibility. I've warned him before. By the way, here's a little parenting tip: if you use either of these methods, the teenager has to pick up all the marbles and return them to the freezer. Or, he has to strip the wet bedding off and wash it.
So why can't teenagers wake up? What makes them so sleepy? Some say it's because youth has a clear conscious. They aren't mature enough to actually worry about things, so their sleep is deep. Hmmm. Maybe. But I think it has more to do with the fact that they can't tell time. No, seriously. They must not be able to tell time because they can never manage to get to bed at a decent hour. We have bedtimes in this house, but somehow the teenagers seem to be unable to tell what time it is. The problem is so bad, they have no way of realizing that they have ten minutes to take a shower, make a lunch for the next day, straighten up their room and get to sleep. Poor things. Neither can they seem to understand that, if you stay up late watching a movie, that doesn't change the time you get up in the morning. That just makes you less happy to get up. But someday they'll learn. Someday they'll be responsible. Someday they'll have teenagers of their own. HA! I can hardly wait!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Life's Hard and Then You Die. So Eat Your Breakfast!

Anyone that knows me very well probably knows that I hate the word "fair". I'm so sick of people whining about things that aren't fair. Whoever said fair was part of the bargain? Some parents just drive me nuts in their quest for fairness for their child. They drive themselves (and everyone else around them) insane making sure that little Johnny or Sally has the same number of turns and the same amount of candy or goodies. Just lighten up and let the kids be kids, will you?
Don't get me wrong. I think candy should be divided equally and everyone should take turns. That's the rules on the playground so to speak, but that's not necessarily the rules for life. In real life you don't always get fair. Not on the job, not in play. Not anywhere. Let's face it: life isn't fair, and if we struggle to make sure that our children always get what's "fair" we're doing them a great disservice. In no way are we preparing them for the real world. In addition to that, parents that struggle for complete "fairness" often end up raising children with entitlement issues. Since their parents always made sure they got everything they had coming to them, the message their sending the kids is that they deserve everything good that they get. In fact, they have a right to everything they want or demand. This is so wrong. And these kids are in for such a shock when they are thrust out into a world that does not care about what's fair to them or what they are entitled to.
This thought even permeates Christian circles. I've watched Sunday School competitions gets all stretched beyond what was originally intended because well-meaning(?) mothers kept trying to make sure everything was fair. In reality what they're doing is making sure their child has the best shot of winning. You can't stack the deck in favor of your child. They get to where they expect Mommy and Daddy to always pull strings, but someday they will run up against something that Mom and Dad can't fix. Xince they've never had to face hard times or disappointments, they won't be able to handle it. You're not doing your child any favors by trying to make sure they always win.
Hey, I'm a parent. I always want my child to win, to be the best, to come out on top. But this is the real world. Someone always has to lose in a game or a race. If it's your child, use the opportunity to help him understand dealing with loss. Help him realize that he can hold his head high and determine to do better next time. To be a gracious loser. To develop character. Do your kid a favor. Don't do him any favors.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Another Vehicle Go Round

So my husband and son went on a little trip this past week down to Fort Lauderdale. One of the men in our church was going down to visit his son and he invited my guys to go with him. The trip was to include scuba diving in the ocean and ... lobstering? Fishing for lobster? However you want to say it. So they left Thursday afternoon after work. They took our van because they were towing a boat. Normally Terry would use his pickup truck for something like that, but the truck is without a side mirror, courtesy of our son. Yeah, another story and he'll get that thing replaced this week, thank you very much.
So they're driving down in our van on what I thought was a 2-1/2 hour trip. Turns out it's more between 4-5 hours. At least, that's what I found out when Terry called me at 10:30 Thursday night. They were in Jupiter, Florida, one hundred miles north of Ft. Lauderdale and the van was broken down. Seems the alternator went out on them. So he wanted me to find a Ford dealership near where they were and told me to find the warranty papers. So I got online, searching for Ford dealerships in Jupiter. There aren't any, by the way. I found a couple as close as I could, but I needed to know exactly where they exited so I could direct them to the closest one. Then I had to find to warranty papers. We'd used them in November of last year, and then they had disappeared. I had looked through all the files and any stacks of paper I could find, but the warranty papers weren't there. At one point earlier this year, I had even called the dealership that did the warranty work because they had copied our warranty contract. They couldn't seem to find it either.
Well, now I was getting desparate. They needed those warranty papers down in Jupiter. So I prayed and asked God to help me find them. Then it occurred to me that I switched purses right around Christmas time. Sure enough, the papers were in my old purse. I love it when God answers prayer!
I was also thrilled because it only took me half an hour to find the dealership and the papers. I called Terry back only to hear that the guy they were traveling with had Triple A Plus, and so they were towing the van the rest of the way to Ft. Lauderdale. So I wasted my time looking for Jupiter dealerships. Terry told me he would call me in the morning with fax numbers so I could fax a copy of the warranty. I said sure, I could do it as soon as I got to work. He said fine. Now, Terry knows I start work at 10:00 in the morning. I figured if he needed something earlier he would say so. Well, he did say so, but not until 7:30 the next morning.
I was just getting ready to get in the shower when he called me with the dealership fax number. He spoke as if he expected to get the fax right away, so I reminded him that I didn't start work until ten.
"They've got to have these papers now, so they can start work on the van!" He insisted. "Otherwise they won't have it done when we're ready to leave Saturday afternoon."
I should mention that Terry had arranged for a sitter for our four boys while I was working on Friday. The sitter was 20-25 minutes south of our house. My job is 10 minutes north of our house. You do the math. There was no way I had time for a fax run and still get to work on time.
So I grabbed the warranty and ran to Office Max, fuming all the way. I ended up standing outside the Office Max for 10 minutes because they didn't open until eight in the morning. Steam was coming out my ears by the time they finally opened the doors. The man at the fax counter very slowly copied all the pages of the warranty and then set up the fax. I know I was driving him nuts, but I couldn't help it. I drummed my fingers on the counter, shifted from one foot to the other and basically appeared to be practically jumping out of my skin. The man slowly cleaned up his area until I wanted to climb over the counter and check the fax myself. Surely it must be done by now! He kept reassuring me it would take just a little longer. When the thing finally beeped, fifteen minutes later, it was because the machine had cut off on the last page. I frantically dialed my husband.
"Are you still at the dealership?"
"No, why?"
"The fax didn't go through. And now I'm really going to be late to work!"
"Here, let me give you their number to call. Do you have a pen?"
There was some noise in the background. "yeah, I've got one."
More noise. "Are you ready to write it down?"
"Yes, give it to me!"
More noise in the background. "Have you got a pen yet?"
Apparently he couldn't hear me, so I spoke louder. The Office Max guy moved away discreetly and that's when I realized I probably looked and sounded like I was out of control. Well, I was. I hadn't even had a shower yet for pete's sake.
I made it clear that I was ready for the number. When I called the dealership the guy told me his machine ran out of paper, but it was fixed now. I wasn't sure why that would cut off the fax, as most machines will store the incoming message until new paper was added. Then I asked him how many pages he actually got. The guy said all he really needed was the first page with the name and phone number of the warranty company. I nearly exploded. I could have given that information to Terry over the phone last night. And that also explained the cut-off fax. The guy didn't need the other pages so he simply disconnected. Creep!
Then I had to convince the Office Max guy that the fax did go through. Without a confirmation, he just wasn't quick to accept that. I assured him that I, the customer, was satisfied. Now could I just pay the stupid bill so I could go? Apparently they are supposed to have a confirmation sheet before they ring it up, and he really had a problem deviating from procedure. He finally rang it up and I almost ran for the door. I was headed back home when my husband called again.
"Hi. They got the fax. They're fine."
"I know."
More noise in the background. "What did you say?"
My boiling point was reached. "I said, I just found that out!" I hung up the phone without waiting for him to answer and raced home. I ended up being only ten minutes late to work, which surprised me. Terry called that afternoon and we spoke briefly and then I didn't hear from him until Saturday afternoon.
"Does our warranty cover a rental?"
All that rushing for nothing. When Terry called the dealership Saturday morning to see if the vehicle was ready, they told him there was a process they had to go through with our warranty, so they weren't ready yet. I called the warranty company and found out that the dealership was calling at the same time for authorization to do the work. Their process consisted of ignoring our van until we needed it. When they were caught in their lie, then they got belligerent. They had other work to do and our timeframe wasn't their problem. They finally agreed to pay $35 a day for a rental for three days. And by the way, the rental company closes in half an hour. You'd better hurry if you want to get there on time.
Do you know what size car you get for $35 a day? Something in the area of a Yugo. But the car rental agent had mercy on them. He rented them a pickup for $35 a day so they could tow the boat back home. Now Terry has to make another trip down there by Tuesday to return the rental and pick up our van. He'll have to take the boys with him because I have to work. Oh, and did I mention we're supposed to get a hurricane on Tuesday? Yeah, that was some great weekend!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

That Time of Year

I love shopping for school supplies, don't you? Last year my kids went to a school where you paid a fee and the school supplies were provided. I felt cheated. Where's the supply list divided up by grade? When do I get to go to Walmart and fill my cart with way more things than I can pay for?
Part of the reason I love the school supplies is because it's a clear indicator that autumn is coming, and that's my favorite time of year. Of course, the stores are now messing that up because they start setting out the supplies in July. There's nothing autumny in July. But then again, when you're buying school supplies for six kids, you tend to have to spread it out over several weeks anyway. Still, it makes me think of crisp cool mornings, brilliant leaf colors, brisk afternoons.
But back to school supplies. There's a fine line between buying as inexpensively as possible and buying something so cheap you have to replace it before the school year was over. Backpacks are the worse for me. I am not going to pay $30 for a backpack. (With six kids, you do the math.) But at the same time, some of those $9.99 ones aren't going to make it to the second semester. I usually buy better ones for the older kids because they carry around more books. Most of the time several of my children still have a decent backpack to start the year. They originally thought that wasn't fair--that they had to have a new one every year--but I think they're beginning to see the wisdom in being thrifty. Or maybe they just accept it because they have to.
I also hate cheap lunch boxes. Most of my kids brown-bagged it in Alabama, but here in Florida they didn't have access to a refrigerator and it's hot down here. So everyone (including me because I was teaching) got lunchboxes with ice packs. They held together pretty well inspite of the fact that some of the kids were less than responsible with theirs.
But the real basics of school supplies are glue, pencils and pens and erasers. And of course, notebook paper. You can never have too much. I usually buy a couple of packs every week as soon as the school supplies come out. And there's nothing better than a freshly sharpened pencil. Or pens that aren't expensive, but don't leave little ink blobs all over your hands after using them all day.
Even kids that hate school seem to love getting all the new supplies. I guess it's kind of like a fresh start. Whatever grades you got last year are history. Didn't like your teachers? There's always a chance of better ones this year. It's a new beginning in what is basically the last quarter of an old year. It doesn't get better than that!
At the beginning of the movie, You've Got Mail, Tom Hanks is raphsodizing in email to Meg Ryan about how he loves New York in the fall. He goes on about the smell of scotch tape and then ends with, "I would send you a bouquet of sharpened pencils if I knew your address." Here's a bottle of Elmer's glue and a pink eraser to you. Have a great one!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Prescription for Southerners

I read an article yesterday that listed the top ten states that use the most prescription drugs in the nation. When I saw the headline I thought, duh! Obviously California would be one of them. After all, it may be the land of fruits and nuts, but of course there's also a lot of drug abuse out there. I figured one state might be New York. More people, more "cutting edge" stuff and more pushing of the legal envelope. But I was seriously wrong! Neither state made the top ten list. As a matter of fact, not many northern states made the top ten. Most states that are high in prescription drug use (pun intended) are in the South! I was so shocked. Not the Bible Belt! How could those of us in the South rely on prescriptions so much? After all, we live in such a beautiful part of the country. We all believe in family and most of us have a lot of them around. We still go to family dinners and high school football is the biggest thing going on Friday nights.
The article went on to list by state their ranking in health problems. Most of these southern states were very high in diabetes, cholesterol problems, obesity, high blood pressure. And even depression. How could you be depressed when you live in the Glorious South? Since I'm such a fan of top ten lists, I came up with the top ten reasons why we in the South have so many health problems.

1. Two words: fried food. There's nothing good for you in all that batter and oil, but oh how good it is!

2. We drink sweet tea, although others might refer to it as "syrup". What can we say? we like a little tea with our sugar.

3. Banana pudding. No one makes it like we do.

4. Church fellowships. Most of us attend church down here and we're firm believers in fellowshipping even if it's with people we don't particularly care for. Food makes those fellowships more palatable.

5. We've got good cooks down here. It's partly in the genes, but it's also a matter of pride and competition. Once you're known for a certain dish at those fellowships, you want to make sure no one can top you in your "signature" casserole or dessert. That means using real butter and whole milk. We don't believe in "fat-free".

6. Biscuits n' gravy.

7. Family get-togethers. We wouldn't miss them for the world, but family is stressful.

8. We also have stress from maintaining that genteel "southern lie". Aunt Ellie may drive us crazy, bless her heart, but we'd never dream of saying so to her face. We have to hold it all in.

9. Proper Southern ladies do not sweat in public. Ever. It's hot down here anyway, so that really puts a crimp in our exercise plans.

10. Some of us are still recovering from the Civil War. It wasn't that long ago, you know, and we have plaques and memorials all over the place to remind us of which relatives we lost in the War Against Northern Agression. We tend to hold a grudge, after all.

So there you have it. Small wonder we need a few prescriptions to help us make it through the day!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hide and Seek the Keys

Ever play that game at your house? Where's my keys, didn't you have my keys, where did you see my keys ... I've tried every method I could think of, but somehow we still can't keep track of all the keys at our house. I have a little basket that I keep on the kitchen counter and that's where we all dump our keys as soon as we come in the house. Theoretically at any rate. I put the basket there because it was a normal spot for the keys to land. The four oldest of us have a house key, and a van key. Of course, the van is up for sale right now and no one's driving it so a lot of good that does us. On the other hand, I've noticed that none of us have lost our van key lately either.
We each also have a key to whatever vehicle we usually drive. Then the spare keys are supposed to go in the basket. So if my son, Matt, has to move my car in the morning, he doesn't have to hunt for my huge wad of keys. He can just grab the spare out of the basket. And then hopefully return the spare when he's done moving my car. That's the way it's supposed to work, but it doesn't always. The other morning he woke me with profuse apologies, but he needed the keys to the car and couldn't find them anywhere.
My husband is just as bad. Actually, he's worse. His keys may end up in the basket, or they may land on his dresser. But if he stops anywhere else in the house, the keys are just as likely to show up there. Or they may even end up on the floorboard of the car itself. (I keep reminding him we don't live in Alabama anymore, but it hasn't sunk in yet.) Before we had the basket, Terry's keys could end up almost anywhere. He'd get ready for work in the morning and couldn't find his keys. He'd get so angry and was sure that I had moved them someplace. He'd tear through the house looking for them, and I'd pretend to look. I pretended because I knew where they really were. Nine times out of ten in these situations, he had already pocketed the keys and forgot they were there. So we'd look for them until all of a sudden, he'd call, "I found them!" Then I'd hear the front door slam as he hurried away. Not one to let a little thing like that go, I'd race through the house and catch him before he got to his vehicle.
"Where were they?" I was all innocence as I'd ask the question.
"In my pocket." His reluctant reply.
This happens less often since I got the basket, but occasionally we have a replay. The last time was this Sunday morning. Being the pastor, Terry gets up early and heads to the church. This past Sunday he woke me up to ask if I knew where the keys were to the church car. I don't carry a set of those keys, and if I have to drive that car I usually get the keys from him. I answered sleepily that I had no idea. As I was drifting back to sleep I heard him say, "Oh! Here they are."
I raised my head off the pillow. "Where were they?"
"In my pocket. Go back to sleep."
I guess I shouldn't complain too much. The last time I cleaned out my purse I found my car key and my spare, plus both keys to the truck. Maybe I need a bigger basket. Or a bigger purse ...

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Reality of Lies

There seems to be a sudden rash of twins developing in Hollywood circles. That in itself seems a little strange, but there's another phenomenon happening as well that's not only strange, but entirely untrue. (I know. I said that as if most other things in Hollywood are true. I know better.) Anyway, those of us in the real world understand the concept of women wanting to "have it all" as in a family and career and hobbies and playtime and everything good in life all at the same time. While not feeling so stressed that we cannot enjoy it. We all know that we can't have it all, but somehow we keep trying to grasp for that elusive dream. That dream is reinforced when we read about or see stars who apparently give birth to twins and pose for magazine covers three weeks later. Within a month we're hearing how they've shed all their baby weight and, in some cases, are getting dangerously thin.
I read of one "star" who had twins. She lost all her baby weight (of course!) and was training to run a marathon. That was in between putting together her latest album, and shooting a new movie. Oh, and the article also went on to state that this woman was amazing because she didn't have nannies, personal chefs, fitness trainers or any of those other staff that help you pretend you're doing it all yourself. I was truly amazed at what this woman can accomplish. How does she do it? THEY'RE LYING, THAT'S HOW!
People read that stuff and think that somehow these famous people are some sort of super humans. If this woman really is training for a marathon, she's having to spend hours a day at it. Unless she's strapping those twins on her chest and her back while she runs, someone is watching them. The same with recording an album. Can't have a baby crying in the background. And I haven't seen too many movies where actresses/new moms have their infants in the scene. You may not call them nannies, but you have some kind of caregivers there with you. Then you can run hold the children for a few minutes when they yell "cut". Or you can carry the infant as you walk through the airport so all the camera shots show that you have no help and you do it all yourself. That's not motherhood. That's photo opportunities.
You can't tell me either that these women fix meals for their family all the time. Then again, how long does it take to make a little pasta and steamed veggies? LOL I doubt they spend much time doing laundry either. Maybe they just toss the dirty clothes out and buy new ones all the time to save laundry time.
It bothers me that we read this stuff and accept it as gospel truth when reality says there's no way they can do it all themselves. It's bad enough that so many people look up to these famous ones and use them as role models. Since when does an acting career make you a good mother?
So for those of you that have been sucked into this lie and are maybe frustrating yourselves wondering why things aren't that easy for you, let me help you out here. This is some real truth from the real world.
Without makeup artists, professional hair dressers and professional photographers, no one is ready for a magazine cover in the month following the birth of a baby. Even when you have all those things, remember that wonderful miracle called airbrushing.
If you eat more than pasta and steamed vegetables in miniscule quantities, you are not going to drop seventy pounds in your first post-pregnancy month. And most of us will have to cook for ourselves and all of our families soon after we get out of the hospital.
Even when you drop seventy pounds, there will be bulges and ripples there that weren't there before. Don't believe someone who says in an interview that "they just worked really hard" when they're asked how they got back into shape so quickly.
Taking care of newborns requires a lot of time and a great sacrifice of sleep. The real world doesn't have nannies or caregivers that work in shifts and get up with the baby during the night. We don't normally get to hand junior off to someone else after we've fed him. That's not motherhood either.
Real children are not playthings that you can pay attention to for a few moments when you have the time. Real children also typically aren't named after food (Coco? Apple?) or eighteenth century characters (Phineas?).
Here's a little snapshot of the real world about a month after the baby:
You get up every two hours because the baby is colicky and won't sleep. When he finally dozes off, the two-year-old wets the bed. YOUR bed that she came to sleep in because she has nightmares and hey! You weren't using it anyway. You strip the bed and bathe and change the child, but you can't put the soiled things in the washer because it's full from who-knows-when the last time you had a chance to change the wash around. You settle for dumping the stuff in front of the washer to be dealt with later and crawl back in bed only to be awakened fifteen minutes later by the baby again. After feeding him, you don't bother to go back to sleep because you have to get the other kids up and off to school. The early morning passes in getting breakfast and making lunches and two more feedings. After the kids leave and you clean up the spilled milk, comfort the crying two-year-old and feed the baby again, you have to skip your shower and pull on some clothes so you can make it to the pediatrician for the one-month checkup. While you're out you also plan to go grocery shopping, but you have to wait so long in the doctor's office that you end up grabbing only the absolute essentials at the store and hurry home. Feed the baby again, put the two-year-old down for a nap and struggle to clear your way through the mess in your house. Just as you contemplate lying back down, the kids get home from school and you're absorbed in supervising homework and chores, fixing dinner and feeding the baby three more times. After dinner we have dishes, finishing up homework, baths and making sure everything's ready for school the next day. The kids are finally tucked into bed, the baby's fed again and you stumble to your own room hoping for more than two hours of sleep. You stare at your bare mattress, suddenly remembering that you never washed your sheets from the night before. While you're convincing yourself you really don't need a sheet in order to sleep, the two-year-old climbs up on the bed beside you and then the baby starts crying again. Welcome to reality.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Grocery Shopping Woes

I have to go grocery shopping today. Does anybody else shudder at that phrase, or is it just me? I'm not sure I know anyone that enjoys grocery shopping, although most everyone I know enjoys eating. There's so much involved in this if you're going to do it right that it seems like a monumental task every week.
First there's making a list. I am completely lost without one. Plus, we have a budget so it's almost impossible to stay within our set amount if I don't plan this out first. I'll sit down and make a list of everything that I know we'll need for the upcoming week. I try to grocery shop only once a week and get everything we'll need then, because extra stops at the store are time-consuming and expensive. Somehow we always end up snagging a few extra things and then I'm stunned when I add up what I spent in groceries for the week. So I check cabinets and pantry, bathrooms and laundry room in order to see what needs to be replenished and restocked.
Then I have to plan menus for the week. Breakfasts and lunches are easy. Pick up the staples and everyone can fix for themselves. I try to plan dinners, and then I have to check recipe books, refrigerator, pantry and cabinets again to see if I have all the ingredients. Those that are missing go on the list as well.
I do most of my grocery shopping at Walmart because I can't beat their prices. I would prefer to shop at Publix, with their excellent customer service. What ends up happening, though, is that I'm paying extra for someone to be nice to me. And Publix doesn't have a lot of the economy-size stuff which is absolutely essential for a family of our size. So I go to Walmart where I am occasionally treated like an annoyance by their employees, but I can buy toilet paper in huge bundles. The sacrifices I make for my family!
By the time I finish buying groceries for a week for a family of eight, my cart is overflowing. I've got stuff crammed onto the bottom rack as well. I learned years ago to pay attention to how I put things in the cart. No tossing it in for me. Everything fits together like a jigsaw puzzle so that I can get it all in. I try to go grocery shopping by myself because I'm also focusing on costs the entire time. I usually add the groceries in my head, and I come within $2-5 of the actual cost. I tried using a calculator, but I end up losing it, or accidentally hitting the wrong button and cancelling the whole amount out and then I'm lost. If I add it in my head, I'm forced to focus on it and remember. Plus I occasionally jot down a running total on my grocery list.
The part of shopping I hate the most is checking out. I have more groceries than will fit on the moving belt. I usually group my stuff together: meats, frozen foods and cold stuff, canned goods, boxes, etc. I want it bagged together properly. I don't want a package of cheese bagged up with a skein of yarn. Ewww! I don't want my bathroom cleaner in the same bag as my milk. (Even when I shopped in Uganda they tried to keep cleaning products separated from food.) Another problem I have is with the whole bagging system. Seriously, recycling maybe the responsible thing to do (debatable), but when the bags are paper thin, it's time to start with new ones. Plus, all the cashiers here in Florida seem to focus on cramming as many items into a bag as possible. They rip quite a few of these flimsy bags up the side as they try to cram a fourth and a fifth cereal box into one bag. (I am NOT exaggerating!) Then they double-bag it to keep it all together. Okay, if you're having to double bag almost every single time, you're not saving bags by cramming things into them. Plus, the fuller bags won't fit back into my cart in the same jigsaw way that they did before. Results? I can't fit everything back into the cart. Sometimes I even end up having to push one cart while pulling another one to get out of the store. Very annoying. As I'm pulling the full grocery bags off the stand and loading them back into the cart (no friendly, helpful baggers here!) I sometimes end up snagging an extra bag off the rack and repacking a few things. I know this probably annoys the cashier, but at this point I don't care. Even then I end up carrying a bag or two that just won't fit with the rest.
Another thing I hate about checking out are the comments.
"Wow! You've got a lot of groceries there!"
"Six kids."
"You're kidding me! Six? I guess you need a lot of food, then. Say, how much do you actually spend a week in groceries? We have a family of four and I spend at least $200 a week. I'm just wondering how much it costs for a family your size."
Yes, I'm reporting an actual conversation with the woman behind me in line at the grocery store. As a rule, I do not share my grocery budget with anyone because I don't believe it's their business. (You notice I didn't share it with you, either.) I will say that I think that woman spends an awful lot on groceries for four people. Neither would I ever dream of commenting on the items in other people's carts. If I did, the conversation might go something like this:
"Do you really drink that much alcohol?"
"Who're you kidding with all those fat-free items. They're not working, honey!"
"Sure, give into the screaming kid. That'll teach him to do it again."
"Sweetie, those magazines never tell the truth anyway. Quit reading fake stories about the "stars" and get a life of your own!"
Needless to say, I'm not usually in the kindest of moods once I get to the checkout line.
Once I've finished with the ordeal, I pack all the groceries into my car. I have two words for that process: Florida summer. I'm as drenched as if I had an hour's workout by the time I actually finish. I used to grocery shop while the kids were at school, but then I had to haul all those groceries in by myself and put them away. Now the kids are home when I go and I have lots of hands to help carry everything into the house. I also have lots of hands to help put it all away. It's a family thing. When I finish this 4+ hour process, we have bulging pantry, refrigerator and cabinets for a week. But by this time next Friday, they'll all be empty again. It's a vicious, never-ending cycle. Maybe I should check into grocery shopping online.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Okay, I Get It!

I never understood why men complained when women rearranged the furniture. I mean, in most cases the wife does it while the husband is not at home anyway. I know that's the way I do it. I could use his muscle, but I don't want his input. Neither do I want him moving something so I can see how it looks and then refusing to move it back when I change my mind. So I use my boys for furniture moving because they still have to obey me. But I digress.
So if they don't have to actually physically move the furniture, what's the problem? Rearranging gives us a chance to clean in areas that are usually neglected. They can freshen a room and give a whole new outlook to the place. And all that nonsense about not being able to move through the house in the dark--who really does that anyway? Usually you turn on a small lamp or have a nightlight or a street light shining through the window or something. In my eyes the guys had it great because they had all the benefits of a newly arranged, fresh and different-looking room without all the hassles of doing the work themselves. Who wouldn't want that?
It's annoying, too, to spend all day rearranging--always thinking about how surprised and please the hubby will be--only to have him either not notice, not really care, or complain because he doesn't like it. Talk about feeling unappreciated!
Well, now the shoe's on the other foot. I started a job this week. Not a big one--just part-time, four hours a day. I didn't go looking for it because it just kind of fell into my lap. We were really hurting financially, so we did feel that this was God's provision. My husband and I talked it over and agreed that this was probably God's answer to making ends meet. The only hitch: we have four boys that are not old enough to be unsupervised. And we homeschool. My hours are arranged so that I can still be here for the start of school everyday. I can administer tests and get all the paperwork done. Then I leave for work and my husband will oversee them and make sure they're done on time--usually by lunch time. It's a great plan--in theory.
Now, we haven't started homeschooling this year yet. So my husband is just supervising the boys and sometimes taking them with him when he's at the church where he pastors. He's either studying or doing maintenance or whatever and the boys play or ride their scooters in the parking lot.
You'd think that twenty-two years of marriage would prepare me, but I keep forgetting my husband is an off-the-cuff type of person. All the boys have pitched in to some extent with housework since Mom's working, but I do occasionally come home to find a lot not done because they had a project they were doing or because they had to be gone all day. But I forget that my husband is also capable of taking on projects around the house to "surprise" me. Case in point: last year I took a week to drive my son up to college for his freshman year. We stayed in the area for about four days (the dorms weren't open yet) and he spent the time looking for jobs. While I was gone, my husband painted the entire downstairs of our home. He's run a professional painting business, so I have no quarrel with the quality of the work. He used the same color that I had chosen for our last house, so I had no problem with the color. It was just a shock to walk in and see everything different when I wasn't expecting it. Once, years ago, I came home to find my pantry completely reorganized. Now, it needed organization, but I wasn't expecting it. It wasn't necessarily how I would have done it. But when a man alphabetizes your vegetables for you, you appreciate the gesture.
So today I came home to find my bathroom painted. As usual, great job done. I was just surprised because we hadn't discussed re-doing the bathroom. I was going over in my mind how I wanted to decorate the room, and my ideas did not have this particular wall-color in the plans. It's not a bad color--it's just not what I would have picked. It was done as a surprise, and I appreciate it. But it's a little unsettling. What if the color causes me to run into something when I walk through there in the dark?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What's In a Name?

So every state has a nickname. Do you know yours? For instance, Alabama readers, did you know you live in the Yellowhammer State? Yeah, I don't know why it's called that either. But I think that beats Utah's nickname: The Beehive State. Boy, bet they were lining up for that one! Most people know that Tennessee is the Volunteer State and Kentucky is the Bluegrass State. I think we can all figure out which state is called the Aloha State. And of course, Georgia is the Peach State. In case you didn't know, drive through Atlanta sometime. Every other street is called Peachtree. Some of the nicknames make sense, but in some cases you just have to wonder what they were thinking. For example, everyone knows that Texas is the Lone Star State, but did you know that New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment? I wonder why. I've been through there before and, although there are parts full of untamed beauty, it's also got a lot of desert. Not much enchantment there I can tell you. Another one I don't get is Missouri, which is the Show Me State. Why name the entire state after your own stubbornness. And to act as if you're proud of it?
Arkansas is the Natural State. I'm guessing that's because they do a lot of skinny-dipping down there. California is the Golden State. I think that's fitting because you need a lot of gold if you plan on living out there.
I personally live in Florida, which is the Sunshine State. On the surface that seems to make sense, but lately I've kind of wondered. See, we've had more rain than anybody would expect outside of hurricanes, and so it's a little hard to convince people these days that we're worthy of the Sunshine State moniker. Now, I'm not complaining because last year we were suffering through a drought, but by the same token--what's with all the wet weather? It rains absolutely every single day, and not just for a short time either!
Rain in Florida means something else too: higher humidity. Even when it's not as hot, the humidty makes everyone sticky and uncomfortable. It also makes my hair frizzy! So there you have it: Florida is the frizzy-haired, sticky, sweaty state. Yeah, that'll bring them in! I think I'll go apply for a job with the Florida Tourism Bureau. I'd come up with great slogans!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Who Can You Reach Out and Touch?

True friends. They're hard to find. And sometimes you don't even know you have them. I mean, of course you know your friends, but who are your true friends? I have several true friends so I can recognize the character traits. Do any of your friends have the following traits? Are they true friends?

1. They drop whatever they're doing to help you out. I have several friends with incredibly busy lives. But if I call, I know they'll drop everything to come give me the help I need.

2. They know what you need. If you need a good kick in the rear, they can give it to you. But they don't browbeat you when all you really need is a piece of chocolate and a sympathetic shoulder.

3. Following up on the last one, a true friend will always have chocolate. Or know where she can find some.

4. A true friend will be honest with you. If you don't look great in that yellow dress, or the speech you wrote was awful, they'll tell you. They don't want you to look foolish--especially when they're with you.

5. True friends know the original color of your hair. And your secret's safe with them.

6. True friends don't worry about who picked up the tab for lunch last. At the same time, true friends make sure they take turns picking up the tab.

7. True friends have seen what your home really looks like. And they love you anyway.

8. True friends will take care of your pets when you're on vacation.

If you're still not absolutely certain who your true friends are, there's one absolutely sure way to tell. Check their cell phone network. If they make sure they're with the same company as you so you can get "in-calling" then they're a true friend. Or, if you're in their "favorite five" so they don't use minutes to call you, you're in. If you can't make the top five, go back to rule number 3. Chocolate anyone?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Ode to Odor

Okay. Life interrupted last week, but now I'm back with my final entry on the three-part analysis of boys in general and mine specifically. You may remember from last week that they eat everything in sight and they tend to be rough (as Nicky's broken collarbone will attest.) Another endearing trait of my boys is this: they tend to stink on a regular basis.
Now, everyone stinks at some point, obviously. But somehow boys seem to generate odor almost without trying. What's worse is, they seem to enjoy it and even pride themselves on it.
For example, we have a basketball hoop in our church parking lot. We also have over a dozen boys between the ages of 8 and 13 in our church. After every service they get out basketballs and play in the parking lot. I finally had to lay down the law that no one could play basketball after the morning service on Sundays. But after the evening services on Sunday and Wednesday, the basketball hoop is fair game. So all the boys will play from fifteen to thirty minutes of basketball before we head home. Heading home is the worst part. Last night I rode home in a pickup with all five of my sweaty boys. (My nineteen-year-old decided to play last night, too.) I could not get a deep breath. I was reluctant to breathe at all. The odor in that pickup cab was more foul than you can imagine. Now, it's an extended cab so everyone has a seat and a seat belt, but there's no extra room so I have sweaty boys brushing up against me for the entire ride home. Ewww! All that sweat is also very detrimental to church clothes. Especially ties. Especially ties that are moved from the neck to the head and used as sweatbands. They don't last long that way. The ride home was like twenty minutes in a hot, steamy locker room. Thanks, guys!
Sweat isn't the only way my boys generate nose offense either. They seem to take pride in expressing themselves with bodily functions as well. Then they laugh and rate their efforts. They actually enjoy being known for that sort of thing and grossing out the guys around them. I do occasionally have to remind them all that they don't live in a boys' dorm and there is a woman in the house, but it's an uphill battle I'm fighting.
In a more general offense, their clothes stink. Obviously the ones they wore last night do. But these boys will come in from playing outside, or fishing or cleaning the boat and somehow they are soaking wet and reeking of various odors which I try not to concentrate on long enough to identify. Thank goodness we have four bathrooms! Four of them can shower at once. But then, although they are squeaky clean, they leave those awful offensive clothes lying in the floor of the bathrooms. In the floor, right next to the clothes hampers! Of course, stench like that should not be sitting in hampers either. Those nasty things need to go directly into the washing machine, but they'll never get there unless I'm continually on the boys to get it done. We have three hampers upstairs, conveniently located in all the bathrooms. But somehow, no matter how overflowing those hampers are with clothes, the nastiest ones end up on the floor of the bathroom or bedroom. Nicky doesn't have a dresser so he keeps his clothes in totes under his bed. One day he couldn't find something to wear, so I went to his room with him to look through his totes. One tote was overflowing with clothes, but when I asked why he couldn't wear something out of there, he told me that was his dirty clothes. Why he was saving them under the bed I have no idea. Some of them were quite nasty.
If they're not careful, my boys can even stink after they get out of the shower. Of course that usually happens when they're in a hurry so they skip the soap and shampoo and just get wet. Or if they're in the shower and then discover the shampoo bottle is empty. They can't seem to understand how I figure out so quickly that they didn't use all the cleaning supplies available to them! They don't pull that very often anymore since it means a second shower AND a punishment as well.
So there you have it on boys. But lest you think I hate my life, I love my family and I'm crazy about my boys. I couldn't do without any of them. But I think I'll put off hugging them until after they get out of the shower!
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