Thursday, February 25, 2010

Name Dropping

It says it right there on my facebook page:  "Jill and Jerry B. Jenkins are now friends". Nothing like having it in writing. I'm thinking of enlarging it and having it framed. I can put it on the wall next to the picture I have of Jerry and me. Of course I have a picture! Our paths have crossed numerous times.

All of the above is true, but rather misleading. I have met Jerry Jenkins, author of the Left Behind Series, many times. I've encountered him at booksignings and writers' conferences. Shoot, I had dinner with him and Gloria Gaither. Sat right at the same table. Along with nine other people.

In spite of all this, neither Jerry nor Gloria would remember me from a bowl of oatmeal. I just don't make that big an impression. Especially when all I did was sit there, awestruck, and pick at my meal while listening to their conversation. I did learn that both of them are kind and both are extremely knowledgeable in their fields of writing and music. But I kinda expected that anyway.

As for facebook friends, Jerry Jenkins has almost 3,000. I doubt Jerry looked at my friend request and said, "Oh, yeah! Jill! Writing for the Soul Conference, 2004! I've been wondering how she was doing!" More likely an assistant or two automatically clicks "accept" a couple of times a day.

So there you have it. I've met famous people. They don't know me and won't remember me. But hey, I've still got the pictures!

What about you? Met anyone famous? Someone whose name you'd love to drop into conversation? Drop it here. I promise we will all be impressed. In the meantime, I wonder if Gloria Gaither has a facebook page ...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Another Word for Random

And once again we're at Wednesday which means we're ready for a Random Dozen questions.  After you read my answers, go on over to 2nd Cup of Coffee and link up with your own! Or leave some in your comments. Or do both. (But you absolutely have to leave comments. Why wouldn't you want to leave a comment? While you're thinking about that, here's the list:

1. Have you ever fired a gun or shot a bow and arrow?
Interesting lead off question, but as a matter of fact, I've not only done both, but I own several firearms, and I'm licensed to carry a concealed weapon. The question is, am I carrying one now?

2. Do you know where your childhood best friends are?
I know where Jason is. He was my imaginary friend. He was gorgeous. Still is, as a matter of fact. As for my real childhood friends, I not only know where most of them are, but thanks to facebook, they know where I am too. Not real sure if that's a good thing.

3. Do you usually arrive early, late, or on time?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Can you guess?

4. Are you more of a New York or California type?

Okay, when are people going to realize there is a Middle America? I've never been to either New York or California. I am a nice normal girl from the Midwest, who's also lived in the south. And I carry a gun. Deal with it.

5. Do you have a special ring tone?

I use the Indiana Jones theme song as the ring tone for when my husband calls. If you knew him, you'd understand. 

6. What is your favorite type of chip?

I'm personally fond of the chocolate chip. It's very versatile in that it can be used in a cookie or in ice cream. I'm also fond of the chip on the shoulder as long as I'm the one using it. 

7. Best comedy you've ever seen is ....

The Dick Van Dyke show. The comedy was dead on in every episode, the laughs are timeless, and the acting was subtle. You just can't get any better than that.  I think second to that would be the Cosby Show.  Who doesn't love Bill Cosby?

8. Have you ever cut your own hair? To quote Dr. Phil, "How'd that work for ya?"

I cut my own hair when we lived in Uganda. I let the rest of my hair grow, but I had to have bangs because I looked stupid without them. (I also looked stupid with the rest of my hair growing wildly, but we won't get into that.) Since I had have rather unmanageable curls, I would pull everything back into a headband, and then cut whichever strands of hair were hanging down in my eyes. It worked for me, but then I didn't get out much either.

9. If you were going to have an extreme makeover, would you rather it be about your house or your personal self?

If I were doing the house, I'd add a room or two and put in a pool. If I were doing a makeover on myself, I'd remove a few things. And none of your business what those things are!

10. Are you allergic to anything?

I am allergic to mangoes. I'm also allergic to a particular antibiotic, but I won't mention the exact one. It gave me hives from head to foot and made my entire face swell up until I resembled an extra from Planet of the Apes. And no, I did not take pictures.

11. Why is it so hard to change?

Because now that we've realized what he's really like, we refuse to give in to his radical ideas for remaking America. What? Well what do you mean this wasn't a political question?

12. One last question dedicated to February love: CS Lewis said, "To love is to be vulnerable." Please share one example of that assertion or share any thought you'd like to about this topic. 

Boy is that deep! How about this one? Love is giving up possession of the remote control.

Don't forget to link up and get some more great answers to this random dozen!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Far Will You Go?

I know with a title like that you must be wondering what on earth I'm talking about. But don't have a hissy fit; as always the blog is G rated.

I'm talking about how far will you go to save money? How much is saving and how much is silly? For instance, some people will save their aluminum foil or wash and reuse their plastic storage bags. Other people think that's idiotic.

Some people spend time clipping coupons and cruising through sales papers and going to four different stores to get their grocery shopping done. Others think it's a waste of gasoline and time that they can't afford, and manage to get their grocery shopping done at one store.

Some people are almost professional shoppers at the thrift stores, while others always know when to hit the clearance racks at Macys and walk out with designer suits for peanuts.

Sometimes people think generic is the way to go, but other times people are willing to pay extra for brand name products because they're of "more value" in the long run.

Some people will drive a few further miles to a gas station that sells gas .03 cheaper. Other people calculate in their head how much more this gas station might cost and then decide the extra time is not worth the money saved.

Some people make their own laundry soap (been there!) and others think you're silly to waste time making something you can so easily buy in the store. (Also been there!)

So how do you save? Leave a comment telling me how you save money, time, etc., and also tell me what "savings technique" is a waste of time in your book. Enquiring minds really want to know.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Confessions of a Reluctant Martha

Okay, I know that some of you were absolutely and totally unable to enjoy your weekend for wondering what on earth my inner Martha had created. I must remind you that I'm a suspense writer. I'm nothing unless my story has a hook. But fret no longer. I'm about to tell you what I created.

This all started because of Katie at The Baby Factory.  Back in December Katie posted about making something. I was pretty impressed because I was struggling with getting any of my Christmas baking done. But then I read that Katie hadn't been making cookies. She'd been making laundry soap.

I freely admit that I thought she was off her rocker. After all, Katie has three boys under the age of two. She barely has time to make dinner, I'm sure, so why on earth would she be making laundry soap? Did she not realize she could buy it "ready-made" at the store? Then she said that it worked just as well or better than the stuff you could buy at the store.

Yeah, right.

Then she said she was only paying .06 cents a load.

And she had my attention. After all, we go through a lot of laundry soap, color bleach and fabric softener. I spend about $60.00 a month on all that stuff. Between the fact that we have a bunch of boys who generate their own odors, and we live in Florida where you can work up a sweat ten months out of the year, our laundry needs a lot of help. But still, when has something homemade been as good as what you can get in the store?

I thought about this for another two months, but finally my inner Martha screamed to be let out. So I took this--

And these--

and made this--

and now I use two of these:

to wash an entire load of clothes. That's an entire load that fits into one of the largest frontloaders we could find. My laundry is just as soft as it was with fabric softener. And it smells cleaner too.

I'm now spending about $9.00 a month on laundry.

Martha and I are both happy.  But I'm warning you--if my inner June Cleaver shows up, she's dead.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Resurrecting Martha

Some of you may remember this post where I killed off my inner Martha. It was a glorious day and I enjoyed the murder thoroughly. However ...

She's baaaaack.

My inner Martha has resurrected herself. I resisted at first. Something that is dead should stay dead. I believe that firmly.

I couldn't help myself.

I felt the urge for some time to do something domestically creative. Not just anything domestically creative, but something specific that had been on mind for some time. I didn't want to. People would think it was weird. It wasn't a necessary thing--why make it when you can buy it? Yet still I was compelled to do it.

So I took this project up last Saturday. I created something useful. And it actually works. And it's actually more convenient than the "store-bought" item of the same kind. And I felt very good inside.

That's when I realized Martha was back. I've decided she can stay as long as she behaves herself. But I promise you now that if I get the urge to create a loom and weave something, I will channel that creative energy into thinking up new ways to kill the inner Martha. She must know her place.

So what did I create? Come back Monday and see.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

When You're Out of Sorts

So I was out of sorts the other night. Sometimes you're out of sorts and you know it, and sometimes you're out of sorts and you don't realize it. Tuesday night I knew I was out of sorts. Which made me wonder--if everything was going well, would that mean I was in sorts?

Just the kind of thing I wonder about.

Anyway, when you are out of sorts, do you just go with the out of sort flow or do you try to get yourself back in sorts? If there is such a thing. I didn't necessarily try to get myself in sorts, but I was restless and I did try to occupy myself. If I'm out of sorts late enough, I'll just use it as an excuse to go to bed, but that doesn't really work at 7:00 in the evening.

I finally made a list of things to do when you're out of sorts. I don't know if any of these things will get you back in sorts, or just occupy your time while you're out of sorts. That's what making the list did for me. I didn't try all these things, but I might someday. If you try any of them and they help you get back in sorts, or just make you feel better about being out of sorts, let me know.

1. Throw something. (If you're way out of sorts, throw something through a plate glass window.)

2. Hit something. (If you're way out of sorts, hit someONE. But make sure they won't hit back before you throw a punch.)

3. Eat something. Chocolate always helps.

4. Watch something. TV is very good for mindless occupation. Staring blankly at the wall also helps. And is more stimulating.

5. Read something. Probably the TV Guide so you can more easily complete #4.

6. Snap at someone. This is a kind thing to do. It lets them know that you're out of sorts so that they can warn everyone else in the family that you're out of sorts and then everyone will leave you alone.

7. Clean something. This will make you feel good about yourself, but be careful. If you do this more than just once in a while, people will expect you to clean all the time. Which could lead to you being out of sorts.

8. Blog about how out of sorts you are. Then your blog readers can become out of sorts because they got so bored or annoyed reading about how out of sorts you were. Share the love.

9. Play solitaire on your computer. So many people do it that it must be good for something.

10. Exercise. This should only be done as a last resort. You get too much blood flowing and you can't relax when you crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head.

I think I'll go try some of these. Starting with the chocolate.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Olympic-Sized Random Dozen

It's time for the Olympic Random Dozen from Linda at 2nd Cup of Coffee.

1. If you could compete in one Olympic event (not necessarily winter sports) what would it be?

I would compete and WIN at Solo Synchronized Swimming. It was a sport at the Olympic Games between 1984 and 1992. It took the organizers three Olympics to realize that a person swimming alone cannot be synchronized with anyone else. I am not making this up!

2. Do remember a specific Olympic moment from the past?

I remember the Kidette Olympics our church did when I was little. I had a wonderful time, won a trophy and then threw up all the way home. It just doesn't get any better than that.

3. Have you ever known anyone who competed in the Olympics?

No, but I know lots of people that haven't competed in the Olympics. And I know one person that almost kinda could have competed in the Olympics except for the whole broke his ankles on the dismount and spent all that time in physical therapy thing.

4. If everyday activities were Olympic-worthy, which activity would you have a gold medal in?

I would have the gold medal in running late. Unless they don't allow professionals to compete. I am professionally, habitually late. I'm not proud of it, but I would be if someone gave me a gold medal for it.

5. Do you know anything about your ethnic heritage?

I am a mutt. I'm part French, part Irish, part German and a little Scottish thrown in. Variety is the spice of life, and apparently my ancestors believed in ethnic diversity. 

6. Do you enjoy sleeping late?

Do you know anyone who doesn't? Seriously. There is no one sane that does not enjoy sleeping late.

7. Have you ever performed CPR on anyone? Do you know how? (Yes, that's two, I know. Whatevs.)

No, but I've RSVP'd someone before. Does that count?

8. Name one country you'd like to visit and explain why.

I couldn't stop with one country; I want to visit a whole continent. I'd like to visit Europe. Because I've never been there, that's why!

9. Have you ever fixed up a couple romantically?

Is there another way to fix a couple up? Do you spot two of your friends and think they would make good best friends for each other so you invite them both over to dinner and spend the evening telling both of them how much they have in common? Because if you do, in no time at all they will spend all their free time together and you will be left out in the cold with nothing to show for it but indigestion over all the food you prepared for that meal. Not that I'm speaking from experience or anything. Wait. I didn't answer the question, did I?

10. What is the last book you read?

How to Win Friends and Influence People. Is it working?

11. Do you enjoy sleeping late? NO, YOU write the question! How's that for random??

Okay. How's this for a question:  of all the Random Questions you've answered over the past few months, which one was your favorite?

A random question about random questions! It just doesn't get any better than this! (I'm overwhelmed with my own excitement.) I liked the first question from the Random Dozen asked on December 2nd:

Which Wizard of Oz character are you most like? And my answer:

I am most like Dorothy because I like to be the star, I love red shoes, and I know several people I'd like to drop a house on.

Note to Linda:  I think we should have more of these types of questions because I identify easily with people who aren't real. 

12. What is your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant?

I don't know. I'd like to make Ruth's Chris my favorite restaurant, but I haven't been there yet.

If you'd like to join in and give your own answers to the Random Dozen (and really, who wouldn't?) then click on the link at the top of the post. Or answer some of the questions in your comments. You did intend to leave comments, didn't you?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

My Valentine saved up green M&M's (they mean I love you) the summer before we got engaged. He waited four months for me to say "I love you,too",and he proposed to me in a horsedrawn carriage. He moved to my hometown because I couldn't bare the thought of moving away from my family right after we were married. Even though he wasn't fond of cats, he gave me a kitten on our honeymoon because I wanted one.

He coached me through labor by reciting lines from Rocky IV. ("No pain! No pain!") He stopped when I threatened him. He cried when each of our children were born. He cried both times I miscarried. He changed the diapers of our children while they were in the hospital--and before I did. He insisted his boys had to be dressed in a "manly" way. This would explain why I have no pictures of our boys in bonnets. The boys are very grateful. He thrilled to each of our boys, but he waxed poetic when our second child was a girl. He called her the apple of his eye, and when she ended up being our only girl, he called her a rose among thorns.

He brought spontaneity and flexibility to my rather structured life. He not only thinks outside the box, sometimes he refuses to acknowledge the existence of the box in the first place. He taught me by example to put others before myself. As a pastor--as MY pastor--I've watched him reach out to the people in our church with both hands. He strives to meet not only their spiritual needs, but their physical and emotional needs as well. When he goes hunting or fishing, we not only have venison or fish to eat, but he gives it out to people in our church. I've watched as he's tried to help people find jobs, or struggled over making decisions. 

I've watched him cry over our children, pray for our children, and seen him respond to them with a wisdom and grace that amazes me.

I joke that he is the original Indiana Jones, and he truly does have a taste for adventure. Because of that, he's added a color and richness to my life that I never would have imagined. We've been married over half my life. In spite of a great childhood, I'd have to say the last half of my life has been the most fun so far. I can't wait to spend the next fifty years with you, Indiana! Happy Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 12, 2010

It's My Party - Or Is It?

I have to confess, I don't get these parents that give their children birthday parties every year. I grew up as one of six children. We had a birthday party on our 6th birthday, and on our 16th birthday. Other birthdays were celebrated with cake and ice cream, presents and the dinner of our choice. Since I started having my own children, I'm amazed at the number of my contemporaries that plan parties for their children every. single. year. And each party has to top the last one. Plus, when we weren't homeschooling, I noticed that mothers would bring cake and little presents and party favors to class during the school day as well. They had a little mini-party in the classroom in addition to the real party.

Now I usually made cupcakes to take to class when one of my children had a birthday. But we didn't do all the party favors and extras. We have limited money. I spent that money on birthday presents for my children and on making their birthday nice. Not on throwing a big party.

The reason this is coming up now is because Luke is turning 16 on Sunday. Both of our kids that hit 16 before him, got a party for their birthday. So Luke is getting one too. We just had trouble figuring out when. And where. And how. Lots of things in everyone's schedule these days, and what good is it to have a party if no one is available to come. We discussed different weekends, but we don't have any free ones anywhere close to his birthday.

Luke was being very helpful. He suggested having a bunch guys come over around noon on a Friday, and we could take them back home again sometime Saturday evening. I told him he wasn't having a 24 or 30 hour party. Just not a good idea. Then he wanted to have the guys over all day, followed by a rally our youth group was going to that evening, followed by a lock-in that the youth group was having that night. Again we thought that was a little much for one day.

Thursday we finally realized that the only day we could possibly have a party is--today. Fortunately, most of Luke's friends are also homeschooled and they were able to rearrange their schedules. I have to work so my husband was going to supervise the party. Except he needs to be at the church today, so the guys were going to ride bikes for a while in the morning, and then hang out at the church and play xbox. Then when I got off work, I'd bring over a cake, and voila! Party!

Luke was thrilled with the idea, but we hit a little snag this morning when we woke up to a 100% chance of rain today. So the bike idea got tossed, but they're still going to hang out and play video games. Once Luke faced the reality of what was actually possible, he was happy with the idea. Turns out if you have friends, games and cake, you have a party. Who knew?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Dozen Questions

Lid's been sick this week, and I didn't think we were going to get to do the Random Dozen. Thankfully, her curious mind works even while her immune system falters. Hope you're feeling better soon, Lid!

1. Are you pleasant when you're ill, or are you a grumpy, fussy patient?
Okay, who is pleasant when they're ill? I mean, even if they're not a complete grump, I don't know of anyone that is so nice people flock to be around them when they're ill. Just doesn't happen. When I'm sick I want to be left alone so that I can be irritable in peace. Except I do want someone at my beck and call to bring me food, drink, medicine, tissues, new dvds, etc. 

2. When you find out that school is canceled (due to inclement weather) what is your gut reaction?
Just so I understand this, you don't want my gut reaction if school is canceled because of a bomb scare or some sort of national emergency, right? You just want my reaction if school is canceled for bad weather. Are you sure about this? Because I think my reaction to the first two would be much more interesting. Incidentally, I don't care if school is canceled. We homeschool so weather is never a factor. (Bombs aren't either, but you didn't want my opinion on that, did you?) Although my boys ask almost every day if we can take a day off, we rarely do. I'm mean that way.

3. What is one domestic skill you wish you could improve?

I don't think I can answer this question until I develop some domestic skill. 

4. Do you decorate your home for Valentine's Day?

I live with six males. (Seven if you count the dog.) Just what kind of Valentine's Day decorations do you think I could get away with using?

5. What song is on your mind today?

I don't happen to have a song in mind at the moment. There are many times when I wake up during the night with a song running through my head. It might be the current song we're working on for choir, but it could just as easily be the theme from The Rescuers. I hate that song. I hate it more when it's in my head in the middle of the night.

6. Do you prefer contemporary movies or classic?

I don't typically think of movies as "contemporary" or "classic". Around here we tend to think of them as "guy movies" and "chick flicks". Once again, I live with six males. Which ones do you think I get to watch? (Hint:  it's not a movie unless everyone gets shot at least once!)

7. How well do you "compartmentalize" your feelings? For example, how well can you put aside a really trying moment to deal with the immediate situation which is not related to the trying moment, e.g., putting aside a tiff with your spouse in order to finish wallpapering a room.

Terry and I would never have a "tiff". The dictionary says that a tiff is a slight or petty quarrel. Neither of us are petty so there's no way we could have a "tiff". There are times when we prefer not to be in each other's company for a period of time, but we don't tiff.  And we would never work together to wallpaper a room. Mostly because neither of us likes wallpaper. 

8. What is the first thing that attracted you to your spouse? (Or if you're single, to your best friend.)

He kept asking me out even though I kept saying no.

9. When was the last time your heart raced?

The other day when I came off the bridge over the St. John's River and saw the police car sitting off to the side. I was doing ... well, more than the speed limit. But I managed to slow down before he noticed. : ) Nothing like an adrenalin surge first thing in the morning!

10. What are your memories of Valentine's Day at school?

Mostly I remember the fear that I wouldn't get as many cheap Valentines as someone else did. I'm shallow that way.

11. If you were going to receive candy for Valentine's Day, which would you prefer?

One year I told my husband I wanted the biggest, fanciest heart-shaped box of candy he could find. He couldn't understand why I would ask for that because I'm a borderline diabetic and I'm not supposed to have sugar. I told him that I wouldn't eat any of the candy--he could have it all--but no one had ever given me a big heart-shaped box of candy and I always thought that was a romantic gift. On Valentine's Day I found a huge heart-shaped box of candy on my pillow. I enjoyed the box and he ate the candy. Well, except for one or two pieces. After all, it's rude to receive a gift and not make use of it!

12. Red or pink?

I am not a pink person. I absolutely love red, but none of this bright tomato-hued stuff. I like dark, rich, lustrously deep shades of red.

If you want to read more answers to Random Dozen, or if you'd like to link up yourself, head on over to Lid's at 2nd Cup of Coffee.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

All Alone

When was the last time you spent some time alone with God? I'm not talking about your daily devotions and prayer time. I'm talking about specifically setting aside time to get alone and spending time with Him.

Without interruptions. Without distractions.

It's not as easy as you'd think. We live in a multi-tasking society. We're too busy to focus on only thing at a time. We're taught that it's a waste of time to be single-minded. How many times have you started to pray, only to realize your mind has sprinted off in a million different directions in the middle of a request? It's so hard to stay focused on our conversation with the Lord when there are so many other things going on in our lives.

Jesus Himself showed us that sometimes we need to practice the discipline of solitude in our prayer life. But you might be surprised when He felt the need to be alone. He practiced solitude after feeding the 5,000. He had just performed this huge miracle of feeding this great crowd of people with only five loaves of bread and two small fishes. And yes, I do take the Bible literally. I do believe He actually performed a miracle. What a mountaintop experience for everyone there! But then the Bible tells us that he sent the disciples away, sent the crowds away and went off to pray. Alone.

Sometimes I think great victories can make us vulnerable. We've had such a great experience that we get careless about the pitfalls that are still out there in our Christian walk. Or we get over-confident. But it's important to recharge your spiritual batteries before they are completely depleted.

He set a great example for those of us so busy caring for others as well. He took care of the immediate needs of those around Him. And then He sent them away. He knew they would need Him again. But since their immediate needs were met, He also knew that He could leave them for a while in order to take care of His own needs. Sure enough, later that night when the disciples were caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus was there for them.

So what about you? What do you do when you need alone time with God? Do you set a timer and tell the kids to leave you alone until it goes off? Do you ship the kids off to the neighbors? Maybe you get to schedule a few days to go away by yourself. (That's my dream!) And how do you maintain your focus while praying? How's your prayer life this morning?

*This post is a small part of the monthly Bible study our church ladies have been having on prayer. 

Monday, February 8, 2010

Through The Eyes of A Child

Sixteen is a monumental milestone in a kid's life. Our third-born turns sixteen in six days. I'm reeling every time I think of it. How could he be sixteen? Wasn't it just yesterday that he was a little boy with white blond hair who so loved to climb into the bathroom sink? He would sit there and wait to surprise the next person that came in. He would jump off the back of a church pew without a second thought. He "watered" the flowers in the flowerbeds in front of the church building.

And now he wants to learn how to drive.

I'm not ready, I tell you. How did he age when I haven't gotten any older? It's not a cliche:  where did the time go? I look at him and so many questions flood through my mind. The biggest question is: what do you get as a present for a monumental birthday?

Seriously, any suggestions?  (If you suggest we get him a car, consider yourself smacked in the head from cyberspace.)

Nicky, our ten-year-old came to me today and confided that he and his other two brothers were plotting what to get for Luke for his birthday. He said they hadn't narrowed it down yet, but how much did I think a puppy would cost? I told him keep thinking; that wasn't it.

As if having another child hit sixteen isn't bad enough, my kids always know how to make it a little worse. We went through a drive through after church tonight to pick up some burgers. I told Joel to hand me my wallet. When he flicked it open, my driver's license was clearly visible. Joel studied it closely for a moment and then asked, "When you get a new license, will they let you take another picture?" You gotta love his tact.

"It's not a good one, is it?"

Joel studied it for a moment more. "I've seen you in other pictures. You can do better."

Also in conversation on the way home was this question: would you rather kill a dragon for self-defense, or have a dragon for self-defense?

We get deep, I tell you. Hope you're braced for another week, and I hope it's a good one for you. Don't forget to leave a comment with a suggestion for a sixteenth birthday present. Just remember--there are three more after him. I don't want to set any precedents I can't live up to.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hair and There

So we had a quiet evening at home last night. At least, it was as quiet as it gets in our house. After eating chicken and mashed potatoes with corn and garlic cheddar biscuits for dinner, we watched a little Stargate SG-1 and then I watched Terry give the boys haircuts. This is always an event at our house, and there are several important aspects of this family ritual. Such as ...

The boys kidding each other about love handles and belly pooches when they take their shirts off.

Discovering a scary looking dark spot on Nicky's scalp. Turned out the be a remnant of the marker fight the boys had earlier this week.

Terry getting through half a haircut and then surreptitiously unplugging the clippers and pretending that they stopped working.

All the boys making suggestions for each other as to new styles--the bowl cut, the mohawk or the lawnmower look (plowed right down the middle). Thankfully their father takes none of these suggestions seriously.

Some serious mugging as they inspect their new haircuts in the bathroom mirror.

Terry offering to cut my hair for me. I don't take him up on the suggestion.

Terry does a great job on the boys' hair. Not so much on girls' hair. Years ago he was giving Matt and Luke both haircuts, and Stephanie begged for her daddy to cut her hair too. A little trim kept getting shorter and shorter until hair that hung halfway down her back was barely grazing the edge of her jawline. It wouldn't have been so bad except it still wasn't even. And it was the night before her kindergarten graduation. Thankfully we had a friend who did hair for a living and she was able to salvage something and turn a disaster into a cute cut. But she wouldn't even try until she made Terry promise he would never again cut Stephanie's hair.

Ahhh memories.

So after last night, the boys are all neatly trimmed and looking good. And there are tiny hairs all over the house that persist no matter how much sweeping and vacuuming we do.

How do my guys look?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Sticky Situation

Some things in our family are absolutes. They always have been and they always will be. These absolutes are not simply a matter of "we've always done it that way", but they are a matter of being firmly rooted in principles and beliefs that cannot be dissuaded.

For instance, we go to church Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. There is no variation. There is no discussion as to whether or not we're going to go. We will be there. Another example is that my children will be respectful. No exceptions.

But just this week one of our bedrock fundamentals was shaken. My children have questioned something we've always done. Some of them are protesting against one of the absolute basics in our lives. The source of this rebellion?

Peanut butter.

I take peanut butter seriously. I am brand loyal and I am a choosy mother. Therefore, I choose Jif. It's what I've always bought, and I will not change.

Actually, the boys aren't complaining about the brand. They're complaining about the consistency. That's right. The age-old choice between smooth and crunchy peanut butter has reared its ugly head. I've always bought smooth. Always. I don't know how they came to discover there were any other choices. But somehow the joys of crunchy peanut butter became known to them. And I'm afraid some of them have crossed over to the other side.

Two and half of our boys have declared their loyalty to crunchy. (One said he could go either way--that's the half.) They've asked for it when we're in the store. They've turned their nose up at the faithful smooth that's always had a place on the pantry shelf.

So this week I finally caved. I bought crunchy. I'm not sure if this compromise will bring a new era of peace and happiness in our home, or if it will sharpen the divide between us. Only time will tell.

So what about you? Brand preference? And are you a "smooth" or a "chunky"? (When I put it that way, isn't the answer obvious?)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's Random Dozen Day!

1. Do you use the labels various charities send you as “free gifts?”
Interesting question. I've never quite understood what the charities had in mind when they do this. I mean, I know what they have in mind, but doesn't it seem a little strong-armish to send something "free" and expect people to be guilted into paying for it? And if you're not going to pay for it, then do you need to at least pay for the postage to send them back? And then what will happen except that they will have to be destroyed because what else can you do with someone else's address labels? I don't really feel like these labels are the best use of money that comes to a charity. And no, I don't use the labels because they have my old address on them. Nyah! 

2. What is your favorite time of day (or night) for skywatching?

When I'm looking up at the atmosphere, I'm usually looking at the things in the sky--clouds, stars--because the sky itself is not usually doing much. It's just kind of a backdrop.

3. What is the most adventurous you've ever been with trying a new food? (Keep it G-rated please)

I've had wildebeest, zebra and crocodile. Crocodile tastes a little like chicken, but it's very fatty. One thing I won't eat is fried grasshoppers, and you can't make me! (I'm feeling a little defiant today, can you tell?)

4. Have you ever heard a rock sing? (Trust me, there's a reason for this one!)

No, but I've heard a tree bark. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

5. If you could learn a language you don't presently speak, what would it be?

I would learn Nicky-language so that I could converse with my son and his imaginary friends.

6. Al Capone's tombstone read, “My Jesus, Mercy.” If you could write your own epitaph, what would it say?

"Life's hard and then you die, so eat your breakfast." I've said that before to my kids and they have threatened to put it on my tombstone. And since I would be dead, I think they would have the last word.

7. If you were a famous musician who was known by one name, like “Cher,” “Sting,” or “Jewel,” what would it be? It doesn’t have to be your first name, but it can be, if you’d like.

I am known by one name--Mom. I do a one-woman show, and I'm always asked for autographs.

8. Have you ever been inordinately “into” a television show?

Although I have never blended the line between entertainment and reality, I absolutely loved Alias. I was out of the country when it started, and by the time I discovered it, it was already in its fourth season. I bought the dvd's and devoured one episode after another. I was actually grateful I didn't watch it when it first aired--I would never have been able to wait an entire week for the next episode!

9. When you sneeze, do you go big, or do you do that weird “heenh!” sound that makes people think you’re going to blow your brains out? Any other variation we should know about?

My sneeze comes out however it comes out and I have very little to say about it. I do think that more important than controlling the sound is controlling the spray.

10. Do you still read an actual newspaper that you hold in your hands, or do you get your news elsewhere?

I get some news from the internet, some from television, some from a newspaper and most from my neighbor. She's very well-informed and she likes to gossip.

11. Are you a good speller?

Spelling always counts! Ask any of my kids--I count off spelling even in their math tests. 

12. At what time each day do you start thinking aboutLost lunch?

Usually when I'm racing out the door to work and realizing that I didn't pack one.

If you want to answer the random dozen, or if you'd like to read other people's answers, click the link at the top of the post!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Voice of Experience

In the first place, I need to apologize for my computer's pity party on Friday. I spend a couple of days in bed and everyone gets off track. Just to clear up the rumors, yes, I looked at the ipad. Who didn't? No, I'm not buying one. At least, not the first version. No need to feel pity for a self-important piece of equipment. And having gotten that issue out of the way, on to today's post ...

I've been doing this mother thing for almost twenty-one years now. That fact frightens me in and of itself. In the first place, the thought that I've been a mother for twenty-one years means I'm ... older ... than I used to be. I don't like facing that fact. That's why I try to avoid looking in the mirror wherever possible.

But there's something else that bothers me. I mean, think about it for a minute. If you met someone on the job that had twenty-one years of experience, what would that say to you? That many years of experience would say that person knew a lot about the product and/or company. They had encountered almost any situation that could come up on the job. That they were a leader in the field.

Not so with motherhood. My fourth child has started their teenage years. Fourth. This is our third teenage boy. There should be few surprises. I should know what to do by now. But unfortunately, each of my children insist on having their own personalities and doing things their own way. And each time I find myself stumbling along, trying to figure out what works with this child. Whichever one I'm dealing with at the moment.

Having said all that, there's still the fact that I've been a mother for two decades. I do have some experience to offer. And what good is everything I've been through if I don't share it? Okay, it may not be any good to anyone else, but I'm going to share it anyway. So here it is: a few tips on motherhood:

  • Kids will not die if they don't get their way.
  • A structured schedule is smart, but if you never vary it, your kids will never learn to roll with the unexpected in life.
  • It's okay to have ice cream for breakfast as long as it's not a regular part of the morning menu.
  • It's harmful to your children when you try to fix everything for them.
  • They need to know that actions, both good and bad, have consequences that they have to live with.
  • Kids need to know how to communicate. Sullen attitudes, pouts and frowns are not communicating. Don't let them get away with that.
  • Kids need to know that life is sometimes not fair. And they need to get over it.
  • Injuries happen sometimes, and they make great playground conversation. There's no reason to panic if a bandaid or two will fix it.
My kids have taught me a few things too:

  • Live in the moment. 
  • Many times their differences can be settled without adult interference.
  • Sometimes adult interference makes things worse.
  • They will grow up too quickly, and twenty-one years will pass in the blink of an eye.
  • Even small, silly things can be incredibly wonderful and important.
  • Life hurts sometimes when you were growing up. You'll feel the hurt even more as they pass through those times.
  • You only have so much time with them as children. Make the most of every moment.
And I'd better stop there before I get all misty-eyed. None of these things are earth-shatteringly brilliant. And if you're a mother, you probably already know this. I just felt like I had to say it. Let me leave you with one final piece of advice:

If you're struggling with potty-training or weaning them off a bottle or pacifier, there's always hope. Someday they will start kindergarten, and peer pressure can be a wonderful thing. I guarantee you that by the second day, the pacifier will be left at home.

Of course, it might take them until college to get over the fallout of taking their pacifier to school on that first day. 

Monday, February 1, 2010

Weekend Observations

Things I learned this weekend:

If you're sick and in bed for three days, you will have missionaries that need a place to stay on Sunday night.

You will find out about the missionaries when your husband sheepishly remembers to tell you, after choir practice and just before the evening service.

You realize you cannot kill your husband because you need someone to take the said missionaries to Dennys, and feed them while you rush home after church and clean the house.

During your frantic cleaning, you will discover that your house has a sour odor.

You will trace the sour odor to the guest bedroom.

You will not be able to discover the source of the odor, so you will rely heavily on Febreeze after cleaning, dusting and vacuuming.

You will pray that your guests are not allergic to Febreeze.

You will discover that the hangers your children put in the guest closet are the kind with your dress size embedded in the handle.

You will discover that your teenage sons can do well with cleaning, but they will literally drop any tools/utensils they used as soon as they are finished with the job at hand.

You will use this madcap cleaning whirlwind as an example to your children of why they should listen when you tell them to clean up after themselves all the time.

Your children will still not listen to you.

Thus endeth the lesson.
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