Friday, December 2, 2011

Smokin in the Boy's Room

The Middle School years I'm convinced were conceived by a dark and evil being for the sole purpose of a slow and painful torture. This is accomplished by erasing whatever feelings of competence or even mastery a parent may have acquired in previous years of parenting. Having raised two daughters, by and large successfully, I thought my second go round would be easier. Why I would think feeling marginalized and decidedly uncool would be easier to swallow, I do not know. All I know is that overnight I went from being a perfectly acceptable parent to an idoit parent while their peers just as suddenly became all knowing and wise. Spend 5 minutes in the company of 6th graders. I dare you to find much wisdom. This communication dead zone also comes at the very instant when their bodies are maturing at a much faster rate than their brains. Not a good combination if you ask me.

Not one to be discouraged for long, I harkened back to my own Jr. High years. Now you know just how far back we're talking. I recall taking my own stroll down stupid lane and found myself in a compromising situation to say the least. the year was 1973, the year of the great songs like Smokin in the Boy's room, Knock Three times, and American Pie (what in the world was that song about?). My normally sensible 13 yr.old self had my head turned by Wesley, a blue jean jacket/white t-shirt wearing bad boy. I'm fairly certain that he also smoked cigarettes.

It all began on a class geology field trip to Austin, Tx. While I learned not one thing about fossils, I learned plenty about Wesley on the way home on the bus all the way home. This consisted of no more than hand holding and I can only imagine our conversation, but it began my secret life which would eventually find me trying to sneak unsuccessfully into my house through my bedroom window! I was caught and punished and funny I don't remember anything else about Wesley after that.

Thankfully God had bigger plans for my life and I din't follow Wesley into a life of smoking and crime although I do enjoy wearing jean jackets. God remained faithful despite my stupidity. In fact, His mercies are new every morning. This cheers me because I know He will equip me with every good thing to do His will, the Middle School years not excluded. In short, having a Middle Schooler will bring you to your knees which is precisely the point and where I need to be.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

He Ain't Heavy

For the first time in many years, we traveled to Texas for Thanksgiving. I typically visit Texas during the summer in the sweltering heat and on my last visit decided to wait until the weather was kinder. Turns out this was an excellent year to wait as Texas experienced a ridiculous number of consecutive days of over 100 degrees. No thank you!

Visiting family is always a dicey proposition. It can be very good or it can be very bad. Family is the group of people who know you the very best and if you are fortunate love you in spite of this fact. I am truly blessed because I count myself as one that is loved. How they show their love is altogether another story, but I have chosen to believe that they love me and I them.

I particularly enjoyed spending time with my two brothers, especially the three of us together. There is something about sharing a childhood with someone that bonds you forever, similar to veterans who survive a war and live to tell about it without the death part. Not that our childhood was a war zone, but let's just say we had some interesting times. In childhood, you pretty much have to roll with whatever comes your way. That's why it's nice to have some traveling companions with you on the rollercoaster ride. Even though they sometimes throw up all over you, like the summer when Mark got me fired from my job and that was after I had gotten him his job there! It was the one and only time I was fired but the scars remain. Or like the time he took the car from where I parked it when I was at the movies and went on a joy ride when he didn't have his driver's license yet. Siblings witness and perhaps even contribute to the forming of our personalities or at least they uncover them, depending on whether you are in the nature or nurture camp.

I adore both of my brothers who are as different as they come. On my visit home, I spent time sipping wine, snacking on Brie and crackers, playing cards with John, soft music playing in the background. At Mark's house I found myself hanging out outside by the grill surrounded by dead animal head trophies and his monster truck,laughing hysterically as he recounted events of our childhood. I couldn't be prouder of the men they have grown up to be or love them any more. So glad to have them in my life. I wouldn't even trade them for a sister.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


I am very busy. I have one husband, three school aged children living in my house, and two grown daughters and one son-in-law living outside my house. The last thing I need in my life is a dog. Dogs are messy. Dogs are smelly. Dogs pee and poop. They need to be fed, watered, bathed, medicated, etc. I do not need a dog. This was my refrain for at least two years. We already had a fish to fill our pet quota, several of them as a matter of fact. I flatly refused to consider any pet in the rodent family. My children, like all children, still really wanted a dog. Finally Mr. Jakstadt decided it was time to get the kids a dog. I could see that I was clearly out numbered. The time had come for me to surrender and agree to get a dog.

Kristen, an animal lover, proposed a dog/share. Eureka! I love the idea. I would only have to do the dog thing for part of the time. She found a couple of canine prospects that as luck would have it would be at a pet adoption site the very next weekend. She filled out the necessary forms on-line which honestly we barely passed. Small Dog Rescue was a pet adoption organization with serious qualifications for those wanting to adopt a small dog. Nonetheless, we passed.

On Saturday, we all loaded into the SUV merely to go check things out. The voice of reason aka TVOR's position was that the trip was an expedition because after all we had yet to get a fence, a requirement for the small dog rescue people. We happened to see one of the workers walking Roxy in the parking lot and it was love at first sight! She was on the thin side and very subdued to say the least. She had been dropped off with one of her puppies although she was very young, a teen mom. I was immediately drawn to her quiet temperment as well as her adorable face. The kids didn't terrify her which I took as a good sign. She was the one. I instinctively knew that she would not last long and right I was. As I was paying for her, an irrate woman came up and declared that she had wanted Roxy and had only gone home to give her toddler a nap. You snooze, you lose. We brought her home to a fenceless unprepared house. We did manage to drop a wad of cash at Petco for everything one would need for a "mixed breed" dog.

I have never been an animal lover yet I was strangely drawn to Roxy. I found myself in strange positions like on the floor with her! She began to follow me everywhere I went in the house. One time I remember working out on the bike and she was trying to figure out a way to get beside me in between rotations of my foot on the pedal. All she wanted was to be was with me. One of the best things about her was her silence! She rarely barks and is fond of relaxing and sleeping. I didn't have to toss balls for her to chase, play tug of war with her or even walk her. Although I discovered that she loves going on walks which I love as well. We are perfectly suited to each other. Oh the kids like her too, but I have claimed her as my own. She won Eric's heart too and he may have a slight edge because he feeds her beef jerky, but this theory has not been tested. She is no longer on the thin side!

As I was walking her one day, I realized that there was nothing that she could give me or do for me. In fact she is completely dependent on me for food, shelter, humane treatment, flea and tick prevention, etc. She costs me money, time, yet I love providing all this for her. I realized that it was a picture of God's love for me. I am nothing but trouble for Him. I sin every single day and I'm slow to learn His truths and apply them to my life. I can give him nothing. He is God after all and needs nothing yet what He wants is for me to want to be with him. He wants me to spend time with Him,talk to Him, love what He loves, know Him.

His kindness disarmed me and reminded me that He loves giving good gifts just because. He is the perfect Father. No one knows us or loves us like our Heavenly Father. Thanks seems terribly inadequate for everything He has given me, but thank Him I will as often as I can.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mirror, Mirror

I recently celebrated my birthday. I do realize this is a good thing to celebrate, the gift of another year of life, etc. I love talking to both of my parents on that day as they give me tidbits of information about the day of my birth like I was the biggest baby in the nursery that day, 9 lbs! Is that a good thing? If I had to survive on my own in the wild I suppose I would last a little longer than the average baby. What is decidedly not a good thing is the whole aging process that usually comes along with the birthdays. Getting older is oh so exciting and fun until when one day it isn't really. Looking at my reflection in the mirror has become especially unpleasant. It is strange to imagine yourself looking younger than you actually look. The question is what to do.

I began to realize that people on television that I know I watched when I was in elementary school look younger than me! What is their secret? good diet and excercise? Super genetics? True, some don't actually look human, but some look really good. Being a woman of action, I decided to go straight to the source and find out. It just so happens that my daughter Kristen starting working in a plastic surgeon's office. She began to educate me on all the latest treatments,of which there are many, to restore one's youthful appearance. This sounded encouraging so off I went for my free consultation. Of course I was secretly hoping that the doctor would tell me it is far too soon to even think about doing anything. I absolutely would not benefit from anything they had to offer. This was not the case, not by a long shot. He took one look at my face and told me about some very natural injectables that would help temporarily and then followed with what I really needed was a cheek lift! He told me in detail what happens to one's face over time and it's not pretty. I began to feel like Eve in the Garden of Eden when she was being tempted by the serpent. What harm could one or two syringes of very natural gel injected into your face do? They also showed me beautiful photos of women who had had the cheek lift. What's wrong with wanting to be restored to a more youthful appearance? Thankfully I'm a big chicken and said I wanted to think about it. Notwithstanding the rare occasional blindness (yikes!) from the substance going into the wrong place that I found on google, I had to examine the spiritual ramifications of how far one goes to look good on the outside. I had to face the fact that I'm terribly vain and do not like aging, especially when many women around me are not aging along with me.

As a Christian woman, we are told that beauty comes from within, a gentle and quiet spirit to be exact, wow. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find an injectable for these qualities. I realized that aging gracefully means accepting the process of aging and doing this without complaining. Easier said than done I say. Lord willing, I will have the chance to try.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Driving Range

I've determined that the game of golf is the great equalizer. You need only to spend an hour at the driving range to find humans of any age, socio-economic status,gender,or size, attempting to loft a tiny golf ball into the air. This looks much easier on TV mind you. It is a very difficult and unnatural movement. Somehow one bends at the waist, while holding the golf club, raise our arms and swing, like a pendulum I'm told, hoping to make contact at just the right spot on the tiny golf ball on the ground. Some people do this well and some do not.

Some of us are there in our own private misery as swing after horrible swing does not achieve the desired result to send the golf ball long and straight. We are all mostly silent. Our extrememly chatty son is even quiet! He already knows this is serious business. I've noticed there's not much smiling either. I am not sure if golf is not supposed to be fun or if one is not supposed to show their enjoyment. One finds all sorts of people at the driving range. There are dads trying to teach their sons who may or may not be interested in learning. There are some very good golfers who do hit amazing shots. They try hard to appear super cool, but I can tell they are quite pleased. There are kids and teens whose spines are made of rubber and can twist completely around with no effort at all. They mostly just swing away, not much stress on their young faces. And there are men who seem to be competing with someone in their mind, probably themselves.
Our son loves the pagentry of golf, cleaning the golf clubs, putting the tees in the ground, getting water from the cooler, tucking his shirt in, wearing cool golf shoes, etc.

I have found several things I love about golf. I'm sure because I have so little of it in my life, I personally love the code of silence. I love the outdoors except when it's allergy season. I love walking the greens. I love the golf clothes. I love the time with Eric. I love the golf cart. I love the occasional ping that I hear when I do hit the golf ball. So I'll continue to play this mysterious game. Who knows maybe I'll improve! Then I can look super cool.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Changety Change Change

After a wonderfully relaxing summer and I use that term in the loosest sense, I was all set to begin a new school year. I was looking forward to a few changes in our family. I would have a new middle schooler which would mean my younger three would no longer be in the same school or on the same schedule. I must say round two of Middle School Open House was not nearly as stress inducing as round one with our two older girls. I really wanted to reassure the worried parents who surrounded me that they too would survive. They truly looked more worried than the students I have seen and ours said just driving by the school made her feel a little sick! Regardless, this was the biggest change I could foresee for the fall.

The first change that came my way was a part-time job for me! A position had come available in the spring that didn't materialize which I took rather well. I left it in God's hands and decided that it wasn't the right time. I then got a call shortly before school started for a part-time contract position at the same place! The job description/hours couldn't be more perfect and my boss and supervisor are wonderful. I'm hoping that it will continue but whatever time they can employ me is fine. God always has the perfect plan. The look of astonishment on the kids' faces when I told them was priceless. My son told Eric, "Did you know Mom got a job?" I'm not sure if he thought he was getting me in trouble or what. Eric took it like the wonderful husband that he is, even though his life is a bit stressful right now to say the least. He is happy for me and supportive. That leads me to change number two..

Eric's mom fell. Throughout my life, I had heard various people use this term in serious tones and it quite frankly puzzled me. My first thought was, that's unfortunate, but they get up right and go on their merry way. Thankfully I did not pursue nursing or the health care and healing industry in any capacity, right! What I have since learned is that falling for an older person is not the same as falling for a younger person at all. This set in motion unbelievable health and drug complications,panic phone calls,doctor visits,tests scheduled and taken,food prepared,and general care of her and my father-in-law. We are currently on week 4 of the crisis, but I'm sure that this is the first wave of more to come as both of our parents age. How to navigate this new change is uncharted for both of us. Of course, this crisis came at precisely the time when school was starting, I was starting a new job and all of Eric's projects at work were simultaneously screaming for his attention.

Coincidental? I think not. What we have here is a pop quiz. Am I prepared to make meatloaf at 8:00 A.M. with a good attitude? Am I prepared to hold down the fort while Eric is working weekends to make up for the missed work time? Only God knows if I will pass or fail, especially for the long haul. I am reminded that everything we do for them, we do not only for them but for God. Our parents cared for us when we were totally dependent on them and were not very interesting company as infants or even toddlers. They raised us in homes where we learned to love God, which is the very best gift they could give us! It warms my heart to see the goodness of my husband as he cares for his parents. I realized that the time spent with them and for them is more important than my to do list,really. Ultimately people,especially hurting people are very important to God. I can trust that God knows all the work deadlines and projects and everything else happening at our house. He will take care of them in a way that only the God of the Universe can do. What a relief!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Wonder Years

Last weekend we celebrated four incredible years since adding three incredible children to our family. While our lives have completely changed in almost every capacity, it has happened so gradually that it seems like they have always been with us. The anniversary date allowed me the opportunity to reflect on just how miraculous our journey has been.

The desire to adopt had been in my heart for awhile, and I foolishly thought this was something our family could do for God. After all, I'm an elementary school teacher and we'd already raised two children. How much harder could raising three children be? My arrogance astounds me! What in the world could I do for the creator of the universe! It didn't take very long for me to realize that this was going to be way harder than I anticipated. Turns out I could do absolutely nothing! But God,(my favorite phrase in the Bible)reached down in loving kindness and grace could do immeasureably more than I could even ask or imagine and believe me I was asking. He provided everything that we needed to do what He called us to do. I had a front row seat to watch the heart that God has for children and that there is nothing that is too difficult for Him.

He provided our church that was a much needed sanctuary every Sunday and Wednesday for all of us to draw strength and encouragement from. The Children's ministry lovingly ministered to our children and taught them by words and example of the love of Jesus. We rejoiced when two of our children both professed belief in Jesus Christ and were baptized. I saw how God hand picked each and every teacher whether it was Wee school,Sunday School or Elementary School to meet specific needs every school year. He surrounded us with people who volunteered to help with childcare, tutoring, and even music lessons. He provided our two grown daughters who opened their hearts as well as their hands to welcome their new brother and sisters to our family. His almighty presence and His powerful Word reassured us and continues to guide us through our journey. He provided Himself.

I have gotten to know our three children really well over these past four years and they me. Together we embarked on a journey to become a family. The vulnerability, courage and acceptance they each displayed to begin a brand new life with us is humbling. To be sure, much like the natural birth of our two older daughters, we experienced labor pains. Likewise though, the pain has become a distant memory with every contented smile that I see on their faces. I simply cannot believe how much they have grown and matured over these past 4 years. While on the golf course with our son and Eric recently, I recalled a previous time on the golf course several years earlier when it was just the two of us, before we even knew our son. I was painting a wonderful picture for Eric about how our lives would be so much richer because we would not just be playing golf ourselves but teaching our son to play and here he was in the flesh, our adorable son completely in love with the game of golf. The picture would be really beautiful if our golf game was better, but still.

I thank God for the privilege of raising our second batch of kids. I get to see the world through the uncensored eyes of a child on a daily basis. Just today, our youngest was retelling with perfection the story of Ikea who climbed up the sycamore tree to see Jesus!I know that He has a wonderful plan for each one of our children and He has allowed me to be intimately involved. In between homework, soccer practice and laundry God is kind to give me glimpses of how He is already working in their lives. I regularly hear them singing praise songs to Jesus as they are riding bikes or doing puzzles. I know that the road will not always a rosy one, and one day they will not be as excited to hang out with us, but I also know that God has proven Himself to be faithful and that He will be with us.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Coupons and Cherry Cheesecake Pie

The 4th of July always reminds me of a particular 4th of July 23 years ago. We were at a 4th of July gathering, standing out in the culdesac, playing with sparklers. I remember being very pregnant, relatively miserable, but mostly anxious to meet my second born child. It had been a difficult pregnancy so we were thankful to have gotten to this point. Eric and I were hovering,the way that first time parents do, over our then 2 1/2 year old Laura as she played with her sparkler. What would it be like having two children instead of one? What would our second daughter be like? Would I love her like I love Laura? Do I really have to go through labor and delivery again?

I didn't know that I was standing at the threshhold of being the mother of not one but two amazing daughters. Who knew that these tiny very needy people would grow up to be women who I really like as well as love,truly admire and love spending time with. I was reminded just how much this past weekend when we were together over the 4th of July weekend.

I was desperately in need of some Laura time since she lives in another city now and I don't get to see her very often. The two of us hit the ground running as soon as we both arrived Friday afternoon at the lake house doing some power shopping at the outlet mall. She came armed with extra percent discount coupons for the holiday weekend and off we went. Later that night she was brimming with working girl tales and specifically her review. She is determined to make things happen at her place of employment and I wouldn't bet against her! She is also a kid at heart so she loves having her younger siblings to relive her childhood. The next day she played the game of Life with Lucas and Summer and she made Kristen's birthday Cherry Cheesecake pie with Summer. Laura brings lots of fun to our family and we love her for it! She and Jason also cooked a delicious Southwest Chicken meal for us with enthusiasm and love. I love how she and Jason work together to make my life easier! Laura and I share a love, some would say a ridiculous obsession, of walking/running whenever we are together so we enjoyed two power walks on this visit to the lake. Anyone can join us of course if they are willing to walk fast. We had two takers, Lucas one day and Eric another and of course the usual terrifying lake dogs that chase us!

We were all eagerly anticipating Kristen's arrival because she would be bringing her new fiance, Ben to spend the weekend with us. We can always count on her to keep our lives interesting. She typically has seismic changes in her life in any given year and her engagement announcement was one of those shifts.

Kristen arrived exhaused from traveling, but happy in her typically understated way. She would not be joining us on our power walk the following morning. She operates in some other calm realm and does not feel the need to be in constant motion. This baffles me at times, but mostly I marvel at this skill I do not possess. This is why Laura and I were so pleased that she she agreed to join us in running the Peachtree Roadrace this year. It would be her first time. We left the men folk and the little kids behind and drove into Atlanta the night before the race. We had 27 hours of blissful uninterrupted girl talk! The next morning, we traveled many hot sticky miles on Marta,driving and walking the streets of midtown and that was just getting to and from the 6.2 race! Kristen did great! It was worth every minute to experience running the race together but mostly I love spending anytime time with my two grown up girls.

Kristen lives near us so I get to see her more often which I love. She has become my Gigi's cupcake partner as well as our go to babysitter when Eric and I need to get away, really far away like Jamaica! She has always been very maternal and her competence with handling all 3 of her younger siblings is unparalleled. Kristen lives her life by heart and I have to say it softens our family somehow. She brings a gentleness that is disarming, yet also a steadiness that reveals inner determination and strength like the time she wanted a dog when I thought I had absolutely no use for a dog. We ended up getting her and I'm forever in her debt for bringing Roxy, AKA perfect dog into my life. Thanks Kristen!

Well,our girl time came to an end and we returned to the lake house. We spent some time boating, playing games and preparing for Jason's Annual Fireworks Extravaganza that gets bigger every year. We were also anxious to get to know this Ben character who had captured Kristen's heart. I have to say that he dove right in, literally, when one of our life jackets flew out of the boat and he volunteered to dive in to get it. Lucas dubbed him a hero the rest of the weekend. Later,determined to impress his fiance, he spilled some of his own blood when he sustained an injury doing a now classic charade of quick sand. He also performed a lovely guitar solo for our evening entertainment. Mostly though it was nice to see stars in his eyes when he looked at Kristen.

So ends another eventful 4th of July at the Lake house. So glad that 23 years ago Kristen came into my life to join her big sister Laura. They couldn't be more different and I couldn't love each one of them any more.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Spring has indeed sprung!  The dogwoods and azaleas are blooming their beautiful blooms, the birds are singing their harmonic melodies and I can see wearing sandals in the very near future.  I would love this beautiful time of year if it weren't for the misery that comes on me in the form of seasonal allergies.  My eyes itch to the point of wanting to scratch my eyes out and I can't stop sneezing, sniffing and blowing my red chapped nose, attractive I know.  OTC medications works to some degree, but I find myself praying for rain!  This is not normal  for the sun lover that I am.

There's also the planting pressure that comes every spring in the form of Home Depot and Lowe's, Miracle Grow commercials to inspire me to plant flowers in my yard.  I've noticed that everyone in the commercials are so happy to be digging, planting and spreading whatever it is they spread  and not one of them is red eyed and sneezing their head off.  I must confess that my allergies are not solely to blame.  I have sincerely tried to get into the spirit of planting, but  have not found one enjoyable moment in the entire process.  Is there something wrong with me because I don't enjoy planting? Don't get me wrong.There is no one who appreciates looking at beautiful  flowers, but planting them myself is altogether another story.  Lugging huge bags of potting soil, weeding flower beds, digging a hole that is not too shallow or too deep (I never get this right) is not my idea of a good time.  I'm positive that the unfortunate flowers that happen to make their way into my Highlander hatchback can sense my negative attitude.  They must!  They do not thrive to say the least and then they die.  I would much rather admire them while running past them on an early morning run.  So please continue to plant you who love planting.  I'll continue to admire.     

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Birthday Celebrations

Our youngest two have birthdays that are not even two weeks apart. Birthdays are still very exciting when you are turning 7 and 8. Frankly I was torn about about how to celebrate their birthdays. I naturally love planning and attending any and every kind of event yet I am dedicated to raising my children with a proper sense of humility which honestly I find lacking in this increasingly child centered world. Do we celebrate with a family gathering or bring out the boas? Trying to find a way to do both, I compromised as best I could to give them a wonderful birthday without going over the top.

Spending plenty of time with groups of little boys and groups of little girls, I opted to take my son and one friend to Chuck E. Cheese(Las Vegas for the elementary set) to celebrate his birhday, and give my daughter and her friends a tea party at our house.


My son chose his best friend, Noah to take to Chuck E. Cheese along with his younger best sister. He and his sister are so close in age, 11 months apart that they almost have a symbiotic relationship. He is happiest when she is around. This has its pros and cons, but mostly it is adorable. Since this was to be a casual affair I allowed him to go dressed in whatever he had on which was jeans and a not very attractive t-shirt. He was also having a bad hair day. Let's just say he wasn't looking his best, but it was his birthday after all. We drove up to his friend's house to find him waiting in the yard with his sitter where he told us he had been waiting an hour! I couldn't believe it, he had on an identical tacky outfit complete with shaggy hair! My son said on the way that I would probably always see him with his friend because where ever his friend went, he would go,cute! Truer words were never spoken. They were inseperable from the moment they arrived as they scurried around with giant smiles on their faces playing games like there was a buzzer they were trying to beat. They amassed lots of tickets that they traded in for some now forgotten plastic toys. The time spent together however will always be remembered!

My daughter's affair took a little more planning, but was worth every moment. I was only planning to invite at the most 4 classmates, but was guilted into inviting all the little girls in her class less one be left out! Oh the pressure of it all! An angel sent from heaven took care of the invitations for me. This same angel gave me the most adorable idea to make tea party hats from brown paper sacks, brilliant! Until I couldn't find the right size bag, Duro bag 8003. Searched craft stores,grocery stores,liquor stores (yes,I took my 6 year old daughter into a liquor store!)and warehouse stores and found some in packs of 500! Never one to give up, I remembered seeing my favorite BBQ to go bags to be roughly the same size. It only took asking and purchasing some BBQ for dinner that night!


The girls arrived all dressed in their finery,ready to party. One of the advantages of having a wide span of ages in one's children is the help the older ones can be! I enlisted the three older girls to help our guests craft their hats,photograph the party and help serve the food. The girls crafted their hats on arrival and I then presented each of them with a boa to put on before they sat down to tea. I set the appropriate mood with Beethoven playing in the background. One of our guests offered that Beethoven was someone who played the violin. They lunched on finger sandwiches,frozen fruit salad,mini muffins and tea(aka apple juice which looks just like it!)and delicious strawberry cake. Just to make sure they had ample sugar, I went around and put a sugar cube in each of their cups which prompted them to start speaking with an English accent! They loved being served and treated like ladies and I was especially happy that they didn't break my grandmother's fine china tea set! The smile on my daughter's face says it all!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bear Pause

Trying my very best to get into the right spirit for the fast approaching Winter Break, I booked 3 nights at Bear Pause cabin in Gatlinburg, TN.  I was actually snow bound for a solid week when the idea came to me.  I pictured the kids sledding and tubing down the beautiful Smoky Mountains.  Might as well make the best of it, right!  I took inventory of our snow clothes and even made an on-line Lands End purchase to fill in the missing items. 

The day finally arrived to leave for our Mountain Getaway. The only problem was it was 70 degrees!  The kids were in shorts and sweating as we were packing the car to leave.  Nevertheless, Bear Pause Cabin here we come!  We got started a little later than we planned, but weren't in a huge hurry, so everything was fine.  Then we hit Pigeon Forge which we must drive through to get to Gatlinburg.  The traffic was one long line of vehicles all going the same way.  Never having been to this part of the country, we didn't know if the traffic was always this bad, but I decided right then that I would not be returning.  Since we were traveling (and I use this term loosely) at a snail's pace, it allowed me to completely take in the town's flavor.  I've got to hand it to them, I have never seen such compacted tackiness in one 10 mile stretch of road.  As if trying to dodge a spitting man in the monster truck next to us wasn't entertaining enough, my eyes beheld elevated rotating pigs at the mini golf, a replica of the Titanic,  The Sweetheart Wedding Chapel, bungy jumping platforms and Hogs n Honey's Saloon and Grill, Home of the Hillbilly Hammer!  

We finally arrived at our destination the way we always arrive, hungry and in need of provisions.  The cabin was listed as within walking distance to town which would have been convenient.  As we ascended the windy, mountain road,  it was becoming clear that unless one regularly climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro for sport, one would not be hoofing it to town.  We decided to drive back down and drive around to look for food.  Thankfully, we found a Papa John's and were saved.  Unfortunately, finding the cabin in the pitch darkness proved to be more difficult.  We drove up and down the mountain before finding our way back to the cabin.  Our son suggested that we stop and ask the man who he thought probably lived there for a long time, where our cabin was. One of our daughters asked if she was dead yet as we were driving blindly along the dark road! 

We set out the next day ready to explore all that Gatlinburg had to offer, sledding notwithstanding. My goal was to avoid the hundreds of  Mountain fudge and candy shoppes and tatoo and t-shirt stores if possible.   Thankfully the town is in the Smoky Mountain National Park and they have my favorite thing to do in the the whole wide world, hiking!  With any luck we would see a wild animal or two.  The weather was perfect for hiking, but the only animal we saw was the one we brought with us, Roxy our dog unless you count the dead flat bear you see in the picture.  My children aren't the quietest around so that might have had something to do with it.

The kids collected bbs left behind by the Indians, climbed every tree that they saw, skipped rocks in the river, and  played Trouble and pool with their very patient dad.  But the best part about our stay at the cabin has to be the hot tub. There's nothing like a hot tub to make a Mountain getaway fun. All in all, I would have to count our Mountain trip a success.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ode to Handy Man Painter

Having a bit of spring fever, I decided to paint my kitchen.  It's been a cheery shade of yellow which I have loved, but it's been 8 years now on the walls and time for a change.  I do not love to paint, nor do I have the gift of painting.  I confirmed this when I brought home tiny sample bottles of paint to try on the wall and proceeded to drip it on the counter, on the wood floor, and get it on the cuff of my favorite jacket sleeve.  I'm pretty sure what I detest about painting is the prep work of which I did none.  Now I have two paint splotches on the wall, neither of which is the right color, but now I'm committed.  Note to self, the cardboard paint samples work just fine taped to the wall.  Do not get sucked into the cuteness of the sample bottles.

My hard working husband was going out of town on business, perfect time to paint, right!  I decided to hire a painter/handy Man that my in-laws have used for various odd jobs.  He was extremely flexible and the price was right, two ominous signs that I chose to ignore.  Nevertheless, I wanted/needed the kitchen painted and I had two days to get it done.  This need is similar to the intense need that comes over me when I need to get my hair cut as soon as possible.  My prep only involved removing a few pictures from the walls as the kitchen is pretty open and purchasing the paint.  I purchased the paint and tape.  He informed me that he does not tape.  I found out that not only does he not tape, he does not prep at all! I asked him if he would do me the favor of taping and he proceeded to only tape selected baseboards and then began to paint.  I decided to practice patience and wait to see what the end result would be.  Maybe he would wow me with the fabulously perfect paint job? Alas, this was not the case. His painting was surpassed only by his professionalism. Before he left for the day, he asked for some gas money,half payment and if he could make himself a sandwich.  I spent the evening marking with tape all the places he had flung paint.  There was paint on the light switches,  paint splattered on the floor, paint dripping on the baseboards that he did not tape!  I decided to compile the following list of good things to know if you are painting for me.

If you are confident in your painting to state that you do not tape, then please don't drip paint! Prepping is important to me.  Please fill the nail holes, remove and replace the light switch covers and clean up.  Do not go outside and then come back in tracking dirt and leaves all over the house.  Do not leave the water hose on the lawn if you use them to rinse off brushes. And last but not least,I implore you to please pull up your pants when bending over!   Valuable lesson learned - you get what you pay for!


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hobby Town

I've recently discovered the underground world of Men's hobbies.  It started little by little at our house a couple of years ago when our son was "old" enough to appreciate and operate motorized toys.  There are a surprising number of motorized toys on the market,cars,trucks,boats,trains,planes and helicopters and they can all be found at Hobby Town, not to be confused with Hobby Lobby which is mostly home decor.  Hobby Town apparently (I've never actually been) is a huge showroom where one can find not only the vehicles but endless vehicle parts and accessories to add to or fix the vehicle.  This is a good thing because these vehicles are not terribly rugged.

I went away for a girl's weekend and as soon as I walked in the door my son told me that my husband flew the just purchased helicopter high into the 100 ft. pine tree where it still is!  They are waiting for a wind storm to blow it down as it is too high to get to with a ladder.  So much for discretion.  My husband would not tell me the purchase price of the helicopter so I'm guessing it wasn't cheap.  Not only that, he went right back and purchased another one!  This is fast becoming an addiction.  Apparently as he was in line to pay for the second helicopter, he was relaying his story where there were fellow helicopter enthusiasts who had suffered the same fate. That's when the salesman said he forgot to tell him that these vehicles are like potato chips, no one can buy just one!

My husband has since purchased these strange balancing ping pong balls that attach to the helicopter to practice idling among other things.  He also found Hobby Town  carries items to aid in the pinewood derby race so our son's car does better than last year.  He assures me that it is not cheating! It's like a Toys R Us for grown men!  So far I have yet to see our son operate the vehicles although I'm told he does.  They went to the park this past Saturday, flew the latest helicopter and came back with most of it. I think a wing was broken and it needs to be calibrated, whatever that means.  Sounds like another trip to Hobby Town.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Papa!

This past weekend we celebrated my father-in-law's 83rd birthday.  Because he is hard of hearing and is rather persnickety in his taste in food,  he doesn't enjoy eating out all that much.  That's too bad for me because I love going out to eat!  This means that most family celebrations are held here at my house with the food cooked by yours truly.  Not that I'm complaining.  Thankfully I enjoy cooking and have some form of "help" most of the time, but, let's just say relaxing it's not. I digress.  My mother-in-law invited us over for dinner to celebrate my father-in-law's birthday.  This is not a common occurrence.  My mother-in-law gets really stressed out when she has people over so an invitation to dinner rarely happens.  She had recently set her kitchen on fire when she tried to put out a grease fire with water which I've since learned is not the proper extinguisher. That might have something to do with her anxiety.   

We arrived at their house to find the table beautifully set complete with white table cloths and tiny silver forks that none of us really know what to do with.  My mother-in-law immediately shooed us all out of the kitchen while my father-in-law served us hors doeuvres and something to drink.  There is nothing that gives my father-in-law more joy than giving.  This usually takes the form of some kind of food.  Once he finds out you like a certain candy bar, etc. you will be receiving truckloads of it the next time you visit! Poor Kristen was served German sausages for years because she mentioned once that she like hot dogs. 

 Dinner of meat, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots and salad was finally ready.  This is his meal of choice that I swear he could eat every single day.  Maybe it's a German thing.  The food was delicious and the kids cleaned their plate which is a high compliment!  They used the tiny forks to eat their salads.  After dinner we had a delicious Publix cake, Haagen Dazs  Ice Cream and champagne even!  As I was helping Mom do the dishes, I overheard him tell her,"Micky, you did good, how do you feel?"  "Good, she said".  Although short and to the point like most of  his comments, It was the sweetest exchange I've ever heard.  They had both worked as a team, were so proud of pulling it off without incident and were sweetly expressing their gratitude to each other.  That dinner was the perfect illustration of a loving marriage to me that has lasted over 54 years.  I have learned much from watching their marriage.  How many pots of mashed potatoes has she lovingly prepared for him?  How many movies has he watched with her which is her favorite pastime?  He refers to her as the "wife of his yout" (some My Cousin Vinny movie reference that they both love) and keeps a childhood picture of her on his desk and talks about how beautiful she still is.  She explains movie plots to him if they can't get closed caption and waits until after he has had a short nap after dinner to start it. 

We thanked them for a lovely evening and told them they can invite us over anytime! They got a new fire extinguisher that is mounted on the wall near the sink, just in case.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Magical Days

It has come to my attention that we added a new family member to our family on Christmas day, Hannah as she was named by my 6 year old daughter.  She is of the American Girl Doll variety, but make no mistake just as real as any other person living in our house.  I debated whether or not she was too young for an authentic American Girl doll as the recommend age stamped in the catalog is 8 yrs. old.  Last Christmas we gave her a "fake" one from Costco to see if she would keep her head and limbs attached, clothed, and somewhat combed.  Except for a little frizziness and a few periods of nakedness, I decided that she was indeed ready for the real thing and I am so glad I did.  The look on her face Christmas morning when she opened up her look alike American Girl doll and bed was worth every penny (and there were many pennies spent!).  Hannah has been her constant companion ever since they made their acquaintance. She puts Hannah's bed right beside her, in her own bed every night as the floor is too far away.  She brings her down to breakfast and for every meal and takes her with us on errands.  One of her chores is unloading the dishwasher and I found her holding Hannah on her hip while unloading with the other, talking to her the whole time.  She informed me that it was time Hannah started learning something so she was going to start teaching her how to read. I'm pretty sure later that day she brought down a sample of her writing for me to admire. She lovingly combs her hair shiny smooth and enjoys her company immensely. 

The world of reality and make believe is wonderfully blurred for her and she lets me know that I am welcome to join her anytime I want.  Sometimes I go with her and find myself giving Hannah a kiss goodnight and a hug or holding her while she puts on her coat!  I must say Hannah is extremely well behaved, mostly seen and not heard.  She is fast becoming one of my favorites too! My daughter is happy to let anyone who is willing into her make believe world. Laura, our oldest is usually a willing participant so is frequently wrangled whenever she is home.  Let me tell you there is nothing more precious to see our oldest daughter who is 25 yrs. old, playing dolls and dress up with her youngest sister.

My daughter isn't the only one who is in love with Hannah, my 7 yr. old son has fallen under her spell as well and would like one of his own. He also enjoys combing and fixing Hannah's hair although it is roughly the same motion as when he peels potatoes.  I had no idea that I would really be counting on the quality construction when I paid the big bucks.  He adores his younger sister and they are only 13 months apart so anything that is important to her is also important to him is the most likely explanation. She pretty much dictates their play, his life and he is perfectly happy with that set up. He let her play with his Legos one afternoon.  Instead of using them to construct something, she had magically transformed them into colorful pasta shapes and was pouring them into bowls.  I am somewhat concerned with my son's interest in dolls as well as wanting to play dress up with her, but I'm trying to play it cool at this point, by cool I mean not taking him to a child psychologist!  His birthday is coming up so should I get him his own doll or the basketball goal? American Girl does not have an American boy, I checked.

Monday, January 17, 2011


According to, the definition of falling is to drop or descend under the force of gravity.  My son is well acquainted with the act of falling, falling at least three or four times a day and in spectacular fashion.  It’s as if his body is not quite able to keep up with his active little mind that is going constantly from the moment his eyes pop open in the morning until he bounces backwards into his bed at night. I have images of him tumbling out of the car in his taekwondo uniform right in front of the glass doors to the building, somersaulting down the hillside at the park where he was previously riding his bike down full bore or catapulting down the hill in his ninja costume on Halloween night.  Sometimes I just hear him falling up the stairs behind me as we are coming into the house.  I’ve grown accustomed to his falling, expecting them almost and do not get alarmed unless there is a significant amount of blood, which amazingly there is not.  In fact, I even admire the way  he is willing to fall over and over at the ice skating rink or in the culdesac on roller blades until he learns how to skate or rollerblade. 
I've learned much about the difference between little boys and little girls, still have much to  learn.  They are an impulsive, transparent breed, acting before thinking most of the time.  I find myself just staring at him after one of his antics and all I can ask is"Why?"  But what has surprised me the most since I came to have a son 3 1/2 years ago is that with every ridiculous, spectacular fall, he would catapult himself full bore right into my heart. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Snowed In

Today is a sunny 52 which is a welcome change from the past week where the temperature has not gotten above freezing for a solid week.  I went out for my first outside run this morning since last Sunday, still having to dodge icy patches.  Thank goodness for treadmills is all I've got to say as they do just fine in a pinch.  School was called off on a tortuously daily basis which made it more difficult to prepare mentally to be snowed in with my 3 school aged children.  We had just had a partial week back to school from Christmas Break and were just starting to get back into our regular schedule when boom!  The perfect storm hit, snow followed by freezing rain followed by way below freezing temperatures, making driving impossible.

I made some interesting observations during this week about how people respond to such emergencies.  I managed to get out on day 3 I think. I really can't remember for sure as every day ran together into one long, long, long day.

1) People do not look good on snow days.  I found myself wearing the same green unattractive sweatpants for 3 or 4 days, no make-up, hair, no effort to make myself look presentable.  I guess I figure the people that would be seeing me have seen me in this manner before and love me anyway so why bother.  It wasn't just me though.  On my way to the grocery store, there was a man dressed exactly like Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli, complete with backpack and snarly look on his face.  I was expecting him to pull out his machete if I didn't let him cross the street!

2) Men are different.  I found that they are sent to the grocery stores for provisions and they come armed with a list that they will not compromise. They were usually on the phone describing the various brands,kinds of tomatoes/etc. to their wives for confirmation of their purchase.  They also had any teenagers in tow who were running amuck down the aisles which the dads didn't even seem to notice, amazing! They must have been too engrossed in trying to buy the correct grocery item.  They celebrate victories with gusto.  One enterprising local company opened a drop off sports day for our cooped up boys.  I was maybe the second person to drop off my poor son off who was growing very tired of the indoor scene. As I was leaving the parking lot, I saw a Dad throw up his hands in victory, yelling, "I'm free!"  like he had just crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon. 

3)People resort to who they really are in times of crisis.  The party animal types were organizing pot luck dinners in their neighborhoods, building snowmen, etc.  The more relaxed types, watched lots of movies, read possibly, meditated ( I'm just guessing here as I do not fall into this category) and ate too many snacks. The creative types created things like beautiful berry wreaths. Apparently, I enjoy organizing,cleaning and generally being productive in my natural state.  My closet has never looked better.  I went through boxes of jewelry, even finding gold to sell!  I once and for all bagged up all my extra buttons that come attached to clothing and gave them to my children to sort.  Has anyone ever once actually used one of those buttons or threads?  Please tell me if you have!  I organized the mudroom complete with baskets for each of my children's socks, mittens, etc. I also bagged up my husbands very outdated stone washed denim jeans although he is unaware and by the time he reads this they will be long gone to the goodwill. I also made several pots of 0 points vegetable soup, Italian style trying to lose the couple of pounds gained over the holidays, and even bleached my teeth most days.  I crossed off two hospitality committee items, composing (ok downloading an American Greeting template)and printing the invitations for the Teacher Appreciation luncheon and arranged for the caterer.

4)I need periods of quiet.  I didn't actually realize this until day 6 of the snow crisis.  I was actually quite proud of my children during the week confined to our house.  They played outside the first two days with the neighbor kids(God bless the neighbor kids!), sledding, breaking ice, generally playing.  I threw in some reading, addition flashcards, math problems when they started loitering.  This does wonders for children whose mother finds enjoyment in productivity.  They were extremely creative in finding things to do on their own.  One day they came down all dressed up,made up, haired up and dripping with the costume jewelry that I had found in my closet looking like gypsies.  However, this didn't entirely curtail the  not very interesting observations, "funny jokes", and questions that they each had during our time together.  Sometime on day 6, I realized that I could not hear another one without something very bad happening.  I must have had a worrisome look on my face because next thing I know my husband  volunteered to take the children to my son's basketball game while I went to Costco. So Michael Buble and I went on a lovely outing to Costco.  I took the opportunity to say not one thing to anyone in the store except, "put it on the card please".

Well, as luck would have it, the kids have MLK off tomorrow from school, really!  I feel like Jean Valjean on Les Miserables.  One day more!  I can do this.  I haven't even touched the basement!