Monday, January 31, 2011


One of the beautiful things about having children in school during the daylight hours is the freedom. Once the kids leave the casa, time is my oyster.

Generally, between 8:30-2:45, there is lots to get done. Now, I'm not saying I GET it done, just that there's a lot that I SHOULD be getting done...laundry, dishes, straightening/cleaning, budgeting, shopping, blah, blah, blah.

And that's all fine and well because it is what I signed up for when I accepted the "Homemaker" title.

But, lately, I've found myself slipping into the comfortable mode of spending half of my morning, three days/week, at the gym.

Before you go getting all impressed, let me add that about 45 minutes to an hour of that time is actually spent working out. The rest is in the dry sauna, chatting with my workout partner.

I love this time more than I can express. I realize that the other things on my list get shoved to the side so I can be a lot self-indulgent. And it also means that some of the time I am working into the wee hours of the night to get stuff accomplished that I could have done in the morning.

So I decided it was really time to revisit my to-do list and figure out how I can make this all work so I can actually attempt to get a decent amount of sleep instead of trying to survive on way too little.

But this week? The last of my "freedom" from the confines of a "scheduled" calendar? We've been kicking back in the dry sauna a little longer than usual. Soaking it in, if you will. The same way I will soak in a five pound bag of sugar via the sweets binge I'll go on the night before Mike and I do our next cleanse.

There was so much soaking going on that I had time to notice something I'd never seen before. That's when FBS entered my life for the first time.

See, the "seasoned"* ladies work out in the pool during the time we are at the gym. Most of the time they finish their class after we've left, so all we see of them are their cute little heads.

Today proved different. All but two of the ladies exited the pool while we were still sitting chatting in the heat. Many of them headed straight for the whirlpool, which sits right outside the sauna. And I had a perfect vantage point from which to watch them.

I noticed almost immediately that the two women who had on the same swimsuit and had lined up next to each other and were doing elderly high kicks** both had really flat butts. When they turned to move toward the whirlpool, they had large abdomens.

Interesting, I noted.

Then a gaggle of waddling senior ladies passed by the sauna. Flat butt? Check. Big tummy? Yup. It was all of them! And these were the women who were actively exercising. I can only imagine what the passive, stationary ones must look like!

I pointed this out to my workout buddy, who was all "REALLY? I've never noticed that."

As we did a little more surveillance on our way out of the sauna/pool area, we were both shaking our heads in wonder. Specifically, I was thinking "Does gravity just take your butt down like that? Kind of like the hair on a man's head tends to migrate to his ears and nose when they get old?"

Neither of us was very excited at the prospect of losing our posterior padding. In fact, if the stupid StairMaster can somehow save my butt from falling down the back of my legs in 40 years, I'm going to seriously consider buying one of those things.

Flat Butt Syndrome? Not on my watch.

*Nice attempt at disguising that they are old.

**No joke. Just keep in mind that "high kicking" for a person in their 80's is about shin high. On a toddler's shin, that is.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lunch Line Obsession

What is it with kids when they get an idea in their head?

The Babe, in combination with obsessing over details of his months-away-birthday-bash, is now completely engrossed with the hot lunch line at school.

In carpool this morning he started in again. Hooman just shook his head and, in a very defeated tone, said "It's like his birthday party, Mom."

It took everything in me not to laugh and then reply, "You haven't heard the half of it. I feel your pain. Multiplied by like five trillion."

Isn't there something worth ruminating that's better than cheap, rubbery spaghetti noodles and watery pasta sauce?*

It seems, since Hoooman admitted he went through the line and bought an orange** last week, that The Babe can no longer function without being allowed to get his share of the pie.

Incidentally, I know that's what this is all about: the fairness doctrine of siblings everywhere. "He got something and I didn't. That's not FAIR!"**

I've already reminded The Babe that I brought him a Subway lunch just a scant two weeks ago. Didn't matter.

I've reminded him that, come the last day of school, he'll be sporting his choice of any of the nutritionally-devoid Lunchables on the shelf at our local Walmart.*** That's not good enough.

No. Short of getting to grab a heavy, plastic tray and having a stubby lady with a large wart throw something indistinguishable from "hash" on his plate, he is going to continue on with this inquisition of fairness.

I'm reminded of a pillow I recently saw at Home Goods. It pictured a crown and the phrase "Smile and Carry On".

Maybe I'll adopt that annoying little royal wave and utilize it every time he starts down this path of insanity. Maybe that will look so completely ridiculous that he'll be shocked out of his line of thinking and forget, temporarily, that he is obsessing. Maybe, standing there waving like an idiot will even magically transform me to the land of no worries and perfect children.

Wait. What's that in the distance? Oh, yes. Of course. That's REALITY. Calling me back.

When this starts again, and IT WILL, I am going to take about three seconds to remember "This too shall pass. There will be a new, entirely different obsession coming down the pike REAL SOON."

If I'm lucky, "Obsession"**** by The Babe, edition 2011, volume 3, will have something to do with parenting and my utter lack of equality in anything related to my boys.

*Apparently, not when you are five. Going on six. And planning your party way-far in advance.

**Memo to the sub-60 inch set: MommaJ don't play dat. In fact, I am working extra hard to be sure you are all treated with complete inequality. That is actually more fair to you in the long run because that is EXACTLY the way life is going to treat you. Get used to it and please, when you are 45 years old and realize I'm right, let me know all the years of listening to you gripe about how unfair I was were worth it.

***That's my deal with the kids: eat a good lunch, that I pack, most of the days of school and you can eat complete crap on the last day. So far, so good.

****Place your orders early for the Kindle edition of the book.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Is She a Mom or a Raging Case of ADD?

I figure I'm not the only one who has issues with attention. (Squirrel!)

So, to prove my point, I started to copy a quiz to demonstrate that we ALL have some tendencies toward ADD/ADHD.

But, midway through copying the thing it in its entirety from another website (don't sue me--I'm not claiming credit...for the SQUIRREL!*), I realized that wasn't necessary.

Why? Because it dawned on me, about Q5, that the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD could also be the diagnosis of Mommyhood.

Follow me.....
Is your desk piled high with files, publications, and unfiled documents?
Yes. Did I miss a memo that said "Desks aren't for piling"? Who has time to read, sort, and file anything when every minute is about wiping dirty bottoms, preparing meals, washing clothes, driving carpool, etc, etc, etc.

Do you stack materials on all available surfaces, including the chairs, sofa or floor?
Let's see. I put clean, dry laundry on the chairs and sofa and dirty laundry on the floor. Though, honestly, sometimes I lay dirty clothes at the bottom of the bed when I'm really tired. Oh! And the kids sort through the clean clothes and some of them end up on the floor mixed with the dirty stuff.
And, I consider anything horizontal, beyond the length of the longest arm of my oldest child, a logical place to stack stuff.
I guess that's a resounding YES.

On a typical day, do you tend to handle whatever comes up rather than following a schedule or prioritized to-do list?
Hmmmmm. Sign a permission slip that has to be retrieved from beneath the seat of the very back of the car and signed THAT INSTANT or child won't go on trip vs. get out the door on time???** Deal with a complete meltdown in the chip aisle at Kroger or be home on time to get dinner on the table by 6pm????
Do I get points for having a list, even though it is on the bottom of the pile on my desk?

Do you "do your best work" under pressure at the last minute?
I can clean an entire mouth full of five-year-old teeth in .0000008 seconds flat if I know that I only have five minutes to complete the bedtime routine before The Middle comes on. So, YES!

Do you get distracted easily?
What? I'm sorry, did you say something? I can't hear you over the children. BOYS! STOP IT!

Does your mind wander in meetings or even during one-on-one conversation?Yes. It takes wild trips to the days when Mike and I actually had personal space, unlimited time for showers, and mornings to sleep in.

Do you spend a lot of time hunting down lost papers or files?
No. They are piled high on my desk next to the publications and unfiled documents.
Apparently, SOMEONE has a little issue with memory. Ahem.

Do you reschedule business and social appointments frequently to accommodate spur-of-the-moment changes?
I have nothing remotely businesslike or social to really reschedule, unless trips to the bank to deposit Mike's check or meeting a girlfriend and her kids at Chick-Fil-A count.
Those things? I try NEVER to reschedule. They help me keep my personal sanity.

Do you have repeated conflicts with co-workers, family members, waiters, or other service people?
Are you kidding me? I have three CHILDREN. If you record the word children and play it backwards on a turntable, the word "conflict" plays over and over and over again in a really dark, evil voice.

Are you easily frustrated? Do you routinely get upset in traffic, or waiting in lines at the store or bank?
I count it as the most exciting time of my life when the person ahead of me thinks my children are impatient because s/he chose to get in the 20 Items Or Less line with a month's worth of groceries. Doesn't everything think that's fun and invigorating?

Do you listen until someone completes their thought, or do you frequently interrupt them because you're sure you know where the conversation is headed?
Listen, buddy. I'm a Mother. Part of my job description is "eyes in the back of my head" and "mind reader". I frequently interrupt because NOT interrupting would be a complete waste of my time.

Do you find you're sleeping too much or too little?
As if there is a CHOICE?

Are you subject to mood swings?
Let me introduce you to them: Cranky, Bitchy, and Spiteful. I borrowed them from my Mother, who borrowed them from hers, and so forth, up the family line. They are kin to me and I would appreciate it if you would learn to embrace them, instead of trying to move them out of my life.

Are you distressed, anxious, or upset, sometimes out of proportion to the situation?
If catching a child's poo with your bare hands in the drive-thru of a Dairy Queen in podunk East Texas*** doesn't count as distressing, anxiety-producing, and upsetting, in complete proportion to the grossness factor then, NO. Never.

Once my children have left the building and I am no longer responsible for anybody but my mood swings, I may consider retaking this quiz. Maybe even in its entirety. Because I'll have time.

Then, and only then, will we truly know if it's just me being a Mom or a true attention problem.

*UP. Still can't bear to watch it. But, the dogs are greatness, even if I'm watching them through tear-filled eyes.

*"Hump. Death. Hump. Death." Classic from History of the World, Part I.

**For more information, please see "Baby Playdoh Machine" post on 7/25/09. NOT for the squeamish.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hold Us Together

"This is the first day of the rest of your life."

Try as I might, search as I will, Goggle until my fingers hurt, I can't find the name of the band to give credit for this lyric. The song, itself, has a campfire vibe, all guitar and choppy and "Kumbaya-ish". It's actually a fun song, one you'd like to associate with a band so you can check out the rest of their work.

But, back to the quote: it's awfully familiar, isn't it?

Wasn't it in the 1970's* that this phrase became hip, cool, RIGHT ON? I think all those pill-popping, acid-dropping, sexually-promiscuous people were on to something.

Of course, finding the quote was easy. It's attributed to "anonymous"**. Which I just find hysterical. Because, when I heard it, I knew I was supposed to write about it.

I woke up sub-light-on-the-horizon, knowing I had a writing assignment today. So, I'm going to give quote credit it to the biggest outsider ever: The big J.***

The very thing I thought of when I couldn't let the phrase go is the verse about mercy being new every morning.

And here it is, Lamentations 3:21-23, "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."****

Every morning. Do you get that? Not "once in a blue moon" or "when you are good" or "on every third Tuesday if your hair doesn't rebel." EVERY MORNING.

Whoa. So, on the day you are set to die, you will have a fresh slate, clean and ready to provide the kindness and forgiveness you couldn't earn, that which you can only accept as a gift. That is simply amazing.

Knowing that, how can you possibly wake up and see the world as a dark place? If you daily turn your face to Him and ask for guidance and wisdom and forgiveness, IT'S YOURS!

No wonder this lyric stuck out to me.

Oh, and God-moment alert: when I went to find the scripture reference for this post, I tripped upon the song. Check out Matt Maher, singing Hold Us Together:

Now, go celebrate today as if it is your first!

*Freaky moment: I realized I can no longer assume people will know I'm referring to a year in the 1900's when I type "the 70's". That's creepy.

**SHOUT OUT TO THE 70's: "Which one of you hippies wants to take credit for this phrase?"

***I hope that doesn't sound irreverent. But, I think we have a close enough relationship that I can pull it off. Or get hit by lightning.....

****Then hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness" also came to mind. I even sang it loud and proud and made the dogs bay in languages only they understand. It was a trio of red-blooded mammals singing in tongues. Glory be!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wanna Be My Friend?

Dear Person from High School Who is Trying to "friend me" on Facebook,

We've both aged since I last saw you (assuming I ever really knew you) so your updated profile picture is doing me absolutely, positively, no good in IDing you. And, your name? Gosh. Sounds somewhat familiar. But, I just can't place you to save my soul.

Honestly, that Dr. G chick from The Discovery Channel could probably do a better job figuring out who you are than I'll ever be able to.

Long story short: I don't remember you. And I'm too lazy to get up into the attic and pull out all my old yearbooks to see if your pictures from the 80's ring a bell.

Even though I could call up the other two people I know who you've already friended, I'm just in a lazy mode right now. If it makes you feel any better, one of our toilets was clogged for three days and I just got around to unclogging it. THAT is how lackadaisical I am at the moment.

Please don't take it personally, but I'm going to pass on friending you.

And, frankly, if we haven't seen each other since High School, what's really the point? We, obviously, didn't have a close relationship, as evidenced by the fact that you missed two weddings, one divorce, three births, and the purchase of two houses.

Thanks for thinking of me. If it is ultra-important for you to become my friend, a nice postcard from the South of France might make a good "first" impression.
Short of that, have a nice life. :)

Most cordially,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wait Upon The Lord

I try not to post twice a day. Frankly, I like having posts "waiting" to be published. That way, if I don't feel like writing one day, I don't feel like I am letting someone down by not giving them new content.

But, today, God convicted me that there is good reason for my patient waiting. And that He is totally in control of a situation that seems to be taking forever to resolve.

This realization didn't change the fact that Mike and I are still waiting for a final answer; it changed my heart and gave me the power to continue waiting for God's timing.

So, I had to share yet another post today, in hopes that one of you will be as blessed by this message as I was.

When's the last time you TRULY had to wait?

I'm not talking in a line at the grocery store or in traffic or carpool. I'm talking weeks and weeks or months or years of waiting.

The type of waiting when you think that perfect person is never going to show up so you can finally get married and start that family you've dreamed about for years.

Or you've spent thousands of dollars on treatments to become pregnant and the tests keep coming back negative, month upon month.

Or the job you've been eyeing for years is given to yet another person who hasn't worked in the company as long as you have and has ten fewer years of experience.

THAT kind of waiting.

Right now, it feels like the Nowell house is in that type of a wait.

Without going into gory details, we are in a queue, waiting on an answer. And we've been here several weeks now.

Every time an answer seems within reach, the meeting gets moved or the phone call canceled. Another cancellation and a promise of a meeting "next week" just came this morning.

It's frustrating, unnerving, and positively stressful at moments.

So when I reached the car after my workout this morning, I heard Dr. Charles Stanley on my radio. I love this man's voice* so I was instantly hooked on what he was saying. I couldn't have been in the car two seconds when I realized he was talking about "waiting". Since I am dealing with my own issues in this arena, my ears tuned in even more intently.

Within seconds, I learned that I had never considered the freedom in waiting.

It was one of those moments I knew God was speaking directly through the radio to me; it was a "frying pan moment"**.

Yeah. Hit me like that.

Maybe you are waiting on something right now. Maybe it's a big deal; maybe something small. Maybe you've just lived through a time when you thought "Geez. I asked for patience. THAT was a mistake because all I'm getting is a long period of waiting. I heart that as much as the thought of a colonoscopy!"

Remember this: Your wait is for a purpose.

Read that again.

Your wait is for a purpose.

Since I value Dr. Stanley's teaching so much, I'm going to let him explain why.*** I hope you find the kernel of truth in what he says.

Thank you Lord for the new perspective. You've changed my heart and my point-of-view. Now I am happy to be patient so you can work out the details and put us in the center of your will. You truly are the best! Amen

*He reminds me of a Grandpa who gives the best advice in world.

**Frying pan moments are times when I realize "God has been trying to talk to me and I haven't been listening, so he had to make the message so crystal clear that it feels like I've been hit in the head with a frying pan."


Jack of All Trades, MASTER of None

There is the little place in your posterior that has a name that I don't know. But I can describe it:

It's where a male underwear model has a "scoop" out of his bottom that is oh-so-attractive to look at.

It's where I can feel the weight of the babies I carried, long after I'd delivered The Babe, because some stupid "band" connects there.

And it's the place where the StairMaster exacted its revenge.

Earlier this week, my workout buddy and I thought it would be a good idea to mix it up a little. We'd basically worn out the elliptical routine. So, we moved over to the treadmill.

That piece of machinery. Gads. It LOOKS simple. Has simple buttons. Asks simple questions on its little red-dotted screen.

I can get it to accept my age and weight* and push the "Forest Walk" button, which looks like it would kill even the most seasoned of off-trail runners, but I can't actually get the darn thing to TAKE ME ON THE FOREST WALK.

Once? Fluke. Twice? Idiot programmer. Namely, me.

By this past Monday, I was determined NOT to let the programming take me down a path I didn't want to go. So I suggested the StairMaster.

And now I know exactly where each of those steps go when they disappear into that tall casing. STRAIGHT TO HELL.

I swear on everything good and right that my posterior has never, ever, EVER hurt like this before. I feel like someone has taken a rubber band and popped the inside of my hiney about 1000 times seven. And then some.

It hurts to stand. It hurts to walk. It hurts to sit. Basically, being alive is a painful experience after meeting the StairMaster.

And the saddest part of this story? I only lasted ten measly minutes. I was huffing and puffing like I'd just crossed the finish line at the Chicago Marathon with a PR that beat the Africans by an hour.

With this much pain and oxygen-sucking, you'd think I'd been on there HOURS and HOURS. Which tells me that varying my routine, though painful and altogether the least fun I've had in years, it a very, very smart thing.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to suck it up and hoping the pain will ease so I can keep my Wednesday gym appointment with my friend. Who I simultaneously hope has sympathy pains and I hope doesn't.**

Mr. StairMaster? I now know why the word "master" is in your name. But, I'll be back. It may just take me a few days to get up the courage.

Once I can lift my leg far enough off the ground to get my workout shoes on without screaming obscenities and wincing in pain? IT'S ON!

*Without laughing!

**Neither of us is really crazy about over-exertion so if we are both in pain I have a feeling we'll be back on the flat, straight treadmill routine in the morning.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sometimes Free Just Ain't Any Good

WARNING: Today's topic should be reserved for ADULT-EYES ONLY. It tackles issues of the over-sexualization of America. Please be sure children DO NOT read this article.

I got an offer I couldn't refuse.

And, no. It didn't involve a bloody horse head in our Queen-size sleeper.

I'd taken advantage of a similar offer once before and it worked out beautifully. But, this time, I stood to benefit even more, so I jumped in with wild abandon.

Seems a random airline had random, unused miles that had accumulated on Mike's journeys to the East coast last year. And said airline was just DYING to give us magazine subscriptions in exchange for the couple of thousand mile-points that were sitting unclaimed, no doubt bungling up their accounting system.

The list of magazines was impressive. Most of the "ladies" ones that I liked I was already receiving and had re-upped via magazine drives from local schools. I chose not to extend those subscriptions into the 2020's.

Instead, I decided, I'd get some magazines we normally wouldn't pay good money to order.

One of my big "faults" is not being current, especially when it comes to Hollywood. I love movies, thoroughly enjoy Blue-Ray, and love watching award shows. But, in between award times? I'm utterly clueless about up-and-coming actors, which movies are in production and which have finally hit theaters.

Now, I have a friend who regularly keeps up with this kind of stuff. So, she has kind of kept me in the "know" for the last several years. But, I thought, wouldn't it be fun to be able to actually have a conversation with her, instead of looking at her, for the umpteenth time, like a deer in the headlights when she mentioned "so-and-so's new movie is being delayed because he's going to rehab after being caught doing drugs AND sleeping with three prostitutes simultaneously"?*

So, I ordered Entertainment Weekly. The title kind of popped like Entertainment Tonight. Which made me think of Mary Hart. And I like her. She's a good girl. And those gams? Totally worth insuring for a bazillion dollars.

The first magazine had an ad for the MTV show Skins, where a group of 13-year-old-looking kids seemed to be having a partially clothed orgy.

Nice. {Sarcasm font, where are thou?}

It also contained an explicit article on Natalie Portman's latest movie Black Swan. If you know much about the plot**, you'll know that the ad for Skins wasn't the only thing to make me blush.

I commented to Mike that "this magazine needs to NEVER find its way into the kids' hands." He concurred when I educated him on the latest MTV foray into sliminess and Natalie's character's propensity toward women.

The second magazine arrived a week later sporting a cover picture of the new cast of American Idol. They were all sitting in the back of a limo, smiling like they were hopped up on some party drug. Worse than that was the fact that J Lo was wearing a long dress, but sitting like Sharon Stone in that infamous jail scene from Basic Instinct. The come hither look on her face should have been reserved for her husband.

I didn't even open this one. I sent it straight into the recycling bin. And commented to Mike that "I need to just go ahead and cancel this thing."

Then came magazine number three, the final straw that broke the backs of every camel in the herd.

"Gay Teens on TV" heralded the headline. The picture was of two very cute boys, ostensibly both gay. Or at least, portraying gay teens on TV.

I had had it. I flipped to the article, to find a lovely timeline of all the kids who had "hooked up" over the years, including one picture of two teenage girls kissing.

I immediately looked through the magazine to find the phone number to cancel. I had to SEARCH for the information and then practically use a magnifying glass to read the 888 number. I learned, through this process, that TIME magazine is the parent company for EW. That explained everything***.

I canceled over the phone while Mike went online and canceled by entering the information not once, but twice, just for good measure.

Now, some of you are really aggravated with me right now because you see no issue with any of the magazine contents I've just described. Some of you probably think I'm some Bible-beater who hates people who are different than me. And some of you probably think I am just an ignorant, head-in-the-sand woman who is totally out of touch with reality and should learn to live in the post-sexual revolution America of today.

And you'd be wrong on all fronts.

I take issue with magazines that are blatant about sexuality, period****. I don't want my boys learning about the most precious relationship they will have with their wives from the likes of individuals who think sex is most useful for selling movie tickets.

Therefore, if the plot of Black Swan can command an audience without including sex, then it should be made. From what I've read, though, Hollywood execs didn't think a "ballet movie" would sell to a broad, especially male, audience, so they inserted lesbianism into the show. Cheap ploy, guys.

J Lo? You are a beautiful woman. Let your husband remind you of that, wear the gorgeous clothes you are known for picking out, and leave the steaming sexuality for the bedroom.

And I don't think it is proper for Hollywood to use teenagers to advance the whole agenda of homosexuality. This generation of kids sees gay teens every time they turn around. The subtle message is that children should be totally in tune with their sexuality and know what they want and like by the time they hit puberty.

Did feminists really burn their bras so magazines like Entertainment Weekly could educate us on the sexual habits of Hollywood? If so, then I'm extra, super glad I never bought into that line of thinking.

Because, even though I live in the world, I am not of it.

And I will continue to raise my kids to resist it as well. One step at a time. One magazine cancellation after another, if necessary.

Because God saw fit to give me these children to raise and I am called to protect their interests. Especially when those interests run counter to everything the world is pitching their way.

If that makes me old-fashioned? Good. Because, in terms of insults, I'll gladly take that one on for the future of my kids.

So, every day, I will continue to pray and strive to be a Mother who is willing to stand up and speak the truth, in love.

Especially when I find that the world is doing its level best to kick my feet out from under me with something as simple as a free magazine subscription.

*WOW. Once I wrote that sentence, I realized how much I LIKE being ignorant about Hollywood.

**Which I didn't, until I read the article. There is a term for what I read: over education.

***Liberal to the bone. Not my cup of joe.

****I HATE taking my kids to "regular" grocery stores anymore because we can't stand in line without seeing pregnant teenagers, gay marriage, cheating spouses, and the like on magazine covers. I really don't think making a run for eggs should result in a conversation about sexual morality EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stammering as an Art Form

The King's Speech

Shall we say wonderful? Enlightening? Marvelous? Entertaining? Engaging?

Or should I just say "Grab a date and head for the theater?"

Truly one of the most interesting and entertaining movies I've seen in a good long while.

Though I'm not a historian*, I found this whole show beyond fascinating. I always find the story more engaging when there is an actual PERSON behind the character.** And when I got a glimpse into the Queen's family tree, a rare treat to be sure, it just sent the story off the charts for me.

Without ruining the plot, I was rooting for the lead character from the get-go. It didn't hurt that adorable Colin Firth was playing King George VI.*** I've liked him since he stood opposite Renee Zellweger in the "Bridget Jones" series of movies and showed up in the first "Nanny McPhee". Sadly, I've largely ignored his body of work (which is mighty) since then. BIG MISTAKE. Shortly, I'll be inundating my queue on Netflix with movies he's been in for the last five years or so.***

If the audience reaction is any indication of a good movie, this one is good. Many in the theater clapped at the end, after the post-scripts about how this one man led a country through some very difficult times that, frankly, had they been handled differently, could have altered the face of the entire world.

It really is, in the end, a story of good triumphing over evil. Of one man overcoming an upbringing that was less than supportive and loving and leading an entire nation through a time of unspeakable evil.

Go see it. No doubt, it will be award nominated come Oscar time.

And won't it be fun to root for a movie that not only entertains, but also demonstrates that man can do just about anything he sets his mind to?

*Or a geographer or chemist or fill-in-the-blank with weak areas of my intellect.

**Which explains why I love "The Blind Side" so stinking much. And, yes. I cry every single time they show the draft scene and pictures of the "real" family...and multiple times throughout the movie, even though I know what's coming.

***Kind of like I did when I realized Christian Bale was blazing hot and had made several movies prior to "Batman".

Now, not so impressed with Mr. Bale. Sadly, his "real" life has become much too publicized and I just completely dislike it when actors become too human, either through personal trials or political rants. I want them to remain a neutral canvas, off of which a variety of characters can bounce, without me seeing "wife beater" or "flaming PETA protester" every time I look at the screen with them on it.

All that said, I WILL pony up the coin to go see "The Fighter". Still love me a little Marky Mark AND I'm interested to see what all the buzz is about.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Freakin' Hormones

When it comes to brother-in-laws, I hit the jackpot.

He is altogether brilliant, fun, spiritual, and a man after God's own heart. And he loves his family like they are the breath he breathes.

Pause and inhale that last sentence. There just aren't many men like that around today. But, I'm related to several of them. PRAISE BE!


B-I-L shared something he's been reading with us* over New Year's Weekend.

It seems, James Dobson has written a book on raising daughters. And where the book on raising boys flowed out quickly, this one has been a labor of love. Apparently without an epidural or a birthing coach.

Seems we women are, shall we say, difficult**? Tricky? Complex?

Here's what I learned: basically, once we reach puberty, you male-types have two good weeks a month with us.

And, have fun figuring out which two those are, because even we women, most months, have no clue what the hell is going on.

That's it. Good luck. GO!

How much does THAT suck?

Seriously, though, through Dr. Dobson's research he found that powerful hormones control women's bodies. And they ebb and flow in bizarre, but predictable ways, every single freakin' month of our lives.

Until we reach menopause, that is. Then, it's a total crap shoot, sorry to say.

But, I digress.

Basically, the amount of estrogen (or lack thereof) and the amount of testosterone (or presence of), cause us to ride a roller coaster of emotions.

Where one week we'll find our husband's goofy come-ons endearing, the next we will find them offensive.

One week we might like to be ogled, the next we'll find ourselves fighting off the urge to deck our man.

Get my point? Our hormones rule us and it just ain't pretty.

So, men, I'm speaking directly to you. Before you think you are going crazy raising that sweet, oh-so-feminine daughter? Or trying to figure out your wife? Check out Dr. Dobson's latest tome: Bringing Up Girls.

If you are lucky, you can win on the Ouija board of your gal's monthly cycle, and have just the right thing to say at just the right time***.

If you figure it out, will you PLEASE let Mike in on the secret???

*The Three Stooges: me, Mike, and my sister-in-law. I call Curly!

**Sally: "I'm difficult". Harry: "You're challenging." SIGH.

***If there is more than female in your house, you can thank God that cycles seem to sync themselves. God's provision for male sanity, if you ask me.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

God's Writing

On the first anniversary of Mom's death, I felt convicted that I should sit down and send a little note to two of my friends who have recently lost their Daddy's.

I had one of those "God" experiences when I started typing; my hands were running across the keyboard like a thoroughbred loosed. I had control but had none. It was altogether amazing and slightly scary at the same time.

I crave the times when God steps into my writing and takes over, but I don't seem to have them often enough. Sadly, I know who to blame for that (ME!) and I know the answer to finding God in the details more often (daily time in the Word, stepping out of the busy life I lead, etc).

After all is said and done, though, I am human. I forget the importance of Monday through Sunday communication and reading scripture and being quiet.

Sound familiar?

Tonight, I reread what I sent to my girl friends. Both girls, though we've had little contact in the last several weeks, responded immediately. That told me what I had sent was something that struck a collective nerve.

The email was God speaking through me. I typed; He narrated. And, believe me, the narrative is a thing of beauty. That's how I know it is from Him.

As you read this, imagine God being the "I" in the conversation and "you" being the object of the email.

Though there are faults in the writing*, no doubt created by me, I do so see God in the details and in the thought.

I've said it before: He's a gentleman. He absolutely adores you and wants you to be His, but He is going to pursue you gently and wait until YOU ARE READY.

Are you ready?


I just wanted you to know that I haven't forgotten about you. I've been a little silent lately; haven't felt much like writing.

I realize my silence is matched most days by yours, so I think we understand each other. Just because the words aren't flowing doesn't mean the thoughts aren't.

I just really wanted you to know today that I love you. And I feel your pain. And I wish I could make it go away. Far, far away.

But, since I can't, I'm saying a prayer for you and sending this. I hope you'll understand how much you mean to me and how glad I am that you are in my life.

And even when our lives don't intersect as much as we wish they did, that doesn't mean you mean less to me. In fact, often days, I realize it means you mean more. Because, when we do sit down to chat, the conversation flows like water. And that is the biggest sign that we have a friendship that runs deep and actually means something.

Thank you for being you. Call or write when you want. Meanwhile, I'll be thinking of you. In my silence.


*For example, God never, ever forgets us. His eye is "on the sparrow" so how much more is it on those created in His image?

And He craves constant communication. We just step away too often to know He is talking to us.

God also isn't silent most of the time. He is speaking to our hearts but we are too busy to listen.

He also can make the pain go away, through prayer and earnest seeking of His glory, but most of the time we are too caught up in our humanity to see that this pain is temporary.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Party Planning for the Five and Under Set

The Babe has been planning his birthday for about two weeks now. Problem is, his birthday isn't until May 10th.

Unlike his Mother, he is early for everything. And doesn't roll in at the last minute, sideways, praying it all goes well.

When I say planning, I don't mean to indicate that he is trying to decide between a "Thomas the Tank Engine" and a "Superman" theme. No, we are WAY past that point.

We have a guest list, games have been chosen, "homemade" invitations created, a preferred gift list for Mom and Dad prepared*, and we've been given specific instructions on how to wake him up the morning of his birthday.

He's also preemptively struck with multiple "Thank yous" for the gifts he has chosen for us to purchase in the future. He has indicated that he is super-glad we are the best parents in the world because he KNOWS we are going to purchase one of the two Lego sets he has his heart prepared to receive. Once every few days he'll throw his arms around our necks and give us big kisses, in anticipation of the best birthday party and gift EVER!

If you are wondering if all of this build-up is giving me a little performance anxiety? Nah. I'm feeling absolutely no pressure to live up to his grandiose expectations. Cough.

Nickels and Hooman have rolled their eyes so many times I'm afraid they may have strained some random eye muscle. Up to this point, the harshest thing they've said is "Babe? Can you stop talking about your birthday?"** Were I a betting woman***, though, I'd say this is gonna escalate come about February. It could be a bloody Valentine's around here.

Me? I'm just smiling and remembering that my little guy's love language is gifts. Plus extravagant parties.

I've also used this opportunity to predict his career path: he's going to prepare extraordinary parties, well in advance, for very wealthy and generous people. He'll be the first straight, adorable, male party planner in the world.

I fully expect that our 25th wedding anniversary will be his first "paid" gig****, paving the way for a fantastic career.

I can just imagine what might happen when he starts mulling over ideas. The months and months of details will become the conversation piece of every get together. Both his brothers will be bald from pulling all their hair out.

Do you think it's too early to start dropping hints about the location, cake, and the perfect gift?

With two bows, of course.

*Including the statement "I want the box wrapped and TWO bows on the gift. Not one."

**Through clenched teeth, which is difficult to pull off.

***Oh wait! I am.

****At a discount, of course.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Year

365 days doesn't seem much. In fact, in the grand scheme of the universe and in the generous timing of God, it is just a blip on the radar screen. But, when you are missing someone whom you will never see again before you get to Heaven, it is an eternity.

There are so many things I miss about Mom. I loved the way she greeted me on the phone, each and every time we talked. She sounded genuinely excited when I called. There was always a "Hello dear" or just a general happiness in her voice that let me know she was glad I'd picked up the phone and called.

I crave her smile. The day she died, she was so tired and weak. But, every time one of her caregivers entered the room, she'd open her eyes and smile at them. After all, she'd been a nurse, and she understood what they were going through, and she wanted them to know she appreciated what they were doing.

Forever I'll wish I could just see her stand up and dance a goofy jig when the gosh-awful bluegrass music fired up. Or watch her dance with Dad, something they did quite well.

I ran across a quote sometime earlier this year, and it really struck a chord with me, so I saved it. Today just seemed like the day to share it:

"Sometimes, when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated." ~Lamartine

I miss you, Mommy, and I can't wait to see you again.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

California vs. Texas*

After I picked myself up off the floor laughing, I had to share this. I didn't write it (DISCLAIMER, all you sue happy people!), I just know how to cut and paste and remove pesky < signs and stuff.

There's this long standing "feud", something like the Hatfields v. McCoys, between Texas and California.

But, try as I might, I can't figure out exactly why.

We both come from huge states. We both have coasts. We both have tons of agriculture we share with other states/countries. What's not to like about both states, seriously?

I think, after giving this a little more thought, that it boils down to a political thing. Texas is viewed as a Bible-thumping, George Bush loving, red state.** California is viewed as an anything-goes, pot-smoking/hippie-loving, blue state. And in the middle the two shall never meet.

Or, maybe it's just the Cowboys vs. the 49ers thing. In which case, I could care less and have zero, zilch, nada commentary.

In any case, read on. (Hopefully) enjoy.

And have a great "GEEZ. It's Tuesday but it sure feels like a Monday!" kind of day.

In California:

The Governor of California is jogging with his dog along a nature trail. A coyote jumps out and attacks the Governor's dog, then bites the Governor.

The Governor starts to intervene, but reflects upon the movie "Bambi" and then realizes he should stop because the coyote is only doing what is natural.

He calls animal control. Animal Control captures the coyote and bills the State $200 testing it for diseases and $500 for relocating it.

He calls a veterinarian. The vet collects the Governor's dead dog and bills the
State $200 testing it for diseases.

The Governor goes to hospital and spends $3,500 getting checked for diseases from the coyote and on getting his bite wound bandaged.

The running trail gets shut down for 6 months while Fish & Game conducts a $100,000 survey to make sure the area is now free of dangerous animals.

The Governor spends $50,000 in state funds implementing a "coyote awareness program" for residents of the area.

The State Legislature spends $2 million to study how to better treat rabies and how to permanently eradicate the disease throughout the world.

The Governor's security agent is fired for not stopping the attack. The State spends $150,000 to hire and train a new agent with additional special training re: the nature of coyotes.

PETA protests the coyote's relocation and files a $5 million suit against the State.

Meanwhile, in Texas:

The Governor of Texas is jogging with his dog along a nature trail. A coyote jumps out and attacks his dog.

The Governor shoots the coyote with his State-issued pistol and keeps jogging. The Governor has spent $0.50 on a .45 ACP hollow point cartridge.

Buzzards eat the dead coyote.

And that, my friends, is why California is broke and Texas is not.

*With sincerest thanks to my buddy who also has a blog but probably won't post it there because this isn't remotely in line with her blog's theme. And, even if she does, seeing it one more time will give me a chance to reread it and laugh until I'm on the floor again.

**Except native Austinites. And those people just aren't explainable most of the time, so we love them like a Weight Watchers leader loves cake: from a distance and with a lot of restraint.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

De ninguna manera!****

Today, our sweet little neighbor boy ventured through the kitchen and the following conversation issued forth:

Me: Hola, Senor!
Him: Hola!

Me: Como estas?
Him: BIEN!*

And off he ran through the house, to find the kids.

Thank goodness he didn't stop to actually HAVE a conversation in Spanish, because I would have quickly moved right back to speaking the Queen's goods had he ventured any further.

Yes, I'm just dangerous enough with my Spanish to be dangerous.

CERVEZA, anyone???

For someone who made a major fool out of myself last time I went to Mexico, I'm surprised "HOLA!" rolled off my tongue. I've been a lot hesitant to speak in tongues since the following "GEEZ, you are SO American" interaction went down:

Maitre d: Hola! Buenas Dias!
Me (all smug, thinking "I CAN ANSWER THAT!"): Buenas Dias!*

Maitre d has grabbed the morning menu and is now walking me toward the table to meet my two comadres. We three gals have been in Mexico several days and are enjoying our last breakfast at the resort.

Maitre d: Coma Esta?
Me (still way too smug): Nada.

That's when the dude starts laughing until I think I might have to perform the Heimlich.

We get to the table and he's STILL LAUGHING and now my friends want to know "WHAT?" and he repeats, in Spanish, the last part of our conversation. Now all three are laughing.

And all I could add to the conversation was "HEE HAW. Look at me! I'm a donkey's behind." I have no Earthly idea why the answer "Nothing" to the question "What's happening?"** is funny.

After one of my friends stops snorting long enough to explain, I understand I was asked "How are you?" and responded "Nothing". All the laughing made a LOT more sense then.

Let's just say, the Montezuma's Revenge that settled in after that meal wiped that smug clean out of my body.*** I gave up anything that looked, smelled, or tasted remotely like it might involve the Spanish language for several years after that.

Fast forward to today, when I was pleasantly pleased that our eight-year-old neighbor neither laughed NOR corrected me in my phraseology.

Sadly, though, our family line isn't fairing well in this context. Our oldest is following in my footsteps; he has studied Latin for two years now. Eventually, he wants to speak Japanese, Chinese or Vietnamese. He's actually said "I'd like to major in Math and minor in language."

Maybe the family tree of "English-only" will end with him. If I have a choice, he'll tackle Japanese, giving me the opportunity to travel with him to the land of REAL sushi and sake.

Of course, none of the rest of us will know how to order off the menu and I'm sure, in my smug "I can do this, I'll order!" way, I'll end up with raw octopus egg sushi on my plate.

Maybe it's time I ponied up a little coin for one of them there Rosetta Stone packages?


*Copycat! Negative three points for originality.

**That would be the question "Que pasa?".

***Along with everything else.

****NO WAY! Yeah, had to Goggle "Spanish to English translation" to pull this one off.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Food Befitting a Dog

Some of you are ready to call PETA on my sorry butt because you think "She doesn't love her dogs enough. One's overweight and the other is clearly way too damn skinny."

What can I say? Besides "Look up Whippet on Wikipedia and you'll see I don't starve the one. And the other? Have you seen his face? If he even gets near me and cries a little, I totally feel the need to fill his belly!"

But I'm not a totally irresponsible, heartless owner. I recently put Doug, AKA Fatty McPatty, on a diet. And I know for a fact that I will cry like a baby when it comes time for either dog to be put down.

Proof? I'm the kid who accidentally hit a bird on the way to my final History exam and stopped the car, scooped the half-dead thing up with a map, cried all the way home, found a box and a soft cloth, convinced my less than enthusiastic Mother to take care of said bird while I was gone, and drove back to the college, crying all the way.*

So, I'm not as cold-hearted as you might imagine. I just firmly believe animals have a place. And that place is NOT on my furniture.**

Enter my latest little adventure in cooking. Which, incidentally, is more proof nobody should go all ASPCA on me: organic, homemade dog food.

Yes, you read that right. And, no, I haven't lost my mind.

I just happened to have made the wrong purchase at Whole Foods and ended up with ground chicken instead of ground turkey. After trying to pawn off the $10 worth of meat on a friend, I determined to find a good use for the stuff.

Besides, I reasoned, if McPatty liked the food I gave him more, maybe he'd crave less table food, and he'd actually lose the weight the vet told me needed to go away.

Enter a Goggle search, which convinced me that crazy people are the only ones who do this. And I was about to join the crazy pack.

There was lots of commentary on the "proper" organic meats and vegetables and grains that should be used. The one poor soul who admitted she bought "scraps" from the meat counter at Aldi and the cheapest rice on the shelf, was bastardized by other writers.

I swore at that moment I would NEVER, EVER publicize the fact that I came up with a better tasting concoction, because someone would smear my good name into the mud of a commentary section because I dared to use garlic powder v. organic, fresh-peeled cloves.

Off the computer, into the kitchen I went, with a six-ingredient recipe in my little head. I discovered, really quickly, it was SO INCREDIBLY EASY to make this stuff. And Mike commented that "We could even eat this stuff!"***

The dogs? Can you say freaked out? On the verge of hysteria? Orgasmic? All apt descriptors.

I can not think of a time in the past, besides when my friend gave me four cans of dog food, that the dogs ate everything in their bowl and looked at me like "MORE? Just a trifle more? PLEASE???"

So, experiment number one complete. Seventeen meal-size servings for two dogs in the freezer.

This morning, I discovered some bison meat on the brink of expiration and combined it with several egg yolks that were unused from breakfast. In just a few moments, I'll be making another delicious, nutritious, organic concoction for the muttleys.

After all, the crazy commentators said it was a good idea to "rotate" between grains and meats. And, through my reading on homemade dog food, I'm convinced that poor rotating habits might cause death and destruction to befall the boys.

After all, what kind of dog owner only feeds one type of food to their dog for its entire life?****

*Net result: late for the exam, had to beg my way into the room and use my feminine powers (AKA crying) to convince the prof I should be able to test, passed the class, and came home to a dead bird in a box.

**My other totally sane reason for not wanting the dogs in my bed? When love is in the air, the only thing that ruins the mood faster than a crying kid is a dog scratching and whining at the door, begging to be let in.

***Um. NO.

****The sane kind. Opposite the location I'm standing right now, waiting for a pot of dog food to come to a proper boil.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Postulate: Sugar Causes ADD

Hypothesis: The Babe ate something wildly sugary at school, right before he came home.

Proof of hypothesis: A conversation that began at 4:01pm, on the ride home from dropping off brothers at karate, and ended at 4:35pm with me asking the question "Did you celebrate someones birthday at school today?"

Ramblings during which hypothesis was proven: Recollection of a "dream" that included adoption of at least 100 animals, including lions, tigers, cats, dogs, a guinea pig, lots of fish, not to mention 100 ladybugs. The birth of a baby sister. The purchase of our house. Two wounds inflicted on Doug, including one where our pool was void of water and Mike had filled it with "cremicals"* and Doug fell over the side, breaking his leg. The demise of our neighbor's house by fire, during which all the children broke some appendage on their body (everyone got out OK, otherwise.) Visions of owning a Lego store, with the purchase of any set of Legos being unnecessary, thereby causing our house to fill to the brim with the bricks.** A robber, who stepped in between Aaron and the last set of "police Legos", and stole it.

Do you get my point? The conversation.wouldn't.end.

He'd leave the room talking, walk down the hall talking, talk to the walls in his room, talk coming up the hall, and continue talking when he found me again. The ramblings were punctuated by "Guess what?" and "Do you know what happened next?" and "THEN..."

I began to wonder if it was a mistake that God didn't make an OFF button right in the middle of a kid's forehead, just for situations like this.

Corroboration of Hypothesis to a Bonafide Fact: After asking about late-day birthday parties, The Babe got a weird look on his face, kind of like he was wondering "HOW DID SHE KNOW? I HAVEN'T EVEN TALKED ABOUT THAT YET!" and he responded that, indeed, they had had a New Year's party. For Texas. With cupcakes and lemonade and Sprite and Dr. Pepper.

When I made the mistake of asking what kind of cupcakes***, he said the holders were swirly and the cake was "manilla" and the frosting had sprinkles.

My brain shut down at that moment. I think my ears hit some sort of overload.

From that moment on, I could see his lips moving, but I had NO IDEA WHAT HE WAS SAYING.

Then he decided it was time to play and off he ran, literally kicked into high gear, down the street, to play with one of his little buddies. I sure hope none of his friend's Moms ask how his day went.....

Me? I'm seriously considering a pre-dinner nap.


**This one isn't actually part of a dream; it's reality.

***I often live vicariously off descriptions of sugary foods I can't get my hands on at the moment.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Parenting Dogs

Squeamish alert. You've been warned.

Nickels woke up with a statement no Mother ever really likes to hear: "MOM! Doug puked."

Me: "Where?"

N: "The side of his cage."

Me (thinking): "I JUST washed all the doggie bedding, what, a week ago? And I had to get rid of one bed due to puke so heinous smelling that I couldn't save the padding. I still wonder if that was puke. Maybe it wasn't. EWWWW."

Me (responding to Nickels, exasperated*, in a beat down tone of voice): "I'll be there in a minute."

I'm the puke-master in this house. When someone is coughing up a lung, praying to the porcelain god, it's me standing behind them, wiping their mouth with a kleenex. Mike? In another room, hands over his ears, going "LALALALALALALALALALALA" until it seems safe to stop and check. If he even slightly hears gagging, he gags himself.

I went into the room and couldn't, for the life of me, find anything that looked remotely barf-y. Then, I heard Doug, in the other room, having one of his "attacks".

The best way I can describe these little episodes is that it seems like he is choking on a whistle, complete with the sound effects, and trying to eject said whistle with all the muscles in his fat midsection.

In other words, it's a wheezing, can-dogs-have-asthma-question-inducing, episode every single time it happens. And it happened about four times this morning.

Then I began to wonder if he had kennel cough. We'd just boarded him less than two weeks ago. He'd had his bordetella shot, but was that enough?**

Through all this distraction, I still hadn't located the supposed barf. So, I did the unthinkable: I asked Mike to look.

Right move. He broke the land-speed record and was back with a report from the field: Puke at 5 o'clock. Against the bars, onto the floor and wall, possibly on the dog bed.


Two hours later, I was on my hands and knees, scrubbing down the wall, floor, floorboard, and dog bed with a wet paper towel and my stomach of steel.***

Doug? In the meantime, very apologetically begged for breakfast. I wasn't very happy to supply it, but I did get thanked with a big old doggy burp. One so big I feared it was going to produce more of the same he had left me earlier****.

On my way out the door to the gym, I caught sight of another little "mistake" Doug had made, this time in the guest bedroom at the back of the house. This is the part of the house that was added on and doesn't get great air circulation. Translation? Hotter than Hell in the summer; colder than an ice cube in Antarctica in winter.

Considering I was running late for the gym, I did the most reasonable thing possible: I acted like I didn't see it. I reasoned: "No body is using this room any time soon. There is an off chance that one of the dogs might need a snack. I'm leaving it right where is was deposited and dealing with it later."

Guess what? When I arrived home, it was exactly where I left it: in the frigid air of the bedroom, undisturbed.

THIS is why I have an agreement with the dogs regarding their longevity. MommaJ can only take SO MUCH.

*As if I don't have enough to do in the morning: make breakfast, pack lunches, unstack/re stack the dishwasher, start laundry, move laundry, try to keep laundry from becoming a ball of wrinkles on the ironing board.

**Dot, from Raising Arizona (sure this is a quote about a kid, but my ADD brain SO WENT HERE): "You gotta get 'em dip-tet boosters yearly or else they'll develop lockjaw and night vision". Oh crap! Maybe Doug's got that there lockjaw AND asthma. And, HEY! I've noticed he can't see anything in the dark.....

***And here is the biggest mystery of the morning: dogs will eat their own poop, garbage straight out of a can, and sometimes, things that come back up from their tummies. Why not today? For the love of mercy, why NOT today?

****Thankfully, it didn't.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Little Bragging on My Nickels

Nickels is shaping up to be just like his Daddy: smarter than a whip when it comes to math.

Back in October, he tested to represent the 5th grade in the "Math Olympics" competition that is held in February.

He tested. We waited. And waited. And finally, just after Christmas break, we found out Nickels qualified in "reasoning". The competition would take place on February 25th.

Then, last week, we received the rather disappointing news that Nickels' school had chosen, due to budgetary constraints, NOT to renew their membership with the organization that sponsors both the Spelling and Math Olympics.

That meant, even though Nickels qualified, there would be no team from his school going to competition this year. Needless to say, everyone here was really bummed.

Today, Nickels came home on cloud nine. He had something to share with me and Mike but, completely consistent with his nature*, he couldn't locate the very thing he wanted to show us.

Thankfully, about 10 minutes later, he came running into the kitchen. He was holding three ribbons that represented how he had done on his testing.

The first indicated he ranked "Superior", the highest rank available. The second showed he would progress to the regional competition. And the last showed he placed fourth, out of 69 students!

He was so incredibly proud of his accomplishment. As you can imagine, so were Mike and I.

And then, Nickels shared some really fun news: the headmaster is trying to work a deal and there is still a chance that the students will be able to attend after all.

Or, as Nickels likes to put it "And, the best part of all? In late February I get an entire day off school!"

I'm not going to remind him that, on his math "skip" day, he'll be working math problems from dawn to dusk**. I fear that would send him so off the charts of ecstasy that we might never bring him back down to Earth***.

Congrats, Nickels! So very, very proud of you!

*Disorganized. Inherited that from me. So sorry, sweetie.

**He sees tests as a chance to prove how much he knows in the shortest period of time possible. No test anxiety here AT ALL, especially if it involves math.

***This would be a sickness he shares with his Daddy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An Open Letter to Our School Boards

Dear Sirs:
I would like to officially protest the concept that taking the first Monday of any new year off from school is a good idea.

By this point in our lives, the toys/movies/games have all grown stale. In many cases, gifts that seemed a good idea in October, have become frightfully noisy and obnoxiously overused or, worse, broken beyond the point of recognition*.

That cute movie? Everyone can now quote from it with an accuracy that should be reserved for someone who is a card-carrying, union actor.

Games? HA. We've long since determined who is the master of each and now no one will play with any one else who might best him**.

To make matters worse, some sane school boards actually scheduled their calendars so that their kids would be in school on this day. What does this lead to? Complete and utter chaos. Anarchy. Crying fits.

And that's only Momma.

The kids? Completely bored, whiny, and ready to fight with a dust bunny, should one get in the way.

I won't even burden you with the fact that the Monday following our "off" day happened to start with freezing drizzle, causing a delay in school until mid-morning.

Of course, could we sleep in? NOOOOO. Only one of our schools had the common sense to delay school the night before***. The other one? I woke up at 5am and waited until 6:30**** before anything showed up on the school closure listing. Then I barely had time to enjoy a quick nap before springing out of bed to get the kids out the door on time. But, I digress.

Because, SURPRISE!!! Next Monday we celebrate MLK Day. And, guess what? WE HAVE MONDAY OFF.

With my luck, we'll get the second powdering of the year that night. And it will be another non-committal showering of snow that will leave the administration wondering "should we/shouldn't we delay school?" And, guess what? They'll decide on Tuesday morning.

Truly, I don't think I can take another short week. When will I finally have time to get the Christmas letter out? The grocery shopping done before 10pm? The laundry moved from the ironing board*****, the couch, and off the foot board of my bed?

I fully expect, in 2012, that you'll arrange things differently. You are a group of intelligent people. Just send the kids back on Monday and get to work with Mother Nature. You can do it!

For the love of everything good and right, I'm begging you.

A still slightly sane Mom

*Except by the soles of my feet, which can determine if a Lego piece has just wedged itself into my arch within .0000003 seconds of contact.

**Notice I didn't say HER. That's because I'll play a game I suck at until the cows come home. Eventually, I figure, I'll get a victory. Then I'll be able to shout "WHO'S YOUR MOMMA?"

***Next time, can we please just delay the night before and, if necessary, all out cancel the morning of? I don't know anyone who couldn't have used a little more shut-eye.

****And the whole time? I felt compelled to watch the TV screen, instead of getting coffee. It was UGLY.

*****Where, by this point, it is so wrinkled it should just stay there. But, instead, I'll hang it and deal with the wrinkles one piece at a time. Or not.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Christmas Letters

I started our annual Christmas letter back in October.

The first draft was really rough. And I don't mean that in "An editor needs to get ahold of this" kind of way. I mean it in a "I'm afraid I will reduce people to a smoldering pile of combusted tears and anguish upon reading this."

So, I went back to the drawing board.

The next iteration was better. But it was corny and seemed forced. That was November.

December ran through our house like a streaker on a football field. I was all "DID WE JUST LOSE AN ENTIRE MONTH WHILE I WAS STANDING AROUND IN A STUPOR OF SUGAR, CAFFEINE, AND WAY TOO MANY PARTIES?" The final draft started to take shape on December 22nd, just in time for the boys to start their first official week off school.

And that, as they say, was all she wrote.

I picked back up where I left off at the beginning on 2011, vowing to get this thing in the mail by MLK Day. Now with a snow-day in my future, I fear this may end up being a Valentine's card.

Somehow, all the news that is fit to print from our house to yours, just doesn't seem all that important this year. In an unclassic "glass half-empty" way, I realize that sharing all the cool things that happened to us is so irrelevant to the real meaning of our lives. In my mind, committing all this to paper and sending it to everyone just seems like a chore. And never, in all the years I've been an adult, has it been this way.

I more care that the kid's picture makes it to everyone's house and, hopefully, to their fridge door*. The fact that they've changed so much seems to make more of a difference to me than all the stuff we did.

But, still, even with these doubts, I love to get the newsy-letters sent by friends, co-workers, and college buddies. I love to hear that life is moving forward and they are surviving the roller coaster ride. Sometimes, these letters have prompted me to make a phone call or send an email and reconnect with someone I haven't spoken to or seen in years.

So I think I'll get that letter done. And in the mail. Even if it takes a Herculean effort to accomplish it. Because, if receiving a personalized envelope amongst the bills in January can be of ANY benefit, it will be worth it.

Expect to receive yours sometime before the end of '11.

*Unless you are like us and can't get ANYTHING to stick on the front of the steel-looking door that is a complete magnetic fraud.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Liquid Chocolate

Once upon a time, when I was on a couple's only ski trip in Canada*, Starbucks wowed me with something so incredibly delightful that I pined for it weeks after my return to the states.

It seemed that they were "testing" this product in limited markets and, try as I might, I could never find a Starbucks in Dallas that carried this wonderful concoction.

I only ever had about two ounces of "Drinking Chocolate", but I was completely, irrevocably hooked. Like a junkie, I was**.

I never really thought much about that experience after my Dallas search came up empty and I never saw liquid chocolate on a drink menu again. Then my days were too filled with diapers and whining and too-short naps to waste my time searching for a recipe to try.

Then today came. With snow and freezing conditions and sugar-allergic kids asking for hot chocolate.

I pined for the days when I could reheat chocolate milk or chocolate soy milk or a package of the stuff off the shelf. With almost as many grams of sugar as a Coke, I just couldn't bring myself to endure the experience that would follow one smallish cup of any of the above.

So I got on the Internet and discovered a recipe that I think is ALMOST, not quite, but pretty close to as yummy-tasting as that liquid cup of mellow cacao beans I was blessed to experience in Whistler***.

This isn't your cloyingly-sweet, make-your-teeth-need-a-good-brushing kind of hot chocolate. This is more like a 60% bittersweet experience with a creamy, liquid base. If you don't like dark chocolate, skip this one.

I present a modified recipe for "The Best No Sugar Hot Chocolate Ever"****.

2 cups coconut milk (in the refrigerated section)
2 T cocoa powder (I used Hershey's regular)
2 T agave nectar (low glycemic-index sugar substitute from the agave plant--yes, the one that also cranks out tequila. Undalay, undalay, ARRIBA!!!)
1 dash cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all over low heat, stirring with a whisk to incorporate the cocoa; stir until no lumps exist.

Enjoy! And stay off those roads until sanity has returned.

Or, at least the sand trucks have made it to your section of the woods.

*SIGH. Those were the days.....

**Yoda. Love you, how I thee.

***Finally looked up the recipe for the original drinking chocolate. Now I know where some of the dimples on my butt originated. Ain't no amount of skiing that could get rid of that much sugary, high-fat dairy, goodness.

****The recipe I found on was titled closely to this. I had to tweak it to get rid of the Splenda and the milk.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What Did You Say?

In the car. Again.

The Babe: "When Grandma died, what did they do with the rabies?"

Me: "Rabies? What do you mean?" I'm trying to process rabies with "grave" but they are so far apart, soundwise, that I'm sure I've heard him wrong.

The Babe (no doubt thinking I have the WORST hearing ever) repeats his question three more times, each time rephrasing the statement for the "dumb" in the car*, before Hooman pipes up.

Hooman (trying to be helpful): "Mom. He's saying "rabies"."

Me (totally confused): "Honey, Grandma didn't have rabies. What made you think that?" I don't think my chuckling was audible enough for the boys to hear it**.

The Babe has NO EARTHLY IDEA what made him think that. We must have had some random conversation about something, somewhere being rabid while Mom was sick and he must have assigned that illness to her. Obviously we weren't very clear that Mom had cancer.

Then Hooman chimes in again: "Yeah. When you have rabies, it makes you rapid. Like the Tasmanian Devil. You know, all crazy, and zzzzzzzzzzzooooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?" He's making hand motions that would put a mime to shame.

I'm now full-out chuckling. Took everything I had to stop the laughter to let him know it's "rabid", with a "b". It doesn't make you fast. It makes you drool.

Then we were all laughing.

This moment could have become one of tears and sadness and a mixture of loneliness and missing Mom. Instead, it developed into a comedy of errors and language that added levity to our afternoon commute.

I can't even express how thankful I am that we have gotten to this point. And how grateful I am that God has carried us here.

And just in case you were wondering...yes there IS laughter after death. It just takes a little time.

*Me, of course.

**Then again, my hearing HAS been called into question more than once recently.....

Friday, January 7, 2011

In All Shapes and Sizes

I must have flunked kindergarten. Or been held back multiple times. Or something.

I can't make a circle to save my soul.

I discovered this when I decided it would be *fun* to try and make homemade tortillas. In retrospect, it was easy. It was simple. But it wasn't very fun. By the time I finished, I had smoked up the house* to the point that I'm surprised the security system didn't alert the hook and ladder to come. Quickly.

Smokey house + one and a half hours = eight paltry tortillas.

One was the shape of Oklahoma. One looked like the vaginas in the sex ed books we "studied" back in the day. Some were so unevenly flattened that the thick parts came out looking puffed up like a proud sopapilla.

And one. JUST one. Actually looked like a circle. It was my last attempt at rolling.

I think it was an accident, actually.

This morning, again, I tried my hand at rolling the leftover dough. I got a couple of tortillas that looked like long rectangles, a couple that looked like circles with appendages, and one really, really good one.

Everyone just LOVES this new treat, so now I've gone and done it. I have to perfect the circle.

All those years of avoiding homemade/home rolled pie crusts have come home to roost. Now my rolling pin has absolutely not one shred of respect for me.

I beg you to come to my house if you can help. I promise to provide you with your fill of cooked tortillas once we're done.

But you may have to find me through the smokey haze. Just sayin'.....

*I should think a canola/olive oil blend would have a much higher smoking point than "medium". Mike, on the other hand, thinks I should have a much more developed sense of when to turn on the fan over the stove.**

**That would be EVERY TIME I COOK. Not sure this is a compliment.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Take it Like a Woman

MEN: If you read today's post, which is directed at my lady friends, it is incumbent on you to follow-up with all the women in your life. That includes the one you are married to/are currently dating, the one who gave you birth, and any that grew up in your parent's house.

If you choose not to read today's post, you are off the hook.

Your choice. But no backing out if you proceed past the plus signs.....
Today I'm posting a challenge. I expect, no, I DEMAND, you accept it. Truly, it's for your own good*.

Ladies: it's time to have your breast tissue reduced to the size of a small pancake and have someone carry on conversation while you are in stir-ups, staring at the ceiling.
I don't want to hear excuses; I want you to make appointments. Now.

Here's what you'll get in exchange: a promise from me that, if you are too squeamish to go on your own, I'll go with you. I'll even treat you to a margarita before the appointment and be your DD** back home and pick your kids up from school if you are one of those unlucky gals who practically hyperventilates when the nurse asks for a urine sample.

More importantly than that, you'll KNOW whether the body God gave you is healthy OR that you have some work to do. But, either way, you won't be ignorant. And the next time you hear "So-and-so has cancer/pre-diabetes/hookworm", you'll be able to let out a sigh of relief or get that chick's phone number and give her a ring to let her know "You are not alone."

If I haven't yet convinced you, consider this: I carry the BRAC1 gene. It predisposes me to breast and ovarian cancer at rates higher than the normal population.

My biological Mom died of breast cancer. My adoptive Mom died of ovarian cancer.

So, when I'm holding my breath for the pinching-machine-of-death to take that picture of my breast tissue, I thank God for the technology that might, someday, help me to know that I need to fight for my life so I can be here for Mike, Nickels, Hoo, and The Babe.

When I'm staring at the ceiling of my doctor's office, being poked and prodded in ways that would make some married couples blush, I am thankful that tests exist that tell me I don't have cancerous cells or elevated levels or organs that don't look or feel right.

Is this stuff fun? Hell, no.
Is it necessary? You betcha.

And, I love you enough to be the one in your life encouraging you to make that appointment today.

If you are 40, you need a baseline mammogram and an exam AND an appointment for next year's joyous event. You should already be having an annual pap smear and palpation of your ovaries***. It would also be good to know your blood pressure numbers, cholesterol level, and pass a urine test****.

So dust off your provider guide, pick up the phone, and make those calls today. I don't care if you ever tell me you went, just go, for yourself and your family.

Because I care that you are in my life today, tomorrow and a long, long time from now.

*If you have images of your parents using this phraseology and it makes the hair on your arms stand up, just consider that it either has or will issue out of your mouth at your children or a co-worker/subordinate at some point in your life. It's inevitable. Just suck it up and move on.

**Designated Driver.

***If there is ANY DOUBT that your ovaries feel "different" (enlarged, shaped funny, etc.) then DEMAND to have further testing done. Ovarian cancer is not to be trifled with; it is deadly.

****I'm not a Doctor. I just play one on this blog.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Yes, I'm Blessed

Commentary from The Babe at dinner tonight:

"Mom? Can I get more broccoli?"
"Yes, dear."
"Where is it?"
"In the fridge."

Child makes a beeline to the fridge. He's already consumed about 3/4 cup of the little trees, one BBQ grilled pork chop, and some potato. He is about to possess the other cup of broccoli that didn't make it to the dinner table.

"Mom?" He says, as he's spooning broccoli out of the container into his mouth "THIS is the best stuff EVER."

"Really?" It's a mix of "Are you possessed?" and "I'm SO STINKIN' GLAD YOU ARE WILLING TO EAT VEGGIES!"

"YEAH. I want you to serve this with pasta and fruit every night. You got that? EVERY NIGHT?"

"UMMMM." I'm going to hate pasta in about four nights if we stick to his plan.

"NO. Wait. I want this in the morning and at lunch AND at dinner. You got that?"

Another "UMMMM."

"This is just the BEST!!!" He's now dancing with his broccoli in its glass bowl. It's utter ecstasy in action. Kind of like Billy Elliott meets Chef Boyardee. Strange, sure. But, in a funky kind of way, its completely embraceable.

My first resolution of the year is also being complimented nicely by his continuing, yet suddenly rabid, desire for all things green and tree-like: that's one less thing I'll have to yell about at the dinner table*.

*If he's eating his veggies, I won't have to constantly repeat "Please eat your broccoli" until I'm blue in the face and beyond the point of patience. Hence, no yelling about neglected vegetables!

Monday, January 3, 2011

First Great Quote of '11

Our strikingly polite, kind, sweet neighbor boy, who will undoubtedly go far based on a combination of awesome parenting and good schooling, came over this morning.

This is a blessed morning, in my mind. It is that Monday after a long holiday where everyone has their own agenda and they all compliment one another.

The boys wanted to test out the XBox and actually played together without any whining.

Mike and I laid in bed until a blissfully late hour of the day. I actually served breakfast as brunch, at 11am.

The house is relatively clean because we hosted Christmas with my side of the family over New Year's weekend.

About the only thing that could top this morning would be if someone with HGTV would break down my front door and pack all the Christmas stuff back up while I sat in the kitchen redesigning the backyard with some hunk of an architect and his minions.

But, since that didn't happen, the next best thing was the following, ultra-charming, is-it-or-isn't-it-a-compliment comment from our neighborhood friend/visitor:

"I couldn't find anything to do so I decided to come over here."

I think my heart just melted in a puddle on the floor.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Paula, Paula, Paula

I like food experts who give me recipes that are accessible, meaning I don't have to try to figure out what foie gras or truffle oil is, where I can buy them, and how I can finance the purchase before I can proceed in making supper.

Paula Deen fits the accessible bill to a T. She is cute, sweet, and has that oh-so-charming accent. And, if I have at least a pound of butter in the house, I know I'm halfway to getting most of her dishes on the dinner table*.

But, were I to attempt a new recipe of hers everyday for say, 30 days, I'd have the makings of "Super Size Me" for Generations X, Y, and Z. Basically, I'd be too big for gastric bypass OR a coffin, but I'd be somewhere in between needing one of the two of those things.

Which leads me to admitting that I enjoyed one of Paula's recipes, courtesy of my lovely sister-in-law, over New Year's Weekend.

I KNOW, to the marrow of my bones, when someone places something ooey-gooey-yummy in front of me and says "It's a Paula Deen recipe", that I am completely, utterly, hosed.

Not only is it going to clog my arteries, give me gas, and make me wish I had some semblance of restraint, but it is also going to be irresistible and whisper my name until I've finished every last bit of it.

Enter "French Cream".

Sounds exotic, creamy and fattening, YES? Sounds like it should belong on cake or pie or waffles, doesn't it?

But, wait! This is a horse of a troubling color. A shyster. A man disguised as a woman imitating a man. It's a fruit dip. Which, for me, is WAY worse than the cream being connected to a piece of double chocolate cake or a Belgian waffle.

Why, you ask? Because it starts with fruit. The stuff of Adam and Eve. The bastion of good sugar and tummy-filling fiber. One of the few things on Weight Watchers that has little or no points. Fruit is basically like eating for free!

But, when you add Paula to the equation, little bites of fruit become lethal.

"French Cream", it turns out, is a delightful concoction of cream cheese, LOTS of sugar, too much whipping cream, and a little lemon and pineapple juice.

It is remarkably light tasting, especially before you are privy to the recipe. Literally, pre-Goggle look-up, I was all "DUDE! I could eat my weight in apple strips with this dip as the wing man."

The recipe though? Caused my wing man to eject and fall crashing to Earth in a bloody heap of shame.

So tomorrow I have the unenviable task of killing the extra two cups of dip that remain in my refrigerator. I'm not sure if I'll use the "scalding hot water straight in the container" move or the "three points for making it into the garbage can" trick or the "one for me, one for you" act, where I put one tablespoon in the sink and one in my mouth, in an attempt to calm that voice screaming "There are children in poor countries that would give anything for a taste of French Cream".

Whatever I choose to do, Lady Paula is out the door in the morning.

Sadly, my body's souvenir of her time with me, those oh-so-attractive bumps and dimples and lumps, will be with me for many, many, many moons to come.

*I just want to run to her kitchen and scream "USE ME!!!" every time I see her on TV.