Sunday, February 27, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes

The church we attend* places extra-special attention on the ceremony of reading the New Testament scripture.

There is a little "parade" with the cross and the Bible and the reader to the center of the church. All who are singing turn as the cross passes down the aisle, so we are facing it and the reader when they come to their spot in the church.

Now, another crucial piece of information is that I must be holding two books at one time to accomplish this task. The first is a hymnal and the other is The Book of Common Prayer, where the scripture is actually printed.** The ADD piece of my brain will only allow me to focus if I'm reading while listening to the reader. Otherwise, as I look over the sea of people between me and the reader, my mind wanders fiercely.

During the time the scripture is read, you can hear a pin drop, not unlike in most churches. After all, this IS the word of God.

It was during this very important part of worship that The Babe decided it was time to be held by Momma.

He had been extra, sugary-sweet all morning long, had been super generous with kisses and hugs, and had been paying attention to the service like never before. I had, at one point, looked over at him and thought "He's getting so big! He'll be six before long. My baby is growing up and getting so mature."

So, I tried the impossible: balancing two books in one hand while picking Babe up with the other arm. In any other circumstances, I probably would have dropped him on his beaner. But, praise be! I got that boy up to my right hip. He wasn't very stable, but he was pleased that Momma picked him up.

As I was attempting to listen to Deacon Darryl, The Babe started wiggling something fierce. The movements were jerky and violent and I had a moment of panic when he shifted one way and I felt like he was about to drop. It appeared something about the way he was positioned made him feel like he was going to fall.

That's when he announced, at a volume level generally reserved for conversation at restaurants with cavernous dining rooms that echo, that he was uncomfortable. "That almost crushed my nuts."***, he said, without a hint of hesitation, embarrassment, or concern.

I choked. Audibly. To keep myself from laughing. And, as with all five-year-olds, he noticed my reaction and decided "That got a good response! I'll say it again." And, before I could get the contents of my left hand dropped onto the pew and my hand over his mouth, he did.****

Thankfully, the only person truly embarrassed was me. Even the lady behind us didn't seem to flinch. Mike had no clue until I told him later in the day.

God? I think He was probably laughing. But, just in case, I made sure to ask for forgiveness for The Babe's behavior later in the service. I think our little guy can use all the help he can get.

Especially with that vocabulary.

*The Church of the Holy Communion, Anglican.

**My Baptist friends are shaking their heads wondering why it isn't my Bible instead. Same stuff, all in one location with prayers, to answer the question.

***Where, or where, did we go wrong? We've used anatomically correct languaage with all three boys. Yet, this junk keeps coming out. GADS.

****By the third attempt at repitition, my hand was over his mouth and I was giving him the evil eye.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fencing Anyone?


For some reason I am fascinated by the practice of fencing. I'm trying to decide if my freaky desire to try my hand at this is simply because I would get to poke people with a big stick in the chest. And that seems so, well, naughty.

Sure, it's an Olympic sport. But, it runs contrary to everything I was taught would hurt me growing up. You don't run with scissors, kick people in the crotch, or hit with big sticks.

I've managed to live my entire life without impaling myself with scissors. I'll admit to kicking young boys where it counts when I was little, but that stopped cold when I had punishment exacted on me*. But, I don't ever remember hitting anyone with anything remotely stick-like.

Maybe I'm excited about the prospect because the only time I remember seeing a woman fencing it was Catherine Zeta-Jones in the trailer for Zorro.** And, dang, did she look good!

But, let's face it. She was probably around 22 at the time, was corseted up from her hips to her breasts, and they likely shot the take fourteen times to keep from getting the shots where she was breathing like a Budweiser Clydesdale after a particularly long run dragging the wagon, dog, and a thousand bottles of beer.

Men fence all the time starting as little boys. They wallop each other in the head with them. They poke each other, prod at dog turds, and pick their teeth with them. Just, hopefully, not in that order.

But, that's how I know not to play with sticks: my brother was admonished to keep away from small tree limbs all the time, especially if they were being brandished as a weapon and were being hurled at me. Lest he be kicked in the crotch.

So when today's Groupon deal was for one private lesson and one group fencing lesson, I was immediately interested. I checked the particulars and noticed one thing that was a little alarming: all the classes were after school and on Saturday afternoons.

Does anyone else here alarm bells?

I hear "after school" and I think "I'll be in a class with children who would be too short to ride the "Tornado of Death" at the local amusement park. Children who are conditioned at the art of fencing and will repeatedly and violently thrust their rapier, yet never have to stop for water and/or a deep breath. And they? Will they beat the snot out of me with a really sharp, steel stick. And I'll have the urge to kick them in the jewels."

Fencing? I still adore thee. From afar.

But, apparently I have issues from childhood I need to get past before I should even consider gearing up.

*Yeah. It hurts. Even if you are a girl.

**Notice, I never saw the movie. Just the trailer.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

School Situations

You know, I understand why people are upset by the idea that budget cuts mean schools are going to be impacted. I truly do. After all, I'm a teacher, by trade.

My stomach sank this morning when I saw the Detroit school system may have to increase High School classes to 60 students. I hate that neighborhood schools may close by the dozens. I wish our country had been more financially savvy so this wouldn't have happened.

BUT, insolvent state governments CAN'T run schools. Less money = fewer programs. And, sadly, decades of throwing money at public schools hasn't improved things. That's the grim reality.

For years, we've been funneling money to schools that are not turning out close to what they should be in terms of student performance, graduation rates, or ability matched to intellect.

Yet, the problem hasn't been with the school administrators, the teachers, or with low-income programs such as early Pre-K and free breakfast/lunch. No, it's not an economic problem.

It's a problem with American families.

Sorry to say, but if it's broke at home, that translates to students who are ill-equipped to learn.

Most of you reading this have an intact family meaning Mom/Dad are still married and living under the same roof. Most of you are fairly well-off. Most of you live in an area where you don't fear gunfire and gang activity. And all that is good.

However, there are those families whose daily lives involve one parent, multiple jobs, paycheck-to-paycheck living, and DO live under fear of violence on a daily basis.

Given this disparity, it is incumbent on those of us who are stable to take action with our kids so they become the model students who are looked up to and respected, not only by the teachers, but by their fellow students.

That may seem like a simple solution, but it isn't unlike what a good Christian does for those around him: models what others don't have, but want. And makes them question "What am I missing? How can my life be better like that person's life?"

If you are one of the fortunate families that can be a lighthouse to others, there are very simple ways you can insure your child gets the best from their education and, along the way, demonstrates a way of living that others want to emulate.

1. Help your kids with homework.

Homework is one of the easiest and best ways for parents to get involved. Not only does it provide one-on-one time with your kids, which facilitates conversation and helps you stay in touch, but it also gives you a glimpse into what your child does and doesn't understand. That knowledge can be invaluable in getting help for a child who is slowly slipping behind.

Your kids should have something to do in the evening. Period. If the school isn't providing it, go to your local bookstore/teacher supply and pick up something to review. Make it something basic, like reading, writing or math, and make it short--15 minutes, tops. If you find your child is having trouble in a particular area, focus on that. And schedule a conference with the teacher to discuss your concerns.

It is incumbent to know what your child is learning and if they are struggling academically. Over and over again, I have seen bright, even gifted, children who have fallen behind academically get so frustrated with their inability to learn in the classroom that they become discipline problems. And this is avoidable IF we work with our children, figure out where they are lacking, and offer our support to help them overcome their issues.

Parents who don't know what is giving their child trouble can't advocate for them. And you, not you child's teacher, are the best advocate for your child.

It all starts with working together at home.

2. Volunteer at the school.

Part of what drives teachers batty is all the extra stuff they have to do once the kids are out the door in the afternoon. It's the administrative stuff that about kills them. That's why parent volunteers are so crucial.

If each class had a volunteer take 20 minutes of work off the teacher's load, this would allow each teacher over 1.5 hours of time to focus on the needs of her students.

Correcting papers, putting smiley stickers on homework, stapling worksheets, filing books, redoing bulletin boards...the list is endless. And a good teacher, who realizes she can't do everything, will gladly let you come and volunteer your time.

And, it never hurts to provide a little "happy gift", either. An extra six-pack of water,a bag of trail mix, or a fun pen to grade with are cheap and can bring such happiness to a teacher.

It's the small tokens, like a few minutes of help or a kind note, that teachers like best because they prove that someone is noticing they are working their tails off.

So volunteer regularly to do something, not out of compulsion, but out of the kindness of your heart.

It will show you are glad your child is getting a good education from a good teacher at a good school.

3. Discipline your kids.

When I was student teaching, back in the day, I had a student who was generally a good, sweet, kind girl. Her name was Kathryn and she sat by the hellion in the class, Jeffrey.

One day, Jeffrey's bad attitude got the best of her and she became disruptive. I called Kathryn down once, but she continued on. Because it was so uncharacteristic of her and I KNEW she knew better, I called her parents.

Her father was very receptive to the call and told me he would take care of the situation that evening. And, boy, did he!

The next day, I learned that the sunny-destination-Spring Break trip Kathryn and several of her friends had been planning for many weeks had been canceled. At the time, with no kids of my own, I thought this was a little drastic.

But, do you think I EVER had any discipline problems from Kathryn again? Heck, no. She, once again, became the model student.

THAT is what good parenting can do. It sends a very clear, very loud message that you have expectations. And, overall, it's what's been missing from our schools for the last couple of generations.

I remember being afraid of the consequences of getting in trouble at school, not because of what would happen there, but what would happen at home. Never, in a million years, would my parents have thought about MY rights at the school and filed a lawsuit. They thought about how MY actions affected those around me and demanded that I act in a way that was conducive to everyone being able to learn.

Somewhere, that mentality was lost; we need to find it again.

Now, I can hear the peanut-gallery loud and clear in this issue: "BUT...."

1. I have other small children at home. Do you have neighbors with small children, too? Trade off with them and both of you can have a day to volunteer. Do you have a neighborhood drop-off center where you can leave your cherub for an hour? Social interaction with other kids never hurt anyone. What about a Grandparent or a Godparent? Would they like the chance to spend time with your child?

2. I work. Do you have vacation time? Comp time? A lunch break? Can you go in a few minutes late, once a week/month/quarter? Is it time to consider fewer hours at work, to the benefit of your family?

3. Insert any other excuse here. Excuses, quite frankly, are what got us into this mess to start with. Figure out how to make it work.

Your job doesn't stop when you've done all the things above, though. In fact, it has just started.

Because we also must realize that there are lots of kids whose parents aren't home in the evening to help with homework, whose parents will never darken the door of the school to volunteer OR show up for "mandatory" conferences, and whose parents won't discipline them appropriately.

And, if your kids are on-track, you'll have time to pick a child who you see is at risk and VOLUNTEER TO HELP THEM. Most schools have buddy programs waiting for volunteers who can help little Johnny or Suzy by reading to them or helping with their Algebra or just sitting with them at lunch so they have someone who will listen to them.

If your school doesn't have a program like this, maybe now is a good time to start one. Maybe your local church can help. Maybe the apartment complex in your neighborhood can offer their facilities for an after school homework program. Maybe one exists but it's underutilized because of lack of money for publicity.

Because the bottom line is that the children who are being neglected by their parents ARE your problem. They WILL become the ones who create a classroom environment that will block your child from learning. And, someone has to help them.

In other words, stop making excuses. Stop standing around wringing your hands and crying "Woe is me". Do what Christ would do: show compassion to those in need.

It's time to step up, America. It's time to become the parents God wants us to be. It's time to get involved.

If we don't, we are going to fall squarely on our face. And our children, this country's future, are going to be the ones left wondering why our generation let the idea of a good, free, public education become nothing but a long-forgotten memory.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I'm a Going all D.R. on Ya's

I try not to be a preachy, little thing BUT.....I'm me. And me? A little on the preachy side at times.

So, the other day, when I heard Dave Ramsey on the radio, I instantly whipped out my handy-dandy pen and pad that I keep in my purse for such literary moments of brilliance*, and I copied down all the particulars so I could share one of the BEST, read that again, B-E-S-T, examples I've ever heard in my life.

So here goes (jumping on my soap box):
Let's say you make $58,000 per year. Your current spending is $75,000 per year, so you have a deficit, per year, of $17,000.

On top of your annual deficit, you also have $327,000 in credit card debt.

You decide to reduce your spending DRASTICALLY. After all, at the rate you are going, you will be in debt for the rest of your life. So, after careful consideration, you reduce your spending to $72,000 per year and throw yourself a big, honking party in celebration of the fact that you just reduced your spending.

Does this sound ridiculous? It should.

But, sadly, this is exactly what is being proposed in Washington, D.C. as I type this.

Are you awake now? I know I AM! In fact, I'm pretty pissed off about this.

I'm not all gung-ho about teachers losing their jobs or Social Security benefits being reduced or Medicare being slashed. But, dadgumit! Something has to change or we won't even have the money to run our government.

I'm sick and tired of one side of the table or the other passing bills with pork bellies that cost us millions of dollars for special interest groups. Bridges to nowhere don't belong in any bill, in any century. Sorry.

I'm beyond hacked that legislators think the correct way to deal with a bill they don't like is to leave the state. Show me a job where, when you disagree with the person who hired you, you can walk out the door in a show of disgust and I'll show you what a pink slip looks like. Good luck in '12, folks!

I'm sick of hearing what a great job this new budget is going to do to reduce debt when the truth is that it only reduces debt if we discount the interest we have to pay on the debt we already have.** We've dug our hole, now we get to wallow in it.

I hate that shows like Sesame Street and This Old House might actually go off the air if funding for public broadcasting is cut. However, there are quite a few paid channels that could pick up these shows. If they are worth their weight, they'll survive.

Times are changing. You can either decide you want to change with them by cleaning up your financial act and getting yourself out of debt or you can go down the crapper with the rest of the U.S. It really is your choice. You really do have control.

But, please. If you decide to do nothing, which is where it looks like our government is heading, please don't whine when times get tough.

You'll have no one to blame but yourself.

(Hearing seething anger coming from several of you reading this, I'm coming off my soapbox before you begin throwing tomatoes.)

*Let's just say I've had this thing for weeks, probably months, and I've used it for to-do lists, notes to teachers, scratch sheets for children bored in carpool line, but only this once for true writing purposes. Guess that says something about my lack of inspiration lately, eh?

**If you have credit card debt, go ahead and call VISA. I'll wait. When you get someone on the line, tell them you are going to pay $100 toward your revolving debt and want that money to reduce the principle by exactly $100. Sorry to say, the rep on the other line will laugh at you until you hang up.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Quote Worthy

"You look stupid and you are going to die single."

If one of your kids said that to another of your kids, how many seconds would it take to compose yourself so you could correct the one in the wrong?

It's not a trick question. I could have had five trillion seconds and I still would have lost it. In fact, I did.

That is one of the BEST comebacks I've ever heard in my life. Sadly, it was even appropriate at the time, as the one being chastised was acting like a baboon in heat.

But, still, "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." I am going to quote this Proverb to the quotemaker.

As soon as I can stop laughing.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Posting for Valentine's Day is a real challenge. After all, it's the big kahuna of love. The ultimate show of sentiment. The really big, expensive, over-the-top, billion dollar holiday.

I could've gone the "Hallmark" route and written something funny, romantic, or sentimental. But, you could get that by trucking over to Walmart and picking up any of a thousand cards they are selling today.

I could've gone the "Hershey's" route and been sweet, sappy, and sugary. And talked way too much about my love of all things full of cane and cocoa.

But, I couldn't write anything better than what was already written about love in 1 Corinthians. It's the authority on what our lives look like without love, love's attributes, and the importance of love.

If ever you wonder what the ultimate model for love looks like, you need look no further than these passages.

"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."*

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day with those you love and with the memories of those you miss, but so deeply love still.

*Verses 1-8, 13

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Awesomeness of Paul

I really enjoy listening to Pastor Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship. That man speaks the truth of the word to his congregation in such an honest, call-you-to-the-carpet kind of way that I find myself talking to the radio when he is on.

Now, normally I'm not an out loud "Amen" kind of gal, but I find myself doing lots of "Amen"ing when Dr. Evans is on the airwaves.

What I've paraphrased below (with a TON of leeway) is what I remember of Friday's radio sermon on Paul. The part I just couldn't remember verbatim was the scripture,* so I looked it up. It's all from Philippians, in case you care to read it yourself.

I loved how Dr. Evans pulled together all the different passages on Paul. I've heard them all before, but never put together as one unit:

When the Romans decided to kill Paul, and told him exactly that, his response was "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

Basically, Paul said, "You want to kill me? Great! I'll go to live with my Christ."

Obviously, this tactic wasn't working so the Romans said "If you want to die, then we won't kill you. Instead, we'll let you live."

To which Paul responded "If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me."

Again, Paul found the good in the decision: "Another win! Sparing my life will allow me to continue to proclaim the gospel while I wait for the time I will be called home to Heaven."

This really messed with the Romans, who decided "FINE. We'll let you live, but we are going to cause the rest of your life to be horrible by jailing and torturing you."

And Paul's response? "Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear."

Paul was thinking: "If you have the desire to allow me to speak the truth in this circumstance so more can know my Lord, I'd be honored."

No matter what the Romans did to Paul, no matter what angle they took, no matter the consequences, Paul found a way to glorify Christ!

Death? Ha!
Life? Great!
Torture? Groovy!

WOW! I don't think I have EVER had that much hope when life seemed negative and filled with horrible possibilities. Yet, I'm reminded that life as a Christian is PROMISED to have its difficulties.

So I have just one little question for you and me to ponder:


"I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." Psalm 27:13-14

*Shame on me.

My Favorite Animal

If you are raising little boys, you will appreciate this one. Especially if they see the world as very black and white.

My brother sent this to me, so I don't know its origin or author*, and I can not claim I wrote it, only that I laughed so hard I thought you all would love it, too.
My teacher asked us what our favorite animal was, and I said, "Fried chicken."

She said I wasn't funny, but she couldn't have been right, because everyone else in the class laughed.

My parents told me to always be truthful and honest, and I am. Fried chicken is my favorite animal.

I told my dad what happened, and he said my teacher was probably a member of PETA. He said they love animals very much.

I do, too. Especially chicken, pork and beef. Anyway, my teacher sent me to the principal's office.

I told him what happened, and he laughed, too. Then he told me not to do it again.

The next day in class my teacher asked me what my favorite live animal was.
I told her it was chicken. She asked me why, just like she'd asked the other children.

So I told her it was because you could make them into fried chicken.

She sent me back to the principal's office again. He laughed, and told me not to do it again.

I don't understand. My parents taught me to be honest, but my teacher doesn't like it when I am.

Today, my teacher asked us to tell her what famous person we admire most.

I told her, "Colonel Sanders."

Guess where I am now...???

*Though it does remotely resemble Fran Lebowitz's quote "My favorite animal is steak."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

So Sorry...My Kids Are To Blame

Sure, you just thought Mother Nature had a beef against you, fellow Dallasites. Or that Chione* had your number. Or that you had done something bad, REALLY REALLY bad, to cause your children to be within the four walls of your house for six consecutive days with no means of escape and no hope for sanity.

And, then to be cooped up yet another day, like a laying-hen with no chance of seeing cage-free in her lifetime. And, with potentially another day added, just for good measure.

Sorry to tell you, but no matter how bad you've been? You aren't to blame.

My boys are. It turns out, THEY are the ones who did the Snow Dance.

Yes, you read that right. Never heard of it? Neither had I, until I saw the beast in full-color, rapid motion, "You're doing WHAT?" glory.

It's a simple dance, really. It doesn't take Billy Elliott skills to master. In fact, a two-year-old could do it, given a couple of seconds of free time.

It requires a. one set of pajama pants, turned inside out and worn on the body, b. several ice cubes and c. one toilet.

Yes. The piss pot. The royal throne. The thunder-box.**

And, yes (again). It is a very strange combo. Kind of like a peanut-butter-and-fried-bologna sandwich.

The formula is easy: wrong-side-out-pajama-clad-person must grab as many ice cubes as possible from the ice box. Key point: must be barehanded. Have no idea why. Said person must walk/run to the bathroom and deposit icy creations in the loo.

THEN, our lucky contestant must flush the toilet and recreate the motion of the spinning water by turning around and around and around. And, hopefully, not render themselves so dizzy that they split their head falling to the ground. Or onto the hard, porcelin lavvy.

This craziness must have been executed, talked about, or thought through at least five bazillion times in this house last week. And, WAHLAH! It worked.

So, on Thursday or Friday? When the four walls are closing in and you've run out of patience and have rendered yourself bald from pulling your hair out after being asked over and over and over again "What is there to do? I'm BORED."

Don't call me. I've already fessed up. And, I won't answer.

*Greek goddess of snow and ice. Amazing what a little Goggle search can turn up, isn't it?

**I just find all the alternate words for "toilet" hysterically amusing. Speaks to my sense of humor.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Johnson's Baby Shampoo

Isn't there irony in teaching a lesson in forgiveness on the very day that you need to humbly ask someone to "Please ignore that 3-year-old tantrum and be my pal again?"

That happened to me on Sunday. I actually had two lessons to teach, compliments of an additional duty as leader of Children's Chapel. That lesson was on love.

Doubly whammy between the eyes, to say the least.

I truly love how God has this gentle but extremely effective way of calling us back to reality. Back to the fold. Back into line.

It's kind of like Johnson's Baby Shampoo--it's mighty effective at getting rid of the grime but, at the same time, it doesn't sting your eyes. God calls out the yuck in our lives without causing us too much pain, if we are listening.*

I managed to make it through both lessons and ask for forgiveness before noon. Of course, I was a raving lunatic later in the day, so I had to do it all over again.

And this is where you understand that my husband is a saint at times. He patiently waits for me to realize "WOWWEE. I am being a horse's rump." Like God, he doesn't demand an apology or give me the cold shoulder or pop me upside the head and say "WAKE UP!"

I love you, Mike. I am blessed beyond comparison to have you in my life. Thank you for forgiving me all my faults and sins and PMS.

And, even when those times of episodic psychosis set in, you are the rock on the shore, waiting for my boat to come back to land.

I can truly say that you are proof to me that God does exist. And that He, like you, loves me very much.

*Of course, I rarely put two-and-two together in the moment and, more often than not, have to be hit upside the head with the lesson. To say the least, this was a gentle tap compared to most.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


On the cusp of a potential snow day, only a few hours removed from the end of one that will go down in history, I have a prediction to make:

Groceries stores will not be crowded on Tuesday. We all bought enough stuff over the weekend to insure we'd never run out of food again, come flood, hurricane, or tsunami.

Redbox will have no more "G" and "PG" movies to rent. Pay-per-view stations will rack up enormous sales on Wednesday. Mommies everywhere will pay serious coin to use technology to keep sanity in the house.

And, most notable: liquor stores will have lines out-the-door on Tuesday afternoon. The spike in sales will top those pre-Super Bowl Sunday. But, instead of beer and hard liquor being moved in droves, it will be almost all wine and wine cooler sales, driven by hard-working Moms across the metroplex.

I'll see you in line.....


~~SPOILER ALERT: If you know nothing about the horse, Secretariat, you may just want to rent the movie then read this later. If you are already spoiled to the plot, press forward.~~

One of the blissful events that has occurred over the course of our snow imposed time at home was the opportunity to rent Secretariat.

I missed it in the regular theaters and tried to get my family to the dollar theater to see it but everyone was all "A movie about a horse? No thanks, Mom. I'd rather sit in time-out and eat slugs than go see a movie about a horse." So, we never went.

When I heard the weather forecast was potentially calling for a day off school, I RAN to the Redbox and rented the movie. My line of reasoning was "If my kids are stuck at home and I plug this DVD into the machine, they'll be FORCED to watch this with me."

I was right.*

I'm not a terribly huge fan of horse racing. I've been to the tracks a couple of times, tried to figure out which horses might win, and placed a couple of non-productive bets. But, racing of any sort just isn't that exciting to me.

This movie, though, might have actually given me a new like** for the sport.

Penny Chenery, as portrayed by Diane Lane, is a high-spirited, confident woman. She knew what she wanted, she figured out how to get it, and sheer luck helped her raise an amazing animal.

Diane Lane did a fine job in this role. She was completely believable and, frankly, inspirational, to a degree. If I looked behind the scenes of the story properly, I see her desire to help her father and gain respect in the all-men's world of horse breeding/racing meant she sacrificed a significant amount of time at home with her husband and children. And though I understand pursuing a dream, I had to wonder "Is there any hint of regret in the real Penny?" Interesting food for thought.

John Malkovich, as Secretariat's trainer, was exactly the way I like him: irreverent, quirky, and fun to watch. The kids, especially, thought he was really funny.

The rest of the cast put in solid performances as moons revolving around planets Lane and Malkovich.

The story, if you know anything about the horse, has a predictable ending. But, I still find my voice hoarse*** the next morning, after screaming my head off trying to help that horsey win. This movie reminded me of the emotion of Titanic. But, Secretariat is 180 degrees emotionally opposite: you know the ending will be happy and are simply blown away when he finally crosses the finish line to garner The Triple Crown.

As I mentioned when I wrote the post about The King's Speech, I adore movies that portray real people. I am chomping at the bit through the entire feature just waiting to see where the real people are now and how they are doing.

The ending of this one was bittersweet for me. I'll leave that to your imagination and to the time when you finish the movie and see the biographies of where they are now.

The PG rating was for "brief mild language". I hope I haven't become so in-tune with cursing that it went straight over my head, but, quite honestly, I couldn't tell you WHAT was said that would have been considered mild language. Honestly, I think Disney NEEDED this picture to fall into the "PG" category for most people to give it a fair shake, so they added something, I just don't know WHAT, to the dialogue to move it out of the "G" domain.

I am saddened to see that the Academy has snubbed Secretariat. In a year when every single nominated best actress played a sad and emotionally screwed up person, I would have loved to cheer for Diane Lane. I have less of a beef with the Actor and Picture nominations being Secretariat-less as there are some fine performances and fine films that, frankly, would have beaten Malkovich's acting and this little movie to a pulp.

But, don't let that dissuade you from finding the time to watch this movie. It truly is a story of being decisive, knowing what you want, and finding a way to get it. It provides a rare chance to talk to your age-appropriate kids about chasing their dreams, being persistent, and doing the right thing, at all times and in all places.

Now, go pop some corn and get your booty comfy-cozy and enjoy a little horse action.

*Score one for Mommy!

**Not love.

***Punny, aren't I????

Monday, February 7, 2011

FB Observation

Many times, I pop on and off Facebook in about three seconds flat. Generally, that happens because someone has posted something on my wall and I've clicked on the link in the message that was sent to my email account.

Checking the wall, typing a message, and getting on with life takes three seconds. And then I sign back off.

But, even in those blazing fast moments on Facebook, I can't help but see who is available to chat. And, more often than not, I don't stop to initiate a chat, either.

Which got me thinking about an oddity of Facebook. Looking at it from the standpoint of actually having REAL contact with people, it's quite interesting:

Let's say I was invited to a party by one of my Facebook friends. When I arrived at the party, I'd walk directly to the one person who invited me, have a brief conversation, and act like all the rest of my friends weren't even there. And then I'd walk right back out.

And, you know, that pretty well describes how I feel most of the time I'm on Facebook: rude. Because, the elephant that's in the room is that fact that I'm online, I'm "present", and I don't take the time to actually have a chat with the other "real" human beings that are online as well.

I glance at the list of people who are available to chat and I very rarely do. And that's because I'm too busy being a pseudo-voyeur and looking at information from people who aren't EVEN THERE!

And, the whole time I'm signed in? I have this nagging feeling that someone is looking at the chat box on their end, seeing my picture, and wondering if they are being rude by not asking me to chat, too. Or wondering if I am ignoring them while I stare at their picture and wonder the exact same thing.

Seriously, I'm being guilted into feeling bad by a social network? Isn't this eerily like Big Brother? Shouldn't bazillion Mark Zuckerberg hire a psychology team to help me figure this out?

So, next time you see me on Facebook, go right ahead and ignore me. Don't initiate a chat. Don't post anything on my wall. I promise I won't think you are rude.

Because, while I'm still figuring out how to eat Dumbo in one big bite, I'm probably not going to be ready to chat anyway.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


~~Probably best to let the kiddies go to another room while you read this.~~

You know the Freudian slip, where you say something you are thinking that generally isn't fit for publication by your mouth and tongue?

Yeah. Mike had one of those recently. Right in the big fat middle of talking with Hooman.

Seems the Hoo was in need of some more ammunition for his gun. And Mike was lying on the bed in our room, simultaneously working on his computer and watching something on TV.

I'm going to give Mike a big, fat pass because as a man, he had no business multi-tasking. And, clearly, working and watching TV is multi-tasking to the nth degree for someone with a penis.

Where was I? Happily in the shower. With the heat at just the right temperature, enjoying a few minutes of escaping the demands of being a homemaker.*

So, in a trifecta of confluence of events, I turned off the shower, Hoo asked for "BBs", and Mike responded thus:

"Hooman. Sometime later today I'll take you to the store to get some boobies."

Swear on a Bible. Hoo was bent over forward, hand on his stomach, laughing something fierce when I exited the shower.

Hearing the two of them laughing and Mike doing a mean, backwards dance away from the comment by stating "I didn't mean to say that" just made me all the more curious. Mike just looked at me, explained what he had said, and commented "It was a Freudian slip."

And this is where I prove my point that men + multi-tasking = danger to society. Kind of like teenager + driving and texting = ER visit and high insurance deductible. BAD COMBO.

Seems, the sound of the shower turning off reminded Mike of me. This occurred at the exact time Hoo asked about BBs. Which sent Mike's brain into multi-tasking overload, when added to the work computer and TV noise, and, WAH-LAH: boobies.

In case you are curious: yes, Hoo got what he wanted at the store later.

Mike? We'll just leave that up to your Freudian imaginations.

*Oh, do not even get me started by commenting "How demanding can that be?" Because all I'll do is remind you of the episode where Mike Brady claims Carol couldn't handle his job and they switch for one day. Do you remember the outcome? THAT TOTALLY PROVES THE POINT THAT YOU SHOULD SHUT YOUR MOUTH.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Super Bowl Musings

I don't think Jerry Jones is greedy. I think he is insecure. And I think those of us who are judging him are no better than he is.

I also can't believe I'm actually writing this post, given my propensity to avoid sports and all, to defend a person who is constantly being vilified on his home turf.

I've been watching the comments on Facebook over the last few days and they are altogether JUST LIKE MINE. Most of the last week I've been kind of doing the "happy dance" that Super Bowl week has been all messed up by weather. Hence, Jerry's been getting "what's coming" his way.

Who knows if God is trying to teach Mr. Jones a lesson? Surely, I don't. And, if this is a message to him on patience, God has been taking a whole lot of people off the grid for a very long time, just to teach one person a message.*

Now, I know that God has that supreme right. He can decide to do whatever he pleases to teach whomever he wants a lesson. But, I think we are jumping to hasty conclusions on this one.

I've started to realize "If I were in Mr. Jones' shoes, I wouldn't like people deducing who I am as a person without actually knowing me personally."

And I thought back to a "60 Minutes" interview Mike and I watched last December. And really analyzed my thinking.

I watched Mr. Jones squirm during that interview on "60 Minutes". He made an interesting point that maybe the Cowboys have gotten too full of themselves. He didn't directly state that this also applied to him, but I think that line of thinking was implicit in the comment, given that he has a VERY HARD TIME separating himself from the franchise. Further, I think, given the almost 180 degree change that came with the hiring of Jason Garrett and the tightening of the team to business-only, he may have a really good point.

Some would say change for the franchise really needs to start at the top. But, during that interview, Jerry stepped-up to take the blame. As GM, he admits, that the blame falls squarely in his lap. He admitted, if his good friend, George Steinbrenner, had been his boss he would been fired a long time back.

And, for the first time, I realized where that need to control comes from: he can't give up an incident where he was shamed by his credit card being cut up in front of him at Love Field years ago. He's terrified of being broke, even with $2 billion dollar in net worth.

He'll admit that he is running scared. Scared of going back to having nothing. Scared of losing everything. Probably, though he didn't say it directly, scared of being a "nobody".

This is a man who, under scrutiny for failing, takes that criticism and uses it as a fire of inspiration to do better. How many of us can say that?

He said he made a deal with God that he wanted three Super Bowls and, after that, he'd stop asking. Now, he half-jokingly says, he's trying to recraft the deal.

I'd like to humbly suggest that maybe Jerry needs to use that hotline to God for a better purpose: to actually figure out how to learn to let go of the need to control, the worry, the fear, and the anxiety. In essence, to realize that being at the top of your game isn't so great when it comes with all the basics necessary to fall victim to traits that aren't spiritually healthy.

Of course, most days, everyone I run into could use that little lesson. And most will never see a billion dollars of net worth.

But that doesn't give us the right to hate on a man who has worked hard to get where he is and is working hard every day to maintain it.

Personally, I hope Super Bowl Sunday is a gigantic win for the Cowboys. And for all the businesses that hope to reap the monetary rewards of being lucky enough to be in DFW. We, like most cities across the great USA, could use a little shot in the arm, financially.

Because, bottom line? We all stand to win from Jerry this weekend. Whether we like him or not. Faults and all, truth be told, Jerry is much more like us than we'd like to admit.

Just with a few more zeros in his bank book, a really big football team on his payroll, and a better view of the game come Sunday.

*Maybe there are others, like me, who have been going a little stir-crazy this week with kids at home or an icy driveway that makes it impossible to get out. I'm of the opinion that the lesson on patience wasn't just for Jerry.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

It turns out that my workout buddy was completely unaffected by my first brush with death on the StairMaster.

When I announced I was basically crippled by the stupid piece of equipment, she looked at me with complete wonder. "I'm sorry", her eyes seemed to communicate, "but you are a weak woman with freakishly taunt muscles. I pity you."

So, I did what any sane woman would do in response: I got back on the beast.

And, not only that, but I challenged my friend to 20 minutes.

One hour later? No evidence I had even been on the StairMaster. Which, by the way, has the initials "S" and "M". Are you following me?

Not even a hint that I'd proven my womanhood once we finished our workout with a mile walk on the treadmill* or sat in the sauna after that.

Two hours later? I'm remarkably NOT sore! In fact, my hind end feels tight, but not "in a vice" bad kind of way. More in a "I might have a fighting chance to stop being compared to Kim Kardashian."**

Three days later? I've been back on that stupid machine, for 20 minutes at a time, twice now. And, I noticed, that I didn't get winded walking up the stairs to the kids' karate studio today.

There is hope! Real hope!

Now, if I can just figure out if there is a "WingMaster" for my upper arms, we'll be in business!

*Don't go hatin' because we weren't running or doing something challenging. The last five minutes on the StairMaster, neither of us could carry on a conversation so we had to have our time to chat. Hence, treadmill walking and the sauna. We have our priorities in the right place.

**The size of our butt is the only comparison people might make between the two of us.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dallas? I Think Hell Froze Over and Took Us with It

Day One, bedtime: "Look kids! It's starting to sleet. Isn't it pretty? When I was a little girl, growing up in Michigan....."

Day Two, 5am: phone rings, announcing school is canceled. Hit alarm button and roll over until 8:30am.

Day Two, 8:31am: screams from kitchen "MOM!!! I'm hungry. Will you PLEASE get up?"

Drag myself out of bed. Actually enjoy cooking a leisurely breakfast of waffles, eggs, and bacon. Drink more coffee than should be allowed by law.

Day Two, 11am: screams from master bedroom bath: "MMMMOOOOMMMMMAAAAAJJJJJ! Crap!!"

Discover that Tex, who has REFUSED to go outside the door since last night, has relieved himself, #2 style, on the floor of the bathroom. By the time I arrive, the #1 stream has started, no doubt urged on by Mike's screaming within an inch of the dog's ears.

Day Two, 11:01am: screams from the master bathroom bath, as I am leaving the room: "GET HIM OUT THE DOOR! NOW!"

I am attempting to drag Tex outside when his bladder just lets out a flood of Biblical proportions, starting midway through the living room and ending on one of the kid's coats, which was "hung" on the floor in the kitchen.

Day Two, noonish: Act like a short order chef and give everyone exactly what they want for lunch. Rather enjoy my time in the kitchen, save the clean-up.

Day Two, multiple times between noon and 4:00pm: With tummies satisfied and the movie Secretariat watched, boredom sets in.

"Mom? What can I do?" said with no irony, as children stand within two feet of 1,543 Legos, a dozen board games, three sets of cards, and one giant TV with enough DVDs/Wii and XBox games to launch a family entertainment emporium. Not to mention, within spitting distance of three families in the same predicament.

Day Two, dinnertime: Cooking for the crew is getting older by the minute. Decide to skip pork loin scheduled for tonight and make something everyone can get on board with: pasta. Biggest complaint? No seconds.

Day Two, 10 o'clock newscast: Discover school is canceled yet again tomorrow; rejoice in one more weekday to sleep in later than normal.

Almost simultaneously learn that the cold water is not running at all in the bathroom. Watch weather forecaster announce single-digit temperatures and raging wind overnight.

Calculate the cost of our insurance deductible as compared with emergency fund.

Day Three, 7:00am: Noise. What IS THAT NOISE? Recognize the sound of someone opening the pantry and getting the Sun Chips compostable bag out.* Scream "Stay out of the chips. I'll make breakfast soon."

Day Three, 8:00am: Serve a much-less aggressive breakfast than the day before, with the microwave as my wing man.

Drink more coffee than the day before.

Day Three, 8:45am: Notice coffee appears to have spilled when I poured it. Getting closer to the carafe, notice it looks like a toddler wearing oven mitts must have attempted to pour said coffee as it is all over the place.

Closer inspection reveals massive, catastrophic crack in bottom of carafe. Clean up huge spill, determine that there is no glass in the coffee, and continue drinking the rest. Panic slightly until I realize that I learned to make coffee on the stove last February when we had NO POWER for almost two days.

Remind myself I can do anything unsavory if there is a time limit indicated.

Day Three, noon: Boys have discovered that friends are, indeed, still alive, in houses up and down the neighborhood. All that stands between them and a play date is bundling up.

They fight like hungry lions to wear only hoodies and sock less shoes, but are driven back indoors for the obligatory "Christmas Story" tick outfit when they realize "HEY. It's really, really, really cold out there."

No stuff, Sherlock.

Day Three, 3pm: Finish all Christmas cards. (Don't reread that sentence; it said what you think it said. Yours is likely coming soon.) Decide to take them to the mailbox.

Bundle up like I mean it and trek outdoors, only to discover the mail lady is rounding the corner at the end of the street. Gingerly walk out onto the ice and have a nice chat that includes the phrases "Maintenance crew", "Over the curb", and "Fell three times". Thank her for getting out in this weather and have a good laugh over the cards.

Day Three, 3:05pm: Thank God that I have a warm home to come back into.

Day Three, 4:00pm: Thank God, again, that I decided to do our weekly grocery shopping on Mondays. Plan to get pork loin on menu from last night in oven.

Day Three, 4:15pm: Get sidetracked, with Mike, by Oprah. Waste 45 minutes.

Only interrupted once by kids, who have discovered "We DO have lots of video games to play" and are going about systematically beating each other's high scores to a bloody pulp with their wireless controllers.

Day Three, 5:00pm: Curious if school is going to be canceled again, wait to see what Pete Delkus has to say. Arrow prayer that the ice will magically disappear overnight.

Shot down by Mother Nature. Sanity is slowly slipping as the time of our nature-imposed vacation is being exponentially increased.

Day Three, 5:13pm: Plumber calls back. Water still not working. Damage probably already done. Suggests we have the water main key ready for the impending pipe burst. In the mean time, we can do our best by buying a space heater and trying to keep the pipes warm and happy.

Mike states he'll go to Home Depot.

Day Three, 5:43pm: Even though there are only two items I've asked him to pick up, Mike INSISTS I write a list.

Resulting list has two items on it: beer and space heater. I remind him that the former is the most important of the two items. And educate him on the ramifications of returning without the liquor.

Day Three, 6:33pm: Realize the oven does a good job heating the kitchen when it is left untouched, yet running, for two hours. Realize the loin will have to wait another night as I'd like to watch "The Middle" and "Modern Family" in peace and that isn't conducive to a one-hour cook time.

Modify dinner plans again; result looks remarkably like "breakfast".

Day Three, 6:45pm: As semi-warm heat is hitting me in the face, I realize we have another 24 hours of this joy to work through. Pray Coors truck made it to the local grocery.

Determine to put on my big girl panties and deal with it.

Until hubby returns with no space heater and warm beer, off the shelf not out of the cooler. Bang myself on the head with my hand because I forgot to indicate "COLD" in front of the word beer.

Ask myself "How much worse can it get?"** And realize, I really think that should stay a rhetorical question.

*Good gracious. Have you heard these bags? I think the sound could be used as a weapon of torture.

**Think of the edge of reason and tip yourself over the edge.

That will almost describe being on the brink of three days of cabin fever in Dallas, Texas, where the temperature is 5 and we are all thinking "I've read that God said no more floods. Is there a clause in there I've missed that says blizzards and blazing cold temperatures will be in the forecast?"

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mid-Life Crisis in the Making

A very dear friend of mine is turning 50*. She isn't the first person I've known to turn 50 so this shouldn't be a big deal. RIGHT?

Then why am I freakin' out? This is the question I've been asking myself for the last couple of days.

It might be wrapped up in the fact that Mike is going through a wee bit of "Who am I and why am I aging?" and joking** about buying a sports car with two seats, an outrageous insurance premium, and lousy gas mileage.

It might be that she is the first FEMALE to cross this hurdle line. My other really great, wisdom-filled girlfriend is just turning 49 this year. No affect on me at all.

Maybe it's the fact that I am hitting 45 in July. FORTY-FIVE. Argh. Nothing even remotely sexy about THAT.

But, somehow, regardless of how or why, courtesy of two little numbers that I'm not even turning this year, I'm losing my mind.

The list of things I could use, but refuse to subject myself to, is long: Botox, boob lift, liposuction. I'm kind of your resident "No pain = my gain" gal, so there is no way on the green Earth that I'm going to let some middle-aged guy put needles into my cheeks and lips or touch my children's early source of milk or use a vacuum cleaner to suck out the years of damage I've done to my thighs, stomach and rear.

This life is, to quote Pastor Ellis Orzoco, a "pernicious conundrum".*** Except, you can't get rid of the deadly part nor can you figure out the riddle.


So, since time is marching forward and I refuse to try to inject medical techniques to stop it, I'm just going to have to come to an uncomfortable impasse with my situation.

But, I can tell you one thing: I'm going to enjoy that birthday party, eat way too much Italian food and a huge piece of cake with, hopefully, more frosting than cake. And I'm going to celebrate the fact that my friend and I have many more years together before one of us moves to Heaven.

When I look at it that way? "Happy 50th Birthday" doesn't seem so bad after all.

*When I announced I was going to her girls-only fiftieth birthday party, he looked at me all googly eyes and said "NOOO! She is NOT 50. There is no way." I feel the same--she looks much younger than 50, and even though she is one of my personal sages and seems light years ahead me in the wisdom arena, I think she is timeless.

**Kinda, sorta, maybe/maybe not.

***I had no idea what this meant, I just wrote it down on my church bulletin cause I thought it sounded cool. And, look at me! I can use and incorporate it into today's writing. Thanks, brother Ellis!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Just One Slice!

One of the downfalls of having children rife with allergies is that there isn't a lot of junk around the house to nosh on when the sweets-bug strikes.

And, around here, it strikes often. And with force. And seems to bite at my ankles with teeth so rotten that I should be reminded "Sugar: it does a body bad."

I'd say, at least once/week, one of the two of us "adults" in the house has to make a post bedtime routine run to someplace that can provide the means necessary to beat off the sugar beast.

Needless to say, we kind of know the obligatory drive-thrus for the goods: Braums, McDonald's, Spirits Beer and Wine Emporium.* You get my drift.

Sad. But oh-so-true.

Mike informed me late in the afternoon on Sunday that he was "in the mood".** So, as I was planning the weekly menus in anticipation of my Monday grocery run, I had sweets on my mind.

As I was rifling through the virtual house-sized stack of recipes I'd clipped in the last 90 days, I ran across directions for "Chocolate Cake--Just One Slice".

"Oh. This can't be good.***" my brain reasoned. "One slice? Made in the microwave?" But, given it was my turn to go hunting for sugar, and my desire to be as lazy as humanly possible in retrieving said sugar, I decided to give it a try. After all, if it failed, I could still beg Mike to go in my place.

Looking over the ingredient list, I realized I was only short chocolate chips. Since I'm all about experimentation in the kitchen, I decided to give it a shot, with pecans as a sub.

Let me tell you that I had NO EARTHLY IDEA that I was getting a two-fer: 1. a yummy, easy, less-than-five-minutes-to-the-table dessert AND 2. entertainment. And all for the cost of a few tablespooons worth of ingredients and two minutes in the microwave!

See, there was this one peculiar instruction from the recipe, which I quote here: "The cake may rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed!"

Just for grins, I put a saucer underneath the mug, in case the brains of the recipe was sitting in his office somewhere in middle America wringing his hands together, getting peverse pleasure at the thought of the number of desperate, sugar-dependent people mucking up their microwaves with his creation.

Let me tell you: this thing DELIVERED. No, I mean, REALLY delivered. As in baby out of Momma delivered.

Let's just say, that cake slice did a mean push-up out of the mug on its way to being edible. If you can imagine a can of Play-Doh or jellied cranberry sauce attempting to escape without being held upside down...that was what I was witnessing. It was so funny looking, I called Mike it for a little look-see.

Which produced copious laughter from both of us and a "WHAT IS THAT?" from him.

"Our dessert!" I announced.

He left the room, less than impressed. I could practically hear the condescending tone in his "HMMMM". He didn't believe this experiment would actually produce something worth eating.

In just a couple of minutes, after our little baby was completely birthed, it was testing time. Would this funky one slice chocolate microwave cooked cake make the grade? YES. And then some.

Since I had subbed nuts for chips, I feared I would get a rubbery, dry product. Nyet.

I also used powdered sugar in place of granulated. Not one bit of a problem.

This was a good slice of Heaven, fit for those who enjoy a piece of dark chocolate or a nut-filled brownie. I imagine, with chips, this thing would pack a sugary-sweet punch.

In any case, our hips were happy to expand for our new friend. And, so you can enjoy the birthing process in your microwave, I'm sharing the recipe below.


Chocolate Cake--Just One Slice!
Egglands Best

2 T flour
3 T sugar
2 T unsweetened cocoa
1 large egg (Eggland's Best, of course)
2 T milk
2 T vegetable oil
2 T chocolate chips (or chopped pecans as a sub)
Small splash of vanilla extract

Note: I used one tablespoon to measure everything for the whole recipe, stirring the egg in with a regular spoon. Dirty dish count: three. One tablespoon, one spoon, and one birthing mug.

Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well. Add egg; mix thoroughly. Pour in milk and oil; mix well. Add chips (nuts) and extract and mix again.

Put the mug in the microwave and cook on high for 2 minutes. The cake may rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed. Allow to cool and tip out onto a plate, if desired (MommaJ: or eat straight out of the mug and only tip out when you are 3/4 of the way done to be sure that instruction works.)

*And the fine folks at all these establishments can thank us for keeping the sugar cane and booze economy going strong.

**Not sex, silly. DESSERT!

***No. It will be GREAT!!!!