Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rabbit Hole

It's been one of those weeks where I've been on the verge of tears multiple times. I'm not particularly unhappy about anything, don't really miss Mom terribly, and it's the wrong time of the month, so I just don't know why.

But, I thought, by renting Rabbit Hole, I'd get a good, long, hard cry and be done with it.

Honestly, I cried harder during the end of 127 Hours and throughout Soul Surfer than I did during this movie. I had a couple of good, salty trickles, but no flood.

I figured I'd be really touched because the theme of this play-come-movie is what happens in the life of a married couple after their child is killed in an accident.

Before you count me as a sadist, let me explain that part of my interest in this movie was Nicole Kidman, who received a Golden Globe AND Oscar nomination for her turn as the emotionally pent-up Mother. The other huge draw was Aaron Eckhart, who I fell in love with in Thank You for Smoking*.

The acting was really good. The story, though depressing in parts, ended with a little lift and was solid. Overall, the movie took a few unexpected turns, took a few turns that were completely expected and morally base, and told the story nicely.

At just over 90 minutes, this is a movie you can squeeze in right after a big pasta meal without risking falling asleep. And, even though I questioned the integrity of so short a flick, the length is spot-on; I never felt cheated out of information or lost wondering why something did/didn't happen.

Though Mike didn't see this show with me (he and the boys were at a Rangers' game), I think there might be discussion between spouses after seeing this.

If you find yourself in the frame-of-mind to see a movie of this ilk, I can recommend it. It brings up some very interesting points about how children impact a marriage and how their absence is felt.

*A GREAT movie, if you are into sarcasm and irony.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Extinction, In Six-Year-Old-Terms

Me: "What was your favorite part of today?"
The Babe: "Vampire Wars."

See, we went to the neighborhood picnic and stayed until after dark. That's when the kids decided to play this game, which is essentially hide-and-go-seek, with a spin to match the current vampire craze.

Me: "Hmmm."
TB: "You know what?* It doesn't hurt when a vampire bites you?"
Me: "Really? How do you know this?"

I refrained from telling him, though I thought it, that that is a blatant lie because I saw "Interview with a Vampire" and I know Tom Cruise was in excruciating pain after he got bit.

TB: "On "Man Vs. Wild"** they found a vampire tooth and it was razor sharp."
Me (thinking): "Bear has NEVER found a vampire tooth. Though I bet he's EATEN a bat."
Me (responding): "I see."

TB: "You know what?*** Vampires killed the dinosaurs."
Me: "How did that happen?"

TB: "They sucked all their blood out. You know what? Dinosaur blood is green."
Me: "HM. So the vampires made the dinosaurs extinct?"

One of the keys to raising a child with a vivid imagination is that you suspend belief A LOT.

TB: "Yup. You know what else? The vampires died then."
Me: "Why?"

TB: "Because they are allergic to green blood."
Me: "So I guess that explains why we don't have dinosaurs or vampires anymore."

TB: "Yup."

So, all you dinosaur-extinction-theorists, now you know the REAL reason why dinosaurs crapped out.

And, those of you who follow the Cullen clan? According to The Babe, there is no possible way they can be real people.

Now, those werewolves? We haven't ruled THEM out yet. So, stayed tuned.

*Right now, every conversation starts with this phrase.

**If you've never seen this show, it is testosterone served with a side of testosterone. Right up my boy's alley.

***This is rhetorical. He'll just keep going if you don't say "What?"

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Queen's Treasure

One of the benefits of enjoying cooking for my family is that we have leftovers. And one thing that I've actually gotten RIGHT in my years of marriage/parenting is the instillation of love for all things pre-prepared.

So, every once in a blue moon I will find myself with an overflow of food that is just begging to be eaten. Those days I declare "Queen's Treasure" and everyone gets to chose one meat, veggie, fruit, and carb that they want to lay claim to in the fridge.

The only rule? First to obey and get hands washed and into the kitchen gets to pick first. That means last to the kitchen may end up with mashed pinto beans and olives. Quite an incentive, huh?

Today, on the menu, was "Q.T." for lunch. Our neighborhood picnic is this evening and I am preparing meals to send with Hoo to camp*, so it was quite natural that I would want everyone to have leftovers.

There were several choices: turkey salad, regular salad, carrots, apples, mango, ham, biscuits from breakfast. Both Hooman and Nickels made their way through Mom's restaurant and ate to their heart's content.

Then came The Babe. "Picky when I wanna be" Babe.

He had already thoroughly downplayed the concept of any meat that is grilled, cooled, seasoned to perfection, tossed with mayonnaise, seasonings, almonds, and celery. He was having none of that.

A quesadilla, freshly grilled, was also the stuff of pagans in small Scandinavian countries.

So, I offered a peanut-butter and jelly on a tortilla**. I would even go the extra mile and GRILL it, for his highness.

To which he said "I don't like that."

Since I had never prepared such an animal for my youngest, I said "But you've never tried it." He is my one child who thrives on a food challenge. I could have a live squid, squirming on the floor in front of a vat of boiling water, and say "You haven't tried this!" and he'd ask for the ketchup.

"But I tried it at my friend's house." That ubiquitous friend, who has no name.

"OH REALLY? You had a grilled peanut butter and jelly on a tortilla at someone else's house?"


Well, I'll be jiggered. Or have my leg pulled...off my body.

He finally settled on a fruit and yogurt parfait with crumbled cereal flakes on top. Probably tastier than a grilled tortilla pb&j anyway.

Now that the challenge of Queen's Treasure is over for the day, I'm thinking about where to buy that squid.

Any ideas?

*Yes, that may sound strange to some, but if I don't, he's sure to react to something and end up barfing all over the place or develop a severe migraine. Hence, in the interest of protecting his camp experience and maximizing our hard-earned coin, I spend a day before camp making sure he has enough to take with him to eat for a week.

**Fresh out of bread, can you tell?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Socky Situation

It is not often that I can claim victory over a long-standing problem, but this morning I can say I did!

It is only an ADD-riddled person who would have the ability to get so far off track packing her kids for camp that she single-handedly solves the "sock crisis" that has been going on in our house for years.

Yes, years.*

You may know the crisis: an unmatched sock, no doubt the one the dryer didn't eat, manages to find its way into the laundry basket. Pressed for time, it sits in the basket, atop the dryer. And it sits, and sits, and sits. And, before you know it, your toddler's foot is three times larger than the sock, that sock that is STILL unmatched.

Or, you spend $12+ bucks on the one-size-fits-all baseball/soccer/football socks that only match ONE uniform for one, short season. Naturally, between the field and home, one of the socks decides it would be romantic to leave your home and go where the other socks disappear to, somewhere in the cosmos, some place far, far away where only Star Trek has ventured. So, your kid becomes "sockless Joe Jackson" for the season. The only thing that makes it sting less is that, as the season wears on, you realize other kid's parents have the same problem--some come to games with the wrong socks, hat, or without their bungee belt.

Or, you have uniform socks for your kid to wear to school. They come from a special store that has inconvenient business hours and charges $6/pair. The matches for those socks, I'm convinced, are having a party at some really expensive boarding school, somewhere on the East Coast.

So, while in the midst of packing the boys for camp, I realized the sock crisis had escalated to a point of no return. And, I further decided that I was going to be the one who solved this little issue. Even if it meant I was going to throw out socks that have been in our possession, as singles, since before Nickels was a year old, almost 10 years ago.

While that last statement sounds ridiculous, there are two explanations:

1. I am an eternal optimist. I am convinced that the matching sock will show up somewhere, somehow.

2. I am eternally lazy. I am convinced that the matching socks will show up without me putting any effort forth to find them.

Sock fairy, anyone?

So, bright and early this morning, I pulled all the singles together in one room, after searching seven sock drawers and finding the two sock-containing laundry baskets. And I went about the arduous task of finding sole mates (ha, ha). Those who didn't find true love were chucked in yet another laundry basket, one designated to head straight for the garbage can.

But, before they could make it there, I realized I had an embarrassing rainbow of unwanted footwear that was just going to become part of a landfill. The slightly crazed recycler in me cringed.**

It was in that moment that I honestly believe the spirit of my Mother overtook my body. As a long-time Preschool teacher, she could look at a hunk of dryer lint and come up with art-show worthy crafts. I actually thought: "This would be a good start to a really rockin' collection of sock puppets!"

Now, despite the part of my brain called "common sense", I entertained this idea for a good couple of hours. I turned over all the essentials in my mind: what to use for eyes, hair, which colors would be best, where to store the socks, etc.

Then, I came back to my senses. Or the coffee kicked in. Something.

Anyway, I grabbed all those socks, chucked them in the big garbage can near the back gate, threw up my hands and yelled "VICTORY".***

Honestly, though? I'm still struggling with the idea that I've deprived children all over Dallas the right to get to know a puke-green, yellow-button-eyed, red-yarn haired sock puppet named "Dork".

Somehow, I'm guessing, if this urge still exists in a month or so, that I will find that one single sock at the bottom of the laundry basket and I'll be able to make that dream come true.

Or not.

*Yes, in case you were wondering, those unmatched beauties were moved from our old house to the new. Almost three years ago. UM. HM.

**I about drive Mike nuts when we take a trip out of Dallas because I collect all the recyclable stuff in a bag in the back of the car, completely washed and ready for the recycle bin when we get home. For some reason, he just doesn't get this!?!

***See, if I had left them in one of the garbage cans in the house, I would have gotten up at 3am, convinced I had made the wrong choice, and started making sock puppets. The garbage can near the alley contains the body of the paraplegic squirrel, which the dogs managed to chase down the day after the trash folks arrived. Let's just say we aren't opening that one unless completely necessary until AFTER the next garbage pick-up.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Kinda Joking

On The Day of National Prayer, each of the kids in a grade school class were asked to bring in a show-and-tell that represented their faith.

Amos stood up, bowed forward, and showed his yarmulke. He explained that he was Jewish and used this hat to cover his head, in the tradition of his faith.

Katherine stood up and showed the class her crucifix, explaining that it represented Christ on the cross, and was part of the symbolism of worshipping in the Catholic church.

Johnny stood up with a large Pyrex pan, a serving spoon and two potholders. "This is a casserole" he said, "and it is a symbol of the Baptist church."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hello Gorgeous!

Let me start by admitting that I used to be exclusively a fall girl. I was into everything about changing leaves and cooler weather and the distant sound of the marching band practicing on the High School field for Friday night's football game.

Fall? I still heart you. But, Summer? Well, Hello Gorgeous*!!!

I'm not sure what it is about summer 2011 that has me so stoked. It looks suspiciously like summers past--activity on the verge of "I thought I didn't plan much; what happened?", heat sure to hit 100 degrees sometime in July and stay there for days on end, and moments when I will lament that fact that school let out in late May.

In talking with other Moms over the past couple of weeks, I discovered I am not alone. I couldn't find a single person who wasn't really, genuinely excited for summer to be here.

I've wondered if it is the stage we all find ourselves in, that place where homework is a sure bet at least four days of the week. Or the fact that everyone seems to be participating in one or two extra-curricular things. Or that most of us are raising multiple children with multiple friends, not all of whom live right next door to us.

Regardless of what it is, I'm glad summer is allowing us a period of time to get away from the "normal" routine of the school year. I'm glad we can get up at the crack of nine and eat a big brunch, instead of breakfast and lunch. I'm glad, if a favorite movie of the kids is in the Redbox and we discover it at 7:30pm on a Tuesday evening, that we can all gather on the couch and enjoy it, unfazed by the time.

I'm looking forward to pruned toes and fingers from too much time in the pool, flavored ice tea so cold that it gives you goose bumps in 96 degree weather, and grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.

I'm glad the boys will see their cousins in both Jacksonville and Dallas and each spend their own, private weekend getting to know their Pop and Gran a little better.

I'm praying that this will be the summer that The Babe discovers he really wants Jesus in his life and that we can celebrate his decision.

But, mostly, I'm looking forward to nesting with my little flock. Having the chance to have long talks about things that matter and things that don't. Being available to be the one to bandage that cut knee and administer the Tylenol after too much fun in the sun. In short, doing all those things that Moms do when their kids are home again.

There just aren't that many summers between now and graduation for Nickels. I'm painfully aware of friends who are entering the empty nest phase and feel so very lost. I'm aware of others who begin summer under the weight of knowing their youngest will start kindergarten in the fall and wondering how they will survive that. Yet others are awaiting that "surprise" baby that is rocking their universe.

Wherever we find ourselves this summer, I pray that we enjoy the time. Savor it. Drink it in until we are drunk with joy.

So, summer? Be good to us. Don't rush by like a speeding train, leaving a trail of dust and a wish that we had gotten on while the getting was good. Let us take in every sweet, sour, and salty flavor you have to offer.

And, if you could, please? Tell fall that I'm looking forward to time with her, too.

*Why does summer remind me of reruns of "Sex and the City"?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Utopia, MommaJ Style

More "Lenten Promises", well after Lent is over.

I originally wrote this back in late-April but realized this was a really, tough, college-final type question. It wasn't something I could answer in one sitting. It wasn't something that I would answer and it would be "done". It was the type of question that could be batted back and forth by thinking people, with no two ever coming to the same conclusion.

And, if you've known me long enough, you know that I can be convinced to back down on the really hard stuff without much prodding. Hence, six weeks of this post sitting in queue, taunting me, and my brain screaming "WHY IS THIS SO HARD?"

I'm going to take two Tylenol. You? Read on.


What is your vision for society? If you were president, what would you champion to change? What hill would you want the country (or world?) to take?

Let me start by pissing off the entire feminist coalition in the Americas by stating the following: I don't believe women should be President.*

I am extraordinarily conservative when it comes to this one point. And it is based on the fact that I believe women should take a hint from the Bible and allow men to lead.

I don't see this as subservience in a negative sense; I see it as God's way of protecting families by showing us the best way to organize the people in the family, top to bottom.

I don't see that I am missing out on anything by letting my husband be the main breadwinner. I gain a great deal of satisfaction out of allowing my children to be my crown and giving Mike the credit for bringing home the bacon (even though I drive the car that picks it up from the store.)

I don't see women are equipped, emotionally or psychologically, for the tasks that a President must take on daily. Women are emotionally wired in a very different way than men and making life or death decisions as the leader of a country is asking too much of us.

Now that that is out of the way, knowing that I will NEVER take on the task of President because I don't believe that is in God's will for my female life, I can answer the next hypothetical question: What is my vision for society?

I've never given this much thought, but the first thing that comes to mind is that I would like to live in a world where every person is so focused on every one else that it is hard to unravel where charity and love and peace start. There would be no starting point because everyone would participate and no one would drop out. And, because that is the case, there would be no end to all that is good.

Even though it is far from original, "Pay it forward" would be my mantra. Simple acts of kindness would generate more simple acts of kindness which would beget larger acts, and so on.

Perfection, for me, includes

1. That no one would consider their home "theirs", that they would open it to strangers and require little/nothing in exchange.

I watched a movie a few years ago about the Depression. In it, people were renting out rooms in their homes, not only to make the mortgage, but to help those in need. There was community built through this act; people became family, living under one roof, sharing common meals, learning about each other's history. It was a beautiful time in an otherwise ugly period of society.

I can also recount acts of kindness during Hitler's reign, when Jewish families were hidden by other families, at their own peril. I'm sure history is dotted with periods of time where this was the case, some we will never know about.

But, it shouldn't take crisis to bring out the best in us....

We should take a clue from people like the Tuohy's, and take in a young man in need. We should search our hearts and decide if adoption, foreign or domestic, fits into our family. We should be willing to open the doors and pantries and closets and ask "What do you need today?"

2. That people who were beneficiaries of charity would not only really NEED it, but that they would actively find ways to repay it, once they were able.

To that end, I would take the government out of the welfare game. Social programs wouldn't be supported by the masses. Instead, charity would be handled at the local level through community centers, churches, synagogues, and individuals.

If this were to happen, there would be no shame in receiving welfare because it would be temporary instead of shackling. Today's handout would put the person in need back on their feet and out of gratitude that handout would become the next in a chain of handouts, helping people learn to get back up on their feet and not become chained to welfare programs that, I believe, cripple people from ever finding their own sense of self.

3. That people would show up to work, not for the purpose of gathering more for themselves, but to earn their wage to give away sacrificially.

If you were to volunteer in tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri this very day, you would be doing this work. You'd be helping people pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and limp forward. You'd be foregoing what is comfortable and easy and "normal" and putting yourself on the front lines for other people.

If you've ever made the decision to forgo something you really want to give something to someone that they really need, you know this feeling. There is something hair-raisingly wonderful about giving to others without compulsion. In some small way, when we give out of the goodness of our hearts, we become closer to the perfection that is Christ. We don't become Christ, we emulate Him, through our giving. Maybe that's why it feels so.darn.good?!

In my idea of society perfected, we'd all be working toward a common goal of ensuring that everyone has food, shelter and clothing. There would be no hoarding, simply open-hands to work together in love.

Call me a Pollyanna if you like (that wouldn't be the first time someone has), but I do believe people can do so much better. I believe Christ can work in their hearts and help them find a way to selflessness. I believe we can become a society that is utopian without focusing on the "u".

God help all of us learn to do this.

*I can't wait to see the hate comments on that one.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

Very little happens in our lives that involves travel that doesn't involve our kids.

This is just a fact of having three under 12 who aren't ready to stay home alone. That, and the fact that I haven't quite figured out how to summon Nanny McPhee to CasaDeNowell.

So, when we have an out-of-state event, like the wedding of my cousin this past weekend, it literally takes an army of people to help us pull it off:

Three Moms to get the kids to both schools and back to their houses until Mike's Dad, "Pop", arrived.

One Mom to transport Nickels from baseball practice back home.*

One "Pop and Gran" to drive two hours to Dallas on Friday evening and take the kids back to their house for a fun-filled weekend.

One neighbor girl and her Dad to be sure Bob didn't die of loneliness while we were gone.

So, many thanks to all of you.

Truly, you made it possible for me to spend time with my Mom's side of the family. That took the edge off missing her a bit.

You made it possible for Mike and I to remember why we like being married to each other, outside of the wake-up-send-kids-to-school-work-help-with-homework-go-to-bed routine.

But, most importantly, you helped me realize for the umpteenth time what a great group of friends/neighbors/family we are blessed to have. You all make life worth living.

I feel so incredibly blessed to be part of your circle of people. And, even though words aren't enough and "Thank You" is inadequate, I really hope you will know how much we appreciate everything you did to make this past weekend possible.

Very gratefully, MommaJ (and Mike)

*And, even though it poured buckets and practice was canceled, foiling our original plan, I still could count on her to be concerned about helping be sure Nickels made it home safely.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Problem with Wine

For years, Mike and I attended a Baptist church together. We could assume, given a gathering of people from that church, that most would not touch alcohol. Most of the time, that was perfectly hunky-dory.

Years passed and we became friends with some of these fine folk and we ferreted out who would actually drink and who wouldn't. We wouldn't ever get poo-faced with any of them, but it was fun to order wine with dinner or have a cup of beer at the ballpark, if the timing seemed right.

Fast forward to this past weekend, where we found ourselves squarely in the midst of an Anglican church dinner where wine was flowing freely.

Now, to truly understand my position on this issue, you have to understand my upbringing: I grew up in a house where "It's 5 o'clock somewhere" was actually not a cutesy phrase but a commandment. If it was 5pm, someone in our house was making something that had booze in it.

Needless to say, I grew up to believe that having a little cocktail, or two, on a daily basis was not only A-OK, but was completely normal. In fact, it was truly like clock work.

Considering I am a child of the 80's and that every house constructed during that time period had a wet bar, I learned in my early-teens that manipulating the bottles could lead to a night on the town with a Route 66 Diet Coke laced with Jim Beam. All it took was a little opportunity, a splash of water, and nerve.*

Are you getting the point that I am no stranger to liquor? And that I am blessed to have never needed AA but realize that there were points in my life where I was probably just one gene shy from being a raving drunk? Yuppers.**

So, imagine my surprise, when paired with others from the church, when the conversation went down this path:

70+ year old single lady, who brought her own bottle of wine and was sharing it with another "seasoned" lady: "I used to volunteer for the SPCA."

My brain: "What a darling lady! How generous to volunteer her time that way!"

70+: "The funniest pet we ever had was a parrot."

The conversation around the table turns to another 50+ couple who had a parrot that has departed the Earth, but that they loved. "Parrots are so smart...they live a long time...you put them in your will to pass to the next generation..." Lots of lively editorial comments from around the table ensue.

70+: "Well, this particular parrot came from a pretty rough upbringing."

My brain: "OH. That's so sad."

70+: "And, every time someone would pass by this bird, it would say the same thing."

My brain: (Smiling at the thought of the cutesy phrase this sweet, elderly woman is about to share) "I bet it said 'Polly wants a cracker' or 'Pretty bird'. What a sweet lady for helping that bird."

70+: "It would say F&*% you."

The entire table gasps for air. Then starts nervously laughing. We are in a church building, after all. And the weather has been weird lately with lots of tornadoes and heavy wind and rain and hail. Good gravy, where the heck is the closest empty set of seats?? Mike and I need to move NOW. In fact, where's the exit? We need to be completely out of this building before death and destruction hit it for dropping the "F" bomb on church premises.

As if saying it once wasn't bad enough, Ms. 70+ got such a great reaction out of the crowd that she must have said it four more times before we finally had to leave to retrieve the boys. Every time, the reaction was the same, just more nervous than before.

I know Jesus made water into wine. I know we drink wine to celebrate communion, at Jesus' request, which is the symbol of the blood he poured out for us. But, for crying out loud, know your limits, people!

And, parrot people everywhere? THINK. Parrots are just like children with feathers. If you say it more than once, they are going to repeat it. And, like children, for the next 20 years, you are going to hear those mistakes you made.

And, to my new friend from church? Next time, I'm bringing the "wine". If it looks suspiciously like grape juice to you, well.....

*Yes. I had it.

**Also inherent in this statement is great gratitude for the Lord not teaching me any lessons after a massive car accident.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Opposite of Foreplay

Today, as I drove into the backyard, I saw something hustling along the fence line that, well, just didn't look right.

By stating that, let me just go ahead and admit that we have a rat. Full-blooded, rodent-style, rat.

The glass half full girl in me decided to make lemonade out of the lemons, so I named him Ratatouille, after the cute movie mouse. I fully expect that sucker to be in this here kitchen helping out any.day.now. Otherwise, the prescribed rat-poison-that-makes-rats-thirsty-and-drives-them-out-of-their-nest-before-they-die-an-unseemly-death is being purchased and chucked in the attic above our garage.

It's either earn your keep or croak. That's how serious I am about chores around here. Got it, Mr. R?

So, when I couldn't quite identify this thing moving along the ground, I assumed Ratatouille had invited a friend for a visit of the premises. But, strolling the grounds during the daytime has never been the modis operandi of our resident rodent, so I had to get a closer look.

Turned out, it was a squirrel. But not just any squirrel. A squirrel that was completely paralyzed in the hind quarters. And was, thus, dragging his back legs by using all the might in his front legs.

At that moment, there was an expletive in my mind just dying to get out.

Somehow, if it is hurt, injured or stupid AND it has fur, I manage to find it. And feel incredibly responsible for it. And either kill it trying to save it or manage to track down the one human being on planet Earth that knows the feeding habits of armadillos and skunks and whatever hunk of fur has managed to attach itself to me in that moment.

To add insult to injury, the dogs were in the backyard. How their keen sense of smell hadn't managed to kick in is beyond me. They can smell bacon frying from 100 miles away. But a paraplegic squirrel apparently doesn't let off any odor at all.

As I watched this thing move along the fence, my heart breaking every agonizing pull of the way, all the sudden the dogs olfactory glands kicked into high gear and they BOLTED for the source of my pity.

Literally, time went into slow motion as teeth and fur collided and this AWFUL high-pitched squeal/scream/what-the-hell-was-that? noise emanated from the squirrel.

I did what any responsible pet owner would do: I started screaming at the top of my lungs at Tex and Doug. Because, after all, shouldn't they recognize they are attacking something defenseless and pitiful? Being a carnivore, in that moment, was no excuse.

Apparently, my screaming was so loud that Mike heard it in his office and came sauntering* out the back door.

Why are you yelling at the dogs? he wanted to know.

Because they are attacking a squirrel that is paralyzed! I shouted back.

And that is when my husband ruined any chance of having sex that evening. He threw his hand over his mouth and STARTED LAUGHING.

Now, whether he was laughing at the predicament of the squirrel (barbarian!) or at me (for being compassionate?) didn't really matter in that moment. I threw on my squinty, "REALLY?" eyes, just to drive home my point.

Turns out, while we were busy pulling dogs back from their afternoon snack and certifying our celibate evening plans, our furry buddy managed to figure out how to climb one of the crepe myrtles.

It was an impressive feat. We watched him until he was at a safe height and I did what I do best: went into "How am I going to save this animal?" mode.

The vet had no idea what to do with him. "Call animal control?" was the best they could do. Shoot, I could have hit my mangled friend with a shovel to put him out of his misery. That's about what animal control would do.


While I was scouring the Internet for a wildlife rehabilitation volunteer, like the one I used LAST TIME a baby squirrel decided to make Hooman's backpack his home, Mr. Squirrel decided we were all too loud and obnoxious to stay in the backyard. And, out of the tree, into another yard he went.

Mike on the other hand? Every time I looked at him this afternoon? He woud start laughing again. But I could tell he was trying to salvage the evening by trying to figure out the best excuse for his response to another insanely bizarre animal incident involving his wife.

Poor guy. Just like that darn squirrel, he can't seem to catch a break.

*Not running. No, more like a senior shuffle to the buffet line to see what's for dessert.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Can Oprah Just Go Now?

Am I the only one who feels like we are throwing an extended, over-the-top, billion dollar going away party for Oprah?

Every time I turn on the television, there is yet another commercial for the MOST AMAZING OPRAH SHOW IN HISTORY! I'm being told to stay tuned for the MOST INCREDIBLE GUEST LINE-UP IN THE ANNALS OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION!


I mean, really, if the Big O* has her OWN** network now, shouldn't we be leaving someone amazing for the 24 hours/day of programming that exist over there?

And, 24 hours/day? Really? Even HGTV has the common sense to turn off in the wee hours of the morning.

No offense, Oprah, but I think America is suffering from what is called "overexposure".

We've loved you for 25 years now and we are sad to see you leave the "real" networks, but there is only so much we can take.

All that said, I know you are in cleaning mode at Harpo Studios. And, I'll glady help out! If you happen to run into any extra "favorite things" or spare cars or a carbon copy of that dude from "Thor"?

You know where to reach me.

*Wow. So much crazy innuendo there, it's not even funny. Let your mind wander to clean places, please.

**GET it? The network is O.W.N.? HA HA.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Talking To Myself

Am I the only one who talks out loud to myself?

I'm not talking the occasional "YES!" in response to finding out the check DID come in the mail. I'm talking a full-blown conversation wherein I ask rhetorical questions of myself and actually answer them.*

Now, even if you do this too, I still think that last sentence qualifies me as a freak.

Anyway, under "normal" circumstances, this wouldn't be a problem. I mean, if I am mumbling in the confines of my own kitchen or closet or bathroom, who is going to call me out on it?**

But, in my middle age, I'm realizing I don't do a really good job stifling that urge to talk to myself when I am in places where people expect me to be talking to another human being when my lips are moving.

And, since spring fever has hit the Nowell casa, it seems my little issue has cranked up to full speed. Let's just say that very few members of this family, animals included, seem to have all their wits about them.

Recently, one of the kids did something so over-the-top redunkulous that I found myself exiting the front door while gesticulating wildly and ranting out loud about giving birth to a child who could think that this behavior would be acceptable.

All this was done within ear shot of my next door neighbor, who I proceeded to act like I didn't see. He then returned the favor by ignoring my crazy ass, but I'm sure went inside and told his wife "She's at it again." Because this wasn't the FIRST time I'd left my front door ranting about a child where neighbor-man and God were my only witnesses.

There is no polite way to excuse your behavior when you've just verbalized that maybe, just maybe, your child needs to be shoved back in the womb to "cook a little more" because, apparently, nine months didn't solidify his brain.

Logistics aside, this seemed like a good idea when I thought it. But, in full-blown auditory mode with a neighbor as my witness? Not.so.much.

Going forward, I have to decide if I will a) bite my tongue until I lose the urge to comment b) start spouting pithy commentary about my children entirely in my head or c) exit a different door.

One thing's for sure: my neighbor probably wishes there was an alternate door attached to HIS HOUSE so he could walk out and have a sane, mute, non-psychotic Mother of three living next door to him.

With the kid's teenage years right around the corner, where their brains drop to low gear and the phrase "Watch THIS!" is peppered with eye rolling and disgust that they even HAVE parents, coupled with the fact that menopause is knocking at my door, I think we're on the up-ramp to full-on psychoville around here.

So, if you happen to drive by our house/walk out of your house/pass me in the car and see that my lips are moving and I'm the only one present? Let's just count that talking to myself as cheap therapy and a normal part of life for the time being.

*If the question is rhetorical, I should KNOW better than to respond to myself.

**Besides the dogs and cat, that is. Who just look at me like "I know you are telling me what a great pet I am. Could you just insert my name every few words or so? That way I'll be sure to know this is really about me. And not about that stinky butt next to me."

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Shout-out to the lovely folk at Blogger: "DUDES?! This was supposed to publish on 5/12/11. What gives? I'm pushing this to publish on 5/15/11. Sumpins fishy, Lucy."

The Babe turned six this week.

Can I have a collective sigh for the fact that our baby isn't much of a "baby" anymore?

The Babe is planning to retire the book "It's Hard to Be Five" this weekend. Heavens to mergatroid if we should be reading about five-year-olds. They are completely immature and green compared to our sixter.

He is also proud of the fact that he has managed to get really tall in the last six months or so.

The irony of putting on height in this house is that I am the measuring stick against which they are being held up. I'm comparing them to where they hit my 5 foot 3 inch frame. So a growth spurt against good, old Mom is not saying much.

Regardless of where the top of The Babe's head hits my torso, when he walks into the kitchen in his pj's, I notice those legs that seem mile-long compared to just a few months ago.

There is age-old wisdom in the saying that "the age of your oldest is the age of your house". Shielding your youngest from the ills of the world, or his older brothers, is virtually impossible.

When they sing a lyric, he sings right along, often jumbling and confusing the words until all of us look at him like he has a alien sitting atop his beaner. Thankfully, the roughest the lyrics get around here is Radio Disney, so he hasn't learned all the new-fangled rap ways to explain to his compadres that he's shot someone.* But, he can belt out a mean Justin Bieber.

Though Nickels and Hooman think they are all that when they dance, Babe is teaching them a thing or two. His popping and hip action and head movements are banned in India and Southern Baptist Churches. Swear to you, someone needs to revive "Dance Fever" just so he has a forum to showcase these crazy steps.**/***

Fortunately, the closest he's come to learning something naughty to say is "Girls go to Jupiter to get more stupider." He discovered that charming phrase on his birthday, at the playground, waiting for Nickels to be up-to-bat at his ball game. No, this didn't come from either of the brothers; it came from the youngest child of another family. There's just sumpin about those youngests.....

Happy Birthday week sweetheart! Mom and Daddy love you fiercely and we promise not to let your brothers sell you for profit.

*We are SO INCREDIBLY NOT gangsta around here.

**He gets that ability to move from his Daddy but Mike hasn't given him any lessons. So, I chalk it up to nature.

***If you drive by the Nowell joint someday and see Madonna standing on our front porch trying to convince The Babe to join her 60-something-tour, don't worry, I'll kick her and her coney-bra straight to the curb.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

127 Hours of Gnomeo and Juliet

Two reviews, one day. Aren't you blessed?

Gnomeo and Juliet
(Viewed on Mother's Day, mid-pm, while Daddy was watching the MAVS kick some LAKER butt. OH YEAH!)

I was originally completely annoyed with Gnomeo and Juliet because it had the audacity to leave Studio Movie Grill on Thursday. We found this out on Friday morning at the box office.

Once it hit the dollar theater in Plano, I got over that real quickly. Seats for four for under $15 for a 3D movie? SCORE.

Yes, this is a remake of Romeo and Juliet. Happily, Shakespeare even makes an appearance. Which, I hope leads some kids to actually wonder enough about the story to read the bard's goods.

"Cute" is the operative word here. Couple that with "clever" and "witty" and you have a fun movie about finding love when/where you least expect it.

I think you could use this as a springboard for conversation with your seven-plus crowd on disobedience. Seems there just aren't enough gnomes in this world to help teach that lesson, are there?

I'd give it a couple of thumbs-up for a a family movie night. Parents will be entertained enough and the kids will fall head-over for the little garden guys. Especially the one with the sunburn and the Borat-inspired bathing suit (GADS).

127 Hours
(Viewed Mother's Day, pm. High of the MAVS game had almost warn off Mike and I was coming off the buzz of getting a 30 minute nap courtesy of children who were in time-out thanks to crappy behavior.)

I already knew the story going in, having seen Aron Ralston on "Dateline NBC". Let's just say, I had a new appreciation for "nerves" after watching the interview. More aptly phrased: heebee-jeebees.

Watching the movie was like watching the Titanic sink: you know what is coming from the beginning but somehow, some way, you just keep thinking "It's not going to happen. It will turn around. I'm not going to have to watch this, really." But, you keep watching and it does happen.

The very last scene in the canyon, when Aron summons the courage to amputate his arm was gut-wretching for me. Interestingly, I thought I'd have trouble watching the gore, but that wasn't what threw it into a Kleenex-fest; it was the REASON Aron was able to overcome death in the canyon, which I immediately attributed to God's good grace.

I won't ruin the rest of the movie by telling you where Aron is now. I'll let you find out for yourself.

This was a well-acted movie, almost solely crafted by James Franco. Those of you who find him heart-throbbish will find him a little less-so in this movie because, let's be honest, he's spending several hours pushing the limits of dying. Ain't nobody can make THAT look pretty. But, the praise he received at awards time was warranted, purty or no.

I also have to give kudos to the director, who chose to film this movie in very interesting ways: looking at the amount of water in the dwindling supply from the bottom up, demonstrating the issue with Aron's first attempt at amputation from what seemed to be a kid's artistic rendering, taking the viewer through hallucinations as if they were so, very real. The use of tri-screens in many scenes left me wishing I could see everything at once. The scenery just didn't cease to be beautiful.

Another two thumbs-up, with a side of Kleenex for the last ten minutes of the story or so. If you have a squeamish stomach or don't like the sight of blood or would pass out if you watched your wife deliver a baby, take your pansy-butt to Gnomeo and Juliet instead.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sad Admission

I think part of the reason I've found my 40's to be so freeing is that I've discovered the true key to life.

I don't always use it. Most of the time it's stubborn pride that keeps me from wanting to.

I don't always remember it. Often, the light bulb moment occurs long after the chance for PROPER use has passed.

I don't always find myself feeling ready to admit it's time. As if there is ever a perfect opportunity to do the right thing.

I'm talking about forgiveness. Forgiveness of myself and others. And, sometimes, for me, of God.

Right now I'm working on forgiving myself for having Everest-high expectations of special events in my life. And, simultaneously, for modeling poor behavior in front of my boys* and making Mike feel like he got it "wrong" on Mother's Day.

I've found myself solidly bought into the Hallmark-mentality that there is a good way of doing things for those we love. That holidays like Mother's and Valentine's Day and my birthday should be, for lack of any other way to say it, picture perfect.

Basically, I picture days where everyone is blowing sunshine and roses and I've felt as if I've gotten rainstorms and dead begonias.

And that is the crux of the problem.

A good friend pointed out to me that since I enjoy doing things for other people, I expect other people to have the same desire to do things for me. And that may not necessarily be their gift.

Another friend pointed out that, though there are days that she is glad to be a single-Mommy, there are plenty of days she'd take a husband who "doesn't always get it right" in a heartbeat.

God is speaking to me in these conversations. He's telling me to correct my course. To realize how my expectations are off-base. He's bending my knees to ask for forgiveness for demanding recognition where it would have been freely given, had I not worked to orchestrate it "perfectly". Or, where I tried to be hands-off and was less than pleased with the results and sulked about the outcome for the entire day.

I can be a brat. I can be demanding. I am easily let down when it comes to people.

But, I'm learning to give grace. And accept heartfelt efforts to show me love. And to just let things be and happen, without meddling or worrying about the outcome. And whether that outcome will be fantastic.

Even if it has taken 40+ years of my life to learn, I'm glad to know that I am still capable of receiving an education from life. I'm glad to be reminded yet again that forgiveness is one of the greatest keys we have in this world.**

Couldn't we all, on any given day, use a bit of forgiveness for ourselves? And find so many people in our lives who need us to ask them for forgiveness? Even if we've never told them we were mad, that break in relationship exists in our hearts, and asking for mercy is a sure-fire way to cleanse ourselves and start anew.

Maybe you, like me, find yourself buying into the goods of the world that say "You deserve this celebration and it should be incredibly well done." Maybe you, like me, are working hard to change that mentality to "I don't deserve any of this and if I am ever celebrated I should receive it with such amazement that I bask in the glow of love for days and weeks and months."

I thank God that, knowing my heart and how badly I want to change, that He will accomplish this through me.

*The very last thing I want to do is make certain days of the year completely unpalatable for them because Mommy always feels let down.

**And even though love is supreme, I think great love is borne out of true forgiveness.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Things I Do for $10 Gift Cards

Without giving you too much information (because, frankly, I think it violates the terms I accepted without reading them), I am a contributor to a website for a company that specializes in natural products.

I think I originally received the email invitation because Whole Foods and Natural Grocers are tracking my spending and the good people at secret company (hereby known as "X") saw the blaze of energy off my credit card and decided "She's a good candidate. She spends a small fortune in natural products. In fact, why doesn't she own our stock??? Send the prospectus!!!"

Truly, I look forward to this experience. There are several dozen women from across the United States simultaneously giving their opinion on the latest product from "X" and learning about what might be coming to market.

We also spend a good chunk of time thinking through and responding to questions about "X"'s competitors. And that led me to the funnest, most interesting, mind expanding challenge I'd had in quite a while. We were asked to "personalize" a few companies that were invited to a party.

When I write personalize, think of assigning a. gender b. marital status/parenting status c. personality d. social skills. There were no "right" answers, just opinions.

We were warned, at the outset, that this was a longer challenge than normal. I, for one, could have done this all day long. And all night long. And into the next day, when I passed out due to sleep deprivation.

And, reading that, you understand why I had such difficulty trying to make small talk in bars in my twenties. How many men do you know who are interested in whether or not Target is a gal or a guy? That's right: zero.

Anyway, Target was my first store. And here's my synopsis of it. I mean HER:

Who is Target?
Target is a woman who is in her 20's. She is hip, well-liked by her large group of friends, and has a cool job. She's not married, but she is dating one guy and may move in with him. She gives back to the community because it helps her image, not because she is a philanthropist.

What does she look like?
Young, fresh, hip. She is tall and thin and wears short, stylish heels with her trendy fashions. She always sports the latest hair cut and jewelry to compliment her vast array of outfits.

A friend wants to meet Target; how would you describe Target's personality?
Fun, outgoing, talkative.

Incidentally, most of the respondents either thought Target was "trendy", "snobby" or "friendly". I think the Bullseye gets a THUMBS-UP from the "green" crowd.

Entering our party is Wal-Mart. Uh-oh. The green crowd is about to start throwing hummus....

Who is Wal-Mart?
Wal-Mart is a elderly gentlemen who has been married many years and has many grandchildren. He is very dedicated to his family and friends. (YEAH. I read Sam Walton's biography and loved every.page.of.it. I like stories of people who see an opportunity and grab it by the horns.)

What does he look like?
He dresses to impress no one. In fact, most people wouldn't know he is worth a fortune. He gets his haircuts for under $15 and is sure to trim his nails and keep them clean (since he is a blue-collar kind of man) and his clothing, while clean, doesn't always look fresh-pressed. He is often in blue jeans, work boots, and a flannel shirt.

(In case you can't tell, this was the question where I opened the floodgates to "anything goes!" and really got creative. Or remembered what I read in the biography. Or just channeled all the visits I've made to Wallyworld over the years.)

A friend wants to meet Wal-Mart; how would you describe his personality?
Wal-Mart is "down home". Very conservative, family values-type, goes to church and hunts animals for fun.

The hummus started flying in huge, ugly chunks on that question. It was an all-out food fight. Some folks, much "greener" than I, wrote they would steer their friends to Target and not even introduce them to Wal-Mart. WOW. The hatred for Mr. Sam's company is apparent.

Guess who joined the party now? WHOLE FOODS!

Who is Whole Foods?
Whole Foods Market is a 40-something woman. She wears the latest in hippie fashions and has tattoos. She is loud, a little on the brash side at times, and is not afraid to share her opinion. She is happily single and has committed to being a single for the rest of her life after several failed relationships with both sexes. It seems like no one can make her entirely happy.

What does she look like?
Whole Foods is earthy-looking, meaning she wears little to no make-up and often her hair looks like it should have been cut to control the damage about four months ago. If she raises her arm, you'll see hair; same with her legs. She is wearing a peasant blouse, a full-length, multi-colored skirt, and sandals (for a cause).

(UM. Reading that again, I realized that actually describes one of the women that works at our local WF. I'm thinking I should buy her one of the $15 recyclable razors make of old water bottles as a Mother's Day gift....
Most of the other people saw WF as tall and sophisticated. They must be shopping at the new WF at NW Highway, where they serve wine while you shop. Great concept--drunk people = higher spending! And, you notice all the employee tattoos and nose rings a whole lot less.)

A friend wants to meet Whole Foods; how would you describe her personality?
If you don't like opinions, avoid her, because she is full of advice. She is nice enough, just on the quirky side and very set in her ways.

CRAP. I just outed myself there. That's who I see myself being in other's eyes. And, light-bulb moment! That's why I like to shop Whole Foods! BINGO BANGO.

Do Target, Wal-Mart and Whole Foods talk at the party?
Not really. They are all interested in the people who are like them. Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are doing carrot shooters together and eyeing the pita chips and marinated olives; Wal-Mart and Dollar General are drinking creme soda while eating pork rinds and talking about the increase in prices on imports from China; Target and Dillards (who crashed the party) are discussing the latest fashion trends while sipping chardonnay and eating baked brie on wheat crackers.

Little does Target know, but Dillard's is flirting with Target's boyfriend behind her back.

Who would you hang out with at the party?
Target's out--too snotty and concerned about appearances for me. And she keeps pick-pocketing me whenever I get within a few feet of her. I just don't know what she does with all that money!

Wal-Mart is too country for my taste. Plus, I don't like pork rinds.

Whole Foods won't stop complaining about my desire to spend my paycheck on the mortgage, instead of in her store.

No one to hang out with. BUMMER.

I guess I'm on my own. Once again. One More Time. By Myself. NAME THOSE LYRICS!!!*

I learned quite a bit about my perceptions of all of these companies by trying to put into words how I might see them if they "came alive".

I hadn't realized how much younger Target seems to me or how much I am clinging to the idea that Daddy Sam is still running Wal-Mart or that I relate to people who think injecting themselves with dye and allowing rampant hair growth is cool.

Just for grins, try this yourself. Where are you shopping today? And is s/he someone you'd hang out with at a party? It really adds a dimension to your buying experience (and may, in fact, change your spending patterns if you think hard enough).

CHEERS! And Happy Shopping!

*Gosh awful song from the 70's sung by Michael McDonald and some unknown chick. This goes so.much.lower than the NKOTB reference a couple of days back.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Most Important Eighteen Inches in the World

Here is the second part of David Ring's wonderful story.

You already know you need Kleenex.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

David, a king in his own right

http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/family-talk/custom-player/victorious-the-david-ring-story-i-182279.html (sorry you'll have to cut and paste, but the first pass didn't work and I'm much too impatient with computer systems to try it again right now.)

Please do me a favor, so you don't feel the need to gripe at me in the comment section later, and get a box of Kleenex. Also, if you don't have 27 minutes to give, don't start. You'll find yourself skipping whatever you've got scheduled to finish this podcast.

David is a remarkable speaker and the epitome of persistence, grace, and hope. I knew I had to share his story when I heard the second and third in the series of this talk (I missed this one initially). When he said "I thought God forgot my name", I cried until I had no more tears.

How many of us can relate to that statement? In our deepest, darkest moments, I think we've all wondered if we've been forgotten.

God is so good, though. He knew us before we were born. He knew us before our parents even knew each other. He knows the number of hairs on our heads and the day we will die. He will NEVER, EVER, IN A BILLION YEARS FORGET OUR NAME.

And he hasn't forgotten David. He has used this man in a mighty way. I so want to figure out how to bring him to a local congregation, for the sole purpose of hugging his neck and telling him how special he is and how much he has touched my life.

David is a refreshing breath of reality and truth and love. I hope you can hear God's voice as you listen.

Monday, May 2, 2011


I've had a really hard time processing my feelings over bin Laden's death.

On one hand, there is a certain, odd sense that it is finally over. We've caught the "mastermind", the "evil" guy.

On another hand, there is a very real feeling that our country is on a high of vengeance. We are dancing in the streets as if we've somehow done God's work for Him by bringing this man to justice. As if God didn't already have His eye trained on the atrocities under Osama's reign.

Maybe I am reading this all wrong, these groups of people outside President Bush's house and in D.C., wearing flags and chanting "USA!" as if we've just won some elusive basketball championship and claimed victory after ten, hard fought, difficult years of searching for the winning point.

The headmaster at Nickel's school found the one quote that sums up how I feel the best. I quote Mr. Queal here...

Consider the words of Pope Benedict XVI in response to this development:

“Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of each and every one of us before God and before man, and hopes and commits himself so that no event be an opportunity for further growth of hatred, but for peace.”

As a country, and especially as Christians in this land, we have to step back and realize that there is a real cost to our celebratory behavior.

When we wave our flags and shout "USA!", it implies that we are victorious, happy, and celebrating the death of one of Christ's own. Someone who no longer has the chance to repent and move toward a proper heavenly home. Someone who is now lost. Forever.

I, for one, can't stomach celebrating that.

Now, before you try to peg me a pacifist or anti-military or whatever other label you might see fitting, understand this: I realize my head doesn't hit the pillow while others sacrifice for my good night's sleep.

I realize there is a long line of people who have given more than I've been willing to give in order to preserve my ability to express this very opinion.

I also realize that there is evil in this world that must be stopped. And that there are laws that, when broken, demand justice. And, in order for our world to continue to be orderly, that justice must be doled out.

It's what has happened after that justice was served that is just bugging me to the core.

And, maybe, I take an unpopular stand on this one. But, truly? I see that every life matters, even those that we figure can't be redeemed or aren't worth the cost of the bullet that killed them. Rolling around in my mind are so many "What ifs" that it makes it almost impossible to understand justifying the planned death of anyone.

And, ultimately, that is what drives my sadness. I just don't see it as our place to celebrate or make merry or dance around when it seems to be rejoicing in the death of a child of God.

Whether that stand is popular or not, it is mine. I can equally stand beside those who undertook this mission and bin Laden's family and say that I'm very sorry it had to come to this. I wish this world was a place of peace and contentment where our divisions didn't drive us to the point where murder seemed to make sense. God bless us all as we move forward. God willing, toward peace.