Friday, September 28, 2012

Bullying Revisited

A while back I wrote the following post about bullying.

And, while I know that this post was accurate in so many ways, it didn't address those in our society who DON'T act like victims, but instead seem to walk with their heads high and let the words roll off their back.

I can tell you that those words don't fall off without leaving scars.
I can tell you that the weight of those words causes their head to hang a little lower than it did previously.
I can tell you that having this happen time and time again does damage.

I'm walking along side someone right now who is feeling the effects of a nickname.  And while this moniker was given at a time that this person probably did seem to embody it, he is not at all that person today.  And this name being slung at him by those who are peers, are supposed to be Christian, and who are with him five days a week, is taking its toll.

I have a hard time giving counsel in this area, so I wrote a short novel to a close friend who has a similar situation in her life.  It seems that both of the people we want to help respond the same way to the attacks:  they simply laugh or smile and try to move past the comment.  They, being young, don't know HOW to approach repaying an insult with kindness, as 1 Peter 3:9 commands.  Instead, they repay with indifference or subtle acceptance and bury the comments deep inside.  This only reinforces the bad behavior by those who are acting like bullies.

My close friend had pearls of wisdom in this area:  we need to admit that we don't always have the answers.  We can pray and talk about situations but sometimes we need to bring in experts;  good, loving Christian counslors who have seen this all before and have credibility that parents of teenagers often don't.

My friend and I agreed that knowing HOW to defend yourself in situations that are uncomfortable is half the battle;  tweens and teenagers don't have the life experience to know how to respond when the world rears its ugly head and attacks.  We have to TEACH them this skill or let someone we trust, who has the experience, help us help them.  If we don't do this, they may never learn when it is right to stand up for themselves.

Imagine my surprise when I read this today.  In my eyes, Ms. Baur is living 1 Peter 3:9 in the public eye.  She is affecting change in this world by educating the ignorant.  She is standing up for herself in exactly the way I hope the person I am trying to help will learn to respond.

Last night I prayed aloud over this person.  I prayed that one special friend would enter his life.  I prayed that he would persevere through the trials.  I prayed for the people who were using the nickname, that whatever hurt inside of them, that which caused them to feel it appropriate to hurt others, would be healed. 

On this new day, I pray for the best route to take in this situation, to support him and love him, no matter the outcome of his interactions with those around him.  I pray that I will say the right things to the right people, whose ears will be open to listening and whose heart will respond appropriately.  Mostly, I pray that this whole experience brings every one involved closer to Christ.

I am encouraged that this will all work out for Christ's greater good, as I read "...we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."  (Romans 5:3-4)  And I am filled with hope because I am relying on my steady rock, my Lord, my Savior, to guide us through this rocky trial.

Thanks be to the God who can redeem any situation for His glory!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Pre-Election Letter

An Open Letter during this election season:

I do not hate you if your views are different than mine.
I do not think you are stupid if you believe differently.
I do not think you are less of a Christian if we differ in our thought processes.

I am trying to understand where you are coming from when I present you with the truth as I see it.  Your kind, thoughtful responses help me get there.
I am trying to hold my tongue when I know that headlines are misleading and people aren't perfect and campaigns don't always tell the truth.
I am working to put every issue under the microscope of the truth of the Bible because politics will fade, but God won't.

So, when I tell you that I believe in life, please don't take that to mean I hate women.  My statement has nothing to do with women's "rights";  it has to do with unborn babies.  And, more personally, the fact that I am here to write this because a woman unselfishly chose not to abort me and to give me to parents who could take care of me.

When I tell you that I believe that we should only render unto Caesar that which is his, don't call me greedy.  My statement doesn't mean I don't give generously to causes that are worthy or that I don't care about the little guy.  It simply has to do with choosing a path that allows my family to decide how to help those in need, which I believe is a God-given duty, instead of leaving that very important work to a nameless, faceless bureaucracy who might make choices that run contrary to my family's belief system.

When I tell you that I believe that marriage was created to be between a man and a woman, don't call me a homophobe.  I have read and re-read the Bible on this issue and believe that changing the term "marriage" contradicts the truth of the Bible.  My stance doesn't change the fact that I am called to love every human being.

When I tell you that I believe in the separation of church and government, don't tell me that means God's name doesn't have a place in our government.  I've read the documents and the history that this nation was founded on and I understand that there is a fine line.  But obliterating God's name flies in the face of what our founders intended.   And any nation that completely turns its back on God is asking for trouble.

When I tell you that I believe in an individuals right to take care of their own family's health care, don't tell me that I hate the middle class.  I see an economic disaster in the making, an unsustainable program that, in concert with all the entitlement programs we already fund (40%+ of our budget), could bankrupt our government.  As the debt of a government rises and expenses mount, all people suffer.   

When I tell you that spending more money on education is not the answer, don't tell me that I am an elitist, private school snob.  We pay taxes to our local schools, even though we do not use them.  And, as a taxpayer, I am entitled and obligated to determine if our collective taxes are being well spent.  This issue goes well beyond the classroom, with tentacles into broken homes and broken communities.  Throwing more money into education will never solve those problems.

When I tell you that I don't believe the government should be funding college loans, don't tell me I don't care about education, want to keep future generations ignorant, and don't have sympathy for those less fortunate.  I strongly believe in an affordable, college education.  For some, that will start with a part-time job and nights at the local community college.  For others, it will start in the Ivy Leagues.  That inequity is a constant in life.  But our government should not be in the business of putting young people in debt.

When I tell you that I believe immigration laws should be enforced and greater security should be at our borders, don't tell me I'm racist or bigoted or hate people from other countries.  To the contrary, I love the fact that we are a melting pot.  But, when we put laws on the books, they should be enforced, not ignored. If we treated those who ignore IRS laws the way we treat people who are on our soil illegally, the government would freeze solid for lack of money. 

These are my views.  I welcome yours, as long as they don't come in the form of vitriol, hatred, or venom.

And, come November, regardless of who wins, may our country right itself before God and realize her true potential again.

Most sincerely,

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Going a little senile

I have to admit this little quirk to kick today's post off:  I have been interchanging the word "stove" for "oven" for the past five years or so.  I noticed it almost immediately because it didn't make much sense that the scrambled eggs would be in the oven cooking.*  Or that the cake would be baking on the stove.

That one little slip-up, by someone who loves to be in the kitchen, gave me reason to pause and think about my memory. Given that my step-Mom's**, Patty, sister has dealt with Alzheimers and a neighbor of ours, sweet Mrs. Johnson, was taken by dementia, I am close to too many people who have dealt with this reality and didn't win.

Today, for the first time, I really though about what I am writing and why it is so important.  I truly cherished these posts.  I realized I could be counted among the unfortunate who struggle with memory issues in their older age;  in that case, this blog will act as a time machine not only for me, but for my children, husband and grandchildren.

That also gave me renewed interest and desire to get working on the book.  I have been lax disobedient in my writing for a bit now.  I busy myself with other activities, things that are less important, and the days just slip into oblivion.  Books don't get written like that.  And memories that were once red-hot on my brain are starting to get lukewarm.

But, once again, a blog will save me.  The very blog that I kept the entire time Mom was sick.  From the day I knew to the days after she died, I have a record of all that went through my head, the people who were there to help, and the prayers that were answered and left unanswered.  It is difficult, at best, to read, but it is the basis for what needs to be written and the reason I need to get off my arse and just get busy.

But now, I have some work to do in the kitchen.  So, I'm off to preheat the stove and get the burners in the oven started.


*UNTIL I found a rockin' recipe for oven cooked eggs that are the fluffiest things ever.  Of course, the kids HATE them, so I'll save that recipe for when we are empty-nesters.

**I still don't quite know what I should rightly call her because "my Dad's wife" sounds awfully cold but she isn't trying to step into Mom's shoes.  BUT, she's a very kind soul, so I am going to claim her as my step-Mom until she tells me otherwise.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Worth 9.5 Minutes of Your Day

Every time I hear Sujo John speak, I keep thinking his story is going to change.  But, it doesn't.

His journey remains riveting and triumphant and glorious each and every time I hear it.  I cry for him as I listen to the words, so painstakingly shared, down to the last detail.  I feel I know that day better, more intimately.  I can almost touch the hurt and pain.

I hope Sujo speaks to your heart in the same way.

Listen here with kleenex close.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

You made WHAT?

Necessity is the mother of invention ~ Plato (actually, what he said was Necessity, who is the mother of invention, but I'm not enough of a nerd to point that out, am I?)

What I love about this quote is that it is the basis for building a business, fixing a nagging problem in your own house, or curing a disease.   It's multi-purpose in the best of ways.

In my case, it is the reason I decided I needed to figure out how to make my own coffee creamer.

Very long story shorter, we have been running in budget deficit mode for a bit of time now.  That's not to say we've dumped our cheap ways or gotten back into debt.  Honestly, we've been living as if the money was unlimited, shifting funds from one place to another, the way a mother shifts a baby from hip to hip, trying to find a comfortable position.

Except our baby had gotten heavy.  We were tired of committing to "x" (usually some fun activity like a Taekwondo tournament or marathon or Groupon for Studio Movie Grill) and realizing that we were going to have to borrow that money from this pot to pay that pot.  And, very frankly, since I run the budget, I was seeing this happening month over month and I got flat sick of it.  And I put my foot down.  HARD.

Literally, I pulled all the money left in the budget and divided into four envelopes and said to myself (and Mike) "If it isn't in here, then it isn't being spent."  Thankfully, he agreed.

I've been watching those envelopes slowly dwindle down as the month is beginning to approach her end.  I can tell, even now, that we will come in right on target, with maybe a nickel to spare.

(Huge sidenote:  you know when you get the county envelope guaranteeing you the privilege of jury duty?  Well, Mike's lucky week is this one.  And, even luckier, he is seated on at least a week-long jury.  And, luckier still, his boss is out this week and a Jewish holiday meant Monday/Tuesday were slow days in New York and, hence, in his own office at the house.  And, beyond fortunate, is the fact that, after day one, Mike earned a stipend of $34/day.  Now, that may not seem like much from the outside, but that is God's provision for us for the end of September, in my opinion.  And, really none of that is "luck" or "fortune".  In this house, it isn't even a coincidence.  It truly is God working out those tiny little details because we finally started righting the ship of HIS money.  Thank you, Lord!)


My morning addiction, especially now that it is cooler, is a couple of cups of coffee, preferably with a yummy, flavored creamer. But, if you've read any of what I've written lately, like this for example, you know that I really despise fake stuff.  So, I decided to search the Internet and see if someone hadn't already figured out the whole "real" flavored creamer issue for me.

You won't be surprised to find out the answer is a resounding "YES!" At Deliciously Organic dot net, Carrie Vitt is knocking junk out of our collective diets with astounding results.  Not only did I find several real dairy creamer recipes, I also found non-dairy AND sugar-free versions.  A holy motherlode of goodness, I have to say.

I "invested" some of our envelope money on the ingredients, knowing that I could use them in a pinch for other recipes (but secretly hoping that the creamers I would try would be so good that I would selfishly use them all for my own purposes.)

So, here is the first experiment, hot off the stove:

Homemade Cinnamon Strudel Creamer (again, giving credit where credit is due, to blogger Carrie Vitt)

1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
4 Tablespoons maple syrup
1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Whisk together milk, cream, maple syrup and cinnamon in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  When the mixture begins to steam, remove from the heat.  Stir in extracts.  Strain through a fine sieve, pour into a glass bottle and store in the refrigerator for approximately 10 days.

Notes on making this:
1.  I'm a dope;  didn't read the whole recipe through and put the extracts in the pan with the other ingredients.  Didn't seem to do any harm to my creamer, but I also used alcohol-free Frontier brand extracts;  don't know what alcohol-based extracts would do when cooked.
Next time I'll add the extracts after the fact.

2. I don't own a sieve and don't intend to pony up good money for one anytime soon.  I used a paper towel, neatly arranged in a regular colander, to skim off all the extra cinnamon.  ONLY do this if you don't like spices floating in your coffee...otherwise, don't bother with this step and save yourself a bit of time.

Now the review:  AMAZING.  Maybe not amazing in the way you might think, though.

First, this creamer is RICH, thank to the cream.  I gave myself a generous tablespoon in my travel-size cup and it was super velvety, the way whipping cream is when it melts into hot chocolate.

Second, the sugar isn't overpowering.  That is my chief complaint about store-bought creamers:  your mouth first responds to the sugar, then to the flavor.  I could drink it straight, sans coffee, to quiet my taste buds, which demand MORE, MORE, MORE of that sugary-sweet flavor.  In this recipe, the sugar is much less noticeable, which I personally liked.

Third, check out the difference in what you are putting in your body:

International Delight Caramel Macchiato
Water, sugar, palm oil, contains 2% or less of each of the following: sodium caseinate*(a milk derivative), dipotassium phosphate, natural and artificial flavors, mono and diglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, polysorbate 60,carrageenan,salt *sodium caseinate is not a source of lactose.

Homemade Creamer:
(Organic) milk and cream, (Organic) maple syrup, ground cinnamon, vanilla and almond extracts.

Fourth, the "nutrition".  I know.  There really isn't anything terribly redeeming about creamer.  But, I figured you'd want to know!

Store bought (1 Tablespoon):  calories, 35 / fat, 1.5g (1g saturated) / sugars, 6g
Homemade (1 Tablespoon):  calories, 36 / fat, 3g (1.91g saturated) / sugars, 2g

Finally, price.  My ingredients were organic this time around and also in the smallest packages I could find for budget purposes.  This definitely added to the price point.  Similar results can be had using non-organic ingredients (which I estimate would cut the price, roughly, in half).  Also, I guessed at the cost of the extracts and cinnamon and tacked them on, even though I didn't have to buy them this time around.

Two-pack of Caramel Macchiato creamer at Sam's:  8 cents per Tablespoon.
The homemade version, all organic and at the highest price point possible:  17 cents per Tablespoon.

I think this fairly compares the cheapest to the most expensive pricing in town.

So, there you have it.  If you'd like to stop over for a cup of coffee and try this amazing creamer, I'm home most mornings and would love to see ya!

Please check out Carrie's website for more amazing recipes

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


If you could know EXACTLY what your child's mark was in all of his classes, accurate to within one assignment/quiz/test grade on any given day, would you want to know?

I'm betting most of you are shaking your heads "YES!"  In fact, I'm betting most of you are wondering what I'm up to, keeping such information under wraps and only bringing it to your attention when my eldest child has clearly been in school many years.  Further, I'm betting you are now semi-jealous of the fact that I can tell you exactly what my child's grades are in each and every one of his seven classes, including assignments he completed TODAY.


See, every time one of those lovely assignments is posted to its website home, the website recognizes the grade and if it is below a 70%, I get an email.  My Smartphone, in response to the incoming email, dings me.  And this, fine ladies and gentlemen, has resulted in a tic that looks a lot like someone shooting across the room after the timer goes off to check the little urine/pregnancy stick and determine if it shows one or two lines.  Because, after all, the result could only mean the difference between the rest of my life being wonderfully-terrifical or horrendously-suckifical.

Except, that ding never means anything fantastic.  It means my child has failed.  Again.

And, I'm not the only Mom dealing with this angst.  Apparently a LOT of newly-minted seventh grade Moms are having this same issue, one being dinged so frequently that she figured out how to turn the noise on her phone completely OFF, just to avoid her son's grades sending her to the looney bin.

Truthfully, I wish to be back in the times of blind ignorance waiting until a) my child showed me his paperwork and apologized profusely b) the teacher sent a "friendly" email and I sent back a thesis detailing why I don't suck as my child's homework helper or c) report cards came out at the end of a grading period and we could rest easy, knowing there was a long break in time before we had to "do" school again.

But, I don't have a choice.  We are stuck with the beast.  And, I am having to tame myself from watching it like a child watches his first pot that is working toward a boil.

I have to put down the Smartphone and stop responding to the ding as if am one of Pavlov's dogs.

This is possible to ignore, I keep telling myself.  Go write.  Go read.  Go weed a garden.  Go pluck your leg hairs, one-by-one, with a pair of tweezers.  Anything trumps waiting for that darn DING.

I'm hoping, by October break, that this truth will have settled into my bones and I will be back in the world of the living, not in the zombie-state of dingdom in which I am currently living.

But for now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go pluck the hairs on my legs while I watch a pot of water boil.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Flu, shmu

Swine flu
Bird flu
West Nile virus

Oh, for Pete sake, can we just stop panicking about flu and viruses?

Really, do we need a shot for every condition that might affect our bodies?  Because somewhere along the way, I seem to recall that we were all made by a loving God who gave our bodies the mechanisms to fight illness.  If we keep inoculating our bodies with stuff that is supposed to help the current pandemic*, what happens when society doesn't have the right vaccination and our bodies all up and go "I don't know how to never LET me."?  Wouldn't it be smarter to let the current illness run its course and let our bodies fight it and win?

What happens when fish flu starts beating down on our planet with fury?  Do we cancel our plans for the beach for the next decade?  Stop drinking purified city water?  Refuse to eat all species that might have come in contact with their gilled friends?

I have a little conspiracy theory I'm going to share with you:  we are all being laughed at by big pharmaceutical companies.  They are making a butt load of money off our fear.  The more we listen and respond to how bad this current problem is, the more dosage they ship and the more money they stand to gain.  And, even funnier to them, is that another equally-as-bad problem lies right around the corner, sometime this fall.  They just have to get a few talking heads talking and the media will be their biggest advertiser.

And, don't get me started on companies that guarantee to kill up to 99.9% of germs in your house, on your nose, on your hands, etc.  They are also laughing all the way to the bank AND killing GOOD germs at the same time.

Wouldn't you really rather take a sick day, spend several hours catching a good nap or finding out what REALLY is on daytime TV, and generally laze around until you feel better?

That's me, raising my hand, begging for a day like that.  Can someone who is sick please cough on me?

Now, some of my friends are red in the face with anger over my apparent disregard for human life.  They would counter that people are dying all over the place right now because mosquitoes are evil and harmful and we should be doing everything..vaccinations, spraying chemicals all over make sure not even one more person dies.

PPPPHHHHHFFFFTTTT.  That's what I think.

Because in EVERY case I have heard where someone has died from the West Nile virus (or most viruses or flus), there were UNDERLYING CAUSES.  In other words, if this condition hadn't caused that person's death, another condition at another time would have. 

Newsflash:  there exists no vaccination against death.  It is inevitable for everyone.

So, take a little advice from MommaJ:  eat plenty of fruits and veggies, get to bed on time, find time for sexercise (not a typo and only aimed at married couples), and stop panicking.

Trust me:  panic has never, and will never, look good on you.  And, besides, God's got your back on this one.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand--Isaiah 41:10

*Which never turns out nearly as bad as you might be led to believe by the stinkin' media. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Dear Kate

Dear Kate,
Sweet, sweet, young Kate. Did you and William think that you were immune to paparazzi taking your picture just because you were on private property?

Honey, I hate to tell you this, but you are not immune to those jack wipes just because your family has something like a bazillion, jillion dollars.

You can go NO WHERE.  EVER.  FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE without worrying about someone shooting your picture.

And, long live the Queen, if she doesn't die of embarrassment first, because yours is one story in a very long line of sad, public humiliations that seem to plaque the royals.

Personally, I hope your royal barristers sue the living snot out of the folks who thought it would be good business to shoot your picture.  And then I hope you take out the magazine and the person who owns it.  And then I hope you make a hefty donation to the fund set-up by Princess Diana and help wipe out AIDS in Africa.

And don't forget that you aren't alone.  The ashes are just settling from, what, last month, when a bunch of wanna-be princesses in Las Vegas were caught partying with Prince Harry, who was caught, quite literally, in public, with his pants around his ankles?  Or did he even have pants on? 

Dude left NOTHING to the imagination, if we are to believe the blurry cloud meant to protect his "privacy".  Not that there was really anything left to protect if you can figure out what is hanging behind that blur.

Your argument, should the Queen decide to try to chide you for this gaffe, should be the following:
1.  I am a married woman.  Committed to your Grandson.  Not some fool partying in sin city, getting naked with hoards of women I'm not married to.

2.  I was on private property in the country.  Not in Las Vegas, on the strip, in a club.

If the Queen still has a problem with this, point out the obvious:

"Your son is a cheater who married his mistress after his beloved wife was killed by paparazzi, the same stinkin' paparazzi who thought I was a good target on my vacation.  YEARS OF INFIDELITY VS. SUNBATHING TOPLESS?  No freakin' contest.  May I please be excused?"

There is a big chunk of me that wants to pull you out of the mayhem and bring you home with me to live a normal life.  But I know that will never happen now.  So, I guess you have to learn to live with the lot you have chosen.

Best of luck, sweetie.  You seem like a genuinely nice person.  You made a rookie mistake, one I expect you won't make again.

Your friend in Dallas, should you ever need to escape,

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Take kleenex.
Be ready to suspend reality.

Watch as a door to one dream closes and an even better dream enters through an open window.
Embrace that miracles happen.
Realize the pain of parents who can't conceive and the joy of finding that "perfect" child.
Fall in love with chocolate brown eyes and the simple, loving spirit of a little boy.

Laugh at the simple beauty of misunderstanding.
Cry because he looks so much like The Babe.
Understand what it means to be different.
Curse that differences separate us.
Identify that Christ is still in this world, making people his vessels.
Consider a busy life versus a life with purpose.
Grieve loss.
Expect the unexpected.
Watch, cry, think about the meaning.
Realize you've just witnessed a beautiful movie that deserves a broad audience.

Two pinkies way up.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

One of THOSE Moms

I learned very quickly, once he was diagnosed with a fairly severe milk intolerance, that Hoo was going to be the person in the family I learned, all over again, to cook for.

Those were the days when you were lucky to find soy milk in an airtight container on the store shelf at Whole Foods.  And you ALWAYS had to check the date or you might get a nasty, stinky surprise upon opening the box.* 

There were a ton of experiments and lots of wasted ingredients those first years.  When you lose the binding agent in milk, the very protein that Hoo is highly sensitive to, you often lose texture, consistency, and elasticity.  In the early days, I would often end up with a gooey mess that felt strange in our mouths and had a funky flavor. 

But, the fun had just started.  In rapid succession, we realized that milk wasn't our only problem.  And, I won't bore you with the details, but the laundry list of sensitivities that plaque Hoo and Nickels is extensive.  And, honestly, there is no way I can cook in this world without touching on something that might send one or both of them into the stratosphere.  But, I do my level best.

That's not to say there aren't nights I just throw in the towel and we all go get a Subway sandwich.  Or run to Papa Murphy's for a cheese-less pizza.  But, those times have become so rare that my kids are eternally grateful (and express it) each time we venture into a restaurant. 

What I've discovered along the way is that children in our society deal with so many issues because of what we choose to eat:  attention problems, allergies/sensitivities, and behavioral problems, just to name a few.

And, lest you think you can ignore what I'm writing because your child doesn't fall into any of these categories, you still should be aware of the chemical soup of preservatives and additives and dyes that make it into processed foods.  Because I read labels until I think I'll lose my mind, I have become incredibly in tune with the number of ingredients that have to be added to make our food "shelf stable" for long periods of time.

Case in point.  Do you recognize the following popular cereal?

Whole grain corn, sugar, Reese's Peanut Butter (peanuts, sugar, monoglycerides, peanut oil, salt, molasses, corn starch), dextrose, corn meal, corn starch, corn syrup, rice bran and/or canola oil, salt, Hershey's cocoa, tricalcium phosphate, red 40, yellows 5 & 6, blue 1 and other color added, trisodium phosphate, artificial flavor, TBHQ and BHT added to preserve freshness

This is Reese's Puff Cereal.  And, at the outset, you would THINK that a cereal packed with peanut butter, a known source of protein, would actually be better than most cereals. Think again.

I'm not going to even get into the lack of protein or high sugar or comment on artificial flavoring or TBHQ or BHT because I want to focus on one thing:  the crazy amount of food coloring:  red 40, yellow 5 and 6, and blue and "other color added".  In other words, MYSTERY COLORS?!?!

What gives, General Mills?  Do you just see what is leftover from coloring Yoplait and chunk it into our kids' cereal?  Really?  You can't disclose ALL the colors?

And, stories like this illustrate my point.  I have seen this same story played out a thousandfold from parents who follow the Feingold Diet.  Irrational, unpredictable behavior "cured", sometimes overnight, by eliminating the amount of preservatives, colorings, and artificial flavoring that a child is ingesting.

Even if your child isn't completely out of control and you aren't at your wits end, it doesn't take a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist to figure out that the old phrase "junk in, junk out" is not only true for computers, it is true for our bodies, as well.  How could it HURT to eliminate stuff that isn't necessary?**

For our family, changing our way was immediate:  eliminate all sources of milk or have a baby in excruciating pain.  That doesn't leave much choice.  You just do it.

But, I urge you to start small.  Don't overhaul your entire pantry or fridge today.  Just pick one thing your family eats regularly and do a little label checking.  What are you actually eating?  Is it a real food or something completely artificial?  Is it highly preserved or colored?  Are there ingredients you can't pronounce?  What are they?  Is there an alternative you might like just as much but haven't tried?***

I urge you to think simple.  Change from canned fruit in sugar water to a mixed fruit salad you chop yourself.  Move from sodium-high canned green beans to a fresh, frozen variety and add salt once you've cooked them, to taste.  See if your kids wouldn't rather have peanut butter toast than a cereal that it "designed" to look and taste like peanut butter.

Healthier, brain-happier, less chemically-charged eating is good eating.  It might require a bit more prep or a bit more label reading or a bit more experimentation, but if it is for the betterment of your entire family, isn't it worth it?

Here's to choosing to say "Yes" to healthier eating and "No" to icky preservative, dyes, and flavorings!

*Fast forward to today, and my refrigerator might contain soy, almond, flax, rice, coconut, or hemp milk.  And I can choose to buy them off the shelf or out of the refrigerated section!

**And I am still, personally, trying to kick the diet soda habit I developed in my early teens.  I'm like a drunk, on and off the wagon, of Diet Coke and Diet Dr. Pepper...

***Whole Foods is the king of "like it or bring it back".  If you are going to switch to a "healthier" version of something and it is available at WF, buy it, try it, and return it if it is repulsive to your taste buds.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Words

Building on yesterday's post on how amazing it is to turn a phrase just slightly and make a huge difference in some one's life, I bring you my review of the currently playing movie The Words.

Let me pause for just a moment and allow you to inhale the name of the actor playing the main character: Bradley Cooper.  Go ahead and click;  you know you want to.

Roll his name over your tongue like a 50-year-old Merlot.  Savor it like a good chocolate.  Find your fainting couch and fall onto it.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let me tell you that this movie was impeccably acted.  Spot-on performances throughout.  Above all the performances, though, stood Jeremy Irons, all English-speak and down-on-his-luck but full of just enough controlled anger to make us wonder if he was on the brink of doing something rash in the wake of betrayal.

I am a sucker for multiple story lines being woven together like a crocheted blanket that seems to have no true beginning or end.  Story lines that seemingly started somewhere in time and will end, eventually, but not necessarily, with the end of the movie.  In other words, I like a cliffhanger that seems to start by falling out of the sky.  And, if you add flash backs and flash forwards, I am totally engrossed.

This movie did all that.  (Crash had a similar feel, as did Momento, though this movie isn't nearly as convoluted or difficult to follow.  The Words has a simpler feel, yet with all the roller coaster ups-and-downs of these other two.)

For the better part of the first half, I thought I had figured out the relationship between the story lines.  Then, I discovered, that I hadn't had a clue.  Then, as the story ended, I THOUGHT it ended neatly enough.  But, then I realized it was a sloppy kind of neat, one that would leave a viewer with an interpretation not exactly like the other people in the audience might have.

And, I am digging that very fact, not knowing what other people might add to the conversation, if we discuss this movie.  Good works of art do this:  make people enter into lively debate about the who and what and what for.

As for story line, this movie examines several important themes, including honesty, loss, devotion, faithfulness, tough love, forgiveness and choices.  There are few judgments made by the writers;  the hard work of thinking through, especially, honesty and forgiveness, is left to the viewer.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.  It is one I will look forward to seeing again when it comes out on video, so Mike can watch and give his two-cents-worth.

Two pinkies up.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Power of Words

I really have nothing else to say after seeing this

I don't think you'll be able to talk, either, after watching.....

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Generally, in this house, it doesn't come to this.  But, tonight it did.

We had to ground our newly minted teenager.

Now, I share this story in hopes that a very much younger Mother with very much younger children will read this and, being of an age where wisdom from older Mom's is golden, will take this to heart.

The best thing you can do is establish boundaries with your children early and often.
And don't budge.

I think, looking back over 13 years of parenting my son, that we have been a bit on the lenient side.  There were times we rightfully should have taken away privileges or toys or sent him to his room.  There were times a well-placed spanking should have ruled the day.  There were times I should have put MYSELF in a time-out until I could get my head on straight and done the right thing, instead of responding in an angry way and then feeling guilty and, thus, letting him off scott-free.

But, I didn't.

Now, I don't consider this a failure of parenting that will send my kids to a $150/hour shrink.  And I'm not going to beat myself up for screwing up on a job that comes with no manual, no on-the-job mentor, no pay, and no benefits.  This is learning the hard way, with no reliable coach to tell you when to stop or run or stand still.  You, literally, have to make it up as you go and hope your actions are right.

And, until you are a parent, you just can't quite grasp how hard it is to constantly second guess your decisions and wonder if you made an error that will leave an invisible scar and think that mistake may be the one that sends my kid into a psychotic break.

But, truly, that is where the beauty of parenting lies:  in the fact that, eventually, God-willing, our children become parents themselves.  And, eventually, they will understand this process.  They will have lived through it, for better or worse, and will look back with a ton of grace on the work their parents did.

And, if he is like me, he will work through some of the issues of growing up and move forward, grateful for the parents God choose for him.

But, for tonight, Nickels is home.  He is not one bit thankful for any of this.  He's not at the football game he wanted to attend.  Not getting ready to start the sleepover he had been anticipating.  Not going wrapping with the neighborhood kids.

Mike recently heard someone speaking of parenting as a marathon.  Tonight, if the parallel holds true, I tied up my laces and ran a pretty good distance, even though this was just a single step out of 26.2 miles.

But, this step was crucial.  It was important.  It propelled me forward in a way that others haven't.

It confirmed that I am capable of being a parent in the trenches, when the situation is dire and the need for toughness is high.

It taught me I am made of steel, not of jello.

It taught me I am tough and can do so without being rude or yelling or allowing my temper to get the best of me.

It taught me I CAN do this parenting thing without a manual, but with God's help and with His guidance.

And, if it takes a dozen or more groundings for both of us to learn more lessons on our journey to the finish line, I am up to the challenge.

And, no matter where you are on your own journey as a parent today, it isn't too late to figure these things out.  It isn't too late to stand up to your kids and set the path right.  It isn't too early to set good boundaries and establish consequences and follow-through.  The time is just right to know that YOU are capable, you know what your kids need, and you can do it.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Importance of Coaches

This came from Hoo's baseball coach Monday night, on the eve of the first big game for his team:
As much as we want to see our sons do well and our team win tomorrow night, let's also remember the big picture.

Not to say we don't want to encourage them to give it their all and to play with all their heart, but let's also moderate our expectations.
Let's be careful to encourage and not discourage, cheer and not jeer, teach them to press on but not pressure them beyond reason.
After all, it's a game, not a war.  They have registered to play on our team, not signed a contract with a professional club.
They are still kids ... and this is supposed to be fun  :)

We have been through the gauntlet with coaches over the years.  There are some associations that host sports groups that we refuse to even consider giving fees to because we know the pool of people and, hence, the potential coaches, that reside there.

And, honestly, we've been around the block a time or two and learned our lessons the hard way with Nickels.  So, by the time it came to putting Hoo on the field, we were much more selective in who could give him tips from the sideline.  With Babe, any potential coach practically has to have a unicorn eating grass in their backyard before we'll consider letting them coach him.

If I could give tips to parents of four and five year olds, well-meaning folks who are burning to get their kids started with sports, I would say:

~Your child's first experience on the field needs to be so positive that the coach is practically blowing sunshine out of his/her rear each time ANYTHING happens.  Confetti should issue forth after each attempt at hitting, kicking, or running.  Hugs on the sidelines should rule the day.  The first loss should be met with an excited "WOW was that ever a game to remember!" and Slurpees at the local 7-Eleven. 

If that means YOU step up to the plate, full of sunshine and confetti, to coach, then go do it.  Don't rely on the Dad or Mom down the street to do a good job unless you've watched them first.  They may be nice at the annual neighborhood picnic, but they might end up being the biggest ass known to man once they hit the sports field.  If your child has a bad experience before s/he is old enough to pronounce the word "competition", then you will lose them to sports early on.  And, sadly, you may never be able to convince them again that sports can be fun.

~Ask around.  Find out who has a really good coach and see if s/he is a fit for your child.  Go to some games, introduce yourself to the men and women who coach well, and ask about openings on the team.  Request coaches when you register, instead of leaving it up to chance.

Especially if you find that your child is a bit uncoordinated or attention deficit or quirky, don't push the sports thing early.  The competitive nature of so many parents today will create a pariah effect on your kid, both on and off the field.  I speak from experience when I say that some parents want to win at any cost, with any age kids, and they don't care if their ill-placed remarks make your five-year-old cry when they miss the ball and strike out.

~Some of the best coaches don't have the best teaching skills or the most in-shape bodies or the greatest encouragement speeches.  They just have their attitudes in the right place and know how to encourage.  And they know how to nurture children, whether the team is winning, losing, or huddling together, after the game, crying.

A season ago, Nickels' soccer coach was on the field because his son had some physical handicaps that caused him to be slower than the other boys.  I can only imagine the hell they went through trying to find a team that would love their boy and overlook the fact that he couldn't run as fast or as smoothly or as gracefully as most soccer players.  We parents screamed the loudest of the season when that young man scored his first goal.  I think, for many of us, that was OUR goal for the entire year.  And this amazing team of 6th and 7th grade boys understood that, too, through many losses.  THAT is what a good coach does:  he unites the team and the parents to cheer for the best outcome, not the win.

And, I don't think I will ever forget the goal this coach set.  I am still determined that my sons will play for him, even though this year's timing wasn't exactly right.

So, take this as a cautionary tale.  You've seen the YouTube videos of parents behaving badly and probably thought "That won't happen HERE, in my little corner of the world."  Trust me, no little burg is immune.

In a very long string of things we get to do as parents, this ranks pretty high on the list.  If you do your homework, you might just hit a home run when it comes to this decision.  That's so much better than your kid ending up as a free agent and hoping against hope that you got the coach who is really all that.

Here's to seeing you on the fields.  And sitting together, in all conditions in all seasons, blowing confetti wherever we go.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


This is the face of a boy who, in the beginning of his fifth grade year and at 10.75 years of age, just finished his FIRST unassigned chapter book!

The excitement around here is palpable.  Hoo was really unsure he could finish more than ten minutes worth of continuous reading, much less a book that clocked in at 374 pages.  But, he did.

This is the same child who was diagnosed as "pre-dyslexic", who had a hard time differentiating sounds within words, and who still has some trouble with spelling in context.

But, by golly, he discovered this week that, just like his Daddy, he reads better if he reads aloud.  So, our house has been filled with the sound of pages being blown through and information being ingested.

And the reward, besides a great deal of pride?  To watch the movie modeled after the book.  I can hardly wait to hear the comparisons Hoo makes.

Congrats, Hoo!  Your entire family is so very proud and happy for you.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Kleenex alert.  Don't act like a thirteen year old and ignore my advice. 
Today, we Nowells have a teenager in our midst.

Our Nickels is exactly 13 years old at 10:48pm tonight.  After a 22 hour plus labor, he almost didn't make it past being born.  His apgar score was zero on delivery. 

The alerts within labor and delivery went off immediately.  Our midwife, Susan, sat between my legs waiting to deliver the placenta, saying to the other nurses in the room "It was all fine.  I don't understand."

Several people rushed into the room and went directly to the incubator, standing over our little, unresponsive first born, attending to him with oxygen, fiercely rubbing his little chest to get him moving.  One of the nurses was a black lady who kept talking to him, over the beeps and alarms and frightening situation, saying "Come on sugar."

Mike looked like he didn't know which way was up.  He didn't know if he should stand next to me or Nickels.  He opted for Nickels.

I remember looking at my Mom and saying "Is he going to be OK?";  with the worried look she often carried on her face, she honestly answered "I don't know, honey."  I started praying. 

I have never felt so helpless in my life.

Then he cried.

I thought my heart would burst into a thousand pieces in that moment and I would need another set of doctors to revive me.  I just wanted to hold him.  I think everyone is really lucky I didn't try to get off that delivery bed and run to him.

Now, thirteen years later, as I look back on that day, I see we didn't get there without God's help.

We had originally decided to use an unconventional method of delivery in an area about five minutes from the hospital.  But, that was foiled when we met Susan, who didn't have privileges there.  And though we were not happy to be in a hospital setting at the time, I see that was God's great protection for our baby.

Who knows if it all would have been alright if we hadn't been at Baylor.  But, I shudder to think that it could have been otherwise.

Now, so many years after that day, I still see God standing over us, guiding our moves, even though we still sometimes question "why?"

My "whys" these days are often desperation:  Why hormones?  Why attitudes?  Why rolling eyes?  Why backtalk?  Why refusal to use soap/shampoo?  Why that stink?

But, as with our decision to be at Baylor, God has provided so many soft places and so many amazing people that are helping Nickels along the way.  We have church leaders and coaches and teachers whom he looks up to, who give him crazy good counsel and help him in ways he refuses to allow us to.

Now that he is thirteen and has figured out his parents are dumb as dirt, and has realized that everything we say can be ignored by pretending we are Charlie Brown's teacher (Wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa), and has determined that we were clearly sent to ruin his life, it is more crucial than ever to have a sea of people who work with him daily, care about his life, and whose counsel he will heed.

And, by the way, Nickels?  Even though you think we are dumb and not worth listening to, we are patient.  We know you will come around in the next 10-15 years and realize how much we really do know and how much you wish you had listened.  So, in the meantime, if we mumble something about wishing you were in your mid-twenties, we really don't mean we want to teleport you to a future time;  we just wish your teenage attitude would change.  And, that maybe, just maybe, you would use your deodorant without us prompting you.

Happiest of birthdays, sweetheart!  We can't imagine our lives without you.  And we are blessed beyond measure that we can celebrate this day as your stupid, uncool, old-as-fossils, parents.

Nickels is in good hands, thanks to you, God.  You have brought him to this point in life and have great things in store for him.  Thank you for years of loving him and watching him grow into such a fine young man.  We are blessed, in all times and in all places, to call him son.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

In Church? Really???

Whenever you hear the muffled sounds of children trying to disguise the fact that they are, in fact, trying to muffle the sounds of laughter, you know there is trouble.

That trouble is generally doubled when you are in church.  Especially during that solemn, yet joyful, moment in the service when you supposed to be giving thanks for the communion you just received.

We were in the pew, me closest to the aisle, next to Nickels, who was between me, Babe and Mike, with Hoo sitting closest to the other end of the pew.  Both Nickels and Hoo were staring down at the Babe, stifling giggles.  They were not doing a very good job.

My gaze focused directly on Babe, who seemed to be the source of the joke.  He just looked up at me like "Help.  What do I do?" as he extended his index finger to reveal the biggest, most disgusting looking, ball of booger I had seen in a long, long while.

I almost choked up my communion wafer and wine.

There were less than five minutes that Babe needed to stand there with his finger extended, not touching anything.  And, in real time, that is nothing.  But, in church time, with a snot-fingered seven-year-old in tow, that is like five hours.

This is when I realized I need to stock my purse with Purell AND kleenex.

But, honestly, summer is the "off season" for kleenex for me.  Come about October first of most years, I start to stock cough drops and tissue.  But early September?  Nah.

Guess my opinion on that, given I have three boys, should just go ahead and change.

On the way to the car, after a trip to the restroom, a thorough hand washing, and a handful of apologies aimed at me and my queasy stomach, Babe revealed what had REALLY happened.

He pointed to his nose and said "This tube, right here?  It was feeling really, really blocked up.  I didn't mean to pull anything out, I just wanted to unblock it."

A discussion ensued about the germy nature of noses and the virtues of hand washing and the need to keep hands away from noses and use kleenex for blocked tubes, especially in church, in the future.

Babe seemed to ingest this mini-lecture with the intent to be sure never to have this conversation again. 

As for me, I am going to pay better attention to the hand/nose connection for the remainder of the year.  And, maybe, into 2013 and beyond.

Should anyone breach the nose/finger boundary my brain established this morning, they are in for the swat of their lives.

Consider yourselves warned, boys.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Facebook Posting

Two things I know:
1.  If you post something on Facebook, you care about it.
2.  If you claim not to care about it after people comment, it doesn't change number one.

We should all be more introspective before we post on Facebook.  Especially if we are writing about another person and are being less than complimentary about them. Because people can see right through our hurt feelings, even if they are covered with expletives and "I don't cares" and "I've moved on".

Fact is, we get hurt by other people all the time.  But we need to put on our big girl panties or big boy britches and mend fences, not just rant on Facebook.

As far as I can tell, Facebook ranting to "prove" we aren't affected by something that clearly hurt us hasn't done much more than cause more hurt feelings, an occasional (rightly so) job loss, and a more broken bridge to forgiveness.

So, the next time you feel like throwing up your emotions on Facebook, try this:
1.  Why do I care so vigorously that I'm willing to post this for the world to see?  Am I trying to get sympathy, support, or agreement without actually put work into solving the problem?

2.  What do I hope to accomplish by posting it?  Will it mend fences or continue breaking them down?

3.  Will the situation change if I post about it?  If not, why do it?

4.  What good will come out of sharing this?  If there is no good, or if bad could come of it, don't share.

5.  Am I angry at the person or people I am going to post about?  If yes, you need to have enough respect for the other person to speak directly to them, not out your grievances online. 

Just like we all need to be careful what our hands do, our eyes see, and our ears hear, we need to be careful what we post for the world to see.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Lack of Logic

Why always in the car?

In the backseat...
Hoo:  I'm going to stick this on you (faking an attack on Babe's arm with a birthday party tattoo that was, somehow, floating around the backseat since the party.)

Babe (clearly distressed and unwilling to be attacked):  NOOOOO.

I calmly explain that those tattoos don't work without water, a wash cloth AND a minute or so of pressure, a combination that wasn't present in the car.  My logic clearly is being overlooked because the battle in the backseat continues.

Then kicking and screaming ensues.  By me.  Telling the kids to stop kicking and screaming at each other.

You get the logic, no??

Then this...

Hoo (voice conveys complete disgust):  EWWWWW.  GROSS.

Babe (laughing)

Hoo (voice still conveying disgust, now mixed with whining):  Mom?!?!?!!?  He just SPIT on himself.  EWWWWW.  GROSS.

Babe (laughing)

Me:  That isn't going to work.  Stop spitting Babe.  That is gross.

There may or may not have been sounds of gagging by me and Hoo at this point.  Nickels is just laughing because, apparently, he and Babe are immune to the potential germ bomb being created in my back seat.

A few seconds later...
Babe (clearly excited):  It WORKED!

Apparently, the tattoo partially adhered on Babe's arm after a spit bath.  I don't know for sure because I couldn't even look at it after what had just happened.

Then Hoo decides that he is going to diddle with Babe.  He picks up some random (though, albeit, unused) napkin, probably from some drive-thru we visited over the summer, and starts trying to attack the tattoo.  My guess is he was doing some quick "sanitation" of the germ site.

This gets Babe screaming bloody murder.  Something about being preened by his brother makes him madder than a wet hen.

This has gotten so loud and so ridiculous, that my shotgun-riding, almost teenager, Nickels looks at me and sums it up well enough that the whole thing now has a bow on it:  "That (referring to the screaming) coming from the kid who just SPIT on his own arm?"

I'm not entirely sure, but I think this whole thing came full circle in a very warped, extremely loud, kind of way.

And, yes, in case you are wondering, I am accepting donations of glove-box-size Purell.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Warby Parker

Have you seen the shoe company Tom's in your local earth-friendly store?  This is the company that donates a pair of shoes to the world's poorest people for each purchase made here in the good ole US of A.

If you like the idea of Tom's, let me be the first to introduce you to Warby Parker.  Clearly, as you'll see in just a moment, Tom's and Warby Parker were separated at birth. 

WP is the coolest idea in eye wear EVAH.  You go to their website, take a quick shot of your mug, then "try on" glasses via the picture.  Once you find up to five frames you like, you tell Warby Parker who you are and they ship them to your house to try on for real.  Once you've decided, you slip on the return shipping label and pop the package in the mail.  All for no dinero.

Say you like one of the looks?  GREAT.  Include your prescription and let WP make a great pair of glasses for $95.  As in $5 less than a hundred bucks.

OK, those of you who have shelled out money in the mall for glasses.  Pick yourself up off the floor and read that amount again:  $95.  And that INCLUDES the free pair of glasses WP sends to an impoverished part of the world, to be given to a low-income entrepreneur (often a woman) who, in turn, sells the pair at a discounted price to a neighbor who wouldn't otherwise have access to glasses.

So, WP provides free glasses.  Free glasses provide a saleable product for a low-income person.  Product is sold at a discount to a neighbor who doesn't have access to glasses or couldn't afford them otherwise.  Shouldn't all business models be THAT COOL?

Mike just received his WP box today and, literally, we were like kids in a candy store.  Of the five frames he chose online, three actually made the cut on his face.  And, quite quickly, we figured out that he could actually order all three pairs, if he wanted to, for the price of ONE PAIR in a local eyeglass shop.  The idea of impacting the lives of several people with this purchase makes me giddy with delight.

Move over Eyemasters and LensCrafters, there is a new sheriff in town.

Check Warby Parker out here.  I guarantee you will be impressed.

And, even if you don't need glasses for yourself, I bet the company vision (har, har) will inspire you to sing their praises to people you know who do.