nonsensical text

Thursday, December 28, 2006

womanly intuition

Through the years, our children have regularly received what my husband and I (not so affectionately) refer to as “grandparent toys.” You know the type. They are either full of stickers and markers which will soon be festively decorating the walls of your home, or they make sounds. The sounds are never gentle; they are just above the level of tolerability.

In the past, some such gifts were fire trucks and talking bears. Without fail, after the celebrations have ceased, and the babes have toddled off to bed, their father can be found disassembling these toys and placing a layer of packaging tape over the speakers to reduce the volume. their mother can be found placing all “art supplies” under lock and key to be enjoyed later under close adult supervision. The children have, by and large, accepted these changes without comment - one would almost believe, without notice.

This year the offending plaything seemed such a simple amusement – a small plastic rabbit which squeaks when squeezed. The sound, however, is not so simple. It is insidious. It seeks out the nerve at the base of your spine, sending your legs into fits of twitching and your psyche into retaliation mode. So, shortly after the departure of the very last guest on Christmas day, the father was absorbed in the business of dislodging the squeaker to a safe resting place inside the creature.

Half an hour later, the girl wandered into the room. She picked up the beloved critter and gave it a firm embrace. Nothing.

R: Heyyyy! What happen?


R: (with lip in full pout and big brown eyes misting over) Dad, you killed my bunny!

Is it any wonder I got an earful of squeaks during my nightly bedtime rounds?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

post Christmas fizzle

Sorry I have been absent quite frequently. At first I could blame it on the fact that my house was a complete disaster which needed to be at least partially tamed before the introduction of visitors. Then there was the joy of spending time with family and friends. Now, I am just sleepy! Perhaps a respite from insomnia is God's gift to me this Christmas. Hopefully I will be up and running at my normal sloth's pace by tomorrow.

Just remind me to mention the freckled child who suddenly started appearing in my living room, the alternating generosity and attitude of the working-boy, the sqeaky bunny incident, and other stories.

Until then, sweet dreams. I hope your holidays were truly blessed.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

oooooh shiny

Like a moth to a flame, like Gollum to his Precious, like dust bunnies to the underside of the bed, like squished pop tarts to the bottom of a passing shoe, this insomniac is drawn toward the pillow and tempted with the whisperings of sleep only when she HAS to stay awake.

We have a UPS on our computer. It betrayed me today. I spent at least half an hour before taking the boy to work organizing a detailed agenda for the next few days (in a desperate attempt to get myself on track). I commanded the thing to print immediately before leaving for the commute. I returned to discover a printer error. So, as I have done many times in the past, I restarted the printer. A fraction of a second before the print job was sent to the printer, the UPS suddenly decided to beep and power down the whole system.

I didn't save the document. I didn't see any need to keep it in my files; I just wanted it on my refrigerator. So, now I am flying blind without an agenda, and I am shocked to discover that I haven't the faintest idea what I told myself to do tomorrow.

Ah well, Christmas will come whether I accomplish my tasks or not. If worse comes to worst, we can always eat pop tarts for Christmas dinner - preferably not the squished ones.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

oh how the mighty have fallen

Throughout my life, I have heard often of the great circle of life, food chains, and man being at the top of the chain. Often, when conservationists are attempting to bring awareness of an endangered species into the limelight, they will comment upon the fact that man has become such a dangerous predator to so many species while there are no natural predators of man. I beg to differ.

We (the dear husband, N, and I) were watching Dirty Jobs earlier this evening. If you have cable and you have never seen it, I highly recommend it. In the show, the host, Mike Rowe, travels to various places and takes part in dirty jobs – those occupations which make our world run as smoothly as it does but which are often thankless, menial, and just plain gross.

In this particular episode, Mike traveled to Louisiana one year after Katrina to take part in some of the ongoing dirty jobs (side vent on this one later). First he traveled and labored with a demolition crew responsible for cleaning out a house and getting it down to nothing but exterior and framing. Most of us have put a load of laundry in the wash and forgotten it for a day or so. We all know that lovely reek. Imagine that smell magnified a thousand times and you might get an idea of one small part of that job. Clothes left in a washer or dryer – sodden with not only the wash water but with what the demolition crew affectionately call “Katrina Soup,” a mix of floodwater, silt, sewage, mold, and more disease than you could be expected to name in an hour even when armed with a Physician’s Desk Reference.

The second job was tracking down, studying, and attempting to control the increased rodent population. The third job was mosquito control.

You might ask what any of these jobs have to do with my opening paragraph. In fact, you have probably asked that several times since beginning to read. Well, it seems to me that humans do have natural predators, they are just very small. Ironic, isn’t it, that the life form most dangerous to us is so small you cannot see it with the naked eye? Natural disasters bring about situations which rapidly accelerate the growth of bacteria and molds. At the same time, the rodent populations increase because of an increased availability of rotten, pungent, abandoned food. The mosquitoes increase as well, feasting upon the blood of the rats and that of the humans – equal opportunity suckers. They also aren’t so modern that they refuse to make house calls. They bring the disease right to our doors. No natural predators – bah humbug.

the side rant

I guess, sadly, the human response to disaster is often like the acquaintance’s response to someone else’s grief. The heart reaches out during the initial injustice. Helping hands are everywhere. A little time passes, though, and suddenly the griever is left in a solitary grief. Only those closest understand. Everyone else goes back to life as normal. Natural disaster as a motivator has a shelf life. Most of us grow weary of bearing other people’s grief long-term. We begin to resume life as normal, forgetting how impossible that is for some.

The men working demolition for the company highlighted in this show were not always laborers. The company owner has been in that line. The other men came from such varied backgrounds as bouncing, teaching English, Investment banking. You see, if these men want to stay in their home town, they need to work. But, until this work is done, their old jobs – many people’s old jobs – simply do not exist. Some may never come back. Those which do will only thrive again through the sweat and blood of men and women like these. The pain doesn’t go away just because the cameras stop pointing it out.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

rounded tablespoons

In honor of the holidays, I am departing from the traditional sleeping with bread mold, and sleeping with cookies instead. I can also blame my lateness on the holidays, even though it is really due to the fact that the day got away from me.

fat-free, sugar-free cardboard cookie replicas

I don’t like feeling helpless. It is always worse when I am helpless in regards to my children. Last night, at bedtime, S noticed that his hermit crab was hanging out of the shell and barely moving. In the life of a hermit crab, that is a pretty good indicator of illness and impending death (unless of course they are about to molt).

I came down the stairs and began my internet research on hermit crab health. After all of the reading, I could come up with several possible causes of demise (one of which has something to do with the crab’s age), but I couldn’t find any way to rescue the poor bugger. Today, the crabby passed quietly away and journeyed to the big hermit crab climbing log in the sky.

This is not the first pet my children have lost, but it opened up a discussion about death and how it is part of life. We talked about the pain of losing a critter actually helping to prepare us for greater losses later in life. We reminisced about other animals who have paved the way. Since the birth of our first child, we have lost 3 cats, two dogs, 2 gerbils, 2 rats, 1 hermit crab, and countless goldfish. Most of them have lived long lives for their respective species (except for the goldfish which tend to all die at once after the first one falls ill).

I don’t like not being able to take the pain for these children of mine. I can be of comfort in their sadness. I can point them in the direction of the true comforter, but I cannot make the pain disappear. The best I can do is help them to let the pain bring about growth.

the real thing

Perhaps that is why we made cookies today. Sure, Christmas is only a week away, and we hadn’t started baking yet, but I wasn’t planning to start until after a full day of school. Instead, we did a little bit of written work and set about exploring the science of cookie making.

A friend had passed along an extremely rich recipe for butter cookies. I decided there was no better way to bring about comfort than to bake. Not only would the sugary sweetness help to chase the blues away, but we could have a very tangible lesson in how one solid base can create so many different things.

We joined together in our dying, molding and decorating, and enjoyed each other as a family. We rejoiced in the discovery of blended ingredients. We thanked God for whispering to that first soul who somehow thought it would be tasty to combine such separately ordinary things.

They all took part – the girl acted as professional taster and consumed at least 7 cookies without assistance. The momma proclaimed that she would not care if she never saw food again.

Creation – it doesn’t take away the sadness of loss, perhaps, but it goes a long way toward setting us on the path of healing.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

sometimes you don’t have to look very far

So, I always try to find the humor in a situation lest I lose what little sanity I have left. As the title says, sometimes it doesn’t take that much effort.

oedipal complexes

T, age 5 came into the bathroom. I was sitting down watching R wash her hands. Neither of them is allowed in the bathroom alone while washing because of several recent events (more on that later).

T: I need a kiss.

Me: Hold on just a minute, I am helping your sister wash her hands.

Apparently, this wasn’t good enough. He came over, placed a hand on either side of my head, turned my face toward him, and planted a big old kiss on my lips. He turned around to leave the room, but just before exiting, his voice rang back to me, “And that is how you kiss a woman!”

on why we should be product testers

If anything can last a year in our house, it definitely deserves the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. We are not a gentle family. Through the years, many incidences have revealed to us just how creative our children can be.

Plastic golf clubs and golf balls – please do not ever consider giving them to my family. Within two days of receipt, they will be turned into weapons. After repeated blows to the head and body of any passing sibling, the end falls off of the club, and little jagged bits of plastic stare angrily at knit fabrics, furniture, and delicate skin. Although they are confiscated by loving parents and thrown into the nearest trash receptacle, the sharp edges invariably pierce the plastic, and the prying eyes of children discover their bounty and spirit it away for use in the next surprise attack.

Safely suction-cup-ended arrows make wonderful ceiling tile darts once the suction is removed. K’nex and Lego Technics may be formed into various weapons of mass destruction – the self-loading, quadruple band, rubber-band revolver being but one example.

A metal pot with large wooden spoon is especially dangerous. Not only can the spoon be wielded as a club, it can also be launched. Should the fancy strike, the pot can be placed on the unsuspecting head of a sibling then repeatedly bashed by the spoon and other heavy toys.

Markers, crayons, play-dough, scissors – these are kept under lock and key.

Imagine my joy when they invented the Aqua doodle pad. Here was a toy that was soft. You write on it with markers filled with water. The lids screw on these markers in a counter-clockwise direction to confuse and slow down the average small child. Should the child write on a surface other than the pad, it is only water, and causes a lot less damage than that sharpie I am still trying to remove from the mini-blinds, pocket doors, and radiator covers.

So, before taking five minutes Friday to get an update on one of those doctor’s appointments I was worried about (update posted below), I made sure that the little ones were playing with the aqua doodle. They had recently discovered they could use sponges on them to get a different effect, and had also recently learned to unscrew the marker caps, but I still figured it was safer than, say, a densely packed flying missile (also known in other parts of the world as a book).

Five minutes. That’s all. I was only out of the room for 300 seconds.

Somehow it never occurred to me to lock the bathtub toys in my personal safe. That might be because I don’t have one.

I walked into the room to see R gingerly carrying an overflowing plastic watering can toward the doodle pad. A quick look around the room clued me in to the fact that this was at least the sixth such trip. T, ever the gallant brother, squealed out, “She did it!” before rapidly disappearing from the lower level of the house.

And don’t get me started on what they can do with bubbles.


Friday, December 15, 2006

the thin purple line (updated)

Every trait has a flip side, kind of like a coin. Sometimes I am convinced that our first thirty years are spent trying to discipline the negative side of those traits so that the positive may shine more brightly.

For instance, I like to look at both sides of every issue. I try to see where a person is coming from even when their views disagree with mine. I like to weigh the pros and cons of everything, but often end up with equal piles because of my ability to keep the insight going. Therefore, the flip side of my coin would be indecisiveness.

Insomnia hit again last night. I tried to go to sleep, really I did, but I ended up sitting in front of late night TV and watching Dr. Phil. It is a show I have only seen a few times (since it is on after 2 AM). A mother was on who basically wanted help in backing off from her son while he is trying to do homework. She acknowledged she had a problem with pressuring him and nagging, and getting into his face with her anger. Dr. Phil, though, felt that she wasn’t admitting she had a problem because there were a few quotes her family supplied, and she was having a hard time believing she used certain words. She felt like he was portraying her wrongly. He used that to intimate that she was not admitting she had a problem. Cue camera shots of an audience looking on with shock and pity. Ah, the poor momma just won’t admit what a monster she is.

Dr. Phil continued to assert that she was not admitting to the problem, and every minute of show between the commercials was basically a rephrased version of the first five minutes - the flip side of the coin. You see, the power of persuasion which makes him so good at what he does has a flip side too. The negative side of persuasion is manipulation. Sometimes the line between the two is very thin. I believe he crossed that line in this show. The mother felt it too, and was trying to express it to him. She did eventually stop arguing with him about it, and let her comments peter out to the simple, “I completely agree,” for the sake of moving on and getting help for her and her son.

I have a very active imagination. For the most part, it has served me well, but there is a downside even to this. I am able to imagine all sorts of possible outcomes. Worrying about and concentrating on those possibilities can take my eyes off of the God who is offering me the support needed to go through the one real outcome in any given situation.

Today is Friday and I have two friends visiting doctors for completely different reasons. One of those appointments is a standard first OB appointment, and will likely yield no new information. Still, considering my history of several very early miscarriages (a history she shares) and one stillbirth, all things OB have the power to make me very nervous. The other appointment is with a neurosurgeon to check on Gladys (or the map, as I like to call her), the happy little resident deep inside of my friend.

So for today, I would like to ask permission to turn my imagination off. Thank you.

As expected, the OB appointment was the standard, waste of time first appointment. The brain doc appointment wasn't so bad either. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers for my friends.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

in over my head

So what have I done now? I'll tell you.

My friend Mary joined in on a meme give away that she located over at Darlene's site. Being in touch with the adventurous side of my being of late (ha), I had the audacity to join the throng by being one of the first five to comment on Mary's post. Not only do I get some cool creation in the process, but I am burdened with the responsibility of offering my own wares to the first five commenters to this post.

Houston, we have a problem.

You see, I am NOT artistic. I must admit that my stick figures come really close to resembling figures made out of sticks, my photography skills have not improved since I was about 12, my painting skills are similar to those of Jackson Pollock without the talent - my splatters being more the result of tripping while carrying a paint can, and any other artistic skills being sporadic and uneven at best.

So, should you be generous enough to be one of the first five people who comment to this post, I can give you a few choices.

1. You could send me some guidelines (like preferred topic, or certain words to use), and I would craft you a homegrown mediocre poem which I could either email to you or actually pen (in my lopsided script) and send to you via snail mail.

2. I could twist together some bread ties into a convincing replica of a twisted bunch of bread ties.

3. I could attempt a photograph in which you would likely get a clear view of my finger or hair partially obscuring the lens.

4. I could get my eldest to make you something cool out of duct tape or gum wrappers.

And the only thing you have to do in order to receive this mighty gift is pay it forward. Yes indeed, you must add your link to the meme chain and offer five commenters to YOUR blog (or in your life, for those of you who are not bloggers) the gift of art, if only they pass it on.

See that, I just very expertly pushed the burden onto you. Ain't I sweet?


Wednesday, December 13, 2006


My friend who was in the hospital awaiting her babe's arrival (in hopes of it being a safe one) has given birth to a baby girl. Phew! One worry down, only a million to go (but two specific ones for this week).

It's beginning to look a lot like la la la la.....

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


sleeping with bread

So, tonight was the night that we took all of the kids Christmas shopping. Several years ago, after getting sick of wading through the piles of dollar store toys which the children purchased for each other every year, we got the bright idea of having them draw names. That way, each child only feels responsible for getting one of their siblings a present. Kids like it because it means they get a better present. Moms and Dads like it because it means less stuff to find a place for after the big day passes.

Making a trip to the store that includes everyone can be quite the experience. I was not looking forward to doing it during the Christmas rush. Amazingly, it turned out well for two major reasons – older kids and cell phones.

As we were driving home in the car, I began pondering which bread I wanted to use as my pillow this evening. A food network special solved this question for me – of course, it has to be fruitcake. Logically then, I simply must speak about connection. Okay, so maybe it isn’t a logical progression to the average soul, but I never claimed to be average.

Connection. While wandering the aisles of the store without children (again, thank you cell phones), I felt a very sure sense of connection. My husband and I got to spend some very rare weekday time together with each other – laughing at some items, frowning at others. One particular wall clock which was designed like a seat cushion gave us quite a few minutes of enjoyment. But, not only did I feel connected to him, I felt a very strong bond with my children who were in other aisles of the store. The little waves of hello when we happened to cross paths brought several smiles to my lips. It helped that everyone was actually behaving in a civilized fashion this evening (another rarity). I needed this.

For the past week I have felt very disconnected. I will not call it hopelessness because the one connection I did constantly feel was that between me and God. But, I have felt very separate from everyone and everything else. Some of that was undoubtedly due to being computerless. Still, I think it quite possible I would have been withdrawn for the week even without the technical difficulties. Contemplation creates a myriad of thought-words, but they are still in their infancy and must be sheltered from the external world. Observation jump-starts philosophical ponderings late into the night, but the keys on the keyboard remain untouched – the lips remain still.

God is speaking quietly into my heart. He whispers of mercy and grace – of my need to give myself a break. He murmurs to me reminders of the creative abilities He gave me, and He nudges me toward letting go of the notion that I must always follow the text so closely.

The last line of crocheted stitches connects to the first with a simple loop – full circle- disconnection becomes connection; solitude becomes union.


Monday, December 11, 2006

it ain't origami

I feel in need of haiku. How odd is that?

lights shining brightly
beckoning giving spirit
from stillness within

gentle quiet touch
of understanding the deep
hidden parts of me

bare branches reach out
silhouettes in the night sky
fingers touching God

Friday, December 08, 2006

whatever happened....

I'm not ignoring you...really! I'm just computerless at present.

Hope to be back soon!

Monday, December 04, 2006

burnt toast

In the explanation for sleeping with bread, the following quote jumps out at me today: “The examen, based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, helps a person hold onto what spiritually nourishes him by looking at what is giving him consolation in his life or causing him desolation. It allows someone to express his gratitude to God for the good stuff and turn to him for solace for the bad stuff.”

Today, I need solace. There isn’t a lot of bad stuff, but I am in a very gray place. Therefore, since I neglected my bread until after 11 PM, and I almost forgot about it completely, I am going to follow a slightly different format today.

The bad stuff:

I can’t seem to get myself even remotely organized. I have been pathetic about homeschooling for several weeks in a row. I can’t seem to drum up the motivation to be a good teacher, and it takes just a slight blip in the normal routine of the day to completely throw off my ability to teach at all. I look around at the chaos which is my home – that which is supposed to be a safe haven and a place of peace – and my attention-deficit-ed brain can see no possible way of turning things around in a reasonable amount of time (a.k.a. less than 100 years). I am wimping out on teaching my kids responsibility because I am too emotionally exhausted. It has a lot to do with insomnia, I know. It probably has even more to do with the fact that I am focusing my eyes on the wrong place. Peter didn’t start sinking until he took his eyes off of Jesus.

One would think that such a graphic image would go a long way toward steering me away from the same path, but alas, I seem to be stuck in Romans (specifically Chapter 7 verses 14-24). Sometimes the cycle is longer than others. My forward progress seems to go for longer spurts between bouts of paralysis through disappointment in self.

The good stuff:

And then there is Romans 7:25, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” I don’t feel it right now, but it has already happened. It was all accomplished long ago. I just need to reach out and take it.

Also, my close friend who is expecting is in the hospital. She has had two stillborn sons. I worry for her. She is almost 35 weeks, and being closely monitored. “What’s this?” you say, “That sounds like the bad stuff!” Nay, it is indeed the stuff of prayer and blessings. It would be the bad stuff if she weren’t being observed – if the sporadic bad spots the babe goes through had not made themselves clear in the presence of doctors. But they did, and she is being watched, and while that doesn’t always make me any less nervous, it is the best place she can be.

So many blessings fill my life that I can actually become accustomed to them, and even, at times, irritated by them. That’s the good stuff.

Evidence abounds that God is truly watching over those I love.

What better stuff can there be?

I am grateful.

I no longer fall into depression which has no hope. Depression may still come (and it does), and hope may be microscopic at times, but it is there. Even a pin-prick of light is evident in a darkened room.

God is good.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

what's new pussycat?

Children are strange and wonderful. An excerpt from T's Christmas list follows:

1. The Lego Christmas train set (997 pieces, $178 - he's 5)

2. A Giant Ultra-blast Batman and a green hook-shooting Batman (any clue?)

3. A red truck with holes in the walls from Burger K1ng, but now they have Happy Feet (again, any clue?)

4. A red rubber elephant

5. A stuffed animal cow

Children are strange and wonderful. An excerpt from our day follows:

Me: We are going to have a creative day of school today. I want you guys to start thinking and planning out how you would like to make ornaments for the tree.

thinking and planning ensues

Me: Okay, now that you have thought about it, what supplies do you need from me?

small paper plates, cups, staples, tape, markers, crayons, and origami books make an entrance on the table

J: Mine is going to be an airplane.

T: Mine is you, Mommy. Can you draw the pupils?

R: Ho Ho give you Chrismus for you birfday! Me draw Ho Ho (her name for Santa).

M: I think I know what the partridge in the pear tree stands for in the song. I think it is about when Zacchaeus climbed the tree to see Jesus. I am going to make my ornament the first five days of Christmas. What does a partridge look like?

Me: That's a lot of birds!

M: Yeah, and I am not quite sure how to draw calling birds. Maybe I should draw sound waves coming out of their mouths.

S: The origami book only has ones which are more than one piece, and I don't want to tape it. So, I made the moon. The cow jumped over it, but he didn't get far (evil laugh).


N, isn't really silent at this point, he is just at work, so I have no idea what he is saying

Children are sometimes a trial. Excerpt from our family trip to the warehouse store follows:

N,S,M,J,T,R: Mo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-m! Are you going go get this? Can we get this? Do we have any of this?

The Dear Hubster: Honey, do we have any of this? Can we get this? Boys, if Mommy says no, it means no. I asked!

Me: Insert long and ranting lecture here. Rewind and repeat.

Mothers are sometimes imperfect:

I really do need to remember to take God along with me when I travel. The patience I can muster when flying solo wouldn't cover a quick stop at the corner store. Note to self: Pack prayer, humor, and free-spiritedness into every nook and cranny before rising. Replenish as needed.