things we learned in 2009

  • Lift with your legs, not your back
  • A puppy's diet doesn't stop at dog food
  • Our living room can hold 44 people in folding chairs at a piano recital
  • All the laundry CAN get done when all 3 kids are in school
  • A puppy's diet doesn't stop at kids' shoes
  • Mom is the Bop It! champion of the house
  • Girls seem to learn how to tie shoes earlier than boys in this family
  • Car pools for swim team in the hot Texas summer are a good idea
  • A puppy's diet doesn't stop at the living room couch
  • Getting to stop at Sonic on your way home from middle school is fun
  • Watching your kids perform at something they enjoy is such a pleasure
  • Kindergarten isn't the end of the world (for Miss Bee or her mom)
  • A puppy's diet changes a little bit for the better when the puppy turns into a dog (but still doesn't stop at piano benches)
  • A 12-yr-old gets to be considered just a little bit manly after surviving a 2-night scout campout in the rain/snow
  • Hopefully 2010 will be a great year!

Happy New Year to all!


saturday morning blues

Yesterday morning, I didn't sleep in.

Big deal, you say.

Well, let me explain. No - to quote one of my favorite movies - there is too much. Let me sum up.

Those of you who know me know my husband is a cyclist and burgeoning triathlete. He has several 100-mile bike races and 2 half-Ironmans (Ironmen?) under his belt. What this means is that he goes on early morning bike rides on Saturday, his only free day (Sunday is the Lord's day, not the cyclist's, in our family), and Mom stays home and faces the Saturday morning chore arguments solo. So no sleeping in.

The significance of the no-sleep-in yesterday? I'm getting to it.

Here's how our family spent this past summer: in and out of the hospital. DH herniated a disc in June, had minimally invasive surgery for it in July, got a spinal fluid leak 2 weeks later as a complication from that surgery, had a procedure done to try and fix it in August which didn't work, had a second surgery to stitch up the leak which did fix it but was NOT minimally invasive, and has been recovering ever since. That is a big, long sentence which tells you what our summer was like while leaving out a lot of the pain, emotional/physical suffering, hardship, service from friends/family, prayers, and little blessings in between. Needless to say, there was no bike riding (or much walking, for that matter) for dh during any of it. But I got to sleep in on a few choice Saturdays. This really isn't about me, though.

A few weeks ago, dh went to his follow-up visit with the back surgeon. He gave him the okay to resume normal activities, which he has begun to ease into. Yesterday marked the first bike ride with his buddies he has been able to do for over 4 months. He may not have kept up with the guys the whole time, but he returned home sweaty and smiling in his Arizona State University bike jersey, and you could tell his heart was full. So this time, I didn't mind getting up a little earlier to get started on my day. There will be plenty more Saturdays to come when I have to get up before I want to, and I will probably not have this good of an attitude about all of them, but this time, I am counting my blessings.


there's always more flab

I was running with my friends the other morning and we were all talking about weight we'd like to lose (cliche, no?) when I mentioned I thought my legs were the biggest part of me. (They are an inheritance from my mom's side of the family.) My companion said, "So? Mine are bigger. And someone else's are bigger than mine, and someone else's are bigger than hers, and so on and so on....There will always be worse." I think her point was that no matter how bad you think you have it, someone somewhere is in a worse spot than you are.

I think I'm going to try to remember this whenever I feel like complaining. Maybe take a second look at what I'm about to gripe about, and decide if it's really worth the gripe. DH and I discussed that this afternoon, and he mentioned a PBS show he watched last night that gave him food for thought. See, DH's company has been in some financial troubles over the past few months (it's a small company) and its very existence is currently in jeopardy, so it's looking like he will have to find another job in a field where lots of other people are in the same spot - out of work, I mean. He is understandably worked up over this, which is why he was watching PBS in the middle of the night.

Anyway, he was all full of butterflies over his employment situation and turned on this show about 2 women, roommates, who are middle-aged and both living with disabilities. One has MS, and the other, who must act as caregiver, has Down's Syndrome. (Wow, right?) Anyway, they both are on Medicaid or Medicare (DH couldn't remember which) and some sort of their disability coverage was threatening to be discontinued. Apparently they were claiming that they were homebound (probably true, for the most part), but under some law, "homebound" means that you really can't ever leave your home if you want to be considered as such. These women heard about some group that was lobbying for this law to be changed, and decided to go to Washington to join in the lobby. Medicaid (or Medicare or whoever) somehow found out that they left their home, and promptly began an investigation into whether they really needed that coverage. (Wow again.) So then all this then made DH rethink his situation and realize that okay, he has a few contacts with acquaintances in his field who have gotten him interviews and names of recruiters, his boss and coworkers all have good things to say about him, and maybe we could be grateful for what we have and not pull out our hair just yet.

The whole job question and the accompanying what-ifs (what if we have to move? what if there's nothing out there? what if we do get an offer but it's really low and it's the only one?) aren't resolved yet, so I don't know if a moral is a little premature, but here it is: there's always someone with fatter legs.


thank-you notes

(I got this idea from the first - and probably the last - "Late Show With Jimmy Fallon" I watched. Jimmy was a little wooden, but this idea was pretty good.)

Dear Sink of Dirty Dishes,

Thank you for waiting for me. You always do. No matter how much I try to ignore you. Would that other things in my life waited so patiently.


Dear Flip,

Thank you for practicing the piano when I asked. And thank you for getting through the whole practice session without a single rendition of Star Wars.


Dear 2nd Hunger Games Book,

Thank you for keeping me in suspense. And thank you for being a great escape from stress last week. And while I do appreciate a good cliffhanger, I don't appreciate having to wait a year to find out what happens next or who falls off that cliff. But you were still a good read. Really.


Dear DH,

Thank you for remembering to write cereal on the shopping list when you replaced the empty box from the pantry. Just for that, I might buy Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch next time.


Dear Stuntman,

Thanks for getting up and doing your chores when your alarm goes off pretty much every school morning. And thanks for being a good example for the other 2 kids, even though they're never awake to see you setting it. You are a great kid!


Dear Miss Bee,

Thank you for letting me do your hair. I have been waiting 2 boys' worth of bowl haircuts/clipper jobs to play with some curly, girly hair. I know you hate the tangles and the pulling, but it's so much fun. Thank you for cooperating with the scrunchies, ribbons, bobby pins and barrettes. And I promise - ponytails only once a week.

Love love love,

P.S. Thank you too for the new record - you've made it 1 1/2 years without giving yourself a haircut! I'm so proud of you!


lemonade stand

Here's a summer memory I just had to record somewhere...
The neighborhood kids came by our house this afternoon asking if our kids could help them with a lemonade stand. They borrowed a folding table and set up down the street. I sat outside with a magazine just to keep an ear out (and because I was curious if anyone would stop). Surprised that several cars pulled over, I decided to dig through the change jar and get some myself. Approaching the table, I was informed that lemonade was a dollar (but they gave me a 50-cent discount), and when I got there, all the cups I saw were plastic/glass ones harvested from the neighbors' kitchen cupboards. I asked if they had any paper ones - "no, but we'll wash them out." With soap? "No, just water. But lots of water!" Did people like their lemonade? "Mostly they're just giving us the money."

For a germ-free lemonade stand experience, here's a link to that old lemonade stand computer game that we all remember from the 80's: http://www.lemonadestand.com/


summer love/hate

What I like about summer:

  • swim team practices (and the moms who share in carpooling the boys back/forth)
  • fruit in season and the sales upon it - nectarines, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries
  • 4th of July
  • the smell of water from the hose when it hits the pavement (always makes me think of my childhood)
  • easy schedules
  • summer rainstorms
  • popsicles
  • catching fireflies (and then letting them go)
  • having some time to teach my kids something new
  • what the kids smell like when they come in from playing outside: something like sunscreen, grass clippings, hose water, and kid-sweat
  • the stack of books that are waiting for me to read them
  • the free Six Flags tickets the school gives out to the kids who meet their reading goals
  • short haircuts

What I don't like:

  • heat
  • humidity
  • every summer I buy a cool, summery white shirt, and it's ruined within 2 days of its purchase (it actually made it to 3 days this year - still a bummer)
  • vacuuming up piles and piles of shed dog fur
  • no time of day to go on a run when it's not hot/humid
  • kids who don't get out of the pool when it's time to go
  • strange comments about my new short haircut ("Mom, you look like Willy Wonka.")

  • my inability to take a good picture of myself (that's actually year-round; not just summer)


elegy for a nerf

Today we bid farewell to the little Nerf basketball. Though quiet and seldom seen, he was always good for a quick game of catch. The perfect weight - heavy enough to bounce on the floor, but light enough to bounce off a sibling's head to get his/her attention without causing harm. He joins dh's ipod headphones, several of Stuntman's socks, the player's manual for Robots on the PS2, a big hunk of the living room couch, 2 TV remotes, and many other objects, all helped along to the other side by Caramel the dog.
Farewell, dear friend. Like the others, our lives are just a little bit better for having known you.


dressed to distress

Here (Mooooom!!) is a picture (I don't want toooo!) of Miss Bee's (Don't brush my hair!) Easter (Ow!) dress that (Get away!) I made (Can I ride my scooter?) for her (I don't want to smile!) last month (My knee hurts!) and that she has worn (Do I look pretty?) twice, counting today (Happy Mother's Day, Mommy!).


just did it

Yes, bad blogger me.

Well, I just registered Miss Bee for kindergarten. Hoo boy. I can't believe I'll be all by myself next year. And I can't believe what a big deal I'm making of all this. I only say that because for the past 2 years or so, I've imagined (even daydreamed of) what it would be like to go grocery shopping, do volunteer stuff at the elementary school, go visiting teaching, go to dr. appointments, etc.; without a little shadow. And I imagined it would be GREAT! But all of a sudden, I find myself a little wistful. Actually, this started when she turned 5 a couple of months ago, as you might have noticed if you tuned in 2 or 3 posts ago.

I'm a little surprised. I don't remember feeling this way at all when the boys went to kindergarten. I was so ready for a break I practically put a boot to each of their hineys on their way out the door. Maybe it's because it's (probably) the last time I will register someone for kindergarten. I don't know, but I found myself thinking about the weirdest little things as I filled out the forms. Like how long it had been since I'd done this (okay, only 4 years, but it still seems like a long time) and how different this time was: how the first 3 digits of her SSN were completely different than the boys' (but the last 4 are exactly the same as Flip's, only switched around), that I answered the question "What would you like the kindergarten teachers to know about your child?" from a very different perspective than with her brothers, and that I got to check the "F" box instead of the "M" this time.

So get over yourself, pianogal, you're saying to me in your head right now. You'll enjoy the freedom. Take a nap, for heaven's sake. Hey, I even got a "congratulations" from the PTA lady at the sign-up desk, who knows Miss Bee is my last kid. And I will, don't get me wrong. So why am I waxing reminiscent about something that hasn't even happened yet, and come to think of it, how can I even use the word "reminiscent" about it? Am I the only one this happens to?


doughnuts accomplish nothing

Today is Miss Bee's real b-day, so even though we celebrated as a family on Sat., I still felt like I should do something to recognize her special day. Last night I got the *bright* idea: doughnuts! Who wouldn't love birthday doughnuts? And since dh is out of town and I can't leave the kids alone to drive 8 miles to Krispy Kreme, let's make some! I mixed the dough last night, laid out all my utensils so I could get up the next morning and fry, and went to bed with visions of doughnuts dancing in my head.

Everything went great this morning - got the doughnuts made (even before the kids got up!), wished Bee a happy b-day when she got up with a candle in her breakfast, and went in to wake Flip. It's always hard getting Flip up in the morning, but I couldn't wait to tell him what we were having for breakfast. I mean, wouldn't you get your hiney out of bed for doughnuts?

Boy, was I wrong. Apparently, this kid only arises for Krispy Kremes. "Homemade" has no effect on him. So, after a hearty breakfast of 3 bites of my efforts - he said he wasn't hungry - he was off to get ready for school, leaving me and Miss Bee with a plateful of sugar-dusted goodness. We both ate our fair share, but there were still lots on the plate when we were finished. So what do you do with a plate of leftover homemade doughnuts after your kids go to school? Well, you snack on them all morning, if you're me. And what happens when you snack on homemade pumpkin doughnuts all morning? Nothing, because you feel like a big, lumpy mess. So I got nothing accomplished this morning that I wanted to do. But I'm off doughnuts for awhile.


it's that time of year again...

It's officially spring! Time to change the geese clothes! (photo and description courtesy of http://www.mileskimball.com/)
"Give your geese a hippity-hoppity Easter update with cute bunny outfits, complete with ears! Each stylish ensemble includes bright wicker basket with decorated eggs. Polyester for indoor/protected outdoor use. Imported."


happy birthday to bee

Next week, my little Bee will turn 5. We are celebrating today because dh and Stuntman will be at 5th grade camp on her real b-day, so today is presents and cake (and Peter Piper Pizza) day. (By the way, that cake is a PONY, not a "pink Snoopy", as dh said when he first saw it. Just clearing that up.)
Yep, my little girl will be a year older - headed for kindergarten, new best friends (other than Mom), homework, and maybe a gymnastics class. (Yeah, I'm having a little my-kid's-growing-up pout.) She finally likes some girly things - ponytails, pink, dress-ups - but will never agree with me on clothes, I think. She's a joy, a challenge, a tease, a friend, and even though she's running around in a an old Spiderman costume right now - my favorite girl. Happy birthday, Miss Bee.


what I needed

Have you ever had one of those days (or nights, weeks, months, etc.) when everything has already been piling up on you for some time, and you really are trying to do better in those areas you have New-Year's-resolved to make an effort in, but you're getting no results or good feelings or blessings or anything? Your husband's in his office trying to catch up on the work he had to miss when he was incapacitated by strep throat for 5 days, so he's got his own stress to deal with, the kids (one especially) are absolutely non-cooperative with your keeping-the-Sabbath-Day-holy offerings, and you really did try to start the day with a good attitude.

When it all builds up to an edge you're about to fall over, then you run into the closet in tears, drop to your knees, and sincerely offer up a prayer that includes the words "I just can't do this part by myself - I need You." There's no miraculous turnaround, no beam of strength slicing through the closet ceiling to descend upon you, there's not even that warm feeling inside - not yet. It comes a little later in the day, when your arms are still held out in despair and your hands are still in a little bit of a claw shape because you're so frustrated, and...into them drops a little pearl. Small, but so precious because of what it meant and when it came. In my case, it was a "Thanks for dinner, Mom. Sure, I'll clean my plate." (This from the kid who five minutes earlier had wailed and wept because I told him we were having meat loaf for dinner.) And a little bit later, another pearl, in the form of the same kid explaining, quite thoroughly, a deep understanding of what his teacher had taught in Primary that afternoon. And another, when we were reading scriptures tonight, and Dad explained a passage we read and the very same kid (who, YES, was the main reason my hands turned into claws earlier) said, "I think I understand what this means. So if we do what God asks...[proceeding to reiterate Dad's explanation in his own words]." And that was all I needed. My burdens weren't taken away, and my children weren't automatically changed into perfect beings, and that kid will probably give me grief about the spaghetti we are having for dinner tomorrow, but I was given just a little bit of what I needed - hope. And sometimes, that's all we need.



About 5 years ago, my brother, the one just a year younger than me (I'll call him yb), suffered a seizure in the middle of a racquetball game and was rushed to the hospital. An MRI scan showed a tumor in his brain with the name you saw in the 8-syllable mouthful that is the title of this post. To make a long story short, surgeons removed the tumor (along with a bunch of tissue from his right frontal lobe) and he's been "okay" ever since. ("Okay" being defined as placed on anti-seizure medications and scheduled for regular MRI's for the rest of his life, but able to return to work, school, driving a car - after 3 months' wait - and life in general after recovery.) He had another seizure about 2 years ago, but other than that, has pretty much been just a regular guy (missing a chunk of his brain - that's yb's brain in the picture after his surgery).

Yb waited until after Christmas to tell all of us that his most recent MRI showed another growth in the right frontal lobe again. His doctors told him this was common with this type of tumor and scheduled him for another surgery. Last Monday, they removed the new growth, along with "quite a bit of tissue" (the surgeon's words). Recovery hasn't been so smooth this time, but yb still manages to find the time to blog about it.

What I find so amazing about this whole deal (aside from the marvels of modern medicine and their associated technology) is his attitude. I talked to him the night before his surgery, and we talked a lot about how he felt about the whole thing. His attitude basically boiled down to this: It's all in God's hands, and I know everything will be okay.
How different would our lives be if we all had this attitude? Toward everything, not just brain tumors? Would people still complain? Would this kind of patience extend to minor frustrations as well, like today, when I've chased the puppy around the house 8 times after she snatched 8 different things she's not supposed to chew? I just marvel at such a perspective. He's a great example.


55 cents' worth of steadfastness

Okay, I know I'm not the only one who's ever had to refuse a child, but I have to tell this story...

Today I took Miss Bee with me to the music store to get some sheet music for an upcoming piano recital. She was very cooperative and didn't even touch any of the 4 dozen pianos in the showroom while I was finding what I needed in the sheet music section. We finished and got up to the checkout counter, which was where she discovered (among all the other music-related odds and ends for sale) a box of Whistle Pops. I had bought one for her on one (only one) previous occasion, but apparently she felt she deserved one again and asked for one. I felt she did NOT deserve one, since she had sneaked a Jello pudding from the fridge earlier today without asking, so I felt she had had her treat and told her just that. She responded by grabbing a blue pop and disappearing into the forest of pianos. (There went my cooperative little Bee.)

I was in the middle of my transaction, so I calmly finished it and fished the little stinker out from the pianos. We had a quiet but firm nose-to-nose conversation through our teeth, after which she very reluctantly put the Whistle Pop back in the box and burst into tears while I carried her out of the store. I hate being the center of public scenes like this, but several battles in Wal-marts all across North Texas with her brothers when they were her age have cured me of caring too much. She did not stop crying the whole 15 miles back to our house, and I heard all the way home how I was breaking her heart. Here are some examples of what came from the backseat:

"I wanted that! It was mine!"

"Oh, I miss her! I miss Missy!"

[me:] "Who's Missy?"

"It's the whistle pop! Mom, I named her!"

"Mommy, how could you do this to me??? Ohhhhh, MISSY! Now you're gone, and I don't get to lick you and play the whistle and eat you and - Ohhhhhh!"

"Mom, can you go back and get it? It has my germs on it - I licked it already!" [Yes, I was a bit horrified at this, but the sucker was completely encased in wrapping, and I'm sure if the salesman heard her say this, well, throwing 55 cents away wouldn't break the bank]

(If you've ever seen the movie Dan in Real Life, imagine the scene where Steve Carell sends his teenage daughter's boyfriend [who sneaked up to their family cabin] home in a taxi. Do you remember the daughter's reaction? Now imagine the same scene with a 4-year-old and a blue Whistle Pop, and you've got the idea.)

So, you may be saying, why didn't I just buy the candy? It was such a little thing. Was it that big of a deal? Was it worth 15 miles of tearful pleading and begging? Yes, dangit; I was standing my ground! And with my little girl, who I'll admit, is hard to say "no" to! There was a principle involved! Yes, she cried for 15 minutes solid, but we had to stop at the grocery store on the way back, and I got her out of the car and just let her sob in my arms in the parking lot for a minute, got her a sample from the tortilla machine in the bakery, and she was fine.

So now I'd love to hear your "NO" stories - blog about them and leave me a note in the comments. I'm sure you've got better ones than mine!