Monday, December 28, 2009

Two Small Things

About this time every year I start to get that funny feeling in my stomach. Too many late nights? That's a slight possibility. Too much fudge? Somewhat stronger possibility. Usually it goes away after a couple days, but this year it didn't, so between my full-time job of following the cast of The Forgotten Carols around from city to city, I snuck in a doctor's appointment. After waiting for 45 minutes in the waiting room and another 63.5 minutes in the exam room, I was finally diagnosed with Failureitis, the official term for those who have failed to live up to their expectations for themselves during the past year (per their dreaded New Year's Resolutions). It's a relatively common disease, with approximately 98% of the population suffering from it. The other 2% are all Jehovah's Witnesses, who don't celebrate New Year's, and therefore have a natural immunity to Failureitis. Which is lucky for them.

The symptoms of Failureitis are as follows (hypochondriacs, please stop reading and instead log onto for support):
Difficulty sleeping
Increased irritability
Multiplication of gray hairs and/or wrinkles
Irrepressible urge to snack
Strong daytime attachment to blankets and pillows
Sudden urge to buy a non-working farm and sit on the porch and rock for long periods of time
Bad writing

I spoke with the doctor at length about this disease. She feels I may have contracted it shortly after I told my Jillian Michaels workout DVD to go take a flying leap. That was January 3rd, but at that point my symptoms weren't yet obvious. In February I stopped balancing my checkbook, after I wrote an extra $500 into my checkbook ledger so my balance wouldn't get too low, and then the bank said I was out of money anyway. What use is that? By April I'd long since given up trying to be nice to everyone for one whole day, because all the jerks I work with made it too hard. When my kids started school in August, I had a wholesome and healthy snack waiting for them every day when they came home for the first week, then it was back to Fritos and bean dip. Fiber, you know. But it was in November that my Failureitis really started acting up. I had promised myself to keep on an even keel and not let my "moody" days get to me, but in November I snapped. Some unfortunate grocery clerk asked me very politely to "Have a nice day", and I....I said "No."

My doctor said that to cure my failureitis I must set my standards very low for 2010. Normally I wouldn't even consider such a thing, but she reminded me that Failureitis hurts everyone, not just the person diagnosed. So next year, no big goals or resolutions. Instead, I will do Two Small Things every week. Two little changes so I can cure my Failureitis without becoming a total and stagnant loser. So, even though today is only December 28th, I am starting right now. That's change number one for this week. Starting my Two Small Changes program. Change number two will be posted on my handy little change tracker to the left.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Time for a Christmas Message

I read an article in the December issue of Ensign magazine that, while not a typical Christmas story, was a story of true love and unselfishness that touched my heart. Titled Dad's Lesson in Love, by Marcia Akes, it is the love story of the author's in-laws. While both of her in-laws struggled with health issues in their later years, Mom was bedridden for several years, and it was up to Dad to take care of her. Marcia tells of some sweet moments, like Dad learning to cook so he could bake Mom's favorite pies for her, or learning to sew so he could alter her clothing to make it easier to get on and off her while she was in bed. Sadly, Dad's body gave out before Mom's in the end, but he left what was essentially his deathbed in the hospital, and spent two days, "going on nothing but sheer determination", checking his wife into an adult care facility and training the caregivers on how to take care of the love of his life after he was gone. All of this was so tender, but what really slayed me was Dad's quote italicized up in the corner of the article: "I'm just a common man, with common thoughts, and I feel I've lived a pretty common life; there will never be any monuments dedicated to me, and undoubtedly my name will soon be forgotten; but I've loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough."

Wow. That quote seems to sum up what life is really about. I would not have been interested in an article about a man who got up out of his deathbed to make sure that the month-end accounting was finalized at the office before he died! Indeed, for the many people who don't even have an office to go to right now, money is short and love is really all there is to give this Christmas season. Let it be enough. As hard as it is not to feel depressed or discouraged when money and material things are lacking at Christmas, may I suggest that those feelings dissolve when you stop comparing what you are able to give with what others may be giving. Free gifts that make a difference include sincere thank you notes to people who have touched your life, carols and visits to those who may be lonely, gifts of time and service written up as homemade "coupons" for family members (I particularly enjoy footrubs, if any of my kids are reading this), paragraphs detailing all the good that is in someone you love, and I'm sure you can think of many better ideas.

I wish all of you a truly merry and love-filled Christmas. Jesus Christ knows all of my faults - He should, he carried them - and yet He loves me anyway. And I don't believe He loves me in spite of my weaknesses, I think he just plain loves me. I want to be more like Him.

To get an MP3 download of the article I referred to above, click here .

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pancakes, anyone?

It seems to me that women generally run the activities committee in a ward. Don’t get me wrong - men are called to be on the committee too, it’s just that the women RUN the committee. The men on the committee can be spotted because they are ones wearing t-shirts that say, “I got called to the activities committee and all I got to do was set up chairs.” I’ve heard rumors, though, of a ward where the activities committee had no women on it. That’s right – all men. You’ll know if this happens in your ward because:

1. The first activity of the year will be a contest to see which teacher can finish their lesson the fastest on Super Bowl Sunday. As part of the contest, all husbands and wives must agree beforehand to drive to church separately that day. This is crucial because, let’s face it, Relief Society lessons never end early.
2. You will notice a sudden increase in pie eating contests
3. Early morning pancake breakfasts will be officially banned. In fact, anything with the words “early morning” in it will be banned.
4. The “Best Costume” award at the ward Halloween party will go to the man with dirty socks pinned to his shirt who’s going as Static Cling, rather than the sweet little ballerina from the Sunbeam class.

You’ll want to know right away if the man in your life ever gets put on the activities committee, and you will. Your first clue will be a conversation that goes something like this:

Him: Honey, I have a meeting with the activities committee in 5 minutes. Do you have any good ideas?

You: Ummm, I hadn’t really thought about it.

Him: Now, hon, I heard the bishop ask you if you would support me in my calling and you said yes. I really need your help here.

You: Well, hmmm…how about a sit down dinner for couples? You could get the youth to be the waiters, it could be really fun.

Him: I don’t think so. That wouldn’t be inclusive of the single members of our ward.

You: I guess you’re right. How about a cowboy style cookout?

Him: Not inclusive of the ward vegetarians.

You: A talent show?

Him: Not inclusive of the non-talented people in the ward. Wait, I know! We could have a pie eating contest!!

You: (sigh)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Did I miss Christmas?

So far this December I have:

* Tried to put a 4 ft angel on a 6 ft tree. Those meaurements are approximate, but let's just say that it took 5 strips of duct tape to get my huge-y angel to stand upright. Luckily, my son has every color duct tape there is (including tie dye), so he was able to contribute some white tape that blends right in. sorta.

* Skipped my first rehearsal for the Messiah. Yes, that's right, this year I made the cut to play my violin in our community sing-along version of the Messiah. This is an unpaid but prestigious position that I clinched by sending note-shaped cookies to the powers-that-be. Then I missed the first of only two rehearsals. I hope I'm not fired. I had a good reason!

* Tried to wait up for hubby when he went to the ASU game with his amigos. Unfortunately, the act of getting married some moons ago activated a sleepy gene in me that causes me to fall asleep at 10:30, no matter where I am. Hubby found me on the couch with some No-Doz in my hand at 11:00, fast asleep. Well, I tried.

* Received a random cake. German chocolate, too, my favorite. The sweetest teenage girl in the world showed up at my door tonight and gave me a big ol' chocolate cake that she made for me because, to paraphrase a wise sage, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me." It made my day, thanks MG!

* Heard about a weirdo vendor at Tempe Marketplace trying to sell some sort of smoke vapor machine that mixes straight nicotine with water vapor for a new smoking experience. He came right out and told my LDS friend that it was okay for him to smoke because of a "loophole" in the Word of Wisdom - this little cigarette replacement doesn't actually contain any tobacco. Yeah, I was never worried about the nicotine anyway.
(Don't know what the Word of Wisdom is? Find out at

* I also: learned that even a stuffed SpongeBob with the creepiest pop-out eyes in the world will get taken at a yard sale if it's free, sold 2 things on Ebay, was forced to clean out my garage, got yelled at in Spanish, used my fireplace, saw the cutest smile I'd ever seen on the face of a little boy hugging a stuffed Piglet, hung outside lights with the help of our neighborhood cardiologist (I'm so scared of heights that it's good to have a specialist nearby, just in case), AND wore my favorite Old Navy jeans three times in a row before I washed them. Don't judge me, I'm conserving water.

It can't possibly be only the sixth! Merry Christmas, if I'm still coherent by then.

Monday, November 30, 2009


When my 15-year-0ld son was four, he liked to watch Barney. A lot. We had all the videos (yes, VHS), and they pretty much got worn out. If D-Dawg felt like singing, it was Barney songs he belted out. "Mr. Sun" and "Drivin' in my Car" were two special favorites. Ipods hadn't been invented yet, but he certainly didn't have a Walkman or a BoomBox. He accompanied his own singing with some artful jumping and twirling.

Now that my youngest is four, things are a little different. See, she has a 15-year-old brother. And a 12-year-old brother. And an 8-year-old sister. They don't like Barney. They like Selena Gomez, Rascal Flatts, Taylor Swift and the YouTube clip of the Glee football players dancing to Single Ladies. (I have to admit, I like that one, too). Little AJ still jumps and twirls, just like her older brother did all those years ago, but she does it with his Ipod stuck in her ears, and she's bustin' a move to Life is a Highway.

I miss the innocence of my oldest. If I could, I would keep all my kids from any knowledge of the outside world until they start kindergarten. I haven't found an effective way to do that, but when they're sick and half-alseep on the couch, and I sit down to rub their foreheads, I still sing "Mr. Sun". D-Dawg rolls his eyes, but I'm pretty sure I see him mouthing the words right along with me.

P.S. Check out that hilarious YouTube clip here:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Provident Living

I have just completed an intense four-hour course on provident living. Being provident is defined as, "Having or showing foresight; providing carefully for the future," ( Do you admire how I annotated my source there? Let's discuss some of the areas of your life that could use a little more providence. Yes, I mean you. I'll discuss my own life at a later date, since it's not as amusing to me.

First, let's talk hygiene. You stock up on cream of chicken soup when it's on sale, but what about toothpaste? What would happen if there were a great peppermint shortage and the price of a tube of toothpaste hyper-inflated to $300? I can't abide bad breath, and so I urge you to provide carefully for the future by buying a few extra tubes next time you go to the store.

Dare I discuss jeans? All the YFBs will villify me for this, but know this - if I thought $120 jeans would make my buttockal region look cute, I'd spring for them too, but unless those babies are fashioned out of spring steel and tenterhooks, it just ain't gonna happen. Therefore, I can be self-righteous and say that $120 is just too much. I mean, I could get a really cute Wonderbra for that much...oh wait...

Now sit down a minute while we talk about the phone bill. Do you really need to be able to track your stocks while you're in the bathroom? Give up the internet access already! Actually, the only reason I'm hateful about phones is because we're cutting back on extraneous things like water and Cheetos at my office, but everyone still has their iPhones. Everyone but me that is - me, who never got one. Me, who still uses the old Radio Shack model that barely fits in my purse. It's embarrassing, and it's about time for everyone else to come back down to my level.

And Christmas. That's right, I'm going there. People! I don't need three presents from each of you. Just one will do. I mean it, I'll be fine. I'm cutting back.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Games for the Tired

Ever have one of those days where you're just too tired to play with your kids? Maybe you had a long day at work, or maybe you were up all night with a sick baby, or maybe, like me, you just finished your weekly triathlon. Anyway, the point is, you're tired, and the kids want to play.

Never fear, the Currant Pie Official List of Games to Play When You Are Tired is here:

Car Alert: I just played this one today. In my version of this little-known game, you take some blankets and pillows out to the front yard and get cozy with your kids. Everyone needs part of a blanket to cover up with. Whenever you hear a car coming down the road, you scream "Car Alert!" and you all cover your heads, as if you will blow up if the people in the car see you. Once the car has passed, you can poke your head out again. If you want a really brilliant variation, make it a rule that you can only listen for cars, not watch. This guarantees a little shut-eye for you while you play.

I'm the Baby, You're the Mom: You can't walk or talk, all you can do is recline on the couch and have your kids feed you a pretend bottle and rub your forehead and sing you lullabies. Their goal is to get their "baby" down for her nap. Let them succeed.

Sleeping Monster: You sit in a chair or on the couch and close your eyes (see how good I am about this closed eyes thing?). Your children have to muster enough courage to come close to the sleeping monster and risk waking her up. When they are very close, open your eyes and tickle whoever you can grab. You are not allowed to run after them, you can only tickle the ones you can reach from your sitting position. Repeat until someone wets their pants, then send them to Dad.

Tickle Monster: A close cousin of the Sleeping Monster, the Tickle Monster sits perfectly still in a chair with two arms. One child decides to sit in the "comfy looking chair" they have found. When they sit on your lap, you suddenly come to life and start tickling them. As soon as they fall out of the chair, you go back into statue mode (closed eyes optional).

Speed Bump: You lie on the floor and pretend to be a speed bump that your race car children must navigate as they crawl around the room. I recommend lying on your stomach for this one so you don't get the breath knocked out of you by an errant knee. Also, the face-down position will mostly hide the fact that your eyes are, yet again, closed.

Dead Man: You pretend to be dead while all your little doctors work to revive you. A word of caution - keep your lips tightly closed, as you never know what they'll decide to use for "medicine". Of course, this game requires that every few minutes you actually do revive, but then you can quickly have a relapse, and the fun begins all over again.

I am suddenly starting to feel some shame for how quickly these games are coming to me. It only took me about four minutes to list those six games, and I'm pretty sure I could come up with several more, if only I wasn't so doggone tired right now.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What Exactly is Currant Pie?

Red currants...don't they look delicious? If anyone knows how to grow these delightful little berries in Arizona, you'll have to let me know.

I grew up in Michigan, and it seems like everything under the sun grew in our backyard. At least 3 varieties of apples, plus peaches, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, innumerable veggies, and of course, maybe, currants.

Mostly I have painful memories of all this largesse. Picking peas, putting them in a sack. Shelling peas, and putting them in another sack. Washing the peas, and putting them in yet another sack, bound for the freezer. Actually, it wasn't so bad. I put a pound of peas in my stomach for every pint I put in the sack, and to this day I only eat raw peas. I detest cooked peas. I was brainwashed at an early age. Only the freshest for me, please.

I also remember picking raspberries and eating them out of my hand, sometimes getting a stinkbug in the mix but not realizing it until it had already been squished between my molars, which is so GROSS to remember that I can hardly ever think about it.

I have vivid memories of picking (and eating) pretty much every single thing we grew. Except currants. And that's so funny, because I remember currant pie as being my absolute favorite kind of pie. A kind of pie that I haven't tasted since I moved to AZ when I was 12, but that I dream about every third Thursday from 1:00-1:20 a.m. (which totally explains the drool on my pillow). Currant pie, to me, is childhood, easy-growing gardens, family and not caring how many calories are in a slice.

I named my blog after this elusive memory. Where did it come from? Dad? Did we grow currants in Michigan? If so, why don't I remember picking them? Unlike every other edibility we had, I only remember eating them. Maybe I've blotted the work from my memory so I don't taint the deliciousness of it all. Kind of like writing. Until the moment I sit down to do it, I'm pretty sure there isn't a shred of even a single idea in my head, and I dread the work of it. Then I sit down, and poof! I find the work is delicious to me, and the rest is all forgotten.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Two Friends

Sometimes I feel myself going through life lurching from activity to activity, as if busy-ness itself were keeping me upright, rather than any particular will to live. Not that I lack the will to live, just that I forget the purpose in it sometimes.

Today two friends woke me up by doing me a service so great and so inherently risky that it was both wholly unexpected and completely endearing.

They took something I love (to despair sometimes), and wrestled it upright and gave it a moment of success, a moment of meaning that meant a great deal to me, too. It was an assist that I didn't even realize I needed until I got it, when the sense I had of gasping for air after being under water too long made me realize how necessary it truly was.

I know I'm being vague. Forgive me for that, but some things are too personal even for a half-baked blog!

Service is the handmaiden of charity, the pure love of Christ. When you give it, it changes your life. When you receive it, it changes your heart.

Thank you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My People Pleasing Disorder

The time has come for me to make an important disclosure on this blog. I was born with PPD - People Pleasing Disorder. For those of you who aren't familiar with PPD, it is a very serious disorder characterized by excessively pretending to like things you don't really like and the strict avoidance of any and all strong opinions, except those that happen to mirror the opinions of the people you're with at the moment.

My life has been marred by several unfortunate flare-ups of my disease. For example, in the throes of a romantic high-school courtship with my now-husband, I wrote the following statements in my journal:

"I went to prom with J. It was so fun! He really likes to fast dance, which is so cool, because I totally love to fast dance but none of my other dates ever want to."

"I played sand volleyball last night with J. It is like the funnest sport ever! I can't wait to do it again."

Let me be perfectly clear here - both of those statements are boldfaced lies. In addition to PPD, I was also born with a certain lack of coordination, making fast dancing and sand volleyball two things I should never do. And that's not just me saying that, I've heard it from several other people as well. But, I was so anxious to please J that I had convinced even myself that these were activities I loved.

My ever supportive sister says that we're all like that when we're in love. Well, then, I must be in love with her, because I hide my O Magazine every time she comes over, since I know very well that she disdains Oprah as a regular old talk show host cleverly disguised as a moral compass for the world. (I like all the book reviews in the magazine).

Please make a note of how I felt I had to defend myself at the end of that last paragraph. If that is not an indication of the advanced state of my disease, I don't know what is.

Another indication of my sickness is that I have no favorite anythings. Truly. No favorite food, color, musical artist or author. This is likely the result of my many years of practice in having only the same opinions as those around me. I've actually made up a favorite color over the years, simply because people expect you to have one. It pleases them. I say yellow. But, I enjoy orange, blue and green equally as much as yellow, so, whatever.

Since I rarely have the courage to say my real opinions in public (the few that I've formed, anyway), here is a short list that you can print and keep in your wallet for handy reference:


Oh, poop, I couldn't think of any.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I'm happy to say...

that my last electric bill was under $300. Good-bye summer, I will not miss you (for those of you who miss summer a LOT when you are snowed in, note that I live in melt-in-your-hand Arizona, where there is no winter).

that my son FINALLY got to play in a football game (8 downs, a new family record)

that my YA novel rough draft is done, done, done. Emphasis on rough. Bigger emphasis on DONE!

that I accidentally forgot to lock the back door last night and I was neither robbed nor murdered in my sleep.

that my mom is bringing dinner over tonight, just to be nice. I'm not even sick. Moms rock!

that I scored a full-size sample of Olay Pro-X, so I can finally get crackin' on those wrinkles.

that I got a "maybe" from LDS Living on one of my article queries. I query them almost every month, and usually they just say no, so now I'm as excited as a hillbilly with a pile of fermenting apples. (That was just my way of showing LDS Living how great I am with similes)

that I just found out that the singular form of parentheses is parenthesis. That will definitely come in handy if I ever have to write an English textbook.

that all (6) of my loyal readers will soon be getting Blogger identities so they can start leaving me comments, because Connie, Signe and Melissa are getting typist's cramp. They are also getting better Christmas gifts from me than all y'all. (that was a sample of my ability to write from a broad perspective of cultural mores)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Compensating Blessings

Last year I listened as a church leader taught the principle of compensation. He said, “The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.”

His talk caused me to reflect on my own compensating blessings, and how I first learned to look for them.

My husband’s battle with chronic pain has, for most of our marriage, made it difficult for him to take the leadership role that he would like to in our family. I try to compensate for that, but at times the burden of providing for our children financially, spiritually and emotionally has threatened to overwhelm me.

I particularly remember a time when I was drowning in self-pity. A difficult change in medication had rendered my husband temporarily unable to watch our toddler while I was at work, and so each morning I shuttled her to the homes of various church members who had volunteered to look after her for me.

I was miserable as I dropped my little girl off each morning. I felt like I was surrounded by happy homemakers, each of whom seemed blessed with the time to nurture not only their own children, but mine as well. It seemed so unfair.

One kind sister was able to change my perspective. Dropping my daughter off to her on a Monday morning, she remarked out of the blue that all of my children seemed to have been blessed with an unusually strong faith, and perhaps that was a reflection of the considerable amount of time they spent praying for their dad.

Tears sprang to my eyes as I recognized the truth of what she was saying. I drove off to work, my mind filling with thoughts of the many compensating blessings I had received, not the least of which was the loving bond I was developing with the church members who were always so willing to offer me service and encouragement. I had also recently been blessed with a new job, working for a company that was far more family-friendly than my previous employer had been. Many other blessings filled my mind as I drove.

Since then, although the basic circumstances of my life remain unchanged, it has been easier for me to focus on what I have that is good, instead of what I feel like I am missing out on. How grateful I am for the seed of hope a friend planted in me that day, and for the many compensating blessings our Heavenly Father gives us during difficult times.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Six Best Words

I know you can picture it. You're in the checkout line at the grocery store with your 3-year-old when he spots the foot long Nerds rope. He has to have it. It is the most glorious item he has ever seen, and he can't possibly live one minute longer without it. He tells you this using that very toddler-specific language of shrieking. The particular kind of shriek that suddenly makes every other adult's private thoughts appear in a bubble above their heads. The bubbles say: "What a brat." "I can't believe she lets her kid act that way." "Get that snot-nosed ankle biter out of here!" Some bubble thoughts are much worse than that and cannot be recreated here.

You think you have outgrown that phase with your 7-year-old. But then Halloween comes, and you are at Target, and suddenly the angel costume you already have in the closet at home from years past will not do. It has to be Hannah Montana, full-on with the wig and fake mic and everything. You also find out that, to make the outfit complete, you will have to dress up as a backup singer and follow Hannah around the neighborhood singing harmony to "Best of Both Worlds". Your sweet 7-year-old loses any concept of how to leave a store with some composure. Not so much shrieking this time, but plenty of sobbing. Pretty much the same bubble thoughts spring up all around you.

Surely teenagers have more self-control, right? (My older sisters are laughing out loud right now). Okay, we can get through the candy aisle without too much trouble, and Halloween costumes are no longer cool, but please don't let me happen to pass Electronics with my teenager in tow. No shrieks or sobs, just a certain kind of glare that tells me I am definitely the worst mom in the history of the world if I don't break open my pocketbook, and quick.

Luckily, a miracle occurred in my life several years ago, at a time when I'd completely had it with all those checkout lane showdowns. I somehow stumbled onto the six best words in the annals of parenting: "I'll keep it in my mind". If it is close to my child's birthday, I say, "Wow, that is a really great toy. I'll keep it in my mind for your birthday." If it's closer to Christmas, I say the same thing, replacing birthday with Christmas.

The best part - my kids believe me. The only time I've ever had a problem with it was on that Target shopping trip last year. Don't get me wrong, I tried. But somehow, "Wow, that is a really great Hannah Montana costume. I'll keep it in my mind for Christmas," just didn't cut it.

What works for you? If you have a great tip, you can be sure that I'll keep it in my mind. After all, I've had lots of practice!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

High School Football From a Mom's Perspective

Training, Day 1: "Okay, honey, I washed and pressed your practice uniform. Try not to get it too dirty, k? And don't get hurt!"

Training, Day 7: "The most essential thing I must accomplish today is to put together a carpool. These 5:30 a.m. practices are killing me!" Insert sarcastic comment from teenage son here about who these practices are really killing.

Training, Day 14: "You have to sell how many fundraising coupon cards? 15?! What, the $400 we already gave the school for the privilege of summer weight training and football camp isn't enough to get you guys through a season? Geez louise."

Training, Day 21: "A white t-shirt? You don't have any white t-shirts. I have given up trying to make your t-shirts white. Coach will just have to live with you showing up in a brown and green streaked formerly white t-shirt. You're lucky I still wash them at all."

1st game of the season: "Yeah, buddy, I'll be there. So will Dad, 2 sets of grandparents, 3 aunts, 2 uncles and one neighbor twice removed. By the way, you look so super cute in your uniform!" Inject a gagging noise from teenage son here.

2nd game of the season: "Umm, yeah, I'm coming. Is the coach thinking of letting you play this time? Well, can you ask him exactly when? If I come at halftime I get in free."

3rd game of the season: "Okay, well, I for one am glad you never get to play. I don't have the money for crutches and casts and things anyway."

4th game of the season: "No, he didn't get to play, but did I tell you he has straight A's?"

5th game of the season: Note to self - post ad on Craigslist to sell 2 stadium seats, 3 fundraising coupon cards, and 27 used-to-be-white t-shirts. I can't wait for track season.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Voluntary Simplicity?

Why does it feel so good to be cheap? Today I put a ham and bean soup in the crockpot to cook while we were at church. At lunchtime, as we sat around breathing the steam and eating our fill, I kept experiencing this strange sensation of fulfillment. I tried to pinpoint exactly what it was that was making feel such a glow. Having the whole family together at the dinner table? My semi-successful day at church with the children I work with? The fact that I actually planned a meal in advance? No - it turns out that the root of my feelings came from feeling really good about getting every last bit of meat off of that ham slab I bought last week. I realized I was mentally adding up the cost of the meal for my family of 6, and let me just say - 5 Dollar Dinner lady? Not so impressive anymore, are you?

I recently read an article about the exploits of a family that decided to stop shopping for a year. They vowed to only buy depletable resources such as groceries and gasoline, and forego absolutely all unnecessary purchases. They claim to have saved over $10,000 in one year. Sounds pretty good right? Well, here's how they saved that much money, and how you and I could too:

First, they opted NOT to buy a flat screen TV that year. So, if you were planning on doing that this year, just change your mind and watch your savings rack up!

Second, they stopped eating out at restaurants. That's going to be a little hard for me to do, because unless you count Sonic as a restaurant, I can't remember the last time I went to one. I think it was my company's Christmas party last December. Of course, the wife in the article didn't find it that hard to give up eating out, because her husband decided to start doing all of the cooking, and apparently he's pretty good. I'll say.

Finally, they quit buying clothes at The Gap and Macy's, saving a couple thousand that way. I guess I could stop dreaming about shopping at the Gap and see if that helps at all.

What helped this poor family survive the year? Well, mostly presents and gift cards from friends and family who couldn't bear to see their suffering.

Okay, that last bit may have sounded a little catty. I'm just saying, it's all well and good for a pair of dual-income doctor/lawyers to cut back a little, and then make a bunch of money by writing about it and going on Oprah. But what I'd really like to see is an article about someone who surmounts some actual problems. Let's read about the single mom with $15 in her pocket trying to buy a week's groceries for her family of five. Or how about a family that has to choose between picking up a prescription or paying the heating bill? How about all those people working three part-time jobs trying to get by when their unemployment runs out and they still haven't found a job to replace the one they lost? These people I could actually learn something from.

And I have a suggestion for them, too, like a filling dinner of ham and bean soup. Warms the tummy, warms the soul... (and can stretch for two meals if you double the amount of water you use).

Monday, September 14, 2009

I Should Be Sleeping

Instead of sleeping this week, I:

* Worked on my math skills by trying to figure out how much baking powder I should have in my food storage if I need 18 TBS + 5.75 tsp and I have 8 oz already on hand (please don't ask me what I came up with...I'm still waiting for the Homework Helpline to get back to me on that one)

* Made a list of all the things I do in a month, and since the list wasn't very long I pretended like it was a list of things I do in a day. Spent a few minutes feeling really good about myself for my accomplishments.

* Actively pursued a missing black sock on laundry day, since my boys only have one pair of Sunday socks each. Because my search was unsuccessful, TLC had to wear navy blue soccer socks to church instead. Unfortunately, his suit pants (black) are also about a 1/2 inch too short. And those thick socks made it pretty hard to cram those dress shoes on his feet. Note to self: go to Walmart before next Sunday and put the poor kid out of his misery.

* Laughed about the time my oldest son was four and my sister caught me stashing his outgrown underwear in my cedar chest to pass down to son #2. Hey, I washed them first! Sister says there are some things kids should not have to share.

* Fought a good fight with my hair, but lost anyway. Straight in the front, curly in the back - what did I do to deserve this?

* Helped D-Dawg with his homework. I didn't do it - I just typed it. Because I felt sorry for him. Because he'd been at football practice all afternoon and was tired and cranky and it was coming up on 11 p.m. Perhaps I will admit to making some slight editorial changes as I typed.

* Worked on training my kids to do their chores properly after I noticed TLC had mowed something resembling the face of a cat into our front lawn. I explained to him that front lawns are traditionally mowed in straight lines, with the grass being cut to uniform size throughout. He mumbled something about stifling his creativity and went back out to mow again.

* Got hubby ready for his first ever daddy-daughter campout. I learned that I should have packed more spare clothes for the girls, and he learned that when you take a little girl potty out in nature, it's best to just completely undress her bottom half, including shoes.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Letter to You From Heaven

Dear little one,

It seems that you are having a problem with perspective. You close each day, with its never ending list of things to do, realizing with disappointment in yourself that you don't think you spent even close to enough time loving your kids...that you made it to work and basketball practice and the grocery store and got the dishes done, but didn't spend one minute sitting on the couch snuggling and reading. And in your perceived inability to have enough of yourself to care for your few little ones, you wonder how I could care for you, amidst the many. Especially when you feel that you must be among the least - least valiant, least trustworthy, perhaps a huge disappointment so far. Your life, like your day, has not gone at all how you meant for it to go.

But that's only because the veil has clouded your eyes and you no longer have an eternal perspective of what "your life" really means. Your few years on the earth are not "your life". They are not even one day in your true life, your eternal life. But they are all you see, and so you weep. Would you like to know what I see?

I see a beautiful daughter of God, dressed in white, moving among the hosts of heaven, trying through the power of love to move the hearts of her rebellious brothers and sisters. You were so intent, even if you could just save one...I noticed you then, and I loved you for it.

I see you, still in your premortal existence, faithfully fulfilling your calling to prepare those who were leaving for their second estate. You always smiled and said, "Remember who you are!" Do you remember? Do you know, can you feel, can you accept who you are?

I see your earth-journey, and yes, I have seen your mistakes and wept with you over them. There are many who begin and end their lives with such weeping, but you are not one of them - your life is not over! Like the tide smooths out the dips and valleys made by careless feet in the sand, my Atonement has washed over your life and filled it all in - the gaping wounds, the dents, the small nicks. Now wash out the sand that remains in your eyes, and follow me, for you are mine. I have loved you from the beginning, and you are one of my masterful creations! Within you lies great compassion and desires to serve. Your spirit remembers, if your mind does not, the purposes you served for me before, and it longs once again to lift up the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees. It is not too late! In fact, it is still very early, and you have a great work to perform, and I entrust that work to you, and I trust you still to do it.

Love your children, love your husband, speak words of kindness in all situations. Love is that great quality that allows you to be like me. Give it in great abundance and you will find the joy and the closeness to me and my spirit that you seek.

I love you. When you think that I am not there, it is only because, like Mary of old, you have mistaken me for something more common, like a gardener. At those times, listen for your name. I know it, like I knew Mary's, and I will speak it, and you will recognize my voice. I don't leave, I don't get distracted. I am always the stronger of the forces at work in your life, and I have protected you from many things that you are not even aware of. There is great rejoicing over you in heaven, for you are loved by many.

I will see you soon. Until then, let your soul be still and let your body be engaged in doing much good, and you will have a place with me in heaven.

your Elder brother, Jesus

Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's All About Pop-U-Lar

More signs that I am not popular:

1. The t-shirt my mom got me in Nashville that says "Not Popular"

2. Even the missionaries and Jehovah's Witnesses don't knock on my door.

3. My 4-year-old daughter has as many blog followers as I do.

4. The ladies I work with at church keep giving me fake addresses so they can have meetings without me.

5. I've started to enjoy a certain companionable silence with the ants that are out by my pool.

6. I left my diary sitting out in the open and nobody wanted to read it.

7. Nobody in this whole wide world has named a baby after me. Hizzigrelda happens to be a wonderful name, and really, it could work for a boy or a girl, so there's no excuse.

8. I played hide and seek with my kids Saturday morning and nobody came to find me until they got hungry for dinner.

9. I feel left out when my foot falls asleep without the rest of me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

World Domination

If you will kindly take a moment to scroll down to the bottom of this page and look at my ClusterMap on the left hand side, you will get a lot more out of this post.

Having scrolled down as directed, I'm sure you can see that I have many friends, indicated by the numerous red dots on my ClusterMap. While I love my American friends, I have been particularly delighted to see that I have also acquired friends in Australia, Saudi Arabia, Russia and England. And if you think I had to Google a world map to identify those countries marked by my red dots, you're wrong. I used Yahoo. So, to my new international friends I say: G'day, marhaba, привет, and hello. And I also say, this post is taking a lot longer to write than usual, since I have to keep looking things up.

I'm guessing you're not all that surprised that word of my dry wit and robust writing style has leaked across the oceans, but we musn't ignore that possiblity that my international friends stumbled upon my blog by accident and have no intention of ever coming back.

Yeah, right! That was just a joke. Of course it was my writing, duh!

So, dear international friends, declare yourselves and your intentions. Are you fair weather friends who only visit once, or will you be around through thick and thin, which is an American idiom meaning through foul weather or fair, which is another idiom meaning never, ever leave me...I am desperate for your friendship. I hereby swear that if you continue your faithful readership I will include more proper language in future posts, dear English friend. I will dress in my most modest attire when writing, in deference to my esteemed colleague from Saudi Arabia. I will immediately throw some shrimp on the barby for my Aussie mate. And finally, I will knit a pair of extra warm mittens to send to my Russian compatriot (just as soon as I learn to knit and update the prescription on my glasses so I can see to do so. Cataracts.)

To my 5 regular readers from Arizona (all of whom are related to me, btw): this is a great service opportunity for you. All you have to do is write a rough draft of a nice comment for me, then look online to translate your comment into another language, then post it to make me think that I am, in fact, on my way to world blogging domination, as well as perhaps the world's longest run-on sentence.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Memory Faileth Me...

...which is not surprising, since my "About Me" paragraph reveals that I am 98 years old. This is the story I told at a recent gathering with my extended family:

"Did you guys know that when we lived out in the boonies I found a rattlesnake curled up outside the front door one morning? The kids were scared to death, and so was I, but I had to do something, so I got a shovel and whacked it's head right off..."

At this point in the story Hubby peers in my direction with a quizzical look on his face. "Did you just say that you killed that rattlesnake?"

"Yeah, don't you remember it?"

"I remember it alright. I remember it because I killed it."

I mulled that one over for a minute, until I realized that he was right. It was all coming back to me now - how I cowered inside with the kids while Hubby killed the snake.

How weird. I totally thought it was me.

I wonder what other fiction my mind has made up.

With that in mind, I've decided to forgive the following unfortunate incidents, just in case they never really happened:

1. The day Hubby taped over the birth of our son with an episode of Ellen
2. All the times my so-called "friends" FORCED me onto roller coasters, even though they know I am afraid of heights. They always convince me it will be fun, but it never is.
3. The first time my oldest child said, "Mom, don't do that in public"
4. The day my brother-in-law played his wedding video at a family gathering and kept rewinding to the scene where I attempt the booty shake, giving everyone a jolly laugh at my expense.
5. The time that Deal or No Deal passed on me as a contestant even though I left my 4-year-old daughter in the hospital in order to keep a video-conference-call appointment with them. Hey, I'm not proud of it, it's just something that happened.
6. The doctor who made me wear a neck brace to school for three days (in junior high!) before he called my parents and said, never mind, I didn't need it after all.

It's going to be hard to think of what to do with all the time I have on my hands now that I'm not nursing all these grudges anymore. I guess I could always make up some new memories.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Debunking a Myth

All my life I've been told to keep a notebook by my bed so I can write down all the great ideas that come to me at night. Apparently, 98.3% of all genius inventions, best-selling novels and delicious new recipes come to people in the dead of night, when their subconscious is busy being way smarter and more creative than their conscious self ever could.

I've been keeping a night notebook for several years now, maybe a few months, or like a week, and I think I have some real winners so far:

Idea #1: Create a cell phone application that allows calorie conscious folks to weigh their meat before they eat it to make sure it's the appropriate 3 oz. I realize that this involves putting raw meat on the face of your cell phone, but it's worth the risk. Besides, who has room on their kitchen counter for those pesky little scales?

Idea #2: Illegible

Idea #3: Bring back the Swatch watch. I realize kids these days don't wear watches anymore, what with the cell phones and all, but it's time for a comeback. Besides, I'm still bitter that I never had one when I was a teenager, so this is my chance to work through those emotions.

Idea #4: Become a ghost hunter, helping people rid their houses of spooky apparitions. I'm pretty sure this one came to me on a Friday night after a particularly absorbing episode of Ghost Whisperer. Of course, I used to pee my pants just playing hide-n-seek, but I'm pretty sure I've outgrown that since it last happened. I mean, that was way back in December.

Idea #5: Make and sell my parents' homemade diaper rash cream. I would tell you what it is, but the recipe is top secret and we may file for a patent. Not too many people can say they're in the business of healing butts, so this idea is really at the top of my list. Actually, my sister thought of this idea, but the memory of her telling me has become so fuzzy that it's as if I dreamt it, so I assume I own the rights to the plan now.

There are quite a few more ideas in my notebook, each one as compelling as those listed above. I guess I'm just wondering, though - if my subconscious really is smarter and more creative than my conscious self, do I really have anything else to look forward to in my life?

I think I'll put an end to it all by mixing up a lethal combination of Pop Rocks and soda.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

6 Words or Less

This year in groups of six:

Been through 3 vacuums so far

Kicked addiction to spider solitaire...sorta

Football stinks. Carpooling at 5:30 am

Can't dive, still plug my nose

Writing Group is obviously not helping

Wrote iphone app - a whoopee cushion

Didn't spank kids, but wanted to

Working from home - new co-workers loud

Bought PedEgg, need to use it

Writer's block caused this lame blog

Next post better, on my honor

At least you know I can count

oh, whoops

P.S. There were 11 truths in this post and 1 untruth. It's up to you to discover which one isn't true.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

My sweet spouse used to have an addiction to the Home Shopping Network. I say "used to" because he recently signed up for a 'Break Your Shopping Addiction' self-help book of the month club, for the ridiculously low price of only $19.95 per month. I think it's really helping. I mean, I used to be on a first name basis with our UPS lady (Gregorina Estella), but now she doesn't even wave when she drives by. It's like she doesn't even care about our friendship anymore.

The truth is, no boxes from HSN have arrived at our house for over a year, so hubby doesn't deserve my teasing, but there you have it. A girl has to blog about something, and today that something is Tattooage. (Pronounced tattoo-ahj). Tattooage is a form of wall decor - basically large stickers that you put on your wall to create your own special mural. I have never wanted tattooage or been tempted by the tattooage specials on HSN. Nevertheless, for Christmas 2007 I received a large box of it. Imagine my delighted surprise when I opened a box full of Tattooage monkeys, palm trees and vines. Why hadn't I thought to put that on my Christmas list in the first place?

Unfortunately, I could never decide whether to display my monkeys in the dining room or the formal living room, so I just taped the box back up and stashed it on a shelf in my son's closet. For safekeeping. While I decided where to use it.

Fast forward to Christmas 2008. Hubby is rummaging through the house, and up in my son's closet he finds a large box of unopened Tattooage. "Oh," he berates himself, "how could I have forgotten to give my sweetie her best present of all last year?" You can guess where this is going, but for suspense imagine some spine-tingling music playing in the background right now.

Christmas Day 2008 - imagine my delighted surprise when I, yet again, open a large box of Tattooage. "Do you like it?" hubby asks.

"Of course, " I say sweetly. "I also liked it last year when you gave me this same thing."

Okay, this is "Hubby", and I've had enough. She did not say anything 'sweetly' when she opened that box. She fell off the couch laughing and said, "I didn't want this last year when you gave it to me, and I still don't want it!" But did she throw it away? No! She put it right back up in the closet, secretly hoping, I'm sure, that I'll give it to her again this year.

We agree on one thing, at least. Tattooage could end up being a real money saver for our family. Thank you, HSN.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Spam It Up

I've noticed that a lot of bloggers do giveaways. I've also noticed that a lot of bloggers post photos on their blogs. Today I am killing two birds with one stone.

I have a thorn in my side, and it is this can of Spam. It has been in my "pantry" (which is really just a glorified cupboard and the bane of my existence) for, well, a long time. Happily, I still have 23 more years until it expires.

I have no idea how it came to be in my possession. I'm pretty sure I didn't buy it. All I know is, every night when I open the cupboard to figure out what to make for dinner, there it is. Staring at me, hope in its little metal eyes, thinking, "Maybe tonight is the night that she will choose me." It's starting to creep me out.

Plus, I do feel sorry for the little guy. I mean, how would you feel if someone stole your name and made it synonymous with the most vile and hated form of e-mail around? It's the same as if your mom would have named you Emo. (Not that there's anything wrong with being Emo, it's just not that great as a first name).

I have tried to think of something to do with my can of Spam, but I'm drawing a blank. There is nothing related to Spam in my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. Of course, my new favorite place to go for recipes is my sister-i-l Connie's awesome blog (you can click through from My Blog List). This is because I once made her sweet and sour pork and all six people in my family liked it, which never happens. And while she has lots of delicious recipes on her blog, there are none (yet) for Spam, so I'm still stuck.

So finally I get to the giveaway part. Leave me a comment with your best (edible) idea on how I can use my can of Spam. The best recipe will win - you guessed it - their very own can of Spam, plus a collection of the 3+ recipes I may or may not receive. (I promise to buy you a fresh can and not send you the old one from my cupboard).

The winner will be chosen based on scores in three different categories: 1) Does the recipe involve Spam? Score 100,000,000 points if it does, zero if it does not. 2) Is the recipe edible? Score 18,000 if yes, zero if no. 3) Which recipe does the writer of this blog randomly think is the best? Score 2 if I choose yours, and 1 if I do not.

P.S. Did you like my photo?

P.P.S. Don't forget to comment with your recipe!

Monday, July 6, 2009

DST, It's All The Rage

Husbands, wives, take note: I have created a remarkable solution to all of your marital conflict. Not that you have any. I know most homes are filled with mainly peace and love, but just on the off-chance...

Statistically speaking, what causes the most discord in a marriage? Money, work, children? Wrong! It's snuggling, the age old conflict: one spouse likes to snuggle and the other does not.

This issue came to my attention when I was counseling two unnamed individuals recently. Let's just call them Indycay and Eansay for simplicity's sake. And no, I am not a professional counselor, but that doesn't seem to stop people from seeking my sage advice at no cost to themselves.

Indycay told me that she is a snuggler and Eansay is not. Neither would budge from their position. Eansay gave Indycay the nostril flare of total rejection. Indycay responded by sighing forcefully through her nose, an ancient Tibetan insult. A ferocious fight soon ensued with insults like "You non-snuggler!" and "You snuggle freak!" being flung around. It was very sad. I knew I must put an immediate stop to it.

So, I did what any good counselor would do. I powered up my laptop and Googled 'snuggling' to see what kind of advice I could find. Unfortunately, my web filter blocked me from viewing any of the content that came up. (I have a very strong filter. It also blocks me from Ebay and Amazon, but I believe my husband may have manually added those to the block list. That's a fight for another day).

Since I could get no help from the internet, I decided to use good old-fashioned brain power to come up with a solution, and that is just what I did. My solution was so good that I trademarked it immediately. Sure, that caused a little delay in my counseling with Indycay and Eansay, but the royalties will be worth it. My solution is called DST (imagine a tiny TM after that, because I can't figure out how to insert those little characters). DST stands for Designated Snuggle Time. It means that you designate ten minutes before bed to snuggle, and then you are free to turn your back and start snoring with no recriminations. Genius!

Indycay and Eansay have been using DST for two days now, and I've noticed a marked improvement in their relationship. For example, Indycay has stopped posting photos of Eansay popping his zits on YouTube, and Eansay has begun calling Indycay by her real name instead of 'Spawn of the Devil'. I feel pretty good about that.

(With my apologies to all the REAL counselors out there. Ummm, and Indycay and Eansay)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fame and Misfortune

Well, you'll soon be seeing my picture on the news, and it's not for the reason you think. (What do you think?) I'm guessing I'll soon be famous for setting a record for most library books checked out at once. I just checked my account online, and right now I have 47 books checked out. I'm pretty much the most devoted library patron ever. On the downside, that's 47 chances that I'm going to lose a library book, which is not totally unheard of at my house.

We lost a library book last year that we never found. It was one of those Easy Readers for kids who are just learning to sound out words. I can't remember what it was called, but it was something like Run Bun Sun, I'm sure. Or Scat Rat Cat, or Bug Jug Hug, you get the idea. Anyway, the thing was about 6 pages long and as thin as a sheet of construction paper. Now, really! Should libraries even be allowed to lend out books as small as that? That little micro-book was just begging to be lost!

Sure enough, that's exactly what we did. My late fees starting piling up to the ceiling, and I was looking everywhere for it. Do you know how many places a book the width of a CD could be hiding? With the CDs, for one. Behind the toilet, under the living room rug, in the flour barrel (yes, I have a flour barrel). It could be wedged in a recipe book. Good heavens, I would never find it there! I make all my dishes from memory. Spaghetti, tacos, pancakes. That's it. Just those three. I rotate them, though, so it's not like we're eating the same thing every night.

Eventually I went to the library to confess that I could not find the book. Before I went, I practiced getting tears to well up in my eyes while declaring that the $37.90 I now owed in late fees was more than my meager budget could handle. I wore my most bedraggled outfit (coincidentally, the same one I wear each time I blog and/or make spaghetti) and blacked out a tooth with a Sharpie. I approached the librarian with a look of abject humility and surrender, and told her I had lost a book and couldn't find it and would have to either pay for it, or legally change my name and take out a new library card with no late fees on it.

She looked at me somewhat askance, as all librarians look at people who are book-losers, and told me that the cost to replace the book was $1.97. The sun broke out of the clouds as I turned my face toward heaven. Hurray for skinny books! She even told me that if I would pay to replace the book she would waive my late fees. Obviously not a financial wizard, but I didn't argue with her. I'll let the library's board of directors handle that one.

So, now my card is free of late fees and my conscience is free of Run Sun Bun, or whatever it was. However, if you are ever at my house and you see one of 47 other books lying around, let me know.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Caryn sat in Biology and wondered why she was so unlucky. Today was the day Mr. Thomas was pairing his students up as lab partners for their dissection project, and Caryn had been planning for it all week. In addition to crossing her fingers that she'd be paired with Wyatt, she'd also planned her outfit and shaved her legs, just in case Wyatt happened to brush up against her, in a scientific manner, of course.

He was just so hot! And she would know. She spent an hour everyday sitting behind him in Biology with nothing better to do than study the way his neck and shoulder muscles shifted and curved when he bent over his notebook or leaned back in his chair to stretch. She found herself constantly fighting the temptation to lean forward and run her fingernails across his broad back.

She'd planned to wear green. With her strawberry blonde hair being more strawberry than blonde, she was one of the few girls in school who could really pull off green. Not being a natural knock-out, Caryn had learned to work with what she had. And great hair was one thing she had.

So, she'd come to school in a jewel green top and her skinny black pants, hair straightened, then curled at the ends only, then glossed, and finally, sprayed. Possibly she'd also sprayed the rest of herself with Tickle, The New Body Fragrance for Women, in the girls' bathroom earlier. She was hoping the exotic notes of jasmine and sandalwood mentioned on the label would prove to be irresistible. All in preparation for dissecting a frog. With Wyatt, of course.

But wouldn't you know it, Wyatt had walked in late today, after the pairings had already been made, and Mr. Thomas had shooed him over to the team closest to his desk, which was now a threesome - Jacie, Meghan, and now Wyatt. That was a sight that made Caryn's stomach churn. The star running back flanked by two adoring female cheerleaders. Caryn glowered at the back of Jacie's head as she laid a hand on Wyatt's forearm, her little silvery laugh carrying to the back of the room, where Caryn was stuck working with Ian and wondering why she was so unlucky.

She tore her gaze away from Jacie and Wyatt long enough to glance briefly at Ian, then immediately regretted the action when she saw him vigorously scratching the inside of his ear with his pinkie.

"Gross!" she muttered under her breath, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms in front of her. Ian reminded her of Shaggy in the Scooby-Doo cartoon. A little too tall, a little too skinny, and a lot too immature. As if to prove her point, Ian looked over just then and saw that she'd caught him overhauling his ear, but just grinned like he could care less. "Want some?" he asked, waving the pinkie in her direction and actually brushing the sleeve of her shirt with it in the process.

"Gross! Get away from me, you heinous pig!" Caryn screamed, jumping out of her chair and toppling over the tray with the dead frog in it at the same time. The whole class burst out laughing, and Ian laughed along as he picked their frog up off the floor and made a big show out of dusting it off and making sure it wasn't hurt. Caryn, in the meantime, stalked over to Mr. Thomas, demanding an immediate partner change. The last thing she needed was an earwax stain on her jewel green top, for the love of Pete.

Too busy, or too weary, to care, Mr. Thomas quickly gave in. "Fine," he said, barely looking up from the stack of papers he was grading.

"Wyatt's group has three people," Caryn added helpfully.

Mr. Thomas glanced over at them. "Great," he said, more loudly this time. "Jacie, you're with Caryn now. Ian, join Wyatt's group over here."

Caryn mentally groaned as Jacie sent her a look that would chill a Flamin' Hot Cheeto. This day was not looking so good, and it was only 2nd hour.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Miss Appleton

Shirley Appleton woke up and stretched. Her alarm clock was chirping with the sounds of KGLD, the local golden oldies station.
It was exactly 6:00 a.m., and it was Tuesday, which meant it would be a good day.
"Rockin' robin, tweet, tweet, tweet," Shirley sang along softly as she sat up and gingerly stretched first her legs, then her neck, then her back.
She certainly couldn't bounce out of bed the way she had when she was a youngster, but she was happy to be getting up with a purpose. Tuesday and Thursday were the days she volunteered at Madison Jr. High, and the semi-weekly interaction with the staff and students kept her feeling young at heart.
Making her way to the kitchen, Shirley noted that the crack in the linoleum by the fridge had become more pronounced. Oh, well. She put the observation into the back of her mind while she stirred up a pot of oatmeal on the stove, and thought instead about what her task might be at the school that day. Sometimes she worked in the office, and that was her favorite. As she filed and sorted mail she could listen in on the conversations of the students as they wandered by or stopped in with their tardy slips.
The bookstore was another place she regularly worked, usually in the company of a student aide. The bookstore was a little less lively, and therefore not her first choice, but she did enjoy getting to know the students she worked with.
Less frequently she was asked to help individual teachers in their classrooms, usually during their prep period, putting up bulletin boards or whittling down the endless piles of papers to be graded.
A former English teacher herself, Shirley could be counted on to help in any way, and to complete her tasks with accuracy and attention to detail.
She smiled contentedly as she sprinkled a little brown sugar over the sticky mound of oatmeal in her bowl.
"Maybe a little cream today," she thought to herself. "After all, it is a Tuesday."

* * * * * *
Wyatt groaned, looking up from the cash register and out the window that separated the bookstore from the hallway beyond it.
"What?" Jenna asked, turning from the t-shirts she was straightening.
"It's Miss Appleton," Wyatt said.
"So, we can't have any fun when she's here. 'Everything must be ship-shape,'" he mimicked.
Jenna giggled. "Poor baby, can't hang keychains from your ears or build mechanical pencil teepees today."
"Hey, I've got to pass the time somehow," he said, rolling up the sleeve of his t-shirt and examining his right bicep while he talked.
Shirley walked in just at that moment, raising an eyebrow at Wyatt.
"Good morning, young Mr. Langford," she said. "I trust your arms are in good working order today."
Not the type to be easily abashed, Wyatt responded without hesitation. "I don't know, Miss Appleton," he said. "I'm a little worried that my right bicep might be a little bigger than the left one. What do you think?" He flexed both arms for her, showing off the muscles he'd developed lifting weights for football.
Never one to be flustered herself, Shirley took her time examining the proffered muscles before responding demurely, "Dear me, I believe you may be right. Perhaps you better start writing left-handed and see if you can't correct that deficiency."
Jenna snickered and Shirley winked at her as she came around behind the counter and went to work, straightening and dusting things that were already straight and dust-free.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sugar Rush

I never outgrew sugary cereals. Every morning I say to myself, "Self, it would be very good to have Special K for breakfast this morning." But Self disagrees. Self wants Lucky Charms or, if I'm really having a blessed day, Apple Jacks. Self usually wins, and then I must punish Self by making us do Cardioke for an hour. (Okay, 20 minutes...I'm no Suzanne Sommers, gimme a break).

And yes, there really is such a thing as cardioke. I discovered it on Cox's On Demand channel. It's a special combination of cardio exercise and karaoke singing which allows me to use two of my lesser talents at once, for a truly scary sight. One or the other of those things is usually enough of a challenge for me. I do okay with cardio until it gets dance-y, then my lack of coordination starts working against me. It generally goes something like this:

(The truly brave-hearted can take a moment here to visualize me standing in my living room exercising in front of the TV):

Me: Okay, step touch, step touch, I got this. Why does she keep saying left and moving right?

Aerobic Goddess with six-pack and buns of steel: Let's add in some arms.

Me: Uh-oh. Okay, focus. Step touch, arms out, step touch, arms in. This doesn't look quite like what they're doing.

Aerobic Goddess with six-pack and buns of steel: Adding a new step here, grapevine...and go!

Me: Grapevine, what's that? Step, cross, step, heel. Wow, the girl in the back really puts a flair into it with those hips, doesn't she? Step, heel, cross, oops... (trip, fall back onto couch, be grateful, once again, that I'm doing this in the privacy of my own home).

My karaoke's even worse. I have a range of about 5 notes, and even Paula Abdul would have to concede that I'm "a little pitchy". Worse yet, I have singing enthusiasm. So, basically, I sing five notes, off-key, but with enthusiasm - a deadly combination.

It should be obvious, then, that Cardioke was a natural choice for me. The chance to be able to trip over my own two feet while singing "It's your what you wanna do" at the top of my lungs is priceless. It wasn't so bad when my kids were at school and I exercised in peace, but now that my flailing has an audience of four, it's worse. I mean, it can be really hard to hear what the Goddess is saying with everyone laughing so hard.

Come to think of it, they say that laughter can burn up to 40 calories a day. There's a chance my kids may be getting a better workout than me.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Keepin' It Real

So I'm sitting here skimming through a women's magazine when I spot an article titled "Holiday Fun". Since I would like to have fun this holiday season, I decide to read the article. Mostly when I skim magazines I read the article's title only, make a hasty judgment call about its worth (usually negative), and then move on. So far today I've already passed on "Eat Your Way to a Healthy Heart" (if it doesn't involve cookies, I'm not into it), "Look Sexy in a Swimsuit Again!" (never did before, so probably not gonna happen now), and "De-Clutter Your Closets For Good" (puh-lease).

There should really be more honesty in writing. I mean, wouldn't it be great to see an article called, "I Threw a Rock at My Neighbor's Dog at 3:00 This Morning, Then Felt Guilty and Couldn't Sleep, So I Should Have Just Stayed In Bed To Begin With". Kind of wordy for a title, but at least we can all relate.

And what about that Ladies' Home Journal standard, "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" I used to get all excited reading that question every month, because I really wondered, can it? Sometimes I would make myself wait three full minutes to read the actual article just to increase the suspense. But guess what? It's saved. Every single month, month after month after month, always the same. Saved. And I'm left sitting there thinking, "I thought the divorce rate was much higher than this." I mean, it's good news and all, but shouldn't they just call their feature, "Another Marriage Saved" and stop the charade?

People should know what they're getting into when they start reading something. That's what's so great about children's books. When you see a book called, Anthony's Purple Hat, you can be pretty sure what that book is about. It's refreshing.

You know what else is refreshing? According to my "Holiday Fun" article, "making homemade wassail, putting on your holiday finery and entertaining those you love". Sigh. It would have been more honest to say, "Work yourself into a frenzy cleaning your house, try to find 5 friends who would want to come over for a refreshing sip of wassail, whatever that is, and then quickly sew yourself a holiday frock, since you can't afford finery." How fun!

Instead, I think I'll go get a cookie to eat while I read the rest of this magazine. And that's the honest truth.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Season of Selling

If you need some extra money, think of selling things. A wise sage once told me, "You can make money when you sell stuff. " That was either a wise sage or my friend Craig Slist, I can't remember. Anyway, my family decided to try it out.

DDawg sold homemade soft pretzels and made enough money to pay for football camp.

TLC whipped together a few ingredients and made his own laundry soap, earning enough to pay for scout camp.

Angelface conned her great-grandma into saving pop cans for her, and she earned enough to put up a tent in the living room and eat marshmallows, as if she were at camp.

AJ didn't sell anything, but she's cute and people (aka her grandmas) give her money all the time. She has enough for a pint of Ben & Jerry's, although she's too young to appreciate that fact.

I tried to sell my autograph on Ebay, because my friend at work told me autographs bring big money on Ebay. Nobody bought mine, though. Maybe my reserve was too high.

My failure prompted Hubby to buy me some Tony Robbins CDs (on Ebay, of course. It seems like everyone is making money there but me). Apparently Tony thinks I can do anything I put my mind to, so Hubby suggested I listen to the T-Rob every morning while styling my hair. I just started yesterday, but it turns out he was right! Just for fun, I started thinking about those old beehive hairdos people used to have, and I ended up making the BIGGEST hairdo ever! It was so crazy! Still no money though.

In my sorrow I walked down the street to commiserate with my sister-in-law, but she was busy helping her 6-year-old with a lemonade stand. They made $26. Man, I should have thought of that.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Prayer for Me

From Luke Chapter 22:

"And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down and prayed. Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground."

It's common to pray more earnestly in moments of great pain. A natural, and welcome, result of pain is being driven to your knees, where you can find a measure of relief. When I am in pain, physical or emotional, I often pray more frequently and more earnestly. I pray for myself: for relief, for strength, for understanding, for deliverance.

But I'm human. My natural man is inclined to be selfish. I pray for myself a lot, even when I'm not in pain! But Jesus Christ is the opposite of selfish.

Could he have been praying for me?

Is it possible that, being in agony, he prayed more earnestly for me, not for himself? I know I was part of the agony. I know part of His agony was because He saw, felt and understood all my future sins, sorrows and heartaches. In the midst of his own great and terrible pain, did He pray over mine?


Friday, April 3, 2009

Summer Fun

Summer's coming
Better gear up.
Do jumping jacks,
Get a tummy tuck.

Enroll those kids
In swim team, now!
If you hesitate
You'll be left out.

Must, must, must
Go to EFY.
Everyone's going, Mom,
That's why.

Dance lessons, really?
It's such a joke.
My 3-yr-old plies,
While I go broke.

Horse riding, piano,
Gymnastics, bale hay.
Private cooking classes,
Make things out of clay.

We'll be bored, we must go,
My kids cry and sob!
What else can I do?
I get them all jobs!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Give Your Laundry A Little TLC

I don't remember going on any $300 field trips when I was a kid. Actually, I don't remember going on any field trips, but that's probably because they weren't of the $300 variety, and so were not very memorable.

TLC has one of these absurdly expensive field trips coming up. His whole grade is going on some sort of oceanic exploration trip in San Diego. Of course, attendance is optional. But when you've been subjected to the nostril flare of total rejection by your 11-year-old child, it kind of takes the fun out of optional.

What to do? What to do? TLC, an entrepreneur at heart, decided to take matters into his own hands. He tried to get a little space at the Christmas shop at his school for some wooden bead bracelets he made, but he got shot down by the PTA. Strike one. His brother's had good success selling his homemade soft pretzels, so he set me to work trying to replicate the Krispy Kreme donut recipe. Three or four recipes and several pounds later, strike two. Finally, after reading a book called The Toothpaste Millionaire, about a boy who makes toothpaste that works and is way cheaper than the paste at the store and, natch, makes a million, he whipped up a batch of homemade laundry detergent.

I used it today on all my laundry. It was actually pretty great! It has a nice mild, clean smell and my clothes got just as clean as ever. It didn't get out the tar that somehow got on Lynnie's pant leg, but hey, it's detergent, not boric acid. The best part is, it's only $1.50 a gallon (that's enough for 32 loads in a top loading washer or 64 loads in a front loading washer). Leave me a comment if you want some, he's taking orders!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Design Diva in Me

I watch HGTV a lot at night. Last night I went to sleep with my little head full of designer drapes and complete kitchen remodels. As I rested, all those creative ideas percolated through my subconscious, and I woke up ready to revolutionize my house, design-wise at least.

One of the first things I did was organize. I put all my little hair elastics, sorted by color, into an empty egg carton. Then I closed the lid and put the whole thing in a small drawer in the bathroom vanity. It didn't fit. I tried to jam it in by pushing down on the top with one hand while I forced the drawer closed with the other, but it still wouldn't fit, plus it hurt my hand. Then I was inspired to cut the lid off. Now it fits, but every time I open or close the drawer, the little elastics go flying. I hate bending over to pick them all up. Luckily, I've found that a little bit of color on the tile looks really quite nice.

The second thing I did was to purge. Only our stuff, of course, although the hair elastic Incident did make me feel slightly nauseous. I put a box in the hallway labeled Charity and forced each of my children to contribute ten items. I probably should have specified that the items they contributed had to be their own. My unwitting 3-year-old has nothing left to play with.

Next I went to work on those curtains. Just so you know my background, my mom used to tie our curtains back with whichever hair ribbons her girls weren't using that day. I myself have tried to go a little classier, using a scarf rather than ribbons. Although I'll admit, when I'm feeling sassy, I sometimes steal the scarf and use it for a belt. My curtains stay closed on belt days, and also my pants don't sag. But if they did it would be okay because my curtains are closed, so no one would know.

Anyway, inspired by HGTV, I decided to sew a valance for the bare window over my kitchen sink. I was a little delayed in my sewing as I tried to figure out if it's pronounced vuh-lahns, or val-ince. Then I was further delayed when I couldn't find my sewing machine. Then I remembered that I don't have a sewing machine, plus I don't know how to sew. So, the vuh-lans or whatever will have to wait.

I thought I would play to my strengths next and refinish the table. This would involve stripping, sanding and staining it. I know that sounds like a lot of work, but if there's one thing I can do it's strip. I learned to strip in the workshop behind my house when I was just a little girl. My parents really encouraged me in this pursuit. I think they saw something of a future in it for me, but I haven't really done it much since I got married. I really planned on getting that table done too, but when it came down to it, I couldn't bring myself to touch it. It's a family heirloom, and I was afraid if I refinished it I would wipe out all the pencil scratchings dug into the wood surface during homework time, or the little specks of nail polish from beauty salon days, or even the glossy patch left there when I tried my hand at jewelry making one time and pretty much sheened up the whole room, instead of just the wooden beads I was working with.

By this time my day was pretty much gone. I know I'm no match for the design divas on TV, but I do feel pretty good about what I did with those hair elastics. Tomorrow I'm planning to tackle home repairs. Can someone please call that Phillip guy I've been hearing so much about?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Making Money in the New Economy

Ways to make some extra cash while riding out these tough times:

1. Start a bank but refuse to lend money to anyone. I already do this at home and it's a pretty good business model. When my kids reach for my wallet I just say, "Sorry, the bank is closed for the day." I can't say my profits are that great, but no losses either.

2. Get together with three or four other families and move in together. Share the rent, grocery bill, utilities, lice and pneumonia.

3. Become a TV evangelist. Sort of a dying breed, but hey, you've always done your own thing.

4. 2 words - Potato Farm. If you grew just one really huge potato with 100 eyes, you could then plant the eyes and grow 100 new potatoes. Where else can you get that kind of return? On a related note, does anyone else think it's kind of spooky that potatoes have eyes?

5. Become president of the Human Fund. (That was for you, Connie, as a thank you for being one of my five loyal readers)

6. Turn this blog posting into a spiral bound mini-book and sell it on Craigslist.

7. Go door to door and....oh, wait, there's nobody living in any of those houses anymore.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Funny Valentine ('s Day)

Ever watch Jon & Kate Plus 8 on TV? Well, if not, it's a reality show that follows a couple who have a set of twins about 5 or 6 years old, and a set of sextuplets who are maybe 3. This is how they celebrated Valentine's Day:

Jon and Kate bought each other lovely, thoughtful gifts. They were beautifully wrapped. Kate took the extra time to cut out and paste little hearts all over her present to Jon.

Kate made heart shaped pancakes for breakfast. Then she made heart shaped sandwiches for lunch. I can't remember what she made for dinner, but I'm guessing it was spaghetti with all the little noodles tied together to make hearts.

The kids all had little backpacks on their chairs when they came down for breakfast. The bags (red and white, of course) were filled with V-Day goodies.

Jon and Kate put together a little treasure hunt for the children. They wrote and hid clues all over the house, with the treasure being this huge (and beautifully wrapped) box full of dollar store toys for them to choose from.

It was a wonderful day for them. Our clan also celebrated Valentine's Day. Here is what we did:

We waited for TLC to get home from his scout campout and then left immediately for his basketball game, where he was given a personal foul for smelling like smoke/day old clothes/dutch oven cobbler.

From there we went to Lynnie's basketball game, where she would have loved to get a foul, but she's still learning that you only stick to your "man" like glue when you're on DEFENSE!

Mom realized she forgot to give AJ any breakfast and that might account for her crankiness at said basketball games, so we all went home for some festive peanut butter sandwiches, not cut into hearts, but made with almost no complaining by mom.

Mom took D-Dawg to buy some running shorts for track. These shorts had to be a particular shade of maroon. VERY particular. In a fit of rage, Mom cut the shorts D-Dawg was wearing into little heart shaped scraps while he was in the changing room.

Mom went to a baptism, where she thought about the shorts incident with regret. Dad forced the kids to do chores while she was gone.

Mom picked up Mexican food, our Valentine's Day tradition, took it home, and served it on a table that she decorated with a little red votive candle left by a concerned visiting teacher, who noted Mom's lack of holiday decorating back at Thanksgiving.

Dad and Mom gave everyone a chocolate bar that said I Love You on it and we all made s'mores in the fireplace, which I've heard can be toxic and maybe even deadly.

I'm really glad no TV crews were following us.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Dreaded Moment

It comes without fail every weekday, and sometimes on weekends too. The dreaded moment. "Mom, I need help with my math."

I have a little routine I use to deal with this alarming situation. Whenever someone asks me to help with their math, I immediately break into a mournful rendition of "Greensleeves". I don't actually know any of the words to Greensleeves except for, well, greensleeves. So my version goes like this:

"Greensleeves was all she wore,
From head to toe, it was quite a bore."

Although well-rhymed and most likely publishable, I sing this song for one reason and one reason only: to try to distract my hapless child from his appointed task. I'm always hoping he'll get that vacant look in his eyes and suddenly say, "I forgot what I came in here for."

Yes, it's true. I would rather have my children turn in blank math pages than have to reveal to them what a hopeless math-o-phobe I am. It's not even so much about doing the math, it's about remembering math that I learned several to many years ago. I can never remember the difference between Least Common Multiple and Greatest Common Factor, among other things. So in order to help, I either need to read the whole chapter in the math book first, look it up online, or call the homework helpline.

One time I tried the homework helpline. It went a little something like this:

Me: When I multiply fractions, do I multiply straight across or cross across?

Helpful Homework Person (HHP): Huh?

Me: I need to multiply 1 and 7/8 by 2 and 3/4. I'm just wondering if I should add the fractions to themselves first and then multiply in a diagonal way...

HHP: You mean cross multiply?

Me: Ummm....yes?

HHP: Okay, to cross multiply you simply multiply the top of the first fraction with the bottom of the second fraction, and vice versa.

Me: Right. That much I know. But is that what I'm supposed to do here? I'm just not sure if I use the multiplying when I'm adding or if I should skip the adding and go straight to the multiplying across or if I should multiply straight and then add and simplify.

HHP: Could I speak to your child?

Child: Hello?

HHP: I've been on the phone with your mom for the last ten minutes and I still haven't figured out what the question is. Can you help me with that?

Child: That's okay, I figured it out while you guys were on the phone.

The next day I got a letter from the Homework Helpline directing me to call the new Remedial Homework Helpline at 1-800-IMSTUPD next time I had a question. Unfortunately, I'm very good at English and so I was quickly able to decipher that phone number as a cleverly disguised insult. (It's short for I'm Stupid. Don't worry if you didn't get it, a lot of people don't.)

I'll never sink to that level though. I won't call the Remedial Homework Helpline as long as I've got ten good fingers to count on. And the internet.

Friday, January 23, 2009

High Crime

In the interest of self-reliance, I planted a garden in October. It was very easy. I went to Home Depot and bought 5 already half-grown tomato plants and a few packets of seeds, including peas, corn, carrots and lettuce. My garden bed is only about 6x4, so the corn was a bit of a stretch, but you never know.

I also bought one bag of mulch. I'm not really sure what mulch is, but it sounds very healthy for vegetables. After I lugged it home, I read on the back that one bag of mulch only covers 1 sq ft of garden, so only about 3 of my seeds got any benefit from that. I chose which seeds got to go in the mulched section of the garden by playing Bubblegum, Bubblegum, In a Dish with them. That took kind of a long time.

Another thing I got at Home Depot was a tomato cage. When you put your tomato plants inside one of these cages, it's supposed to help them grow tall and straight. Even though I had 5 tomato plants, I only got one cage, because I stand up for freedom when I can. The plant that I put in the cage is tall, but sort of depressed. The rest are short, but free and, I believe, quite happy. Like my short friends.

I planted on a windy day. This was not a problem when I planted the peas and tomatoes, but I guess I didn't realize how small lettuce seeds are. Yesterday I saw a random head of lettuce growing in the retention basin across the street, and I'm pretty sure it's mine. When it gets a little bigger, I'm going to pick it at midnight so nobody will know how careless I was with my seeds.

After a while my peas blossomed and the lettuce seeds that made it into my garden grew. I even had a few tiny green tomatoes. It was shaping up to be just about the best garden ever. Then it got cold. I think my plants didn't like the cold, because their development was suddenly arrested. So I made a super cute quilt to cover my garden bed. Then I forgot about my garden for a few days (or maybe weeks), and when I finally uncovered it again, my plants were all dead.

My sister is a scientist and she says that plants are living organisms. As most of you know, I have a deep fear of going to prison. So let's just keep this incident to ourselves.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Winning is Everything

I really want to win something. And I don’t mean I want to win a big promotion or win the heart of my true love (no offense, honey). I mean I want to win some money, or a new car, or the NCAA bracket picks at work.

I think my urge to win stems from the fact that I am a very competitive person, and yet I have no talents. So, I have spent my whole life wanting to win but never actually doing so. I never win at sports, I wasn’t even close to being my high school valedictorian, and the jokes I submit to Reader’s Digest are repeatedly rejected. And just so you know, their rejection letters aren’t that nice, either. How would you feel if you got a letter that said:

“Sending us the same joke 53 times will not change our answer. It is not a funny joke. It did not make us laugh. Stop sending us jokes. In fact, don’t send us anything. In fact, we are canceling your subscription and purging your entire history from our files.”

I recently decided that if I can’t be good at winning, I can at least be good at entering. With that in mind, I made a New Year’s resolution to practice my contest-entering skills for 10 minutes per day. After only 9 days of practice, I can already see measurable results. For example, I took my redial speed for calling in to radio contests down from 3.9 seconds to 2.7. I also created a Word template that allows me to quickly print out contest-entering postcards in a flash. When I went to my contest-entering support group, I couldn’t stop the tears when I was recognized as the most improved raffle ticket crumpler.

It’s equally important to be prepared with a plan in case you actually do win something. The other day I told my husband that we needed new pajamas. Not to spice up our love life, because really, how much spicier could we get, but in case Publisher’s Clearinghouse rings our doorbell early in the morning before we are dressed. It would never do to be wearing a Hello Kitty t-shirt with paint stains all over it on national TV. And my pajamas aren’t so hot, either.

With all of my obsession for winning something, you may be surprised to learn that I never play the lottery. I just feel that handing a dollar to a corner store clerk lacks the challenge that a true competitor needs. At least with a radio contest you have to remember the phrase of the day, or the last 800 songs they played, or where Beth hid the bottle on the station's website. Plus, I only enter free contests. I mean, come on, I can’t just be throwing dollar bills around willy nilly. I’ve got postcards to buy!