Friday, February 29, 2008

Pretend There Is Tickertape and Confetti Here...

It's my 100th post! It only took me a year and a half. And, as promised, here are not 100 things about me.

1. I have Coulrophobia. On at least three separate occasions while driving, I have looked in my rearview mirror and seen a clown in the car behind me.

2. If it were feasible, I would take a sabbatical from my job and do this instead.

3. My name is in the acknowledgments of two published works. One is a doctoral dissertation on Laura Ingalls Wilder (I was 8 at the time of acknowledgement). The other is a book I did research on for work 12 years ago. It's called "Control Self-Assessment: Experience, Current Thinking, and Best Practices." And yes, it's every bit as exciting as it sounds.

4. In college, I worked at a marketing and incentives firm. I worked for either 4 or 6 hours at a time, depending on my class schedule for the day. I made copies. It was in a loft, and it had a kitchen with a full-stocked fridge of pop and a movie theater popcorn machine. So for my freshman and sophomore years of college, I made photocopies 4-6 hours a day while surviving on movie theater popcorn and orange Diet Rite.

5. When Darren and I were putting me through grad school, I worked for a man described in Crain's Chicago Business as "Who's Who: Movers and Shakers under 40." I was his personal assistant. My duties entailed the following: picking up his dirty laundry off the office floor (he would change clothes in front of me, like I was Miss Moneypenny or something); standing in a line of at least 30 men, the lone woman, on Valentine's Day to buy roses for his wife; studying for and taking the commercial real estate exam in his place to renew his license; making a trip to Sam Goody Music to buy Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" album so that he could sing "Go ask Alice...she's 10 feet tall" with accompaniment.

6. Most nights when I get in my bed, I sing, "I love my house, I love my nest, in all the world this nest is best!" (That won't sound quite as strange to fans of P. D. Eastman's "The Best Nest." Or...maybe it will anyway.)

7. With the exception of "Angels of Harlem," I cannot stand U2. I know this is a universally unpopular opinion. But...I can't help it. Bono reminds me of Rasputin.

8. If I could be any character in all of literature, I would be Miss Marple.

And lastly, 9. I had to find some justification for coloring my hair every 10 weeks. (Professionally, of course. I've tried things at home...with disastrous results, proving the maxim "Those who know go pro.") But the cost is prohibitive, and every time I come home Darren says, "How much did that cost?" and after years and years, it's just wearing me down, giving the answer. So, from now on, I'm just going to quote this poem each time I get it done:

Never shall a young man,
Thrown into despair
By those great honey-coloured
Ramparts at your ear,
Love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.
But I can get a hair-dye
And set such colour there,
Brown, or black, or carrot,
That young men in despair
May love me for myself alone
And not my yellow hair.
I heard an old religious man
But yesternight declare
That he had found a text to prove
That only God, my dear,
Could love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.

(See? I promised I would get some Yeats in there today!)

And there you have it. My 100th blog post. Thanks to anyone who's actually still reading it! I'll be back next week with more funny tales of Beezus and Ramona as I've taken to calling the two sisters who live at our house. Oh, and three bloggers will meet IN REAL LIFE this weekend as well! I will write with all the details...stay tuned!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wherein I Think We May Have Dropped the Ball...

I could write a post called "An Ode to the Flu," but I will not. Because no one wants to read that post. But...we have been living with the flu this week. And apparently some fortunate, blessed mothers like me actually do get to call in sick from their mother jobs because my own sainted, blessed mother moved in with us for three days and took care of everyone. She just left today, and I felt like crying I've become so used to her here. She brought homemade chicken soup. With homemade noodles. I laid in bed and slept for two days while she took care of my (also sick) girls. Wow.

But...we seem to be mostly better now. Sometime in my delirium I was composing a blog post in my head that had something about "Waiting for Godot" and Pelagius and some of Yeats in it. But alas, I've forgotten it. Aren't you devastated to have missed that?

However, one thing I don't want to forget about is Darren's and my first parent-teacher conference that happened last week. We were so giddy. It was kind of surreal. I actually took off work for the day to attend a 20-minute conference. We're walking into this elementary school and saying to each other, "We're actually someone's parents! Here for the parent-teacher conference!"

So, we met with Lucy's teacher and saw her progress and all the things Lucy can do now. Get this--she journals. Except she can't write yet? So she dictates to her teacher. It was one of the cutest things I've ever seen. They were learning about dinosaurs, and she drew a picture of one and then journalled about it. Her dinosaur was "planning to fly to London and England." (As Darren says, "Hello, apple? Meet tree.") Her teacher commented about how, well, kind of...advanced her vocabulary and manner of speaking is. I said, "Kind of like a little elderly lady?" and she burst out laughing. Then she said, "You know, one thing that you may want to work with her on--she doesn't know her address or her phone number."

She doesn't know her address? We've forgotten to teach her our address? Oh.

Then a day or so later, and I'm not sure exactly how this came up, Darren asked her, "Hey Lucy, what's your middle name?" "[our last name]," she stated positively. "No, that's your last name; what's your middle name?" "Lucy!" she said (in a voice that sounded kind of like..."you moron!")

Then I chimed in and said, "No, Lucy, your middle name. What's Elaine's middle name?" "Frances." "Right. And what's yours?" She thought about it for awhile and said, "Cocker." This is because ever since she was a baby her godmother called her "Lucy Cocker Spaniels." (hi Jennie!) We finally had to tell her that her middle name is Nan. Then, as if sort of clearing the mists of time from her mind, she said, "Oh yeah. It's Nan."

I've always rebelled against being one of those flashcard moms or pushing her academically or robbing her of her childhood or whatever, but man. I guess I needed a parent-teacher conference to know that my daughter doesn't actually know her name and address. As always, I'm blazing trails in underachievement! So, we'll be working on that.

In other news, this is my 99th post. Apparently in the blog world when you reach your 100th post you're supposed to write 100 things about yourself. I don't even know one hundred things about myself (it's a perk of being shallow). But maybe I'll come back in a day or so with 7 or 8 things about myself. You know, in keeping with my reputation for underachievement. And I may even throw some Yeats in this time.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Last Thursday at swimming, Lucy got sick. It's Monday, and she's still sick. By Saturday night I wasn't feeling so great, and by Sunday afternoon, neither was Elaine. The job of "Mother" does not allow for sick days, I have found. Last night I left a message for my boss (my editorial boss, not my mothering boss), saying I need to work from home today (she's always nice about this, and believe me, I'm more than a little thankful for it). Yet another winter day. Stuck indoors with a sick toddler and sick pre-schooler. You know what? They're not particularly gracious or accommodating when they're sick. Also, they're kind of demanding. Just picture if you will lots and lots of inconsolable crying, screams of rage, seemingly thousands of requests such as: "Mom, can I please have some juice?" "Mom, I need you to come up here." (I climb up the stairs) "After I watch this Muppet movie, can I watch Pooh?" (The Muppet Movie has just started. But...she needs to know the TV schedule for the day, I guess.) "Mom, can you please come up here? Elaine said your clock radio is a toy. Tell her it's not." And did I write some silly post last week extolling the virtues of age 2? Because it's a hideous age: "Want juice." "Want ginner ale." "Go swimming." "Wear my pajamas." "Scooch over, Mom." (pronounced "Stooch") "Want snack. In a bag." "Wanna treat." (Punctuate each of these with tears and flailing.)

I look over the house (the house I just cleaned oh so recently) and there are toys and DVD cases and unmade beds and tossed pajamas and cups after cups after cups in various stages of fullness. There are dirty dishes. I can see dried splashes of juice on the floor (that I just washed). And here's the thing--I don't even let my kids drink juice or ginger ale or wander around the house with drinks in their hands or watch TV non-stop 24/7, but right now my own resistance is so low that my answer to everything is just "Whatever." Yes, run around with the digital thermometer, repeatedly pushing its buttons so it will break and we won't be able to tell what your temperature is. And, oh, both of you fight over it while you're at it. Whatever. Yes, grab up my new magazine that just came in the mail and I haven't read it and it's all about the beautiful spring flowers that I'm convinced we'll never see again and stomp your feet all over it. Whatever. You want more juice? Spoon up concentrate from the can. Whatever.

This morning when Lucy made her first requests (and she really is sick and I do feel sorry for her) for juice and ginger ale, of course we were out, so I decided to run down to Hilander. I'm always in a hurry anyway, but I had to get back because I had to get online to get my assignments for work for today, so I was in an extra hurry. It looked rainy and foggy out, no big deal, but apparently it was also very icy because the next thing I knew, I was face down on the driveway. I'm convinced there's a literary metaphor there somewhere.

I kept on with the day. I took a trip to the library during my lunch hour because we've exhausted all the DVDs at our house, and I took Elaine with me. Oh, take a toddler who's barking like a sea lion and has a nose like a river out to the library? Whatever. (Also, can I throw these questions out to the cosmos? Why is any random space at the library, even ones not particularly close to the door, handicapped? And why, when I asked a librarian who was peacefully shelving books and not under any apparent strain if the kids' DVDs were with all the other DVDs did she say 'yes' even though that was completely untrue?) Whatever.

I'm sure some people might think I'm Queen Complainy from the Ha-whiney Islands in this post, and maybe you might be right. And maybe someone thinks, "You've just got two kids! I've got 4! or 5! or 8! Get a real problem!" I can't help you there. I've never been good at math, but here's one equation that applies to my life: 2 kids + 2 hands = Alice's hands full. I also consider my 60% workweek my third child, but maybe that's another story (which, by the way? My job assigned me a significant project filled with errors to edit by the close of business--and got it to me to start at 11:00 a.m.) Whatever.

Also, it's now snowing heavily out, and I still need to go to Super Wal-Mart (and oh how I love a trip to Super Wal-Mart. Except...NOT AT ALL) and pick up groceries because we're out of most things we need (except juice and ginger ale!) WHAT A DAY.

Then I am reminded of the words in Isaiah 40:11 "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; He gently leads those that have young."

I'm so glad for that. I'm glad that there is a special place of pity and kindness in the Shepherd's heart for exhausted mothers. When I'm running around and trying to keep it together and am pulled between so many people and responsibilities and I end up face down on the driveway, I am so so thankful that He doesn't look down at me and say, "Whatever." Instead He says, "Come unto Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11: 28).

Friday, February 22, 2008

No, That's Peter Gabriel

Usually when we get in the car, the girls immediately shout out requests of what music they want to hear. However, the CD player isn't working and we were in a rush to get to swimming yesterday and I didn't have time to coordinate "the map," so we were listening to the radio. (Silence maybe, you ask? Unthinkable!) I turned on this station where you just might get a good 80s song, and oh, I was not disappointed. About the second song in, I had to burst out laughing because it was "Shock the Monkey" by Peter Gabriel (and no, to this day, I really don't know what it means, but that's not unusual with a lot of his stuff).

My freshman year at Moody I lived on Houghton 4W. I had come from a fairly conservative background, but Moody was definitely a bit "more" than I was used to. There were a lot of rules, and one of them was that if you were going to listen to secular music in your room (and somehow this didn't apply to classical) that it should not be played loud enough so others could hear it out in the hall. That was actually fine with me because it wasn't much different from home and hearing my dad yell any number of times a day, "Turn that racket down!"

We had a meeting on our dorm floor the first day of term to go over all the various rules. For some reason and to this day I have no idea, one of the RAs took an instant dislike to me. I didn't talk, I didn't ask questions, I didn't raise my hand, I didn't smirk--I can't explain it, but she did not like me. For my entire first year there, she made it her mission to put the smackdown on me, and usually it was about music. We all used to laugh that she was standing with a glass pressed against my door to see if she could hear any music out in the hall. Almost not one day went by without her irritated knock and then thinly veiled polite request that my friends and I stop talking/laughing/turn down our music etc.

Now I had the sweetest, most laid-back roommate, Tonya, who was also possibly the world's heaviest sleeper. Her bed was near the door; mine was on the far side near the window. One morning, my clock radio, which was right by my bed, went off. It was Peter Gabriel singing "Shock the Monkey." I lay there in a stupor, half sleeping, half listening--it was pretty early. All of a sudden: the irritated knock (I promise, you could tell her knock from anyone else's). This couldn't be happening. Tonya slept on peacefully, and I lay still, hoping she would go away (you know, like Randy in "A Christmas Story"--"Randy lay there like a slug: it was his only defense.") She didn't go away; she burst into our room, angrier than she had ever been before (apparently the strains of "Shock the Monkey" totally pushed her over the edge).

She walked over to Tonya's bed, shook her rigorously by the shoulder, flung her arm in the direction of my bed/my radio/Shock the Monkey, and demanded, "IS THAT CHRISTIAN?" Tonya raised herself up slowly and looked over through half-closed eyes and said, "No, that's Alice," and rolled over and went back to sleep.

Yup. It's still funny 21 years later. So yesterday as we're driving to the swim club and I'm laughing, I see in the rearview mirror two little blond ponytails, bobbing up and down in time to the music. I turn around and see her clapping her hands, kicking her feet, and jigging for all she's worth in her carseat.

Yeah, "Shock the Monkey" is pretty good, baby girl. But just wait until you hear "Sledgehammer."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Of Lyrics and Lions

The other day in the car, Lucy asked, "Mom, is Jesus a lion?" I answered, "Well, in the Bible there are lots of different names for Jesus, and one of them is 'lion,' so while He is a man, He's also called a lion."

A day or so later, she asked, "Can we hear that song on the map about Jesus being a lion?" [Sidenote: She calls the iPod the map. I think because it's hooked up in the car and lights up--like it's some sort of both musical and GPS system. Which by the way would be really cool and useful if it were true.] I couldn't think of what song she might mean. We've got only one song about lions, and it's about Daniel in the lions' den, so I tried that one. "No, no, no--I want the one about JESUS the Lion." This went on for awhile, but I could never find the song she wanted.

Then last night on the way to church, the song "Thy Word" came on and she shouted "This is it! The Jesus lion song!" To my knowledge, there's nothing in this song either about lions or even about Jesus specifically; it's "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." So I listened to her sing and this is what I heard: "Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a lion by my bed." (She really sang it with gusto too.) Now normally I would correct her right away especially since we're dealing with a Bible verse and not something by Elton John or someone, but I listened to her sing the remainder of the song: "When I feel afraid / think I've lost my way / still You're there right beside me / Nothing will I fear / As long as You are near / Please be near me to the end..." and I just left it. There will be time later to tell her.

It's not as though she is singing an untruth. The idea of the Lion of the tribe of Judah watching over her bed is apparently comforting to her and actually enormously comforting to me. It also immediately reminded me of a lovely letter written by C.S. Lewis, which I hope it won't be violating a bunch of copyright laws if I post it here. He wrote to a 9-year-old boy's mother because the boy was concerned that he loved Aslan more than Jesus.

6 May 1955

Dear Mrs. K:

Tell Laurence from me, with my love: 1/ Even if he was loving Aslan more than Jesus (I'll explain in a moment why he can't really be doing this) he would not be an idol-worshipper. If he was an idol worshipper he'd be doing it on purpose, whereas he's now doing it because he can't help doing it, and trying hard not to do it. But God knows quite well how hard we find it to love Him more than anyone or anything else, and He won't be angry with us as long as we are trying. And He will help us.

2/ But Laurence can't really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that's what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before. Of course there is one thing Aslan has that Jesus has not--I mean, the body of a lion....Now if Laurence is bothered because he finds the lion-body seems nicer to him than the man-body, I don't think he need be bothered at all. God knows all about the way a little boy's [or girl's!] imagination works (He made it, after all) and knows that at a certain age the idea of talking and friendly animals is very attractive. So I don't think He minds if Laurence likes the Lion-body....

3/ If I were Laurence I'd just say in my prayers something like this: "Dear God, if the things I've been thinking and feeling about those books are things You don't like and are bad for me, please take away those feelings and thoughts. But if they are not bad, then please stop me from worrying about them. And help me every day to love you more in the way that really matters far more than any feelings or imaginations, by doing what you want and growing more like you." That is the sort of thing I think Laurence should say for himself; but it would be kind and Christian-like if he then added, "And if Mr. Lewis has worried any other children by his books or done them any harm, then please forgive him and help him never to do it again."

Will this help? I am terribly sorry to have caused such trouble, and would take it as a great favor if you could write again and tell me how Laurence goes on. I shall of course have him daily in my prayers. He must be a corker of a boy: I hope you are prepared for the possibility he might turn out a saint. I daresay the saints' mothers have, in some ways, a rough time!

Yours sincerely,

C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Music and a Blog

If anyone ever asks, "What's your favorite music?" or "What's your favorite group?" pretty much anyone who knows me knows the answer is this. More than any other music I've ever heard in my life, this group has impacted me. They're phenomenal. They're simply the best. That's not even an opinion, it's just a fact. If you haven't heard them, you're missing out.

Since I'm constantly scanning their site to see when they'll be in concert again near me (we once drove three hours with tornadoes touching down around the area in order to see them), I came across the blog written by the wife of Todd Smith, the lead singer. All of it is so worth reading, but especially this and this.

I hope everyone gets a chance to read those entries and, if you haven't already, to get some (or preferably all) of their music.

They Should Come With Warning Labels

There is no other age like 2. I personally think it gets a bad rap (while no one except other mothers warns you about age 3). The family doctor we had growing up said, "There should always be a 2-year-old in the house." And I guess he really lived by that maxim because he and his wife had nine kids. All this to say, I love having a 2-year-old around the place. Every day there's something new and funny. I loved when Lucy was 2, but Lucy has always been kind of a genteel lady, sort of a child channeling Maggie Smith or something, ever since she was born. With Elaine we're getting the full 2-year-old lifestyle. She's either at 100% joy or 100% despair, 0 mph or 90 mph, at any given time.

We get to experience tantrums almost every day. They're usually pretty mild and short-lived though because I live by the John Rosemond principle of "any attention, whether positive or negative, to a tantrum is like the proverbial match to gasoline." So when Elaine gets distraught because say, she has to stop washing her hands after an hour or so at the sink, I just walk away saying, "Look within, Laine. Depend on your inner resources and get over it." She usually does pretty quickly until something else comes her way such as Lucy getting to pray first for lunch or not being able to pull all the wipes out of the dispenser to wipe the floor with.

We're trying to teach Lucy that while we don't have to walk on eggshells at this house just because a 2-year-old lives here, we don't need to unnecessarily aggravate her either. I think she's catching on because yesterday she found a magnadoodle at my parents that Elaine had been playing with previously and discarded. (This can definitely set her off--if Lucy plays with anything that has even passed through her hands in, oh say, the last week and a half.) I saw Lucy tiptoeing by and she whispered to me, "I want to show Manga this cute picture I did. But I have to do it without Smoochie seeing, otherwise she'll just freak out and burn herself with fire."

This morning I went to get Elaine out of her crib. She greeted me with, "I want candy." "Absolutely not," I responded (hey, I secretly admire this. You can't blame a girl for trying.) "I wanna flush my teeth," she replied. (You might think this means "brush my teeth" but it actually means floss. Yes. Our 2-year-old flosses her teeth, unprompted, on an almost daily basis.) "That sounds like a plan," I said.

I'm enjoying these days. Her growth and development are just whizzing by me as fast as she races Lucy to sit in the favored chair at the kitchen island. (The chairs are all identical. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to this other than the fact that it is originally Lucy's place to sit and Lucy likes it and But for all her feisty, funny moments, there are times of almost unbearable sweetness. Sunday she came up alongside me and whispered, "Jesus loves me, Mom. Bible tells me so," and laid her head against my arm as if she was enjoying just thinking about it. And today while I was dressing her, she threw her arms around me and said, "I love you, Mama! Dese tights are too big!"

Yes, I think age 2 gets a bad rap. I'm soaking it all up and loving it. And am dreading only a little age 3.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What We Did With Our Weekend

This day I anticipated being at work. However, on Friday when I went in to the office, I discovered we have the day off for the holiday. I called Elaine's daycare to let them know she wouldn't be there, and they said they were closed. I guess everyone honors presidents except for me. Normally, an unexpected holiday would be cause for happiness. Unless you're a mother of toddlers and preschoolers who have been indoors all winter. What are we paying these schools for if not to give me some respite? Every time I turn around there's another holiday. In two weeks, it's Pulaski Day, which is the biggest scam ever. I'm all for honoring heroes, but really? He was that much of a standout among every other soldier in every other war that he gets his own holiday? Now I'm sure the thousands of people who read this blog will write in to tell me why he deserves it, but all I can see is another long day of playing Candyland and breaking up fights over Cinderella dresses stretched in front of me.

Anyway, over the weekend, Lucy went to another birthday party. It was a Hannah Montana party. We were talking before the party, and Lucy said, "I like Hannah Montana too." I said, "No, honey, she's too old for you." "Well, can I like her when I get old?" Oh. Busted. So, I had 0.9 seconds in which to mount a rational defense of why she can never like Hannah Montana, which didn't include the logic, "Because it's lame and cheesy and they sell her merchandise at Wal-Mart." We actually had a good talk about people who focus only on what's on the outside and how we should try to focus on what's on the inside. And not dress in gold-sequined mini-skirts.

That evening Darren and I had a Valentine's party to go to at church. It did not have a Hannah Montana theme. We had a great time and were one of the couples selected to play the Not-So-Newlywed game. We would have at least tied for first except for the fact that Darren completely choked. The question (for me) was, "What would be your husband's dream job?" I said, "Something with woodworking, installing wood floors, etc." Now. This man watches "Yankee Workshop" and "This Old House." He has told me numerous times, "If anyone ever asks what I'd like to do, tell them woodworking and home improvement." When the big moment came, what did he say? Farmer. But...we had a great time anyway. I'd probably write more about it, but right now I've got two girls in the chair with me trying to push the keys on my laptop. I'm surprised I've gotten this much down. (I bet Juliet will post about it at her blog, with pictures!)

And........This is what Elaine did with her weekend.

And yes. In the last shot, she has just had a bath and her hair washed. Paging Howard Hughes.

OK. We're outta here and off to my mom and dad's. There are different toys and better food over there. And I hear they honor presidents over there. Maybe my mom will make cherry pie.

Friday, February 15, 2008

You Know, I Don't Think He Would Do That...

There's this very funny chapter in Laura Ingalls Wilder's "On the Banks of Plum Creek." After the harvest, Pa has created a huge straw stack in order to feed their oxen (Bright and Pete) for the winter. Laura and Mary discover the straw stack, find it irresistible, and climb up it and slide down it until all the straw is scattered everywhere. Pa reprimands them, but they do it again. The second time he is very stern with them about not sliding down the straw stack. So the next day, instead of sliding down it, they climb up to the top and roll down repeatedly. He questions them at the end of the day if they had slid down the stack, and Laura says, "No, Pa. We didn't slide down.....But we did ROLL down." Then she said Pa turned and looked out of the window for a long time. His shoulders were shaking a little, and the girls wondered why he was standing so long with his back to them.

I always really liked the part about sliding down the straw stack when I was younger, but it wasn't until I was an adult and reread the book that I could appreciate the part about Pa. I've had a number of occasions where I've had to turn my back to the girls or sometimes even dash out of the room for a few seconds because what they've done or said is naughty but also? It's

Last night before bed, the girls and I were sitting in the rocking chair, reading. Elaine can't seem to sit still for very long, so she wiggled around until finally she fell out of the chair onto the floor. She looked up at me accusingly and said, "You pushed me, Mom!" I said, "Elaine, I would never push you. You fell out of the chair." Next she looked at Lucy and said, "Lucy did it!" to which, of course, Lucy shouted, "I DID NOT!" Without skipping a beat, Elaine said, "Then Jesus pushed me."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

In the Spirit of Valentine's Day

Throughout college I half-heartedly sort of dated this guy who drifted in and out of my life in inconvenient intervals. By my senior year he was finally gone for good, and I was wearing black on Valentine's Day and saying things like, "Romance is dead. It's been homogenized and sold off by Hallmark and Disney, piece by piece." And by the last month of school when a guy in my music class asked me out, I inwardly groaned. I mean, I had no objections to him personally or anything, but I had no interest in anyone who would only be Transitional Man at best.

Then my RA said, "Oh Alice, just go out with him. Show him Moody women aren't all bad." With that dubious gauntlet thrown down, I took the challenge. I agreed to go out with him, and we stayed out all night talking. There just wasn't enough time to get everything we wanted said. We've been talking ever since. A few years after that, he worked two jobs and sold his beloved drums to buy me a diamond ring (and for any O. Henry fans out there, no, I didn't cut off my hair and sell it to buy him a chain for his pocket watch).

Seventeen years later, he still tells me he loves me every day, and he shows me in many ways. Just the other day he got up and went outside in the bitter cold at 5:30 in the morning to make sure the iPod was working in my car so I would have music to listen to on the way to work. He is kind and generous and funny and takes really good care of me.

So, happy Valentine's Day, Scooby. Thanks for showing me romance isn't dead. I'm glad you weren't transitional.



Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Little Something to be Happy About

First ponytails ever...


This is what has happened so far this morning. I didn't quite make it to the 6:00 a.m. club; it was 6:20, which was pointless basically since Elaine was already awake. But I still tried. Then Darren wanted me to help him with something on the computer, and he left me with a barrel of complicated instructions. I was trying to follow all said instructions with Lucy sitting next to me saying, "What does 'I don't know' mean? How do you spell 'one'? How do you spell 'two'? Can I work on my valentines for school now? Can I wear my pajamas until it's time to go to school? What do you get when you put zero and one together?"

Then I went upstairs to take a shower while Elaine decided to come in the bathroom and wash her hands and brush her teeth. She does these activities in the spirit of someone with full-blown OCD. Brushing her teeth takes at least three separate applications of toothpaste (well, it would take more but that's all I'll allow). Same with soap for washing hands. When I finally turn off the water, there is much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth until I distract her with the possibility of getting lotion on her hands. On the plus side, it occupies her fully while I'm in the shower (OR SO I THOUGHT).

As soon as I got out, I smelled something horrible, even though I'd just changed her. I took her into her room to get cleaned up, and I saw that she had gotten ahold of a cassette tape of a children's novel that I love and am saving for her when she gets older (it's only available on cassette) and had pulled all the tape out. So before changing the diaper, I sat down and slowly and carefully rewound all the tape.

We finally all got dressed and came down to breakfast. They decided they wanted porridge just like the three bears, so I made Malt-o-Meal. They got that down with only about three fights in between.

Did I mention it was only 8:30 AM at this point?


Monday, February 11, 2008

A Valentine-y Weekend

This weekend marked my first days in the 5:00 AM Club (TM Girl Talk blog, which is a fantastic place to visit if you haven't already, and you can find out all about the 5 AM Club there). In my case, it's more like the 6:00 AM Club, but I'm working on it. Anyway, it was a great start to the day. Lucy came tip-toeing downstairs around 7:00, and I heard Miss Thing chatting away up in her crib, so I went and got her too, and we started on our Valentine cupcakes (after a brief prayer that we would all be kind and not fight. Don't laugh. There was frosting and candy and sprinkles involved in this operation. Fighting opportunities abound.) Let me back up: each year on the Saturday before Valentine's Day, my dad takes all of us out to lunch (usually Cliffbreakers), and we all exchange cards. Then we stop back at our house and have dessert. The cupcakes turned out very cute, and there was no fighting. (I would have taken a picture, but the card on my camera has to be cleaned off before it will allow me to take any more pictures so that's one thing I've got to get to soon.)

Because I got up so early, I got a lot of cleaning done as well plus got the girls bathed and dressed and the table set for our little dessert party (ding ding ding! THIS is what can happen when you get out of bed in the morning!) Since it was (was? IS) so cold out, I had warm pants ready for the girls, but Lucy said, "Mom, I want to wear a dress and tights" and Elaine said, "Me too. Tights. Dress." so they wore that instead. We had a great lunch and a beautiful view of the frozen, snow-covered river. Everyone liked our cupcakes too!

Before we had lunch, Darren had gone to help some friends from church move, and Pastor W. was helping as well. He asked us spur-of-the-moment if we could come for dinner, so that was a nice social addition to the weekend as well. The girls had never been over to his and Vicki's house, and they wanted them to come and meet Lucy the Dog as well. Lucy the Girl loved Lucy the Dog, but Elaine was not sure at all. It took awhile for her to warm up to her, but eventually she peeked at her, then watched her eat her dinner, then finally got up the nerve to pet her.

Vicki has worked with Elaine in the nursery, but I think Pastor was under the assumption that Lucy is quiet and Elaine is silent. [I'll pause a moment for a group laugh.] Elaine set up her Samantha doll on his lap right away. He kept her there for longer than most men would, then gently moved her over to the couch. It took Elaine about 12 seconds to realize that, and she went over and moved her back to his lap. Lucy went on some long 4-year-old stream of consciousness to him that involved opening Christmas presents a day early to cupcakes to the fountain at the restaurant where we had lunch to Stuart Little and any number of other topics in between. We had a great dinner, then I had brought some (new) activities for the girls to do to keep them busy "and so we don't get bored" (according to Lucy). They were supposed to play by themselves, but they spotted an easy target in Vicki, so she got the added bonus of glitter painting and decorating a Strawberry Shortcake sticker book.

Sunday we spent just trying to stay warm, and the girls indulged their mania for the movie "Meet Me in St. Louis" by watching for the gazillionth time in the afternoon. They know all the songs and spend a lot of time casting themselves and various people they know in all the different roles (though Lucy always gets to be Esther and Elaine always gets to be Tootie). Lucy informed me that that's who they're going to dress up as for Halloween this year (she likes to think ahead). We'll see.

So, that was our weekend. Oh and apparently Juliet taught Elaine how to say "hillbilly." I'll be waiting to hear it from her, since I'm sure that's inevitable (since she already told me the other day that something was " 'diculous.") Thanks, Juliet! :-)

ETA: Oh and if there was ever typecasting? It is Elaine as Tootie. We have found her alter/movie-ego. If you haven't seen Meet Me in St. Louis, you must. It is so much fun. And if you have--watch it again. I am.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

New Friends, Old Friends, and Imaginary Friends

I never wanted to have a blog. It feels sort of dorky, and I hate the word "blog" too. I was just one of those moms who was always lamenting that my kids said funny things, and I wasn't writing them down. That would mean I would have to be organized enough to have a notebook and a (working) pen at all times, and I'm just not. So my friend Jacqueline said, "You should just keep a blog, Alice. No one needs to read it. It's just an online journal, and it's much easier." Now in some ways, I'm kind of a Luddite. I hate cell phones (well, really any phones) and I lurve good quality paper and getting handwritten letters and writing thank you notes and stuff like that. Oh, how I love the email though. Now that is instant gratification--and I can type a lot faster than I write. So, that's basically how I ended up with a blog. I love the instantaneous nature of them saying or doing something funny, and I can just dash it off immediately and publish it. And the fact that I can post pictures is an added bonus too.

In the process of starting my blog, I've stumbled across many, many others, and now I'm a blog addict. I love peeking into the metaphorical windows of people's lives. I've got people I've never met who feel like good friends. I've got good friends who I can keep up with because I read their blogs. And I've met friends through (and here's another word I hate) the "blogosphere."

[Wake up! I'm still talking about blogs on my blog!] On the side of my page, I keep a blog roll. This is by no means all the blogs I read. I read a bunch of theological blogs, but I've actually stopped lately, because man. Those guys are MEAN. And argumentative. I prefer my roll because they're all funny and some are inspiring, too. Plus, the people who comment are nice and not jerky. That's basically my criteria. A couple of them are my famous imaginary friends: James Macdonald (Walk in the Word) and Beth Moore (Living Proof Ministries). They've got beautiful, fancy blogs (especially James--with music and audio/video clips!), and of course there's a lot of good stuff to read on there too.

Then there are my non-famous imaginary friends: Amanda at Baby Bangs (she's Beth Moore's daughter and very, very funny in her own right), Melanie at Big Mama, Veronica at Toddled Dredge, Sarah at In the Midst of It, Ree at Pioneer Woman, and (please don't miss this one) Jack at Confessions of a Trophy Husband.

Lastly, there are my real life friends: Juliet at Retired and Loving It, Ann-Marie at the Left-Handed Rabbit, Melanie at Apropos of Cole, and an old friend who is new to the blogging world, Alysa at Little Things In Life. Each of those is a great read, all diverse, all fun.

A word on Alysa--we met on our very first day at Moody Bible Institute. Neither one of us knew a soul there. We were standing by the elevator in Houghton Hall as hundreds of other girls laughed and shrieked and chatted around us. I'm not sure which of us uttered which words, but we looked at each other and here's how the conversation went: "I don't know anyone here." "Yeah, me either." "So, do you want to be friends?" "Sure."

And we've been the best of friends ever since (cemented over our love of 80s music of course). We had four years of MBI, then living in Chicago and being in the working world, then I got married and Alysa left to be a missionary in Irian Jaya, Indonesia, (shout-out to any other Moody students who had to read "From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya" in Church at Work in the World I!) When she came back from the mission field, she moved back to Chicago and married her husband, Jack. They have two children: Maddie Mae (who is 10 months older than Lucy) and Jackson (who is 2 1/2 months younger than Elaine).

We have been on this crazy friendship ride for over 20 years--through late nights and finals and many conversations at the Pizza Hut on Chicago Avenue and boyfriend disappointments to weddings and pregnancies (she threw me a shower when I was expecting Lucy, which has come to be known as "The Golden Standard for Showers") and raising kids together and the never-ending struggle of sanctification. Our conversations are now mainly confined to email since we both have crazy schedules and our older kids are in school. But last fall we started a tradition of a Moms Getaway Weekend, which hopefully we'll continue for years to come. (The agenda is basically: laughing, talking, eating, laughing, sleeping, laughing, and...well, laughing.)

Every once in a blue moon, a kindred spirit just drops into your life seemingly out of the blue, but then you realize God's hand has been in it all along. That's Alysa. I am so, so thankful for her. And I hope anyone who stops by here, also stops by her place too!

So...I guess this is kind of a public service announcement. For blogs. Which I hate. And didn't want to have. But I do. The end.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Right, OK then...

[prayer for supper from Lucy]

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for our food. Thank you for this lovely day. We got to watch "Charlotte's Web." And we're just focusing on eating.


Someone to Watch Over Them

I'm having a lot of trouble sleeping. I'm quite sure it's because of this. My old bosom enemy is back, fear. Sometimes during the day, but always at night. I used to have them regularly, those nighttime panic attacks, and now they're back again--heart pounding, sweating palms, my thoughts churning around and around and always taking me to the absolute worst places.

Last night while I was giving the girls supper, we were listening to an old, old, old, old album by Amy Grant called "Straight Ahead." (Definitely my favorite one she's ever done. Actually, it was the first album I ever bought with my own money, when I was a freshman in high school. I bought the LP--I've since gotten the CD. There're these hilarious photos of Amy inside doing glamour shots, clad all in denim and sporting red sunglasses. Oh, I do love the 80s. How I miss them.)

Anyway, there's a great song on the album called "Angels." Now, angels have kind of fallen out of favor lately--I mean, you just don't hear about them much anymore. Back in the 90s, they were huge. It was embarrassing. There was so much angel merchandise and angel-sighting societies and crazy superstition and middle-aged women testifying how an angel found them a parking space, you name it. But last night as we were listening to this song, Lucy said, "What does it mean, Mom? You know, when it says, 'Angels watching over me, every step I take'?" (A sidenote: at the supper table is where most of our deepest theological discussions take place. I just better be prepared to discuss death or heaven or something right along with the mac and cheese.)

So, I went to the real source and read her a couple of verses: Psalm 91:11 & 12 "For He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone." Then I immediately thought of the verse in Hebrews about "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for thereby some of you have entertained angels unaware," but then I thought better of it, because right now I'm all about teaching her not to entertain strangers, so that's a lesson that'll have to come later with maturity. Frankly, Darren and I are still trying to get that one right--we've been burned a number of times by strangers who definitely were not angels.

Instead I turned to one of my favorites, Matthew 18:10, when Jesus has called the little child to stand amidst the disciples and tells them: "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."

I really didn't sleep any better last night than I have in the last few weeks. It's just going to take some time, I guess. But I am greatly comforted that those little girls have watchguards over them who always see the face of the Father.

Is that cool or what?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Wise Words from a Big Sister

The setup: Girls are sitting at the kitchen island, having breakfast. I have given them sliced bananas and toasted crumpets with butter and honey (they're on their seconds). I've also made some breakfast for their dad and am sadly wondering in my own heart when it's going to be my turn to get something for me.

Elaine: More, Mommy. More nana. More toast.

Lucy: Elaine, please don't urge Mom to keep getting you more things. Mom, can we have some tea?

The setup: Girls are playing dress-up in Lucy's room. I hear a loud scream followed by sobbing.

Lucy: (crying) Mommy, I was just trying to help her get her Sleeping Beauty dress on and then show her how to make it not drag on the floor. And she screamed at me and wouldn't let me help her. She hurt my feelings so bad and she's ruined the whole dress-up time and Mom, she's just SO WICKED!!

The setup: Elaine climbed up on the toilet and started fiddling with the light switches in the bathroom. One switch is for the fan, which is broken and makes a horrific grinding noise if you turn it on. She turned it on to catastrophic results.


Lucy (after running over to turn the switch off): Elaine, I just saved your life. You really should thank me.