Thursday, October 30, 2008

Kindness...Something I Ponder in the Land of No Sleep

Last year at this time I wrote this post about not getting much sleep because of Elaine. The year before at this time I could have written a similar post about not getting much sleep because of Elaine. The year before that I could have written another post about not getting much sleep because I was pregnant with Elaine. In short, despite her many wonderful qualities, Elaine is, not to put too fine a point on it, a terrible sleeper.

Lucy....oh, what a wonderful little sleeper she is and always has been since the day we brought her home from the hospital. I think of how much more sleep Darren and I would both have if it were just her. When she was a baby, you could walk in her room, pick her up from her crib, love on her and talk to her, put her back, and she'd never stir. When Elaine was a baby, we almost didn't even want to check on her at night because as soon as you opened the door to her room the tiniest crack, her little head would pop right up and her eyes would be open.

Now that she's in her own big girl bed, routinely in the middle of the night, a ghostly little figure comes into our room, carrying her own pillow and crawls up in between us to go back to sleep. Sometimes she doesn't even say anything unless the door is stuck (living in an old house every door to every room has its own unique challenge. They vary anywhere between falling open or having to crash your hip against to get them to unstick. E doesn't haven't much patience with the crash-your-hip variety. She stands and rattles the handle and wails until one of us gets up and opens it). We let her stay there until she's asleep again, then one of us carries her back to her own bed. This happens anywhere from between one and three times a night.

In all of this night waking, the main person Elaine wants is her daddy. "Daddy, wock me!" "Daddy, sleep wit me!" and "I want my Daddy!" are frequent utterances. There's something about the dark of night (well, really the daytime too if we're honest!) that makes her want her dad's comfort and protection.

It's even worse when she's sick, which of course she is now--with the dreaded congestion cough. She's recently stopped taking an afternoon nap, something we hoped would help with nighttime sleeping. Last night she came in our room around midnight, wailing, not even really awake. So, Daddy hauled himself out of bed to pick her up, and she was soaked. Unusual for her, she'd wet the bed. He changed her underwear and pajamas, and she scooted in next to me and cried while he then changed her sheets. I don't know how many times throughout the night she cried for Daddy, but I do know he finally got back to bed just as my alarm was going off at 4:30.

This week in my Fruit of the Spirit study the emphasis is on kindness. The study is all about how yes, we're given these fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control--and we're supposed to continually grow in them, but they truly originate from God Himself. That may seem like a "duh" moment to you, but I hadn't really thought of it much until the study. I just thought of that list as signposts to sanctification and the areas in which I usually slip up and need to work on (helloooo, patience!)

This week about kindness went through many, many references on God's nature, His kindness. Interestingly enough, they almost all focus on God as a parent, another attribute or role we don't always think of. I wish I could list all the references, but there are so many: God gathering us under His wings, God coaxing us to open our mouths for Him to fill with food, God weeping over lost children, God comforting us as little children, Jesus gathering all the children around Him to bless them...the list goes on.

For all the times I wrestle with God's sovereignty and wonder why He allows some of the things He does or why He isn't working the way I want Him to, I have been so glad of the reminder this week that I can go to Him as a father, and He will always respond in kindness. When I'm tired or frightened or sick or can't get the dumb door open, I can cry out "Abba Father" and He answers me, His child, with compassion.

I've been thinking also about how His character is imprinted on us and realized afresh that that's where our parent love originates. That's what makes a loving dad at our house get up, time and time again in the night even though he's been working all day, to respond to his little girl's cry for "Daddy!", to change her wet clothes and sheets, to gently rock her back to sleep, to keep checking on her throughout the night to make sure she's resting quietly. As Elaine herself says, "Best Daddy."

Psalm 103:13 & 14 "Just as a father is kind to his children, so the Lord is kind to all who worship Him because he knows we are made of dust..."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vacation was...not quite what I anticipated

As you may recall, we were due to leave for Door County last Wednesday morning. On Tuesday, I was working from home and not feeling that great. big deal. However, by the time I took Lucy to swim practice, I felt awful. I brought both girls home afterward and told Darren, "Here are your kids," and went to bed (I of course did have NCIS and The Mentalist on in the background, but I could not even lift my head off the pillow. Tragic, you see?)

Of course, I hadn't packed a thing for our trip. I'd made soup and done laundry. The next morning (we wanted to leave at 8:30), I started to pack. It was a slow process. Where we stay we also bring our sheets and towels, so that's an added step. I would throw a few things in a suitcase, then lie down on the bed and rest. Toss sheets in a bag, lie down and rest. You get the idea. We finally hit the road by about noon. I brought my pillow and blanket and laid down in the third seat, which, since I'm 5'8" and it's about 4' was super duper comfortable as you can imagine. But I really didn't care at that point. Darren and the girls stopped for lunch (at B'arby's), and he got me a Sprite and some saltines.

We reached Door County at around 4:30, and really I don't know much what happened after that until Friday. I just slept and hallucinated things like Darren taking me to the hospital and discovering I have cancer of the stomach lining and that I had signed up to team-teach the Bible as literature at community college (which I actually wish were true). Everyone else in my family (my parents and Chuck and Rome were there too) had a great day. Here's a picture of pretty scenery I didn't see:

Friday I felt marginally better. I rested on the couch and read, then in the evening we all went out to a great new tradition Darren established, eating at PC Junction. It wasn't crowded because this was the last weekend of the tourist season up there, plus it was a rainy Friday night. It's one of those cute places where they send your food to you on a train. The girls absolutely loved it.

Here are the three of us, just because this picture cracks me up (check out Elaine):

And here are the four of us:

Oh and yes, I did let my kids drink 12 oz of cream soda (each) out of the neck of a bottle because at that point I just did not care.

Saturday was much, much better. First we went to Peninsula State Park and climbed to the top of the tower. That had been Lucy's ambition for the entire trip. Elaine and I climbed part of it, then went back down and played together at the bottom.

Then we went to Hands-On Art. If we had gone at least a day earlier, we could have done ceramics but we chose a wooden birdhouse to paint so we could take it with us. The girls had a great time painting, and while we waited for it to dry, we went out to see the animals on the farm. They had the sweetest, gentlest horses I've ever seen. We petted and talked to and fed them, and in return they tried to eat Lucy's coat.

We then visited our favorite orchard farm market and bought a few things, but after a raging stomach virus not much looks good. I did pick up cherry scone mix for Lucy's teacher and teacher's aid. Saturday night my parents watched the girls so Darren and I could go out for a little bit.

Then...Sunday morning? We came home. And that was vacation! I'm still glad we went because my family had a blast. And I figure I could be sick at home or sick in Door County, so really, what's the difference? The one thing I really missed doing was shopping at Made in Britain; however, we're planning to spend a week up there next summer, maybe just the four of us, so I plan to get everything I missed crammed in at that time.

All of this was a wake-up call for me that I need to stop rushing around, willy nilly hither and yon and taking every commitment that comes my way. September and October I have been operating at breakneck speed. And losing Elaine that Sunday before didn't do much for my mental and physical health either. I think inherent in having little kids is that you rush a lot. But I'm looking at my life and seeing a lot of running around but not a lot of quiet time. I see myself flinging us all through the house each morning before school, shrieking like a harpy, and getting frustrated over little things, such as children who move like turtles walking through molasses.

As we move into the holiday season, this is the perfect time for me to slooooow down. In fact, I had things that I wanted to make happen that I've just had to let go. Then there are other things that I really plan to make a priority.

So...all in all, it wasn't what I had anticipated, but it turned out to be a very good thing!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Some Recent Conversations

Here are a few recent random conversations with the girls.

In the last month or two, Darren and the girls have been visiting an elderly lady (93 years old) from church at least once a week. She's either been in the hospital or a rehab facility. They love going to see her and usually draw her pictures to put in her room. On Saturday I heard that she was being moved to hospice, so I figured I had better start to prepare them. On Sunday morning over breakfast I said, "Lucy and Elaine, I want to tell you something about Ms. Marian. She left the hospital and went into something called 'hospice.' She's getting sicker instead of getting better. Hospice is where they can take better care of her. What I really want you to know is that very soon, Ms. Marian is going to go to heaven so she can live with Jesus."

I was looking carefully, especially into Lucy's face, because I thought when I said that she would start to cry. Instead, she got the most beautiful, joyful look. "She is?!" she breathed. "She gets to go live with Jesus?!" It made me tear up. I wish I could live and think like that. I told her, "Isn't it so wonderful? I know we're all going to miss her though." She answered solemnly, "Well, Mom, I've been preparing myself for that."

We had that conversation at around 7:30 a.m. At 9:00 a.m., Ms. Marian went home to live with Jesus. We found out about it later in the day, and when Darren came to kiss the girls goodnight, he told them. He also told them that all they did, visiting Ms. Marian and drawing pictures for her, was a wonderful thing and made her last few weeks here on Earth happier because of it. Lucy said excitedly, "Maybe she's telling Jesus about the pictures we drew!"


On a lighter note, also on Sunday morning, after I got ready I went back into my bedroom to look in the full-length mirror there. I was wearing a fuschia sweater, a houndstooth skirt, and some new black boots (w/ pointy toes and heels), and a fuschia bead necklace. Lucy looked at me and said, "You look just beautiful, Mom! You don't look trashy at all. You certainly do NOT look like one of those Bratz dolls."


The other day, I was working in the kitchen. Elaine told me she had to go to the bathroom. "You go with me," she commanded. She likes me to sit next to her while she goes. What can I say? She's a girl. You know how none of us can go to the bathroom by ourselves. But I was too busy so I said, "It's ok, you run upstairs and go. The light's on up there, and you'll be fine."

She didn't say a thing, but she laid down on the kitchen floor and curled up in a little ball. I kept on working. Finally (I guess I wasn't taking notice of her) she lifted up her head, gave me a disapproving glare, and said, "I am MAD at you" then curled back up. Of course, that just makes me laugh, and usually I go Dr. Phil on her and say, "So, how's that workin' out for ya?" It was so funny I just had to take a picture.

Here she is in all her rage (note the red rubber rain boots with the pajamas):

Another time, after she actually did go to the bathroom, she wanted a reward (her bathroom skills are still new enough that she can occasionally scam a piece of gum for them). "You can go get it out of my purse," I told her. She didn't want to go by herself again, so she enlisted Lucy. Lucy ran down and got her some other gum that did not come from my purse. Darren and I heard the ensuing argument. "What's going on down there?" he yelled.

"I want gum from Mom's purse!" Elaine roared in the background.

"Daaaaaddddd!" Lucy said. "She has to learn that you get what you get and you don't pitch a fit!"

Later on, Elaine was sitting on my lap along with my laptop. As my background, I have a picture of them. "There's me and Lucy at the pumpkin patch!" she said happily. "And guess what?"

"What?" I answered.

"There was a scary witch there too!"

"There was?" I said. "What did the scary witch do? Did she cackle at you?"

"No," she said definitely. "She BOSSED me."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fill out the paperwork; I am ready for Shady Pines

So Saturday was the shower. It went really, really well. Kathi had a great time and got loads of beautiful gifts, so mission accomplished. A few months before Lucy was born, Alysa threw me the most beautiful baby shower (she created a delicious salad bar for close to 30 people. Can you believe it?!) I will never, ever forget it, and I wanted Kathi to feel the same way about her shower that I felt about mine.

Here are some pictures--I took these of the table before much of the food was on it. We had two different brunch casseroles: one with sausage and potatoes that I made and a wonderful parmesan artichoke one that Sarah made. We served that with orange and cranberry muffins, homemade applesauce, and fresh strawberries. The cake was a yellow cake with Bavarian cream filling (I don't have a picture of the cake, but we put it on the tea table that you can see in the second picture)...

I borrowed this bassinet from my mom. It housed my brother and me and years later, Elaine (I think Lucy was always too big for it!) I draped it with lace, tied it with blue bows, and we put all the gifts in and around it.

Here it is, filled with presents--Kathi is in the rocking chair next to it. She's holding a picture of her husband, Donny. His mom brought the coolest gifts--a bassinet and blankets with Donny's doll from when he was a little boy wrapped up in it (I'm sure he's thrilled now that everyone knows he had a Cabbage Patch boy!). Then she had pictures of him as a child and some of his little clothes and blankets, including a quilt she had made for him. I love stuff like that.

Here's a from-the-back-shot...

The lady sitting on the floor, who looks way too young to be a grandma, is Kathi's mom (and Elaine is in front of her)...

Here are the favors: spice cookies shaped like lambs.

Sometime last week, I developed that body-wracking, lingering cough that seems to be going around. After the shower ended and I cleaned up, I laid down for a little bit while the girls redecorated the dining room table with every piece of Tupperware that I own and, in their words, "had a meeting." Then Darren took them to Farm & Fleet because this is the huge Christmas toy weekend there, and that's their little tradition. While he did that, I went to the grocery store because on Sunday we were having a visiting church history professor (David), his wife (Jamie), and daughter (Bethany) over for dinner and the afternoon (David has been teaching at our church the last week or so).

We had only met them briefly, but when they came over we all hit it off, and now we feel like we have new friends, which is always great. Bethany is 10 years old, and she sweetly played with Lucy and Elaine all afternoon. At one point, the adults were all sitting, chatting in the living room, and the girls were upstairs. Bethany ran down to get her playclothes out of the car. Unbeknownst to us, Lucy and Elaine went out with her--we didn't see them come down the stairs, and they must have gone through the kitchen and dining room rather than the living room. In a few minutes, we heard them playing back upstairs.

About an hour passed. Darren went upstairs for something and poked his head in their room. He saw Lucy and Bethany playing, but not Elaine. "Where's Elaine?" he asked. They had no idea. Then Bethany said, "She went outside with us, but she didn't come back in. We thought she was going to play out there by herself."

Instantly, we all mobilized. David was outside already, but Darren, the two girls, Jamie, and I ran out. Jamie said, "The baby is missing." I think David thought it was one of the girls' dolls or something because he asked, "What baby?" and I answered in a voice that didn't sound like mine, "My baby." We called and called her name and spread out, looking through the yard and the surrounding yards. I ran back in the house, wondering if she had maybe gone in the basement or something. Jamie told me later she prayed with Bethany and Lucy outside as they were looking, and inside the only three words that came into my mind were, "Elaine" and "Please, Jesus." All I could think of was that little 2-year-old in her blue sweater dress the color of an October sky, wandering out into our busy road or being put in someone's car. I mean, she had been gone for an hour. I searched through the house and ran into the kitchen and put my hand on the phone to call the police. I looked out the patio door and saw Darren cradling a little blond girl in his arms.

He had had the presence of mind to look in our cars. For some reason, she had opened the door, crawled into Lucy's carseat, closed the door, and cried herself to sleep. She was whimpering, and she came right to me and threw her arms around my neck. (Darren said later, "I thought you were just going to totally lose it.") For the first few seconds, I could only think of her being found and safe. For the next few hours, all I could think of was what if it had been a hot day in which she had closed herself in the car for an hour.

I got the girls ready for bed later on in the evening, and we all piled into the rocking chair to say our prayers. When it was Elaine's turn she prayed, "Dear Jesus, thank you that Daddy found me and thank you that Mommy found me and thank you that Lucy found me. Thank you I am safe. Thank you that I got in Lucy's carseat and screamed my head off and took my nap. I hate that car. Amen."

Later on, Darren and I just hugged each other. He said, "I feel sort of numb right now. I think it's going to hit me later how terrified I was." I said, "After this weekend, please just check me into the nursing home. I am so ready for perpetual care."

Right before bed, I looked at my Charasia calendar that's on the refrigerator. Here is the verse(s) for the day:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty...He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. If you make the Most High your dwelling—even the LORD, who is my refuge--then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways..."Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him." Psalm 91

Friday, October 17, 2008

A bunch of stuff and another Friday Five...

This week has been sort of insane. Tomorrow I (along with another friend) am giving a baby shower for Lucy's dear Mrs. Pope. Right now, as of Friday morning, my house is not ready at all, I need to shop for some of the food, I need to wrap my gift, finish the favors, set the table, arrange all the chairs (I'm expecting close to 35 people)...yeah, it's going to be a late night.

I thought I would get a lot done yesterday. While Lucy was at school, I planned to clean the upstairs. I was working on the bathroom, and Elaine was sitting in the hall. I heard her say, "Mom, I broke it." She walked in carrying the head to the Swiffer mop that I was just about to use. No problem, those things just snap back on. Unless they're really broken off, which somehow my not-quite-3-year-old managed to do. Who breaks a Swiffer? Unbelievable. So I finished some other stuff, we went to pick Lucy up from school, dropped movies off at the library that were overdue of course, went to the bank to deposit some money so we could immediately go and spend it all at Target (including buying a new Swiffer), and went home.

Also, Lucy is the Star Scientist at school this week of all weeks. This means that she does a science experiment of her choosing at home, then demonstrates it to the class on Friday. Because she loves to cook, we decided to do a cooking experiment. I had planned to do the experiment on Thursday because it was combining all sorts of ingredients and making four cakes: one cake that had all the ingredients and each of the other three with a different ingredient left out and determining the results. We made enough of the good cake so that everyone in the class could have a little bit, so that's why I left it until Thursday. I didn't realize that after we got home from Target however, we had 45 minutes to do the whole thing before we had to run out the door to get the girls' haircuts. As soon as we got back from that, it was time to take Elaine to her swim class. As soon as we got back from that, it was time for me to leave to get my hair cut. By the time I got home, I was too tired to do any of the shower stuff I'd planned (and the bathroom floor still hasn't been Swiffered yet), so I've got all my tasks to look forward to this evening. I'm viewing it as a challenge.

What's really getting me through this nutty week is the fact that starting this Wednesday, I'll be on vacation in Door County. Which brings me to this week's Top 5...

Top Five Reasons I Love Door County (and again, not in any particular order)

1. This: where we love to bring our kids

2. This :where we do NOT bring our kids

3. This: which I remained convinced is one of, if not the, most beautiful place on this Earth.

4. This: where I love to stock up twice a year.


5. Because I've gone here with my family ever since I was a toddler. My parents started going with my godparents before my brother and I were born. Now I'm coming here with both my parents and my kids, who are crazy about Door County. I'm pretty sure they'll bring their kids someday too. I'm not kidding when I say as soon as you pass Sturgeon Bay, you can actually feel yourself relaxing. I've been to a lot of different places, but this is still one of my top two favorites. There are a lot more people up in DC than there were when I was little, but it doesn't matter. Rumor has it that the first time my parents brought us (I think I was three and my brother was five), we started to cry when it was time to go home. I still get a big wave of sadness every time when we have to leave, though we always take one last drive through the park to tell it goodbye.

I could definitely post a lot more things I like about it, but that would be a much longer post. This year though, on the recommendation of Lucy's teacher, we're planning to try this. I'll report back on how it is, how the shower goes, and how Lucy's day as Star Scientist turns out!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Friday Five

So, I thought I'd start a new little feature here at Guilford Road: the Friday Five (an idea I shamelessly ripped off some other blog I read). Of course, it may end up like the other new little feature I started about a year ago, the Tuesday book review, that lasted exactly one week. Commitment: maybe not really my thing. But...we'll give it a whirl. Each Friday I'll list my top five of something, then you feel free to list your top five in that category in the comments. If you want. Or not.

Top Five Favorite Classic Comedies (Oh, and these are not in any particular order)

1. Sabrina w/ Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, and William Powell. Do not be fooled by that ridiculous remake with Harrison Ford and whats-her-name. Lame. I like remakes (see: "Father of the Bride"), but it's pretty hard to match up to Audrey and Humphrey; though Greg Kinnear can give William Powell a run for his money. Anyway, it's fun to see Bogart loosen up and do a little comedy: I occasionally use the line, "I wish I were dead with my back broken." The ending scene is priceless (and another reason why the remake stunk. But I don't really have strong feelings about it.)

2. Auntie Mame w/ Rosalind Russell and a bunch of other people and well, really just Rosalind Russell. I saw this first when I was just a kid and thought it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen. Some movies don't hold up to our childhood memories, but this one's even better viewing now. The costumes! Oh! Rosalind Russell played this part on stage as well and owns it. Do not be fooled by the musical with Lucille Ball. Favorite scene: the foxhunt. ("Look the animal in the eye with a masterful gaze. Look the master in the eye with an animal gaze.")

3. The Philadelphia Story. Ahhh. Cary Grant. Jimmy Stewart. It's probably everyone else's favorite too, but I don't care. Little sister Dinah almost steals the movie, except for Jimmy Stewart's intoxicated-oh-C-K-Dexter-Haaaaaaven! scene, which he totally deserved the Oscar just for that.

4. The Thin Man and After the Thin Man. Really, any Thin Man movie. If you have never seen these, I implore you to. Even if you don't think you like old movies, you will love these. In my personal opinion, William Powell and Myrna Loy was the funniest pairing in movie history. I never fail to burst into laughter during the bedroom gun scene. You will thank me.

...and on that note...

5. Love Crazy or Double Wedding or I Love You Again (do you like how I've sneaked a lot more than five onto this list?) all by Powell/Loy. Back before our Great Cable Turnoff of '06, TCM used to run actor marathons. Most of the time I didn't care--John Wayne, I'm looking at you--but if it was a William Powell marathon? Forget it, I didn't work for the rest of the day. Watch these with a box of Kleenex: to wipe away the tears of laughter.

...and on a side note: one of my favorite William Powell's is called The Ex-Mrs. Bradford, but it's not available on DVD, otherwise I'd have it in my top five. Another favorite is called Mr. and Mrs. North, starring Gracie Allen, which I once saw on TV years ago but have never been able to find since. I hate when that happens.

So, if you're looking for something to watch this weekend and you feel like laughing, I offer you the above. Tell me what you think. Anybody else?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Wherein I Post a Bunch of Pictures Because I Don't Have Much to Say

This past weekend I finally did the chore Darren has been begging me to do for ages, namely clean out the storage area of the basement. I was all set to take before and after pictures, but the before was so incredibly appalling that he refused to let me share our shame with any of our friends as well as millions of strangers on the Internet. Go figure.

My stipulations for the job were that he provide me with industrial strength garbage bags, boxes, and a day without the girls. He obliged. So I headed to the basement, gathered up all my 80s mix CDs, hit play, stubbed my toe brutally while simultaneously gathering up stuff and dancing to Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," and settled in to work for the day. It doesn't mean much without the pictures, but we now have a completely clean and organized (and half empty) storage room. I mean, we could actually, you know, store something in there. Or even turn it into another office or workout room.

In the meantime, Darren took the girls (and the camera) to the pumpkin patch.

This last one is my absolute favorite....

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Letter and a Challenge

My friend and former co-worker Ann (who is an artist/cartoonist) told me that if she likes someone's work, she sends them a letter to tell them so. It's a kind thing to do, and hey, you just never know who is going to write you back, which is the icing on the cake. I've since adopted that policy, and it is so true. Often I don't receive any answer, but it is surprising how many times I do. I've written favorite authors, newspaper columnists, musicians, former teachers, etc.

I've mentioned this guy's work a number of times on this blog. I highly recommend him. Check him out at the library. Put him on your kids' amazon wishlist. He is really, really good! Since we've been reading him so much, especially lately, I decided to write him a letter and tell him how much we enjoy his work.

Dear Mr. Aylesworth:

I received your book "Jim Aylesworth's Book of Bedtime Stories" close to six years ago as a baby shower gift when I was expecting my first daughter, Lucy. We have spent many, many happy times in the rocking chair together, reading "Two Terrible Frights" (my personal favorite), "Teddy Bear Tears," "Good-night Kiss" and of course, about that little mouse named Kevin.

My younger daughter, Elaine, who is now 2 1/2, until lately has not been particularly interested in books at all. She'd much rather be in motion. As a former literature teacher myself, my heart sank a little. What if I didn't have a book-lover on my hands here? :-) One day after an oddly parallel Two-Terrible-Frights experience in my own kitchen (and I definitely said "eeek!"), I thought I would pull the Book of Bedtime Stories off the shelf where it has been resting and see if Elaine would be interested. She sat, rapt, through the whole thing. Lucy came to join us in the rocking chair. "Ooh, read 'Hickory, Dickory, Dock' to her too, Mom!" So we did. Then the remainder of the book...she sat through it all. Now it is commonplace for her to settle down on my lap with our worn copy and demand, "Read 'bout the teddy bears and the bogey man in the closet!" We routinely read "Two Terrible Frights" in parts (and they correct me if I don't get one of the voices quite right!).

Just last week, Lucy brought home from her school library your rendition of Goldilocks & the Three Bears, and we've all been loving that (every night!) as well. Your books have provided so much enjoyment for our family!

Best wishes to you--


Today when I opened up my email, I had received this:

Hi, Alice!

It's so good of you to send these kind words! As an author and former teacher, they make me proud. I think you can imagine...


I send warm greetings to Lucy and Elaine, et al!



There you go! Neat, huh? So, I extend to you Ann's challenge. If you enjoy someone's work or someone has made an impact on your life, write to them and let them know. It's a good thing to do. And you never know what you'll get back!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Fall TV

So, hopefully all of my readers are watching this, which started last night. If you missed the first episode, you can watch it online for a limited time or you can read a synopsis of it at the site. It's reallllly good; a non-stop keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller so far. And it has Robert Carlyle in it (though he has not said one word in the first hour and a half, just stalked around menacingly) so what is not to love?

It'll be on PBS Sunday nights, 8 p.m. CST, through November 5. Go forth and watch!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

More pictures...

If you want to see more and vastly superior pictures of Elaine and Jackson's first playdate...head over here. Then stay for awhile and read through, because it is for sure one of my favorite blogs. Because I know you, like me, could always spend just a little more time on the Internet. But it's worth it, I promise!

Friday, October 03, 2008

An Actual 18-Hour Timespan in the Life of a Mom

6:20 a.m. In my sleep, I hear the click of the door opening. I am awakened by both girls, climbing into our bed. Elaine steps on my hair and crashes her full weight against my head. OK, I'm up.

7:30 a.m. I have showered and gotten ready, gotten both girls dressed, beds made, and they're eating breakfast. I run downstairs because I want to put a load of laundry in, but I see that I've forgotten to take a load out from a couple days ago. It smells, so I start the washer again.

8:20 a.m. Elaine and I are back from dropping Lucy off at school. I make myself a cup of tea and plop her in front of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" so I can have my quiet time. Please don't judge me. I continue my study of the fruit of the Spirit; this week is joy. I learn that joy is often hidden within trials, and we must discover it. I read I Peter 1: 6-7 "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." I vow to be filled with joy for the day.

9:00 a.m. I turn on my laptop to check my email. I see a news story about a video game called "Killing Kindergartners." The point of the game is to virtually enter a school classroom and kill as many kindergartners as you can with a rifle. I think about what sort of sick, twisted piece of refuse would invent such a thing and what sort of sick, twisted piece of refuse would buy and play it. Then I think of my own little kindergartner in her classroom right now, and the biggest worry on her mind is that the class's caterpillars have not survived to turn into butterflies. I do not want to live in such a horrible place as this world is.

9:40 a.m. I take Elaine to swimming. I flip through the newest InStyle magazine and marvel at some of the unbelievably ugly things designers are trying to convince us we should wear. I look up and see Elaine and two other tiny girls, all on a rubber raft being pulled around the water by their teacher. They are all giggling and kicking their feet. I wish I had my camera. Elaine turns and scrunches her face into such a big and funny smile at me that even the man next to me laughs.

11:15 a.m. Elaine and I pick Lucy up from school. I see her skip out, trustingly holding her teacher's hand. Then I think about the Killing Kindergartners game again. She doesn't obey me when I tell her to stop fixing her pony tail and instead put her seatbelt on right away, so I tell her no treats at all today. Elaine sings "Do everything without complaining."

12:00 p.m. I fix the girls lunch. Elaine cries because she has to go to the bathroom but can't (or won't). I peel about a dozen apples and put them in the crockpot with brown sugar and spices to make applesauce.

12:30 p.m. I set Lucy up on my bed to watch Curious George, and I read "Little Bunny Follows His Nose" to Elaine before laying her down in her bed for a nap. I go downstairs to straighten up. Last Friday I read a Real Simple article about how you can spend 19 minutes a day cleaning your house, and then your house will always be clean. I've spent this week trying it, and the results are wonderful. I eat my own lunch and spend a little more than 19 minutes cleaning, but this is cleaning day anyway.

2:15 p.m. I savor my glorious clean house and sit at the kitchen island with a cup of tea. I have George Winston playing, applesauce cooking, and I'm going over plans for a friend's baby shower.

2:30 p.m. I get both girls and tell them we're going on a nature walk. We get tupperware to put our treasures in and set out. We collect leaves, and horse chestnuts, and maple seeds. I show them how they look like helicopters when you toss them in the air. Elaine calls them "alligators"; Lucy corrects her, and now she calls them "copter-copters." I listen to them chattering happily and think about the Killing Kindergartners game. Then I think about my mom telling me about the summer she was pregnant with my brother. She wandered around the house, listening to the radio coverage about Richard Speck, crying and wondering why she was bringing a baby into such a horrible place as this world is.

3:30 p.m. It's the most beautiful, crisp fall afternoon. The girls are playing on the patio. I check on the applesauce in my clean, clean kitchen. It smells fantastic. I can see Elaine bawling through the patio door. I go outside to check her. She's had an accident. I take her upstairs and clean her up and clean [solid matter] from her panties.

4:00 p.m. Elaine is crying. She's had an accident. I take her upstairs and clean her up and clean [solid matter] from another pair of panties.

4:30 p.m. Elaine is upset about her accidents and wants to be rocked. Lucy insists that I look at the new backdoor handle she has fashioned from a stick, a leaf, and some packing tape.

5:15 p.m. I feed the girls supper. Lucy hates the applesauce I've made and doesn't want to eat it. She simulates a gagging sound. Elaine is crying again. She's had an accident. I clean the table up from supper, then take her upstairs, clean her up, and throw pair of panties in garbage.

5:45 p.m. I start the girls' bath. They're in the tub, and I walk into their room to lay out their clothes for tomorrow. I hear Elaine screaming. I go into the bathroom to see that she has had an accident. In.the.bathtub. I screech for both of them to get out. Lucy stands, dripping on the bathmat and complaining because she's cold. I set Elaine on her little potty. She cries and cries and cries until finally, finally, she gets her little system cleaned out. She doesn't quite hit the mark, and I spend time cleaning [significant amounts of solid matter] from the potty seat.

6:00 p.m. I drain/rinse/scrub/disinfect the bathtub and fill it with fresh water. I bathe both girls and wash their hair.

6:30 p.m. They are fresh and clean in their matching turtle pajamas, sitting on my lap. We read Goldilocks and the Three Bears and A Bargain for Frances. I walk over by the bookshelf with Elaine and smell a tell-tale smell. I check. I clean her up and clean [solid matter] from her latest pair of panties.

7:00 p.m. I kiss them both goodnight, turn out the light, and shut the door. I go downstairs and fix supper for Darren and me.

9:00 p.m. Lucy comes in the bathroom where I am. "Can you please come rock me, Mom?" Waves of guilt wash over me as I say no. "I am so so so exhausted, sweetheart," I say. "Does 'so exhausted' mean you're weary?" she asked. "Yes, it does. Come here and I'll tuck you back in and give you extra kisses." I do that, and we talk a little bit about the day that's coming when Darren takes Elaine for the weekend. Lucy and I plan to eat popcorn and candy and stay up late watching "Anne of Green Gables." I kiss her again and say goodnight.

9:45 p.m. I'm reading a mystery. Darren comes in our room and turns on the VP debate. I beg him to turn those two yammering arguers off.

10:00 p.m. I fall asleep.

11:00 p.m. I am abruptly awakened by crying. I rush into the girls' room. "Mama, Mama!!!" It's Lucy. I shush her kind of harshly because I think she just can't find Rabbie, and I'm 3/4 still asleep. I come over to her bedside and can see (and smell) in the dark that she's thrown up all over her bed. I lay her gently on a little pallet on the floor and remake her bed. I take her sheets out in the hall by the bathroom door. I turn on the light (ouch) and clean [solid matter] from her sheets and pillowcase. Elaine comes to the bathroom door. "You rock me, Mom?" I take the bundle of sheets down to the washer, where I find the rewashed load from this morning still in there. I put it in the dryer and wash Lucy's sheets with hot water on superwash. I enlist Darren's help since he is still in his basement office, working.

11:30 p.m. Darren goes upstairs and asks Elaine what happened. She says, "My Lucy throwed up. And I tootied." (She's the master of understatement, that one.) We get both girls settled back into bed. I collapse back in our bed, but I'm so jazzed at this point that I can't sleep. I say, "Let's see. I've cleaned up four panty accidents, a bathtub accident, a potty accident, and a throw-up bed. There's still 30 minutes left to this day. I wonder what else is going to happen?"

11:58 p.m. I hear the click of the door opening. Elaine walks in, looking for all the world like a little lost lamb in her pajamas. "I want Mama" she baaaaas piteously, climbs up on the bed next to me, and lies down. She thrashes around and crashes her canonball-like skull against my head.

12:20 a.m. I wait until she is asleep and carry her back to her bed.

12:30 a.m. or somewhere in that vicinity. I lie in bed and try to force myself to sleep. I think about the Killing Kindergartners game. I finally drift back to sleep in anticipation of my alarm going off at 4:08 a.m. so I can get up and get ready for work this morning.

I Peter 1: 6-7 "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Big Shoes to Fill

It's no secret Elaine is feeling a little left behind this year. In reality she's always been sort of left behind or along for the ride, but now she's old enough to realize it. Such is the lot of the youngest, I guess. I'm a little sister too, so I know just what it feels like--to watch your older sibling get to do all the fun, cool stuff first while you just got to lag behind with Mom.

Especially since Lucy started kindergarten, we've gone out of our way to do some special, individual things with Elaine too. I've made Wednesday Japanese garden day each week, and on Thursdays she swims. Darren's also been including her on special restaurant trips and outings that Lucy used to get to go along solo on. I did make a decree that the only fast food establishment our family will patronize is Subway, but apparently Elaine is too little to keep Dad's secrets because each time we drive down the road she calls out, "Dare's McDonalds! Dare's Beef-a-roo! Dare's da Dairy Queen!" and my personal favorite "Dare's B'Arby's!" (I never hear her yell out "Dare's Subway!")

She loves to sing, just like Lucy, and wants to learn all the same songs that Lucy sings. So we hear about the three little fish and Mr. Shark, the little green frog, and fortunately all the hymns Lucy learns too. The other day, Lucy was complaining about making her bed, and Elaine burst into song: "Do everything wit-out complaining, Do everything wit-out arguin', so dat you may be called blameless and pure, children of God!" It was hilarious because it was so appropos, and I was partly thrilled because yes, we should all encourage each other to do what's right. I'm just not sure we should use the Bible as a metaphorical club with which to beat each other over the head.

Elaine is also loving books, which basically happened overnight. One day I couldn't get her to sit on my lap for anything more taxing than a Gossie book. The next day she became obsessed with Peter Rabbit, fairy tales, Frances books, and all manner of long picture books. Lucy has library day at school each Monday. This week she came home with Jim Aylesworth's version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. While she was at school on Tuesday, my mom read Elaine the book at least three times. In Elaine's mind, the book is now hers. I heard Lucy and Elaine screeching at each other first thing this morning (nothing new there) and walked in to see them playing tug-of-war with the library book. "Mom!" sobbed Lucy, "This is my library book, and Elaine says it's hers! She keeps agitating me! Make her give it back!" "Mine mine mine my library book!" shrieked Elaine.

Sigh. Good morning, Mother dear. How are you this morning? Let us get you a cup of tea while you rest in bed until you're ready to greet the day. When is that scenario going to happen? Oh right. When I'm a resident at Shady Pines. Back to reality now.

Yesterday Elaine had a big-girl playdate with Jackson, Alysa's son, and we all went to the gardens together. She was excited to have her very own friend coming over and wanted to tell him all manner of things, which she was too shy to do when the time actually came, and to show him her room. Of course my camera froze in the middle of picture-taking, but I did get a couple of cute ones. If Alysa blogs about it, I'll refer you over to hers to see more and better pictures.

Here are Elaine and Jackson getting a drink at the fountain...

Here they are feeding the fish...

Eventually Elaine, you will learn the secret of younger siblingdom--that Mom and Dad go much easier on you. Lucy will have to go through all the boundary setting, while you will skate through with no problem. You've already gotten to get your toenails painted a whole year earlier than Lucy, just wait until the lipstick and eyeshadow issue comes up. No problems there. Parents ask a lot less of the one who's younger. You'll probably get to roll out of the driveway on your own the very first day you get your license.

It's not all bad, I promise.