Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Miss Mango, Priscilla, and Moali

Our refrigerator has become something of a prayer wall. On it I keep the prayer calendar from the Grace Children's Home in India, a yellowed newspaper picture of Moali--our South African girl--and now this little sweetheart.

I don't know her name, but she is called Miss Mango. You can read more about her here. I gotta tell you--if I had been to Africa, I would have had a really hard time not scooping that precious one into my suitcase and bringing her home.

Also this week, I got a letter from the organization Feed My Starving Children. Here is Priscilla. She is in 6th grade and HIV positive. Her only food is the one meal a day provided by FMSC. Priscilla wants to grow up and be a doctor so she can help others.

Lucy was looking at the pictures of Moali (below), Priscilla, and Miss Mango.

She asked me, "Mom, why do they all look sort of like boys? You know, with their hair so short?" I explained (in my limited knowledge of black hair) that it wasn't like ours. In order for theirs to grow, it needs extra love and care and a mom or someone else to brush it regularly. Otherwise, it doesn't grow. I explained to her that these little ones don't have a mom or grandma to brush their hair.

The best mission sermon I ever heard (and I've heard many, MANY) was from Paul Borthwick. It was entitled, "Will You Give Jesus Your Lunch?" When we look at the overwhelming need surrounding us--we don't even have to go on a mission trip; we just can open our mail or the newspaper--it's hard not to feel paralyzed. But if we, just as the little boy in the Bible story, give all that is in our hands, even though it's next to nothing, Christ can work great things through it.

One of the things we have been given is unlimited access to God Himself through prayer. When we feel unable to help because of financial limitations, circumstances, distance or whatever, we can pray that help be sent. That's why we have turned our refrigerator into a "prayer wall." Would you too consider taking time to pray for one of these little ones today--Miss Mango, Priscilla, Moali? They desperately need the Good News, food, medical care, education, and someone just to love them and brush their hair.

Friday, June 26, 2009

In which I find a way to work Michael Jackson in...

...even though (to my knowledge) three pastors' wives read this blog.*

I don't have anything to say about Michael Jackson, the person (well, I probably do, but I'm not going to). But there is certain music that makes up the fabric of your life and your past. I remember clearly my brother bringing home the album "Thriller" (on vinyl!) and us playing it on our record player. Those songs always make me think of high school. But the album I have the most memories of is the one that followed, from 1987, "Bad."

I was a freshman at Moody Bible Institute, majoring in Urban Ministries, with an emphasis on African American culture. Yup. Go ahead and laugh. Because I am from Wheaton, IL, (which is a little more integrated now) an upper-middle class, HUGELY Caucasian city. Protestant Mecca.

I had been in a Sunday evening service at church in my senior year of high school, actually listening--which was a rarity, and there was a guest speaker there who worked with inner-city gangs and something inside me said, "Oh, yeah. I want to do that, too." A few months later I was accepted at Moody, despite my lackluster grades, ready to minister in the city.

Every Moody student has to complete a PCM (Practical Christian Ministry) every semester. There are all sorts of options--nursing homes, prisons, hospitals, churches--the school decides your first one and then you can either pick after that or let them assign you. You go once a week and minister in whatever capacity you are asked. My first, and consequently only, assignment was at the Chicago Fellowship of Friends. It was a small Quaker church in the heart of Cabrini-Green, the notorious near north side housing project.

A van picked us up at Moody and deposited us on the sidewalk outside a brick building that didn't look anything like a church. The row houses, the red high rises, and the more distant white high rises of the housing project surrounded us. The warm air thumped with the music: Terence Trent D'Arby, LL Cool J, and of course, more than anything...Michael Jackson. With the exception of the Moody students, the faces were black. This began my inner city experience.

I find as I try to type this that I can't adequately summon up the words to describe the people, the church, the ministry, that time of my life. I tell you this much: in about 0.9 seconds I realized that I wasn't going to be the giver, the teacher, the minister. I was the receiver, the learner, the one ministered to.

The pastors of the church were Steve and Marlene Pedigo. Their skin was white, but underneath they were black. I have never met two more selfless people. They lived and breathed that ministry. They took kids into their home. They fostered many, unofficially adopted many, wept and prayed over all. The money they received to live on barely kept them off food stamps. I remember Steve taking some of us to a mall one time and him being so excited because he bought a pair of gloves at Sears. I'm pretty sure the clothes they owned could have filled maybe one drawer.

During my time at Chicago Fellowship of Friends, I can't begin to list all the things I learned or how those people affected the way I act, think, and view Christianity. All I can say is: their faith had hands and feet; it was a living faith. They were pacifists in the midst of a war zone. There was heartbreak all the time--someone you thought was doing well, then you found out they were back into drugs. Or pregnant. Or back with the gang. Or headed to prison.

But I can't let this go unsaid: we had a blast. It was so much fun, and there was so much laughter and always, always the music. CFOF is where I learned to love (black) gospel music. But mostly I remember walking the streets there, feeling the energy, and hearing the street music.

I requested to fulfill all four years of my PCM there. I served in the children's after-school club, the youth group, Sunday School, the tutoring program, the choir (yes, I did!), and whatever was needed.

When I graduated, my friends from Cabrini came to the ceremony. Moody requested that everyone remain silent until everyone had graduated, but you don't really tell black folks to remain silent so when my name was called, I heard "Yeaaaaahhhhhhh Alice!" and general hooting and hollering from the balcony. Definitely one of the high points of my life.

After graduation, I went back to Wheaton and, though I lost touch with a number of my friends, they have always remained in my heart. Steve Pedigo read Scripture at our wedding.

Recently, I tried to look up some people from my past on facebook. Unfortunately, either I've gotten no matches or thousands of matches--until I found one young man, one of the former high school students from the church. I get a little teary just writing this: he married one of the former high school girls from the church; they live in Atlanta, have a little girl, he has his doctorate in social work, and has written a book.

We caught up a bit, and I wrote this:

Gerrick, I gotta tell you something funny--in one of the classes I was teaching a few years ago (Minority Voices in Literature), I mentioned that I had worked with an organization/church in Cabrini-Green (about half my students were African American). They almost fell down in shock and died laughing. They were like, "Alice, you are the whitest person we have ever seen! What were you DOING there?" :-)

And he wrote back this:

That is definitely funny. What they probably failed to realize is that God works in and through those who are willing to take on the goal of peace on earth. No matter who you are, you can contribute to that goal. You were probably an inspiration to many of those students, so continue being a wonderful human being. God bless.


Needless to say, that's an email I'm keeping forever.

So, back to Michael Jackson. His music, particularly the "Bad" album, is forever imprinted on my consciousness from those years I worked alongside those phenomenal people at Chicago Fellowship of Friends. This morning I went to the basement and dug up my copy and have been listening to it. Whenever I hear his songs, I think of the people of CFOF and how they taught me what ministry should really look like. This is probably the one that reminds me most.

*Re the pastors' wives--one who reads this blog is my friend Alysa's mom, Mae Emma. She has pretty much always been too cool for school. I remember Alysa telling me back in the day about being in the car when "The Way You Make Me Feel" came on the radio, and her mom turned it UP instead of down. "Mother!" she said, a little scandalized. "HEY," Mrs. C. answered. "It has a good beat!" Yes. Yes, it does.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

As of today, I can officially own this book:

Not that I do, of course. I haven't worked out since the morning Elaine was born. It's on my agenda to begin again. There's something out there called the 30-Day Shred, which sounds appropriately terrifying, that I should probably begin with. Maybe when I'm 41.

Since I and many of my friends are turning 40 this year, I'm pretty much planning to celebrate all summer. You know, like 40 Days of Purpose? Except 40 Days of Party. Mackinac Island was part of it, but yesterday was the official day.

It kicked off nicely with Darren setting the girls up in front of "That Darn Cat" (their new favorite) so I could sleep in. Then I made us a late breakfast party of Darjeeling tea and scones with jam and cream.

There has been a heat advisory for the last couple of days; fortunately we had been to the library the day before to stock up on reading and viewing materials. I basically took it easy during the day, sipping iced tea and reading the latest issues of Victoria and Better Homes & Gardens. Then in the afternoon, the girls and I made cupcakes (from Hello Cupcake again). We decided to make the West Highland Terrier ones because, in a few years and after my lobotomy, that's the kind of dog we want to get. Here they are:

Here are Maggie, Daisy, Maisy, Rosie, Asta, Katie, Janet, and Henry (all our possible names--note the one contingency for a boy dog). If you tilt your head and squint, they could also be Persian cats.

In the evening, Darren took care of the girls' supper and bath/bedtime so that I could go out by myself for a couple hours. "To do what?" demanded the girls. "RELAX," I told them. "We want to go with you and relax," Lucy said. "And me too!" chimed in Elaine.

I finally escaped to Ann Taylor with my birthday money burning a hole in my wallet, as my dad would say. They were having a great sale, so I cleaned up. Then I went to Kohls and got some jewelry--if you are looking for fun costume jewelry at great prices, that's the place to go.

Then I came home, and Darren and I made our first famous summer sandwiches of the year--bacon, avocado, and tomato on rosemary olive oil bread. He had asked me if I wanted to go out, but 9 times out of 10 I'd rather eat at home. So we ate those with a Westie cupcake apiece and watched "A Murder is Announced."

So...that was a pretty good day. We're having a party with my family this weekend, Alysa and I are going to dinner sometime soon (since her 40th was June 11), and my cousin is coming to visit for a week in July (since his 40th is July 11). I'll keep you posted on my 40 Days of Party. And when I start the 30-Day Shred...though you might not want to hold your breath on that one.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Nine Weeks of Summer Left

I started out writing a post about how it's not even technically summer yet, but we've already had 4 1/2 weeks of summer break, and how the newspaper said it's the coldest, wettest season since 1928, and how all the good VBSs are already filled up and I missed the deadlines, and I was actually boring even myself. So you can thank me for sparing you that. All I can say to parents of young children is that summer is a marathon, not a sprint, so we can all take a deep breath and keep that in mind. Helpful, I know. We've spent a lot of this cold, wet summer break at the library.

And I dug out my college typewriter for Elaine, who is fascinated by it. So I will leave you with a picture of my own little Kit Kittredge (a movie we've seen so much we all have it memorized)...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mackinac Island, Part II

By Thursday, it had gotten really nice out, and the lilacs were doing this!

Darren and I took some pictures in front of the condo. When on vacation, it's hard to have pictures of the two of you, so Darren brought the tripod. I was patient for a couple pictures, but Darren is a perfectionist. This is nice when you get home and have a lot of good pictures from which to choose, but I'm not so amenable for all the posing it takes to get them.

Then we hopped on our bikes and headed out. Do you like how nonchalantly I said, "hopped on our bikes" as if that's something I ordinarily do? I actually hate riding bikes and haven't done it in eight years. But, I was going to give it a whirl.

It was actually enjoyable for the most part. Darren had the map and said, "Let's ride along the shoreline highway," which made me nervous at first until I remembered: no cars! It was just a beautiful, scenic, quiet road--with other bikers and walkers.

We stopped for some more pictures. A seagull flew, squawking overhead. "You sound just like that bird whenever I want to take a picture," Darren observed.

We rode probably five or six miles around the island until we reached downtown. Here is the main square--see how beautiful the lilacs will be in a few days.

Here's one of the few pictures that I actually took. The horses made no complaint.

We were starving by this point, so we headed to what is now our favorite restaurant on the island. We ate there two days in a row--Millie's on Main.

I had some homemade turkey noodle soup one day and a hot dog the next. Both days Darren had the whitefish basket. Every place we go, Darren tries to find good fish. He hit the jackpot here. The fish had come out of the lake only that morning. I'm not a big fish eater, but even I kept sneaking bites off his plate. It was fantastic. We finished up with the homemade apple crisp and ice cream.

Downtown we got some souvenirs for the girls, Sarah & Lucho and their kids, and ourselves. We got the girls Mackinac Island t-shirts and turtle necklaces. Darren got himself a baseball cap because, you know, he doesn't have any of those (yes, that is sarcasm), and I got myself a cool Indian bag. We sampled some varieties of fudge, which the island is known for, and I got some mixed caramel corn and cheese corn. It is addictive and...gasp...wait for it, Chicagoans...it's even better than Garrett's. Sacrilege, I know, but true!

We headed back in the late afternoon because we had to either send our bags or our bikes down to the ferry dock that night since we had to leave early in the morning (bikes aren't allowed on taxis). We opted to send our bags with the exception of what we would need in the a.m.

Here we are again, on the beach.

After we dispatched the bags, we took a walk on the grounds and enjoyed one last sunset.

We got up early in the morning and rode our bikes down to the ferry and back to the real, non-vacation world. We called Sarah, who had picked up the girls from my mom on Thursday, and heard that they were having a great time, that they were all going to the pool that day, but that Elaine missed her mom and kept calling me on her pretend phone. Then she said that Elaine had woken up at 2 a.m. (I somehow completely accidentally forgot to mention that that is her regular habit), feeling alone. Sarah said, "I just laid down with her until we both fell back asleep. I really miss having a little one like her around!" I could possibly work out an arrangement for a few nights a week if she's interested.

So, one last look at the island lilacs as they bid us farewell! It was a great week...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mackinac Island, Part I

Monday night I dropped the girls off with my parents where they were going to stay for half the week while Darren and I were gone. Then I went home to finish laundry, packing, and cleaning the house (I like to pace myself). Darren was out at a meeting, but when he came home around 10 p.m. he smelled fresh-baked cookies.

"I pulled 'a Lois,'" I told him. Whenever we went on a long car trip, my mom always made cookies so we'd have something to snack on in the car.

We were planning to leave at 5 a.m., but since we were up half the night that changed to 6 a.m. So, we were finally off on vacation--a rarity for us. It was great to have about 9 hours of uninterrupted conversation and to just listen to music and watch the scenery go by. About three miles before we reached St. Ignace, MI, where we were going to take a ferry to the island, a police officer pulled us over and gave us a ticket. Apparently we were going 15 miles over their ever-so-low speed limit. And he said he was going to be nice to us and mark our ticket as going only 5 miles over because that way we would have to pay only $85 instead of $200. Michigan, I am losing much of the love I had for you. $85 for going 5 miles over the speed limit? Are you kidding me? Not an auspicious start to vacation.

We got to the ferry and loaded on our bikes and luggage. Darren went to the top of the boat to take pictures, but I preferred to sit inside out of the wind, spray, and mosquitoes. First, we saw the Mackinac Bridge, which I enjoyed looking at but was thrilled we didn't have to drive over. Ever since I was six years old and almost fell through a 1,000-ft railroad trestle in upstate New York and also since we narrowly missed death on the Memphis Bridge--bridges are not really my thing.

And here we are, arriving at the island.

Since no cars are allowed on the island, the three ways to get around are on foot, by bicycle, or by this, which we took to where we were staying.

We stayed in this condo, which was about a mile and a half from the downtown area.

This was the view from our balcony...ahhh, relaxation.

Since it was evening (and cold) by the time we got there, we decided to eat at the inn on the same ground as our condo. After perusing the prices in the main restaurant, we decided to eat in the bar area. (Because this is the food blog, I'll tell you what we ate, of course). Darren had a mahi mahi sandwich, and I had lobster bisque and a fantastic salad.

Weddings are a big business on Mackinac Island, and we saw two couples who had gotten married at the inn during the afternoon. After eating, we just hung out at our place and watched HGTV, which was frankly, thrilling for us.

In the morning we slept as late as we wanted, also thrilling for us, and then headed out on foot. We walked some trails until we reached our first destination--the butterfly conservatory.

It was so warm and tranquil inside the enclosed garden; I just enjoyed looking at the flowers and butterflies while Darren took loads of pictures.

Then this happened--check out the beautiful design on the closed wings...

...and now the open wings...

We set off on foot again, passing Fort Mackinac and checking out some beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, because this has been such a cold and rainy spring, the lilacs were mostly not out yet. However, the days that we were there were the nicest they've had so far, and the lilacs agreed.

Here is the famous Grand Hotel. Darren took this picture the evening we arrived; that's why it's grey and rainy. Our taxi took us directly up the drive and dropped some people off who were staying there. There was a wedding reception on the front porch, and Darren was able to get one picture of it.

So, the day that we were walking all around the island and the sun was out, we decided to walk up to the Grand Hotel again, see if there were any more weddings, and just generally check out the hotel. As we approached the drive, a uniformed attendant asked us politely, "Are you guests of the hotel?" When we replied no, he answered, "Then I'm afraid this is as far as you can go."

Wait a minute--we aren't allowed even to WALK past the hotel? Darren said to the man, "Well, we were interested in having tea in the hotel; would we be able to do that?" The attendant told us that to enter the hotel would cost us $10 each, then we could have tea for $25 each. TEN DOLLARS? EACH? Just to walk in the door?

As we walked away, I said "That is outrageous. You can walk into the Drake Hotel in Chicago, where even Princess Diana thought it was the nicest place she ever stayed, for free."

Grand Hotel, you are dead to me. Needless to say, we did not have afternoon tea there. But...that's OK. We did however take a couple of pictures of the grounds. Notice the little bunny in the bottom left-hand corner. Somebody better tell him he owes the Grand Hotel ten bucks for munching on their lawn.

And here is the hotel flower shop...I thought Lucy would like to see it since she loves the name "Margaret."

By early evening, we were ready to walk back to our place and rest. We had walked around seven miles throughout the day so our feet were pretty tired. Darren ordered some dinner from the same place where we ate the night before, but I wasn't that hungry.

More reading, HGTV, uninterrupted sleeping, and we were ready for the next day. I'll post more later!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

And now we are six!

Today was Lucy's birthday, but we have been partying most of the weekend. On Friday afternoon, I baked cupcakes, and Lucy and I decorated them. She had wanted sunflower cupcakes from our Hello, Cupcake! book. We had so much fun doing them, and they turned out pretty cute, in my opinion.

We had a cookout in the evening, and Sarah, Lucho, and their kids came over. They brought Lucy her first Fancy Nancy book, plus the crown, feather boa, and earrings. We're now officially Fancy Nancy fans.

Here's my little Fancy Nancy...

Elaine kept asking, "Is it my birthday too?" Then later she asked me sadly, "When it's my birthday, can I get a Fancy Nancy book and crown and earrings too?" I remembered all too clearly when Lucy was this age, and Elaine was turning one--THAT was a difficult birthday party. Remember? So I tried to be prepared and got Elaine a little gift bag with things she likes to help her through the family party we had scheduled for Sunday.

Today we got up early and went to Wheaton to Chuck and Rome's (and our former church) where we heard a "whacking great sermon" from Galatians by their English pastor, Josh Moody. My dad was with us, but my mom wasn't feeling quite up to it.

Then we went over to Chuck and Rome's for another cookout to celebrate both Lucy's birthday and also Chuck's, which is tomorrow.

Darren had some good times with his new camera...I just love this one:

Here are my girls and me...

Here is Lucy, showing us the direction booklet that came with her Narnia castle megablock set she got.

She also got coloring books, a bead bracelet kit, princess pajamas, the outfit that she has on (complete with matching flip-flops), two dresses that my mom made, some money, and of course her big gift of her Girls 'n Grace doll.

Elaine had been happy until that point. She had given Lucy the pajamas, along with some lip gloss, ponytail holders, and Hello Kitty toothbrush. In the little giftbag I had brought for her, she also got lip gloss, a Hello Kitty toothbrush, some cute shoes, and a pack of gum. That sufficed until Lucy opened up her doll. Then she kept saying pathetically to everyone, "Where's my other present? Where's my doll?" until we all felt terrible.

Here she is, feeling low and needing her "Mama time."

Rome saved the day by running upstairs and bringing down something she had meant for Lucy but quickly decided to give to Elaine--a very cool rubber stamp set. Elaine held onto it for dear life for the rest of the party.

There's just something about being three years old and not understanding when your birthday is the one that is not now.

A big highlight of the day was surprising my parents with an anniversary gift. Their 43rd anniversary is the 17th, but since we were all together today we decided to do it now. In 2005, we were all invited to a charity garden walk. A friend of ours, a professional photographer, took this picture of them. I had seen it in a slideshow of the garden walk, but they never had until today.

I contacted our friend, he found it in his files right away, and did this absolutely gorgeous print for them. Chuck and Rome got it framed. My mom and dad were completely flabbergasted and thrilled.

Isn't it beautiful? They look so comfortable and happy together, and my mom looks so healthy. Who knew that one of the many candid shots our friend took that day that this treasure for us would be among them?

After eating cake together, we were all getting partied out so we headed for home. On the way there, I heard a little snore from the back seat. I looked back, and this is what I saw...

After this, I'll be on a little blog break for awhile. Darren and I are heading out this week to the lilac festival on Mackinac Island. It's a present for my upcoming birthday and to celebrate our anniversary. I have wanted to go the festival ever since I read about it in Victoria magazine nine years ago. The girls are combining their time with my parents and with Sarah and Lucho. They are thrilled about their "vacation" too.

See you next week with lots of pictures of lilacs!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Two Recommendations

Recently I was asked to edit an article for the July/August issue of the magazine. The issue is all about Christians in the arts, and this particular article is about Pam Davis and Girls 'n Grace. Girls 'n Grace is, I guess for lack of a better term, a Christian alternative for American Girl. Make no mistake--we adore American Girl at this house. But I personally think there is room for everyone. I interviewed Pam Davis, the found of GnG, by phone, and she is so wonderful.

She designs the dolls and works with a renowned dollmaker to get them made, and then she writes the books about the dolls herself. Currently, there are two: Mesi (pronounce May-cee), an African girl, and Sydney Clair, a girl growing up in the American South in the 1960s, plus a line of dolls called "Just Like Me," which are a range of races, hair color, eye color, etc. However, Pam has plans for GnG dolls from all over the world as well as dolls from the 1950s through the new millennium.

I love the emphasis on the Christian faith and especially the notion of girls growing in grace. What an awesome foundation. This fall, there will be GnG clubs (similar to Girl Scouts) starting in various churches around the country. The troupes will incorporate the doll characters, and they'll be starting with Mesi. So, the girls will be learning about Africa, trying out African recipes, checking out African fashion, and learning about missions opportunities.

Another thing I love about GnG is what is called the "Grace Race." GnG holds tea parties, either in churches or schools, and Pam herself comes to speak at them. They're a great chance for moms and daughters and grandmas to get together. Where the Grace Race comes in is that dolls and books are donated to girls in need--both in the U.S. and worldwide. At each table of the tea parties, there are cards that the girls can write messages on and decorate. A card then goes to the child in need, along with the doll, so that the gift isn't coming from an impersonal corporation, it's coming from another little girl.

I liked Pam, her ideas, and her dolls so much that that is what Lucy is getting for her birthday on Sunday. We chose Sydney Clair for her--1) because Lucy loves both those names, and 2) because the doll comes dressed in yellow, Lucy's favorite color. I've skimmed through the first book that comes with, and I'm excited about reading it with her. Oh, and each doll comes with a secret code--kind of like Webkinz--that you can use online to enter a whole GnG world of games, etc. Cool, huh? You can check it all out here.

My other recommendation is from American Girl itself (herself?!), and that is the latest AG movie, which was made for and by HBO (now available on DVD). It's called "An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong."

I checked it out of the library for Lucy, but I wanted to preview it first. All of the other AG movies we've seen have taken place during various points in history--we love all of them. This one however, is current and deals with the extremely important topic of bullying. I popped it in tonight after the girls went to bed and thought I'd read a book while it was running, just glancing to see if there was anything I didn't want Luce to see.

I never did pick up my book because I got so engrossed in it. Darren came in and said, "What are you watching?" When I told him, he brought in his dinner, sat down, and watched the entire thing with me.

It was fantastic--definitely up to the standard of American Girl. I mean, we're not talking "Heathers" or "Mean Girls" or anything like that; this is something that you can feel safe to show to little girls. It definitely has children being spiteful to others, but it sends a great message about being true to oneself and being loyal and kind to others, as well as a strong anti-bullying message.

I'm really glad AG took this topic on, and you can see the trailer here. I wanted to see if it would be good for Lucy since in the fall, she'll be at school all day and things start to get different. First of all, I want her to be on the lookout for others who might get overlooked or picked on by others. Also, I was moderately bullied as a child (probably about the same amount most children are), and Darren was seriously bullied--enough to change schools. I just want the whole topic to be on all of our radar, particularly with Lucy since she is our more sensitive girl.

In fact, while we were watching, Darren and I both said, "It just kills me to think someone might be really mean to our daughters some day." Then Darren said, "Well, Lucy, anyway. I'd like to see anyone try to bully Elaine," and I answered, "Yeah, I can just see her, like she does now at any perceived injustice, roaring at someone 'DAT IS NOT BERRY NICE!'"

As a bonus, a highlight in the Chrissa movie is that a lot of it takes place on a swim team and...drum roll here...Lucy just got promoted to Level 4 in swimming, which means that in the fall she can be on the swim team. She has far exceeded any athleticism of either of her parents already, and we're really proud of her. She's so excited too.

So, there you go. If you have a daughter, granddaughter, niece, or little sister, there are two good products I highly recommend!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

As long as they can understand her...

Lucy was making a particularly irritating, high noise--something between a tweet and a buzz.

I said, "Hon, PLEASE stop that. Nobody wants to hear that sound."

"But..." she answered, "I'm speaking hummingbird!"

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Settling In

Here is a sampling of my recent facebook updates (sorry to all my friends on facebook who have already read these)...


"almost did a face-plant when stepping into the shower this morning. Apparently on one of her stealth missions, Elaine had coated the entire surface of the tub with conditioner."

"just walked into the kitchen and saw skinned and dismembered bananas everywhere. Again, courtesy of Elaine. Time to make banana bread."

"was alarmed to see the sign of Red John, the serial killer from "The Mentalist," on the window in the girls' bedroom. Upon closer examination however, it appears as though Elaine just discovered some alternative uses for lip gloss."

"just found Elaine, who supposedly went to bed an hour and a half ago, in the kitchen, eating Doritos and drinking Diet Dr. Pepper."

"is wondering who could have discovered my super-secret stash of sour cherries and eaten them ALL? Could it possibly be the same person who found my super-secret stash of Christmas Hershey kisses and chocolate Easter eggs?"

Because my basic life view is to find the funny side of most things, this is great. After reading one of the many updates, a friend commented, "We want an Elaine mischief blog!" so I directed him here. I also said, "You know, I've got this great idea for a series of children's books. I'm thinking of casting Elaine as a monkey and starting each book with, 'There once was a little monkey named Elaine who was very curious.' I'm planning to do the book jackets in bright yellow and use primary colors throughout, whaddya think?"

This was doubly witty to this person and me (in my humble opinion) because we both used to work for the company that published those other, more famous, monkey books.

While it's all funny, I do have to say it's kind of exhausting and sometimes discouraging to live with the female Curious George as we now call her. We have to watch her almost all the time, and chaos trails in her wake.

It has really escalated lately too, and I was clueless as to why until I said to my mom the other day, "We're kind of at our wits' end with Elaine this week. I mean, ever since Lucy got out of school her behavior has just defied reason."


I guess it took awhile for that lightbulb moment. I think the frequent rain and having to stay indoors a lot of the time hasn't helped either. So, these past few nice days we've had, I've gotten both girls over to the park as much as possible. Yesterday we went twice. It seems to be helping, and Elaine seems to be getting used to having Lucy around all the time again now.

We've also been heading to the library at least once a week to stock up on new books, audiobooks, and DVDs. The girls have discovered Shirley Temple (the actress, not just the doll they kept putting in jail last summer), and watching her movies helps us along on the rainy days (like today). We're going to start up our cooking school again soon too.

So, we slowly adjusting to summer and its different rhythm. And if anyone has new and inventive ideas on how to occupy 3 1/2-year olds, I'll take 'em.

You gotta stay one step ahead of Curious George.