Monday, August 30, 2010


If you've read this blog for more than five minutes, you know this about me: I hate sports, and I love music. And I know every generation thinks their music is the best, but really--my generation's truly is the best. I have absolutely no idea what's playing today--I hear names thrown around, but I couldn't tell you anything about them. It's like that saying: I used to be with it, but now what I'm with isn't it and what is it somehow seems strange and scary to me.

My brother, Chuck, is a music aficionado and always has been. My mom had this lovely vision of us becoming classical musicians some day, so when we were in grade school she started Chuck on the cello and me on the violin. After seven years of violin lessons and basically all I could reasonably play was "Turkey in the Straw," I was able to let it go. Chuck repeatedly forgot to bring his cello to school for orchestra practice (my mom always wondered why?!) because by then he had discovered...the guitar. To give my mom credit, she and my dad scraped together and bought him a guitar and a few lessons, but after that he was pretty much self-taught. Our house was filled with music from the guitar greats: BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Phil Keaggy, etc. That cello was long-forgotten, until one day many years later, my mom happened to tell a group of Chuck's extra cool friends that he used to play, giving them the opportunity to mercilessly call him "Cello Boy" for some time thereafter.

When we were in high school, my dad bought us a car to share: a Datsun 210 (who's with me?). It had five speeds, plenty of rust, no power steering, power brakes, locks, anything. However, the first thing Chuck and I did was pool our money for a sweet stereo system for that car. Pri-or-i-ties, readers. We spent our high school years cruising around in that baby, playing our music at top volume.

A few weeks ago, a colleague of Darren's who happens to read this blog and knows I love music said to him, "Have Alice make a list of some of her favorite songs." So I did, and lo and behold, last Friday when Darren was in the office, Jeff gave him a CD of my song list. He made me a mix tape! I have been playing it non-stop ever since and have actually started locking my car doors--for fear someone will steal my CD.

What is on it?--I know you're asking. Only a sampling of the best music of my generation--most of these songs are from the UK (shocker, I know), but there are a few Americans, too. I'll give you a list and links if I can so you can listen if you're so inclined. I'll provide commentary for a few of them; if I provided commentary for all of them, this would be the longest blog post in history so I'll try to limit it. Some of them I'll just label "SAHABHSO" = "Song Alice Has Almost Blown Her Speakers On."

So, hop in my Datsun 210 with me and let's crank it.

1. Take the Long Way Home by Supertramp. Yeah, we've already been over this one and how I feel about it.

2. Der Kommissar by After the Fire.

3. Rock the Casbah by the Clash (SAHABHSO)

4. King of Pain by the Police. Let me just say about this one: I was obviously not an athlete in high school. Nor was I academic. Pep club, spirit rallies, whatever...I was far above all that. I was busy reading dark poetry, listening to my Sony Walkman, and thinking deep existential thoughts to be bothered with plebian high school pursuits. I was overwhelmed with the pain of the world and my existence (you know, in Wheaton with my nice, stable family). I know, there was a name for students like me: l-o-s-e-r. After school I worked at a printing company and would hang out in the back alley with all my smoking co-workers for smoke breaks. I didn't smoke because, hello, it's bad for you. Anyway, this song was manna to my angst-ridden soul. I will say, a couple months ago I told Chuck, "'King of Pain' is the greatest Police song ever," and he said, "Yup. That is a great song," which is one of the few things he's agreed with me on musically ever, so see? The song just keeps on giving.

5. Burning Down the House by Talking Heads (SAHABHSO) (Also, I got tired of looking up songs on youtube and linking to them. I'm gonna let you do it now.)

6. Only You by Yaz. Yaz and Erasure. Gotta love them both.

7. Karma Chameleon by Culture Club

8. Jump by Van Halen. OK, this was from 1984--both the album and the year. I was, oddly enough for a non-sports enthusiast, totally interested in the winter Olympics that year, especially figure skating. And I had this Walter Mitty-esque fantasy that I was an Olympic champion skater with my gold medal-winning routine done to "Jump." It was awesome and only slightly ironic, seeing as that I have a hard time not tripping over my own feet just walking around ordinarily, let alone not even being able to stand up on ice skates.

9. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by Wham. When I first played this CD last week, Elaine heard this song and said, "I have to get up and dance now." Exactly.

10. Things Can Only Get Better by Howard Jones. When Darren heard this, he said, "Did you know this was the title or did you just think it was 'Whoa Whoa Whoa'?" Sigh. Sometimes it's like we're complete strangers living in the same house.

11. Fortress Around Your Heart by Sting.

12. Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel (SAHABHSO)

13. Dancing on the Ceiling by Lionel Richie (Chuck's eyes would roll back in his head if he heard this choice. I don't care. I embrace Lionel.)

14. Tearing Us Apart by Eric Clapton and Tina Turner. A few months before she died, my mom was talking to me about my brother and she said, "I was so sad when Chuck moved out of the house. I mean, I knew it was time for him to have his own place. But he took all the music with him. I missed that Eric Clapton." It was hard to pick one Clapton song, but since I have some of his CDs, I picked this one because it's a double bonus since it's got Tina there, too.

15. Angel of Harlem by U2. Last fall when Jennie and I were doing one of our workshops, an IT guy was helping us set up. He said he was a DJ on his off hours and we asked, "So, do you play anything we would like?" He paused and considered us for a few moments, unsure what to say. (I was thinking, "If this bloke says Lynyrd Skynyrd, I'm going to have to belt him one.") But he said cautiously, "Um, U2?" Now I'm one of the few people who actually doesn't like U2, but I do love this one.

16. Top of the World by Van Halen. Really, your only question for this song should be: do I play air guitar or air drums with it? Growing up around all that guitar music, I always thought I'd marry a guitarist, when, surprise, I married a drummer. So I guess the answer is, whichever one you're married to. Oh, and sweet romantic story, Darren sold his drum kit to buy my engagement ring. And no, I didn't simultaneously sell my hair to buy him some drumsticks.

17. What's the Frequency, Kenneth? by R.E.M.

There you have it, my mix CD. We're getting ready for our annual road trip to Memphis, so this will come in very handy.

Thanks, Jeff!

And now, here's one last 80s memory. This is a picture of me, circa 1984. Remember--I am a deeply wounded being from the suburbs, tormented and world-weary, bearing all the sturm und drang of the universe. Call a guidance counselor, stat.

OK--so you're making a mix tape (I know, it's called an iPod--I actually have one! It's filled with James MacDonald sermons now...): what are you putting on it?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's my birthday! or anniversary! or something!

Four years ago, actually on August 21, 2006, but I sort of forgot when that day rolled around and am just getting to it now--GuilfordRoad: IloveyouI'mcrying began. I started out just responding to everyone who asks all moms of young kids, "Are you writing down the things they say and do?" Well, no, because I was not getting any sleep and was about to go insane. But then I thought I probably should be writing it down, and my friend Jacquie said, "Oh Alice, just do a blog; no one will read it." And that's how I started, and no one did read it until one day my friend and former co-worker Melanie did (Melanie! you are my FIRST reader!), and then it just kind of snowballed from there.

Sometimes people want to know what the name means--well, Guilford Road is our location, kind of obviously. One late afternoon while Darren was still at work--back when he used to commute every day--Lucy, who was 2 1/2 at the time, was sitting at the kitchen island, coloring, and Elaine, who was 2 months, was in her swing in the dining room, roaring. You know those hours between 4 and 6 p.m. with babies? Yeah, never pleasant. Lucy was drawing a picture to put in Darren's lunch bag the next day, and she wanted to dictate a message from her for me to write on it. I did that and then asked her, "And what does Elaine want to say to Daddy?" Without pausing to consider, Lucy said (rather disgustedly), "Dear Daddy, I love you. I'm crying. Love, Smoochie."

So, there you go. That ended up kind of summing up our existence. It's kind of like a Sarah McLaughlin song I sing to the girls sometimes, "Your love is better than ice cream...your love is better than chocolate...everyone here knows how to cry!"

I've tried not to write anything that will embarrass my family, with the exception of myself. I usually fail 8 or 9 times before I succeed at something, but hey, if I can get a funny story out of it, then it's worth it. Bottom line, I just want my two precious girls to know how much their mom loves them and loves Jesus--no matter how imperfectly I do it all.

I've included a few of my posts from the past, nothing special, just snapshots of certain days over the past four years here on Guilford Road, if you feel like taking a walk down memory lane.

Seasons (2006)

MLK Day (2008)

I think this technically counts as a missions trip (2008)

An actual 18-hour timespan in the life of a mom (2008)

I don't want to work; I want to bang on the drum all day (2009)

Have we been over this? (2009)

So to my readers (I have readers! Plural!), I thank you for taking the time to read about our little life here and especially those who have commented. I wish you could all come over to Guilford Road for some tea and cake and celebrate with me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back to School '10

I know for some people that the new year begins on January 1. But I'm from a family of school teachers, so the new year really begins right around now, at the beginning of school.

I have to say this has not been the easiest of summers, and by the beginning of August I was so fed up with the constant bickering and the Polly Pockets and Barbies everywhere and the telling me, "Mom, I need something to doooooo," I was about to lose it. As my friend Suzanna says, "Sometimes mercy comes in the form of a big yellow school bus." I frankly could not wait for this day, and actually, neither could the girls.

"When is school starting?" they would ask me every day.

But now that school did start (yesterday for Lucy and today for Elaine), of course I've got that nostalgic, weepy feeling about my babies growing up so fast and before you know it, I'll be trying to get them to pick out sheets and towels for their dorm room when all they're interested in is picking out the best posters for their walls (do college kids still put up posters? I could be off on that.)

So, my real question is, how is that just last week I had this person in my house...

...yet now she looks like this:
Please note that she is displaying her new rainbow Skechers to their best advantage. She had been begging me for Skechers, so after I bought all her new uniforms at Kohls, they gave me a $20.00 coupon back (it's like getting paid to shop!), plus I had a 15% off card, and we went to get the shoes she wanted. Here's a sampling of our dialog in the store:

Lucy: These are awesome, Mom! These are just what I want; I can't wait to show everyone at school!

Me (remember--raised by a missionary): OK, Luce, just remember, these are special. There's no way I'd paid forty dollars for shoes for a 7-year-old. After our coupons, they cost about $13.00. You don't have to tell everyone they're Skechers, either, because what if someone else doesn't have them? Everybody's shoes are just fine, no matter what brand they have. That's why everyone wears a uniform to school--so nobody feels bad that someone else's clothes are nicer than theirs.


I guess that's one of those talks that you hopes sticks in their head later in life, kind of like the common sense talk we have almost every day. Actually, I am picturing my mom up in heaven, laughing at me because we had this exact conversation circa 1982 about Lee jeans or something.

OK, moving on, here's her backpack and most especially her just-long-enough-to-be-braided hair.
Note the shoes still being displayed:

My dad had spent the night before with us so he'd be on-hand for the first day of school. I'm so glad he was there, and he prayed for both girls that they would have a great year.

(And again, the displaying of the shoes): Now today is Miss E's first day. This is her yesterday:
And now today...
Junior kindergartners don't have to wear a uniform yet, so she can go freestyle. This leaves me with another year of finding clothes with cats all over them. In the meantime, she has a cat backpack, with a pink cat attachment, and, because they each get to bring one thing from home today, of course she is bringing Catty. I was supposed to wash Catty yesterday, but I forgot, so today we just put a party dress on her instead.

One of my favorite pictures... this. Elaine doesn't look very happy because Lucy is standing too close to her and breathing the same air she does. (Remember? Sometimes mercy comes in the form of a big yellow school bus.)

I finally got them both dropped off, oh wait, after they both said goodbye to Cleo the Cat. Lucy said, "I bet she's so sad that we're going to school, and she'll be all alone with you, Mom." Seeing as she spends most of her time hiding in various closets and it's only been two days since any one of us hasn't been hissed at or bitten by her, I'm not too sure about that.

At school, Lucy ran down the hall confidently to her second grade room. It's a Northwoods theme, complete with a fish pond in their class, a cabin, and a mascot named Martin the Moose. They're going to learn to record each other, get postcards from all 50 states, and they've already been to the library where Lucy checked out a Bobbsey Twins book. She's going to have a great year because she is one of the happiest, best little citizens there is. She is made for school.

Elaine's room is a garden theme. There are all sorts of centers and a tent that looks like a beehive where they can go in and read. Buzzy the Bee is their mascot, and every morning they have Buzzy time where they can tell about their life. Lucy was in this same room three years ago. When I went to the open house, I noticed that all the other mothers were 12-15 years younger than I am. They probably thought I was Elaine's grandma. Not that I have any insecurity about that.

Here's Elaine with her teacher, who is the sweetest, kindest person you'd ever want to meet.

Whew. They're off to school and I'm back at home, turning on some music because it's so quiet around here. I think I'll go take a walk with my free time. We just wrapped the Sept/Oct issue of the magazine (more on that later), and I'm supposed to be thinking about the Christmas issue now. Nothing like a warm August morning to get you in the mood for the holidays. But of course with time the way it is, they'll be here in the next day or so.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A New Addition

Last week I hinted about a possible big announcement coming. I guess there's no time like the present to tell you all about it.

When Elaine was about to turn two, we started to get the questions. "Are you going to have any more?" "Wouldn't you like to try for a boy?" "Don't you want to have another baby?"

At that time I was adamant. No way. My stock answer is: I've got two hands. Both of them are full. My pregnancy with Elaine was difficult. She was premature. I've got thyroid disease. It's not going to happen. Besides, we're happy with two. And they are...what's the word I'm looking for? I think it's spirited. They wear me out (in the sweetest possible way).

People got more insistent. "You've got to have a third," they'd say. "Three are great. The girls would love it!"

My dentist told me, "Definitely have another one. Three is what totally pushed my wife over the edge." (Uh, that's not really selling me on the idea.)

But as time went on, you moms know what I'm talking about, I started to get a little of that baby longing. Seeing maternity clothes. New baby gear. People with dear little babies. Sigh. I love babies.

Darren and I began to talk. He would say, "Wasn't it so much fun, when the girls were born and we just carried them around in those carriers? And now it's all over."

"I know," I would answer. "Elaine is so tall. And she's going to junior kindergarten this year. Junior kindergarten!"

I came across some of the girls' old baby clothes and would get all teary-eyed.

We talked some more. Were we crazy? Were we ready for being wakened in the night? Another little creature who would get sick at all the worst possible times? Potty training? Extra new gear around the house? More needs, more money, more worry? We've gotten fairly serene over the last couple years with just our two. Should we add a third?

After much discussion, we have come to a decision.

The decision is....yes. We're ready. We're going to have someone new here at Guilford Road.

So, for the third time in my life, I am so pleased to announce:

It's a girl!

(sound of record screeching)

Yup. We're adopting a cat. We've never had a cat! We were strictly a dog couple (though I still can't really talk about my boys much. I get too weepy. I miss them.) But the girls have been begging us for over a year for a cat.

"No way," Darren said. "We don't need a cat."

But they worked on me until I started wanting one, too. I had criteria though, a long list. I love Siamese cats, so I wanted that breed. They're supposed to be loving, loyal, and very intelligent. Also, I love the movie, "That Darn Cat." I wasn't picky about seal point, lilac point, whatever (don't I sound like an expert?) just Siamese. I didn't want a kitten, i.e., I want one that already knows how to use a litter box. I didn't want a fluffy one that would shed all over. I kind of wanted a female. And I wanted one that was declawed. Now before you freak out, I would not personally declaw a cat. But I also am not having some animal sharpen its claws on my leather furniture.

So, I began an almost yearlong search on Petfinder. Let me tell you--filling my criteria was next to impossible (the lady at the shelter told us a declawed Siamese is the Holy Grail). Until one day a few weeks ago, a dear little cat's profile popped up. She was four years old (they approximate), short-haired, chocolate point, front declawed. She had been abandoned in the basement of a foreclosed home with five other cats. By the time the shelter found them last March, they were starving. One of them died. It took until July for them to even be ready to adopt out.

We decided to take the plunge and foster this little cat--just to see how it goes. We've had her for almost two weeks now. We kept telling the girls that the kitty is just here for a 2-week vacation. Then she'll need to go back so she can find a forever family. Before they go to their school open house tomorrow, they'll need to say goodbye (We love to mess with their heads). When they come home, we'll tell them that we are going to be her forever family!

I'm sure you're dying to know her name. The shelter named her Cleo, which actually quite suits her. The girls had already decided that any cat they got (they were so positive it would happen someday no matter how many times their dad told them no) they were going to name "Miss Marple." Consequently, we're naming her Miss Cleo Marple and most of the time just calling her Cleo. As my friend Mary says, "She'll be the lesser known Marple sister."

She appears to be adjusting nicely. At first of course, she just wanted to hide in a laundry basket bed we made for her in the back of the closet. But now she is getting intrepid and roaming around. She's beginning to talk to us (Siamese are big talkers) and lets us pet her for longer and longer periods of time each day. She's even purred happily for one of us. I won't tell you exactly who, but it's the household member who was adamant about not getting a cat.

So, there you go. Our new addition. As my mom told me a long time ago, "When your youngest goes to kindergarten, you'll get sad and think you want another baby. Just go plant some flowers."

Or...adopt a Miss Cleo Marple!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Short and Sassy

Every year, this particular week in August, I do the back-to-school haircut post. I let the girls' hair just go all summer long. Then we go to Ms. Robin and get fresh new 'dos for school.

However, last spring, Lucy announced that she wanted to grow her hair long because she wanted to donate it to Locks of Love. Really, I can't argue with such philanthropy so I said OK, but she has to be in charge of it, meaning brush it and put it up neatly. This is the child who, if I get within three feet of her head with a hairbrush, starts to cry and I had no intention of listening to that for the next 18 months. She's been really good about that, and Elaine announced she was going to grow her hair for Locks of Love, too.

I foresaw more problems with this scenario, particularly since she has hair like mine, which I once decided to grow out. I did that for 15 months and, I'm not kidding you, it grew two inches. She'd probably be able to donate her hair around the time she left for college. But...I said OK to that, too, and she grew it all summer. Except each morning, it would be snarled up, and she would cry when I tried to run the brush through. Any cute hairstyle I gave her, she would remove within five minutes. Basically, she ran around looking like a shaggy dog all summer.

Last week I told the girls that we were making our end-of-summer visit to Ms. Robin, to at least get their bangs trimmed.

"I want my hair cut," Elaine announced. "I don't like it now. I want to look like Sal."

Do you remember Sal?

I asked, "Are you sure? Lucy's still going to be growing hers long. You can get yours cut if you want, but I don't want you to regret it."

But, being the inner short-haired person she is, just like her mom, she assured me she was dying to get it cut and she was going to bring her book so Ms. Robin would know exactly how to cut her hair."

"Man, that starts early, doesn't it?" Darren said, having been used to me dragging various pictures to the salon for the last 15 years. He just doesn't get it. But frankly, I'm comforted that he's not clipping magazine pictures and taking them to a stylist. He's a simple razor man.

Here's the shaggy dog outside Ms. Robin's shop:

In the chair, ready to take the plunge (she can hardly see):

Spraying on the "magic water":

Look how much she's cutting!

Getting excited about the new look:

Almost finished:

Side view:

Ta da!

Isn't that cute? And when it's dry, it curls up even more.

"That cut suits her," Ms. Robin remarked, "Short and sassy!"

"Yeah, especially the sassy part," said Darren.

Like a typical woman, she couldn't stop checking herself out in the mirror and saying with a satisfied little bounce, "NOW I look like Sal!"

She looks much more like the little cat she is instead of a shaggy dog, for which I'm thankful. And gone are the morning brushing/crying sessions for which I'm even more thankful.


Monday, August 16, 2010

You Get What You Need

Last fall I wrote a post about my mom's and my friends: Barbara and Julie. You can read it here, if you haven't already ('cause it gives background on who they are). A few weeks before my mom died, Barbara went into the hospital for breast cancer surgery. When my mom heard about it, she had my dad go to the florist next door and bring back a selection of things. She pointed to the one she wanted for Barbara--a miniature yellow rose bush--to represent their friendship. After my mom died, Barbara wrote me a letter (like, on paper. With a pen. And a stamp. In the mail. That's how our moms do things.) She said she had planted the yellow rosebush and in the weeks leading up to my mom's death, little buds had come out all over it. The afternoon she got home from Mom's memorial service, she went out to her garden to look at her rosebush--it had bloomed all over. Isn't that the greatest story?

Anyway, remember the week when I wrote that "Sad" post? Well, on that Friday, the girls and I were supposed to go to Wheaton--to Julie's--for a pool party. We were so looking forward to it. I got in my car to pick the girls up from VBS--Darren had the other car at work with him--and it took me three tries to start it. Then when I got to the church, it died again. I knew there was no way I should risk driving over an hour on I-90 with it. I'm not exactly a car person, it may surprise you to learn.

So, incredibly disappointed, we made it home and called Julie to tell her we couldn't come. She said, "I'm getting in my car. I'll come to you!" So, an hour or two later, there she was...with cupcakes and gum and Hello Kitty nail polish for all of us.

First, we went to the Japanese gardens because she hadn't seen them yet. The girls showed her how to feed the fish, and she took videos of them, running and screaming toward the "Contemplative Garden" area. Oh, the irony.

Then we came home and flopped in the living room, while the girls busied themselves with the Hello Kitty nail polish. We were chatting (or as we call it, "sit-n-frit"), and Julie said, "Ever since you blogged about styling that doll, I've become obsessed with the idea."

She picked up Elaine's dilapidated doll, Sophie, who was lying on the couch. "Look at her," she said. "I've got hair serum in my purse. Do you think it would work in her hair?"

I looked at her. There are so many things I like about this person, not the least of which is, I can see her nuttiness and raise it.

"Lucy's doll Sydney has HORRIBLE hair," I told her. "I wonder if...I wonder if..."

"We should wash their hair," we said in unison and raced upstairs to the bathroom with dolls under our arms.

The girls ran up to see what the commotion was. "What are you and Aunt Julie doing, Mom?" Lucy asked. She looked puzzled.

"Having a beauty shop with Sophie and Sydney. We'll surprise you with them when we're done," I told her.

Here are some pictures we took with Julie's phone. This is before. Look how much in need they are of our ministrations.

Here I am, washing Sydney's hair. We decided since I'm blond, I should be Sydney's stylist, and since Julie's a brunette, she should be Sophie's.

Here's Julie. She's a Hollywood stylist. That's why she's wearing sunglasses.

And here's Sophie. "Look at her," Julie said. "She even looks more relaxed."

"What would you do if Darren came home from work right now?" Julie asked.

"He's bringing some of his visiting co-workers back tonight, too," I told her.

She affected a foreign accent. "Ohhhhh, look at these American women. They do not have enough work to do, so they wash the doll's hair. This is a very strange country!"

We left the bathroom and headed for the guestroom, for the intensive styling session. We pinned up the dolls' hair, applied product, and blowdried it in sections.

Here I am, putting serum in Sydney's hair:

And here's Julie, brushing through Sophie's hair.

"Aren't you glad we have master's degrees?" Julie asked.

"I think we should submit some of these photos to Loyola and DePaul, respectively," I answered. "Look how well this doll's hair has responded to treatment."

Here is Sydney, all fixed up:

And here's the amazing transformation the Hollywood stylist worked on Sophie:

The girls were thrilled with their newly styled dolls, and Julie and I went back downstairs to lie on the living room floor.

"I'm exhausted," she said.

"Me, too," I answered. "And those dolls didn't even tip us."

After Julie went home, and I was laughing to myself about the day, I thought yet again about how personal God is. He always knows exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.

Sometimes when you're grieving, you need a hug or someone to cry with you. Sometimes you need a rosebush to bloom at just the right time. And sometimes you need your lifelong friend to drop everything, show up on your doorstep with cupcakes, and style some dolls' hair with you.

Thanks, Julz! You are the best.

P.S. Some day I'll need to write down more of Aunt Julie's and my antics through the years. Our parents knew us well enough to discern that any odd behavior or disconcerting questions from us somehow had to do with each other, kind of like the time Julie asked her dad, apropos of nothing, "Can someone fly under an assumed name?" And he said (emphatically), "No. Does this have to do with Alice?" Then there was the time we went to the Theosophical Society in costume...But those will keep until another time.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

They're BACK!

Episodes actually started last Sunday night, but at least on my PBS station, they were doing the tri-annual pledge drive and bumped it. The nerve.

If you don't know what I'm talking about (I'm ashamed of you),'s Inspector Lewis. It's the best show you're not watching. Why aren't you watching? I like it even more than Foyle's War, and THAT is saying something, Readers.

Here're a few reasons why:

1. It's a spin-off of Morse, one of the greatest detective series of all time. In fact, 10 years ago when we went to England, we had time to go to only one--either Cambridge or Oxford. I could see Lewis (as in Jack, not Inspector) stuff at either place, but I had to walk where my favorite fictitious detective walked. John Thaw, RIP.

2. It's witty and smart. They don't really do guns. They think and do research and follow leads, while bantering with each other. With lots of literary references and stuff.

3. Beautiful scenery. You know, Oxford.

I hope that's enough for you, so don't force me to say 4. Inspector Hathaway (whom I like to think of as Baby Morse). He's the guy on the left.

Two of my best friends, who shall remain nameless, have not been watching this show in previous seasons because they're watching 24 or Bridezillas or I don't know what. So wrong. You will thank me! In fact, they're rerunning last season before they run the new season so you'll have time to catch up.

If you need some teasers, here you go...


Highlights and Lowlights

Where have I been the last week and a half? I've been here, there, and everywhere and have had no time to blog. You'll understand when I tell you. Because I pay to be blond (and am sometimes blonder than I pay to be), I'll give you this last week or so in some highlights and lowlights.

First, Friday (a week ago). I took some of my birthday money that my in-laws gave me and bought tickets. I bought a ticket to see/hear Beth Moore in September, and I bought tickets for Darren and me to see/hear Robin Mark on Friday. It was great to go and listen to some great music, plus hear Robin talk and pray, which was worth going to church about 10x in a row. He's phenomenal. If you're not familiar with him, just check him out on youtube. A highlight.

Saturday (the 7th) we finally got around to celebrating Lucy's 7th birthday. We did have a little celebration with my mom in June, actually the last day she was home. Then on Lucy's actual day, my mother-in-law came up and I left the hospice for a couple hours, and we all went to a drive-in for lunch after VBS. That was fun, but birthdays are a big deal at our house--not a big party or anything, but you get to pick the meal and the cake and have a couple friends over. Of course both girls always want our best friends, who we really haven't seen much this whole summer. It was so fantastic to all be together again.

Here we are clustered around somebody's iPad for some reason.

Here is the cake Lucy wanted, plus cupcakes. Elaine and I decorated them. Well, let's say I decorated them while Elaine ate the candy and licked the frosting. And I must add my birthday cake disclaimer: I make with love, not skill:

Here's my beautiful seven-year-old girl and her sweet BFF (yes, they call each other that).

Blowing out the candles...

Isabella brought Lucy a giftbag with sunglasses, a Hello Kitty glasses case, lip gloss flavored like sugar cookies, clip-on earrings, and Silly Bands. Perfection. Before everyone came over, Elaine demanded, "Are they bringing me a present, too?" "No," I told her. "Only birthday girls get presents. When it's your birthday, they will bring you a present."

"Well, you know," she told, "I really don't like to be left out."

She handled it all pretty well though. The whole evening was a definite highlight.

Sunday afternoon, Darren and I were taking the sacred Sunday afternoon nap. We both sat straight up from sleep when we heard a piercing scream. Running down to the living room, we saw Lucy holding a paintbrush (the kind you find in a little kid's paintset) and crying, and Elaine holding her ear and screaming.

"I was just trying to give her a makeover, I promise!" Lucy sobbed.

"She poked my ear five times! She poked it thirteen times!" Elaine screamed.

It took quite awhile to calm everyone down, but in about 45 minutes they were both sitting at the kitchen table, making cards and singing "Blessed Be Your Name," while Darren and I were wondering if there's an available room for us at Shady Pines. A lowlight.

Sunday night--dinner out with friends, sans children. A highlight.

Monday morning--Elaine comes in the bathroom and curls up on the floor. "My ear hurts," she whimpered. I lifted her hair, looked, and saw dried blood all over. I looked at her pillow and saw blood on it, too.

Blood coming from the interior of your child's head. A lowlight. An impromptu trip to the pediatrician an hour and a half away. A lowlight. The doctor not being able to see the eardrum due to blood blocking it. A lowlight. Stopping at a gas station and buying everyone completely overpriced snacks and consuming almost an entire bag of Swedish fish on the way home. I guess you could call it the highlight of that day. Stopping by Walgreens and picking up the tiniest vial of eardrops for $35.00. A lowlight. Trying to put eardrops into a 4-year-old's injured ear 3x a day for the next several days. The lowest light you can imagine.

Wednesday. I went to a job interview at a nearby hospital and got the job! I was the only contender, but I got the job! A highlight, especially since the job was completely dropped in my lap. God is better than He has to be.

Thursday. Another trip back to the pediatrician--do you remember that it's an hour and a half away?--and this time he can see that the eardrum is just fine; Elaine just had a small gouge in the ear canal, which is healing nicely. We can call that a highlight at this point.

Friday (as in yesterday). A trip to the splash park with the girls and two of their friends. I have not been great about coordinating playdates this summer, so I really wanted to make it happen for them. It was such a highlight. The park was pretty empty, and they ran around and pretended to be Word Girl and Super Why and I don't know what all. They were covered in sand from the sand box, black stuff from the playground material, and chocolate ice cream, despite running through the sprinklers over and over. Then we came home, and they all played dress up and raided my closet for shoes, clomping all over the house and hiding under the bed when their moms came to pick them up so they wouldn't have to leave. All four of them were great girls the whole afternoon. A highlight.

We had other stuff happen in between, but you're probably not still reading this by now. I took the girls shoe shopping, which should get entire entry of its own. And this week I've got the annual back-to-school haircut post and more. Plus, watch in the coming weeks for a possible big announcement.

Saturday. Finally sitting down with a cup of tea and blogging. A highlight!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Game Addictions Can Be OK

When Lucy was five years old, someone gave her a Webkinz for a birthday present. It was a pink poodle. Being still a fairly newbie mom, I was all, "What's a Webkinz?" and the giver gave me a long explanation about online rooms and pets and games and I don't know what all while I just nodded politely.

Yeah, that was two years and six Webkinz ago (because Webkinz is brilliant. If you don't add a pet every year, your current pet DIES. I did not know that until another mother told me, fortunately, in time to save Nina, the pink poodle's, life.) Now we have Nina, a brown dog named Anna (during Elaine's phase of naming everything Anna), a white cat brilliantly named Kitty, a black cat named Winifred, a flowered turtle named Daisy, and a fox named England. I'll let you figure out which girl named what.

Lucy still loves Webkinz, but she has also graduated to the American Girl site, PBS, and some music learning site she found out about at school. Elaine and I, however, faithfully visit Webkinz World every day. We do Love My Pet, the Wheel of Wow, Jumbleberry Fields, Gem Hunt, and the Wishing Well. We also visit the Employment Office. We like to make the money. Lucy likes to spend it. It all works out.

In June, Elaine's fancy was captured by the pet of the month, a pink pig who came complete with a music video called "Piggy Plum Pie." It is mandatory that we watch this at least once a day. She talks about it constantly and asks, "Can I get that pink piggy for my birthday? And her best friend, Chester the Cow and their other friend Lester the Dog for Christmas?" (Side note: She has mentioned her birthday and Christmas every single day since last December 12 and December 25, respectively.) Then she'll ask, "And can we make piggy plum pie, too?"

I've been promising all summer that we would make piggy plum pie together, and yesterday we finally did it. I found a recipe and bought the ingredients.

Here she is with her first task, picking off the stickers and washing the plums:

Now she's stirring the plums and other ingredients. Big sister got interested and wanted to watch:

Here she is with the ingredients in the shell. I told her to smile with her almost-made pie. This picture is also evidence that it's imperative for me to do the annual back-to-school haircut post SOON:

Then we made the topping. Here is her piggy plum pie, ready for the oven:

And here is the finished product:

We all had a slice of piggy plum pie with vanilla ice cream, and it was gooood stuff. If you want the recipe, just let me know.

And lastly, you must watch the video, too. It's only fair that I am not the only person with this song as my ear worm for the entire summer. It's catchy! And you just may find yourself making the pie and topping it with some ice cream high. You can thank Elaine and Webkinz.