Saturday, December 6, 2014

salamander surprise

I've seen my dad infuriated exactly four times in my life. Once was when we had out-of-town company. He wasn't infuriated that they were coming, but when they showed up in our driveway he went out to help with their luggage and instead of handing him a suitcase, they handed him a bunny cage with a live rabbit. He turned around and walked back inside.

I don't remember the other three incidents wherein he was infuriated, just that it hasn't been much in my lifespan of 31 years. He's a pretty easy-going guy. He also says he was the original Easy Mark. I didn't know what that meant for a long time,  but now that I do, I can see why he feels that way, especially given the surprise bunny incident. I'm not sure that he's been featured on ye olde blog yet, so his alias here will be just that: Easy Mark. By the way, his real name is Mark. So it's even Easier to remember. I'm glad to finally give him a mention here, because I have heaps of stories about him and his incredibly unbelievable childhood, including how his cigar-smoking German grandfather used to tell him every Christmas how Santa fell off the roof, broke his leg, and had to be shot - so Christmas was cancelled. Or how a grumpy neighbor once pointed a loaded shotgun down my dad's throat. That's a particularly good story.

Anyway, this post really isn't about Easy Mark, except for the anecdote part about getting a bunny we didn't ask for or even know was coming. It was because of this bunny that I learned the long established Ground Rule of gifting live animals: they are never ever EVER to be given as pets without express permission obtained from the supervising adult in the receiving household. Live animals do not really make good surprises. I've taken this moment to compile a list of things that make good surprises and things that do not make good surprises.

THINGS THAT MAKE GOOD SURPRISES:
-birthday parties (but only to some people)
-sleep
-cleaning fairies

THINGS THAT DO NOT MAKE GOOD SURPRISES:-
birthday parties (for some people)
-glitter
-pets

The whole point of all of this is that the other day I found a lovely Spotted Salamander outside. As we built a little habitat in a shoebox and brought his sorry cold-blooded butt inside, I got to thinking that it would make THE PERFECT Christmas gift for my 4-year-old reptile-and-amphibian-obsessed nephew, Alligaber. Alligaber is the oldest son of my brother, Burnt Cookie, and his wife, Ranger J. Remembering the bunny fiasco of my childhood (and that reminds me! I actually have TWO bunny fiascos in my childhood and I will blog about the other sometime), and the established Ground Rule regarding the gifting of live animals, I decided to play it safe and obtain permission first. The following is the full text conversation that ensued between me and Burnt Cookie.

* * * * * 

[me] I found the best christmas present for gabe today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

[Burnt Cookie] ?

[me] if I can keep it alive until Christmas, that is.

[Burnt Cookie] Ha!

[me] it's a Spotted Salamander!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

[Burnt Cookie] ...
                        You're serious?

[me] yes!!!!!

[Burnt Cookie] No

[me] What? Really?

[Burnt Cookie] Give him a few years...a pet like that will end up with his other play lizards...and it won't survive. Giving him the salamander will be a death trap for it.

[me] Noooo. I'm so sad. He would love it. And he could catch crickets and bugs for it.

[Burnt Cookie] As much as I would like to say yes, he really isn't ready for that.

[me] I'm crushed.

[Burnt Cookie] Uh huh...no
                        Sigh
                        Let me think on it
                        What am I saying? He can't keep his fake lizards alive

[me] HAHAHAHA

[Burnt Cookie] I'm not joking...I basically have a trauma ward setup that collects patients (lizards) on a pretty regular basis...and those are rubber

[me] hahahahaha
         Ok. It might help to understand this: this kind of salamander secretes a milky toxin against predators. Could you phrase that to Gabe that if the "lizard"gets touched or scared it puts on poison? It wouldn't hurt gabe of course but but it might make him very protective of not getting him out?

[Burnt Cookie] Ha....haha....hahahahahaha

[me] But if it's in a cage, like the fish tank, wouldn't he know it HAS to stay in the cage?

[Burnt Cookie] you're hilarious
                        This has "dead salamander" written all over it

[me] Gabe is very tender hearted about taking care of living things. He doesn't murder mom's chickens. he's very good w them because the rules are extremely spelled out. I think it would be a GREAT opportunity for him & that salamander would be like a little baby. A baby he can't hold.

[Burnt Cookie] Let me think about it
                        Can you take a picture and send it to me?
                        About how big is he?

photo from http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/amphibians/spotted-salamander/

* * * * *
And that, my friends, is how it's done. 
You don't just show up in someone's driveway with a surprise salamander. 
Or a surprise bunny. 
Or a surprise birthday party if they happen to be an introvert. 
Or surprise glitter at any time for any occasion. Nobody likes surprise glitter. 
But if you're going to tie a red bow on a salamander for Christmas, you just gotta know how to wear down the supervising adult in the receiving household.
* * * * *
I'd like to report that Burnt Cookie ended up giving me an affirmative answer on the salamander. He didn't. So I resorted to my next tactic, asking my mother if I could give the salamander to my youngest brother, Strag-along #3. My mother is easier to wear down than Burnt Cookie. When you age, you lose a lot of stuff like skin elasticity and resilience to your grown kids' attempts to wear you down. All I need to figure out now is how to tie a little red bow around the salamander's neck come Christmas morning.


Friday, July 25, 2014

saccharin pie, school supplies, and the pit of hell

I lived a rather saintly childhood. So saintly, in fact, that I'm sure my Catholic grandparents cried rivers of tears that my parents weren't raising me in the Holy Catholic Church. As one particular story goes, when I was about eight years old, we visited my grandparents and were served apple pie for dessert. My grandpa was diabetic, and apparently my grandma read the recipe backwards or something because it had about two teaspoons of apples and eight cups of saccharin in the pie. Well, it was so terrible that people were barely choking it down. My mother, always one to staunchly refuse ice cream on pie, heaped on about a quart and a half to mask the horrid taste. The next day at lunch, Grandma brought out the leftovers.

"Who wants pie?" she asked.

No one made a sound. Not.one.person. Faces blanched, mouths went dry. Nobody made eye contact. Grandma waited expectantly. How to refuse? How to escape? 

Remember that part about me being eight years old at the time? Well, when I looked at that horrible pie I saw my  grandma's feelings and I just knew I had to have another piece. If that leftover pie were left uneaten my grandma's bruised feelings would weigh on me the rest of my life. I bravely spoke up.

"I'd like another piece of pie, please."

I still remember my parents looking at me with shock, horror, and eyes like saucers as I was passed a large piece of pie. I nobly swallowed every bite of it, believing I was some sort of Joan of Arc being led heroically to a saccharin-induced death, and inwardly sainted myself.

Eating that pie is kind of like buying school supplies. It's supposed to be wonderful, but it's just not. And when you have to go twice, it's like eating another piece of horrible pie. Don't get me wrong: I see those school supply bins show up at Wal-Mart and it's like my world is painted anew. Dreams are resurrected and dead hopes become rekindled with merit and potential simply on account of restocking our markers and glue sticks. It's a powerful thing.


Armed with a list, I took the girls to buy school supplies today. Half-Pint suddenly became a wild banshee, carrying on like she'd just downed a tub of Cool Whip and needed to NURSERIGHTNOW in order to calm down again. Meanwhile, Freckles and Scout started seizing every item they could load their tiny arms with. Binders, quarts of Germ-X, graphing paper, and calculators that cost more than we spend on groceries in a month. Then they started standing in the way of every single other patron of the store. I could feel my own tension rising. I was about to become That Mom in Wal-Mart. I swallowed my frustration as I saw the same look in every mother's face who was maneuvering the school supply aisles. I was not alone. At some point during the mayhem, my mother called me. Talk about audacity.

"Hey, Mom. Talk fast. We're in Wal-Mart and losing our minds. What's up?"

As a reward for good behavior surviving, we headed to the cereal aisle. Pandemonium hit an all time high. The level of chaos was turned up to eleven as I plunked a box of Cheerios in the cart.

Cheerios.

We splurged by buying a box of cereal, and my kids became shrieking blobs of happy hysteria over Cheerios.

A True, Sad Story: we stopped buying cereal awhile back. First, because it costs like eight million dollars a box. Secondly, I started observing more closely how nutrition in particular was affecting Scout's attitudes and behaviors, and with cereal for breakfast, it meant she was basically eating a bowl of bankrupt first thing in the morning. So we eliminated it cold turkey. As a result, breakfast has become an all new Event at our house, which now takes about 45 minutes every day.

That being said, if you eat cereal: more power to you. Cereal is one of my favorite foods. I miss it. And we're far enough removed from it that just stepping foot past the boxes of Raisin Bran elicited clamoring that rivals Christmas morning when the girls each get a pack of new underwear that they don't have to split.

It confirmed to me how I like this idea of keeping my children's expectations of life low. You're rarely disappointed and can embrace a simple life with enthusiasm. When Cheerios become a luxury, you can only go up.

Anyway, we got home, and while the girls spread out five gazillion cap erasers on the living room floor, Lumberjack asked how the shopping trip was. I paused.

"Well, I love brand-new school supplies. But the process of obtaining them is like walking to the pit of Hell and back."

AT WHICH POINT I remembered that I'd told my mother I would take care of picking up her school supplies while she is out of town so that she may still take advantage of the 10% rebate Wal-Mart is offering to teachers this week.

"Looks like I'll be walking back to Hell tomorrow morning."

May take a piece of saccharin pie to eat on the way.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

first things first

Well! Last night I did two fun things, in approximately this order:

1) A tornado-ish storm was sweeping our area, so I made a little pallet under our bed frame and heaved our sleeping kids under there. They groggily tried to articulate blobby questions about why I was shoving them under my bed (it's really quite a tall, sturdy bed frame, by the way. Totally fit for a tornado shelter), but I convinced them I'd explain it all in the morning.

2) Then I made some popcorn and guest-blogged again at TheoCult. It was all very exciting, getting my priorities straight by making sure my kids were safe and then making popcorn. Always pat yourself on the back when you get your priorities straight.

Speaking of priorities, skip over to TheoCult and read my post, i choose you. I can pretty well guarantee that it is your top priority right now, unless you are trying to avoid some natural weather disaster or the like. In which case, stay safe, and keep your phone on you. You can read my post from your phone.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

fit for a queen


I woke up this morning to the sound of scissors on paper and tape being ripped from a spool. It was Freckles, hard at work on a project.

I had just hopped in the shower when she came in with her finished project, a sparkly pink crown with about eight pounds of tape. She instructed me to cut the shower short so I could put on the crown.

She has said for a number of weeks, by the way,  that she intended to make me breakfast on Mother's Day.  Ever the [extremely] early riser, she followed through with her plans and I was luxuriously treated this morning to a bowl of cereal. She even poured the milk on it...about thirty minutes before I woke up.


That was the best bowl of lukewarm soggy cereal I ever ate.

{I've always admired the mom in this scene of the movie Elf: http://www.anyclip.com/movies/elf/first-morning-at-home/ }


May you be treated like the royalty you are, Moms, expressed in all the ways the little hearts around you know how to love best. And enjoy that soggy cereal! 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

got scraps?

TheoCult asked me to be a contributor for their Spring 2014 collection. So basically I feel all nervous and excited about that, except for in the event that I forget which days to post. If that happens, I will just feel really dumb. I've got two more slots in June and July. If I never mention TheoCult again, you may assume I've forgotten. If I keep sounding nervous and excited, I've probably remembered. Or sometimes I just sound nervous and excited for no good reason. 

But I didn't forget today, and that's why I'm nervous and excited! Today's post these crazy, worthless pieces has it all. There will be cookies! There will be sewing machines! There will be a little Greek thrown in to make it especially exciting!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

it's my party & I'll invite who I want to

Scout turned four this week. A couple years ago, I prepared these phenomenal raspberry-vanilla cupcakes. Check 'em out:


This year I decided to go really epic and buy a box of these:


Yep, that's right, Little Debbie Fancy Cakes. That was her birthday cake this year. Keepin' it real, folks.

My mom's birthday today is the eighth birthday in our family since January, and then we mostly get a break until September. Whoa-dang. That's a lot of birthday, and a lot of cake. I'm not eating any cake, so except for the part when Scout's hair recently caught on fire during the blowing-out of candles, I've had some time to sit back and observe birthday dynamics while other people eat cake and seemingly enjoy it. Also, sometimes cake ends up in our hair.


And I've thought about something significant (I didn't realize it at the time) one of my friends said when I hardly had a toe wading into the tumultuous waters of children's birthdays. Yes, I just used the words "tumultuous" and "birthday parties" in the same sentence. Because, WOW.

"Of all the things people told me to expect in parenthood," my friend said, "Nobody prepared me for birthday parties."

That was more than two years ago, and her words still ring in my ears. It's true. Nobody warned me, either. I could make quick work of this blog post and say, in sum, that when it comes to birthday parties nobody can get it exactly right. But I've never prided myself on being concise.

I have a few stark childhood memories of birthday parties. They're extreme, and I'm sure there's a balance between the two. One childhood friend had a party with more than fifty children present. It was loud. It was overwhelming. It was daunting and kind of terrifying.

I had another childhood friend who enjoyed many of the same extracurricular activities with me. We shared friends, we shared experiences...but when her birthday party rolled around, year after year, I was the only one in our circle not invited.

I didn't understand why. I couldn't understand why. I still remember that hurt.

There's a part of me that appreciates how my mother let me feel disappointed. She didn't try to 'fix' it. Disappointment is necessary. It's part of life. Whether it's a birthday party or watching our friends all share a season of life together that we're missing out on, disappointment happens. And while we're free to disagree on when that lesson is best learned, I think we can all agree it is necessary to teach our children how to handle and cope with disappointment. It's crucial we give them tools to handle disappointment with graciousness and bravery.


But it's also critical that we allow them to cry. Rejection sucks. And whatever the reason, whether it's legitimate or not, The Uninvited is a lonely place to be. Children's hearts are fragile. The message I don't want you here rings loud and clear and the scars can last a lifetime, making it all the more difficult to teach the necessity of disappointment.

photo credit: I have no idea who took this picture. sorry.

On the flip side, there was a great blog that floated around recently about what I want to teach my daughters - kindness. Its message was poignant, but as all good things are, it was a hard message, too. Kindness does not come easily. Kindness frequently comes sacrificially.

Yet another friend of mine had a guest list quandary awhile back when her daughter had a birthday party (or, at least, I thought it was a quandary). She was attempting to keep the guest list somewhat contained. There was one little girl my friend didn't really want to include on the list. There was a significant age difference, and the child's personality was like nails on a chalkboard. I personally thought it would've been simple enough to remove her from the guest list. I thought it was an easy decision. I asked my friend how she felt about my "disappointment is necessary" theory.

"Well - that's true, " my friend said. "But you know what? It's not my job to say Hey kid, today is your day to learn to be disappointed and hope the parent picks up the tab on that one and follows through with groundbreaking teaching. Why should I be the one to decide that? That's like telling God when and how to change somebody. I have no idea what else is going on in that little girl's life. I have no idea if she's already experienced rejection this week and can't handle crying about one more thing. And I'm not going to be the person to reject her today. Someone else can take that job. It's not going to be me. Not today. Inviting her to the party is easy. Rejecting her is not."

That blog post that floated around? About teaching our daughters to be kind? My friend had it pegged. Her daughter's kindness started with her own kindness. Within kindness is a sensitivity to someone else's pain. When you've got that, you've got true friendship.

I don't know where the balance is between inviting everybody we've ever met or inviting all but a few. I get that financial cost is something legitimate to consider in throwing a birthday party. I get that all-boys, all-girls, or gender inclusive is another factor. I get that everyone has siblings, older or younger, and what to do about them, and how much cake to make and party favors to prepare and floors to sweep up afterward?

I don't have an answer for any of that. Like I said, nobody gets it exactly right.
But just as the Team Ball game isn't about the game, the birthday party really isn't about the invitation list. There's a bigger deal going on here.

I'm not raising children. I'm raising grown-ups.

One of these days, my daughters will be adults. I want kindness to be a valuable and critical factor in how they make decisions.
This is a life skill at stake here. While a birthday party with a piƱata will one day be a distant memory, they will still be forming friendships and leading and serving as adults. I want them to have healthy friendships. And I want them to be kind. My friend knew that kindness was more important than what she spent on a birthday party and that pangs of rejection are more costly than an extra goodie bag. That she had an opportunity to build up or cut down. The message of You matter. You are welcome here lasts long after the cake crumbs are swept up and the balloons are all popped...and inviting, welcoming, and loving the outcast makes them beautiful. Love transforms the unlovable

And at the end of the day, if it doesn't expand, bloom, and grow - we're missing what we're teaching our children about friendship. We all know there's plenty of social media to really just put us in our place. If facebook hasn't made you feel like shit at least once because of obvious pictures of some gathering from which you were excluded...well, you're either not on facebook or you might actually be the one doing the excluding. The clique mentality isn't something that just happens, just as kindness isn't something that just happens. These things are caught. They're modeled. I'd thought during this birthday season that children's parties are precursors to adulthood; really, our children are taking cues from our adult friendships on how to treat their friends.

Yeah. Nobody warned me about all of this. Who knew birthday parties could be so complicated? They're just children, after all.

And that's the crux of it - They're just children, after all.

When
- not if, because it will happen - my girl is on the outside looking in, I won't want to brush that off. I want to get her a cherry slush at Sonic, let her cry, hug her closely, and make sure she knows she is valued. I want her to learn early to not place such a deep need in other people's acceptance of her that she misplaces what she believes about her true value and worth. But before I can teach that message, I want to soothe her heart - because it'll be then that she listens. I want to equip her with the empathy it will take to reach out when she knows someone else is feeling the same way - a skill which will in turn broaden her own relationships. Empathy does that.

If my girl is doing the inviting, I want those choices to be motivated by kindness. And I want to answer the inevitable: Does it mean we invite everyone? Not necessarily. Does it mean we are best friends with everybody and always have an open invitation for all the annoying people on every get-together we plan? No. But I want true kindness to be at the heart of why we invite - rather than looking for a reason to not-invite. I want her to have an understanding that she is communicating messages about value and worth. I want those messages to be true.

But more specifically, while I'm guiding my child through these choices, I want to pause while I make my own choices and make sure I'm teaching her, with the words that I live, what I really believe about relationships.

Relationships are sticky wickets. They're messy. And they're worth it. If you believe they're worth it, do something about it today. No relationship is perfect, but don't settle to leave a wedge or a splinter where it doesn't need to be. That's fodder for the one who comes to destroy. Find something in some relationship to repair.

Have you hurt someone? Apologize. Ask for forgiveness. And be sensitive to another's pain. Don't assume they're overreacting, but be open to the idea that hurt frequently builds on pre-existing hurt. Pain in the present is almost always about pain in the past.

Have you been left out? Let go of the hurt. Either be willing to go to someone and express that you've been hurt or let it go. Don't let your heart harden over a wounding, whether intentional or not. Understand that - like you - no one else gets it exactly right. Walk in forgiveness.

And if there's a conflict, by all means put your faith into practice and mend some fences. Give each other grace. This takes compassion and humility. It may mean realizing that you might actually be overreacting. It may mean hearing that you've deeply wounded another. Bear with one another. And that verse? The one that says, "Beloved, let us love."  It says it all. You are loved -- so love. That's our instruction. We love because he first loved us.  We do unto others - with the parallel form of this in the Mosaic law stating (paraphrased), Whatever is hurtful to you, do not do to any other person. We've got instructions on what to do as well as not-do. Kindness and consideration can't be understated. It's what we do because it's what we believe. He set the first example of kindness. We can only follow it because what he says about us - and others - and children is true. He wanted them. He invited them. "Let them come." I want to follow that example. I want to follow that kind of invitation. I want that open-ended kindness in my life. Not just in my children's birthday parties, but in all of my relationships.

It's kind of nice to have a birthday break until September. These soapboxes are hard on me. Plus, I don't even like cake anyway. And those candles are risky business where Scout's hair is concerned. 

----------------------
PS. My friend, Kristin, blogs at 152 Insights to My Soul. She graciously agreed to let me link in this blog post to her recent post, Growing Friends. It spoke to me and I hope it is meaningful to you, too. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

thieves, thugs, and robbers

I've been in Cincinnati this week, and I have SO MUCH to tell you. So much, in fact, that I based the title for this blog on everything I have to tell you and yet I will save those stories for another time. I know, it's mean of me. But I do want to tell you this:

On our way home this morning, we stopped for breakfast. My big, happy, multicultural family made its way to a table and a woman nearby caught my eye as she watched all of us walk by. We've gotten a lot of comments on family size over the years, as well as a lot of adoption comments, but this one is Queen of Them All. This dear woman opened her mouth and asked sympathetically,

"Group home?" 

I stopped dead in my tracks. "Um, nope. This is just my family."

She asked more questions. I clarified. Two from Liberia. A friend from Nepal. And a mixed baby bringing up the rear. And no, this short-stuff child I'm holding isn't a preemie, she's just a baby dwarf, so she's extra tiny. We're just a big ol' smorgasbord of unusual!

She finished with one remark: "Well, that's so great you guys adopted and have a mixed race marriage in your family. Now I know that not all white people are terrible." 

How very generous of you, Madam. There's not a lot you can do with that, except for respond with, "Oh! You're too kind," and then throw the woman to the floor for her blatant racism.

So I did all of that, except for the part about throwing her to the floor.

Gotta run. Half-Pint just poured a glass of tea on the couch and remote control.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

some loaves, some fish, and some popcorn chicken

Easter was easy last year.

Freckles was baptized wearing swim goggles, and the gift of a new Bible for each of the girls on Sunday morning was the perfect gift. No basket of dental cavities, no clumps of horrible Easter grass, no creepy photo with an Easter bunny.

One year we did a gift of jelly beans with a poem. It kinda weirded me out, so we dropped it after one attempt.

Red is for the blood He gave,
Green is for the grass He made,
Yellow is for the sun so bright,
Orange is for the edge of night,
Black is for the sins that were made,
White is for the grace He gave.
Purple is for the hour of sorrow,
Pink is for the new tomorrow.


I'm not exactly sure what all of those colors have to do with Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, but almost more disturbing is the whole "orange is the edge of night" mumbo jumbo. I mean, what? What is the edge of night, anyway? I've never even heard of that dumb thing, and if I had to pin a color to it, it wouldn't be orange. It'd be black. But black is for the sins, and there's no sense in doubling up because if you're only getting eight jelly beans for Easter, nobody wants two of them to be black. Gross. Also, it's the crummiest attempt at poetry I've ever seen. They used gave/made to "rhyme" not only once, but twice. Big no-no.

I'd asked Lumberjack a couple weeks ago to be thinking about Something Meaningful we could do for Easter this year. His suggestion was to go steal somebody's sheep, slaughter it, and swath our door frames with its blood. Kickin' it old school and all that.

Freckles suggested that she'd like to learn all of her daddy's hunting skills, and that that would be meaningful to her. Scout was too busy wearing her underwear on her head to answer.

During a bunch of food prep for Easter dinner and breakfast potluck, I realized I didn't have enough raisins for the hot cross buns. I packed up the girls to head to Wal-Mart at about lunch time, which is not one of my most brilliant ideas ever. But I've got tricks up my sleeve, and one of them is called Popcorn chicken at the deli as lunch & incentive for not freaking out in the cart. My girls love popcorn chicken more than they love me, so it makes for an easy-breezy trip through Wal-Mart.



On our way out of the parking lot, we saw a man with his wife and two small children. They were holding a sign with a few words in a couple languages. There's just something about a sign written in a few languages. Whatever the message is, it's important enough to reach anyone who will give it a glance.

No money.
No food for family.
God bless. 

I slowly pulled up to them and rolled down the window. The man approached and spoke.
"Hello. No money. No food for my children. No English. Romania." 

 

I bit my lip and looked back at Freckles, who was watching his children through her window.
"What are they doing, Mom?"

"Well - they don't have any food, sweetheart."

"Can we give them the popcorn chicken, Mom?"

So - we did. And we pulled away. And then right as we turned on the main road out of the lot, Freckles piped up again:

"I wonder if they know about Valentine's Day. I mean, not Valentine's Day. Easter. About Jesus dying and coming to life again and that was because he loved us."

Language barrier aside, we decided to loop around and not pass up the opportunity to share what really fills up the hungry. But when we pulled back into the lot, they were gone. Gone. Disappeared. We drove around for quite awhile looking for them, but they were just simply gone.

I'd love to be able to say the moment was a serene, peaceful one as we drove home. But it wasn't, because I have children. And even though they've each had three or four peaceful, serene days in their lives, today was not one of them. So anyway, between Half-Pint screaming her brains out and Scout kicking Freckles for as long as today is called Today, we had some scraps of conversation.

About how another little kid a long time ago was willing to give Jesus his lunch and in the hands of a miracle worker, it filled up the bellies of thousands of people with leftovers to spare. And how only Jesus might take that little $2.84 container of popcorn chicken and do the same thing - take what's not enough and make it more than enough.

About how God takes our pieces that are small and worthless and creates something bigger than we can imagine out of them.

About how he's able to do abundantly more than we can even think or dream up.

And about how the only love worth having is the love that's given away. And given sacrifically. And it's that kind of love that put Jesus on the cross, while all that miraculous power that multiplied food is the power that brought him back.

"That's the God we serve," I said to the girls, at which Scout interrupted me, growling, and announced with a snarl that he's the one true King. What can I say? She's a little bit of a zealot.

It's the God who takes the Something Meaningful and makes it not only Miraculous but also Monumental. It's the God who meets needs and gives hope. It's the God who gave his life to save mine. And it's the God who -- hallelujah! -- didn't stay dead.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

In Which I Was Dragged, Kicking & Screaming, Into Being a Cat Lady

Another cat showed up, and it's a She. 

She's already on my nerves, and I'd love for her to go away as a birthday present to me. My birthday's not until September, but I don't mind celebrating a little early.

Probably not likely, considering she and Grassy are chowing down on some crayfish scraps Lumberjack just tossed to them. Our methods of getting rid of strays are total counter-productive failures, in case you haven't drawn that conclusion yet.

She doesn't have a name yet. I'd love for it to be Getthehelloutofhere. Not sure I want Scout hollering that on the porch, though.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

less is more

The other day, Lumberjack and I saw this sign for the New and Improved crinkle cut fries at Burger King. Apparently these fries offer so much improvement that their very name guarantees you'll be happy.

satisfries. catchy.

So, I was sitting there thinking how TOTES OBVI it is that crinkle cut fries are just better anyway, when Lumberjack pops out this gem:

"Well, of course I would always pick crinkle-cut over regular-cut fries. You get more fry with a crinkle cut."

I stared at him like he had three heads.

"No. There's no way that's possible. Let's say it started out as a regular cut fry. And then someone came along with tiny fry-clippers and cut out all those little dents one by one. Now you have less fry."

I felt smug. But if he had three heads, it's obviously because he does three times the thinking that I do.

"No. You get more fry with a crinkle cut. It's a matter of surface area."

I closed my eyes. I hate feeling stupid. Especially over something like french fries.

"Who even thinks of fries in terms of surface area?"

"I think of everything in terms of surface area."

Well, that explains a whole lot. I'm over here thinking over everything in terms of what chairs would look like if our knees bent the other direction and he's thinking over everything in terms of surface area. We make a great pair.

Also, sidenote: we DO make a great pair. We celebrated our anniversary two weeks late and this is the card he gave me:


I think it was even Whirligig's idea to get this particular card, which says two really terrific things about her: (1) She's got her dad's sense of humor and (2) she knows exactly what kind of sentiment will appeal most to me - like an anniversary card given 2 weeks late and 53 years too early.

There was actually a good reason for delaying our anniversary celebration, and I shan't bore you with all those details, but in a nutshell: frozen pipes, leaky pipes, a gutted bathroom, a FURNACE FIRE, continual septic tank problems, a broken toilet, and also some litigation because things were starting to feel a little boring around here and it's always a nice pick-me-up to go to court. Also? Sometimes my kids get on my nerves and I think I might actually go crazy. Maybe that's just the Frozen soundtrack that's making me crazy, but it's closely tied to my children whose very existence, I suspect, truly revolves around Let it Go.

I had a moment where I felt like I was going to have a real, true-to-life nervous breakdown, and not just (even if mostly) because of the Frozen soundtrack, and wailed something to Lumberjack about how I just did not get why it was harder for me to deal with all of these Little Things happening at once than one Big Blob of a Thing. He had a two word answer that breathed life into my perspective:

"Surface area."

It all made sense at that point. I'd been looking at things by their mass. The satisfries and all my life-crazy. Once I looked at them by their measurable surface area, I could see I wasn't really crazy. There was truly more to deal with (and more fries to eat). I felt like I was beginning to understand the universe or quantum physics or how they inject jelly into jelly-filled donuts. Complicated stuff. I was getting it. And also not feeling quite as stressed out.

In conclusion, I have a two-part story. The first part goes like this: "Lumberjack almost lost two fingers to the tablesaw last week." The second part goes like this: "I managed to LOOK at my husband's hacked-up fingers without just throwing up right in his face."

As much as I'd like there to be a third part that goes like this: "I even know the DETAILS of how it happened," there's not. That part doesn't exist. That part won't exist. If that part existed, I would have to throw up right in his face, no two ways about it. What can I say? Hand injuries deal a crushing blow to my fortitude. But my final point is this: due to measurable surface area, he now apparently has MORE FINGER now that he has LESS FINGER.

LESS IS MORE.
I know. Mind-blowing.

The universe is a funny thing.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

the great exchange

Two years ago today, I miscarried a baby. We'd gotten a shirt made for Scout to wear and it said this -


and she was going to wear it as our pregnancy announcement. We were going to be so cool because - have you noticed? - nobody announces their pregnancy OR ANY LIFE EVENT in any mundane way anymore. Next time we hope to make a totally rad YouTube video that chronicles our relationship from an infamous Super Bowl party to the recent three leaky pipes which destroyed our bathroom. We will have singing. We will have dancing. We will have a puppet show lots of confetti. Undoubtedly, it will go viral. And everyone will say: Wow! We should announce our pregnancy like that.

Anyway, we didn't think of that then. Only a shirt, which Scout didn't get to wear and I put it away that very day as I cried and cried and buried February 6th as a day of only sadness and scars and loss.

Dates are funny things, and so are songs. Here's another trend: assigning A Word of the Year. I'm wondering how many people out there actually remember what Word they assigned their 2014 five weeks ago, or if they've already given up on it. The only word I think I might remember, and follow through with, if I assigned it to my Year would definitely, without a doubt, be Bacon. My friends valiantly picked words like Intentional and Deliverance and Victory. I'd be picking Bacon. Since I-need-to-sleep-through-the-night is clearly out of the question.

But anyway, I didn't have a Word for 2013, but one song I had running a lot during that year was How Can I Keep from Singing and that line that gets me every time is I know I am loved by the King. That's a theme I've been plowing through a lot the last few years, this idea that God is always good and I am always loved and also simply that Jesus LIKES me.




And then I got pregnant with Half-Pint. I wanted to be so happy and excited and we were, but it was really a relief to clear those first 13 weeks, as it always is when your last pregnancy ended in loss. And, of course, because I've posted her story here - you may have rightfully concluded that the whole of that pregnancy wasn't just a walk in the park, and it was filled with dates just as seared as that horrible February 6.

October 2.
October 17.
November 12.
December 10.
December 30.
January 2.
January 15.

And then February 7. And she was born just a few hours on the heels of a miscarriage anniversary.


  And she didn't die and how is it that I am loved so very much? Loved so much as to have sorrow refinished into gladness, tears of sadness transcended by tears of joy, and a very great gain for our family showing up to challenge a time on the calendar I had mentally consecrated only to mourn. I'm thankful for both of those babies - the one I got to hold and the one I have yet to hold. And it's not a matter of if that first baby had been born, then Half-Pint wouldn't be here. That's not the point. The point is a merciful exchange and undeserved gifts from a God who gives and takes away.

And here's the thing. The song I had running a lot during Half-Pint's pregnancy was 10,000 Reasons. That very first line is my punch in the face. The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning / It's time to sing your song again.


 

Because that's what we do. On February 6 and on February 7 - because that is and can be my only response to knowing I'm loved by the King. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

customer service and other first world problems: a story in GIF format

Lumberjack is an I-can-do-anything sort of guy by day, and an RN by night. (Shh. We try not to talk about it too much.) But as it happens, he has to wear scrubs, and somehow he believes that scrubs - like socks and underwear - should be worn until they are disintegrating or threadbare, whichever comes first, and replacement is not an option because maybe I should be darning them or something.

And I'm like,


So when the scrubs finally give out, and he realizes I'm not darning them, and he has to order new ones, that whole decision making process takes about a month and a half all in one sitting, because it's not every day you get to buy new scrubs and decision-making is not his favorite thing in the world.

So he's like,


and I'm like,


and he finally decides and I finally order. Click. Yay. And I'm like,



AND THEN, almost beating the Order Confirmation email to my inbox is an Order Cancellation announcement because somehow we ordered an Out of Stock item. And I'm like,



I finally track down the scrub top elsewhere, which proves to be a little trickier than necessary because CarharttSizeLargeinPewterBrushedMicro seems to be an extremely rare combination or something. But the important thing is that it gets ordered. Finally. And I'm like,



Scrubs arrive, they fit, they look dashing, hurray. But why end this story there?

The following week, I notice in our online banking that a certain retail giant whose name I shall not give away but it rhymes with Spamazon CHARGED US ANYWAY five days later for the cancelled order. And I'm like,


So I log onto their Chat with Customer Service option and explain the problem. I get a nice CS rep whose name is full of consonants and hardly any vowels. I explain my problem and get a bunch of canned one-liners back which do nothing to address the problem. And I'm like,


And when the CS rep says, "I looked up your order. It appears it was canceled on 1/15/14 after you ordered it," I'm definitely like,



But when I'm actually told that no, their company didn't actually charge me for the item, I'm really like,


And then I get patched through to a CS rep on the phone.

 Now here's a big ol' message I want to send to any company in the known universe who employs a customer service team. Get people whose first language is the language of the angry customer calling in. And as long as I'm putting in that request, I think I'd like to go so far as to be dialect-specific.

This seems obvious. A customer service squad is going to be dealing with calls and complaints from people who are frustrated. People who are irate. People who just got charged for an order that was cancelled immediately. People who desire effective, courteous, clear communication. And when the CS rep has extreme language barriers, it only makes the problem worse. And when I say I want dialect-specific, I mean that if I'm a frustrated customer calling in, I don't want someone from eastern Kentucky and I don't want someone from New Jersey. Heck, there are people from my own hometown I can't even understand. I want someone from the Midwest, speaking plain-as-water-soup.

And that goes for any language, by the way. I fully intend on never pursuing a career in foreign customer service affairs. It wouldn't be fair to the people calling in.

I'll be done with that soapbox for now. The CS rep on the phone also tried to insist that my own eyes were deceiving me and that although my bank statement showed $23 deducted that I actually somehow wasn't really charged. And I'm like,


We played a game called Who Can Irritate The Other Person Fastest and I'm not sure who won. At the end of the day, a refund hit our bank account for something that supposedly wasn't charged in the first place, my name has an equal number of consonants and vowels, and Lumberjack's scrubs fit. Because if they didn't, and we had to return and re-order, I'd be like,



Saturday, January 11, 2014

drip. drip. drip.

Last week it was cold here, and let's talk about that for a minute.

The best part of living in the South is BASICALLY EVERYTHING, except for the worst part, which is the weather. And given how the weather is so extremely oppressive, you just have to take my word for it that everything that falls under the BASICALLY EVERYTHING umbrella is just darn terrific.

So really, you just have no idea how very thrilled I get when the weather gets frightfully cold. That being said, we took "frightfully cold" to an all-new extreme last week, when the high for Tuesday was seven. Seven. Not seventeen. Not twenty-seven.

Just.seven.

Seven very tiny, very small things that are all cold. I just need to warn you that the next sentence won't really make sense. But I tried typing it out about forty times and couldn't get it to work, so just run with it. If you can get past the part in italics, you're out of the woods: When the high for the day is as low as an overnight low would be to make you do extreme things like, oh, you know, leave a drip running from your faucets, that's very exciting stuff. Running water from my faucets all day long! I mean, wow! This is a full-on arctic experience!

Besides the fun of leaving faucets dripping all day, I've compiled a list of other things to do when it's this cold outside:

1) Put on warm socks.


 And warm everything. Slippers. Sweaters. Mittens. Scarves. Get some tips here:


2) Keep the woodstove stocked. No picture of a stocked wood stove. Instead, here's a picture of ice frozen in Lumberjack's beard, which is a really good reason to keep your wood stove stocked:



3) Eat warm bowls of soup like this:


4) Try that frozen bubble experiment which went all over facebook. Fail epically. If seven degrees is not cold enough to make bubbles freeze, there are only a couple of possible explanations. Conclude that either that woman lives in Barrow, Alaska or that it's just a fake internet thing. Stupid experiment.



5) Check the mailbox which is all the way across the street. Also, on your way inside, find out by accident that the door locked behind you. Bang on the door instead of running around the other side of the house. Because gosh, you might freeze on the way or develop frostbite in the next 8 seconds.

6) Let the cat inside.


Soooo. Grassy came inside, and he is lazy as crap. We already knew this. We set up a little crate right nearby the wood stove and to me, that just really seems like nothing a cat ought to complain about, but in the 48 hours he was inside he developed just the most horrid of self-entitled attitudes. Partly that came, I'm sure, from Freckles leaving thoughtful little notes taped to his crate -



and finding out that pillows are good for sleeping on.



This is worth giving some thought to: how in the world does a crated cat find his way outside the crate and onto a couch cushion? I may have a heart of stone, but it's only to balance out all the lunatics around here who have hearts of golden baby angel wings. Those kinds of people are easily manipulated by cats. Even Half-Pint, I am sad to report. She doesn't even like cats, yet found herself reaching inside his crate repeatedly whispering "Biff.....bifff....biff." Which is her word for kiss,  and frankly, I'm filing a lawsuit against my 11-month-old for treason. Her loyalty took all of 30 seconds to switch. She only has three words anyway, and I'm a little miffed she used such an affectionate one for the cat.

7) Watch in dismay as your kitchen pipes freeze. Yes, we left a drip on. Yes, they froze anyway. Because a hundred years ago, people had more interesting things to do than insulate the houses they built.

BUT! When your husband's work schedule has you wondering if you'll ever see him again, you don't just wait around for him to fix frozen pipes. So here's what you do, in a few easy steps:
-park a space heater under the kitchen sink
-slide a cookie sheet to the side of it so it radiates the heat toward the pipes (exhibit A)

Exhibit A

-stay up until 1:44 AM babysitting the space heater
-once you go to bed, set your alarm to go off every 45 minutes so you can get up to check on the space heater, because you've left it running and it seems likely that if your house starts to burn down, at least being up every 45 minutes should alert you to the emergency pretty quickly
-the next morning, when all of your efforts have failed anyway, go buy some bales of straw and stack them against the outside of your house (exhibit B) as makeshift insulation.

Exhibit B

-rejoice in 24 hours or so when the kitchen pipes are thawed out and you have full water pressure again.

On that note, I really felt like I'd rescued a sick, dying animal and nursed it back to health. Particularly an animal I knew nothing about.

Also, because this blog post has gone on entirely too long, other fun things to do when it's this cold outside are, in no particular order: drink lots of hot tea/coffee/chocolate, memorize the French Polynesia Islands, and familiarize yourself with at least one new word on every single page of the dictionary. If all of those things seem a little too boring, I recommend something highly exciting. Like, say, leaving a drip on.

fun stuff.

Monday, January 6, 2014

dusting. blogging. frozen pipes.

So, I used to clean house for one of my friends and I did everything except dust, which is kind of strange if you're getting paid to clean. Dust and I, we don't get along. Something about asthma or whatever. Also, it's seriously almost impossible to keep up with dusting. I finally just decided I was OVER it and instead of feeling like I am a terrible housekeeper in my own home because the one chore I don't complete with fierce regularity is dusting, I simply decided I just choose not to dust unless I feel like it. Which is never. I'm not falling down on a job I'm supposed to be doing because I've decided against the job in the first place.

This blog will not go in the direction of dusting. I will still maintain it. EXCEPT FOR when my life has been completely taken over by a number of things, such as:

1. the holidays, especially Kwanzaa
2. OUR CAT MOVED INSIDE YESTERDAY and I can barely even speak about it without breathing words no one should ever, ever say
3. our pipes are presently in the middle of freezing

Yesterday it was so warm it got all the way up to 7 whole degrees, which is why Grassy came in, but also the reason that our pipes are in the middle of freezing. Sometimes you're up all night because your kid is puking everywhere and sometimes you're up all night babysitting the thawing-out process of frozen pipes. I will just be really, really sad if they burst. Especially if I don't get any sleep out of the deal.

Please don't tell me to leave a drip on to avoid pipes freezing. Every person in the world knows that. When you live in a hundred-year-old farmhouse, things sorta work against you more often than not.