Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Gentle Art of Conversation

There are times, like when your two-year-old takes two and half hours to fall into an overtired slumber at night, when you're ready to sell 'em to the highest bidder on eBay. But then there are times, like the following, when you want to pop them into the nearest glass bottle and seal it with a cork so they'll stay forever this way, and when you're going through a midlife crisis as your other kids go off to college and leave the next, you can loosen the cork and get some lovin.'

Example #1: I sponge-bathe the (younger) princess yesterday evening and take her, wrapped in a towel, to sit on the patio for a few minutes. She requests to be held "like a baby," so I cradle her in my arms and murmur sweet nothings about how long I'm planning to love her. She gazes, with those clear blueberries, into the depths of my eyes, and as I'm suffused with a maternal glow, I'm convinced that she's going to remember this moment, deep in her subconscious, for her entire life.
She opens her mouth.
She says, almost dreamily, "Can I poke you in the eyes?"
Um, at least she asked first???

Example #2: I return home from a DE-lightful afternoon spent under the wise tutelage of my friend and stamping mentor, Vanessa. (Tim and the kids were out in Elgin at his parents' house for a post-church lunch.) After a while, I'm walking through the room where she's cozied up on the couch looking at a book.
Caroline: "MAMA!"
Caroline, with calm interest: "Did you have a good time at Miss Vanessa's house?"

I felt like I'd just made my curfew!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

And on that note

Una cosa mas:
Yesterday at Friday Co-op, the scrapbooking class needed some emergency help, so I jumped at the chance. I had also, at the teacher's request, brought some of my albums along to give the kids some new ideas. It was such great fun! So neat to see these 6-11 year olds creating these works of art, all different and unique. And to hear them share their stories with me as I walked around the room looking for specific things to compliment each one on (in fact, that's where I heard about these llama trekking trips in New Mexico that I'm now trying to convince my husband and siblings within driving distance to try). It really made me think more about my kids' request to make their own scrapbooks. Maybe over the summer, I could get a little club going with some other kids who would be willing to come over once a week and create books together in the great air-conditioned indoors. Could be totally hectic, but I'm also thinking it would be more fun with a group. Otherwise I might lug all the supplies out for my own two, and have them running off to make mud pies ten minutes later!

Paper or Digital?

OK, little invisible elves that live in my house just to torture a poor mom who already suspects herself of losing her mind via slow leakage ... this is NOT funny! This is the second time in a week that I cannot find my papercutter, without which scrapbook pages and cards simply cannot happen (I cannot cut a straight line with scissors to save my life). Just like last Saturday, I know my papercutter was sitting right here on my desk, open and ready for business, and then when I go to use it, it's vanished. Vaporized. Not a trace. Last week I ended up having to go to Hobby Lobby, clutching my 40% off coupon, to buy a new one, but this week that's NOT happening. I think my kids are putting it somewhere when they pull up a chair to play Stronghold on my computer, but where? It's not on the floor or shoved to the side -- their trademark moves.
And completely.

It makes me ruminate further on the topic of digital vs. paper scrapbooking. Ever since my friend Jenny turned into a digiscrappin' genius, I've contemplated making the switch -- or at least giving it a try. The reasons are compelling: No grinding to a halt or running to the store when papercutters disappear or adhesives run out. Cheaper embellishments, since you just download them (and this is a serious consideration, since the hobby budget is tight). Less clutter on my workspace. The ability to dazzle you all with my accomplishments (NOT!). BUT ... my main reasons for sticking with paper are, in keeping my personality, less logical and more abstract: I like wandering the aisles of Hobby Lobby, salivating over supplies and choosing gorgeous papers, etc. I actually like the feel of creating something with my own two hands. And, even though I get little time to practice my art, when my kids do see me scrapping, I like the fact that they see me creating, with said two hands, and letting them mess around with the paper and punches, rather than gazing at the computer screen and tuning them out. I don't want to cultivate the image of "Mom's 'always' on the computer," -- know what I mean? (I'm by NO means trying to imply that's how it is in the homes of digital scrappers -- for me it's just a personal thing, like my computer and my kids are somewhat at odds -- plus, they get jealous since their computer time is limited by the 30-minute timer on their accounts. ;-))

Well, since I don't have Photoshop Elements yet, it's not an immediate decision, and maybe I don't have to look at it as either/or ... but with limited time, you want to do more than dabble in one or the other, you know?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Taking a deep breath

Okay, feeling better now. Took the magic cocktail of 1)kvetching with my friend Vanessa on the phone about our frazzling mornings and then praying together, 2)walking slowly down the path between my front door and the curb, oohing and ahhing over our garden, which every day is offering up new surprises - a new iris and gerbera daisy today, and the fragrance of freesia throughout (I inherited most of it from the former homeowner; all I do is pull weeds and plant the occasional bulb) and 3) our family friend Acacia (the kids call her "Acacia Bread" ever since they discovered focaccia) arriving to take Ian to taekwondo and bring the girls along so I could clean the house.
And our home meeting is tonight.
All is well again.

What's My Name Again?

Today is one of those days when I feel like have six kids instead of three. Seriously -- Anne, I don't know how you do it. In the 25 seconds of personal time I just stumbled upon, I had to get this down. A five minute sample of this morning: We're outside, #3 wants help riding the zipline, which requires my constant presence, then #2 bursts into tears because, while on the tire swing, #1 has accidentally hit her with a flying ball. She screams -- "MAHMEEEE!" While investigating I find that her shirt is splattered with mud. I send her for the Oxyclean. #3 suddenly needs to go potty (with me, of course). Taking her there, we see the length of bloodstained tissue, leftover from a bleeding nose, that's decorating the bathroom sink. I leave #3 and go in search of #1 to get rid of the tissue. #2 comes to complain that she can't find the Oxyclean. #3 still needs to go potty. My cup of coffee is still sitting in the coffeemaker since I haven't had a moment to pour it into a cup. I feel like a toddler myself, running randomly from one location to another in my house/yard. Except my mantra is: "Just a minute, honey."

Gotta go, #2 just bumped her chin and is having a meltdown. #3 is clinging to my leg asking where her rice cake is. #3 is reading Where's Waldo and trying to ignore it all. Lucky him. :-)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Uncle Sam, not so good to us

We interrupt this broadcast of enchanting family vignettes to bring you the latest installment of our Adventures as a Cash-Strapped Family of a Ph.D. Student. :-)

Normally I do not discuss finances on here, because really, who wants to read about other people's private stuff like that, and I hold to that old saying about discretion being the better part of valor. But, disaster sort of struck yesterday and so here I am visiting my therapist, Dr. Keyboard, to pour it out. (And by the way, I know that this incident can be easily outdone by Jenny's own tale of the year when she was expecting a tax refund, in fact needed it to purchase a new refrigerator (? washing machine? something crucial and vital like that) and discovered too late that her dh had had practically NOTHING withheld and that they therefore OWED the government hundreds of dollars. Jenny can ALWAYS top my disaster tales, in fact, just as she can top anyone's bad-in-law-gifts stories -- this is the girl who was given a Christian weight-loss book for Christmas one year, despite the fact that she is neither fat nor Christian)).

So last year, we got a generous subsidy from Uncle Sam -- I can't really call it a rebate, but we qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit (like I said before, there are advantages to a tiny paycheck) which basically brought in about $4500. Yahoo! We were expecting, in fact my dh assured me, that this year it would be about the same, so in my head I was making plans for, you know, various things on the spectrum of need/want. Well, guess what, folks? Due to the fact that we cashed in some mutual funds last year, we get a grand total of $221 this year! Um, I think I already spent that in anticipation of the $4500 -- yeah yeah, I know, don't spend money until you have it in hand.

Sigh. We just kinda stared at each other for a while yesterday, trying to choke down that dose of reality.

Since I stress about money a LOT (including every time I go to the grocery store), I feel like the Lord is constantly exposing the fact that I am in the realm of anxiety, not in the realm of Christ. When has He ever failed to meet our needs? We've never gone hungry or naked in the streets. We've never missed a house payment. We even have some "extras," like extracurriculars for the kids (thanks to my in-laws). My mom just bought Eliza some summer clothes. Other things happen that remind me that He is taking care of us, often through the generosity of others, even though I wish I could be the one taking care of THEM. I realized the other day, as I felt that familiar tightening in my stomach over something money-related, that my anxiety cannot possibly have its source in Christ, since He is its opposite -- He is peace, He is strength, He is security, He is joy. So, I need not spend even one anxious minute. Yet neither can I throw caution to the winds and rush gleefully into credit card debt, trusting that "God will take care of it." As with every other aspect of my life, He wants to be my real balance. He is taking us through this time of testing and material leanness (by American standards) so that we will learn something very specific of Him -- how to reject the temptation to be anxious, how to reject our covetous, greedy nature, and how to really cast all our cares of Him. We're also learning to figure out what's really worth buying, and not taking for granted what we have (cliche, but true). We're sort of in boot camp now, I guess, and I'm earnestly hoping that when the time comes for us to be entrusted with more (i.e. after graduation), we'll be well-trained steward of His resources.

A song is running through my head right now, and it's straight from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:
"Always rejoice;
Pray without ceasing;
In everything give thanks;
For this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Freeze this moment

You know, there are plenty of times when my kids bicker or seem to just push each other's buttons just to add a little color to their day. In other words, they're normal siblings. But then something happens like ten minutes ago, when they were settling down to watch "The Jungle Book," the group favorite, and at the very beginning, when Tinker Bell arrives to decorate the Disney logo, Eliza squeals, "Ian! It's STINKER BELL!" and they all three break into wild chortles, and I want to scoop them all up and squeeze them. Even as adults, my four siblings and I have certain words or phrases that connect us in shared sense of humor, so that if others wonder why we yell out "Schultz!" or refer to "making matters worse," we feel drawn together. I love that mine are building that already.

Lately I've been feeling kind of nostalgic about the way they're growing up. Especially Ian, I guess, because he's changed the most. I never felt like one of those parents who wanted their kids to stay babies or toddlers forever and hated for them to grow up -- I always felt like I enjoyed them more as they grew (there are moments when I want to freeze my youngest in time, though). But it hit me the other day that although I sure don't miss the hundred-times-a-day request for Thomas the Tank Engine stories, there are aspects of my son's three-year-old self that I miss -- his exuberance about animals and nature, his general uninhibitedness. It feels like he's on the cusp of something right now -- being a 'tween,' I guess. He's developing ideas about what is "cool" and what is "not cool," he calls his friends (and sometimes us!) "dude," he loves to stay up late and play board games if we have an adult gathering to do so, he occasionally reveals closet interests in country music and Nascar racing -- ay ay ay! Not to mention, he's decided that anything vaguely romantic is completely disgusting, which means we're not allowed to kiss him anymore (the distinction among types of kisses has not been clarified in his mind). Blown kisses are still acceptable -- our compromise. :-)

But then there are the hints that despite the forces that are pushing him toward preadolescence, the tenderness of childhood is still there. He (and his sister) stills tends to eschew pajamas in favor of his daddy's T-shirts at night, and he still comes to crawl in with us if he gets up at night. And the other day I suddenly realized that he'd unconsciously grabbed my hand as we walked along and was holding it. And I couldn't have cared less about the dirty fingernails or mildly sweaty palm. I held it, and smiled to myself, and savored the moment, until he broke away in pursuit of something cool.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ah, Italy ...

As my two-year-old was protesting her way off to sleep ("Mommy, I want you to BE with me"), I sat nearby and finally, finally, finished The Agony and the Ecstasy, which I posted about a few days ago (haven't figured out how to link to my old posts). It's enough of a masterpiece, in size and in quality, to leave me, as a reader, feeling like I've accomplished something along the lines of the Sistine Chapel! And I am ready to pack my bags and jet off to Italy to check these babies out! I'm dying to see the David, the Sistine Chapel, and all these previously-unappreciated-by-me works of the man who in his 89 years (!) became the world's greatest artist. It almost spooks me to think that the same pieces of marble that utterly consumed his days for years at a time are still there, five hundred years later, for us to drop in and visit. Seriously, if I had enough frequent flier miles I'd hop over the pond tonight, with Irving Stone's bibliography in hand.

But since I don't, I'll go play some "Wise and Otherwise" with my husband, son, and a few friends. And wish for a smattering of Michelangelo's creative genius!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Next chapters

The book continues ...

Page 2: "As we read on the last page, cave-men became very intelligent [and] learned to be the very first human beings. but, they continued to learn more and more and more! they began to live on farming instead of hunting, they also learned to make the bow and the arrow, knock nuts down from a tree, make tepees and bone houses covered with animal skins, and make leather boots and coats! sort of like Indians! (pictured below)"

Page 3: "The next people I think we should talk about are the Egyptians. They ruled a strong, good-sized empire, (I am sure you know that their kings were called pharoahs), they were known for their pyramids, mummies, and goods. (I have no clue why but some of [the] girls danced naked!) slaves were forced hour after hour to build pyramids and sphingks. there warriors looked something like is pictured below."

I just get a kick out the fact that this is all HIS project, totally unsupervised or uninspired by me -- my only role is as the occasional spelling consultant. (We did have a little chat and practice session this morning about "their," "there" and "they're.")

Oh, and meanwhile Caroline (28 months today!!) is not to be outdone. She drew an actual sun (full, closed circle with many rays) this morning while I was reading aloud, which kind of shocked me. I know we all think our kids are prodigies, but I was definitely having one of THOSE moments. ;-) Then in the car, she asked me what a sign beside the road said, and when I answered "Only" (As in, left turn only), she reflected for a moment and then corrected me: "It says, 'Watch out for Motorcycles.'"

I think she has a promising future as a backseat driver.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Inspiration to Share

Just finished reading this totally inspiring blog post from Melissa Wiley, children's author, blogger, and homeschooler extraordinaire:
"Every Face I Look at Seems Beautiful"
I wish this woman could come live with me for a few days and mentor me full-time!

Also, over an unusually quiet lunch (Eliza is in her room nursing the after-effects of being up for almost three hours during the night with a dastardly ear infection, her first ever), I read this article in the Austin-American Statesman. If you have the time, check it out and make sure to get all the way to the bottom for a description of how this couple has lived. Again, totally inspiring.

Oh, and I have to share. Ian decided yesterday to start writing a book called "The History of Soldiers and War." So far he has the title page, with illustration, and the first page. I can't show you the drawings, but here is the caption he typed up for the first page, illustrated with charging cavemen (note that he hasn't really learned how to use the shift key for capitalizing):

"the very first "soldier" of course well ... you guessed it! cave-men! well, they were not very much of soliders were they with those clubs, axes, spears and wolf skins were they? (of course later knights had clubs, axes, spears (but not wolf skins!)) sometimes they ever used human skulls for drinking cups! gross right? at first they were just naked forlorn monkey0looking creatures but as time went by, they became more educated and human (that is where the skull-cups come in), learning to sew, hunt and make clothes and tools (pictured below)"

My budding author. Kinda gives me a warm glow. :-)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Another manic Monday

We're back from a long weekend in San Antonio, where we basically lounged around a pool enjoying the fact that this is Texas, and sometimes in March, it's 90 degrees and you can swim (not every day, though). My in-laws own a timeshare at a resort there, and we log some good cousin time twice a year or so there. Very relaxing for the adults, and it does the soul good to see the kiddos, all five of them plus a teenager, getting along so amiably together. Ian is the lone boy and thus far has not extended his misogynism to his cousins.

I am in the midst of reading Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy, a biographical novel of Michelangelo. Somewhere in my homeschool reading, I stumbled across the idea that the mother (or father, whoever does the principal educating of the children) should be the one educating herself, and the love of learning and ideas will trickle down to the children. Makes sense -- yet sometimes seems impractical with all the keeping-up we have to do. But anyway, I do love to read, and in endeavoring to be a model for my children (how can I lecture them about challenging themselves if I don't lead the way?), have pushed myself with this book -- it's about 750 pages long and pretty dense. Along the way, I've been tempted to give up, but now, about 400 pages in, I'm really into it and am fascinated by the portrait of life in Renaissance Italy (which is what we're sort of learning about together in history). I knew there was great art that emerged from that time and place, but I'm gaining a sense of what a turbulent time it was -- the tension between the corrupted Catholic church, the fanatical monks who wanted to purge their society, and the neo-pagans, with most of the artists straddling two or more of these factions. It's all painted as the background to the very personal story of one of the greatest artists humankind has ever produced. Reminds me of why I love history so much -- I love learning people's stories.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

New pants!

OK, this entry won't be very exciting to anyone but me, but I have to record this for posterity. :-) I took the car to get inspected nearby today, and in killing time with the 3 kids, went strolling through a shopping center that is SO close to our house but I almost never explore. Well, don't you know that on a rack outside a consignment shop was a pair of J.Jill corduroy jeans, in my size (or close enough), marked down and down to TWO DOLLARS!?!?! And, I found two other similar pairs, different colors, that were marked at $7, but the shopkeeper sold me for $5 each. So, for $12, three pairs of new-condition pants for which I would have paid over $100 had I bought them all at full price (which is anathema to my nature anyway). Thank you, Lord!

It almost made up for the sight of a bumper sticker at the inspection place: "If you don't love Jesus ... go to hell!" ARGHHHH! That really set me on edge. I just don't like that attitude, feel it is a very inaccurate reflection of the love of Jesus, and find it embarrassing coming from other Christians, if indeed it was another Christian sporting it so proudly on his/her car. I wish I could have changed the sticker to read, "If you don't love Jesus ... He loves you anyway."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Back home again (sorta)

No sooner are we back in town than I was basically FORCED to take the kids on a stellar outing today. Why forced? Because my article is due to the magazine on the 15th, and that's this Saturday! This deadline thing is so good for me, plus, it makes us get out there and do stuff when it would be easy to "wait for a better day," like when my husband could come with me.

Truly, because I'm a wimp, I was leery of taking all three of them by myself on an hour-plus drive to be among wild animals. We went to one of those exotic resort zoos where you get to ride around and feel the buffalo and gazelles and ostriches and whatnot. And truly, we had a blast! There's just something about turning your head to find a pair of insistent, slobbering camel lips of dimensions that could put Angelina Jolie to shame, just waiting to gobble up whatever's in your hand, that gives you the giggles. And have you ever seen a buffalo tongue up close? I'll just tell you, it's enormous. Caroline spent most of the ride huddled against me after deciding that being basically nose to nose with a large antlered creature was a bit concerning, but she warmed right up when we got to actually get down into an enclosure and mingle with a a bunch of pettable goats after the ride. All in all, if you don't count the fact that Ian's impulse-control skills have sort of been at an ebb these last few days ("No! You cannot ride that baby goat!"), a successful outing.

I do have to add this caveat, however, which I will not share with the magazine audience. This was the scene just as my timepiece began to alert me that in order to get to my afternoon job on time (I tutor Korean children once a week, more on that another time), I needed to start shepherding my flock toward the van:
1- We wash our hands, having petted all sorts of four-legged creatures.
2- Caroline decides she needs to go to the potty. We go. Note: she has insisted on wearing a swimsuit over her underwear and under her clothes. We do the full strip. (Not really "we.") We wash our hands again.
3- I round up Ian and Eliza and tell them they need to wash their hands before we head out. They do so.
4- Eliza decides she needs to go the bathroom, and she needs me to go with her. I tell her that I will wait outside for her, where Ian can see me if he reappears from going to ogle plastic stuff in the gift shop.
5 - Eliza comes out and once again, washes her hands. The soap bottles falls into the giant sink. I fish it out and rinse my hands. Caroline splashes her arms in the sink.
6- Caroline decides she needs to go potty again. Full strip. After two seconds on the potty, she doesn't need to go after all. She redresses, disdainful of my help. She touches the potty. We go wash hands again.
7 - Eliza discovers mud on the bottom of her flip-flops and kicks them off in horror. She fetches gobs of paper towels which she drops on the ground beside the sink so she can wash her shoes. The ablutions continue for another five minutes.
8- We was hands again, round up the missing children, and finally, FINALLY! make it ... to the gift shop. Hurrah for the 50-cent pencils, the cheapskate parent's delight.

Oh, and one more thing. Last night, Caroline found a pair of shorts that my friend Vanessa had so generously bought for Eliza at a consignment shop (along with a few other things; thank you Vanessa!) Claiming them, naturally, for herself, she pulled them all the way up to her armpits, where they of course swam on her. Then, with a sudden look of alarm on her face, she looked down and whimpered, "Uh ... uh ... where did I put my bottom???"

Saturday, March 8, 2008

In Boston

We're in chilly, rainy Boston right now, where March seems to have come in like a lion and stayed that way. Technically, we're in Dedham, the actual town where I grew up and my parents still live, but no one outside Massachusetts has heard of that!

We've been visiting pretty frequently lately, since my dad's condition (he has ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) is slowly deteriorating. Although he's lost most of his motor control, though, he mercifully can still speak without difficulty, and I think that is the Lord's gift to him. He's also surpassed the point at which 75% of ALS patients have already died -- next month it will be 6 years since his diagnosis. Anyway, we're grateful to be able to spend time with him and with my mom, especially while he can still communicate easily and enjoy the snuggles from his granddaughters, who love to steer his power chair as they ride around on his lap. I want them all to remember him, to remember these happy moments, so we make them happen as often as we can and are thankful for each of them. It's interesting how the kids have asked so few questions over the years. They just seem to accept the progression of his disease (first the walking stick, then the scooter, then the power chair and now the help with dressing, writing, etc.) at face value. There's a certain beauty to it.

There are times, you know, when I'll just be walking along and it'll hit me how blessed I am to have two strong legs that do what they're supposed to do. That may sound cliché, but it's so true. Since I've watched my dad slowly lose the use and control of his legs (and I can still remember his very particular gait) these moments have occurred more frequently, and I'll focus all my consciousness on that action of putting one foot in front of the other, running or walking, and marvel at the miracle of what my body can do. I don't know what lies in store for me in the future (my dad was always healthy until this happened) but I hope that if a day comes when my brain is trapped inside an uncooperative body, or I lose even a small part of that control, I won't have taken for granted what I have now.

We're really having a great visit, poor weather and sick son notwithstanding. There have been trips to the craft store, there's been ample scrapbooking, there's been Boggle and reading loud with Grandmommy and a fire in the fireplace and going out to tea with my mom and bonding between the kids and their "Aunt" Renee and "Uncle" Jaime, who live in the house who take care of my parents. (Renee is also the sister of Phoebe, who's marrying my brother; how's that for a small world?) They're fantastic people; we love them and so do our kids.

Phooey on this whole Daylight Savings thing. Tim starts foaming at the mouth about it! Better go to bed.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Last night we were supposed to take Ian to his social skills class after taekwondo -- this would be the fourth class, and Tim and I get to attend a parent group at the same time, plus there's free babysitting for the girls in the toy-filled lobby. And we get a VERY reduced rate ($4/class) because of our paltry grad-student income -- there are advantages!

The thing is, Ian really, really, really didn't want to go. We had a looooong discussion outside the TKD building about it, trying to listen and validate feelings instead of just forcing him to do it. He says he doesn't enjoy it and doesn't really learn much and he'd rather be doing other things.

I know all you parents out there, if you have kids of a certain age or older, can empathize with this predicament. It boils down to, how much do you push? On certain things, like safety and treatment of others, you obviously have to hold the line. Other things fall into that lovely gray area that make parenting such a soul-searching venture. Ian by personality resists activities that are challenging to him (it's called human nature, I suppose). He has a low frustration tolerance, but we've definitely seen progress over the years. With so many activities, we've run into this same dilemma, where we have to balance our concern for his growth with our respect for his feelings. Clearly, he needs to be challenged in order to grow, and in some instances, our insistence that he stick with something has eventually resulted in competence, then enjoyment and that feeling of satisfaction that is the basis for true self-esteem (swimming, taekwondo). It's tempting to just shelter him from all experiences that are not of his own choosing, to let him be "safe" here at home and just read, play on the computer, and play with his sisters and his friend next door. But where's the growth in that? How do you develop perseverance, confidence, the ability to stick with something and conquer it? On the other hand, life need not be a compilation of forced activities that someone ELSE considers "good for you," regardless of your feelings. Not much growth in that either, mostly just resentment.

So last night we agreed to take a week off and then consider trying again after spring break, especially if he showed us with his behavior that he needed more training in how to deal with what we termed "friend problems" like lack of empathy or difficulty respecting boundaries. I don't know if it was the "right choice," but I think we all emerged with our dignity intact and with some sense of honoring one another.

It was just as well, too, because last night we had to take turns going around the corner to caucus! Margery, my neighbor, and I walked over to the VERY populated Democratic caucus, where it was all we could do to wait in line, sign our names and skibble on home, and then Tim went over to the tiny Republican version, where he actually got to debate resolutions and play the devil's advocate with the eleven other people in the room. Very invigorating, he reported.

Feeling blessed to live in America!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

March Forth!

... To the polls, that is. I used to whine about how we didn't get to vote until everything was lame duck (esp. since I usually vote Republican), but guess what, folks? It's March 4th, and I live in TEXAS, which not only is probably going to be the deciding state in this whole shebang, but also ... has an OPEN PRIMARY! So, even though I was planning to vote for McCain as a mere formality, I can march forth and help break this Obama/Clinton deadlock, if I want to. We're packing up to walk over momentarily and do our civic duty.

My maverick husband is actually planning to vote for Ron Paul. I know, I know, I married him for other reasons. When Ian heard this a few minutes ago, he started squalling, "NO! I don't want to vote for Ron Paul! He caused too much of a hubbub!" (We dragged the kids to a rally on the UT campus several days ago. Not a popular move. Not my idea.) A hubbub? If only he could see how the big boys (and girl) play!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Just Bead It

Yesterday I took a little too long to do my Saturday afternoon errands (what can I say, it was the first Saturday of the month and Costco was mobbed, I tell you -- but oh, the samples! Jelly Belly! Lobster ravioli!) and I had to do a least a little something about the fact that spring is definitely springing here in Austin and my four year old has hardly a shred of clothing to wear for the season. Seriously, if it gets any warmer she'll be forced to either melt away or go indecent. So anyway, by the time I returned home, staggering in with giant vats of whatever it was I bought at Costco, I was a bit late to take the older two on our planned outing to the bead store.

See, it's my MIL's birthday tomorrow, and since she once said she prefers homemade gifts, we've taken her literally ever since. This time, rather than yet another handpainted plate or whatnot, I decided to try homemade jewelry (Tim did this with them for me around Christmas time). Knowing we'd be late to our picnic dinner with Sam, Vanessa and Benjamin but trusting Tim and Caroline to fill in for us, we headed over to Nomadic Notions, where I just barely refrained from having a nervous breakdown while shepherding Ian and Eliza through picking out their beads and gathering the right supplies. Heel, control freak! Sit! Stay!

Ian decided to do his stringing right there in the store, so I basically gave up on getting to the park before dark, and just let him do his thing. Picture the scene: a gaggle of middle-aged women assembling for a class, oohing and ahhing over the latest shipment of beads, exclaiming over each other's creations or just practicing at the worktable, and in the midst of it, a (rather grubby (did I tell you that a couple weeks ago he groaned to me, "MOM! You can't expect me to take a bath every WEEK!")) seven-year-old boy bent over his work in quiet concentration. I was a bit panicked when I first saw his choices, but here's what he came up with, and the picture doesn't quite do it justice:

Not bad at all, eh? If he keeps it up, he'll make some young lady very happy one day ... once he decides that girls are no longer the scourge of the planet, which frustrates me to no end and for which I'm starting to blame his frequent reading of Calvin and Hobbes. :-(

Also, Eliza, my shy introvert who usually hides behind me if strangers try to address her, sidled up to a fifty-something woman doing some really cool technique at the table (did I say sidled? I meant snuggled) and engaged her in conversation for about ten minutes. "Mom, I made a new friend," she announced proudly at the end, and while this is child's play for her brother, I knew what an accomplishment this was for her, and I felt the glow of motherly pride on her behalf. It's interesting, she's done the same thing with a mom at Ian's taekwondo class who is always embroidering, and the mom has actually taught Eliza to embroider and brought her a couple samplers to work on! Eliza looks forward to seeing her twice a week and always has lots of questions for her about her work. As I've mentioned before, I'm either a slacker or just crippled when it comes to teaching such domestic arts, so I'm so thankful for the blessing of these other adults God has brought into her path.