Monday, June 30, 2008

The Three Ring Circus Weekend

This weekend is OVER. Yes, it is unusual for me to have such glee to start another work week. But this weekend was unusually busy.

As I said earlier, we watched my brother's dog. He did VERY well. He is a very good dog. But, it was something else to add to a completely packed schedule.

Add to that, Saturday night my three children each invited a friend to spend the night. That gave us a total of six kids, two wild dogs and two sleep-deprived adults.

As the friends were arriving for their stay, hubby went to my parents' house to help them with their computer (a whole nother story...). Dinner was approaching, the kids were grumbling about being hungry, and we had no daddy. I called. No answer. Grrrr...

As I began making dinner with the plan of eating without him, hubby called. He had a small mishap at mom and dad's: He was in their attic and had fallen through their ceiling.

Apparently he dangled for a while, legs flailing, trying to hold on to the attic boards with his arms, while my dad ran for a ladder. Finally, hubby was able to steady his footing on the ladder and climb out of the hole.

Chaos and commotion ensued. Hubby called me. I could hear mom & dad in the background wishing him to go to the ER to get checked out. Hubby didn't want to go, insisted he was fine, while complaining he couldn't feel his left hand, and his hip hurt.

Meanwhile, back at our house, six children and two dogs were jumping up and down asking for supper.

As hubby was driving home, my mom called and frantically insisted hubby go to the ER. She was certain he was mortally wounded, and equally certain that his good deed had killed him.

By the time I got off the phone with my mom, I expected hubby to come in like the walking dead. As I served dinner to the Brady Bunch, et al, hubby's car roared into our drive way. Hubby appeared at the door, for the most part, unscathed. I carefully looked him over, and determined, while he may be hurt, he was not dying.

His left hand did look suspiciously like it was fractured or broken by his thumb. But, we decided to wait to see if it would swell or bruise, further deepening our concerns.

The kids, seeing no blood or sign of gore, ran off to have cookies. The dogs circled hubby, sensing his pain, and aggravating hubby.

I spent the remainder of Saturday night, and some of very early Sunday morning, trading out ice packs for hubby, taking him drinks, and rushing to his side whenever he called.

At the same time, I monitored the two boys to make sure the PS2 games were rated E, and watched over the four girls, who were putting together the mother of all spas in my bathroom. Candles glowed, the lights were dimmed, the garden tub was stuffed with pillows, the Fischer Price table was lined with bottles of finger polish, and the radio was playing softly in the background.

Finally, the kids went to bed and the house was quiet.

I fell into bed, to be welcomed by my snoring hubby. Now, he usually snores. But since he was taking medication for his injuries, he was snoring so loudly, the walls were rattling.

I stumbled down the stairs and plopped on the couch. This night was never going to end...

Finally, it was time to get up to walk the two dogs and get the six kids ready for church- while hubby alternately slept and whined that I didn't sleep with him (because he snored) and that he didn't feel good (maybe because he fell through the ceiling?).

The procession of parents came to pick up two out of the three extra children. Then four children and I went (sans hubby) to church. The kids, having had no sleep, were not anywhere near reverent. And by the time church was over, I felt more like I needed to be forgiven for all the ugly thoughts I had during service, then before I entered the building.

Did it end there? Oh no. After church we had lunch and then I got to pick up our new pet: a hamster named Duchess. The kids were over the moon with their new friend. The dogs wanted to eat it. Hubby was still frumpy and grumpy and in pain (but refusing to go to the doctor).

By the time I DROPPED into bed last night, I don't think it would have mattered if hubby had a freight train running next to me- I was ASLEEP.

This morning, I awoke refreshed and ready to begin again. We were down to two adults, our three kids and one dog, and our new pet hamster. We cleaned up the house from all the activity from the weekend.

Hubby finally went to the doctor, and discovered he was bruised, but fine. Our dog was grateful to be an "only dog" again. The kids fussed over the hamster, welcoming her to the family. And I was glad to be back to the "normal craziness" of our regular routine...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hair of the Dog

No rest for the weary...

We're "dog sitting" my brother's dog this weekend. He (the dog) is an all black Poodle/Maltese mixture. When he lays down it's hard to tell which end is the front, and which is the back.

He is full of energy and spunk and he LOVES people.

He also loves our dog, a tiny Shiz Tsu/Maltese mix. They romp and play all over the house together like siblings.

In fact, every inch of my sofa is currently wet from dog slobber. Gross.

My brother & sis-in-law keep much earlier hours than we do at our house. So their sweet puppy is used to his morning constitution at about 4:30 AM. I was able to have him hold out until 5:30, but then he was insistent in getting outside and doing his business.

I'm certain any neighbor who witnessed us lapping the neighborhood would have been completely amused to see a disheveled, sleepy women, sleep walking around the block with two high-strung, spastic dogs, wagging their tails wildly because "it was just so fun to be out"!

The two dogs alternately stopped, sniffed, dragged, peed, pooped, ran, sat, and sniffed some more- and never at the same time. For most of the "walk" around the block, I was tied up in leashes, and afraid I would fall flat on my face.

The morning was gorgeous! The sun was just peeking up over the neighborhood. It was just the right, pleasant temperature. The birds were beginning to chirp.

These are not usually things I'm privy to, as the sun is well overhead by the time I usually descend the stairs. So this morning was a rare treat.

Now, when I say "rare treat", I mean as in, "No-way-would-I-ever-be-up-this-freakin-early-if-it-wasn't-for-the-fact-that-that-crazy-dog-was-barking-and-whining-so-I-couldn't-sleep-and-I-was-afraid-what-kind-of-condition-my-den-would-be-in-if-I-left-him-there-any-longer."

I really don't care which way you slice it: I am NOT a morning person. Two diet cokes later, I'm able to function (sort of). But generally speaking, my motor doesn't start running until at least 9:00 AM.

I would LOVE to be a morning person, who gets up, exercises, does some chores, has a bible study, gets ready, and then wakes their family to a new and glorious day.

However, the closest I'll come to that, is getting ready "enough" so that I don't have to apply my make up in the car on the way to work. (That totally excludes eating breakfast as I drive, as that is something of a daily habit for me, going on my third diet coke.)

So, now it is almost 8:00 AM. The dogs have exhausted themselves from wrestling all over the den (under my supervision, lest we have a potty problem). And, it's too late for me to go back to bed, because I have WAY to much to do today. But, hey, good news: the dogs are sleeping.

So, I'm going to go finish getting ready, and hopefully make it to the store and back before my family even knows I've been gone. Oh- did I mention that my adorable family slept through everything so far this morning? Oh, yes. While I was hissing from the top of the stairs, "BE QUIET. DON'T YOU DARE WAKE UP THE KIDS, YOU CRAZY DOGS!!!," the family was blissfully unaware of anything other than sweet, cozy dreams in their very own beds.

The (hoped for) trade off is that hubby will feel (a little) sorry for me, and (possibly) be pretty helpful today (no promises).

As I listen to the whole house sleep, it is rather nice to have some quiet time to myself. I just wish it wasn't quite so early, and that I had gotten a little bit more sleep.

Oh well, in a little while, the dogs and I will lap the neighborhood again. But this time, I won't look quite so scary for the neighbors. And maybe hubby will be waiting for me at home with a diet coke in hand, just for me...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Girls Gone Wild

It is so wonderful to have a friend with whom you can let your hair down. Someone who can make you laugh until your cheeks burn, your stomach aches and tears are streaming down your face.
Last night the chocolate martinis flowed like heavenly rivers in a barren land. It was the perfect amount to feel happy, but not "trashed".
So, it was time to get WILD.

The first round of Scrabble was a close one, but I ended up losing anyway, as usual. The second round of Scrabble was difficult. Suddenly I couldn't spell anything more complicated than a three letter word. And to do anything more required extensive research in the Scrabble Dictionary.

Finally, we ditched the game with only six words on the board and headed upstairs to do some investigative computer work. That's when the party really began!
I don't know what made us think we could type when we couldn't spell, but we googled away. We looked up old boyfriends, current gossip-worthy people, and a couple of other random things that seemed like fun.

The kids darted in and out of the room to tell on each other. They realized rather quickly that we would be no help at all, and resorted to finding their dads.

When the kids would come in, we would jump and try to cover whatever was on the computer screen, since we were trying to be "sneaky." The morning light provided me with the perspective that, not only did we not have anything that would harm the kids, but we really weren't doing anything that required us to be "sneaky". The chocolate martinis must have just made us feel a little conspiratory and secretive.

When we finally became bored with our computer "mischief", we decided we should go "out" and "PARTY!" We were going to be two hot mama's out on the town!
We were responsible enough to know we shouldn't drive, and we congratulated ourselves for the adult-like discernment.
We decided walking would require too much effort.
So we played with the idea of calling a cab.

Then there was the problem of where to go?
Naturally, we thought of the most wild place you can go on a Thursday night, after drinking: Barnes & Noble.

The realization hit us that we are complete and total nerds. We were hysterical with the image of two moms, having drunk chocolate martinis, dressed in our housekeeping finest, hailing a cab and giggling all the way to the book store on a Thursday night.
We laughed even harder when we decided that Barnes & Noble may call our husbands to come get us for being disorderly.

The Thursday nights of my younger years were much more adventurous. Our "sneakiness" was more more "sneaky." Our outfits were a little smaller to show off young curves. We would have determined a Designated Driver at the outset of our party, or we would have walked. And our "Thelma & Louise" act would NOT have been anywhere near a bookstore!

But I had more fun last night than I did in a year full of Thursday nights when I was young. I am happily married and wonderful children. I know my place in the world. I am confident in my abilities. And I have a really good, true friend.

Not that the friends of my youth were not true friends. But we were all at an age when we were trying so hard, it left little room for lasting connections.

I may hear the whisper of "old age" from the world. But I feel so very young at heart. And I am happy to have people I love with whom I get to share it all.

So, if you are ever at Barnes & Noble on a Thursday night and you see two women giggling and slurring, looking at books, please don't report us to the management. But you can join us for another chocolate martini over at September's Cafe. Just make sure you can keep up with "Girls Gone Wild!"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Age is a State of Mind???

My poor ego has really suffered quite a few blows as of late. My age seems to be the hot topic that has everyone adding in their two cents, and leaving me feeling old and decrepit.

It started with a young man who just graduated high school. He was perusing an old photo album and saw a picture of me when I was about his age. He looked at me wide-eyed and said, "Wow! You were pretty!" Ouch. He tried to drag the foot out of his mouth by adding, "...and you still are!" Too little, too late.

What was more insulting? The "were"? Or the fact that he seemed so surprised at the revelation?

Next, I tried to color my hair. Anyone who reads my blog on any kind of regular basis is sure to remember the debacle of that attempt. My hair is "usually" a dark brown/auburn. Now it is BLACK. My son tried to make me feel better by suggesting, "Well, maybe it has always really been black, but just looked lighter because of all the gray." (Well, that's one less Christmas present I have to buy...)

When we went to the zoo, we saw a HUGE turtle. In my estimation, it was at least 90, due mostly to its size. I posed the question to my darling offspring, "Look how BIG that turtle is! How old do you suppose it is to have gotten that big?" My youngest replied, "Oh, really OLD! Like... 39!" (My middle child is the only one sure to receive gifts at this point...)

The final blow (to date) was when I went into a Wal-Mart. I was wearing khaki capris and a blue knit top. My family was searching for batteries, and I was standing with the cart at the check out lanes.

Another employee came and stood beside me. "Is that all merchandise you have to put away?" he asked.

I looked at him blankly.

"Oh... Do you work here?" he asked, as his eyebrows shot up.

I could feel the blood rush to my face. "Um, no," was all I could manage.

So, let's see, to sum it up:
1. I used to be pretty
2. But now I'm gray
3. And old
4. And I work at Wal-Mart

Boy, it makes me wonder what's going to happen after I really turn 40!!!???

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mr. Clean Comes On Vacation

A couple of days ago the kids watched the Tyra Banks show. We normally do not watch her, as we are not usually home at whatever time it is that she comes on. But, since we are traveling, we were off our “normal” routine, and happened to catch her show.

As luck would have it, the topic of her show was about how many germs are in hotel rooms. Since we have been staying in hotel rooms for the last several nights, my children became quite alarmed, and were absolutely certain that we would be dead before sundown.

When the show came on I was finishing my shower, so I didn’t even realize they were watching it until they were knee-deep into the heart of the program. At that point I couldn’t decide if I should flip it off, or let them watch the rest of the show, hoping that Tyra would leave us with some words of encouragement.

Silly me. Hope doesn’t sell. Fear, anger, disbelief, hate- those are all the media darlings. They create ratings beyond compare.

So as the show wrapped up, none of my kids wanted to touch anything in the room. Now, I’m not a huge fan of hotel rooms myself. I’ve always felt it was a little like renting bowling shoes to sleep in a bed that has been laid in by hundreds, maybe thousands, of people. But I was unprepared for their level of paranoia.

According to my kids, the carpet and bed had icky bedbugs that would contaminate our whole house, unless we deloused ourselves and our belongings at the front door. The bathroom glasses were either still germy from the prior guests, or filled with hazardous chemicals, sure to kill poor lab rats. And the bed’s comforter was a veritable host of germs, chemicals and stray DNA.

I wanted to say, “OK, how is this any different than renting a car? Or a movie? Or even handling money?” But, I could see that would only fuel the fire.

So, I changed the subject: “Who wants to go to the pool?” Three hands shot up, and they were all naked and then suited up before you could say “sanitizer”.

At the pool, I saw they were reluctant to touch the towels (a big cootie fest, as far as they were concerned). But I pointed out that the chlorine in the pool and hot tub alone could kill off everything in about a mile radius. The smell was so strong, it burned my nose. I have no idea how they withstood being in the water, but they managed.

By the time we had gotten back to the room, Tyra and her fear pedaling show was all but forgotten. The kids were still a little gun-shy around the comforters (who can blame them?) and door handles (there are a ton of germs on all door handles, really). But, for the most part, they were fine with jumping up and down on the bed, sleeping on the pillows and walking across the carpet.

Lesson learned? Only let the kids watch Nickelodeon and Disney Channel (like at home). And thank the Lord above she wasn’t talking about something else- like how to find out who the father of your baby is; or, interviewing a drug user who shared their secrets about how they were able to keep their chemical dependency away from their parents; or, some detailed discussion about pleasing your mate sexually.

The plus side? My kids now have a little bit more respect for the hand-washing thing (lest they get other people’s “fecal matter” on them from the door handle). I don’t think they’ll ever share hats or brushes with people (lice, don’t you know?). And, most importantly, they have discovered that our home is much cleaner than any of us realized.

Public places will always be a source of “ewwww” for me. But I can cope- with plenty of hand sanitizer, hand washing and watching where I sit… I think I can now say the same for my kids, too.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Family Mini Vacation

We have spent the last several days trekking across America with my husband for a business trip he planned. OK, actually, we just went from Nashville, TN to Little Rock, AR. But it FELT like we were going across America.

Especially when we went on the leg between Little Rock, AR to Jonesboro, AR. If you look on any map, you will notice that there is virtually nothing there. Amazingly enough, there really isn't anything there- except farm land.

Farm land is beautiful. It reminds us of how this country was founded as an agricultural country. There were rows and rows of vegetative greenery stretching out for miles and miles.

After 200 miles, there was still only agriculture. No people. No gas stations. No bathrooms. No restaurants. Really, no other cars. Just green.

At mile 20, someone had to go to the bathroom. By mile 200, we were all crossing our legs with tears in our eyes, no longer all that fond of the agriculture. When we finally hit civilization, we all cheered. Then we rushed the gas station bathroom like a fat man at an all-you-can-eat-FREE-buffet. I don't recall ever shuddering before from going to the bathroom. But we all did today.

I can say with all certainty that I would never make it as a trucker. God bless them for hauling all our stuff from one end of the world to the other. But I would go stark raving mad if I had to weave through the fields of America on a daily basis.

I can not begin to describe the panic I began feeling seeing only the green field every way I turned. It felt a little like being in the middle of the ocean and not knowing where land could be seen. There was only green fields. No direction had anything resembling civilization (as in retail establishments, homes, gas stations, restaurants, etc.). I felt something close to claustrophobia, if that makes any sense at all. My heart raced and I was dizzy.

Finally, we came over a ridge and saw some cars. JOY, RAPTURE, BLISS!!! PEOPLE!!!

As we moved along, we saw more signs of life: a small neighborhood store/gas station; a couple of small homes with cars in the driveway; street signs. Thank you, God!

Then, miracle of miracles: a mall!!!!

My breathing leveled out; my heart rate slowed. I actually had tears of gratefulness in my eyes.

We did enjoy parts of the Little Rock to Jonesboro trip. We got to go past exits that hailed such sights as (no lie) "Toad Suck State Park" and "Bald Knob Lake." We did not try to go see those auspicious land marks. It was enough to just know they were there.

The kids LOVED the 14+ hours of Looney Tunes dvd's I purchased on E-bay. In fact, despite the fact that we went to the Memphis Zoo, the Peabody Hotel to watch the ducks, ate out in multiple fabulous restaurants, slept in hotels with indoor pools, and even had a movie night at one of the hotels (complete with popcorn)- their favorite memory was watching Looney Tunes in the rental car's dvd player. You know, we could have just sat in the driveway, as far as they were concerned.

But, it has been a wonderful family trip. We did love the Zoo and the Peabody. We stayed in some hotels run by some very nice people. And I have lots of great pictures and memories. We have some funny moments that I hope I'll never forget:

Keith had his nose pushed into the whipped cream on his sundae by daddy. When we were at the Zoo and we visited the giant turtle, we tried to guess how old he was (at least 90, by my estimation). Amy stated the turtle was "really old... Like 39." We hosted the First Annual Looney Tune Sound-Alike family contest to see who could sound the most like Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny and other characters. And lots of other little moments that were both sweet and funny.

I can now say that I have been to another one of our great United States. While I don't imagine coming back to Arkansas on any kind of regular basis, I enjoyed experiencing it with my family. And I look forward to many family trips to come.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Same Song, Different Verse

I tried. I really tried. I really wanted to be "Cool Mom" and let the kids listen to the pop music on the radio. And I even conceded with the really awful songs, so long as they sang different lyrics.

I don't know what the straw was that finally broke the camel's back: Was it the blatant sexual lyrics blaring out of my speakers? Or perhaps the fact that the bass made the whole car thump? Or the screeching, screaming singers who apparently tried to see how many notes they could hit in sixty seconds?

Whatever it was, I cracked. I slapped the off button, and declared, "THAT'S IT!"

The kids looked at me with a mixed expression that said, both, "But we thought you were cool?" and "Yeah, we knew that was coming."

We rode silently for a while. I was stewing over the fact that such filth was on public airwaves. Finally, my son said, "So... Now what?"

Good question.

Off to the Christian book store we went. We found some Toby Mac cd's. The kids put them into the cd player, and turned it up LOUD.

If you didn't listen to the words, it sounded just like what I had just snapped off. But if you listened to the words, no one was having sex with lots of people in very public places and in very rude ways. And the kids seemed to be able to enjoy Toby Mac almost as much as the junk.

Later that day, I was still struggling with the whole thing. I was a hypocrite for liking the music I insisted my children not listen to. I wanted to be "Cool Mom" but I just could not abide by my children filling their minds with such junk. These very songs that I love dancing to were making me blush like crazy in front of my kids.

When I was in my twenties I loved the way the music played like a sound track to my life. I felt cool and hip watching the prime time shows. The magazines on the sales racks next to the check out counter had fun quizzes and cute outfits.

It never even occurred to me that any of those things would be so offensive to me as a parent. And yet, they are. And the irony of of it all is that all of those things that felt so freeing in my twenties, now were actually very confining.

I can't take my children anywhere without the TV, magazines, radio, internet, books, and just about everything else spouting out smut. Does that statement make me a prude? Because I want my children to remain innocent as long as possible?

I agree with free speech- so long as it doesn't impede upon some else's rights. I wouldn't begin to know how to set up the rules for "children friendly" verses "hip, cool adult fun." But, I would love to have a "normal" TV show that we could all watch that wasn't goofy or saccharine sweet. And the radio would be so much better to listen to if the music was as catchy as the Top 40 Pop, but written to accommodate a younger audience.

So, I sound like an old woman up on a soap box... But I want my children to have a childhood. In a culture where youth is valued above all else, you would think we would go to greater lengths to protect it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sweet Dreams

I am exhausted. Hubby kept me up all night snoring.

Snoring has got to be one of the single most annoying noises in the world. Especially the way my hubby snores: a couple of good snorts, then nothing (just to lull me into sleep) then a big noise that makes me levitate off of the bed.

I remember my father snoring when I was growing up. I could hear him down the hall with both of our doors shut. I can't imagine how my mother slept through it, when I barely could in another room.

When hubby starts up, I have to admit that I have resorted to tactics that are not all together kind to get him to stop. Because, I reason, if I could beat him to sleep, he could snore all night, and I would be none the wiser.

But if he starts sawing logs before I'm in REM sleep, I'm up for the duration. It seems sort of sad to go sleep in another room without him. Not to mention, I apparently have the ONLY working alarm clock in the house. Or else my family has some ailment that does not allow them to use their own.

I can't wear earplugs, because I am the only one that can hear the kids if they get up in the night. Hubby could have a kid puke on him before he ever realized they were out of their bed and in our room.

So when he begins (usually sort of softly), I gently touch his legs with my cold feet. That's usually enough to get him to jolt a little. If he doesn't stop, I sort of jiggle the bed, attempting to get him to role over in his sleep, so at least he's snoring away from me. (Although I'm amazed he hasn't sucked the curtains right off the windows when he faces away from me and really gets going.)

If that doesn't, I will confess I have feigned having a nightmare in order to flail a little and make some noise to get him to roll over. When all else fails, I just shake him and hiss, "Stop snoring."

His response is usually one of two things:

1. "I was snoring? I couldn't hear myself." Huh. Really? Maybe because you were ASLEEP???
2. "I was sleeping. Why did you wake me up?" To which I respond, "Because you are snoring and I can not sleep." And, he, being the ever-concerned spouse replies, "Great. Now we're both up."

I can't imagine what makes people snore so loudly. When I try to make the noise, I gag on my tongue.

Hubby can snore in & out. I guess that makes him talented. It just makes me tired.

I will say, colds and incredibly deep sleep have made my hubby report back that I do, indeed, snore on occasion. But for the most part, I hardly move in bed when I sleep. When hubby is out of town, I can pull the covers down on my side of the bed, sleep, and only have to make up my side of the bed when I get up. His side is virtually undisturbed.

However, hubby's nocturnal gymnastics have required little clips on each corner of the fitted sheet, so he doesn't pop them off and roll up in the elastic. And he usually takes all the covers, then gets hot and throws them off of him onto the floor.

We've tried strips across the nose, nose drops, pillow-top mattresses, stacking pillows underneath him- all with little or no success. The only thing we've found that is 100% is for me to fall asleep before him.

It's no wonder royalty kept separate bedrooms! They could afford it!

Truth be told, I would not want separate bedrooms. My bed is terribly empty (albeit quiet) when he is out of town. I like spooning with him. I like feeling his steady breathing (pre-snore sleep). I like how he smells when he's just gotten out of the shower and comes to bed.

I just need a way to fall asleep quickly, and beat him to the punch. That way we can BOTH rest well.

In the meantime, if you happen to come by our house at night and hear what sounds like a hungry bear attacking our family, no worries. It's just my hubby... You can knock on the door to visit, if you want. I'll be up...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Messy Bessy visits our house...

But, hopefully, she's not here to stay...

Looking around my house this morning, I realized it looked like a scene from some very strange movie called, "Crafting Gone Wild!" I'm making candles for my daughters' cheer team. So candle paraphernalia is scattered throughout the downstairs. My kids were making painted pillow cases yesterday morning when I left for work. And the remnants of that session are still all over the kitchen table. We've been E-Baying to sell old PS2 games. And there is packaging, unsold games and all sorts of other necessary items on the dining room table.

Where do you eat, you ask? Well, that would be in the den, where the empty diet coke cans are lined up across the coffee table.

There are toys and clothes the kids have "decorated" the downstairs and upstairs with all over the floor and any other available surface. Pool bags with towels, swim covers, goggles and sunscreen sit patiently by the door waiting to be carried out.

It makes me want to run away from home! And yet, the only person who can fix it all is: me. The kids are totally content with this cornucopia of mass messiness. Hubby absolutely hates it. But he travels enough that he can leave it behind like a bad memory.

I would be more diligent in my cleaning efforts, but 1: I hate doing it, and 2: I'm just not home enough to do it; I work two different jobs, both away from home. And I'm trying to keep 3 kids somewhat entertained without having to pay for too much childcare.

I try to focus on the benefits of this lifestyle. 1. The kids are having a good taste of what college life will be like, and will adapt well when they get there (minus the empty beer cans and dirty underwear- I do have some standards). 2. We have a good visual on where everything is, because nothing is put away. 3. We save all sorts of time by not cleaning up.

Some of the negatives (which are beginning to outweigh the positives, if I have to be honest) are: 1. I'm so very tired of stepping on little bitty toys with sharp pointy edges. 2. I always cringe when someone comes in the house and I watch their eyes sweep around the room and try to determine what all the clutter is about. 3. I have this nagging, guilty feeling that I am somehow being a bad parent to my children because they don't have the picture-perfect, Pottery Barn-esque home.

There will be a time when no children are gallivanting around the house, flinging around "stuff". The house may be "clean" then- but, boy, will it feel empty! We can clean the house. But these kids are only here for a little while. Then they go off to homes of their own (although many of my friends report that their kids keep coming back, much to their chagrin).

The house will be "attacked" and cleaned this weekend. We will keep it relatively clean for a period of time. Then one morning, I'll descend the stairs, and realize we are back up to critical mass. Thus, goes the cycle.

I would love to teach my children the art of keeping the house perpetually neat (I say "neat" because despite the sound of all this, I DO keep the house "clean"). However, I myself am not really able to master that particular skill.

So for now, we look like an elementary frat house after a night of serious playing and soda and snacks. I'm just warning you, in case you come to my house and this kind of mess offends you. If you want to come to a neat house, wait 'til Monday.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Box Lied

I swear that on the box, it showed a woman with BROWN hair. I don't know if that was just the "suggested manufacturers color" or what. But it was definitely brown.

Ten minutes on my head did NOT make my hair brown. It was BLACK.

I'd like to think I look like the movie stars of yesteryear, like Liz Taylor. Her hair was black as coal and looked beautiful.

However, I think my hair looks more "goth". All I'm lacking is the black eye-liner, lipstick, fingernail polish and spiked dog collar.

My hair was dark brown, so I tried to get a dark brown color to cover my gray (which had begun taking over my head like kudzu). I was terribly unsuccessful in my endeavors, and I am still shocked every time I catch my reflection in the mirror.

My son, honestly trying to be helpful said, "Well, mom, maybe your hair really was black before; It just looked like it was lighter because of all the gray." (Thanks, sweetie.)

The good news is that it looks a little bit thicker and shinier. The bad news is that in a matter of a few weeks I'm going to have lighter roots. great.

I guess I should suck it up and pay for a professional to color my hair. But I have this sad, inexplicable hope when I go down the coloring aisle at Wal-Mart. And suddenly, like the Great Zohan, I feel the need to do it all by myself.

Also, I'm afraid if I make the huge splurge and see what an actual trained, licensed hair stylest could do to my hair, I might be "hooked". And I, frankly, just don't have that kind of budget.

I've seen friends spend upwards of $80+ for a hair coloring. Then they have to go back once every six weeks or so. I can only imagine trying to explain that to our household budget manager. "Honey, I know you spend approximately $10 every two weeks on your hair. But I would like to spend about $60 a month on coloring, PLUS another $40 or so on a cut, PLUS another $35 or so on hair products. Then I plan on throwing it all under a baseball cap in the morning to take the kids to school."

I don't think I'll be posting any pictures of myself anytime soon. I'll just let you imagine how it looks. There will be a time I can laugh at this. Right now is not that time. When I'm laughing, then I'll think about posting pictures so you can laugh, too.

For now, I'll just look like a cross between Desperate Housewives and MTV Grunge Fest.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Music vs. Lyrics

Being a parent is complicated. You want the very best for your children, but you want them to make their own decisions. Sometimes- in fact a lot of times- what you want and what they want are totally different things.

My children LOVE Top 40 music. My 11 year old thinks it's cool. And the girls think anything the 11 year old likes is cool.

There are some songs on Top 40 I like, too. And I definitely "get" that they love the beat and the sound of the music. But some of the songs are simply appalling.

I vacillate between thinking, "It's OK, They don't even hear the lyrics," to "OMG- that is such TRASH-- TURN IT OFF!!! (There is something so VERY wrong about hearing your children sing in their sweet, little church choir, cherub voices, "Lick Me Like a Lollipop.")

Looking back on my own childhood, I distinctly remember my parents' reaction to the Loverboy "Get Lucky" record (yes, I said record) being very similar to my current one: panic, concern, fear, disgust, OMG! But I don't ersonally remember putting any real value to the actual lyrics, even as I sang them at the top of my lungs, with my hair brush standing in for my microphone.

The same would go for the movie, "Grease." LOVED it as a child! Could practically quote it line for line... But I had NO IDEA what it meant. Only recently, as I was trying to share with my own children, did I revisit this beloved classic. I sat with mouth agape as my children gleefully took in every word and every note to every song. Was it really always like that? When did it become so "racy"? When did they start saying so many "bad" words? How in the world did I forget the mooning scene, the Sandra Dee virgin scene, or the whole topic of teenaged pregnancy? And yet, as we sat together, my hands covering their eyes as I desperately fished around for the remote, the kids were completely unaware of any wrong-doing, other than by gauging my reaction.

So, as I listen to my children's lyrics of such sordid things as, "I kissed a girl, and I liked it," sung by a very female singer, or "I want to do you in the club, in front of everyone," sung by a popular rap/dance singer, I am torn: I HATE the lyrics- no doubt! But they LOVE the music- the beat, the tune, the sound. They hardly hear the lyrics, other than the words slide around in their head carried by the tune.

Finally, I came up with a solution I can (sort of) live with: I have challenged my kids to come up with new, better lyrics for these songs. They are only allowed to listen to these songs if I hear them singing along (loudly) with their new lyrics. For example, "Lick you like a lollipop" has been changed to "Love you like a teddy bear."

Some will say, "Dumb idea! Just turn the stuff OFF!" And I know the kids will only buy into this to appease mom for so long. But, as a lover of music and dancing, I want to give them the opportunity to love music, too-- but on my terms.

(As a point of fact, I have listened to many Christian music artists, whose music was as loud and boisterous as any Top 40 or Rock band. And their lyrics are frequently screamed, slurred, or otherwise garbled so that you would never know they were singing about Jesus unless you read the lyric sheet.)

So, we're going to try things my way, see how long the kids will go for it, and hopefully, come out the better for it. This evening, it was fun watching them huddled together over pad and pencil, scratching out new lyrics together. They even wanted to get legal advice on how to record and distribute their final products. They wanted to be the "New Weird Al Yankovic," in sibling form.

If nothing else, it is keeping their creative juices flowing, their writing skills sharpened, and a truce between me and the radio for the Summer. Who knows? Maybe years from now, I'll be able to say about my very famous children, "It all started when..."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

You say "po-tay-to," I say "po-tah-to"

OK- I am purely "professionally" venting right now...

I am a Marketer. Not a Sales Person. They are totally two different things all together.

As a Marketer, my job is to promote, to build awareness, to help establish a brand, to build customer loyalty, to advertise, to bring the client to the Sales Person.

As a Sales Person, their job is to sell. And sell. And sell. To close the deal, get the check, get the order, follow up with the customer who is still making the decision-- to sell.

Many times you will see the Marketer and the Sales Person be the same person. But, clearly, they are two different skill sets. And I happen to specialize in the former, and absolutely stink at the latter.

I am fabulous at putting together an event to Market a company. However, you put me in front of a client to collect money, and I fall apart. I can totally believe in a product and/or company, and be the biggest, best Cheerleader/Marketer they have ever seen. But once I start trying to actually make the sale, I feel some huge personal responsibility that I, alone, am accountable for the quality and performance of the product. And I hate it.

I try to differientiate when talking to prospective employers. I am quite emphatic, actually, that I DO NOT sell. Yet, I must have some signal I unconciously send out that makes people think I have skills I do not have.

I know I have good people skills. I know I have drive, tenacity, detail, follow up, etc. I can set appointments for the sales person, even. But when it comes to driving home the sale and having the cash in hand, I have a total disconnect.

It's very frustrating. I want to do a good job for people. I want to help them in any way possible. But I am incapable of being a true, hard-core sales person.

I think that for some people it is hard to see much of a difference between Marketing and Sales. But there is a world of difference between me successfully bringing the client to the door, and then retaining them after the sale, versus having to have them sign on the dotted line.

I am fortunate to be able to use my skills and talents in a variety of settings: PTO, church, personal projects, etc. But I just wish I could find a way to get paid for doing what I do well, instead of stressing out over what I don't do well at all.

Maybe someday... But for now, I feel like a square peg in a round hole...

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Artist Formerly Known As...

I was reading up on my celebrity gossip on one of the home pages for either Yahoo! or Comcast or something. When low-and-behold: His Purple Majesty is turning 50!

I don't particularly think 50 is "old". But I'm having a real hard time reconciling the high-heeled, sex-pot zooming around on his motorcycle in "Purple Rain" being 50.

It was almost as unsettling as hearing that Foreigner's 2008 tour was being sponsored by (I kid you not) AARP. E-gads! Really???

The Pop Culture of your youth should stay forever young. Watching the Rolling Stones cripple across a stage these days just means they are old (and possibly high and/or drunk, too). Whereas Duran Duran pretty much just faded gracefully away, leaving behind memories of "Hungry Like a Wolf," and other such iconic hits.

Madonna has tried like hell to maintain her youthful image. However, the new video with Justin Timberlake paints her as more of a pedophile than a sex goddess. She should have stopped at Evita.

Demi Moore tried to freeze out Father Time by dating a much younger (hot) man: Ashton Kutcher. I don't know that either of them scored any points one way or the other for that match-up. But they do seem happy.

The kiss of death for any star is when you hear someone say, "They look GREAT! (for their age)" That's when you know that the botox and plastic surgery are not far behind.

No one really wants to be the matronly madam of Hollywood. No band wants to stage a come-back tour and hear people say, "Wow! I didn't even know you were still alive."

Prince was a huge part of my musical youth. From about sixth grade on through college, I loved his funky beat that just MADE you get up and dance. His shrieks, gyrations and high-heeled boots were clever disguises for his very short frame. And he somehow managed to record and promote just about every successful female artist during his hay day.

The fact that he's celebrating his 50th birthday is unsettling. It is just another reminder that I am getting older, too. When I listened to his music, I was young and unstoppable. At that age, fifty was about as close to death as I could imagine. Anyone who sang who was over 50, was relegated to "elevator music".

Now that I've matured (read: gotten older), I realize 50 is still very young and very vital. So why does it still sound so bad on Prince? I just can't imagine his big brown doe eyes with crow's feet! Or his mounds of curly black hair receding back from his forehead into some mutant Friar Tuck look. Or his costumes toned down so there aren't too many buttons for him to try to manage.

If he's more worried about his prostrate than his next single, what does that say about me? How long before I throw out a hip dancing to "1999"? Do I really want to hear a 50-year-old Prince singing some of the super-sexually-charged lyrics for which he became so famous?

I wish him the best. I hope he has many, many wonderful years ahead of him. He does, in fact, have a gift for finding and developing talent. While he was always a little temperamental, it could serve him well as he fights for his clients.

But, to me, he will always be behind a steel, purple guitar, dancing around on the stage and making our entire generation want to dance along with him. Happy Birthday, Prince. May you be forever young.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

So Long, Farewell...

Tomorrow hubby is going out of town (unless you are a stalker or a burglar. Then, hubby is a strapping, tall, muscular guy who has a huge gun collection, and who will be sitting by the door step and/or by his family 24/7)

The kids are so upset. They draped themselves across hubby's luggage and cried. No amount of telling them that we could call and/or text messaging made them better. More tears and wailing.

Hubby going out of town is bittersweet. On the one hand, I get the remote, no wet towels on the bathroom floor, and one less person to complain about whatever I fixed for dinner. On the other hand, the kids and I really miss him.

Being "single" mommy is tough. There's no one to help balance me out. No one to play good cop/bad cop. No one to hand the kids off to when I've had ENOUGH. If someone is sick in the middle of the night, I am "it".

My routine is mine, though. I dictate dinner time, bed time, what the schedule looks like. But, it's certainly not the same without hubby...

When he gets home, the kids will jump around and be so excited to see him. But, their first words will always be, "Did you bring us anything?" So much for missing daddy...

For this week, the kids and I are on our own. We'll team up together and muddle through. We'll miss daddy cuddling with us, making us laugh, helping us, etc.

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder," or something like that, was said by Shakespeare. I totally get it.

I wish we could sneak into his luggage and go with him. But the separation makes the reunion that much sweeter.

So, tomorrow, we'll say goodbye- for now- and send him off with our love...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Feelin' Hot, Hot, HOT!

We are now officially in the season of bug spray and sunscreen: Summer. Last weekend it was pleasant, mild, with a breeze. A very comfortable 78 - 82 degrees.

This week, we have apparently crashed into the sun. It is only the first week in June, and already our temperatures are soaring into the 90's.

This is NOT the Tennessee in which I grew up. When we were young, the Summers were hot, but 100 degrees was high. Now, we were close to 110 for weeks at a time. We used to have snow-filled winters. We were thrilled to get out of school to sled down the icy/snowy hills. Now, we have one or two snows a year that melt into slush while hitting the ground.

I know the environmentalists would point to this as a huge selling point to "global warming". And when it's 110 degrees in the shade, I kind of wonder myself. But, I also think the world has natural seasons- like everything in nature. The tide ebbs and flows. The earth has spring, summer, fall and winter. Everything has a time and a season. Why would it not be "natural" to have the earth have "seasons" -or time periods- of being hot and being cold?

I would have to say I would really like the pendulum to swing back the other way this summer. I would love to have the summers of my youth that made a dip in the pool sound like fun, instead of feeling like I'm being boiled in a huge, square pot, ready to be consumed by the world's largest carnivore.

The only thing that can match the blazing heat is the huge, killer mosquitoes. I think they are actually considered our state bird. These things are huge and they suck out enough blood to make you woozy. The whelp they leave behind looks like it was left by a low-flying bowling ball. And itch??? There are not words to describe the spastisity and jerky convulsions that ensue when I begin feeling itchy. And absolutely nothing soothes it.

We are supposed to feel OK about the grueling Summers because of the beautiful, color-rich Falls. And the blooming, fragrant Springs. But the thing is, we had about five minutes of Spring this year, before we went sliding head-first into the deep, sweaty depths of Summer. And nowhere in the world can you have the sneezing and itchy, watery eyes during the Fall allergy season like in Tennessee
It sounds like I'm griping a LOT about the Tennessee weather. And, to be fair, I guess I am. But I have to give equal time to the good things about Tennessee, too: My family is here. The rolling hills are gorgeous. The lake is serene and beautiful. You will not meet nicer people anywhere in the world. And it will always be "home."

I don't know that I will every "love" the heat & mosquitoes. But I WILL ALWAYS LOVE Tennessee! You could even say, "Tennessee is HOT!" (sorry. couldn't help myself...)

Friday, June 6, 2008

It's Done...

VBS is OVER!!! Now, I know you will miss my rhetoric about all the fun we've been having eating pudding and making slime. But I promise, the world is a better place now that VBS 2008 is over.

"Always leave them wanting more," I've always heard. And we kind of did. Everyone left today with a smile on their face and joy in their hearts. We walked on water, had water balloon fights, made rubber bouncing balls, sang and danced and -basically- had a great time.

But I have to say, I was exhausted today. My kids were, too. We all took voluntary naps when we got home- and that's saying something for a 6, 8 & 11 year old.

My Co-Director/BFF and I both fessed up to momentarily considering volunteering again next year. But we were strong for each other and agreed to go back to Snack Girls-- or possibly just Registration Helpers-- next year.

Of course, I must say, our sixty-five or so kids simply pales in comparison to the church across the street. That church is a mega-church in every sense of the word. They have quite a few sanctuaries, offering various styles of church services going on simultaniously. They have an entire sports complex that rivals the YMCA. And they had over 1,700 kids in their church this week for their VBS.

EEK!!! I can not begin to imagine what our lives would have been like with 1,700 kids! But, I guess it stands to reason that they would have almost 30 times as many kids as we do, since we could fit our church into theirs about 30 times...

We would have had slime that would make Nickelodean proud. Endless buckets of the stuff!!!

But, my kids got to be with their friends. We got to see our team leaders mature as the week went by. We practically knew every single child because there were only 65 to know. We were able to take special care of kids with special needs. Even our little ones who will make fine magicians one day, what with all of their attempted disappearing acts during the week, were able to be sufficiently chased and contained.

In the end, though, we were pleased with the week. We enjoyed ourselves. And we're glad to move on to the rest of the summer.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

VBS - Day Four

Day 4- Vacation Bible School. 65 kids, 25 volunteers, 24 pounds of corn starch, one box of Borax, 4 boxes of food coloring, 12 dozen cookies, 8 gallons of fruit punch and 250 paper plates later, we have only one day left to go.

The kids have been great, but quite "squirley". Trying to get them to move from one activity to the next was like trying to herd cats to the river to teach them how to swim. As soon as you would get some of them going a direction, the rest of them would be running the other direction.

Day One was like a Chinese Fire Drill gone awry. Day Two was a little better. The kids were in more of a routine. Day Three, everyone was beginning to really tire. Now we're on Day Four, with one to go.

This was the day last year that my co-director and I drank one too many diet cherry cokes from Sonic and agreed to direct this year. Today is the day when everything sort of falls into place, and it seems a little sad to only have one day left. Today is the day of hope and optimism for a better next year.

Even so, I watched my mom, director of the preschoolers, look tired as she chased yet another toddler through the church. The toddler thought it was all a game, and squealed all the way down the hall. We had another child bite, and a crew leader yell at her kids for eating their cookies too soon.

That was enough to bring me back down to reality: VBS is WORK. Albeit God's work. It still makes you sleep very well at the end of the day.

These children are little blessings. We are are fortunate to be able to work with them and share God's story and His love.

This year has been, and will continue to be, wonderful. But I do look forward to going back to making no decisions and just being a snack Goddess...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


I LOVE my friends! I do NOT know what I would do without them! They laugh with me, and sometimes at me. They cry with me, and sometimes for me. But they are always there for me!

I am especially appreciative of that small circle of friends with whom I trust the most private details of my life. Who else could put up with such a "Perky Polyanna" with occasional tendencies to be a great, big, catty, mouthy, tacky, potty-talking diva?

We each understand anything we say that starts with "Bless their heart," is technically NOT a slam. It's merely an observation, with good, Southern Belle intentions tacked on.

We also know that we can say ANYTHING to each other, as long as we end with, "...and you know I mean this in the nicest way possible..."

My BFF is someone whom I have only known for a couple of years, but feels like a long-lost sister. She and I have our own code for talking- both good and bad. And we both have a long-standing love affair with words: word games, writing, reading, anything to do with words and language.

We also share the same faith, which is huge for me. Over my life, I have had many friends whom I loved, but we always agreed to disagree about matters of faith and the heart. I feel truly blessed to have a friend with whom I can talk about God, faith and the bible. But also be comfortable enough to go on a long tangent about something I'm upset about, and not feel judged or stupid.

Friends make us stronger. They help us keep our sanity when the family stretches us too thin. They have the unique perspective to understand family crisis's from an outside point of view. They encourage us when we diet, but share a scoop of ice cream with us when we just HAVE to cheat.

I watch my children as they form friendships with kids from school, church and our neighborhood. I would love to meddle and "fix" everything. But I realize that the thing that makes the friendship grow is the journey: the ups, the downs, the joys, the pains.

I'm delighted my children each have a bff, but also other good friends. And I am forever grateful that they have each other.

I know that they, like I, will change and grow as the years go by. I hope they will continue these friendships, and add new ones.

But above all, I hope they will know that, as adults, I long to be their friends. Right now, I know I'm their parent. I can love them, play with them, listen to them, confide in them. But I can NOT be their best friend. My job is to be their parent.

When they are older, out of the house, and making a family of their own, I can finally make the change to "friend." And how exciting that will be! Because I have really neat kids. Even if I weren't related to them, they would be someone I would like and want to know.

Despite the fact that it is so cliche', friends are a treasure. And I am exceedingly blessed to have all of those dear people whom I call "friend."

Monday, June 2, 2008

Young at Heart

I had begun accepting that the "Big 4-0" was quickly closing in. In fact, I had even started (sort of ) embracing it, telling myself how much better it is being 40 than 20.

While it IS true I would rather not be 20 ever again, it is equally true that there are parts of "20" that I miss: like having a "pre-gravity/"pre-baby" body. You know, the one that doesn't pooch and sag and have those unattractive dimples all over the backside.

This nostalgia over the younger me was brought to a head the other day by my BFF's teen-aged son. We were looking through some old photos, when a picture of me at 18 surfaced. BFF's son did a double take and professed, "Wow! You were pretty!"

I glared. He tried desperately to remove the foot he had in his mouth by following up with, "...Just like you are now!"

"Uh huh," I responded flatly.

What was more troubling? The fact that he said "were," as in past tense? Or the fact that he sounded so genuinely surprised by this revelation?

Either way, it wasn't like I was exactly looking in a mirror when I was looking at my 18-year-old self in the photo. Of course I've changed. I mean, it's been, what, 22 years (OMG!!!!).

As I frequently do, I came up with some very snappy come-backs... about 10 minutes later:

"Let's talk in 22 years and see how you're holding up, bud." (OMG! Back to those 22 years! Yikes!)

Obviously, that comment would not help my situation. So I came up with what any proud, Southern Belle would do for a snappy come-back: I would smile my best Southern Belle smile and said, "Yeah, I was pretty hot. And you know what, I may not be as young as I used to be, but what I've lost in youth and beauty, I've gained in cash and treachery."

Young teen-aged son may never have heard my comments, but it made me feel better (sort of).

Oh well, I may not win any beauty contests against any 20-year-olds. But I still wouldn't be 20 again for all the money in the world...