Friday, October 31, 2008

A Biblical Halloween

I was all set to post pictures of our jack o' lantern but it turns out Justin took the camera with him today. I'll wait and post the pictures when I have some costumed kiddos to show off as well. That is, if Mr. Blue consents to wear his costume. Even the promise of candy has not dispelled his misgivings about it. I'm disappointed because I thought he'd love being a puppy dog. No matter what, Miss Pink (who, confusingly, will be dressed as Blue the dog from Blue's Clues) will let me take pictures of her--she's a ham when the camera comes out.

I'll write about Halloween instead. It was never a big deal in our household when I was a kid. We dressed up and trick or treated, and I know we carved a pumpkin (at least some years), but beyond that, my mom didn't decorate the house or anything like that. Back then, it seemed that holidays were a lot more low-key, you know? My parents thought that buying us a costume and taking us around the neighborhood was plenty of effort on their part, and to tell the truth, I feel the same way. I admire the cute decor, but no way am I going to the effort to decorate the house. I barely get the house decorated for Christmas, so don't expect me to go all out for the lesser holidays. Martha Stewart I am NOT.

At least my kids will have normal costumes, though. As you might remember, my dad is a pastor. My parents weren't against the idea of Halloween, but some churches are. When churches started having Fall Festivals to substitute for the "evils" of asking for candy while dressed up, our church got on the bandwagon and had a festival with all the little games for the kids, a cakewalk for the elderly people, and so on. (It was before bounce houses, though; man, that makes me feel old.) I guess the church leaders were in a dilemma about costumes, lest someone's kid come dressed as Freddy from Nightmare on Elm Street. But instead of saying "No gory costumes, please," their solution was to ask us to come dressed as Bible characters.

Yes. Bible characters. Way to limit the participation to church members only. Plus, there's not a lot of variety in the way those people dressed. Bathrobe, towel tied around your head: how was anyone supposed to know if you were Moses or Elijah?

But my mom threw herself into those years like never before. I cannot remember one single costume during the years when we trick-or-treated, but I remember the Bible costumes. One year I was Queen Esther, with an embroidered robe that really came from Israel (gasp) and a scepter made from a foam ball glued onto a dowel and spray-painted gold. Trust me when I tell you that this was major for my non-crafty mom to accomplish. She even had me practice walking regally and curtsying. I won the costume contest that year.

The next year, perhaps inspired by the win the year before, Mom decided my brother and I should be Joshua and Caleb. I don't even remember minding that I went from being a queen to dressing up as a dreaded BOY. We wore the bathrobe-looking outfits but the real glory was the grapes we carried. The scepter was spray-painted brown and each of us carried an end, and in between hung a bunch of grapes. Each grape was a balloon wrapped in purple crepe paper, and all together they made an impressive bunch of grapes. (I don't know why she couldn't have just gotten purple balloons. Perhaps, like the bounce houses, they didn't exist.) We won that year too.

After that, I don't think they required Bible character costumes any more*, perhaps realizing that when a pastor's wife sets herself to out-Bible everyone else, she's going to win at all costs, even the cost of her children's Halloween memories. Because seriously, I don't remember having a really cool costume any other year. But the important thing is, I remember getting a lot of candy, even if I'm still bitter about my mom taking away any Pixie sticks I got in case they turned out to contain LSD, which I have since learned is a total urban legend.

But my mom's paranoia is another story for another time.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

*this might not be accurate; my brother or my friend Leann may be able to correct me here.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Speaking of Art...

Mr. Blue has been drawing a lot lately. He is mostly an abstract artist. Here's a case in point: yesterday he drew a blob on his paper and said in a VERY excited voice, "Mommy! I made a...Mommy! I made a..."

Then he stopped, looked at his paper and asked, "Mommy, what I made?"

You got me, buddy. But it can be anything you want it to be as far as I'm concerned.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Onward and Upward with the Arts

Today I planned to go to my local art museum, which is hosting an exhibition of Impressionist paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibition has been here since June and I suddenly realized last weekend that this was the last week, so I decided to go today, while Mr. Blue was in school. Tuesdays are half-price days, I learned, so I congratulated myself on saving money while I take in some culture, which is something that I vaguely remember enjoying before I had children.

You probably already see where this is going, but I didn't. Not until I saw the museum and the five or so school buses parked beside it. And the full parking lots. Right at the time when the museum opened.

Now as a former teacher who believes wholeheartedly in the arts and the necessity of exposing America's young people to more edifying work than MTV's latest reality shows in order to provide an antidote to the inanities of popular culture, I don't mind telling you that I said some impolite words.

But only in my car, of course. (I'm sure the teenagers could have taught me some worse ones if I had asked.)

Anyway, besides students, there were a LOT of middle-aged people there (I guess I should count myself, although I HOPE I live longer than 66). While waiting in line, I found myself thinking grouchy thoughts about the number of people in my city who wanted to come look at art. I didn't think there WERE that many people who like to look at pictures. I mean, this is TEXAS--not exactly what you think of as the cultural capital of America.

Fortunately, the line moved quickly, and I soon found myself contemplating a crowded gallery with only an audio tour receiver for support.

Did I mention I have a mild phobia of crowds?

Seriously, just ask Justin. If it gets too crowded in the mall or the grocery store, I get all edgy and snappish and I just want to get out of there.

But I had already paid for my ticket. Half-price didn't make it cheap enough for me to bail.

I ended up being so glad I went. Yes, it was crowded, but here's a revelation: people who go to museums are MORE POLITE than the people who crowd into movies or Wal-Mart. Yes, it's true. You heard it here first: art really does make you a better person. Even the students were well-behaved.

And the pictures were absolutely stunning. All in all, a wonderful day.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Week in review, 10/19--10/25

I'm sorry I wasn't around much this week. It was a strange week for me.

On Monday, I thought my husband might be about to die.

Yes, I AM always this overdramatic--why do you ask?

See, last week a spot under his arm swelled a little and got sore. We both felt a little concerned and said that he should probably go to a dermatologist and get it checked. (We've been saying that for a couple of years; he has a family history of skin cancer. Also, his father died of sarcoma, which is similar to skin cancer; it's a very rare cancer of the connective tissue and soft tissue. So we know firsthand how nasty these things can be.)

Then by Sunday the spot had turned black and was still sore. That alarmed us. I knew when a mole gets sore and changes color that it needs to be checked right away. Even my husband, who is normally the most optimistic person I know, was worried and he called the next day to get an appointment with a dermatologist. The appointment was Wednesday afternoon.

I was holding together pretty well, but I had the possibility of a nightmarish situation in the back of my mind all day. I wrote in my journal that the cold hand of dread held my heart. Finally, during my prayer time, I broke down and wrote about it and wept while I was writing. I asked God to help me face whatever was coming even while I was hoping the worst wasn't going to happen. I thought of the women I know who have lost husbands while their children were young. I wondered how we would survive if Justin couldn't work. I asked God to let us keep him even though I knew that prayer might not be answered. After all, bad things do happen to good people. I don't believe that I am protected from catastrophe because I am a Christian; I don't think I can say the right words or promise to do the right deeds to stay safe because I don't think faith works that way. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. I do think God can work everything out for good if you participate in the process, but you might not like everything that happens in that process.

Anne Lamott once said that the two best prayers she knows are "Help!" and "Thank you." I said the first and hoped I would be able to say the second. And then I wiped my eyes (well, really my whole face because I am an ugly crier) and went to pick Miss Pink up. I was hoping Wednesday would get there quickly so we could find out what was going on.

That night Justin went to choir practice. A nurse who works for the dermatologist he was going to see was at practice--that's why we chose that particular doctor--and Justin told her what was going on. She asked if she could take a look at the spot, and as soon as she saw it said, "That's not cancer; that's a skin tag that's been cut off from its blood supply." That's why it turned dark so suddenly. When Justin came home and told me I sighed in relief. Sure enough, when you looked at it more closely you could see it wasn't a mole, but a tiny flap of skin like one he had under his eyebrow. I slept so much better that night.

He went to the appointment and had that cut out and several more places burned off (sounds wonderful, doesn't it?) just to be sure, and from now on he will go once or twice a year to be checked. If something ever DOES come up, it will be dealt with properly. So that was good--and it only took a few years and a scare to get him set up with a dermatologist.

As for me--yes, I may have overreacted. (Story of my life.) However, in the past I would have freaked out, cried all day, scared my children, and made harder for my husband to deal with the situation. All while neglecting to pray or do something to manage my own feelings instead of wanting someone else to make me feel better. So this was progress.

After all that, you would think I would have a wonderful week, like a woman in an inspirational article. The thing which I feared had passed us by! And now I would cherish my dear husband EVEN MORE because I realized what a fleeting thing life is, and we should all live like we are dying, etc., etc.

In actuality, I didn't enjoy the rest of the week all that much but I'm glad we still have our normal life. Except I had to take Miss Pink to see High School Musical 3 for a birthday party, and the High School Musical world is definitely not normal.

But here's something Mr. Blue said which cracked us all up. At lunch with my parents, I asked him if he wanted chicken fingers. He said very plainly in a puzzled tone, "Chickens don't have fingers!" While we were laughing he continued, "Chickens have thumbs!"

Here's to next week. We're all still here and healthy, and that's plenty for me to be thankful for.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Here's the recipe for these muffins (or bread). I wish I could hand-deliver them to y'all but this will have to do. I think it's highly unlikely that my neighbor reads my blog, but if so, I'm sorry! I really will make it up to you!

Note: this recipe makes a LOT of muffins. I halved it because I only had a regular-sized can of pumpkin, and it STILL made 16 muffins and 1 medium-sized loaf. I posted the original recipe instead of my halved version, though, because halving it involves some weird fractions. If you do half it, though, you should be fine.

3 cups canned pumpkin
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
4 c. white sugar
6 eggs
4 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. cloves (apparently optional--I didn't have any and it turned out fine without)
1 bag chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, oil, sugar, and eggs. Mix well by hand or with an electric mixer. Blend in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and mix to combine. For mini muffins, bake 15-18 minutes. For regular muffins and small loaves, bake for 30-35 minutes. For medium and large loaves, bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

According to the recipe, you can add raisins or nuts, and/or drizzle a powdered sugar glaze on top.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Week in Review, 10/12--10/18

I am drawing a blank as to what I want to write about last week. I can barely remember it, to tell you the truth! But I've promised to do this all year and I guess I might as well write about what I can remember. (Can you sense my determination and commitment? Me neither. I hope this isn't too boring to read!)

1. Miss Pink brought home her portfolio for the first nine weeks. Her school does nontraditional grading. With their teacher's help, students select their best work in each subject, and bring it home to have a two-way conference with the parent about what they learned. I guess later I will get the "grade" sheet that will tell me what skills she's totally mastered, is satisfactorily learning, or needs more time to work on. Also later there is a three-way conference with the teacher, parent(s), and student to discuss progress and set goals. So much more informative than the ABCDF grading system.

I think Miss P is doing well. She seems right where I would expect her to be at the beginning of kindergarten. She knows her sight words and is starting to read simple books, but she doesn't much like trying to sound out unfamiliar words. She wants to be right (and doesn't like it if she gets the word wrong) and she likes things to be easy for her since many things are. Hmmm, I wonder where she gets that? :-)

Anyway, I'm glad she's doing well.

2. I made pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins and they were a big hit. I had enough batter to make a small loaf of bread that I was going to give to our neighbors, but I will have to make them something else since Justin and the kids "needed" it last night. I didn't argue with them--I wanted more too.

1. We are going through a round of typical sibling rivalry. They fight over toys, blankets, seating arrangements--you name it. Not a lot of physical fighting but lots of loud protests and tattling (mostly from Mr. Blue, which Miss Pink resents). I don't know what to do. I don't want to be the judge--I'd rather them work things out on their own--but they are at two very different developmental stages and can't understand how to negotiate unless Justin or I step in. I think we are being fair but it's not easy.

Mr. Blue has learned to say, "That's not fair." Of course, like all children, he thinks it is not fair whenever he doesn't get his own way.


Friday, October 17, 2008

How to Stay Happily Married

UPDATED TO ADD: I did have him show me what I was supposed to do. Turns out I was measuring from the wrong end of the wall.

Now I have to say I can't really blame him for getting frustrated with me!

Justin, getting very aggravated with me over the phone because I can't understand his directions as to how to take a measurement in the playroom: FINE. I'll just do it myself when I get home.

Me: Hey, don't get mad at ME because no one ever showed me how to do this stuff just because I'm a girl. [I don't say, "Because I never wanted to learn how."]

Him, still mad but realizing he can't win an argument about gender roles: Okay. I'll just shut my stupid mouth.

[I don't say, "You do that."]


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Random Meme

I don't remember which site I got this meme from, but here 'tis

Favorite Day of The Week
: Saturday because it’s family day! I don’t get to sleep in, but we usually make a big breakfast, and then I often catch a nap while the kids watch cartoons. We might go out if there’s a birthday party or something, but lately Justin works on the playroom, and the kids play outside near him while I read, watch something I’ve TiVoed, or check blogs. After lunch Mr. Blue takes a nap and Miss Pink and I often scrapbook together. Most of the time we have dinner at home. It’s nice to just slow down and have a relaxed day.

Favorite Candy Bar: Toblerone—the milk chocolate is so creamy and I love the little bit of crunch in the nougat.

Favorite Restaurant: I love a lot of restaurants. The last one I ate at that I love: Carshon’s, a kosher deli that’s been in Ft. Worth for over 50 years. I had a sandwich called the Rachel: corned beef and turkey on buttered, grilled rye bread, topped with coleslaw, melted Swiss and homemade Russian dressing. Delicious!

Favorite Fast Food: Chick Fil A. If you’ve been reading my blog a while, you know this.

What City in UT would you most like to live? Since I’ve only ever been to Salt Lake City, that’s the one I’d pick. It’s a very clean city. (I'm guessing whoever started this meme lives in Utah.)

Would you prefer Hubby to bring home a bouquet of flowers or a pint of ice cream? Ice cream. I'll even share.

Anchorwoman or small shop owner? Small shop owner. I am not comfortable in the spotlight.

Magazine Editor or Big City Prosecution Attorney? No question: magazine editor. I probably should have become an editor. I’m good at editing other people’s writing.

Favorite Household Chore? Do I have a favorite? I guess starting the laundry. I like sorting it and getting it in the machine. I’m not so fond of folding it.

Least Favorite? Sweeping and mopping. I asked my husband what he thought it would be and he agreed, then added, “Also dusting.” I wasn’t aware that I disliked dusting, but apparently had been putting it off too long between sessions.

Favorite Cereal? It changes. Right now, Honey Nut Shredded Wheat.

Favorite Season? Fall.

Favorite ACTIVE activity? I’m boring. I don’t play sports, and I mostly walk when I work out, or ride a stationary bike. I do enjoy how I feel when I work out.

Favorite LEISURE activity? Reading.

Do you take vitamins? Yes, but lately I’ve been forgetting more than I should.

How many speeding tickets? Two.

What does retirement bring? I want to stay active in the community, continue to write, travel more, and enjoy my grandchildren.


Monday, October 13, 2008

The Secret is in the Sauce...

I remember when I first heard of SITS. (Does that make me sound like an elderly person nostalgic for earlier days? Sorry, I can't help it--I can be nostalgic about things that happened yesterday; that's just how I am.) I had just started reading Tiffany's blog after she somehow found me and commented on a post about my experience with postpartum depression, and she was so encouraging and honest that of course I wanted to subscribe to her blog.

And then I "met" her friend Heather, who is a sweetheart and so much fun. The most important way they changed my life? They got me hooked on "crackliture," specifically the Twilight books, which took over my life for a while (not that I'm complaining.)

I knew these girls had plans for something that would increase their blog traffic, but I didn't really make the connection when mysterious posts began to appear that simply stated "The Secret is in the Sauce." It made me think of the Special Sauce on a fast-food hamburger, to tell the truth!

Then when SITS launched, I thought it was a great idea. The site features the blog of a member four days a week, and three of the blogger's best posts are linked. It's a lot of fun to get close to 100 comments on a post. I know I enjoyed it when it was my turn! And it's interesting to check out the featured blogs every day. I will never get tired of reading about people's lives--y'all are fascinating. Seriously.

On Friday Heather or Tiffany picks a blog to spotlight that is not on the list--usually it's a blog with a special theme. I especially liked The Pink Teapot, an online guide to etiquette.

Through SITS, I've found some great blogs to read. Hot Tub Lizzy is such a fabulous gal, so warm and funny and supportive, plus she's running for President through her very own Plaid Party.

Melissa at Stretch Marks is one of most hilarious writers I have ever read. There's no funny like Southern girl funny. Plus she has a new baby whose adoption was a miracle for their family. I'm getting verklempt just thinking about it.

I can't forget Jill at The Perlman Update! I love reading all about the life of an American family living in India.

There are so many more--but let me just say that if you can pass up a blog with a name like Killing a Fly with a Ukelele Is Probably the Wrong Thing to Do, then something is wrong with your curiosity!


Week in Review, 10/5--10/11

There were quite a few Yay items this week. Which is always nice. I thought about not even doing a Nay list but I'm sure by the time I get to the end of this post, I will be able to think of something to gripe about.

You're welcome. I'm sure my kvetching is why you come to this blog. You'd miss it if I managed not to complain one week. (Yeah, right.)

1. Justin's mother and aunt came to pick up a chest of drawers he had made for his grandmother, who is in a nursing home. They stayed a couple of nights and had the best time playing with the kids. Mr. Blue is still asking to go home with them.

2. The price of gas came down in our area. It's nice to drive past the stations and see the numbers closer to 2.50 than 3.00.

3. Mr. Blue is hilarious right now. His vocabulary continues to grow and he is putting complex sentences together left and right. Last week he kept showing me flash cards with numbers on them and asking me what the number was. When I'd answer, he'd say solemnly, "Right. Dood dob, Mom."

It's so nice to have my self-esteem boosted by a two-year-old.

4. I remembered a big box of winter clothes in the attic. Mr. Blue has outgrown everything from last winter, which I expected, as he's two--but Miss Pink does not need any more clothes except a dress for Christmas. She's all set, especially when it comes to long-sleeved t-shirts. If all her shirts are clean, I doubt they'll all fit into the drawer. Oh, who am I kidding--her shirts are never going to all be clean at the same time.

1. I'm not so motivated to exercise and eat healthfully. In fact, I could be working out right now--but am I? Nope.

2. Guess I don't feel like complaining. Lucky you (and me, for that matter.)

Not really a Nay
I gave a woman who had taken custody of her two-year-old grandson a coat and some winter clothes. (She'd posted a request on Freecycle.) She was so grateful and I was glad I followed my impulse to help her. Obviously all of this is more of a yay, but the sad part is that he had to have an MRI and he may have to have some shunts and there may be brain damage. I don't know what happened or if it had to do with why she had to take custody so abruptly, but I've been praying for them and I thought I'd ask you to do the same, if you are so inclined. Any and all prayers and good thoughts would be welcome, I'm sure.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Playroom Addition Update #2

The playroom addition project is going very well. I am a little surprised at how fast it is coming together, actually. This may be the first time in the history of our marriage when a home improvement project is being finished ahead of schedule. My mental schedule, I mean. My husband probably thought it was going to be done in a month, optimist that he is. I have learned to add time to his estimates. But he has worked on it every weekend and several evenings a week; plus he has been able to take off a few days here and there with some help from his partner and employees to finish the framing and the roof.

Let's look at some pictures, shall we?

The last time I posted pictures, the "room" looked like this. (This was a month ago.)

And then later that weekend it became this.

Somewhere along the way, a slab got poured, which I forgot to take pictures of. But you can see the slab does indeed exist in the next pictures.

Here's Justin working on (or thinking about) tearing off part of the existing roof. I just love it when he wears a tool belt. :-)

There are a lot more pictures of the framing which I will spare you, since Justin got his hands on the camera and took pics of every wall and corner. There is even one of a particular bolt at the bottom of a wall. I have no idea what makes that bolt special enough to deserve its own picture. But I can tell you that this corner is being framed in to cover the chimney brick with sheetrock and that corner is where my desk is going. My future blogging space--hooray!

Here's a glimpse of the doorway into our living room. We are going to keep a door between the rooms (eventually a French door; only the top half of the current door has glass) because we want to be able to close off the playroom when we aren't running the A/C in there.

And finally, here's how the outside looks with the siding and new windows installed. I'm sorry about how tilted the picture is. I kept trying to hold the camera to make it look straight, and I failed. I'll never be the next Pioneer Woman!

Here's the side that ties into the outside wall of the kitchen.

Right now, Justin and a friend are painting the outside, so it will look even better the next time I update. Which I hope will be sooner than a month, and that it will be basically done by Thanksgiving. For which I will truly be thankful, if it happens.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Book Review (and Possibly More than You Wanted to Know about My Crazy)

I had to read Marrit Ingman's book for the title alone. And Inconsolable: How I Threw My Mental Health Out with the Diapers is not disappointing me. Ingman is smart, funny, not afraid of four-letter words, and so honest it hurts. On every page I find myself nodding my head, thinking, "Yes, yes, yes. I remember feeling like that." The times when I wanted to punch a hole in the wall and I screamed at my children instead. Or when I fantasized about swerving the car into oncoming traffic. Just like that, and everyone's problems would be over. (Not just my problems, but the raw deal Justin and the kids got of a defective, crappy wife and mother. I'm screwing them up for life, I'd think. They'd be better off without me.) Marrit Ingman writes about those feelings, too. All the feelings mothers may have that are too ugly to admit to. SHE GETS IT. Because she's been there, and come through to the other side. And she's really good at writing about her experiences with shattering immediacy, as if they are still happening while she's writing about them and while you are reading about them. Because they are happening right now, if not to her or to you, to some mother out there.

This book is for women who are struggling with motherhood: the impossible expectations we put on ourselves, the crushing weight of inadequacy and the rising tide of anxiety that threaten to overwhelm us. It is for anyone who has ever imagined, even for one tiny second, about leaving the baby on someone's doorstep and vanishing into another identity where you are not responsible for anyone, especially anyone who screams all night. Ingman mentions that she wanted to commit suicide, but she couldn't find a babysitter. That was me. I thought about gassing myself in the car, but I couldn't think of an excuse to get someone to watch the baby. And then who would pick Miss Pink up from school? What would Justin tell her? No, I wouldn't be able to kill myself that day. Interestingly, that realization did not make me feel better.

Now, of course, I'm so grateful I wasn't crazy enough to commit suicide. Thankful beyond words for that scrap of responsibility toward my children that tied me to this earth. (I remember sobbing to myself, "I'm beyond trapped! I can't even make the most basic choice--whether or not to KILL MYSELF!" The very thing that brought me to the brink of insanity also saved my life: motherhood. I knew I couldn't let my children grow up wondering why I hadn't loved them enough to stay alive. I couldn't leave them that legacy, which would overshadow their lives and possibly poison their relationships. And so there was only one thing left to do. I had to fight like hell to get better.

I did it because I decided I didn't deserve to suffer in silence. It wasn't my fault that this illness had happened to me. I was sick of being gagged and stuffed with mother guilt. I was terrified of the drugs not working, of the doctors being condescending, of ending up in a straitjacket hollering about aliens implanting computer chips in my brain. But the alternative was worse. So I yelled for help.

None of the things I feared happened to me, or at least not for long. Some of it happened to Ingman, and she shows that sometimes you have to push back at the system and try different things, even when you are least capable of exerting yourself. It helps to have someone advocate for you, which I did--my husband called the doctor when the sleeping aids weren't working, because I was too scared to tell the doctor I needed help AGAIN. (As if it were my fault the meds weren't working on me. There's a reason they call it "going crazy" and that's because a lot of your thoughts are crazy.)

If anyone is reading this and any of this is sounding familiar, please get help. Tell someone. Tell your spouse or partner, your best friend or your parent--whoever will take you seriously rather than telling you things will get better on their own. Call your doctor--and if your primary care doctor blows you off, go to your OB-GYN. (My doctor and nurse told me they wish more women would come to them for help for PPD.) Ingman says tackle the postal carrier if you have to. Call someone you trust to keep the baby and go away and do something for yourself, but don't beat yourself up if a couple hours alone isn't enough to restore you to cheerfulness. Therapy may very well help. Drugs are not the unthinkable, especially if you can't function when you're responsible for children. Psychiatrists are not evil mad scientists who long to drug you into a dazed stupor with no evidence of your former personality behind your now-dead eyes. Give yourself permission to say, "Something in me is broken, and I would like it to be healed."

There is help out there. And speaking for myself and Ingman--a sample size of two--it does get better with time, as well. But if you are at your breaking point and need help getting to the point at which you can enjoy your child(ren), do it. Do it for yourself first, then for your family.

They really need us, you know. They need us to do all the mom things like make lunches and sign permission slips and get them to bed on time (God, my husband would suck at those if he were a single dad). They need us to tuck them in at night and tell them we love them (preferably without having to apologize every night for our out-of-control behavior that day. Just some nights).

But most of all, they just need us to be there.

Marrit Ingman and I want you to stay here with us to say, "I survived. It happened to me and I lived to tell the tale." We want you to be glad you stayed.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

If I Could Change the World

I'm answering another question from the book called If...

If you could change one thing in the world right now, what would you alter?

Hoo boy. Where to start, right? Because I'm not cool with talking about politics on this blog--and besides I don't think electing a President is going to change some of the most fundamental issues we face--I'm not going there. Honestly, my first thought was, like a Miss America contestant, "World peace." It is the starkest example of what my dad calls "man's inhumanity to man." (Anyone know who he was quoting? Because I don't, and I doubt he remembers either.)

However, the question does not say that I am given the power to prevent wars from ever breaking out again, so then we'd be back to square one. Also, wars aren't the only type of violence that damages people's lives. So I think I am going to say that I would make every family loving, good, and decent. No child would ever be abused. Every parent would give their best to their children and teach them how to treat others the way they want to be treated. And I think that would solve a lot of the problems.

Too bad that can't happen to every family on earth. We still have to try to help it happen wherever we can.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Other Side of the Coin

I've discovered that Miss P's school is awesome in part because they make parents contribute so much. I'm all for helping out, but does it have to cost so much? They are ten-dollaring me to death. Ten dollars for a school t-shirt (which I was glad I caved on because EVERY OTHER KID IN SCHOOL (seriously, every single one) had one for the athletic day). Ten for a skate rental to teach them to skate in P.E. (well, at least I don't have to teach her). Ten for a donation for the class project to auction at the fall carnival. Field trip. Oh sorry, the last one was 9.75. Not to mention fundraisers (as if most of the rest of these didn't raise funds) and school pictures. Oh, and the student teacher needs a gift before she goes....

I am just not going to do it all. I CAN'T do it all, if we want to do frivolous things like--oh, eat and splurge on a packet of new socks every once in a while. We will volunteer our time and maybe some hamburger buns (or whatever) for the carnival. I might send five dollars for the student teacher. MAYBE. If I am feeling generous that day.

I saw parents spending $30 and up at the book fair. I spent around $9 and let Miss P spend her own money for the non-book items she wanted. I love books but we can go to the library and garage sales! Also, they sold a LOT of $2.99 pens. I wanted to say to the parents with armloads, "Haven't you people heard the economy is tanking? Hoard your money for the coming apocalypse!"

Anyway, this is not to criticize other parents for spending money at book fairs. I wish I had enough extra to buy books for the teachers' classroom libraries and to bid on the carnival projects. I hate having to tell Miss P that we only have enough money for X and Y, but not Z. (I try not to say, "We can't afford that." I say, "That's not in the budget. We need to use our money wisely, and we need it for something else.") As much as I wish I could buy whatever we want--let alone what the school asks for--I think learning how to say no to excessive spending is a lesson that will help her more in real life than anything the school can teach her.


Week in Review, 9/28--10/4

1. This week I spent quite a bit of time at Miss Pink's school. On Wednesday I volunteered to help out with the library book fair for a couple of hours, which was fun. Did I mention the school has childcare staffed by other volunteer moms (we've all had background checks, for whatever it's worth)? It's awesome and Mr. Blue loves it because it has tons of toys. Then the next day I brought lunch for me and Miss P. Coincidentally, I reconnected with a friend from a couple of years ago with whom I used to be in a playgroup. So that was fun. Plus there were fries and mandarin oranges, but I unhealthily ate most of the fries while leaving the better choice for my daughter.

2. The playroom addition is going so well! By which I mean it will be done in another month or so if things keep moving along. I was just hoping it would be done by Christmas, basing my timetable on previous seemingly never-ending home improvement projects. Justin has worked hard, and has had help from his business partner and some of his employees (they're getting paid, but they did offer to help finish the siding on Saturday.) Next week a friend is coming over to help him paint the exterior. So the room is completely enclosed and the exterior is finished except for paint. I'll take some pictures and post them in a couple of days.

3. I went to a neighborhood-wide garage sale in my parents' well-off area and found lots of neat things to decorate the playroom. I'm going for a vintage look, and there are a lot of bookcases to decorate. We have a lot of books, but not nearly enough for the shelves. So there will be vintage-looking toys, books, and picture frames in some of them. SO much better to pay less than $2 for each item instead of $30 or whatever I was looking at on etsy. I think I am addicted to garage-saling and thrift-shopping. This could be dangerous.

1. Miss P was sick on Thursday night and stayed home Friday. Mr. B got the stomach bug today--but feels fine now. The damage has been minimal, but I have that low-level dread when you know you're probably next. And if the last sickness is any indication, I take a lot longer to recover than the munchkins do.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

We might as well laugh

In light of all the economic gloom, I thought I'd share a Depression-era poem that Dave Ramsey's mother sent him during a period of economic hard times in the real-estate business. The poem's message was true in the '30s, and the '80s, so I'm willing to bet it's still true today.

The Rooster and the Hen

Said the Little Red Rooster, "Believe me, things are tough!
Seems the worms are getting scarcer and I cannot find enough.
What's become of all those fat ones? It's a mystery to me.
There were thousands through that rainy spell,
But now where can they be?"

But the Old Black Hen didn't grumble or complain,
She had lived through lots of dry spells;
She had lived through floods of rain.
She picked a new and undug spot--the ground was hard and firm.
"I must go to the worms," she said. "The worms won't come to me."

The Rooster vainly spent his day
Through habit, by the ways
Where fat round worms had passed in squads back in the rainy days.
When nightfall found him supperless, he growled in accents rough,
"I'm hungry as a fowl can be! Conditions sure are tough."

But the Old Black Hen hopped to her perch
And dropped her eyes to sleep
And murmured in a drowsy tone, "Young man, hear this and weep.
I'm full of worms and happy, for I've eaten like a pig.
The worms were there as always,
But boy, I had to dig!"

Maybe we have gotten used to having the "fat worms" come easily to us? After all, we live in an era in which the middle class enjoys luxuries undreamed of by Roman emperors. All without having to think about it--everything we want has been at our fingertips.

Not that I am making light of anyone losing their retirement money. But we'll have to buckle down and keep working and we'll get through this.

Here's a couple of great quotes about money by Mark Twain to make you smile--even if it's a wry smile.

"October. This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August, and February."

"I'm putting all my money in taxes. It's the only thing guaranteed to go up."


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

No, this is not turning into a contest blog...

but I have to post about this to get extra entries and I would LOVE to win this prize from SITS. (You'll probably want to enter too, it's so good.)

Adobe Photoshop 7 (and a manual, for people like me who need written instructions.)

Or, for Mac users, Photoshop Elements 6.

I just love the cool effects you can do to photos with Photoshop. I just joined Photoshop Express online for free, but of course it doesn't have all the bells and whistles. If you'd like to win, go to The Secret is in the Sauce for all the details.


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