Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hammin' It Up

I grew up in the country in a neat little red brick house on a corner with fields all around. The fact that our house was brick and on a cement foundation still didn't keep the mice out come winter time. My mother is TERRIFIED of mice. I don't mean moderately scared or even a little creeped out. I mean, the woman would die if one ever touched her. I'm not joking.

[So please, any mice reading this, stay away from my momma. I like her a whole lot of a bunch and would like to keep her around. No touching the momma. Squeak squeak mcsqueaker squeaken. Got that?]

My momma is so terrified of all things rodentia that the first winter in the brand new house, when my sister was a mere four or five months old, she nearly flipped her lid when she saw the first critter run across the kitchen floor. She came un. glued. But my father who worked nights and didn't want his wife dragging his two children to his work and sitting at the end of the tire assembly line for his entire shift just because she might be afraid to stay in the house alone, fixed the situation by telling her that mice can't run on carpet. He said their little toenails got snagged in the carpet and they just stayed on linoleum. She had nothing to fear if she stayed on the carpeted areas of the house while he was at work.

Now, my mother is a very intelligent woman, but bless her heart, she bought this one hook, line and sinker. I'm going to blame post-partum depression.

And all went along smoothly for awhile. My father went to work every night and after dinner, Mom never left the living room. She even laid my little sister on a blanket in the living room floor to play and nap because, hey those mice can't run on carpet, right? Well, until while watching Hee Haw or Lawrence Welk one night, a mouse came scurrying his little tail off right through the dining room and when he hit carpet, never slowed down. My sleeping baby sister didn't slow him down either -- he just jumped over her and kept on bookin' it. He very well may have been competing in some Mouse Olympic event.

I saw it all happen. Mom saw it all happen. We looked at each other and without a word drew our feet up onto the couch. Then the shrieking began. Who was going to go get the baby? "Hey, lady, I'm like, not even four, not gonna be me." "Oh no, not me either. I have to remain alive to take care of your sister because obviously you are going to perish when you go retrieve her FROM THE FLOOR WHERE MICE ARE." Although, that conversation didn't happen out loud, I'm sure it went on in our heads. It was possibly our first mother-daughter telepathy moment.

She's 60 now and still just as terrified of mice. I'm not a fan either. We haven't had one in our country house in a few years. We're surrounded by either field or forest no matter which side you look at, so mice are kind of just gonna happen. This is why we have lots of cats. The last time we had one in the house, I wore shoes pretty much 24/7, tucked my pants into my socks and upon entering any room I would stomp and declare loudly, "HELLO MOUSE. I AM ENTERING THIS ROOM. YOU ARE NOT WELCOME WHILE I AM IN HERE. PLEASE DO NOT SHOW YOURSELF UNTIL I AM GONE. OH, AND PLEASE DIE. THANK YOU." If you think I'm lying, ask my kids. I totally did that. Every time.

Over the years the kids have asked repeatedly for hamsters. And every time I say no. NO NO NO NO NONONONONONONOOOOOOOO. But in August I was obviously ate up with the stupid with all the getting ready to homeschool my children and when my oldest asked for a hamster I dismissed her with, "Ask your dad."

We now own three hamsters. Three. Rodents. Live here. With me. Inna my house.

Abby had one named Elephant (after Little Bill's pet hamster. Remember Little Bill? He was so dadgum cute!), but Elephant got bitey, so she gave him away. She then bought a Robo Dwarf (Robo is short for Roborovsky, not robot, which would've been so stinkin' epic) and named her Hanna. Hanna is the Speedy Gonzales of the hamster world. I swear I hear her squeak "Andelay! Andelay! Ariba! Ariba!" every now and then. She is adorable and loves to perform for you, but holding her is out of the question. She no likey. She jumpy.

So Abby bought a Winter White and named her Pearl. The same night, Sam bought a Winter White and named her Marley. Pearl is cuddly and lovey and possibly has an eating disorder (She stuffed 33 sunflower seeds in her cheek pouches the other night before she had to go unload. We need to take that girl to a buffet) and Marley is moody and chirps like a cicada if you mess with her on a grumpy day. The kids hold them and let them crawl all over them. They poop in their hands. Pearl pees on Abby a lot because she smells Hanna. It's like a scaled-down version of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom around here.

While I was getting the office cleaned out so it could be turned into a classroom, I was sitting in the floor cleaning out the craft cabinet. Abby decided to bring Pearl out to visit. And then Abby thought it would be HEEEELARIOUS to put the little critter in my t-shirt pocket. That was.....weird. Then she put her on the floor and Pearl, being a burrowing critter, went where it's.....warm. Yes, the hamster ran for my crotch.

There I was sitting in the floor, surrounded by Play-Doh, markers, pipe cleaners, glitter and used-up coloring books and a hamster scampering around my junk. I froze. Abby froze. Bug froze. Then without moving I squeaked, "There's. a. GET. HER. OUT. ...... NOW." Abby immediately fell over in the floor, completely unable to rescue my crotch -- or the hamster -- and I wasn't about to grab the squirming little thing. I pet the dang things with one extended, shaking finger, I no grab. I also didn't dare move for fear of crushing her tiny, furry body under my gigantic booty and other stuff.

So imagine me sitting, legs splayed, arms frozen in mid-air, file folder full of Shrinky Dinks sheets in one hand, face frozen in a mask of rodent-induced horror.....and my daughters lying on their sides, clutching their bellies, laughing so hard no sound is coming out.


Eventually Abby regained enough composure to fish her hamster from my no-no region, a bonding experience like no other, and order was restored.

Marlin Perkins, handler of tigers and gorillas, probably would've handled a hamster in his crotch with slightly more composure. But I bet he never homeschooled his kids.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Classroom Chaos

Being involved in youth ministry, we use the term "controlled chaos" a lot. We rarely ask the kids to be quiet and noise isn't an issue during most gatherings in the youth room. We want to the kids to holler, laugh and have fun. The only time I ask for quiet is when I am teaching them the Word. And I always keep it short because I know that there is only a small window I have their attention.

That being said, for me to embrace the concept of controlled chaos is HUGE. As I've mentioned before, I have diagnosed OCD. Not self-diagnosed, but actual diagnosed-by-a-doctor Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. (It drives me a little bit bonkers when someone says, "Oh yeah, when my sock drawer is a mess I just OCD over that." Uhm....OCD is a noun, not an adjective. But that's a rant for another time. :)) I enjoy order. I enjoy normalcy. I enjoy schedule.

So why on earth am I submerging myself into the bowels of chaos right now?? And it's not even controlled chaos! It's absolute, mind-bending, topsy turvy, make your brain melt CHAOS.

I'm doing it because WE'RE GETTING A CLASSROOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Yes, overuse of exclamation, but they are so totally appropriate here. Trust me.)

Awhile back I got this brilliant idea to divide our bedroom in half and make a classroom. Paul liked the idea - liked it especially more than my first idea to turn the playhouse turned storage shed into a classroom. The only problem was money and time and help. So the idea sat on a shelf and I would occasionally sigh dramatically and speak wistfully of the classroom I longed for and how much easier it would be to teach Algebra and sentence diagramming on a white board rather than paper. I would occasionally threaten to put up the 5-foot wide posters of the human anatomy or paint a living room wall with chalkboard paint or pin up the "East Meets West at Promontory Summit" poster from Union Pacific Railroad (Big thanks to Jenn T. for the heads up on that! Union Pacific sent out a free info packet on the railroad in honor of their 150th birthday.) right by Paul's recliner, but still the classroom idea sat.

Then one Saturday morning we had a rare opportunity to sleep in. This never happens anymore, so we all took advantage of it, sleeping in all the way until 8 (which seems strangely early compared to my younger days when sleeping in always involved waking up in the PM, not the AM). I had just finished my first cup of coffee when my phone rang and my mom asked, "What are you doing?" then immediately launched into a frantic plea to "hurry up and get around and get to Grove because there is laminate flooring in the auction and the auction didn't make it into the paper and there's hardly anyone here and oh my gosh, hurry".

We recently re-floored both girls' room with vinyl flooring because it is way cheaper than laminate and Paul didn't need any special tools to do it. He did both rooms in two days each and they look great. Ab's room has a dark wood texture and Bug's is very light, golden Oak. We did each room for about $120. Ab's allergies have gotten so bad we had to get the carpet out of her room and just planned to do a room at a time when we could afford it until the whole house was carpet-free.

But Mom's urging to get to the auction had us making scrambling. We started yelling for kids to get out of bed. That was fun. Then we called our pastor because he's a pro at laying laminate flooring and has all the tools. He advised what would be a good price and what would be an insane price and wished us the best.

We got to Grove as fast as we could. Fortunately the auctioneer hadn't made it even close to the flooring yet, which left us ample opportunity to bid on such necessities as a box of golf balls, a box of owl knick knacks, a box of spray paint and the bargain of the day: a golf set for Sam for the whopping price of $2. Unadvertised auctions rawk. And it also gave me the opportunity to freak out a little old Native American woman who wouldn't go near the box of owls and literally moved across the yard away from me when I started bidding on them. I know it's real to a lot of older Native Americans. I, however, have managed to live quite successfully even though my kitchen is full of the feathered harbingers of death.

Finally it came time for the flooring. I had in my mind what I would pay per box to get us the "insane" price Brother Jerry quoted us and was determined to not go above it. $12 a box was my price in my head. The auctioneer disclosed that he would be bidding to a point for an absent bidder, but when the price went above his bid, his bidder was out. He started the bidding as $12 a box and bid for his bidder. AGH! So by cracky, when he hollered out $13 I TOOK IT. And his bidder was out.

I got 41 full boxes and a partial box of laminate flooring for $533! Roughly, that works out to .50 a square foot. That is actually cheaper than the vinyl we put in the girls' rooms!

So that set everything into motion to get the classroom done. Fall Break is next week and even though we hadn't planned to take those days off like public school does, the pastor is a teacher and said he was free to do the work. Paul got two vacation days on the calendar at work and BOOM, Project Classroom is now underway.

Our bedroom is a converted garage, so it's extra long with high ceilings. The previous owners turned the garage into a den, put up a half wall in the back half of the room and that's where her elderly momma slept. When we moved here, we made the partitioned part of the room my office and the other half a toy room. Enter surprise Kady and we suddenly were the proud owners of a gigantic bedroom to make room for baby. Over the years our bedroom has become the black hole of the house - it's the largest room and therefore, everything that needs a home goes there. It's awful. I have never liked our bedroom for that reason. It's always cluttered. Always. It makes my brain hurt.

So now, we are removing the partial wall completely and constructing a full wall to divide the room in half.  We'll have to build a closet in the bedroom part since the classroom will retain the closet. We'll finally  have storage for all the out of season clothes, the classroom will have a large closet with doors and our bedroom will have a door. A real door. With a knob. And a lock. Right now, the door to our bedroom is a louvered folding door. It's a wonder we haven't scarred a wandering child for life, if you know what I mean. Hubba hubba.

So the countdown has begun to remove all the crap, clutter and mess from the bedroom/office and temporarily displace it to other parts of the house for the next week. I am overwhelmed beyond belief. So much so that I find myself blogging. Yeah. I am seriously avoiding the mess. It hurts me to look at it right now. But I have had a glass of sweet tea while I've typed this and find the anxiety ebbing away, so in a few minutes it will be back to the grind.

Unless I decide to look for classroom organization ideas on Pinterest.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The School that Never Ends

Well, school has been going on for a month now. We started before public school did in our area simply because it was hotter than blue blazes here and we weren't doing anything anyway. I figured we might as well get some learnin' in while our bodies languished in the horrific heat that has been this Oklahoma summer.

Abby is in 10th grade this year. I like saying 10th grade better than I like saying Sophomore. I remember being a Sophomore and how grown up I felt. I refuse to think of her that way. Okay, I actually don't refuse to think that way - I think it often. Especially when I look at her and think Oh holy night, she is dadgum near an adult! and then I cry a little. Abby has struggled in school since 4th grade. Actually I can remember about halfway through her 3rd grade year her teacher asking if anything was going on at home because she had just decided to stop trying. That was where Status: Emo began. By 6th grade she was full-on committed to the emo persona and cost me a ton in black eyeliner alone. Thankfully by 7th grade the eyeliner grew passe' and while her hair still stayed over her eyes until halfway through the year, she began to speak again and somewhat interact with other humans. I doubt she will ever be an outgoing person. She is too much like her daddy. But the fact that she is very shy and quiet did her no favors whatsoever in school. She would not ask for help because then someone might look at her. Of course, I always queried, "Uh...don't you WANT them to look at you? You know, to like, HELP YOU?" and she would shrink back in abject horror like I had just asked her to pick her teeth with toenail clippings. In Abbyland, being unnoticed is totally okay. In Publicschoolville, though, not so much. Add in a teacher who declared one of her classes to be "unteachable" and told them he was giving up on them all. Abby came home that night, dropped her book in the floor and said, "If I'm unteachable, why try anymore?" Awesome.

Sam is an 8th grader this year and while Sam is far more outgoing than his sister, he isn't the most socially flamboyant either. Sam has always fared better around adults than kids. The adults at church think he is amazing and he feels the same. Put him in a room of adults and he is completely at ease. Make him  help with the Preschool VBS class, though, and he will come into your office about mid-week and beg you to release him from his bound duty to spend 2 1/2 hours a night doing the equivalent of herding orphan pigs. He is part of the Brotherhood at church (sounds sinister, but isn't) because he is so eager to be a part of what the men in the church are doing. Sam has also developed a stutter this past year and lemme tell ya, people are cruel. You'd think it would just be the kids, but folks, I have literally witnessed adults make fun of his speech. In front of his momma. So put him in a crowd of people where he knows they are going to either make fun of or get frustrated with him and what happens? His stutter gets worse. By the end of the school year last year, between the bullying and fighting, being made fun of and the kid who literally stalked my son (the school counselor's words, not mine), almost every evening's post-bus time involved tears, anger and much pleading to remove him from public school. I could see him shying away from people and his grades were suffering as well. If you're scared to talk in class and ask questions, you get left behind.

Kady, who we now affectionately call Bug (We have called her Kadybug since birth, but at church there is a Kaity, Kady and a Katie, so we shortened her to Bug) is a 5th grader this year and ..... Oh my gosh, she is me. Plain and simple, the child is exactly like I was at her age. She lives to socialize, talks to the point you think her lips will fall off and gets the giggles for no apparent reason whatsoever. When we finally made the decision to homeschool, we gave her the option of finishing elementary school in the public forum or just starting when her siblings did. She originally said she wanted to stay through 5th grade and we were totally okay with that because the elementary school she went to is phenomenal. I have no complaints and never have with the elementary in general. Then Kady started thinking that her brother and sister might go on a field trip and she would miss out and started waffling back and forth. I let her waffle awhile and she finally said homeschool. I started buying books. She changed her mind. I said sorry. She pouted. She still pouts. She'll get over it. In 3rd grade she scored advanced in math on her standardized testing, a fact I still marvel at since she still doesn't know all of her multiplication tables. She ended up in the GT (Gifted and Talented) program. She got all A's on every report card, except in math, where she consistently got B's and C's. Go figure. We just received last year's standardized test scores -- advanced in every subject. Still can't multiply worth a whit and you ought to see her sentence structure, but by cracky, a bunch of colored-in circles on a state test form declared her (trumpet fanfare) Gifted. Whatevs.

All three of my kids are gifted and talented. You ought to see Abby draw. Her graffitti is amazing. We'll be so proud of her work on train cars someday. Her talent with hair and makeup puts some professional stylists to shame. Sam has a real knack for writing. I am amazed at his stories. He reminds me of a certain blogger. Bug is phenomenal at story-writing as well. We're working on the sentence structure, but you know, she's 10, so I figure we have time. If I had wanted to push it with the school, I could've lobbied for GT for all three, but why? To give them a label? To boost their self esteem? So they could be in a club and go on field trips? Nah.

School is going wonderfully. Being the newbies we are, we have already learned a few things. For instance, I know which publishers and curriculum we will NOT be using next year. I also know that the Amish have it going ON when it comes to Grammar and Reading curriculum. I learned the first week of school that it is not necessary to do EVERY SUBJECT, EVERY DAY either. My poor kids were so exhausted that first week of school! It took the wise words of a fellow homeschooling mom to remind me that my kids are going so much further in their daily work than they would in public school that it isn't necessary to do every subject every day. For instance, we are on lesson 4 in Algebra (and they understand it) and Abby's public school class last year ended on lesson 7. I think we're progressing fine. I also got hung up on the state's mandate of 175 days of school a year and literally got out a calendar to mark off what days we planned to take off between August and May and obsessed over getting 175 days on that calendar. Then I realized, there are many Sundays the kids do school work in the afternoons to get a jump on the week. I think we'll go over our 175 days without worry. I've also learned that my Queen sized bed makes a fine desk, as well as my office floor and the couch. And that, although my mother does not agree, it's okay to do school work in pajamas every once in awhile. Making granola and homemade bread is a perfectly acceptable Home Ec lesson and hamster observation is totally trippy, especially since Bug's science this year is Zoology.

There are downsides: I am exhausted most of the time. I am working harder than I have in years. I feel slightly more overwhelmed than I did when the kids were newborns. I pull a lot of late nights going over papers and getting ahead on lesson plans. I go through a lot of printer ink, but thankfully I bought a Kodak printer last year and it doesn't cost as much as my old Lexmark did. I sometimes get jealous over the fact that Paul and kids are watching the Turtle Man and laughing hysterically while yelling YEEYEEYEEYEEYEE LIVE ACTION! and I'm at my desk compiling spelling lists (and really, I don't like Turtle Man, I just sometimes feel left out of the whole family thing) or cleaning the kitchen. Our grocery consumption has skyrocketed and I am now an avid Pinterest user (something I avoided as long as I could) because I can make Ranch dressing and homemade crescent rolls for next to nothing and Eggo waffles are no longer affordable, so I now own a waffle iron. We never eat out anymore. We only go to town once a week

But at the same time, I get to spend every day with three of the most amazing kids on the planet. They are educating me as much as I am them. Their insights and opinions on the world around them fascinate me. They make me laugh. They make me proud. All three kids have lost weight (I keep hoping it happens for me as well, but my aversion to the scales keeps me from knowing) and no one has missed a day of school due to being sick. (Yes, they've all three been sick, but school carried on and they didn't even die.) We didn't have to buy school clothes. Abby can color her hair blue and not get ISS and holes in the legs of her jeans doesn't land her there either. We don't eat out anymore. We only go to town once a week.

It's wonderful.

Monday, July 23, 2012

My Job

I am slowly stepping back into the blogging world and I gotta say, it's all good. I have been so absent from this thing I love the past year and I have missed it a crazy amount of much. I haven't written much of anything. That makes me sad. 

Paul and I are still very much involved in the youth ministry at our church. We have been blessed beyond measure and God has added roughly 15 new kids to our family. Thankfully our house usually holds them. Sometimes it's bodies everywhere, but that's okay. No one has complained yet. We're also swiftly outgrowing our room at the church and again, it's sometimes wall-to-wall bodies, but it will be okay. We'll get a new room when it's time. In the meantime, we just encourage the use of deodorant. 

Being in a ministry position we are virtually always under scrutiny. We are held to a higher standard in the eyes of the church simply because we have been entrusted with some pretty amazing students and funny, they don't want them all messed up and stuff. We have to try really hard to do the right thing, give the right words and set a good example. 

I am by no means a perfect person and my walk with God sometimes is a little more of a crooked stagger through the woods than a peaceful walk down the smooth road with Disney-esque woodland creatures frollicking and bursting into song. He never promised me - or any of us - perfection here on earth; He only promised us His love. Unconditional, undying, perfect Love. I do the best I can to live the way He wants me to and I think God appreciates my efforts. Ephesians 2:10 tells us we are His masterpiece and if He can view me in all my sin and imperfection as a masterpiece, I take value in that and just give it my best. I'm not always going to hit the mark. He knows that. I know that. It's a process. 

 As a teen I learned the phrase "Judge not, lest ye be judged." It was something thrown around by my peers when someone picked out their behavior and either got nasty and made it public or just decided to give a scathing opinion of one's previous weekend adventures or whatever someone deemed as inappropriate behavior or unacceptable acts. It was largely situational and mostly used as a retort. And let's be honest, teenagers judge. They are big-time egocentric and can justify virtually any behavior.......oh wait. 

That's not just teenagers. We all do it. We shouldn't. 

I like the way "The Message" translates Matthew 7:1. It is just plain and simple and it really speaks to me: 

"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment."


 It's so easy to sit back and rain down judgment from our lofty heights when in all honesty, we have absolutely no idea what someone else is going through. 

Last night on Facebook I happened to catch a passive-aggressive comment on a friend's wall and because Facebook has made us all nosy stalkers, I went a'searching for what prompted the comment. Turns out, it was about Chick-fil-A. I do love me some Chick-fil-A. 


But it sent me on a Googling frenzy, trying to find out as much as I could about the chicken gurus who have my heart and my taste buds firmly in their grasp. Turns out, Dan Cathy, the president and COO of the company, made a comment about what a family "should" be and then everyone went all crazy with the judging. 

Now, don't leave me right here to go start formulating your scathing comment. Hear me out. 

I haven't requested a copy of Chick-fil-A's financials for the past 66 years, but from what I've read on the innerwebs, Chick-fil-A sends money to organizations that promote families. Traditional ones. Not "Suzy has two mommies" kind of families. Some folks on the internet view these organizations as anti-homosexual. Some view them as simply pro-traditional. I don't know anything about the alleged organizations' credos, values or programs. I also don't care. I'm not judging Chick-fil-A or Dan Cathy. 

I'm also not judging Suzy for having two mommies. 

Nor am I judging Suzy's two mommies. 

It clearly states in my Facebook profile that I am a "Southern Baptist, but the nonjudgmental kind" and I'm sticking to that. I attend a Southern Baptist church and am in student ministry in a Southern Baptist church, but folks, I am not here to judge you. Technically, I shouldn't and so, I won't. 

The Christian music group Casting Crowns has a song out right now on the airwaves entitled "Jesus, Friend of Sinners" and that song has nudged me from the first time I heard it. And by "nudged" I mean "it whacked me upside the head with a big ol' 2x4. 

"Jesus, Friend of sinners, the One whose writing in the sand, made the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands. Help us to remember....we are all the least of these. Let the memory of Your mercy bring Your people to their knees." 

"The least of these"? Like maybe....I dunno......sinners? A sinner? Like ...... ME? Because, guess what -- we're all sinners. 

John 8 tells the story of Jesus' writing in the sand. The Pharisees brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus and, while trying to trap Him into making a mistake, asked Him what should be done to her. Jewish law said they had to kill her by throwing rocks at her until she died. It was a very violent, personal form of execution. Jesus stooped down, wrote something in the dirt (we don't know what, the Bible doesn't say) and then stood to tell them all that the perfect ones could throw the first stones at her. He stooped to write in the dirt once more and when He stood up....funny, they had all gone away. Jesus asked the woman where they were and who condemned her. She replied, "No one."He said, "Neither do I."

It is not up to me to decide what is a perfect family. Or a perfect life. Good grief, sometimes I have trouble deciding what to fix for dinner, so why should I be allowed to decide anything about someone else's life? I can't. I won't. I'm not God. We will all stand before Him one day and be judged. I can't say I'm looking forward to that because, well.....I'm a sinner. It's my nature to sin. So why not just leave the judging to Him in His due time and in the meantime just love on everyone? If there was less judging and more loving, imagine what the world would be like.... 

I know, I know. Let's serve some wine to go with all the cheesiness. 

Seriously, though. My God is a God of love. Not hate. Westboro Baptist spews forth venomous hatred for those who don't conform to their skewed version of "religion". Regular people just trying to get through life think that is Christianity. The pro-life people blow up abortion clinics. The pro-choice people call the pro-life people bad names like "zealots" and "religious nutjobs". Chick-fil-A only recognizes daddy-mommy-2.4 children families.The folks in favor of gay marriage boycott Chick-fil-A.Divorcees are destined to hellfire and brimstone according to billboards up and down I-44 into Missouri. A woman without custody of her children is seen as a bad mother. Folks seen going into the liquor store, bar or casino on Saturday are looked down upon when they walk through the church doors, maybe in search of love and acceptance and a place they feel welcomed. The pregnant teenager is automatically a slut. A fat person is automatically dirty and lazy. A homeless person is deemed a drug addict. 

What happened to grace? Mercy? ........................ or what about love? 

The above-mentioned "Jesus, Friend of Sinners" also has a line that resounds through my head almost continually and has even louder since I started reading the Chick-fil-A stuff:

"Nobody knows what we're for, only what we're against when we judge the wounded. But if we put down the signs, cross over the line and love like You did..." 

Does anyone know or care what Dan Cathy is for? Or only what he is against? Right now, it would seem they only want to focus on the negative. He's probably a really okay guy. But he might punch kitten as a hobby. But see? I don't know him and I can't judge him. 

This girl has it down. She is quite a young lady. 

I am tired of seeing those I love judged, those I don't know judged or being judged myself. And please don't misinterpret my post today: I am not perfect. As a human, I find myself lapsing into judgment. It's that pesky sin thing. 

How many of us have hit the lock button on the car door when we stop at a stop light and see a man holding a cardboard that says, "Out of Work - Need Help". I've done it. You might have, too. Or maybe we give a disproving look to the woman taking a long time in the checkout lane because she has WIC vouchers or a food stamp card. Perhaps that exhausted mother with the young toddler currently throwing a humdinger of a fit in Walmart could really just use a word of encouragement rather than a look of judgment at her mothering skills. I want to be the person that gives that needed help, that smile, that encouragement. I'm trying. I want so badly to just love 'em like God does. Everyone. 

It's not my job to judge you, but it is my job to love you. And I'm taking my job seriously. I'm dropping my stones. I don't want to throw them. I can't. 

"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor." ~~ Matthew 7:1-5 (The Message)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dealin' for Some Wheels

Back in September of last year I wrote a post about our desperate need for a new van. Well, apparently it wasn't so "desperate" because it took us 10 months to take the plunge.

Yes, we finally bought a new-to-us van.


Oh, don't get me wrong - it's lovely! Seriously, very lovely. I just hate change.

I had become quite attached to my Inferno Red van with a dent in the back and the fact it wore that coating of red dirt like a champ. I was used to the noise the heater vents made, the fact that the perfect setting on the AC no longer worked so you either blasted it on "Arctic" or "Not Quite Enough to Keep Me From Sweating" and the fact that the passenger side front door lock only worked about 34% of the time. I was very recognizable in my red van. I liked the sense of persona it gave me. And apparently, so did all of Ottawa County because now....NO ONE KNOWS ME. I honk and wave and people are like, "Oh, great, some crazy is waving at me again." I like being recognized. Let's face it, I'm kind of curmudgeonly most of the time, so if I decide to be friendly enough to wave at you, I'd like to be recognized for doing it.

My own mother still doesn't register that it's me when I drive into her driveway.

We're still waiting on a title (giant red tape issue with the car lot and the previous lien holder), so right now I'm still sporting what appears to be no tag at all (the dealer tag is on the inside and the back window is so tinted it's un-seeable) (which, as a side note, makes me appear to be a soccer-mom-van-driving methamphetamine dealer) (which, now that I think about it, may be why no one recognizes me when I wave....apparently I am driving the far less cool version of the Batmobile). I think once I get my RDNKDVA vanity plate back in place I'll be a little more recognizable -- at least to those behind me.

 This was our very first experience paying cash for a vehicle. We are bigtime Dave Ramsey fans and agree that car debt is unacceptable debt. We have been debt-free for many, many moons now and had no intention of changing that. We had a budget in our heads (actually, we had cash in our hands) and knew what we wanted. We also knew, that the right vehicle was out there - we just hand to find her. We were armed with Dave's advice to flash the cash and let the power take hold. We soon learned that the power of cash is better utilized at small, mom and pop car lots. Big dealerships don't like cash sales because they make no money on the financing. The flashing of the cash bit us on the hiney a few times before we learned this and just kept our mouths shut.

We really like the size of a mini-van, but the fact they sit so low to the ground is an issue out here in our seldom-graded dirt road. We considered going up to an SUV, but would lose the gas mileage a van gave us. Paul scoured the internets for the perfect vehicle, sometimes staying up to 2am on his quest. (He's a bit obsessive, bless his heart.) I am a very literal person and seeing a vehicle in a picture just doesn't do it for me. He would research and research and then show me a picture and then want to punch a baby when I'd say, "Okay, cool, let's go look at it in person." It meant nothing to me in that flat picture on the screen. I want to look, feel, touch, smell, etc. Yeah, I'm weird.

Our first visit was to the Chevy dealership in town. He had a Town & Country van, but wanted nearly $30k for it. He had a Yukon, but it had $150k miles. He had a b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l Suburban that had e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g we wanted, though. We drove it. We loved it. We wanted it. He let us take it overnight.

We never got it to register over 10.1 mpg.

Yeah. That wasn't cool.

After arguing with another salesman over the fact that the GMAC website said we'd get 18 mpg and I repeatedly told him, "Okay, prove it. Show me. Make it happen on the dashboard readout and we will buy this vehicle today," we bid adieu to the beautiful behemoth and moved on.

A dealership website in Kansas showed a pretty Inferno Red Town & Country on their website. Paul called them and asked if it was on THAT LOT and they assured him it was. He made an appointment for us to see it at 2pm. At 1:45 we arrived at the lot to find that the van was not there, was on its way down from Kansas City and would be there by 5pm. We didn't have that much time and the next week was church camp, but we said we'd be back the following Saturday. We called the next Friday only to be told that the vehicle still hadn't made it to the lot (funny...I guess I had a different idea in my head as to what "ON THE WAY" means...), but would be there the next morning. We called the next morning. Still wasn't there. We told them to sell that van to someone else because apparently if they couldn't even give us a straight story on the whereabouts of the vehicle, we were pretty sure they wouldn't give us a straight story on anything else.

I was angry.

Paul was frustrated.

We ended up at a Kia dealership that afternoon. We told him our budget and what we wanted out of our van. He showed us a lovely Borrego and assured us the price was in our range and hey, it was the last day of the month and his boss was in a dealing mood. We drove it. We loved it. We wanted it.

He went to his good-natured, wheeling and dealing boss and came back with a "deal" of $19,500. I laughed. Loudly and borderline manically. I thought Paul was going to break a tooth or seven because his jaw was so clenched. I then told the salesman he was insulting and had wasted two hours of our time and that he could take his Borrego and his "deal" and just sit on it. We walked out. Mad. Then the guy called me three times a day for the next week. He was skeevy.

The next day Paul found a Chrysler Pacifica and a Town & Country at a dealership in Aurora, MO, an hour and a half from home. Both had decent miles and the price was right. The Pacifica sold within hours of him finding it, but the T&C remained. He spoke to a salesman, got a few more details, told him we'd be up there the next day and then we prayed. He took off work early and we gathered up our three kids, my niece and nephew and headed for the Show Me State. We drove it. We loved it. The passenger sliding door didn't work quite right. We addressed that. The salesman offered to fix it, but it might take two weeks. We told him we'd take it off the lot right then, the way it was, for a discount. He talked to his mechanic. He knocked $1000 off. We wheeled. We dealed. We offered. he counter-offered, Paul was enjoying the game, my blood pressure was nearly at stroke range.

But we got it. Paid cash. That felt really awesome.

It has leather, Stow & Go seats, a six-disc DVD player (we drove to Tulsa on Tuesday to The Aristocats and ran errands yesterday to Tangled), an on-board navigation system (that is nowhere as user-friendly as the Garman) and is a lovely mix of Cornflower and Sapphire blue. She rides like buttah, y'all.

And she wears that fine coating of red dirt pretty well. For a city girl.

Monday, July 09, 2012

An Interesting Conversation

This morning I had Bug, Sam and my nephew, G, in the van, heading home from dropping the big girls off at summer *scrapbooking/chastity training.

As we were driving we met a car where the driver was obviously texting. I said that statement aloud and added, "Or else he was just really studying his crotch." As is pretty typical with 10 to 13 year old, the word "crotch" and the thought of someone studying one sent the three of them into ridiculous laughter.

As the giggling stopped, Bug, in a teeny tiny voice, said, "Well, hello there, little fella," sending everyone into fits of laughter again. G countered with, "No, no, it's 'Hey, howya doin' there, big guy?'" in a giant, deep voice. Again, laughter.

The following are other one-liners that ensued, most of them nearly causing me to get pulled over for reckless driving:

"How YOU doin'" a la Joey from "Friends"

"Haven't seen you up and around lately."

"Nice hat you're wearing."

"Nice mullet."

"Hey, did you get a haircut?"

"I didn't know you were Jewish!"

"Nice beard, dude."

"Uhm....did you know you're a penis?"

Yeah. It was quite a ride home.


*Scrapbooking/Chastity Training: The county puts on WISE UP to teach 6th graders how to make smart choices regarding sex and relationships. Our county has a really great gal that has taken it further and really invested in the girls. She stays with them past 6th grade and does a book club with them during the school year and scrapbooking in the summer. Paul and I jokingly call it "Chastity Training". Today after scrapbooking they are actually going to watch MTV's "16 and Pregnant" then meet the couple from Miami that was on the show this past season. I hope it serves as cautionary. Not glamorous. I expect them to come home depressed.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Commencement Address

Last night was our oldest daughter's FFA awards banquet. As I sat at the table, picking at the plastic tablecloth, engaging in a game of "surreptitiously throw the FFA-themed confetti" at my husband and Abby's friend across the table, (Yo, Antonio. Whassup.) I listened to the keynote speaker, a fellow Okie who gratiously accepted the request to speak when the original speaker fell through. He was engaging and told stories of his three daughters, especially the middle child named Addison whom he declared was a terrorist. The audienced laughed at his stories of his daughters' shenanigans and how little Addison's sweet prayer included thanking God for the day, the world and polka dots. Of course, I egotistically thought, "Hmh. I could totally do what he's doing right now. I can motivate people." Then I remembered that sometimes my motivation methods border on drill sergeant. (Our youth group is babysitting for donations next weekend and one of the girls asked what they would do if some of the kids just wouldn't behave. They were worried there would be discipline problems. I looked at her and said, "They might not be afraid of you, but sweetie, do you think they're going to have a problem listening to me?" She shook her head and said, "Okay, no problems there then. We're good to go.")

But still, I continued to think, "If I were asked to address a group of students or - dare I dream? - a graduating class, what would I tell them?"

So without further ado, I present to you my

Address to the Graduating Class of 2012

Hey ya'll! Thank you for asking me to come here tonight and impart upon you my words of wisdom. I am not famous or a millionaire. I can't brag to you about how I was a finalist on American Idol or how I got kicked off of The Biggest Loser for being a big loser and not being a big loser. I'll let that one sink in a minute. I have never climbed a mountain or swam an ocean, I didn't save a litter of puppies from a burning building nor have a video of me pathetically playing "Just Dance" go viral on YouTube. However, I have accomplished a thing or two in my 39 years here on this earth. If you'll indulge me, I promise I won't take too much of your time and then we'll get to the real reason we're all here -- to see the fruits of the labor of 13 or 14 years of education (15 or 16 for some of you, bless your hearts) pay off and walk across that stage, flip that tassel to the other side and smile pretty for the camera.

The first and most important piece of wisdom I can give you tonight is to keep God first. Always. Of course, you are going to make mistakes. That's a total given. Some of you will make more than others, some of you will make bigger ones than others and some of you are just flat-out gonna hit rock bottom. But if you will keep your eyes and your heart on God, the lessons seem easier to learn and the bounce-back time is infinitely quicker. If you'll let Him, He's a really awesome navigator. Pray. The Bible says to do it "without ceasing". Take that to heart. Pray with your boyfriend, girlfriend, parents, friends, siblings, spouse, your children and your pastor. God loves to hear from you. He never gets tired of hearing your heart.

Secondly, wear sunscreen. A few years after I graduated Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich wrote a list of things she wanted all of us to know as we grew older. Wearing sunscreen was the first thing on the list. I wholeheartedly agree. That tan that looks so hawt (with an "aw" not an "o") now will only age you. And quickly. And trust me, when you get to the ripe ol' age of 39 you do not need help with that. If you just have to look sun-baked, spray it on. I personally find nothing wrong with the marshmallow look. They say tan fat looks better than white fat, but folks, fat is fat. It's alllllll fat. It might as well be cancer-free fat. I mean, if you have the choice. And you kinda do.

That boyfriend? That girlfriend? The one you look all googly-eyed at right now? The one you cut your hair for or didn't cut your hair for? The one who kept you from going to Prom with a friend because she was jealous? The one who said it's okay for you to give him your virginity because he's "pretty sure" he's going to marry you? Yeah, that one? won't marry him or her. I'm not here to bust your bubble and make you doubt your relationship. I'm really not. And yes, there are high school sweethearts all over the place. Those are wonderful, time-tested relationships and I love hearing those stories. But don't be so quick to give it all up, change yourself and compromise because of a "promise" made at 17. I hope it all works out for you googly-eyed love-stricken weirdos. But if it doesn't, I don't want you to have regrets. If you do go on and get married, there is plenty of time to compromise and grow with that person. Just don't do it all too soon, right now, while you can't even vote or buy alcohol.

Be an individual. Some of you have cornered the market on individuality already. I applaud you. It takes true guts to stand out. The crowd says do one thing, the majority wants to rule you and you, with the blue-streaked hair, the all black clothing, the t-shirts that only make sense to other scientifically-minded folks like yourself *cough cough nerds*, the comic book afficionado, the one who simply says "No." when peer pressure closes in, you are the leaders of tomorrow. Yes, you will likely be labeled weird, maybe your already have been. Yes, you will be given some strange looks, you may already. No, you may not have been student body president, the most popular girl in school, the jock who has girls melting at his feet, but you already have this amazing potential to swim upstream, to think outside the box and to get it done in your own way. Please don't conform. Yes, you eventually have to get responsible and get a job and be all mature and stuff, but find ways to stay an individual without becoming a minion.

Hug your mom. Kiss your dad. I mean it. You are really not that cool anyway, so go ahead and just love on them. When you reach middle adulthood and suddenly look at your parents - I mean, really look at your parents - and yank your head out of your own daily battle with your own gray hairs, you realize that they lost that battle and have suddenly aged beyond your realizations, you will suddenly understand that hugs and kisses lost can never be regained. Video and audio record them talking. Please trust me on this. Right now you love them, I know y'all do, but maybe you feel like they harsh your ever-present mellow, suck the fun from every cool thing you want to experience and expect too much out of you - I totally remember feeling that way. But now I have been magically transformed into a parent myself and woah, it's heavy stuff. I find myself a mellow-harsher on a daily basis. It's a parent's job. Cut them some slack. Remember this commencement address because trust me, in a few years you'll be a gray-headed fun-sucker like the rest of us.

If you discover you have a talent or a knack for something, do it. Whether it's writing, painting, clog dancing, basket weaving, mime, baking or gluing googly eyes on rocks and selling them out of the trunk of your car, do it with all that you have in you. One of my very favorite quotes is from Erma Bombeck. She said, "When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me." Use everything you are given and make it fabulous.

Your siblings are priceless. I used to slap the ever-lovin' snot out of my little sister on a regular basis. She used to annoy the ever-lovin' snot right outta me with even more regularity than the whoopings I gave her. Then suddenly, magically, nearly overnight, we became best friends. Our mother used to cry, wondering what she had done to make us hate each other so much, thinking she had done something wrong while she was pregnant with us, maybe scrubbing the kitchen floor with straight bleach had warped something in our fetal brains that killed all desire to love our sibling in the future. I can't tell you why we fought. I can't tell you why your little brother sticks his plastic rat in your makeup case or why your little sister hacks into your Facebook page to write embarrassing status updates. All I know is that someday you will appreciate them. You might as well start now.

Learn how to use commas correctly. If this is something you didn't master here in High School, please pay extra attention to your Freshman Comp teacher in college.

Please stay active. I'm not saying you have to become marathon runners. I still hold to my strict rule that I do not run unless there are zombies chasing me. However, I'm finding that the first 10 pounds I used to be able to lose by simply cutting back are infinitely more stubborn as I age. And we won't even discuss the other pounds that have taken up what appears to be permanent residence. Walk. Do Zumba. Play "Just Dance" with your kids. Heck, a good game of Duck, Duck, Goose will suffice when your kids are on preschool playdates. Not all of us are cut out to be Victoria's Secret models, but even if you're one of the chunky who will never be as thin as society would like, at least be a healthy chunky. You have one heart. I mean, literally ONE beating heart. They don't just sell those on street corners. Well, I guess they might, but you never know where those have been.

And finally, look around at the classmates sitting here in these seats close to you. Please know that those around you right here today, here in your present, might not be part of your future. And that's okay. They are here now because they are supposed to be. They may not be later -- because they aren't supposed to. Being popular isn't as important at 35 as it is at 18. There were nine of us that ran together our Senior year, a mixture of five guys, four girls. We thought we owned those halls and no one was allowed on "our" front steps of the school. We were big, bad and ooooh so popular. I rarely speak to any of them now 21 years later. However, I can tell you that I have three friends who spent many a night at my house and I at theirs in elementary school and Junior High. We forged indelible friendships that have literally stood the test of time. I look back at the pictures of us in our Brownie uniforms and the silly ones of us dressing up at slumber parties and compare them to the ones of the "cool kids" I ran with as we got older and I can say that these girls - these women - are indeed true friends. I only regret ditching them for a brief run at the popularity I so desired, abandoning my innate desire to be an individual. So I guess what I'm saying is keep the ones who want to be kept. Let the others go. Don't lose sleep over it or wonder if you did something wrong. You didn't. You're going to change as you get older. Strangely enough, they will, too.

Congratulations, graduates. You've got a life ahead of you, each and every one of you. Some will be easy lives. Some will be hard. Some will be nothing but happy. Some will be laced with sorrow and hardship. Some will be a roller coaster ride of infinite proportions. Some will simply be leisurely Sunday drives down back country roads. But here's the thing, yours is yours. You do with it as you please. Don't let anyone live it for you and in turn, don't try to live someone else's. Be you. Be amazing. Be true. Be fabulous.

I wish you nothing but the best. God bless.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012


Bug: Mom, I don't get the saying "The sky's the limit". I mean, what if I want to go higher than the sky???

Me: Well, the sky doesn't really have an ending. It just goes on forever, like into space and then further. So the sky doesn't have a limit and neither do you! You can just go as high as you want!

Bug: Well, until you die.

Me: Huh?

Bug: Well, after you leave Earth's atmosphere you can't breathe and eventually you'll die. So the sky does have a limit. A limited supply of oxygen.

Monday, April 30, 2012

End Of Days

I'm chilling in the recliner on this gloriously cloudy morning and got this crazy, itinerant urge to write. However, I am way too comfy (read: lazy) to get up and get the laptop, so writing in the iPad it is. Which means this will be a short post because typing on this thing makes me a wee bit stabby sometimes.

(By the way, honey, for Mother's Day I would really like a keyboard for the iPad.)

(And some Poppy Flower perfume by Coach.)

(I'll be happy with just the keyboard - I don't want you to have to get a second job just to buy the perfume.)

The kids are down to their last two weeks of school and I am down to my last two weeks of babysitting. I have mixed feelings about all of it.

This is the end of Abby's Freshman year, Sam's 7th grade year and Bug's 4th grade year. This is also their last year of public school. Yes, we are going to be homeschoolers next year -- a thought that both exhilarates, excites and scares the poop right outta me all all the same time. More than anything, the excitement is what reigns supreme - which is good, since having the poop scared out of oneself on a regular basis isn't desirable. For most of us. Who are normal.

About two years ago Paul and I both felt like homeschooling was in our future, but we didn't feel like we were ready to take the plunge. The desire was there, the commitment and confidence were not. We both felt like God wanted us to pray about it, but not act on it. There is currently another issue we feel urged to pray over, but not act in yet as well. Is God looking for obedience? Is He just prepping us? Making the way ready? I have no idea. We felt that way about homeschooling as well -- like that maybe it would never pan out, but yet we prayed. That is hard for me - to feel led one way, but to be told to wait. I'm a bit of a control freak. (Those who know me best are nodding right now.)

And then, what had been obstacles during these past two years of praying were just removed one at a time this year. When one would be taken care of my prayers would ask "Now?" Like a child who wants out of the car on a long road trip, I'd ask, "Are we there yet?" and the answer was still.....wait.

So we did. Then suddenly, there it was.......go.

And we did.

There remains one more "obstacle", which in the grand scheme of things is very minor, and God has given us peace about it - and permission to move ahead. So we are.

This week I will write and deliver the withdrawal letters to both principals and will probably cry when I hand over the one to the elementary principal. (The woman is amazing and worthy of admiration for her relationships with the kids and her constant work in making the elementary succeed.) This is the end of a 10 year relationship with Fairland Public School and of course, there's some sadness. Yet I can't help but get 27 kinds of excited at the same time.

And now that stabby feeling is coming over me because of typing on this minuscule on-screen keyboard and Conner just asked me to play Littlest Pet Shop with him. And since he's only mine for a few more weeks....I'm more than happy to.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Since right now all three kids are on antibiotics -- one for a sinus infection, one for strep and one for an upper respiratory infection -- and one of those kids is also on Tamiflu for....well, the flu, Kady decided we needed one or 26 of these:

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Back in the Spring our pup Little Joe met with an early demise via school bus. It was a horrific experience seeing as how our two youngest kids witnessed the whole tragic ordeal. After that awful business we solemnly and vehemently declared we would never have another dog again, or at least not have one we liked so much. And trust me, we have had our share of unlikeable dogs around here, so we figured the chances of getting another miscreant mutt was highly likely.

And then Paul's brother called one night and said his female German Shepherd was on the nest and offered us pick of the litter. He said they'd be born around the end of June and we could come get ours six weeks later. While I've always thought German Shepherds are beautiful dogs, I didn't have high hopes for liking one or welcoming it into our family. I figured it would be just another dog, something to feed and then leave us gigantic dinner-plate-sized piles of poo in the yard. I was less than excited.

But the kids were thrilled and not a week went by through the spring they didn't inquire about the puppies. We received a call when they were born which only served to up the anticipation level by oh....about six hundred and thirty seven gazillion. Then lo and behold the blessed day came when the brother-in-law called and said, "Come get your dadgum (okay, he didn't say "dadgum", but you can probably insert any expletive and it would be close to correct) dog. There are a bunch of 'em and they won't stay in the pen anymore." Squeals from three kids promptly ensued. Paul probably squealed inside. I was less than excited.

My brother-in-law's dogs are vicious animals. The male, so large and so mean, he has to be kept on a logging chain. Yes, I said logging chain. A mere dog chain will not hold the beast. The female is mean, but less so. The puppies had to be carefully procured by my brother-in-law and brought to us, two at a time, to cuddle and partake of their cuddly, fluffy, skunk-breathed puppy-ness. The kids narrowed it down to four. Then three. Then two. And two is where we stayed. So with a sigh I said, "Okay, fine....take them both," while thinking Lovely. More elephant-sized piles of poo to keep Conner from stepping in. We labored over names for days and eventually settled on Boo for the female (after Boo in Monsters Inc)  and Bolt (from well, Bolt). Yes, we Disneyed our dogs.

Bolt didn't come off the porch for four days. He cowered in the corner by the front door and wouldn't eat, would barely drink, it was awful. Boo, however, would nearly mow you over with skunky kisses and whines all while piddling at your feet. Finally, Bolt came around and while he's still the more calm and collected of the two, his sister still remains highly neurotic and extremely rambunctious. She has literally sat on her brother's head to keep me from petting him and has on more than one occasion nipped just a little harder than I'm sure she intended in a fit of jealousness. She has, fortunately, stopped piddling at our feet. That's a blessing.

I'm afraid we've become the pet owners who will defiantly and adamantly defend the honor of the breed of their choice. Pit Bull owners say it's not the breed, it's the owner and the care. Rotweillers will say the same. Chihuahua owners will say the same, too, but folks, we all know those dogs are just a half a bubble off plumb and there is no fixing those overgrown mice. (I kid, I kid. Please don't send me hate mail. I've known one really cool Chihuahua. He wears an elf outfit around Christmas time. Any dog that can pull that off has my admiration.) But yes, we defend our Shepherds and their precious demeanors. Yes, their parents are nasty and mean, but heck, there are a lot of people I know who have nasty parents and we don't keep those folks on a logging chain just because their parents need a swift kick to the tail end. We have never hit our dogs and their faithfulness and loyalty reflects that. Well, we're still trying to convince them that pooping that close to the front door doesn't make friends with their human counterparts.

I guess what I'm trying to say with this whole post is this: We have fallen head over stinkin' heels in love with those dadgum dogs. There. I said it. We love them. *sigh*

Wednesday we took them to the vet to be fixed. Paul had to build a giant dog box for the back of the truck because they are the size of small Tyrannosaurus Rex. This dog box looks like we should just strap ol' Granny Clampet to the top and take off for Bev-er-ly. Hills, that is. I told him it might have been a bit much considering if he had built it in town we'd have needed a zoning permit for it. His justification was that now they have one seriously cool dog house for the back yard. Kady asked if she could have it for a playhouse. It's that big. We looked ridiculous driving to the vet and I was just glad we brought them after general business hours and no one we knew saw us.

They cried when we left them. We cried, too. Well, at least Kady and I did because we adhere to Truvy's strict policy of "No one cries alone in my presence" and we apply it to dogs as well. I called Paul for something on Thursday and in the conversation asked if he was having a good day. He sighed and said, "Yeah, I was just sitting here thinking about Boo and Bolt. Do you think they're okay?" We're all so dang smitten it's ridiculous.

Thursday they came home, minus a few gonads and happy to see their people. Bolt immediately attacked a cat and announced his presence on the place by peeing on every tree and blade of grass with 100 yards. Boo, who had a hernia repair on top of it all, was a little less than rambunctious. She's still hobbling around today and the vet said she'll take awhile longer to heal. I did, however, lure her out of her barrel with a slice of pepperoni pizza yesterday, so I have no doubt she'll be back to normal in no time, terrorizing cats and sitting on her brother's head to keep us from possibly loving him more than her. Note to self: Call vet about puppy Prozac.

Kady, Bolt, Abby, Sam and Boo
November 2011

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Very Scary Valentine

Okay, so we just survived yet another Valentine's Day once again. In the past, I have spent the few weeks prior to this not-so-momentous day in a funk of epic proportions, grumbling about love and romance and resisting the urge to shoot arrows (and not the cute kind that cherubims are often depicted as carrying around to lob at big pink puffy hearts, but real live broadhead, deer killing arrows) at real hearts (the organs, not the symbol), but for some reason this year I didn't. 

This year I was almost nice. Maybe even radiated with happy. It was kind of disgusting. 

I have never, ever, EVER liked Valentine's Day. As a kid, it was merely another day to have a school party and eat more chocolate and junk, as evidenced by my prepubescent pictures in which I was a bit on the chunky side. I loved me some cupcakes back then. Oh, who am I kidding, I love me some cupcakes now. As evidenced by my adult pictures.

I guess I was a cynic early on. As a child it never excited me to spend Valentine's Day getting little slips of paper from kids who taunted me and called me names on the school bus and on the playground, yet their pre-printed messages of love insisted they'd "Choo-choo-choooooose me" and that they'd "Love me owl-ways." Sorry, buddy. I ain't buyin' what you're sellin'. Your momma made you write that out and I know that to be the truth because I was forced by my momma to write one out to you, too, big guy. As I got older and infinitely more boy crazy, yet still painfully dorky, I only ended up with my hopes dashed catastrophically every stinkin' year. I had a propensity to crush on guys so far out of my league there was no realistic hope, even though my heart told me we would overcome all odds. It didn't matter to my silly 13-year-old heart that it would have been highly illegal for my 7th grade math teacher, Mr. Spencer, to leave his young wife, steal me away in the middle of the night so we could run away together and be magically, mystically in love and probably even French kiss. I just got my hopes dashed when he didn't steal me away -- and gave me a C on the test we'd taken just days before.

As a 16 year old, having a boyfriend was going to for sure make things better, I just knew it. Having a solid, steady boyfriend to regularly hold hands with and kiss and whisper mushy, gushy things in my ear, write me notes, spend hours and hours with on the phone and write our names together over and over on every piece of paper I came in contact with was going to make Valentine's Day a total turnaround for me. The groundwork was laid already. He knew my likes, dislikes, phobias and dreams. He knew what my ideal Valentine's Day would be (well, minus the statutory rape charges involved in that 7th grade math teacher fantasy) and he was surely going to deliver. I was a bit on the emo side back then, wearing lots of black and writing dark poetry even on my happiest of days. I didn't want anything traditional. I wanted weird and odd and possibly a little macabre. I envisioned black roses and maybe a new black eyeliner pencil.

He gave me a box of chocolates. And a red rose.

I hate roses. And boxed chocolates were offensive to my desire to buck the norm. The embodied everything I abhorred about romance and love and ugh...Valentine's Day.

I cried that year, too. Probably harder than I had in any previous year.

From then on I loudly and defiantly declared that soul mates didn't exist, true love was a fantasy and romance was a farce. Oh, we didn't break up and I still really liked him -- I just hardened myself to any more heart ache via a trumped-up commercialized "holiday" that was no more a holiday than I was a bikini model.

And then I got married. Our first Valentine's Day we were broke. As in, we had no money. We were madly in love, young and stupid, only recently employed after an unexpected lay-off and very new to the whole marriage thing. We had been married all of 45 days on our first Valentine's Day. That morning I woke him up as usual at 4am, fixed his lunch, kissed his adorable little face and sent him on his way. I spent the day cleaning house and doing laundry and basking in the glow of our new love. I knew that there would be no flowers or chocolates or jewelry and I was okay with that. I set about making as romantic a dinner as I could with a pound of ground beef, commodity cheese and a loaf of Wonder bought off the bargain rack at the bread store. 

He hopped out of his truck that evening, lunch bucket in hand, a smile on his face. He must've really missed me! I opened the back door for him and he kissed me like he meant it. Then he said, "Here, baby. I got you something!" as he fumbled around with his lunch bucket. He excitedly pulled out a jewelry box and I immediately began with the protests. "But we don't have any money!" I exclaimed and he said, "You're right! We really don't -- I spent my whole check on this for you because I want you to be my Valentine." He was barely 30 years old, looked barely 20, and he was so excited for me to open that little felted box. Standing there in the entryway of our living room, I opened up the most beautiful heart necklace ever made. I immediately began bawling like a baby.

The tears were partially because he had just announced that he had spent every penny of our money for that week on a necklace for me and I had no idea how we were going to pay the bills due that week. But the tears were mainly because he had done that for me. Me! The one he loved. The one he had abandoned a life of confirmed bachelor-hood for. The one he had given up Crest toothpaste for when I told him I would never brush my teeth with that nasty blue stuff and would only use Colgate. The one he stayed up late playing Super Mario Brothers with until 4am on more than one occasion even though the game made him cuss and throw the controller. The one he had said "I do" to a month and a half before.

I still have that necklace and the girls wear it every now and then on special occasions. I'm not much of a necklace wearer these days. I got out of the habit when our little family of two began growing to three, then four, then -- surprise! -- five. I got tired of being choked by curious little fingers wrapped in gold chain. Since that first Valentine's Day back in 1993 he has given me a  few more pieces of jewelry, three amazing kids and a few minivans. He bought me a house, has become a better husband (I'd like to think I'm a better wife), an incredible daddy and a true man of God. He puts up with my moodiness, my obsessive-compulsive need to alphabetize the canned goods in our pantry, he taught me how to make gravy (because my first attempts were pretty bad) and lets me put my cold feet on his legs even though it makes him jump at first. We've weathered great loss, experienced great joy, found our version of comfortable romance, passion and enduring love, nearly called it quits and found our way back.

This year, as in many many years past, there weren't any mushy gushy cards or boxes of chocolates exchanged at Diva Ranch. I made a pan of Slutty Brownies, we kind of snacked around for dinner and spent the evening huddled on the couch watching recorded episodes of "American Horror Story." We don't get too excited over this not-holiday around our place and I don't see that changing. We'll forego a romantic comedy any day for a good old fashioned ghost story. Because that's just how we are. We aren't fancy and we like it like that. While Abby and Sam each have a “love interest” (and Abby's gainfully employed boyfriend gave her some mushy gushy roses and a giant stuffed dog I'm pretty sure we'll have to claim on our taxes next year because it's as tall as a preschooler and she takes it everywhere with her), we're trying really hard to keep our kids from buying into ridiculous notions of store-bought romance by just being together, doing what we like and scaring the poop out of ourselves while eating some of the most amazing brownies on the planet.  

Some may call that boring. Some may call us jaded. Some may call it weird.

We just call it love.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Sleep Credit

Several years ago my mom sent my sister and me to Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. While it's normally attended by married couples who want to drastically change the way they utilize money in their household, thus changing their lives, neither of our husbands were up to the challenge at the time, so we two sisters went as a couple. I was doubtful I could impact our finances, seeing as how he wasn't attending the life-changing course with me and frankly, wasn't a supportive spouse in much of anything at that time, (I don't think he minds me saying that, either - he is fully aware of what a jackwagon he used to be.) but I went and I went hopefully.

It's a nine week course. By week four I had paid such close attention to what Dave had to say about the horrible decisions we had made and were making at the time that I had managed to spark a fire under Paul and we elminated $11,000 in debt by week five. We were selling things right and left - two boats (one big, one small, neither used anymore), furniture, knick knacks, clothes, several large pieces of junk and the kids were completely convinced they were next. We got all up in the "envelope system" and I proudly cut up five credit cards in front of the class during week five. My sister cut up 11.

After one serious mess-up two years later where I got a credit card unbeknownst to my husband and quickly ran up a large chunk of totally unacceptable debt, I 'fessed up to Paul, asked for forgiveness and he forgave. Whew. I got a part-time job to start paying off my mistake and within that year we were once again sans credit cards. The following winter we paid off my van and officially became debt-free.


I felt good. I mean good. So good that the thought of a van payment now makes me nauseous. Had we been paying ourselves first (as Dave Ramsey advises) these past few years, buying a new van this spring wouldn't be a nauseating event and we'd be able to throw some cash around at the dealership and walk out with a new-to-us van and still no debt. However, we haven't exactly been paying ourselves. Heck, we've had a hard enough time paying the electric bill and phone bill this past year, so yeah, we just slacked. We will likely have a van payment in the next month or two, much to my chagrin.

I'm a born and raised Baptist. Tithing could easily be in any infant Baptist's early vocabulary, - right after "mama" and "dada" comes "tithe". It's usually preached from the pulpit and preached HARD. The Bible tells us to give 10%. Most people limit that to money, but I've since learned we're also required to give 10% of our time and talents as well. Yes, really. Not only should we give that 10% right off the top of the ol' paycheck, we should also be giving 2.4 hours of a 24 hour day to God. Along with 10% of our talents. Most of us don't. We may get the money thing down and forget the time and talents altogether. Or maybe it's easier for you to volunteer and pitch in rather than write that check. Regardless of where you fall, none of us do it like we should. I get the money one down well and time gets about half-billing. Talents? I fail.

NOTE: I am not preaching nor judging, let me just say that outright, right here and now. This is my blog and I'm saying it how I feel. I'm not belittling or chiding, rebuking or scolding anyone. Hey, after my prolonged absences, you might wanna take what you're getting. :) I am merely writing today what God has put on my heart to write. Read it, maybe ponder it and either digest or spit out. Your choice.

Before we moved out here to Diva Ranch we bought a new bedroom suite. Bed, dresser, chest, nightstands and new mattress/box springs combo. We crammed all that gigantic furniture into our itty bitty bedroom in our 800 square foot house in town and we were happy. We moved out here to a bigger house where our bedroom furniture fit better and we were happy. Then I got pregnant. We both gained weight. We both started getting older. Suddenly our mattress seemed to have one goal in mind - to kill us in our sleep by way of our spines. One quick mention of the demon mattress and a friend offered to give us one that was just sitting in storage. We took it with many thanks and it was a fine mattress. It's still a fine mattress. It's a Serta and is in great shape, but it is just not the mattress for us. Have I mentioned we're old and fat?

We started researching mattresses and were intrigued by the Sleep Number beds, but seeing as how we are snugglers and sleep side-by-side, touching, all night long, one of us would be sleeping on that hump in the middle and we aren't anxious to give up the snuggling, even for a good night's sleep. And, just a hunch here, but I'm pretty sure I would end up being the one on the demilitarized zone hump while Paul snoozed away in his sleep number-y paradise. And I might end up bitter. And grumpy. And no one wants me any grumpier than I already am.

So then we looked into the Tempur Pedic beds, but started hearing that they sleep hot and seeing as how I'm on that slippery slope to menopause and hot flashes and night sweats are some of my closest companions these days, I wasn't anxious to sleep on a bed I knew was going to raise my body temp by 452*. We decided to try a memory foam topper, around 4" deep, to see if we liked the foam. We figured even if we had to spend $100 or so, it was better than dropping a few thousand then discovering I was at a dangerously high risk of nocturnal sponataneous combustion. None of the Walmarts we visited had Queen sized toppers and on a whim we wheeled into the furniture store next to Walmart that had a gigantic banner plastered to the outside of the buildling advertising their Tempur Pedics. The salesperson immediately told us the horrors of foam toppers (and that they didn't carry them anyway, which he said with obvious disdain and disgust) and convinced us to try a full memory foam mattress. Lying on those Serta memory foam mattresses was just a gateway rest that led straight to the real Tempur Pedic mattresses. We should have known.

We laid on all three Tempur Pedics and the middle-of-the-road in firmness and price was the one we loved. He quoted us a price and offered us interest-free financing through 2013. We conferred and decided to finance it and pay it off with our income tax return. That wasn't necessarily a Dave Ramsey-esque line of thinking, but it worked in our minds. The salesman said he could give us a yes or no on financing in 7 minutes, so we filled out the necessary forms and then we waited. I prayed while we waited. I prayed that if this was something we really weren't supposed to do - go into debt, albeit temporarily - that it wouldn't go through.

And sure enough, we were denied. Paul was embarrassed. Especially after the salesman dismissed us rather rudely. Apparently, credit approval is how he bases the worthiness of humankind. I wasn't upset. I was disappointed, because that bed felt sooooooo good, but I also knew that God had a plan. Paul fumed all the way home from Joplin. He fussed over our dismissal and wondered at the reason we were denied. The next day I checked our credit. I couldn't get our score without paying, but I did check our credit and saw all the good and bad and ugly on the report. The credit cards were mostly good. Discover Card was bad. Bad bad bad bad BAD. But I knew that. Discover did some bad things for us and we to them. It got ugly. All of the vehicle loan accounts were reported good with no delinquencies.

When the letter came in the mail telling us why we were denied, we also got our credit score (for FREE  - so there's how to avoid that $14.95 fee to get it online. Just apply for credit and get denied!) and it's really pretty good. So why were we denied credit on that heavenly mattress?

Because we have had no recent accounts opened or closed.

Yessssssss. Success! We have successfully lived debt-free long enough to NOT HAVE ENOUGH CREDIT! We've had people tell us we're shooting ourselves in the foot by not having credit because then what if we need credit and can't get it? Well, we're counting on God to take care of us there. And we know He will. So there are no worries on our part regarding our credit - or lack thereof. Dave Ramsey has a credit score of zero. Ours will start going down and keep at it, this we know. We obeyed when God told us to live debt-free and now we are tithing and being blessed, we are saving up for the things we want and paying cash for them rather than using credit, we are trying very hard to truly have financial peace.

And a mere week after the denial letter came in the mail we got a phone call from a friend asking us if we'd like a memory foam mattress. For free. It's not a Tempur Pedic, but it's delightful and will hold us over until the time comes we have the cash to wheel and deal ourselves into a debt-free Tempur Pedic. And then? Man, are we gonna sleep easy.

We....the people

Originally published in The Miami News-Record, July 2020 Everything is different now. I’m not just talking about masks and social distancing...