Thursday, October 30, 2008


I have a very strict rule at our house.

If I make dinner and it's so bad that not even I can eat it, then the kids DON'T have to finish what's on their plate. I know it sounds tough, but that's just how it is around here.

With my husband out of town the past few weeks my cooking habits have grown a little, well, let's say, toastery. I mean, really. What's the point of slaving for an hour over a healthy meal full of green veggies and baked goodness when I know I will then have to suffer as I watch the kids grimace and moan, begging for a frozen pizza.

So, most of our meals lately have involved syrup.

Pancakes. Mini pancakes. Homemade waffles. Ego waffles. French toast. And French toaster sticks. It's quite the variety. I'm thinking of writing a cookbook, actually.

By last night, it seemed like we had syrup everywhere. On the table. The chairs. The homework folders. The spelling lists. All were syrupy.

And meat? After a meatless week, our skin was starting to look pale and thin.

"That's it! I'm making dinner," I decided.

So, I reached into the back of the cabinet and found the year-old box. Cheesy Chicken Noodle Bake by Campbell's. It has cheese, chicken and noodles. All ingredients my children love separately. Why not bake them all together?

What came out of the oven was sort of a slimy, chickeny, cheesy mess.

The kids tried the chicken. They tasted the noodles. They did their best.

Then, my 4-year-old daughter looked at my with a shy grin.

"Thank you, Mommy. It's not good."

I agreed. Tonight, we're going out for dinner.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

on the other side of the world

When I wake up in the morning, my husband has already lived the day I'm about to begin.

I make the kids breakfast, get everyone dressed, pack the lunch bags, and we are out the door for our morning commute to school. More than an hour later, I'm finally back home and ready to try to find him.

It's 8:30 a.m. here, which means it's 9:30 p.m. there.

I check my e-mail for a clue. Just a hint that all is well on the other side of the world.

What about Skype?

"User not online. Last seen at 10:27."

10:27? Does that mean a.m. or p.m.? Is that Central Standard Time, Pacific Time or Eastern? Or is it local time? And would that be Hong Kong standard? Or China central? 10:27. It sounds so simple. But what does it really mean?

Facebook. He actually updated his status. Not much. But at least I know he's there.

I might have missed my window of communication for today. Unless he's staying up late. The phone really isn't an option. Too expensive. I don't know what numbers to press anyway. So, I'll wait.

The day seems so long when I have that one little thing to tell him. "Honey, guess what?! I'm hosting Thanksgiving!" "Guess what?! Our son only missed two spelling words!" "Our daughter can write her name!"

It will have to wait until tonight. When we're scrambling to eat dinner, finishing homework, reading, changing into PJs. When he wakes up.

He said something about going on a trip to another province. Did he mean tomorrow, as in today? No... that can't be, because today it's night. It would have to be tonight when it's tomorrow.

The spatial distance is about as wide as the earth permits. Sure, he could go south. But he's pretty much on the opposite side of the globe. Still, the distance in time continues to grow. With each passing day, it feels like the hole in my heart separates a bit more. It becomes deeper. Wider. It seems too big to hide.

It's tempting to wish the days away. But wish away October? Beautiful October? We haven't even carved our pumpkins yet.

And what about our son's birthday? He'll be 8 when Daddy sees him again. Our anniversary? Eleven years. That's still 20 days away. He might be home by then. I hope.

Maybe if I just stay inside and do nothing, the time will rush by on its own. Maybe then it will go faster?

Or I can make the most of it. Choose to enjoy it. Yep. I'm thankful for today. Glad to have it. Right here. On this side of the world. Where it's today.

Friday, October 24, 2008

while you were sleeping

The following video is mainly for the benefit of my husband. Feel free to view at your own risk. It's not pretty.


I've been fighting a cold this week. The kids don't have school today, so I let them watch a movie while I took a nap. Just so you know, the movie was about David and Goliath.

When I woke up, this was what they were doing. I have to admire their creativity.

By the way, they have only seen Star Wars ONE time! But they were able to memorize the entire movie during that viewing and then they reinforce their memories by looking at coloring books, early readers and anything Star Wars related they can find.

Note that it's not just the youngest member of the family who thinks the word is "hykerspeed".

she thought she was running

"I saw this lady and she was actually walking," my 6-year-old said.

"She thought she was running. She was moving her arms like this," he said, pumping his arms.

"But she was actually walking."

Oh, honey. I'm sure a lot of 6 year olds have said the same thing about Mommy.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

back on solid ground

I decided I better update my blog quickly before some poor soul stumbled across my boy scout entry and assumed I was huddled on the floor holding my hands over my ears, screaming at the sound of my ringing phone.

As the saying goes, "Joy comes in the morning." And it's always true, isn't it?

I haven't fallen over the edge. I'm not struggling to keep my head afloat. I'm back up on solid ground, and the last day or so has been great!

I thought about deleting the evidence of my insanity. But I figured that wouldn't be fair. I think that breaks some rule of blogging. Once you have admitted online that you are a normal person, you have to just go with it. No deleting.

Anyway, we've had some visitors the past two days, which always brings excitement. I've whittled my to-do list down to about six items. Experts say you shouldn't have more than six items on your to-do list or you will feel so overwhelmed that you will slam the door in the face of little kids. And that's why they call them experts, I guess.

Today started out early. Everyone was up well before 6 a.m. Usually, this isn't my ideal start to the day. But this morning, instead of rushing everyone around reminding them to hurry up and put on socks, brush their teeth and find their jackets before my car pool buddy arrived, they were marching around with their cousin for a good hour shouting lines like, "TO THE MAGIC KINGDOM."

I'm going to see if I can find it, too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

survival mode

The phone kept ringing.

A customer. A friend offering to bring us a meal. A potential babysitter. My husband. Another customer. A telemarketer.

By the time the boy scout rang the doorbell, I had a blank stare on my face. I felt like my head was spinning. "Would you like to buy some popcorn?" he asked cheerfully.

I looked at his smiling face. Then at his boy scout uniform. Then at his mom standing on the sidewalk with a young child in a wagon. Then back at his smiling face. He was waving at my kids.

I was speechless.

My mind was racing. Where would I possibly find the checkbook? And how would I decide which type of popcorn to buy? Would he deliver it? Would his mom bring it in the wagon?

Too many questions for my mind to process.

"I'm sorry. I just can't right now."

I closed the door and felt like I would cry. How could I have rejected that cute boy scout. What if my son was a boy scout and someone looked at him with that blank stare. And his nice mom trying to teach him the value of, of... going door-to-door and asking complete strangers to buy popcorn. How could I be so cruel?

I should have just posted a sign on the door. I should have changed my outgoing voice mail message.

"Please don't disturb. The woman living here is in survival mode."

No matter how hard I try to prepare myself, I always seem to get like this when my husband is gone for a while. A long while.

All of the little things that are so small and manageable on their own become a major crisis. I LOVE it when my phone rings. I love it when someone wants to bring me a meal. I love it when a customer calls. I run to the phone when I see an international call and know it's my husband. I don't even mind to buy popcorn from boy scouts.

But that evening, the ringing was like a siren.

My daughter wanted to use her new water paints. The water is dirty again. She needs more water. That darned history test. "It was Persia and the MEDES!" My middle child crying. Just crying. Everything was making him cry.

Then the phone. And then the poor boy scout with his popcorn.

When I get into survival mode I can only seem to handle the things that absolutely have to be done. No more. Nothing extra. It's like my brain has a filter: Not necessary for survival, tune out.

Then I have to start reciting: His grace is sufficient for me.

It all seems like too much. But I know it's not. His grace is sufficient for me.

People ask me all the time how I get through these long days, weeks, even a month.

His. Grace.

It's sufficient.

It's enough. It will get me through.

(And please don't stop calling! If I'm in survival mode, I'll just call you back later.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Are you as smart as a second grader?

I loved second grade. I loved my second grade teacher. I loved my second grade classroom and my second grade friends.

But I have to admit second grade hasn't been as fun the second time around. It's been harder. A LOT harder.

I know second grade was a long time ago for me. But it seems like I was basically learning to read fluently. Learning some addition and subtraction. Playing dodge ball and Red Rover in PE. Going to recess. I remember sliding my tray along the lunch line in the cafeteria at Silver Street School and handing over my ticket to get a little carton of 2% milk. But that's about it.

Second grade was an easy life.

This time around, second grade seems much harder. This time, I am going through it with MY second grader, and I don't remember ever learning HALF of the things he's learning. Not in second grade, or third, or sixth, or freshman year of high school or even in college. I have absolutely no recollection of ever learning some of this stuff ... until now.

So, here's the study guide we are reviewing for tomorrow's history test. You might wonder why I have typed it up. Believe it or not, it's not just for the blog. I lovingly type in all of the history questions so my cute little 7-year-old can practice for the test. Amazingly enough, he does know most of the answers. More than I can say about myself!

Here it is: The Persian Empire

What two civilizations finally defeated the Assyrians?



What new nation became stronger and stronger and began as a tribe of shepherds?

What did King Astyges of Persia do with his grandson?

Who disobeyed King Astyges of Persia?

What was King Croesus known for?

Who became the fair king of Persia?

After the Persians conquered many countries and became the most powerful country, which country was the last to be conquered?

Why did Persia have an easy time conquering the Babylonian empire?

How was Cyrus the Great a fair king?

How large was the Persian Empire?

What year did Babylon fall to the Persians?

If you know at least one of the answers, you might not be as smart as a second grader. But you are definitely smarter than I am!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

almost there...

This is my Acapulco coloring sheet.

When I got this back in January and hung it on my fridge, I remember thinking, “Wow. This is so blank. I can’t wait until the day when all I have left to color are those three flags at the top.”

Well, a couple of weeks ago, that day arrived.

Each square in the pyramid represents $1,250 worth of Discovery Toys products that I have sold this year or that the new consultants on my team have sold. Once we hit $37,500, I earn an all-expense paid trip for two to Acapulco.

The last three flags at the top represent the final $3,750 left to sell. The last 10 percent.

I love having this goal to work toward. The first time I made it a goal to earn an incentive trip four years ago, it seemed like such a stretch. Now, going for the trip is a no-brainer. It’s actually my minimum.

The goal is no longer even about WHERE we would go on the incentive trip. We’ve traveled to The Bahamas, Rio deJaneiro and this year to DisneyLand. Some of the trips were perfect. Others were rainy. Some met all of my expectations. Others didn’t. And I realized that it’s not so much about spending the perfect week on the perfect vacation, but the personal satisfaction of working toward something and achieving it.

It feels so good to be so close to my goal. It feels so good to see that sheet almost colored in. But once it’s complete... especially since I intend to finish the chart before the Dec. 31 deadline... it also brings a bit of aimlessness. What do I do now?

I was amazed to learn recently that only 32 percent of people set a goal of any kind in life. And truly, I can’t say that I’m that much better.

There are so many parts of my life that are more important than earning free vacations where I don’t have concrete goals. That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I need to make coloring charts in some areas with more lasting value.

But I will say this. Setting a goal and making it part of our family’s life, has taught my kids a lot. My children understand that Mommy doesn’t always feel like doing her job. Many times, I would rather be doing something more fun. But if I can just focus for even a few minutes a day on where I'm going, then at the end of the year, we experience a tangible reward. Those baby steps each day add up to some giant leaps over time.

A few weeks ago, my 7-year-old’s class was trying something new in gym class. “My goal was...” my son told me, and I smiled, feeling like Super Mom for a minute. So, they are learning something from all of this.

He knew what he was shooting for. He knew where he was headed. How about you? What’s your goal?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

a little help, please?

Dear Swiss Cosmetic Company,

My Reversing Gelee Transforming Lift is not reversing. It's not transforming, and it's not lifting.

However, as far as I can tell, it is a gelee. I'm not totally sure what makes something a gelee, not to be confused with a gel or a jelly. But I would say this is a gelee. So, it's got that going for it, which is nice.

I need a little help here, people. I'm almost 40.

I need some reversing. I need some transforming. I need some lifting. Anyone?

Thank you.

Friday, October 3, 2008

now THIS is what I call fun

When I was a kid and we went to the park, we went to THE PARK. There was one park in town. Not a park in every neighborhood. And we had real playground equipment.

We had tall metal slides that would burn your bottom in the summer. We had real merry-go-rounds. Remember those? The kind where you could sit in the middle and spin till you wanted to puke. Or you could balance your tummy on the outside bar and let your feet fly through the air.

We just visited the same park last weekend and I am amazed to report that it is (almost) exactly as it was when I was a kid. The folks down in southern Illinois apparently aren't afraid of people suing them if their kids fall down and skin a knee on the merry-go-round or if someone goes flying off the teeter-totter.

I'm really not in favor of kids getting severely injured at the park. Really, I'm not.

In fact, it always makes me nervous to watch my city slicker kids run from one suburban-outlawed attraction to the next, as they scream with delight, "What's this thing called, Mommy?!"

But it was fun to step back in time and risk our lives on some good ol' fashioned playground equipment. Bring back memories?

Dirt was flyin' around the merry-go-round.

Ahhh... the monkey bars. These kids are used to those climbing walls with the nice little foot and hand grips... Pleeeeaaaaase don't fall through the bars!

How many parks do you know with one of these!? The kids call it the "rolling house." The adults think the appropriate name is the "rodent run".

DO NOT walk behind this thing when it starts swingin!

We forgot to warn them that when one child suddenly jumps off, the other will catch some air, then land hard back on the board before whacking the ground with a hard thud. Ouch. You can see the skinned knees to prove it.

Ahhh... the drainage ditch. I have so many fond memories of straddling this thing as we walked down to the creek. My siblings and I tried to teach our children to do this last spring and they all fell and ended up scraping their knees. This time we gave them better instructions, "Look. We are going to relive our childhood here, and it's going to be fun. No tripping. And no crying. Now, let's go!"
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