Sunday, April 29, 2007

You Might Not Want to Invite Me for Dinner

Since certain bloggers have made a name for themselves writing about poop * and puke, I thought that I should not let this opportunity pass.

Terry and I (and the kids) were invited to dinner on Saturday by a new family at church. Amanda had enjoyed playing with her daughter, so we were looking forward to getting to know them better. Dinner was delicious, the table in the dining room was set when we got there, and when we left the table after eating, they insisted that we just leave the dishes on the table. This woman has the hospitality gene. No one in her family is able to drink milk, but she buys milk when she has guests in case they drink it. They don't drink coffee, but she brewed a pot of decaf just for us after dinner. Kyle's place at the table was set with a cute little Mickey Mouse rocket-shaped plate.

Kyle hadn't eaten any dinner, in spite of these attempts to make him feel at home. He was more interested in going back outside and playing on the swingset or with the Little People barn that had been out just for his enjoyment. Dinner was a delicious Chicken Cordon Bleu type of thing. Very kid friendly, really. Kyle should have eaten the ham that was inside, or some of the breaded chicken cutlet, or some rice. But, no, he really wasn't eating. I took one of the small pieces of the chicken with some ham on it and shoved it into his mouth. He started gagging. He retched. I took the chicken out, but then up came the aforementioned milk--all over him.

Thank goodness we are potty training, because he is past the age when I carried spare clothes. Knowing that we would be there until almost bedtime, I had brought his pajamas as his "backup" outfit. So, I wiped him down, changed him, and washed my hands (although all night I kept smelling it). As we returned to the table, I gave them permission to share this story, and stated that we would understand if we were never asked for a return visit. Our gracious hosts just laughed. "There was no harm done, and it was funny," the husband assured me. This is sharply contrasted with my husband, who glared at me as Kyle began gagging and even mumbled a "Why did you do that?" knowing that Kyle can be a bit dramatic and headstrong when it comes to what he wants to eat. I answered him sensibly: "I thought he should eat something."

The rest of dinner was fine, although Kyle's stunt did gain him his desired dismissal from the table. Everyone enjoyed the Apple Betty that I had brought for dessert. But, wait, there's more. The girls were having a great time, and our hosts are the kind of flexible types who can just invite an eight year old over to spend the night on the spur of the moment. Amanda spent the night. As far as I know, all of her bodily fluids were contained, and I think she even went to sleep when it was required. The next day at church, I was assured that they had a great time, and Amanda behaved, and that the girls were already trying to negotiate a Sunday afternoon playdate. The dad seemed willing, but said it was up to me. Amanda and I already had some plans for that afternoon, so I declined. After church, I called to get some more information on our activity, and it turns out that we weren't going to be able to do what we had planned. Amanda was upset and asked if she could have her playdate. Terry and I both agreed that Amanda shouldn't go over there (because really, enough is enough), but if she wanted to see if her friend could come over, that was fine with us. She ran back inside where that family was still talking, and emerged with her friend. We went to Taco Bell for lunch, and were ordering when Terry's cell phone rang. "Do you have my daughter?" our gracious host asked. "Yeah," he answered, and then asked the girls, "Did you ask your parents if you could come?" The daughter looked at Amanda. "I thought you did."

Yes, normally before agreeing to a playdate, I do look the parent in the eye and make sure that she is fine with the arrangement, but since we had just discussed the possibility of Amanda coming over, I was fairly certain that they'd be fine with losing their only child for the afternoon as opposed to gaining another one.

Oh, well--What's a little kidnapping between friends?

*While Big Mama claims that all she writes about is poop, I could not find a post from recent weeks to which I could link.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Parenting with Love and Logic

I wrote last night about my recent parenting problems. I was becoming very frustrated personally (and when I get frustrated I get mean and intolerant). A couple of fairly unsuccessful outings drove home the point that I was laying a poor foundation for Kyle, so I decided to act. My copy of Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood by Jim Fay and Charles Fay was in my reading pile. I thought that magic might be just what I needed, so I began reading it one afternoon while he was napping. I read half of the 166 pages in one sitting. I finished the other half within the next couple of days. The book is written in a light, non-judgmental tone, and yet it's still convicting and motivating. Most importantly, it's instructive. Specific ways to deal with early childhood limit-testing are not only illustrated with examples, but given as "experiments" to try out, so that parents can really practice these new techniques. I have a couple of friends who have used this logical approach to parenting, and I have learned from their example. As I read, I realized that this fits my parenting personality perfectly (that is, when I am parenting instead of taking the path of least resistance that I so often find myself on). I do enjoy empowering my children to make decisions on their own, to function independently, and to learn how to make choices. I always keep the end in mind, that my ultimate goal as a parent is for them not to need me anymore, but to flourish due to the framework that I have provided for them in their formative years. This is one of the basic principles of this parenting philosophy. So, I acknowledged that this worked for me, and I set to work at finding consistency in my discipline.

Can I say that the word "magic" in the title is not an overstatement? I feel like the parenting fairy has come and sprinkled twinkle dust all over our home. The result has been a calmer Mommy, one who can stick to her guns without getting frustrated, and more willing children. In these last couple of days, I have been giving choices. This is something that I have been comfortable doing, and have used it to diffuse my children's frustration. When Kyle hit that age when he started balking at getting into his crib, I would add a fun choice: "Do you you want to go in your bed like an airplane, or jump like a frog?" Then instead of not wanting to go to bed, he is choosing the method by which he gets into bed. Since I knew that this had a proven track record of working, I knew that if I used these options more, that I would probably get a better response from him. So, since he's still reluctant to actually sit on the potty (even though he's very successful when he does), instead of telling him he needs to go potty, I can give him a choice: "Do you want to go potty downstairs or upstairs?" Can you believe that something this simple has stopped 75% of the screaming when it's potty time?

This might sound to some as if the parent is letting the child control, but this is not the case at all. I am giving simple options that I choose, but that allow my child to feel like he is making a choice. But there are consequences. Another example is after telling a child to pick up his toys, a choice is offered. Do you want to pick them up, or shall I put them up? If the child opts not to clean up, the parent puts the toy away. For good. Until the child can earn it back somehow. A logical and immediate consequence.

I'm encouraged now, and we'll see if I'm able to do the hard work of sticking with it, all the time.

This book came from my Spring Reading Thing list: 5 down (wow--that surprised me), 5 in progress, and 6 to go. I'm doing great!

This is linked up with Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books. Click over and read some more, or add your own!

Friday, April 27, 2007

How Not to Parent

On a few occasions I've enjoyed What Not to Wear on TLC. I really feel empathetic towards the poor woman who they follow around and catch her on film wearing her comfy stretchy maternity pants pushing her youngest child, a toddler, in a stroller. Then they do a closet overhaul and throw away her T-shirts from her college sorority formals twelve years ago and her one all-occasion dress with shoulder pads big enough to double as protective wear. They discard all of these things and take her shopping for the clothes that she needs so that she will avoid future fashion disasters.

This post is the "caught on camera" expose of my parenting habits. I know that I'm not a bad mom, but I also know that I fall short in many areas, specifically in the area of discipline. If I had been caught on tape this week, all of these things would be entered into the file proving that I needed a serious parenting overhaul:
  • At home or in the car--Several episodes of frustrated yelling which occurred after requests were made (again and again) to do something and I finally reached my breaking point.
  • At Panera for an early dinner--Slightly unruly children and a mom frazzled by trying to keep them quietly occupied in a very small room for over an hour and a half at Amanda's eye doctor appointment.
  • In grocery stores, schools, etc--Kyle doing the toddler flop since he doesn't want to hold my hand, he wants to "run faster, faster!"
  • In the same public places--Me, watching him run off, since we can't get anything done with him flopped on the ground or with me carrying him as he screams and flails.
  • At Amanda's classroom assembly for the parents--Me, vacillating unpredictably between being okay with the fact that Kyle is playing in the water fountain at the back of the room, because he's quiet, and we've been there a while and deciding that he should sit quietly beside me for a few minutes, which produces shrieks of protest (from him, and sighs of indecision from me).
There have been things that have really bothered me about my parenting practices, and there's nothing like parenting a spirited child nearing the age of three to make you decide that it's now or never. One thing I've realized is that my kids aren't really doing anything wrong. They are pushing the boundaries as a means of finding their voice and establishing their identities. It's me who has been wrong. I have failed to give them the safe arena of consistent discipline that allows them to test their wings. Tomorrow I will post about a few simple changes that I have made which have helped me to parent more confidently.

Possibly the Last Post about our Trip

Here's the whole family at my dad's house: Terry, me, my aunt, my dad, his main squeeze, my sister, her husband, and the kids. The little ones were sleeping.

On the way to Aggieland was when we made the first stop for the bluebonnets. This picture is just perfect.

The football stadium is called Kyle Field. His name is Kyle. He wasn't exactly named after a football stadium, but it's not 100% a coincidence either.

This is one reason we are glad that the Aggies don't have cheerleaders. I could make a few comments about the fact that I've seen some cheerleader-type girls at basketball games and the like, and how things just aren't the way they used to be, and Old Army will never be the same, but only my dad and Big Mama would really care. Oh, yeah, my stealth roommate might care, too, and it might even make her leave one of her rare comments.

We did get a picture of all the grandkids at my grandmother's house, at her request. My sister's daughter is 11 months younger than Amanda, and her son is 8 months older, so that's always been nice. The little one is a year younger than Kyle and they really enjoyed playing this time around.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Texas, My Texas

Texas is everything that you've heard about it and even more. Texas was its own country, which is why it's the Lone Star State. Texas is like a whole 'nother country, as the advertising slogan from a few years back proclaimed. Although it sits physically in the South, Texans are not Southerners in the way that those from Alabama and Mississippi are.

Texas is just Texas.

Three of the top ten largest cities are in Texas: Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. They are urban--full of great restaurants, industry, science, medicine. The people are diverse--Mexican, African American, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian, Japanese. Religion is a part of the landscape--mega churches, Bible study leaders broadcasting on TV.

But the rural iconic Texas is still going strong. The Texas of fading main streets, cow pastures fenced in with barbed wire holding cattle of every color--brown, black and white. Real cowboys and good ol' boys.

There's food: Real Tex-Mex--fajitas, enchiladas, queso. Slow cooked barbecue with thick spicy sauce. Pots of beans. Pecan pie (that's pe-CAHN not PE-can). Chocolate Sheet Cake.

Words and phrases like fixin' to, do what? and y'all will be heard in the Lone Star State. Neighbors will be neighborly, but you best stay out of the fast lane on the freeway. In the cities you get on a freeway to go anywhere. Feeder roads in the cities make driving easy, but the landscape ugly.

The weather is diverse. Thunderstorms, flooding, dry heat, humidity, West Texas winds, perfect spring and fall days. Any of these could occur anytime of the year.

It's beautiful. It's big, so the terrain is varied. From tall East Texas Pines to scrubby West Texas Mesquites. Dense forests to barren plains. Rolling hills to flat prairies. There's limestone and marble and red dirt. Our state flower, the bluebonnet is a wildflower.

For a few weeks every year, the countryside is covered with wildflowers--blue, yellow, pink, and red. We were fortunate to catch this window and took the quintessential Texas pictures. . .
right off the freeway.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Do You Love Adventures in Odyssey?

Does your family love Adventures in Odyssey? Would you be willing to share a story about how a specific episode made an impact on a member of your family? Did something that happened in a specific show lead you or your child to change a habit, witness effectively, deal with a problem or overcome an obstacle? Maybe it helped you to find humor in a difficult situation?

If you have a story and would be willing to share it with me for future publication, please email me. The link to my email address can be found under my profile picture. I need to know if I have a story to work with by Saturday or Sunday at the latest.


Can't We All Just Get Along??

Mommy wars. Homeschool vs. Private school vs. Public school. Denominational differences within the Christian community. Paper or Plastic?

There are so many issues which divide us these days. What does the Bible say about these disputable practices? How do I try to maintain an objective view about some of these issues? Please click over to Faithlifts today and find out.

The Art of the Letter

I love email. I love how I am able to keep up with friends easily and at my convenience (emails can be read and answered at 6:00am or midnight, during naptime or snacktime). However, I miss the frequency and thrill of letters--real letters on pretty stationary that comes in the mail. Samara O'Shea has stumbled upon a career of helping people write letters, or in the case of her website, writing letters for people on contract.

In For the Love of Letters, O'Shea gives advice and instruction. This book has chapters on love letters, (blushing) adult love letters, good-bye letters, thank you letters, apologies, notes of sympathy, and even letters to the editor and recommendation letters. Each chapter introduces the situation in which one might send a certain letter and contains several examples of this type of letter that she has personally sent or received or one penned by a famous person such as John Keats, Edgar Allen Poe, or Marie Antoinette.

There is practical advice contained in each chapter for the following categories (all of these examples are from the Thank You Letter, in chapter 4):

Starting off:
Be specific, mention what you like, or a helpful tip for when you don't like it (focus your excitement on the giver instead, "It was so nice to see you and hear about your trip to Greece. Your tan looks fabulous."

Signing off: With deep gratitude and all my best wishes, lovingly, gratefully, thankfully, all my best

Grammar: How important is it for each type of letter? (A misspelled word or two will be forgiven if you are sharing your passion for someone). Try to get the basics right in a thank you note.

How to Send: Always write by hand, and then mail or personally deliver.

How to Receive: Enjoy. There's no need to issue a thank you for the thank you., but there's nothing stopping you either.

I enjoyed reading this book with its fun and conversational tone, but also for the simple way the advice is presented. For one thing, she doesn't malign email as evil and socially inappropriate. In fact, there are some instances in which she recommends the email as the delivery method of choice. The helpful tips are a wonderful way to refine your letter writing, give your letters more personality, or help you communicate more effectively (and isn't that exactly the point of writing?).

Read this book to find out not only how to write letters, but to remind yourself why we write letters.
Letters equaled evidence. Evidence that they had existed. That they breathed. That they had good insights and bad days. That they loved. That they suffered. That they were selfish. And that, sometimes, they were satisfied.

--Introduction p. xi

This book was sent to me by the publisher Harper-Collins for review.

Click over to Rocks in My Dryer for more tips on everything from laundry to grammar to childcare to shopping.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I still have a lot to say, but let me just say what I have still yet to do, on this my third day back, as justification for why I'm not saying it:
  • Unpack
  • Do Laundry
  • Write--for a class I'm taking as well as to keep my self-imposed goals
  • Potty Train--I am potty trained quite well, thank you. I am even well-trained enough to tell an almost three-year-old that he needs to go. However, he is not trained. We do pretty well most of the time, even though he still protests, but he has yet to tell me when he needs to go. That's okay. I'm relaxed. He's wearing pull-ups (of the cheap, generic variety), so accidents are no problem. I'm remaining patient and calm. We did buy some wonderful Thomas underwear today as incentive for him to tell me when he needs to go.
  • Speaking of incentives, check out this poem that Laura posted to cheer us on in the 30 Day Organizational Challenge. That is another big bullet on my list that has not been tackled. My Before is still a Before. However, I did shop today for containers that I need to best make my space work (to no avail). I'm going to look online today.
There's more that I want or need to do that I haven't, but that list is keeping me pretty busy. And a reason that needs no excuse is that it's been absolutely gorgeous outside. When I left here it was in the 40's, and ever since I've returned it's been in the 70's--perfect weather for sitting on the back deck with a book and trying to get a little color on my oh-so-white arms and legs.

So, there will be more, and even some pictures, but not right now.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Enduring Classics

I just finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I enjoyed it. I had studied it in high school, and I guess because it's such a well-crafted story, details have stuck with me, even though it's been twenty years since I read it. So the whole time I was reading it, it was familiar to me. That took away from my enjoyment of the book, because I generally like to go into movies and books as blind as possible, avoiding conversations about them and detailed reviews. I like to be carried away by the story. I had to separate the classic icon status of the Mockingbird story and let myself just enjoy the words, the story, the history, and the characters on their own merit.

While Mockingbird explores the change of a culture's ideals, mostly through the change of a new generation's experience, Leave it to Beaver stands as an icon of the perfect 1950's family life. Amanda and I have enjoyed watching it on TV Land recently (along with the Munsters and I Love Lucy), and I think that I had overlooked some truth about it in exchange for letting it stand as a bastion of old-fashioned ideals. Yes, yes, June Cleaver really did wear pearls and appear perfectly coiffed in every episode, and Ward put on his suit and went off to work as the breadwinner each day while still wearing the pants in the home as well. So, while it seems familiar in theory, when I really let myself experience the show, I made some observations:

  • I saw Ward get up from the breakfast table and pour his own coffee. He didn't expect June to do it, and she didn't jump up to do it for him. I couldn't help but think that this is hardly an issue today, because most families don't sit down at the breakfast table together. When we do, we are so taxed by the myriad of roles that we share--breadwinner, caregiver, housekeeper--that we each feel that we should be the ones being served, and not serving. . . .
  • Beaver's school called home about some trouble he had gotten himself into and needed to see a parent right away. June called Ward, and he agreed to go since she was late for a lunch meeting with her friend and had no way to get in touch with her. Today, supermom June would have called her friend on her cell phone and canceled her lunch date so that she could rush to deal with her son's problem.
  • Beaver's trouble was that he had worn a gruesome monster sweatshirt to school. His trouble was compounded when Ward got there, because he had told him to change out of the shirt before he went to school. I thought it was interesting that they would allow him the leeway of wearing it at home, but he was expected to dress appropriately for school. Today neither parents nor principals take a stand on something as mundane as a dress code, or parents want to control every one of their children's choices with no room for them to make their own decisions.

Both this TV show and that book have earned their titles of classics. The issues of racism and small-town culture have not changed that dramatically since To Kill a Mockingbird was written in 1960. The targets may change throughout time, but dealing with differences is always going to be something that our society faces. I'm also going to make a point to keep watching the Cleavers--not just as corny icons, but as real parents who are doing their best to raise some pretty good kids. Fifty years later I can still learn from them if I look beyond the familiar and allow myself to really see.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

When Was the Last Time You. . . .

Memes really are a simple easy way to get a post up, and I love reading people's answers when they are going around. This is the second or third appealing on that I've seen Lauren do, and since I am on the road, I thought I'd get this up today. I know that I've gotten a few posts up this week, but after today, I will truly be out of touch through the weekend until I return home.

When was the last time you….

1. kissed someone?

I kissed my little guy this morning when I got him up.

2. drank coffee?

I'm drinking Dad's delicious, strong freshly ground coffee with half-and-half right now.

3. read a book?

Last night--One thing I love about being away from home/driving/flying is lots of time to read, so I've finished one book, am halfway through another, and a bit into a third since Friday!

4. cursed?

While skiing. I believe that it was on the same ski trip that I injured my knee, but it might have been the one before that. I was frustrated and had fallen, and I specifically remember Terry admonishing me not to curse.

5. had a nightmare?

I think it's been a while--several months at least.

6. checked your email?

Before I posted this.

7. had a crush?

I should probably plead the fifth on this one. I tend to develop friendly crushes on people who are new to me and interest me--male or female. You know that feeling when you just want to get to know someone better, or learn more about them (if they are a fictitious person--actor or something).

8. drove a car?

Last night met my friend Angela for some delicious Mexican food. I thought I was done driving for the night, but I got home without my cell phone, so I had to go back and get it.

9. rode a roller coaster?

June 2005 when I went to Six Flags with the church youth group. It made me feel sort of old because I thought it was very fast and jiggly, as opposed to just thinking it was a whole lot of fun.
10. took a nap?

It's probably been over a week. I usually take at least one little fifteen to twenty minute snooze each week when I'm at home.

11. went to the movies?

Terry and I saw the Pursuit of Happyness. I guess that was back in February or March? Whenever it was out.

12. drank alcohol?

It's been eight or ten years.

13. went to a party?

I went to a baby shower a few weeks ago, and I attended an Easter gathering of three families of friends who got together for dinner.

14. said “I love you"?

To Amanda after I got home. She was already in bed, but she stirred and told me she loved me, and I returned it.

15. cooked a meal?

Last Thursday night. . .another perk of being away from home. I'll probably cook while I'm at my grandmother's house this weekend.

16. exercised?

I'm definitely going to plead the fifth on this one.

I won't tag anyone on this, but I had fun doing it, so let me know if you choose to do it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

For Heather

Can you imagine suddenly being diagnosed with a brain tumor? Well, I can't either, but Heather knows what it's like, and she's been sharing on her blog--her fears, worries, and faith (that link is to her "brain stuff" category). We have all been praying for her, and no doubt you've read about her story somewhere else in the blogosphere. Since I'm traveling, I had not posted anything, but I wanted to just pass this on to those of you who might not know, or might not otherwise be tuned in to the blogosphere.
The very warm-hearted Boomama has set up a paypal donation fund. Heather and her husband have already miraculously gotten an appointment at the Mayo clinic for April 25th (this is only about two weeks after her inital diagnosis, when it first seemed that mid-May was the earliest available appointment).
If you feel so inclined, give a donation--as little as one dollar. If you have been or will be praying, you can also leave a note at Boomama's link as an encouragement to Heather and her family.
Life is very precious, and apparently very precarious as well.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

By the Letters

I just thought that I'd give a little update. I do not have the mental energy to compose the normal lofty writing that you normally get here at Snapshot (it's jsst too bad that one cannot convey sarcasm over the www).

You must understand that the fact that we do not have Sonic in Connecticut is really a sad thing for us. So, we had lunch there. We also made the requisite stop at Half Price Books, which we are also lacking in Connecticut. And, in other food news, we enjoyed a delicious peach cobbler, that Terry's grandfather always makes for us.

In some other really exciting news, I think that we are actually potty training here. With Kyle's third birthday just over a month away , and dry periods stretching longer and longer, I decided that it was time to take the plunge (again). I am being very low-key about it (which is a bit surprising. In spite of the fact that I am laid back by nature, I'm also a bit of a control freak in some situations). He's wearing diapers, but we are changing them as soon as they get wet. We are about 50/50 on the potty, so that's not half bad.

I did not quite give myself the credit that I deserve. Verily, I have used each letter, from A to Z at least once in this uninspired post.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

By the Numbers

Eight days in Texas:

Four very easy hours on the plane, courtesy of JetBlue airlines and the DirectTV feed in each seat which allowed mom and dad to read, write, and relax.

suitcases retrieved at baggage claim. One bag delivered eighteen hours later.

By day two: ten family members hugged, one Tex-Mex meal enjoyed with seven friends, one Sonic slush sipped, three scoops of Blue Bell ice cream consumed.

Six days to go with much more hugging, eating, and driving planned.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Just Like Mom Used to Make

This article is my submission to the blog challenge (to post my favorite recipe handed down from my mom) sponsored by Bonnie, CWO's monthly columnist for Bonnie's Kitchen.

My mother-in-law and I are different in some ways and alike in other ways, just as with my blood relatives, but I've always appreciated her. She is more skilled in the home arts arena than my own mother, so I've learned a lot from her over these past fifteen years. Early on in our marriage, my husband asked me to get this recipe from her:

Apple Betty
5 - 7 apples
1/4 orange juice, apple juice, or water
3/4 stick margarine
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Peel and slice apples into dish. Pour juice over apples. Mix together other ingredients until crumbly (with fork or pastry blender). Pour over apples.

Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

I like this recipe because it's one for which I generally have all the ingredients on hand. It's easy to make, and it's really delicious. The recipe card is written in her own hand, so each time I make it, it reminds me of her and the legacy she has passed on from her family to ours including faith, the importance of family, and the joy of feeding them well.
I invite you to subscribe to my feed, or follow me @jenndon on twitter or at 5 Minutes for Books on Facebook

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Let the Negotiating Begin

"Candy, I want candy," Kyle said as he found the package of Tic Tacs in the junk drawer in my bedroom dresser (yes, I have a junk drawer in my bedroom--two actually--and yes, I have candy in it). He brought them to me, and as I opened it and told him that he could have some, he said exactly what I knew he was going to say, "Want to hold it. Gimme the box."

"You can have three," I instructed him.

"Four. I want four." He's not even three years old yet. The fact that he knows that four is more than three is pretty good, but what does it mean that he knows how to negotiate??

My Daughter My Neighbor

I have had a practical lesson in showing love this week. One or both of my children have been sick for going on ten days now. Since they have had trouble eating, I have gone to any lengths at any time of the day to give them whatever sounds appealing. Warm up some soup? Sure. Whip up a milkshake? No problem. I myself remember the drudgery of being sick for days on end, so I have gladly read chapter after chapter to my daughter this week and selected some shows that we could watch together to try to ease her malaise.

How are you at loving those neighbors right under your roof? How have I managed to do it this week? Please click over to read the complete post at Faith Lifts today.

UPDATE: Heather, one of the coordinators of Faith Lifts, needs our prayers. You may be familiar with her daughter, Emma, for whom we've been praying, but Heather herself needs our prayers now as she deals with the news that she has a brain tumor. You can keep updated on her blog.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Take a Spending Fast

I followed Katrina's lead and made a commitment not to buy any books for me or the kids for the whole month of March. Click over to Finding Contentment in the Suburbs to find out how I did. . . .

What Would You Do if You Could Not Fail?

HipWriterMama has a Can Do Mission Statement challenge going. As incentive for baring your goals to the internet world, there are even prizes. Click over to check it out. And keep reading as I reveal my own thoughts about this mission statement thing.

I am good at stating my need for accountability, and I'm good at making goals so that I am at least aiming towards my target (remember, if you don't have a target, you are sure to miss it). I have even asked you to consider What Are You Waiting For? and more recently posted that I am willing to experience failure in order to achieve what I Want to Be. . . .

Well, what am I waiting for?


I'm waiting for experience. You see, experience will give me the credibility that I need to publish articles in "real" magazines. In order to get experience I need discipline to continue to find markets which fit my niche. As long as I lack experience to sell my "good ideas," it's easy for me to just keep waiting. In order to think about what my mission statement for the next year would be, I have to think about my whys first.

Why do I want to write? Why do I want to get published? I want to write because I have found it's a wonderful way to develop thoughts that I have--to connect them to the rest of my life. I want to get published as validation, as a source of income (with no delusions that I'm going to get rich), and as a way to be a source of information and/or encouragement to those who read.

So, with that as the end, my professional mission statement (and working plan) would be to submit one article or query a week. This will result in being published at least ten times, by April 2008, which will allow me to build my platform so that by that time I will be working in earnest on a non-fiction book proposal which I can submit so that I can find a publisher who likes my idea.

Specifically in answer to her question, "What would you do (differently) if you could not fail?" I would write. I would prioritize it differently and now I see that I need to do this if it is something that I truly want to pursue.

If you ask yourself that question, I think that you are well on the way to cutting away all the fat and getting to the meat of the matter about what your mission statement would be.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Goodnight, Sweet Pig

Before he had a child of his own, my brother-in-law was on to one of the most-oft used tricks in preschool and toddler literature. He asked, "Why do the kids in the books always get tired and go to sleep by the end of the book?" Oh, he didn't appreciate the power of suggestion in those books that were generally read before bedtime or naptime that reminds those kiddos that all good little children want to sleep.

Goodnight, Sweet Pig begins with the query, "To sleep, or not to sleep? That is the question?. Pig number one was trying to sleep, plumping her pillows and counting sheep." Unfortunately for this pig, nine other pigs (numbered two through ten), have different ideas in mind, including reading with a light, playing drums, eating cake, and dancing, which they do as they come into her room. After she weeps and asks them kindly to leave, they agree, and depart in the reverse order that they came, from number ten back down to number two, providing an introduction to counting backwards as well as forwards.

My almost-three-year-old son and I are enjoying counting books right now. This book does not lend itself to counting of items, because the pigs are numbered, but not associated with a coordinating number of items. However, the numbers in the text are large, and he likes to find the numbered pigs, and it provides great reenforcement of the numbers. This book is full of vibrantly painted, action-packed pictures that lend themselves to being discussed, especially as the room begins to fill: "Can you find the dancing pig? What's pig number three doing now?" The story, about how all the pigs enjoy doing different things, is one that will resonate with the older preschooler as well.

This book was sent on review from Kids Can Press. The website has a new Resource Room, free to registered members, which gives ideas for teaching, homeschooling, or supplemental activities at home.

I am participating one again in Children's Book Monday at A Path Made Straight.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

My Heart's in the Lowlands

Reading My Heart's in the Lowlands by Liz Curtis Higgs is like taking a trip with a friend. Liz literally acts as our escort as we discover areas of Scotland that are not quite as well-traveled as the Scottish Highlands. This book is a tribute of love from Liz Curtis Higgs to Scotland, the place that inspired her series of novels set in Galloway, which includes Thorn in My Heart. If you've read and enjoyed any of these books, she identifies towns and scenery with a few selected descriptive quotes from the novels. If, like me, you haven't read the novels, the quotes do not seem obtrusive at all.

Don't let the familiar chatty tone of the book annoy you. Enjoy it. Allow yourself to experience the fun of a girls' getaway, including visits to graveyards, churches, castles, and lots of pots of tea. In fact, I often had to brew myself a strong cup while reading along, because she made it sound so looovely. Here's her account of one visit to a used bookstore (yes, I could travel with this woman):
While you scratch Maisie behind the ears, I select two dozen must-have titles from Benny's extensive collection. . . .Shopping completed and tea mugs drained, we tally up our purchases and hand over the necessary cash. I'll try not to envy your eight-pound total; as usual mine is significantly higher, though I consider these treasures a worthy investment (page 122).
As I neared the end of the book, I began to feel just as I do as I'm nearing the end of a trip--expectant but sad. She closes on a hopeful note, reminding us that
Unlike fiction, where both story and protagonist have defined arcs that start and finish and soar in the middle, real life simply continues. Little rises and fall occur, the occasional dramatic shift, but otherwise each day is a steady unfolding of the lives we're called to live (page 246).
And that's one of the things that I enjoy about travel. It's a little rise in the midst of routine, giving a bit of color to the backgrounds of my life. I can take pictures and purchase souvenirs, but what is really amazing about travel is the new perspective that it helps me to gain--the widening of my view of the world. And, if I'm lucky, like in the case of Liz Curtis Higgs' travels to Scotland, a swell in my heart as well.

Title: My Heart's in the Lowlands
Author: Liz Curtis Higgs
Published by: Waterbrook Press
Date: February 2007
Pages: 252
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Recommendations: This armchair travel book would be a wonderful read for anyone who has been to Scotland or who hopes to visit one day or who enjoys Scottish history or culture. There are additional travel recommendations on her website (and wonderful photos, which the book lacks). She is indeed an expert. She has visited nine times and owns over 800 books on Scotland.

This review is linked to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Follow-up Visit

No, I do not have to see the doctor again, but I thought I would give some updates from earlier posts this week:

I did appreciate all of the helpful comments that you made on To Doctor or Not to Doctor? I had made an appointment (I got the first one of the day, which is really wonderful), and I took Kyle in. The one symptom that had troubled me, in addition to the fact that his fever had lasted for three days, is that his gums were red and swollen. I thought that was odd. He also had a fever blister on the outside of his top lip, and his poor little mouth was swollen. By the time we saw the doctor on Wednesday morning, he wasn't swollen, but he also had ulcers inside his mouth. It wasn't hand-foot-mouth disease, but she did say that ulcers like that are almost always viral, so she didn't give us an antibiotic. She was very nice and encouraging, and so I asked her, "I never know when to bring them in, since oftentimes it is viral and there's nothing that we can do but treat it at home anyway. When should I?" So, I will give you advice straight from the doctor's mouth for all of you who wrestle with it as I do. She suggests taking a child to the doctor with any of the following symptoms:
  • high fever that lasts three days or does not go down with medication
  • rash or infected looking sores
  • child stops drinking (loss of appetite is typical)
  • lethargy
She also very kindly affirmed me saying, "You made the right call and came in at just the right time."

Believe it or not, he is still kind of sick, but still fine when treated with I keep the Ibuprofen in him. Amanda has been up and down, in school and home from school throughout the week, but the last two days have been the worst for her. The last two nights she's woken me up crying in her sleep. Real crying, but real sleep, too. By God's grace, I am not feeling completely stir-crazy.

* * * * * *

I think that Beck and I teamed up for a pretty good Interview of me, but I think that I'm a better interviewer than interviewee. Two commenters asked for some questions. I gave them interesting questions and they delivered fascinating interviews, so click over to read the interviews:

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I Want to Be. . . .

Recently, I have been thinking about what is really going on behind the scenes in people's lives. We never really know what's going on in their heads and their hearts. When I saw this video by Martina McBride it made me think of this concept a little bit, but I love the message so much I just had to share. Please press play and take four minutes to watch it.

As I share life with people who go through bad times, as I learn more about the troubled past of a close friend, as I read memoirs and personal blogs, I learn that every one of us has trouble. Every one of us has dreams. Every one of us has buried talents. Remembering these truths helps suppress my desire to judge or to second guess someone, since it reminds me that I don't ever have the whole story. I don't know why a person reacts in the way that she does. I don't know what her motivations are. I don't know when something I might say or do could spark a flood of bad memories for someone, or a spark of jealousy over a path not taken. I don't know, and so I shouldn't judge a person on the way that I think that she should react.

A puffed-up, prideful exterior or an "it's-all-about-me" mentality is often a cover for deep insecurity. I've seen this, and it's helped me to give those who display that bravado a measure of grace, to remember that I, too, have had moments when I have hogged the spotlight. When I see this display, I try to figure out who they really are and where they are really coming from and to encourage them that their natural self is okay with me.

The friend who goes on and on about her raise, might really be insecure about her salary or job security or worth.

The friend who criticizes your husband might be worried that she will never find one.

The friend who is always smiling is probably not always happy.

The friend who always wears a scowl probably needs your pity and support more than your solutions or criticisms.

I have always felt fortunate to feel happy in my skin. I don't think that it's due to any special quality that I have developed. I think that much of it is due to natural temperament. I certainly have experienced trouble throughout my life. I have made bad choices and good choices and both have affected me. My joys and sorrows have equally shaped the person I am and the person I am becoming.

I need to remember not to judge others who do not feel this same comfort level. I do think that to an extent, our attitude does determine how we deal with success as well as failure. Successes will encourage us and failure will discourage us, but to me it's worth the risk. Accepting others for who they really are, not just the who that they project, might help them to take risks as well.

I dream, I love. . . anyway.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Calming Chaos in the Car

My husband can't stand the fact that my car is a trash receptacle on wheels. One time he asked me why I couldn't just clean the stuff out of the car when I got home. I walked him through a typical day: Leave at 8:30 to get to Bible study; stop at Starbucks for nourishment. After Bible study, I have to do errands, so we go to the store and fill the back of the SUV with bags of stuff that I have purchased so that the family can eat, wipe or play. We have to stop for lunch, because it's nearing toddler naptime, and I don't want to risk said toddler falling asleep on the way home and waking up hungry twenty minutes later. I get home and transfer sleeping toddler from car to crib. Then I make several trips to and from the car to get the stuff out. I'm worn out, but I still have to put everything away. Getting back to the car doesn't happen, nor does clearing out the coffee cups and cracker crumbs and sippy cups that end up in the car at the end of a long day, and multiply times five by the end of a long week. He doesn't really buy it. It's not an excuse, but it's the truth.

I have figured out one way to keep things somewhat organized. In addition to the foodstuffs, in order for cartime to be happy time (for mom and kids), we have to have plenty of diversions: board books, magna doodles, cars and trains. My husband is all for these since they tend to keep the kid chaos level down since they are entertained, but they can get scattered. My very simple way to deal with this is to keep a container in the floorboard of the car.

Pictured in the container is the very best diversion for the two to five set. We received My First Leap Pad for my son's second birthday. He was too young for it at first, but we pulled it out about 2 months after he turned two when we took a car trip. He figured out how to work it on his own and it's been smooth sailing ever since then. Each cartridge has several games and he has his favorites, in addition to listening to some of the songs, which are a little annoying, but better than whining and crying.

This leads me to my final tip: Keep certain toys (like this one) for car use only. My son is almost three now and playing with his leap pad keeps him happy on all our car outings--long and short (one thing I like about the My First Leap Pad, in addition to the fact that I think that the games are more educational, is that the books are smaller than the Leap Pad and fit easily along with the cartridges in a gallon size ziplock bag). Keeping it only in the car has kept up his interest. Before a long trip, we also buy a new book and cartridge (which a nearby children's resale shop often have used for half price) which also guarantees a little more interest.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

To Doctor or Not to Doctor??

Fortunately, my kids have avoided chronic recurring minor illnesses, so we never made that monthly trip to the doctor to have ear aches attended to, or trips to the ER to rehydrate after the latest stomach bug. Since by nature I'm more hands off and non-worrying, and also because I have heeded the pediatrician's counseling that they often don't know if the illness is viral or bacterial and thus it's a guess if antibiotics will even benefit them, so I keep them home and treat them with Advil and Triaminic. But as the little illness crawls into day three or four, I inevitably second guess myself and take them to the doctor, who generally says, "Yes it looks like the cold that is going around."

Saturday Kyle started running a fever, and has continued through Monday. He is completely fine with no symptoms as long as the Advil is working, and when it wears off, he acts like he feels sick. Today, I thought he was well, but the cold symptoms set in and the fever came back. There's one other odd symptom that I'm worried about, so I called the doctor and we got in first thing in the morning.

How do you decide whether to make that call or not? I would love to hear your experiences and advice.

Organizational Challenge--Take Two

Why am I doing this again?? The results from Laura's first challenge were--well, they were okay. By the end of the 30 days, I had taken everything out and put it back. Some of the changes have stuck and have been a blessing, but others--well, let's just say that I'm NOT going to post pictures of what it looks like right now.

So, I have decided instead of tackling a room this time to tackle a small space. This is the desk that is in the kitchen, right out in the open all the time. The cookbooks on the shelf look nice, and actually did come as a result of the first 30 day challenge when I purged my cookbooks from my basement and kept only those which would fit in this designated space. But below that are some cubbies, and that is what they always look like. They are messy. I need/want to use the space, but I want it to look nice. I would love Laura (and others) advice on what I could keep here that would not be messy. I don't know about putting containers in there.

The drawers are obviously a problem as well. I want to keep the standard office supplies there, my address book etc, and not let them collect receipts and papers and whatever else is in there.

Mail and papers from school--enough said? I bought this clear sorter to stand up against the cabinet and I put Amanda's papers in there as well as a few bills in the front, but I end up with a big pile in front of it oftentimes.

My goal is to get this cleaned off and establish a good system that I can easily maintain so that we can use this desk for homework etc, but also for storage for all of the papers and supplies that we need. Right now I can clean it off, but within days it becomes cluttered again because there is no plan.

You can still join in the 30 day Organizational Challenge by linking up at I'm an Organizing Junkie today (and by the way, if you aren't reading Laura, you should be. She's so funny and helpful and loves baskets so much! I would never have thought that an organizing blog would be on my Top Ten list, but it is).

Monday, April 02, 2007

Interview and Accolades

Beck posted an interview that someone initiated with her. She said in closing that if anyone wanted interview questions that she would send some personal questions to anyone who wanted them. I figured that I might not do a very good job answering the questions, but that she would do a good job asking them, so I said that I was game. If you would like me to interview you, leave a comment and I will give you your own set.

1. You're having Shakespeare over for dinner tonight! Which one other person from history do you invite with him?

Mel Gibson.

No, it's not just because I had a page from the 1991 People's Most Beautiful People up on the wall in my dorm room. It's because I think that Shakespeare would like to see what has been done with Shakespeare since he's been gone. Mel was Hamlet, after all.

2. If you had to pick a new first name, which one would you choose and why?

That's a good question, being that Jennifer was THE name of the 1970's. In the fifth grade there were three or four of us in my class. As a child, I was always bummed that I couldn't buy the personalized stickers or shoelaces that were all the rage--not because my name was Jaquilla and it didn't exist, but because they were always sold out. As an adult, I'm fine with it now, even though in a large Adult Sunday School class a few years ago, of the 40 or 50 couples, there were five Jennifer's. Moving to the Northeast helped a lot. Within my whole church (which is honestly not much bigger than the class that I was a part of back then), I am the only Jennifer.

But the question is if I had to pick a new first name. . . I don't really know. Why don't you all pick a new name for me. What do you think?

3. Which actress - past or present - should play you in the movie of your life?

There is not a strong physical resemblance to Elizabeth Shue, but I think she has the right blend of natural homeyness and spark to pull it off.

4. Which physical characteristic of yourself most resembles your mother or father?

I have my mother's eyes and my father's ears.

5. In which way do your kids most look like you?

My daughter also has the "Insert my maiden name here" ears (which go back at least as far as my father's father) and my son who really does favor my husband, looks a bit like me when I was his age as well--perhaps it's the eyes.

at Life is Not a Cereal left me a comment that she had nominated me for the Thinking Blogger award. I write about things that make me think--books, the Bible, my kids, my role as mom, so I'm glad that my little thoughts spark some thoughts in others as well.

This award has some rules:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme (this is my note here--that I tried to track it back and couldn't really find the exact origin and the original link--if someone knows, leave a comment!)

3. Optional: Proudly display the Thinking Blogger Award with a link to the post you wrote. There are two versions of the award:
or Gold

5 Bloggers who Make Me Think:

Beck at Frog and Toad are Still Friends--other than making me think about what I might name myself, she also examines that role of Mom in an introspective and yet humorous way.

Big Mama
is not just all about the laughs. I mean, yes, she does make me think about whether or not I really want to eat the fourth brownie, but she also makes me think about relationships and the importance of the people in our lives (and oh yeah, she makes me think more about Texas Aggie sports, which makes me sound smart when my husband is talking about them).

Katrina at Callapidder Days is a thoughtful writer. She, too, might be funny or instructive, but her illustrations often stay with me long after I've read them (I still think of her words about grocery store--sacking and cell phones--as well as being a thermostat in my home, and oh yeah, buying--or not buying--books).

Rachelle at Seek First the Kingdom writes about books, church, writing, marriage. Most of what she says causes me to say, "Yeah she is right about that," or "I have to read that book" (and she's always right on those.

Katherine at Raising Five--By sharing her personal triumphs and shortcomings she helps me to see how important the role of mother is, but she manages to delivery the message without burdening me with guilt that I'm doing it all wrong and there's no hope for me at all.