Friday, October 31, 2008


I think that kids are naturally creative. At least mine are.

Creativity has been abundant here lately. Kyle's out in the cold weather singing songs to God, made up on the spot. Amanda's decorating birthday cakes for me (cute -- but not as good as my all-time favorite Amanda cake, the one she made for a friend's dog, decorated with kibble and a tall jerky treat candle).

Earlier this week she came home from school and asked, "Mom, can you bring in 25 healthy treats for my class for our Halloween party on Friday? I signed you up, but you have to write a note that it's okay." I signed willingly. I'm so glad that she has faith in me, and knows that I would support her in this way.

So, we began to brainstorm. It was a collaborative effort, with her starting out with the idea of peanut butter crackers, and bringing in the idea of a spider. I finished out the thought process with pretzel stick legs and frosting eyes. Not bad. She doesn't have peanut allergies in her class, so this worked, but I thought it also could have been done with cheese whiz.

In addition to that, last night she was working on her book report project. She stayed up an hour late and woke up a half-hour early to finish (which was fine, because I was up making cracker spiders). She got her "cereal box scrapbook" finished, and I think it looks pretty good. Last night when she went to bed, I wasn't so confident.

And of course, we've been creative with our Halloween costumes. The kids decided a while ago what they wanted to be. Kyle was Thomas the last two years, so I was glad that he was willing to be something else. As usual, Amanda's idea is not something that can be purchased in a store, so we've been thinking about how we would put it together. I think that I may post some pictures tomorrow and see if anyone can guess what they are.

I definitely don't have the same kind of creative spirit that my kids do, and as a pragmatist, I have to work hard not to squash their "great ideas." It's tough sometimes, but I hope that these pictures show that I'm a good sport. Even as a kid, I never felt like I was really creative -- I didn't play an instrument (other than a brief too-late stint at the piano), I could never draw (although I wished I could), and I wasn't into the creative aspects of hair or makeup or fashion. I did always enjoy writing, and I guess that's my creative thing. I didn't use it for a while post-college, but I'm glad to have it as an outlet to fuel that aspect of who I am (not to mention helping with costumes and projects and school snacks and Thomas tracks and block towers).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Calling?

I was sitting here at my computer just now, and Kyle said, "Mom, can you get my coat on? I want to go outside and sing a song to God."

Amanda and I suppressed giggles and listened at the back door as he stood on the back deck. I didn't hear much but, "Goddddd. . . . " and something about "You have made."

Then he came back inside and said, "It was sort of short because I didn't know all the notes."

It's a good thing I'm making connections in the music industry. I'm not sure at all what God has in mind for this four-year-old boy, but he's going to keep us on our toes.

Oh, and that calling? I think that there are some coyotes that heard the calling too. I should probably keep the dog in.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Playlist

Music is awesome. Since I've taken back my radio, I've been reminded exactly how much music can comfort me, change my mood, or get me just plain fired up.

With that in mind, I'm making a "Compassion Playlist" to banish the fears of "What am I thinking?" with some new and old songs that always remind me that I'm not thinking anything. I'm trying to do what God is telling me to do, and if I stick with that mentality, everything will work out just fine. Over at 5 Minutes for Mom, I just posted about how I'm willing to be used to make a difference to Just One. Please check it out.

When I was compiling the list, I was struck with one problem: Most of the songs (all but two) are at least four years old, and some are years older than that. There are a few reasons for that -- as referenced in the "taking back the radio" post, I've sacrificed my musical tastes for peace and quiet in the SUV. I also lost access to new Christian music when we moved here to New England four years ago, leaving a pretty good Christian radio station in Houston. So "new" was buying the new CD of an artist that I already liked, or acting on someone's recommendation. But now I have satellite radio, so Spirit channel 66 is again introducing me to some new music (including Robbie Seay and my son Kyle's favorite song that he began to recognize and call the "Sundown" song, "Song of Hope (Heaven Come Down)" which I've just now had an aha moment that it's Compassion Dude Brian Seay's brother. So -- cool.

But why is having old inspirational songs a problem? Well, other than making me feel even older than my 38 years, and hopelessly uncool, I think that there's a spiritual reason it's a problem. These songs mean something to me, but for the most part they remind me of how God was working in me all those years ago. God doesn't want me to stay on that mountaintop. No matter how high the mountain was, we can't just stay there. Moses didn't stay and keep talking with God. He was sent back down the mountain to give out God's Word (the commandments) to the people. Peter was so excited to be hangin' with Jesus and seeing Him transfigured with God's glory that he wanted to build some tents and keep him and Moses and Elijah right up there on the mountain with him. Biblical record doesn't record a direct response to Peter's rash invitation, but they are all soon headed back down the mountain.

Yes, I have beheld God's glory. He got me through a year in which I lost a baby in my second trimester, my husband was laid off, and a maniac crashed into me on a mountain leading to months of crutches, surgery and more crutches. But that all took place over 9 months in 2002 - 2003.

I need to move beyond the past and recognize His work in my present and look to His future plans for me as well. Yes, I'm still serving Him. Yes, I've heard His call, but I've been waiting for something big to happen again (although, wait -- um, maybe all that "big stuff" wasn't so great).

That's what this trip is about. The 2008 Chris Tomlin and Brandon Heath songs are going to be my stones of remembrance of what God is doing and asking me to do right now, and even though it's the oldest song on the list, Shaun Groves' Should I Tell Them (and the whole Invitation to Eavesdrop CD) meant so much to me back in the early part of this decade. When I pulled it out so that I could properly reacquaint myself with the music that I had remembered speaking to me, I know that it is still alive and well for this time in my life as well.

I made an Compassion and Service iMixiconon itunes of the songs, so you can download one or all if you'd like, or at least listen to the clips.

Do any of these songs pump you up to "let go, and let God" to use a too-often used phrase? Are there any other songs that I should add to remind me of His work in the midst of serving Him?

What's on my Nightstand -- October

Wow. I don't know what has happened, but this month I have been a reading ma-chine. For this month's What's on My Nightstand, brace yourself for in-depth analysis of what and how I'm reading, with lots of links to reviews.

I read everything on my list from last month (2 novels and 2 nonfiction books and one children's chapter book), excepting The Sexually Confident Wife by Shannon Ethridge, which I will keep on the list.

In addition to those books, in October I read

Scratch Beginnings, mentioned HERE where I also talked about the Accomplishment* of reading so much in the first part of October.

Off-Season by Anne Rivers Siddon -- which was so beautifully written and captivating that I kept asking myself, "Why don't I read more novels?" A good novel such as this one weaves a story from which you can't escape. Truth (or relative subjective truth which appears in the four memoirs that I read this month) is interesting. The stories compel me, but they lack, by definition of reality, the beauty and symbolism of well-written fiction. Off-Season does take a leap off the page of realism at the end, but by that point I was "in," so I bought it hook, line, and sinker. This novel deals with the tragedy surrounding Lilly Constable's life -- jumping from her middle-aged years to her growing-up years and back again with a fluid motion. Because of the way the story is told, when I was halfway through I was already thinking that I should read it again to pick up on the nuance of the whole story as it's told in part. The story really is full of loss, but for some reason -- for me at least -- it was not at all sad. It was beautiful and true.

and Marley and Me by John Grogan -- Of course, everyone's heard of this story about "Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog." If you're a dog-lover, you'll enjoy this book. It's well-written, funny, and of course poignant. I'm still waiting to come across a great animal story that doesn't end -- well, you know -- the way life ends.

If you're a cat lover, you will be more interested in the next book, Dewey the Small-town Library Cat Who Touched the World, which I will review (with book or audiobook giveaway!) within the next two weeks on 5 Minutes for Books.

Dinner with Dad and the last half (from a few months ago) of the Film Club -- both of which I reviewed HERE

Much Ado about Anne, reviewed HERE

and over half of the Trouble with Boys reviewed HERE with When Labels Don't Fit, which was on my list (you can enter to win both of those titles through Sunday).

*Reading still feels like an accomplishment -- like I'm spending my time in a somewhat worthy fashion, but even more, in a way that I love. I'm choosing how I'm spending my time instead of letting my time just run away with me, and that makes me happy. So, with that in mind -- here's what's on my Nightstand for the month:

Other than the book mentioned above that I haven't finished yet, I am currently reading Beautiful Boy, which is the memoir of a father of a drug-addicted son, lent to me by my good friend Andrea.

Andrea also lent me another book, that I passed on to other friend Lee to read first since it was just sitting on my shelf, and now I have another friend telling me I must read Same Kind of Different as Me.

I'm almost finished with Lessons from the Road, so I'd like to stick with it, and get it finished soon. Non-fiction Christian books seem to be the books I most leave unfinished. Not because they don't compel me, but because there's no definite beginning, middle, or end, so no matter how much I've gleaned from

I'll also be reading

Too Small to Ignore: Why the Least of These Matters Most by the president of Compassion International.

A Christmas Carol for the Classics Bookclub and maybe

Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan

and perhaps Washington's Lady, although I feel like I want a lighter book somewhere in there, so who knows what novel or children's chapter book might come across my desk that I decide to dig right into.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hello, Old Friend

There is something about old friends. They know you. They will always accept you back even after months (or years) have passed without much interaction. I received a late birthday greeting from my old college friend Sarentha last week. She and I actually got closer after college, and there have been times that we talked fairly often -- seeking and offering support and advice as we each relocated a time or two -- but more often than not that Christmas greeting and picture will remind me just how out of touch we are. But no matter -- we have the foundation, and it will not be shaken.

I had a long chat with my dear friend Angela last night. After I left Houston four years ago, we used to talk weekly, then perhaps every few weeks, and now it seems like a quarterly weekend call is all we can manage. Did we cast blame at one another for calls that go unreturned or weeks that went by with no contact? No -- we expressed our dismay that it happened yet again, and then we talked. I heard the smile in her voice and then as I found out what was really going on in her life, some tears. The time and distance hasn't eroded the ease and comfort.

Kyle's been back at school for about 6 weeks now. As was my practice last year, I've tried to set aside a few hours one morning a week to sip coffee and write. But this year has been different. Aside from a little love affair with Starbucks' new Pike's Place house roast, and their new free refill policy, my needs have changed, so a weekly visit is not always in order. Kyle is at school three days a week and I have more time to myself. I'm also doing more shuttling getting him there an extra day each week, and picking up Amanda from her extra-curriculars at school. So sometimes the biggest luxury for me is to just go back home.

Something today prompted me to return to the familiar comfort of my first coffeehouse love, so
I'm sharing a visit with another old friend right this very second -- Panera. I missed the comfortable warmth of Panera versus the more sterile Starbucks environment. I missed the tables of other women enjoying their freedom together. I missed the moms and grandmas treating their toddlers to a muffie. I missed the menu, so today I enjoyed what had to be the best egg and cheese sandwich on the tastiest and softest Ciabatta bread.

Sometimes absence does make the heart grow fonder. Just like there is always room for me to add a new friend to my heart without replacing the function of my old friends, I'm glad that there's room in my life for two coffeehouses. I'm glad that I have the extra funds to be able to afford to treat myself. I'm also thankful for my real friends who are there for me. I'm glad that they accept the changes in my life, and that I roll with the changes in their lives.

Life is good.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Leaving You Hanging

There are so many questions on the tens of readers of this blog that have gone unaddressed:

Where is Jennifer getting her coffee?

Is she ready for her trip to the Dominican Republic?

How does the trumpet sound?

How's the TV restriction going?

In short, the answers are Starbucks, not really, better than expected, and also better than expected, and I'm afraid that's all I have in me for now.

I will give a full and complete answer to the question of "Who won the Chris Tomlin CD giveaway?"

It was Ann at MommySecrets! Congrats.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


It's gotten cold here. The mornings have been in the 30's all week, and it's been windy, which makes it feel even worse. Right now looking out the windy one would be deceived. The sun is bright, and the leaves (that haven't been whipped off the dying branches) blaze yellow, red and green.

When Amanda was picking out her clothes for the day, I told her, "It's pretty cold out today. Dress warmly. " She came downstairs in her hoodie Aggie sweatshirt and jeans. As she was walking out the door, I told her she should wear her coat.

"I don't want to wear my coat. No one wears coats. They take up too much space in our lockers."

When I told Terry this story, he asked, "So did you make her wear it?"

I wasn't sure what his take on it was, but I answered honestly. "No. It wasn't that cold. If she wants to be cold, I guess that's her choice."

"That's good," he said. "My mom would have made me wear it, and I would have had to stash it in the bushes."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Mommy


Amanda is very creative.


Yesterday for breakfast I had cold toast and warm coffee. It was brought to me on a tray by a daughter who told me to stay in bed.

Monday I felt a reprieve from my cold for the most part, but I woke up yesterday with lots of pressure. Since I had been ordered to stay in bed, I decided to do just that. I was deep into a wonderful novel, so I just read, and read.

Amanda got hers and Kyle's breakfasts, and got herself completely ready for school with no yelling or nagging on my part. Perhaps I should stay in bed every morning.

Since Tuesdays and Thursdays are TV days for Kyle, I stayed in bed an hour after Amanda left for school while Kyle watched TV. Then I relocated to the couch to finish my book and watch him play.

He and I made a cake, so that he and Amanda could decorate it when she got home.

I thought that after all the lounging around that I would veg the whole day, but I actually felt motivated to get some stuff done during Kyle's nap, so I ended up doing some housework and laundry for a bit this afternoon.

All in all it was a good day.

Oh yeah, did I mention it was my birthday?

(Edited to add that I just put a photo of the great cake HERE).

Monday, October 20, 2008

What are my kids reading?

As I said over at the post at 5 Minutes for Books, I love the Tuesday Kids' Picks carnival. It's one thing to hear what adults have to say about various books, but I love to hear what kids are really reading and enjoying. I hope that more people will participate each month.

I asked Amanda (10) which books she really enjoyed this month. She had at least four or five books to choose from. Between nixing weekday TV here and the time that is allotted at school for free reading, in addition to the fact that she (and I!) have found some great books that cause her to choose a few chapters over other pursuits, she ends up reading at least a thousand pages a month. In addition to the Newbery medal books that she read and I reported on last week, the books that she proclaimed as "really good" are

If it was up to Kyle (4), he'd probably still be reading the Thomas anthology, but we have had some diversity this month. He loves to have Amanda read Chester's Back! by Melanie Wells, because it's a silly book and Amanda goes all out with the silliness when she's reading it to him. I've been meaning to post a full review on 5 Minutes for Books, so hopefully you'll see more about it in the next week or so.

Another book that has been read more than once (more than once a week for that matter) is Maybe A Bear Ate It! by Robie Harris. This is a cute book about a cute little monster-ish creature who just can't go to bed without his book. He imagines what might have happened to it ("Maybe a bear ate it."), and in the end, he finds it. It's especially endearing to me, because both of my children had more board books than stuffed bears in their cribs.

What about you? What books have your kids enjoyed recently? Write up your own post and link it to the Kids' Picks carnival anytime this week, or just leave a comment over on that post.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Sickbed

Friday afternoon, I felt it coming on -- the sore throat combined with some aches and pains.

Whenever I feel the onset of sickness, I often secretly hope that I get sick enough to warrant bedrest. As a busy mom I feel like the tradeoff of some chills, sneezing and itchy eyes is worth a day or two of guilt-free downtime.

Unfortunately, on the rare occasion that I am sick enough to take to my bed, I usually don't feel like reading, and sometimes I can't even watch TV, so getting my wish isn't so fulfilling after all.

My symptoms continued to progress, so Friday night I took some NyQuil to ensure a good night's sleep (Another guilty pleasure that I have about being sick is the ability to down an ounce of NyQuil and indulge in a deep and dreamless sleep). I really needed to make it to my BSF leader's meeting on Saturday morning, because I was supposed to teach a class afterwards. When I woke up, I took some Advil, and I felt completely fine throughout our meeting and my seminar.

I caught the tail-end of Amanda's soccer game and took her to the team picture afterwards. But by the time I got home at noon, I was ready to crawl back into bed. I took a sinus pill to relieve the pressure in my head, and crawled into bed to watch a DVD (I'm not sure that it was the best choice since I felt bad anyway, and it sort of made me feel worse -- although maybe it was the best time to watch it, since I did already feel sort of crummy and I wanted to see it sometime). I finished the movie, and lost the urge to sleep that I had been fighting so that I could finish the movie, so I took my book downstairs to the sofa and sat with Terry, who was watching college football.

I offered to heat up some leftover (homemade) soup for dinner, but he decided he'd rather go get take-out. By the time we put the kids to bed, I was ready to take to bed myself. I read for about an hour, took my NyQuil, and was asleep before 9:30.

Unfortunately, one of the side-effects of such a deep sleep, is that I wake up early (but well-rested). I got out of bed Sunday morning, took some more Advil and another sinus tablet, and had some hot tea. I tried to decide if I should go to church. I didn't think I had fever, and Terry really wanted me to go, so I did.

Despite feeling a bit overmedicated and having trouble focusing on the end of the sermon, I was glad I went. My fog lifted by 10:00am, and I enjoyed being out, and the fellowship at church. When I got home, I rested and read some, watched some Food Network with Amanda (Food Detectives), and again took up residence on the couch while Terry watched football.

I offered up my soup dinner, and was rejected this time in favor of pizza.

Tonight I will take my NyQuil and go to sleep by 10:00pm, but I think that both the best and the worst have passed. It seems that this weekend everything aligned perfectly -- I was sick enough to take to bed; it just so happened that it was a weekend, so I didn't have many real responsibilities; and I wasn't so sick that I couldn't "enjoy" my sickbed.

But tomorrow is Monday. Sick or not I'll be making lunches, and shuttling Kyle to and from preschool. Fortunately I think that I'm on the mend.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I've been a reading machine lately. Last week over the course of three days, I finished three books. For some reason, this made me feel quite accomplished.

You may recall that I read several books at one time, so it's not like I read 700 pages in 60 hours or anything like that. Here's how it went:

A week or so ago, I received Dinner with Dad in the mail from a blogging buddy, Kim at Mom in the City. When I commented to win it on her site but didn't, she offered to send me her copy, which was quite nice of her. When I received it, something made me open it up just then and read the first chapter, and I was hooked.

In the meantime, I received Much Ado About Anne from the amazon Vine program.** I like to get those books read and reviewed (so I can request the new products that are offered!), so I started on that a few days after I got it, and read it quickly -- within two days. My review of the book (which I enjoyed very much) is at 5 Minutes for Books today.

Then Saturday I started Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream, and Adam Shepherd's story and writing pulled me right in, so it resulted in another book finished in two days. The book will be reviewed on 5 Minutes for Books in early November, but it was the best kind of memoir -- a book that offers a peek into a life that most of us won't experience on our own (homelessness and a climb out of poverty), well-written (like someone telling me his story), without too much self-congratulation or focus (this is a tough line in memoir).

Does finishing books give you a feeling of accomplishment? On the flip side, does not having time to read books make you feel frustrated and like you shouldn't even bother to read at all?


**Amazon Vine is a by-invitation-only program in which certain companies and publishers send out products for review. Twice a month, I get a list from which I can select a product, but I can't request any more products until I post reviews on amazon for 75% of them. I am so happy to participate in this, because I love the reviews on amazon -- not only for books but for other things. You might ask how I was selected, and no one really knows. You have to be a fairly regular reviewer, and I do post fairly frequently.

Speaking of amazon (and the many things I love about it) -- I finally bit the bullet last year and paid for amazon Prime, the program that allows you free two-day shipping on almost all your purchases, and $4 overnight shipping. I wasn't sure it was worth it, but after my one-month trial, I realized it was. Whenever I ordered from amazon, I would always scoot my purchases up to $25 to get free super-saver shipping. There are three problems with this:
  1. In the beginning, I still usually got my super saver packages in a few days, but then it happened more often along the lines of what they said -- a week or so, which is a long time to wait.
  2. If I really just wanted one $14 book, the extra $11 to get "free" shipping quickly adds up, right? I'd rather pay for product than pay shipping, but still. I figure I've paid for my Prime membership simply with these savings. Love it!
  3. If I was sending a gift, I was always slapped with that shipping charge, and this way I'm much more likely to send some a little happy something when the urge strikes.
If you sign up now for a trial membership, you could still cancel it at the end of your free month if you haven't been completely satisfied. If you like it, you will be shipping your Christmas gifts for free and will probably come close to breaking even on the fee. If you click through and sign up through my link here, I get a little kick-back from the associates program (yet another reason that I love love love amazon -- my little associates gift certificates).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Give 'em an inch

The popular expression goes, "Give them an inch, and they'll take a mile," right?

I've been following the educators' leads and working hard to back off this year as Amanda has entered Intermediate school. I'm not exactly sure the success of this measure, but I'm still trying. Each time I fail (by continuing to nag and remind and cajole), I realize that I'm stunting her growth. I might need to let her fail so that she can learn responsibility.

We're a week into the change in usage of the TV, and I can report that it's going well. Of course Kyle complained a few times the first day or so, but in general it's working well. In fact, this weekend, after playing with Kyle and doing different things, he was "bored," so I hoped asked, "Would you like to watch some TV?" and his answer was "No." No??? To TV? Even after having restricted usage earlier in the week? Yep, he's getting it.

We've played more games, read more books, etc. I like to play games. I don't mind playing children's games since those are the people who are usually willing to play with me. I've never been a huge fan of Candy Land, but somehow last year, Kyle decided it was fun. So, we played a few times, and then it got put away. I've been doing some spring cleaning, and trying to purge some of the games, so I had a couple stacked in the hall that I had taken out of the closet to give to give away. Kyle saw them. "Can we play the Candy game?" he asked, so we did. We played three times in fact, and twice more yesterday. And you know what -- it's not so bad. When we played the first rounds, he had won the first two times, and really wanted me to win the third time. This is in marked contrast to other games we've played when he's burst into tears saying, "I really wanted to win!"

So, I'm changing the expression. My new one is "Give them an inch, and they'll grow an inch." My kids sure have.

Taking Back the Radio
(and Chris Tomlin CD giveaway)

I am a big proponent of children's music and audiobooks for the car. I've written about this before, and I've reviewed and recommended CDs here and at 5 Minutes for Mom. Both of my children are chatterboxes, especially in their preschool years. I love that fact -- really I do -- but when we are on a long car trip or having a long day of errands, sometimes I just need a break from all the chatting (or all the sibling rivalry to stop, or all the "I'm bored's" to cease). That's where kids' music or stories come in -- they are a lifesaver as my children fixate on their music and not on me or each other.

The problem with this is that the car is pretty much the one place I listen to music, and I've begun to miss music. One feature that my car has is a separate soundsystem for the kids -- where they can plug in their headphones to listen to one thing, and I can listen to something else on my car speakers. We only have one CD player, so I've been able to listen to my satellite radio while Kyle selects a favorite CD to listen to on his headphones.

Lately I've felt the need to take back my radio. I think that I reconnected with my love of music this fall -- having Kyle in preschool three days a week instead of two meant that I had the radio to myself more often. Kyle is a bit older and can entertain himself quietly with a book or magazine or his "Thomas laptop" toy (which is not quiet but does entertain him and make him be quiet), so I've even listened to some of my own CDs or my own radio station, even with the children in the car. Shocking!

Thinking back, age four or so was about the time I started convincing Amanda to listen to some of "my" music. So now Kyle will tell me which songs he likes and begins to sing along after hearing them a few times. Yes, the kids' music is still taking up most of the CD storage in my car, and it still gets requested, but I'm happy to have the freedom to listen, and in the case of Christian music, my spirits are lifted (and that's mostly what I listen to, in addition to Broadway soundtracks, which have the same affect actually).

I recently received a copy of Chris Tomlin's Hello Love CD (check out that link to listen to generous clips of all the songs).

I had heard "Jesus, Messiah" on my Sirius Spirit station, and liked it, but the others were new to me. I've always liked Chris Tomlin's music (like the most of the free Christian-music-listening world), but I don't generally chose worship music as my leisure listening. I prefer more of a pop sound, to which I still join in with enthusiastic singing, and still lead me to worship as I sing.

"You Lifted Me Out," "God of this City," and "With Me," are my two favorites (right now) and "God Almighty" is Kyle's favorite (or number 8, as he calls it, as he identifies songs by the track number that he sees on the radio readout from the backseat). All of these have more of that pop sound (except perhaps "God of this City," which I can definitely see being sung in corporate worship).

You can win your own copy by leaving a comment here. Please be sure that your email address or an active blog is available in your profile, or leave it with your comment. I will announce the winner on October 24.

Now all that talking about the music (and listening to the clips as I write), has inspired me to let Chris Tomlin and my ipod help me get some enthusiastic and worshipful house cleaning done.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How Does My Purse Know Me So Well?

Thanks to Lisa at Lisa Writes, I was able to do a little in-depth personality evaluation via examining my purse.

I ask you, Why are these things always right on??

What Your Handbag Says About You

You tend to be relaxed throughout the day. You are naturally at peace.

You tend to be on high alert. You are very aware of your surroundings.

You are a very creative person. Your life tends to be a whirlwind, but you always seem to pull it together.

You are an outgoing and expressive person. You always speak your mind, and you're very approachable.

Newbery Medal Winners

Back in August, Amanda and Kyle and I were in our favorite discount bookstore in New York City, The Strand. Amanda came across The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, and asked if she could have it. It was pretty thick and cheap (under $3), so I gave it the green light. She didn't read it for a while, but when she was in between books earlier this month, I suggested that she try it. I wondered how she would do reading a book published in 1923. She did say that some of the words and spellings were odd, but the book pleased her, and she read right through it:

The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle is a really good book. It's a sequel, so I really want to read the first book now. It's about a nine-year-old boy named Tommy Stubbins who goes on a voyage on a boat with Dr. Dolittle.

Knowing that she was about to finish that one, when Kyle and I were at the library last week, and I was searching for books for her to read, I saw Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH (1972 winner). I didn't remember anything about it, except that I had enjoyed it as a child. I showed it to her, and she wasn't interested. She found another book on her bookshelf to read. She finished that one, so I again offered this one, telling her to try my rule: Read two chapters, and if you don't like it, you can stop.

Well, she's still reading. Mom was right again. Her summary:

A week ago my mom brought me some books from the library. One of them was Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH. This book is about Mrs.Frisby, a widowed mouse with four children. But then her weakest child falls sick, and Mrs.Frisby dosen't know what to do! Her only hope is to go to the mysterious rats that live under the rose bushes.

This is part of Children's Classics at 5 Minutes for Books. Click on over to read more Newbery Medal recommendations.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What Happy Parents Do

"Big trouble," I say to Terry raising my eyebrows.

He grins, "Yeah, I know," he acknowledges.

Terry had left the garage door open on a night that was below freezing (because of the way we park our cars, we have to close it once he's already in the house). Not only does that make our morning commute a little chilly as we wait for our cars to heat up, but as we had learned from my unfortunate mistake earlier that month, it can freeze the pipes to our kitchen that run through the garage.

See -- I am the designated mistake-maker in the house. You know, the one who forgets to pay the bill that's due. Or runs out of checks so that no one can pay any bills until we receive our rush-delivery re-order. The one who dings up the cars, and the one who leaves the garage open and freezes the pipes.

However, because I am a stay-at-home mom, I'm also the one who deals with these problems: putting space heaters in the (now-closed) garage to thaw out the pipes, taking the car to the shop for repairs, and delivering last-minute payments.

Terry is very understanding and supportive, but the difference in our personalities gets to him sometimes when my careless errors happen in close proximity, or if he just happens to be in a bad mood. It makes me feel like the bad teenager.

On the rare occasions when Terry made the kind of mistake that resulted in a financial or time inconvenience for us, I would remain calm as I reminded him, "You know, if I had done the same thing, I would be in big trouble." Now years later, the code has gotten shortened to those two words. Either of us can utter "big trouble," and it diffuses any frustration that either of us might be feeling.

Using humor, and specifically code words to remind us of certain situations, is one of our "loving rituals" that keeps us close and connected.

Go to 5 Minutes for Mom
to read the rest of my review of What Happy Parents Do by Carol Bruess and Anna Kudak to find out more about the "Loving Little Rituals of a Child-Proof Marriage."

Friday, October 10, 2008

The TV

I enjoy television. My kids enjoy television. I know that some criticize the notion of families sitting around staring at the boob tube together, but this summer in particular, we had some good bonding experiences around the TV. For example, one day a show called Hole in the Wall came on after Terry's football game ended. Kyle, Amanda, Terry and I all watched (and laughed) together at this silly game show/reality event sort of show. We haven't become regular viewers, because in general we are watching less TV, but Kyle still asks me when the "bust through the hole" show is coming on again.

When I was at TJ Maxx early this summer, I picked up some Good Eats DVDs, because they were a bargain (about $5 with 3 or 4 episodes on each DVD) and also because it's a show Amanda and I enjoying watching together on the Food Network. We had so much fun watching an episode here and there throughout the summer while Kyle was napping or otherwise engaged.

Terry and I also bond through TV -- yelling at reality stars together (or politicians). Whenever we're watching a silly sitcom, and I laugh out loud, he says, "I like it when you laugh," because somehow I've gotten the reputation of no-fun Jennifer, even though it is he who recently decided to stop watching a lot of the mindless TV that we used to veg through hours of each night. No matter -- the point is that over the last couple of years, we have been watching much less TV. Mostly as shows that we used to enjoy watching went off the air, we simply didn't replace them in the line up. Instead, we read or talked or just went to bed earlier.

Another thing that has worked for us is watching TV on DVD. For a while, we've done this with 24 and more recently we decided to watch the last season of Friends, which we never really saw. Netflix works great for this. We get to enjoy a show, but on our time (I should probably explain that we don't have TiVo, so we can't just record and watch later as a matter of course. I have been flirting with the idea, but everyone I know who has it says that they end up watching much more TV, so I'll just continue recording House on the VCR so that I can watch it on my own the following day. Between that fact, and the extra $5 (or more?) for the rest of my life on my Direct TV bill, we've again decided against it).

I've realized lately that something needs to change -- again. This time, it's my children's television viewing habits. This summer they watched quite a bit, and Amanda finally got into all the Disney tween empire shows. Now neither of my children are responding well to moderation, so I just told Amanda and Kyle that there will be no TV on school days. Much to my surprise, Amanda said, "That's a good idea, Mom" (proving that even independent tweens actually want to be parented). Kyle complained a little more. I will allow Kyle to watch TV during the day on the two days he's home from preschool while Amanda is at school, but for both of them, there will be no morning or afternoon TV.

See, I don't do well with moderation, and I don't think the kids do either. I was allowing Amanda to veg for 30 or 45 minutes when she got home from school before doing homework and chores, but half the time it led to an argument when it was time to turn it off, "But Mom, I've never seen this episode."

In spite of the fact that she thinks it's a good idea, I think that it will require willpower on my end, so that's why I'm posting my intent publicly. I know that it's going to be a good thing, and it's the right thing for us to do, but it's also not easy always being the enforcer. With complete abstinence, those kinds of arguments are avoided, once they get used to the idea.

What about you? How do you (or do you?) moderate your own TV viewing and that of your children? Are you pleased with how it's working out?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I'm Mad Too, Eddie

Katrina at Callapidder Days wrote a post yesterday about these Current Events -- about what's really important, and what she hopes to learn and to teach her family throughout it all.

Her post was very nice, kind, compassionate, and grounded, and yet it still served as a trigger to remind me how irritated I got watching just a few minutes of the Presidential debate at the questions that all the middle-American working folk undecided voters asked about these hard economic times (even a morning show host the following day said that most of them weren't really questions, and couldn't they assume that the system wasn't broken and ask a question about changing something).

Yesterday I whined, today I rant:

Why am I irritated? Why is it a trigger button for me?

One issue is that by temperament I'm naturally a "good little soldier." I am loyal to the establishment; I follow the rules. So to hear criticism of our country and of our President doesn't sit well with me. In the last few months, even I have questioned the action (or inaction?) of our current president, but I am amazed at the lack of respect for the Office of the President that would result in making a movie mocking a current President.

About the economy -- yes, times are hard. High gas prices, rising food costs, and the mortgage/housing "crisis" are impacting many. I do not argue that point, but what triggers my irritation is a complete lack of personal responsibility.

  • The housing "crisis"? It's due to people taking out stupid loans -- such as no-interest, or adjustable rate, so that they can buy a house that was too expensive for them in the first place, in hopes that their house would increase in value (after which they would presumably refinance again or take out the increase in home equity value in yet another loan). Because we are all chasing the American dream -- no, we deserve the American dream -- they expected that in five years that they would be making enough to pay for the house that they couldn't afford when they made the decision to buy it. I've heard people place blame on the "evil" banks and mortgage companies that aggressively try to sell these types of unsound loans, and yes, they bear some responsibility, but that argument didn't work for Hitler's henchmen, did it? Why are we accepting it from Americans here? Since when are people not expected to rely on their own good sense?
  • Tough economic times -- even Obama said something about the government's overspending, and how when a regular American faces budget tightening, they make some changes, like going out to eat less often. Even Terry jumped in here, "No they don't!" he yelled at the TV. "That's the problem."

    I know that this is an area that I should be more compassionate in,** but I struggle with seeing people's choices and their resulting complaints about hard times. I do admit that it might be different for us, because Terry does make a good income -- higher than average, I know. BUT there were many years in our early marriage when we made much less than other two-income college educated people, and due to his financial good sense, we lived within those means, and still tucked a bit away in savings. For most middle class people, "hard times" means that they have to put their $10 lunch at work on their credit card and accrue debt. How about bringing a sandwich to work? How about NOT buying two $4 coffees each day at Starbucks? This is the reality of what "hard times" means to the average middle class worker. And they aren't even willing to make these changes, seeing designer coffee as a promise of that American dream.

  • I'm mad that people who are in these failing industries (financial -- like my husband!), and have made $80,000 or double that for the last ten years, couldn't get by on six months severance, and even stretch it another six months if needed, because they too have been living beyond their means.

  • Even those who really do face a squeeze -- living on a "working wage" with fixed costs such as gas and food rising -- are not willing to cut into comforts. Direct TV, TiVo, and cell phones are not necessities. If someone needed to, they could cut $100 a month from their bills by just doing without these things -- for a time, if needed. But they aren't willing to. They'd rather complain about the mess that the government has gotten us into than to change their way of life. It would hurt, but it's not impossible.

    I think about what people did during the Depression, and people would never do that now -- former businessmen selling apples on the side of the corner, or ripping apart clothes to resew new ones. We aren't even willing to try drastic change, even when it's needed. We want the government to step in and fix it.

So, are you mad, too?

Maybe you are mad at the powers that be, just like those at the debate. Maybe you're mad at me, now. If so, I'd love to know why. Convince me that I am cruel and heartless and completely dispassionate, and there's another side to this that I'm not seeing. **I'm serious. Even if I still think I'm right, maybe something you say will help me gain some more compassion.

Maybe you are with me, confused at America's own lack of personal responsibility. How should people cope with these changes in our economy?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Cold Feet

In less than a month (thump, thump, gasp), I'll be getting on an airplane with six other bloggers to blog our Compassion trip to the Dominican Republic. When I said yes, I was convinced that blogging can make a difference.

I still am, I think. . . .

When I read Shannon's post at Rocks in My Dryer last week, In Which "Rock Dude" Comes for a Visit (about Compassion's Shaun Groves), I started to feel those heart palpitations when I thought about my own upcoming trip with Shaun.

It's cold feet. Cold feet doesn't mean that I'm doubting. They don't mean I'm going to back out. They don't mean that God's changed his mind. The wedding section has a great article on cold feet. It explains why we get them (in regards to marriage): It's a big change, and we don't quite know what to expect. That is exactly my issue with this trip.

The article also gives suggestions how to deal with cold feet, and distinguishing them from real doubts. One idea is to write your fears down. They will either look silly, or you can then try to figure out if there's a solution.

My fears (and solutions):
  • There's the big life-altering one -- "What if God changes me?" or perhaps my bigger fear, "What if He doesn't?" When I commented on Shannon's post, she sent me an encouraging word via email, and I shared these thoughts with her, and she gave a very wise answer: God will change you as much as He wants to. Well, okay then. I can trust God with this fear. Problem solved.
  • What if no one cares? The Uganda trip was awesome. There were some great bloggers who went along, and I know that many in our community followed Shannon's and Sophie's stories. People sponsored children (I did!), people followed their journey -- not only to Africa -- c'mon they went to Africa -- but the whole pre and post-trip life-changes that occured. Well, this one is silly (and perhaps a little prideful). I'll go back to Shannon's train of thought on that one -- God will do exactly what He wants to do though this trip.
  • What if no one likes me? I'm thinking about my team mates here, and even though it sounds silly even before I write it down to de-bunk it, it's out there -- just like on the first day in a new class or at a new church. It's there. Since I was the first blogger who was confirmed on the trip (when Shaun contacted 5 Minutes for Mom for a representative), I prayed for the team that he was working on forming from the get-go. So again, shouldn't I trust God for the group dynamics? (Speaking of the group: Melanie just posted today about her process of doubts to confirmation to excitement, and did confirm my real call, not my fake cold feet. But then I got to thinking, the fact that Big Mama is going to be there brings a whole new fear to my mind: What will I wear?)
This very week in BSF we studied Moses' call from the burning bush, where God specifically answered every single one of his objections. Coincidence? Perhaps not.

I never used to have an answer to that "What's your 'life verse'?" question, but over the last few years, one has stuck:
Teach me to number my days aright, that I may gain a heart of wisdom -- Psalm 90:12.
And it fits. Those six days, November 2 - 6, are a part of my God-ordained days. I pray that I will gain some wisdom about God's view of the poor and my role in helping them.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

This and That

How about some this and that? I don't even have a subtitle, it's just simply this and that.

This morning Kyle came downstairs from bed, and said, "Amanda, I want to hug you." And he did, giving the morning a much much better start than other recent mornings:

Kyle comes downstairs. Amanda gets up from her breakfast at the table and runs to him, "Kyle!!"

"Don't touch me!" Kyle, the non-morning person cries, following it up with a grunt.

So, already, things are good.


It's that time again. In October of each year the color is pink and we think about "our girls" a lot more than we usually do.

Because I have a pre-pubescent tween daughter in my house, I've actually been thinking a lot more about them in general. This summer we shopped for bras. They are much less bra-like than I remember my training bras being (Does anyone else remember those triangles covered with the lace mesh type material with the pink rosette in the middle?). They are really just like a smaller more bra-like cami. She needed these for an extra layer of coverage and for the social necessity of changing for gym in her new intermediate school, but before I'm ready, I think we'll be doing some "real bra shopping".

Read more of my review (and enter to win) about this book that I enjoyed so much that I nominated it for the Middle Grade/Young Adult Non-Fiction Cybils award. You can read more about this great award (why I think it's better than other book awards) and how you can nominate some of your favorite books of 2008 HERE.


I finished the gothic orphan novel! And surprise, surprise -- I liked it! Read my review and others' linked posts at 5 Minutes for Books Classics Bookclub -- Jane Eyre edition.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Joe Biden is not Joe Liberman

Terry was watching the Vice-Presidential debates last week, and I went in there to sit beside him on the couch with my book.

"He looks pretty young there," I observed of Biden.

"Young? You think he looks young?" Terry asked.

"Well, maybe in comparison to McCain he looks good. I don't know. He certainly doesn't look like he did when I saw him in our Labor Day parade that year."

"You didn't see him in our Labor Day parade," Terry said, eying me skeptically.

At that moment, it all clicked for me. "Ooooh, Joe Biden. He's not Joe Lieberman. I wondered why Jon Stewart was making fun of the things that Joe Lieberman had said about Obama. I was thinking, 'He should say those things. He's his V-P nominee.'"

Terry hid his head under the throw draped across his body. "How long have you thought that?" he asked, almost afraid to know the answer.

"Always. I have always been confused. I kept wondering why he looked so different than I remembered, but it's because I was remembering a different person. Now I get it."

So I never claimed to be a political genius. I try to know enough about the facts to keep myself informed, but honestly, I don't really take the time to educate myself on domestic or world affairs as I probably should.

If you'd like to read the thoughts of some who have actually taken time to think about it, why don't you pop over to 5 Minutes for Books and enter to win a set of 11 political books from Hachette Book Group. You can enter through Tuesday.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Secret Life of Kids

My kids belong to a club, and it's a club that I can't join, because I don't qualify for membership. My children are the two sole members of the "We got these two characters as parents" club. Sometimes the club meetings are planned: "Kyle, let's go outside and I'll show you how to ride your tricycle," or "Amanda, will you read me our favorite funny book?" (which right now is Chester's Back).

Other times they come out into the open from their secret society to present a united front against the powers that be: "Mom, the meat really is gross. Don't get mad at Kyle for not eating it," or "Don't yell at Amanda, Mom. We were just playing."

The yelling really moves the club into action. At times when I lose my cool, they exchange a look or a laugh. Some might feel that this is disrespectful, but I think it's a right response to my wrong response. When I get so angry (usually over something small), that I yell, pound my fist, and end up with steam coming out of my ears, they have me pegged.

Vacations are a great opportunity for extended club functions. Since it's only the siblings, they have to make the best of it, and they usually do: "Mom, Amanda found the Wiggles for me on TV when I woke up, so we didn't have to bother you," (Ah, the club can be a good thing), or "Mom, can I share my ice cream with Kyle, even though he wasn't supposed to have any because he didn't eat his dinner?" (Who are you, and what have you done with my tween?).

I do support the existence of the club, and maybe I'm not intimidated by it because I know that my club is better. In the club that I'm a member of the motto is "Because I said so," or occasionally a firmer, "Just do it!" (dictator-style not Nike-style). The other member of my club and I also share smiles at the behavior of the people on the outs of our group: meltdowns, silliness, and "not that old trick again" maneuvers. We also get to go on members only retreats once or twice a year, which guarantees the longevity of our organization.

I remember being a member of the kids' club -- rolling eyes, giggling, teaming up when there were no other options for my sister and me, so I'm glad that it's still going strong in this generation. I hope that my children will one day join the parents' club so that I can explore yet another group: the "Don't worry what Mom and Dad said, Grandma's in charge now."

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Matching Strides

There are people in our lives with whom we literally walk through life at our sides. Some stand out in my history:

In college, Bill was my very first friend (and the person ultimately responsible for introducing me to Terry). In one's freshman year of college, one spends a good deal of time walking around campus, figuring things out, checking out the surroundings. Bill was the one who I did all of these with. Bill is tall -- over six feet -- and walks fast and with a long stride. I have never been one to lollygag, but when I walked with him, I had to practically run to keep up at times.

Terry on the other hand, while almost as tall, walks slowly. He knows he'll get where he's going, so why rush it? It was he who would slow me down.

Fifteen years ago, my dad and I stood at the back of a church getting ready to make a most important walk. "Stepping off on Hullabaloo?" he said (referencing his Aggie Corps history). He took my white-lace covered arm into his tuxedoed one and we made that monumental walk, where he easily gave me over to join with Terry in marriage. That walk down the aisle was different, yet similar to those times we walked hand in hand or arm in arm as I was growing up.

Years later, I would walk with my children. With Amanda, my firstborn, I had to learn patience as even a simple walk from the house to the car was likely to be filled with delays, as she hopped through the backyard, stopping to point out a lizard, pausing to observe a blade of grass pushing through a crack in the cement, or to tell me a story.

Kyle is equally curious, but he walks fast. In fact, he doesn't usually walk at all -- he runs. As his companion, I have to guide him when he should slow down, but sometimes I can run right along side him.

It's all about matching strides. Some people will hurry us along, and we will hurry others along. Others will give us the gift of slowing down and seeing the world in a new light.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

At Your Age

"For your age" -- is it a compliment or a cut?

I had to have knee surgery 5 years ago. When the orthopedic surgeon was showing me my x-ray, he said, "Your bones are nice and white. Sometimes at your age I am already seeing calcification."

Talk about a backhanded compliment. I was 32--certainly too young to get the "at your age" bit

I might forgive him, because after the surgery, he was amazed at my healing prowess, and said I was "healing like a teenager."

I have a birthday later this month. Birthdays don't bother me, but this one will put me firmly into the "late thirties" camp. When my grandmother turned 88 this year, she said, "Oh, you don't really celebrate birthdays anymore. At this age, you're just borrowing time." She's not ashamed of her age. She will tell anyone how old she is, and I found myself using it a lot when she was visiting to explain myself, "My grandmother is here -- she's 88 -- so I've been laying low this week."

Since Terry and I have been blessed with rather active octogenarian grandparents, we haven't realized how old they truly are. Mimi's right -- most don't get to live that long.

My twentieth high school reunion was this summer, and I saw a little video montage on someone's Facebook page. My thoughts -- those people are old!! I saw a lot of bald guys and a lot of girls that looked overly bleached or made-up like they were trying to hide the toll of the years. Not me. I look good "for my age" according to my magic mirror.

Unfortunately, the more I see others and make judgments on their ages, the more I think that perhaps my mirror is lying to me. I think I see what I want to see, and that's okay . . . right?

What about you? Do you shrink from your age? Do you feel, like my grandmother, that you've lived out your years well? That they are a badge which you can display proudly? Has your idea of "old" changed?