Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Blog Year In Review

And now I give you the second annual Magically Mama Blog Year In Review.

For this year, I think I will type my favorite sentence from my favorite posts for each month.

Enjoy!

January
14 I want to clear a space where I can feel more deeply and appreciate more fully these beautiful souls whose lives are continually flowing around and through mine.
18 I bought a roll of duct tape, made my way to the public restroom with two little boys in tow, took off my skirt and duct taped the tear together again.
26 I didn't know that I was raising such a socially conscious daughter.

February
05 Did I ever tell you about the time I stopped trying to be a perfect mom and began learning how to actually be a mother and more importantly, how to be myself?
13 A hostile enemy has been ravaging our household since Thursday.

March
01 And sometimes it's best to just take a deep breath, be gentle with oneself and buy bigger clothes.
09 I wish so much to spread my arms wide to embrace the immensity of all that I am, to touch and bless all who stand before and after me in just the way I have been blessed.
15 There are fleeting moments when I wonder why we think we have to wait to taste heaven.
30 So, um, I think I'll leave "Biggest Nerd in the World" title to Napolean, but I'm a little scared at how close I sometimes come to that title.

April
04 Okay, here's the first installment of 100 things about me. For the record, that second installment is still sitting, unfinished, in my drafts folder.
10 I think that treating others with dignity is one of the few things in this world that is inarguably right.
11 Warning! Google has misled you. You will not see Jennifer Lopez or any other females naked here.
13 My heart aches. For me, for others who have lost loved ones, for broken trust and difficult decisions, for lost time and a feeling of having so much taken, on so many fronts.

May
13 Embrace the chaos, embrace the chaos, embrace the chaos...
13 Real moms love their children fiercely, devotedly, desperately and would do ANYTHING for them, even if sometimes they would like to lock them in a closet.
18 I'm going to see my parents today and thought I'd stop by your house on the way to pay you for your uterus.
19 We birth professionals seem to be settling for the easy answers. The causes. The propaganda. The comfortable absolutes.
29 I loathe with a fury inexpressible in cold, dry words the twin dragons of mental illness and addiction.

June
01 So with all of my counting today, I'm trying to mindfully count the most important things -- my blessings.
13 There is not a pain, an affliction, a mistake in my life that I have not felt has been turned to a higher purpose, consecrated and made sacred.
17 I feel like I've been doubly blessed in the father department.
21 I just keep pausing and thinking how humorous it is that THIS is my life.

July
17 And then, he turned around and did his little bum shake. Nobody expected it and we all laughed like crazy.
18 For some reason that terrible experience made me realize that this skinny, blond kid was worth hanging on to.
26 Things are less than magical at our house lately.

August
02 I've always thought of JDub and I as two parts to a song. He is the rhythm. I am the melody.
08 I have not been able to reconcile this feeling that I need to take a break and let go with the passion I feel for this work, the way it has made me grow and blossom as a woman, mother and friend.
09 Confession: Last year I heard a bird in our fireplace, which was blocked off, and I
didn't let him out.

16 I told him that, knowing everything I know now about everything that has happened in the last ten years, I'd do it all over again.

September
04 I am free to explore the world, find the missing parts of me, concentrate on centering myself and building my home and family.
11 I can make my tiny soul a flickering and persistent light that the darkness can never quite put out.
14 I'm trying to savor the deliciousness of a future pregnant with possibility.
26 My dreams have tangled up inside themselves again.

October
03 Understandable, but how on earth is fungus meets frizzball a good haircut?
05 Murphy, you rascal, I love to hate you.
16 One of my favorite things about autumn is that it is finally cool enough to bake bread.
21 She is already noticing the ways society and Satan undermine women and she is talking back!

November
16 I realized a while ago that I've left a few loose threads hanging out around here. So, I guess it's a good time to wrap them up.
16 I will hope that the love I give and the life I live are fitting tribute to those who have given so much of their love and lives to me.
20 He is my best friend, my home, my grounding force.
22 I am so grateful just to be, to know that in this and in every moment of my life there is a deeper perfection than I will ever know or ever see fully in this life.

December
15 Perhaps I can give myself the gift of love and forgiveness that I have so desperately been seeking from everyone else.
29 "He's either just fine or he'll need a CT Scan," he said, "and we can't do anything for either one here."

Book Review 2007

My goal for 2007 was to read 50 books. I didn't quite make 50, but I think that 34 is a pretty decent effort. Following is the list of books I've read rated from one star to four stars and a little blip about each.

  1. Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card (reread) **** Loved this book the first time I read it and it didn't suffer at all from a second reading.
  2. Xenocide by Orson Scott Card **** I read Ender's Game for the first time nearly a decade ago, but could never really get into the sequels. Somehow, they hit me right when I picked them up this year. I especially liked this one.
  3. Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card *** And I like this sequel also, as a continuation of the story. But, judging it on its own merits it wasn't quite as good as the first two.
  4. Mitten Strings For God by Katrina Kenison (reread) **** Like a cherished friend, this is a book I will forever love and probably read at least once a year.
  5. Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher **** This was a frighteningly good read. Very well written and well presented, it echoed my experience as an adolescent girl years ago and motivated me to find ways to help my daughter weather the storms of adolescence. One of my top 3, most influential books read this year.
  6. Mystery of the Haunted Pool by Phyllis Whitney (reread) * I read this as a child and picked it up again for fun. It was fun, light, fluffy but nothing groundbreaking.
  7. The Mommy Myth by Susan J. Douglas and Meredith W. Michaels **** I would rate this as another of the top 3 most influential books I've read this year. Amazing and biting commentary on the ridiculous standards we hold ourselves to as women and mothers.
  8. Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle *** As always, I love Madeleine L'Engle's books. This was no exception. A fun trip back to the beginning of time with Meg's twin brothers.
  9. Emma by Jane Austen ** I like the story of Emma. I like Jane Austen, but I almost clawed my eyes out trying to read this book. Too lengthy. Too many details. I kept thinking "T-t-t-t-t-today, Jane!"
  10. Troubling a Star by Madeleine L'Engle *** Fascinating trip to the antarctic with a believable and likeable heroine.
  11. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracie Hogg ** I've read this in chunks before. I keep re-reading it thinking I will find it more useful the next time I read it. Nope. Just doesn't sing for me. Not my style. (And her information on breastfeeding is a bit inaccurate.) Not to throw the baby out with the book, though. It is a quality book that some parents might find helpful. I would sooner recommend "Happiest Baby On the Block."
  12. An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L'Engle *** Of all the L'Engle books for young readers I picked up this year, this was the standout favorite. It was a delight to follow Polly through time.
  13. Family --The Ties That Bind and Gag by Erma Bombeck ** I've read bits and pieces of Erma's stuff since high school. She's always made me laugh. But I found this book to be a bit disappointing. Clever title though, eh?
  14. A Live Coal in the Sea by Madeleine L'Engle *** This should really be an ALMOST 4 star book. I was moved by her intertwining, multi-generational stories. And the message, that there is no sorrow or sin that is bigger than God's grace to heal, was wonderfully woven through the book. Not at all pushy.
  15. Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card (in progress) **** So far. I have never quite finished this book because every time I pick it up, I think of things I want to write about and end up writing instead of reading. If that's not a good review of a book on writing, I don't know what is.
  16. Writing to Change the World by Mary Pipher **** Excellent! Has also inspired me to do some good writing this year. The same voice and presence I loved in Reviving Ophelia.
  17. Wicked by Gregory Macguire *** (Contains some questionable material.) Fascinating story. An interesting look at the other side of the story. I hear the play is even better.
  18. Mentoring : The Tao of Giving and Receiving Wisdom by Chungliang A. Huang and Jerry Lynch (reread) **** Brilliant, brilliant book. This is probably the third of my top 3. I have learned so much about new ways of relating to others from this book. I am now on my third reading of it and it still continues to inspire and change me.
  19. He Did Deliver Me From Bondage by Colleen C. Harrison (in progress) **** So far, so good. I am only about halfway through this book as I try to work through the exercises and make the changes it invites me to make.
  20. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (reread) **** As good the second time as the first.
  21. The One Minute Millionaire: The Enlightened Way to Wealth by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert Allen *** Very interesting. It inspired me to be more creative with our finances and to commit to living the way we want to live.
  22. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling **** (Wow, Wow and Wow!) I thought this was a fitting end to the HP series. I am a true Potter fan, and though this book wasn't perfect, I finished it feeling highly satisfied.
  23. I Believe in Water, Twelve Brushes With Religion Edited by Marilyn Singer **** Another WOW book. Twelve short stories exploring many world religions. Taught me a great deal. Incredibly fascinating. Probably #4 on my list.
  24. The Mermaids Singing by Lisa Carey ** Good read. Interesting characters, story and plot. A little too obsessed with sex.
  25. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer **** I have to make a disclaimer here. I picked up "Twilight," the first in this series, when I was in Ghost Ranch, NM last November. I had NO idea what the book was about. I just thought the cover was pretty. I read the first few chapters there and fell in love. Then, I came home to find out that it was HUGE. I reserved it at my library and was like, 213th on the waiting list. Whoa! I love this series. I loved this book, though not as much as the first or the third.
  26. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer **** Yep. Loved this one, too. If you'd ever told me I would be in love with a vampire AND a werewolf, I would have never believed you. But I am. Stephenie KILLED me with the ending to this book. Can't wait for #4. Guess I'm just part of the crowd.
  27. Learning to Swim by Ann Turner *** Beautiful, touching, gritty, powerful poetry. A good read.
  28. Women I Have Known and Been by Carol Lynn Pearson **** (WOW!) I loved this book of poetry more than any other I've read in years. Genius. I found myself in this pages over and over again.
  29. Appetites by Geneen Roth **** Okay, I have to retract my earlier statements. One of my other top three has to be bumped down one. This book was soothing, beautiful, comforting and such a learning experience. I think it was my #1 book for the year. So, so wonderful.
  30. Schooled by Gordon Korman ** Fun read about a teenager who has grown up in a commune alone with his grandmother being suddenly dropped into a modern middle school experience. Much of what happens is highly predictable. But, because of the main character's guileless, genuine and generous personality everyone in the story ends up better off after the experience.
  31. First Meetings In Ender's Universe by Orson Scott Card **** For those of us who can't seem to get enough of Card's Enderverse, this book hits the spot in a big way.
  32. Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card *** It's Card, so it's good. The moral and ethical dilemmas woven throughout are superb. The theoretical science is highly intriguing. The glimpse into a possible past is enlightening. Very worth reading. The only reason I didn't give it four stars is that I felt it took too long to get to the climax and action of the story. I don't know how I would have done it differently, but it just felt a bit lop-sided.
  33. Circle of Light In a Smelter Town, New and Collected Poems by Elaine Ipson **** Tender, bright, articulate poetry. I enjoyed this book immensely. And it certainly didn't hurt that Elaine grew up in my hometown and gave me a tiny glimpse at what it was like years before I was born. It shed a lot of light on how relationships and personalities and ways-of-being have developed in my home town. A lot of "Aha!" moments. And it would have been thoroughly enjoyable even if I didn't grow up near Vine street like Elaine.
  34. Rachel and Leah by Orson Scott Card *** Good read. Compelling, interesting. But I didn't love it. Perhaps because it's only the first half of the story, but I think it was also because the main female characters didn't seem nearly as authentic as I would have liked.
So, that's my list for 2007. My goal for 2008 is to read 25 or more books. Much less ambitious because this year, instead of spending most of my time nursing a baby I'll b chasing a busy toddler.

What about you? What books did you read thid year? If you want to make a list on your blog, let me know and I'll link to it here. Otherwise, just list your favorites for the year in my comments.

Any ideas of what I should add to my list for next year?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Feasting

A late Christmas gift from me, to you. Enjoy.

---------------------------------------------------------------
Christmas Feasting
by Heather Duncan

The banquets are in earnest now.
I am surrounded by delicacies,
sweet and savory tokens
of neighbors' esteem.

Chocolate melts friendly
down my throat
like laughter.
And still I hunger.

This year of abundance
and over-abundance
has left my spirit famished.

Here, at the end and beginning of years
I close my eyes,
see the babe born in Bethlehem
reaching out to me.
He came to be the end and the beginning.

I open wide my broken heart
and fill myself up with Him.
I believe His promises
that those who let Him in
will never hunger,
never thirst.

This is the season I learn anew
to feast upon His love.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Can You Say Hematoma?

Or "OUCH!"



We took the kidlets to see "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" last night. Don't ask me for a review of the movie. What I saw was quite fun, but I didn't see much.

It was a fiasco from the beginning. Just as the movie was starting, the man behind me tapped me on the shoulder and handed me Mashuga's shoes. Apparently Mashuga had taken them off and dropped them behind his seat. Then, a little later I looked over and he had no pants on. None. What the?!? So, I handed Coco off to JDub and proceeded to look on the floor for his pants. I found them almost behind our seats, because apparently he had gotten stuck between the back of the seat and the front and his pants came off when he wiggled his way free.

Then, Kaitybean was kicking the back of the seats and kicking her legs and being entirely too fidgety.

Then Mashuga started to do the same and when I tried to get him to stop he exclaimed, very loudly "But, I'm playing!"

Then there was the part where Coco wouldn't sit still for more than 2.5 seconds. He was spinning around on my lap and trying to get down and going back and forth from me to JDub. I'd forgotten that little ones reach the age where you can't take them to a movie and expect them to stay still and go to sleep. Coco has officially reached that age, so we will be hiring a babysitter for him next time we go to a movie.

Because Coco was obviously not up for a movie, JDub and I took turns out in the foyer with him, letting him wander around. When it was my turn, I decided to let him walk around a bit in the back of the theater where there were no seats. It worked well for a while, until he decided to make a mad dash for the aisle. I grabbed him, but he was going too fast for me, so I only got his legs. With his momentum, this meant that he fell forward and hit his head on the hard, sticky floor with a loud thump. A few people gasped and I hurriedly scooped him up and went out of the theater.

He was mad! He screamed and wailed and cried. I took him outside because I was afraid he'd upset everyone in every movie. As soon as we went outside, he calmed down a bit. Then, as I walked back in I looked at his forehead and saw the ginormous bump. Now, I've been a parent for almost ten years now and I've NEVER seen a bump that big on one of my children's heads. Especially one that developed in less than two minutes.

So, I freaked out. I went into the theater and told JDub that I needed him immediately. He came out and was also a little disturbed to see a large golfball sticking out of our son's forehead. He took a couple pictures, then gathered the other kids so that we could take Jack to the doctor.

We called JDub's brother (who is a chiropractor) on the way and he said that it was normal for small children to get large lumps on their heads after a fall and that we should probably just watch him for signs of concussion. I decided that, though he was probably right, I'd prefer to have someone look at him just for my own peace of mind.

Sure enough, by the time we got to the Instacare, the bump had lessened a bit and Coco was walking around and acting normally. They didn't even check us in or charge us a copay. The Dr. just looked at him for a minute, shone a light in his eyes and told us to keep a good eye on him and wake him up every 2 or 3 hours during the night.

"He's either just fine or he'll need a CT Scan," he said, "and we can't do anything for either one here."

So, we drove home and put our sleeping children to bed. Coco is fine this morning. You can barely tell he even had a fall. So, that goes to show that first time parents aren't the only ones who freak out over their children's injuries.

And at least one good thing came of all of it. I'm sure that the people who were sitting near us during the movie were very happy to see our family leave the theater.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Summer and Fall of Weird Part 3


Here I am with the continuation of Summer and Fall of Weird. Click here for Part 1 if you missed it. And Part 2 can be found here.

And I must begin with the obligatory thanks to marvelous Brillig and Kate, the mothers of SOS. Thalia's Child is hosting Soap Opera Sunday this week, so if you're not too busy, head over to her site for more soapiness.

And so we continue...

As I said, the summer was mostly fun. Jeremy and I got to be good friends. We both played soccer, so we did that quite a bit together. We attended each other's games. He'd bring me cocoa at my early morning practices. He let me drive his car a lot, which ended up being rather comical since it was a standard and, um, I wasn't even very good at driving an automatic yet.

He really was a good guy. We really did have lots of fun together.

But things started to get really strange when he started talking about our "future" together and speaking about "us" as if we were a certainty for many years to come. I had not and never would think of us in that light. We were just having fun together, in my mind. I had no intentions of us becoming more.

I told him so.

He kept coming around, so I assumed that he understood what I meant and it was okay with him.

Then, one day something happened that ended it all for me.

One day, after a soccer game, a few girls from my team invited Jeremy and I to go to lunch with them. Jeremy was excited. I was trepidatious, to say the least. You see, these girls were not my friends. They were not Jeremy's friends. Well, let's back up. There was K.A., someone I had known and been friends with on and off since Kindergarten. Then there was S.E. She and I had been in a play together, had taken drama classes together and basically got on quite well. I liked her.

So, where was the trap? The trio was led by E, who we will call the Queen of the Cats. You know this girl. Popular, but not in the "I'm nice and everybody likes me" way, but in the "I wear the right clothes and go to the right parties and everyone is afraid that if they say anything I don't like, I'll crucify them socially" way. Even people I normally liked and trusted were scary to me in this girl's presence. Friendship for her seemed only to be thinly veiled, candy-coated contempt. Which is exactly why she and I were not friends. I hadn't any patience for cattiness.

So, back to the story...

After the game, Jeremy and I are getting into his old gray Honda when The Queen of Cats and her kittens roll up next to us in her jeep.

She leaned her head out the window, "Hey do you guys want to come to lunch with us?"

"Sure," Jeremy blurted out in surprise.

"Meet us at Taco Bell," she said as she drove off, her long blond hair trailing out the window.

I punched Jeremy in the arm. "Why did you say yes?"

"Why not? They want to have lunch with us. Isn't that cool?"

"No, Jeremy. It is not cool. I do NOT want to spend an hour talking to her."

"Why?"

I stammered. I couldn't find words for the fear in the pit of my stomach. It's the kind of knowing girls seem to have and boys just don't. I could tell by the hungry look in her eyes that there would be more than tacos eaten for lunch that day.

I still don't know why I didn't just walk home and let him go by himself. Maybe I knew that it could possibly have been worse if I weren't there to defend myself. Who knows why I went, but I went.

When we showed up they were already seated. They smirked at us as we came in and ordered our food.

We sat down across from them and before I could even take a bite, the Queen of Cats looked at Jeremy conspiratorially.

"So, Jeremy, we've been wondering. It seems like Heather always has a boyfriend at our games. Since you're the latest and you're one of us I thought maybe you'd clue me in. Are you dating Heather because she puts out?"

I almost fell down. I was torn between wanting to punch her and wanting to throw my Mountain Dew in her face.

I didn't do either. Nor, to my dismay, did Jeremy. He just stared at her. He said NOTHING. I'm sitting there thinking, why aren't you defending my honor here, scumbag.

Still, nothing. He just started eating. Cat woman's friends kept eating. They stared out the window, squirmed, looked guilty. I felt so betrayed that they were in on this. One of them I'd known for forever. I was there for her when her dad died. We had been friends much longer than she had been friends with this girl, even if we hadn't been close for years. I felt betrayed, betrayed and doubly betrayed. I wanted to scream or cry or run or hit somebody.

Now, to clarify, yes. There had been kissing between Jeremy and I. KISSING! And the kind of kissing that I would be only mildly embarrassed by if one of our parents had walked in on us. To me, "putting out" meant sex. I could tell that this trio of catty girls thought the same thing, that they were hoping for ammunition in order to tell everyone what a slut I was. But Jeremy and I hadn't gone anywhere NEAR that line.

Still, Jeremy said nothing. I was seething.

And I will continue this next week with the end of this gruesome, awkward conversation. And what I did next. And the end of this relationship, or WAIT, what should have been the end of our relationship.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

As the Colors Mix and Flow


I made someone late for work this morning. The phone rang to interrupt my sleep and the instant I heard it I remembered. I'd made a promise. I'd have JDub pick my BIL up for work at 6:30.

But, JDub wasn't home when I got the call last night. And then he came home from a date with Scud and fell asleep and then I fell asleep.

And so my sister called me at 6:50 this morning to see what was going on. JDub, wonderful man that he is, threw his clothes on and went to save the day. But my good Brother in Law was still late for work. It was my fault.

Yesterday I had an interesting interchange with a friend. She did something that bothered me and when she asked whether or not it had bothered me I told her the truth. She seemed hurt. But, I decided it was best to be honest. I was not unkind and I tried to reassure her that I wasn't at all angry with her.

She didn't do anything wrong. She was impeccably gentle and good in what she had done. Which might have been worse. Because it made me feel worthless and criticized. I felt like a terrible person for letting it annoy me.

So, this morning I couldn't sleep anymore.

I got up and painted instead.

I painted an image of a face with closed, crying eyes and yellow skin, it's mouth open wide with red, angry lines flying out in all directions. There was a brick ceiling above. A purple circle surrounded her, blocking her from any good thing that could get in.

And as I painted, words flowed through my head.

"You are good for nothing. I can't believe you made him late."

"There are people who go to work, usually on time. And then there are people who paint."

"There are people who do worthwhile things. There are people who are worthwhile."

"You're not one of them."

This is why I paint. As I let my brush flow over paper, I learn things about myself that I seem unable to see otherwise. The images that come to life surprise me, they bless me with new knowing -- the sight of an inner eye that can only see when my hands get messy.

What did I learn today? I am terrified of making mistakes, of being criticized, of people seeing (and, heaven forbid, pointing out) my many flaws. This is fascinating to me.

It is an interesting paradox.

No living person could ever be as unkind to me as I am to myself. It is simply not possible. My days begin and end with an inner invective that would put any drill sergeant in "Full Metal Jacket" to shame.

Yes, I am most certainly an artist. I have perfected my work in the medium of self-loathing to masterpiece level.

As a consequence, the one big thing that makes me bristle more than anything is when someone even implies that something I'm doing is wrong. Even if they don't say it, but could possibly, possibly be thinking it. Especially if I have done something that really is wrong and merits complaint. Or if my children make a mistake and hurt someone and it's possible that it is because I haven't been a perfect parent.

I can barely stand it. This morning I think I figured out one reason why.

Facing my mistakes, knowing that other people know I make mistakes and I am horribly flawed gives this nasty voice inside of me more power, more ammunition. If I am flawed enough that someone else notices, then that means that this witch inside me could be right. There are worthwhile people. I am not one of them.

This bitter abuse I put myself through is juxtaposed with a wisdom that fills and envelops me. I am good, beautiful, kind, generous. I love deeply. I am a daughter of God and if I were nothing else on my own, that is enough to make me wonderful. I am worthy of love and gentleness and forgiveness.

I am deeply loved by many. JDub came home this morning to see me hunched over my painting, tear drops splattering in the tempera. I continued to glide the brush over paper after paper as I told him of my new discovery. I know I am good. I know I am loved. But, for some unknown reason, I hate myself.

He tried to reassure me, told me how much he loves me and how wonderful I am. He is not the only one who loves me this much, who believes in me. I am blessed with friends and family who trust me, love me, enjoy me.

Still, somewhere inside is a voice that keeps welling up and telling me that the virtue others see in me -- the beautiful wholeness I know is there -- isn't who I really am. My goodness is only ever temporary, a pit stop between foibles and blunders and inadequacies. This voice tells me that I am not worthy of being loved.

It is no wonder that it hurts so much when I am criticized or when I let others down. There is a part of me that cannot see a way for anyone to forgive me or love me wholly if I am not perfect. How could that be possible when I can't even stop putting myself through hell for every mistake?

So this morning I continued to paint. I painted rain and lightning and broken ground and broken houses and broken relationships. I painted until the fiend inside my head grew faint and quiet. I painted away a bit of her power.

At last, through all the angry images, came one of peace. A dancing willow, branches and tendrils spiraling gracefully through the sky.

Someone once gave me the warrior name "Dancing Willow". It was one of the greatest gifts I have received this year. It meant that she saw in me the things I know are there, things worth loving -- joy, strength, beauty, protection, nurturing, wholeness, big-ness. These are the things that I know are true.

So the paint began the work today that I know will be long and painful. The problem is not my mistakes, everyone makes them. It is not my flaws, everyone has them. It is not other people and things they choose to do or say in response to or judgment of my actions. And the loneliness I so often feel, the inability to connect intimately with many people, is not a result of who I am.

I must learn to how to interact with this hateful voice that lies to me. Some days I'm sure I'll need to figure out how to ignore or silence her. Some days I'll need to hear what she has to say, acknowledge her good intentions, let her teach the truth she knows and teach her kinder things to say.

Perhaps I can figure out how to be as gentle with myself as I am with others. Perhaps I can give myself the gift of love and forgiveness that I have so desperately been seeking from everyone else.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Love This Girl


On Saturday she asked me, "Mom am I pretty yet or am I still just cute?"

I took her sweet face in my hands and said, "Kaitybean, you are very pretty."

BTW, late SOS post coming today. Sorry to have left you hanging for so long.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Summer and Fall of Weird Part 2


Here I am with the continuation of Summer and Fall of Weird. Click here for Part 1 if you haven't already read it.

Of course, we must give thanks to the lovely Brillig and Kate, the mothers of SOS. Other Soap Opera Sunday posts (including those that were really, truly posted on Sunday) are hosted at Kate's place.

Here goes...

There was no more random jewelry giving on this strange date. Thank goodness. Shortly after the necklace, Jeremy asked me whether or not I was ready to go home.

"Yes," I replied, perhaps too enthusiastically.

"Okay," he told me with obvious chagrin. Maybe he expected me to say "Oh, no. You just gave me jewelry. I want to stay with you forever!"

He dropped me off and to his credit, he did get out of the car and walk me to my door. I had half expected him to just stop at the curb and say goodbye.

I did hug him goodbye. Like I said, we weren't strangers. We'd known each other forever and had been friends off and on throughout our lives.

A few days later, Jeremy called me to see if I'd like to go out with him again. Yikes. What to do?

Well, I was bored. So I said yes.

Then I called him back.

"Jeremy, I'm still going out with you," I told him, "but on one condition. Don't give me any more stuff. Okay?"

"Um, okay," he told me, obviously confused. "Why? Didn't you like the jewelry?"

I bit my tongue on the whole I-could-have-gotten-it-for-myself-with-two-dollars-at-
the-grocery-store comment and opted for the high road and the real reason.

"It sort of freaked me out. As far as I'm concerned, gifts are for birthdays and holidays. Unless we're going out. And we're not. And even then, I'm just not that into 'stuff' like some girls are."

He seemed to understand and was actually really cool about it. We went out for lunch that Saturday. I gave him a baggie with all of the jewelry he'd given me. We went to a park and played soccer together. It was actually rather fun.

And much of our time together that summer, which ended up being considerable, was a lot of fun.

There was definitely the weirdness, which resulted mainly from the fact that he was obviously growing much more attached to me than I to him. For me it was mainly a friendship. Cough. Cough. Yes, with a few benefits. Cough. So, maybe I was sending him the wrong message.

Oh, but apparently the wrong message he was getting was nothing compared to what a few of my soccer teammates were prepared to think of me.

Tune in next Sunday (Yes I promise it will be next Sunday. It's already written!) to find out what our dear and awkward Jeremy says when the Queen of the Cats utters the words, "So are you dating Heather because she puts out?"

Monday, December 03, 2007

More Picture Catch Up


We love trees, especially ginormous ones like these.

Coco out on the town. He has been walking for 6 weeks now. Yes, he started walking at 9 1/2 months. Blew me away. I think I like my later walkers better. It's like 24 hour suicide watch around here.

Honestly, though, who would NOT want to spend 24/7 with this face? This kid is so much fun.

And this face? Also melts my heart. And cracks me up.

Another Mashuga. This is at our local courthouse. I'd never been inside before this day and it is really an interesting building.

And more Mashuga. He's fun to take pictures of. Probably because he's such a ham.

Halloween Pictures

Um, what do you mean it's almost Christmas? What does that have to do with anything?





Thursday, November 29, 2007

Say What You Need To Say


I love me some John Mayer. He is a brilliant musician, a poet. That's enough. We won't even get into the sexy, velvety voice and the plump lips and dark, tousled hair and cleft chin.

I digress.

The point of this post.

His latest single, "Say" which is featured in "The Bucket List" is amazing. I have been thoroughly enjoying it lately.

And because I love you all so much, I thought I'd let you know that the music video is FREE on iTunes right now. Just type "John Mayer Say" into the search box and voila, it will come up along with a couple of other results.

The video is just wonderful.

Go download it now and come back to tell me what you think.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Current Life Goal: Eat More Chocolate


Wow!  Has it really been almost a week since I posted.  Huh.  Well, let's just say it's been busy.  And the busy is only getting started because I still have practically ALL of my Christmas gift shopping/making ahead of me.  ACK!


So, I have this post that I keep meaning to put up here, but it just keeps not getting finished because I can't quite find the exact right words for it.  Let's just say I'm struggling with food right now.  In a big way.  This is a good thing -- the struggling.  It means I am working on it.  It means I am looking tigers in the eye.  It is good.

One element of this work I am doing right now is experimenting with food, figuring out what I really like, what really feels good in my body and what doesn't.  I am trying to learn to love myself and take care of myself.  This means that no foods are off-limits and I can have as much of any food as I like.  It has been interesting.  Among other things, though I am eating grains and fruits and vegetables, much of my diet lately has fallen into two categories: milk and dark.  Yes, the chocolate.  Yum.

I thought you might like to know some of the things I've discovered.
  1. I do not like Little Caesars Pizza.  I am shuddering just thinking of it.  I do not like the taste.  I don't like the smell.  I hate the way it feels in my body.  Makes me sick.
  2. I really, really like potatoes for breakfast.  
  3. Pancakes, not so much.  At least not often.
  4. I love, love, love clementines and could eat at least 10 a day.  For now.
  5. I really love NAKED Blue Machine fruit smoothie.  I love the taste and I it feels good in my body.
  6. I'm learning that there are three types of "good" for me where food is concerned.  Either it tastes good, it feels good or both.  If a food does both for me, it's a keeper.
  7. Good chocolate tastes good, but doesn't feel good in large quantities.  Eating it frequently and in small amounts each day has been good for my body and soul.
  8. Chocolate falls into two categories for me: the good stuff and the brown wax stuff.  
  9. Just because it's chocolate doesn't mean it's good.  And even if it's chocolate, if I don't like it I don't have to eat it.
  10. I can get more satisfaction out of one small square of good chocolate that is eaten simply for the joy of it than I can out of a whole bag of less-than good chocolate eaten in an attempt to fill a deeper need.
It's not much, but it's a start.

And as for the chocolate discoveries here goes:
  • I don't like Hershey's kisses unless they are filled with caramel or cherry cordial filling.  And even then, meh.  I've eaten better.
  • Though Symphony chocolate with almonds and toffee is still one of my favorite American chocolate choices, it's not nearly as yummy as I used to think.
  • The milk chocolate bars at IKEA -- smooth, melty, sweet, chocolate deliciousness.  LOVE these.
  • If I don't like sub-par milk chocolate, I like sub-par dark chocolate even less.
  • One dark chocolate stand-out so far is the Choxie Dark Chocolate Truffle Bar with Cocoa Nibs.  YUM!
  • Cacao Reserve in both the 35% and 65% variety are worth eating.
  • Hershey's Special Dark makes a good doorstop.
  • Cadbury chocolate is almost always good enough to eat, especially when it has nuts in it.
  • Galaxy chocolate is probably still my favorite.
  • I have yet to meet any chocolate with "truffle" in the name that I don't like.
  • I especially have like Hershey's Nuggets Truffles lately.  
  • And Truffettes of France are the kind of chocolates we will eat in heaven.  Trust me.  

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful

I hope you have all enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I meant to make a list of things I am grateful for in my life today. But somehow that just didn't seem authentic right now.

For one thing, no matter how exhaustive, any list I make is bound to be hopelessly incomplete. And many of the things I might never think to put on a list of thankfuls are those things that are shaping me most right now, things for which I should be eternally grateful.

So rather than making a list, I am taking a moment to be here, to be present fully. I am gratitude. I am thankful.

I am so grateful just to be, to know that in this and in every moment of my life there is a deeper perfection than I will ever know or ever see fully in this life.

But I feel it and know that all is well, perfect. There is nothing better than right here and right now, no ordinary moments.

And for that I send out my call of gratitude today, for the eternal and utter perfection that is and always was and always will be.

I am so thankful to be a part of it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Birthday JDub


A little over fifteen years ago I went with my friends to a church dance. I was happy to be wearing a new dress and hoping to dance with some cute boys. I had no idea that my life would change that night.

From my journal, September 5, 1992:

I met this guy named JDub. He is so cute! I danced with him about six times, he's really nice....Then once, when I was dancing with JDub, my friends informed me that my slip was showing, so I told him what was wrong and that I'd be right back. So, I hurried to the bathroom, pulled my slip up, told the other girls in there why I was laughing and hurried back. When I got back he was sitting there swaying and he put his arms around me and said it wasn't as much fun without me. He is cute.
I have only one excuse for the silliness of this journal entry: I was fourteen. We became good friends after that. We talked on the phone a lot because he lived an hour away from me. I had an unrelenting crush on this cute blond army brat who had spent most of his childhood in Germany. He was friendly, but entirely oblivious to my feelings for him. I was terrified whenever I was around him, even though I felt very much at home with him. (Cheesy, I know, but true.) I dated his brother. He moved back to Germany and then served an LDS mission for two years in Chile. It was during this time that we really fell in love. We were able to share parts of ourselves through letters in ways we had never been able to before. Though there were other guys I loved and dated through these years, by the time JDub came home I was certain that he was the one for me.

And he still is. He is my best friend, my home, my grounding force. We have had and continue to have our problems, but they have only helped us grow closer together. I could not be more honored and grateful to be sharing my life with this good man.

Happy birthday, sweetheart!

Just for kicks, here are a few other journal entries. 'Cause I'm masochistic like that and think you'll enjoy reading just how dramatic I used to be.

From June 20, 1994:
I can't even begin to describe it in words. I was so in love with him in that moment, and it was in that moment that I realized that I could never be without him. I mean, not physically or short term. I don't need him every waking moment, but I realized that my life could never be complete without him in it. I love him so very much.
From March 14, 1997:
Today I saw JDub for the first time in over two years. I am in complete awe. He is wonderful. I didn't realize how much I missed him unti lI was able to hug him tonight and have him in my arms. He has had such a tremendous impact on my life.... I find myself feeling awkward in the way I act toward him, but I am amazed at the peace that fills my heart just at having him near. The knowledge taht he is in the same house as I am makes me want to sing for joy.... He is the kind of person I would love to marry. Not only that, I love him. This is not the fleeting, infatuated "love" that I have often experienced. I love him and I am clear-headed. I love him and I want to be a better person.... I am not blind to the fact that he has faults, but I love him for who he is, faults and all. I like him. I don't just like parts of him or things he does. I like him.
(See what I mean? Dramatic much? It gets better.)

April 7, 1997 (The day after we were engaged.)
I am excited to share my life with JDub. I am excited to have children with him and to raise a family. I look forward to the day that we will look back on today and know that the love we feel now has been built upon and expanded through diligence, commitment to each other and faith in the Lord. I have a feeling that we do not comprehend at all what love is and I anxiously await the years of discovery that lie ahead.
Note to Heather in 1997:

You're right. You have no idea. It won't be easy. Some years it will be a fight just to stay together, let alone like each other. But I promise it will just keep getting better and that you'll love each other more than you can now imagine.

Okay. Drama off.

Love you, honey.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Alzheimers Here I Come!

We have a joke in our family about my mother. Alzheimers runs in our family, it seems. And my mom is in her early fifties and forgets lots of stuff. There has been at least one Christmas present over the last three years that she has forgotten where it was hidden. Names, phone numbers, the whole bit. Forgetful.

The really bad thing? I'm on the downward end of 29. 29, people! And I am nearly as forgetful as my mom. Already!

Case in point.

Last week sometime Scud was playing his gameboy at an inappropriate time (before jobs and homework were done). He had also been fighting with his siblings over it for days. So, I saidd what any good mother would say.

"Hand it over, Bucko. Your gameboy is now my gameboy."

So I took it. And I hid it. Or set it somewhere random. Here's the problem. I can't remember where I put it. I've looked everywhere I can think of. Kaitybean, Scud and I spent an hour yesterday looking for it. No beans. Nada. Nothing Doing.

Scud is verrrrrry unhappy with me. I CANNOT even fathom where it might be.

So now I'm worried. Not about the gameboy so much. It will turn up. But, um, do you think there's something wrong with me?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Summer (and Fall) of Weird


A really long time ago I promised you, my lovely friends, this SOS post. I'm finally getting around to it.

Before I go on, I'll direct you to Kate and Brillig's site of anonymous soapiness, which is hosting this week's Soap Opera Sunday.

On to the story...

I was sixteen and had just broken up with my abusive jerk of a boyfriend. I don't remember really feeling the need to date anyone. But perhaps I appeared to be more unhappy than I really was, because my sister and her best friend Karen* decided to set me up with Karen's older brother.

I think they did this because we had soooo much in common. We'd been friends in the sixth grade. We both played soccer. We both had two ears and a nose. Formula for a perfect match, no?

Or maybe he asked them to do it. I honestly don't remember.

I agreed to go on a date with him, mainly because I knew him and knew that he was probably pretty safe. Safe was good at this point.

So, for our first date he picked me up in his little gray car and we headed out. I think we went somewhere simple to eat, then drove around talking.

Oh, but let me back up, it started out a little weird. When I first got into the car he told me to look in the glove compartment. In it was a bracelet. Pretty, nothing expensive.

"Yeah, ok, what about it?" I asked.

"It's for you," he grinned.

"Um. OK," I replied and slipped it on. Why on earth are you giving me a bracelet within the first five minutes of our FIRST date?

And it got even more strange from there on, which is why I think I've forgotten most of the other details about our date.

A little while later he told me to get something for him that was connected to the sun visor. I pulled the visor down and a ring fell in my lap. I wish I were kidding here. A ring. It looked like it had come from a plastic bubble.

Jeremy smiled at me excitedly. "Put it on!" He urged me.

Gulp.

I smiled. Um. What else was there to do? I adjusted it and put it on my right pinky finger.

So, we continued to drive around our small town, talking. I enjoyed talking with him, really. He was a decent guy. We'd known each other most of our lives. Except for the over-the-top oddness and awkwardness of the random giving of random and strategically placed jewelry, it was a fairly comfortable first date.

Then, just when I thought we'd gotten past the weirdness, Jeremy stopped at a small park at the southern end of town.

He turned to me and grinned and told me to look in the cubby in my door.

Not again, I thought. Jeremy, my friend you're trying WAAAAY too hard here.

But I looked. Surprise, surprise. A necklace.

"May I put it on for you," Jeremy said with mock seriousness, obviously giddy at his apparent success at wooing me. I hadn't run screaming from the car yet, after all, though at this point I was definitely eyeing the door handle.

To be continued...

*Names have been changed for the sake of these good people who I still see occasionally.

Friday, November 16, 2007

And For Daniel

My candle is also lit for Daniel.

A young man who has been loved by a family I scarcely know, but have fallen in love with in spite of myself.

His young, exuberant life is ending far too soon.

Just looking at his eyes, I can't imagine he could really be dying right now.

Today I Lit a Candle

I lit a candle today.

In remembrance.

For love and hope.

And with the unshakable knowledge that life goes on, forever.

To remind myself that, though the flickering light of candle flame may go out, it never dies. Like life it simply alights elsewhere and continues to burn with love and joy.

On Tuesday my mother called to tell me that one of my dear friends and mentors lay dying. She has been a family friend for many years and was one of my young women leaders. She trusted me, one week between my junior and senior years of high school, to care for her sweet children. Now that I am a mother, I understand the sacred trust that was. She was always so good to me and to so many others. She lifted me up and made me feel sure that I would grow up to be a good woman. I loved her so very much.

So did the rest of my family. Her husband and my father have been like brothers for many years. She and my mother have been dear friends, which is why she got a call on Tuesday to let her know that Heidi was dying. So she could have a chance to say goodbye. She called me on the way and we wept together and talked of the good woman Heidi has been. I told her to tell Heidi goodbye for me, as well, to tell her how much I loved her.

I wanted, that very day, to drop everything I had to do and also go to her side. But, I realized that what I really want is to reclaim the years I've lost in wanting to rekindle the relationship and never acting on that wish. I wanted her to know my sweet children, for them to know her. But, I never got around to it. I realized that running to say goodbye would not change that, so I left my mother to send my love and give my goodbyes for me. And I took my daughter to the dentist and my son to preschool and did the laundry and loved my baby. I called JDub and told him what was going on and how I really wanted to go see her, but felt I needed to stay with my children and keep on.

"Don't worry," he said. "You are just being the good woman she always hoped you'd be."

And, of course, the tears came fresh and hot.

She passed peacefully Wednesday evening -- at home with her family. Her funeral is tomorrow.

And I am left to wish I had done more to reach out these last few years, as multiple sclerosis tore her body apart while keeping her mind intact. I wish I had gone to be with her, to talk with her, to help her. Too late. Too late.

So, I will do what the living do. I will light a candle and I will LIVE. I will fold the laundry and write poetry and eat chocolate and love my children desperately.

And I will hope that the love I give and the life I live are fitting tribute to those who have given so much of their love and lives to me.

Updates

I realized a while ago that I've left a few loose threads hanging out around here. So, I guess it's a good time to wrap them up.

-I'll start with the most recent: Mashuga and the carseat debacle. I don't have a permanent solution, yet. But we're working on it. My sweet friend, Kristin's, comment woke me up to a very important truth. I've been spending so much time talking, cajoling, begging, pleading and yelling at Mashuga about the issue that I've completely forgotten to listen. I haven't been listening to him and to what he needs and wants. I haven't been listening to my own mother-heart and the still small voice that never leads me in the wrong direction.

So, here's what we're doing. For now, Mashuga's carseat is buckled in the passenger seat next to me. This serves many purposes. First of all, it puts him in arms reach so that I can prevent him from unbuckling at inopportune times. It also puts him more firmly into my realm of consciousness, so that I know when he's getting restless or unhappy and I can meet those immediate needs before they progress to the ultimate, desperate attempt at freedom. It also gives us the opportunity to talk, to enjoy one another. He's already given me plenty of ideas on how to help him. He'd love a more comfortable carseat. Actually, he'd like to have a booster seat, but he is still only 33 pounds dripping wet and only barely tall enough for a booster. I feel much safer with him in a carseat right for a bit longer. He'd love to have a little bag with books and toys to play with in the car. He is a wise little teacher and a wonderful boy.

Sometimes I forget what I have learned over and over as a parent. Usually my children's "bad" behaviors are just an expression of an inner need. If I take the time to listen carefully and look more closely, we can usually find the best solutions together.

-Scud's school situation has improved drastically. It's been like night and day and he is LOVING school now. What changed? His former teacher resigned because of family needs. I imagine this may have been part of the problem -- that she was simply stretched too thin. So, though I am compassionate enough to wish her well and hope she has success in her future, I admit that I did a little jig in my kitchen when I learned that Scud would be getting a new teacher.

And she has been EVERYTHING I had hoped for. First of all, she adores Scud and makes him feel so good about himself. And she is one of those teachers who is in it because she loves the children. It is more than just a job for her. Her classroom management skills are fantastic. She is challenging Scud, teaching the curriculum and working with the other 1st grade teachers to divide the children into skill-set groups for math, reading and spelling. To say I am pleased would be putting it mildly. I just want to kiss this woman every time I see her.

Now I am curious about the rest of the first grade classes at our school. Are they improving? Rynell, I'm especially curious about what you're seeing with your son's class. If there's still a problem with the rest of first grade I still want to help.

-Another Scud update, though I'm not sure I've mentioned this here before. When Scud was 2 1/2 he was diagnosed with an articulation disorder. They suspected he might have developmental apraxia of speech, which meant that he knew the words he was trying to say but his brain and mouth were not coordinating well enough for him to make the sounds he needed to make. He was basically unintelligible until he was about 3 1/2 to 4 years old and even then other people had a hard time understanding him. It was an interesting journey. He acquired language rapidly and talked A LOT. We just couldn't understand him most of the time. It was very frustrating for him. People were always asking him to repeat himself and I always had to translate for him (when I actually understood him).

But, after 2 years of speech therapy he tested at an age-appropriate level and we were told he didn't need speech therapy anymore. I walked away with a bit of trepidation, but reminded myself that even my precocious Kaitybean still pronounced her r and sh and th wrong at 4 1/2.

Well, it's been nearly 3 years and he hasn't made much, if any, progress in his speech. He still can't pronounce r, th, sh, ch and mutates a few vowel sounds. Over the last couple of years I've listened to him and his speech just sounded a little off, still. A few weeks ago I finally decided that this wasn't going to resolve on its own and called the special ed director at our school. The speech therapist evaluated him and sure enough, he has moderate articulation delays. He will be attending speech therapy once a week again and I am so, so glad. After a few years of being on the borderline of normal, people have begun asking him to repeat himself again and his speech abilities are again recognizable as delayed. I have always felt strongly that I wanted to do everything possible for him while he is young and other children are more forgiving of differences so that this does not negatively impact his self-image. So, I'm very happy about this. And sometimes it is nice to have my intuition validated by something as official-sounding as the Arizona Articulation Proficiency Scale.

One funny story that illustrates my point about Scud's speech beginning to get in his way again. In class a few weeks ago Scud's teacher asked the class what they would take with them on a long car trip. Scud told her he would take a book about sharks, to which she responded "Scud, that is not appropriate for this class." Now it is impossible to fully explain this in type (or in person really) but try to imagine the way Scud says sharks. Because it contains both an sh and an r sound it gets really mixed up and sounds just like the word "sharks" and the word "sex" perfectly morphed together so that it is VERY difficult to tell, out of context, which word he is trying to say. Scud, being the cool kid that he is, simply said "What's so inappropriate about a book about sea animals?" And his teacher said "Oh! Sharks! A book about sharks! Yes, that's a great idea." Scud later deduced that she had thought he'd said "A book about sex." and related the story to me with great glee later that afternoon. He found it very humorous, as did I. But it also clued me in to the fact that I was probably right and it was time to revisit the speech therapy idea.

-One last update -- JDub's work. I have mentioned here several times that JDub is in an interesting work situation. The last few years have been veeeeerrrry interesting. As of two months ago, we were certain that he would need to change careers by the end of this year. He was getting paid far too little for too much work, he was being kept from doing his job properly and was not allowed to hire enough help to keep his end of the business prospering. We were ready to go elsewhere, across the country if necessary. One day he felt prompted to mention this to his employer, that he was looking for work elsewhere. Oh boy! It has been like night and day since then. They bumped his income up considerably, changed him from hourly wages to salary, renegotiated his commission ratios for both websites and gave him the go-ahead to hire two more employees. Yippee! We feel so very blessed. Best of all, he is now being given the respect he deserves at his work. He is consulted on purchasing decisions and now has the authority to make all of the important decisions he needs to make to keep their profits high and their productivity at a decent level. He mentioned to me the other day that he is getting a bit "wigged out" by the lack of complaints he's had to deal with lately. They're getting everything shipped out on time. Orders are being handled in a timely manner and are done correctly. So, he is no longer running around crazy trying to put out fires and has the time to actually improve the websites, add more products, tweak systems to make things run better and sharpen the saw. Very nice. I'd say that's a good kind of "wigged out."

So, all in all, things are going well around here. Hope you don't mind reading through the long list of updates. I did go on, didn't I? Ah, well. It's a curse I have. Just let me know if there's anything else I've forgotten to update you on and I'll be happy to write another novel.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why I'm Not Posting Much

  • Coco has one of those unexplained fevers with no other symptoms.
  • This is the one week of the year that JDub works from 6am until 10pm.
  • I am working on a new book/project with my friend Edge that I am super excited about. You'll just have to wait and see, but it will be cool.
  • Took Kaitybean to the dentist and to get her hair cut today. Woohoo! She looks great with her new front tooth and layers and bangs.
  • I got some very sad news today. I'm not ready quite yet to write about it, but I'm sure I will.
  • According to Mashuga, there are wild wolves coming to our house. They know how to open the door. And he will be the king of the wolves. And the wolves got out of the zoo. And werewolves are just giant wolves the size of our house. And... And... And... GAK! I'm glad he is sleeping now.

So, I'm hoping you can help me solve a little dilemma I have. Mashuga will. not. stay. buckled. in his carseat. Sometimes rewards work. Sometimes bribery works. I've even tried good old-fashioned murder threats. No beans. The kid sometimes can't even make it out of our driveway without unbuckling himself. He has even unbuckled and shot out the door while we were waiting for a train. So, what to do?

Remember, unless you are the parent of an honest-to-goodness, sword-wielding, uber-spirited indigo child, you may think that the regular tricks might work. Trust me. I've tried most of the regular tricks. (That doesn't mean I'm not open to hearing repeats. Maybe you have some simple, obvious solution that I am too blinded with frustration to see. I'm desperate here. I'll take anything.)

So, what was I saying? Oh yes. Mashuga and the no-likey being safely restrained in the carseat and the Mommy about ready to resort to desperate measures.

Like zip ties. You know, the ones that swat teams keep on their jackets in dozens to be used as restraints for hostage-taking lunatics? Yes, those little guys. I've contemplated buying some to use either to hold the straps of Mashuga's carseat together. Or to hold his hands together. I'd just have to carry a pair of scissors in the car and set him free whenever we get to our destination. Now, aside from that being very wasteful and such, I also have visions of our car bursting into flames and me not having time to get Mashuga AND Coco out in time and Mashuga being unable to free himself.

Like I said. Desperate. He must stay buckled in his carseat. We have talked and talked about the importance of being buckled up to stay safe. He has talked with a highway patrolman about it. Officer Urban explained to him how important it is to stay buckled. I have told him how precious he is to our family and how horrible it would be if something happened to him. When he blinked at death, I explained to him that he could also be hurt so badly that he couldn't play or run or protect others with his super-powers. As I said, I've tried rewards. I've tried "catching" him being good and taking him out for ice cream because he stayed buckled for every car trip during the day. I have tried sooooooo many things.

I keep thinking that there must be some gentle, mindful solution. Something that will protect his body from being broken without the need for breaking his spirit. Some way to get one of the world's most dynamic and formidable forces -- Mashuga's own will and choice -- on my side. (This is always the goal with this kid. If I can get him to make good choices on his own, because it's what he wants, there is NOTHING that can stand in the way.) I know there's some way, but I haven't found it yet.

So, I'm opening it up to you and your vast wisdom. Any ideas?

And so much for not posting much.

Friday, November 09, 2007

10 Simple, Sure-fire Ways to Make Today Your Best Day Ever

Do you have to follow these things step-by-step? Not at all. Find your own methods, or pick and choose a few of these. Main thing, though: take steps to make today your best day ever.I loved this article. Hope you will too.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Isn't This a Wonderful Country?

I won't lie to you. I'm disappointed.

But isn't great to have the freedom to agree or disagree with an issue, to work hard for something you believe in, to make your voice heard and to respect the sound of other's voices?

Truly we lead a blessed life. I'm grateful to be who I am and where I am.

There have been many negative comments made today about those who voted against Referendum 1. I don't want to go there. Though I think Referendum 1 was a good idea, there were many sensible people with sensible reasons to vote against it. And it's not the only good idea for improving education.

So, my snarky side has been alive and well today, but "bamboozled" is the strongest word my better half will let loose. Let's just say that I'm not impressed with how things went down on either side when it came to the homestretch.

I will always and forever be a school choice advocate. But I have no patience for anyone who feels the need to demean another person or that person's beliefs in order to make one's own ideas seem more sound.

It's been an interesting month.

Thanks for playing along. Thanks for listening and reading.

May the force be with you.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Did You Vote Yet?


If you haven't already voted, please remember to vote today.

It is an honor, a privilege and a duty to make our voices heard at the polls.

Remember that "WE the people" stuff? Part of that "WE" is "YOU!"

Thanks for remembering to vote. It's good people like you who make our country so wonderful.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Missing My Girl

On Tuesday I went to my niece, Hannah's grave and took her a twig with lovely autumn leaves and berries. The colors of fire this time of year are so beautiful, one of my favorite things about this beautiful earth. I wanted to share them.

I visit Hannah every once in a while. Partly for her, but also because it gives me a physical place, a special time to remember my own little girl who never got to stay with us. Samantha. My daughter who grew in my heart and in my womb for 10 weeks, then went away. She never really even had a body for me to hold, but her spirit touched me in a way that left me forever changed. She was never real to anyone else, but she was achingly real to me. And sometimes I just miss her.

Referendum 1 Q&A #3

I'm finally answering Kim's question about tuition and such.

Q. Ok, so we have been talking a lot about this in our home. We were both ready to vote yes until we saw the income guidelines. It seems that not many people could actually afford the rest of the tuition. It helps a few, those who could already afford tuition, but the rest of us who don't make much money couldn't afford it.
For example, those who make $30K and have 2 children are the ones that would get the $3000, but then they still have to come up with the other 2K.
Then you have those who make $150K, already send their kids to private school because they can afford it and they are going to get an extra $500/year that they don't really need.

Those are our only issues with it. Any thoughts? :)

A. Okie Dokie. I'll try to do my best to answer some of your questions and concerns.
As you said, a family of 4 who makes $30K per year would receive $3000 per year under this program.

According to votefor1.org, the average private school costs $4000 per year (not including boarding schools like Rowland Hall, whose tuition rates are astronomical and won't be accepting vouchers anyway). Just for kicks, let's do the math on this "average" school.

If a family receives a $3000 voucher, they are then accountable for the remaining $1000 for that year's school tuition. Divide this number by 12 months and the amount a family of four who makes $30,000 each year is responsible to pay per month is about $83.33. People pay more than this each month for cable TV.


Now, of course this is just one child going to a private school. If the same family sent two children to the same school the per month cost would be $166.66 per month. Still a bargain in my book, especially if your child is truly in need of a different type of education.

(When we were living in Littleton, Colorado and making about $25,000 per year we sent Kaitybean to a private preschool that we loved. Her tuition was $125 per month. We had three children at the time, paid approximately $1000 per month on housing expenses (about half our monthly income) and we were still able to swing $125 per month for school tuition because it was important enough to us at the time.)

So, that's the math for the "average" school. But knowing that average means that many schools are higher and many are lower, I think it might be more helpful to look at a case study.

I called the private school closest to us to find out information on their tuition. They charge $5700 per year for K-8th grades. Without a voucher this would be $475 per month, per student. Not doable for a family that makes $30K a year. However, if this same family were to receive a $3000 per year voucher, they would then be responsible for $2700 per year. This works out to $225 per month, per student. That may seem hefty, but is about the cost of an average car payment. Easily doable? Maybe not. If your child is struggling and desperately needs a different choice? Most parents I know would find a way to work it out.

But, even if the parent could not work it out, there are other options. This same family of 4 making $30,000 would be eligible for this particular private school's lowered tuition rate. (In order to qualify, the student's family of 4 must make less than $38,023 per year.) Unless classes are full (which usually isn't the case), this nonprofit school offers to simply "eat" 40% of tuition costs per student. This would bring tuition costs down to $3420, leaving this family with only $420 per year to come up with on their own (that's $35 per month). This is, of course, best case scenario. The woman I talked with said that they were not sure whether or not they would continue this program as is after Referendum 1 is in place. She said that, if they do not continue the program in its present form, they will most likely still offer some form of tuition assistance to low income families. For instance, a lower percentage discount (a 20% discount would leave parents responsible for $1560 per year or $130 per month). Or, perhaps 40% off of the remaining tuition after the voucher. 60% of $2700 is $1620 or $135 per month, about the same.

This case scenario could be repeated at nearly all of the private schools in Utah. Almost every school I looked up offers financial aid in some form: tuition assistance, grants or scholarships. There are resources to help parents cover the additional tuition cost after the voucher amount is applied.

Another resource is an education loan, such as those offered through Sallie Mae. Taking out a loan to pay for private school may not be the ideal solution any more than student loans are an ideal solution for higher education funding. It is, however, one in an arsenal of many solutions.

There is definitely a gap between the voucher amount and the amount of an average private school tuition. But, for a parent whose child is in need of a different choice, making up the difference is doable. There are many resources available to help parents make up the difference.

As for the $500 voucher for wealthy families, here's the reasoning behind that:

First of all, parents who already send their children to private school are not eligible under this program to receive any voucher money. Parents who already have the money and the desire to send their children to private school will not benefit from this program. This is only for children who are new to private schools.

So why should a family of four making $150K per year get $500 from the state to send their children to private school? For them, it is simply a token, an incentive. Wealthy parents can afford to pay for their children's education, but many still choose to take advantage of our public schools. Wouldn't it be great if we were, somehow, able to convince these parents to take their children out of public schools and to fund the majority of their children's education on their own? This would lower the class size while still leaving the wealthy parent's (usually considerable) taxes in the education budget. The $500 does simply that. It doesn't make much difference in actually paying for a private education, but the cost of giving a parent a $500 incentive to pay for their own children's education is much less than the amount of taxes that parent is likely paying into the public education system. Seems like another win-win.

I'm sorry I've gotten so wordy. I'll try to finish this up.

Since the maximum voucher amount is less than the average private school tuition, funding the remaining amount will be a sacrifice. But funding the remainder is doable for a committed parent and it is made even more doable through already available financial aid resources.

The fact that there is going to be some sacrifice involved for families taking advantage of this program makes the program much more viable, much more likely to succeed and much less likely to damage public schools in the process. If the voucher amount per family was equal to private school tuition, many more parents would take advantage of it. This would put a much higher burden on the state and make the program far too expensive to implement. As it stands, only parents who are truly committed to sending their children to private school or whose children have true academic need for a change will take advantage of vouchers. The voucher amounts (which I'm certain were carefully decided upon by legislators) serve to make the program self-limiting. As I stated in my last Q&A post, a voucher system that limits the numbers of students who take advantage of it (whether by lottery or by this type of logical self-limiting) is more likely to succeed and also more likely to be used by students from diverse backgrounds.

And lets not forget that a voucher program benefits ALL students, even public-schooled students whose parents either can't or choose not to fund the difference between a voucher and private school tuition. Public schools have been shown to improve greatly within a few years of implementation of a voucher system. See Caroline Hoxby's article, the link to which is in this post.

I hope this has been helpful and not toooooo terribly long.

Thanks Kim. Let me know if any of this has not made sense or if you have any additional questions.

John Stossel on Utah's Referendum 1


Utahns Can Vote for School Choice Tuesday
By John Stossel
October 31, 2007

Next Tuesday, Utah voters go to the polls to decide if their state will become the first in the nation to offer school vouchers statewide. Referendum 1 would make all public-school kids eligible for vouchers worth from $500 to $3,000 a year, depending on family income. Parents could then use the vouchers to send their children to private schools.

What a great idea. Finally, parents will have choices that wealthy parents have always had. The resulting competition would create better private schools and even improve the government schools.

But wait. Arrayed against the vouchers are the usual opponents. They call themselves Utahns for Public Schools. They include, predictably, the Utah Education Association (the teachers union), Utah School Boards Association, Utah School Employees Union, Utah School Superintendents Association, the elementary and secondary school principals associations, and the PTA. No to vouchers! they protest. Trust us. We know what's best for your kids.

They say they're all for improving education but not by introducing choice. "When it comes to providing every Utah child with a quality education, we believe, as do most Americans, that our greatest hope for success is investing in research-proven reforms. These include the things parents and teachers know will make a difference in the classroom, such as smaller class sizes and investment in teacher development programs. Focusing on this type of reform will bring far greater success than diverting tax dollars to an alternative education system."

Please. I've heard that song for years. Government schools in America fail while spending on average more than $11,000 per student. Utah spends $7,500. Think what an innovative education entrepreneur would do with so much money. It's more than $150,000 per classroom!

The answer to mediocre public schooling isn't to give a government monopoly more "teacher development programs." The answer is competition.

Bureaucrats and unions tremble at the thought. On my "20/20" special on education, one teacher had the nerve to sneer, "Competition is not for children!" The opposite is true. Competition and choice mean parent power. It's parents whom the education lobby really fears. The last thing it wants is a system in which parents choose their children's schools. Parents might not choose the union-dominated establishment schools. Better not take that chance.

Opponents of choice managed to w.in a referendum on the law, hoping voters will veto it. I hope they don't.

Vouchers will make schools accountable to parents rather than a bureaucracy. Principals and administrators will have to convince parents that they are doing a good job. That's real accountability. And the Utah law requires private schools to submit to independent financial audits and give students a nationally recognized test each year. The results would be publicly disclosed, giving parents information they can use to judge schools.

This anti-voucher coalition says vouchers will only benefit children who would have gone to private schools anyway. But the Vote for 1 Campaign points out that current private-school students would get vouchers only if their families are low-income. So the law would give new opportunities to parents and children who today have no options at all.

The coalition claims that "vouchers will cost at least $429 million ... funds that could be used in public schools to reduce class size, provide textbooks and supplies." But voucher supporters note that since an average voucher would be worth only $2,000 and the state spends more than $7,500 per student, government schools would have $5,500 more per lost student to spend on the remaining students. They should be happy about that.

For over a century, American children have been in the hands of education bureaucrats. For over 40 years, the government's system has been dominated by a protectionist teachers' union that puts itself ahead of the children entrusted to its members. The results are what we should expect from a monopoly financed with money extracted from taxpayers: poor quality, lack of innovation and bored children.

The parents of Utah should be the envy of the rest of the country because on Tuesday, they have a chance to take back control of their children's education.