Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A holiday reflection

This time of year can be so busy. It seems like there's always a gift to buy, an errand to run, a package to mail, a party to attend.

But it's also magical. I have two young daughters, and I love seeing Christmastime though their eyes: their faces light up when we drive around to look at Christmas lights; they are so eager to receive the treat of a cup of hot chocolate; they squeal in delight when they see the blow-up Santa in our neighbor's front yard. They remind me that this unique time of year is to be thoroughly enjoyed.

I recently read a book called The Biography of Santa Clause. It's fiction, of course, but it has its roots in history. According to this account, a man from a city called Myrna became the man we know as St. Nicholas. Because Christ had come three hundred years earlier, Nicholas knew of Jesus and followed his teachings. He knew that we are to love one another and to take care of one another, so when he heard of a family in his community that needed help, he felt compelled to offer his. Nicholas understood that Jesus' point is for us to be kind and loving and generous, not for us to receive credit for good deeds. Nicholas deposited his gifts of aid in the family's house in the middle of the night so as not to be seen. Legend has it that he found such fulfillment in anonymously helping others that he made it his life's mission.

I love that account of St. Nicholas-- I think it's much better than the myths of Santa Clause that circulate today.

Christmas is a time when we acknowledge and celebrate the gift God gave us when he sent Jesus to Earth. I think it's abundantly appropriate to reflect on what Jesus did while here: He loved others.

I try to teach my girls that we don't just give random gifts to family and friends at Christmas: we try to show others that we know and love and want to delight them. And we don't just hastily grab a card off the Angel Tree at work, sigh, and add it to our long list of to-do's: we show a child that others care about her.

If you know my girls, you know they keep me on my toes. But they also teach me to be deliberate, especially at this time of year. I want them to remember the holidays as a time to love and honor others, be they family or strangers. That's what Jesus did when he came to Earth so many centuries ago. My girls may not understand theology yet, but they understand love and generosity.

So you can say that my 3 and 1 year old have helped me rediscover the joy of Christmas: that is celebrating the birth of a baby who became the greatest lover of people who ever lived.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The best passage in all of literature


As you know, I am reading through The Chronicles of Narnia right now. I can't say enough about the perfection of these books-- they are . . . perfect. They are entertaining, quick to read, didactic, and most of all, they point to the wonderment of Jesus.

My favorite passage in all of the Chronicles, and therefore in all of literature, comes from The Horse and His Boy. I hope you've read it, but in case you haven't, here's a little back story:

In a far-off land, a young boy named Shasta meets a talking horse from Narnia who convinces him to run away from his cruel master. Together, they encounter many dangers on their long journey to Narnia, not the least of which are all the lions that plague them. One night, Shasta --yet again--is met with a lion.This time, the lion walks quietly beside Shasta until Shasta speaks to him. The lion, who is of course Aslan but is referred to in this passage as "the Voice", asks Shasta to tell his story. Shasta recounts the past few weeks, including the many examples of his "bad luck" with lions.

     "There was only one lion," said the Voice.
     "What on earth do you mean? I've just told you there were at least two the first night, and --"
     "There was only one; but he was swift of foot."
     "How do you know?"
     "I was the lion." And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. "I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you."

    Shasta was no longer afraid that the Voice belonged to something that would eat him, nor that it was the voice of a ghost. But a new and different sort of trembling came over him. Yet he felt glad too . . . after one glance at the Lion's face, he slipped out of the saddle and fell at its feet. He couldn't say anything but then he didn't want to say anything, and he knew he needn't say anything.

Wow. How little we understand. How little we acknowledge God's sovereignty. How little we are in the greatness of God.

If ever there was a true instrument of God in the last century, surely it was CS Lewis. Thank you, God, for CS Lewis. And thank you, God, most of all, for Jesus. May we heed your Voice and believe in your plan.

Monday, December 12, 2011

An honest plea

I may not know the answer to most of those stock ice-breaker questions (Who's your favorite singer? What's your favorite color? What's the best movie of all time?), but I do know the answer to a much more obscure one: If you could go back in time and meet one person, who would it be?

It probably won't surprise you that I would like to meet an author.

There is one man whose books are worth reading again, and again, and again. His fiction entertains, his essays challenge, and his arguments convince.

He was childless, though many children adored him and would write him. He was nearly wife-less, until rather late in life he decided to marry and even later decided to make the marriage a real one.

He lectured at Oxford with his overcoat on, not because the room was cold but because his clothes were never properly mended.

He was an atheist and an agnostic at different points in life, and yet later he came up with the greatest logical case for Christ in all of modern history.

I am speaking, of course, of CS Lewis.

I decided to re-read The Chronicles of Narnia during the holidays. They are short, easy to read, and can be put down and picked up at irregular intervals without having lost any momentum. They also make me love Lewis anew every time I read them.

I first read them in college (actually, it is possible I read them as a child, but it is quite a different matter to read them as an adult) and remember happily crying at the beauty they held. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about these stories is that they make me love Jesus more than any other man-inspired book ever has, and Jesus is not mentioned even once in their many pages. In fact, Lewis never intended for the Chronicles to be a Christian allegory; rather, he said that he wondered what it would look like if another world had been created and also needed redemption. But still, parallels remain. In these fairy tales, Aslan, the redeemer of the traitorous and the rescuer of the vulnerable, is both wonderfully dangerous and good, grows only as his follower grows, can be harder to see at times or for certain people, and knows a beautiful world we can only dream about. "Farther up, farther in" will forever be linked to heaven for me. (I sincerely hope you are familiar with the scene I just referenced.)

Before I learned I was pregnant with Coralie, I begged my headmaster to let me develop and teach a class on CS Lewis and his writings. Even after I realized that my "retirement" meant I would never actually teach the class, I still developed a semester's worth of curriculum. It is one of my great professional regrets that I wasn't able to introduce some young men and women to the writer who changes lives even today.

Read his science fiction, and marvel at his creativity. Read The Chronicles of Narnia and live in wonderment that you can know Jesus. Read his essays and admire his logic. Read Mere Christianity and become (re?)convinced of the Reality that is God the Creator and Christ the Redeemer. Read his letters to children, and discover how to inspire a child. Just. read. him.

And if you should ever happen upon a time machine, please call me. I would love to go back just a few short decades and shake the hand of the man called Jack who truly changed my life.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

These recent weeks, in pictures

Our very, very, very, dear, dear, dear friends came into town in October. Once upon a time, we saw them multiple times a week. Now we happily take what we can get and survive on texts and calls in the interim. This lovely lady below is pregnant with her third child. Actually, she is 36 weeks right now. Isn't she beautiful? 

We still managed to get in our annual trip to the pumpkin patch with them. These girls have been going together since they were babies. Now they are pilots. Wow, where does the time go?
A very precarious double-rider trike experience led to--you guessed it--a crash. Unfortunately, my child was the one at the handlebars, so now her driving record more closely resembles her father's than her mother's.
Finally! A picture of the perfect, precious, and power-walker Madeline.
The annual school bus shot. Madeline looks like she wants to make a run for it, and Coralie and Cammy are breaking the rules of "one child per seat". Awesome.

Ryan's place of employment loves them some dressed up kiddos on Halloween. So we all bundled up our little trick-or-treaters and took them on a "parade" around the office.
Our fairy
Our kitty
Coralie got more and more bold as the night went on and even tried entering many of the homes. Madeline got more and more snuggly.

Oh yeah! Ryan and I went to Vegas and left our kids in St Louis over Thanksgiving! This picture is taken INSIDE our hotel. It's crazy what they can build in Vegas. (Also, they kids did great with their grandparents, so that will make adult-only vacations that much more tempting. Though I am not sure Ryan would want to take me anywhere again as I slept so much he worried that I had mono.)
Inside my favorite hotel, the Wynn. This garden was gorgeous. Yes, I am wearing the same outfit in the above picture, and these three photos encompass every single picture we took on the trip. Yes, I only took three pictures, and I took them all on the same day. Guess who won't be making a Shutterfly vacation book?
 A close-up of the garden in the Wynn. Do you think I could make this in my bedroom?
 Also, Coralie got her hair cut. She looks twice as old now, don't you think?

The end

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Turns out, I DO remember how to type

Tap. Tap. Is this thing on? Can anyone hear me?

My body has mutinied on me. My fingers have absolutely refused to write anything at all lately. I mean, I have written many a (very eloquent, I might add) post in my head as I lay awake in bed late at night, but those musings have somehow never made it onto this blog. Whose sole purpose is to record those musings.

Anyway, here's my best effort to condense the last however-long-period into one post.

1. I have read two compelling books for my book club lately. The first is Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, and the second is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Both were non-fiction, but that is their only similarity.

Unbroken, the story of a young man's against-all-odds survival during a brutal WWII experience, wins best book of the year for me. What happens to him would seem unlikely in even the most outrageous fiction novels. That his story is actually true? Unthinkable.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle challenges its readers to rethink the way they eat. Kingsolver and her family vow to eat only locally grown (defined by their county limits) food for a year, with the exception of coffee, dried fruit, and spices. I will admit that it has inspired me to start a garden for myself, as she claims that the food one can grow in one's backyard outshines the produce found in one's grocer, both in taste and in quality. So who wants to hoe a garden for me? I promise I'll water it!!

2. Coralie has earned the title of a Three Year Old. Charming, delightful, smart, and a  h a n d f u l. After you hoe a garden for me, care to babysit? I kid, I kid.

3. Madeline is practically running everywhere. Today in Dillon's, I turned to look for an 8 oz bag of cheese per my coupon instead of the 16 oz bag which was at my eye level (my life has many exciting parallels to Unbroken, don't you think?), and she had run down two aisles and was trying to pull kitty litter off the shelf. Coralie found this delightful; I found this rather harrowing.

4. Speaking of harrowing, Coralie can "swim". I promise you, her teacher means to near-drown her at every lesson, but somehow that little girl can get from one pool wall to another without meeting her Maker. I avoid going to her lessons if at all possible because it is all too stressful to watch. Ryan assures me this will be the case no matter what recreation my girls take up. This got me thinking-- every stinking hobby really is dangerous! Getting spiked in soccer or track. Getting hit in the face with a ball in basketball, softball, or volleyball. Getting carpal tunnel in piano lessons. Tripping up the risers in choir. Show me a "harmless" recreation and I'll show you an inherent danger.

5. In case you missed the news, Christmas is just around the corner! We are trying to do something special every day to celebrate the season, and it's much easier than I imagined. Today we went shopping for our Angel Tree girl, and tomorrow we are doing special pedicures. I know, I don't know how we are fitting it all in, but we are.

6. Also, I think I have pretty much figured out how to reconcile Jesus and Santa, thank goodness, but don't you go confusing my girls with your normal Christmas stories. I've worked too hard to get my story straight.

Ok, well, maybe you're up to speed? I am not sure when I will be able to write again, since typing is such a risk-infused activity and I don't want to take any unnecessary chances this close to Christmas. I hope you and yours are doing well and that you find yourselves in good health and good company this season!

PS-- We are not doing Christmas cards this year because I never did get my usual inspiration to undertake that project. Please don't take us off your Christmas card list!! I hope to be back up and running as usual next year. :)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Patch

When Ryan and I first met this exact group of people, there were no kids. And then one little boy came along a few months later. And then eleven months after that, Coralie arrived.

Today, there are this many kids:

Actually, we are missing three newborn babies that were present but not pictured.

This whole group of friends doesn't get together very often (see: sheer number of kids), but when we do, it's a lot of fun. They are all good people, every one of them. They are loyal and interesting and devoted to each other. I think you're pretty lucky if you can surround yourself with these kinds of people.

As the Bond family, this is our fourth year to come to this pumpkin patch.

In 2008, Coralie was about eight months old:

In 2009, Coralie was about one and a half:

In 2010, Coralie was about two and a half, and Madeline was about two months old:

(Madeline is under the blanket.)

And in 2011, Coralie was three and a half, and Madeline was one.

(Two apologies I need to make to my children here: Coralie--I am sorry your pants are too short. Madeline--I am sorry we didn't take more pictures of you.)

Memories and traditions make this heart happy, and when you include my kids in them? Fuh-get-about-it. I'm on top of the world.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


A few updates on the girls:

Coralie finished her first session of swim lessons. I'm not really even sure what to say except that I am really proud of her and that she still has a loooooong way to go. The place where she takes lessons has very specific levels with very specific skills that must be demonstrated before a swimmer can move onto the next level. Out of ten skills in Level One, Coralie can cross off three. THREE. At this rate, she'll be in Level One until she starts driving herself to the lessons.

Nah, I'm just giving her a hard time. She is actually doing a great job. Her teacher describes her as "timid and shy", which she is there. Her main obstacle is that she doesn't like putting her face underwater, and that is sort of necessary for most components of swimming.

Where she is not shy is at home. Somehow, and I'm really not even sure how, she has come to be my fashion guru. It all started when she asked to pick out a shirt for me. (Okay, fine.) But then she started commenting on my yoga pant/t-shirt outfits saying she didn't like them and that she liked my other shirts better. (Ouch. And also, is it really that noticeable that I don't dress very nice*?) Then she started intercepting me on my way to my closet so that she could pick out what I should wear. Inevitably, she prefers very fancy, frilly clothes. Yeah, I am not wearing those, so we compromise on something between a dry-clean only shirt and a college t-shirt.

Madeline, on the other hand, remains nonverbal. Well, I should say that she isn't speaking English, but she is verbal enough for our whole family. She grunts and jabbers and whines and laughs from sun-up to sun-down. :) Her little pointer finger gets quite a workout during the day, too. The result: she is pretty good at communicating what she wants. With Coralie, I remember working on teaching her signs and forming her words. Poor Mads-- she gets half the attention Coralie got and therefore has had to develop her own language to tide us all over until she starts talking.

She is also walking most of the time now. It's super cute, and she grins from ear to ear (literally. . . that girl has the widest mouth I have ever seen) when she nears her destination. Man, she is a beautiful child.

I was thinking the other day about how irritating a kid this age can be--they're still so dependent but want so badly to be independent--but when I go to sweep her up during one of her grunt- or whine-fests, I find myself immediately kissing her little cheeks and giving her a tight squeeze. And I think, wasn't I annoyed with her one second ago?

And then I got a little poetic and thought, maybe this is a parallel for how God feels about us? No matter how frustrating we can be, he just wants to give us hugs?

I do love my girls, and I think they're the most brilliant, perfect, gorgeous children ever created. And if that is any indication of how much God loves us, we are very loved indeed.

*I am almost certain that "dress nice" is the correct usage here. "Dress nicely" would refer to how I get dressed as opposed to what I dress in. However, I have been away from grammar rules for awhile now, so correct me if I am wrong.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Scary (Halloween?) Curse

Because this blog is a semi-real-time account of our lives, I have one update to make:

Our furnace is broken.

Yes, if you're keeping track like I am, this would be the sixth appliance to break in the last two months.

What I'm saying is, don't bring anything electronic or mechanical to our house.

Further proof? Ryan's hard drive crashed yesterday when he brought it home from the office. It didn't crash at the office-- it crashed at home. THAT MAKES SEVEN PIECES OF EVIDENCE THAT OUR HOUSE IS CURSED.

And you thought witches and goblins were scary.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cool parents

I was listening to the radio the other day and a song came on-- I don't remember which song it was exactly, but it was an oldies song-- that reminded me of "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch". This song sticks out in my mind (and probably will for the rest of my life) because of a skit night at family camp when I was in high school.

My friend H and I donned two of my dad's khaki pants, button down shirts, and blazers, stuffed them with pillows, and "sang" this song to two boys wearing women's dresses. (I know, awkward all the way around, right? It seemed like a good idea then. Oh, high school judgment calls.)

My dad had no idea we had stolen from his wardrobe until he saw the performance. (He was not very happy.) But the point is, he SAW the performance. He was there. We were at family camp, and all of the parents of the, ahem, performers were there.

Another crazy component of that skit night is that I wanted to be there, at family camp. In high school. I liked, well, still do like, being with my parents. They weren't the richest or most glamorous parents in the world, but they were/are smart, disciplined, interesting, hospitable, educated, funny, and attractive. I knew my sister and I were loved. I knew that with our family was a place they, too, wanted to be.

Yes, we had our fights, and there were times we couldn't stand each other I am sure, but I never felt not loved or not valuable.

So what if my parents weren't the "cool parents" who let me do whatever I want? So what if they made me change my clothes if they felt my skirt was too short? So what if they only let me go out with Ryan once a week? They were awesome parents.

And I guess that's why I wanted  to be with them.

I hope my kids can say the same thing in 25 years. That would be cool.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's coming

So I have a whopping four posts started, and I fully intend to write them. Sometime soon. Here are the topics: cool parents: a musing, a girls update, my most recent book club book review, and a recap of our trip to the pumpkin patch.

In the meantime, the girls are getting cuter every day. Today we were singing, "Praise him, praise him, all ye little children, God is love" and Coralie instead sang, "Break him, break him, all ye little children."

So THAT'S her strategy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Top Ten Reasons You Missed Me*

In chronological order:

10. Ryan cut Madeline's hair and I was so embarrassed about it I couldn't even get out of bed.

9. The weather was so nice that we spent a great deal of time outside.

8. I was out of town, with these girls. (Yes, Robin, I stole the only picture anyone took all weekend!)

7. I had the stomach flu.

6. Coralie had the stomach flu.

5. Madeline had the stomach flu.

4. We stained both of our decks and our front porch railings, which took ALL DAY LONG. I wish I had pictures of this because we gave Coralie a teeny, tiny paintbrush so she could "help" us, and she did a great job! But she was in her underwear as we knew oil based stain + three year old = ruined clothes.

3. Ryan got the stomach flu.

2. When I last sat down to write, I got a call from a close friend and just HAD to chat for an hour.

1. Parenthood (the TV show) is sooooo good that it demands my complete attention, Internet be darned.

And now it is Wednesday. I have book club tonight and then a date with THE CARDINALS when I get back. And then another date with the Cardinals tomorrow night after a class at the gym. Also, GO CARDS.

 So you could say the past week or so has been characterized by Lysol and laundry and TV. I know you're jealous of my glamorous life. I sure am.

*This is a less humble way of saying, "Here's my alibi."

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Beatles were controversial, too, I know

Have you heard the song "This Friday Night" by Katy Perry?

Here are the lyrics in case you haven't:
There's a stranger in my bed,
There's a pounding my head
Glitter all over the room
Pink flamingos in the pool
I smell like a minibar
DJ's passed out in the yard
Barbie's on the barbeque
Is this a hickie or a bruise
Pictures of last night
Ended up online
I'm screwed
Oh well
It's a blacked out blur
But I'm pretty sure it ruled
Last Friday night
Yeah we danced on tabletops
And we took too many shots
Think we kissed but I forgot
Last Friday night
Yeah we maxed our credit cards
Got kicked out of the bar
So we hit the boulevard
Last Friday night
We went streaking in the park
Skinny dipping in the dark
Then had a menage a trois
Last Friday night
Yeah I think we broke the law
Always say we're gonna stop-op
But this Friday night
We'll do it all again
This Friday night
Do it all again
(There's actually more, but I'll stop there)

Yikes, right? It's such a horrible song. People love to make fun of her singing, but I won't since she has made a legit living with her voice and I won't argue with that. But the lyrics? Awful. I'll be the first to admit that there are other songs with similar morals (Grab somebody sexy/Tell 'em "Hey, give me everything tonight") that I actually like to listen to. But "This Friday Night" is over the edge.

Of course, our parents were shocked at some of the stuff that we listened to as teens, just like their parents were before them. I could be just another stodgy parent here, but I really do think Katy Perry's latest single has gone far too far.

Being a believer in God, I know that there are certain behaviors that bring more harm than good. Now, not everyone believes that we answer to a higher being who sets forth standards for living a good and happy life, but I think we can all agree that the behavior Perry sings about is self-destructive and irresponsible at best.

Maxing out credit cards . . . Think we kissed but I forgot . . . There's a stranger in my bed . . . Think we broke the law

There is no honor in any of those lines. No strength of character, no dignity. It's no wonder people don't know how to budget or support themselves. It's no wonder STD's are so rampant. It's no wonder people rely on the government to take care of them: this is what is played on the radio and therefore enters people's heads on a daily basis.

This song makes it seem as though making poor decisions is really fun! and harmless! and that there are no consequences, ever! But anyone over the age of twenty knows that making poor decisions can result in heartbreak, harm, and years of trying to fix things.

I like a catchy tune as much as the next person, believe me. And I'm no moral elitist when it comes to finding songs that energize me, that make me exercise better, that make me want to dance around with my girls. But I just can't stomach this song. I don't think we can afford to allow these kinds of songs to be played in our cars or our homes.

What about you? Have you had this kind of reaction to songs like this, or am I just reacting like an octogenarian who doesn't "get" culture? I really am curious, though I won't change my mind. :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

I could never be President

Ah, let's catch up, shall we?

What have you been doing these past few days/weeks? (Silence follows, because all my readers have abandoned me for someone who will actually write something.)

Well, I was sulking in a corner for a good part of the last week. And that "corner" is apparantly a no-writing zone. Also, in that corner is some sort of force field that made me privatize this blog for, like, two days. I don't know why I did that.

So what sent me to that corner? Self-pity, really. Our garage door opener broke (this on the heels of our Blu-ray player, ceiling fan, and ice maker breaking in August), Ryan was at a retreat last weekend then left town for three days, and then our washing machine broke. AGGGGHHH. Life was hard for me for that span of five or so days (see also: I am a wimp).

Oh, did I mention that Madeline was sick?

To add to my swelling fretting obligations, Coralie started twice-weekly swim lessons, so when you combine that with our Awana weekly commitment, my evenings have been full.

So that is why I was sulking: nothing was easy and life was busy. And nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I think I'll go eat worms.

However, if there's one annoying thing to read, it's people complaining about their lives.

I'm so glad I didn't just complain! Because that would be, like, hypocritical or something.

So please allow me to tell you some good things in my life:
-The garage door is repairable, possibly for $26 if Ryan can switch out the part himself.
-Ryan went to a retreat that challenged him spiritually and that allowed him to connect with other men who "get" what life challenges he faces.
-Ryan went on a business trip with his boss who likes him.
-Ryan came home from said business trip.
-I got to pick out a new washer and dryer.
-Coralie is having a lot of fun in swim lessons and is learning some good skills.
-Coralie has memorized five Bible verses in just a few weeks in Awana. It warms my heart to hear her reciting Scripture.
-I am leaving town this weekend to meet up with some good girlfriends. You know the kind, the women who knew you before you became an adult, who clearly remember the time you raised the roof after catching a flag in flag football (huh?), who mail your kids gifts randomly. It will be good to see them. I will also have a few hours in the airport by myself. Heavens, ALONE TIME? Wow. The cost of the plane ticket is worth it if only for the alone time!

So, welcome back to all of us. Let me raise a toast to good, easy weeks and no-sulking zones. :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Psome pself psycho analysis

Sometimes I wonder how I come across on this blog. For instance, on my post about feeling weird, did I sound like I am not grateful to stay home or that I don't love being with my kids all day? Because I am grateful to be able to spend all day with my girls. The problem with e-relationships is that they provide such an incomplete picture of someone.

By nature, I am critical. I don't mean judgmental, though sometimes I am that, too. I mean that I look for what needs to be fixed or corrected. For instance, if I got such a low score as a 96% on a test (as if!), I would review the entire thing to find the 4% I didn't get right. Then I would carefully study that material so that I would really understand it.

I asked Ryan if he would describe me as critical but fair, and he said I am better described as fair but competitive with myself. I try to find out how to be better, and that usually means I think about what isn't great and come up with a plan to make it great.

So, in the case of giving up my career to stay home with kids, I acknowledge that that decision was awful in some ways and then figure out how to maintain all the good things about teaching while staying home. That is a reason I blog, started a book club, and keep in touch with former students.

Anyway, this all came up because of the anniversary of 9/11. I was telling Ryan how odd it was that my dad would call me on that morning ten years ago to tell me about the World Trade Centers. Not having kids of my own yet, I couldn't understand why Dad felt it important to call me. Couldn't I have just heard about it on the news? But now that I have kids, I know why he called. When I am scared or stressed or feeling out of sorts, I want to be with my children. I want to know they are okay, and then I am okay.

We then started talking about how else we are different now that we are older and have had different life experiences. I said that I have probably become even more competitive, to use Ryan's word, and spend more time figuring out how to squeeze more quality out of life.

Our time is so short, you know? We don't have time to drift through life unaware of ourselves, of how we come across, or of how we make people feel. But we also can't spend our days regretting our previous days.

I know I have blind spots. I know there are areas of my life that need improvement. I know I am failing my girls in some ways. But that's the beauty of relationships, right? I want those close to me to hold me accountable, to tell me when I am being narcissistic, elitist, and difficult.

I know what my life is supposed to look like: the Bible makes that clear. The Beatitudes, Proverbs 31, and the fruit of the Spirit all give me concrete characteristics to strive for. The Spirit makes us more holy, more intentional, more of a "pleasing aroma" to God.

Regret is a waste of time, but reflection can make life richer. Growing older is fascinating, and growing older surrounded by people who love you? It's awesome and humbling and rewarding and painful. But mainly awesome.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Why I have no traction on my to do list

I have a running "to do" list. Well, I actually have many to do lists, but I am thinking of one in particular now. On this list are things like "steam clean carpets" and "stain decks" and "wax wood furniture" and "sweep porch." It is the list of those bigger, nastier projects that are only tackled a few times a year. (Who am I kidding? These are done once every two years.)

I never actually do any of the things on the list. I just end up re-writing the list to make me feel better. Currently, it is on really nice stationery and written in my very best handwriting with a pretty-colored ink. But still, nothing has been crossed off.

Instead of being productive, I find myself re-arranging my mantle, ordering Coralie a new dress because she really needs one, obsessively checking our grass to see if any dead spots have been resurrected, and reading every blog on my blogroll. Twice. So by the time I am done with all of those important tasks, there is very little daylight left to sweep the porch or get the cobwebs away from our front door. And since I can't be productive and cross stuff off of the outdoor portion of my to do list, then I certainly can't do anything inside, either. The list would be unbalanced! And so the list sits for another day, lonely and neglected.

But Coralie will have a new dress AND I know all about my blogging friends. So. Good use of my day, I think.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (Lisa See)

There is so much to say about this book. But first, a synopsis. Back in rural China in the 1800s, the size of a woman's feet dictated so much: whom she could marry, whom she could befriend, what her status in society was. This is the story of a poor little girl with perfect tiny feet who rose up in society and a rich little girl who, for reasons out of her control, went down in society.

Overall, I found the book to be a little depressing. As in, I AM SO THANKFUL I WASN'T BORN IN RURAL CHINA IN THE 1800s BECAUSE IT SUCKED BACK THEN. Women had no freedom whatsoever, even to leave the house. They couldn't leave the house! Did you hear me? Trapped in their own homes, they were. To make matters even worse, no one wanted a woman in the house unless she would produce sons. Her birth family didn't want her since she was a daughter. And her married family didn't want her unless she could produce heirs. So women were essentially silent slaves in their own homes unless they were Lady of the House. And there was only one Lady at a time, so in their multi-generational/multi-family-branched homes, there were a lot of women who weren't the Ladies.

But See is a wonderful author with the ability to keep the story moving, and the premise of the book is absolutely fascinating. Everyone in my book club loved it, so there's that. I personally didn't, but as I said, I was in the minority. Fascinated but not in love. Yeah, that's how I feel.

However, I have a list of things I am freaked out about now:
-BEE STINGS. I won't tell you why, but I will tell you I carry benadryl with me. Everywhere.
-BOUND FEET. Little four year old girls had their feet bound. Four years old. Bound. Do you know what this entails? Basically, the toes are wrapped so that they are underneath the foot. Then the little girls walk like that, every day, for months until all the bones in their feet break. Then the feet are re-wrapped even tighter. The goal is to create feet to be 3 inches long. This is not an endearing part of Chinese history.
-TYPHOID. We are all immunized, right? Gah, what an awful disease.
-CHINA in general. I will not be traveling there. I know it's different now, but I can't shake the opinions I have of that 1800s culture. Also, I don't like their food. I like American Chinese food, but not the food that See writes about.

Speaking of food, we met at PF Changs to discuss the book. I am sure the waiter rolled his eyes at all of us women eating there with our big, obvious China books sitting beside us, but he was very gracious anyway. The manager even paid for my meal, so yeah, I'd say it was a good choice for us. (The manager is married to one of my former students, and I just love her. Hi, L, if you're reading!)

Our next book is Unbroken, and, yes, I know everyone else in the whole world has read this book. Anything I should know before diving in?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My very first tutorial: fall wreath

Have you heard about yarn wreaths? They're super cute. Super cute. And they look soooo easy that I just knew I could make one. And I did. Here's how I did it.

1. Waste a lot of time debating whether or not to make one. Look up a few tutorials online just to confirm that making one is as easy as it sounds.

2. Take two small children to Hobby Lobby and put all sorts of stuff into your cart because a) you don't really know what you're doing and b) that just happens when you take little hands with you into Hobby Lobby. That way you are sure not to save money.

3. Beg an expert to come and keep you company while you make the wreath.

4. Make the wreath. Budget three hours, at least.

I'm also a professional photographer, basically. See how I cut off the bottom of the wreath and didn't center the subject in my view finder? Awesome.

5. Don't hang the wreath where you intend; that would be actually finishing the job.

The plan is to hang it above the couch, in the window.

6. Instead, stick it somewhere it doesn't belong, preferably out of little hands' reaches.

I have a feeling it might stay here awhile. Also, doesn't it look like we have vaulted ceilings? We don't. Again, that's just my mad photography skillz.
7. Voila.

Moral of the story: If I can make one, so can you.
Another moral of the story: don't come to me for tutorials. I'm really not very helpful.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Yes, this is a waste of your time

Well, hello there. This is not an actual post. It is a place holder. Did you ever notice that I try to post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays? It's just one of those neurotic things I do.

I have four posts that have been started (in my head), but I don't have the enthusiasm to actually write them. But since it's Monday, I must publish something.

I can't wait to see what I don't write for Wednesday.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Recap: August experiment

We just closed out our August books.

And. . . (drumroll, please). . .


Looks like we'll be on the cash system for September, too. And October and November and December. The girls are now on their way to a semester's worth of college books fully funded by Mom and Dad. That's right, people, we saved money!!! (If you could, please read that in an Oprah voice, as I did when I wrote that.)

I mean, that's exciting, right? We saved about $100 from our budget simply by paying with cash. But I actually feel kind of dumb that we haven't done the cash system before. Who KNOWS how many useless college Chemistry and Biology books we could have saved for by now! Once I got the hang of the cash system, I loved it. Loved it. It was actually quite fun to count my piles of money throughout the month. I found great enjoyment by paying with exact change. And I confidently purchased cute clothes for the girls because I knew we were under-budget.

I asked Ryan to make a spreadsheet showing me how much money we would have in fifteen years if we put away $100 every month into an account with a modest rate of return. He never did*, and I don't know how to, so I am going to estimate. My best guess is . . . three hundred thousand dollars!!!!!! Isn't that fantastic? Wait. What? Are my calculations off?

Well, let's assume we earn no interest at all. (I can't do that kind of math.) (I actually tutor College Algebra**, but if I don't have the book in front of me, I can't even graph a circle.) (But who cares, right? Who will ever need to graph a circle without being able to reference a book?) (Besides students.)

ANYWAY. If we save $1,200 a year ($100/month x 12 months. . . still with me?), then in fifteen years we will have saved $18,000. That's a heck of a lot better than $0. (I think. I may need to reference the ol' math book's chapter on significant digits, but I think I'm right.)

So what I'm saying is, the cash system saved us money. Maybe Dave Ramsey actually does know what he's talking about.

*I read him this paragraph, and he got his panties all in a wad that I called him out on this. He asked me to explain that SIX HOURS was not enough notice. SIX HOURS, you guys. Do you know what all I can accomplish in six hours?

**And by "tutor College Algebra" I mean "once-upon-a-time-tutored, you know, before I decided I would rather go to the gym than do math".

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Can I still get a PELL grant?

Well, well, well. It appears that some people can accomplish quite a bit in eight years. I mean, not me, but others can. I just received in the mail my alma mater's English department newsletter. Let me start by saying HOLY MOLY.

Since graduation, I have taught high school English in two wonderful schools and earned a Teacher of the Week certificate and a  . . oh wait, that's the extent of my accolades.

But my classmates? Let's see, they have earned Master's degrees and PhD's and awards like "Outstanding Graduate Student" and the distinction of summa cum laude in their graduate programs. From Yale. They are adjunct professors at major colleges around the country and are interviewed by news organizations such as the BBC. They are published. Some have a PhD and a national board certification and children.

(I am friends with some of those people on Facebook. If you are one of those people, hi! And also, wow.)

So I feel sort of . . . boring. Ryan told me he would support me if I wanted to pursue a Master's or PhD from Yale. He said it would be hard to work out the logistics but that it could be done. HAHAHAHAHAHA OH MY WORD NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. I think he was trying to say that I am capable of earning some cool, intelligent distinctions, but I was too busy yelping out of actual physical pain at the thought of going back to school that I didn't hear him finish his point.

And this is the difference between me and my former classmates: they are out there studying at prestigious schools and teaching at respected institutions and writing for legitimate publications. And I? I am laughing and cringing all at the same time and then yelling out, "Oh! I can BLOG ABOUT THIS!"

Monday, September 5, 2011

A parenting boomerang

When I was eleven and attitude-y, I often found myself fighting with my mom. One day as she was driving me to school (thanks, Mom!) we were engaged in yet another power struggle. She turned to me in exasperation and said, "Katie, why don't we try this-- you be the kid and I'LL be the mom." I turned to her, narrowed my eyes, and snapped back, "We already tried that and it didn't work."

You know how they say what goes around comes around? This happened in our home yesterday:

Coralie: Mom, don't sit in that chair. My toys were in that chair.
Me: Well, Coralie, I need to sit here because I am holding Madeline and this is what works best for me.
Coralie: But my toys go there. You need to sit somewhere else!
Me: Coralie, you do not tell me what to do. If I want to sit here, I will sit here.
Coralie: Mom, you just need to move.
Me: Coralie, do not tell me what to do. I am the mom, you are the child. I don't have to obey you.
Coralie: Then I want to be the grandma and then you will have to obey me.

Not only is she smarter than I was in that she circumvented the hierarchy problem, but she gave me this attitude an entire EIGHT YEARS before I gave it to my mom.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: heaven help me.

PS-- Happy Labor Day!
PPS-- Sorry the comments feature seems to be wonky. I have no idea what to do to enable all of you to comment, as the extent of my troubleshooting capabilities is clicking a bunch of stuff. So I don't think I fixed anything, but I sure tried!

Friday, September 2, 2011

I feel weird

I hit an important milestone last week: my "career" as a stay-at-home mom has now outlasted my career as a teacher. That's weird. I feel like I am a professional who is choosing to stay home while my kids are young, except that I have no actual plans to go back to work when the girls are older. I wouldn't be surprised to find myself one day among the many who go back to work as their kids become more independent, but I just don't have a plan to, is what I'm saying. Some of my friends have definite career goals; I do not.

When I told Ryan that I have now stayed home longer than I ever worked, he asked me which job I felt more successful at. This is a strange question for many reasons, but one I am willing to ponder.

First off, I made fewer mistakes as a teacher (not that I didn't make any). I believe that's because I only worked about 180 days a year, for about 9 hours a day. Second off, this job had fewer mixed emotions for me. I loved, loved, loved--a million times over loved--teaching. I think it was the perfect job for me.

Strangely, I have no photos of me teaching. This was taken right around finals, I believe. Notice how well I used my whiteboard; only the highest standards of education in my classroom!

Here's one of me in action, but this is after I "retired"-- I had come up to the school do to some Homecoming prep work with the students. I actually found lots of (useless for this post) pictures of me with students, one who went on to become Miss Kansas, one who went to work for MTV in Nashville and worked with tons of celebrities, and I could go on and on. I adore them all (well, all the girls anyway. The boys could be obnoxious.) and miss being with them. *sniff*

But being a mom? I make lots of mistakes. And I work 365 days a year and a literal 24 hours a day. I love, love, love--a billion times over love--being a mom. But it's more complicated than going into a job every day. (An aside: I think being a working mom is the absolute hardest job in the world. I have total respect for the women who are able to do it all.) 
The moment I became a mother

Teaching was way more glamorous than sleep training, baby food making, bottom wiping, book reading, and house cleaning. The rewards-- positive feedback, making teenagers laugh, making new friends out of old students, intellectually challenging myself and others--were pretty great too.

I won't pretend that the perks of staying home aren't amazing, even better than summers off-- sleeping in until 8, not rushing out the door in the morning, being home all day unless I want to go somewhere else--they're pretty awesome. I don't love the mundane of staying home, but it is what it is.

So what I'm saying is, it's complicated. I don't know which job I'm better suited for or which one will occupy my 8 to 5 in the future. But I do know that I have more practice being a mom than a teacher. And that's weird.

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. If you're a parent, which job do you feel more equipped for-- one in a nice shiny building with other professionals, or one in your own house with your kids? If you had to plan out the rest of your days, money being no concern obviously, which "career" would you choose? Or would you do a combination? (And it doesn't make you a bad parent if you would rather work somewhere else from 8 to 5. So there's no "right" answer here. I'm just curious.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I'll understand if you think less of me

So. The movies. I literally never go to the movie theater. Well, literally in the figurative sense. I did go about eighteen months ago. Anyway. I went to see The Help on Friday night with some girlfriends and I was all in a tizzy beforehand. Should I wear pants? Bring a sweater? Sneak candy in? Order a drink there? What was I supposed to do during the movie? Play with silly putty? Yes, silly putty sounds right.

Into the purse silly putty goes. Along with a sweater and kleenex in case the inevitable happens and I cry at some point.

Ryan said I was acting as crazy as if I had just received notice I was going to tea with the Queen of England. He clearly doesn't understand my anxiety surrounding movie theaters.

To begin, it is too dang expensive to go. Thankfully, my kind and generous friend Sarah gave me one of her comp tickets, so it was free for me. But still! Everyone else there had paid, what, like twenty dollars apiece to be there? Since I haven't been in awhile, I don't know what the ticket cost is, but I am pretty sure it's a kajillion dollars.

Secondly, WHO SAT IN MY SEAT BEFORE ME? Did they have lice? Had they showered recently?

Thirdly, the rules. My word, the rules! I sat there for at least three minutes being reminded to stop talking, turn off my cell phone, keep my feet off the seat in front of me, and buy concessions.

Fourthly, the previews. They cause me great anxiety because I think, "Oh, I may like that movie. I'll have to remember to see it when it comes out on DVD in approximately EIGHTEEN MONTHS." And then I never remember what movies to rent when I am at Redbox.

Fifthly, the group laughter and claps. I loathe this. Ma'am, the producers only included that stupid line in the movie so predictable movie-goers like you would laugh out loud. You are playing right into the producers' hands just like this silly putty is doing in my own hands.

Sixthly, I can't NOT cry at a movie. So when the lights come up at the end, I look like a horrified zombie and try to exit the theater as quickly as possible, which isn't very quickly since we are being herded like the slow, fat cattle we are (see: concessions).

Also, I read too many books. They just ruin movies for me. This movie was not even close to as good as the book, no matter what other people say. Maybe I can go to Hollywood and actually make a movie that is equal to the book and then play it in small rooms with fresh chairs and free food and people who promise not to laugh too loudly.

Yeah, that sounds like a good use for my life.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

One year old

(Insert sappy post about how I cannot believe my baby is all grown up and about how wonderful and sweet she is and how full she makes our lives.)

just born

one week old

four months old

six months old

seven months old

eight months old

nine months old

eleven months old

Happy first birthday, Madeline! We really do love you; I just will not write a normal 1st birthday post. Yeah, your mom is a rebel.

But we really do love and adore you.