And The Race Begins

My alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. and I actually heeded its buzz and immediately rose and got into the shower. Today is the first day of Lava Lava Island: Where Jesus’ Love Flows, our church’s annual Vacation Bible School. I’ve been spending lots of my spare time preparing for the arrival of one hundred children and thirty volunteers. This morning, I was at the church by 6:00 a.m. to photocopy schedules and maps and to make nametags for all the kids and to deliver clothesline to the preschool room and to organize, organize, organize.

I am a detail-oriented person, so most of this gives me great satisfaction. I love to do things sequentially and orderly and neatly. I think we are all set. Of course, there will be last-minute snafus and glitches, but as I like to tell myself: next week, this will all be over!

I returned home by 7:00 a.m. so I’d be here when DaycareKid arrived. While I waited for him, I heard a baby’s cough. Oh no. I just wiped the kid’s snotty nose. Looks like another cold, or a resurrection of his last cold.

My own kids are all asleep still–why they can’t all sleep on a morning when I, too, can sleep is just one of those unfair things about life. But in one hour, they will all be ready to go. I’ll take the babies with me at 8:20 a.m., take DaycareKid to the nursery for childcare and then cart Babygirl around with me because she will not stay in childcare. She’s one of those babies who gets hysterical if I leave the house without her. I left her in the nursery for about ten minutes during church yesterday and I could literally hear her shrill screams all the way upstairs, through closed windows and doors. I know I could desensitize her to my absences and train her not to scream her head off when we leave her in a nursery or with a babysitter, but I also know that she will outgrow this. Why put her through any unnecessary trauma? (I used to sneer at moms like me when I was a teenager who knew everything.)

After I leave, a friend will pick up my husband and the bigger kids to bring them to church. We don’t have a car big enough to transport two adults and five kids, so this will have to do. It took me a long time to even figure out this solution. One of my earlier solutions involved my husband pushing Babygirl two miles to church in a stroller.

Hey! One of my kids is awake, so I’m off to get him dressed and ready to go.

On your mark, get set, GO!

Stuck at Home

I’m stuck at home. When I was a teenager without a driver’s license, I thought that a car and a license were my ticket to freedom. And yet, now I have both, but I’m here. Stuck.

Yeah, I know. It’s all in how you look at it, but I tend to be a glass-half-empty kind of girl, so these kids in my house sometimes seem like handcuffs and ankle chains to me. Our 1992 Buick Park Avenue died recently and so I am stranded on this desert island. I wish it were a dessert island, because then I’d be gorging on chocolate mousse and cheesecake drizzled with caramel sauce and carrot cake with thick cream cheese frosting. But I digress.

Even if I had a car–no, a van, I am trapped here by Babygirl’s nap-time. It’s not exactly that I’m inflexible. It’s just that I will not, cannot, choose not to alter her naptime in any way. Okay. I’m inflexible. Some things are sacred, though. Cows in the streets of India and my baby’s naptime. Mess with either and you risk coming back in your next life as a gnat. Or a politician. Or me.

But if I had a car, I would have to figure out a place to take these children that:
1) They would all enjoy;
2) Would not cost me a fortune; and
3) Isn’t too far away.

That rules out hiking, going to the ocean, Chuck E. Cheese, malls, restaurants, museums, zoos, water parks, stores, and pretty much all public places and areas where almost-2 year olds are apt to throw fits or get kidnapped or run into traffic or get scared. For instance, how fun would it be to go to Pike’s Place Market? All the sights, sounds, smells?

It would cost twenty dollars just to park. Then my kids would want to eat and they’d probably get kidnapped or they’d need to go to the bathroom and then Babygirl would have a fit and I’d have to carry her kicking and screaming past the tourists and the fish-throwers and drive back home in heavy traffic while the baby shrieks in the back seat and the kids complain that their feet hurt and they’re thirsty and can we please stop by McDonalds?

My kids seem happy, even though they are just here, stuck at home. With me. The twins are watching an old movie (Lion King) from their preschool days and YoungestBoy’s out in the backyard wearing a red bandana as a cape and Babygirl is napping. I’ve had three Diet Cokes and half a bag of baby carrots and have avoided carrying the laundry downstairs for as long as is reasonable. Maybe we’ll go to the pool tonight.

Someday I won’t have a two year old and I won’t be Stuck at Home and we’ll go somewhere and do something. But not today.

Now, if I could only figure out a way to get stranded on a Dessert Island, I’d really have something to anticipate.

Reading

I can write. I can read. But I cannot write html code, so I cannot put a reading list on the side of this blog. So, instead, I’m just going to write a periodic entry about my reading adventures. Kind of a summer reading thing.

Last week I read Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven. Excellent book, well-researched and interesting, too. I learned stuff I never knew about the founders of the Mormon religion. Of course, I had to actually pay attention and think hard sometimes, so that’s why my next book was The Nanny Diaries.

I read it in two days–two days of ignoring the bits of popcorn on the family room floor, two days of closing the laundry room door on the ever-growing pile of laundry, two days of not looking down at the unclean kitchen floor. This is the kind of book that makes me think, “I could do this. I could write this book.” There are some books–Poisonwood Bible, for instance–that leave me convinced that I could never, ever pen a novel. But these other novels? I could do it. All I need is time, time, time.

I even have an idea.

My husband thinks I fritter away so much time that if I just applied myself I could write a best-seller and he could buy a bigger, better house. I just smile and nod at him, because he’s insane. Even if I wrote a book and had it published, that doesn’t mean we’ll be rolling in crisp dollar bills a la Demi Moore in “An Indecent Proposal.”

And just because all the idle moments in my day add up to a couple of hours does not mean I have long stretches of time, thinking time, daydreaming time, essential time where I could rearrange characters and situations and dialogue in my head without kids constantly trampling through my thoughts. I’m half-crazed as it is now by the never-ending interruptions God gave me.

Oh, and that reminds me. I have a little writing assignment. I really should get to that instead of letting this time trickle through my fingers like sand in the sandbox.

(Just in the time it took me to write this, I answered the phone, told YoungestBoy that I would NOT cut the bottom off a frozen water bottle so he could play with the bottle-shaped ice, told my other boys to eat a sandwich if they are still hungry after popcorn and Mountain Dew, cut the bottom off the water bottle to keep YoungestBoy from slicing his fingers off with a butter knife, answered questions from the boys at least five times and decided it’s official. My week of PMS has begun.)

The Barbie is a Tramp

Last night, I took Babygirl with me to Weight Watchers. She’s been unusally clingy and even when my husband takes her for a ride in her stroller around the block, she whimpers “mama, mama” like a malfunctioning talking doll.

I told her we were going to a meeting and she said, “Meening!” I weighed in (lost another 1.7 pounds, woo-hoo) and then we found a seat at the very back. Normally, before I leave the house, I bring a Zip-loc bag of pretzels for her to snack on, but I purposely didn’t bring her a snack because this is Weight Watchers, where we’re all trying not to snack and who needs to hear the crunch of pretzels while they are trying to listen?

Apparently, the little boy with glasses in the row ahead of us didn’t get that memo, however. One hand held a Jack-in-the-Box bag while the other clutched a handful of greasy fries. Obviously, he’s being raised by wolves. Babygirl shouts, “Sies! Sies!” That would be “fries” in Babygirl-talk.

I try to distract her because the speaker has begun, but she will not be deterred. “SIES! SIES!”

We left the meeting and drove straight to McDonald’s, where I bought fries (for us both) and a cheeseburger (for me). Don’t worry, I saved points for it. I actually ordered a Happy Meal because it comes with a small drink and the portion of food is reasonable for a weight-watching person.

The toy inside was a Barbie figure. And not just a figure, but a figure, if you know what I mean. This Barbie is a tramp. She wears black platform shoes with heels which would be at least six inches in the real world. Her pants are low enough to show her belly button, which surprisingly enough is not pierced. She’s wearing no bra under her one-shouldered shirt. Over this ensemble is a short, black faux-fur jacket. As always, her hair is bleached blond and long enough to reach her tiny little butt (no panty-lines–I suppose she’s wearing a thong or going commando).

In my day, Barbie was not a tramp. Sure, she had a killer bod, but she did not dress like a hooker or a rap video chick. What executive decided that Street-Corner Barbie was appropriate for a Happy Meal? What’s next? A Ron Jeremy action figure?

If I Scream, Will I Feel Better?

Next week, our church’s annual Vacation Bible School will begin. I am in charge, as I have been for the past three years. Why? I broke the rule I made for myself when we arrived here six years ago: I will be happy to volunteer, but I will not lead. Normally, people assume the pastor’s wife will do everything, and pretty soon, she does. I won’t. Not here. Not this time.

But I did agree to do this and now, five days before it begins, I get a call from my crafts leader. Two days’ worth of crafts kits are missing. Back-ordered. No one knows when they will arrive, but my contact person in Minnesota is checking for me.

And I realized yesterday that I am short about five warm bodies. I have my main station leaders recruited, but I need people to be “crew leaders,” essentially escorts for small groups of children. If I don’t recruit a few more people, my small groups of kids will be big groups of kids and the quality of our program will suffer.

Then, the other problem that looms over my head is the number of preschoolers we anticipate. I limited preschool registration to twenty slots this year, and they quickly filled up. People registered their preschoolers without checking with me, as the website instructed. I am terrified that on the actual day of VBS, I will have to turn away disappointed four year olds. I really, really don’t want to do that, so I’ll probably allow them to register, even though we aren’t equipped for more than twenty kids.

Well, I guess this is why I get the big bucks. Oh wait. That’s someone else. I’m doing this for free.

At least this will all be over in 10 days and then I’ll have a break. Oh wait. That’s when my husband will be gone for the entire week on business.

I’d better go make some phone calls. The last one I made sounded like this, “Hi, just calling to see if you will be able to help us out next week. If not, I’m just asking you to PRAY FOR ME! Thanks! Bye!”

Yawn

Last night at 11:20 p.m., the phone rang. A late night phone call means one of two things: 1) Really, supersized bad news or; 2) Some drunk guy looking for someone. Last night, a woman’s voice said, “I’m sorry to call so late, but I just got home and there was a message on my machine from Ruby Dunlap saying that Grandma was not at home and there was some type of emergency. Do you know what’s going on?” I said, “Hold on, let me give you to my husband,” and then I passed the phone to him. He was already asleep, while I was just watching the last part of the news with half-closed eyes and trying to read the final page of Vanity Fair.

He listened for a moment, then handed the phone back to me, saying, “It’s one of your relatives!”

Oh. It was my Aunt Geri (I didn’t recognize her voice because we seldom talk on the phone). I asked her if she called my mom–she said my mom’s line was busy. (My mom has dial-up internet, no wonder.) I told her I’d call my mom’s cell and figure this out.

Now, my grandmother is 98 years old and we’ve been thinking for years that she’s going to die sometime. Every Christmas we say, “This could be Grandma’s last Christmas.” Every birthday, every Mother’s Day, same thing. Yet, she just keeps on living alone in her immaculate, little house, blinded by macular degeneration, keeping the thermostat at eighty degrees because she’s always cold.

My mother’s phone rang and rang and then I left a message, hoping she’d pick up. Then I called her cell. No answer. Then I called her regular number again and this time she picked up.

My mom told me that the big emergency at my grandma’s house was that her phone didn’t work. And during the day my mom had picked up Grandma and brought her over to her house and they tried to call Ruby (my grandma’s friend who calls her every day) so Ruby wouldn’t worry, but they hadn’t been able to reach her.

So, Ruby, worried so much that she drove all the way over to Grandma’s house, found Grandma missing and alerted the media! Okay, she only called my Aunt Geri, but still. In the meantime, my mother returned my Grandma home and they called Ruby and all was well. And it turns out that the “phone trouble” was simply a handset that wasn’t quite hung up properly.

Except no one remembered to call Geri. So Geri called me. So, after my mother, Queen of Detailed Stories That Go On and On, told me all this, I called Geri back and told her the short version: Grandma is fine. She was just at my mom’s house.

My husband said, half-asleep, half-joking, “Next time, don’t hand me the phone when it’s your relatives.” I had mistakenly assumed it was a church member, because we occasionally get those kind of church-related calls. A few times, my husband has sprung out of bed into the middle of the night to sit by a hospital bed or hold hands in the emergency room.

My baby, sensing my weariness, called to me at 5:40 a.m.: “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” in a tone that suggested she’d been abandoned without food or drink for days on end. I don’t know why she woke up a full two hours earlier than normal, but she did go back to sleep by 6:45 a.m., after I sat and rocked her.

I face the day, then, shrouded in the kind of tired that prompted George Costanza (on Seinfeld) to actually build a bed into the bottom of his desk at work, the kind of tired that reminds me of having mononucleosis, the kind of tired that convinced me to crawl back into bed until 7:00 a.m., rather than shower. Nothing like facing the day bleary-eyed and dirty-haired.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Here’s what is Too Much of a Good Thing: My daughter, the almost 2-year old Babygirl, at 6:00 p.m. on a Sunday night.

I have just had enough of her by then.

The darling is asleep now at 8:20 p.m. . . . a two full hours before fireworks are scheduled to begin. My husband will stay home while she sleeps and I will take my boys to my mother’s house to view the “rocket’s red glare.” She has a view of the Puget Sound where pyrotechnics will light up the night sky.

Babygirl also slept through today’s parade at 1:00 p.m. After church, we strolled through the three blocks of the street fair, bought nachos and then I left the boys with my husband, came home and put Babygirl down for a nap.

I enjoyed a gloriously quiet (though messy) house for two hours, which was way better than a parade. Even though I do love a small-town parade, I love solitude even more.

I might just be a recluse in my old age. Or maybe by then, I will have recovered from having Too Much of a Good Thing and my appetite for non-stop human interaction will return.

I’m looking forward to Independence Day–and by that, I mean my Empty Nest, which will occur in only 16 more years. Not that I’m counting. Really.

Moore: Smarmy Champion of the Feeble-Minded

With all the scattering of ashes at sea and weddings to perform, my husband’s weekends have been harried. So my weekends have been exactly like my weekdays–that is to say, daily laundry, the routine of caring for a two year old and fixing food for people to eat.

Last night, then, I went to a movie. Just me. I love to go to movies alone. And not just because I hate sharing my popcorn. No. I like the solitude in the midst of a crowd, the vast stretches of time in which to think. If you are with someone, small talk intrudes and your thoughts are disrupted. I like to sit, to eavesdrop, to daydream, to ponder.

I hated to do it, but I saw “Fahrenheit 9/11″, the Michael Moore satire-disguised-as-documentary. I arrived early at the theater and sat smack in the middle, screen at perfect eye-level. For a long time, there were only a few of us in the theater–a couple behind me and over a bit and some others behind my back.

I thought, “Wow, well, I guess the theater will be empty,” and then it gradually filled until I became a Republican island in the middle of a fiercely Democratic ocean. The seats on either side of me were empty. Other than that, I was surrounded and hoped that I wouldn’t accidentally get Tourette’s Syndrome and shout out “That’s a load of crap!” at one of Michael Moore’s ludicrous, yet solemnly-intoned statements (like the one about how Iraq had never killed any American prior to the most recent war). More than once, I wanted to protest, “But that’s just not true!” but I preferred not to be lynched on a rare Saturday night out, so I kept quiet.

The crowd around me, however, laughed uproariously at things that were not funny. They thought facial expressions of people who were waiting off-camera for the cameras to begin rolling were hilarious. Ha ha ha. Boy, it’s so funny to see someone waiting to go “on-air.” Let’s make fun of how people look. How mature and fun-loving we are!

What I did not find the least bit funny was the fact that Michael Moore showed no footage from the 9/11 terrorist attack–no mangled bodies, no people burned to a crisp, no bloodied faces–yet he lingered over gruesome footage of dead Iraqi babies and severely injured Iraqi children. Uh, hello? The terrorists purposely attacked and killed Americans. These poor dead and injured children were not purposely attacked. Our soldiers did not intentionally main or kill any innocent civilians. Furthermore, how about showing a little footage of Saddam Hussein’s cronies hacking off the hands of people who dared disagree with him or his dictates? Oh, no, wait, that would actually be full disclosure of truth. Can’t have that!

I found Michael Moore to be a smarmy man with an agenda and I wondered if those in the movie theater around me were so feeble-minded that they would swallow whole whatever irrational story he fed them. And please, would someone explain to him that parents do not enlist their children in the army as if they are signing up their children for summer-camp? Furthermore, those who enlist in the army are not children. They are men and women, capable, rational, thinking people who join of their own free will.

Just saying something does not make it true. Michael Moore surely must realize that, but I don’t think the giggling, critical crowd in the movie theater last night understands that fact.

So, here’s what I thought when I sat in the theater last night:

1) I am outnumbered.
2) These people obviously have not read what Christopher Hitchens has to say on the matter.
3) Our country is in serious trouble if people think this is funny.
4) I am smarter than everyone here.
5) Is this movie almost over? This is so boring. I probably should have seen Spiderman, even though I hate action films.
6) Michael Moore is an idiot and perhaps he’d like to spend a little time living under a despot like Saddam Hussein and get back to us. Now, that’s a documentary I’d like to see.

I Want A Saturday!

When I was in my twenties, I used to watch television’s “thirtysomething” with love and devotion. I never missed an episode and I cried almost every week while watching the interaction between Hope and Michael or Nancy and Elliot. I broke down completely and wept when Gary died. (Ironically enough, that happened after my own dad had died and his name was, you guessed it, Gary.)

One episode was all about Hope’s fervent wish for a “Saturday night,” an old-fashioned date with her husband. All sorts of things go awry, of course.

I’ve been thirtysomething for quite some time now. Almost the maximum allowable time, actually. You can see my approaching expiration date if you look very closely under my bangs–why do you think I have bangs? And while I haven’t experienced much of what I viewed as a dreamy-eyed twentysomething, right now, today, I am full of longing for a Saturday. Not a Saturday night, just a plain old Saturday.

I need a Saturday so I can sleep late, eat brunch at a cafe’, run errands, stroll along the beach, chat with old friends on the phone, drive along a scenic highway, hike on a trail, or just get out of the house. The last time I got out of the house, I was shopping for a miracle, and the time has come for another break!

This Saturday–tomorrow–held great promise. Last Saturday, my husband had to literally go out to sea for a cermonial scattering of ashes.

He mentioned just awhile ago that he has plans for tomorrow. Who’d like to guess what he has on his agenda? ::::Big pause for you to ponder::::: That’s right! A wedding!

Guess what I’ll be doing tomorrow?

Taking care of four kids within the walls of my insane asylum house.

Someday, my day will come. And I hope it’s a Saturday.

Pretty in Orange

 Posted by Hello

I have a cousin named Cindy who is five years older than me, almost exactly. So, when I was 6 years old (as I am in this picture), she was 11. My Aunt Martha used to give my mother hand-me-down clothes from Cindy for me. We were always very grateful because we never had enough money. My father had spent the first five years of his marriage to my mother informing her that they were moving. He didn’t like his job, he could do better, so pack up, we’re hitting the road! On one of those occasions, they left in such a hurry that what couldn’t fit into the car–including my mother’s wedding gown–was left behind. My mother cried when the car broke down miles away and they ended up having to rent a U-Haul truck after all. They did not return for the left-behind stuff, though.

In their first five years of marriage, they brought three babies into the world–I was smack in the center, sixteen months older and sixteen months younger. Do you suppose I got enough attention? I still remember how frustrated and sad I was when I told my mom, “It’s not fair! I never get to hold the popcorn!” But phooey on my emotional needs. My dad was busy trying to find a better job, a job that deserved him. That’s why my parents moved us twenty-five times in their first five years together. And when I say “moved,” I mean from Wisconsin to Missouri to Montana back to Wisconsin with a U-Haul truck hooked to the back of our decrepit car. No down-the-block moves for us. I still remember during one move I could actually watch the street through the rust-eaten floorboards of the car.

When we finally settled into our house at Whispering Firs, I was in kindergarten and that’s when the bags of hand-me-down clothes began to arrive. My cousin’s daddy was a minister and consequently, she had lots of pretty dresses. For some reason, many of them were orange, so my school pictures from first grade, second grade, and third grade featured lovely orange attire. I thought I looked pretty hot at the time. I also nursed a fierce jealousy of Cindy with her fancy duds and her preacher daddy. My daddy slept all day and worked all night and had rough, calloused hands and a stern face. Her daddy’s hands were soft when he shook mine and his hair was smoothed perfectly into place and he always said, “Hi, Beautiful!”

The main problem with Cindy’s clothes, though, was the size. Cindy was a petite bird of a person. I’m more of the sturdy, frontier-girl type. Some of the beautiful clothes just wouldn’t fit around my normal sized waist. Which explains why I thought I was fat as a child. I was normal, but I was trying to fit into a Barbie doll’s clothes.

Today, Cindy lives not so far from me. I see her occasionally and she might weigh 90 pounds on a particularly “fat day.” I’m just thankful that I don’t have to try to fit into any more of her hand-me-downs. My grown-up self-image is wobbly enough as it is.

And here’s a tip for all mothers of girls: When your normal-sized girl says, “Mommy, am I fat?” please, please, please, just say, “No, of course not. You look perfect to me.”

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