Monday, June 30, 2008

One Slow Week

I can't believe I haven't posted in a whole week. And now, I sit here racking my brain for what could have possibly happened last week. Swimming lessons, riding lessons, and a whole lot of lazy summer. I guess that is really a good thing, exactly what summer should be about.

I love the slow pace of summertime, the way the weather just seems to give you a pass on anything except swimming or possibly lemonade. The kids and I did go pick berries on Friday, the reward for a Thursday of running from one appointment or lesson to another...maybe we were busier than I remembered. Anyway, they decided that blackberries were more fun to pick--we filled up a two gallon bucket in just a few minutes--but that they prefer blueberries. Not me!

Blackberries are the taste of weeks in the summer with my paternal grandmother, out on the side of mountain dirt roads in the blackberry brambles. I got to spend a week by myself with my grandparents in North Carolina, from the time I was six until I was going to summer camp at about ten or eleven. Each of those weeks...Mim was a former kindergarten teacher and was always up for a project or a trip. Papier mache, mining for sapphires, cooking, lake swimming, picking blackberries or her home-grown raspberries: I can feel all of these things like they were yesterday. The raspberries always seemed fussy and tame compared to the brambly, tart, fiesty blackberries I loved so much.

I wonder what my kids will remember from their summer days. Somehow, the blackberries in orderly rows, grown by someone and not merely from God's generous hand, don't quite measure up. Maybe we all need some wildness to color our suburban summers.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Give to This Great Cause!

My dear friend and college roommate is running a marathon with Team in Training and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society! I was shocked and very impressed that she's taking this on; you see, she's a mom and a cancer doctor, too.

Please visit her Team in Training site and consider donating to this great cause. I have family who have been affected by various forms of leukemia, but she spends her day with it every single day. Here's a little about why she decided to run from her Team in Training site:

I am running for a wonderful boy named Johnny. He is vibrant and funny and into living life to the fullest. The things he can do on a skate board defy gravity! I diagnosed him with Acute Lymphblastic Leukemia several years ago. With the best treatments available and an optimistic spirit his cancer went into remission. At the same time that I committed to running this marathon Johnny's leukemia came back. While I'm traning this marathon, he's going to be fighting for his life. When I was visiting with him to ask him to be my honored teammate, he was taking the first steps he'd taken in weeks because he'd been ill. When I'm getting tired or sore I say to myself "If he can do that - I can do this!!!"

Oh, Yeah

THIS is what I want in a Commander-in-Chief: a muse. Yep, that'll have those terrorists quaking in their boots. "Step back! Or I will smack you with my fringed powder-blue scarf!"

I think it might be different if the clothes actually looked masculine or something. Give me a great pair of washed-out Levis and a work shirt any day.

Ways I Will Never Make Money, Part 1

I will never be a plumber. Our kitchen faucet bit the dust last week and the new one came today. In my excitement (the new one is lovely) I decided to at least get the old, broken faucet out of the house. Well.

I have spent the last hour wedged under my kitchen sink wrestling with a nut. Or a bolt. Whatever. I've tried three different tools, been to my neighbor's house, my parents' house, and the hardware store. My son and I succeeded in removing the soap dispenser...victory!! (but just a lower-case victory)

On the up side, I am appreciating the value of a good plumber. Oh, and I didn't find any dead bugs under the sink! And yes, that is my flip-flopped foot in the picture.

A Book Recommendation

I'm a reader. Not as much as I'd like, mostly because I have a way of allowing a good book to draw me into its world and I will ignore everything around me until I finish it. Seriously, everything. Kids' schedules, pets begging to be let out (or in), laundry, dinner. It just doesn't matter. Since I love my family and my pets, I have to ration my books and time them for vacations or weekends at the lake.

While we were in Vermont I brought The Poisonwood Bible with me. LOVED it. I found it very realistic with a deeply engaging story line. The story has five different narrators, which might sound hard to follow, but for this story of a family of six in Africa the voices made the story richer. It's also a book that deals intensely with Christianity, and while it is by no means orthodox it (I think) deals very fairly with it. I am a Christian and take my faith pretty seriously. I find the ad hominem attacks on faith, particularly Christianity, a little tiresome. There was none of that in this book. I found it presented a complex, layered view of a family in a difficult situation.

While I was sitting by the pool reading I must have had a half-dozen people comment on the book, almost all very positive. So I'm late to the party, but it's a good party! I've since passed the book on to my dear neighbor and she's loving it, too.

Anyway, should you find yourself with time on your hands this summer, pick this book up. I was glad I did. Feel free to make book recommendations in the comments!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My Smaller Family

As we head into the week, we are short two here at home. My husband took our oldest (nine) on a business trip with him and so it is just me and the three younger ones here. We both thought it was a great opportunity for our son, and he has been so excited for the last few days that I wasn't really sure he was going to make it to the airport. I am so accustomed to counting four, having two pair to keep up with, that anything less feels like a piece of cake. I do miss my sweet boy. I wasn't prepared for how intensely his younger siblings feel, though. It isn't jealousy at all. There was a little jealousy at first, but they truly miss him. I've heard "When will he be back?" at least 15 times since they left midmorning today. Dad? Yeah, him, too, but mostly their brother. It's as if they sense their incompleteness.

To put it in a scientific way, I had thought that they were like gas molecules, expanding to take up the available space. But in reality they act more like a crystal, everyone with their ordered place.

But now they are all resting and quiet has descended on my home. The younger brother did say he was looking forward to staying up as late as he wanted...they share a room and the older one is always telling him to quit reading at night and put out the light.

(To my dear husband who checks in on this blog occasionally...we miss you both. Have a great time. We don't like being so few under this roof!)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Back to School

I started this blog with the idea that I would create a picture of my trip back to school to pursue a calling to be a counselor. (A calling and also a way to make a little money...shoe money!) But I haven't really mentioned it since that first post. I had to register for classes recently, though, and that was a really out-of-body experience. So of course I want to share it.

It has been almost 15 years since graduate school the last time, and longer than that since undergraduate. Back in the day, I only had my schedule to worry about--did I really want to take that 8 a.m. calculus class? If I took an extra class this quarter, then maybe I could finish sooner. These days, though, I have five other schedules to worry about: after-school activities, school events, work trips, and various volunteer things my husband and I are both involved with. So, I sat down to look at class schedules.

This was real, concrete. More definite that submitting an application, more definite than going for an interview, even more definite than going to orientation. This meant that I will be in class, studying and participating, for a set schedule. In the case of one class, attendance is mandatory, absolute and for every class. Did I really want to choose the afternoon Tuesday class? How about a twice-a-week option? At least that one meets during the kids' school hours. And how many classes? Can I handle three classes, or should I stick with two?

After many years of my time being my own...actually that is an illusion. But I'm consciously taking back time for myself and then handing it over to a school program. And probably the most important part of that sentence is that I'm taking back some time for myself, with real obligations and a set schedule. Not stolen moments in the morning, or an hour or three for dinner with my husband. This feels very different than that, staking a claim to a definite part of my week.

We'll see how this goes. I haven't PAID for these classes yet...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Mary Beth's Music

I've linked to Mary Beth Maziarz at the right. She's a singer/songwriter based in Park City, Utah, and I met her at a workshop we both attended back in April. I'm really glad I didn't know how enormously gifted she is when I met her, because I would have been totally intimidated. As it was, I got to know a terrific, fun, lovely person and I got a free CD (autographed!), too.

Anyway, Mary Beth has totally revamped her website. There is lots of information and her blog, too, and all of it is right here.

Summer Loose Ends

It's official...I have strep again. Stronger antibiotics this time. The dr. told me that around 50% of adult strep is penicillin resistant, which is probably why I'm still sick. So now I'm on something a lot stronger.

But while my white blood cells gear up for a fight, I am still feeling punky and tired. One of those days where I don't feel quite good enough to really do something, yet I know I'll get to the end of the day and feel guilty about the undone things around my house. For instance, clutter. Clutter is terrible around here. With four munchkins running around, they are kind of clutter-generating machines, so my standards are pretty low to begin with. Mainly, though, it is very trying to look at piles of CRAP just sitting around. Usually I subscribe to the FlyLady method, 15 minutes or 27 things at a time. That works better than you would expect...try setting a timer the next time you have to do a dreaded chore. You'll be done quicker than you think. That's what I'm going to do with the cat box, when I get around to it.

The children are all next door at my wonderful neighbor's house, in the pool. I can hear them just a little, and since it is early afternoon maybe I will just take advantage of the silence to take a nap. Tomorrow is another day. Fiddle dee dee.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Strep struck.

Woke up just feeling crabby today, but as the day wore on my sore throat has turned into (I think) full blown strep throat. I had it two weeks ago, right before vacation, and it must have never really gone away. For the record, strep is really painful. I can barely swallow or talk right now, and sitting outside in warm air makes things much worse. My sweet children are trying, some more than others, to keep me from talking or doing much of anything. Better yet, my sweet husband is taking care of everything this evening.

So, in my bacteria-imposed silence I've picked up some new yarn to work on a new scarf. It's alpaca, hand-dyed, something I found in a cute little yarn store in Stowe, Vermont, while we were on vacation. Now, I'm not some experienced knitter or anything. I taught myself about six months ago, and I've made a couple of scarfs and hats, very basic things. Also, of all things, dishcloths. Those are really great, and I'd like to have more of those. But this alpaca. Oh, dear. It is so fine and soft, and I knit so tightly in spite of my best efforts. I might have to find another project and save this lovely yarn for a different project. I guess I can give it until tomorrow.

With the strep I haven't even felt like working out today. Those Tyler Place pounds are definitely sticking around for a while.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

All She Needs is a Headband

Is it just me, or is Michelle Obama channelling Hillary Clinton circa 1992? Just wondering. (via Althouse)

ADDED: Oh, Lord, that means she might be running in 2024.


Well. Kathy Cox in her infinite wisdom has decided that maybe possibly school starting in the middle of summer isn't such a great idea after all. We live in Georgia, and school starting in early August has been a particular beef of mine, along with testing in general and high-stakes testing in particular like they do here. Fortunately we can opt out of the testing by going to private school (which we love) but our school chooses to follow the local calendar just for convenience.

Anyway, Ms. Cox has decided to spin this argument as allowing more time for testing, which is also, oddly, the reason they originally gave for starting school during the dog days. Whatever. I just welcome the prospect of a full-length summer again!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Well, since the name of this is SHOE money, might as well highlight some shoes. Check these out! Kork-ease, available from Zappos, and is that the best color or what? I have some red ones in a slightly different style, and they are the most amazingly comfortable three-inch heels I've ever had. Even ridden my bike in them!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Just for fun

A chocolate quiz (from Ann at Gorgeous Things).


Mine was frighteningly accurate.

A really wonderful vacation spot

I mentioned a couple of times that we've come back from vacation. I feel absolutely obligated to mention WHERE we went: The Tyler Place in Highgate Springs, Vermont. The Tyler family has been running this terrific spot for more than 70 years.

The kids are busy the whole week with their programs in the morning and evening, freeing up my husband and me to participate in activities, or to just take it easy and enjoy time together. The food is nothing short of spectacular, and all of us guests (about 65 families) spend a fair amount of time marveling at the Tylers' warm, genuine hospitality.

I hesitate to even mention them because it feels like an exclusive club, as if there is some special magic I might mess up! But this is just one of our family's favorite places in the whole world, and so if my mentioning TP makes someone else interested in them, that is a good thing.

Re-entry fatigue

I noted yesterday that we had gotten back from vacation. This first weekday back might be the toughest for me, especially since we had such a great time. I'd gotten attached to my kids being fully occupied in the mornings and evenings, attached to my new friends who shared breakfast, lunch and dinner with my husband and me each day, attached to the beautiful Vermont weather and no computer and no television. Such a complete removal makes you rethink your priorities...and it feels disappointing to come back home and slide right back in to my same old life, complete with television and laundry and STUFF. So I'm trying to pull back a little, at least be conscious of my attitudes as I go back to real, day-to-day life.

Being so removed from civilization meant we missed some really big events, like the fierce weather in Iowa, the floods and tornadoes. As we continue to suffer our drought here in Georgia the idea of too much water seems almost blasphemous. But there those poor people are, making the best of things as they watch their homes and crops and soil wash down the Mississippi.

And of course Tim Russert's death. I was lucky to see him as the keynote speaker at an actuarial conference several years ago. I came home and told my husband, "What a neat guy. He seems like the most normal, happy person I've ever seen." And all the coverage of his life seems to bear that out, too. As trite as it feels to say, my heart goes out to his wife, son and most of all his dad at this unbearable time for them.

Back to my real life. I think I gained at least eight pounds this past week in spite of daily bike rides and swims, so I'm going to try to work in a couple of fifteen minute walks along with my daily morning workout. We'll see. Surely these pounds aren't permanent.

One last little travails with extra weight and extra laundry aren't meant to compete in scope or scale with the Iowa flooding, or even with one family's losing their center. These are just random thoughts as I try out this blogging thing.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hello, World!

I'm jumping in with both feet, posting with the idea of following my steps back into the working world. After seven years of no paycheck, I'm headed back to school to pursue a degree in professional counseling. It's something I've felt called to do, paycheck or no. But as I went down the application process for grad school, it occurred to me that I haven't made a nickel in seven years! Not one cent. Even from a trip to Las Vegas. And one fun thing is going to be having a little spending money on the side, money to save to help pay for vacations or a stupidly expensive dress for one of my girls or even...SHOES.

My intention is to post regularly on things that interest me, probably related to whatever is going on in our busy house and sometimes completely unrelated. I think I need to tell myself a quick check-in every day is a good idea, but I may not hit it every day. We've just come home from a terrific vacation and one of my friends there has inspired me to get busy. I'll link to her blog, and other sites that I really love. If you have a suggestion, or if you are a friend with a website, let me know and I'll add a link.

Some personal info here: I'm a wife of one and mom of four, a music lover, a big reader, and sometimes a political junkie. I also have about a hundred hobbies (so you can tell how good I am at most of those) and like to think about all kinds of ideas. I am (sometimes too) active at my church and (sometimes not enough) busy at my children's schools. And now I'm going to try graduate school, because I think this is something I'm called to do next. We'll see...sometimes my hearing isn't so good.

I suppose that with this first post, my blog is off to some kind of start. More in the coming days.