Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Daddy on the Scene

After 2.5 years of being on call 24/7 to what I think of as the computer mistresses, the Captain is officially done with his job that so effectively helped us make the transition to Texas. While we are very grateful for the role the company played in our personal story, and have made friends among that work family that will continue to be part of our lives, we are also glad to have him mentally, emotionally and physically back with us at home.

In fact, he will be home 100% of the time now, because his new commute will involve rolling out of bed, pouring himself some coffee, and climbing the stairs to his home office. I am actually hoping we can count a new coffeemaker as a business expense: what do you think?

As it turns out, he has about 10 days of a break here before starting his next job. Not surprisingly, he hardly knows what to do with himself. Fortunately, the kids have ideas. We are all having fun watching him unwind.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Oh, May I?

I have had enough sick around here to last awhile. After last weekend's intense experience, it took days before I could eat again. Boo had to have TWO rounds of the V-word, and now Rooster, Lulu, and their daddy all have runny noses. I am feeling very stuck in the moment.

The full force of this struck home the other day when Rooster came running into my room to ask me, "Mom, can I have some diarrhea?"


After much laughing and a little bit of sleuthing, I figured out what he was talking about. He was asking for a fizzy sweet drink that comes in a green can. The kind mommy gives you when you have an upset tummy. You know, diarrhea.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine Bug

Q: What's worse than helplessly watching your 1 year old infant barf her brains out, every 15 minutes for 3 1/2 hours?

A: Having your 4 year old son join in at the 3 hour mark and keep it up hourly for an additional 6 hours, while the other parent is out of town on business and your parents are spending their last night of vacation in your house. Knowing the miserable children are paying the price for your good deed in taking your mother-in-law treats two days ago during her bout with this bug. Losing your appetite after such an intense mommy experience, and waiting, just waiting for your turn, because you know there is very little chance of escaping after all the bodily fluids you have been exposed to during the very, very long night of wakefulness. Happy Valentine's Day, indeed.

Q: What's the saving grace in a situation like this?

A: The parents were in the house to lend extra hands and encouragement. They were able to drive a car to the airport in the morning and park it on their way out of town, because the Captain was coming in just a few short hours later; thus eliminating the need for two airport runs. The in-laws were able to bring supplies like pedialyte, lysol, and coffee to help us all return to normal and disinfect the house before the Captain showed up. And the Captain, despite a severe cold that has taken his voice just now, sent a very spent mommy to bed at 6pm while he put the kids to bed and cleaned up the kitchen for a fresh start today.

Oh, and Valentine's Day was not wrecked, because we had already celebrated with a special date night on the 5th, plus he gave me a bonus gift on Thursday before leaving on his trip. How awesome is that!

Today the sun is shining. There is still a possibility of getting my turn tonight or tomorrow, but for now everything is operating on normal. Boo is at school, Rooster at preschool. The voiceless Captain is at work with only two more days to go. Lulu is sleeping. I've got a mountain of laundry to tackle, and the simple job of clearing the kitchen counter of clutter. I can do this.

Happy Monday.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Different Kinds of Valentines

We celebrate love on Valentine's Day.

I love my husband. I love my children. And I could not tell you which one I love the most. I love them all the most, but each in a different way. I love lots of other people too (not to mention my Creator), but that's a whole other story.

For obvious reasons, the Captain is my True Love, my anchor, and I love him with all my heart.

Then there is Boo Bear, my first born and capturer of my heart. I wasn't sure about her, and the road of her development started out challenging and has remained so. But she was First. And I have grown to love her with an earned love. I value that love more highly than a flowery emotional love. She is a fighter, full of initiative and strength. I don't always understand those qualities, but I love her for having them. Boo is awesome just the way she is.

As for the Rooster, well, I wasn't sure about him either. I thought I wanted another girl, so I waited until the delivery room to find out what we were getting. I wanted those four extra months of hope, even though Boo adamantly referred to my swollen belly as "her brother." Then when he was born, the rush of hormones took away any scrap of care I had about whether he even had 10 fingers and 10 toes: he was mine. And I loved him fiercely. He is a sturdy, vivacious child, sometimes shy but able to handle the lovely love I hold for him.

And most recently, I fell in love with a little flower we call Lulu. She is the African Violet to the other children's bright sunflower and daisy. My love for her is full of awe at her delicate nature. I marvel at her gentle explorative touch. And I melt whenever she needs anything.

I consider myself lucky to have a heart full of such different kinds of love. I would miss something priceless if any one of them were missing. I'm glad to have them all for my valentines!

Happy Valentine's Day. May your life and your heart be full of many different loves.

Friday, February 12, 2010

S'bux to the Rescue

What was it Murphy said? Anything that can go wrong will, at the worst possible moment? This has been that kind of day. And it's only noon. But I'm not going to let it bother me, I am not!

As things started out, this is almost my parents' last day in town. And the Captain had to go on one final business trip (he's starting a new job in March), and it had to be over the weekend. Yes, Valentine's weekend. But that's ok, we rolled with it. The parentals are on their way to Waco to visit some friends, and they said their goodbyes to him before they left. Then I was able to drop the C. at the airport to pick up his rental car. Which makes for a nice quiet day!


This morning, my coffeemaker flat out died. I filled it with water, lined the basket with a filter, and measured in the grounds. However, as apparently no water could get pulled from the reservoir up to the basket, all I got was hot grounds. I make no representation that I have been diligent about using filtered water, or regularly cleaning the pot with a vinegar rinse. C'mon, I barely keep the floors clean.

As I worked on a fix, the "mechanism that opens the bottom of the filter basket to allow coffee to drip, while keeping it closed if there is no pot to catch it," burst apart. And would not go back together. It's done broke.

But I want to research before I buy. We saw an episode of "America's Test Kitchen" right after we got the coffeemaker, that told us how to evaluate whether it makes good coffee. Perfect coffee comes out of the dripper at 195 degrees, and at a speed of 7 minutes or less for a 12 cup pot.

We tested ours and guess what? It brews at 145 degrees, in about 20 minutes. That is approximately three times the length of my attention span. And I have hated it ever since.

So I rejoice today, for now I can justify getting a new one! But I want to get a good one, so I'm going to sacrifice for a few days until I know which one to get. Good thing there's a Starbucks at my local Kroger. And maybe I can borrow a maker for a couple days from my in-laws down the road.


I called the Captain's mom with this in my mind, only to discover that she has been sick all night! By the good fortune of my needing something from her, I was able to catch her in a moment of need (she doesn't ask for help much) and offer to bring her whatever she wanted from Kroger. It was no bother, because I was going there anyway for my rescue coffee, and already mentally planning a trip to her house in the country to look for an old coffeemaker in the garage.

I think about how this whole series of events came together, and reflect once again on the Lord's finesse. That dumb pot was going to die sooner or later, but he worked it so that I could be in the right spot to help one of the most giving people in my life. I think I was able to bless her, but wow, what a blessing to me to be able to bring Jello, Ginger Ale, and Saltines that visibly revived her. That gave me a nice warm sense of accomplishment, which is all the reward I need.

I didn't end up finding a coffeepot out at the ranch, but I did get my rescue coffee at S'bux. And my mom told me there's a way to use filters and hot water (and maybe some ropes and pulleys, I'm not sure) to drip some desperation coffee. She called it the "Billy Pot" method. I'm so intrigued, I'm going to wait a couple days to replace the pot, just for the fun of it.

If you have any recommendations, I'd love to hear about it. So far it's between the Cuisinart Brew Station and the Bunn, but I am open to suggestions at least through Sunday night.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Stand back, I'm a professional!

In the life of a writer (of this writer, at least), there are three payoff days for every successful job. First comes the day that your work is accepted. Later comes the day when your work is actually published. And finally, there is the day you receive payment.

I had three of the first kind of day last fall. It's a great feeling to know your work is worthy of publication, and the thrill of that brings enough momentum to continue pursuing other jobs.

I have seen my work published once so far, in an online format. Also a thrill, that urged me back into pursuing work. I currently have one other article accepted for publication in an online format, and a third set to publish in print this May.

But in a year and a half of half-hearted trying, I had yet to see any financial reward for my work. That is, until today. I can now officially say that being a freelance writer pays more than being a stay at home mom. Or something like that.

As usual, this check arrived in God's perfect timing. It's just the carrot I need to fully emerge from the funk of the last three months, and buckle back down to working my craft. What a needed boost!

Hopefully I can get enough in the pipeline that my next payment arrives in less than another 18 months.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Circles of Influence

One of the more notable tourist attractions in Brazos County can be found on the campus of Texas A&M University, in the form of the George H.W. Bush (41) Presidential Library and Museum. My parents and I spent the morning there, learning about the origins and career of this remarkable statesman.

Lulu joined us, and was suitably impressed with everything except the orientation film. She felt the need to shriek like a macaw talk all the way through that. Luckily, the only other occupants of the theater were three gentlemen who had two or even three generations' experience with tiny shriekers.

I was also suitably impressed with the journey and achievements of this former President of the United States. He emerged early as a leader on sports teams, during service as a military pilot during WWII, as an aspiring businessman, and later on as a politician. During his political career he served as a diplomat to China, an ambassador and as director of the CIA before entering the White House as Vice President in 1980, and eventually as President in 1988.

All along the way, George Bush continued to use his circle of influence to reach an expanding number of people and accomplish a growing list of achievements.

As I look around me, I realize I have my own small circle of influence, and in fact it's probably bigger than I even know. When we had to call 911 last month, I had a neighbor knock on my door within 5 minutes, and another send a quick text message to see if we needed anything. We are all affected by what happens to one another.

So what to do with my circle of influence? My children are my first, inner circle of influence. I am inspired all over again to be intentional about what I do with them. Raising children is a huge responsibility, but it would be fairly simple to back off and leave them to their own devices for much of the time. My neighbors and other friends are the bigger circle, and I desire to be a positive force in those lives. That also takes intention, because what I WANT to do is stay in my house and play games on my computer.

But I ran into a casual friend last week at Chick-fil-a, and we both agreed that while it's easy to sit in our home and enjoy the self-directed life, it's not really healthy in the long run. We need to exercise our circles of influence to get each other out of our respective ruts!

What's your circle of influence? How can you be proactive within that circle? I'd love to know what you do to be a positive influence on that group.

Monday, February 8, 2010


As I was shopping the other day, I pushed my cart down the International Foods aisle on the way to get a jar of spaghetti sauce... and was suddenly jerked from my point-A-to-point-B focus by something not quite right. I stopped short in the aisle, nearly getting myself rear ended by the tailgater behind me, and pulled off to the side to figure out what my brain was buzzing on about.

What had caught my eye was a bottle of Stubbs Marinade, of all things. What's so strange about that? Hmm. Stubbs... next to the Thai sauce display. Upon closer examination, I began to read the names of several local brands of barbecue sauce and other miscellaneous food items. But why weren't these things on the other side of the aisle, with the bbq sauce and other condiments? For some reason this really bothered me.

Suddenly it hit me, and I began to laugh out loud. I was standing in front of the Texas section in International Foods. As distinct from the Mexican section ten feet away, here were two whole shelves of Texas foods, nestled between Thai and Indian.

Of course.

The humor of this realization expanded a moment later when I just had to share my discovery with the next shopper to happen along.

ME: "Oh, excuse me for blocking your way. I was just so surprised to see Texas foods in the International section here, that I forgot to keep walking."

(Yes, I'm the dorky lady who never met a stranger, and treats every next person like a continuing part of my personal narrative: I wonder where my baby gets that trait from).

HER (appearing to be a classic native Texan--well coiffed, pleasant, a little too young to be a grandmother, maybe a touch startled to be addressed): "Oh, yes, you're right, there really are too many choices these days."

I don't know that she would have understood what I was saying, even if I had stopped to introduce myself and properly begin the exchange. After all, what Texan would be surprised to think of her home country state as a nationality? Independence is cultivated from the cradle here, from the moment the proud parent explains that Texas is the only state in the Union privileged to fly the state flag at the same height as the American flag, because Texas was a nation first.

Ahh, Texas, I love you. I am still learning to understand the self-centeredness pride you embrace. I may never be able to accept everything you represent, but you amuse me to no end. Better than that, you give me a great place to raise my kids, and for that I salute you.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snowed in Without You

My favorite melancholy music comes from Over the Rhine. I've been following their career since the beginning, back when they were performing $2 coffeehouse gigs at my alma mater in the early '90's. Recently I priced out one of their shows in Seattle; it would have been $30 a ticket for dinner plus the show.

A couple years back they released an album of Christmas and winter music. One of my favorite songs from that album says, "I wanna get snowed in with you."

My dad got half that wish this morning. Sadly, it was the wrong half.

After finishing out the week at work, his flight was scheduled to leave Akron/Canton dark and early at 6am today. Unfortunately, the largest winter storm of the year dumped a foot of snow on the entire region overnight. Today, he is officially snowed in.

This is strange to consider from my central Texas location, because I am set to do some mowing and yard work today.

I hear the snow blanket is beautiful! I hear I'm going to see some lovely photos. But the kids will be bummed that they have to wait until tomorrow to get out the electric train to play with their favorite train buddy.

Have a fun free day, Dad. Safe travels tomorrow.

Friday, February 5, 2010

So Far Behind...

When I was in junior high, I used to collect pithy sayings. You know, like "Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."

The smart-alec kid in me loved, "It's hereditary, I get it from my kids."

Being a lefty, one of my favorites said, "If right-handed people use the left side of their brain, then only left-handed people are in their right minds!"

Lately I've been recalling one in particular: "God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I am so far behind I will never die." That quote is credited to Bill Watterson, of Calvin and Hobbes fame.

Do you ever feel that way? I look at the mountain of laundry inhabiting my couch and cringe at even thinking of folding it. Sometimes I catch up, but the next day it's back again. Same with the dishes, dirt on the floor, toys, grocery lists, bills, and the list goes on.

The responsibilities each have a tiny weight to them, and lately the number of them seems to have reached a critical mass that leaves me struggling for each next task in my lifetime to-do list. I start Monday with a list of things to do, and by Friday I'm still not through with Monday's list.

I can't remember the last time I finished the list. It has been so long, in fact, since I have finished even Monday's list, that I have stopped caring. Stopped caring to the point that I have developed the ability to just leave it all and escape into computer world.

How do you catch up when you are so far behind you'll never die? After years of excusing myself because of pregnancies, babies, moving and every excuse in the book, I recognize that they are just excuses: and I have so little self-discipline that I cannot get a new grip on the responsibilities of my life.

But the good news about being so far behind, as the creator of Calvin and Hobbes so memorably pointed out, is that I've got as much time as I need to finish everything God gave me.

And maybe, in tomorrow's iteration of Groundhog Day, I will even make a little progress on that list.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Karate Kid

For Boo's 8th birthday, we decided to try her in a new extracurricular activity. Some girls learn graceful movement through dance; others pursue gymnastics. We have tried bits of both over the years, with zero success. We tried swimming to teach her a bit about discipline and being coached; also with less success than the effort of getting her there cost.

She recently mentioned karate, and it turns out there is a studio literally within sight of our house (although actually getting to it requires driving half a mile in the opposite direction and then around a 2 mile square). So we are trying it out. They allowed us to buy in for a month, then we decide in either six month chunks or a full three year commitment (approximately the amount of time it takes to earn a black belt).

I have to be honest, this family is commitment shy. We have lived in four states, at thirteen addresses in the last dozen years. Our personality profile (both of us) declares us "resistant to repeating experiences." And we have passed that on to our kids, who have a hard time enjoying the same activity two weeks in a row. Not proud of that, I'm just stating the situation.

Three weeks in, we are both floored at what we are seeing.

The instructors are a married couple; Mrs P started martial arts at the age of 12, Mr P joined her seven years ago. When they first started the studio, she was a kindergarten teacher. Now she lives martial arts full time, participating in competitions as a judge, competitor, and coach. Their manner in working with the students brings out all the best in them; challenging them to improve, yet encouraging them right where they are. The more I see, the more I really like this pair as instructors.

The discipline of martial arts is primarily to teach self defense. Our goal is for her to learn to control her arms and legs, and learn to take instruction from a coach. But as an added bonus, Boo is being taught focus, respect, integrity, and strength of character.

One small example of the bonus material: To indicate they have heard an instruction, students are to respond with, "Yes Ma'am." If they don't, they have to go back and start over. I need to try that at home!

My favorite thing so far happened at Monday's lesson. They had to practice the "Tiny Tiger" drill (Tiny Tigers are the 4-6 year old class). They were to stand perfectly still for two whole minutes.

Ahh, I love my Boo Bear, but she is a ball of fidgets. In previous sessions, she has had a hard time standing at attention. She sits, twists, shifts from foot to foot. She leaves the mat. She walks around behind the punching bags. Anything but stand still and respectfully listen to the coach. To be fair, she is both the newest student by two color belts (at least four months), and the youngest student in the room by at least two years.

I have watched her fidget through the last three weeks, not in despair over her undisciplined ways, but with the perspective that this is a beginning. She will improve over time, and has lots of room to show improvement after a start like she has right now.

And then came tonight, the end of the lesson: the Tiny Tiger drill. The class stood straight, feet apart, arms hanging at their sides. Including Boo. She stood still for two whole minutes. Honestly, I didn't know she could do that! I'm going to have to hold her to it more in the future!

In my opinion, our test month is already a success beyond my expectations, beyond even my hopes. It seems to be working as far as our family routine; Boo loves going; and I can already see both progress and the promise of personal development as she sticks with it.

It is time to get over being commitment shy. Black belt, here comes a Boo Bear.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Arrival

I think that's the name of a thriller flick. But it also applies here, for Gramma has arrived! For the third year in a row my mom has come to see us at the beginning of February, due to a local conference she's able to participate in as part of her job.

We have a great little regional airport to fly into, ten minutes from our house. On a single runway leading to a tiny terminal with two gates loading from a single large room, Easterwood airport sends and receives about five flights a day each from Dallas and Houston. That's it. It's a glorious solution for business travelers and others who don't mind getting bumped to a different flight or experiencing weather delays from Dallas or Houston about 50% of the time.

The general rule of thumb I have learned about Easterwood is simply to avoid the last flight of the day. That way if you get delayed, you don't risk bumping your travel into tomorrow. We learned this the hard way a few years back when we missed our inbound connection in Dallas (literally watched our plane leave while we were stuck on the tarmac waiting for a gate), found not enough available seats on any of the next three flights, and ended up riding an airport van down I-45 four more hours to Easterwood. We arrived six hours behind schedule, in the negative numbers on diapers. It was a challenge to say the least.

But the skies were clear enough today, and Gramma's plane arrived only about 15 minutes late. This was just the right amount of time for us to decide to park (third spot from the crosswalk, first two hours free), and walk in to meet her at her gate.

While we waited, we watched out the lower observation windows and played on the cockpit play center.

Once we collected Gramma and returned home, we enjoyed a quiet evening. Looking forward to showing her the new places of interest in our small town, and just visiting for a few extra days before my dad arrives on Saturday.

Welcome to Aggieland, Gramma!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day

Yes, I'm a little late for the holiday-appropriate entry. But I had to sort of chew on the thought all day. I actually spent last night and this morning composing two entries for later this month. Then late this afternoon, it came to me how much my story resembles the movie, Groundhog Day.

The premise of the movie, as you likely know, is of a man who wakes up morning after morning to find himself repeating the same day over and over. Any mother will agree that raising small children leaves you feeling like you are stuck in a rut, repeating the same day over and over and over. The bad news is that you feel about to go crazy from the repetition.

But the good news, as the man in the movie finds, is that when you repeat the same scenarios over and over, you begin to experiment with solutions. And sometimes you begin to find small successes that move you in the right direction.

I realized that being stuck in my own personal Groundhog Day is really a gift. Each day is a brand new chance to treat my children the way I know I should. Each day is the opportunity to start fresh, do all the necessary tasks in the right order, succeed at the challenges that seem to come like the tide.

It's time to welcome the moment I am in. Happy Groundhog Day. Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Turning the Page

Life is full of chapters. Maybe even volumes, as it seems that there are stages, with smaller stories within them. I would say that our life in Texas is the current volume, which already contains numerous chapters including the start of Maren's education, the fun of purchasing a home and becoming part of a neighborhood family, the addition of a family member, and my emerging efforts as a writer. And, of course, much more.

Some chapters don't really end the story, but set up what's about to happen in a coming chapter. In my life, the last three months have served as the end of one of those kind of chapters. At the end of that chapter I was confessing the start of "Funk Phase." I never intended to follow it up with 3 months of silence, but that's exactly where I have been. Today I start in again with fighting off the Funk, so I declare it the beginning of a new chapter.

The housework has been my demon lately, constantly whispering my inadequacy at the simple routine of keeping house. You are inconsistent, undisciplined, and lazy, that nasty little voice tells me. And it weighs me down.

Today I am armed with a schedule, and determination to succeed; for the discipline required to keep up with dishes, laundry and clutter will serve well and extend to other areas. Areas such as blogging, pursuing freelance work, and more.

The "more" is actually what's motivating me to cast off the Funk. Boo has recently requested that I homeschool her. If that's the best education option for her, I would love to do it. However: I can research it to my heart's content, but I will not get a signoff from the Captain unless I can develop that discipline. I simply have to demonstrate to him and to me that I can manage this household. After that, we can make a decision one way or another.

So, praying for help from above, I am trying to build a routine into my so-flexible schedule. I've got tasks to do each day to keep up with the house. As for writing, I want to make an entry every day in February, feel free to call me on it if you see me start to miss days. They may not all be publication worthy, and some may just be photo posts, but the act of writing something each day will help me on the road to my greater goals.

Now, I've gotta get moving... it's time for another load of laundry, then lunch with my sweet Lulu before going to pick up the Rooster from preschool.