If you wanna feel better about your family, just read about ours...

Starring: a dad, a mom, a son & daughter-in-law, a daughter & son-in-law, a teen, a tween, 1 grandson, 3 granddaughters, 3 dogs, and a whole lot of love.

Family Story Pic

Family Story Pic


Friday, April 30, 2010

We ain't big city folk

We live in a little town of roughly eight hundred people. We're surrounded by cornfields and Amish families....literally. My husband and I both grew up in what would be considered 'the country' but neither of us ever lived it to this extent. To give you a general idea of what I'm talking about, there isn't a Walmart within a twenty five mile radius in any direction. Everywhere we go we know it's going to take about twenty five minutes. That's just the way it is. We're used to it now. We do have a little grocery store about ten minutes away in a neighboring town for those little emergency necessities, and you're left to hope that they carry whatever it is you need...(cough-plain yogurt.) The grocery store provides a wooden pole out front for those who have arrived by horse. (Seriously.) The school our kids attend holds everyone from Kindergarten through the twelfth grade in one building which makes it really nice and convenient that our kids all ride the same bus and have the same school hours regardless of what grade they're in. And as the cliche goes, everyone knows everyone. That might sound like a nightmare to some, but it's actually pretty wonderful, and we love it.

Last week Z started Driving School in a nearby city. I have no idea how many people populate this small city, but I do know that they have a Walmart, a McDonalds, and even a mall. So in our book, it qualifies as a 'Big City.' In reality, if you've ever been to a 'real' big city, this one would probably make you laugh. As you might have guessed, it takes us....oh, let's just say twenty five minutes to get there. (Closer to half an hour by the time you fight the traffic of the 'big city.') His class was four days a week for three hours a night. Granted, we could have dropped him off, driven home, and gone back to get him without much problem but we decided to hang out and see what city life had to offer.

The first night didn't go well. There is only so much time you can spend sitting on the patio furniture in Home Depot with three kids before employees start asking questions. (So much for that friendly hospitality we're used to.) Later in the week we opted to leave the girls at home and make it a date night. We stumbled upon a little bar that had the friendliest waitress we've ever met! We had delicious double cheeseburgers & fries like you find at a carnival and the tables even had bottles of malt vinegar to pour over the top! Yum! Afterward we strolled hand in hand as we listened to music that was piped through speakers that hang from the light poles and looked through the windows of all the little shops. We ended up in the library that's housed in a refurbished hotel from the 1800's that includes a coffee bar that sells chocolates! In the library! Brilliant! We bought a coffee & some chocolate and settled into the lounge by the grand piano and talked and decided that we may very well be cut out for big city life. That was the first week.....

The following week we invited my husband's parents to join us at 'our bar' for dinner, a trip to the super cool library, and a stroll through the streets of what we'd nicknamed 'our town.' My daughter was immediately put off that 'our bar' was actually 'a bar.' (Um...oookay.) We explained that it was also a restaurant with really good food. Unfortunately, it was the really good waitress's night off and we got a really not good waitress in her place. Thankfully the pizza was everything we hoped it would be but while we were eating, a bar fight broke out that ended with a loud kick to a groin, confirming to my daughter (and possibly my in-laws) that we can't be trusted to venture out alone, much less choose our own places to dine.

So with our reputations on the line, we headed to the library to have coffee & chocolates and redeem ourselves.....only to find the coffee bar closed. No big deal, we can still sit in the comfortable chairs by the beautiful grand piano and visit. It was going great until a teenage boy decided to practice his piano lessons and from the sounds of it he'd taken maybe one lesson so far....maybe less. Combine that with the teenage girls that were wrestling loudly in the elevator each time the doors would open on our floor and it wasn't the most relaxing experience. And if you have to go to the bathroom, be prepared to get suspicious looks and a key that's attached to a large metal four pound bookend....these are not trusting librarians. And the library closes at eight-thirty sharp! (Signaled by them turning the lights out and leaving you to follow the red exit signs that light your way). Well, that could have gone better. But at least we get to stroll the quaint streets as we listen to music, right? Wrong. Apparently, the music turns off with the library lights and eight-thirty is the closing time of the whole town. So we strolled the dark quiet streets and tried to peer into dark store windows......until C accidentally rammed her head into the glass of one store window and we took off for fear of tripping a silent alarm.

That evening was nothing like the evening we'd described the previous week and needless to say, our daughters weren't impressed. Even pushing buttons at the corner for the crossing signs eventually got boring. As we headed to the car after Z's final class last night, I think K spoke what we were all thinking. She said, "I'll be glad not to have to come to this big city anymore.....I love being out in the middle of nowhere.".....and I couldn't agree more.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Remember Me

My Mamaw Putter was opinionated, funny, vibrant, stubborn, bossy, controversial and you probably get the general idea. She also spoke her mind....loudly. If she thought it, you heard it, whether you wanted to or not. (Hmmm...I wonder who I take after?) But one thing is for sure; she loved her grandchildren.

Let me give you a nutshell of Mamaw Putter. She was married to my Papaw. (Go figure) Not Papaw Putter...just Papaw. Putter was the poodle that Mamaw got after Papaw (her best friend) died suddenly of an Aneurysm in 1987. She named him Putter in honor of Papaw's love for Golf. Right around that time, my older sister was due to have her first child, and to help differentiate all the Mamaws in our family we came up with 'Mamaw Putter.' Voila...a legend was born.

Mamaw Putter had three sons. Each son had three children. And for the first ten years of my life, all of us attended a tiny Brethren Church together every Sunday morning. I'm sure everyone has seen a church similar to this one. A narrow brick building on a corner. The main street running past the front had lots of traffic and was cluttered with car dealerships. The side street was barely more than an alley that would probably be considered the 'bad part of town' these days. Behind the church was a postage stamp parking lot that never seemed quite big enough to hold all the cars on Sunday morning yet managed to have plenty of room for a kickball game on Saturday mornings when my Mamaw Putter would take us with her to bake Communion Bread.

The tiny church had a simple set of concrete steps leading to the front doors. The 'foyer', as most churches would call it, consisted of a choice of two options. You could either go up one set of stairs or down the other. Allow me to take you on a tour. First I'll take you downstairs. The threadbare carpet isn't enough to keep you from forgetting that underneath it lies more concrete with no luxury of padding. Once you reach the bottom, you're in one very large room, that seems also to be made entirely of cement. If you look up at the ceiling, you'll see a criss cross of metal tracks. These tracks hold the heavy accordion-style room dividers that were normally pushed against the far wall but can miraculously create four separate rooms for Sunday School classes. To your left you'll see the boys and girls bathrooms separated by the tiny but complete kitchen. The bathrooms have swing through doors that are lots of fun when you run in and out of them. (Not that I would know.) The girls bathroom consists of two stalls and one sink with a portion of a cracked mirror hanging above it. I'm sure at one time it was a full mirror but that must have been before my time. The boys bathroom had one stall and one urinal and yep, more concrete. (How do I know about the boys bathroom? That's another story for another time.) When you come out of the bathroom and look toward the far left corner of the big room past the old piano with yellowed keys, you'll see a tiny alcove with a narrow door. The door has a window. The window is shielded by a faded and yellowed curtain with pictures of Raggedy Ann and Andy. The doorknob looks like a small glass jewel that has taken a beating over time. As you have probably figured out, inside this tiny room is the nursery. These days, your typical church has the Children Section marked off by age with a sign on each door. (Infant – Two years; Pre-K; etc...) But our little nursery had only one standard of eligibility. If our nursery door had a sign, it would have read, “Anyone who can't make it through the sermon without talking loudly.” A baby would obviously qualify, but so would some of the hard of hearing elderly women who sat in the front and loudly translated the sermon to their harder of hearing husbands. The nursery had one rocking chair that probably hasn't been repainted since the day the girls bathroom had a complete mirror. If you rock too hard, more flecks of paint chip off creating a led-filled pile of dust on the barely there carpet. Every time I hear reports of the dangers of led paint, I wonder how any of my cousins and I survived to see our thirties.

On Saturday mornings you could hear my Mamaw 'puttering' around in that kitchen and it wasn't long before the wonderful aroma of freshly baked Communion Bread would waft out of the swinging doors and into our young noses which would draw us to the kitchen like rats to the Pied Piper. She always told us that she needed us there to be the 'tasters' and we were more than willing to fulfill our obligation. My little Brethren Church wasn't like any of the larger churches I've attended since then. The church I attended as a teenager and later as an adult used tiny pieces of broken crackers or occasionally processed sheets of unleavened bread that come pre-cut and get taken out of the box and broken apart and dropped into the plate. Whether or not the members of my childhood church realized it or not, they were treated like royalty on Communion Sundays. Mamaw Putter made her Communion Bread from scratch from a recipe that passed through many loving hands before her. And tiny pieces? No way. She cut that dough into brownie size pieces that took at least two bites to eat. Even more for the majority of the congregation who lacked their share of original teeth.

Right after she pulled it out of the oven, but before it cooled, she would take a three pronged instrument and indent each piece, thus creating two puncture marks toward the top and one near the bottom. A representation of Christ's hands and feet being nailed to the cross. She let us help with everything except that. I always wondered why, but I think I know now. When my Mamaw was making Communion Bread, she wasn't just 'puttering' around the kitchen. She was worshiping her Lord. And marking the 'wounds' on that bread was personal and it was serious and she did it alone. Christ told his disciples during the Last Supper, "Remember Me." And I believe that's what she was doing.

Let's go back to the 'foyer' and this time go up the other set of stairs to the sanctuary. At the top of the stairs is a set of double doors that swing outward. On hot summer days those doors would be blocked open with a tiny wedge of wood to help get some air flowing but never quite succeeding. To the far right is the section of pews for the choir. Those were facing the pews intended for the congregation. At the very front was the tiny carpeted stage that held the pulpit. Behind the pulpit in the floor is what always appeared to me to be a trap door. (It wasn't.) It was the baptismal and before anyone was baptized, they would move the pulpit, swing open the 'trap door' and walked into the hole of water. (Not as fancy as what you see now: a featured window of a special room situated high above five hundred pews for everyone to see.) This was simple and it served it's purpose.

The majority of the pews were toward the front. When I say 'majority' I'm talking maybe fifteen. Behind the fifteen was an isle that separated the front from the back. The back consisted of approximately five pews. Whether it was a spoken or unspoken rule, I'll never know, but the back five was reserved for the Flora Family. Mamaw (not Putter'd yet), Papaw, their three boys, their three wives, and all nine grandchildren.

You would think that at least a few of us would have ended up down in the nursery with the two babies and the six chatty elderly women from the front, but we never did. We were too busy. You see, Mamaw came prepared. She had her purse and it was fully stocked. Let me describe my Mamaw's purse. It was the size of a small farm animal. If she'd ever tried to fly on an airplane, she would have had to check it with her luggage. And when I say fully stocked, I don't mean with crayons, books, snacks, or other things that you would pack today for your kids to keep busy in a hot church. It was full of tools. My cousins and I had an on-going project. We were determined to dig a hole through the bottom of the wooden pew and we weren't planning on stopping until we either saw daylight or felt the butt of whichever parent, aunt or uncle was unlucky enough to be sitting above the hole that week.

We would sit and listen to the announcements and then it was time to sing the hymns. All eight verses of each hymn, mind you. I can still remember my Mamaw's voice as her loud vibrato carried high above all others when singing old hymns like 'Blessed Assurance,' Great Is Thy Faithfulness,' and 'Amazing Grace' just to name a few. As soon as we heard the snapping of the hymnals closing and saw the adults reaching for the large, wicker, shell-shaped fans that were provided in place of air conditioning, we kids went to work. First stop: Mamaw's purse to retrieve tweezers, fingernail clippers, pens, pencils, and the occasional butter knife or screw driver on the weeks Mamaw wanted to surprise us. I wonder if the front fifteen ever noticed the disappearance of nine of the back five? (Follow that?) Once in awhile we would take a gum break. Always Wrigleys Spearmint wrapped in foil that was fun to fold over our teeth to pretend we had braces until we realized that metal fillings and foil sent searing pain through our head causing sounds that might get you sent down to the dreaded nursery if you weren't careful.

We whittled away at the pew until finally, the most anticipated time of the service would arrive. Communion! As soon as Mamaw gave us the signal, all nine of our heads would magically appear again, and we would practically salivate as the plate passed slowly through the front fifteen. All other sounds were drowned out except for the scraping of fingernails against the bottom of the plate as people almost sacredly picked up their glorious brownie-size-perfectly-punctured-and lovingly made squares of Communion Bread. All nine of our heads would be suspiciously peering at each person taking their turn and we were ready to pounce if someone took more than one. Finally the usher headed to the back five where we were all on the edge of our seats. Mamaw was always seated on the very back pew on the isle end and all of the cousins know why. The Communion Bread worked it's way through my parents, aunts, uncles, and each of the cousins and we politely took one piece as the plate passed. But the highlight of Communion time was when the plate reached Mamaw. She gently took her piece of Communion Bread and lay it on her skirt and then she opened that blessed over-sized purse of hers and promptly dumped the rest of the bread down into it and handed the empty plate back to the usher. The ushers, who were quite used to this little tradition, would walk away with the empty plate and the cousins would scramble back to our posts under the pew to resume our work and eat our snack out of the purse. The only thing better than warm Communion Bread straight out of the oven, is cold Communion Bread served straight out of my Mamaw's giant leather purse.

Several years ago when I was asked to be in charge of the Communion Bread Baking Ministry at our wonderful church, I immediately agreed. There is a faithful group of people who each make a month's worth of bread for our congregation. They all use my Mamaw Putter's recipe, but very few know the history. Obviously things can't be exactly as they were back then. For instance, I've adapted to the fact that the bread needs to be broken into tiny squares to meet the needs of our large church. In my mind I'll always picture those three marks indicating the wounds my Savior suffered on my behalf. We sit in the front row and attend first service....both of which eliminate any opportunity to dump the remainder of the plate into my purse....and I don't carry a purse. But it is my absolute honor to carry on a tradition that I hold so near and dear to my heart. I'm thankful for the opportunity each week to remember my Heavenly Father's sacrifice and I'm blessed on those months that it's my turn to bake the bread and I get to remember the love of a young girl for her Mamaw Putter...a love that didn't end when she passed.

My cousins and I never did reach our goal and strike daylight....or butt...through the seat of that pew. But if our Mamaw's goal was to create life long memories for her nine grandchildren, she reached hers.

Friday, April 23, 2010

DON'T ASK.....even if you're convinced you can tell.

My husband is notorious for asking women when their baby is due.....and then stammering around while the not-pregnant woman stands there crying. I think it's safe to say he'll never do that again after the day I was on the receiving end of that question several years ago.

I was in Massage School and most of my waking moments were spent stressing about being in Massage School. But one Saturday afternoon I was in a rare care free mood as he and I shopped through Meijer. While he headed toward the milk, I turned to stand in line at the deli and was met by a man who worked there and he was holding a large tray of cookies. When I declined his offer of a free cookie, he responded, "It's okay to splurge when you're eating for two." I'm not sure when he realized his mistake, but I suspect it was somewhere between the look on my face and the moment I tipped his giant tray of cookies into his chest and burst into tears and took off running to find my husband. (Fear not, there is no shortage of drama around here.)

My husband saw (and heard) me coming and of course asked what happened. Through hiccuping sobs I told him that the cookie man thought I was pregnant. Remember that shift in his eyes I mentioned right before he snaps? When he realized that his peaceful cheerful day was now ruined thanks to one cookie man, that look came into his eyes and he calmly asked, "Where is he?" (Head's up: The calmer he talks while his eyes are in shift mode, the faster you should leave the area.) In hindsight it's kind of funny that his first question wasn't "What the h*** is a cookie man?"

I told him to forget it and take me home. As we passed two employees sweeping up a mess of cookies he asked, "I don't suppose you had anything to do with that?" And pushed the cart a little faster as I silently cried through the checkout and all the way home.

Now I have to come clean and admit that last year I broke the major don't ask rule. We were eating dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant. We eat there often and I thought I knew the employees pretty well so when the waitress came to take our order I didn't even think before asking, "When did you have your baby?" (If you really think about it, my form of the question is actually a compliment, right? Couldn't that mean I thought she lost weight? In reality it was because her belly had that 'I just released a baby' look to it but she doesn't need to know that.) Anyway, she said, "No baby" and then an awkward silence hung over the table while my family left me hanging out to dry....and I prepared to have a tray of chips and salsa dumped on my chest and I would have totally deserved it. But thankfully between the language barrier and the fact that her sister had recently given birth I was saved from my own mouth.

Okay, your turn. I know you have a story to tell me about this. So now it's time to share with me........spill it. You know you want to.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pavlov's Dogs & Potty Training

We started our family at a pretty young age. I was only twenty seven when we had our third child, K. As many of us know, something happens when we reach our thirties. I hesitate to call it 'maturity' because I've never seen my self as the maturing type, but there's a definite shift in our outlook, priorities, and approach to things. This theory is confirmed whenever I think back to the way I handled certain things in my twenties. (shudder) The word 'regret' doesn't begin to describe it.

When I got pregnant with our fourth child at the age of thirty five, things were different from the get go. As news of my pregnancy became public, the first question we were asked was, "Was this an oops?" That's a pretty natural assumption when your youngest is almost eight, but that's only because that's how many years it took me to talk my husband into getting his vasectomy reversed. So I guess you could say that C is the most planned of all.

I was already painfully aware that my metabolism in my 30's was practically non-existent compared to my 20's, so working out was a must. Gone were the days of 'eating for two' and enjoying the excuse to gain fifty pounds. And I still managed to gain thirty six pounds despite my efforts. And it didn't take long after she arrived to realize that I could survive on a whole lot less sleep when I was younger too. How I managed to make it to the age of thirty six with a baby who had her days and nights mixed up her entire first year is still nothing short of a miracle to me. When she turned one and became obsessed with coloring on my bedroom walls I simply sighed and repainted the wall......all four times that it happened. I can't remember, but I suspect my older three kids would have been spanked for that. (Let's hope they can't remember either.) Basically, my husband and I felt like we were first time parents, but a much 'wiser' version than we were the first time around. At least that's what we thought until it came time to potty train this one.....

For as many things that I feel I did wrong while parenting in my twenties, I had one thing that I felt like I did exactly right. (Indulge me as I pat myself on the back for a moment.) I was really good at potty training. When Z was two and a half, we spent our summer days outside. I parked his potty chair by the back door and our privacy fence allowed him to run free (and pant-less) and it literally took less than a week. Done. I did the same thing with A and K with the same success. So when C turned two, we bought a potty chair in preparation for our 'potty training boot camp' that summer. Things did not go as planned.

Don't get me wrong, she caught onto the potty feeling rather quickly. She just refused to use her potty chair and opted instead to hike her leg in the grass. While we were on vacation at the beach that summer, we would be playing out in the ocean and she would tell us she had to go potty. We would tell her to just go in the water. (Don't even act like you haven't done the same thing.) But she wouldn't do it and cried until we got her out of the water where she would very obviously hike her leg and pee on the sand. (And my husband would pretend not to know us.)

When she began going to the back door asking to be let out to go potty I knew something had gone terribly wrong with my flawless system and I knew it was either the dog's fault or my husband's for their grass peeing example. Regardless, something had to be done. It was time to un-do the redneck damage and retrain the toddler......enter Pavlov......if he could train a puppy, so could I.

To make a long story short, Ivan Pavlov became interested in the salivation habits of dogs. (Talk about someone with too much time on his hands.) So he began ringing a little bell every time he would feed the dogs. After a while, the dogs would begin salivating to the sound of the bell whether food was in sight or not. So I came up with a plan.....

I began sitting C on her potty chair on a regular basis and I came up with a potty song to sing each time she did. (To the tune 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star') "Tinkle Tinkle Little Star, then you'll get a candy bar. Put your potty in the chair, not in the grass or your underwear. Tinkle Tinkle Little Star, then you'll get a candy bar." In less than a week it was actually working......we had to start buying candy bars in bulk but it was worth it. We sang that song everywhere......at church, in Walmart, at the doctors office.....whenever she was distracted by going potty in a new place that song would send her into a potty trance and voila!

This has become my new advice for moms, but I need to warn you that there are some side effects......your toddler won't be the only one trained to the song......one evening we had to stop in a company parking lot because C couldn't hold it till we got home. I was holding her beside the van and she just couldn't go. As the company's employees were making their way to their cars my faithful little family sang the potty song and C immediately peed on the concrete.....and then we sped home and fought over the bathrooms because suddenly we all had to go. My husband admitted to using it at the doctors office recently and I can't even tell you how many times I've peed in the twenty minutes it's taken me to type this blog entry. Speaking of which, gotta go!

How bout you? Got any potty training success (or better yet horror) stories you'd like to share?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Oh Possum!

When you're considering purchasing a house, it's wise to look for signs of possible problems.....water marks on the ceiling, missing shingles on the roof, etc …. We looked for all of the obvious signs before we bought this house. So why the large 'critter trap' in the barn didn't send off warning signals is beyond me.

Other than our one neighbor, our house is surrounded by cornfields. In anticipation of a possible mouse infestation we found a farm with a 'Free Kitten' sign out front and promptly scooped up their last three kittens to live in our barn and eat the mice. Every evening I went out to the barn to feed and hold our new little additions. One evening when I opened the barn door I immediately saw two of the kittens and started petting them and talking to them. I was looking for the third kitten and heard the crunching of cat food behind me. As I turned, I simultaneously reached for the kitten. My eyes were telling me that something was terribly wrong, but my mind wasn't quite grasping it. Right before my hands wrapped around the kitten I realized it was a possum. I began to scream in hopes that the possum would leave and / or my husband would come running to my rescue. Wishful thinking because neither of those things happened. The possum continued eating and my husband continued watching television inside. I was being completely ignored by both. I ran inside and asked him if he heard me screaming. He told me he did and he figured if it was something important that I would come and get him. (Insert me grinding my teeth and glaring here.) I told him I almost picked up a possum and then stood there staring at him waiting for a big horrified response on my behalf. Why do I continue to set myself up for disappointment? Finally, I walked him through what was expected of him here. “Hey Chuckles! Here's the part where you go out and get rid of the possum."

With a giant sigh of inconvenience, he got out of bed. Z was already at the door, armed with two BB guns, excited for some Father/Son bonding in the barn. One was a rifle and one was a pistol. My husband slipped on his work boots and his ball cap. I guess now would be a good time to mention that the only other thing he was wearing was his boxer shorts. Ever seen National Lampoons Christmas Vacation? Introducing my very own Cousin Eddie and his pajama clad sidekick excitedly heading out to the barn to kill them some possum. I couldn't be more proud. I followed them to the door of the barn and 'Cousin Eddie' heroically turned to me and told me not to come in no matter what I heard happening in there. Uh oh. I warned him not to shoot Z or any of the kittens before they disappeared inside the barn and closed the door. I couldn't hear much of anything at first. Some clicks of the triggers, some scraping sounds, and muffled voices until suddenly my husband yelled for me to go ask our neighbors if they had a real gun. I took off to their house with the phrase 'Not Good Not Good Not Good' running in a repetitive loop through my mind. I was convinced that the possum had taken them by surprise and was holding my husband and son at BB-gun point and our neighbor would have to save their lives with a sniper shot to the head of the possum. Amazing how quickly your mind goes to irrational places.

We'd only known our neighbors for about six months at this point, so I can only imagine what went through their minds when I came pounding on their back door and asking if they owned a 'real' gun. He calmly asked me what the problem was and I tried to explain what may or may not be happening in our barn. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Let's just go take a look before we get any more guns.” Good call.

He and his wife followed me over to our barn and pulled up the large sliding door on the front and we stood there in silence. The possum, who was peppered with BB's that were barely stuck into his fur, was glaring at my boys but continued to eat away at his pile of cat food completely undeterred. Z was standing on top of the workbench, in his pajamas, with the BB gun rifle cocked against one shoulder as he silently continued to stare down the scope at his target. Finally, and most shockingly, my husband (aka; Cousin Eddie) stood there in hat, boxers, and large black work boots with the BB gun pistol in one hand and a shovel in the other.....our neighbors must have been so happy we bought this house right about then.

Dan patiently explained that this was probably not the best approach and that a critter trap would be a better idea. Aaaahhh....the critter trap....it's all making sense now. Dan was kind enough to help him set it up while the possum continued on with his meal and watched. And probably rolled his eyes, but whatever.

To our pleasant surprise a possum full of BB's was in the trap the next morning. My husband told me he would take it to the lake down the road and set it free. Great. We continued to reset the trap and every morning a possum awaited us and he would transport it down to the lake. Perfect. Until one morning our neighbor noticed him getting ready to transport a possum. He had been tying the critter trap (with possum) to the luggage rack of our mini van before driving him to the lake. So he informed him that it's illegal to 're-locate' wild animals, and although everyone does it, it's not a wise idea to draw attention to yourself....ie; blatantly tying them to the roof of your mini van.....(I would love to know what people must have thought when they saw our possum-covered mini van flying 60 mph down a State Highway.)

But now we know that our barn is prone to possum infestations. Having neighbors who walk us through the customs of country living has been a priceless gift that we, and the entire community of possum, greatly appreciate.

Ironically enough, the elementary school I attended was Possum Middle School where I proudly cheered for two years. Needless to say, I no longer root for possum…....who, by the way, have been upgraded from the roof of the van to the back of the truck......

Monday, April 12, 2010

To kill a mocking bird. (It's not as easy as you might think.)

A couple of years ago, we got a visitor that arrived at our house and took up residence in the thick row of bushes beside our pool. We've never seen him and we have no idea what he even looks like. All we know is that he makes this ridiculous laughing sound.....a lot. One day we did a little research on the internet and discovered that he's probably a Mocking Bird. (Thus, the laughing noise.....not exactly the sound you want to hear when you go outside in your bathing suit.) We tolerated him the first summer because we didn't know what else to do.....and truth be told, that was the summer we had our x-change student from Japan and in an effort to appear as normal as possible we tried not to engage in activities that involved weapons or the destruction of wildlife in front of him.

Last year he showed up again and one hot July evening, my husband reached his breaking point when he suspected the bird was laughing at him. Not too many people have ever seen my gentle giant of a husband get really angry. But those of us who live with him know what to look for. We call it the 'eye shift.' You'll know it if you ever see it and if you ever see it I would recommend you just back away. (The Census Bureau lady actually opted to run and that worked too.)

Back to our little laughing friend. My husband went from peacefully sitting outside in his boxers to 'eye shift' mode when he heard that bird start to laugh. (Remember the zero to pissed post? Add this bird to his list.) He bolted from his lounge chair and headed to the barn. The kids and I silently looked at each other and waited to see what was about to happen next. When he emerged from the barn, still dressed only in his boxers, he had a rake in one hand and a high-powered-super-soaker-water-rifle in the other. (Uh oh.) And he headed for the bushes. For the next twenty minutes, we witnessed him beating our bushes with the rake and shooting painful looking columns of pool water into our landscaping. Then he would stop and listen.....and that bird would laugh at him. (In the bird's defense, it was pretty funny.) So, Hubby-zero Mocking Bird-one......begin Round two......this went on and on until the bird finally stopped laughing and my husband, coated in sweat, told himself that he won the battle against the mocking bird and his eyes went back to normal. The following day we realized the bird simply relocated and made his home behind the air conditioner unit and thankfully my hot blooded husband wasn't willing to beat the crap out of that.

This year as we're entering the season of Spring, I'm noticing that my bushes beside the pool are looking like they might be on their last legs. (Go figure.) Hopefully that will deter the mocking bird because I don't think they'll survive another beating and my husband got a couple power tools for Christmas and I'm not sure what measures he's willing to take to avoid being laughed at.

All of this was brought to mind when Z was assigned to read 'To Kill A Mocking Bird.' Last night my husband was flipping through the pages and kept making sounds of disgust. Finally I couldn't take it anymore and I asked him what the problem was. He said, "I can't find anywhere in this book that actually tells you how to do it!"

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I'm not insecure......I'm just worried no one likes me.

Is insecurity a trait that automatically comes with a vagina or is it learned? The old nature vs. nurture debate. And why is it that men don't seem to struggle with it? Are they that confident or do they simply not care? But, I have yet to meet a woman who doesn't have a raging flow of it running just below the surface of even the most confident personalities. And for some reason, it's taboo to admit it. Well, as I've mentioned before, my blog is going to be a no-holds-barred place to open up in an attempt to be completely transparent with one and all.....a form of therapy, you might say. So here goes.....

Hi, my name is Momma and I'm insecure. You name it and I'm probably insecure about it. When I post a comment on someone's Facebook wall, I immediately worry that it will be taken wrong either by them or by any of their 600 friends. When I post (most) of my status updates, I usually end up deleting and editing it two or three times before I'm finally at peace that the least amount of people will be offended by it.....then I sit and worry that someone got offended by it. Anyone on my friend list might be surprised at such an admission because I post often and comment frequently and I'm apt to say just about anything that pops into my mind and I usually do. But on the inside, I'm in turmoil that I'm one comment away from being defriended. And that's just about Facebook! I won't even get into how I torture myself with a blog!

Granted, I do have some basis for my fears.....one of my best friends defriended me, people have stopped speaking to me, and someone actually tried to report me to the prayer chain at church several years ago, but that's neither here nor there.

But that doesn't explain why women as a whole tend to question their every move yet none of us care to admit that we doubt or (gasp) regret our decisions. I have a theory as to why that might be. No one is more judgmental about women than other women. Who of us hasn't gotten off the phone with another woman and worried that that they disapproved of or was offended by something we'd just said? Then we sit in misery as we ponder whether they'll ever speak to us again and suddenly we're calling or emailing apologies like, "When I said I like brownies better than cookies I totally forgot that you made me cookies last year and they were like my total favorite cookies ever and I just remembered that now I like cookies better and it's all because of you!" Wheeew! Disaster averted. And that's just the baked goods! Heaven help us if we ever touch on topics like breastfeeding, public schools, 'R' rated movies, or drinking an occasional glass of wine with dinner! Because the bottom line is, if someone chooses to do things differently, we're automatically launched into justifying why we've chosen to do things the way we do and we're not happy until we get the other person's approval about the choice we made. BRUTAL! What a miserable way to live!

So what's the solution? Do we deactivate our Facebook accounts? Do we stop answering the phone and pull out of society altogether to protect us from each other but more often from ourselves? I don't think that's the answer. What if we tried not to be so hard on each other? Maybe we could all just admit that we're human and we're all trying to do our best. God doesn't take us all on the same path, so why do we assume that everyone should be making the same choices? And in the meantime, how refreshing would it be to talk to each other about our doubts and fears? What a load off of our shoulders if we felt we could freely admit when we've screwed up or would do things differently if we got the chance. There's no shame in that. There's freedom in that.

I think men have the right idea about certain things. On the rare occasions that they talk on the phone, when they hang up, they can't even remember what they just talked about. In any given situation, they choose what feels right and then don't think twice about it. They get things off their chest and they don't ponder a whole lot about much of anything. And as an added bonus, they openly admit to peeing outside when the need arises.

So in the interest of following the example of men, I have something I'd like to get off my chest......I've been known to pee outside......

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Zero to Pissed in less than 60 seconds......

Everyone has a unique list of things that pushes their rage button. If my very laid back husband has a list, then everyone has one. I'm not talking about your typical hot button topic like politics that people feel strongly about one way or another. I'm referring to things that some people might not even notice, yet others can't seem to get passed.

I'll start with a few from my husband's list. Strands of Christmas lights that are longer than the length of the house and therefore get strung over to a nearby bush send him over the edge. Please don't get him started. Let's just say it's pretty miserable riding in our van during what is supposed to be the happiest season of all because this Christmas light dilemma seems to be a pretty common one. While you're not mentioning tacky Christmas lights to him, would you please not bring up Green Houses that are attached to the actual house? Oh, and you better not discuss the color of the new license plates around him either....or the mouse's voice on C's 'Wheels on the Bus' DVD that she watches in the van. Basically, he's just an angry driver these days. And I don't really understand what the big deal is. Those things are so trivial.....

If you want to talk biggies, let's talk my list. We could sum up a few by simply saying 'The Rachel Ray Show.' My blood pressure skyrockets every time she throws that stupid salt over her shoulder "for luck".....and I could practically have a stroke when she follows that with pepper and says, "Why not?" Every. Single. Time. While we're at it, I may as well mention my instant rage when her audience claps every time she says 'Parmesan Reggiano.' I tried that at our dinner table and not one person clapped. Those aren't magic words, people. It's just cheese. (So why do I watch? Because I've tried some variations of a few of her recipes and kind of like them. But that's not the point.) Now back to my rage list.....The dramatic opera music that plays a ridiculous length of time as the numbers on 'The Biggest Loser' scale bounce around until finally.....they cut to commercial. Give me a freakin break. Or how about those sections of a Sponge Bob cartoon that consist only of an annoying sound over and over and over and over again and yet Kearstin always manages to seem stunned when out of the blue I scream, "TURN THAT OFF!!!!" with my loudest and creepiest devil voice. She's known me for almost eleven years. Come on. And don't even mention the name Kate Gosselin. Enough said about that subject.

As you can see, my list is entirely understandable, whereas my husband's borders on silly.....

Now it's your turn. Who's willing to step out of their rage closet and share any pet peeves that take you from zero to pissed in under sixty seconds. Here's your chance to get it off your chest.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this......"Parmesan Reggiano." (Did you clap? I didn't think so.....)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I don't have emotional baggage.....I have a whole freakin set of luggage.

Who can say they don't have their share of emotional baggage? Everything in your life from the time you're born until the day you die is contributing to who you are. The question isn't whether you've got baggage....the question is what do you do with yours?

In an effort to be completely transparent, I'm going to tell you about a few pieces of luggage I've acquired along the way. I used to have a suitcase that belonged to my obsession with Stephen King books in High School. Sorry, but you can't read that kind of twisted terror day in and day out without feeding seeds of fear buried deep within. Combine that with a strict upbringing where I was led to believe that God was 'out to get me' made for a lethal combination and suddenly I was a 26 year old married mother of two who wouldn't let her husband drive her kids anywhere alone because the possibility of catastrophe was huge and God would take that opportunity to carry out His 'Vengeance is Mine' verse on me. God helped me begin to unload that suitcase when I gave up Stephen King.

The fear of God thing still shows up every so often but I'm getting better. Let's face it, we are supposed to have a healthy fear of the Lord. (Key word: healthy) But if you're not also being reminded of God's grace, how is anyone supposed to have any hope? I'm so grateful to attend a church that preaches a balance of both. Once I got to the point in my life when I realized that God isn't hanging an iron fist over my head just waiting for me to screw up, my load got a little lighter. Another less burden to carry, but as usual, something was waiting to take it's place.

Three years ago, the emotional rug got pulled out from under me and I hit rock bottom. The who & why doesn't matter. The fact remains that suddenly I had several extra emotional suitcases to carry along this path of life. I was unexpectedly carrying loads of abandonment, fear, and anger. And as often happens when we're carrying too many heavy things at one time, I stopped in my tracks, sat down on my path, and explained to the Lord that I just wasn't able to go one step further. "Sorry, but I'm just gonna sit here for awhile." And do you know how God responded? He didn't let His iron fist drop on my head in my moment of failure and He didn't reject me out of His disappointment in me......I believe my Savior sat down right beside me and let me cry on His shoulder, as any good loving Father would do. How do I know that's what He did? Because I felt Him. Every time someone called to check on me, I knew my Savior was listening. For every one of my extended family members who showered me with love, I knew they were showing my Savior's love to me right here on earth. And when my dear sister, Susan, bought me a Beth Moore workbook called 'Breaking Free' I had no idea that she was actually handing me the key to a freedom I've never known.

It took me two years to do a ten week workbook. I'm not ashamed to admit that. That was a hard journey God took me on. We had to sort through lots of luggage. I couldn't do it every day, but it never ceased to amaze me when I would pick up my workbook and God would talk to me about something I needed to hear that very day! I always knew in my head that God is real, but suddenly God was personal. I found myself clinging to Him and thirsting for more of what He was showing me and slowly my burden was light enough for me to stand back up on my path. And pretty soon, I was moving forward again. And I enjoyed picturing my 'luggage' dropping behind me one by one. How could I possibly carry around a suitcase labeled 'Abandonment' when I'm so loved and accepted? Same goes for 'Fear'. No need to carry around a load of fear because I've never felt so safe as when under the watchful eye of my Savior.....and one by one my burden got lighter. (I'm working on anger.....it can't happen overnight, people.)

I still carry extra burdens unnecessarily. Sometimes for what I believe are legitimate reasons but most are out of my own control issues or insecurities. Basically, I'm still a hot mess. But, I'm confident when I say it doesn't do anyone any good by pretending I've got it all together when clearly I don't.....but it's one less load to carry by putting myself out there, faults and all.

Easter is a perfect time to remind ourselves of the price Christ paid for us on the cross. He carried our load for us then and He wants to carry our load for us today. And you might just find that the perfect place to lay down your emotional baggage is at the foot of the cross........

"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." ~Matthew 11:28-30