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


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lessons I learned from a pool full of algae

We have an in-ground pool. It took us several years to master the art of caring for an in-ground pool but I like to think we did it. This year in particular has gone very smoothly because we chose to open it in April, which is extremely early, but by doing so we were able to get the chemicals balanced before any algae had time to develop when the warm weather hit. Algae is a pool owner's worst enemy. Green water is our nightmare. To stay ahead of the algae is always the goal.

Two weeks ago I spotted some green shading in our deep end. (Uh oh.) I quickly checked my chemical levels and realized that due to the humidity and lots of extra swimming, the chlorine was practically non-existent so I quickly added some. Unfortunately, the following day, the deep end looked like a swamp. After attempting our own chlorine treatments with no success, my husband headed to Classic Pools where he bought a chemical called Yellow Out. Magically, the following day the pool was cleaner and bluer than it had been all season! So I started calling that the Magic Chemical. (I'm pretty clever that way.)

All was well until the following weekend when I noticed that darn color green again and by Sunday the entire pool was a full blown swamp complete with a lizard, I kid you not. This time, we took a water sample to Knickerbocker. They tested the water, said everything was fine, and told us to dump 6 gallons of chlorine in and the problem would magically go away. We did as we were told and the pool actually looked worse the next day so back to Classic Pools I went with a water sample and a request for some more Magic Chemical. When she tested the water she said, "You have a zero alkalinity level. If you don't address that problem, it won't matter how much Chlorine or Magic Chemical you pour into your pool. Your problem will continue to get worse until you deal with the root issue."

Over the next several days, I was forced to face my inner struggle with impatience as I drove back and forth, 30 minutes each way, to Classic Pools once and sometimes twice a day as I worked on slowly increasing our alkaline. In the meantime, the swamp remained in our backyard on one of the hottest most humid weeks of the summer. Three days later I finally got the go ahead to purchase and add the Magic Chemical, but this time I read the instructions on the bottle and realized I'd skipped a couple of important steps. So I carefully followed every step this time and voila, the pool is blue again.

I couldn't miss some very obvious correlations between my dealings with my algae pool and my spiritual life. I'm no Beth Moore and I'm actually quite nervous about even attempting to explain what God showed me, so please forgive me if it comes across muddled and confusing. Here goes......

"Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." John 7:38

Those words were spoken by Jesus. I am a believer and a follower of Jesus Christ, therefore, according to this verse, streams of living water flow from within me. But I'm a human being. I'm not perfect and my life is full of sin.

So indulge me for just a second while in my simple-minded way of thinking I compare myself to a swimming pool:

1. It only takes a tiny spore of sin to give Satan a foothold allowing him to spread it wildly through me to where I'm green, cloudy, and unattractive, therefore I require regular maintenance. I need to be in communication with my Savior on a daily basis.

2. Extreme conditions require an extra amount of maintenance to stay ahead of a problem. During particularly stressful times in my life or when I'm feeling especially vulnerable, attacked or tempted, I need to increase my connection with the Lord.

3. You have to treat the root of the problem and make sure your foundation is secure on the inside before you'll notice a visible difference on the outside. There are plenty of people and places out there who claim to have the Magic Chemical and are willing to fill your ears with what you want to hear to get a quick fix of happiness, success, financial gain, and a stress free life. But those will leave you feeling disappointed, empty, continually searching, and constantly frustrated because until you deal with the real issue and secure your foundation, those attempts will be temporary and ineffective.

4. Read and follow all of the directions, not just the ones that appeal to your immediate need. God gave us the instruction manual. It's the Bible. It's hard, it's scary, and it makes us uncomfortable at times. It hits me where it hurts and it requires me to change from within. It's difficult and it's painful and sometimes I don't like to do it. That's just the truth. But I don't read it because it makes me feel good. I read it because I need it.

5. Our pool gets a regular stream of visitors on a weekly basis. I love sitting outside, visiting with other moms while our kids play together, and weekend cookouts typically happen at our house during the summer so as to enjoy the cool refreshing fun of our pool and share it with others. But over the course of this algae problem I've been unable to invite anyone over. It's not that algae is particularly dangerous. Haven't we all swam in a lake or two in our time? So why didn't we continue to swim and invite others to join us? Partly out of embarrassment. Nobody wants to display their ugly green pool. But I can't imagine someone's reaction if we invited them to a cookout at our house and they walked into our backyard and saw the giant swamp while we pretend that it's perfectly healthy and beautiful. You can't hide algae and pretend that it isn't there even if you choose to ignore it. Sin has the same effect. It will cause us to withdraw from our source of strength out of embarrassment, shame, or even denial that it exists.

6. Through this entire process we loved our pool and never once wished we didn't have it. We knew this was a natural part of the risk of pool ownership and as frustrating as it was we knew we could get it turned around again. My friends didn't stop loving me because my pool had algae and they were there for me as I vented to them my frustrations at the length of time it took to clean it up. When I fail and find myself wallowing in my own sin, God never once regrets creating me or stops loving me. He surrounds me with family and friends who love me in spite of my sin and support me during my cleaning up process no matter how long it may take.

Thank you for bearing with me as I compared my life with Jesus to my swimming pool. I have no idea if I articulated it well or if it had any impact whatsoever, but I truly believe that God wanted me to type this post so there must have been a reason behind it. My prayer is that God took over my typing fingers and put what He wanted on the screen and left me completely out of it.

So with that in mind, please refer any negative comments to Him...... (Okay, that one was all me.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

The "NO!" Zone

A few days ago, my husband and I took the kids to a small water park with his parents and two of our nieces who are visiting from out of state. When I say small water park, I'm talking three slides, a small lazy river, a main pool complete with a diving board, and a couple of nice toddler areas. The park is called "The Splash Zone" and since we're huge fans of any sized body of water, and our home pool is currently fighting an algae problem, my husband took 1/2 day off work and we were ready for a day of fun in the water.

We found lounge chairs to park our towels and headed off in different directions. The older kids ran off to get in line for the slides while my in-laws joined my husband and me with C in her toddler area. I glanced over to check on the older bunch and saw my A with her arms over her head and turning in circles as a lifeguard inspected her. (What in the world?) Then I noticed Z and K heading our way and they were soon joined by A. Their suits had been denied. (You've got to be kidding me.) Z's trunks had a pocket. (Gasp!) And A and K's suits were held together in the back by a tiny plastic clip. They either couldn't ride or had to go to the concession stand and get them cut out of their suits with a pair of scissors. Despite my mother-in-law's ingenious efforts at disguising these 'flaws', my kids suits were denied three more times before we reluctantly headed to the hot dog / scissor stand. By the time the suits were 'acceptable under Splash Zone law', Z's suit looked like he'd been attacked by a small cougar and the girls suits were awkwardly tied behind their necks regardless of the fact that they weren't made to do that. But they passed inspection each and every time the entire day long.....and let me assure you, they were inspected each and every time, the entire day long.

At the top of each hour the kids had to take a break and only adults could swim. At 1pm, while the kids took their break, my husband and I headed to the lazy river with his parents and opted to walk laps rather than ride in a tube. We were the only ones in there and it was great. At 2pm an announcement came over the loud speaker that the use of tubes in the lazy river was mandatory during break. (Wonder who they were talking to?) They also announced at each break that parents needed to check their kids diapers and that was followed with the rule that you have to use the bathrooms because you're not allowed to change their diapers in the public area and they topped it off with the threat to shut the park down for the rest of the day if there were any accidents. (I'm totally serious here.) My husband said, "This park has to be owned by __________ or ___________." (I won't repeat what he said but I have to say I totally agree with his prediction.)

My husband swims in trunks, a tank top, and his baseball cap. He always has, he always will. A couple hours into the day, he was approached by a manager and she asked him what his tank top was made of. After several seconds of awkward silence while he stood there staring at her, she clarified by asking if it was cotton. He answered yes. She then informed him that he would have to remove it before getting in the water. After a short argument that ended with him dramatically rolling his eyes at her and an under the breath mumble that included the word idiot, we added yet another ridiculous rule to their list of ridiculous rules. Cotton tank tops are not allowed.....as opposed to polyester, I guess.

Z and his cousin, a fellow gymnast, got lots of angry tweets from the lifeguard's whistle with their stunts off the diving board but that happens everywhere so we're pretty used to it. That's why he always saves his impressive handstand move till the end of the day when it's pretty useless to kick him out. And seeing as a pocket on his trunks caused such an uproar, a handstand might be grounds for corporal punishment or something.

I saved the best for last. The park has a round pool area. When you enter, a jet stream of water causes a current that pushes everyone around the circle. (Looking at it from above, it looks like a big pot of children at full boil.) It's fun but obviously has some potential for danger and/or injury therefore, a lifeguard is posted right by the pot. Suddenly we heard the Lifeguard stationed there yell at a child, "Hey! Keep your head above the water!" (Now there's a new Lifeguard approach. If you see someone drowning, yell at them. It's called tough love, people.)

So on a scale of 1-10, I rate "The Splash Zone" in Springfield a 4. Why so high, you might ask? Because if you enjoy pissing people off, this is the place for you. All you have to do is wear pockets or cotton, have the nerve to walk around the lazy river, check your child's diaper in public, or heaven forbid not check it at the top of each hour. And you certainly better not drown. But whatever you do, they better not catch you having fun......you might get kicked out for that. But on the upside, it wasn't crowded at all. Gee, I can't imagine why.......

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

So much time, so little to do.

I suck as a house keeper. That felt good to get off my chest. I'd like to believe that I'm a little better than what I grew up with and more than likely my kids will be a little better than me. (Assuming that clutter falls away little by little with each generation.) Don't get me wrong, I really try, but I get so accustomed to the way something looks that it eventually seems normal. It usually takes me getting burned (aka; embarrassed) by a situation before it gets added to my 'to-do' list.

For example; 3 years ago I had a client show up unexpectedly for a massage because she had the wrong date written down. Not a problem since I almost always have my massage room up and ready for last minute calls. The problem arose when she asked if she could use the bathroom first, (CRAP!!!!), and I found myself racing her down the hallway to get there first. To this day, my bathroom gets completely straightened every morning.

We've had a terrible time getting our satellite service installed properly. The 4th service man was here last week and he informed me that he had to enter the closet in our downstairs level to reach some cables. (Yikes.) When he opened the door he said, "Wow, is this where the other 3 repairmen ended up?" I said, "No. They're under our new concrete patio and I'd suggest you keep your comments to yourself because I could always use another patio."

For the most part, I like a straightened house. My cleaning day is Monday.
(It used to be Friday but by Monday mornings my house takes on a 'Frat' look after a weekend with my family so I switched.) What cleaning means to me is a big time straightening of everything, scouring bathroom and kitchen counter tops, the toilet (of course), and dusting & vacuuming. (Not sure why I waste my time with the dusting thing since that returns by Tuesday.)

Wednesday is my laundry day. The kids know to have their baskets downstairs or it doesn't get done until the following Wednesday. (I refuse to live in my laundry room.)

And every other Tuesday I mop and launder the towels & bathmats. You might notice in my little nutshell of a cleaning schedule that washing the sheets wasn't mentioned. Let me assure you that between vomit, urine, un-capped markers, and nose bleeds, everyone's sheets get washed eventually.

My husband, who hardly ever shaves and refuses to keep track of my mopping schedule, has the habit of shaving shortly after I mop, leaving tons of tiny whiskers all over the floor. It never fails. Last month in a fit of rage I yelled, "I MOP EVERY OTHER TUESDAY! PICK A TIME TO SHAVE RIGHT NOW!" He calmly said, "I choose every other Tuesday evening." (I guess I asked for that.) So I've come to accept that my family looks at a freshly mopped floor as an artist looks at an empty canvas.

Don't expect my house to pass a white glove test. There are things I'd love to change but I'm simply not motivated enough to do it. You might find dishes downstairs from where we eat in front of the television. I realize that goes against everything you read in 'the books' but the day C stood up in her high chair,
announced that she was done, removed her underwear and tossed them onto my husband's plate , eating at the table became less appealing.

So you might be wondering how I spend my days as a full time stay at home mom. That's easy.....I spend it with my husband and my kids.
I try to have dinner ready when my husband gets home from work. I love to date him even if that just means cups of coffee on the patio or a private dinner for 2 upstairs while the kids eat downstairs. We love family time. We swim. We play a ridiculous amount of Cornhole in the backyard. We love to have drive-in movies and bonfires outside at night. In the winter we can be found in front of the fireplace playing board games that have been known to turn violent. In June, I began a tradition of 2am Wii golf tournaments with Z and K and if you can't find me, I'm probably reading with A up in her bed. (And I frequently fall asleep there, too.) In my opinion, all of these things are time well spent. In a home that includes children ranging in age from toddler to teenagers, I realize that kids don't need less attention the older they get. They just need a different kind.

So here I sit on my 'mopping' Tuesday with un-mopped floors. Know why? Because my husband is coming home from work early and we're taking the kids to a water park which means that 'mopping Tuesday' probably won't happen till Wednesday this time and I'm okay with that. Because someday, (hopefully many years from now), when I'm lying on my death bed I don't predict that I'll be wishing that I'd had a cleaner house. I do predict, however, that I won't regret not playing Cornhole with my kids when they ask.....because I always do.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Spare me

Z enrolled our family in the 'Kids Bowl Free' summer program....the idea being, that kids bowl free...just in case you couldn't follow. For an added $25, 4 adults can bowl "free" too. Of course it wasn't until after we signed up and paid on-line that we realized shoe rental wasn't included and with 4 kids this quickly turned into our most expensive free summer program to date.

He found a bowling alley in a neighboring town nearby. (And by 'nearby' I mean 25 minutes because we can't get anywhere in under 25 minutes and we're getting used to that fact.) Yesterday the kids and I headed out for some bowling bonding time on a rainy afternoon. Z drove and with the help of our handy GPS, we found it pretty easily. We pulled up to a tiny windowless building and sat there staring in confusion as to how a bowling alley fit in there. And if this neighboring town has a 'bad part', this bowling alley was in it. Just as I was about to voice my concern Z mentioned that the building reminded him of something out of the holocaust. (He makes occasional holocaust references thanks entirely to the obsession of his screwed up 8th grade Language Arts teacher, but that's another story. We're getting used to it by now.)

We nervously headed inside to find what is probably the cutest bowling alley ever. I think it had 10 lanes, one of which was being used by a group of 4 kids, another by a small family, and an elderly woman working behind the counter. There was even a 'sports bar' in the far corner which consisted of a tiny bar with about 3 stools, complete with a television. Along the far wall was a series of racks full of balls that were organized by color. Nice.

We approached the friendly looking Grandma behind the counter and in an effort to save 2 bucks I gave her my sweetest face and asked if C could just bowl in her socks. She shot me down. When I pointed out that her feet are so little, she magically produced a tiny pair of size 7 that fit C perfectly. (Sigh.) Then she said, "Let me see which lane is open." Confused, I turned to look behind me and it was very obvious to me that 8 of the 10 were 'open' but what do I know? She hooked us up on Lane 7 and we started to bowl. When the family next to us noticed C struggling with the weight of her ball, and the tantrums that would accompany our attempts to help her, the mom tipped me off that 'Grandma behind the counter' has a toddler ball. When I asked about it, 'Grandma' shot me down again and said she doesn't like to get that out. So much for the 'friendly' Grandma. I informed 'Grandma' that C's heavy ball is going to bang pretty hard when she throws it and she recommended that I help her bowl.....hmmm.....maybe if she were allowed to bowl in her socks, that would be an option, but I paid for shoes, damn it. Clearly, Grandma and I were about to butt heads.

We spent the next 3 hours bowling 2 games.....that's right, 3 hours to bowl 2 games. Mainly thanks to C's balls rolling a whopping point 9 miles an hour. (I didn't know a speed under one could even register.) Sometimes her ball would stop part way down and slowly roll back to her, causing her to squeel with delight that she got 'another turn.' Sometimes the ball would stop dead in it's tracks right in the middle of the lane and as it turns out, when I stepped out onto the greased lane to get it, I received more un-wanted one on one attention from Grandma. But occasionally her ball would actually make it to the pins and in one rare moment, she bowled herself a spare. And we loudly cheered in the dead quiet of the tiny bowling alley, causing the one man sitting at the 'sports bar' to turn and glare. No apology, dude, we paid for her shoes. (I can't seem to get past that.....)

But at the end of the day, the kids and I had a blast together and tons of memories were made, and as an added bonus, they got to see the inner workings of a small town bowling alley. In the 3 hours we spent there observing, we realized that Grandma was the Jack of all trades. She not only signed people in and forced their shoes on them, but she was also the cook, (microwaved fries, anyone?), the waitress, (fries were accompanied by a high five from Grandma, for a small fee, I'm sure), she was the DJ and kept the juke box hopping, and she was even the bar maid. (Her creepiest job by far.) Surprisingly, the lanes were automatic and we didn't see Grandma setting the pins back up or rolling our balls back to us. Unfortunately, the little blower to dry my bowling fingers didn't work.....maybe that was Grandma's job too.....um, never mind.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Couch to 5k...and back to the couch....

There's a program out there called 'Couch to 5k.' The general idea seems to be that with the help of this website, you can not only get your butt off the couch, but that you'll soon be able to run a 5k.

A friend recently mentioned that she's utilizing this system to attempt to run one. I didn't know what a 'k' was or why in the world anyone would want to run 5 of them, but as it turns out it's 3 miles. (I guess 5k sounds more impressive than 3m.) She's one of my few friends that lives in our vicinity, which is to say that she also lives out in the middle of nowhere. She asked me if I'd like to join her on a training run around her block. (Her 3-mile block compared to my 5-mile block would probably classify her as living in an actual neighborhood.)

Although I wouldn't say that I'm in shape, I also don't consider myself an exercise virgin. According to a medical chart I could probably stand to lose 30 lbs. According to my standard I would like to lose 20, but in reality I'm only motivated to try to lose 10 and I'm not holding my breath about those.

My routine involves working out 6 days a week. Three of those days are spent circuit training with my elliptical machine and an upper body weight workout. Two days include circuit training with my treadmill and a lower body weight workout. And on Saturday I do some form of cardio and I try to vary that up to keep it interesting. Add onto all of that swimming laps several days a week, occasionally riding my bike, playing for our co-ed softball team, and sometimes when I'm in the mood to completely humiliate myself and my children, I put on my roller blades and push C in her stroller......up and down our driveway.....it's a real treat for passing motorists. Looking at this list of activities and admitting that I still can't lose 10 lbs can bring me to only one conclusion.....I love to eat. I love to eat. I love to eat. Did I mention how much I love to eat?

Anyway, I agreed to train with Mandi one day. She emailed me the Couch to 5k program, but I didn't read it. I'm not a runner, but how hard could it be, right? We began with a 5 minute warm up walk and the plan was to run until we reached the first stop sign. (Approximately 3 minutes.) No problem. Let's go. I immediately became aware of why I don't run. There isn't a sports bra out there that could keep me from bouncing, there just isn't. And do they make a sports bra for your butt cheeks? Not to my knowledge. So I found myself painfully bouncing alongside my very fit friend and the blasted stop sign we were aiming for seemed to get further and further away. I can't imagine what I sounded like clomping along beside her, but at one point she recommended I try breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth which leads me to believe I may have been gasping for air. Probably a safe assumption since my throat was burning after about a minute. In a state of complete embarrassment, I had to go back to walking.

During my second lame attempt at running I realized that my bladder was bouncing as hard as the rest of me and finally admitted to her that I had to pee.....bad. You know you have a true friend when she helps you find a secluded patch of trees and stands watch for cars while you drop trou and relieve yourself. There she was out in the middle of her 5k and stuck with an out-of-shape-bouncy-heavy-breather who couldn't make it from here to there without having to urinate.

We attempted one more run but when she warned me of the on-coming car and I was tempted to dive into it's path, I realized that running wasn't for me and we walked the rest of the way. Now that was enjoyable. We walked pretty fast, or so I think, and we could actually hold a conversation.

When I got home I decided that I could utilize our country block too and began walking each evening with my husband and A and occasionally K and Z join us on bikes with C in her carrier on the back. (There's even a cornfield on the back stretch of secluded country road for those times I have to pee.) I apologized to Mandi for wrecking one of her training days but in the end it motivated us to exercise as a family and spend some wonderful quality time together.

I'm committed to my continued attempt to lose 10 of my pounds, I'm committed to spending time with my family, and most important of all, I'm committed to never never ever ever ever running a 5k......and it's all about commitment, am I right?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Jello. It ain't what it used to be.

A run of the mill July 4th cookout includes an assortment of grilled meats, tons of delicious side dishes, a table full of tempting desserts and Cornhole (a must). Occasionally, but not always, there's a supply of alcohol. Although my husband and I don't drink, we're not offended by the presence of a coolor full of alcoholic beverages. (Okay, I did take up drinking to get through the Marriage Retreat, but that was strictly out of necessity.)

At our first stop of the afternoon, when K ran up and excitedly announced that someone brought jello shots, I explained that it was alcohol and told her not to drink any. No big deal. As the afternoon progressed, most everyone was gathered in lawn chairs outside, except for A, who was sitting inside with C who was asleep on the couch. It was 4:30 and we had to leave around 5:30 to get to our next cookout, so I went inside to relieve her and allow her more time to visit with our family. As I was sitting with C in the cool quiet house, I began eying the desserts, trying desperately to stick to my diet, and failing miserably. Then I noticed 3 colorful plates full of jello jigglers cut into nice big squares. Green, yellow, and red.....mmmm......isn't jello the guilt-free-go-to-dessert of 'The Biggest Loser?' Perfect.

I'm sure you see by now where this is going, so let me justify to you (and myself), why I didn't associate the Jello squares with the Jello shots.......they weren't in little cups, okay?!?!? And who cuts alcoholic jello into fun sized jigglers and leaves them out for the chubby dieter to see?!?!

So I started working my way slowly through the plate of red ones. Funny thing is, the more I ate, the more I wanted. Of course it all makes sense now, hindsight and all. When Z came inside and found me, there were a total of 3 left. (I'd have to guess that means I ate somewhere between 12 and I don't know of them.) I looked at him with my dilated pupils and asked him if he tried the jello. He gave me his best 'Jim Halpert' face and said, "Nooooo, but you tried the jello, didn't you?" It didn't take long to notice the strange way my lips were burning.....or maybe 'felt like they were on fire' would be a more accurate description....and my tongue not only felt huge but fuzzy.

My concern was having to explain to K that I just swallowed the very shots she was forbidden to enjoy. My husband's concern was that our next stop was the church picnic and I was sloshed. Z became my designated driver and ten minutes into the drive to our next stop, I fell asleep. (aka; passed out.) I woke up an hour later in a pile of my own drool to my husband lightly smacking my cheeks and assuring K that "Mommy's okay, she's just drunk." (Must we tell them everything?)

Other than my jittery eyes and occasional mispronouncing of words, I did okay the rest of the evening. I ate and drank plenty of water and had a wonderful time visiting with friends from both past and present and I'd like to think I pulled it off. Until the drive home when I suddenly heaved and my husband yanked the van to the side of the road and practically tossed me out. While I vomited outside my door he used it as a teachable moment for our kids as to the dangers of drinking. (One more memory for our kids to tell their therapist someday.)

I guess I'm just a lightweight and can't hold my jello like I used to. I'm currently experiencing my very first hangover and there's not one thing appealing about it. I came close to posting about this last night, but decided it might be a dangerous combination to drink and blog. Oh well, it's a life experience. Hopefully my kids learned something from this and I know I certainly did.....I now know why those 'Biggest Loser' contestants eat so much $%&# jello.