Saturday, December 31, 2005

I was wrong! Customer service is NOT dead!!!!

Well I have just had my confidence in good business practice restored by Target.

A little over a week before Christmas I placed an order on since the items I was ordering were hard to find and I wanted them here by Christmas. As it turned out, they emailed me a day or two later saying that my items were out of stock and would not be here for weeks. So, I decided to wait, since I couldn't find the items anywhere else.

Tonite my son found one of the items by accident at a store he was in, at a third of the price, so I decided to cancel my order with Target. (there were only 2 things in the order, and I knew I could find the other thing without any trouble)

When I got to the web site it would not let me cancel my order so I decided to call a live person to see what could be done about that.

I got a very nice man who spoke clear English (!!) and I told him what the problem was, and he told me that my items were already on their way. Then he said the magic words:

"I see that you tried to order this for a Christmas gift and we did not get it to you on time. What I am going to do is refund your money in full, and have you keep these items when they arrive, with our compliments."


A $75 order, for free!

They didn't have to do that. But it totally rocks that they did! Wow!

Therefore, Target is the recipient of the 2005

DollyMama Customer Service is NOT Dead Award.

Now everybody go buy something at Target and tell them I sent ya. :)

Friday, December 30, 2005

Who needs Mother Goose when we have Dolly Mama to give us nursery rhymes?!

An unfortunately apropos rhyme I quipped earlier today:

I see London
I see France
I see pin worms
under your pants.

(try not to be jealous of my life, ok?!)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

2005 End-of-Year Meme

The same one from last year, but hopefully with some new answers.

1. What did you do in 2005 that you'd never done before?
Read several books with almost a thousand pages in each one, and started my own business.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
My resolutions included losing 25 lbs. and improving on my home. I lost some of the weight but not all 25 lbs, and did some nice little improvements on the house. Losing some more weight is definitely on the list for 2006. I like resolutions.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes! Our friends from our small group just had their first child on Dec. 23.

4. Did anyone close to you die? My grandfather died the night before Easter.

5. What countries did you visit? Just the USA. I don't get out much, as I've told ya.

6. What would you like to have in 2006 that you lacked in 2005? Enough money to obliterate some debts.

7. What dates from 2005 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? Seeing my father for the first time in 13 years.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Starting my own business.

9. What was your biggest failure? making a few poor business decisions (but it's ok)

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Yes. I spent 2 months of 2005 either sick or in bed with a hurt back.

11. What was the best thing you bought? Our Suburban.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Squiggy Magoo who potty trained effortlessly.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and disgusted? other than my children?? hmmm....

14. Where did most of your money go? Bills! Same as always.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? starting my business

16. What song will always remind you of 2005? possibly The Pitty Party Dance (which was from our kid's church month when we studied joy)

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? possibly sadder
b) thinner or fatter? slightly thinner
c) richer or poorer? maybe the same or poorer

18. What do you wish you'd done more of? being happier and healthier

19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Being sick

20. How will you be spending New Year's Eve? either with friends from small group or asleep at home, depending on how the health pendulum swings here

21. Did you fall in love in 2005? Nope.

22. How many one-night stands? Zero.

23. What was your favorite TV program? I discovered The Amazing Race and really like it.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? I don't put energy into hate. (I go for apathy instead ;) )

25. What was the best book you read? Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, and all the rest of the books in the series.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Chris Tomlin

27. What did you want and get? A new vehicle for our family

28. What did you want and not get? Time to develop my business more

29. What was your favorite film of this year? Without a doubt, Crash was my favorite.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 34 this year and I can't remember what we did.

31.What one thing would have made your year measurably more satisfying? more time and money to achieve more goals

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2005? Better than ever. (which isn't saying much, but still...)

33. What kept you sane? Who said I'm sane?

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? None! How about the ones I most disliked? Tom Cruise is at the top of my YUKK list this year. Katie Holmes is at the top of my "I'm concerned that this young lady has been brainwashed" list.

35. What political issue stirred you the most? There isn't much that stirs me politically.

36. Who did you miss? Well, I always miss my mom, brother, and sister since I don't get to see them very much. Usually once a year or less. I also miss my friend Laura who lives on the other side of the earth. And, as you may remember from recent posts, I've missed my best friends from high school and college.

37. Who was the best new person you met? Probably all of the people in our two small groups from this year.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2005. There's value even in low times.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. many to choose from. "I can't get no satisfaction" or "It's my party so I'll cry if I want to" are coming to mind today....but today I have PMS so I don't know if those count.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

So I've been writing a magazine article....

A few months ago a query I submitted to a magazine for an article was accepted, and so of course I didn't get around to writing the article, and now here I am just days away from the deadline. Other than the threats of the IRS audit and possible holiday house guests, getting this article done has been one of my very big stress factors lately. I've been dreading it by day and by night, feeling nervous, as if I've never written anything before, and wondering when I was going to have some clear time to get this writing done. As my husband pointed out, I seem to have no trouble writing for my blog during the day with children underfoot, so why couldn't I get my article done too? Well, quite simply, when I write for this blog I write what's on my mind, not for an assignment. Furthermore, I don't have to turn in my work to an editor, and thousands upon thousands of people aren't going to be reading what I write here.

So I was holding out for some magical time when my husband would run interferance for several hours and I could think in peace, and of course that is a joke because he is working all the time, and when he is home he rather likes my attention.

A couple nights ago I remembered a very good thing that I read awhile back. The concept is that if you are dreading something, to go ahead and get it done first thing. It's usually not as bad as you think it'll be, and at least once it's done you don't have your energy getting sucked out of you by worry and dread. Oh how I wish I had remembered this a couple weeks ago!

So, that night I sat down with a copy of the magazine I am writing for and read through a lot of it to remind myself of the "feel" of this publication. Then I jotted down a couple ideas about how I wanted my article to come across. And I went to bed.

Yesterday I woke up full of inspiration. I ran back and forth between keyboard and children for the entire day, making meals and then getting as much writing done as I could. It was fabulous to have ideas and a direction for the writing to flow. Unfortunately, all the interruptions made me feel very edgy because I felt concerned that I was going to forget all my great ideas while having to wipe a child's butt or make sandwiches. Once my husband got home he joined in with "helping" by allowing the children to run up and down the hallway outside where I was working, and coming in every so often to ask me, "So are you done yet?"


I realized that it would be very hard for me to be a writer from home. All the cards are stacked against me here. I love it when I have really good ideas, and being able to hold on to them long enough to get them out. But having people get in my way when I have that urge is so aggravating. I have no idea how other women manage to write at home. Maybe they have considerate family members who understand that they cannot come into her writing space during working hours. Oh how that idea appeals to me!

Oh well.

The good news is that my article is just about done. I've got a few more days to look it over and tweak it before turning it in. Then, hopefully, I'll become a published author, which will be really fun! I feel so much lighter just having this out of the way.

customer service is dead

The other day I was doing some research about a trip that we might like to take. I had gone to the web site and looked around, but didn't see any info on accomodations for families as large as mine. I decided to click on their Live Help Chat service to get my questions answered. Here's what I got instead (cut and paste right from the chat session):

Me: Hi. What accomodations do you have for a family of 8?


Me: Well, right now I am just collecting information. I don't have a date set. Maybe in Feb, though.



Me: Well I would like to know what accomodations you have more than the price. So far what I see on the web site is for up to 5 people.

Me: 2 adults, 6 children


Me(wondering what on earth is wrong with this person): ok so are you not willing to tell me what kind of spaces you have for families of this size?


Me (why does this person make it so difficult?!): Well...enough for 8 people, I guess. It could be 3 bedrooms or more depending on how many beds and the sizes of them I suppose.

Me (seeing that HELN isn't going to help me): Is there someplace on your web site where I can see examples of what's available? so far I don't see info for units this size.


Me: I have told you I don't need the prices. I want to know about the units. The sizes. how many beds. Where are they located in relation to the ocean. That type of thing.


Me (I go an find that the property map only tells names of buildings. On the room description page I search around until I finally find what I'm looking for): OK. I see now that you could have directed me to the" larger suites" to get the information I need.

Me (and now I'm annoyed that this person wouldn't just tell me the information or even what to look for on the web site): How can I contact your manager?


Right-o, HELN. You weren't the least bit of help to me so far. Why would I think you'd help me on the phone?

Since HELN wasn't willing to give me the number of her manager, I went to the "contact us" section of their site and sent a message (plus the copy of the chat session) to let them know about my disappointing experience with dear HELN. I got a reply and supposedly HELN's manager will be getting the full story. Sorry, HELN, but I don't think customer service is your calling.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Just Two Little Things

First, a new addition to the blog roll: Post Secret. People send in postcards telling a secret, and this guy posts them. Very interesting stuff. (some material not suitable for children)

Second, here's a funny article about one woman's experience as a human guinea pig. Her assignment: Be a Nude Model!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Follow-up

So, for those of you that went to church yesterday, I would like to know if your pastor mentioned the controversy about having/not having church that day, and then pointed out why your church was better because they did. :)

Second, I wanted to follow up on my recent comments about Christmas. They were long and rambling, and the point seemed to get lost in there, probably largely due to the fact that I didn't know what my conclusion was except that I was getting some good thinking opportunities.

What I've come up to at this point is that I do think it's worth taking some special time to remember Jesus' birth, but because of what our society has turned Christmas into, I think Dec. 25 is possibly one of the worst times to do so. Most people are just too preoccupied with the other holiday trappings to really give Jesus anything significant of themselves, their time, or their attention.

I'm not sure what the end result of this questioning will be. We'll still continue to "do" Christmas because it's a good family holiday, and it's virtually inescapable in our society and I am not willing to make myself and my family such oddballs that we won't participate in Christmas stuff at all. However, it may be that I will appoint some other time of year that my family will give Jesus' birth some more special attention, that is far removed from present-buying, house decorating, and society-wide hysteria.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Behold the litter!  Posted by Picasa

We got a rebounder this year--big bouncy fun for the whole family! Posted by Picasa

Izzy Man and jake the Great Posted by Picasa

Do you think he got enough sprinkles on this poor cookie? (it was about a quarter-inch thick) Posted by Picasa

even the biggest kid will still decorate cookies--yay! Posted by Picasa

Aftermath of cookie hell. Posted by Picasa

We let the kids open one gift each "to help them sleep"---New pj's for the littler ones, and a new Nintendo DS game for the big one. Posted by Picasa

Cool new sideburns! Posted by Picasa

Doodles and Squiggy: Camping out in their big sister's room because they're just too excited to sleep on their own. Posted by Picasa

Everything is set up and ready for morning! Posted by Picasa

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Some family photos here to show you what we did yesterday.

First, I nearly won the "Meanest Christmas Mother" contest when I screamed at all of the kids 8 or younger to leave the kitchen when we were trying to bake the cookies. Somehow I had the mistaken notion that one mother could guide 5 young children in the finer arts of rolling dough, using cookie cutters, and getting the cut outs to the cookie sheet successfully. It only took about 5 minutes for me to decide that was a suicide mission, and I sent them packing to watch a movie while I did the baking myself. Later they rejoined the effort with yukky decorating. (Next year I'm going to bake the cookies at night after they're asleep, and save some for myself that won't be totally crapped up with every kind of frosting and sprinkle available.)

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Christmas Funny

A woman goes to the post office to buy stamps for her Christmas cards. She says to the clerk, "May I have 50 Christmas stamps?"

The clerk says, "What denominations?"

The woman says, "God help us, has it come to this? Give me 6 Catholic, 12 Baptist, 10 Lutheran, and 22 Presbyterian."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Not to be missed....

Metro Dad's daughter visits Santa, with fantastic photographic evidence.

The Day God Smiled on Dolly Mama

I just wanted to share some good news. Today I called the IRS woman. I have been dreading it for many days, and have been so stressed about it that it's really had me upset. But, lo and alas, it was no big deal!

She asked if I had any questions, and so I went down the list of requested documents with her, and she ended up telling me not to bother with more than half of the items! The very worst and scariest version, which I had been dreading the most, was tossed away with a few words from my IRS angel.

So now all I have to do is get things like proof of residence, birth certificates, and so forth, all of which I know where they are so it is no big deal at all. What's better is that she ended up agreeing that I could just fax the stuff to her rather than having to come in for a meeting! AND, I have 3 weeks to get it done.

Aaaaah! Relief!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

HOW many more days of Christmas vacation????

You all are going to have to remind me how to manage having all of my kids at home for 2 weeks while it is too cold outside to play.....

Today we did our "make an edible Christmas village" activity. Basically, we use a lot of graham crackers, frosting, and candy to create a revolting little shanty town type thing, and the kids think it's great and after spending time crafting these third world country type dwellings, they eat off of them for days. Big fun.

So, by the time we were done, my table was covered with thousands of graham cracker crumbs, blops of frosting, pieces of candy and shredded coconut. The floor looked about the same. My 2 year old thought that his job was to simply eat as many gummi bears as humanly possible. ugh. Dis-gus-ting. But...hey! We're making memories! We're being festive! I'm being a fun mom and letting them eat junk all day long!

During the rest of the day the little boys repeatedly made forts out of couch cushions, my daughter and her friend laid out on towels in her room pretending that they were on a beach, and then the little boys decided that looked really fun so next thing I knew every towel from the linen closet had been strewn around the house.

We got a movie from netflix (Millions) that I expected to be good, but it really, really wasn't. So that didn't even provide any respite from the chaos of the day.

The little guys don't take afternoon naps any more, although they do get tired and cranky, so that can really make for a darn. long. day. I seriously considered upping our Netflix subscription to 4 or 5 at a time, but then decided I was being really lame. Surely I can survive with 6 kids plus their friends inside the house for 2 weeks.....right??

Sunday, December 18, 2005

No Church on Christmas

So you may have heard the flap about how some churches are choosing to not hold services on December 25 this year. What do you think about that?

Interestingly, for my whole life I have known of churches not having Sunday night or Wednesday night services because of holidays, and I don't recall anybody having a problem with that. But take away a Sunday morning service and ----woo hoo!---watch out! That's so baaaad.......

I go to a small baby church (a little over a year old, and under 100 people usually) and at the start of the church it was decided that we only meet 51 Sundays per year. The idea is that the last Sunday of the year is a day off. It's a day off for all the people that work every week. They can take time to travel to see family or whatever and not feel bad that they are not "on duty." It's simply a way to say thank you. (Similarly, we also take the summers off from certain things that we offer, in order to not burn out our workers, and to give them a school-year length of time to commit to a job, rather than feeling that there is no good ending point if they need to make a change.)

Also, our church has a focus on the parents being the main unit for spiritual growth and responsibility in each family, and the church acts as a support for that. So, to not offer a Sunday service doesn't mean we're left without anything spiritual for that week. It means that each family is still responsible for their own thing, but the support team is having one week off.

So, anyhow, in the case of this year, our week off falls on Christmas. Our church didn't make a decision based on trendiness or social pressure. It's just a coincidence.

I have somewhat mixed feelings about this whole uproar:

One the one hand:

If Christmas is really all about focusing on Jesus and not about gifts and all of that, then it seems like a very incompatible position to say that we are not going to have church because we do not want to interrupt anybody's nice morning at home sitting around the tree opening their presents.

On the other hand:

Maybe we need to be sensitive to the fact that people who work at the church would like to be able to have a day off on a holiday like Christmas.
(If I was a church worker and had church on Christmas day, I'd do Christmas at my house a day early. Simple!)

If our church offered a Sunday service on Christmas this year, I think that we probably would attend. Not because I'd feel guilty if I didn't go. And not because I like to think of December 25th as Jesus' actual birthday (which I do not). But because we love our church and we get so much from what we learn and do there every week. We'd go because our kids are learning how to give back and help by taking down chairs and stage stuff after the service. We go because we would enjoy seeing our friends there and taking little gifts and cards to let people know how much we appreciate their part in our church and our life. Instead, we did all that today and told everybody we'd see them in the new year. Good 'nuff!

On the other hand, maybe we don't really believe what we say we believe about Christmas, but don't have the guts to admit it.

Last year I wrote about my feelings about Christmas, and my opinion hasn't changed. Here's a reprint from 2004:

I'm feeling a little bit bah-humbug-y myself. I was thinking so gleefully of how I was not running the pre-Christmas rat race since I had to have all of my stuff done by the 16th, just happy as a clam to Have It All Over With. More than one person shared my sentiment. And then it occurred to me that I don't even think of Christmas as a religious holiday. I mean, I acknowledge it as such. I'm a Christian and so I believe in Jesus' birth and so on. But, Christmas is just so far removed from that for me. It's a family holiday, and I think that I was brought up to think of it that way. In my husband's family they always went to Christmas Eve service at church. Mine always went to my Grandparent's house to have dinner and exchange gifts with our extended family. My childhood Christmas Eves are some of my best memories and I have no inclination to go to a church service instead. It just seems wrong to me. Seems like it doesn't fit with my internal sense of what the holiday is for.

As a child and teenager it seemed to me that although everybody at church said the stuff about Jesus is the Reason for the Season, that it was kind of a lame cover up for what it really was: Stuff Fest 1985!! or whenever. In other words, to my way of thinking, there is almost no connection between Christ's birth and what we Americans do for Christmas. Yes, Christ was born, I am glad, but it was not in December, and us getting all frazzled for a month and spending tons of money buying each other things and stuffing ourselves full of unhealthy treats has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Some people would feel bad about this, but I'm not sure that I do. To me it seems that Christmas is a runaway train and nothing I am going to do is going to stop it. So, fine. I can choose to embrace it as a family holiday in which we make strides to spend time with those we love, and give them gifts as tokens of our esteem.

As for Jesus' birth, those of us who believe in Him can choose to be thankful and aware of what His coming to earth means to us all year long.

It seems that some people feel guilty if we don't keep "enough" Christ in our Christmas, yet I can't recall anything in the Bible that would compell us to celebrate His birth in a specific way. Maybe this is just because we celebrate so many less important things, that we feel kind of guilty and think that we need to have a big Yay Jesus blowout once a year. Don't send me all the links to the origins of Christmas. I've heard it all before. I don't see any reason to be down on Christmas per se, I am just trying to come to grips with my feeling that it is family-oriented rather than Jesus-oriented in my life.

What do you folks think? Does Christmas have a deep spiritual significance to you? If yes, what makes it so? Anybody feeling something like I do, thinking that it almost makes more sense to separate the holiday and the Christ? I'd love to get some feedback.

I have found myself thinking about last year's post several times this December, plus thinking about how big an issue even saying "Merry Christmas" verses "Happy Holidays" has gotten. This is stuff I just can't muster up any fire for.

To me, Happy Holidays acknowledges that there is more than one holiday going on right around now. For me, the ones I celebrate are Christmas and New Year. I find nothing offensive about someone saying "Happy Holidays!" Some people seem to just love getting their knickers in a twist about it though. I suppose that they don't want anybody to consider Channukah or Kwanza or whatever. Well, you know what? I don't feel threatened by any of those things. If somebody I meet is celebrating their birthday I say "Happy Birthday!" to them. And if they are celebrating Channukah or Kwanza, hey--I hope they have a nice time of it. Why not wish they a happy holiday? Be happy! Happiness all around! And if they wish me happiness as I celebrate my holidays, I appreciate that! Thanks, neighbor!

It seems to me that all of these end-of-the-year holidays are primarily about family and friends, so why do we feel like we have to pretend it's something else? Frankly, it's hard for me to imagine that God or Jesus appreciates any of the stuff we do at this time of year. How on earth can a tree in our living room, lights on our houses, and spending money on STUFF and eating what we have no need for possibly be helpful to God? Puh-leeze! It's a party for YOU and your family and friends, and that's the truth of it. Know what?--that's ok! You're allowed to have a party! You're allowed to decorate! You can eat, drink, and be merry, and shower the people you love with love (thank you, James Taylor). You can (and should!) even be thankful to God for blessing you with the people in your life, and for the provision that allows you to guy gifts and extra special food! You can do it all without guilt, and not do some big Jesusfication about it. Heck--we do this kind of thing for New Year's Eve, Superbowl Sunday, Halloween, birthdays, and the 4th of July, all without guilt or felt need to pretend it's all for Jesus.

It seems to me that the Christmas season is evolving into one step farther away from the religious holiday it supposedly should be. Now it's a political thing as well. It's amazing how much people can stink things up, isn't it?

I've been working on this post for a pretty long time, and don't feel like I'm doing a great job of expressing myself very well. I feel rusty on the thoughtful blogging, probably because I've done so little of it these days. If you enjoy doing up your christmas-as-Jesus'-birth, and truly feel that's what it's all about, I think that's just fine. I know that a lot of people find a lot of spiritual meaning in the Christmas season. Any season that you can grow spiritually is a good one, I guess. I'm just offering some food for thought.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Today as the children were swarming around in all their Christmas break chaos, I bellowed out to them as I got their lunches ready,

"If you want to be fed, get to the table!"

I guess this isn't a very common method of calling the family for a meal, because Izzy Man came into the kitchen, looked at me confusedly, and said, "Is fed good, or....?"

Maybe he thought it was sort of like when someone says, "Who wants a spanking?" :)

So how are you all doing with getting ready for Christmas?

Personally, I'm kind of into crunch-time here. The only stuff I've done was buy a few things for my children with the gift money my grandmother sent. I haven't even finished spending that, and haven't bought a single thing for anybody else on my list. Not done. Not close to being done. Not good.

My husband's parents and sister's family were expected to come for a visit on the 26th and 27th, but that's now been cancelled. His sister was hospitalized for over a week until just the other day, and they aren't up for the trip. We considered traveling to them instead, but with the way the weather has been in their area his parents recommended against it and actually told my husband that they would worry so much and it would be very stressful for them for us to come see them at this time of year.

So, the upside is that I am no longer stressing about cleaning our house to the detail, or about packing up 6 kids and a sleighful of holiday cheer for a 14-hour long car trip. Instead I can stay home and relax, except for a few small details like:

-needing to get gifts bought and mailed within the next 5 days
-have 6 children underfoot for the next 2.5 weeks
-and, the granddaddy of all pain-in-the-rearisms: We're being audited by the IRS! (and a Merry Christmas to you, too, Uncle Sam!)

Goodie goodie goodie.

All I know is that this situation will be the one that brings me around to getting everything filed instead of in many ancient piles that say "to file."

I went to the chiropractor the other day and now my upper back pain is mainly gone, my headache is gone, and the ankle and wrist are somewhat better although not entirely normal. My lower back decided to start hurting almost as soon as I finished up with the chiro. My body must just love pain.

Today the kids got a surprise day off from school, which I didn't discover until we waited by the door for 15 minutes with no bus in sight. The roads looked fine but I guess that somewhere out there they weren't. Sometimes it's very inconvenient to not have a TV blaring in the background. I dearly wished to stay in bed this morning, so it was quite disappoiting to get all of us up and ready and fed and then have it all be for nothing. I got back in bed, but it's not the same.

Remember my bet that our new mouse wouldn't last 2 weeks here? Well, he defied my expectations and survived until just the other day when he was accidentally crushed during a frenzied family-wide attempt to recapture him after he had escaped from his habitat. Poor thing.

Yesterday I had a redeeming experience thanks to freecycle. You see, back a week or two ago when I was in the throes of being sick, our microwave died. (great timing) We've been limping along without one, and I wasn't sure if we could afford to buy a new one amidst all of the other monetary needs of the season. I decided to post on my local freecycle that I was in need of a microwave, and lo and behold someone offered me one. I went to get it yesterday and was greeted by a lovely woman who called me "a beautiful young lady" and gave me a very nice, barely used microwave that she had recently replaced. She even hugged me after she helped me load into into the back of the Burb! How sweet. And what a blessing! (because it's a real drag to not have a microwave!!)

I know you probably think that a free microwave just can't be topped, but alas yes it can! I am also getting a free toilet and sink today! I know that's weird but here's the thing: We have a bathroom in our downstairs that I just hate. Everything about it is ugly and falling apart and not working well and in general very depressing and unpleasant. The toilet doesn't flush unless you hold down the handle and say a magic word, and it's all so yukk that I never feel like I can get it clean. So, someone in our homeschool group is remodeling their bathroom and giving away their unneeded items. She said it was all in good condition and all of that, so hopefully it's true. Won't my husband just love to add in "bathroom remodeling on the cheap" to his list of duties next week? Hey--maybe the kids and I can figure it out and do it all ourselves. hahaha (If we do, I'll be sure to take pictures)

Free microwave! Free sink! Free toilet! It's a Kentucky Christmas, folks. fa la la la la, la la la la!

Well, dozens of items await my attention today, so I better get at it. Talk to you later!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Long Time No See

So I've been quiet here lately. It's been part illness and part life funk that has kept me away. Although in some ways my blog can serve as a diary, when there's an audience there is some pressure to not bore one's readers.

I figured out that I've spent at least 2 full months of 2005 being sick. That makes me feel weak and like I'm falling apart. Couple that with my recent more-than-a-week-long illness, the fact that my ankle is still not right, and more feelings of being run-down.....well, it's not a pretty picture.

Everything feels like I'm falling behind, and like I can't catch up. There is an overriding feeling of failure in my mind. Part of what I dislike about homeschooling is how it never ceases to make me feel like I haven't done well enough yet. I find myself looking forward to the next school year, and wondering if I will feel like less of a failure without home education nagging at me.

The one bright spot recently was part of my sermon at church on Sunday. My pastor talked about several examples of people in the Bible (Moses, Abraham, David) that were called by God to do big things, but then went through very long periods of time when they were in the desert, or in danger, or suffering in some way, while they were being prepared for what God had for them to do.

I can strongly identify with the idea of being in a "desert phase" in my life, and although I have had a small glimmer of realization that God is at work even in the midst of that, it was very encouraging to hear it from someone else. I think that there can be a lot of pressure from within (or without) oneself to find a way to "snap out of it" when you're in a funk. It may be ok to have a little funk once in awhile, but not to be in one for an extended period of time. If it was so easy to snap out of, I would have exited a long time ago.

I do have a sense that a lot of me is "under construction" or something, and so I am trying to be humble and wait and do what I can while I feel confused and often useless. Knowing that being in the desert doesn't make me worthless to God is a good thing to hold on to.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Year of Magical Thinking (a book review)

Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
The question of self-pity.

I had never heard of Joan Didion until I read an interview with her from the New York Times, concerning her new book, The Year of Magical Thinking. It's a book she wrote about the first year after her husband died.

Didion and John Gregory Dunne were married for 39 years, and during that time were basically inseperable. The were both writers who worked from home, each always available to the other for editing and feedback of their current work.

One evening at the end of 2003 Didion and her husband were chatting as she prepared dinner. One minute he was talking, the next minute he was gone.

Her style here is a raw method of sharing her grief, her confusion, her ways of thinking about this sudden, extreme void in her life, and it is very powerful.

She recalls their life and their love with fondness and simplicity, while still bringing across how BIG it all was. Her loss made me ache.

I know I can't top the other reviews I've read, so I'll direct you to those. The Year of Magical Thinking is worth a read, even if, like me, you have yet to face a huge loss in your own life. This book is one that made me think I was glad I have read it and know about it, because I have a feeling that someday I'll need it again.

Here is an essay taken from the book.
Here is an excellent review.
And here is a brand new article about the broadway version of the book, expected in 2007.

Cinderella Man: A Movie Review

Cinderella Man (starring Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger) has just been released on DVD this week, and the hubby and I got to watch it last night.

It's a biopic (meaning, a biographical film with an epic length) about James J. Ballock, who was a boxer that was a source inspiration to American society during the depression.

It's a nice story, and as I watched the movie I realized that although I wanted to like it very much, and even felt that I should like it very much, the movie fell a little "flat" for our tastes. It's slow, it's lacking a compelling musical score, and even the meat of the story doesn't really come across as all that exciting. Due to the fact that the movie is so long, it's not surprising that there is so little character development for Zellweger's character, but it left me feeling like it was a waste of her talent to be in that role. Any lesser actress could have done it (and possibly been less annoying with a New Jersey accent).

Ron Howard's films are usually worth seeing, and I think with Cinderella Man he's got a story worth telling. Sadly, it seemed to miss the mark this time.

Book Review: Dead

I found out about Dead by Jim Crace thanks to the author of the Kite Runner mentioning it as one of his current favorites.

Dead is a very unusual book. First, the focus of the story is a married couple that has been murdered on a beach. It sounds pretty gruesome, and I guess in some ways it is, but Crace manages to weave his tale in such an interesting and matter-of-fact way, that the details aren't as shocking as they might be in the hands of a different author.

The story is told in pieces that go in an odd order. We get some history from back before the married couple got together, we learn about various times in their marriage, we learn about their daughter, we learn about the events that brought them to the beach that day. But we don't get any of it in chronological order. Crace skillfully feeds us the details in an order that serves his purpose, and does it all without confusing the reader too much with all the shifting timetables.

The other interesting vehicle in this book is that we get the story from the perspective of several different characters: the husband, the wife, the murdered, and daughter. A lot of books do this, but I found the style in which it was done in Dead to be different from what I've seen before.

I've never before read a book told with this style, time-play, and wide change of perspective. It was very interesting and a good brain-stretch. Interestingly, as soon as I finished this book, I read You Remind Me Of Me (which I picked up from the library on a whim) and it also bounces around in it's time frames and perspectives in a somewhat similar way, although perhaps less skillfully.

It's a short book, and an interesting one, if you can get past the entire point of the whole story: Dead.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Mr. and Mrs. Smith--a movie review

It's not a funny movie. It's not a clever movie. It's not an exciting movie. It's not a sexy movie. It's a boring, stupid, who-cares kind of movie. Two thumbs waaaaay down from DollyMama and the Firecrapper!

For those of you who prefer a more long-winded review, I won't let you down.

The other night my husband came home with Mr. and Mrs. Smith, thinking that a movie would be a nice thing for me while I was sick. I hadn't heard a thing about this movie, other than that it's the vehicle by which Brad and Angelina got together. After watching the movie, I think it's safe to say that their relationship is the only noteworthy thing about it.

The movie doesn't have a terrible premise, and with two talented actors like Pitt and Jolie one would think it would be pretty good. Sadly, somewhere along the editing, story writing, or producing of this movie, somebody screwed up really bad.

I don't have the energy to go into the whole story line, but the places where I felt the movie most failed was

1. It fails to make the viewer see value in the relationship, so we never care what happens to it. When John and Jane are eventually trying to kill each other, there was no impulse to care which one lived or died, or if they learned the truth about each other. Once they decide to work together, there's a similar lack lack of interest in whether or not that works.

2. The shoot-out scenes in their house are not interesting, not clever, and were totally over-the-top ridiculous.

My husband and I have sat through some loser movies over the years. Some of the most-hated, and most-joked-about movies we've survived include Kavik the Wolf Dog, Lost in Translation, The Life Aquatic, I Dreamed of Africa, and Howard's End. Typically we will sit through even a total snooze of a movie, hoping against all hope that somehow the ending will tie it all together and make the time spent watching worthwhile. This time, we didn't even stick in for the end. We just. didn't. care.

Monday, December 05, 2005

She's a Sick-O, Folks!

You know.....just for kicks I decided to see how many times I have mentioned being sick on my blog this year. After a quick skim-through I have determined that I have been sick a minimum of 6 times this year, including 2 illnesses that lasted over 2 weeks, and a few that lasted more than 1 week.

This does not include all the times that children were sick, or that I was suffering from sleep deprivation. It does include back blow-outs.

What. The. Heck? I do not think it is normal for adults to be notably sick 6 times a year. Do you?

Furthermore, I think there should be a rule that if you are sick enough to need antibiotics for something, you should be immune from any other illnesses or health issues. For instance, you should not start out with strep throat, and a week later have the worst cold in history, plus a seriously painful ankle! You know....just for instance.

(insert whining, complaining, sniffling, coughing, and much pitiful facial expression.....)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Still. Sick.

In fact, sicker than before.

That is all.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Odds and Ends

My mom got us a web cam for Christmas, so now all my MSN messenger contacts can see me and my kin while we chat. Pretty fun!

This past week was the one where my husband started his second job, so he's been gone every single day, and he's continuing to be gone today and tomorrow (which were his "days off") for some training. Then we start again with another week and weekend just like the one we just finished. And on and on it goes, I guess.

So, it's a good thing he's getting all this work, but it's pretty weird to have him gone all the time, plus I have had to give up my Pampered Princess Privileges such a never having to take children with me to the store or to appointments. Instead, I had to bring kids along to my doctor appt, to a hair appt., and on all the errands I did yesterday. It's doable now (as compared to 2 years ago) but definitely not my first choice. I'll adjust, though.

This morning I had to wake up early to take my daughter to a Girl Scout Christmas party, so my chance for extra sleep was thwarted. Even before I got up I still felt so crappy that I was having a little conversation with myself about whether or not I was going to attend tonite's church Christmas party, and how I was ever going to carve out the space to get well. Eventually I decided to cancel the babysitter and not go to the party. There is no husband help in sight, so I have to cut back and get whatever rest I can (which is going to be precious little seeing as how I'm home with all six kids all weekend long). I strongly suspect that we won't be going to church tomorrow either.

My sore throat is mostly better, but I've now got a cough, some slight sniffles, and the continued body aches. So, maybe I have a cold in addition to the strep. Either way, I'm gunnin' for a nap, and once I go pick up my Girl Scout in a few minutes, I'm going to assign the children to a long day of watching movies and leaving me alone, and try to sleep or at least lay down and read a book. I just picked up Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking" yesterday and am looking forward to reading it.

Well, ding-dong, my Axim calls, time to go pick up my second-born. Somebody pass me a tissue, ok?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Todays outing:

2 retarded mistakes at the drive-in teller at the bank (first I didn't know how many children I had with me, then I didn't write down my acct. number)

1st mini candy cane of the season

$310 groceries

$75 gas

5 minute visit with the hubby at the fire station

3 DVDs borrowed from the library, including a new one: Robots! (kids are very excited)

$20 McD's lunch for 4 (ugh)

And the cherry on the top of it all was that after I walked all through Walmart, trying not to limp....... on our way out, the automatic doors were super slow. I had to stop and wait for the door to open, and my 13 year old was coming along behind me with our second cart (It takes 2 carts to get 2 weeks of groceries for us), and he rammed right. into. the back. of. my. foot. The other foot. The good one. You know: The foot formerly known as the one that had not been causing me any pain.

It hurts now though! That's for darn sure.

It hurt so much I actually almost cried right there in the stupid Walmart foyer. but, alas, I really didn't want to hold up the flow of cart traffic with everyone watching me cry, so I pulled myself together and pressed on.

(is she a trooper or WHAT, folks? Give that woman a cigar!)

In lieu of any charming, sweet, warm fuzzies from me today, I would like to direct you to this wonderful post at one of my favorite blogs, Sweet Juniper. I found out today that Dutch will soon be embarking on a new career as a stay-at-home-dad. How cool is that?!

The Post in Which I Start to Seem Like a Pitiful Wimp, Which I am Not

So, almost 2 days after starting on the antibiotics and still not feeling much better.... after my experience with the recent kidney infection, I am starting to wonder if I am now harboring some anti-antibiotic forcefield, wherein my body does not want to just accept the first medicine given, and obediently start back toward wellness. You may think I am a simple woman, but in fact, this anti-antibiotic factor makes me very complicated and mysterious indeed. An antibiotic rebel, perhaps. Why not?

In addition to my still-sore throat, I have been having an ankle problem. A few days ago it started hurting a lot just from me walking around the house or going up and down the stairs. It seems to come and go, but even when it doesn't hurt, it feels fragile. I can't think of any time when I twisted my ankle recently or any reason why it should hurt....but it does. In fact, last night as I was in bed trying to fall asleep, by ankle hurt without putting and weight on it at all. So....what's up with that?! Now I am wondering what I am supposed to do with a sometimes-hurting-sometimes-merely-feeling-fragile ankle. Go get x-rays? Just be careful of it and don't go rollerskating? I am considering a trip to the chiropractor, because I am noticing that actually all of my back and leg on that side of my body feel out-of-whack. So, maybe that's the answer.

So, you can imagine me, feeling like crap, with my hurting ankle, trudging and limping through the grocery store with 3 or 4 kids later on this morning to buy 2 carts full of groceries, including those blasted "exchange gifts" for all the kids in school. From there we may go crazy and take a trip to see the chiro, go to the library, and fill up our gas tank with gas that is only $1.92!! Woo hoo. What am I sitting here for? I've got a day to go take on! Bye.