Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Year End Meme

This is my 7th year doing this that a good thing, or just getting old?

1. What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before?
Succeeded at learning to super coupon. (I haven't even gotten around to telling about it here. Does anyone even read my blog any more? Quite possibly, no.)
Went to visit my mom...alone!

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't remember what they were, but if it had to do with continuing to not eat sugar, or not regaining some of the weight I lost, then no, I did not keep them.

Will I make more? Of course!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? My niece had a sweet baby girl.

4. Did anyone close to you die? A couple we know lost their newborn daughter. So sad.

5. What countries did you visit? None, as usual.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
A greater understanding and appreciation for the different gifts each of us brings to the world.

7. What events from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
-Welcoming our new dog Brandi into our family. She is wonderful!
-Saying goodbye to a long relationship that had stopped being healthy.
-Throwing a super fun 40th birthday party for my husband.
-Getting to go visit my mom on my own to celebrate her birthday. Previous to that I hadn't gotten to hang out alone with my I was a teenager!
-Having hard stuff from the past being dug up and the discomfort and exhaustion that went with trying to deal with it.
-A crappy situation on Christmas.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Juggling my life. And learning to super coupon! I have saved a lot of money from it!

9. What was your biggest failure? Well, I gained back some weight and I'm not feeling very good about that right now. :(

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Nothing that stands out.

11. What was the best thing you bought? The Dressing Your Truth course. It is very interesting and I believe the concepts in it are pretty revolutionary. (I haven't gotten around to telling about that here yet, either.)

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My husband turning 40! We had a great party to celebrate.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and disgusted?
There were a few, but I'm not going to name names here.

14. Where did most of your money go? Bills and savings and having fun with my family.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Couponing! Dressing Your Truth! Having the means to do some special trips and experiences with my family. And probably many other things, because I am always excited about my many projects and ideas!

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?

Firework by Katy Perry (Love. That. Song.)

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

18. What do you wish you'd done more of? Completing tasks and projects that are important to me.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Feeling stressed. And eating too much of the wrong stuff.

20. How will you be spending New Year's Eve? At a birthday party for someone very special to me, and then at home with my family.

21. Did you fall in love in 2010? Yes, with my dog, and with my iphone. :)

22. What was your favorite TV program? Dexter! My husband and I are hooked.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I don't do hate.

24. What was the best book you read? Sadly, I can't even think of a book I read this year. I missed a lot of my book group meetings and just have not had the time to read very much. :(

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? Katy Perry's song Firework.

26. What did you want and get? The ability to do some fun things with my family members that previously would have not been possible.

27. What did you want and not get? Well, I could say *thinner* except that I think if I really had wanted it, I would have made it happen. So, I don't know. If I didn't get it, I probably didn't really want it. That's my story for the moment, anyhow.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? Despicable Me. It is one of my top 5 favorite movies of all time, I think.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 39 this year and I do not remember much about it. My husband turned 40, though, and *that* was a whole lot of fun! Now I have to decide if I will have a big fat 40th birthday party for myself in a few months. What do you think?

30.What one thing would have made your year measurably more satisfying?
Completing more projects.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
Wearing what I have and buying almost nothing and desperately needing a change. 2011, here I come!

32. What kept you sane?
The patience and encouragement of my husband and children.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I can't think of anyone I fancy all that much. I always admire Oprah, though, and am looking forward to seeing how her new TV network will do.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Politics didn't stir me any more than usual, which is to say--almost not at all. I have been re-thinking some of my beliefs and am finding that my opinions have changed. Interesting process.

35. Who did you miss?
I still miss my Gram a lot. I think of her very often and enjoy having some keepsakes of hers that I use on a very regular basis.

36. Who was the best new person you met? Not a person, but our dog Brandi is a very dear soul and we are so happy we found her and she joined our family! Also, not a person, but my iphone is a wonderful companion and I would not want to have to live without her! Both of these are funny because I used to not really be a dog person, and I'm really not normally a technology enthusiast. We can call these Personal Growth items, then. Can't we?

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.
To continue to be true to myself.
To continue to be honest about the way I see things.
To continue to trust my instincts, since they have almost never steered me wrong.
To continue to try to understand the gifts that each person brings to the world, and to help those within my reach to live within the strength of those gifts and not try to be any other way than how they were created to be.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. Well, it's Firework, of course. It coincides perfectly with what I've been learning through other avenues, and I love the positive, encouraging message.

Cause, baby, you're a firework!
Come on, let your colors burst!

Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon,
It's always been in side of you, you, you,
And now it's time to let it through

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Should Color-blindness Be The Goal?

Back in February a friend of mine described a situation that made her sad. The platform was her Facebook page. The subject was colorblindness, or lack thereof. In relation to race.

This friend is a white woman who is married to a black man from Africa. They have two young daughters. We have been friends with them for probably at least 13 years, since they were just dating. They are lovely people.

The friend described a situation where she had her three year old daughter plus a friend at a play place in the mall. Her daughter accidentally ran outside the boundaries of the play area, and the mom was not aware of it. A man within the area said to her, "Ma'am, is that black girl with you?" (I assume he was trying to alert whatever adult was responsible for the child that was getting out of the safe area.)

So, the fact that the man described her daughter as black caused my friend to be sad, because she thought we were not supposed to "see color" in our country now.


She had a ton of comments from people who saw this man's comment as ignorant, cruel, rude, stupid, and many other negatives. They wondered why didn't he say, "Is that little girl wearing purple with you?" or, "Is that beautiful little girl with you?"

Honestly, I thought it was absurd.

Here's a guy in the play place, trying to watch his own kid, and he sees a child getting out of the play area and no adult seems to be aware. He's looking around, trying to figure out which adult goes with the child. He makes a guess, and asks my friend if the child is with her. Except he dares to use the description of her apparent race.

He's a guy, for goodness sake. He's not going to mince words and describe her as "the girl in purple" any more than he's likely to notice her cute shoes or red hair bow. He's not going to risk seeming creepy by describing a stranger's child as "beautiful" or "adorable." This is Kentucky, you know. The guys are pretty down-home about stuff.

I wasn't aware that there was some move in society that actually discourages us from admitting that we can even *see* race. For some reason people OF COLOR are allowed to see race. I read and hear comments from people "of color" all the time that say racially distinctive things like, "For a white boy, he sure can play ball" or "for a white girl, she sure does have soul" or "I'm a strong Latino woman!" And then let's not forget Black History Month, or various black achievement awards. Why are these things ok, but a man describing a child as a black girl a horrible thing?

The idea that our society should be color blind is, to me, one that hasn't been thought through. It's like the short-lived "African-American" title, which quickly reverted to "black" (since not many "black" people living in this country have ever been African). There's nothing wrong with being whatever race or color that you are. When used solely as a description, there is no stigma or judgment attached to it. Choosing to be offended where none was intended is wrong.

Today a different friend on Facebook expressed her frustration of wondering if we are truly trying to be a color-blind society, why are surveys asking about our race? She was somehow equating this with inequality.

Again, it set off my BALONEY meter. Here is what I wrote:

I have seen people siting that we are "supposed to be a color-blind society" as a reason to be offended when people do still see color. I guess seeing color or identifying someone by color does not strike me as the same thing as not seeing people as equals. I was a part of a discussion about this awhile back and I am still trying to understand the point of view of those that posted there.

In the case of a survey, there are many pieces of demographic information collected such as race, income level, educational level, and zip code. All of these things are used, but I don't find it offensive that someone would identify me as a part of a larger group of people that I have factors in common with. Maybe it's true and maybe it isn't. That's the survey person's problem, not mine. :) Surely some surveys find that there are sharp differences between people that seem to fall along lines of these factors or others. Right? Are we supposed to pretend that people living near a border crossing would not have different opinions about immigration than people living far from the realities of the situation? Of course there is a difference. Same with a lot of other things.

Yes, humans share a lot in common. We also have a ton of variety. The point of most surveys is to understand where the varieties are and which groups of people tend to have which opinions.

The other day one of my daughter's friends at school made a comment, in jest, remarking that she was "such a white girl." We find stuff like that funny, not offensive. (and I felt vindicated that we had yet another example of my belief that Yes indeed, people do point out the whiteness of people, not just other colors or races. This is not automatically a put-down. Noticing the color of others is not a bad thing. I fear that this color-blind agenda is actually causing people to feel less comfortable around people of other colors, because they are not sure what is ok to say, if they constantly have to pretend that we are all the same color, and are unsure if they can ask questions pertaining to racial heritage or experience. I feel like it is a bad move that is not actually in favor of people being united. In this country, part of what our unity needs to be includes accepting and acknowledging differences and various heritages, not pretending they don't exist and don't matter. Each piece of the differences contributes to the whole.

I have no desire to live in a color-blind society. I do not believe that it would be positive or uniting for our society at all. Mutual respect does not mean that we must ignore differences. The end.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Today I got some welcome deals. A woman in my homeschool group is preparing to move and is selling many items that they no longer have space for. I got some goodies!

1. A picnic table for $20! We have wanted a table for the back yard for awhile but hadn't gotten around to getting one. Great price, and it is wood and metal, all one piece, so the kids can't drag the benches all over the place, and the wind won't be able to blow it over like the plastic table we used to have.

2. Large bouncy exercise ball for $1! I used to have one (Back then it was a "birthing ball." The kids destroyed it in the back yard.) and I really love to sit and bounce on those. Good for your back, and bouncing is good for your health. And kids playing with a huge bouncy ball upstairs makes for a few hours of relative solitude for this mother. Yay!

3. An entertainment unit (to house our TV, etc.) for $25! We have a tall armoire that does this job right now, but we want to rearrange the furniture, etc. and because of the amount of windows in the family room, we have few options for the placement of the armoire. We wanted a lower storage option for keeping the TV and it's electronic cousins organized, and here it was! It's nothing flashy, but it's sturdy and will get the job done.

4. The most exciting purchase of the day is a new desk for just $20. My mom was kind enough to give me an office desk a couple years ago when I needed one, and it has been helpful. However, it is very, very large. (3 big sides, 18-24" deep) It takes up a fourth of our family room. And, sadly, although I was very excited about all of the space I would have, what it has turned into is a place for lots and lots of clutter to reside. Plus, because it is so big and dark, many things end up in the dark recesses of the underneath and seem to breed down there. So, between those issues, and the fact that we need to re-organize our family room, make more space, kill off clutter areas, etc., I was wanting a smaller, more efficient desk for my computer and all business stuff, and there it was! It is a light colored wood and pretty much just what I was hoping for, so I am very excited. The next two tasks will be to de-clutter the surface of the current huge desk and the drawers, and to find someone to pass the desk to. Between Craig's List and Freecycle, surely we can find a happy recipient.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Did They Have a Good Time?

Yes they did!
I'm so glad I thought of offering the second day at the cabin as an adventure for my husband and the kids. It worked out great. :)
(I love it when a plan comes together)

Friday, October 29, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

My husband sometimes thinks up ideas for us "getting away from it all" together. Often his suggestions have not been possible for a wide variety of reasons. And that bums him out. "You never say yes when I try to take you on a trip."

So this time when he asked me, I said yes. Right away.

The plan didn't have any of the usual hiccups. All of my usual reservations were already taken care of.

"Yes, darling! Let's go! And not only that....I'll raise your offer and suggest that we go for two days, not just one!"

The guy was pretty darn excited.

So we made our reservations and waited three weeks til the appointed time to go.

Bye kids! See you in a few days! Be good!

And then we got there.

We knew it was going to be a cabin in the woods. We knew it was a short hike to get to it. What we didn't know:

-the hike was up a steep mountainside and the trudging up there made my thighs feel like jello

-the photos showed two loveseats, but when we got there, there was only one. And it wasn't that comfy.

-we knew there was a loft for sleeping. What we didn't know is that you had to access it by ladder. Which isn't all that nice for someone like me that often gets up in the night to go to the bathroom, and has back troubles that make regular walking a challenge, let alone scaling a ladder while also trying to balance an iphone to use as a flashlight. (if I had dropped my iphone, boy oh boy that would have added severe insult to injury!)

-we hadn't realized there would be No Phone Service. No WiFi. No TV. We had brought books. We forgot to bring playing cards. We made a camp fire. We had some good conversations and went out to eat. But then 9pm came and we had done everything and for the first time in my life I was living what it means when they say "bored to tears." I cried. Literally.

-we hadn't realized that the bathroom would be of the bare essentials variety. Shower so narrow you can't bend to shave your legs. World's smallest toilet. No sink in there. You had to go out to the kitchenette for that. And the bathroom was stocked with toilet paper so thin, you might as well not bother. Oh. and the bathroom was, of course, located about 4 feet away from the single loveseat in the place. "Attention please! I am about to use the bathroom! Please be sure to hear every noise!" ugh.

-the water temperature was also ridiculously low, so no hot showers were possible

-we were not given enough towels to live on, but the trudge down the mountainside to ask for more was so unattractive that we just dealt with it

-we didn't know that the little dorm-sized fridge would actually turn out to be a freezer and make the food that we brought rather difficult to eat. Guacamole cubes, anyone?

-we didn't know how dependent we have become on the white noise of a fan in our bedroom. The dripping sink, 3 varieties of special noise from the ceiling fan, weird noises from the cabin itself, and of course the coyote howling outside the cabin (yes, seriously) would make it very, very hard to sleep. I am sure that I spent about 9 hours through the night with my face stuck in expressions that I would *not* want it to freeze in.

-we didn't know that the heater for this place would be utterly inadequate.

-we didn't know that simply using the coffee maker would short out the electrical circuits in the place.

-we didn't know that the water would taste weird and make the coffee taste horrible

-we didn't know that the utensils drawer was not very deep, and had no stopper to help you not pull it out all the way, sending all of the contents onto the floor. Then I got to hand wash every. single. item. Yay!

What we had really been hoping for on this trip was some time for serious rest and relaxation and of course some good time together as a couple. With just one not-very-comfortable place to sit, not enough heat, the ladder leading to and from the bed, and everything else, it definitely wasn't cutting it. The only thing keeping us there through the night was the fact that it would have been too treacherous for us to try to get down the mountainside in the dark. It was probably the longest night of my life.

It wasn't that it was a totally bad place. It was clean and didn't smell too weird and there were no bugs or mice in the cabin (that I saw). So, by most cabin standards, I guess pretty good. This place had been recommended to us, and we had heard glowing reports about other cabins there. What we learned was that the one we got was the one that hasn't been renovated in a super-nice way like the bigger ones have. Lucky us.

We ditched the place as soon as we could in the morning, but came up with a way to turn it into a win: My husband went back this afternoon with two of our boys, who have been wishing for a camping opportunity. I hope they have fun.

As for me, I was reminded all through the night of what I should have already remembered about myself:

-I do not like contrivances. (I even hate picnics because I think it's a stupid pain in the rear to take my food someplace else instead of just eating it at home.) I like real life much better.

-Taking a bunch of my stuff from the place where it normally is, to another place that I am unfamiliar with, rarely (if ever) results in a relaxing thing for me. I like to be home. I would have been happier using the money to improve something on the house, or pay someone to come do some deep cleaning. I like to spend time doing home improvement and then enjoying it forevermore. Trips to other places don't usually excite me. I have no travel bug whatsoever. Hopefully we can save ourselves some money and some frustration and remember this for the next time when one of us gets some crazy idea that we need to "get away" from our regular life.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

This one's for you, Alana :)

My we-go-back-a-long-way, real-life-friend Alana left a comment after my last post. Part of it said:

As someone who is no longer part of the protestant world, phenomena such as Vision Forum and the patriocentric movement are things I'm just now learning about and quite frankly, from where I sit, they astonish me. Part of what astonishes me is how very very fringe and "out there" these movements are when they are compared with 2000 years of Christian history. Same definitely can be said for the Pearls and the Above Rubies stuff. I'm glad I got out of where I was when I did.

I have been turning this comment over in my mind for a few days since first reading it. I'm surprised to hear you say this. Our time getting familiar with conservative Mennonites certainly gave us a new perspective on both a heavily patriocentric form of Christianity, as well as fringe beliefs and practices.

Since you're the one that has done all the heavy lifting in terms of learning the ins and outs of church history, I'd be interested to hear more about what your perspective is on how the historic Christian church has handled issues such as women's rights and family dynamics. When I read what you had to say in your comments, what I thought of was this video and all of the quotes from history about the attitudes and beliefs about women in Christianity. Knowing that it was even a matter of debate at one point in history as to whether or not women had souls is enough to shake me from thinking that there has been some excellent, fair-minded perspective on women in 2000 years of church history. I believe there was serious tinkering going on with the translation for the King James Bible as well, thanks to people with an agenda that wasn't exactly God's word.

From my perspective, it seems like Jesus was a revolutionary feminist, but once he was off the scene, women were treated like crap for most of the last 2000 years, and in many cases still are today. So, tell me what you know, girlfriend. :) I could use some good news.

I have seen this video many times, and it grips me each time. What woman would want to sign up to follow a religion like this? (clickety-click on the video to go watch it in the right width at youtube. Much better.)

**Post Edit: Alana generously shared her response in the comments. Please check them out! Thank you, Alana. I appreciate you taking the time to share. I'm going to look all of this over and think about it. Maybe it will result in a future blog post. :)

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Escape, FLDS, and some parallels

Today I finished reading Escape by Carolyn Jessop. This is her story of living in the FLDS and finally escaping it with her 8 children. It is a compelling story that kept my attention even though it wasn't as well-written as it might have been. Carolyn does a good job of telling stories that explain the extremely unhealthy situations she was in, including abuses that are truly mind-blowing.

When I finished reading today I spent some time thinking about the many parallels I saw between some of the FLDS beliefs, and that of things being taught by people like Michael and Debi Pearl, Above Rubies magazine, Vision Forum, and others.

The greatest parallel I saw was the one about a woman's place of total submission, total turning-off-her-brain-in-all-ways-not-approved-by-her-husband, and for the man, complete control along with lack of accountability. I think that any system that requires total submission by one person and total control by the other person is a situation inviting abuse. While not all men would turn abusive in a situation like this, many will, and even in the more mainstream Christian community, the message to women is that they aren't doing enough of the right things:

Debi Pearl is quite vocal in teaching women that they are the cause of all of their unhappiness. Her book Created to Be His Help Meet drives home the point, letting women know that putting on a happy face and having sex with her husband as often as possible are the answers to a happy life. In Debi's world, like the FDLS situation described in the book, sex is the main currency that a wife has in a marriage.

I watched a video by Debi Pearl the other day. She was talking about how it is important for a couple to discuss all of their differences before getting married, because once you are married, there is no more give and take; the husband's way will be the only way after that point. In a nice relationship with a benevolent man this might turn out ok. But what about the guy who takes advantage of knowing how his future wife has been raised, so he tells her what she wants to hear before the wedding, and then goes his own way after the deal is sealed? I can't help but think that must happen at least some of the time. According to Debi's teachings, the wife is stuck, and that's ok. Smile! More sex. Accept. The end.

Nancy Campbell uses her magazine Above Rubies to encourage women to embrace even the worst situations for health, sanity, and safety with faith that God will come through for them. The magazine is often filled with stories of the fortunate minority that survived extreme circumstances related to childbirth or their marriage, held up as encouraging examples for the rest of the world. What about the great majority who will not survive their similar circumstances? We do not read about those in Above Rubies.

Doug Philips of Vision Forum decided to take a strong stand earlier this year against women getting medical attention for tubal pregnancies. Yes, that's right. According to Doug it would be better for a mother to die from having her fallopian tube rupture than to have the tubal pregnancy removed. Considering that his followers are commonly not using birth control and having lots and lots of kids, I fear for the many women who will find themselves in a life-threatening situation and feel that they must give up their life for a child that will not be able to live regardless. And what about the faithful men who will feel pressured to encourage their wives to sacrifice their own lives? He gets left with no wife and a house full of young children without a mother. Easy for Doug to say. What an abominable person he is.

Tonite I re-read my posts from April-June 2008 (you can find them through the Current Events category) about the FLDS situation where the YFZ ranch was raided and the children taken into foster care for months. After reading in Escape about the grievous situation that this group was in, I wondered if I would feel differently about anything I said then.

Well, I don't.

I still think it is very complex. I think it is not a good idea to try to prosecute cults based on their religious beliefs. Yes, I am in favor of getting after them for illegal behavior (and it seems that wackos usually have illegal behavior going on in addition to their religious teachings), but I think it is mighty subjective to start saying that the government has the right to interfere with whatever people think is the right way to live. I can think of so many groups that have "survivors" who would say they were damaged by the teachings of their religion. Most are considered pretty mainstream and normal. In a nation where we have religious freedom, unfortunately, that sometimes results in groups that believe and practice things that we do not like or think are healthy. I would still prefer religious freedom over the alternative.

I think that if anyone really wanted to help those people at the YFZ ranch, they should have made efforts to get helpful information to the women and children about resources for escape, options for education or birth control or whatever else they may have felt they needed. In a raid situation, this group had to stick together even tighter than ever, no matter how bad their situation might really have been.

Escape is worth a read if you have an interest in the subject or just like a compelling story. It certainly gives some interesting things to think about. If you are a fan of Big Love, you will see many similarities to the Juniper Creek group. And if you are watching TLC's new show Sister Wives, Escape will be quite a contrast.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

I come from strong women

Once upon a time in the late 1940s there were two families.

One family, a husband and wife, were childless. Unable to have babies of their own.

The other family had a husband with tuberculosis who was living at a sanitarium for his health, two toddlers having to live with relatives in order to keep them cared for, and a hard-working wife working as a nurse and trying to keep her family together as best she could under the dire financial circumstances she was in.

Oh. And she was pregnant.

An extremely tough situation. Ill husband. Living with a mean-spirited mother. Unable to even care for the two small children she already had. Tough pregnancy. Still having to work. Back up against a wall.

They made the decision to allow their baby to be adopted by the childless couple, who they knew and worked with.

This was during a time when open adoptions were not done. Often children grew up not even knowing they were adopted. Yet these two couples were brave. They had to trust each other.

The baby was my mother.


My mom grew up knowing she was adopted. When she was married she found out more about the unique circumstances surrounding her adoption. She was offered the opportunity to meet her birth mother, but due to the various family dynamics and so on, she didn't do it.

Over the years my mom kept thinking about the few details she knew. A last name. Names of her two siblings. General areas where they might live. Remember when the library had a bunch of phone books from all over the country? Yeah. Sometimes she would look up the names she knew to see if she could find her sister or brother.

This spring she got onto and did a little casual digging, which turned up a jackpot of information. Her birth mother Emily passed away several years ago. The obituary listed not only my mom's two full siblings, but six *more* half siblings, plus step-siblings!

Through the winding road of the wonderful world of google and facebook, my mom did her research, and has been in contact with several of her siblings for awhile now. Her mother spoke of my mom often as a part of their family life, so all of the siblings knew about her. My grandparents had sent photos of my mom as she was growing up, so they were familiar with those and compared themselves to her and wondered what she was like.

It has been really interesting to learn more about my mom's birth mother and their life. I am so proud of the two strong women that my grandmothers were. To dare to make an open adoption work in a time when it just was not! For my mom's birth mother to make such a tough choice in the face of extreme! For her to hand pick a couple that she knew to be good people that she could trust to take good care of her! I admire these couples so much.

I've written about my Gram several times. She was such a wonderful grandmother. I still miss her so much. How thankful I am that my mom made her way to the arms that she did. And I'm thankful to her birth mom Emily for choosing well.

We are quite pleased to have a DVD of a serious of interviews with Emily from a few years before she died. She was a spirited lady who loved adventure. I am enjoying getting to know her a bit. What a great thing that one of my mom's sisters could send us a copy of the recording. Each sibling that she has been in touch with has been so welcoming and happy to get to know her. It has been a very positive experience so far.

It is really amazing to think of all the twists and turns that happen in life to get us to where we end up. Isn't it?

Friday, October 01, 2010

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

I wrote a difficult email the other day. It was to my father. It contained some hard things that I felt needed to be said, and the worst was that I felt I had to decline his offer/request to come visit us.

My relationship with my father has been a difficult one. We went without any communication for over ten years. Since I made the effort to reconnect with him 7 years ago it has been ok, though odd and uncomfortable at times. In the last few months he had told me things that have been downright disturbing. And then he wanted to come visit us.

There is no way I can do that right now.

It is hard to explain a lifetime dysfunctional relationship in a single blog post. And I am certainly not going to attempt it in multiple posts. So, you will have to realize that there are a whole lot of things that are being left out of this story right now.

I am not the only one with issues with my father. Neither of my siblings have any contact with him, and for them it is going on 18 years or so.

My father was not a child molester. We never saw him beat my mom. He was not an alcoholic. I believe he tried to do better for us than his parents did for him. He did many good things for us and with us. He was proud of his kids and enjoyed watching us grow and accomplish things.

But he also brought a lot of pain, sadness, and other negatives into our lives.

Over the years I have asked myself what exactly it was that has kept us all at a distance from him. I know that there are lots of people in the world with crappy fathers, and they still talk on the phone, go help him mow his lawn, and invite him for Thanksgiving. So what was different for us? I could not put a label on it. Recently my brother said the perfect word:


My father's behavior is inherently toxic. He would choose revenge and bitterness over forgiveness, even to the point of his own destruction. The past 18 years of his life are a perfect example. He went from not consistently paying child support, to not paying it at all (for my two dependent, minor siblings at the time), to saying that he would rather go to jail than pay one red cent to my mother, and then he got his wish and spent about six months in jail for non-payment. And from there he proceeded to live a hard life of trying to exist without a driver's license, and with under-the-table jobs so that he could avoid having his wages garnished by the state to pay the child support. He has been homeless, jobless,penniless, and hungry. All to keep "winning" at his game of revenge.

My siblings got to see that there was no unconditional fatherly love available for them. He prized his anger over everything else.

In the meantime my mother was struggling as a single parent of two teens, trying to get through nursing school so she could support herself and her kids, and having a pretty hard time financially. My younger sister actually put herself through our Christian school for her senior year thanks to her part time after-school job, because she didn't want to have to switch schools for her senior year.

Both of my siblings went on to college without the benefit of any fatherly support, either financial or otherwise. They went without cars, worked a lot, saved a lot, and in short basically had a tough row to hoe for everything they ever achieved, which was a lot. (1 degree for my brother plus world travel and more, and 2 master's degrees for my sister)

It is interesting to me that even back in the 1980s and early 1990s, although there was no mention (that I recall) in popular media about 'eliminating negative people from your life' like there is today, each of his children (and his wife) instinctively knew that this toxic relationship could not be maintained. He played a role in this, too. His toxic behavior worked to distance himself and alienate those that were close to him. In the end his own (toxic) mother did not even want him mentioned in her obituary, and the (toxic) extended family went on to "honor" that wish.

It's some baaaad joojoo. That's what.

My father has told me several times since we have been back in contact, that he is not the man he used to be; that he is damaged badly; that he is mentally damaged from the years of hardship he has endured.

I believed him. I really did.

But recently I have seen and experienced some examples of this that really drove the point home for me.

So now I see a little more clearly. And I can't have him visit us.

I don't want to deal with the severe drain of stress that an extended visit with him would surely bring.
I don't want him spending an extended period of time around my children.
I have serious concerns that he might not even be safe to have staying with us.

And although I know those things clearly, it is still very hard. Hard to think it, hard to tell him, and hard to live it.

When I have had to witness his toxicity, it really shakes me up. It is deeply sad. My father is a man who had a lot of potential at one point. Seeing his life wasted as it has been these past 18 years is a real shame.

Some people got great dads that dote on the grandchildren and give wise advice and help out when times are hard.

Not me.

There was a certain amount of peace for the years that there was no contact. I had no idea where he was or if he was alive. I was busy. Life flew by as I was raising six children.

But I never felt completely at ease with the way things were. What kind of example was I setting for my own children, to have no relationship with my own father? How could I live out the command to honor your parents with a decade of silence for one of them? I could never reconcile those things. So I took a chance and reached out. Some of the results have been positive. Much has been neutral. And recently, quite a bit of hard stuff.

So here I am.

One of these days I will get a return email from him with his response to what I had to say. I did my best to be kind, but honest, about how shaken I have been by his recent behavior, and how I feel unable to handle having him come visit us.

I feel sorry for him getting an email like that. He seems to not have much positive in his life, and I hate to take away his dream of coming to visit us. It makes me feel ill, really, to deal with this, even though it is clear to me what I needed to say.

Every time I check my email I am bracing myself. This is one of those heavy stress items that gets dragged around behind me all day and all night, wearing on me, poking holes in my energy and causing it to leak out.

It stinks.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


My youngest asked what else we were having for dinner. I told him veggies. He said,"veggies?! Veggies! I've had, like, a thousand veggies in my life! How many more is it gonna take?!". I guess he thought we were trying to meet a quota.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Overheard my 7 year old say to his brother:

"A bunch of snot was unleashed, and came running out of my nose."


Friday, September 24, 2010


Earlier today I had a yogurt that my youngest wanted.

Youngest: "why do YOU get one and I don't?"

Me: "because I'm special."

Youngest: "why are YOU so special?!"

5th child: "because she's the mother that gave us birth!"
(which sounded like "berf")

Yes. I am the berf-er. The end.

Monday, September 20, 2010


About a month ago I agreed to do a postcard exchange among members of one of my email groups. I thought it would be neat for my kids to get postcards from all over the place.

But I wasn't thinking about how many people might sign up to be a part of this, or the cost of postcards and postage.


50 people signed up. So....that's going to get a little pricey.

And then I couldn't find postcards anywhere that I thought sold them.


I found one place online, and it was going to cost over $40 to order the cards I needed. And then of course I would have to address and write about our state on every. single. card.

Plus pay to mail them.

Oh lawsy.

As I was about to bite the bullet tonite and fork over $43 for the postcards, I thought of vistaprint.

Oh vistaprint, how I love thee.

Thankfully, it was not too hard to find a postcard in stock there that had horses on it, which is one of the things Kentucky is famous for.

I found that vistaprint offers a service where they will mail your cards for you.

Bingo! I designed my own Kentucky post card, had our message with interesting trivia about Kentucky printed on the back, and entered all of the addresses of the recipients. For just $2 more than I was going to spend on *just* the cards, I am getting the cards, the printed message, the postage, AND the whole thing FINISHED AND NEVER COMING TO MY HOUSE TO WAIT FOR ME TO DO IT.

And I like that a whole bunch.

Now I have learned my $45 lesson to never sign up to do this again.

But we are enjoying the postcards that are coming to us from all over. Very cool!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I Feel a Need for the List

I'm feeling very overwhelmed by the amount of things still on my To Do list today, so have decided to make one of those wonderful lists of good things I have done today:

Single-handedly got the kids to church today, participated, visited with friends there, coordinated one social outing for a teen, plus kept the four youngest kids longer than anybody else their age, in order to help take down all of the chairs and equipment. It was a good opportunity for them to serve.

Resisted the impulse to buy pizza on the way home. Instead pressed on with four hungry boys and ate lunch at home. Managed to make it fun, too!

Had a phone call with the husband discussing some issues that needed to be dealt with. Tiring, but ended up good.

Had my afternoon hijacked by an unforeseen problem that required me to drive an hour, spend an hour, plus take up a lot of physical and mental energy, but did it anyhow and managed to have a good attitude about it.

Fed all children and pets. And self.

Endured a conversation with one of my children about a recurring theme, and stuck to my guns, did my best to strike a fine balance between encouragement and tough love. Did not go bonkers like I actually wanted to.

Had kids do some chores even though they are not being very cooperative and I am tired. I could have let it slide, but things are getting pretty messy here, so I had to get *something* accomplished to beat back this mess.

Good deeds that remain to be done this evening:
-completing middle school paperwork for tomorrow morning
-helping new middle schooler pack her lunch and backpack
-hopefully going to bed at a decent hour

The End

Saturday, September 18, 2010

This Might Just Be the Undoing Of Me

A teenage daughter. That's what.

I see now how lucky I was. My first teenager was my son who is so much like me and it is very, very easy for me to understand him and for us to get along. We are two peas in a pod in many ways.

When he got into the teen years, yes, I will admit that there were tricky times. Overall, though, I was the Teen Whisperer. My husband would be frustrated and bewildered, but I possessed the natural skills to calm the stormy seas between the two of them, and to act as an interpreter when they could not understand each other.

How nice that was.

Now, I suspect it may be my husband's time to shine, because the way things are going so far with my daughter.....clearly I am outside of my skill set.

I would say that out of ten times that I engage in talking to her, trying to include her in something, or in any other way communicate with her, 6-8 of those times will be met with one of the following:

-a look of extreme boredom
-rude behavior of some other sort

I am not a parent who accepts getting run over by crap behavior. Although I certainly do understand the hormonal difficulties and other troubles of this age, I also believe that we can choose to have kind behavior to one another.

So I mention it. I coach. I lovingly correct. I discipline. I come down hard when I need to.

But, this is a child with a special strength to her personality. Which is very, very good in many ways. But not good when it results in strong resistance to being corrected.

She seems stubbornly committed to snotty behavior. And it might just be the end of me.

It feels like it has been going on for a long time now. I am not the only victim of her bad attitude. Her siblings deal with it all day long as well, so I have ample opportunities to continue to correct, defend, model appropriate behavior, and so on. (and get argued with, and get eyes rolled at me, and to have her stay in her bedroom as much as humanly possible)

It isn't catching on, people. Not with this one. Not right now.

Logic tells me that she will outgrow this. Experience tells me that this child doesn't always outgrow stuff. (I thought she would outgrow her picky eater stage as a preschooler. She didn't. And now she has serious difficulties with eating normally. It's not fun for any of us.)

Yesterday I took her out to shop. We have decided to let her go to middle school. Monday is her first day. She needed shirts with collars in order to meet the dress code. So off we went, in search of shirts. Which you would think would make a teenager happy.

It was hard to find the kind of shirts she needs. It took a long time. We were wilting. She got snottier and snottier as the day wore on. It was horrible. I was doing my best to hunt down the right kind of shirts and dig out her size and show them to her and of course never (ever!) act like I care if she picks this one or that one because it is a rule for mothers of teenagers to not try to pressure them into dressing a certain way. (thankfully, I really don't care what she wears, so I have no internal struggle on this. The trick is to not let any inflection of your voice make the kid even suspect that you are trying to talk them into anything....)

At one point she had been so rude, unthankful, and unpleasant that I seriously, seriously considered turning right around and marching back to the car and ending the shopping trip. Under other circumstances I would have. Under these circumstances, this was our only opportunity to get this done before she needs the clothes, we live a long way from the mall, and I could not foresee a time in the near future when her father or I could take her back to continue the hunt.

So it went on. With me working at not bursting into tears.

All-in-all, we finally got some shirts, I got a seriously aching back, we got to have a fight in the car on the way home, and I got to cry myself to sleep over this.

Yes, seriously.

I'm sure some psychologist would say that my daughter and I are both afraid of the upcoming changes of her going to school, or of her growing up, or some other thing.

Somebody else might blame it on PMS. (thankfully there are only two females in our household who can synchronize our menstruation, and thus our PMS as well....)

I don't know what to blame it on, but I don't like it. Not one bit.

As I recall, my snotty-teenager days were short-lived, and I think ended when I was 13. I had witnessed some very loving mother-daughter relationships at our church mother-daughter banquet, and realized that I could make the choice to just enjoy my mom, who I already realized was a really fun and cool person. While I'm sure I was not a perfect angel for every minute of the rest of my growing up, I know that the choice I made that day stuck with me and served me (and our whole family, I'm sure) very well. It would sure be nice if my daughter could figure something like that out.

My husband had (yet another) talk with her today, after listening to me cry last night. I don't know what he said to her, but she has been trying to be nicer today. It has gone well. Somehow, I feel like a person afraid of getting bitten by a snake. I am thankful that she has been nice, but I am kinda nervous around her.

It's not how I want to feel about my own kid.


"Can't go under it...
Can't go over it...
Can't go around it....
Gotta go through it!"

Pray for me. She's only 14. God have mercy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ten Easy Steps to Leaving Town for Vacation

Step 1: Diligently pack van the night before, and wake up on time for an early departure.

Step 2: Excited children announce the water is all over the floor in the family room. Discover that the hot water heater has decided to die.

Step 3: Call husband who is driving home from work to let him know the "good news" and listen to his near-hysterical cackle in response to the excitement. Turn off water to house. Have children assist in mopping up water and picking up wet items from all over the family room. Bonus: There are now at least two new loads of laundry to deal with before your trip!

Step 4: Husband arrives home. Dovetail efforts to A.) drain hot water heater, B.) keep cats out of the house (we do NOT want a stowaway cat left in the house while we are gone!), C.) finish packing, D.) answer the "how much longer?!" questions from every child under the age of 20, and E.) keep people gainfully occupied and burning off their pre-trip excitement.

Step 5: Husband and oldest son drive to fetch new hot water heater. They return in about an hour. Proceed to wrestle gargantuan 80 gallon dead hot water heater out of the house, and wrestle the new one in. Children are instructed to get some bricks from the back yard to achieve desired height for new hot water heater, but they are very slow because of their fear of the spiders living near the bricks. (sigh)

Step 6: Desired height of hot water heater achieved. Husband succeeds in hooking it up to the water, water to house turned on again. Let the filling begin!

Step 7: Complete filling almost achieved when a leak (a leak!!) is revealed. Resist desire to say bad words. Call Whirlpool to find out what next. Good news! They will replace the unit. Bad news: You have to drain the *new* unit, wrestle it back *out* of the house, return to store, get a new one, and start all over again. (the first time was only a drill! Second time is the real deal!)

Step 8: Get new unit and return home. Field constant questions from children like, "What time will we be leaving?!" Feed children at fast food restaurants since all the food on hand was eaten in preparation for being gone away for a week. Husband-wife pow-pow to discuss relative merits of leaving today (12 hour drive) and arriving in the middle of the night, vs. waiting until the next morning to leave. Husband and son install yet another hot water heater. Let the filling begin again!

Step 9: Oh-so-very-bravely decide to do one of those loads of laundry plus run the dishwasher and get to (finally!) flush the toilets, to get things going and see how the new system holds up. So far, so good.

Step 10: Husband declares himself fit to travel after this already strenuous day. Family departs at 3:15pm. Studly husband drives the entire way, arriving safely at destination around 3am. What a man!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Favorite iPhone Apps

Not being a technology enthusiast, I never jump on the shiny-new-latest-greatest bandwagon. I had the same tricycle cell phone for probably 5 or 6 years, as it was gradually falling apart. Eventually it died 100% and I had to break down and buy something else. And the guy at the store convinced me that an iphone would actually be the easiest thing for me to get used to, so I decided to give it a try.

I was enamored with my new phone within about 5 minutes of driving away from the place. And now I feel like my iphone is as important to me as a computer with internet service. If I had known how it could help me be so much more efficient, organized, informational...well....I would have got one awhile back. Nobody told me that stuff, so I had no idea what I was missing.

Well, now I do. And I love this thing.

I thought I would share with you some of my favorite apps so far. Most have been free. A few I have paid $1-3 for:

Facebook: makes it quick and easy to stay in touch on FB

Pandora radio: create your own radio stations based on the music you like. Just enter the name of an artist you enjoy, and the station will play that music as well as similar stuff. You give it a quick thumbs up or thumbs down to hear it again or never again. I have stations for various moods and genres that I enjoy.

iBooks: Easy to download books, and much there is free. I have not had an interest in buying a kindle or nook or reading this way, but now that I have experienced it, I like it. I do not think it will ever replace my enjoyment of real books, but it is nice to always have a book (or dozens of books) handy, and nobody lost my bookmark!

Kindle (same as above)
Nook (same as above)

Grocery IQ: Super cool! Easily scan the bar codes on the groceries you normally buy. This app makes categorized lists for you so forevermore you will actually have your shopping list on hand whenever you end up at the grocery store. Easy to use, easy to tweak. Love this!

ToDo Tomorrow: I like To Do lists, but more often than not, a whole lot of it ends up rolling over to the next day. This app makes it easy. I add the stuff to my list, and at the end of the day when I give up on the two-thirds of the stuff that didn't get done, I just tap an arrow and shove it all over to the next day. A procrastination supporter at it's best! :)

P Tracker Lite: Hmmm....why am I cranky and emotional? What day is it? Is my period almost here? Just check your P Tracker to see how many days out you are from P-Day.

Memory Pro Free: Do you or your kids like to play memory match games? This one is portable and easy to do! Can be adjusted from super easy to more complex.

Talking Carl: Worth every penny of the dollar or whatever that it cost me. This lovable character will talk back to you in a funny voice, plus you can poke and tickle him and get him making funny sounds. If you believe laughter is the best medicine, you need this. The giggle is contagious for all ages, and definitely gives a lift anytime you need it. Fun!

Whirly Word: I found this while looking for an app for Text Twist, which I like to play online. As it turned out, at least while I was looking, Text Twist seems to not have a good working app, so I gave this a try. I enjoyed it, although I played it so much that eventually the same words were coming up again and again.

Jumbline: After I wore out Whirly Word I found Jumbline which cost a dollar or two, and I like it very much. You can choose 5, 6, or 7 letter words. They are more challenging than Whirly Word or Text Twist. I like to give that part of my brain a stretch, and this is a fun way to do it. Also fun for the kids, especially emerging spellers.

Complete Sight Words: Dolch sight word flash cards for my kids, plus a hangman game. This cost a couple dollars and was well worth it. The flashcards can read themselves to the child, or can be set to be silent unless the child taps the word to hear what it is. Has all levels from pre-primer up to 3rd grade and the nouns. Very helpful, and SO nice to always know where *all* the flash cards are!

Unblock Me free: An interesting and challenging puzzle game. We all play it, ages 7-40. Great for logic, spacial reasoning, and a good brain stretch.

ePuzzle: Another good puzzle for the brain. Remember those slide-y puzzles with the little squares that you moved around into the one clear space until you made the right picture? This is like that, except with numbers. You have to get them into the right order.

U Connect: A different kind of puzzle game. Soothing and challenging as well. Interesting for all ages at our house.

Tangrams LE: a free tangram program. Fun for all.

Fandango: Are you ever in the car or in an area you are not familiar with and think that maybe you would like to see a movie someplace? Having Fandango handy helps a whole lot! Search for the movie you want, and in many cases you can even purchase tickets in advance instead of having to wait in line!

Netflix: Now you can watch Instant Play movies on your iphone. Sweet!!

Positivity: A free app that shares uplifting and inspirational quotes. I love it.

Flashlight Free: Do you ever need a flashlight? This app is for you! Easy to use. Also offers crazy lights like strobe and other fun stuff.

Goby: If you are looking for stuff to do and don't know what's going on or where to go, Goby will help.

Onion News Network: If you have a sense of humor that appreciates The Onion, you will love this. Laugh your head off at their latest videos on your phone.

Web MD: Medical information with me at all times. I like that. Search symptoms, conditions, drugs and treatments, first aid information, local health information, etc.

ITriage: Gives info on symptoms, you can store your own health info there which can be great for remembering facts while visiting various doctors, call 911 right from the app if you need to, etc.

Bible from Life Church TV: Easy to use in church, easy to use to study, reading plans available too. Nice!

Vacation Photos

Cauliflower Curry

I don't mind telling you that I'm not an adventurous eater. I am not a person who wants to travel the world to taste food everywhere. I have never lived anywhere that had Indian, Cuban, or any other authentic ethnic cuisine. I grew up on all-American food, with Americanized Italian food on the side. :)

So, all of that to say I have little-to-no experience with curry. Normally, if I had seen this recipe in a book I would not have even considered making it. If I had looked at the ingredients, double that. But thankfully, my mom made this while we visited her last week and Oh-me-oh-my! this is Soooooo Gooood! My husband and some of the kids loved it too. And I have been dreaming of making it here at home ever since.

Today's the day!

I love crock pot recipes that don't ask me to do much beyond throw everything in the pot. If I have to pre-cook stuff, to me it kinda loses the point. Well, this is one of those easy-peasy recipes, so, give it a try! (ok, you will have to chop some stuff....can you handle it? :) )

Throw into the crock pot:

4 cups cauliflowerets (fresh or frozen)

3 medium tomatoes seeded and chopped (2+ cups) or the equivalent of canned diced tomatoes (get cans without BPA please!)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 14-ounce can coconut milk (not cream of coconut) (I'm not really sure how healthy this is, so report back to me if you have anything to say about it. There is no sugar in it, but there were some preservatives. I found mine by Chinese food at the grocery store.)

1 Tablespoon soy sauce, or you could substitute Bragg's liquid aminos

1.5 teaspoon (not 15!) curry powder

half a teaspoon sea salt

half a teaspoon dried crushed basil

Cook on low 4-6 hours.
Shortly before you want to eat, stir in 6 ounces fresh organic spinach. Cover and continue to heat on low for 10-15 minutes or so.

The perfect accompaniment to this is organic brown rice. If you have a rice cooker and will not be home while this is cooking, use it!

Experiments I look forward to trying with this:
-throwing already-cooked rice into the pot for the last hour of the cook time
-you could add cut up bits of cooked chicken to this as well
-the recipe book I saw this in suggested topping this with chopped peanuts, raisins, and/or shredded coconut. I would not have thought of any of those, but now it sounds really yummy.

This is very warm, soothing, comfort food. Perfect for fall and winter! Be brave and give it a try. Let me know how you like this. :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tight Spaces

We were recently on a road trip that takes us through tunnels under mountains during the journey. My kids love going through the tunnels, but for me, I do some extra deep breathing and keep looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. I do not like tight spaces, and find that my uncomfortableness with them seems to have increased in recent years.

Tonite I was thinking about some things and realized that there is a parallel between my discomfort with tight spaces and how I have been feeling lately: overwhelmed by the needs of others. Or, over-needed, perhaps.

Between the needs of the kids, the home, my husband, homeschooling, not homeschooling, learning disabilities, guidance of older teens growing into adulthood (and needing much more guidance than you might expect!), businesses and customers, my employment as a caregiver to a handicapped person, friends, and so on, it can feel like a lot. Although I consistently work to simplify, I also consistently work to do well at serving the ones I love and meeting the needs they have in good ways. But, when one is over-needed, there doesn't seem to be a way to get a break.

You could call it a tight space, I think.

This is one thing about life, marriage, motherhood, and all the rest that I find interesting: you cannot necessarily anticipate how long of a marathon you can run, or how well you can run it. You may start out slow or fast or medium speed, with varying levels of style, form, talent, and energy. But you don't know when you might get a hitch in your giddyup, shin splints, or come upon a road block or landslide. And then what? Nothing stops for you---you just have to figure out how to continue to carry on.

It doesn't really seem fair.

And then you realize that you're on this treadmill for life. Which doesn't help.

Thank God that we usually get a second (third, fourth....) wind. We sure do need 'em, don't we?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

It Will Cost You, and Rightfully So

My kids aren't all grown up yet. The oldest is 18, but as far as proof in the pudding and all that jazz, I don't have that much of it. (proof or pudding) Yes, my kids are pretty cool and are doing well in many ways. I'm pleased with who they are. But most of my deeper parenting issues are still in the wait-and-see-how-it-will-turn-out phase.

While I try to have a healthy amount of modesty and self-depreciation about my parenting, there are some things I am willing to be brave about and dare to say how I think it should be. If it turns out I'm wrong, maybe I will post a retraction here on this blog in five or ten years. Tune in to see!

What I want to talk about is sacrifice. Good parenting requires personal sacrifice. Many people think they understand this, but they are not really ready to dig in their heels and continue to sacrifice when it goes in directions that are too inconvenient and costly.

Good parenting requires strong leadership and strong character. If you do not have one or both of these traits, hopefully you will develop those muscles as your parenting journey unfolds. If you don't, I hope that you have been blessed with good-natured, hard-working, stable-minded children who will be able to thrive despite those lacks.

We've had a couple things come up recently that I thought I would share as examples of the kind of sacrifice I have found necessary in order to teach and lead my children in the way I think they will most benefit from.

Our oldest son got his driver's permit when he was 16, but the deal was that he was not going to get his license until he could afford to pay his part of the car insurance. While I do not think this is a must for every family, in our case we thought it was important. I had been encouraging him to seek employment since he was 14 or 15 in order to save money for this time in his life, and he had not done it. So now he had no money and no prospects for earning any. And right away he was saying to me, "I see now why I should have tried harder to get a job back when you were telling me that." Uh huh. Yep.

Reasons why we wanted him to pay his own insurance:
-To connect the privilege of driving with the financial responsibility, as well as the personal responsibility to seek, obtain, and maintain employment

Sacrifices we made to wait it out while he got to this point:
-We were driving him around for 12 months that he could have been eligible for a license, including taking up two days every week of driving him 45 minutes each way to some classes he was taking, and disrupting our homeschool schedule and complicating other schedules. This was happening while gas prices were getting pretty crazy too. It cost us a lot of time and money and inconvenience. It would have been cheaper for us to just pay for his insurance ourselves. But the long term goal was more important that the short-term ease.

Eventually he got some odd jobs and earned some decent money and was in a position to pay for his insurance and he got his license. He now pays us monthly for his part of the car insurance, and has also taken over paying his portion of the cell phone bill. Little by little, we will both encourage him to become an accomplished saver, as well as to take over the costs of his adult life. We're raising a man here, not a boy.


My new licensed driver got a speeding ticket, going 24 miles per hour over the speed limit. Not cool. At all. He gets to appear in court (the only option was court) to deal with this ticket and whatever consequences there are. He will be paying for the entire cost of the ticket, and it is possible that he might even have his license suspended because he was still a probationary driver when this happened.

Know what? We're not going to try to fix it or make it softer for him. We will go with him to court. We are not angry at him. We will encourage him to accept whatever happens. He needs to experience the consequences of this. If it means he has no license for 90 days, so be it. Then he can see how that will impact his life. Kinda hard to have a job and pay your bills without a driver's license, you know?

I'm not a hard-hearted parent. I love my kids like crazy. I love 'em enough to let them experience the consequences of their mistakes, because I would rather have him fully experience the costs of his behavior now, rather than be an irresponsible husband or father someday because he never had to face up to his actions.


We have taught our kids for as long as they could understand, about saving, paying cash, and staying out of debt. With our oldest son we are now where the rubber meets the road with this stuff. He is still in his final year of homeschooling, but is 18, so has adult options in the wide world. We will not be buying him a car, but are encouraging him to work and save his money to buy one. What we have done is kept a third vehicle of ours for him to drive since when he works it would be difficult for us to just have two vehicles. We're not giving him the car, but it is available to him on a temporary basis while he gets up on his own two feet with a car of his own.

My husband started considering some other options for what to do about this third car. He was seeing financial benefits to us of selling the third car, buying something adequate for our son with the proceeds, and then letting our son pay us for the car in installments. Later in discussing it together, we realized: this was missing the point. I neither want my son in debt for a car to a car dealership or a bank OR his parents. I think it is important for him to work, save, discipline himself, make a purchase within his budget, and reap the satisfaction of having a completely paid for car that he earned by the sweat of his brow. I believe he will appreciate it more, take better care of it, and more importantly, he will have gotten over yet another hurdle in how to manage his money and make wise financial decisions that will have a huge positive impact on the rest of his life and his own family someday.

What it costs us to live this out:
-The cost of maintaining a third car.
-Also, the third car is a gas guzzler, so that costs my son more to drive.
-The risk of our son damaging the third car (which he already has, mildly) and us losing the resale value even further.

What I believe will be gained by sticking with it:
-A young man who knows how to work, save, discipline, plan, and appreciate what he has.
-A young man who sees that he is capable of doing what it takes to be smart financially.
-Helping him live out what we have taught him is important.


Tonite was a new one, this time from my 12 year old son. Back in June we were at a Christian music festival, and a speaker was recruiting new sponsors for Compassion international. My 12 year old was moved (maybe manipulated) into raising his hand, and eventually standing to his feet, to take on the responsibility of sponsorship for a child in Ethiopia. After discussing it ourselves, my husband and I talked to our young son about the cost of sponsorship ($38/mo), and what we were willing to do to help him take this on (we would pay half), and what we were willing to do to help him do his part (provide extra chore opportunities that he could earn money from). Basically, if our son works for 15 minutes a day for 19 days in a month, he will have earned his part of the money.

He was all for it.

We paid for the initial payment.
His birthday money paid for his half of the second payment.
And in three months he has never once asked for an extra job so he could earn money. And I have been waiting to see what would happen when this month's money was due, because I knew it would be crunch time for him.

This child avoids work more than any of my other children, and is the least likely to take the initiative to earn money through work. This has been his tendency for as long as I can recall. So I felt that this was a wonderful opportunity for him to have to work, as well as having to be generous.

Well tonite it all caught up with him. He came to me, starting to cry, because he felt overwhelmed at the thought of being financially obligated to this child in Ethiopia. He was sad because he does not have money to do fun things, and had recently experienced having no pocket money to do something fun that his siblings did have money for.

While I can really appreciate how he was feeling, I pointed out to him the strength and ability he has to rise to the obligation and to be able to bless and care for a child who needs help. While he could agree that he is certainly able to work for 15 minutes most days, the bottom line is that he doesn't really want to any more. *Now* he feels the fruit of emotional manipulation (which I will rant about some other day) and wants out.

Well, I'm not giving him a way out. I am going to provide him with an opportunity to grow and be strong and overcome some of his lazy tendencies.

What this will cost me:
-$19 a month to do the half sponsorship
-coming up with extra jobs for him to do that he can earn $19 a month
-dealing with him doing jobs that he might not do well (either because of attitude or ability) with grace and continue to encourage him and guide him even though I might really prefer to have someone else do the job, or do it myself
-helping him remember to write letters to his sponsored child and taking the lead for all such efforts
-listening to him cry, be sad, feel misunderstood, or whatever for as long as it takes

What I believe we will get for our efforts:
-a child in Ethiopia getting an education, health care, and more
-a son who will learn to work even though he does not like to
-a son who will hopefully come to value his ability to bless others through his strength and heart
-a son who will be wiser in the future when emotionally manipulative speakers try to sway him (he is an easily influenced child), and who will hopefully learn to think clearly and logically about decisions
-hopefully the other kids will see the example of this, and honestly I hope that they all decide to sponsor kids through Compassion. I would go halfsies with each one of them and help them do jobs around the house, too, if they could catch the bug for service, sacrifice, and hard work


I think it is important to remember the big picture, long-term stuff when it comes to parenting issues.

It is important to take the blinders off as much as you can, and see the character strengths and weaknesses that your kids have, and be willing to work on what needs work.

It is important for parents to be able to muster the emotional, physical, mental, and financial STRENGTH to do what is best for each child, even when it comes at a high personal cost. The best things in life do not come for free. When it comes to preparing our kids for the rest of their lives, it's true even moreso.

Good luck to all of my fellow parents! Whether you have one child or a whole bunch, it is a job that demands (and deserves!) the very best we have to offer. Phew!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Yay Me, Day One

So I'm reading a fun book: Helping Me Help Myself: one skeptic, ten self-help gurus, and a year on the brink of the comfort zone. In the book the author, Beth Lisick, attempts to improve herself via various modes of self-help resources, even though it's never really been appealing to her to do so before.

One of the suggestions she reads about is to look at yourself in a mirror at the end of each day and tell yourself all of the good things you did that day. After my recent evenings of just feeling overwhelmed with all of the shortfalls and failings of the days, I thought that it might actually be a nice thing to do for awhile, if only to attempt to retrain my thoughts to drift toward the positive instead of the negative.

So, alas, a list of good things for today:

-I went to church even though I did not feel like it

-I got my work papers taken care of even though there were obstacles in my way

-I took a long nap which I desperately needed

-I did not say all of the grouchy things that came to mind, which was a lot for some reason

-I finally gave 3 of my boys haircuts, which they have needed for weeks, even though I did not want to. I have calculated my earnings for this task as $72 an hour. Which makes it seem more worthwhile than it sometimes feels. (on the upside, I really do like having the time to personally do their hair and spend the time with them and talk to them and look at their cute faces. I must try to remember this for next time.)

-I worked on getting caught up on laundry, which had become a gigantic pile. We are now on schedule for having laundry all caught up by tomorrow, which is needing to be done.

-I took care of some customer service issues AND got some business newsletters finished and scheduled for the next week

-I got the dishwasher caught up and ready to receive newly dirty dishes for morning

-I arranged to borrow something from a friend that will make my family's life easier for the next week or so.

I will now resist the urge to tell about any things that also needed to get done but didn't and will go to bed soon. Good night.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I Think We're Over It

Our oldest son turned 18 this week. What he wanted for a party was a headbanger concert. So that's what we had.

We've done a few of these shows. He gets in touch with some bands and arranges for them to come play, and we parents secure a place to have the thing, organize the food, security, and hang around providing drinks and snacks and supervision and reminders to smoke outside and stay til the bitter end to make sure the place is cleaned up and every kid has gotten a ride home.

We like to support the interests that our kids have. We like to be fun parents. But this time, I think the experience has about done us in. Since it's nearly 1am now I won't promise anything, but the two little words I've been thinking for the past several hours are Never Again.

We set the timing of this thing to be 7-10, even though he was wanting 6-11. Yeah, um, no thank you. He always does this thing where he plans it for too darn long, there is a ton of down time in between bands setting up and taking down, and it just wears out the welcome, you know? not to mention, after listening to loud, screamo, growly music for hours, we are pretty much ready to get it over with.

So we were being smart, you see, going for just 3 hours. (plus it's a school night, so probably most kids can't really stay much past 10 anyhow)

Unfortunately, there were technical problems. Big ones. That meant that although the party started at 7, there was no music until 9:15.


And we had three bands lined up to play.

So, you can imagine the rest of the story.

Band number one, very good.

Band number two, pretty good. Crowd dwindling.

Band number three gets set up, and only a few exhausted headbangers linger around the edge of the room, many kids are out in the parking lot packing their cars and vans full of music equipment. Including my kid, clueless that band three has begun. So even he missed listening to this nice guy and his band play for his party.

Frankly, I was horrified. So rude! So thoughtless! So failing to truly appreciate what others had done for him.

It was the back-breaking straw for this camel, I'll tell ya.

Yes, I guess he didn't actually know that the other band was starting. But I know my son, and if it was a band that he was really, really excited about, he would not have missed it. no way.

The thing went very late. we just got home a few minutes before midnight. I think I have already earned my Cool Mom Badge, and now I can stop being this cool.

(*My husband was cool and did a little moshing tonite. Someone else was even cooler. That person did a back flip. and while he was doing it, my husband turned just in time to get the flying feet to the face. The poor guy was pretty wrecked. But at least some teenager came and asked him "How old are you?" Dave tells him, "40." Happily, the kid says, "40! and you can mosh like that? wow! That's awesome." So, you know, not a total loss...)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Plain Hick Town

At the end of a letter to the editor in my town newspaper, where the writer is unhappy about the new school dress code:

"Wake up. This is a plain hick town and there isn't anything wrong with our kids wearing plain t-shirts. Before anyone gets mad, I can say this is a hick town because I was born and raised here."

Well, ok then. I live in a hick town. End of story.

Swirling: Update

Well, the boys made it through their trip to the dentist, and nobody even asked if I was going, nor complained because I was not there. So.

Financial anxiety compounded by $400 dentist visit. Man, teeth are expensive!

Realized that I was given two sets of sheets that I thought I would not like, so planned to give them away. Decided it was a better plan to put them on the bed and give 'em a try, rather than have to go searching for new sheets and pay for 'em. Decision: the news sheets are just fine. Will be keeping them. Cross sheets off the list! (apply the money that would have been spent on the sheets to the dentist! Yes!)

The kids pitched in to help clean up the house, so things are somewhat better now. The trick is keeping it this nice and making it even better consistently. ha.

(yes, I can spin that plate, but then some other plate will not be spinning)

Today we have just a few things going on. Like, taking 1 cat to the vet (1 drop off, 1 pick up), dropping off some of the kids to spend time with their grandparents, and making a party for our 18 year old's birthday happen tonite. (complete with 2 bands and a glow dance/rave....I will be ready for bed tonite!)


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Swirling Around in My Noggin

Today has been a bit of a melancholy day. I guess I might be able to blame my gloomy thoughts, fears, and sadness on PMS, though it doesn't really help to do so.

Fears about the children and how will we get this, that, and the other done for them for school.

My new 18 year old got a speeding ticket that is going to cost him a pretty penny, and other consequences from it will be following him for awhile in the form of increased car insurance, and possibly a change in his license status. I really am ok with him dealing with the natural consequences of his actions, but now we also have to consider whether or not he should be losing some driving privileges as well. He just had a fender bender a couple weeks ago as well, so this is not sitting well for my husband and I. (sigh)

I realized that three of my little guys have to go for dental work tomorrow. I hate dental work! (for all of us) I have concerns about the Novocaine, the laughing gas, and most every other aspect of the process. (sigh) It is going to take several hours to get the three of them through their processes, and my husband has volunteered to take them. Which is wonderful of him, and I certainly have plenty to do here, so it's practical. but....I can't help but feel kind of like a cruddy mom to not accompany them. As one of my other kids once told me about this issue, "Moms are more comforting." (while tears welled up in his eyes...) So, side dish a Guilt, please! (the ones that are going tomorrow have not asked if I am going yet, so my guilt is purely self-inflicted at this point)

Had some financial anxiety today, which is interesting because it wasn't based in reality. I think I have spent so many years of my life in some level of financial anxiety (like, 38 of them...) that even now that we have a much better financial situation and are not needing to worry about juggling and suffering with our money, I still have moments of panic and fear that somehow we are going to run out of money and I will have to go back to the way things used to be. I knew it stunk while I was going through it, but at least I was used to it. With some space, and my unique form of financial PTSD, I see that it was more damaging than I realized. Don't. Wanna. Go. Back.

The house was a mess. Seemed like everywhere I turned I was faced with a zillion undone things, and chore areas that have not been well-done by children of any age. With 8 able-bodied citizens living here, I think it is reasonable that this house should be kept up better than it is. The trick is in the enforcement, which can be it's own career because of the time and dedication required. I busted around dealing with some of the issues that had been nagging at me and felt some better. I made lists for all the kids to accomplish while I was at work. They did fairly well and things are looking much nicer this evening.

I fell into reading some heavy stuff that got into my head and just contributed to making me sad. It was one of those can't-look-away experiences, even though I could tell that it was getting me down. Eventually I did get away, but then within a day or two seemed to be faced with a few other contentious groups/web sites that also bummed me out. Clicked them off and walked away today. Life's too short to deal with other people's toxicity.

Speaking of toxic, I have at least one toxic person left that I am going to have to deal with. I have set it on the back burner for now, but it is still there, bringing weight. Don't like that. don't know how to escape it. (or like the bear hunt song: Can't go around it, can't go under it, can't go above it, gotta go through it!)

Have been feeling discouraged about my weight. I lost that 30 pounds last year. This year I have probably gained back 5. or so.... Yes, I know how I lost the weight. Careful diet and consistent exercise. I also know that for the most part, it is mighty hard for me to live that way all the time. I have so many responsibilities, and then there are my human frailties....I do not know how I can realistically fit in trips to the gym, or early morning walks, when I have homeschooling taking up the lion's share of every day, work, and of course, everything else. I can see that I am losing some ground on my weight, and I do not want to go back any farther, but I also do not want my schedule to be more slammed than it already is. I understand now why people try so many weight loss tricks and pills--we are all too darn tired and busy to lose weight the honest way!

3 kids needing braces. 3 Pets needing to go to the vet. 3 people needing glasses. New sheets needed(current ones are finally beyond threadbare). Organizing art classes. Coorindating homeschool activities for my kids so they are happy, or at least less unhappy, as the case may be. Getting a ballroom dance class series going in my town. Oh yeah--somewhere in here I supposedly run a business or two. Fill the minds of my offspring with great and mighty things. Learn how to get the most out of my new iphone. Things I want to help people with or told them I would help with but then ran out of steam.

So much stuff! Some days I feel like just saying no to everything beyond home and school and work, and just try to re-spin those plates really well. but, you know, time stops for no woman....if it did we would all buy that app!