The following is the draft of the talk I gave today during our Christmas Sacrament meeting. I'm hesitant to post it since I don't ever read my talks, and what I actually said varies from this text but the ideas are the same. My prayer is that the spirit of the journey of Christmas long outlives December. Merry Christmas!
The Christmas story is relived each December in celebration of Christ’s birth but it’s really a story for the whole year.
The beginning of the story has always struck me - announcing the newborn Messiah by scaring people. I imagine the shepherds of the story, settled in for the night. Chatting around a fire, keeping watch or sleeping soundly when suddenly “an angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.” (Luke 2:9)
The first words of Christmas and not Joy to the World, Hosanna, Hallelujah. The first words of Christmas are “Fear Not” These words show how unexpected, out of place, and unnatural this occurrence was. The reality of the moment was even bigger than the shock of the poor shepherds. With the birth of the Savior everything was going to change. What was promised would now be fulfilled and nothing would be the same.
The shepherds teach us that at the heart of the story of Christmas is a journey. Not a journey of one night, or one year or even 33 years. The story of Christmas is the journey you begin the moment the Savior is born into your life. It is the journey you walk with family. The journey you take with friends, it is the journey all believers take together. And ultimately it is the journey you walk alone, with your Savior.
It is the road to Emmaus. It is the road to Damascus. It is the road to Bountiful. It is the Trail of Tears and the trek to Salt Lake. Scripture records again and again the journeys of believers of Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, Mary and Joseph, Saul...Paul, Ammon, Nephi, Pioneer saints the list goes on.
It is the record of those who heed the call to “Come follow me” and try their very best, to actually follow Him. Yet like Peter who offered his life for the Savior’s sake only to deny him thrice a short while later, we fall all too short only to have the Lord as he says in Isaiah whisper - “I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” (Isaiah 41:13)
So how do we Journey to Christ? We can learn a lot from the shepherds. Finding Christ is about changing, becoming. It’s about getting up from the place where we are comfortable and stepping outside of ourselves. Doing things we wouldn’t normally do, often in new places with new people. The journey of the shepherds was quick. Scripture says “they came with haste.” Finding the newborn babe lying in a manger.
Few of us in this room are actual shepherds, or have had angelic visitations, yet we all have heard the whisperings of the Spirit. The call of the Savior to be more like Him, to follow Him - to come unto Him. Really doing that requires change. It requires us to, like the shepherds, move from where we are comfortable much closer to the manger.
I have a long list of character traits, quirks, idiosyncrasies - OK, flaws that as a disciple of the Savior I should change. One that I’ll admit publicly is my tendency to over focus. If I have something I’m doing, working on or thinking about I tend to block the rest of the world out. More than one of you have scolded me for ignoring your friendly waves as you drive by. On more than one occasion I have been standing next to a person I know and not noticed - I’m just living in my own little head world. This would be useful if I were say a brain surgeon, but as a housewife, it’s not so useful. I am constantly chastising myself for missing an opportunity to do something good, not taking notice of a person in need, realizing after the fact some great window of opportunity that had closed.
A few years ago I was reading the Ensign and came across an article that struck me to the core. It was the story of a woman at the grocery store at Christmas time, with her two young, tired and unruly children. She was checking out and trying to decide which line to get in - the line with one person who had a full cart or the line with three people with only a few things each. She chose the line with the one person and as the lines progressed she felt quite pleased with her choice.
The story continues: And then, over the sound of the store’s cheery holiday music, I heard the checker in the other line talking loudly, too loudly. I glanced over as my hands kept working.
“No, I’m sorry,” the checker was almost shouting at the old woman, who didn’t seem to understand. “That card won’t work. You are past your limit. Do you have another way to pay?” The tiny old woman blinked at the checker with a confused expression. Not only were her hands shaking now, but her shoulders too. The teenage bagger rolled her eyes and sighed.
I thought to myself: “Boy, did I choose the right line! Those three are going to be there forever.” My mood was positively smug as my checker began scanning my food.
But the smiling woman directly in line behind the elderly lady had a different reaction. Quietly, with no fanfare, she moved to the older woman’s side and ran her own credit card through the reader.
“Merry Christmas,” she said softly, still smiling.
And then everyone was quiet. Even my rowdy children paused, feeling the change in the atmosphere.
It took a minute for the older woman to understand what had happened. The checker, her face thoughtful, hesitated with the receipt in her hand, not sure whom to give it to. The smiling woman took it and tucked it into the elderly woman’s bag.
“I can’t accept …” the older woman began to protest, with tears forming in her eyes.
The smiling woman interrupted her. “I can afford to do it. What I can’t afford is not to do it.”
This story made my heart leap - this was exactly what I wanted to be like! I copied the story, carried it in my purse. I read it almost daily for weeks and in my prayers offered pleas to help me see as He would have me see. To notice others that needed to be noticed. While I was kinder, calmer and more deliberate nothing huge happened. I was standing in a checkout line getting the last of my shopping done. Working furiously on the lists of things I had to do inside my head, I was feeling quite overwhelmed. The man behind me gave a few exasperated sighs and then said “Come on lady” I looked up and noticed an elderly woman trying to find her debit card. She kept saying, I’m sure I put it in here. I have enough to pay.
Because I’m not that quick it took a few moments (I’m sure God was saying to the angels “Wait for it...wait for it...) when AAAAHAAAA!!! This was exactly like the situation in the story! This was exactly what I had been praying for! I sidled up to the woman, put my arm around her as I swiped my own card and with tears in my eyes said “Merry Christmas”
It is true. He will hold us by the hand and help us.
The wise men also teach us something about the journey to Christ. They are an interesting inclusion in the story of the Nativity. Most scholars agree that the wise men arrived at Joseph and Mary’s home years after the birth of the Savior. Matthew records “and when they came into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him”
To do what they did they had to be men versed in scripture, to be watching for the signs and men motivated to act upon them. A hundred new stars could appear in the sky and I would have no idea. Yet these men were so certain of this sign they dedicated their life to following and finding the Savior that they might worship him. We don't’ know their names. We only know they came from the east, but the Christmas story is not complete without them.
I’ve reflected on the impact wise men have had on me. While there were probably more than three wise men in the group seeking the Savior, I think it’s an interesting number that I see reflected in my own life.
Spencer W. Kimball was the prophet when I joined the church. I loved him, and following his words and counsel directly blessed my life in powerful ways. Each subsequent prophet and First Presidency have been amazing guides that have drawn me closer to the Savior as I have listened to them and heeded their counsel. My own three wise men.
Similarly, I have been blessed by Bishops and Bishoprics. In this room are men who have served as the wise men of wards, men who are currently serving and other men who will serve one day. None of these men have been perfect - yet when I have chosen to sustain them, to pray for them and to follow them my life has been infinitely blessed. I am forever grateful to have the blessing of having wise men to guide me on the journey of my life. As I have followed them I have come closer to my Savior.
The wise men brought very specific gifts. Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. While these gifts are somewhat foreign to us today, they were very symbolic and clear to those of the Savior’s time. Gold represented Royalty, the Savior’s divinity. Frankincense was a resin used in temple worship and represented His priesthood. Myrrh was another resin used in burial rites, a symbol of His mission to overcome death. Their testimony of the Savior’s mission is found in the gifts they bestowed.
Likewise, our testimony of His mission is found in the gifts we bestow. What will we do with our lives? On our journey? At the end of each day are we closer to Him? At the end of our days will we be like Him? That all depends on how we journey.
Listening to the Spirit
Everything important depends on our ability to listen to the Spirit. The fact is, I’m not so good at it. I’ll say a prayer, get an 'outside my comfort zone' prompting, and then have been known to go back and say “Now Heavenly Father, if this is really, really, really you...” More than once the answer has been “Aselin, it is really, really, really me.”
Trying to become more like the Savior is a big challenge because in so many ways we are nothing like Him. It takes courage and stamina. I’m sure this is why there are so many journey stories chronicled in the scriptures. They act as metaphors for the spiritual journey every true disciple is required to make.
It is the journey to make our lives less about ourselves and more about Him. It comes in baby steps for most of us. God knows this. All he asks of us is effort. Real effort. The author of the Grocery store story finishes her thoughts with:
I could not afford my current, self-absorbed frame of mind.
I could not afford to have my children learn lessons of compassion only from strangers.
I could not afford to be so distant from the spirit of Christ at any time of the year—especially during this great season of giving.
I could not afford to let another stranger, another brother or sister, cross my path in need of help without doing something about it.
I’ve been tremendously fortunate in my life to witness other people giving their lives to His purpose.
1998 the year Connor was born our Relief Society in Layton, Utah put on a Christmas program. One of the presenters asked if she could borrow Connor for the program. I agreed. As I sat in the cultural hall at one of the round tables having been fed Costco lasagna and jello I waited for the program to start. It was a musical program, and Connor was the baby Jesus. He was wrapped in an almost translucent white blanket. The spotlight beamed right on him as the sisters sang hymns of Christmas. What happened in that room was magical. As sister after sister took my baby in her arms and sang her testimony of the Savior I wept. As a mother you could want little more than to have others feel the love you feel about your children. More surely than I ever had before, I knew how Heavenly Father wants us to feel about each other. We’re all His children.
I’m sure each of us has a story of someone who loved you, or your children in a special, unconditional way. We each have amazing tales of generosity and love from the sisters.
The reality is, we are all on this journey together. As we come closer to Christ, we start to see each other more as God sees us. We are slower to find fault, quicker to lift up, quicker to give a hand. And as we continue this Christmas journey all year, may we be like the Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. May we, like the shepherds, fear not. May we walk with the wise men, may we more fully follow him.
For the full "Hero at the Grocery Store" by Stephanie Meyer click here
"It is not advisable James to venture unsolicited opinions. You should spare yourself the embarrassing discovery of their exact value to your listener." - Francisco d'Anconia, Atlas Shrugged
"The soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut taxes now." - John F. Kennedy
The following is the draft of the talk I gave today during our Christmas Sacrament meeting. I'm hesitant to post it since I don't ever read my talks, and what I actually said varies from this text but the ideas are the same. My prayer is that the spirit of the journey of Christmas long outlives December. Merry Christmas!
As all of my readers know, I hold myself up as a paragon of wisdom in this crazy world. The vacuum created by the passing of Dear Abby sucked me right in and I readily dispense advice to any needy soul. Yesterday the following plea came to my attention:
There's this certain blog I've been reading. Now that you are dead and I don't read traditional print media that carries your daily column written by an alive someone who pretends to be you, this blog offered me the anticipation I needed to get my tired bones out of bed and turn on the PC every morning. This blogger is every bit as good as you ever were. Unfortunately, this blogger has given up! What do you suggest I do?
It makes perfect sense that your world has been turned upside down by the absence of your favorite blogger. A good blogger is hard to find. Everyone knows that bloggers are lazy, attention seekers who will drop their loyal readers for shallow pursuits. So "Miffed" I am sure that the absence of your blogger is all your fault. Have you fanned this blogger's ego by commenting on their posts? Have you submitted to any subliminal messages hidden in the blogger's posts, for say, a pastrami sandwich? If your blogger is not sufficiently attended to then silly things like final exams, children and holidays crush the blogger's creativity. So, remember, be good to your blogger and you will likely see their return.
"Not the alive someone who pretends to be Abby in print media"
(See, I'm a natural!)
Because of the volume of requests I get for my life coaching skills, and my general magnanimous nature, I want to share some other wisdom I got off the Internet to get you through the holiday season. Everyone knows if it's on the Internet then it must be useful AND true.
Avoid cutting yourself when slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop.
Avoid arguments with the Mrs. about lifting the toilet seat by using the sink.
For high blood pressure sufferers: simply cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes, thus reducing the pressure in your veins. Remember to use a timer.
If you have a bad cough, take a large dose of laxatives; then you'll be afraid to cough.
You only need two tools in life - WD-40 and Duct Tape. If it doesn't move and should, use the WD-40. If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.
Remember: everyone seems normal until you get to know them.
If you've been a follower of my blog, or happen to know me personally, you know I have trouble "staying inside the lines" of life. Usually my little escapades get me in less than ideal situations. Scenarios like, getting called into the office by the principal and told to walk my flock of sheep back home. Having to dive in the bushes to hide from a boss. Flashing the hospital gardeners in my hospital gown. I've had some high points.
Usually I just have to suck it up and move on, trying to block out the overwhelming shame a normal person would feel. I've gotten pretty good at it.
Then, I steal the lemon bar. A rather innocuous crime that caused me great distress, embarrassment and a large clean-up detail. When something involves a clean-up crew, it's harder to 'shake it off.' (If you're new to the blog, scroll down a few posts and read Thou Shall Not Steal.)
Most of my days are spent isolated from humanity. I drop my children off at school and return home wearing some form of work out clothes. Then I run, I study until my brain has seized up and I run again. You will note there is not mention of personal hygeine, social time and as many of you have noted - rarely blogging time.
Imagine my delight last week after six hours of study, two runs and a little housework my doorbell rings. During the day it's one of two people: someone wanting to cut my palm trees or my postman. The postman and I have become friends - although you wouldn't know it by the frequency he gives my mail to another family.
Making my way to the door, I hope it's no one I know since I look like I've never used a hairbrush, am drenched in sweat and have an aroma that's the cross between bad cheese and copier toner. While I've been attracting neighborhood dogs it has a more repellent effect on humans. Stuffing my hair under a hat I crack the door and yikes, it's a neighbor, all dressed up and perfumed. She's smiling, and holding a paper bag. Not good signs.
"I was out and saw these, and thought of you."
Uh oh. The bag could contain an innumerable number of things. Deodorant, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," my mis-delivered mail. I wasn't quite sure what to say. I had a friend relay a prank they had played where they filled a paper bag with dog poo and lit it on fire on a classmate's porch. I suppose I should be relieved that the bag is not on fire... but I'm still a little nervous.
Accepting the offering I peek in as she giggles..."They're lemon bars."
SCORE!!! Never before have I committed a social faux pas and had it reward me. This was awesome. Hugging the paper bag I waved as she drove away. It brought a tear to my eye. "Wind Beneath My Wings" ran through my mind.
Now my challenge is, how to I continue to write with integrity and not throw in subliminal suggestions to the rest of you. Hey, have I written about the time I wrestled a girl scout for a pastrami sandwich?
I had a recent conversation with a friend that went something like this:
"Aselin, the problem with you is you would rather be alone than be with an idiot."
"Friend, the problem with you is you would rather be with an idiot than be alone."
My husband points out that I don't 'suffer fools lightly,' which may be true, but seeing as how the fools have overtaken the rest of us in numbers; I must suffer.
I'm finishing up a university degree right now. It is consuming my life. I've been taking one to two tests a week. Because much of my coursework is online, I need to take these tests at the local community college testing center. People who give tests, all day, every weekday, for a living.
This week I was taking a large final exam in a law course. The exam required that I write multiple, long essays. My writing hand is still cramped up from the experience.
I check in at the testing center, where I have now taken about fifteen tests, administered by the same person. On my first visit I found out that she is the same religion as me, attended the same university I am now attending and grew up in the same area I did.
We have our standard check in conversation:
"Hello, what are you here for?"
"I am here to take a test."
"OK, what's your name?"
Now, I am used to people having trouble with my name. My name is weird, I get it, but EVERY time I check in for a test I have this exact conversation with the SAME person.
"Wow, I've never heard 'Aselin' before (Except for two days ago when I was in here taking another test) ((Oh, and the fourteen times before that)).
I take a deep breath. It's OK, I'm a very forgettable person.
We then proceed to the guidelines of the test, which the administrator reads in detail, out loud, to me. I wait patiently until the ritual is completed and I have been fully informed of testing procedures. She then hands me the test, which consists of one sheet of paper and says "Good Luck."
Grabbing my stack of college-ruled paper and handful of freshly sharpened pencils, I start to enter the testing room when the proctor stops me.
"Wait!" she yells. "You're not allowed to take paper in to the test."
Taking a deep breath I attempt to explain that the test consists of a series of essays and these would require paper.
"Well, the instructions don't say you're allowed to use paper."
Really? Rats! I left my papyri at home.
My proctor is completely flustered as she frantically rereads the instructions. Finding no guidance on the subject she decides she better 'ask her boss.'
The boss has no idea how to handle this bizarre turn of events. Paper? In an essay test? How rogue! The boss suggests that my proctor call the university.
This is no joke. I am not exaggerating. I stood there for fifteen minutes while she got someone from the university on the phone to ask if I could take paper into my essay exam.
We finally got approval for my bizarre request and I set my mind to conquer the academic behemoth before me. Clutching my paper and a handful of newly-sharpened number two pencils, I prepare to enter the testing chamber. As my hand rests on the knob of the testing room door she yells out again "WAIT!"
What? Another testing emergency? you ask. Well, as a matter of fact yes.
"You can't write essays in pencil! You need a black pen!"
Gritting my teeth I try to explain that I have about 24 pages to write ahead of me. There will be a lot of editing, a lot of erasing, the test will not be photocopied, or preserved for posterity so the pencil really won't be a problem.
She again gets out the instructions. Reads them in their entirety. Consults her boss, who tells her she better call the university.
I've had it at this point and say, I'm taking my chances. If they deny my exam because it's in pencil then so be it! I am a carbon renegade!!
As I exit the testing room three hours later, completely spent, I present myself at the counter. Addressing the proctor by name I tell her I'm finished.
"Finished with what?" she asks
"OK, um, what was your name?"
As I've shared before, I have a really hard time turning down food. You can trust me in most other areas, but if you have a plate of cookies lying around, a crudite platter nearby or an unattended cheeseburger - well, you've been warned.
Last week, as I was finishing up my teaching duties at the local elementary school, I'm winding my way out of the building through the office. I have my own classroom, so to return the key I must go into a makeshift copy room where the key vault is situated. This copy room has all the modern necessities, copy machine, coffee maker, microwave, tanning bed. OK, not a tanning bed, but there are a lot of appliances that have nothing to do with copying packed into this little room.
There's no one in the office so I let myself in, hang up my key, and as I'm turning to leave something catches my eye... LEMON BARS!!! I poke my head out into the office and there's still no one there. My heart begins to beat a little faster as I behold their lemony goodness. Anyone with good taste knows that lemon is the best flavor of a dessert, and The Bar holds a particular place on my dessert pedestal.
A flood of thoughts go into my mind. There is already one bar gone, so another wouldn't be missed. These are set out in the public domain, and have no requisite "Hands Off" sign to keep miscreants away. I have spent a number of hours doing good and probably in all my goodness, actually deserve a lemon bar.
The first time I checked the office I was looking for someone who might give me permission to sample a bar. The second time I checked I was making sure the coast was clear. Swiping a bar I turn to make my escape when the door swings open perfectly timed with the insertion of the bar into my salivating mouth. Panicked, I stuff the whole thing in take a quick chew and smile at the attendance officer who I don't know by name, as I make my way into the parking lot.
OH MY HECK!!! This thing is not a lemon bar. In fact, I don't think it was food at all. Stuffed to the molars with some bizarre unidentifiable slime I look for somewhere to spit it out when the smiling principal rounds the corner. Wide eyed, I wave and pretend I'm in a rush to get somewhere. Actually I was trying not to vomit at the front door of the school. People frown on that sort of behavior.
The glob in my mouth has the consistency of tapioca pudding mixed with raw egg. It has kernels of corn in it. Maybe green chilies - but that could have been a backwash of bile induced by the noxious slop I was trying to hold without being caught by the herd of PTA ladies headed my way. They're waving at me, calling to me, I'm dry heaving and waving back.
I jump in my car and scramble around with no success for a napkin to deposit the putrid wad. I decide I'll pull a block away from the school and spit the glop out the window. Waving to the PTA I peel out, kernels of corn and raw egg slime start seeping out of the corner of my mouth.
I'm not sure there is an "appropriate" place to spit, but I find an area less likely to be encountered by a jogger and move to discharge what has now broken down into a sort of mushy blob. I realize I don't have the skill or power to launch sufficient distance, I have no napkin, so I spit the ooze into my palm, intending to throw the thing away from my moving vehicle. Just as my arm swings wide, the orb looses form and breaks up into slimy chunks. Some of which do not make it out of my freshly washed van.
Using my finger I try and pick sticky chunks of corn from the open window bay. I'm pretty sure I got most of them, and use my sleeve to finish polishing off the evidence of my crime.
What had promised to be a beautiful, lemony moment had turned into some sort of Candid Camera skit. I'm sure I'm caught on surveillance and the staff is laughing hysterically at the trap they set for me. Fortunately, my offense is limited to a sphere where the rest of my family will not find out.
Driving my daughter home from school later that day, I roll up my window. A long, smelly, corny ooze smears a long stripe up the glass.
My consequences have been long, and painful.
I can not turn down food. An invitation to lunch would make me drop everything and leave in the middle of surgery, if I were a surgeon of course.
So imagine my delight when I get a spontaneous text from a friend inviting me to lunch. With glee, I eschew the glamor that is my daily life and peel out in the driveway to eat, I mean meet my friend.
Lunch was delicious, as food is wont to be, and the conversation was delightful. Having the usual pressing items on my list, I ignore them and suggest a pedicure. (This is why I have no productive friends).
I have a particular salon I have come to favor. Their polish lasts an unusually long time making the amortization of the investment more prudent. The sign above the salon is a catchy slogan like "Nails Only." We enter the establishment and are immediately intoxicated from the fumes of productivity. I settle in to the massage chair and start to flip through People magazine. My sister in sloth settles in for a manicure. Half way through my treatment she heads to the back room where they wax eyebrows. Every nail salon waxes eyebrows. Apparently it's not something that requires a lot of skill, but I certainly can't do it myself, so it's worth the investment.
Behind the curtain she disappears. I'm engrossed in Jon and Kate's divorce proceedings when I hear a muffled "Aaouw" from the waxing stall, I mean room. I look at the patron next to me and smile and awkward toothy grin. She nods trying to reassure me it was a one-time odd noise. Moments later we hear it again. It sounds distinctly like someone is being poked with a safety pin while being smothered with a pillow. My reassuring buddy now looks a little afraid.
I'm not sure what to do. My feet are submerged, the massage chair is mid-cycle, but that is my friend in there. "I-i-iiiii" comes from behind the curtain. As I am wrestling with what to do, (don't take me to an emergency) the curtain from the stall parts and my pedicurist emerges.
Without a word, she sits down and with a flourish, finishes my feet. I ask her if everything is OK, to which she nods yes and runs back to the stall. I shrug, and resume reading the upcoming roster for "Dancing with the Stars." "Eeeee-oof" What the heck is going on in there?
I have now been sitting a good fifteen minutes, unattended. No further noises have emerged from the stall so either my friend has expired or everything is going better. A few minutes later she emerges, looking just fine. We pay, chat as we return to my car and slide in to the plush minivan seats. The second her door shuts she yells "WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?"
Shocked, I have no idea. My pedicure was fantastic. In fact this episode was three weeks ago and it still looks wonderful.
She then reveals that she asked for a bikini wax. The bikini wax is a tricky endeavor. Those parts are delicate, and quite frankly, I wouldn't trust mine to just anyone. My deeply wounded friend reveals that the first rips didn't go so well, and the few hairs that were removed didn't satisfy the technician who decided to tweeze the remaining ones. P-u-l-eeze. Even if you've never had a bikini wax you can figure out that you don't tweeze down there.
As I sit stunned, listening to her tale of beauty torture, I can't figure out who I blame: my pedicurist who had no business attempting a bikini wax having only mastered the eyebrow level at beauty school. Or my friend. The sign is VERY clear, this is a NAIL salon. Just like I'm not going to my podiatrist for a root canal, I'm pretty sure even my limited intelligence would have done a little wax reconnaissance before I stripped down and acquiesced to this scheme.
She clearly holds me partially accountable for her mishap. I did suggest the salon. Well, yes, I did for NAILS. I read the signs. I believe the signs, and I have avoided any scars to prove otherwise.
Life at my house is nothing but excitement and blue-ribbon parenting.
As I have discussed earlier. Hubby (Grrr) encouraged and enabled our children to purchase a bearded dragon. He tries to deny it now that the thing has blown up in our faces a couple of times, but since our children cannot yet drive, and most of their purchases were made at Petsmart, without a consenting driver they could not have accomplished their evil plan.
So "Jimmy" is here. Before he arrived I was all, "I'm not doing ANYTHING with this @#$# new pet." Now I find myself watering the dumb thing, feeding the dumb thing and buying crickets for the dumb thing. Aaaah motherhood.
Buying crickets for Jimmy is quite the ordeal. Fortunately, the cheapest purveyor of crickets is close to our house. I have formed a friendship with the owner of the store, so when I come in, she invites me in to the back room to chat while she counts out twenty dozen crickets at ten cents a piece.
The back room of a pet store would make Alice Cooper scream. The first time I entered the room the stench was unbelievable. There was a rooster, two dogs, tanks of worms and all sorts of ick. There are rows and rows of cages where all kinds of rodents breed willy-nilly. I think rodents can be cute until I realized that these rodents were not intended to BE pets they are intended to FEED pets. This explains the many happy snakes in the shop.
Of course there are also three large metal trash cans that hold the three sizes of crickets for sale. Small - like a tic-tac, medium - like an almond and large - like a prune. The trash cans are too tall for the crickets to escape - theoretically, but I still get the heebie jeebies trying to have a casual conversation back in the lair.
Each week I walk out of the store having paid for a bagful of vermin I pay my exterminator to keep out of my house. It goes against every fiber of my being. (Grrr)
After a number of weeks the proprietor mentions that I can order crickets by the thousand. They come delivered and cost about what I was paying for a few hundred. Sounds great!
I'm driving home with the box of 1,000 crickets in my passenger seat. Stopped at a light I get the creepies when I realize the strange sound is a thousand crickets crawling all over each other writhing in the box of cricket creepiness. It was an eerie sound Hitchcock must have used because I haven't felt that creeped out since color movies were released.
Now that the crickets are home I realize they must be transferred to the "cricket keeper" so they can be fed and kept alive. How does one transfer a thousand crickets from box to container? All I know is that 1. This is definitely NOT my job and 2. This will only be done in the closed shower of the guest bath.
Child #1 was in charge of the endeavor. After closing her in, like an episode of Fear Factor, she attempts to open the box. Next thing I know all heck broke loose. There was screaming and dancing and pounding on the walls, glass and ceiling. Hubby was shouting, children were shrieking - yelling, "they're in my pants! they're in my pa-ants!" Hubby is yelling that the door of the shower is going to be broken if everyone doesn't calm down.
"Take off your pants!" I yell from the other room, 'cause you'll remember, I don't do anything with this bearded dragon.
"I don't have any underwear on!" comes the hysterical reply.
I'm giggling, but the struggle going on in the other room is getting pretty serious.
Finally extracating her from the enclosure hysteria is still in full swing. Screaming, kicking, hitting the wall - it was a full on panic attack. Hubby is calmly restraining the Tasmanian Devil when I come in to see what the heck is going on. Kid #2 is still in the shower trying to catch loose crickets in their hands while Kid #1 has lost all sense of control. I reach for them when I get whacked in the face and kicked in the shin.
Now, what happens next will be left to your imagination. I will give you some suggestive tidbits to spur you along. What would the "Mother of the Year" do with her writhing panic-stricken child? Well, I didn't do that. You know in old movies what they do with a hysterical woman? Even women who think they have crickets in their pants? Yeah, well I may or may not have done that.
Needless to say, calm was restored rather quickly after my gentle nature prevailed. Dad and kid #2 caught the rest of the crickets and got them into the enclosure. None of the crickets escaped the bathroom, so it is safe for you to come visit.
I can't wait until our second shipment arrives.
It has been brought to my attention that my last post was less than uplifting. So in the spirit of not being Debbie Downer I would like to share some positive things about having a slipped jaw disc.
1. Despite yesterday's decline in the Dow, I am singlehandedly increasing Advil stock.
2. I no longer have to attempt to eat those pesky cruciferous foods.
3. Wearing a nifty mouth guard makes people notice me.
4. It is not corn on the cob season.
5. I can finally store a wad of chewing tobacco in my cheek without people noticing.
6. This episode is helping me achieve that svelte physique I've always wanted.
7. Lhaso Apsos have been flirting with me.
8. When I sneeze I gross my kids out.
9. Over the phone people mistake me for Barney Frank.
See, this is much more fun than I intimated in my last post.
Thank you to everyone who has missed me lately. I am so grateful I even have readers at all!
I will get back to normal soon, but for the time being I have done something terrible to my jaw. I can't open my mouth completely - which many people are thrilled about, and I can't close my mouth enough to get my teeth to touch - which makes it hard to chew.
My doctor says it will get better; I have to believe him. For now, any creative thoughts I have are clouded by quite a bit of pain. While I no longer look like I am storing nuts for the winter, I am slowly starving to death. (Dramatic sigh).
For example, tonight my darling unnamed child #1 made dinner. She made a fabulous Jambalaya which I normally would have gobbled like a rabid dog. At the table, against better judgement, I was trying in vain to chew a carrot between my front teeth. This is a skill one would think takes little coordination. One would be wrong. The small surface area between my four front teeth make for a tricky balancing spot. Looking like an over-sized squirrel, carrot kept springing from my mouth, requiring me to hold up a napkin like a drop cloth in order to catch orange projectile bits and corral them to my plate. Let's just say any comedy found in the skit was lost as I gasped and winced any time I overextended my jaw. (Dramatic sigh)
I do have things to chronicle: our trip to DC. Our attempts to get in to the White House. Marvin the tour guide. A rash of lost pets in our area. Oranges and poop. Boughten candy. Doggie day care... but the titles are all that come as I attempt to remain still, attempting to stave off the pain.
So thank you all who have missed me. I miss you too, but my mind is an Advil numbed vacuum. (Double dramatic sigh)
As long as I can remember I have been plagued with an overactive brain. I don't have ADD, but I do have a terrible time turning off my brain at night. As soon as my head hits the pillow my brain snaps into action planning tomorrow, making lists, figuring out world peace treaties - you know, really important late night stuff.
This malady is partially how this blog came into being. Prior to this venue being opened up to me I just filed these musings away, where they probably should be still, but alas, here they are.
Usually a bout of writing puts me right to sleep - as I suspect my writing does for many people.
I was fortunate enough to spend this past week in our nation's capital. One of the blessings of travel is that for me, if done right, I am so spent at the end of the day I actually fall asleep rather quickly. Such was the case in D.C. Waking at dawn to get three kids and hubby ready for the excursion of the day, figuring out public transportation, walking 78 miles before lunch, and sitting rapt during the "Monuments at Night" tour which lasted until 11:30 p.m. only to do it all again the next day made for great beddie bye time for me. I loved it.
The nightly throbbing foot pain and stinging chapped hands from being over sanitized were no match for my exhaustion.
Curled up one lovely Tuesday night at the Embassy Suites I was happily slumbering away when the nemesis I thought I had left at home struck. 3:a.m. and the fire alarm goes off. I admit I lay in bed WAAAY too long having a loud discussion in my head "I don't smell smoke," "It's probably on another floor" "I'm not wearing 'outside' clothes" "#@%# fire alarm"
I finally decided I should at least try and save the kids so I bundled up, remembered (somehow) to grab a my key and herded my incoherent children down the stairwell to the blaring shriek of the alarm and the three fire trucks pulling up outside the building. I was looking for an adventurous vacation, but this was not what I had in mind.
We assembled our little family among all the other displaced patrons in their jammies and began to wait. One of the many reasons I dislike groups of people is the lack of leadership that always seems to accompany them. There we sat, having no idea what was going on, milling around in the street like zombies for long after the fire trucks had aborted the mission. One of the other patrons told us it was OK to return to our rooms. This duty should have been performed by a uniformed staff member, but hey, there was a leadership vacuum and I appreciated whoever got sucked into it. At 3 a.m. I am likely to follow pretty much anyone.
Nestled back in our beds it took a good hour for the adrenaline to dissipate from my blood stream. The brain was active and workin', much to my dismay. Morning came all too soon.
I learned something new about my overactive night brain during this experience: night brain is amazing at holding grudges. Retribution must be had. Vengeance should be mine! I spent the next morning giving the stink eye to any patron I passed who looked like they were stupid enough to have pulled the fire alarm at 3 a.m. Charges should be filed. Seriously.
Night brain is still mad as I sit here - in the early morning hours of tomorrow, cursing the prankster and realizing that in D.C. right now it is 5 a.m. I hope Karma kept them up too.
I run with a bunch of delinquents. Those among us that you shake your head at in the grocery lines, the post office, you know - shameful people who really aren't safe to be among the general population.
This week I spent time with a couple of friends who separately shared their recent run-ins with the law. My personal goal is to stay far under the radar - literally. I try not to be noticed. I don't drive a red car. I shield my face in the bank line. When I see "photo enforcement zone" signs I look over my shoulder, despite my speed. I like anonymity from the law.
Not these ladies.
After a particularly stressful day, friend #1 asks her hubby to join her in picking up their children. Like most Neanderthal Y-chromosome carriers, he didn't get why it required two people to drive a few blocks and he declined her invitation. Stupid man. Justified in all her emotions of abandonment, lack of support and whatever drama us girls can come up with she jumped behind the wheel of her souped up minivan.
Souped up because like most of our minivans, if you scraped the stuff off the back seats and floor there are enough discarded ingredients to make a nice minestrone.
Peeling out of her suburban driveway she's headed the few blocks to her destination when her phone starts to ring. Trying to reach for it (which of course is her husband's fault) she stops abruptly (screechingly) at a stop sign. Coupled with a little erratic driving, which was clearly her husband's fault, post stop she caught the attention of the law. Sirens blaring she was pulled over.
Like most innocent people, she couldn't figure out why she was stopped. After speaking with the fine officer she was informed he thought she was drunk.
Yep. Drunk on love. Dang Mormon drunkards.
My second friend e-mails me this morning a story of her legal troubles. After three photo radar tickets in a short period of time, she realized she had a problem and did what any self-respecting American would do, she went to court.
Entering the vestibule of justice, she approached an man who seemed to have some authority and asked if she should sign in. "I don't know, I'm just here" he said.
A couple of minutes later the judge walks in and asks the same man what he is there for and he says a name strikingly similar to my friend's name. Looks at my friend who gives her name, and then another man who responds with a name that starts with... let's say for anonymity's sake "Q" Because it starts with the same letter as her name, she realizes that they must group these hearings alphabetically, which makes sense to a left-brained delinquent.
Being the one of the friendlier criminals, my friend leans over to the man and asks "Is your name "Q" too?
Without missing a beat, the man looks at her as if she is a complete idiot and replies, "Lady, I'm your arresting officer."
Friends, they live among us and they drive!!!
Oh, drunk friend #1 got off with a warning and the card of a marriage counselor. Friend #2 lost her case and went to traffic school. Both have been infraction free for a few weeks now.
In general I would classify myself as an optimistic realist. Most of the time I'm not wearing rose colored glasses and am OK with the realities of the world that might disappoint others. I don't get surprised by people too often - I experience other emotions derived from their behavior but surprise is not one of them. Also, I've learned I don't expect much from external sources. Life is what it is.
Last week I was at a small store that sells home decorations and produce. I know what you're thinking - how those naturally go together - well at this store they do. I often pop in to purvey their wares. Chatchke's I can't live without, vine grown tomatoes from a garden that didn't have to be tended by me, all sort of exciting things. Last Friday, it was Utah Peaches.
We all know about "Georgia Peaches". Back when we lived in Texas everyone would get all excited about Georgia peach season, so I got excited about Georgia peach season. Year after year the peaches would arrive, and while sometimes they tasted pretty good, they samplings I had were never freestone and always small. Small enough you wouldn't buy them in the store. Smaller than a plum.
I will never forget my first trip to my new in-laws home in Utah. The home was lovely, but what made a huge impact on me - surpassing my expectations - was the acreage of peach trees dotted across acres of manicured lawn. It was idyllic. Then, to go out early in the morning, select just the perfect peach fresh from the tree, so large two hands were required to carry it. Then to enjoy it for breakfast, bright, sweet. juice running down my arms - it is summer encapsulated. There is something alive and joyful in the memories of those experiences for me.
So this little store has Utah Peaches. I go in to check them out and they are spectacular. Two hand large, Blush of the color only a peach gets with the almost animal print of red across the rosy skin. Even the store clerk gasped when she saw the beautiful box. "These are the best we've had so far." I smile at my acquisition, carrying the hefty box to my car.
Home, I pull out one of the beauties, admiring it, smelling it, and then gently wash the fuzz off the skin. The smell is one of my favorites in the whole world and as I hold the orb of goodness with both hands I sink my teeth into the flesh...only to recoil, chew a little, then walk to the sink and spit like my disrespectful children used to do with my cooking before they were afraid of me.
Good grief this was terrible. Pithy, mealy, dry, no real peach flavor; it was awful.
Of course I figure I just got an anomaly peach so I slice up a second (too smart to bite into another) and it is the same. The third, the fourth. Awww crap. I'm so disappointed I want to cry. Now I have this huge case of peaches, inedible peaches, and the store is closed...and hubby is coming home. AAAAAAA he will see these. He is a peach bigot, deservedly so, he grew up at Peach Nirvanaland. Where can I hide them? He will be so disappointed in me...
My mind is racing, the panic making my throat tighten. Can I fit the box in the oven? Maybe somewhere in the garage? Under the laundry that needs to be folded - he surely won't look there. Suddenly, I hear the garage door. In panic I pick up the box, then I set the box down, then I pick it back up, finally - having taken too long in my indecision hubby walks in.
"Oh, you bought peaches." He smiles.
"Uhhh, uhhhh, yup. Soooo, how was your day? Tell me everything." The distraction attempt was lame, but it worked for the moment.
Finally, I can distract him no longer, he selects a peach to try. PLLLEEEEEAAAAAASSSSSSSEEEEE let there be a good one in there. PULEEZE!!!!
As he's peeling the skin off he comments that it's not very juicy. Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. Then comes what I expected - the bite, the double chew and then the audible spit. "This is terrible."
"Yes, they all are, they looked so good, I can't believe how bad they are, I don't now what do to, maybe I can salvage them, maybe they'll be OK in pie..." I blather on.
"Well, did you sample them first? If they aren't giving out samples that's your first clue."
"No," I reply, hanging my head in mordant shame,"I just judged them by their cover."
WOW, who would have thought that my plight with the Federal Government would have inspired such passion and empathy. I feel like I'm not alone.
For some reason, again, my tricky little blog is filtering out who can and can't make comments, some can, some can't; it's a bit random. The irony is not lost on me as I have been 'filtered' from attending the White House tour for no good reason.
So as we all rail against the cosmic dartboard that is blog comments and White House tours, we can feel united in a common cause. Join together in purpose and meaning. Rise up against injustice and confront unfairness wherever it is encountered...
Oh, who am I kidding? Just e-mail me your comments if you need to. But unlike the White House staff, I will actually try to resolve the problem, not create new ones.
(Think this sentiment may have something to do with the 'denial'?)
We've been planning a trip to visit our nation's capitol for about six months. In the research for the trip I discovered quite a bit about how Washington works post 9/11. There are all sorts of hoops and restrictions to visit certain forums. Particularly the White House.
After submitting a request a few months ago to get tickets to tour the White House I was told I would have to wait. In order to request tickets you must go through your local congressional leader, submit names, social security numbers, passport numbers... all sorts of personal data. Which I did.
Hubby said this was one tour he really wanted to see. Me, being a registered Independent voter thought we might actually get in. Obama said he wanted to court the independents. After submitting the request I asked how long until we heard the results. Silly me, this is government. Not only could they not tell me, they said it was likely to come very close, if not up to the day of the visit.
I came home today to a message from our local congressional intern... our request was denied. No reason. He actually sounded surprised.
To be honest, I am too. We're not traveling during a tourist season. We have a small group. We gave ample notice. To my knowledge I have no outstanding warrants anymore. My only guess is my application came through a republican office.
Fear not, I am going to research this further. I'll keep you posted on my latest political snub.
There is a general rule that if something is a 'baby' it is cute. Baby walruses? Darling. Baby bison? I want to pinch their hairy little cheeks. Even baby alligators have those cute little snappy jaws that make me go awwwww.
There are some exceptions. I happen to live among them.
Noooo, I don't mean my own young. I'm referring to the pestilence known as the scorpion.
I live in a beautiful former commercial orange grove. Besides being able to reap obscene amounts of citrus during the season, we also have a plethora of vermin known as the bark scorpion.
I have a general rule that I don't just kill things to dispose of them. If I find a non-poisonous spider in my house, I carry it outside. Longtime readers will remember my run in with the swarm (yes I remember) of bees in my kitchen. I have a strong leaning toward the sanctity of life.
Not so with the scorpion. Scorpions must die. Thus far scorpion sightings have been met with screams, stomps, blowtorches (they have their own unique, slightly sweet aroma as they incinerate) and rubber mallets. We hold regular family outings in the yard shining our industrial strength black light and bearing a lit blowtorch.
The first time I saw baby scorpions I was scarred for life. Who would think that baby scorpions ride on the back of their mother until they reach a certain age. Imagine, if it's possible, a large scorpion writhing with swarming tiny scorpions - it is "ICK" defined.
Usually we don't get scorpions in our home. I have a service that is supposed to prevent any access by these evil insects, arachnids or whatever species they belong to. Unfortunately, they are wily little yucknids. Coming out of the kitchen last night, there stood a large scorpion, tail curled, just daring me to walk barefoot in its direction.
Being the example of reason, I scream at all the kids to get shoes on, to hand me a weapon, to call their dad who wasn't home from work yet. Gaining composure, I don gloves, safety goggles and rubber boots and then I stomp on the bugger. Repeatedly. With way too much pleasure in the crunching, gut squishing dispatch.
I give the "All Clear" signal to the kids, who, while they are laughing at me, are profoundly grateful I saved them from imminent danger.
Later, strolling across my bathroom I notice a little fleck of dirt. Since I am not the best housekeeper this isn't entirely out of place, but as I reach to pick it up, I realize not a second too soon, that it is a BABY scorpion. In my house. In my inner sanctum. The violation is acute. My reaction swift. Grabbing a shampoo bottle and yelling a ninja yell, I squish the youngin' with everything I've got. Then I grab a shoe and squish it some more. Then I grab a paper towel and squish it again. It couldn't have been flatter.
Take that you trespassing vermin of pain.
I turn back to see the kids who have gathered because I was yelling, staring, wide eyed and not a little freaked out.
There's a price for safety I remind them. It's a good thing you are all cute.
The saga of orthodontia continues. Yesterday Unnamed Child #3's braces came apart. Even though I myself had 3 years of braces and have three children all wired up I have no idea how these things work. The report came in from kid 3 that wires were sticking out so I figured I had to do something.
Taking them in to the orthodontist we walked in to a deserted office. Two employees sat behind the desk waiting for emergencies to come in. We were ushered back to the operatory immediately and placed in a chair. Cool. I like good service, no waiting and attentive personal attention.
As the young, childless, naive technician started assessing the situation she started explaining what she was going to do. STOOOOOP I mentally pleaded with her. As an experienced parent, I know two things. One, you don't lie to kids. Two, you NEVER give them information about what you are going to do.
Unnamed Child #1 still brags about a tetnus shot she received from a firefighter who chatted with her about her dog and his dog when WHAM!!! the shot was given before she knew what happened. She said that it hurt but her brain didn't have any time to catch up with what was happening until it was all over. Given the option I would vote for that firefighter for President.
So as technician yammers on Unnamed Child #3 starts to go into meltdown. Not a little meltdown. Hyperventilating, dripping tears, kicking of feet, wailing. Stuff I thought was over after we turned five. I restrain said child and start to try and reason. Duh.
Minutes tick by, feeling more like hours. No end was in sight to this ridiculous outburst. I grab the kid by the arms, drag them though the office looking for a private place to "reason", with said kid.
Newfangled offices are not built with enclosed rooms. Every place I looked was a half wall, had a giant open window hole, and all kinds of nonsensical architecture. Finally, I found a normal office and dragged the kid in. Sitting them down I read the riot act. Actually I didn't have to read it, I have the Riot Act memorized. It's somewhat like the Intolerable Acts from the 1700's. Full of hyperbole and linguistic flourish but mostly imposing unreasonable penalty on innocent colonists.
Through the continued screams and wails I threatened to take away all social interaction, extracurricular activities, even the six-year away driver's license opportunity. No response. My blood was boiling, the hysteria was not abating and while there weren't a lot of people in the office, it still felt very public.
Finally, there was a break in the screaming and I was able to successfully bribe the kid to just try and open up their mouth. Reclined in the chair, the kid couldn't pry their hands away from covering their mouth. Through renewed sobs and wails about the possibility of pain I reached my limit. Running my hands through the now tantrum-sweaty hair I pulled back the head while holding the lower jaw in a grip of steel. The kid was so shocked that all they could do was sputter.
Once the wires were all restrung and the bands replaced the kid was given a sticker and set free into the waiting room. I needed a Xantac, or a Xanax - whichever one calms people down.
The technician says to me "That was amazing. You should be a child psychologist." I promise. That's really what she said.
I choked on my own spit and said "Did you just watch the same thing I did?"
"Oh yes, you were amazing. Normally that would have taken way longer."
I suppose she has seen it all, and usually the fearful tantrum does not take place in a deserted office, but really? It was a parenting disaster. I threatened to pry the kid's braces off with my car keys and make them repay the money already invested. The kid knew this was not an idle threat. This was no nurturing moment, empowering the kid to believe in the power of their own self control.
I have not fully expressed my gratitude for the power of bribery payment. Ten minutes later, pulling away from the Sonic drive through the kid was completely blissful sucking down a vanilla shake. Trauma forgotten.
If only I had the same capacity.
My kids are amazing athletes. They can duck and dodge just about anything I throw at them. It makes for a series of disappointing attempts at wrangling them on my part.
This year two are playing soccer and one is swimming. The problem with both of these sports is the spectators have to sit outside in the sun during daylight hours in Arizona. As previously chronicled, I have spectator issues. I have not been ejected from the field...yet, but hubby has given me the stink eye and restrained me on more than one occasion. This year, soccer parents have to initial six times and sign a one page pledge regarding their behavior. This may have been instituted because of my problems watching my kids play basketball.
This week while watching Unnamed Child #3's soccer game I could feel the veins in my neck bulging as the entire team swarmed the ball leaving the field unprotected and the opposing team free to score. Again, and again, and.... again. It's not so much the score that bugs me, it's the poor play. I was relatively calm ushering said child off the field at the first water break. It was two in the afternoon and anyone that is willing to play their assigned game at that time in Arizona deserves high praise.
That was until the same kid was talking over the coach telling their teammates to play their own positions. Yeah. Real strategist.
So, I restrain myself, keep calm and more importantly, keep quiet. Giving the kid two thumbs up as they return to the field only to play another quarter unconstrained by the conventions of the game. Running like there was a magnet in the ball, my kid stole it from other teammates and ran about 45 miles in the first quarter rarely gracing their own position.
At the half, hubby has a death grip on my arm reminding me to stay quiet, stay supportive. Reminding me to hydrate the kid silently - which I do.
Thankfully, the slaughter, I mean the game, ends and we get to pack up our belongings and return home.
So imagine my joy when during Unnamed Child #2's game I see them with their back to the ball talking to players on the other team. AAAUUUGGGGHHHH. Help me out here. Is this for their enjoyment or mine?
My kid is wandering the field with their hand out in front of them in a fist - like they've caught a bug. Talking to the other team and showing them the contents of the fist. With the ball in play, in the middle of the game.
I have bitten through my tongue at this point and just look at the ground as I overhear other parents saying "Who is that number 56?" "What are they doing?" I mutter "I think it's Pat. Isn't that kids' name Pat?"
Now the kid is talking to the ref, who nods and returns to the game, actively in progress. Still holding the fist out the kid is yammering up a storm. What the heck??? About 30 seconds go by and the ref blows the whistle, stopping play and grabbing my kid.
Can you get 'carded' for unauthorized bug capture?
The ref has the kid by the neck and is ushering them off the field toward the coach. Oh man. I don't know whether to meet the kid or run away. Poor Pat, who knows where the mother is?
Loudly, the ref yells out "Tooth got knocked out." All the mothers around me gasp, looking side to side for Pat's parent. Oh brother. Clearly I'm going to be up for Mother of the Year again. As I'm jogging out to Pat I holler "loose tooth or permanent tooth?" This will make a difference in my reaction. If it's a permanent tooth I will grab the kid in the firefighter carry and whisk them to the closest emergency dentist. Sad thing is if it was a loose tooth, I should have known about it. I'm pretty sure this kid doesn't have any loose teeth. They just got their braces on and I think that would have impacted the process. My brain starts to panic as I reach Pat who deposits their "really-loose-tooth-that-I-have-told-you-about-every-day-for-the-last-month-Mooom" in my outstretched hands.
As I turn back, with my new cargo, to the other waiting mothers, one of them starts to laugh uncontrollably. Another says sympathetically "At least it wasn't permanent."
Well, the tooth wasn't.
The first quiet moment I've found in the past week is actually one full of higher decibels than one would expect for quiet. Somehow my house is full of screaming teenagers. Music is blaring (sorry neighbors) a chorus of teenagers singing lyrics I'm getting all too familiar with drown out any rational thought that might form in my little brain.
In theory we planned to be parents who welcomed our kids friends. They would be more safe and secure under our discreet watchful eyes. That was sooo during the toddler years. It seemed like a good idea at the time - know where they are, who they're with and what they're doing. Such theories are for stupid people who don't want to sleep.
I would say I'm envious of hubby who was wise enough to be "away" during these festivities... but he's on a boy scout camp out. An extravaganza of burping, farting and fire punctuated by the one kid who throws up in your tent because he wouldn't stop eating licorice. I suppose I got the good part of the deal.
Interesting thing is I know these moments will fly by. These early teen years will be but a memory all too quickly. One day I'll wander the halls of my home trying to hear the echoes of these parties. Girls I mentored when they were twelve are now married with blogs and even children of their own. Time is flying by too quickly.
So while tonight I'll be up later than normal... sleeping well has less to do with the clock and more to do with a sense of security.
I've gotten a lot of gifts in my life. Some large, some small, some memorable, some forgettable. There are some gifts that stand out.
For a wedding gift we received a lamp sculpted in the shape of a Chinese field worker, complete with triangular hat shade. Even these many years later I can't figure out what the giver was thinking. Did they like us? Wish us well? I don't know in the symbolism of lamps what the Chinese worker stands for.
I've had some grand gifts, literally. Someone once overheard me playing the piano, and gave me a piano. I'm still floored by that gesture.
Some gifts have left me speechless, even overwhelmed.
I have a few 'favorite things' in my life. The list of these things is pretty underwhelming to someone else, but they mean a lot to me. Favorite foods, favorite color, favorite songs. One such "favorite" is a hymn that did not make the cut for the hymnbook we use today at church. I often listen to it over and over; It speaks to my soul.
This week Unnamed child #1 performed the song at church on the viola. Learning it was a gift for me. As I watched my beautiful baby play with maturity and grace this most beautiful of hymns I was overcome.
There is so much in this gift. Yes, the fact that the melody is my favorite means a lot. Even more than that was the powerful gift of the effort it took to master this piece. The hours, and the desire to choose this hymn out of the thousands to choose from. The fact that they wanted to give this to me.
It has made the hymn even more dear.
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
There are gifts we remember, gifts we forget and gifts that fill a part of the soul. How blessed I am to receive gifts.
Thank you everyone who noticed I was M.I.A. last week and asked after me. It was scheduled to be a busy week full of exercise, entertainment and education. Yes, probably in that order.
Early in the week I was invited to a celebration luncheon. One of my friends and neighbors is moving so other friends and neighbors (not me) organized a potluck luncheon to celebrate our friendship and express our sadness at seeing her go. It's such a lovely girl tradition. Surround the table with food everyone has lovingly prepared for the special occasion. Who hasn't enjoyed sampling the best culinary wares with some good conversation.
I of course, purchased my offering. Running in to the party late (I had a good excuse, I was in school), quickly unwrapping the bakery torte I had purchased. Muttering to myself that I should have unwrapped it in the car so people would think I was amazing. Realizing that no one would have believed it anyway, taking a deep breath and settling in with my full plate of food.
Soon we were laughing, listening to updates on children, occupations, lives - the stuff of good girl bonding. Sitting at the head of the table, because it was the only seat left and no self-respecting girl ever chooses to sit there on her own - I could see everyone very well. The scene was the consummate 'ladies lunching'.
I of course, had not eaten a big enough breakfast to sustain the crazy day I had. So, I was stuffing my face, and went back for seconds before anyone else had finished their firsts. Propriety would dictate that I at least be a little discreet about the volume I consume. Sadly, propriety and I are not friends.
Finishing my plate clean, I popped up, extended my farewells to the honoree and everyone else who noticed I was slipping out and raced off for the rest of my day. Basking in the glow of great people who I call friends is one of the joys of life.
Or so I thought.
A short time later I was chained to the bathroom, exploding, moaning, praying for death. Clearly someone had tried to kill me. I suspected someone would want to get rid of me one day, I just expected it would be a bit less painful. The two servings of tainted fare weren't feeling so appetizing as I lay on the bathroom floor whimpering with the dog licking my foot.
Now, if this had been the first time someone had tried to poison me at a potluck I would have been surprised. Now it was becoming old hat. Back when we lived in Texas we attended another 'going away party'. I 'm beginning to think that's code for "unhygenically prepared food". Hours after that party I ended up admitted to the hospital with violent salmonella poisoning.
To my knowledge I have never poisoned anyone with my cooking. It has been inedible for other reasons, but the general rules of food safety are not that hard to follow.
What the heck people? You don't leave the mayonnaise based salad in your car while you run errands in 110 degree weather and then SERVE it!!! I was laid out all week. While the dramatic parts of the expulsion subsided after about 12 hours, my body was very unhappy for the rest of the week.
Being connected to the underground neighborhood social network I start to hear things. Someone else was sick. The honoree of the luncheon was sick... four other people were sick. This thing was an epidemic. Then I hear something else... the hostess had a function about a month earlier where the results were the same. WHAT???
Quickly I dialed one of the attendees of the other functions... truly I don't know why people don't pay better attention to their caller ID since many of my phone calls are this random: "Hi, um, tell me about your sickness after your last party." With great hesitation, because again people acquainted with propriety don't talk of these things freely, she described the exact symptoms I had endured.
Now I'm no Einstein but I'm no dummy either. A few things I will take from this experience:
1. There are now restrictions on where I will eat, ever again.
2. Mexico is not the only place one need fear hydro contamination. While the likely culprit in this instance is the water, I will also NEVER trust potluck food.
3. After much effort I have found a portable food irradiator which kills any bacteria up to 45 trillion imu (international microorganism unit*). Any food, beverage, handshake, lingering glance shared with me will now be irradiated providing me a social bubble of protection.
A girl must protect herself.
*It also stands for It's Made Up
Of course the content of the speech was innocuous.
Such a fuss was made beforehand that it ensured there would be nothing but platitudes. No call to join the Obama Youth. No subtle attempts at indoctrination. It was no fun at all. It was a speech any card-carrying conservative could have delivered.
Listening to a recap, I realized I had actually dozed off for a little portion of the speech. Yikes, napping during a Presidential address? Please don't report me.
Again for the record, I was never against listening to the speech. I was against the proposed post speech activities. I was against the use of resources it took to produce the speech. It's my beef with all of government: STAY OUT OF WHERE YOU DON'T BELONG.
What's the purpose of a president using his time, staff, extended departments, local school resources and more all to deliver an innocuous speech? For most of the country it was the first day of school. "Hello, welcome to school. Don't drop out, try hard. This has been a message of PBS the Presidential Broadcasting Service." My kids all came home and said, "Gee mom, I need to totally reconfigure my education plan. Today the President of the United States told me to not drop out. So I'm staying in school!"
Truth of the matter is that innocuous is a waste of time. Look it up. Banal, bland, flat, inoffensive, insipid, safe, sapless, unobjectionable, unoffending, weak. If you intend on influencing an at risk youth you need to be anything but innocuous.
But this speech was never really about the kids, was it?
The school district called me this week. Apparently our illustrious president wants to address the nation's school children on the subject of staying in school. Staying on task, focusing on their goals. How nice.
Besides the fact that he is the least likely person in America to influence my children's commitment to school, way behind Sponge Bob and Bobby Flay, he may be slightly more influential than Michael Vick, and Tom DeLay, I try and remain open minded. Listening to the pre-recorded District message I learned a few other things that, well, let's just say, caught my attention.
I try and be fair-minded about these kinds of things. Problem is, as with many of the Federal activities in the last nine months, this speech is "Unprecedented." Yeah, I'm not such a big fan of that word. It's just a fancy way of saying "untested." Usually because the idiot who was here before you was smart enough not to try it out. But here we are, about to hear an unprecedented speech directed at kids while they're parents are at work. Hmmmm. The architecture design of the Titanic was unprecedented. The seven plagues upon Egypt were unprecedented. You know, this stuff usually doesn't turn out so well.
As you may remember from my run in with the Yodeler this summer, I am a conservative Libertarian. My preference is that the government protect our borders, fund highways and emergency personnel. Other than that I'm pretty happy if they stay out of my life. Every facet of it. My logic is they are the least efficent or effective entity in my world. I think for the most part we can all run our lives pretty well without their intrusion. I understand this would require giving up some "freebies" people are quite used to, but people, we have an economy poised to implode. I vote we get rid of the cable TV and the Hummer and scale it down a bit.
So the notion that my kids, all kids, will be participating in some sort of post speech discussion activity led by some of the most liberal people I know, kinda bugs me. The lesson plan has changed. Originally it was going to feature an interchange where the teacher invited each child to commit their support through a pledge to Barack Obama. What?
A couple of things. Since when did we decide to pledge to a leader?!? Term limits on presidents sort of make that one of the creepiest political ideas out there. I have always thought we had fought and died for an idea; for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For equality in opportunity not equality in outcome. Since when did we start pledging to our leaders? (Tell me that link isn't creepy)
One of my friends does not want her kid participating, so she signed a paper to have her child do the "Alternative Activity". Suddenly the kids starts sobbing. The "Alternate Activity" is a punitive three page paper on why you don't support Barack Obama. Broward County Florida school district will punish any student who does not participate in the watching of the speech. Give me a break. A huge test of the appropriateness of all of these ideas is change the name of the President. If this were President George W. Bush, would these schools apply the same penalties? And honestly, would they even be broadcasting the speech at all? Yeah, I don't think so either.
So, many of you are asking me what am I doing with my unnamed children?
First, I want to state as clearly as possible. This is an inappropriate use of time and resources both from the Executive branch to the Department of Education. Not one dollar of this boondoggle is going to translate into motivating children. Parents and teachers already do that marvellously. The kids that drop out are not the segment of the population that thinks "I'm gonna be president one day." And for argument's sake, the one kid that's out there on Tuesday that decides and becomes President because of the speech, heck I'll give 'em a ride to DC.
Second and more importantly, I am against nationally designed educational anything. For the most part schools have powerful, effective teachers. GET OUT OF THEIR WAY!!! Legislating education from the federal level invades on state's rights. Now, I'm not too concerned about the states getting their feelings hurt. What I am concerned about is the product of the model in place. No Child Left Behind, my butt. Last year I volunteered 4 days a week for up to 4 hours a day working with a segment of the population we have agreed to teach but fail to instruct effectively. Kids who can't read. Kids so left behind by their poor language skills, over crowded classrooms, and ability to speak but not read English. These kids are destined to drop out of high school, work in dead end jobs and hopefully stay out of jail.
The lesson plans put out by the Department of Education are a thinly veiled attempt at an indoctrination into the cult of Obama. I want my children to stand at attention with reverence for the office of the president. They do not need to join a thought culture celebrating the demonization of America, or calling for it's radical change. America's inception and what it has produced, offer the most liberty and freedom to any group of mankind. Are there inequalities. Yes. But I'd rather be poor in America than poor in Calcutta. Hands down.
So here's where I stand. My children will listen to the speech, as will I. I have written the Principal of their school and spoken to my children - I want to know and see any follow-up activities they are assigned, even ones in class.
I think it's important to listen to all of our Presidents. It's just as important to be allowed to analyze what they say withought the "thought police" looking over your shoulder.
Thought police, elementary school kids. How much more unAmerican can this get???
Everyone needs to have a life-guiding plan. My son has a sign in his room that says "Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons for you are crunchy and taste good with catsup." I wholeheartedly endorse this philosophy.
This week my hubby, (grrr) approved the idea that our children pool their money to buy a bearded dragon. Normally I don't like bearded anythings. I mean, they're all hairy, and shaggy, and gnarly and ick. Then spending money on a reptilian bearded... ick.
Now don't get me wrong. I love it when the herpetology society brings their boas, gecko's and kimodo dragons to chase the kids around the school yard. Nothing like screaming toddlers as the forked tongues of doom flicker near their little faces. Come on, other people's kids freaking out? I relish the rare occasion that makes mine look like angels. Yay reptiles.
But to bring one home. Set up rocks and heat lamps for the cold-blooded little monsters. Then the fun begins. Feeding. No reptile eats anything a normal person wants to touch. Knowing nothing about dragons, except of course the prerequisite fairy tale dragon primers and a long ago reading of The Hobbit, I was not prepared to undertake this undertaking. (Grrr at hubby again.)
The family comes home from Petsmart with $40,000 worth of dragon supplies. It's the keystone cops of dragon raising. I ask them if we need tools to groom the dragon or if it can share the electric razor with hubby. They, as usual don't think I'm very funny, but I send myself into giggles picturing a little dragon perched on the sink being shaved by my beloved. I think that would only be fair, having to shave an animal because you agreed to allow its purchase. I hope they bite.
Soon the tank is set up, lamps a burning, rocks and fake plants and a hollowed out log... the habitat is prepared. We now await the maturation of the little guy. Every day seems an eternity to the children. Every day that passes dragonless is one more jolt of joy for me.
Finally the day arrives, and "Jimmy" joins the family. Jimmy gets a lot of attention. He needs two daily hydrating spa baths, diced fruit and veggies and of course my favorite - mineral dusted crickets. The deal was this was YOUR pet. I am responsible for keeping four humans, one canine and an orange grove alive. I'm not looking to add to the menagerie.
This morning, amid the wailing and sobbing of an unnamed child, I get coerced into driving to a specialty pet store to purchase specialty crickets. Stepping over the chinchilla and around the rooster I retrieve the 10 dozen crickets for my newly purchased "cricket keeper" I wander over to the store's bearded dragons - I must admit - they are cute. They all look at me, follow what I'm doing - heck, they're more attentive to me than the entire rest of my family combined. I may have to change my dragon soapbox.
Returning home I'm sitting on unnamed child #1's unmade bed trying to figure out how I am going to get 12 - 24 crickets from the keeper to the cage - oh did I forget to mention, they each had to be dusted with mineral powder. Yum.
I open the cage, they're all relatively calm. In what I think is an ingenious move I take a toilet paper tube and coax a couple of crickets into the tube. Then I can empty the tube into the container with mineral powder, shake them around and release them to Jimmy.
Jimmy is extremely interested in what I am doing and has gotten down from his basking rock to stand by woman with crickets. As I'm watching Jimmy try and look cute, I bend to release the two snow white crickets into the cage. One hop and snap, Jimmy got 'em. Jimmy is an outstanding hunter. As I was applauding his little snack I noticed one of the crickets had climbed up high in the keeper. I go to secure the lid and the cricket jumps out. Hmmmm. Conundrum.....
Good mom... would work really hard to find the escaped cricket, return it to the cage and make her daughter's messy bed. Yeah... I know people like that. I know, you know this is not what I did. I spotted the cricket and tried to catch it with my hand. With my clumsy gargantuan efforts I succeeded only in ripping off one of his legs, which I then promptly lost in her bed. I looked and looked and then, true to the kind of mom I really am, just left the limb in there. I will love it when she gets up in the morning after a deep sleep with a cricket leg embedded in her cheek. Puleeeeaze let that happen!
I attempt another dip into the cricket cage. Lifting the tube full of crickets I release the end a little too early and 90% of the crickets made it into the tank. To Jimmy's dismay, three others got out and were living carefree lives of joy behind the bed. Again, conundrum... do I tell the kid there's a plague of pestilence that's taken over her room thanks to mom, or do I say nothing...
For the record I do believe it will be hard to sleep with crickets in your bed. Running over your legs under the covers...getting caught in your hair.
This week a new coffee shop opened up in our neighborhood. I got a flier in the mail that they were giving free drinks away all day. Since I'm not a coffee drinker I tossed the flier in the trash and went on with my day.
Busy in the glamor that is my daily life, the phone rings.
"Mom! What are you doing?"
Setting down a bon bon I answer, "Why?"
"Such and such a place is giving away free drinks today and I was wondering if you would go get me one."
Of course this makes perfect sense, she's at school and needs her coffee. "What the heck unnamed child #1?"
"Oh, mom, (eye roll) they serve other stuff besides coffee, they serve smoothies too."
I mull the proposition over and somehow find my sorry behind stuck in a long line waiting for smoothies for Unnamed child #1 and a few of her friends that have smarter parents.
As I'm idling I realize I've never been to a coffee house before. Mostly because I don't drink coffee, but also because a number of years ago when $12 coffee became the rage I developed a bona fide pet peeve. It's one that started back in the 80's and has been festering for years. I normally keep it to myself, but now I have a blog.
Back when bottled water came out, the cool people were seen cruising the school halls clutching their Evian bottles. Bottled water became a status symbol, much like designer coffee has today. My peeve is how readily we literally buy into a marketing idea. While I know many a livelihood is founded on our national desire to consume, I have allowed designer drinks to bug me.
As this concept has grown, like the camel's nose in the tent, we're not only clutching water and coffees, kids are now guzzling energy drinks at alarming rates. It's not good for our bodies, our environment or our pocketbooks.
Pulling up to the drive-thru window I order the smoothies and am asked "with whip?" Takes me a few seconds, since I am not versed in the coolness of the coffee house to realize she is referring to my beloved whipped cream. "With of course."
She hands me the magical elixirs and I take a swig. Well, I just waited in line for 45 minutes to receive a free Icee with some whipped cream on it. Tomorrow they will be charging $4.25 for one of these.
Transporting three of these treats over to the local schoolyard, I hand them over to the panting kids. As I watch the pack recede back into the crowd they're holding their special smoothies high.
Whatever get's ya through the day girls.
I've started a Spanish class this week. Having wasted away in online classes, I'm a huge fan of the teacher-student interaction. The last Spanish class I took was over 20 years ago. Yes, I got an A, but cerebral atrophy is a powerful force, so I was very nervous the first day of class.
When I registered for classes I had to conduct some business on campus. The loitering student population scared the bijeezuz out of me. (I don't know what bijeezuz are but I could tell when they were gone.) The campus was littered with all sorts of packs of scary looking kids. I understand that I run with a rather protected segment of the population, but I was scared I was going to be knifed on my way to the bookstore.
After checking out, I actually stood at the window planning my route across campus, the long way, back to the safety of my car. I thought there was little chance someone was going to carjack a minivan... then I was scared I had that thought. I placed one key from my key ring between each of my fingers and ran in the 113 degree heat across the parking lot. Scary people and an overactive imagination are not a good mix.
My first day, I arrived early to class. With the business of school underway, there was less loitering. There were still scary people I had to navigate, now they were lost and scary.
One by one students filed into our classroom. Most of them seemed non-threatening. The professor had our class create a giant U formation so we could all converse together. He had a buzzer he had pulled from a Taboo game and when you made a mistake he buzzed you over, and over and over until you got it right. After being buzzed a ridiculous number of times, I was starting to wonder if I could compete in this class.
Then he broke us into pairs. My partner makes his way over from the other side of the room. The beanie cap, black dagger earrings, low-rider pants with plaid underwear showing made for am impressive sight. As we worked through the assignment, this kid was delightful. You mostly can't judge a book by it's cover. But I wonder what people are trying to communicate with their fashion choices.
Well, some people I don't wonder at all. Next to my partner was seated one of the girls in the class. I never looked at her face. Despite the fact that I am completely heterosexual, I could not take my eyes off her cleavage. I'm not sure you could show more cleavage. Who puts that kind of outfit on in the morning and says "This is perfect for school?" Well, obviously this girl. I dared my partner to throw something in... he couldn't quit laughing, and being a boy, he had noticed her wares long before I did.
So I think she must be an anomaly. I was wrong. Three girls in our little class have barely covered their nipples. Good grief ladies. At school? Really?
One girl walks up to turn in a paper. She has less clothes on than off. Micro mini, plunging neckline, spaghetti straps - I've seen more clothing at the beach. As the professor is talking to her he leans on his buzzer.
My side of the room gets the giggles - she deserved to be buzzed. With all the different fashion expressions and statements they're trying to make, I wonder if I should bring a buzzer just to make it safely to my classes each day.
I'd feel like one of the judges on a reality show - buzzing people who didn't make the cut. It could be fun. Too short of skirt - AAAAAAA Ugly baggy pants - AAAAAA Gangsta bandana - AAAAAAA.
Suddenly I hear the real buzzer - AAAAAAA- while daydreaming I had missed the question and I was the one getting buzzed.
Clearly it will be a challenge for me to keep up.
I'm not a particularly good housekeeper. I've never had delusions on this subject. There aren't things growing and no one is going to catch the swine flu but beyond that I make no apologies.
We have a Fisher Price/Polly Pocket town in our formal dining room. At any given time there will be a pile of unfolded laundry somewhere in the house. We have various instruments, music stands and sheet music strewn about. Soccer cleats, orthodontic appliances, school books. I get sick of picking it all up so often I just step over it. Usually I'm completely at peace with this fact. I'm not showing off for you, I'm raising kids.
Last week, I start dinner, clear off the kitchen table strewn with backpacks, shoes, and stuffed animals and try to get ready for our nightly meal. Sometimes I go a little overboard on my dinner creations and this one was particularly involved. While boiling and stirring the phone rings. Of course, I can't find a handset so I end up on the other side of the house by the time I completely missed the call.
Walking back to the kitchen I notice an odor coming from the powder room. I quickly poke my head in. Apparently an elephant, while using our toilet, had some digestive problems. I almost passed out from the stench, the toilet was completely swamped. I gag and my eyes well up from the fumes. Now, in all honesty it was not like I wanted to dive in and fix the problem right then, but I had to get back to dinner and I figured this could fester a while longer so I close the door and head down the hall.
As I'm passing the front door, something catches my eye. It looks like a rubber band ball on the entry rug. I walk closer to grab it and put it in the toy pile when I again, gag as I note this is no toy. At least it's not any more. The dog has thrown up all over the entry way, complete with the partially digested remains of who knows what.
Give me a break. Can this get any worse?
I grab a plastic bag, gathering the large chunks of regurgitate, depositing it in the trash. Again, the carpet cleaning can wait until after dinner.
Lathering my hands up to my neck, I wash and return to the fabulous culinary experience I've planned for my little family. Gathered round the table we're having a lovely conversation when the doorbell rings.
I'm sure It's someone selling magazines so I ignore it. Hubby goes to the door and I hear, "Of course you can use our bathroom."
WHAT THE HECK?!!!!!!!!!!!
Really? Right now??
I throw back my chair, leap over a backpack and yell to hubby and whoever it is "NOOOOO!" As I approach the door it's one of my neighbors. Needing the restroom. Who among us hasn't been there, but really? Right now, today, someone actually rings my door and asks to use my restroom? Can't you use another neighbor's restroom? Am I being punked?
It not a good reflection on me when I have to say to the guest, "Come in, please step over the dog barf and use my son's bathroom - he cleans it himself once a week. It's the cleanest in the house right now."
I'm so embarrassed I can't even look them in the eye. Hubby can't believe what's going on, he's even embarrassed.
The visitor emerges from the restroom holding their hands in the air like a freshly washed surgeon. Of course, there were no towels in that restroom. I offer to grab a towel and they say quickly "No, air drying is just fine." I know they were thinking they didn't want to touch anything more than they had to in this house.
"Well, goodbye now. Please step over the dog barf on your way out. Come again."
It takes a lot to embarrass me.
This did it.