Friday, August 31:

Friday . . . one student in school, two students awaiting their start-date of September 17. One preschooler who alternately yearns to grow up and then tells me she is never going to school. Ever.

My husband has decided that every Friday night will be Date Night, and so every Friday afternoon has turned into Frantically Clean the House and Listen to the Preschooler Cry About the Babysitter Coming Over Afternoon. Which, believe me, is as fun as it sounds. Our 9-year old went to spend the night with his best friend and the neighbor came to spend the night here, just ensuring balance in the universe. (Four kids under the roof at all times. The universe demands it.)

We went to dinner at Applebee’s (we had a gift card!) and then we walked on a local 3.5 mile trail.

Saturday, September 1:

I took my daughter with me to run birthday-party related errands. First, the grocery store to buy the balloon she saw a week ago that I had previously refused to purchase. (A Sesame Street bus balloon, of all things, a show she has disdained for at least three years.) Then to the Dollar Store for more helium balloons and then onto Costco to pick up the cake and a hundred bucks’ worth of other stuff I didn’t know we needed until it jumped into the cart while I wasn’t looking. This is why they check the receipts at the door, you know, because the merchandise is always hitch-hiking in unsuspecting customers’ carts.

The birthday party started at 3 p.m. and although the weather forecast was iffy in previous days, on Saturday, the sun shone and the temperature hovered around 75 degrees. The pool was mostly deserted, so Grace and her four little friends swam to their hearts’ content.


The only glitch occurred when my husband lit the birthday candles (five candles!) and the wind blew them out before she had a chance. (Our rendition of Happy Birthday was slow, I guess.) My husband said, “You only brought two matches!” which was true. The big box of matches I keep in the kitchen was down to two measly matches, but I thought two matches for five candles was a pretty excellent ratio. I failed to consider the velocity of the wind. And so, she watched in horror as the wind blew out her candles.


Lucky for us, one of our guests came up with a lighter. Hooray.

Yes, that’s a stork on her cake. She picked it out, despite my best attempts to persuade her to choose a princess on her cake. She thought this was a duck and a duck was just what she wanted. She is five and she knows her mind.

Sunday, September 2:

We entered church and half a dozen people said with great enthusiasm: “Happy birthday, Grace!” And she looked puzzled because I had neglected to explain that we were celebrating her birthday a day early. So, during a quiet moment, I explained that her Real Birthday was on Sunday but that her party was on Saturday. She accepted this explanation. And then we took a bunch of pictures in the fellowship hall while my husband preached in the sanctuary.

100_1429.jpg That’s her new dolly, Emma, and her new kitty that purrs.

I cannot believe that five whole years have passed since I gave birth in my bedroom to this long-fingered and long-toed baby. I cannot believe that she’s so much like me and I’m not sure whether to be amused or alarmed. (My husband finds it hilarious to watch me dealing with my Mini-Me because his Mini-Me, our 9-year old, is such an easy, delightful, sweet child and my Mini-Me is sassy and talkative and did I mention SASSY? And the talking? The never-ending TALKING PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!? I am not that talkative, though I might admit to a wee bit of sassiness.)

Okay, where was I?

Oh yeah. I have a five-year old now. For the first time in fourteen years, all of our children are five or older.

A funny thing. On the way home from the pool (she and I went alone), she insisted that she wanted to walk home. WALK HOME! I said, “No, it’s too far!” which is true. She went on and on about walking home and tried to wheel and deal: “Okay, fine, next time, tomorrow, I’m walking home!” I laughed to myself because when I was about four years old, I spoke from the backseat of our car. “I want to walk!” I told my dad. He totally called my bluff and stopped the car along a city street in Tacoma and told me to get out and walk. So I did. I began to walk down the street, unconcerned about being alone, unaware of the danger of a darkened city and then he pulled the car up alongside of me and said, “GET BACK IN THE CAR!”

Monday, September 3:

Labor Day. Sleeping in . . . how much do I love having children who are old enough to let me sleep in? My husband took the kids to the pool for a couple of hours and I shopped the Value Village fifty-percent off sale. I saw a movie. Oh! And my son? The easy-as-pie 9-year old? He spent the whole weekend at Hood Canal with his best friend . . . his entire report to me was this: “Oh yeah, we had fun. We could bullheads with a net! About eight of them! And then we let them go!”

Oh wait! I remember one more thing! At about 8 p.m., I went outside to collect an errant water bottle and noticed how still the air was. I thought it was an ideal time to spray the weeds and grasses in the back yard with RoundUp. And that, my friends, is how I single-handedly brought about the largest rainfall on record for that day in history. Oh yes, and not just rain, but thunder and lightning. (You’re welcome, Pacific Northwest. I will try to use my power for good.)

Tuesday, September 4:

Back to school, except for the teenagers who sleep like hibernating bears. I appreciate the quiet mornings, perhaps because they argue so endlessly when they are awake. (Including just now, while I type this . . . I responded to their argument by unplugging the cable that connects their computer to the Internet. That was quite effective in getting their attention. Now one of them lingers behind me, clearly wanting to say something . . . wait. I’ll ask. “What do you want?” “Well, two things. One, I heard something. Two, I’d like to plug the Internet back in so I can get that thing unlocked and get you to put in the password because tomorrow you’ll be busy with all those kids . . . ” HA HA! I didn’t even say “yes” but he plugged it back in . . . and I let him because he wants the password to the local Christian radio station’s website.)

Oh kids. What fun.

I put in the password and overhead them saying, “Okay, I’ll forgive you but only a hundred and fifty-two times.”

“Actually, in the Bible, it’s seventy times seven.”

Even about this, they must argue. It’s in the Teenage Handbook of Behavior To Drive Your Mother Nuts.

Well, so, we’re caught up. I had imagined I’d opine about giving birth, about my dad’s birthday (he would have been sixty-five on Saturday if he hadn’t died of melanoma when he was forty-seven), about the end of summer and the passing of time, but . . . no. Time swept me along and I failed to narrate my way through the days and now they’re gone.

And so it goes.

My Husband

And so yesterday afternoon, my husband telephones to tell me he has to fly to Houston right away.  I said, “What happened?”

The teenage daughter of one of his high school classmates died from cancer. 

He flew out this morning.  That’s the kind of man he is.  He’s the kind of person you want to be in the room when you get really bad news, the kind of person you call when you just don’t know what to do next.  He’ll give you anything he owns without thinking about how much it cost originally.  He picks up the phone to check on people and visits people right before they go into surgery to hold their hands and pray.

And sometimes, in the morning, while I’m still scowling at the very idea of being awake, he’ll say, “Tell me the truth.   Do you think I’m better looking today?”  He wakes up happy.  He’s a champion napper and a devoted football fan.  He makes me laugh and he thinks I’m quite amusing.

I’m happy to loan him out for three days, knowing that he will make a difference wherever he goes.  He will make the situation there, that terrible loss, a little better.  He knows the things to say and how to sit with people in their grief.

That’s what loss can do if you let it.  Loss can create a deep reserve of kindness and empathy and compassion.  My husband draws on that reserve and shares freely.

My heart goes out to his friend . . . I cannot even imagine that loss.  Pray for that family, if you are the praying type.  And hug your children tight.  

I am Sneezy, Mother to Crybaby

I can’t stop sneezing.  My daughter won’t stop crying.  But, hey, the weather is beautiful out today, predicted to reach 80 degrees, some optimistic meteorologists proclaim.  (Whatever happened to just calling them “forecasters” anyway?)

My husband would like you to know that he is one terrific guy.  Saturday, he set me loose from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.  I saw a movie (“The Illusionist” which I can wholeheartedly recommend) and shopped at my favorite thrift store and at Marshall’s.  As usual, being alone out in the world refreshed me and almost made me ready to face the sink full of dishes at home.  In fact, when I got home, I cleaned out my closet. 

My daughter is still crying.  She’s crying for two reasons.  1)  She went to bed last night an hour late because I had to take her to my son’s Judo class last night because my husband went to a meeting; 2)  I just snapped at her when she kept repeating the same sentence over and over and over.  Why people in this family don’t realize I CAN HEAR THEM the first time, even if I don’t immediately respond is beyond my comprehension.  Just because I am not speaking, people I live with appear to believe that I am also NOT THINKING and not IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMETHING. 

Now, she’s gone into the other room to play the other computer.  Finally, she stopped crying.  I have also temporarily stopped sneezing.  I have fall allergies sometimes and this year, I sneeze all morning long.  My nose itches.  Really, it’s quite a delight to be me.

Have you ever heard of Pickleball?  It’s like playing tennis with wiffle balls and giant ping-pong paddles.  I’d never seen it played before this weekend when we visited friends who have a court in their driveway.  I tried to not be jealous of those people . . . and not just because they have at least $100,000 worth of vehicles parked in their garage, but because their pantry is bigger than my whole kitchen. 

My besetting sin:  jealousy.

And so my day begins with my sober assessment of my shortcomings (snappish, jealous, prone to sneezing, unable to keep kitchen floor clean, impatient) and a pile of used tissues.

My husband, though . . . he rocks.  And I’m not just saying that because he told me to.

Irreconcilable Differences

I must have the smartest, most thoughtful readers on the internet.  Did you read all those great comments on the post below?  (And I’m not just talking about the ones who complimented me, though that was great.  Thanks!)

I pity those who discard a marriage after such brief attempts.  (Yes, Jessica Simpson, I’m talking to you.  And Tori Spelling?  What is wrong with you women?!)  Do these people not know that joy comes in faithfulness and in long-term commitment?  Whatever happened to delayed gratification?

Judy understands what it’s like to be in a marriage chock full of irreconcilable differences.  When I read Judy’s blog last night, I knew I had to share it here . . . it’s the perfect accompaniment to my last post, kind of like Diet Coke with Lime is the perfect drink with fat-free popcorn.  

So, go read.  Laugh and nod.  Thank me later.

What’s Hiding In Your Purse?

When he finally went through her purse while she showered, he found what he expected: a cell phone she’d hidden from him. And in that cell phone was the telephone number of a man and telephone numbers for a divorce lawyer or two.

Think what you will about that, but I suppose that you never really understand a marriage unless you are in the middle of it. (And maybe not even then.) From my vantage point, I see a live grenade about to explode in the living room at the feet of their three children. I cannot believe anyone would pull the pin and throw an explosive device into her own family, but it happens all the time. I wish I could stop it, stop her, warn her, but I know she’d never listen because she’d say I don’t understand.

And I know that I can’t possibly understand the dynamics in anyone else’s marriage. Not really. Not completely.

But I do know what I hide in my purse. And I want to know what you hide in your purse.

(Reese’s Pieces or chocolate. What? You expected maybe a handgun?)

Ten Ways I Annoy My Husband (Without Really Trying)

1) I have purchased exactly one plunger, which may or may not be located near the toilet currently overflowing. (We have three toilets, one plunger, a 3:1 ratio, obviously not efficient.)

2) I leave wads of crumpled used tissues on my bedside table. What can I say? I have allergies.

3) At least once a month, eager for an evening snack, he pours cereal in a bowl, opens the fridge and finds . . . no milk. This is highly disappointing to him.

4) I leave shoes out, under the dresser, near the bed, wherever. I can’t be bothered.

5) I insist on doing things My Way (aka The Right Way), things like loading the dishwasher and packing correctly for trips.

6) I turn down corners of the magazines he leaves in the bathroom so I can pick up where I left off.

7) Clutter.

8) I mock his heritage by using an improbably bad Southern accent.

9) I talk to him during “important” portions of shows he’s trying to watch.

10) I don’t get out of bed when the alarm rings. I’m a three-hits-to-the-snooze-button kind of girl.

Post Academy Awards Show Blog

I know. I didn’t post for two whole days, which in dog years is uh, two weeks? That annoying thing keeps happening where a thought pops into my head and I think, A-ha! I must blog that! And then the thought dissolves like the bubbles in my kitchen sink just when I’m ready to wash a frying pan.

(Speaking of thought bubbles, twice today at church, I scolded my 12-year old son who was holding a piece of paper up above his head. You can imagine how distracting it would be to sit behind a boy with a paper sign hovering over his head. When I peered closely, I saw he’d drawn thought bubbles and a profound thought: “Mooo!”)

[I have to say: I told you so! Only, I probably forgot to actually tell you so, but I did predict that “Crash” would win for Best Picture (and it did) and that Reese Witherspoon would win for Best Actress (and she did) and that Philip Seymour Hoffman would win for Best Actor (and he did). I rock.

Oh, and how about Will Ferrell and Steve Carrell’s presentation for Best Achievement in Make-up? That presentation was rivalled only by Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin.]

Okay. Back to the post. Oh, first I have to say that the best way to watch The Academy Award show is to video tape it (unless you are lucky and have TiVo, in which case I loathe you because my jealousy has no rational outlet). If you tape it, you can fast-forward through the speeches, the montages, the tributes and just watch the presentations and the monologue. (Oh, and how funny was that opening?!)

What I wouldn’t give for a coherent, creative thought about now. Um . . . so . . . today was church but we had no lights in the sanctuary because last night, when some of the guys were at the church doing something or another, they smelled smoke. Smoke emanated from the breaker box when all the lights were on. So, no lights today. And the sanctuary smelled like smoke. My husband was a little stressed out about this, but I gave him some clever lines to use like this: (wait until the middle of the sermon and then pause and say) “Is it just me or am I ON FIRE today?” Or maybe point out Big Al, one of his close friends and say, “I don’t know about you, but Big Al is SMOKIN’!” Or even, “Repent, for even now, I smell the burning fires of hell!”

Oh wait. Was that sacrilegious? Okay, let’s move on.

I drove our new “old” van, the one nearly as old as my marriage yesterday. The interior is quite lovely, though the exterior shows minor lumps and bumps and flaking paint if you look closely. Kind of like me, I guess. Maybe that’s why I like it so well. (But we didn’t name it. We don’t name cars. Do you? Maybe we could name it “Daisy,” and then I could say, “Hey, I’m Driving Miss Daisy!” (Did you get that Oscar reference? Huh? Didja? See? I have a theme in this here blog.) I drove from going-out-of-business craft store to consignment store to thrift store to discount store to second craft store to Bed Bath & Beyond before finally drifting home.

The weather had been exquisite all day and I wanted to just pick up the kids and hurry them down to the beach, but first, we needed dinner. And then the sun slipped below the horizon and then my husband said, “Tomorrow,” and I agreed. But today (“tomorrow”) it rained and this afternoon, my 8-year old son cradled his head in pain and cried. Another illness?! (After his bath tonight, he declared this, “The WORST BIRTHDAY WEEK EVER!” I distracted him with a tale of a boy I once knew who was so sick on Halloween he couldn’t go trick-or-treating. Because really, what is more soothing that comparing yourself to someone worse off than you?)

My grandmother turns one hundred years old on Friday. And you know what that means, don’t you? That’s right! A mini-family reunion. She had six children and five of them are still alive. I have dozens of first cousins and we’ve all done our part to procreate. (Well, most of us have, anyway.) We’ll gather from around the country for a catered dinner in her honor and I will obsess all week about dressing to slim and about whether to call my colorist for emergency highlights and debating the merits of robbing a bank to hire a plastic surgeon to remove this double chin.

And I console myself this way: I say to myself, “Self, probably Grandma will live at least another six months and by then, you can be to your perfect size, just in time for The Relatives to see you again!” And then I remind myself that I am not fifteen and the world does not revolve around me and that people will not be noticing my appearance as much as I notice my appearance. That’s what I’ve learned in the past twenty-five years.

It would help if I weren’t related to the skinniest cousins imaginable–seriously, my cousin is tiny and wears a loose size 2 and my cousin, her brother, is Ichabod Crane-ish, and his wife, a girl who lived on my wing in college, is also slim and has never appeared in public without her perfectly applied lipstick and her oh-so-cool Southern composure.

But I can write. See how I comfort myself?

In other news . . . hello March? The daffodils around town are blooming. My crocuses are a happy little enclave of pure white, gold and purple, merrily coloring the drab flowerbed. They are tucked right behind the basketball hoop and seem hopelessly misplaced, but the basketball hoop was a recent addition, haphazardly introduced to the backyard by two men with no thoughts of Feng Shui or aesthetics of beautiful English gardens full of perennials. (As if!)

This is the time of year that I wish I’d planted more daffodils and I am full of regret. That is some kind of metaphor for life, isn’t it? You just have to plan ahead and be patient . . . and actually put the bulbs in the ground instead of just dream.

With that thought, I will wrap this up. But first, one final thought. About George Clooney.

Dear George, (May I call you “George”?)

I want to hate you. You are a cad. You are everything a thinking young woman should despise–your cocky attitude, your inability to commit, your failure to demonstrate your competence at marriage. You own a pig, for goodness’ sake, a pet pig! Your politics are liberal, you have that smirk, your belief in yourself bordering on narcissistic, and yet . . . I can’t help but think you are the Epitome of a Movie Star and tomorrow I’m going to buy a poster of you and put it on my bedroom wall. I don’t think my Republican husband will mind at all.

Oh, and congratulations on winning Best Supporting Actor.

Hugs and Kisses,

In Commemoration of Our Long Marriage

Utterly ridiculous, that’s what this is. It’s 11:22 p.m. and I’m wrapped in a somewhat hideous purple bathrobe that my in-laws sent one Christmas (what? now we send sleepwear to people we never even visit?) and the old navy blue velour Lands End pajamas I bought the year my son was born (1998) and I have work to do, actual important work with deadlines and everything and what am I doing? What? I’ll tell you!

I’m procrastinating and reading your blogs and listening to the local late-night news and occasionally hollering to my almost-teen boys, “BE QUIET! GO TO SLEEP!” My husband woke up early with the stomach virus I suffered through on Friday and now he’s exhausted from the rigors of trudging to the bathroom ten thousand times today. I said with barely restrained glee, “And now, do you feel sorry for me?!” because last Friday when I had the same virus, my daughter never left my side and for half the day, I was babysitting the 15-month old. Never mind the fact that my boys were entirely on their own and that my now-8-year old invited two friends over to play in the backyard without even telling me or the fact that I was up and at a birthday party the next morning by 10 a.m. Never mind that because having the stomach virus is not a time for healthy competition. Sick competition, perhaps.

For the record, he does feel sorry for me. And then he said, “Yes, I was neglecting you while visiting the dying in the hospital.” Which is entirely true and spotlights the life we lead. The dying in the hospital trump a stomach virus at home, unless of course, the roiling stomach belongs to the pastor, in which case, the youth pastor will have to do (as he did today when a church woman called for a pastor today–she was having an MRI on her head to see if she had a stroke). (And, wouldn’t you know it, a different woman, the one my husband has been visiting frequently the past weeks–she died last night at 1 a.m. And he couldn’t go and do his pastor-thing and sit with the family today. It’s such a tough time and he normally makes a point of being with the grieving family.)

Before my 8-year old left for school, I looked into his green-gray eyes and said, “Now, listen. If you get a stomach ache and if you have diarrhea, tell your teacher and I’ll come get you.” I wrote his teacher a note to inform her that we have a stomach virus here which is highly contagious and that if he showed signs, I’d come pick him up.

At 9:30 a.m., the call from his teacher came. My husband threw off the covers of his sick bed and came downstairs to sit with my daughter and the toddler while I drove three minutes away to the school. My son looked fine and I confess I didn’t believe he was sick. I confined him to his room, relegated him to playing the old Nintendo 64 system and for a long time, every time I checked, he seemed bored, but healthy. He insisted he’d had diarrhea and I gave him a little speech about being truthful, yada, yada, yada.

At 3:00 p.m., he threw up all over his bedroom carpet.
At 3:01 p.m., the doorbell rang.
At 3:02 p.m., the telephone rang.
At 3:03 p.m., the nice church couple who rang the doorbell sat at my kitchen table while I pretended not to be mortified by 1) my messy kitchen counter; 2) the toys scattered all over the family room; 3) the stacks of laundry, folded, but still; 4) my unmade-up face and humidity-induced crazy hair; and 5) my daughter’s nutty outfit (sundress and too-short wildly unmatched purple stretch pants).

And with great hilarity, I must tell you that we are replacing our van (aka, “The Deathtrap,” the 1991 Chevy Astro van which was given to us a couple of years back) with another van, a pretty, powder-blue Chevy Astro van which was manufactured the very same year we were married. That’s right! Bonus points for those of you who shouted out the correct answer. Nineteen eighty-seven!! Yes, people, that means our “new” van is four years older than our “old” van and; not only that, but it’s guaranteed not to break down within a twenty-mile radius.

No, really. We are so grateful for this donation to our sad, pitiful cause. Our old van quit running and the brakes were deemed unsafe by our mechanic friend. Our regular car, the 1993 Mercury Sable randomly stops running, despite the assurances by the mechanic (twice, now) that they’ve fixed it. (The last time, it cost $300.) So, driving that car very far feels unsafe.

Hopefully, next year, we’ll buy an actual vehicle manufactured in this century. Or decade, even.

So, they signed over the van. I cleaned up the vomit as best as I could. The telephone call was for my husband–his aunt died. As I knelt over the vomitous carpet, the toddler woke from his nap, screaming his little blond head off.

I did scurry around this afternoon, then, fueled by my mortification. Of course, now that it’s tidy, no one will stop by. That’s always how it works around here.

I expect my twins to be clutching their bellies and pushing their way to the toilet tomorrow. In a way, that would be great because then I could work on my work, the work with deadlines. Because, otherwise, it will interfere with “American Idol” and honestly, a girl has to have her priorities.

I said to my husband tonight, “Don’t you just love our life?” as I thought about the vomit and the old vans and the singing preschooler in the tub who wouldn’t stop calling out, “MOMMY! MOMMY!”

He said in a very serious voice, “Yes. I do, actually.”

The next time I came into the room (putting away laundry), he said, “Seriously, think of all the things we’ve been through. We’ve been poor. We were infertile. The unemployment. Your dad’s death. Our families’ divorces.”

Getting into the spirit of things, I said, “Don’t forget your cancer!”

His point, though, was not to dwell on the difficult stretches of our life together, but to remember that our pain helps us help others. Our pain has made us stronger. Our marriage has endured–and now we have a concrete reminder of just how long we’ve been together. What cracks me up is that the reminder isn’t a giant sparkly anniversary diamond ring, but has flaky powder-blue paint and is parked in the driveway.

The Valentine’s Day Grinch

I have to confess. Valentine’s Day means nothing to me. I used to love it . . . in elementary school when the holiday promised heart-shaped cookies and lacy hearts and an afternoon party during school. My mom would make sure I wore red or pink to school. What’s not to love?

But for the last thirty years? Valentine’s Day has been a non-event. Oh, wait. I remember my first married Valentine’s Day. In 1988, it must have been on a Sunday, because I remember after church spending the day with my husband . . . and a bunch of young people from the church we were attending. I wanted to confide in the mom of the house–she was probably forty-five, maybe fifty–and I wanted to ask her about marriage and did she worry that her husband didn’t think she was pretty anymore and would she please be my mentor and my friend and help, help, help, I’m lonely, even though I’m married. You’re okay. Am I okay?

I can’t remember other specific Valentine’s Days, though my husband always brings me chocolate and a card and sometimes a teddy bear or something. But a gradual realization has dawned over recent years. I’m not very romantic. I have a very low need for romance. Perhaps I can blame this on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs . . . I’m always stuck in the “need sleep” stage of life, it seems. I’m just pragmatic, sensible, apt to choose comfort over fashion. I have no poetry in my soul, other than the tried and true: “I had a little tea party, this afternoon at three; t’was very small, three guests in all, just I, Myself and Me; Myself ate up the sandwiches, while I drank up the tea; T’was also I who ate the pie and passed the cake to Me.” (Thank you, Miss Brittingham, third-grade teacher.)

My husband, though, appears to be moving closer to the romance spectrum of life while I inch away, bit by bit. And so, with some alarm, I opened my eyes wider in dismay when he announced, “I thought of the perfect Valentine’s Day gift! And it’s not too expensive, either.” (He already brought me two dozen red roses with the reassuring thought that they are less expensive now, only $19.99 at Costco and they are really quite lovely.)

Oh no! We’re doing Valentine’s Day? I mean, beyond a card and chocolate? Does this require creative thinking on my part? My creative powers are exhausted by the challenge of examining the American Revolution, battle-by-battle, while comforting the baby who bit his lip and negotiating with my little terrorist daughter who wants to cut with scissors right now and wondering, all the while, what we’ll have for dinner that will take ten minutes to prepare because I forgot to get something in the crockpot again.

I’m a married woman. Nineteen years in July, as a matter of fact. As I see it, that’s my own personal Valentine’s Day. Is this not enough? Can we not leave Valentine’s Day to elementary schools?