Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Homestead Hunger

I have a dream.

I want to have a homestead. You know, grow our own fruits and veggies, have chickens that lay eggs, maybe have a beehive or two for the honey. I’d love to have a few well-producing fruit trees too. Sure, I’d like to have a few acres to spread out on and have a few goats, and maybe even a llama or two in the mix, but that might not ever happen.

So, for now, I’ll have to content myself with becoming an urban homesteader. That means that I (we, really) will convert our poor, forlorn, overgrown lawn into a homesteader’s paradise. We’ll have raised garden beds with strawberries, tomatoes, chiles, squash and the like. We’ll have a vermicomposting bin somewhere (that’s worms for those of you who don’t do garden-speak). We’ll have a special area of potted herbs, and maybe even a beehive sometime. Yes, that’s legal around here. And safer than you’d think.

Here’s the problem. This is what our back yard currently looks like:

Nice, huh? So how will we accomplish this monumental task, you ask? Like the tortoise, we’ll plod along slowly, testing our mettle. We’ll plant a couple of beds this year and try our hand at growing some food. Next year we’ll plant a couple more beds. And maybe a fruit tree or two. And the year after? Maybe a beehive. Or a couple of laying hens, if the neighbors don’t tell on us. You never know. The possibilities are endless.

The point is, we’ll maximize. We’ll try to get the most out of what we’ve got. It’ll be great for the girls too. They love to be outside, and if they get to help grow their own food, then that will be all the better. Now, where’s my pitchfork?

P.S. I don't know what's up with the formatting. I've tried to fix it. Several times. I'll come back tomorrow and try to fix it. Again. Argh.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Mind of a Child

I almost always enjoy seeing life through Jewel’s eyes. Yesterday, on our way home from taking family portraits, Jewel started making this noise in the car. It was terrible. If I had to give it a name, I’d call it Dying Velociraptor. Well, I was already in a bad mood (family portraits, ugh), so I turned around and asked her to stop.

She said, “Why won’t you let me squeak?”

“That noise drives me up the wall.”

She was confused. “But you’re so big. You’re not supposed to be on the ceiling.”

And there you have it. At once both illuminating and ridiculous. I love it! Thomas and I couldn’t help but laugh.

Stories like these bring to mind experiences from my childhood, but as a parent I now see them in a whole new light.

For instance, when I was in elementary school and living in Michigan, I was a Girl Scout. And as a Girl Scout, I was obligated to sell Girl Scout Cookies (Mmm... Thin Mints). So, my best bud, Angela and I would go out door-to-door in my neighborhood and hit up the neighbors for petty cash.

This was a great plan. Until we got to that house. That house, which looked just as innocuous as every other house on the block, was terrifying. That house had... dunh, dunh, dunh... a scary note!

The note said: “Please knock. Kid napping.”

Now, my adult brain goes all calm and rational and says, “Oh. They have a young child who is asleep. I must knock instead of ringing the doorbell.” But my not-calm, not-rational little kid brain said, “AAAHHHHH!!!!! Kidnappers!!!!! AAAHHHHH!!!!” And we ran all the way back to the safety of my house and my mom.

Mom laughed, but not too hard. She’s nice like that.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Christmas on the Brain: Santa's Lament

Ever since my Rudolph story, I've had Christmas on the brain. Plus, the TWW Christmas Book needed additional items to fill it up. So I whipped up a short, cheesy Christmas poem. Poetry really isn't my best area, but it's fun for me. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. It'll take you about the same amount of time.

Santa’s Lament

My job, it is a hard one
As everybody knows.
For one I’m dressed in velvet
From my cap down to my toes.
Mrs. Claus even makes sure
I’ve got velvet underclothes.
For a chap who’s rather hefty
It’s warm, don’t you suppose?

And then there are the reindeer.
Have you tried to teach them flying?
You know what I call sleigh rides?
Simply terrifying.
We’ve had eight different coaches
All left the North Pole crying.
I even used some magic dust
When I had to give up trying.

But the last straw came last Christmas
When I stopped in Timbuktu.
There’s a boy there named Benlaki
Who was feeling rather blue.
He didn’t want to miss me.
He knew just what to do.
You know what Ben has taught me
That I now relay to you?

Make sure you check for fireworks
Before you hit the flue.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

How Rudolph Got His Nose

Since I am an aspiring writer, I have recently joined the Trinity Writers' Workshop. Every Christmas, the people of TWW man a booth down in the Fort Worth Stockyards where they help children write letters to Santa. They also hand out booklets of Christmas stories written by TWW members. It is their way of giving back to the community, and it gives everyone warm fuzzies to imagine parents settling down in their favorite recliners, reading our stories to their children. This story will, I hope, be my contribution to the booklet this year.

How Rudolph Got His Nose

I didn’t always have this big red honker, you know. I mean, sure, I wanted to be famous. Everybody knows those other reindeer— Comet, Cupid, and all those guys. They’re household names too. But who wants to have a song sung about them for having a giant red nose? Especially one that blinks like a broken stoplight! Not me!

Not that it didn’t come in handy, mind you, but if I had to save Christmas, that’s not the way I would’ve picked. Nope, not what I would have picked at all. I used to have a great nose. My nose was superb! Perfect, even. But one December day, all of that changed in an instant. Well, a couple of instants, actually. It happened like this:

There I was, clip-clopping along to Games practice, listening to some swank festive tunes on my SkyPod, and admiring my perfectly black, non-light-emitting reindeer nose. I was just thinking that maybe I’d stop at the cafeteria for a little snack on my way when I smelled the sweetest, chocolatiest, most heavenly smell known to reindeer-kind. That glorious aroma could only mean one thing— Mrs. Claus was baking her famous, fabulous, fantastic Carrot Chocolate Chip Cookies. My nose twitched, my mouth watered, and my feet moved themselves toward Claus Cottage’s kitchen window.

I peeked in the open window and watched Mrs. Claus. She was pleasantly plump and rosy-cheeked, with her wavy silver hair in a soft bun and a frilly white apron on over her old fashioned red corduroy dress. I eyed each delectable cookie as she slid it expertly off the pan and onto the cooling rack with her spatula. Just one, I thought. Then, who am I kidding? I’d eat the whole pan in one gulp if she’d let me.

Wham! A snowball smashed into the back of my head, right between my antlers. I didn’t even have time to turn around before another one sailed past me. This one hit the window above me with a thwack and jarred it loose. The window dropped faster than Santa’s pants without suspenders. And do you know where it landed? That’s right— on my perfect reindeer nose.

Fast forward five minutes, and life was only getting worse for me. My nose throbbed terribly. It was the size of a baseball, and it was still swelling.

“Wow, can you see past that thing?” said Dasher. Blitzen was still laughing. He was the one who threw the missiles.

“Rudolph, you’d better go to the infirmary. You certainly can’t play Reindeer Games like that,” said Mrs. Claus with concern as she examined me through the window, which had been opened again to free my snout.

“Yeah, see ya later, Big Nose,” called Blitzen.

I hobbled toward the infirmary. It was a good thing I knew the way because it was getting harder to see around my burgeoning nose. When I arrived, a couple of maintenance elves were putting a new coat of brilliant red paint on the large wooden sign above the door. I looked up to say hi. The two elves both had small plastic pieces covering their noses. How strange.

My nose was softball-sized now, and I was definitely having trouble seeing around it. I stepped to the side of the scaffold to open the infirmary door, but I couldn’t see my feet around my nose. I heard the clink as my hoof hit the scaffold pole, and then I heard the groaning and creaking as the scaffolding swayed dangerously and threatened to topple. The elves held on tight. I held my breath and ducked, bracing myself for the worst. But the platform didn’t fall. It settled back against the infirmary wall slowly, like an old house cat laying down for a midday nap. I huffed in relief.

Then I heard an ever-so-delicate plop. Right in front of my eyes, every inch of my now grapefruit-sized nose was covered in a perfect coat of gleaming red paint. I laughed nervously.

“Sorry, guys. That could have been so much worse, huh?” I said, looking up. The elves weren’t smiling. They weren’t even angry. Instead, they were staring, open-mouthed, down at my nose in horror.

“W-w-wwhat?” I said. “It’s just a little paint. It’ll wash right off.” They shook their heads in unison. “It won’t wash off?” They shook their heads again. One of them handed me a can of unopened paint.

The can read “Elbert Elf’s Mighty Magic Enamel,” in big letters. In smaller letters below it said, “Never use another paint again! Good for all your permanent painting needs! Still looks new after 200 years or your money back!”

“Oh... kay,” I said. I didn’t get it. The elves, still open-mouthed, motioned for me to turn the can over. Down at the very bottom, in itty bitty print, it said, “CAUTION: For precision maintenance elf use only. Highly permanent. Will not wash off. Not for use on the planet Neptune.” Then, in even smaller print below that, it read, “WARNING: May cause drowsiness, dizziness, and purple polka dots on skin. Keep away from nose as product will cause permanent glowing. If swallowed, seek immediate magical medical attention.”

“Wow!” I said. “Purple polka dots! What does it mean here about the nose glowing thing?” Then I remembered the elves’ nose shields. My heart sank. “Oh no! You don’t mean... is my nose going to glow?” I answered my own question when the bulging orb on my face, slowly but surely, began to emit a pure crimson light. “So, I’m going to have a giant red glowing nose? Forever?” I gazed up at the elves in astonished desperation. They bowed their small heads sadly.

How did everything go so wrong, so quickly? I mean, I know it wasn’t all bad. I did save Christmas just a couple weeks later. All that fog and everything. I guess I should just be grateful for what I’ve got. I am famous, after all. And everyone knows my name. Most folks can’t remember all eight of those other guys. I’ve even saved two other Christmases. Fog again. You’d be surprised how often that happens. I should be proud of myself. At least, that’s what my therapist tells me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Imagination Domination

The other day, an acquaintance asked me what my hobbies are. I asked, tongue-in-cheek, “You mean besides singing Itsy Bitsy Spider and cleaning up bodily waste?” She didn’t get it. This was a sure sign that this lady was not, as Anne Shirley would say, a kindred spirit.

I decided that the straightforward approach was best, and I told her that I like to read and write, and I might play soccer again if I can get in better shape. She was nonplussed.

“You write? Like, in a journal?”

I sighed inwardly. “No, I write whatever I want. Right now I’m working on a picture book as well as a novel for young adults, but sometimes I write poetry too.”

“Oh. I never know how people write fiction. I’d never be able to think up all those stories. Nothing that interesting ever happens to me.” She waved her hand dismissively.

“I stay at home with two little ones, so my life is interesting, but not in a murder mystery kind of way. I just have an over-active imagination.”

She gave me a blank look.

I get that a lot.

I always think it must be boring to live without imagination. I mean, what do you do when you’re at the doctor’s office, and you’ve read every page of the two 23-year-old, half-disintegrated magazines in the waiting room, and they still haven’t called your name? Me? Boom! Instant entertainment! I just switch on the ol’ television in my head, and I’m good for hours.

Of course, there’s a downside. While fun is more vivid in my head, so is fear. I had to stop watching shows like Criminal Minds and Law & Order, especially while my hubby was away on deployment. Also, I often expect events to be different than they are (a.k.a. impossibly perfect). For example, last spring, the state required me to take a first aid course for my childcare registration. In my idealistic, perfect world imagination, I pictured the class practicing myriad bandaging, splinting, and stabilization methods. I smiled happily as I envisioned a cheerful, expert instructor circulating around the room, complimenting me on my fabulous technique as he/she taught the class everything we needed to know to staunch the bleeding and be heroes.

In reality, I sat by myself in front of a cheesy video for two hours, learning how to keep an injured person still while calling 9-1-1. Not the highlight of my weekend, I assure you. So, even though I often end up being disappointed when my mundane life doesn’t live up to my daydreams, it’s no big stretch for me to imagine up an entire plot line either. Getting it all into words, with a coherent story, realistic dialogue, and compelling description? Now that’s the hard part.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Merry Adventures of Droppin' Hood

As most of you know, my little Jewel had her tonsils out last Monday. While I was not thrilled to put her through the trauma of surgery at the age of four, the procedure was a necessary evil. Poor Jewel started out with occasional tonsillitis here and there, but by the end, she was going on two months with the same bout of illness. And you should have seen the size of her tonsils. Biblical. Seriously.

Jewel did very well, the surgery was very short, and we got to come home quite soon after she was done. Of course, we had a minor hold-up in the recovery room.

NEWS ALERT: Thomas is squeamish.

He doesn’t do blood, guts, bodily goo, or general squishiness related to the human vessel (not in real life anyway). Or apparently, as we learned this time, he doesn’t do the mere suggestion of any of those things either. At least not when it comes to his family.

When Jewel was waking up from anesthesia, she started a very loud, very nasty cough. It went away quickly, but I was not surprised when Thomas said, “I’m feeling a little green.” He got up to walk around on the pretext of using the restroom. I thought, “Good. He’ll get a little air, Jewel will wake up enough, and we can go home. No big deal.”

When he returned in short order, saying, “I feel kind of dizzy,” I started to get a little nervous.

When he sat down quickly and said, “I think I’m going to pass out,” and then proceeded to do so, I started to get a lot nervous.

So, let’s recap. Here I am, sitting in a rocking chair with a 40 pound, semi-conscious child on my lap. I am both trying to comfort her and keep from mangling the IV in her foot. I am also trying to keep her from sliding off of my lap because my legs are too short for the chair. This is a two handed (and legged) job. Then, I am forced to catch my now unconscious husband with one of those already needed hands, call for a nurse (who looks worriedly at Jewel, then confusedly at Thomas), and try my best to keep him from crumpling unceremoniously to the floor.


At this time, Thomas is unconscious, eyes rolled back, twitching, snorting, the whole nine yards. Television makes it look like people just keel over and get really still when they pass out, like they’re sleeping or something. It ain’t that pretty.

Fast forward five minutes. Jewel is still on my lap, but Thomas is in Jewel’s hospital bed, recovering sufficiently for us to go home. Jewel’s fine. She’s ready to go. Just waiting on Thomas. *suspiciously innocent whistling*

Everything turned out okay. Thomas is fine. Jewel is still recovering, but she’s fine. I’m over it. Mostly.

But hey, at least we learned something. We now know that if there is a next time, Thomas (now known as Sir Faints-a-Lot, which can be abbreviated as Sir FAL (Mwah ha ha ha!)) stays home with the kids, and Grandmommie tags along to the hospital. We’ll all be a little safer that way.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Have You Met Murphy? He's My New Roommate.

So, as you might know, today is our eighth wedding anniversary. Yay! And, you might ask, was it the grand experience of lovey-dovey-ness and general fabulosity that it should have been? Um..... no. Actually, it kinda sucked.

Not that our anniversary’s suckage is particularly surprising or anything. This, our eighth anniversary, marks yet another in a trend of bad anniversaries. How many have been bad, you ask? Well, all eight, of course! And here they are, in chronological order, for your reading pleasure.

Anniversary #1: We both had summer school finals the next day, so we ate our frozen wedding cake, said “Happy Anniversary. I love you! I can’t believe it’s been a year!” Yada, yada, yada... and we went back to studying.

Anniversary #2: We were in Chicago. This kind of sounds like a good thing, right? Well... we were sharing a hotel room with my in-laws. They are wonderful people, but not I-want-to-share-a-hotel-room-with-them-on-my-anniversary kind of wonderful.

Anniversary #3: Thomas was in Chicago in boot camp for the Navy. This was not the only anniversary ruined by the Navy.

Anniversary #4: Jewel had just arrived in the world 16 days earlier. There wasn’t a whole lot of sleeping going on. Or anything else for that matter.

Anniversary #5: This one was probably the least bad. Still, we couldn’t find a sitter, and we had to take Jewel with us for our night out. She was tired, cranky, and generally unpleasant to be around. So our nice, relaxing dinner out was not so nice. Or relaxing.

Anniversary #6: Navy again. This time Thomas was in Afghanistan on deployment.

Anniversary #7: I was horrendously pregnant. ‘Nuff said.

And finally, Anniversary #8: Our poor little Lane-girl is sick. She has a 103.7-degree fever, and she’s one unhappy girl. :-(

So, what are we planning to do to top off this fantabulous lovefest of a day? We are going to disassemble the pipes under the drain in the bathroom sink and scrape candle wax out of them. In my state of “walking disaster” clumsiness the other day, I tripped on the way to the trash can to empty out the tart burner (wax disc melting device), and I ended up accidentally pouring the wax down the drain instead. That was, incidentally, the same day I tried to take off my piggy toe with the front door. Yup. Smooth. Like buttah. That's me.

There is an upside, though. These last eight years of marriage have been wonderful! Certainly the happiest years of my life. I am so blessed that my Nearest and Dearest and I fit together so perfectly. I can’t imagine spending the last eight years with anybody else. Here’s to many, many more joy-filled years!

Now, if we ever have a good anniversary, then I’ll start to worry.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Midlife Crisis: The Advance Copy

Lately, Hubcap and I have started to plan his midlife crisis. It makes us laugh. If this surprises you, go back and read, “It’s a Nerd! It’s a Brain! It’s... My Husband!” Then we’ll all be on the same page. Got it? Okay, let’s move on.

So, we’ve been going back and forth talking about what kind of car I’ll let him get and what color he’ll dye his hair. Of course, he’ll have to get some ridiculous muscle clothes and tight pants since he’ll mysteriously begin working out with a vengeance. The tanning idea was immediately discarded, however. Hubcap only has two available skin tones: blinding white and barn-raising red.

Here’s the great part. He even said he’d let me pick his girlfriend! Then he thought about it and said, “You’re going to pick an ugg-o, aren’t you?” Alas, no. I have a much better plan. You see, I am an evil genius. I seem like your average nice, private, quiet person, but inside my mental closet are some very dangerous skeletons. More dangerous even than tooth decay and gingivitis. Hey, now. All those toothbrush and toothpaste commercials say that gingivitis is a very serious problem! *ahem*

Um, back to my evil plan. Because I’m evil. Right. Evil. So, will I pick the ugliest woman around? Nah, I’m not that simple. I will pick a very attractive woman. A very attractive woman who has a voice like she’s speaking through 10 noses. A woman who chooses to exercise her voice by talking, singing, and gossiping on the phone at every available moment. A woman who wheedles, nags, lies, and begs in said uber-nasality. A woman who has only one volume- freight train. In short, I will choose someone who is so repulsive in sound and character that the hubster has no choice but to ditch her as soon as humanly possible.

See? I told you I was evil. Like gingivitis. Yeah.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Heavy (bin) Laden

Last night, our military forces were the victors in a ten year search for an evil man. I am sure that all of you know by now that Osama bin Laden is dead. At first, I was incredulous, then relieved, then elated, and then uneasy. I got online and read the responses of my friends as they learned of the success of our military. As the evening went on, I settled down and went to sleep.

However, when I woke up this morning, my uneasiness remained. I wrote it off as worry about retaliation by our enemies. With my husband in the Navy Reserve, many of his colleagues either are or have been on deployment overseas. In addition, we have several friends and family members who serve in the military, and the death of bin Laden certainly puts them at risk. I was sure that this was the cause of my increasing apprehension.

It was not until I read a post from an old friend that I pinpointed my discontent. I have not had occasion to spend time with this friend since high school, but as is often the case, I kept up with him on Facebook. He consistently has a heart for the Lord, and I am often surprised and convicted by his thoughtful posts. This post was no exception. He came up with a particular Bible verse which I hadn’t thought of in a while, but which brought my vague anxiety into sharp focus.

“Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” -Ezekiel 18:23

Can I, in good conscience as a Christian woman, rejoice in the death and subsequent judgment of an unsaved person? No matter how evil he was, can I be righteous in happiness at another’s eternal demise?

No. I cannot.

In Ezekiel 18, Ezekiel wrote about how the righteous son of an evil man will not die for his father’s sins. He also wrote about how an evil man will die for his evil deeds and a righteous man will live. Did Osama bin Laden deserve what he got? Absolutely. As do we all. However, I cannot take joy in knowing that another soul has been sentenced to torment forever. How much rejoicing would there be had he been converted for the Lord, as Paul (a murderer and persecutor of Christians) was? I find it unlikely, though, that he would have chosen to trust Jesus in his final days. I hope and pray that his followers do not follow in his footsteps.

I thank God for our troops and for their willingness to put themselves at risk to keep us safe, and I congratulate them on their well-deserved praises for this mission. I am both pleased and relieved that such an evil human being can no longer harm us directly. I simply cannot revel in his eternal damnation.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Just Around the Bend

You know it’s bad when the plumber says, “I’ve never seen that before.” This was The Magnificent Billy’s second trip to our home. His first trip, last week, happened because our charming little Jewel had flushed her sister’s cradle cap brush down the toilet. We were all shocked it ever went down in the first place. Now, when we asked Jewel if she had put anything else down there, she said yes. She said, “I put my toothbrush in.” Hmm... okay, we can handle that. Then she said, “And I put the book light in.” She used the same nonchalant tone in which she might have said, “Mom, there’s a monster in the hallway, and he needs a pair of socks too. Can he have the yellow ones?” Or perhaps, “I want green applesauce with orange polka dots.” I attributed it to her well-developed imagination.

Still, I dutifully reported this finding to my nearest and dearest, who said, “She didn’t put the whole house down there!” I stayed silent, but secretly I agreed. Surely she hadn’t put the book light down the toilet. How would it ever get past the bowl? As it turns out, this was one of those very painful times when, as parents, we were sure our child was making up the whole thing. She wasn’t. After an additional week of toilet dysfunction, Billy the Great pulled out, lo and behold, the book light.

I really am happy to have an inquisitive child. She is so very bright, and so very curious about the world around her, and I love that. However, I do wish that all of her little “science experiments,” as I like to call them, were not so destructive. She has pulled down the curtains in her room, ripped pages out of books, unscrewed the switch from her lamp, and climbed the furniture to get to the diaper bag so she could pour out Lane’s formula powder onto the floor and make designs in it. And she’s so fast! You’d think, upon hearing these things, that I just don’t supervise her at all, but not so. She can destroy property in record time.

And as many activities as I plan to occupy her mind and energy, the second we’re done with one, she’s off into trouble. I wish I could say she did it just to be a royal toot, but she doesn’t. I can tell when she’s just being difficult, and she’s good at that too, but when she destroys things she is simply investigating cause and effect. I can only hope and pray that very soon she learns the cause and effect of misbehavior and punishment. And please, please, please pray that we all survive that long.