21 March 2013

My blog entry today is just a link to another blog I think you should read. I can really identify with her and her message. I did not write this - this lady did. Please read on...

MONDAY, MARCH 11, 2013

A Letter To Young Mothers

Dear Young Mothers Everywhere—

I was one of you once and I know how hard it is.

Motherhood has to be the hardest job on the planet but I think it is getting harder. Not harder in the it-hurts-to-push-this-baby-out sort of way. Not harder in the must-lug-gallons-of-water-to-the-stove sort of way. Not harder in the pray-my-children-survive-the-polio-epidemic sort of way. No. In many ways, motherhood has gotten considerably easier. Medical advances and indoor plumbing and labor saving devices have done wonders for the daily life of the average mother. These advances have made life easier and given us free time and kept us from looking like worn out pieces of beef jerky by the time we are 40. But they have come with a cost and that cost is driving us crazy.

I had my first child in 1990. Back then I was faced with a few choices: Natural childbirth vs. intervention, breast vs. bottle, stay-at-home vs. work, and cloth vs. disposable. That was it. For me, the choices were easy. There were not categories and subcategories and sub-subcategories. There was no internet to tell you the pros and cons of each decision you made. You just did life. You just lived.

Even then, in these most basic of decisions, people could get defensive. It wasn't all fun and games. There were awkward moments. I held to my mothering principles with much more vigor than I should have. I failed to be as gracious to those who chose a different path . . . or had the path chosen for them. But looking back that seems rather mild compared to the coming storm.

Fast forward a few years and the Great Parenting Debates took over. For the first time I started to see parents treating each other with absolute scorn. No longer were women just a little defensive over their choices. What came next was out and out war.

Parenting programs took over churches. Cultural cliques were formed overnight. Parenthood, and motherhood by extension, became a matter of "doing it right." Schedules and disciplines and programs ruled the day and your success was judged by the behavior of your children. Those who succeeded at the program gloated in their success and gave out exhausting and exalted advice, all with an air of superiority and self-righteousness. Those who just couldn't get with the program were left feeling like desperate failures as parents.

By 1996 I had 4 kids who were as poor at following programs as I was at implementing them. Our life was just . .  well . . . chaos. But it was fun chaos, most of the time. I do remember on more than one occasion being totally overwhelmed and wanting to run off to Montana . . . ALONE, and even once when I actually wished I were deaf, but looking back, I do not have one single regret that I failed to get with the program.

Fast forward to today. I have lots and lots of friends on Facebook who are young moms or young moms-to-be. The choices they have before them are astronomical. The websites, the mommy blogs, Pinterest (oh EVIL Pinterest). The stakes are high. The expectations are huge. The consequences of every little decision are supposedly so dire. At least that is what they say.

Somewhere along the way we began to believe a lie. And it is a LIE FROM THE PIT OF HELL. The lie that there is one right way to be a mother. The lie that we must make every RIGHT decision or the consequences will be catastrophic. The lie that we can control our children's lives. The lie that being a failure as a mother is a fate worse than death.

Run, I say, RUN to pick up your Bible. Turn to Micah 6:8 and read aloud what it says. "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does The Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

No mention of childbirth techniques or clever birth announcements. No mention of diapers, cloth or not. No mention of schedules. No mention of highchair manners. No mention of education. No mention of medical advances or food sources. No mention of anything specific at all.

God does not require of you to be a perfect mother. The minute you begin to gloat over your successes or wallow in your failures you are using the wrong measuring stick.

So if you want to put your baby in all organic diapers and grow and make your own baby food, go right ahead. If you just gave your toddler a can of cold Spaghetti-os for lunch, no problem, you are in good company (even if no one else admits it). If you can homeschool with delight and your kids thrive in the environment, good for you. If you feel that a professional teacher may be a better choice for your child, you may be right. If you are concerned about vaccines and decide to withhold them, fine. If you are concerned about communicable diseases and feel that having immunizations are in the best interest of your children, go for it.

We are limited and finite and can only do so much. God created us with different strengths and weaknesses, gives us different resources, places us in different circumstances. This one-size-fits-all-robot-Stepford-mom stuff is robbing us of our joy and pulling us away from what we were created to do: To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.

With sympathetic love-
A Worn Out Mom and Kindred Spirit

P.S. (added 3/14/13): Wow! This letter has been read by more people than all my other posts combined—and then some! Thank you to so many who have passed it along. (If you found this post encouraging, you might also read Broken Mother's Day. And my previously most-read post, No Words, Just Tears.)

19 September 2012

Membership has it's privileges...

My love affair with American Girl dolls goes back to when the company was called The Pleasant Rolland Company after the founder. Catalogs came out with these delightful dolls and their accessories from different times in American history - there were no stores; it was all mail order. My favorite was Samantha and I got my first doll, Samantha, in December 1987 when we were living in Norway. Mike's folks brought her and all her furniture and accessories on a flight from Dallas to Germany where we met them for a week's vacation in early December. There was also a Samantha doll that Santa would be giving Jennifer soon. When Mattel bought the company, I feared quality would go down and prices up, but fortunately that never happened. Throughout the following years, Addie joined our ranks as well as a Bitty Baby when they were introduced. I still have my dolls and furniture - my Samantha is even signed by Pleasant Rolland.

Last Friday night, Mirai and I attended a very fun "gala" for Hermann Memorial Children's at the new American Girl Store opening in Memorial City. I had received an invitation from the Dallas store that was received the day I was to respond - and I read the email late at night. Gasp! What did I miss? Would I still be able to go?? Was it too late??? (cut to "long night of wondering if priorities were right but still sleepless as mind raced with fear that my opportunity was lost forever...")

The next morning, I called BRIGHT and EARLY (no mean feat for me, I guarantee) the phone number indicated. After a bit of a shuffle and a promised "we'll call you back", I did get a phone call with a "Yes, you ARE on our list - just had to make sure and our system is acting up today".

I've never been the person who went clubbing but I've seen it on TV. Girls wait outside in their skimpiest "best" waiting to be picked to go into said club based on their looks I guess. Either that or they are "on the list". So imagine how I felt to know I was on "THE list" at the American Girl Store for the pre-opening Benefit! Don't get me wrong - it came with a price (aka "donation") to Hermann Memorial Children but, still, I was "on the list". (Did I mention I was on "the list"?) Squeeee!!!

We arrived about ten minutes prior to opening time and checked in. Yes indeed, I was ON the list. :) We got in the queue and waited with all the other super excited, can't believe we are here other little girls, moms and grandmas. There were even a few dads and papas. A children's choir, all outfitted in "American Girl - Houston" t-shirts was singing for every one's enjoyment while we waited. Elsewhere, lines were beginning to form for obtaining timed entry tickets for the Grand Opening that started the following morning.

Six-thirty arrived and we started moving into the store which is Retail Mecca to the American Girl Aficionados of the world. We were greeted by a team of managers that were from other stores across America. Wait staff held aloft trays of deletable foods - crab cakes, meatballs on a stick, coconut chicken and pigs-in-a-blanket. Food stations were set up throughout the store with different cuisines - one had mac and cheese, mini hot dogs, fresh fruit and jello jigglers. Others had Chinese food, salads, carved beef, hamburger sliders, and 'decorate your own cookies'. In the Bistro, a dessert buffet was set up as if all that other food wasn't enough! Pink lemonade was in abundance as well.

Soon after we entered the store, greeting and being greeted by staff,  I hear a voice, "I KNEW you'd be here!" I look up and it's Liz,  a manager from the Dallas AG store! She comes over and gives me a big hug before introducing me to the Houston store manager. We visited a bit and she even held Mirai's doll so Mirai could get more food from one of the stations. After sampling the culinary delights, we wandered the store and selected a "few" (cough, cough...) things. I also kept an eye on the Silent Auctions that were located in a cordoned off area just outside the store benefiting HMC. I had my eye on two sets in particular so started doing my part by bidding them up fast. It's for charity so the bids needed to reflect that, right?

Mirai decorated her own cookie (as did I - delicious homemade style sugar cookies just like you make at Christmas!) They had cookies cut in heart and circle shapes as well as big bowls of butter cream icing in pink, green and yellow. Choices of embellishments were aplenty - Mirai went straight for the pink crystal sprinkles. A quick trip back to check the Silent Auction bids and we headed back inside to look around some more.

Several girls visited with Mirai and she with them. Moms stopped to talk with some of the girls as well and there was a definite festive party feel and "doll camaraderie" that was inclusive the entire night. I only witnessed one incident where an adult acted rude to the staff, acting 'put out' about something petty. The rest of us glared at her for her impudence. :) Such behavior was unseemly at a Benefit, especially one held in a store that creates products to actively encourage kind and polite behavior of girls and young ladies.

Liz came back over to introduce me to Chris, the manager of the Bistro. She knew I was planning a birthday party there for Kennedy's 8th birthday next month and wanted to make sure we  met so all my concerns could be addressed and needs met. I admit it was a bit heady to be introduced to so many people as if I were a VIP or something instead of just a gramma who still likes to play with dolls! 

I got in the checkout line as the time for the closing of the store was fast approaching. Staff came over to let us all know the Silent Auction was closing in minutes. I was 3rd in line to reach the checkout but left the queue to make sure I was getting at least ONE of my auctions before they closed. I was in luck - I was the last bidder on both of them. I loitered a bit while Mirai personalized a zipper canvas bag waiting to see if I'd won for sure. The 10 second countdown began and...I WON THEM BOTH!!

One item was the new Caroline doll with her accessories, skiff and the entire boxed set of books, signed by the author no less. I didn't realize the part about "signed by author" until Sunday, oddly enough, when I noticed both writing on the exterior of the box and the ribbon on the book box not tied well. I untied the ribbon, pulled out a book and, sure enough, it had been signed by Kathleen Ernst. Each book (all six) were signed as well as the book box. Woot!

The other auction set included the new VW Beetle car, the dolls Ivy and Julie, the car wash set and the books for both Ivy and Julie. The car is a lot of fun - it has working headlights, radio, horn and ignition/running "sounds". They even got that hollow muffler loud engine sound that I remember VW Bugs making! It will be fun to see the boy's reaction to the car as that was what got their attention when we went to the Dallas store. If a Matchbox car holds interest of a young man for hours, imagine the delight in one that is much larger!

I got back into the checkout line which, so soon to closing, was about 20 people deep. Mirai was a bit "partied out" by this time. It was 9pm - the party was slated to end at 8:30 but they "soldiered on" as there were so many in line still. I found a bench where Mirai could sit and I could still keep an eye on her. It took awhile to get to the registers, but everyone was in a great mood, there was much laughing and visiting and before I knew it, I was finished and they were helping me to the car with my purchases and auction items. As we exited the store, Mirai got a "goody bag" with several books and a doll sized t-shirt with "American Girl - Houston" printed on it. I got a big hug from Liz before I left and an admonition to not forget to visit them at the Dallas store!

All in all, it was a magical evening, the 2nd "Happiest Place on Earth" (Disney parks being the first obviously...) Some individual highlights for both of us include:

Mirai - decorating her own cookies; personalizing her canvas zipper bag; the Jello jiggler "orange slices" and the different food stations; the goody bag

Cheri - winning the silent auctions, getting invited in the FIRST place to attend, being recognized by Dallas store friends, getting to go with Mirai to such a fun party!

The next day, I find that quite a few "friends"  had been joy-riding all night. Oh dear...

13 September 2012

School days...Public School Days that is...

Mirai is officially in Kindergarten. "Real school" as some refer to it although I'd challange someone to the death if they said that to me last year when Mirai was in Miss Boo's pre-k at Yellow Brick Road. If that wasn't "real school",  I don't know what is. Last year's pre-k is what has made this year's transition to kindergarten seamless. And I do mean SEAMLESS. I was the one intimidated by all the 'process' of public education - the enrollment, where to go for leaving off and picking up, orientations (and the lack of obvious notification thereby missing most of it), school handbooks and the (now I know annual) mountain of papers that come home that first week spelling out the consequences for non-compliance to a myriad of rules put in place, I'm sure, by past lawsuits and enforced by the Law of the Land. Yes, heady stuff indeed.

You see, my "original three" went to school overseas in private International schools. They were more of community than an Institution. And America was still considered a "Christian Nation" so there was more conservatism than not. The schools in which our children were enrolled did not "teach to the test" to obtain federal money. We were indeed fortunate that Amoco paid the fees for these private schools overseas which gave our children a solid educational foundation and a sense of the aforementioned community. But I digress. This is about Mirai and Kindergartin.

Her first day of school was flawless. I had bought a 'time timer' that helped her with time management. And I highly recommend these! I put 10 minutes on and placed the clock where she could see it. 10 minutes to go to the bathroom and brush her teeth. She needs this because, otherwise, she'll come downstairs and curl up in a fetal position at the foot of the stairs and just go back to sleep.
Then I'd set 10 more minutes to get dressed and come in to do hair. Then 10 more minutes for breakfast. Worked. like. a. charm...
There is homework every day which is a new concept for me. "Back in my day", kindergarten was a vehicle by which children learned three things basically:
1) Wait in line
2) Don't eat your crayons
3) Spell your name
Today's Modern Kindergartener must know their alphabet before the first day of class and, hopefully, all their numbers. They must already be independent. In other words, today's kindergartener is my 2nd grade. AND they (both the school and a lot of parents) are already wanting to identify "gifted" students and put them in special programs. I'll hasten to add right now that I'm not against challenging kids to do the best they can and continue to reach. But these are FIVE YEAR OLDS. I'm foreseeing burnout by 8th grade at this rate. Since when did being competitive in the world have to start at five years old? And I know a lot of "successful" folks that had a great childhood, unfettered by a push to excel that started in kindergarten. Okay, I'll get off my soapbox...for now.
For her birthday, she'd received a Skippyjon Jones backpack and that one is her favorite. As long as they don't throw Physics textbooks into the mix this year, I think Skippyjon will do just fine, thank you very much.

Day One she marched into that classroom and never looked back. I did not go in with her past the door to her room, and Day Two I just dropped her off near the door to the Kindergarten wing. When school is over, she comes bounding out full of information about what happened that day. I asked her what her favorite thing was - "Snack time". Of course. There's plenty of time to let her know later that one cannot get a degree in Snack Time (although going to a Culinary Institute would be close I guess...) The first week she got to be the "go bag"  person which took me a while to figure out - she kept telling me, "I carry the black bag everywhere we go". Okay. And what's IN this black bag? "I don't know - paper and books?" Ms. Fyke confirmed that when they go from class to class, there is a bag that carries all the papers and things they'll be working on and a student is selected each week I'm assuming to carry out the courier services. Mirai was honored. 

With Mirai being one of the youngest (if not youngest) in her class, with a July birthday, I had some reservations about her readiness to be in kindergarten but those doubts have been laid aside as I see her blossom and grow in her new environment. And, having done this before, I know to sit back and enjoy the ride because it won't be long before she's in less innocent environs. Vive kindergarten!

10 September 2012

"Goin' to the chapel and we're gonna get married..."

Where does one begin when the last post was last YEAR? I guess randomly. So here goes!

This past weekend was the wedding of a dear friend of ours (and Mirai's "nanny"), Amanda,  to her best friend, Manny. And Mirai was the Flower Girl. Last January, after a fairy tale proposal - literally, a fairy tale proposal in front of Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World, Amanda asked  Mirai to be her flower girl. I'm not sure Mirai really grasped the concept of what that meant - she just knew it was something special, that Amanda wanted her and she was content.

A dress style was selected almost immediately - a Marie Antoinette style dress. It would have to be made - the only one "ready-made" was from an outfit in the UK. Between shipping costs, the possibility of it not fitting and returns added to the very real fact that Mirai is a GROWING girl, it was decided that the dress would need to be made. Tonya Mayberry, fellow Christian, good friend, and excellent seamstress was asked to make the dress. About a month ago, I went shopping with Julie (Amanda's mom - also fellow Christian and good friend - don't know about the "excellent seamstress" moniker however -ha!) to get the beautiful Dupioni silk in ivory that would be the main fabric of the dress. And, sure enough, the measurements taken at the beginning of summer were vastly different from the taller and more rounded Mirai of late August. I scoured the internet for just the right shoes finding lovely kid leather ballet slipper flats (with ribbon ties no less!) in a soft silver grey.

The first fitting was almost better than the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique at Disney when the "reveal" happened. Julie, Amanda and I were just wowed by this dress! I think Mirai thought it was a real princess dress although I could hear in my head what would come when it was being fitted ("It's scratchy!").

The dress fitting itself was great fun mainly because Amanda was getting her wedding gown fitted as well! Those two girls are peas-in-a-pod! A few adjustments were needed and we left the dress with Tonya. The shoes were a perfect compliment and we left.

Unbeknownst to Mirai, I'd commissioned a "mini-me" dress for her American Girl doll. When I went to pick up Mirai's dress the next week, the doll dress was finished as well. How adorable was THAT??

We didn't give her the doll dress until the day of the wedding, which was last Friday. She loved it! I did caution her that the doll could NOT go down the aisle with her at the wedding which was a good thing - because that doll was a constant companion the REST of the time!

We headed to the wedding venue arriving mid-afternoon. After her hair was done, it was almost time for the formal photos before the wedding. I wasn't there for those but heard that her doll was in many of them - oh dear, sorry about that, Amanda!

Amanda's bridal attendants were so caring of Mirai, watching out for her, giving instruction when needed and reining her in as well. All-in-all, I think Mirai behaved very well for a five year old "in the spotlight". Let's just say we had some preconceived concerns that never came to fruition.

This may well be my favorite photo from the time up in the Bride's Salon before the wedding. My "two girls", both excited and anticipatory, albeit for different reasons, but still so animated and happy!

Some final hair adjustments by Amanda before heading down.

I'm sure there will be more photos later but these are the ones I took. It was such an honor to be involved in this wedding in so many ways, to feel included in family and to share the joy and happiness of this great day! Congratulations to Amanda and Manny - may your years be long, your disagreements few, your friendship always growing and your love always deepening. Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow!

22 December 2011

If I worked for NASA...

....I'd have been fired by now.

I'm not good with deadlines. I usually MEET them, but the toll to my person and psyche can be murder. And Christmas this year is no exception. As I joked to my friends recently, "I'm having blessing management issues!"

It is T-minus 1 day till our first family of company arrives. Not one single wrapped gift under the tree yet. Not one. T-minus 2 days till second family arrives. Bunk beds aren't made up in the "Boy's Room" nor the trundle for Kennedy in Mirai's room. T-minus 2-1/2 days till youngest son arrives. And his bed is filled with outgrown Mirai clothing I want Jennifer to go through before he arrives. T-minus 3 days till we open gifts. Did I mention none are wrapped yet??

I got over-ambitious with a plan to overhaul Mike's garage while he was away in Angola. We were delayed 2 days by Ikea fibbing about the original cabinet delivery date. Then delayed twice more when parts were either missing or missmarked necessitating runs back to Ikea before progress could be made. Meanwhile, Mike finds out he will need to be in Angola till the 20th but will come home for 5 days in the middle of the month so he can actually BE with the family some leading up to Christmas Day and ends up arriving on Day 2 of installation. Surprise! Even though it wasn't finished, I assure you he WAS pleasantly surprised to find that his garage had been gutted, cabinets were being assembled, walls repainted, peg board installed, new electrical outlets where needed and a special cubby for garbage can storage were either in place or planned for execution within the week. He left for Angola last Friday coming home today to a completely finished, painted, electrified and completely unrecognizable double garage. Tomorrow he and Martin and JR, my "husbands-for-hire" handymen, will start moving things back and putting them in the cabinets and drawers that are empty and begging for occupants.

While Operation Christmas Surprise for Mike was underway and he was out of the country, I had two major drawbacks that sidelined me even further. On Sunday, my back of my right knee 'popped' as I slid into the pew at church. Excruciating pain shot down my leg to the foot and up to the thigh. During the final song before the sermon, while everyone was standing, Mirai and I beat as hasty a retreat as my now crippled leg would allow. I was in agony by the time we got home and, in tears, I called Mike in Luanda and poured out my tale of woe. I wanted both sympathy AND a solution! We decided I'd better get it checked out at the ER in case it was a torn ligament or tendon. I called Mom and she came and too me in. Fortunately, it was a sprained knee and 2 xrays, four hours, one knee immobilizer, 2 crutches and a mighty powerful shot of something that left me very floaty and "happy" later, I was home with instructions to see an ortho doc within 2 days and an arsenal of pain relievers and muscle relaxers. Mom decided to move in for the duration of Mike's absence since there was no way I could navigate stairs to Mirai's room. I could be 5 years old again (except my mom brought me peanut butter toast and hot coffee this time!) I'm not sure what I would have done if she hadn't moved in.

No Christmas prep accomplished of course. Other than consumption of sticky toffee pudding to ease my woes.  I was couch or bed-bound. But being on pain medication with Codeine as a main ingredient dulled me to this fact. Sigh.

Monday I got into the doc and it was determined that I probably had a small tear in the meniscus of my knee and physical therapy for about six weeks would be preferable to any surgery. If it got worse within the six weeks, a revisit would be in order to re-evaluate. But by nightfall, I really didn't need the crutches anymore nor the painkillers and I've just had to be careful to not overextend the knee joint and not walk too quickly, easing myself up or down the occasional step.

Tuesday I was wheezing like an old accordian. Called my PA and got in to see her. Bronchitis. Wheeze in the lungs. Steroid taper and antibiotic. I'm officially feeling like the poster child for Overmedicated Moms of America (OMA!) And I didn't get the RX till about 6pm. And if you've even had a steroid taper, you take ALL the tablets for the day up to the time of day you receive the script. Well, it was night so that meant taking all SIX tablets at once. I could have consumed a pot of coffee and the result would have been the same. To say I was "revved up" would be an understatement. By 2:30pm I finally drifted off to sleep to be awakened by Mike's arrival the next morning at 7:30.

Today we got some much needed shopping taken care of. Mirai spent the day with Amanda at Miss Julie's (two of her FAVORITE people I might add!) while Mike and I attempted to get lots done. We did manage to get the piles of unwapped gifts sorted into new pile by name of recipient. So at least I have an organized set of mountains waiting for me to go into a wrapping-frenzy on Thursday.

It will get done. It always seems to.  But I sincerely hope that my vow to be better prepared NEXT year actually comes to fruition. I'm getting to old to cut it this close. But you KNOW why I do it...

May your shopping be done. May your house be clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy. May you smile through the wee hours of the a.m. while hastening to finish up the final details. And may you be infinitely better prepared than me!

31 October 2011


Does anyone know who this is supposed to be? I haven't carved a pumpkin in YEARS so this was quite the experience for me. Just curious to know if anyone can figure out who it is.

Here's a hint - it's a character from Mirai's favorite movie right now. Not mainstream. And the pumpkin really isn't shaped well for depicting this character but we do what we can with what we've got.

Figure it out? Leave me a comment and I'll let you know later on in the evening.

Hmmm, should have put some acorns around as well...

30 October 2011

All things Mirai - an update...

I remember the days when I thought blogging every day was a great idea. Then weekly seemed a suitable pace. Now, if I can blog once a month, I feel like I've really accomplished something and am waiting for a Presidential hopeful who will campaign for annual blog posts - okay, just kidding on the last one, but, at the rate I'm going, annual posting may be the most realistic frequency. It's not that there's not much going on, there is. I just don't seem to have the energy to get it down anymore. Probably need more exercise and could probably make a buck touting a new program "Pilates for Bloggers" or some such nonsense. But like anything else in this world, if it's worth doing, make time for it. And today, seeing as how I'm home sick from church with a sinus infection and a four year old who has had the good sense to sleep in, I might as well wade in.

First day of school at Yellow Brick Road Preschool

School has been in full swing for Mirai for two months now. And this is Pre-K, the "go three days a week and no nap" kind of school that readies a child for the 7 hours/day, 5 days/week marathon that is coming next school year. And I think she may well be ready come Fall 2012 - oh that feels weird to type - 2012 - but it's just around the corner!

Ah, foiled again! Guess who just got up...to be continued after breakfast...

Okay, girlfriend is fed and watching "Olivia" on Tivo. To continue...

At our congregation, we tied in the annual Kary Rice Harvest Festival with our Good News Series, providing parking and restroom facilities to the public while providing information about the church, a petting zoo, live entertainment, refreshments and lots of fellowship. There was a ton of preparation and Mirai spent several days after school with me in the Office workroom cutting out letters for signs and doing other prep work. She was a trooper! She also made a LOT of new friends with the teenagers who were also there working hard. It was a good experience for everyone but it was especially good for Mirai in my opinion.

In between the start of school and the Good News Series, we celebrated two cousin's birthdays - Ben's, up in Keller, in mid-September and Kennedy's, in Pflugerville, in early October. Can you believe I didn't take a single photo? (the two below were taken by Megan) Again, falling down on the Gramma job. Both turned seven years old. Ben had a Ninjago (Lego Ninjas) party and Kennedy had a Princess party.

This makes me laugh - the three "2007 Cousins" strike a Ninja pose

I was looking for a particular DVD yesterday and found the DVD that Megan made for Ben and Kennedy's joint 1st Birthday party back in 2005 (when we still lived in England) and I watched it, tearing up several times. Those chunky monkey babies have no more baby fat whatsoever, both are in First Grade and can READ now - a far cry from those days when we thrilled at their rolling over and eating pureed vegetables. I'm so glad they made so many home videos (put to great music) so I can play "remember when?" and they can continue to pull at my heart strings "on demand".
Ben and Kennedy (known as Ken and Bennedy when they were babies)

Princess Ariel before her school Debut for the Halloween Party

Last week, Mirai had her Halloween party at school. As she had her Bibbity Bobbity Boutique experience in Disneyland this past summer, she was Princess Ariel. I think she may well get a year or two out of that dress so the price they charge for the BBB doesn't seem so bad if stretched out over a year and several dress-up occasions! She also wore it at Kennedy's Princess party - glad she never tires of it! They take their costuming VERY seriously at Yellow Brick Road School!

Tomorrow is Halloween and, if I feel better, hope to take her Trick-or-Treating. It will our first as last year we were at Walt Disney World. I haven't taken a child T-or-T in decades - should be interesting! I do know to check her candy when we get home, removing any suspicious items and all the candy bars I like. That's how it works, right?!?

I carved our pumpkin and all I can say is, either knives are better made today or I can afford better knives than I had back when Jen, Tim and Chris were little - and I didn't cut myself! I'll wait and post a photo of it tomorrow but I'm fairly pleased with the outcome. Now, we'll just have to see if anyone can recognize who it is.

Now a few things for my own reference in the future. Mirai has progressed (sniff...) from her Knuffle Bunny and Amanda and Her Alligator series. Rarely will she let us read those anymore. She prefers four or five Bible stories followed by something along the lines of Ree Drummond's "Charlie, the Ranch Dog". She's been looking through her library picking out new material and I know this is a good thing even though I miss her having solitary favorites. Her entourage at bedtime has grown from Big and Little Knuffle and Blue to her Olivia, two small baby dolls, an Eeyore, a Winnie-the-Pooh pillow and a large Snoopy I got at the Build-a-Bear store for ME, not her (yes, we "share" which means I "own" it but she has it almost all the time). Changing the bed reminds me of Peter's vision in the Bible - a large sheet with all kinds of animals on it. Some clean, some not-so-clean. :) Let's just say it takes a bit longer with all her "friends".

Her artwork is usually freehand. Colorbooks with "borders" are passe in her world. She loves to draw freehand and do elaborate colors - very Picasso. It's a contradiction in some ways - she doesn't appear to like being limited to borders but then, creates her own borders and stays inside them. As a teen, this could be good or bad, depending on her chosen borders. There's an allegory in there somewhere I think.

She has begun to take piano lessons. So far, this has consisted mainly of hand and finger exercises, learning the difference between loud (forte) and soft (piano), high notes and low notes. She has Mozart Mouse and Beethoven Bear to help - they are stars of the cute book that helps her understand this since she doesn't read yet. Her musicality called for some sort of enrichment so we decided to try this. She loves singing but I see no value in formal voice lessons until she's much older - just let her sing her heart out, listen to classical music and her beloved Laurie Berkner CDs as well as the Disneyland and Walt Disney World attractions soundtracks. If you want to teach her anything, put it into a song and retention is 98% guaranteed!

Her taste in television entertainment has changed from a steady diet of "Blue's Clues" to "Olivia" and the movie "Totoro". I like Olivia - and am happy she hasn't cottoned onto the likes of Dora or Diego. Those two drive me nutty. Olivia seems more "real" (behavior and personality-wise before you point out this is about a PIG who TALKS!) She saw her first cinema movie this summer when we took her to see the new Winnie-the-Pooh movie. We have it on DVD and I'm struggling to keep it for Christmas as I want to watch it again. Must. show. restraint.

So there you have it - a Reader's Digest version of Mirai's life for the past couple of months. I'll post a photo of our pumpkin tomorrow as I'm sure you are on photo overload right now. See you anon!

29 September 2011

I know the (maybe) Rich and (certainly) Famous...

...bloggers who become book authors!

First there was Ree Drummond of Pioneer Woman and her book which quickly became my most purchased book for Christmas gifts the year it was published. Okie girl makes good on the range/ranch after marrying hunky rancher - and Oklahoma is just north of Texas so, yahoo, that's close enough for me! Then came Lisa Fain who authors the blog Homesick Texan who just published her cookbook - of course I lost NO time getting my copy and copies for my "nearest and dearest" because a) I'm a Texan and b) I'm inordinately proud of both Texans and their cooking abilities. Obviously, living in New York City hasn't gone to her head (or ruined her kitchen prowess). And today I read that Melanie of Big Mama has a contract for a book! ANOTHER TEXAN! This gal is Mary Tyler Moore meets Erma Bombeck. Do I know how to pick 'em or WHAT?!?

Now another long time blog author favorite I've read for YEARS, Liz Owen of Mabel's House, is being published. Liz reminds me of Anne Shirley in "Anne of Green Gables". I believe she attempted writing fiction before, something along the lines of the story by Anne in "Averil's Atonement", which did not catch the publisher's eye. Someone in her life MUST have been her own real life Gilbert Blythe who gently set her down and said, "Well, if you want my opinion, I'd write about places I knew something of and people that spoke everyday English." Because she did exactly that and DING, DING, DING - I think we have a winner!

"My (not so) Storybook Life" will be published in October (I've already pre-ordered my copy!) and I'm so excited I could pop a cork! She included an excerpt from her book today in her blog and I am copying it here for your reading pleasure. And I hope you'll enjoy her blog as well. If you're a female from Planet Earth, you'll find more than one chronicled situation akin to something YOU'VE experienced in life! Because that's why we read blogs, right? To know "we are not alone".

Thanks, Liz. And may the (book buying public) Force be with you.

Once one has breathed in the deep pungent aroma of sewage, you never again forget the nose-hair singeing, eye clawing, throat gagging experience. It comes over you slowly. You begin to feel like a character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as your muscles involuntarily jerk and you run screaming and blowing raspberries. Anything to get away from the mind-numbing stench.
But let me explain.
It was 6:30 a.m. I was standing in my retro pink tiled bathroom trying to open my bleary eyes and ready myself for work. As I stood there, peering into the mirror and wondering what demented nighttime fairy had planted four new wrinkles on my face, I paused and sniffed.
“Matt… what’s that smell?”
Matt staggered from the bedroom in his underwear, eyes half shut. “I don’t smell anything.”
I pointed my nose into the air like a hunting dog. “Seriously? You can’t smell that? Did you go to the bathroom in here earlier? I told you to use the room spray when you do things like that.”
Matt puffed out his bare chest and gathered his pride as best a man can with sleep in his eyes and a small hole in the side of his underwear. “I just woke up!”
I frowned, catching a glimpse of my makeup-less hot-rollers-in-hair state and tried not to think about the fact that I looked fifty instead of twenty-nine. “Well, help me figure this out. Because something smells ripe.”
We sniffed the sink drain and ruled it out as a suspect.
“Is it coming from the toilet?” Matt asked, examining it from top to bottom.
“No, that’s not it,” I snapped. I’m not known for my milk of human kindness in a disaster. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a survivor. I plan on eating my radish like Scarlet and clawing my way out of the nuclear dust while dragging my loved ones with me. But I won’t be doing it with positive phrases and a smile.
“Hon, I just don’t know. We’ll call a plumber after work, maybe it’s coming from under the house.” Matt staggered a little, trying to get past me and out of our tiny bathroom.
“Well, that’s just great,” I moved aside and pulled the shower curtain back so I could perch on the side of the tub and give Matt room to move out the door.
That’s when the full brunt of nastiness filled the air around us, a swirling mix of excrement and acrid stench that would have brought the sewer dwelling Ninja Turtles to their knees. Where the normally slightly-clean-with-a-hint-of-soap-scum bottom of the tub should have been, there sloshed gallons and gallons of brown sewage.
I clutched the front of my sweatshirt and held my breath. Matt began to dry heave.
“Get out and shut the door!” I screamed as we bumbled into the hallway.
“I’ll deal with this,” Matt grabbed my shoulders, trying to talk and hold his breath at the same time.
I could feel my eyes glaze over, the horrors of typhoid and hepatitis in our bathtub filling my mind. But more importantly, I could envision our evaporated savings account. In my mind’s eye I could see the long, gray hallway at the bank. A worker shrouded in a black suit pulled a set of keys from his pocket and unlatched a small locker labeled “Owen Bank Account.” Inside were two small stacks of quarters and a few crumpled dollar bills. It was bleak, not only because the banker with an unimaginative wardrobe gazed at me with an expression that could only be interpreted as “You’re a Big Fat Loser,” but also there was a very definite possibility we wouldn’t be able to pay for a plumber.
I wasn’t necessarily a spend thrift. In fact, I was downright frugal when it came to decorating with thrift store furniture and rewired vintage lamps. But the fact was, we were poor. We were starting out at starter jobs with starter salaries. We were starter adults with a starter bank account.
“Okay,” I nodded numbly, thankful that Matt was taking the lead on such a disastrous biohazard. “But make sure the plumber is super cheap. We don’t have much money!”
I left for work like a wino stumbling through a fog, not really remembering my commute, not really doing any work as I sipped my coffee and stared blankly at the computer screen. A disaster of such gargantuan proportions had previously been unthinkable in my life, and now I found myself attempting to push the image of a vast sea of bathtub poop from my mind. But I was sure of one thing: Anne Shirley never had to get ready for work while breathing raw sewage.

09 September 2011

If our home is our castle...


...then let's see where the princess lives.

Let me premise this posting by saying that I'm not into the typical "Princess" mentality as currently defined by our contemporary culture. Too often, being a "Princess" means one or more of the following:

"It's all about me". A huge NO-NO in my book. A TRUE princess puts others feelings and well being before her own.

"I always get my way." This isn't being a princess - this is creating a selfish person! The child who is allowed to "pimp her cuteness" to gain what she wants is the victim of a grave injustice by her parents. What a recipe for disaster! And heaven help the parents and the next door neighbors when this kid becomes a teenager.

"I'm better than you - or at least my mommy wants you to think so which means I'll think it too". A true princess knows humility and doesn't brag about what she has or does or where she goes. Self confidence is a totally different fish than self importance. Huge difference.

"I get special treatment". Again, nope. A true princess doesn't expect others to "part the waters" for her but works to get what she wants and seeks fairness whenever, wherever she can. And learns to say "Please", "Thank you", "May I.." and wants to help.

Ben, Mirai, Kennedy and Lleyton

Having said that, I do believe that children who are being trained to emulate the correct values being taught by their parents are true princes and princesses. The idea that children INHERIT something of great value by those who raise them equates to being "royalty" in that wisdom, graciousness and good manners are true family treasures to be "passed down" from one generation to the next.

Mirai is our "resident" princess. She loves to play being Princess Aurora following her Bibbity Bobbity Boutique experience at Disneyland. And she loves her books of princess stories. We've created a "Royal Bedchamber" for her where she feels cocooned and "at home". Her treasures are displayed on her note boards - notes from friends, party invitations, pieces of artwork that are "firsts" (first face drawn, first face with body, first face with eyelashes and nose - you get the picture - pardon the pun) and even several tail feathers from a macaw owned by a friend of ours.

Lleyton, Kennedy, Emery, Ben and Mirai

There is a reading corner with a big reading chair with good lighting behind it - we use that chair every single night we're home to read, first, the Bible and then story books. The bookcases hold more books than toys. And her stuffed animals are replicas of her reading favorites - Knuffle Bunny (from the Mo Willems books), Winnie-the-Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood gang (A.A. Milne of course), Timmy (from the Shaun the Sheep series; okay, technically this is a show but Timmy is loved none-the-less) to name but a few.

Emery and her mama, Jennifer

Jennifer and Emery

Lleyton and Mirai


There is a mini-princess sized dressing table that Santa brought last year where she keeps her Little Kitty bangles and bracelets, her Super Power pink cape and mask and her brush and comb. A big fishbowl is the perfect holder for her hair bows - we can "fish around" to find the one we need without the bows getting flattened or wrinkles. We like our big bows and Mirai won't leave home without one. Think of it as the pre-school version of lipstick.

Emery admiring how Mommy did her hair

Her room is cozy enough for just her but large enough to accommodate cousins when they visit. This was borne out when we had Cousin's Week last month. All six of the grandchildren were "in residence" (no, we didn't fly our Royal Standard from the chimney to let everyone know) and Kennedy (6) shared Mirai's room with her. But during the waking hours, all six of them would be in her room playing, reading, pestering each other, plotting and having a good old time. When Emery (1) is old enough, she will also share Mirai's room during visits. The boys (Ben - 6, Luke - 4 and Lleyton - 4) all stay in the game room which is the next room and also the official "Playroom". That room contains a bunk bed as well as two love-seats that make out into twin beds. Plus the bulk of the toys!

Mirai and Lleyton having Tea with their friends

While some of the items in her room were bought recently (the chair and dresser), most of the furniture is several years old and was used in other rooms before they came to live in Mirai's room. The sage green toybox was bought years ago when I found out I was going to be a grandmother for the first time. The lamps on the dressing table were in a condo we owned in the DFW area for a "Texas base" when we lived overseas and visited home. Winnie-the-Pooh and all his friends were a collection I started when we lived in the UK. But all in all, the room was designed to grow with her to adulthood and I bought pieces I felt would stand the test of time. One thing I've learned living all over the world and making numerous moves: buy classic, buy quality and it will work anywhere with minor "tweaking".

All our granddaughters are princesses in the best possible way, being raised to be kind, responsible and accountable. And all our grandsons are Brave Knights, being raised to be gallant, honest and true. I'm very honored to be the Queen Mother of this lovely family of "Great People in Training"!

Mirai - a happy girl!