Merry Christmas!

It is 12:02 a.m. on Christmas Eve and I’m still sitting in my church clothes from December 23. Been in these clothes now for 17 hours solid. They aren’t comfortable enough for that. I’m not sure what is blocking me from changing. Some sort of weird mental block.

I have many stories I could tell, but the only one interesting enough will take too much energy that I don’t have right now. It involves a pig and a media center and it’s entirely factual. I promise to tell that one before we hit 2013…assuming the Incas don’t come in with an end of the world thing between now and then.

For now, though, I will leave you with a photo and a quote. This photo was one of the “failures” from my Christmas card shoot. The kids had been annoying the fire out of me, preventing me from getting done what I wanted to. So I stood up, told them to go change, and announced that they were about to do a photo shoot. Aww, Mom! Yep. That’s right. You bug me, I bug you. What goes around comes around. You catch more flies with vinegar than honey. Or something.

So They were dressed and ready in nothing flat. But I wouldn’t call them the world’s most cooperative models. Right in the middle of a certain pose, SnuggleMonkey started to dance. Real dancing. Major dancing. And because such things seem to be contagious, my oldest joined in. And this is what we got. It’s not what I was going for, but it’s now my favorite.

freedance_bw

And as a final note, Mr. Normal in this photo…on the far left…waltzed into his Grammy’s guest room in our house where I was standing and proudly announced:

“Hey mama, I don’t have a Fairy Godmother. But I do have a Very Odd Mother.”

Hahahahaha. No.

Naughty list, kid. You just earned yourself a spot on the naughty list.

Merry Christmas. Hug your children. Draw near to your Father. Be intentional. Let it go. And do not miss a moment. Not one.

25 days until Christmas

Today was a big day around here. It was Decoration Day at our house. Last night we purchased two live trees. You pre-lit people need to just stop reading and go find a blog for posers.
hahahahahahaha

I’m serious, though. Posers. All of you.

Only a shipped in Frasier Fir for this little lady.

At any rate, today I put lights up on the second story roof and found out that I’m afraid of heights. Who knew? I didn’t. I stink at putting up lights. No one got hurt. Lights are up. My tree is real. Two trees. Real. Both of them.

Anyway.

We had a lovely day together putting up decorations and I discovered that Beloved is the best tree decorator ever. She and the 4th child were peas in a little Christmas pod and just pretty much had the best day ever. I did, too. They stuck it out until the end.

To reward ourselves for our day of labor, we went to Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant near our current house. I’ve never been there, so this was especially fun for me. It was a fabulous place and there was lots of cilantro in the salsa. Mmm.

Two notable things occurred on the 10 minute drive to the restaurant. First, I discovered that my kids haven’t learned much spanish at all. We told them we were going to Mi Casa and they had no idea what that was. We offered a dollar to the first person to translate it. The answers began to pour in immediately. “MY CHEESE!” “Fourteen!” Etc. Etc. They were all quite wrong. We didn’t have to part with that dollar, needless to say.

Right after I learned how to say “my cheese” in Spanish, the driver of our car (the car featured in the previous post) “accidentally” hit the window-down button, thus releasing the driver’s side antler onto the highway.

Coincidence? I don’t think so. Fortunately, I know where to get another one…

There’s a recurring theme this Thanksgiving

Thankfulness, sure. Yes. Gratitude. Let me just come back to that one when I’m not so distracted by the pies.

Pie. That’s the theme this Thanksgiving.

First, there was the uproar I caused by telling the world that I hate all pies. Many of you are now searching for my birth mother, because you are certain I could not be their daughter or his sister or your cousin. Others are asking around for a good nutritionist or some sort of Pie Therapy Center. I assure you that I have not suffered and the fact that I don’t eat pie hasn’t caused me any irreversible ills. Then, again, how do I know, right? Maybe I’d be Mary Poppins or Jo Frost if only I’d grown up eating pie. Or maybe I’d be the lady to someday be forklifted from a second story parlor because all she does is sit and eat…pie.

Whatever the case, I am not fond of it. It’s too squishy. And slimy. All pies are either squishy or slimy. I don’t need squishy and slimy in my life so much.

Early in the week, the pie topic became a heavy discussion point. The first pie was purchased by my own husband and was a pumpkin pie. After that, a pecan pie entered the building. Seriously? Please, just give this an honest look.

I mean it. Just wipe your slate clean for a moment and look at it like you are looking for the first time. That’s a bunch of brown, crusty bugs that someone baked into a pie. Or a genetic experiment. That is not edible. If you want to argue this point, may I suggest a free theme on WordPress. You can write your own blog called TheLifeofPie…or ThePiePiper…or…StickThisInYourPieandSmokeIt.

Anyway.

All of the above–Pumpkin Pie #1 and The Nasty Tree Bark Pie–are part of Pie Phase 1. Phase 2 involved two informed parties and four innocent bystanders. We were coming out of Wreck It Ralph yesterday, which my kids liked and most of the adults in the group did not, and heading toward the van. We thought we were going home. Within moments, there was a folded invitation of some sort that was whipped out in the front seat like a treasure map, some discussion about directions, and we were off! A wild pie chase ensued that captured the next 45 minutes. As it turned out, some real estate lady was giving away free pies and apparently pie lovers are incapable of turning away free pie even if that pie is located in another county. Wow. Who knew? I’m trying to think of something I love enough to pursue like that. Maybe a trunk load of Trefoils, compliments of the Girl Scouts I love so much. Mmm. Trefoils.

So that was Pumpkin Pie #2 and Pie Phase #2.

Pie Phase #3 was this little guy.

I know it’s not pretty. There’s no lattice work and, quite honestly, the outer part of the crust looks like a smashed-together series of tumors. But I made it and it’s MY cherry pie. I won’t be eating it, but my boy asked for it and I wasn’t going to deny him that.

So I guess I didn’t tell the WHOLE truth. I like my own pie. This one cherry pie recipe. No other cherry pies. Just this one. And I like it. Let’s move on.

Next door, there is a mince meat pie being made by Telley. Mince Meat pie? Could they have come up with a more disgusting name for something? That’s like Hairy Guts Cake or Squished Liver Custard. Why mince meat? Was this like Iceland? Someone named it Iceland so people wouldn’t know it was gorgeous and nobody would visit?

And Uncle Egg is bringing…2 pies.

Let’s do that math just real quick here. 4 pies already here at the house + 1 mince meat + 2 mystery pies = 7 pies. With 8 adults, one of whom doesn’t eat pie, all of the other adults can each have their own pie.

Now THAT is something to be thankful for.

Ahoy there, Mateys.

I’ve been waiting all day for my freshly-washed jeans to loosen up and stretch out a tad. They have not loosened up or stretched out. Not a tad. But I’ve been in the zone for like a week now. In the zone. Someone needs to tell the zone that it’s time for the jeans to respond to the zone. Drop 5 pounds already.

Stink.

Yesterday, we were blessed with the opportunity to spend half a day on a pontoon boat out on Lake Travis. There were 13 people on board a 15-passenger boat. Seven of those were in the 11-and-under set. I know what you’re thinking: You’re thinking the children caused some variation of a disaster. They wreaked havoc.

The children were fine.

The adults left a little something to be desired in the sea-faring community.

This was serious business from the outset. We stopped at a reputable Kwik Stop for Live Bait. We needed live bait, because we are serious fishermen. Dead bait wouldn’t cut it. We were planning on catching serious fish. We also needed 1-day fishing licenses for all of the many fish we were going to catch.

Seven blow pops, 6 fishing licenses, one bag of chicken blood, 1 box of live worms, and a precariously packed minnow bag of swimming minnows later, we pulled down a steep rocky path to an RV where a dude named Steven set us up for a maritime adventure.

One smart phone user–we’ll call her Telley–had only one concern: “Which way is Sandra Bullock’s house?” she asked.

“That way,” Steven answered. Ah, that way. That narrows it down from 250 houses to just 125. That’ll be easy.

After pointing us toward Sandra Bullock, Steven said, “Just be cautious about your weight distribution.” We stared at him blankly. “You can’t have too many on one side or in one section of the boat.”

Whatever. Whatever. Got it.

The next hour passed pleasantly. We pulled out the cooler and ate a picnic lunch. Chatted. Laughed. Looked up Sandra Bullock’s house on Google images. Began imagining how she would greet us and what she would offer us to drink once she invited us in. Etc.

When we couldn’t find Sandra, we decided to settle for a civilian. Telley’s spouse was off work and waiting for a pick up at the dock we originally departed from. So we swung by to pick him up. This was our first exercise in the science of weight distribution. One member of the party went forward to tie up to the dock and we took on the extra passenger and 30 gallons of lake water. No biggie. We tied up for a moment and then all the potty requests came in. Suffice it to say, the no-formal-restrooms potty break truly deserves its own blog. So much can be said. And yet, there are lines. Even with me, there are lines. I’m just going to leave this one alone. I’m not even really over the trauma yet.

So everyone used nature’s toilet except Telley, who came to regret that decision sorely. And we were off again. In search of large, meaty fish.

About 20 minutes later, once we had located the fish motherload on the fish finder, we decided to tie up loosely at a dock. So here’s how that process went. The fearless captain began to slow down the boat as he steered toward the dock. At that same moment, two members of the 13-member party, neither of which were me, went traipsing forward like they’d been called up on stage to retrieve an award. Traipsing. The rest of us were still sitting right were we had been for the last hour.

What was it that Steven said? We couldn’t remember. Where in the world is Sandra Bullock? Also doesn’t Matthew McConnaughey have a house around here?

As those two traipsed, the bow of the pontoon boat plunged deep into the water. Under the water. I mean it, people. That boat was a’sinking.

It was coming back to us now. That whole weight distribution thing. For a very long moment, as the waves rushed in and the boat plunged deeper toward our watery graves, I really thought we were all going spear fishing. What had started as an innocent day on the lake was going to end with the Coast Guard. And bodies. We were going in. Probably 100 gallons rushed in, wetting every last one of us to the knees.

“Hey!” The fearless captain called from the back of the boat. “What’s the deal? Everyone just starts moving without asking any questions! Back up!” And the two traipsers began to back up, along with the child who had followed them forward.

This was the moment of truth…the moment that would determine whether we lived or died. Whether the boat would resume floating or turn like Titanic toward the lake floor.

It floated.

And besides the wet, stinky socks of 13 people and the wailing of a very frightened four year old, there were no lasting effects.

Except that the fish heard us coming.

Our live bait died. The chicken blood made us all sick enough to go to the ER. And the day ended without so much as a single bob to any of the eight poles in the water.

Actually, that’s not where the day ended. My day ended in a Korean karaoke establishment in China town at 1 a.m.

But that’s another story altogether.

The house of mourning

WARNING AND DISCLAIMER: This is a sad post about sad things. If you don’t feel like shouldering such, don’t read it.  Sometimes, with knowledge comes sadness. Just consider yourself warned.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Ecclesiastes 7 : It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

I feel like I’ve been in the house of mourning more since July than I was for the last 5 years. And while I understand that people grow through trials, and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and the house of mourning teaches lessons we could never learn in the house of mirth, I’d still rather not go there, if given the choice. Who chooses the dentist over Disney? No thanks. I’d much prefer the house of mirth. Sometimes there’s no choice in the matter.

On Sunday evening, September 9, a 6-year-old girl named Coleen Persell, departed rather suddenly and crossed over into eternity. The world we live in was radically changed. And though I have never met her, my world was changed, too. Why? Because people I love, loved her. Because I am no different from her mother. I have four children also. I live on a farm, too. My kids are around dangerous equipment; things that when they work perfectly, aren’t so dangerous. But when they don’t, well…sometimes tragedy strikes in the worst way.  I worry about this every day of my life.

So when I was told that this precious girl had claimed her crown far earlier than anyone wanted, I cried. And I prayed. And I’ve cried and prayed since…many times. Not an hour has gone by that I don’t think of it. And who am I? Nobody.  So for those in her life daily– her parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, cousins, aunts and uncles, teachers, and adorers, this is very, very, VERY hard.

I have thought about my own kids so much this week. When they have awakened in the middle of the night with a bad dream or a cramping leg, I have been glad to see them—no matter the hour. When I wrenched my back getting out of bed to put one of them back in bed  (yeah, I know…if The Signs of Being Pathetic were an interesting blog post, this detail would make the cut), I didn’t complain. I thought back to my little family before Surprise #4 arrived. We were happy. We felt complete enough. But when a child is born, you form a new quadrant of your heart just for that one child. It’s a part of you that wasn’t there before. And they pump your life full of pictures and I love yous and leg cramps and tellmeastories and funny expressions and speech impediments and explanations about Lady Liberty that warm you to your very core. And from that point, you can never go back. Because that quadrant of your heart is born and now full. And if that child leaves you early, that part of your heart cannot go back to feeling the way you did before. It’s there now. You can’t teach it to feel less.

I’m posting a link to Coleen’s voice as she draws a picture and explains the Statue of Liberty.

I learned quite a lot from listening to her:

(1)    She is precious. No doubt about that. Like specially, preciously precious.

(2)    People who are gone are never really gone. It sounds cliché and maybe even a bit trite, but it’s true. Coleen was very much in my kitchen as I watched that and read all about her. That piece of you that forms when that child is born is still full of that child. And there are pieces everywhere that keep that child from ever really being gone.

(3)    The Statue of Liberty “stands for freedom.” This made me chuckle. She drove the point home in a voice too cute for Lady Liberty. Yes, it stands for freedom.

(4)    The One she likes the most, the most, the most…is God. Wow.

In this life, it’s hard to be free. There is pain and suffering and debt and worry and guilt and every other thing in between. Lots of things “stand for freedom,” but rarely do we ever feel free. However, freedom does exist.  Coleen understood a lot about freedom last year when she wrote about the statue of liberty. As much as we would all wish her back for some liberty lessons in our living rooms, I am utterly convinced that she knows everything about freedom now. She loves God the most, the most, the most. And she’s with Jesus now.

It doesn’t get any freer than that.

There’s no such thing as a dumb question.

Unless it is the one Mama’s Boy had to answer on his math homework this afternoon. Let me preface this by saying this: I love our school, our teachers, our administrators, and all things pertaining to all of the above. This post is directed at some dude named Bill that wrote this question on that particular day.

I was wearing rubber boots and standing in four inches of mud with a solo cup full of chicken mash in one hand when Mama’s Boy opened the back door and called out to me. He never just calls out. It is never a calm, stable, “Hey, Mom! When you have a second, I need to ask you something about my homework.” It is never that.

It begins in crisis mode. He goes from, Hmm, let me just read this question silently to myself to ACKWHATINTHEBLOOMINGDAYLIGHTSSHOULDIDONOWTHATICLEARLY WILL NEVERPASSELEMENTARYSCHOOLORHOLDDOWNAREALJOB???

He skips 19 stages to go from Hmm to despair. I can’t seem to talk him out of  all of that. So I diffuse when I can. When the door swung open this afternoon he spewed out an entire paragraph about how horribly hard this one question was before I could even respond to my own name. All I could say was that I’d be in after I liberated the chickens, who had been pent up too long from storms.

I went in. He was grueling over this one question.

To just bring you into the scene, I will post the picture I took of the question.

This is the THINK SOLVE EXPLAIN question. So, let’s look at this together. She cuts the square into two triangles. And Mama’s Boy has to explain how he knows they are two triangles.

There’s only one answer to that.

Because they are.

Because they are triangles. What do you mean, explain how you know? You just know. A triangle is a triangle. Red is red. Keens are awesome. Annie Lennox is the best female pop star of all time.

Well, clearly Mama’s Boy needed more than my boneheaded answer. Cuz. That’s what I said. Just cuz. That’s why. When that wasn’t going to cut it, I turned to the next logical source of information: Google. Let’s get the definition of triangle and explain it that way. How do we know it’s a triangle? Well, because it is a shape comprised of three angles. TRI angle. There, boy. Feel better? Say that.

He was staring at me. Blankly. A long pause passed between us before he finally said,”Why can’t I just write what I was going to write?”

Well, you can. Of course you can. For some reason, I got the impression you were desperately soliciting my help. Perhaps I misunderstood the spewing at the back door. No matter, boy. Go for it.

After that, I put back on my rubber boots and returned to the chickens.

Hours and hours passed and I found myself thinking back to today’s homework scene. I had just sat in on Trivia Night at Gator’s with a group of seriously smart pals and enjoyed a slamming first place victory. And all the brain juice flowing at that table (none of it mine) made me wonder what exactly the boy had said to explain how he knew that Maureen was dealing with two triangles. So when I got home, I pulled out his homework.

Well, duh, Bill. (that’s the dude that wrote this assignment…) Because each side has a big point.

I can’t wait to see what Maureen needs us to explain for her tomorrow.

Back to school

Oh my.
There are a lot of things and situations and injustices and states (Louisiana) that I hate. I am often quite verbal about these things. But there is little that I detest more than the Back-to-School shopping trip. Two columns of supplies for each kid. Three kids. That’s SIX COLUMNS of supplies. To make it MORE challenging, since SIX COLUMNS is not challenging enough, I had to go to a new Walmart for my new country locale.

I programmed into my smart phone GPS that I needed the closest Walmart. It began to route me to it, speaking to me as it went. It was almost like having a flat little companion on my shopping trip with me. But then–a call came in. Someone I hadn’t talked to in awhile. I answered. Now what? I was going to end up lost. And then, as the drops of confused sweat poured off my brow, my phone whispered something to me. In .5 miles, turn left on County Road 579. Aha! She speaks to me softly even when I am speaking softly to someone else. Rock on!

I got a little off track. Back to the Back-to-School shopping. When you walk into a store for this yearly shopping trip, there are bins and folders and sales and paper and scissors and rocks. I’m supposed to get centimeter graph paper, but the package doesn’t say what size it is. Should I be able to eyeball a little block and just KNOW that’s a centimeter? Well, I couldn’t do that, so I located a ruler, which I needed to purchase anyway and measured that sucker. Seemed like a centimeter to me.

I understand the bins and sales and groupings and all of that. But they do not understand that I am buying for 3 or 4 kids in a pop. So if I were Sam Walton or his great nephew, and if I were going to open a store that sold Back-to-School supplies, I would get rid of all the fluorescent lighting and massive amounts of colored bins. So many choices! I would put in a few 25-watt lamps. And I would pipe in some classical guitar music and have a couple of coolers at end caps where back to school shoppers could share a tasty beverage. Occasionally, I would have a nice person wander by to say nice things to the shopper…things like: Hey, good job on all your shopping. Looks like you are really making progress. Or maybe they could compliment the shopper’s outfit or something. Maybe even place a few people in my store who could assist the weary shopper.

But probably if I really, really, really loathe the Back-to-School shopping session (and I do), it’s not likely I’m going to want to open a store that partakes in such. Maybe I should open a massage parlor next door and offer specials to the glazed eyed mothers that exit the school stores with a cart full o’ chaos.

It’s not really called a massage parlor, is it?

I’m skating tomorrow night. You can stick that in your quidditch broom and smoke it.