Sunday, April 30

Little Groupies

Saturday, April 29 was one of the more unusual birthdays I've had. Because John is going to be missing Eric's 10th birthday on Tuesday, we decided dad would take son out for a special day of birthday fun rather than us all spending the day together. They started with going out to breakfast, followed by a few hours of fishing, finalized with fighting a real-live brush fire together with the fire department. In between all the activity, he and Eric put some finishing touches on the famous castle that is due on Tuesday. In an attempt to make the castle 'authentic', the boys decided to spray-paint the sugar cubes a light gray to make them look more like concrete. My assessment is that it would have been better to leave them white, since Neuschwanstein looks like a white castle to me--but I am all for letting the people who do the work make the decisions, so 'mum' is the word.

Meanwhile Little Chic and I went to a Narnia musical based on the story The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe put on by our local Christian radio network. The show was 1-1/2 hours drive, so we invited some friends to go along and had a great time. It was quite the thrill for Caroline to see some kids around her age put on a great production. She had originally wanted to audition for the show, but being the stage mom that I am NOT, the drive was a bit unreasonable for our family. She was happy with seeing the show from the audience and afterward, she was really excited to be able to meet the cast, get a few autographs and have some pics snapped with her two favorite characters, the White Witch and Aslan. The only issue I had with the production is that Aslan looked eerily similar to the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz.

After we returned home in the evening, we let Eric open a couple of presents from John, I opened my gifts from John and the kids and finished the night off with an ice cream cake for me.
It gets a little crazy trying to pack a week's worth of activity into a day, but we all had a lot of fun and we'll celebrate properly when John gets home.

Friday, April 28

Pulleys, momentum, potential energy and ROLLERCOASTERS

Little Chic had a field trip to the Kopernik Observatory today with her 3rd grade class. These excursions are always great for me, because Science would not have been one of my more favored subjects in school. I generally remembered the facts long enough to fill in the answers on the test and then promptly forgot them. Therefore, my transcripts show that I should be brilliant enough to be a rocket scientist, but truthfully, I'm one of the duller colors in the crayon box when it comes to scientific data. I invited myself to go along and it proved to me that my kids are learning in grade school what I'm sure I didn't cover until at least middle school.

Rather than talk about space as you would expect at an observatory, we instead talked about pulleys, weight, momentum, friction, energy, gravity and the such. The kids had two hands-on projects which they loved. They had to build a pulley system and measure how much force they used to lift some metal rings for the first project. The second task was to build a roller coaster that would allow a marble to travel through a loop and make it to the end without falling off the track.

It was really funny to watch a group of six 3rd grade girls discuss how best to do the projects and observe what clever ideas they came up with. They successfully built one roller coaster with a loop. They decided to do a second one that pretty much went straight down a long shot with a corkscrew turn. Unfortunately, their pitch was too steep and the marble kept hurdling off the track. Eventually they put two halves of the track together to enclose the top and bottom so that there was a 'lid' on the track and the marble couldn't come out. Essentially if the coaster were real, the 'car' would come off the tracks, slam into the roof and break everybody's neck. But at least they'd all be securely strapped in our seats and the car would return to the starting point with all passengers in tow--even if they were all dead. And as third graders explained "marbles aren't people so technically it works".

Thursday, April 27

Men are just jumbo-sized boys


I left in a flash to escape to the tanning bed last night as my 41-year old kid got ready to "play" with my 9-year-old kid. Can you imagine how many sugar cubes fit in 5 boxes? Anyway, when I returned, 2 calm, relaxed males were making real headway with the castle project. Eric was perched on the counter snacking on popcorn inspecting each sugar cube to make sure it wasn't broken. John was alternating burning his fingers with hot glue and attaching "bricks" cube by cube. When they were finished for the night, they were both really happy with the outcome. I'm not sure if it's the gender or the personality trait, but I would've been a high-strung, stressed-out mess by the time I'd assembled all the materials. All I had to do was wipe and vacuum the sugar crystals all over the counter and floor. Thank goodness for Dads!

Wednesday, April 26

9-year-old student looking for parent, architect preferred

Eric recently came home from his SPARK group at school (gifted program) stating that he had to write a report and build a "to-scale" model of a historic structure. He had lots of choices. This is the one he made. I quickly informed him that even though Mom is the hero of all things to do with homework, providing help, gathering supplies, noting due dates and test schedules, I am NOT a builder, artist or anything of the sort. When questioned why he had chosen this particular building, he answered that he really preferred to have something "complicated" rather than chosing a simple, straightforward like say, the Great Wall of China. No, he was enamored with Castle Neuschwanstein which is the inspiration for one of the Disney castles and is one of the most visited historic buildings in the world. He really liked it because he thought it would be challenging.

The problem is that this is not a fun project. It is a school assignment which means that it gets a grade. Which means that the model should somewhat resemble the actual building. Which means I am the wrong parent for the job. However, I am very good at delegating. Which I did! To an unamused John. Now John, unlike me, can actually create and build things. His problem is not lack of ability but lack of time. At first thought, the project appeared very feasible to John and Eric, with the two of them thinking together that they can wrap it right up. They decided that it would be really cool to construct this building out of sugar cubes. The kind that cost $1.08 at Walmart for the size of box that we'll probably need 50 to build the whole castle.

So the boys are getting ready to start, and I am getting ready to disappear. It is not going to be a pretty sight when they realize that this project is going to take HOURS and that a hot glue gun is not going to be an easy tool to use when trying to stick 1/4-inch cubes together. And I am not even going to try to help on this one.

Tuesday, April 25

Sudafed Anonymous

NY State has become quite exuberant in its war against methamphetamine abuse. Because of this, a recent law was instated that requires you to show picture ID every time you purchase a product containing pseudoephedrine. Sudafed has come out with a substitute ingredient in its cold remedy products that you can get over the counter, but after trying these, I've found they don't seem to have quite the same effect. If you want the original formula, you have to ask for it behind the counter, and then sign and show ID to purchase it.

As luck would have it, I recently got sick with an aggressive virus, and I was feeling badly for about two weeks. As the sinus symptoms progressed, I traveled to my local CVS pharmacy and purchased a 20-pack of 12-hour Sudafed (the stuff you sign for). Not surprisingly, John also came down with the virus as I was on the upswing. Between the two of us, the 20-pack of Sudafed didn't really last all that long. So a trip followed to the Apalachin pharmacy where the sales clerk inadvertently sold me the 30 mg package of Sudafed (the tiny round red pills) instead of the 12-hour type that I prefer. John and I used a few of them, but taking 2 pills every four hours rather than one pill for the whole day became a bit tedious.

Since neither of us are totally past the nose dripping stage, I stopped by my 24-hour friendly Super-Walmart today and attempted to buy a package of Claritin-D for John and a refill of the 12-hour Sudafed for myself (which does have a nice appetite-suppressant quality as a side benefit and I don't really need the Claritin part). I was kindly informed that apparently I have run over my quota of allowed pseudoephedrine for the month! They said I had to choose one product or the other. I was a nice wife and chose the Claritin-D.

Now I didn't realize that there was a quota of Sudafed...I just thought that the state was tracking the people that were buying large quantities in order to run their meth labs. Must be not. So now, in order to keep my body fluids from running all over the place, I'm going to be forcing John to make a run or two down to the pharmacy and show his own stinkin' ID. I hope that's not what they consider "buying with intent to distribute". In addition, I'll need to carefully plan my purchases and hoard my supply, not sharing with anybody (even John), in order to manage my excess fluid problem when it occurs. He's on his own to find his own supplier. That's just all there is to it.

Monday, April 24

I'm Going to be a Step-Something!

Saturday night brought the exciting news that my mom is going to get married in July. Her beau is Ken, and they are the result of a success story from E-Harmony--you know the TV commercial with "This will be an everlasting love" theme song--the diddy that you can never get out of your head? Well, anyway, the news wasn't exactly a shock as we've all met Ken and some of his family and we really like him and them. And they seem to really like us which is always a bonus. We've been talking to our kids about the possibility of Grammy moving to Texas where Ken lives, moving away from Salisbury where we usually visit her and getting everybody all used to the changes that will take place.

Anywhoooo, this is the second time my kids have been through this particular experience. Last July, my dad got married and although it was the first time my kids remember a new family member, circumstances didn't change too much since my dad stayed in the same town and lived in the same house my kids had visited many times before. However, the idea of having a new family member that was now related to us totally intrigued Eric. Upon hearing the news of my dad's new wife, Eric matter-of-factly stated "Well Mom, I guess you have a step-something". I clarified that I assumed he meant 'stepmother' and he confirmed that was exactly what he meant. I tried to explain that step-mother and step-father probably applied more to children that grew up in a household where their parent was married to a new partner. Eric figured that I was in denial and insisted that I accept the fact that I now had a step-parent. It got even more interesting when he realized that Lois, the new 'stepsomething' had children of her own. Eric wanted to know how many, how old they were, if they had children and whether or not he would have cousins-in-law, step-cousins or exactly how it would all fit together. I reieterated that since we didn't even know Lois' children, the terms 'step-sister' and 'step-brother' probably wouldn't be the most accurate description of our relationship. He ended the discussion with "Mom, really, I'm serious. You have a step-sister".

Well, with Grammy's announcement, Caroline thinks it all fits together nice and tidy-like. Her response was "Well, now we have an even number of grandpas and grandmas". Eric's response? "That's just weird". I think he is tired of trying to convince his mother to accept the fact that now she has more steps in her family ladder.

Sunday, April 23

I Need a Rest After My Rest!

Girls need their time together. Jokes have been made from the beginning of time about how we always go to the bathroom in groups, wear out the ears of our spouses with our zillions of words a day, chat on the phone while we are scrubbing the toilet and supervising bathtime at the same time and all that other jazz. But let me tell you, girl time is hard work.

It begins with the illusion of a night away from home free of the responsibility of pouring bowls of cereal, making sandwiches, mediating sibling arguments, putting little people to bed, washing clothes, picking up messes....you know, the daily grind. Hours of planning where we'll go, what we'll do, how many clothes we'll bring, where we'll stay overnight make the wait almost unbearable. By the time the day comes, six of us are so ready to get away, that we dream all the way to our destination of an uninterrupted dinner out, a soak in the hot tub, a little doing of nails and eyebrow plucking (all the stuff we never have time to tend to at home) and an early night to bed with sleeping way late the next morning.

Then reality hits. The shopping outlet is so grand, that we don't even stop in to the hotel to make room for the packages we'll be stuffing in when we're done. Nine hours of ducking in and out of storefronts, in and out of dressing rooms, weighed down with a myriad of packages (much of the merchandise not even for ourselves) doesn't dim our hopes of a restful night. The hotel we choose turns out to be fantastic, with a mountain view like you can't believe. Snow is still on the slopes of the nearby ski resort and the pond below our balcony is shimmering with the lights of the hotel.

By this time, it is 8pm and dinner is a must. We choose a nice brewery-type pub that turns out to have great food. We return to the hotel at 10pm and realize that the hot tub will be closed in an hour. We do notice on our way to the pool that there seems to be an inordinate number of college kids all dressed to the nines. A query reveals that a sorority/fraternity from a nearby college has a formal dance in our little haven. The hot tub proves to be everything we hoped and we stay until the custodian comes to lock it up. Even his comment about closing the pool in time to keep out the "wild party" doesn't discourage us. As we return to our rooms, we notice that the halls are empty and and quiet and things are looking good.

After showers and a quick trip down to the vending machines, we get down to business....we start chatting. It seems that sleepovers at any age have the temptation of chatting till the wee hours of the morning. Sensibility tells us that we really need to take advantage of our opportunity to get some extra sleep, so we settle down. Only the party has just started. It seems that the dance is over and we have been placed smack-dab in the middle of the floor housing the college party for the night. After a quick warning to the teenage guy across the hall that we are a group of "mad moms" who have escaped our daytime drudgery for one night, he invites us to the party. We decline and jokingly tell him he'd better keep it quiet.

But he doesn't. An neither do the 30+ other kids that accepted the party invitation. Apparently 11pm to 4am are prime party hours when you are in a hotel with all your buddies and no responsible party is watching you. Even the four visits from hotel security doesn't deter the drinking, smoking, running up and down the halls, yelling, hollering and all the other stuff that makes for a fabulous time. The multiple calls to the hotel desk from the mad moms as well as one "furious head-poking out the door lecture" doesn't do the trick either.

Let's just say that our little group felt just about as dragged out and hung over as the pitiful group of kids that checked out at the same as we did. Only we got our room for free because of the mayhem! That's why we all look so cheery in the breakfast picture above...we have extra shopping money. We bit the bullet and spent another 6-7 hours at the outlet before we headed home.

So now I'm back, I've slept half the afternoon and I'm ready for real life. It seems that home is really the only place to really rest up...anywhere else is just too much work. Oh, and my kids and I will be having a little chat about respect for themselves and others, especially when they stay in a hotel across the hallway from moms that are having a night away. And the six of us moms made a pact to tell each other if we ever catch one another's kids in a similar situation. Believe me, it won't be a pretty sight.

Thursday, April 20

Thursday Thirteen


Thirteen Things about JENNIFER


1…. My #1 priority today is to get ready for my girl's overnight trip tomorrow.
2.... I'm also getting my hair trimmed.
3.... Since high school, I've changed my hairstyle/color at least every 2 years.
4.... As an adult, I've played on a women's soccer team and a women's softball league.
5.... In soccer, I was a halfback and in softball, I was catcher.
6.... My current favorite sport is American freestyle kickboxing.
7.... I am obsessed with books. And magazines.
8.... I've often left Barnes & Noble with 5 books or more.
9.... I'm not big on libraries except for fiction books--I like to keep my books.
10.. I rarely re-read books. Or re-watch movies.
11.. Other than my one morning cup, it seems I've kicked my coffee addiction.
12.. I detest cleaning my house, but I love to have it immaculate.
13.. I'm a great speller, but bad at math.

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Wednesday, April 19

Rainy Days and the End of Holidays

QUESTION: What's the difference between waking up to a rainy, dreary day and waking up with the realization that the holiday is over?!?
ANSWER: You just cannot seem to get out of bed.

This morning was a rude awakening, not an unusual happening for this household after a few days off our school year routine. Nobody wanted to get out of bed (well, mom or Eric, that is) and Little Chic luckily came to alert me that the morning prep time was dwindling with every push of the snooze button. If anybody could be considered an early bird in our family, she'd be the only one close.

The day rewarded us though, with temps to almost 70 and sunshine. That's something we don't take for granted in April around these parts. I can testify that this winter has been surprisingly mild and we've had our share of pleasant, sometimes downright glorious weather at the most unusual times of the year. In fact, our new worship leader at church just relocated here from Colorado Springs, where they never have icky weather. Their whole family was prepared to deal with a dreary, depressing atmosphere for most of the time, and they commented that they have been pleasantly surprised at how many beautiful days we've had.

So after 19 years as a transplant, I've finally had the desired effect on the Triple Cities area and have influenced the Florida climate to share a little with the northern part of the world. Hey, if only it were that easy, I'd have it made....

Monday, April 17

Airhead

There is a little girl who lives at our house. She is 8, and I call her Little Chic. Some say she's my daughter, but that can't possibly be so. She has a dad who is very analytical, not artistic and a mom who is the same way. This girl, whoever she shares her genes with, has got every artistic tendency that can be passed down the line. At 3, she was designing dresses out of Walmart bags, complete with spaghetti straps made out of the handles, with several connected together to make it floor-length. At 5, she was making 2-D life-sized sculptures of her dad with printer paper, and 8, she is becoming a balloon artist.

Little Chic has always loved balloons--just the latex variety that you can bat everwhere. The Easter Bunny obliged and included a 50-pack of the long, thin type that you make balloon animals out of, with the little air pump so you don't have to pass out while you are blowing them up. She went through the entire bag of 50 yesterday, designing everything from cats, dogs, elephants, swords and a couple of hats. Here is mine, the most elaborate that she came up with so far. She spent most of the day designing all sorts of animals to give away at the birthday party we'll be attending later today.

I told her I'm going to hire her out to do birthday parties and Autumn Festivals if she doesn't watch it. She loved the idea and ran to get her calendar to start booking gigs. You know where to reach us if you need a small talent for your next party.

Sunday, April 16

Everything New

As it did to many households today, Resurrection Sunday brought the excitement of starting the morning with the focus on the the new life all around us.

Caroline was buzzing around the house at 6:30 am searching all over for the hidden basket the "Easter Bunny" apparently brought, with clues of colored grass scattered around our carpet. For Eric, something about knowing mom is the filler of all cool baskets let him stay in bed and sleep a little longer than his sister. I suppose if I were a good mother, I'd have hopped out of bed with camera at the ready to watch the search. But I just didn't have the heart to make Caroline wait until I got up at 8am! Eric did remind me that he realized I was the one who gave him all the goodies and he thanked me for the cool Star Wars comic book I'd included.

Besides the spring flowers coming up, the baby lambs born just down the road from our church and the birds returning to the warmer weather, I got to remind my kids that we can be thankful for our new life as well. It's the one we get to have since Jesus took all the punishment for all the bad stuff we've done. And today is the day we remember that he didn't stay dead, but he came back alive since He is the only One who is stronger than death.

Perhaps the most fun of the day was seeing Caroline decked out in her Easter get-up, each piece chosen personally by her. She was so excited to preen in front of the mirror and prance around asking everybody in the family how she looked. John and I obliged; Eric suffered through it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, even the hair combing seemed an unnecessary nuisance for Eric. The whole process made me remember how excited I always got when I had a new dress each Easter. My mom always said that new Easter clothes were a symbol of our "new life in Christ" that we celebrated on that day.

Caroline's shoes were the kicker...little teeny, backless "high-heeled" gold sandals with bows on the front. Well, that and the teal cowboy hat with the tiara glued to the front. If it wasn't so darn cute, it would have been embarrassing.

Saturday, April 15

Easter Bunny Prep

Just as I'm recovering from an almost 2 week sinus/ear infection, poor John has gone and caught a strain of it. His particuarly variety seems a little more like the flu with the body aches and feeling cold all the time. He's such the trooper, that he let me run out for about 2 hours this morning for a quick pow-wow with a couple of girls from the PTA (rather than discuss business, we got pedicures ;) I rushed right home, feeling bad for staying out longer than I'd intended, and Oh me, Oh my, the fire department had a call. So guess which sick member of the family loaded up two kids and hauled over to the action?! I wasn't feeling quite so sympathetic by the time I got him on the phone and realized where everybody was.

He returned home with the kids in tow shortly after, and I fed the kids a quick lunch and toted them to the grocery store with me, under the guise of keeping them out of John's hair so he could rest. A couple of hours later when we returned, John was again recovered enough to be fooling around with getting his four-wheeler loaded in the back of his pickup truck. As soon as I pulled in the driveway, the illness returned and in he came to the couch for me to fix him a bite to eat.

While he was resting, yet again, I told him that I needed to make a quick run to the Dollar Store. I had depleted my stash of Easter basket supplies as my kids have been losing way too many teeth this month. I had been all set, but I've dipped into the selection one too many times and there wasn't much left. I told him to stay where he was and I'd be back within the hour. When I returned for the final time, there he was, putzing around the yard picking up the winter's worth of debris that had blown into the brush surrounding our yard. He told me that although he felt terrible, he really needed to run to KMart to get some mud flaps for his truck. This appears to be an emergency of some sort, because he's been fretting about it for the whole 1-1/2 weeks he's owned the truck! He left about 5:30pm, and it's now almost 8:30pm, and my guess is he's going to collapse in bed the moment he stumbles through the door.

One thing I can say for him though...he doesn't hang around the house and bellyache about being sick. He figures he might just as well be getting things done while he's miserable as lying in bed being miserable. Well, unless getting things done would be the "Honey-Do" list I have going for him on the side of the refrigerator!

Friday, April 14

Rainy Days and Holidays

With the kids off for the Easter holiday, I resisted the urge to pack in activities to keep everybody busy each day. Although I like to start my morning off relaxed, usually by 11am I am going stir-crazy as is Caroline. Eric on the other hand, craves days and days in a row of staying around the house, doing whatever he chooses. He would gladly stay in our house and yard, not venturing out anywhere the entire 6 days off school. Caroline and I are more alike, going a little nuts with all the free time and nothing planned. Sometimes conflicts arise with me trying to keep Caroline busy while not dragging poor Eric to and 'fro. This Easter break, I am trying to find a little balance and pleasure for us all.

Thursday, the first day off, we did our favorite thing-staying in our jammies, reading, playing (me watching Dr. Phil) until about 10am when I told everybody to at least get breakfast, brushed teeth and dressed. We hung around the house until 2pm when I dropped Caroline off at a Girl Scout activity and Eric picked up a friend to play with for a few hours. So Caroline got her time out of the house and Eric got to stay home, other than a quick trip out to drop off and deliver kids. I did my best to stick to my weekday routine of getting some housework and transcription done, with the only missing element being my workout routine that is too difficult to fit in with extra little people around. I'm thinking the rest of the holiday might follow the same pattern with perhaps another day at home today, but then Monday trying to fit in a movie or playtime with some buddies for the kids. The weather turned a bit rainy so the inside activities will fit with the atmosphere outside just fine.

It's kind of nice to have a few days with nothing planned other than the activites surrounding Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. I've taken the opportunity to have the kids focus on why we have these days off, and I've been able to institute some extra quiet time for them to read their Bibles and talk to God. Since it is the time of the resurrection, when we watched Survivor last night, I was thinking about how to relate the game of Survivor to my kids as a real-life example of our survival through Jesus Christ. I want to help them understand that we are survivors too, but not because of our courage or strength or bravery like the contestants in the game. Our survival is the the result of Jesus loving us enough to take the blame and punishment for all their "badness" and offering them life in return. That's the only deal of "getting something for nothing" that you ever really find in life. If my kids accept this as the Truth for their lives, I'll have fulfilled my life's mission as a mom.

Tuesday, April 11

NY Stock Exchange

For several weeks, Eric has been enthralled with the idea of buying a share of stock. We had quite the discussion about a week ago and he wanted all the details of exactly what it would mean if he owned a share of stock. Would he actually own that part of the company? Could he sell his share whenever he wanted? What if the stock value went down? Would he be allowed to use the employees that worked for that little piece of the company that he owned? For a flash of a moment, he considered using some of his birthday money that he'll be getting in a few weeks to purchase and follow the value of some stocks.

This whole discussion was a couple of weeks ago and he didn't mention it again. Until tonight. He was out running around the yard, waving his light sword in his typical madman fashion when he came inside all excited. He had made the decision to make up a list of odd jobs he would be willing to do and he would assign a price to each job in an effort to raise some extra money to buy "a stock." John and I entertained this idea because although Eric does an excellent job at whatever he is made to do, he certainly doesn't sign up for anything extra in the volunteer department. Upon hearing Eric's idea, Caroline (who loves to be busy with some type of project) decided to make up her own job chart. Eric wasn't pleased with this at all and told Caroline that his business would be competing with hers, and he would outprice her. She came back and said that she would do any job (Eric tends to be very selective) and that she might even do it for free. Eric went up a level and convinced Caroline that once he got his business well underway, that he would be so kind as to allow her to invest in his company. This would be a really easy way for her to raise more money. His shares would be going for $1 to $3. She was thrilled to tell me that she might be investing in some stocks soon. Silly me thought she meant the legit ones from the Stock Exchange, but I quickly found out that the returns wouldn't be nearly as good since they were from Eric's non-existent company.

After I set the record straight and said that each one could earn money for their own efforts and not from one another, Eric got disgusted with the whole process and spent the next 45 minutes (during homework time) drawing up the following contract exactly as written below:

"I have dicided there will be no bartering service or suggestion sheet. also when I feel like it I will take down or add to prices. See back for conditions. Eric's survice No conditions unposted! If you try to put suggestions on this sheet I will either charge you or stop the service. Also any other writen content will be charged for. Also I can make post mordems. I will also charge for any pink slips given to me. I can also legaly black mail any one or group of people I dislike. Any asasinations are the same as stealing from the company. Aw, can it." The time frame between the ingenious idea and "Aw, can it" was approximately an hour.

On the other hand, Caroline spent the same 45 minutes and got down to work to come up with her odd job list. She decided to leave blanks for the prices because she lets her customers decide how much she gets paid:

Doing yard work _______
Loveing you (free)
Picking up dog poop ______
Cleening the bathroom + toilet _______
Make my bed and other beds_____
Ancering phons when you don't want to (free)
Change lightbulbs - 1 cent
Anything els you want me to do

I hoping if I can just get them to go into business together, I might get rich. Eric can be the global thinker/idea man and Caroline can be the brawn behind the beauty and get it all done! Could I actually be on to something?

Monday, April 10

It's all in the Road Trip

One of my personality traits (do I have to say flaw?) is that I tend to take life too seriously. I would not generally be called the life of the party. If you are at the party, I am not the one providing all the entertainment. I'm the one running around making sure we have enough food, seeing if all the decorations are still up and generally having a hissy fit if anything veers from perfect. For me, it's all in the big picture. Since I tend to look at life through binoculars instead of through rose-colored glasses, I worry a lot about teaching the right values to my kids. And forbid should I miss one lesson...they only have a lifetime to learn everything they are supposed to know.

But this weekend, I had the chance to revisit the lesson that if you don't enjoy and focus on the process of getting where you're going, you won't get as much joy out of what you accomplish. Case in point....

Eric was down in the dumps about not placing in the state competition for the team project he did this weekend. He said he only did the project so he could win the competition so all the work the last four months turned out to be a waste of time. I broke into the mantra about all the benefits he'd gotten - he learned to work in a team without getting mutinied for bossing everybody around; he gained some great acting skills through his team manager; he had a chance to use his leadership qualities to help his team along. I reminded him that the Bible says if he works hard, he doesn't have to be ashamed of the outcome as long has he's done his best. It doesn't feel that great to succeed if you know you didn't try very hard.

And then came my turn on Sunday. That was the day I was too sick to sing in the Palm Sunday cantata at church. I spent four months practicing, and then watched somebody else sing the solo part I had down pat. The initial reaction was "What a bummer with all the practice I put into it." But then I caught myself and realized that the performance was just the 45 min. ending to the experience of getting ready. The getting ready was where all the lessons were. The real fun was meeting every week learning the music, goofing off with other people who love music, making our group sound better and better with every practice.

It's weird how we apply this rule to some things and not others. I wouldn't dream of quitting my daily exercise workouts, even though one look at the rear side of my body tells me that I have definitely not reached THAT goal yet. I wouldn't consider throwing away all my hair and makeup loot even though nobody crowned me Miss Universe this year. And I wouldn't think it was okay to stop cleaning my house just because tomorrow I'll have to do it all over again.

So even though it's my turn to pass the life lessons of perseverance and commitment down to the little people, I can use a refresher myself sometimes.

Saturday, April 8

Smarties by the Group-full

Eric had his first experience of putting lots of effort in the form of hours of time, lots of brainpower and months of planning with his competition in Destination Imagination this week. His team of 6 fourth graders entered the State Finals to present their improv skit as well as compete in an on-the-spot creative problem solving exercise. I was fully supporting his involvement in this DI team since it offered a good chance for him to use his talents in a teamwork environment. He doesn't get a lot of opportunity to work on group projects since he doesn't care for any of the sports that he has tried so far. And he tends to be a little bit bossy. I'm sure he doesn't get that from his mother. The group worked together for approximately 4 hours per week since December 2005 to create their project from scratch. The main rule of the competition is that although there is an adult leader in the team, there is absolutely no adult help allowed - no ideas, no glueing, no stitching, no leading the kids in any way to make their project come to completion. The kids have to sign a statement before they enter that they did not receive any help in putting their project together. Eric's group chose to do an improv skit to demonstrate a scientific law. They had to complete it on their own, including writing and typing the script and coming up with all the ideas for props, making whichever ones they needed to.

They did such a good job, and they were really at a disadvantage in that none of the team had ever entered this competition before. They were up against teams who have been competing since kindergarten. Another thing we realized after they started in December was that many of the teams began their work in September at the start of the school year. Now John and I are employing our own creative problem-solving skills to explain why their team was still successful even though they didn't place in the global (worldwide) competition.

The highlight of the experience was seeing Eric introduced to the great thrill of pin-trading (see his shirt above). Also seeing him participate in his very first auction was a hoot. They auctioned the $5 t-shirts at the close of the day, most of them going for $15. Eric only had $13 in allowance in his pocket, so he didn't win any bids. He raised his hand and waved wildly every time they called out another t-shirt. The joke was that all the shirts were left over from various other years and various other states. None of the t-shirts were for current year or even from NY and we could have gotten them at the merchandise stand for $5 each before the bidding started! He would have really loved to have one that he bid on himself, though. Last, he was thrilled when they had to sign a release statement before doing the Instant Challenge that they would not talk about the details with anyone until May 27, 2006, after the global competition is over. He feels like a real bigwig to have signed a contract at such a young age! He's quite a guy.
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Friday, April 7

MIMIC

I found out yesterday that this acronym stands for "Moods in Mothers and in Children. Eric and I participated in a research project being done by the Binghamton University Mood Disorders Institute. They are conducting this research to better understand the relationship between mothers and their childrens' moods. Specifically, they are interested in how negative moods in either person can affect the other. The main hypothesis is that when either a mother or her child is feeling depressed, the other person will start to feel depressed as well. The study took 3.5 hours with each of us being interviewed, answering a 45-minute questionaire, taking a computer test and having a DNA sample taken. I have always been exceedingly interested in psychology and how the mind and emotions work in developing us as people, and I even thought at one point in my life that I might perhaps be a counselor of some sort.

Without presenting the boring details of the project, I was amused at 2 things I encountered. One, was on the questionaire I filled out. I presume they were attempting to get a clear picture of my self-image as there were lots of questions relating to how I felt about myself. One particular area though, was pretty funny:

Weight/body shape - (these are reiterations of the actual questions--must have been 20 or so)
1) Have you ever attempted to purposely alter your weight or body shape? Yes.
2) Have you ever changed your eating habits in an effort to change your weight or body shape? Okay, yesss.
3) Have you ever omitted a certain type of food from your diet in an effort to change your weight or body shape? Yeeeesss (are ya serious?)
4) Have you ever purposely refrained from eating in an attempt to change your weight or body shape? Well, yes. But really, if I had been sucessful at that for too long, I wouldn't be needing to change my weight or body shape, now would I?
5) Have you ever refrained from eating when you were hungry in order to change your weight or body shape? All right, now really, I have tried, but truthfully, if I could say I accomplished this, I really wouldn't need to keep answering yes.
6) Have you ever excercised in an attempt to alter your weight or body shape? O good grief, now come on! Of course I have!
7) Have you ever combined diet and exercise in an attempt to alter your weight or body shape? Yup, me & every other woman in America.

and on and on it went!

Now, the amusing thing about Eric was revealed on our way home.

Eric says: "Mom, you know how you say that when being truthful, there aren't any loopholes, you just have to be totally honest?"
I say (suspiciously I might add): "Yes?"
Eric says: "Well, today I found a loophole."
I say: "And what was that loophole?"
Eric says: "The lady asked me if I have to have a stuffed animal to go to sleep. I didn't want to get embarrassed that I sleep with Snowy and Soot." (stuffed beanie babies)
I say: "The loophole was...."
Eric says: "The loophole is that I don't have to have Snowy and Soot to fall asleep. I just really like to sleep with them and I worry about them when there aren't with me."
I say: "Don't you think that kind of ruins the accuracy of the information for their research project?"
Eric says: "Uh-oh. Do you think they'll notice that their information is goofed up?"

Wednesday, April 5

See what I mean?

This is Brigitte in her earlier days (from my earlier post today). I'd like to teach my kids to present themselves the best they can, but really, it's just an afterthought, not the real deal like the inside is. Thanks bro, for the lead. I was going to look up a "young pic" of Brigitte when I posted, but was too lazy to do it myself.

Shallow Hal

This image popped up on my opening page of Yahoo this morning and I was really struck by the value of outer beauty our culture has. This is Brigitte Bardot (a famous actress way back when) who was outwardly a gorgeous woman in her time. I don't really know anything about her life but hopefully she has inner beauty and values that matter, because nature takes its toll on our bodies, no matter who we are. At this point in her life, it's hard to recognize who she was when she was making movies.

Ironically I went to a hairstyling class last night (it was really fun and informative, by the way), but I have to remind myself every day that the outside is just decoration. If I teach one thing to Caroline as she is growing up, I really hope she owns the fact that if you put too much value on the outside, you're not going to have time to pay attention to the inside.

The movie, Shallow Hal is one of my favorites because it's really funny, but it drives this point home like nothing I've ever seen.

Okay, that's my serious .02 cents for the week!

Tuesday, April 4

Feeling Puny

One of the funniest phrases I remember is that John's grandma always described sickness as "feeling puny". Whenever she wasn't feeling quite up to par, that is how she would say she was feeling. For some reason, my "puny-ness" often comes in the form of laryngitis, thanks to the genetics of my mother. Whenever I get run down, I begin to get hoarse, progress to scratchy voice and end up with nothing above a whisper. The exact same thing happens to my mom. As luck would have it, tomorrow is the last rehearsal for our Easter cantata, in which I have a solo, and this afternoon, the laryngitis set in. By tonight, I can barely force a croak out. It's kind of a pain, because other than a slightly sore throat, I don't feel that poorly, but all the effort it takes to talk wears me out!

So don't call me tomorrow. You won't be able to hear me on the phone, and I'll probably be in the bathroom anyway, due to all the lemon/honey tea I'm drinking. I'm seriously wondering if I'll have recovered enough by Saturday night to belt out "On Christ the Solid Rock". I have my doubts.

Monday, April 3

Hunk of a Hero

John is notorious in the fire department for always being at the front of the scene. This includes being the first to arrive at pretty much any fire, the first on the hose to enter the building, and definitely the one who gets interviewed by reporters and always photographed in the paper. Somehow he manages this not only with fires in his jurisdiction, but when he is assisting in other towns as well.

Friday turned out to be a banner day for the small-town, all-volunteer department as they logged six fires (count 'em, six: 4-brush fires, 1- chimney fire, 1-structure fire) and were busy all day. I don't even know what time John rushed out of work to the first one, but he came home at 10pm after fighting one after the other, pretty much all day.

The department was ragging him on Saturday when the Post came, and the picture of Rob, another firefighter buddy was in the newspaper along with Rob's name (somehow John's pic or quotes are always given, but he's never stated by name). They finally felt vindicated that another of their ranks was given the proper due respect by being published. Under the guise of "printing out the picture for Rob", John blew the picture up to gargantuan proportions only to observe that the helmet on the above firefighter was uniquely different than anyone else's. And guess whose it is? It belongs to our one and only favorite hero.

It took John about a millisecond to start making phone calls to have the jesters take a closer look at the picture and admit that indeed, it was him. The self-satisfied look on his face convinced me that he'd had a hard time believing he was going to have to share the glory. I'm guessing closer inspection of the details was the reason for the gigantic size of the blown-up print.

One last tidbit I bet ya didn't know: Fire smoke is a lot like skunk essence. Every time you get wet, the smell comes back. During John's fourth shower since Friday's fires, we both noted that his hair still has the distinct acrid odor. He's stopping by the vet after work to get the skunk bath recipe we used when Max got the full-frontal treatment last summer. So for now, he's just like the dog--he's cute as anything, but he smells bad. Tee hee!

Saturday, April 1

Perfect 10

You know how it is....nobody's kid is quite as cute as yours. And you can watch your own little Mozart do their schtick 50 million times and think each performance is better than the last one. On the contrary, even once through somebody else's kids' performance can sometimes be torture. Imagine that times almost 60 kids, 2nd to 6th grade at the District Praise & Talent showcase for our church.

Thus I figured I would spend my Saturday suffering through a ba-jillion performances of somebody else's little darlings in order for the audience to have the privilege of hearing my own little angel. I figured that at least as soon as Caroline was done performing, we'd wait for her friend, Madison to complete her two events and then we could at least duck out for a quick jaunt to a nearby coffee shop or maybe even head home early.

I realized that we would all be staying for the duration of the event when I was handed a judge's folder with the accompanying instructions and list of vocal solo performers that I would be judging. As luck would have it, Caroline was #4 on the roster and Madison was #28 for art work and and #34 for her vocal solo. I think they did that purposely so I wouldn't be able to leave early! The rest of the roster was filled with various and assundry performances of puppet shows, vocal and instrumental numbers, arts, crafts and any other skill that a kid wanted to share.

In all honesty, the day flew by as the performers were really fun to listen to, and they all did a really great job. There were some very cute little ones along with some astonishingly gifted kids in the group. It was also a rare chance for me to help the kids I judged to build some skills in confidence and composure that they'll use throughout their lives. Another benefit was driving along beautiful scenery of the NY Finger Lakes chatting with my jewelry store friend, Jill (Madison's mom) and Miss Cheryl (kids' pastor at our church).

The bonus of the day was that both Caroline and Madison were among the few kids who were invited to perform at the summer family church camp in July. Of course they were both really excited about that and as you can imagine, Caroline is already planning what she'll wear. I'm discouraging black in favor of pink.