Sunday, July 31, 2005

I took the boys to my friend Carla's tonight to go swimming and play with her almost-3-year-old son. UberDad stayed home to continue work on the floors.

The thermometer outside read 110-degrees as we climbed into the lukewarm pool. The temp difference was just enough to relieve our hot bodies for an hour. My body finally relaxed enough that my brain could stop spinning for the first time since we got back.

I'm reading "The Life You've Always Wanted" by John Ortberg right now. It was a gift to all the Sunday school teachers in June, and the first time I've read this author. This passage made me laugh out loud and sigh in relief:
"There is good news here: Whatever your natural temperament may be, it is not a barrier to your spiritual growth.

Do you tend to be spontaneous, or are you a well-organized-plan-ahead type of person? ... (If you are still trying to decide which type you are, you can pretty much eliminate spontaneous.)"

Um, yeah, that would be me. (In my old life working at a newspaper, I was once accused of being "inflexible," mainly because I expressed irritation when the computer program needed for my specific job was completely overhauled while I was on vacation. Yes, I do like to be warned at least, if not consulted, before major changes are made to my daily life.)

Not much about my home or life right now says "organized." But spontaneity is something I have deliberately chosen to cultivate, if that's even possible, mostly as a coping technique for my inability to set boundaries and my desire to be available to interesting people and opportunities. I want to do the right thing (my sister would say that's because I'm a One on the Enneagram), so sometimes that means doing things spontaneously. But often what that really means is that I plan nothing and wait for things to just happen. And then when nothing happens, I feel all out of sorts because I was expecting something spontaneous. Or, I give up on spontaneous and make plans, only to have something spontaneous make me late for my planned event. Crazy, I know.

So, right now my house is in chaos, and I'm back to craving routine and structure and control ala Flylady (whose been relegated to no-mail for over a year). I think that means I should go to bed now. So I can get up and shower before noon. Unlike today, which was so filled with spontaneity that I never managed a shower.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Back from the beach

So, we got back from the coast last night, after staying an extra day and then getting delayed because of an oil spill on the freeway. We had a great time -- went swimming, shopped, ate lots of good food, suffered PMS, played with the boys at the beach, tried to keep them quiet in the hotel, watched teenagers train to be lifeguards, ate too much ice cream, was a terrible example of sibling rivalry with my sister, survived that, splashed in the ocean, avoided stepping on jellyfish, rented a bike surrey, consumed too much caffeine, swam some more, rode a carousel, walked to a park, shopped some more, took the boys to the zoo, ate some more, and came home. Thanks, Mom, for a fabulous vacation!

UberDad concealed the extent of his progress on the floors while I was gone, and I (mostly) believed him. He met us at the car when we arrived home, and walked me to the door, apologizing that he hadn't gotten farther with the installation than the bedroom. But by that time I knew he was exaggerating (plus I could see the installed floor peeking through a gap in the living room curtains). He had all but two feet of the floor installed, and the rest he and our home improvement guru friend Alif finished this morning. They've done a fabulous job so far, and the wood is just gorgeous. I felt like one of those weepy homeowners returning to their transformed abode on Extreme Home Makeover.

Scott's taking the weekend to rest his sore body and do miscellaneous tasks (like making room in the garage for all the extra lumber) that have to be done before he can begin the finishing process on Monday. The boys and I will be sleeping at my parents' house for at least another week before the bedroom furniture can be moved back in. I have tons of pictures I want to share, but I'm using their computer so it might not happen right away. Chances are good that I won't get to blog much this week, so be patient with me.

Friday, July 22, 2005

And, we're off!

I finally loaded some photos of the work-in-progress. They were taken a few days ago before the Brazilian teak flooring arrived. It's now piled high in the space that's empty in the first picture.

Please pray UberDad's back doesn't give out before this project's done, and that he gets enough help while I'm gone. Now, I've got to finish packing so the boys, my mom, my sister and I can get out of this hot, dusty town and head to the beach!
BEFORE: With the carpet out of the dining and living rooms, this is what's left: partially-stained white pine subfloor covered with plaster and paint from the last remodel.
BEFORE: The view to the front door. The white pine subfloor ends where the old front porch was, the front part of the living room is douglas fir.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Media aliens are eating his brains

So, it's really (restraining foul language) HOT here this week. And there's nowhere to sit at my house but on the bed, which is piled with laundry. And I stubbed my toe on a piece of wood from the immense stack filling my dining room, and I'm not sure if it's broken yet. And I stayed up too late last night sweeping so the boys wouldn't get splinters in their feet, and then watching "Kinsey" (that film about the sex researcher; interesting, but only inspiring in a let's-clear-our-minds-of-the-weirdness sense). And my sister just arrived from Tuscon, but she's hanging out with my other sister who leaves for Vienna tomorrow. So... we went to coffee this morning for an outing, and then the boys and I came back to my parents' house and have basically been watching tv and napping all day.

We're waiting around for everyone to return, which they're doing one by one as I write, so we can go out to dinner. UberDad took Grouper (the boy who loves to go ANYwhere) to Home Depot. And Puffer (the boy who would rather watch TV) is... well, watching TV. After I awoke from my last nap, I was starting to feel guilty about the amount of television he's been consuming today, and in general lately. Then I checked my e-mail and felt even worse. This was the subject head awaiting me from the latest Sojourners Weekly:

"Mass media aliens are sucking out your kids' brains."

Gee, thanks for the subtlety. I was wondering if my guilt was the useful kind, or just the stressed-out, hyperfrenetic, must-be-doing-something-creative-and-useful-at-all-times kind of guilt. The kind I was also feeling after watching part of an episode of "Crafters" on HGTV, where this mother of three-under-5 was showing us how she makes really cool, colorful purses out of DUCT TAPE.

Puffer comes in to ask me excitedly, "Mommy, can you make fudge? It's made with chocolate, sugar and nuts." What? You want me to MAKE something? Obviously, the aliens have succeeded in sucking out the last remnants of his brain and are frying it up for dinner. Which reminds me, I should go get my kids dressed so we can eat.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Yesterday I awoke to the sound of carpet ripping. Today it was the squeal of tires as the back of a pickup stopped just short of my front porch.

My mom told her co-worker that she could have our piano if they could get here to pick it up before the charity truck arrived today. So, the co-worker and her helpers pulled up to our house at 7:23 a.m. this morning. Apparently she really wanted the piano.

The piano and couches are gone now, nearly all the carpet is out, and UberDad and his hired assistant (a former student) are scraping up the gunk left behind. All the furniture except the computer desk are pushed into the middle of the living room where Puffer is attempting to watch outakes of Ice Age. I, of course, am seated at the computer in the middle of the dining room. When I'm done here, I might help out by sweeping up.

Besides the ongoing transformation of my living and dining room, I've been preoccupied with scrapbooking again. My neighbor and I dragged the kids to the scrapbooking store yesterday, locked 'em up in the play area, and attempted to make some progress. I focused on my secondborn's baby album, and got all the way through his first Halloween! 'Course, he was a whole two days old.

Speaking of my secondborn, he's currently napping, so I think I'll leave the noise, mess and fumes and take Number One and my photos across the street where it's quiet and I can think straight.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Can't blog for trying

This is why I don't put my kids to bed at 7:30 p.m., like so-called normal parents... because they wake up at 11 and want me to stay in their bed while they take an hour to fall back asleep. My secondborn is lying in his bed awaiting my return. I tried to sneak out twice and got caught both times. Finally told him I needed to turn out the lights.

I awoke to UberDad ripping the carpet out of the living room this morning. I took before shots to record the mess, and then finally cleaned the kitchen thoroughly to make up for the disaster in the rest of the house. Tomorrow I attack the bathrooms, and Scott rips out the carpet in the dining room.

Boy is calling me... till tomorrow.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

A very big moment

Hooray!! Natural potty learning is at work, folks! My 2-year-old has just used the toilet for the very first time! While I soaked and salt-scrubbed my feet in the tub, and big brother Puffer did acrobatic jumps on the bed in front of us, little Grouper worked patiently on his goal. And, lo and behold, it was a success! We are rejoicing! He was very proud of himself. "I pooped on the potty! I'm a big kid!" he exclaimed.

We'll see how this goes when we leave town on Friday for our vacation with my mom. Don't these things always happen right before some excursion away from home that would make diapers more convenient? Well, no matter, we'll take both the diapers and the toilet seat insert he likes and hope for the best.

Did I mention we've decided to go to the beach 120 miles away, instead of to visit my cousin and family 800 miles away? I'm likely to return with fewer funny travelling dramas to share since we're taking the easy way out this trip. My mom decided she wasn't up for 16 hours in the car with my kids after all. She'd rather buy plane tickets for my cousin and babies to come see us. I honestly don't know how people with small children make those big treks across the country. My mom and I are wimps.

On a completely different subject... this is absolutely the most thorough, encouraging explanation of Christian Unschooling I've ever seen. It's long, but well worth the time if you have it.

Friday, July 15, 2005

More lessons from the world's worst housekeeper

Have you ever stuck a couple of overripe bananas in the freezer, thinking you could make banana bread sometime? Did you do it again with the next week's uneaten bananas? And the next week's? Did you ever actually make banana bread? No? Any chance you've got a nasty lingering smell coming from area of the fridge, even after you tossed all the rotten veggies?

In case you were wondering, ripened bananas do NOT last indefinitely in the freezer. And, if you happen to have more than four dozen of them shoved in the door between the frozen peas and frozen juice, you probably won't have time to make banana bread from them all before they rot.

Yes, I learned this lesson myself this week.

By the way, if your cat is ever polite enough to pee on a cloth diaper instead of the carpet, might I suggest throwing it immediately into the washing machine with some cat scent-remover? Otherwise, the scent will simply consume the rest of the diapers, the entire laundry room and leach directly into the kitchen where it will blend horrificly with the scent of decomposing bananas.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Just for fun: Cheesemaking

Need a new hobby? This one's a cinch. If you've never tried it, you're really missing out on some fun. The professionals like to portray cheesemaking as truly serious business, akin to winemaking. But I discovered recipes for both mozzarella and feta completely by accident.

Recipe for Feta (Makes 0-4 servings, depending on your taste for it.)

Take 1 sippy cup. Fill with milk. Give to toddler. After toddler drinks half the milk and tosses cup under the coffee table, leave it there.

Three days later, move coffee table to do pilates video. Discover sippy cup. Take to kitchen and open carefully. The feta should be ready. Store in sippy cup in refrigerator if you don't want to clean cup right away.

Feta cheese goes well in salads.

Recipe for Mozzarella (Makes 0-2 servings. This recipe works best in very warm weather.)

Fill 2 sippy cups with milk. Give to children as you leave the house to run errands. (Come home, put away groceries, make lunch, check e-mail, get toddler down for nap, play games with older child.) One day later, go out to car for missing Bionicle. Note smell. This means your cheese is probably ready. Dig sippy cups out of the bottom of backseat floor, take inside. Drain liquid from sippy cups. Slab of mozzarella should come out next.

Mozzarella is a staple in Italian recipes, though I haven't actually tasted this version. Maybe your cat will want it.

Look! Look!

Isn't the new design gorgeous?!! Laura at Ciao! My Bella! is THE BEST!! (Can you tell I'm excited?) So please, stay, look around, enjoy! I'm going to go finish a few details of my own...

Friday, July 08, 2005

Sanity is for children.

It occurred to me at the dinner table tonight that my children have reached a milestone. This milestone is not one included in the usual Baby Book List Of Incredible Things Your Child Will Do and The Exact Date He/She Should Do Them.

No, the milestone my 4.25 and 2.75 year-old children have reached is usually not talked about at all, much less included in the What To Expect series of Know-It-All parenting books. Perhaps because it's more humiliating than the grave possibility of your child NOT WALKING AT HIS FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY.

Fortunately, neither of my boys were walking by their first birthdays, so I've had lots of time to recover from the realization that some things can't be predicted by books. Nonetheless, this new milestone was not something I expected to happen until at least their preteen years.

What is it, you ask? My children... KNOW THAT I AM CRAZY. Yes, yes, there have been lots of clues, and they're not stupid, of course. So the simple fact that they are aware of my delusions is not really news. What struck me at the dinner table tonight is that they have ACCEPTED my obvious mental illness.

See, here's what happened. Scott and I decided to finally watch "National Treasure" this afternoon, since the DVD was due back at the store tonight, and in five days we hadn't managed to see it. But we started the movie pretty late, and had to pause a gazillion times due to inference from some Very Loud Children, so dinner got started a bit late. Also, while Scott was barbecuing chicken, and I was trying to make taboule salad, the boys needed to be chased and eaten by Mommy Dino several times. By 6:30, the chicken was getting cold on the counter, the onions, cilantro and bell peppers still needed to be chopped, and Mommy Dino was getting hungry for more than just Baby Dinos.

When we finally sat down to eat dinner, the Mommy Formerly Known as Lots O' Fun suddenly turned into Raving Lunatic Mommy. This is how it went:

Family sits down to table, hands are held, thanks are given. Fly wanders into dining room, lands on boy's bread. Suddenly, Raving Lunatic Mommy appears.

She pounds on the table by boy's plate, shouting loudly, "GO AWAY, FLY!!" Fly remains on plate, unperturbed by shouting or pounding.

RLM goes hysterical. "AAAAHHHHH!!!! I SAID 'GO AWAY"!!! GET OFF HIS FOOD!!!!" she shrieks, and slaps boy's bread with her hand. Fly slowly meanders off, rolling his many eyes at his inept attacker.

After an awkward moment, Lots O' Fun returns to the table, wondering what just happened. She looks up to see her sons viewing her with mild curiosity, but mostly undisturbed patience. One boy glances at the fly still working its way to the kitchen. The other takes a bite of his broccoli.

"Mommy just went a little crazy, didn't she?" their father notes. Both boys nod, and continue to eat their dinner.

Do you see what I mean? They didn't laugh. They knew I wasn't trying to be funny.

Do you see why this is so important?! No longer do my out-of-whack emotions have any power over my children! No longer can I throw a fit in order to get my own way! My children see right through me! They know I am crazy, and they remain as unperturbed by it as that DAMN FLY!

This new psychological milestone of theirs has two consequences. First, as I mentioned, there will be no more Manipulation via Tantrum, which has been useful in so many emergency situations, such as when I absolutely HAVE to go to Starbucks. Second -- and this is the GOOD thing -- it means that they are at least somewhat secure in their knowledge of my love for them, and that my chances of completely screwing them up are finally lessoning.

Praise God for his unending mercy and undying sense of humor. Raving Lunatic Mommy may return, but at least she can do little damage.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

It's good to have friends.

Two visits to the mall is usually my maximum for the year, with exceptions for occasional haircuts. This week I got to go two days in a row, thanks to a cell phone cover that didn't fit, and the fact that I forgot to get an urgent birthday present during the first trip.

Upon returning home, I discovered a party had begun in my absence. My husband, wine glass in hand, was seated on the loveseat next to a homeschooling friend of mine, also garnished with a drink. She'd come to see our piano, which we're trying to sell. Her 18-year-old son was playing Halo 2 with our 7-year-old neighbor. The neighbor's sister was in the playroom with two other little girls, both of whom were naked. My eldest was perched on the couch between the older boys watching the game; and his brother was somewhere amidst all the girls. As I entered, a baby cried out and reached for me. The mother of the baby and his siblings, and the father of the naked girls were not in sight.

So, of course, I dropped my bags, picked up the baby, and refilled wine glasses. Unfortunately, I was needed in the playroom before I could pour one for myself. In fact, I didn't get to pee for another hour-and-a-half. By that time, most of the aforementioned guests were gone, and new ones had arrived.

Just yesterday I'd been thinking that I needed to see more of my friends; I haven't been very good about making actual plans lately. A day of spontaneous socializing was just what I needed.

At four o'clock, my 2-year-old finally got his 2-hour nap, and then we headed out for more socializing to celebrate Carla's birthday with pizza, salad and ball pits.

Tomorrow we're going to attempt haircuts again, this time at a new salon just for kids.

More meta-bloggin'

In case you notice some strange things happening around here, Crunchy Christian Mom's in a little anniversary transition. After blogging for an entire year, I've finally decided to learn something about the genre, and even take part in some popular blog rituals. Blogrolling, for instance. Didn't even know what it was until last week. Note, you might see yourself listed in the right column where you weren't before. (That means you need to comment if you've been lurking and want to be added!) Hope this works...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Money spent. Money saved.

Well, we're back from the mall. Our plan was to get lunch and get the boys hair cuts. Instead we brought home two new XBox games, a new XBox controller, a new baseball cap off the sale rack for Boy #2 and an over-priced cover for my cell phone that I really didn't need -- but no new hair cuts. Considering how much teriyaki chicken the boys ate for lunch, their hair is probably longer than it was when we left.

Some of the trouble is that we headed out already hungry, and the food court happens to be at the opposite end of the mall from the hair salon. We finally made it all the way to the salon, after stopping at Dairy Queen, two children's clothing stores, one game store, the hermit crab kiosk, the cell phone kiosk, and the kiddie rides.

We take the boys to this particular salon pretty much because of the kiddie rides outside of it. Boy #1 likes the rocket, #2 likes the fire engine. And then there's the carousel inside the salon that makes the wait easier. Unless the manager of the salon decides that even though there's only one person ahead of us, we'll have to wait another 30 minutes while three people who come in after us get served.

Maybe it's because the haircuts are so cheap, but the stylists in this place always look miserable. Also, about half them don't like children, and practically tantrum when they find out we actually want to USE the cute little Jeep they have set up in front of a mirror, presumably for children to sit in during their hair cut. Apparently management doesn't check with the employees about their kid-friendly ideas.

After a while, Scott decided he'd had enough. Just when we knew it HAD to finally be our turn, someone else got called first, and the manager told us it would be another 15 minutes. So, we told the boys it was taking too long and we could just cut their hair at home. Although it was his idea to go to the mall, Boy #2 has always preferred the home method anyhow. And Boy #1 was anxious to play his new XBox games.

So their hair is still shaggy and in their eyes. But at least they have hats to wear. Next time I'll make an appointment with my own stylist, even if she is three times as expensive. Sales make hats cheap, and cell phones are overpriced, but when it comes to hair stylists, you get what you pay for.


I need to be folding the laundry that's developing permanent creases from sitting in the dryer. I need to be paying attention to my kids, one of whom is chasing down the other with the kitchen mop.

Instead, I'm obssessing about the details of the new design for this blog. Tomorrow is its First Anniversary, after all. It's also my friend Carla's birthday. (Caaaarlaaa, where aaare you? We need to make plans to celebrate!)

If the image of me that Laura designs is a little more rural and romantic than I really am, will those of you know me in real life think I'm a fraud? I realize this train of thought is going to land this entry in the category Scott titled "Out of Her Tree."

Speaking of, I'm also obsessing about category titles. It's a strange thing, having to categorize one's blog entries. What DO I write about, anyway? If anyone knows, please tell.

In other news, we're going to the mall today to get the boys' hair cut. It's been months, so wish us luck. It was Boy #2's idea. (I really have to find something else to call him.)

Monday, July 04, 2005

Okay, maybe I lied.

You know that little comment about how I don't read other blogs? Well, I take officially take it back. And now that I've confessed, I'll stop reading and go to bed.

Sunday, July 03, 2005


Speaking of inappropriate attention to children (yes, that's a euphemism to avoid weird web searches)... Oddly enough, this was actually the second time this weekend I've had to think about that subject.

The first was Friday night, at a community dance recital. I went in support of my sister, who taught one class at this particular studio. She'd already warned me about the kind of choreography taught by the other teachers. And she was right. Turned out "tap" and "jazz" were euphemisms for "Saloon dancing 101" and "Pole Dancing for Minors."

I truly do believe in freedom of expression, but it is not free expression when an adult chooses dance moves and costumes for children to perform in front of an adult audience. The girls obviously worked hard and enjoyed performing. But they did not do it without external pressure from both adult role models and their peers -- pressure to commit to the group, to follow the teacher's instructions, to smile big and stay in line. Nor were they free from internal pressure to conform, to stay safe from ridicule, to adapt to the values of their social group, to please those who held power over them.

Only a very secure, supported 13-year-old girl values both her body and her independent mind enough to be able to say to an adult she respects, even admires, "No, I won't do that move. It's too sexual, and it makes me feel uncomfortable. I don't want to dance like a stripper. I'm only 13."

My sister could have said that. Fortunately she didn't have to. Instead, she listened to the girls in her class share their nightmares about failure, powerlessness and pain. And then she helped them turn it into an empowering performance about learning from your dreams and choosing to take control of your life.

I am so proud of her.

This is not funny at all. (updated)

One reason I've been neglecting to write explicitly about my boys lately has been the desire to protect their privacy. I avoided using their names, although I never found alternatives I liked. But as it became clear that not just my real life friends and family are reading, and that this blog is easy to find, I've wanted to be extra careful.

And now I've just found a really disturbing confirmation of that concern. This is really important info for those of you who blog about your kids and post photos online. Click here to see. Then come back and click here for more explanation.

Part of me feels very sad for these people. Maybe I assume too much, but I'd like to give them the benefit of believing they must not have gotten enough loving attention when they were babies. Maybe their mothers couldn't get Valium prescriptions and dealt with their miserable lives by keeping them in a baby cage and tossing in a bottle in a couple times a day. Or maybe their babyhood was the only time when they really felt loved and cared for. And then at age two, a New Baby became the center of attention, and they were suddenly expected to behave like a grown-up.

Another part of me wants to join the Web defecters, forget about blogging and start scrapbooking instead. But what if one of these same people works at the online Kodak store? Am I going to have to delete my Ofoto albums just to be safe?

But I can't really think like that. I refuse to live my life in fear. Besides, I know for a fact that there are freaks in my own neighborhood who don't have Internet access, but could wander into my front yard at any time. Thank God I believe in angels. When the boys are feeling afraid of monsters and bad guys, we pray together that God will put His angels around our home to keep us safe.

My mom prayed like that with me, and it worked.

Things I have been neglecting lately.

The laundry.
The azaleas.
The ferns.
The pansies (long dead now, I've neglected to pull them up).
Most of my friends.
Scott's bathroom. (Though that's nothing new. There's a reason he has his own.)
My vitamins, namely the Bs.
Writing about the boys.

Hey, you know, I thought that list was going to be longer! I'm feeling better already! Guess I'll go start some laundry.

Get ready to laugh.

This is EXACTLY why I haven't made a gynecological appointment since Baby #2 was born.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Oh, me, oh, my...

I've been obsessing a bit about personality types (a longtime favorite obsession, actually) since picking up an old issue of Utne Reader the other day. I looked up the Myers-Briggs test this morning (although I've taken it a million times), and found myself cracking up...


"A major concern for INTPs is the haunting sense of impending failure. They spend considerable time second-guessing themselves. The open-endedness (from Perceiving) conjoined with the need for competence (NT) is expressed in a sense that one's conclusion may well be met by an equally plausible alternative solution, and that, after all, one may very well have overlooked some critical bit of data. An INTP arguing a point may very well be trying to convince himself as much as his opposition."

I test on the borderline between T/F and J/P, which is why I've taken it so many times. But if that isn't me, I don't know what is.

More: "The internalizing nature of the INTP's Sensing function leaves a relative absence of environmental awareness (i.e., Extraverted Sensing), except when the environment is the current focus. Consciousness of such conditions is at best a sometime thing."

That explains my schizophrenic housekeeping.
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