Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesday Musings - Conflicted


I tend to reside in tension.  Right smack in the middle.  Of late the issues over which I find myself mulling have consisted of, but are not limited to, whether to homeschool or not, trading my gym membership for a housecleaner, and to love or hate dogs.  Despite the epic impact of the conclusion to these (as well as other) debates on my day to day, there is no greater or longer lingering uncertainty inside of me than the question of what place technology should hold in my life - to what extent it should consume me, my time, my resources.
When I say technology, I mean a very wide variety of things as well as the activities and energies related to them - time at my computer (ehm, blogging, social networking), time (and money) spent fussing with my ipod (downloading podcasts, buying music, shamefully entertaining my kids), buying a new computer because the old one is about to blow up in my face, playing wii, buying wii games, cell phones, texting, the hatred and anger I feel toward my cell phone and the desperation I feel for Apple to hurry the F up and make an iphone for Verizon. The illusion, rather, disillusion, is that each of these things should make my life either easier and/or more enjoyable but I am afraid the truth is quite the opposite.  I have been conscious of and wrestling with this controversy for years now.  I make prudent attempts to keep technology's reign over my life to a minimum (very relative term!), confined to it's appropriate level of existence, and, despite the elusiveness of that level, overall I feel I have done an okay job.
But this past weekend the turmoil seemed to come to a climax.  I was finally approaching a long delayed moment in time when, by my own standard, I would be put over the edge, so to speak.  This moment would mark my entrance into a new era, one I have tried arduously to avoid while walking the line very closely, a new world of visual stimulation and possibility.  And, it would mark my concession to the hounding forces of materialism and marketing in this battle against complete technological infiltration.
I was about to buy a new TV.
For certain, this task did not come out of compulsion or impulse.   Brian has been having secret love affairs with the latest and greatest new creations in TV land for months and months now.  We have been on the verge of taking the plunge a handful of times past and it if weren't for our childrens' tendencies to whine, hit each other with wii remotes and garage band items on display, play hide and go seek in the 100,000 sq. foot store and throw tantrums over the candy in the checkout line, we very well may have crossed this line already.  Historically, I have been pretty firmly rooted in my stance against the purchase of an over-sized and totally unnecessary new gadget in our home.  In fact, I wanted to be completely TV-less when we first began our family and was marginally successful for a few years.  But, like every good wife knows, sometimes you need to be willing to compromise.  I needed consider what it is that he finds worthy of a splurge, just as he (almost always) does with me and my jeans (or any other item of clothing for that matter).  The problem for me was not just the thought of spending so much money on something so trivial and indulgent but also the fact that there seemed to be no viable compromise in terms of cost and quality.  I am very adverse, regardless of the product in question, to the idea of dropping what is still a ginormaous amount of cash on something that is already totally outdated, even obsolete.  With TV's this problem seems to be as bad as it gets.
I had been thinking of surprising Brian with a TV for Father's Day. Knowing how much he would love one and also how hesitant he was to buy one himself, probably in part due to my resistance, made me want to buy one even more.  How could I not want to splurge on him, love on him with this lavish gift?  After all, that is how I like to be loved on.  But was this really the best way to show him my appreciation?  On one hand it seemed so appropriate and on the other so shallow.
So, there I was, at 10 pm on Friday night wondering suspiciously through the isles of TVs at Best Buy, deeply conflicted not just by the question of whether this was the right Father's Day gift, but also by which TV to even buy.  I was struggling.  I stopped, prayed and ask God to help me with this torturous and nauseating decision (I usually get nauseous when spending large amounts of money) and then I saw it - the exact TV Brian has been dreaming of - one better (and of course, more expensive) that any he would think of buying - for an unusually (and slightly suspiciously) low, low, price.  It was done.  I had taken the step in my mind, before the money was even handed over, and there was no turning back.  We are now the proud (er, still slightly conflicted but mostly mostly at peace) owners of a large flat screen TV, the exact one pictured at the top to be precise.
Yes, the tension and the confliction (spell check is telling me that isn't a word, oh well) are still there.  I still cant help but think of where else the money could have gone - to an adoption fund, to build a well in some impoverished country with contaminated drinking water, or to help fund our kids' college education, but watching Brian open his Father's Day gift and receive this expression of my appreciation and admiration for all of hard work, was priceless.  As for the larger issue as stake, how to keep technology's disillusion of ease and fulfillment from over contaminating our lives.......I still haven't totally figured that one out.
Have you?

Until next time........

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pondering Hayden

"Mom, was the food you ate in Peru organic?"
"Why can we not feel the earth spinning?" (after my vague reference to some universal laws of physics which I know nothing about) "oh, I know, God just spun it and then it kept on spinning and spinning."
"Mom, will we have 1 million kids in our family?" "Cuz, if we did we would need a million bunker..., I mean decker, bunk bed.  And I would be on top and I would turn into penguin boy and fly up to the top and throw ice balls.  (I am assuming he is referencing Super Mario here)
"Mom, is every sunday God's birthday?

phew. all in a 10 minute car ride.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuesday Musings - Home

There are few places in the world that feel quite like home.  But sometimes home is more a reference to a feeling of intimacy and belonging than to any one particular physical space.  No matter where life takes this family of mine, we will always be at home with each other.  I am sure you can relate.
Yet, I have the amazing privilege of having another home in this life - one where my heart is at ease, refreshed and encouraged, where I am truly known and accepted and where I often have the gift of sharing in the joy and pain of others.  This home I speak of is with my precious girl friends from college.
Our journey together began when we were just babies, 18 year young.  Not one of us could have ever expected how much our friendships would change our hearts and lives.   Over the course of our college careers we met together once a week to share our hearts, our stories, our hopes, our prayers, our hurts, our healing, our growing, our changing, our learning and most of all, our corporate love for God.  For the last 8 years since then we have continued to hold a tradition of spending one weekend a year together, a highly concentrated version of what we had and cherished those few precious years in school.
Without these eleven women in my life, I would not know honesty, vulnerability, intimacy or loyalty the way I know them now.  Their presence in my life has caused a kind of exposure that is often very frightening, a nakedness resulting from the stripping away of the falsities and facades that we so often bring with us into relationships.  This kind of vulnerability and realness is a rarity and a precious gift.  In the context of the safety of these friends this exposure changes me.  My self protective tendencies begin to melt away and the striving for the notice and approval of others subsides. I am forced to see myself as I truly am and believe that I am loved despite.  In so many ways this experience of connectedness I share with my friends mirrors my own connectedness to God.  Just as it is before God, it is difficult to bear ones soul before friends.  But the reward, in both cases, a bond of true friendship, is worth every ounce of discomfort.  It always has been and always will be.
This year was a particularly special year for our group.  The day has finally come that each and everyone of us has crossed the threshold into marriage and motherhood.  I was one of the first to venture into marriage and the very first to become a mom. Since then, it has been a joy to usher the remaining ten into this glorious (yet much less glamorous) season of family life.
Thank you, precious sisters, for your understanding of me, your commitment to our bond and your faithfulness to God as we have journeyed together (though physically apart) over the past several years.  Here is to another decade of sharing, growing, crying, laughing, changing and learning together.

The first GAG weekend - 1999





The First GAG engagement




















Signature Lady Marmalade Dance












Graduation Day! 

First GAG wedding


First GAG baby shower


The baby boom has begun!



22 kids later!!!!!!!!!!!!

Until next time.............

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Tuesday Musings - Vernacular

Well, it's another sad, hot day here at Bellybou'. Sales are grim, first charge back fraud dispute, drowning in in other business related matters and to top it off, it's 88 degrees in here because the air conditioning is broken and we are having all kinds of issues getting it fixed.  bleh.

Thanks for letting me complain. On to more interesting matters.

I confess, I am sort of addicted to podcasts.  I cant seem to spend 10 min in the car without someone speaking interesting, educational or inspiring words to me.  Though I do listen to an occasional NPR broadcast, my general listening preferences are with sermons and at the risk of being terribly groupie-esc, I have a few favorite preachers that I listen to regularly.  I sort of feel like I go to 5 or 6 different churches all around the country, most of which are some version of the 'mega' variety (hence the efficiency of the multi-media program that allows me to listen to messages just days after they were spoken).  Sometimes, upon acquiring the latest episode from a cast, I am disappointed pleasantly surprised to find that someone else is speaking in the regular teachers stead.  Feeling too groupie-ish to turn it off, I listen anyways and am usually glad I did.  One thing that NEVER fails to cross my mind in these instances is the way that the other teachers/pastors/lay-people/special message-givers tend to sound so strikingly similar, in terms of their diction and inflection, to the main dude (er, person..there are women preachers too).  I often chuckle at the blatant obviousness of it but I know from experience that it happens to the best of us in a very unconscious and often, irreversible way.

In college, my BFF and I shared a room and a lot of time together for 3 straight years.  Without either of us ever trying we managed to end up sounding exactly alike when we spoke.  Already having a very similar tone quality to our voices (not real deep but not high pitched), our vernaculars were almost instantly melded together making it very difficult to tell us apart.  We confused our friends, our fiances and even our parents often to bitter ends.  It was pretty fun, actually.   But it never ceased to amaze me how easily it happened - how quick we are to adapt our own speech to the common language around us.

Fast forward a fleeting 8 years to recently when I have been noticing that my own vernacular seems to be quite dull and outdated.  With little exposure to the more trendy ways of speech that would normally shape, at least to some extent, my choice of words and phrases, I am feeling a little in the dark.  It seems that because I don't frequent the societal hot spots of my age and race demographic (read I never go out, period)  or pay to much attention to the popular media, I just don't talk very cool.  A while ago I decided to make a list of the things I would say often if I were cool.  Here are a few favorites:

"I know, right?"
"love me some..."
"bestie" or "besties" (in reference to my best friend/friends....just in case you needed that clarification)
"all up in my biz"
There were more but I left my list at home - these were the best ones I could remember.

So, as I begin to count down the precious remaining days in my twenties, I wonder if this sad reality will only continue to worsen as I age.  Am I going to be that mom that uses terribly out dated words and sayings that are so bad they will never even earn the prestige of being 'old school'? But what is a poor old mom to do?  Its just as bad to be the one who is clearly trying to be cool in tongue and is thus NOT. sigh.  Oh well, I suppose there are worse things.

Can you help build my list? What are your favorite trendy little nuggets of todays popular vernacular?

Until next time.........

Saturday, June 05, 2010

More Evidence the Baby Has Been Here.....


Read on for proof.

Flying Solo

We are very fortunate, especially now, for Brian's job.  It provides, it is secure and he has a flexible, often self-made schedule.  We can not complain.  These benefits however, are sometimes compensated for by extraneous amounts of traveling and this month will be no exception.  He will be gone during the week three out of the four weeks and to add to the agenda, he started the month off with several late night dinner meetings with bosses and co-workers who were in from out of town.  Again I am reminded of how fortunate we are his career is in an industry that is making exciting progress rather than bitter recovery and has remained stable throughout such volatile times. Say what you will about conventional agriculture (we all I know I have my own beefs - no pun intended), but it is sustaining many families just like ours throughout our country right now.   Enough about that and on to the real purpose of this post ~ to discuss the evolution of my approach to the role of temporary single mother.
Three or so years ago, the chunks of days that I was on my own were nothing short of dismal.  I would sorrowfully count down the hours (which as you can imagine, makes for really long days) until B would return, often leaving him feeling guilty and conflicted about this inevitable part of his job.  Then, one day, I decided if I was going to survive this reality of our lives and this season of parenthood (toddler on the leg and baby on the hip), I really needed a new tactic.  And that's when I got crazy.  All of the sudden Brian' absence ushered in a title wave of newfound liberty and ambition.  Having few real time commitments at that point, I would pile my two babies in the car loaded with a bunch of snacks and, if I were lucky, enough diapers -  and we would take off on an adventure - to a far away mall, a far away friend, even San Francisco or OC.  Or I would devise a crazy project to tackle at home that would involve several errands and several hours like painting walls or refinishing furniture and somehow make it fun for the kids too.  Regardless, we often incurred a shameful lack of sleep and ate shameful amounts of fast foods.  While these adventures did serve to keep my kids entertained and provided lots of special memories (and some miserable ones too!), they were really about me.  And still are.  This is my way of coping, my way of steering clear of the swirling black hole of slothful self pity that looms when one is alone in the endeavor of parenting.
These days, things are a bit different than they were those few precious years ago.  In addition to now having another kid in the mix, I am no longer the only one who flies solo at home.  A sadly depressed retail climate leaves Brian to fend for himself against the 3 monkeys all weekend long, a third of the weekends out of the year.  But preschool was the first thing to trow a wrench in our adventurousness followed by more preschool and then real school.  (All of which I managed to dodge on several occasions in effort to take back some of what was lost - much to the district truancy nazi's dismay)
However, there are still plenty of times when I am all alone for the day/night/week and I need to kick it into high gear.  
The other night was a perfect example.  B was at a dinner meeting.  We were on the very brink of summer vacation, but I could wait until then to get crazy with the kids lest they make ME more than crazy.  In effort to console his tearful woes over an issue with a light saber and the 'no toys from home rule', I told Hayden that we would make treats to bring to his class for the very last day of school (the next day). Knowing we had the evening free, I thought it would be a fun project to bake with the Olders while the baby napped. But, as is so often the case, Hayden was not that easy to please.  They had to be Star Wars treats for the boys, preferably featuring light sabers, and princess treats for the girls.  You would have thought I could have just said no and whipped up a batch of boxed brownies calling it a day but, really, can you do that to your kid? Anyway, this was my chance at a good spike in the mental and creative intensity of what would otherwise be a tiresome evening of kid food and over-read library books.  I began googling 'star wars cupcakes' and was amazed by what I found.  I admit, my heart rate probably started climbing as I began to realize the breadth of what I was about to take on.  Once I set an aesthetic standard for any culinary adventure, it's really hard for me to go back.  We settled on a design and all seemed fairly simple except for the fondant frosting which I had never attempted before but was very excited to experiment with. These were going to be damn cool cupcakes thus increasing Hayden's popularity and, ironically, my sanity. 
So we set off to Michael's and Target to pick up some baking necessities (and of course, several other unintended things - oh, how I hate target but that is for another post) which is, if you don't already know, an adventure of the most intense kind with 3 materially insatiable, frightfully avaricious little loves.  Fast forward to the cupcakes rising to perfect height just below the edge of the paper lining and the fondant underway.  The process itself was far from daunting except for the fact that I needed it to be black. I have never had much luck with getting a good black frosting because of the copious amount of white sugar involved.  So I busted out the gel coloring that is for those candy melt things that you make into shapes that probably should not be considered edible.  In all its viscous glory, the entire jar managed to yield just the right shade of Vader black.  That is some nasty stuff and I took great pains to keep it from contaminating any part of my body or my white counter tops.  I was successful until........as the frosting was just about ready to chill in the fridge and I to take the kiddos up to bed, the baby dug the jar out of the trash and, as only miniature little fingers could, scraped the excess out and smeared it all over her hands, face, body, the chair she climbed up on and then the walls.   I spent the next several hours cleaning the baby, then the walls and then the remaining mess from the baking alone.  Then, I finished the cupcakes. I was proud to have completed them before midnight (11:57) and to have documented the incident in all of its terror.  

Here they are before things got ugly.





The ugliness begins....









A 'snap and run' before the camera is the next victim...hence the blur



ALL over her mouth...cant really tell but the inside was BLACK!



After a preliminary scrub....





Mischief that ends in a bath...what more could this girl want?



Still love her though.






My tip was too fat making the Vaders look more like little pigmies than anything else but, hey, they're kinders, they wont care.
And the girls had to settle for black butterflies - there was no way I was making another color....

In the end, I was satisfied.  With the cupcakes, yes, but more so because of the challenge, the obstacles, the climax, the fun pics, the sparkling white counter tops that would have been left in their grimy state for weeks longer were in not for the black grout that needed bleaching, AND the very happy little boy who awoke with anxious anticipation of the final product and was not disappointed........

Here's to many more weeks of adventures like this one.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Toothless

Can you believe this day has come?!  My baby boy is starting to loose his teeth.


He lost the first one a few weeks ago and I neglected to document it with a photo, sadly.  But the second one came out soon enough, leaving a gaping bloody hole right next to first one, and I was sure to capture  the moment.





His first tooth came out at school, which was probably more celebratory than it would have been at home with his squeamish mama, where he was given this super cool little tooth container that he wears around his neck.  He loves it and proudly carried his tooth around with him until it was time to place it under his pillow in anticipation of the tooth fairy.  Speaking of whom, luckily remembered at the very last moment (as in moments before he awoke the next morning) to make the exchange for some cold hard cash.  

House Cleaning

These days, this blog serves as our only real version of a family scrapbook and I want it to reflect our lives as accurately as possible even if that means posting - for all the blog world to see - pics of me in a (far) less than presentable state than I would normally prefer to show you.  What family documentary would be complete without a glimpse of what it is like trying (often ineffectually) to keep the house in some sort of order and to some degree of clean? So, here is a glimpse of me trying to stick, at least a little, to my Monday routine of house cleaning despite the presence of everyone else on this Memorial Day. 
As you can see, my efforts were slightly impeded by an intense game of Mario Brothers and a baby who removes everything in her path from it's place while at the same time dripping either drool, milk, chewed food or something far grosser (that's a word, right?) from her body.  



I got a little sucked in to the Mario game, secretly wishing I had the ability to carelessly involve myself in such unproductive endeavors and enjoy myself instead of constantly worrying about how to make the most of every moment of this 'holiday' (euphemism for Fleeting 24 Hours to Catch Up On Everything You Don't Normally Have Time To Do)


Yes, I am vacuuming the coffee table...because extracting the leftover food, dust, dirt and other fowl things from the tiny little crevices in it's knotted and hole-y veneers is not an everyday occurrence (as it should be)

While often eager to help, Halle was not very responsive to my solicitations for assistance this day.  (And, enough with the baby toys, Elena has moved on to Bionicles.)


Elena was though.


She's a little tea pot!




Really trying to be like big sis!


So, there you have it.  This was the start to our Memorial Day which ended sadly with the fruition of a raging sinus and ear infection that left me in tears of pain. At least everyone else was having fun.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Tuesday Musings - Sick Days

One of the biggest grievances in the career of motherhood is that you are not afforded any sick days.  Unless your husband can easily take off work (which, lets face it, wont happen unless you are practically ER bound - no offense hubs, we are glad you are so dedicated to your work) or your mom is near by and retired, we fever stricken, head raging, chill-y and on the verge of barfing moms have to just suck it up.
Luckily for me, I can escape to my pseudo career at Bellybou' and loaf around here feeling miserable without the disturbance of my children or my home which happens to be unraveling at exponential speeds while I remain in this oppressed state of flu-ness. blaaaa.
Really, in this way I am very lucky.  The predicament of how to care for your kids and continue your normal home maintenance (all encompassing and never ending as it already is) routine, at least somewhat, is so dire. It is impossible.  And nothing is worse than not being able to take care of your family except having to sit on the couch in a nearly subconscious state of funk and watch as the work to be done to recover from your absence mounts to unspeakable heights.  At least I didn't have to watch today (at least not since breakfast and the morning mad dash for the car from which there is chaos enough to fill my entire first day back to work)
While it's easy to poke fun at this phenomenon that all of us mothers can relate to (the miracle that anyone survives without us), it hints at a more serious issue for me.
As I was dropping the baby off with my mother in law this morning and seeking her sympathy for my miserable state, she told me a story of when her first two were little and, unable to peel herself from the couch except to vomit, she wondering how in the world she was supposed to care for her kids.  A shiver went down my spine (maybe partly related to my chills - who knows. regardless, I was affected) as I flashed back to the 3 times I spent 12+ weeks on the couch (or on the metal bed-like cot that was my only sleeping arrangement in Peru) in the very same state thinking the very same thing. (well, except for the first time because I had no children yet but having never ever been this sick before I would agonize over how in the world my body could possible support growing life when I felt on the verge of death).  Despite my want for at least one more child, my pregnancy days are over for this very reason.  At times my eyes will well up with tears at the thought that I will bear no more children of my own but we (all parties greatly affected by my complete incapability and incapacity to function while in the first half of pregnancy, who are numerous) just can't go through it again.  Not if we don't have to. (yes, I am alluding to the idea of acquiring a child by means other than conceiving, gestating and giving birth - but I'll save my thoughts on that for another day) My heart melts knowing that we are perfectly fertile and ironically (because of the considerable lack of health I suffer) produce very healthy babies, a luxury which so many can not enjoy - for whom my soul aches.  But, for us, there are just too many sick days involved.  And that is life.
So, this last week has served as a sad but poignant reminder that 'sealing the deal' of our infertility (read male version of the process) was no frivolous thing.  I really don't want to feel like this (let alone worse) for any length of time beyond what this new array of kindergarden viruses (did you know they are totally different than the preschool ones?) are subjecting me to.
And there you have it.  My most revealing post since the homeschooling declaration - not exactly what I intended but there I went and now I have to go.  These musings really are as raw as they come, I can assure you that.
Until next time.......