Monthly Archives: July 2010

The Magic Mother

Note to self:  The bedroom walls should probably be washed more often than once every five years.

As I took a Magic Eraser to some errant pencil remarks this morning, my mind strayed…

I had the best conversation I have ever had with my mother on Friday night.  It was bittersweet, because most of what she talked about were the sort of things that one reflects upon, when confronted with one’s mortality.  I didn’t say much, other than a question here or there to request clarity or expansion, or just to keep her train of thought going.

I felt particularly at a loss for words, due to my many thoughts and feelings, and the tears that would well up and sometimes fall.  I felt like I should be more supportive, somehow, or more assuring, or with the right words that would put her heart at ease.  I had nothing.  I prayed, asking the Holy Spirit for insight.  Nothing.

Afterwards, she thanked me for just listening, and that she was glad that I hadn’t tried to offer her any solutions, or tell her how she could have avoided X, Y, or Z, but that I just heard her out so that she could unload some burdens.

I guess silence is the right thing to “say”, sometimes.

A friend, whose mother recently died, recommended to me that, next time I talk with my mom, I bring along a hand-held recorder.  I think I have one around here somewhere.  She’d feel weird about being recorded, I think.  But, I’d feel weird about recording her on the sly.  So, we’ll see.  But, after he suggested that, I realized that my siblings would probably want to hear what she has to say, too…

Anyways.

One of the things we talked about — and I don’t know how the conversation took this turn — was about how, as a child, I thought my mom had the most magnificent and magical powers of Finding Things Out.  She just seemed to know everything, discerning most of it before I even did the deed I was considering.  This was incomprehensible to me.  At some point, I just chalked up any attempt at secrecy as a total lost cause.

I think I have inherited my mother’s powers.  😉

There I was, with the Magic Eraser, thinking back a few weeks to when I first discovered them.  (I did give a previous attempt to cleaning them off, but it didn’t do much.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of Mr. Clean.)

I visited Audrey, who was supposed to be napping on my bed.  Obviously, she hadn’t been asleep.  When she doesn’t nap, which is about every other day, she bounces around, finding anything that might be of interest in my bedroom, which she then snatches, scurries back to the bed, and amuses herself with.  That day, she had found a pencil.  I looked at the artwork, then looked sharply at her.  She attempted to suggest that one of her siblings might have done it, and in fact, implicated Grant.  Or Wesley.  You know, someone else — not her.

I would have none of it, and she just could NOT figure out how I was so certain that it was she who had done the deed.

Amid the bold, sweeping, random strokes of pencil were rudimentary attempts at the letters “A-U-D-R-E-Y” and another of her favorites:  stick figures who sport long hair.  Girl stick figures.

Her protests of innocence were for naught.  I, quite unreasonably, would hear no argument of how, perhaps, someone else might be to blame for the drawings on the wall.

~sigh~

When I was a child, was I really that obtuse???

Probably.

My mom is still magic, though.

My Mom, Marfan Syndrome, and a good book series

Tired.

I stayed up until nearly 2 a.m. this morning, after arriving back home at midnight, after being with my mom in the hospital for more than five hours.  It’s a long story, and one she’d probably not appreciate me sharing here, but she’s had a very rough year, mostly with complications/symptoms from Marfan Sydrome, in which the fibrillin — a protein that is rather like a glue that holds one’s body together — produced by her body is faulty.

I have been so overwhelmed by friends and family offering love and support.  I mean, I’m not really the one who needs the support — my mom does.  But, it is… precious to me, to think of all those I know who love and care for both my mom and the rest of my family.  It’s encouraging.

I guess I can write about this now, because she successfully came through surgery, not yet two hours ago.  That is a huge relief.

I’ll be going to the hospital soon.  My dear hubby and I are playing tag team, of sorts.  I really wanted to be the one to go when he decided to leave work early– I want to BE THERE.  But, another part of me loves him all the more for loving my mom and wanting to be there for her.

Yesterday evening, my mom’s nurse in the ER was a lovely young woman.  We talked about all sorts of stuff, and I would bet money she was a Christian, though I didn’t ask.  It turns out that her dear friend was just diagnosed with Marfan’s, so she was full of questions — kind and tactful ones, but questions nonetheless.  I thought it rather providential to have a nurse familiar with Marfan Syndrome to be the nurse for my mother.

A while back, I read a review in World Magazine (to which you should subscribe, dear reader) of a book called The Red Door by Charles Todd.  I was very interested, as I really love detective fiction, but it’s difficult to find a book that is challenging, well-written, but not filled with cr@p that leaves me slimed.*  I was even more pleased when I found out that the book is part of a series.  I decided to start from the beginning, rather than the well-reviewed The Red Door.  However, I didn’t do my research well, and ended up starting with book #2, instead of book #1.  I must admit, I was underwhelmed.  But… I went ahead and read the first book in the series, A Test of Wills, and it was fabulous, simply really good.  I decided that the 2nd book in the series, for which I didn’t really care, was an anomaly, and decided to keep going.

However, it’s a wait, because my local library doesn’t have a good supply of Todd’s books, especially the earlier books in the 13-book series, so I have to place titles on hold, and pick up a copy when the other readers have finished.  This week, I finished the fourth book, Legacy of the Dead, and I think it’s my favorite yet.  I have eagerly waited for the fifth book, which I picked up from the library yesterday.

However… when my mother was unexpectedly sent to the ER by her doctor, and I left to see her, I grabbed my book.  To give to her.  Yet unread by me.  I know that oftentimes, hospital stays can be boring, and I know she loves a good murder mystery herself, and has the same problem I do in finding good authors.

So, I left her with the company of both my Stepdad and a (hopefully) good book.  🙂

I couldn’t sleep, though, at home.  I rustled about.  I posted on Facebook.  I read, coincidentally, the most recent issue of World Magazine, which had arrived in yesterday’s mail.  I thought.  I cried.  I prayed.

It takes me so long, really, to transition, that I should extend much, much more mercy to my dear children, who have the same propensity.

I finally felt like I could go to sleep.

So I did.

Today, I find myself active.  Not with energy, so much as restlessness.  I tend to do things when I’m upset, rather than sit and eat ice cream, though that sounds good, too.  So, boys’ room carpet is now shampooed, my bathroom (mostly) cleaned, dinner in the Crockpot…

Still restless.

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* Plus, my favorite of all time in the genre is Dorothy L. Sayers, and frankly, she’s hard to beat.  I’m endlessly disappointed when books don’t measure up to her standards, and I need to stop that, because no one is ever going to measure up.  They just aren’t.  Or, maybe it’s just that I like post-WWI English detectives, as both Sayers’ and Todd’s protagonists are.

One of those days

One of those days:

  • I started my day with Beth Moore and Queen Esther.  Good stuff.
  • I repaired an old bookcase with a nail, a staple gun, some wood screws and a power drill!
  • I mounted the book case on the upper shelf in the (very tall) the closet of my oldest son, Ethan, attaching it to the wall.
  • I cleaned out Ethan”s closet which also has all of the wrapping paper & giftbags in it, as well as all of our school and art supplies (though there is some sorting still to do in the school stuff).
  • I mounted a cork board — with a level and everything! — on Ethan’s wall so he no longer has to put up odds and ends with tacky/adhesive/silly putty-like stuff (forgot the name).
  • I put a bunch of things on Freecycle, as part of my my perpetual bid to clean out and de-clutter my home.

Still feels like I got nothing done.

Genies, rugs, wishes, and work

I just shampooed a $1,000+ area rug in my driveway*.  It’s wool and silk.  I hope I didn’t ruin it!!  But, it was really only valuable to me if it was CLEAN.  Thus, one pass with (homemade!**) detergent, plus FOUR rinses.  The water was still black in the water-collection tank, and the rug could probably benefit from another four or five rinses, but my arm is about to fall off, and the fingers on my right hand are trembling from endlessly squeezing that dumb trigger to release the water.

For years, I had admired the rug in the lobby of  the office of my husband, Martin.  It’s the sort with deep, thick pile, and I could imagine sinking my toes into it.  Lovely, intricate design, too, though it appears that the exact model has been discontinued by the manufacturer (similar one at right).  But, my tastes almost always exceed my budget, so I’d simply gaze at it with a sigh and a dream…

Then, the company decided to redecorate its lobby, and offered all the items for silent auction to its employees.  Martin got the rug for $30.  Thirty bucks.

However, the thing was pretty dirty;  I doubt it had ever been cleaned.

As I was shampooing the rug, in the driveway, in 115°F weather, I got to thinking about how the rug sort of ties into some thoughts I was having about Yogi Bear.

My children were watching Yogi on Boomerang this morning, and a particular episode aired where Yogi and BooBoo found a genie’s lamp.  It got me to thinking that the whole idea that one could find an object that would grant all one’s wishes probably originated in the same quarter of the brain from which sprung the idea for lotteries.  In other words, the bit of one’s mind where you find yourself dreaming that someone would just drop several million dollars into your lap, thereby solving all your woes.  In other other words, the concept of something for nothing.

What a fallacy.

While spending some time studying simple machines with my older boys in science*** this year, it was impressed upon me, yet again, that you just can’t get something for nothing.  Sure, a block-and-tackle pulley system is going to make it loads (no pun intended!) easier, in a sense, to raise a heavy object a high distance.  But, the trade-off for the ease of function is that one has to pull and pull and pull and pull.  Yes, you obtain a mechanical advantage with the pulley, but you spend more time and pull more rope over a longer distance to obtain it.

Same with walking vs. running.  Did you know that you burn the same amount of calories walking a mile as you do running?  Running is faster (and harder on your knees).  So, you gain time — and perhaps also gain knee surgery — but you expend the same amount of energy.

My thought train, as I was endlessly shampooing the above rug, led me to think about being a stay-at-home mom.  Since we (essentially) live on one income, there are a great many things that I need to do with my own power, since we don’t have the money to hire it out, or buy it ready-made.  To wit,

  • the only time we ate out on our recent 11-day vacation was when someone saw us in church, admired our family, and slipped my husband a $50-spot with the instructions to take all of us out for lunch.  Otherwise, I made everything myself in the kitchen of wherever we were staying (or at home, in advance).
  • We love hand-me-downs and Freecycle.  I probably purchase new 10% of my children’s clothing, tops.
  • Since we started having children, lo these 13 years ago, we have never paid for someone else to do our yardwork.
  • I’ve never hired a maid or a cook, though I’d like to!
  • I spend extra time both in preparation, and while shopping, often driving to four or more grocery stores in one trip, so I can use coupons and store sales to the best advantage of my family’s food budget.

Really, the above list could go on pretty much endlessly.

The point is, I “pay” for being at home.  We have to economize.  Often, my “exercise” comes in the form of some difficult manual labor!  And, I can’t purchase $1,000+ area rugs!

But… I can purchase a formerly pricey rug, now used and dirty, and then spend a couple of hours in hard work cleaning it up.

Do you know what I mean?

It can be looked at from the other perspective, too:  If I worked outside of the home, I would likely have money to drop a couple hundred bucks each season at Old Navy, and my kids would be stylish and cute at all times.  I would be able to purchase $5 loaves of pre-made gluten-free bread.  Someone would come in and clean my house from top to bottom each week!  And so on…  But, at what price?

I know this sort of veers into another topic, but whilst purchasing groceries the other night, the cashier, the manager (it was at night;  he was helping to bag), and myself got into a conversation about mothers being happy that their kids are going back to school.  Truly, it was all I could do to hold back the tears.  I certainly have my challenges in parenting, and things often don’t go as smoothly as I’d prefer, and, golly, I’d like a few hours to just kick my feet up and read a novel, but I like my kids enough to want them to be home with me!!!!  Oddly, many mothers in America see their children as an interruption to their real life.  ~Ahem!!~  YOUR CHILDREN ARE YOUR REAL LIFE!!!!  I don’t want to pay the price of having someone else**** raise my own children just so I can have “me” time and have a house that perpetually stays clean because no one actually lives in it.

There’s no “something for nothing.”  Sure, you can have extra money, but it comes at a price!  Sure, you can have hours of “me” time, but that comes at a price, too!

Everyone pays a price;  it just depends on what your priorities are, how and where that price — time, energy, money, whatever — gets paid.

I will remember that, next time I look wistfully at commercials for “all inclusive” resorts or maid services, and the next time I see a cute outfit in a magazine that I could never buy…  🙂

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* The actual price tag on it says $898, probably purchased a decade ago.  But when I was looking up the same carpets by the same manufacturer, the same model and size — even discontinued clearance ones — are today selling for $1,100 or more.

** I have re-worked my homemade laundry detergent recipe, and should be posting it, soon.

*** “Simple machines” would actually fall under physics, but it was in their science textbook;  thus, we studied it.

**** “someone else” meaning, the school system.

Respite from the heat…

There were no vehicle breakdowns, no relationship troubles (spouse or child), no scheduling snafus, the weather was beautiful, the locations magnificent… even our dog did well.  It was, my dear hubby and I agree, the best vacation we’ve ever had as a family.  🙂

We went:  First to visit my husband’s brother in Pagosa Springs.  Then, to a USFS cabin north of North Fork.  Then, to a VRBO rental just outside of Dolores, into whose 400 s.f. the owner graciously let us cram our seven bodies.

It’s just hard coming back to 110° in the desert.  Oh.  And, I broke my camera.  By sitting on it.  While trying to restrain my 20-month-old from giddily flinging herself into the rushing Piedra River.  (Toddlers:  Gusto without wisdom.)  So, 3/4 of my pictures were taken without a viewer:  I cracked the LCD screen, and there is no manual viewfinder on my camera.  I thought, “I’ll blindly snap away, and hope I can crop some fairly decent pics from them.”  Well, 90% of the “blind” pictures are still wonderful, which is humbling, as apparently, my skill in picture-taking is really the “skill” of the camera.  Or something.

The pictures for most splendid and picturesque part of our journey —  the Dunton Road, which takes one along the West Dolores River, and over 10,000 feet in elevation to the foot of the Lizard Head Wilderness, with magnificent views of the backside of the mountains of Telluride — were taken with my decrepit mobile phone, as I forgot my camera.  Ugh.

I’m sure I’ll be posting more, but here are a few pics for now:

I never tire of the amazing scenery of the US 160, which passes through the Navajo Reservation and Monument Valley

Baby Rocks, or, as we call them, "Cheeto Rocks"

My dear husband and our baby Fiala, near the Piedra River trailhead

Audrey discovers that Uncle Adam will more willingly offer his shoulders than Daddy, thereby Adam won her love and trust forever.

While the boys went shooting, the girls and I played in Mill Creek, south of Pagosa. I made a daisy chain, modeled here by Audrey.

Fi, toodling around in the front yard of the Alder Creek Guard Station

Ethan, Audrey, and me on the Alder Bench Trail, which we made 80% of, until small feet gave out.

Wesley, Grant, and Ethan, along a pristine creek (East Fork Creek, I think, which pours into Middle Alder Creek), exactly 7 miles north of the Alder Guard Station on the Forest Road 610, which was a HARROWING drive

During the trip, we saw three beavers, a cow elk, several deer (including the tiniest fawn ever seen by my husband or me), I identified three new birds for my list (with very little actual birding time), we absolutely SOAKED in the Spirit during the after-service worship-and-ministry time at my brother-in-law’s church… we discovered that Fiala would very happily live in any body of water, and that 4yo Audrey is now a nearly-perfect little traveler; she must be made to live outdoors.  Grant is still the best hiker of the bunch.  We picked out a campground for a future visit (Mavreeso Campground, along the West Dolores River– site 6).  We successfully made a number of hikes and excursions, though none to the numerous National Parks and Monuments in the area.

And… though we purposed to take no calls while on vacation, we did make a few exceptions, and gained the very exciting news that there is a publisher VERY interested in the book I ghost-wrote.  They said they’d give a reply (to query letter & first chapter) in 4-6 weeks.  It took 10 days.  Then, they asked for the whole manuscript, and upon receipt, called back in 24 hours to say they want to talk more.  🙂  It’s the publisher that was at the very top of our list of preference, and that is very encouraging, though absolutely nothing is for certain yet.

So.  I hope y’all will forgive my absence.  Before I left, my friend Kathy encouraged me to, “Soak up every delightful moment, and let Jesus minister to your every molecule.”  That’s what happened.  It was lovely.  Bless God and the restorative properties of His creation.

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