Archive for September, 2008

Been here before

Andrew just defied me – for the umpteenth time.  It had to do with dishes; specifically improperly washed dishes.  Our policy is that if the person emptying the dish drainer finds dishes that aren’t really clean, he sets them on the stove and the person who didn’t wash them right the first time has to re-wash them.

Andrew was doing the lunch clean-up, which means he was putting away the dry dishes from breakfast.  There were a couple of casserole dishes that had been set aside for some minor speck of crud that someone had missed.  Since Andrew had done the supper dishes, and since we only use casserole dishes at supper, in all likelihood Andrew was the guilty party.  However, that could not be proven without consulting the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

So Andrew informed no one in particular that he would not be washing those extra dishes.   And I informed him that he would.  And he replied that he wouldn’t.  And I told him he would.  Etc.

I finally told him that I didn’t care WHO had left them dirty; HE was doing the clean up and I wanted it ALL cleaned up.  Period.  And he said, “I’m telling you that I’m NOT going to wash those dishes, and that’s all I’m going to say.”

Now, when I was growing up, a kid simply didn’t talk to an adult that way without getting his block knocked off.  Although I am strongly tempted to knock off his block and a few other items of his anatomy, so far I am resisting the temptation.  Instead, I walked away, because I knew that if I stayed in proximity to him, I would hit him – very, very hard.

When I calm down, I will probably go wash the stupid dishes.  I have been here before.  I think I have worked for pay in about five different jobs in my life, and I have only been fired once.  It was when I was unable to force those I was managing to do what they were supposed to do.  No one will fire me from this parenting job, and resigning is not an option.  However, I GREATLY resent the fact while I DO what an authority tells me to do because I was told to do it, other people don’t.  It is one of the many things about life that is simply not fair.

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In which I become a letter-writing machine

A new item must be scheduled into my day:  letter-writing.

I have a friend in prison, and my goal is to write him once a week.  I usually do that on Sunday afternoon, along with taking a nap and finishing the adult laundry.

I also have a daughter in college, who likes to get snail mail from home.  My goal is to write her twice a week.

In a couple of days, I will also have two children who will be away from home for five weeks on a mission trip.  My guess is that they will like to receive mail, as well, so I plan to write each of them at least once a week.

Now, the daughter in college can read my blog, so it is a bit challenging to think of things to write to her that she hasn’t already read.  The two mission trippers will not have internet access, so I can recycle blogged news into letters for them.  The same is true for the prisoner, but I have decided that I would be able to keep up with the writing better if I had a set time of day to do it.

Initially I plan to try 12:00 noon.  I should be able to crank out a decent letter in 30 minutes, shouldn’t I?  And if so, I could still eat lunch at 12:30 when the kids do.  Well, with the planning done, now all I need to do is follow through.

Oh, rats! (a commentary on decluttering)

When I declutter, I end up with a few items – usually small – or rarely as much as a grocery bag’s worth of stuff for the thrift shop.  When Scott declutters, it’s a whole ‘nother animal.  I tackle things like one small drawer, or one cubic foot of closet space.  Yesterday, Scott began tackling the garage and the shop.

I became aware of the situation when Andrew came running into the house hollering for my camera.  You must understand out out-building configuration to fully comprehend the situation.  We live in a house.  Attached to the house is a one-car-sized portable building that was once used as a garage.  It sports lovely green indoor-outdoor carpet, and we initially used it as a playroom.  It’s now a glorified storage area and ping-pong arena.  We still call it the playroom.

Directly behind the house is a smokehouse.  It is the final resting place for things like sleds, split wood, potting soil, and sunflower seed for the birds.  We call it the smokehouse.

Along the driveway is an old, crooked, wooden, divided building with a tin roof and gravel floor.  If you drive small, fuel-efficient foreign cars, you could conceivably park one in each side.  However, we tried that once and had to do $1000 in repairs to a car that a pack rat invaded and tried to destroy.  There are wooden doors on this building, but they don’t close very well (leaving foot-wide gaps), so we don’t close them at all.  We use it as an open, two-stall storage area for relatively indestructible things like the grill, lawn chairs, charcoal, odd pieces of plywood, and bicycles.  We call it the garage.

Directly behind (but not attached to) the garage is portable building #2.  It’s a little barn-looking building with a wood floor, a loft-ish shelf at the back, and a tiny workspace on one side.  We park the riding mower, push mower, and weedeater in there, along with rakes, extension cords, gas cans, a few quarts of oil, weedeater twine, shovels, and tomato cages.  We call it the lawn building.

At the far back edge of the property is our size extra large portable building #3.  I’m not real good with estimates, but I’d guess it might be ten feet wide by 20 feet long, with a large shelf at the back.  The former owners used it as a large shop, and we use it for (you guessed it) some tools and a lot more junk.  Up on the shelf, it houses things like the baby crib, a few sentimental baby clothes, and other paraphernalia of early childhood.  The two workbenches along the right wall accommodate Scott’s tools, and the rest of the space is filled with (in my opinion) stuff that we need to throw out but with which My Hero is unable or unwilling to part.  From time to time, these have included such treasures as dining room chairs with broken off legs, a washing machine that leaks, a couch with ripped upholstery, etc.  Occasionally someone tackles cleaning out this building, but within 90 days, no one can tell one ever tried.  We call it the shop.

On our property, unused, unwanted items of bulky size generally move first to the playroom, where they rest for a year or two, then out to the shop, where they decay for another year or two.  Then, when Scott’s out of town, Jessica and I drag them back down to the place where there would be a curb if we had one, and someone usually hauls them off by sundown.

All that to say that we have been in possession of two unused twin size mattresses.  One of them I can’t even remember the story on, and the other was one that our local urinarily challenged member had soaked.  I was in favor of burning mattress #2 or taking it to the dump, but Scott felt that we should save it.  Why?  I have no earthly idea.  It was a cheap mattress that had been given to us in about 2000, and it stunk to high heaven.  So, it went out to the garage.  Yes, the garage, the two-stall, open, doorless, gravel-floored garage where our Cadillac had been ransacked by rats.

So when Scott embarked on his grand decluttering project, he and Andrew first tackled the garage, from which Andrew came running to get my camera.  “Mom!  You won’t believe it!  There’s a rat IN my mattress and I’ve GOT to get a picture!”

Did I really even WANT such a picture?

I was working on banking stuff and I just gave him the camera and kept plugging away.  A few minutes later he was back with two pictures, which he insisted on showing me.  Yes, indeed, a rat had nested into the mattress, and she was suckling two babies as her photo was snapped!  Good night!

Scott placed a huge blue tarp on the driveway right in front of the garage, and dragged the two mattresses onto it.  In addition, he piled some old bikes (or maybe parts thereof), at least one dead computer monitor, and who knows what all else into a heap on the tarp.  He announced, “I have a special trash pick-up coming on Wednesday.  We need to put all our junk on this tarp, and they will haul it off.”

Of course, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.  However, I am just thankful that Scott’s willing to clear some of his out!  After all, I have half a grocery bag for the thrift shop and he has about five cubic feet for the trash man – so far.

Blessed beyond belief – and sheep head

Scott and I have known Rick and Colleen for almost 20 years.  We met them when we attended the same church in Little Rock and we have stayed in touch through their many 20+ and our two moves.  They have served as missionaries in Panama, Switzerland, and South Africa, and are now living in Louisiana, where Rick is working as a pharmacist, and Colleen is enjoying being a grandma!

For three days, they are gracing our family in person with their friendship, wisdom, and experience – all of which are in the superlative category.  We are honored to be able to “sit at their feet” and learn, consider, and be challenged.  Wow!  What God has put into these two people is really amazing.

On a significantly less spriritual note, I mention Sheep Head.  It’s a Swiss card game that is extremely cerebral.  In fact, it makes Bridge look simplistic.  Imagine a game in which four people play with only the 7s, 8, 9s, 10, Js, Qs, Ks, and Aces.  All queens, all jacks, and all diamonds are trump.   10s are higher than Ks.  Clubs are highest, them spades, diamonds, and hearts.  Trump cards aren’t necessarily the highest point cards.  Partners are re-determined each hand, but some hands there are no partners.  You never know till the hand starts.

I wrote out a brief chart to cheat with, and even in a trial hand where we all showed all our cards (for teaching purposes), I was still hopelessly confused.  I think if I played it repeatedly, I could probably get it, but I confess that something in my brain rebels at the idea of four different suits being trump at the same time.

Andrew’s been in seventh heaven, having Mr. Rick and especially Ms. Colleen here.  He thrives on adult attention, interest, and hugs.  He wants to cook breakfast with Ms. Colleen tomorrow.  “Would you like scrambled eggs and biscuits?  Would you like to make them?  I’ll be glad to help you!”  It’s his way of making her feel welcome.  = )

I’m so glad they were willing to come stay with us.  We are blessed beyond belief.

Proof that I’ve lost my mind = )

Being of partially sound mind and relatively sound body, I have officially given my permission and blessing for both Jessica AND Josiah to go on an AIM mission trip – at the same time.  In early October, they will leave the house and be gone for about five weeks.

What was I thinking?  I will have to go back to being a real homemaker.  I’ll have to do all the ironing, make bread, do a lot of the dishes, vacuum the second floor, sweep the porch and walk, mount the bike rack, keep score at Scott’s ball games, do the sheets and towels laundry, and make Scott’s lunches.  Not only that, I will be home alone with Andrew for many, many days.

Actually, I am very happy for the big kids, and I think they will be able to give a lot and learn a lot that will positively impact the adults they are becoming.  It’s a superb opportunity for each of them to push harder and fly higher to reach their unique potentials.

I’m also looking forward to deepening my relationship with Andrew and getting into some new academics with him.  However, I’m NOT looking forward to being his one-woman entertainment committee.  I will get some breaks while he’s at gymnastics, so that will help me maintain my sanity.

The strangest thing is that after having the kids with us all these years, you’d think I’d be thrilled to have a little time off from fulltime momhood.  Instead, I miss them.  I miss Katie now and I’m already missing Jessica and Josiah in advance!

Misplaced brain

I have decided that the scariest part of this season of my life is not the hot flashes, or children the moving out, or the mood swings.  It’s got to be the constant feeling that I am losing (or recently lost, or am about to lose) my mind.

Case in point:  today I was scheduled to attend a one-hour TV department training meeting at church, beginning at 10:00 AM.  Actually, Josiah and I were both supposed to attend, but he had two AIM presentations and so could not go.  I would be going alone, which was fine.  I have known about this meeting for six weeks, and it has been on the calendar that whole time.

After a lot of yard work and some house work, I sat down to tackle a pile of desk work at 1:00 PM.  I know it was 1:00 PM, because I looked at the clock, and as I turned my head back toward my monitor, I happened to see on the calendar “10 – P, Jo TV dept mtg.”  I had completely forgotten to go!

I called our director and apologized profusely.  The only reason I could think to give him was that I had misplaced my brain.  Either that or it was turned off.  In any case, I am fervently hoping (and I guess I should be praying) that sometime in the next few years I can both relocate my brain and consistently keep it turned on – at least when I’m awake.

Three sizes fit all

Every now and then, I have an idea that turns out to be really smart.  A couple weeks ago, I acted on one of those thoughts, and boy, has it ever been nice.

The topic would be leftover dishes.  Unlike some families, we do endeavor to save and eat our leftovers.  Well, at least we put them in the fridge, label and date them, and either eat them or throw them out seven days later.  The meats and carbs generally get eaten, and the veggies often get ditched, but that’s beside the point.

The point is that I have a whole cabinet in the kitchen crammed full of leftover dishes.  I am not exaggerating.  Many years ago, I swore off round leftover dishes, because they take up too much space, both in the cabinet and in the fridge.  Also, because we have so MANY sizes of the little beasts, at one point I even labeled the tops and bottoms with matching numbers, to try make things as little easier.

Then a couple years ago, I found some cheap Zip-Loc leftover dishes that I really liked.  We used them for quite a while, but eventually, the lids started cracking.  When I then bought some new Zip-Loc leftover dishes, which appeared to be exactly like the ones I already had, it turns out the Zip-Loc folks had very slightly re-engineered their lids, so that they would not quite fit the previous bottoms.  This was extremely.  To make matters even worse, a few months later, the tops and bottoms were re-engineered a second time, so that there were now three types of tops and bottoms, all the same size, and all of which looked like they’d fit together perfectly.  However, no matter which bottom you put the peas in, you’d have to try ALL the suitable lids to proved that NONE of them fit before losing your cool and dumping the peas into another bottom and trying again.

In addition to all that, there’s the matter of sizes.  We had small square shallow, and small square deep.  We had oblong small shallow and oblong medium shallow.  We also had square medium shallow, as well as the ever-popular oblong medium deep.  Then there were those few odd-sized larger ones that are rather difficult to describe.

With Katie in college, when the other three kids went to an AIM Family Camp for three days last month, it was a very quiet, very empty house.  Also, with 2/3 of my dishwashing crew in absentia, I found myself doing all the dishes at every meal.  One evening Scott offered to help by putting away the leftovers.  In so doing, he experienced a pea event similar to the one just described, and while the kids and I are well-accustomed to that tedious procedure, he was not.  Furthermore, he was decidedly not being entertained.  After three tries for a lid, he fairly threw a misfit back into the cabinet, muttering something like, “. . . have too many stupid leftover dishes around here. . . ” under his breath.

Turning from my Palmolive water, I said, “You know, I have thought about throwing them all out and buying new ones that are all the same.”  To which Scott replied, “You won’t hear any complaints from me!”

Now, I have learned in 21 years of marriage that there are times to strike while the iron’s hot.  This was clearly one of those times.  In less than a week, I was home with some $25 worth of containers; all the same brand, and in only three sizes:  square shallow and square deep, which both use the same lid (how fun is THAT?!?!?), and oblong shallow.

Jessica and I had a ball sorting out all the old ones.  We actually matched a lid to every container, and the mismatches went straight to File 13.  The complete pairs were then packed into 13-gallon trash bags and stored in the cellar in case the kids want them when they move out.  I didn’t used to make plans based on “when the kids move out,” but life has progressed to a point that I must accept the fact that such events may be in the not-too-distant future.

Now my leftover cabinet is happy and so is my husband.  Furthermore, putting those puppies away is a snap.  If it’s a square, you put a square lid on it, and if it’s a rectangle, you put a rectangular lid on it.  No searching, no trial and error, no frustration.

I should get a point!  Now I wonder which mess I should tackle next.