Saturday, March 31, 2007

As I sat waiting for Helen, the Mimi's Cafe waitress tilted her head sideways when she asked me what exactly I was reading. The cover of the book I'm reading is striking in it's vertical presentation of the title- The Velvet Elvis-repainting the Christian faith. "What in the world is that book about?" she questioned. "I'm not altogether sure. I've just begun reading, and I don't know if I like it or not. It has something to do with someone who found a velvet painting of Elvis in his garage and how that got the author thinking about the Bible in a different way." The waitress gave me a puzzled look and a pensive, "Huh." She took a much longer than the usual waitress to collect her thoughts enough to ask if I'd like something to drink while I waited for my friend to join me.

The truth I didn't share with the waitress is that the first chapter both intrigued me and irked me. However, I decided I like the questions enough to keep reading after my initial snag on the questions concerning the virgin birth of Christ. I don't have time to play with the truth, but I am interested in "outside the box" thinking in terms of bringing fresh and new perspective for those previously beaten over the head with the Gospel.

I'm also reading Too Small to Ignore-why children are the next big thing by Compassion International's Dr. Wess Stafford and Into the Silent Land on contemplation by Laird. After several chapters, I am still not interested in Amy Tan's Saving Fish from Drowning, so it sits on the tub waiting. I have another Doug Addsion book on dreams and a Bevere book sitting on my bedside table I may begin on vacation in May. I can't seem to stick with one book lately and finish it. I think I have book ADD.

If you have opinions on any of these books, I'd love to hear in the comments. Perhaps someone can spur me on to the end of one of these selections.

Friday, March 30, 2007

They're gone. All gone. I went to the dermatologist and had three more basal cell cancers erased from my body.

Suddenly, really, suddenly I noticed two strange spots inches below my collar bone while combing my hair at the mirror a few weeks ago. I taunted the spots, "You can't fool me. I know what you are, since I've been through this before." I explored my skin more carefully and found another tiny suspicious spot on my arm.

I asked the dear folks in my small group to remind me to make a dermatology appointment, and I got a flurry of sweet reminding emails for the next several days. Buck made the appointment for me. God bless them, every one!

Last time, the first time, doctors had to dig a durn spot out of me twice(!), because I let it go for years out of ignorance. This morning the Physician's Assistant burned those nasty cells off my skin with liquid nitrogen before she could utter the words "Suncreen" and "Wide Brimmed Hat" more than once.

So, here's your reminder, friend. Tend the needs of your body you might sometimes put off. Earlier is better. Better late than never.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Vyne's had a family meeting this morning. An uprising boiled over a certain sentence in our family agreements which caused major contention. We agreed that consequences for a six year old girl should not be as severe as for a ten to thirteen year old boy, and that Mom would decide. Everytime Pooh Bear yelled at her brothers calling them "Big Meanies!", (and she does have quite a short fuse), I followed our group recommendations to have her serve time away from the family, which apparently put my reputation as a fair judge into question. My boys began to complain, "She calls names and has a ten minute time out playing dolls?" As many times as the boys grumbled I answered, "She's six for goodness sake. Did you have to have hour long time outs when you were in kindergarten?"

Finally, I asked all of us to come together for a discussion. I talked about child development and how a little girl isn't able to withstand the same consequences as older boys. I talked about nitpicking Pooh Bear's words and actions as if she had some complicated sinister plan to get away with murder, or worse, yelling "You Snookerdoo!" I put a strict half time consequence for her with an absolute time limit of consequences on the worst case scenario of thirty minutes. I can tell my oldest son is not entirely convinced, leaving the whole family agreement thing hanging in the wind. Usually when it comes down to this, I have him call the adult of his choice to ask the question, "Is my mom being fair when..." Works everytime. Adults tend to be rather rational and fair, or at least more rational than thirteen year old boys.

I'm not the first to wish children came with an instruction guide. I suppose it's by design in that the whole parenting thing keeps me on my knees in prayer.

Monday, March 26, 2007

It's that homeschooling decision making time again. Buck and I must decide our course of action for our four children's schooling next year. This year has been our best year yet in that all the children have stayed on course and applied to academics. My oldest, Peace, who has few organizational skills, is being challenged but not broken at a once a week cooperative. My middle children are much further along in critical thinking, language skills, spelling, composition, literature, and math than last year. We've done more history and science than ever before. My youngest has begun to read and is mastering a few number skills.

For the first time, I think I look forward to our standardized testing scores. I'll let you know if I'm off base when the results are in.

I've spent a good part of this evening filling out an application for one son to take one science course in a lovely Classical School next year. We're good to go on plans for next school year as far as I can tell.

My only regret again is that I still haven't found an excellent art teacher near enough. The local ones I've spoken with don't follow my "no spaceship, no robot" policy. My boys already only draw spaceships and robots- they don't need instruction for that.

We'll officially conclude academics the first of May and begin again in July.

My youngest son, Wise One, remains half a year behind, but he simply cannot go faster. He's seriously considering some summer schooling with me. Strangely, he's the only child of mine who asks for his work and wants to get it done everyday. I must work much harder to inspire my other children to finish daily work.

My children are living proof that children are born as who the people they will be. I can mold but I certainly cannot make my children what I want them to be.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Good Gift

In his comment on my post yesterday, Scott at Swept Over set my thoughts in a direction I've been traveling lately concerning self talk. I've come to an obvious conclusion that kind words in the presence of self deprecation are such a good gift. In his comments, Scott deeply affirmed himself and me in one fell swoop. I will print out his kind words to about my writing and put them in my notebook of thoughts I must allow to sink inside myself. What service would it be to anyone if I wouldn't receive his good gift to me?

The truest friends I have set up a standard of accountability with one another in this particular area. When one of us says something negative about ourselves in the context of a conversation we have given one another unspoken permission to call the statement into question for examination, "You mean to tell me you would hold that against me like you do yourself if I were to do the same stupid thing? Or would you be more charitable to me than yourself?"

For example, I felt great guilt over the tragic death of a very special family pet cat. The neighbors watching over our cat while we were on vacation allowed their six year old daughter to check in our cat instead of coming with her. Our house got too hot as I'd turned off the heat and air, but the little girl didn't notice. The cat got caught inside and died of heat stroke. I carried tremendous personal guilt about having thoughtlessly turning off the air, and I cried for days. Thoughts of his horrible death followed me for months- I thought of the dear cat gasping for fresh air, hoping for someone to come let him outside the house, everytime I stepped into our closed sweltering hot van. Finally, I brought up my shame before a friend, and his words released me, "You'd did not turn off the air knowing it would hurt your cat! Would you be so hard on me if I had done the same thing to my cat?" Nope, I'd have given my friend grace and chalk it up as a terrible and sad mistake. However, I wouldn't grant myself that kind of peace. Why not? Self hatred. My friend's gentle words revealed unforgiveness directed at myself which may have been subconciously felt by my neighbors. I was grateful to let go of it all and breathe deeply again.

Claire and I recently decided negative self talk is a waste of precious time. It distracts us from our good purposes, and we are on a quest to be rid of it. When she starts with, "I really blew it" my ears automatically perk up. It's important to not interrupt her but to allow the words which follow as they bring clarity to us both. If I hear about an opportunity missed, then I ask, "What can we learn from this?" If she's being too hard on herself, I give her the gift of putting myself in her place and checking her response.

Do you have anyone in your life who listens to you on your behalf? Thank you to all who offer this good gift to me.

Friday, March 23, 2007

I am frustrated. Recently someone asked me to consider submitting an article for publication, and I felt true inspiration to do so. As usual, I simply started writing out all my thoughts and happily concluded some time later. I read it over and felt some dissatisfaction. Instead of a clear path on a particular point, I'd written a windy road on several points. Claire, dear friend and editor agreed, "I like your thoughts, but where on earth is your thesis statement?" She gave me marvelous suggestions on how to pick a single point, develop a thesis, and write a beautiful article. So, I scrapped the first draft, took a few days off and began again anew. Again, I sent Claire the new work sheepishly noting the distinct lack of a thesis statement. "True," she questioned,"Didn't you understand the need to start with thesis statement? I often spend hours crafting the initial sentence, and then the writing flows easily after." Right! That's never been how I write. Try as I might, I can't spend hours on a single sentence, or I'd never get anything down on paper. I recognize my "stream of consciousness" style is not efficient, but pragmatism utterly cramps my creativity.

Claire is a blessing in that she guides me with great patience. Tomorrow we'll tackle the giant of I can't seem to conquer on my own.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Chicken Wars

Buck and Wise One spread the rich dark mulch over my perfectly weeded and tilled garden and in some of my flower beds. For those gardeners who do not raise free range chicken, this would be deeply satisfying. However, I know mulch means a new season of battle.

Let the games begin.

My cute, cuddly, and annoying chickens will take their luxurious dust baths in my flower beds. They'll dig and scratch willy nilly mulch onto the sidewalk. I'll sweep it back into the bed every few days, but the pattern of scratching and sweeping will last the entire summer. If I want to plant something new, I'll have to create a chicken barrier so it won't be eaten or scratched out of the ground. Last year, I quickly figured out chickens really like to eat hostas, and none of the three Claire gave me for my birthday made it. Frown. The silly birds do, however, leave all the established foliage alone so my bushes, red hot pokers, peonies, lilies, roses, bee balm, seedem, herbs, and spices are just fine. It's the begonias and impatiens which will be most at risk when I bring them home from the nursery in a few weeks. I constantly found them all over the sidewalk in the strewn mulch last spring and summer.

We could and should give away of some of our roosters. I betcha this mulch game might factor into their demise.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I'm officially beat. I've been working in the garden all afternoon in a gentle rain, and I'm tired through to the bone. Buck tilled it for me last week, so I needed to put the rocks back along the path just the way I like them. I also put in the beans and sugar snap peas I sprouted. Hauna gave me chives, and I planted those as well. Every new sprout looks very happy. Buck ordered mulch tomorrow to help keep the weeds down.

I came in for a hot bath afterwards, and I didn't even have to sneak. Pooh Bear is having a sleepover at Anna's. I noticed a distinct quiet in her absence. She usually follows me room to room, flower bed to flower bed, garden spot to garden spot, chattering all the day. In the silence, I began a book this evening for the first time in a long time which my friend Beth bought for me months ago.

My sons are taking the Standford Achievement test this week as they do every spring break. Wise One keeps asking me, "What if I got ALL the answers right, Mom?" My answer, "I'll send you to college next year at the ripe old age of eleven." Trust me, he won't get all of them right- he struggled to read the word "unity" a few days ago. Peace came out saying, "This was the hardest math year ever mom. I think I did fine though." Last year, he misbubbled and spent a great deal of the time recovering rather than finishing the math section of the test. I told him, "Better to learn all about checking every answer and every number in the sixth grade than on the ACT in high school."

I cut a deal with the boys. They all wanted to go to the airsoft store, and I bargained with "no complaints" in getting my nails done. My guys poured over the cases of pricey "big boy toys" while I questioned the owner on the validity of "hunting people." "It's just like video games, Mam." he snipped. "Not exactly, but ask my children just how many video games we have," I retorted. Tater obliged from across the room, "Exactly none." The man looked incredulous- a house with three real boys and no video games? Proposterous!

My sons easily kept their "no complaining" vow at the nail salon as they sat glued to the gigantic HDTV showing of car crashes.

Funny how I always end up in the garden working with beautiful nails.

Update: Buck drove to "rescue" a sobbing six year old Pooh Bear from her sleepover. She didn't think night could be so DARK!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

St. Patrick's Breastplate

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandomAgainst false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning,
against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.
It is said that St. Patrick would pray this prayer morning like putting on God's Breastplate. It's one of my favorites.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Some things hit me square in the funny bone. The news story expounded upon during NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me Saturday, had me laughing out loud, almost to the point of tears.

Here's why.

Apparently, somewhere in California the solution to an overpopulation of squirrels is not a match to the good old boy Tennessee tradition of huntin' 'em down and eatin' 'em for dinner. In fact, the compassionate California resolution of too many squirrels involves catching the females and injecting them with birth control hormones. Now that's got to be easy to keep track of, and tax money well spent. The comedians on Wait, Wait held me in stitches as they spouted, "Those squirrels are out of control with sex and need a good stern talking to."

"When the girl squirrels were interviewed about the problem they stated, 'We have a real problem with storing our pills in trees and forgetting where we've put them."

"Next the state will distribute teeny tiny little pamphlets titled Straight Talk about Nuts."

Thanks for the good laugh NPR.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Buck: Hypothetically, what would a 41 year old woman want for her birthday?

Me with an indignant expression on my face: I don't know. You'll have to ask someone who is 41. I'm only 40, and don't you forget it, buster.

Coincidentally and surprisingly, my birthday is coming up, and I don't know what to ask for. Suggestions anyone?


Pooh Bear urgently called me out to her fairy garden (which amounted to a bunch of dead flowers and lush green weeds, some ominously spikey) to show me she'd broken her flower necklace this afternoon. Walking outside into the lovely warm yard, I was inspired to drag out my loppers and prune the bushes gone wild beside the house. By the time I was finished chopping, my roommate from college might have said, "You've just snatched those bushes bald-headed". This improvement, of course, led to my utter dissatisfaction with the state of the terribly neglected and unkempt beds, so I weeded and raked out leaves as well. As a result of my compulsive nature, my main flower beds were ready for mulch before sundown.

Tomorrow I plan to weed the garden spot for my sugar snap peas. My garden lies in a horrible state after my abandonment in the heat and distraction of last summer.

Ahh, the life of a mundane blogger.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I quietly snuck away from the dinner table when I was quite certain noone was watching. I crept into my bathroom and drew a seriously hot bath. I carefully placed two favorites of the many books I'm reading on the edge of the tub. I considered lighting candles, but was afraid the scent might draw attention to my secret location. I tested the heat of the water with my left foot to be sure I wouldn't be scalded but tingling hot. I eased myself down into the tub, closing my eyes. I took in several deep breaths till I felt relaxation. I let the first silence of my day overtake me. It was a beautiful time. I dried my hand and reached for a book.

I know you know what's coming. Yes, a knock, "Mommy, are you in there? Girls can take baths together, right? Don't you want some company?"

A masked disappointed, "Hummm" was all I could manage, which of course Pooh Bear took to mean, "Come on in. The water's fine. I'd be ever so lonely without you."

From that moment on, perfect silence was abandoned. Pooh Bear shed her clothes, put on swim goggles, and jumped in with a splash beside me. I heard endless chatter of swim team, mermaids, Jesus walking on water, manatees, sharks, sleepovers, friends, and dance class.

I have to ask myself, "How much longer will the girl even want to take a bath with me or even fit in the tub with me?" There is coming a day when modesty and self conciousness will kick in, but I still have a little precious girlhood left to spend with her. I hope to never preserve quiet at the cost of intimacy with my daughter.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A New Way to Remove a Splinter

Here's the drill. One of my children announces, "I have a splinter and it HURTS, Mom." I ask, "Do you want me to remove it?" The child inquires in return, "Will it hurt? How will you do it?" My answer never changes, "Yes, it will hurt. I'll dig it out with a needle for you." Usually, I do not hear about the splinter again. The child's body either absorbs it, or the splinter makes its way out before my child would ever dream of me poking around their fingers or feet with a sharp instrument.

Not so today. Wise One came to me and shocked me by saying, "Mom, I'm ready for you to dig this splinter out. It's killing me."

I pulled out a bowl, filled it with warm soapy water, and asked Wise One to complete his language arts with me. Once he completed his page of past participles, he bravely asked, "My fingers are all wrinkly. Does that mean it's time?"

"Not just yet, Sweetie. I'll be right back." I collected Peace and invited him with me into Pooh Bear's pink room. "Pooh Bear, Wise has to get a splinter out, and I was wondering if I could allow Peace to entertain Wise at the expense of your Pretty Ponies? What I mean is, may Peace make big fun of your toys to help keep Wise's mind off the needle digging into his skin?" Pooh Bear's eyes became wide, but she agreed nonetheless. Usually, I won't tolerate my boys taunting and teasing one another with her "girl things" as it makes her madder than a wet hen and meaner than a snake. I strongly suggested she stay out of the room as her ponies where about to be ridiculed, but I think curiosity got the best of her.

My entourage followed me to my bedroom where I procured a needle from my sewing box and then into the homeschool room, where Wise One waited in fear.

"Oops. I forgot the tweezers and clippers. Would you bring them, Peace?" Peace, the resident comedian, reappeared quickly with the cutting board and a rather large knife in his hands. Wise One let out a nervous chuckle while Peace handed me the tweezers and clippers hidden in his pockets.

"No watching me, Wise, and get to work Peace." Peace knew just what to do. He drew out Pooh Bear's Pretty Ponies from behind his back and began asking, "Wise, why would a pony have goofy antennae and wings? How in the world can an animal as heavy as a pony possibly be a butterfly? Who ever heard of a pink horse with yellow hair and stars for eyes? What's up with this chariot? Are butterfly ponies supposed to ride when they could just fly? Is it some sort of pinky girly parade?" Once Peace exhausted the Pretty Pink Butterfly Pony Parade, he began to draw his own version. Instead of the standard pony heart shaped tattoo, he crafted human body hearts on his horse. Then he drew the horse on fire, and so on. Pooh Bear started to object, especially to the burning pony, but then she joined in with, "Make real stars in it's eyes like from outer space." They were having so much fun, laughing, I'm not sure Wise realized I'd finished.

"Here's the culprit of your pain." I held out the tiny sliver I'd excavated from beneath his epidermis.

"Huh" he mused and returned to the artwork he and his brother were creating.

I smiled with contentment.