Saturday, May 21, 2011

Baking By Design

Well I set myself up for a busy Saturday this week because I signed up to bring church snack tomorrow. Our church is kind of small and the ladies take turns baking or bringing stuff for people to munch on after the service on Sunday, and I hadn't done it in quite a while so I figured I was due for a turn.

What this inevitably means is that my Friday (if I'm able to do so) and my Saturday are an orgy of baking and preparation for this event. Our church may be small, but we still have over 200 people each Sunday, so it's a bit of work to get together a "snack" for everyone. Ironically it is perceived as a source of pride, and ladies who are known "bakers" will pull out all the stops for their turn, doing elaborate or fussy cookies and cakes. One lady likes to make lollipops and hand tie curly ribbon to each one, wrapped in cellophane! I mean some of them really go nuts, making sure their stuff looks bakery-made with royal icing decorations, and some ladies even like to dress the snack table. On Easter Sunday we had an elaborate diorama with Easter eggs & Easter bunnies! Very Christ-centered, haha! (that was my tongue firmly in did look very cute but would not be my style)

But seriously, I have garnered something of a reputation in our church as a "baker". Perhaps this is because my husband and actually have *parties* and host dinners and invite folks over on a regular basis, and we do most of our cooking and baking from scratch. Never mind the fact that this is due to my inability to deal with MSG and several food additives, it means that we have a reputation here.

What this means is that if I sign up for snack, people expect that I will go all-out, baking extravaganza style, and bring a host of amazing baked goods for folks to snaffle up and the ladies to ask for my recipe and complain in the future that their attempts "never turn out as good/light/fluffy as yours". *blink*

I really do not understand this. I do not do anything special with my baked goods. I have had one woman repeatedly tell me her cinnamon rolls aren't like mine, ask what flour I use (whatever is on sale or I have to hand) and how long I knead the dough. I mean, I don't make an art of this people! This is an example of how my baking extravaganzas usually break down:
(Me in the kitchen, adding stuff to the mixer)
Kid: Oh, what are you making Mommy?
Me: Cookies/cinnamon rolls/cake
Kid: Oooooooo, can I help? Can I-can I-can I-pretty please???
Me: *grumble* Yeah pull up the chair
(Kid tries to put finger in the bowl)
Me: Stop that!
(Kid tries to sample ingredient)
Me: Stop that! Here, put this in for me.
Kid: Ok! *beam*
2nd kid wanders in: What are you making?
(1st kid rubs the 2nd kid's nose in the fact that THEY have the coveted helper spot. I break up the fight/argument. 2nd kid fetches stool to help as well)
Me: 1st kid, you add this. 2nd kid, you mix it in.
2nd kid: Can I crack the egg, please??
Me: No.
2nd kid: I'll be really careful, please!!
(Clean up mess from egg breaking while mixer runs along)
1st kid: Can I lick the beater?
Me: No.
2nd kid: can I lick the spoon?
Me: No.
1st kid: Can I help fill the cups/drop the cookies?
Me: No. Get out!
(By this point the batter has been creamed practically beyond recognition)
2nd kid: Mom, you forgot to put in the chocolate chips!
(Add the chocolate chips, grumbling)
1st & 2nd kids swoop in and steal large handful of chocolate chips.
Me: GET OUT NOW!! (waving spoon like a madwoman)
3rd kid: Mama!! UP!

Yeah, that is pretty much how it goes. So if my cinnamon roll dough is beaten to a pulp, I don't know how long I've had it on! My kids have been driving me nuts over here! There is no "secret" that I've squirreled away in my brain that makes my stuff so good to the eaters of church snack. I can't figure it out, frankly. I just throw stuff together, subbing for ingredients with whatever I have on hand. Not enough flour? Oh look, I have some oats! Just whiz in the food processor and the problem is solved. I admit to my share of food snobbery when it comes to cake mixes and such. The real source of that is I am too cheap to pay for a combination of dry ingredients that will take me 20 seconds to duplicate by making it from "scratch".

One time I took a pass on my turn and bought a bunch of stuff from Costco. People were actually disappointed. I had not realized this, but folks check the snack list to see who is bringing what each week. The fact that I showed up with STORE BOUGHT BAKED GOODS was a travesty to some! So I realized that a little realistic expectation setting was called for, and I've been dribbling in the occasional store-bought item on my turn. I am just too busy to allow for a baking extravaganza each time I do snack. I have also signed up LESS, because I am too busy to do it according to the unspoken "rules" of church snack. Tomorrow I will round out my baked goods (not lovingly, painstaking decorated with icing or in any way 'prettified') with some store bought, pre-cut fruit. Oh, the horror! Well, it's just how I roll these days.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go get a batch of cinnamon roll dough started while my husband has mercifully taken all the urchins out of the house.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Parenting Cheaply

A friend posted a BBC article to their Facebook page recently. It was from the BBC, touting the increased pressures of child-rearing these days, and estimated the cost for raising a child to be more than £210,000! In the article they talk about how everything is about fashion and design in baby gear, how you can spend £1200 on a stroller, and that everything needs to be coordinated in the nursery. People are spending more on their kids' clothes than I spend on mine (which admittedly is not much, but still folks, your kid does not need designer baby clothes).

Then on the radio I hear parents talking about how busy they are, taking their son to baseball practice, daughter to violin lessons, both of them to karate lessons, plus piano lessons, plus language lessons. Really, this is important for a six year old? An eight year old?

I tell you what, I must be a miserable parent, because I buy my kids clothes on clearance and sometimes the thrift store, and I don't care what brand it is as long as it fits. I don't take my kids to ANY lessons. They go to and from school, and they play outside when the weather is nice and they play inside when it's not nice. They don't have Gameboys or DS's, or iPods. They don't know how to use the Wii other than to do Wii bowling about every two months or so. They don't really want to learn how to play the Wii, to be honest. Is that because my husband and I don't play it that much either? Possibly. My kindergartener can navigate around a bit on the old desktop, where she is allowed to go to two websites to play games. She does this about...well, I can't remember when she did it last.

I tell you what my kids do. They fold their own laundry (except for the baby). They earn quarters for doing extra chores, and they are expected to keep their rooms navigable and to bus their own table, so to speak. They help put away the dishes. They match socks. They even (occasionally) help pull weeds outside. They play with each other, all sorts of crazy imaginative games. They ride their bikes (very popular this year). They draw with chalk, they do their own crafts, they play with the harps or drums or keyboard, they make up silly songs, they dance around to the radio. They play with worms outside, dig in the dirt, plant flower seeds and veggies, and eat strawberries straight from the plants when they are in season. Pretty terrible life, huh?

I just look at all these kids with schedules so complicated their parents need to use their Blackberry to keep track of them, and I wonder--what the heck are those kids going to remember about their childhood? I know it's a novel thought, but what about just letting kids be kids? Yes, it is more work for parents, because somebody else isn't supervising them, they have to learn to get along with each other, and they have to be creative about how to entertain themselves or play by themselves. They have to learn to judge what is a good idea and what is a bad idea when it comes to entertaining themselves (drenching Mom with a hose while she gardens? Bad! Stacking rocks & building a rock fort? Good!) I don't think my kids are going to be deprived in high school for not doing dance, band, every sport imaginable, and music lessons from the age of four. Somehow I managed just fine and turned out to be successful, and I'm pretty sure my kids can too. So why spend the money and deal with the stress, and stress out your kids? I just don't get it!

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Ado-Man

My husband and I have noticed a disturbing pattern among some of our married friends--the ado-man (short for adolescent man). Usually this man is in his late twenties to early forties, and surprisingly he has not really settled down into any stable job or career field. Instead he has flitted from job to job, often because he is "bored" with what he was doing, or it wasn't challenging enough, or it just didn't suit his temperament, etc. Most of the time, these men are also married with young children, and tend to be quite traditional in their marriages and childrearing preferences--i.e. they prefer that their wives stay home with their children, they are the "boss" of the household.

What is really disturbing to us is that these men seem incapable of providing any sort of sustainable support for their families, but they can't seem to connect the dots to their own decisions. Losing a job is "bad luck" and not due to the fact they were bored with work and stopped giving their best. The fact their wives have to scrimp, save, buy the scratch & dent cans and shop at Goodwill for their kids' clothes (NTTAWT) doesn't register when they go out and blow $500 on a Bose surround sound system because "Hey, I haven't treated myself to anything for a while and sometimes you just gotta do it, you know?" These same guys will buy themselves a new truck every two years because they feel like it (while their wife's car, the chief family transport, is held together with baling wire), have poker night with their buddies at their house even when their ten month old is teething and dealing with a miserable ear infection, and then they don't understand why their wives get so hopping mad that they are making a lot of noise and staying up until past midnight.

DH and I have encountered repeated species of these males and frankly we are just baffled. Just when do we hit the "Grow Up!" button for the American male of the species? What is wrong with our society that we give a pass to these guys hanging on to the good old days of teendom, when they have adult commitments, relationships, and very real fiscal needs? I get the traditional marriage, but frankly if you aren't providing LEADERSHIP to your family, then you aren't cut out for the male role in a traditional marriage! If you aren't leading by example, showing your kids that yes, sometimes your job is NOT your passion, but that's okay because you need to feed, clothe, and house your family, what kind of message does that send to them? What does it say to your wife when you SAY you support her, but every action is a sabotage to your financial stability and a demonstration of your lack of respect for her wants and needs?

Now that's not to say that the wives in these cases aren't responsible too. I would probably have quite a strong argument with my husband if he weren't pulling his weight in our marriage or family. And I have to say that some of these women are not communicating with their husbands. They complain to their friends but don't actually talk to their husbands about what has them so hopping mad a lot of the time. Is it any wonder we see the rate of divorce we see in the Christian church? Yeah, all of these examples are in CHRISTIAN households.

I just really mourn the lack of good, strong male role models. In an age where marriage is increasingly irrelevant, the whole idea of "service" to your marriage and family is fast falling out of favor. One need only look at the single parent phenomenon in African American households to see how ugly this gets when the dad is allowed a complete pass on responsibility. What is even more frightening is that moms are getting in on the act now, too. It seems increasingly common for moms to be committed in early childhood years, then to get tired of solely shouldering the responsibilities for childraising and leave their teens to go solo (figuratively speaking). Sometimes this takes the form of highly structured schedules, which has the added bonus of making Mom feel like a good parent, because John and Judy are in band, cheer, every sport imaginable, Mandarin, and a host of other "college ready" extracurriculars. Of course John & Judy are so busy you never get to talk to them, and they never get a break, but that's just preparing them for the "real world". Or you just stop listening to your kids, don't make an effort to understand them any more. Hey, it's just because they're teenagers, right? Eventually they will sort it all out and move out for college--the hard part is done. Yeah, because we all know how well that absentminded parenting works for teenagers.

I think we need to be honest with ourselves. Marriages take work. Families require solid commitments. That means sometimes (a lot of the time) you are working at a job that, at its best, drives you crazy sometimes. But you do what you need to do to put food on the table. If you want to "find yourself", "follow your passion", or "find the job you love", you wait to do it when you aren't putting your marriage and family under tremendous strain in the process. If that means drastically changing your lifestyle with everyone's agreement, so that you can afford to start your business or chase your dream, great! But if that is not possible, you need to be mature enough to recognize it and postpone it until you aren't putting other people's lives and well-being at risk. I realize that flies in the face of our hedonistic society, but you really AREN'T priority #1 when you have kids and a marriage. I'm not saying you don't need to take care of yourself, but you can't take care of yourself to the exclusion and detriment of all others. And you need to be involved in parenting your kids, period. Your wife is not the exclusive caregiver if the kids are under X years of age. You ARE responsible for the messages your behavior sends to them. You DO have to sacrifice some of your personal pleasures. It's called being a grown-up--how about trying it sometime, Mr. Ado-male?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Useful Posts

Well I have had several times when I have been tempted to blog in the past two months, but something (LIFE) has always gotten in the way. I do want you to know that I haven't forgotten about my blog, if all two readers are still left! It's just that my life is insanely busy as you know, and well it's been super crazy lately with work, school schedules, hubby's job commitments, and trying to muck out the pigsty that has been masquerading as our house.

My children are growing like weeds and getting into EVERYTHING, which is another reason I am not here blogging (even though I was not a frequent blogger anyway). My sixteen month old will come up when I'm on my laptop and attempt to wrench my screen down and the computer away from me. Oh wretched beast, that's MY spot in Mommy's lap! Go away you black-tailed devil! You can see the wheels turning in her head. Clearly she will not tolerate being displaced by The Machine.

Crazy will reach Insanity starting January, because I will be working part-time teaching at TWO colleges. Yea and verily, I am Crazy Woman, hear me scream by about mid-February when I am about to pull my hair out and have six weeks to go in the quarter. It's quite an interesting time on the old workfront, seeing as my state is experiencing Ye Olde Budget Crunch and it's not clear that the local college is planning to replace one of my full-time colleagues when he retires at the end of this year. This puts a crimp in Ye Olde Family Debt Repayment, as to get real traction I need to get a full-time gig again pretty soon. Treading water is fine and all, but at some point ya gotta swim for shore, KWIM? So if they *don't* replace him, then I am going to be looking at going back to full-time lab work, or finding a better teaching gig further afield. *sigh* I am just praying and trusting that God has a great plan and eventually He will let me in on it, too.

So that is the scoop. If I can muster up some extra energy (HAHAHAHAAHAHAHA!! Extra energy, ROFLMAO...yea, good one!) I will try to blog as inspiration strikes. Don't blame me if I start going on about the wonders of various protein models, however...professor brain strikes at odd times. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Portland on a Monday

For the sake of our sanity, my husband and I took the family on a little weekend getaway this past weekend to make up for the crappy summer we just endured with his tendon rupture, surgery, recovery, etc. We toodled down the coast to Oregon, where we spent a happy two days running around Cannon Beach and reminiscing about all the geeky glory of "The Goonies" (filmed in Cannon Beach) and keeping our eyes peeled for a Spanish doubloon, tossed ashore from the tremendous storm that pummeled our self-catering accommodation the previous evening. (As an aside, it appears that the script writers could have been inspired by a local legend, as a Spanish galleon did sink off the coast there several hundred years ago, "laden with gold" and it has never been found...dum dum dum!)

However, the weather was not entirely conducive to happy ramblings by the sea (see aforementioned "storm"), and we decided to relocate to Portland for our final weekend evening, and enjoy some of the sights that it has to offer. If God had ever had a clearer way of saying, "MISTAKE!", I don't know what it was, but for sure the hour it took us to navigate our way through downtown Portland's morass of one-way streets was a blinking hint. For starters, parts of the city had been closed for the Portland Marathon--oh joy. Fortuitously, this was wrapping up when we arrived, so most streets were reopened. However, not the streets near our hotel (of course), so we had to inch along with everyone else in the single lane allocated to the plebeian motorists. You see, Portland has a snazzy electric tram/train line, and it has its own lane and separate signals (oblique white and yellow rectangles surreptitiously placed on the right at every intersection). This is frustrating for tourists, as you see no one moving and no hint of a reason why, except suddenly a tram whooshes by and you finally figure out after the fourth signal that, oh, over there, those rectangle lights must mean a tram is coming. Helpful, Portland people, oh so helpful.

Then, of course the middle lane is allocated exclusively to buses, and there were a steady number of them bustling about. However, and I hate to be unkind, a large part of the time these lanes, too, were sitting empty, while the poor motorists were all inching along. While I recognize the value of encouraging public transport, I have to ask myself if it's really worth alienating all visitors to your fair city by punishing the car patrons so vindictively? Because alongside these lanes are road markings not covered in any non-Oregon DMV class. We had a double white line separating the bus lane from the car lane, with nary a clue or hint offered to visitors as to what that meant. We just sort of figured out that it meant cars go over here, to the left of the double white line, but then we saw cars cutting into the bus lane to turn left or right and didn't know if that was okay? You see, that is the problem with going outside of the standard playbook for road markings, you leave non-natives scratching their heads and saying, "What the hell does this mean? Can I turn or can I not?" And consequently I am sure that we pissed off our fair share of Oregonians by not turning when we probably could have, just to be on the safe side and avoid getting a ticket.

Which brings up the one-way streets. Now we are quite familiar with Seattle, which has an ample supply of one-way streets. However, Seattle has at least stuck with the sensible route: if you have one way streets, you alternate them, and you allow for turning as required, so people only have to circumnavigate one block at most to reach their destination. Quick, logical, and fairly painless when dealing with one-way streets. Portland, however, has decided (again, for reasons which utterly escape the non-native, and quite possibly escape the natives as well) that seemingly arbitrary "No Right Turn" and "No Left Turn" signs will be placed in succession on roads, leading cars four, five, six, yea even eight blocks further on than they would wish to go. I kid you not people, we were unable to turn for eight blocks. To add insult to injury, we found ourselves forced across bridges by the turn restrictions, then hopelessly trying to turn ourselves around again and playing "Hurry up GPS and recalculate" while trying to find our hotel, and then its appointed parking lot. IT WAS SO BAD MY HUSBAND REFUSED TO MOVE THE CAR FROM THE NON-HOTEL PARKING GARAGE TO THE HOTEL GARAGE ONE BLOCK OVER. For a man committed to parking in the OFFICIAL hotel garage (as if that magically conveys some protection against thievery), that says quite a bit.

Then there was the whole quest for the Portland attractions we were interested in visiting. Columbus Day weekend, not everyone had the day off on Monday, but still, a fair number of folks and their kids are off and possibly looking to do something. We drove to the Japanese garden and got there as it closed at 4 pm on Sunday. Yes, I was a bit pissed about that. Gorgeous fall day, holiday weekend, but hey, our seasonal hours say from 1st October we close at 4, so by golly that is what we do, Indian summer or not! But this is the same irritation I have with attractions here in the Seattle area so I grumbled about it and we said we will see stuff tomorrow, and dragged ourselves hotel-ward. (As a side note I will say it is not a wheelchair friendly garden and was poorly signed as such, which outraged me on behalf of my friend who is in a wheelchair, but I digress.)

We decided after some food and laboriously picking our way back to the hotel (from the opposite direction after finding a restaurant across the river, of course) that we would go to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), which has a great reputation and is supposedly great for kids, families, etc. Woohoo! And woke up the next day to find that it was closed. On a Monday. Because it's apparently always closed on Mondays, except for certain holiday weekends. But not Columbus Day weekend, because Portland schools don't take that as a holiday, don't you know? No, you didn't know that? We didn't either, and I doubt any tourists to Portland on a holiday weekend know it. And the Portland Children's Museum? Closed on Mondays. Which, quite frankly, boggles my mind. Seattle has about the same population, and by some amazing feat the Seattle Children's Museum manages to keep their doors open seven days a week. The Seattle Science Center during the winter closes on other words, they avoid closing on days which are likely to be holidays, like Mondays or Fridays. Hmmmmmmm, Portland, I think you could learn a lesson about being tourist friendly from your city neighbor to the north!

So we could have gone to the Portland zoo, but frankly it felt like a waste of money to go to the zoo in Portland, when have two perfectly good zoos here at home. We could have gone back to the Japanese garden when it was open (or the Chinese garden for that matter), but facing the tranquility of an Asian garden with 3 refreshed, energized children first thing in the morning is quite a bit different from facing it with 3 tired, more compliant children in the brilliance of the midafternoon, before the witching hour sets in. Faced with the prospect of continually telling them not to touch things and "Stop! No!", annoying the other guests, we decided to beat feet along the one way, no turn paths toward home. We did stop and enjoy the kids' first corn maze, which was fun and the same cost as the garden would have been. Somehow it was far more satisfying to plunk $12 into the hand of the family matriarch who helped plant the corn than it would have been to give it to the garden wardens, I think. No, I don't think we'll be heading back to Portland by choice any time soon. The annoyance factor vs. payoff is just too high. Now, to search for a Spanish doubloon in Cannon Beach...well, that I think we might handle again...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Strange Headspace

Have you ever read Bill Bryson's "Hello, I'm a Stranger Here Myself"? In it he describes the peculiar experience of coming 'home' to America after living in another country for twenty odd years. I think that is sort of how I am feeling lately. I am being forced to view my life through some different lenses and filters, and it has made me a bit contemplative. I am sure my husband has gotten tired of being asked the same old saw several times a day (or so it feels), but I think there are some big changes coming our way and I want to be prepared, to feel like I know what's around the bend.

Our neighbor and good friend died last week. This was not an expected event, the culmination of a lengthy illness or perpetually delicate health. No, he was extremely fit and healthy, a mountain climber and jolly joker and humble servant of Christ, who called him home at the age of 53. And I haven't doubted that God rewarded his good and faithful servant in bringing him home now, and I haven't asked why, as I know so many of his family members and friends are doing even now. Instead, I have considered why all who knew him, found him worthy of the phrase, "a righteous man", and I compared my own life to his. Unsurprisingly, I found my own lacking.

This process of sanctification by Jesus Christ is a long one and He is not one to rush. If you've ever felt the breathless thrill of waiting for a perfect sunrise over a pristinely beautiful canyon or been surprised suddenly by the awe of a watercolor sunset, then you know that God does perfection, well, perfectly. And I have no doubt that Tim went home to the Lord at the perfect time. But I would be foolish to ignore the lessons God gave all who knew him in his passing. I see many places where my laziness, my lack of self-discipline, my craven selfishness have led me to make different choices than the choices my neighbor would have made. And this makes me sad. It makes me repent of that sinfulness, those wrong choices, all the more grievously. And to pray fervently that God will correct those sinful ways in me, before my children inherit the sins of their mother and face the same painful corrections in their own lives.

So this has me a bit melancholy. I think it's a good thing to take stock and be honest. At the same time, I want to not lose the bigger picture in all the vexatious, squirmy problems and sins that my husband and I can't quite seem to squash. God has blessed the socks off us! He has given us MORE than enough money to pay our bills, MORE than enough space to raise our children, MORE than enough house to shelter us, MORE than enough clothes to clothe & shoe us, MORE than enough food to eat, and an amazing overabundance of family and friends to support and love us. I cannot blog enough about the GRATITUDE I have for a God who would and does bless us so mightily when we are so wormy and insignificant and WHINY. Oh my, we are probably ten times as whiny as our children, and that is beyond ---HERE--- some days, so God is exceedingly patient above all I could ask or do myself.

If today's memorial service and the events of this past week have taught me something, it is that I need to be honest, but that I also need to rest in the Lord's promise that He will not abandon me, that He WILL finish the process He has started in me. You see, all of our struggles with those squirmy, wormy sins shows as nothing else could do, that I cannot do it alone. It is just not possible for me in my own strength to develop strong self-discipline. It is not possible for me in my own strength to demonstrate enough patience to my children to grow them into healthy, communicative adults. It is not possible for me to be all that I should be as a wife to my husband. It is not possible for me to be to myself all that I need. I NEED CHRIST. I NEED HIM, like I need the air I breathe, the food I eat, the water I drink. I cannot sustain life without Him. And if that is the everlasting lesson that has made its way into my heart from a righteous man's death, oh what a blessing God has given me. Thank you Lord, for doing no wrong. What a perspective He gives.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

One Week In

So here we are, about a week into the whole "husband on crutches" thing. I'm not liking it, folks. I knew it wasn't going to be pretty, oh no, it was going to be pretty ugly. But here we are and already I'm feeling "AAACK!!" and "Bleeeeeeeech" and *gronk* and "Feh, stupid (blank)! ". And we are not even a whole week into it, people! (granted yes it is a week tomorrow but STILL!)

Life is pretty busy around here on a normal basis. It takes both my husband and I running full-steam ahead just to keep up with our preschoolers & baby. Add in the wild and crazy excitement of a dog, parrot, two jobs, a one acre property, and you have a recipe for BUSY! if there ever was one. When one of us gets sick, the other person just has to cope for a few days until the other one is back on their feet. Shortcuts get taken to make life flow smoother for everyone.

The problem with this particular situation is that we just cannot run on shortcuts for six weeks. It is just not going to fly. And in that six weeks, we have one school term ending (lots of grading and work for me), and a new one beginning for two of our children. I have put off stuff where possible to keep juggling this past week, to keep my DH off his feet as much as possible, to get him stuff when he needed it, to really pay close attention to him for the first few days after surgery when he wasn't allowed to have his foot higher than his heart. And let me just say, I don't know why anyone would WANT to take those narcotics! My husband had enough of the looped up, drugged out feeling after three days, and even at that stage he experienced some withdrawal symptoms. Whoaaaaaaa, that is NOT cool, friends. Just stay the hell away from drugs, and thankfully my husband would much prefer the discomfort/pain dulled down with plain old Tylenol than to be spaced out.

However, this has resulted in a somewhat irritable and cranky husband, and in turn it has resulted in irritable and cranky children, and an irritable and cranky wife. Have you ever noticed how children absorb your mood and just feed off of it, reflecting all the worst bits back at you at twenty-times magnification? So you can imagine what joy has reigned in our house. And well, they just don't understand that this is sort of a long haul type of process here. They see Dad up and about, albeit with those cool sticks, and they think he's all ready for their usual fun and games. And sometimes, he is, so they go about their merry business until one of them pushes it too far, someone is crying, and both are called onto the carpet and roll down that naughtiness hill until everyone is just fed up with each other and the whole day!

Well, that is my pity party for the day. It is not going to be easy to keep this family going for the next five weeks. However, talk about a massive and timely dose of perspective...just got word that a good friend and neighbor suffered a massive cardiac arrest, and is basically in a medically induced coma. Good Lord, be with our wonderful neighbors, and restore this righteous man to health. All my whingeing seems so utterly pointless now, but if You could help all in this family to put forth a bit more effort and goodwill, we would all be so very grateful. Amen.