Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government
will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful
Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of
the increase of his government and peace there will be no
end. He will reign on David's throne and over his
kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and
righteousness from that time on and forever. " (Isaiah 9:6-7)

To think that the sinless Son of God who had dwelt in the splendor of heaven with his father since before the foundation of the earth would be willing to leave perfection to come and live as a man is something my mind cannot grasp.

Think of the nastiest motel room ever, a place where the sheets have not been changed for months, mice scurry in the walls and across the floors and mold has overtaken the bathroom. A foul stench hangs in the air, and grime covers every surface. You wouldn't think of leaving your nice, comfortable home to go check into a place like that, would you? I sure wouldn't.

Yet, that's exactly what our Savior did when he left his home and Father for 33 years to dwell among us, bridging the gap between a sinless Father and a very sinful mankind.

And that's what we celebrate every Christmas.

May the wonder of His divine gift fill your heart with joy today and every day of the coming year.

Merry CHRISTmas!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Congratulations, Honey!

Eighteen years and a few months after he took his first college course at the University of Arkansas in 1988, my Prince Charming finally received his bachelor's degree on Saturday from John Brown University.

We're so proud of you!

Friday, November 17, 2006


I've hardly been able to find the energy to blog lately. So much of what's on my mind these days relates to my efforts to make sense of my mother's death. It's deep. It's personal. And it's very difficult to parade the rawness of such emotions before the world.

I was reminded today of a night that occurred several days before my mother's surgery. It was the night following her diagnosis on August 25. That was the last night I was able to spend with her. Even though she knew she had bone cancer and was scheduled for major surgery in just a few days, the two of us watched America's Funniest Home Videos and laughed like we had not a care in the world. I will hang onto that memory for the rest of my life.

Later that night, as she slept fitfully, her rest interrupted by frequent cough attacks, I scavenged a magazine from a nearby waiting area. Who knows what prompted me to record the following quote, but I did. On the only paper I could find, a long piece of hospital toilet paper, I preserved these words:

"No story is without hope - even when it includes a wrenching chapter that involves the death of a loved one. Hope grows from the knowledge that we never have all the data at hand, that the world holds possibilities we cannot anticipate and sometimes can barely imagine."
(from Lessons in Hope by Keith Ablow, MD, September 2006 Good Housekeeping)

I must have sensed even then that my story was about to include a gut-wrenching chapter. What I didn't know was how quickly that chapter would be written.

Monday, October 09, 2006


This past Saturday marked the 13th annual Race for the Cure event in Little Rock. And the first race I've done without my mother. Just four weeks after her death, I expected the race to be hard, but in reality it was very therapeutic.

The morning dawned with a chill in the air, but by the race's end, the temperature had risen, and we enjoyed sunny weather for the remainder of the day. This year saw a record attendance of 43,000+ women, and the excitement was palpable.

Our little group was attired in matching t-shirts designed by one of Mom's coworkers at Angie Grant Elementary. A banner at the bottom read, "In loving memory of Jewell Snyder". The only time I was moved to tears was when my sister-in-law pinned a bib on my back which read, "I race in memory of my mother, Jewell Snyder". I always felt there would come a day when I replaced my "I race in celebration" bib with one in her memory, but I never anticipated that it would be this soon.

Here are some pictures from the day:

Family and friends

Our t-shirts in Mom's memory

Even Bill was there doing what he does best to raise funds for the cure

One of the many adorable pooches walking for a cure

Visiting the cemetery afterward to place a big pink bow on Mom's grave

Breast cancer has already taken too many lives. Chances are if you have not had it yourself, you know someone who has fought this terrible disease. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I'm encouraging every woman I know to have a mammogram if you haven't already this year. And if you're a man, talk to the women in your life about scheduling this simple, yet very important, diagnostic test. No matter what horror stories you've heard about having your mammies checked (or what bad experience you might have had in the past), it's not as bad as having a tumor go undiagnosed.

So, go on, make the phone call. Now. Do it for yourself. Do it for the people you love.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


This time last Saturday night, I was sitting on the floor of my mother's room in the surgical intensive care unit at Baptist Hospital working crossword puzzles. I hadn't planned on making a trip down that weekend, but after phone calls on Thursday and Friday that Mom had been having some trouble with shortness of breath, I was seriously thinking about heading down on Saturday evening after my husband got home from work.

The phone rang about 3:15 on Saturday afternoon and it was Kyle. I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was discouraged. "Things don't look good," he said. "The doctor says she could go today."

"What are you saying?" I asked, scarcely able to believe what I was hearing. Hadn't she been improving as recently as Wednesday? Weren't the doctors saying that each morning's chest x-ray was looking better than the one before? What was going on?

I could tell he didn't want to be so direct with me, but I needed to hear it straight.

"Sheryl," he said as gently as he could, "Mom's not going to make it."

I threw some clothes in a suitcase as fast as I could and grabbed my bag full of makeup and hair essentials which was still packed from my previous trip home. Standing in my closet, the strangest feeling came over me. How odd it was to be picking out a dress for my mother's funeral while she was still living. It had to be done, however, and I grabbed hose and pumps to match.

During the three-hour drive, I kept repeating the same prayer again and again in my mind. "Lord, please let her hang on until I get there. And please don't ask us to make the decision to disconnect her from life support." It was so important to me that I get to kiss her one more time and tell her how much I love her. And equally important that we not be forced to determine when she would take her last breath. I felt like that decision belonged to God alone.

When I got there, I was relieved to find that God had answered my first prayer. Her vital signs were still relatively stable, so after I spent a few minutes talking to her with absolutely no response at all, my brother, his wife, and I felt okay about leaving the hospital for an hour or so to grab dinner.

On our way to the restaurant (which incidentally was the same Mexican restaurant where my brother and I ate the night after Mom received her cancer diagosis), Kyle made an interesting observation. "You know, we've all been praying for a miracle here and wondering why God hasn't done something," he began. "What if this is it?"

My whole perspective shifted at that moment. We knew Mom had bone cancer, but I hadn't realized just how extensive it was until earlier that evening. Should she survive the surgery, the outlook for the future was extremely bleak. By rescuing her from any more suffering, God was giving all of us -- especially Mom -- a wonderful gift. I just hadn't quite seen it that way before.

We stayed with her throughout the night, never letting our eyes drift for long from the screen that displayed her oxygen saturation, heart rate, and blood pressure. Occasionally, it would appear that her heart rate was slowing, but then it would pick back up again. She was hanging on with everything she had.

Somewhere in the night (around 2, I think) her nurse attempted to turn her, and afterward, we noticed her breathing became very rapid. A stat chest x-ray was ordered, and after my brother looked at it, he came back into the room and whispered to me that it was the worst chest he'd ever seen in his life. Her right lung was almost completely collapsed, and when they asked us if we wanted a chest tube (she already had one on the left), we all agreed that it was pointless.

Once the pneumothorax was discovered, I think we all expected she would go quickly at that point, but she continued to hang on through the rest of the night. At some point, I started feeling myself become delirious with fatigue and retired to the waiting room to collapse on a couch. My dad joined me in the waiting room after giving instructions to Kyle and Traci to awaken us immediately if the situation changed.

Another chest x-ray was performed several hours after the first, and according to Kyle, it was even worse than the one before.

Somewhere around 8:30 a.m., we went over the situation with the on-call doctor, who was kind enough to let us step around behind the nurses' station and read as many of her reports as we wished and answered all our questions as kindly and compassionately as he could.

"So, you're telling us that without some sort of miracle, there is absolutely no hope?" I asked.

He nodded his head slowly. I could tell it was hurting him to deliver this news.

I looked across the narrow hallway into my mother's room. "How much longer do you think this might go on?" I asked.

"Oh, possibly another 24 to 48 hours," Dr. Church said and then paused. "Or until you as a family decide that it is time to pull the life support."

"Oh, God," I groaned inwardly. "It wasn't supposed to come to this."

The four of us looked at each other, and we just knew. It was time. Mom's 65th birthday was the following day, and if I knew anything, it was that I didn't want 9/11 to be my mother's birthday, the anniversary of one of the worst tragedies our country has ever seen, AND the anniversary of my mother's death.

We were given several more private minutes to spend with her, and when we felt the time was right, Kyle went to the nurses' station and gave Dr. Church the go-ahead.

We stepped outside the room briefly while the nurse turned off all the machinery and pulled the tubes out. When she was finished, we were allowed to go back in to be with Mom as she spent her final minutes on this earth. A hospital chaplain was summoned by the nurse, and he appeared with his Bible, ready to offer spiritual counsel if we desired.

I had thought it would be very nice to sing hymns, but when the time actually came, we stood in complete silence. The words to "It Is Well" were being sung in my mind, but it just didn't seem fitting (or possible) for any of us to make a single sound during those last moments together.

She didn't last long. I watched her chest move rapidly at first and then gradually slow to only several breaths per minute. I was holding her right hand and Kyle her left, neither of us able to feel a radial pulse. Several times I thought she had stopped breathing, but then many seconds later another gasp would come.

Finally at 9:15 a.m. on Sunday, September 10, 2006, my mother exited this life and entered into eternal life. And in doing so, she changed our lives forever.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Time Warp

It's been five days since Mom's surgery, and I have spent more time in the ICU waiting room than anywhere else during that time. It's amazing how time seems to stop once you step through the doors that lead to the waiting area shared by the three intensive care units at the hospital. Although life keeps going on the outside, I feel I'm in a time warp when those doors shut behind me.

The world of critical care is one in which people who in the ordinary course of life would probably never cross paths are suddenly thrust together day after day, suspended in time, waiting for their loved ones to turn the corner, so to speak.

Several minutes before visiting hours begin, family members begin lining up down a long hallway. A receptionist who I am convinced is a retired flight attendant rattles off instructions in the exact manner you would be told where to stow your bags over your head and where you can locate your oxygen mask in the event of a flight emergency. And when she is finished with her please-use-a-nickle-sized-amount-of-hand-sanitizer-to-protect-your-patient spiel, the red door sign is turned over to the green side marked "All Units Open" and the cattle herd begins.

For anyone who has never maintained an ICU vigil, it's impossible to describe the palpable expectation, particularly early in the morning, as family members anxious for some sign of improvement hasten to see their loved ones.

I waited this morning in line behind three older women, all visiting their husbands. One of them, Marie, told me earlier in the week that her husband had been in ICU for 63 days ... this time. Between his four visits for heart-related problems, he has spent more time in the hospital this year than out. "We're thinking about getting well," she said cheerfully. "I just hope we're thinking about getting well today!" As the door to the units opened and the three ladies prepared to part company, one of them called to another, "Maybe today will be the day!"

Maybe today ...

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Diagnosis

I hardly know where to start. If you suffered through my very long last post, you know that my mother was admitted to the hospital a week ago in Little Rock. I stayed with her until Sunday evening, then had to head back home since my daughter started back to school on Monday. I kept in constant contact with my brother during the week and was very concerned to learn that the doctors were focusing an increased amount of attention on some abnormalities they had seen on her spine. By Thursday, they had done a CT, MRI and finally a bone biopsy. I knew in my heart they were looking for cancer and made plans to travel back to Little Rock on Thursday evening. By the following morning, my brother and I had each cornered her doctor privately who had confirmed our suspicions. We agreed to meet with Mom and Dad Friday afternoon so he could break the news to them. My heart was breaking in two as the three of us entered her room. I knew what he was about to tell them would break their hearts, too, and was going to come as a complete shock.

It was awful.

I have started another blog, Jewell's Updates, where I will focus on the more medical aspects of her surgery, treatment, recovery, etc. This site, Potter Place, will be a reflection of my personal journey from a daughter's point of view. I hope that the things I experience and lessons learned as we fight another battle against cancer can encourage someone else who may be going through the same thing.

Please pray for my family. We are eager to see how God wants to work in what appears to be a bad situation.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The top 10 reasons I do NOT plan to have my next family reunion at a hospital

I had one of those days yesterday. You know the kind. They start out differently than you had planned and just go downhill from there.

The original plan was that my two girls and I, my mother, my SIL and her two kids were all going to meet at my grandmother's nursing home to celebrate her 94th birthday yesterday. Afterward, several of us would be staying overnight at a hotel WITH A SWIMMING POOL and celebrating my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary today.

I'd already gotten wind from my mother on Friday night that she wasn't feeling well and wasn't sure if she'd be able to make it the next day, so when she called on Saturday morning with the news that she hadn't slept a wink all night and definitely didn't feel like making the trip, I certainly understood. The girls and I even offered to bring a change of clothes along and go onto my parents' house after Grandma's birthday party, but Mom declined, saying that she REALLY felt too bad to even think about company.

We couldn't bear to think about Grandma celebrating her birthday without a gathering of family, so the three of us hopped in the car and took off on the two-hour drive. For whatever reason, I had the notion to throw a stick of deodorant, hairbrush, some lip stick and my needlework in a bag just for good measure.

The little birthday party went off perfectly. Grandma was thrilled to see the kiddos, and we walked the halls of the nursing home talking with the residents whose eyes never fail to light up when they see our crew of four little people coming.

Then just as I was heading out of town, my phone rang, and it was my mother telling me that her abdominal pain hadn't gotten any better and she was en route to the emergency room of a Little Rock hospital.

Rachel, Sara and I changed gears quickly and headed south toward Little Rock. We got there around dinnertime, and my SIL met us there to take the girls on to her house another half hour away.

So, here are the three of us, obviously about to spend the night away from home with no PJ's, no toothbrushes, no Pull-Ups for Sara, no contact lens solution ... and I couldn't have cared less. All I knew was that I needed to be with my folks, and the girls were in great hands with my extremely efficient and organized SIL.

It was the first time since before my brother and I each got married 11 years ago that the two of us and our parents had spent an extended amount of time together with no one else around. It was, in a funky way, an impromptu family reunion, but one I hope I don't have to repeat again anytime soon.

We stayed in the ER until around 1:30 a.m. this morning before they finally got Mom moved to a private room and we could get some rest (and I use that term very loosely), so I'm a little fuzzy-brained as I write this. But here, in a nutshell, are the top 10 reasons why I do NOT plan to have my next family gathering at Baptist Health in Little Rock:

10. The soap. I have never in my life smelled soap with such a repulsive scent. It's hard to think of my hands as being clean when they smell like somebody's dank, moldy basement.

9. No shower. Wearing the same clothes from 8 a.m. on Saturday until 8 p.m. on Sunday, a shower and new outfit would have gone a long way to improve my morale, but unfortunately, even if I had gone out and bought some new duds, Mom's otherwise nice private room was only equipped with a bathtub. Ewwwww. (Thank goodness for that stick of Secret in my bag!)

8. No Arvest ATM. I saw a few ATM's near the cafeteria, but none from my bank. And I really hate paying that silly service fee for the privilege of getting MY money from somebody else's machine.

7. No internet service. Not that it mattered anyway, since I left my notebook at home, but trust me, if I'd had it, that would have been an issue. Every two-bit motel between here and Albuquerque is offering wireless connections these days, so wouldn't you think major hospitals would as well?

6. The cafeteria food. Okay, so most hospital cafeterias aren't renowned for their quality. I was especially unimpressed with this one. For breakfast this morning, I reached into a refrigerated case to select a breakfast parfait that looked tasty. Until I had it in my hands and saw the BLACK BANANAS that appeared to be three days old. Double Ewwwwww....

5. Starbucks hours. My anxiety was made a little easier to bear when I realized there was a Starbucks on the bottom floor of the hospital. Until I discovered that they were only open during normal business hours, none of which fell during my 24-hour visit. A Double Chocolate Chip Frappuccino for sure would have made the stay sweeter.

4. In each elevator hung a message encouraging positive health habits. One such message read, "Taking Five Flights of Steps a Day is Baptist Health Approved." And so, after breakfasting alone this morning, I ran from the cafeteria in the basement up five flights of stairs in my Skechers flip flops, trying like crazy to keep the "flop" to a minimum. When I arrived (breathless) at my mother's floor, I was dismayed to see a sign that the door was alarmed. What's the use of encouraging people to take the stairs, if they're only going to get stuck in the stairwell?!?

3. The temperature. I had to have a blanket wrapped around me the entire time to keep my teeth from chattering. I'd hate to be sick and stuck in that ice box.

2. The incessant intercom traffic. The nurses seemed to really enjoy getting on opposite ends of the unit from each other and carrying on intercom conversations with each other. Even at 3 a.m., we were hearing about the patient in 308 who needed her pain meds and a knee replacement down the hall who needed help going to the bathroom. Then there was the code blue on CCU that was cancelled fairly quickly after it was called. The thought that someone might have just expired crossed my mind and made it even harder to sleep.

And the NUMBER ONE reason why I will not plan my next family gathering at Baptist Health is:

1. NO DIET COKE. Apparently, this hospital has a contract with Pepsi, which means that nowhere on this entire large campus can you find a Coca-Cola product for sale. Nowhere. Which wouldn't be so awful if the Pepsi machines were stocked with Diet Dr. Pepper, Pepsi's only tolerable product as far as I'm concerned, but that wasn't even the case. When I complained, I was told that it was a very unpopular decision with the employees, too.

So, there you have it. On a positive note, I will say that every physician, nurse, aide, transporter, and housekeeper we encountered was EXTREMELY nice and in several cases, extremely funny. They all seemed to be enjoying their jobs which is not something I could say of any other hospital I've visited.

And on another positive note, I crocheted 8 more blocks for my friend's baby blanket.

We're still not 100% sure what's ailing mom, but the docs have some pretty good ideas and will be doing more tests tomorrow. If you think of her, pray that she will return to health quickly and be discharged soon. She's missing her own bed and getting tired of those indecent hospital gowns.

Friday, August 18, 2006

As summer draws to an end ...

NOTE: Due to concerns about safety and privacy, I have decided to take my husband's suggestion to not use our children's real names in my writing. From now on, my oldest child will be known as Rachel, middle child as Sara, and youngest as Gavin.

Some of the issues we have faced this summer have left me exhausted. Bone-weary tired would be a more accurate description probably. Tired of thinking. Tired of analyzing. Tired of weighing options.

In early June, before our anticipated move later that month, I visited the elementary school near our home-to-be and put Rachel on the waiting list. "Good luck," I was told. "We have a long waiting list for first grade, but we'll be sure to let you know if a spot opens up for her."

"And what if that doesn't happen?" I asked.

I would drop her off at the neighborhood school every morning where she would get on a bus and be taken to another school in town where there was a first-grade opening, I was told.

"Hmmmmm..." I said. (Translation: Not over my dead body.)

"Well, if there were no spot available here, we would probably homeschool her until a spot opened up," I told the nice lady in the school office, certain that the first-grade teachers would be happy to work with me to keep her in pace with her public-school peers.

"Well, now you're talking about a different animal," she informed me, turning her nose up ever so slightly. To homeschool, a parent must inform the superintendent's office at least two weeks prior to starting. The child is then completely removed from the district's enrollment and, consequently, removed from any waiting lists. That means that as long as I'm teaching my child at home, anybody off the street takes priority over her until she is re-enrolled.

And so we were left to wait for more than two months. Not certain what the outcome would be, I was reluctant to make decisions one way or the other. I didn't want to purchase school supplies and back-to-school clothes, but neither did I want to spend several hundred dollars on home schooling materials. Rachel handled it more patiently than I, but she made it known on several occasions (okay, it was more like DAILY) that homeschooling was definitely her preference.

While I am certainly not opposed to homeschooling, I've just never been convinced that it's the right choice for Rachel (for reasons too numerous to expound on in this post).

What I found most interesting during these past two months were the reactions of other moms. As we hung in the balance, waiting for God to give us a burning-bush experience and make it obvious what we were supposed to do, I had several conversations that went something like this:

Friend (and I use this term loosely to describe a variety of friends/neighbors/family members with an opinion on the matter): So what does Rachel think of moving to a new school?

Me: Well, we're not certain yet that she will even get in because of a crowded waiting list. It's possible we may choose to homeschool next year if she doesn't get in.

Friend: (long pause) Oh. I see. And how exactly would you manage that with a full-time job and two younger children?

Me: My husband's schedule and mine are such that between the two of us, we could pull it off, if that's what we need to do.

Friend: (long pause) Oh. I see.

Better yet were the ones that went like this:

Friend: So what does Rachel think of moving to a new school?

Me: Well, we're not certain yet that she will even get in because of a crowded waiting list. It's possible we may choose to homeschool next year if she doesn't get in.

Friend: Oh, I've been praying for a long time that you could get your kids out of the public schools! They're teaching such garbage there, these days, you know, and I'm just convinced that no good thing can come out of the public school system. Oh, you can't possibly know how happy it makes me to hear such happy news!

Me: Ummm, we haven't exactly made that decision yet. Things are really up in the air at the moment ...

Rare was the person who didn't have a strong opinion one way or the other, and nearly every conversation about the matter left me scratching my head and wondering over and over again, how is it that we in the Christian community have taken matters of taste and preference and turned them into our own personal doctrines that everyone else must follow? It seems to be that the way we justify our own choices is to put down everyone else's. And the more scripture we can use to back up our choices, the more righteous we feel.

Here are just a few:

Breast vs. bottle
Working moms vs. stay-at-home moms
Cloth vs. disposable
Homemade baby food vs. Gerber
To see movies or not
Large families vs. small families
Bunned hair vs. cut hair
Dresses vs. pants
Makeup or not
To partake of alcohol or not
KJV vs. everything else
Homeschooling vs. public or private schooling

The list is endless. And as a working mom of three bottle-fed, disposable-diapered kids who are incredibly well adjusted, smart, and growing in Christian character (who will be public schooled), I've grown accustumed over the years to the stinging criticism (both verbal and nonverbal) from other moms who have made different choices.

Do I feel even a trace of superiority to other moms who have taken a different path than I? What about the ones who have chosen to have more children than I can even imagine birthing? Or the moms who are washing by hand and line drying mounds of poopy diapers daily? The ones who grow their own veggies and hand puree fresh carrots for their toddlers instead of tossing a few jars of Gerber in their cart at the supermarket? Absolutely not. In many cases, I wish I were more like them.

But that, short and simple, is just not a road I personally have been called to walk at this time in my life. I'm one of a growing number of WAHM's -- work at home moms. We've traded our offices for living rooms, our business suits for sweats, and our power lunches for PB&J. And yet, instead of being praised for being hard workers who have made many sacrifices to have both an income AND time at home to raise our children, many of us find ourselves isolated and alone. How much nicer it would be instead of feeling judged by each other if we could extend grace, acknowledging that just because God has instructed one woman to make certain choices in her life does not give her the liberty to impose those choices on anyone else.

As believers in Christ, we're going to spend an eternity living as neighbors in heaven someday. We might as well learn here on earth how to get past the pettiness and -- as a former pastor of mine used to say -- KEEP THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THING!

For a more thoughtful treatise on this subject than I could ever write, stop by Days to Come. It's one of the best posts I've read in a long time.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

It's a sad day in Arkansas

What a sad day for Razorback fans today as we mourn the loss of one of the finest sportscasters ever, Paul Eels. After filing reports yesterday from Northwest Arkansas' annual Houston Nutt golf tournament, Eels was on his way back to the Channel 7 station in Little Rock when his vehicle crossed the I-40 median in Russellville. Sadly, Eels' vehicle struck a car in the oncoming traffic, killing its driver, a 40-year-old Dover woman.

Paul Eels will forever be remembered for his professionalism and the enthusiasm with which he called the Razorback games. Who could ever forget "Touchdown Arkansas! OH MY!" Surely I wasn't the only Hog fan who muted the sound on TV to listen to Paul's play-by-plays on the radio instead. No one ever has -- or ever will -- compare. Razorback sports will never be the same.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


OK, I don't know what was going on in the middle of the night last night, but I suddenly got inspired a little after midnight to have a rendezvous with Blogger and see if I might FINALLY figure out how to make a few little changes to the old hot pink, really hard on the eyes background and banner I've been sporting for the past few months. Our encounter lasted about two hours, and all I really succeeded in doing was adding a pink plaid background which is only slightly less annoying than the old solid pink background and altering the banner color in such a way that the text is no longer visible ...

If I had known that I was going to have to be a master of HTML to get a look that is pleasing to the eye, I probably would have hired someone right out of the gate to design a really nice site for me. But, being the die-hard tightwad do-it-yourselfer that I am, I have stubbornly hung onto the belief that I am just right around corner from figuring out how all this code stuff works. After several months of fiddling with it with varying levels of success unsuccess, girls, (all two of you who read this blog) I'm finally waving the white flag. I always thought of myself as fairly techno savvy until I took up residence in the land of Amazingly Brilliant and Creative BlogHers. My capabilities pale in comparison to the likes of some of these sisters. They casually throw around abbreviations like CSS, XHTML, and XML and can discuss the intricacies of JavaScript as confidently as I might converse with my friends about things like, umm, which spot remover is most effective on chocolate ice cream stains.

I'm seriously out of my league.

Hmmmm ...

I'm all for modesty in both men's and women's swimwear, but these people are taking it to a whole new level. Just imagining the looks one would get lounging at the pool adorned in one of these suits is entertaining.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I'm in love

Blogging has taken a backseat over the past couple of weeks as things in my life have changed a little. I'm in love. With an old, old flame.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I was out driving around in Fayetteville with the girls and we passed the Fayetteville Public Library. Sweet memories of happy summer afternoons whiled away at my little hometown library overwhelmed me, and we did a quick turn into the parking lot. The next 90 minutes were something I've only been able to dream about the past several years. You see, as a child, I was in love with books. Really in love. Every Saturday morning while most kids I knew were sprawled on sofas and beanbags indulging themselves with Sugar Bombs and Looney Tunes, I made a beeline for the local library. I loved that place in a way I hardly have words to describe. It was nearly intoxicating to be in the presence of so many words. Words that told the stories of great people. Words that communicated useful information. Words that entertained. Words, words, words ...

Back in those days, the checkout desk was overseen by a little old withered, tight-bunned, purse-lipped lady we only knew as Mrs. Hockersmith. Many adjectives come to mind when I think of Mrs. Hockersmith, but the one that describes her best was rigid. Really, really rigid. When it came to the library rules, she knew them all. Heck, she probably wrote them all. And she enforced every one of them with a sternness that would make most drill instructors cringe.

Now, most of these rules I was fine with. Like the one about no talking above a whisper. I actually liked that one, because it meant I could sit and read without interruptions from noisy children. And the one about not yelling into the book depository by the front door. Someone did that once while I was in the microfilm room (which is where the collection bin was located) and I nearly wet my pants from shock. Mrs. Hockersmith actually looked gleeful as she called their parents.

The one rule that I really had a problem with (and the one she busted me for all the time) was the check-out limit of 10 books. Ten books might be fine for an adult, but when you're talking about books that are written for young children, I could fly through half of those before my mom parked the car in the driveway.

It was an exciting day when I could finally move up to the "juvenile" section and met some of my best childhood friends: Laura Ingalls, Nancy Drew, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy (Little Women), and Anne of Green Gables.

As soon as we returned home, I would flop across my double bed and start on the book that looked most interesting. I would read nonstop until I was ready for a change, then I would place my first choice face down under the pillow I didn't sleep on, then start on book #2. When once again I was ready for a change, I would pick up my third choice after placing book #2 face down on top of book #1, and so on. I had a personal rule of never having more than four stories going at once, so after I had begun the fourth book, I would pick up the bottom one from the pile and resume it for a while. It was a lovely way to spend a hot summer afternoon ... or evening ... or all day, if my parents would let me get away with it. Unfortunately, they felt that sunshine and fresh air were more important than I did, and they frequently "kicked" me out of the house to play outdoors. It was torture, I tell you.

College, marriage, more college, career, then children drew me away from my love affair with books for many years. So, you can understand why it was such a heady experience just wandering hand in hand with my daughters through aisle after aisle of stories yet to be read. After much deliberation (because the 10-book limit is enforced here, too), we took home a nice collection of books for me, books for the girls, a couple of videos and a computer game.

And I've been in heaven ever since.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Courage to Say Goodbye

As I mentioned in the previous post, even after the movers had driven away with the last of our furnishings, there still remained such a huge quantity of junk cherished possessions, that I had no idea what to do with. As I faced the task of boxing it all and hauling it bit by bit to the new house (and then finding places for it all), I suddenly found a new courage welling up inside of me. Courage to finally part with things for one reason or another, I've been hanging onto for years:

  1. About 10 pairs of size 4-6 pre-baby jeans. I've nurtured the hope for the past 6+ years that someday I would finally regain my girlish figure and be able to wear "small" clothes again. Get real, girlfriend. Even if I lost 20 pounds, this derriere will NEVER be a size 4 again. And besides, styles have changed. Even IF I ever managed to squeeze myself into those threads, I'd probably be embarrassed to be seen in them.
  2. The last of the baby bottles lurking in the back of my cupboards. I have no desire to ever experience pregnancy again, but somewhere in my subconscious has lurked the secret hope that some desperate teenage mom anxious to give her new baby a better life would drop off the child on my front porch. Call me nuts (I probably am), but I've nurtured this fantasy for a long time. I'm finally coming to terms with reality. It pains me greatly to admit it, but there is probably a greater chance that Elvis will come knocking at my door.
  3. My Olympus 35 mm camera which dates back to my college days in the late 80's. That camera was with me the day a hailstorm shut down Monroe, Louisiana, and broke through a skylight just outside my dorm room in Cosper Hall. It was with me through several years as a newspaper reporter, faithfully recording the events of life in my central Arkansas hometown. And it has been with me through more than a decade of marriage and childrearing. It's been a trusted friend, and I hate to say goodbye, but since the purchase of our first digital camera in 2002, paying good money for film and processing just seems foolish.

The list could go on for several more paragraphs. When we drove away from our old house, there was a collection of stuff on our driveway for the Salvation Army that probably took them two trucks to haul away. And as we unpack here at the new place, I'm collecting even more to send their way. Getting rid of all this stuff has somehow made me feel lighter. A whole lot lighter.

Hey, maybe I want those jeans back after all.

Friday, June 30, 2006

We survived!

The move is behind us and we're grateful to have lived to tell about it. The experiences we've had since last Friday have been incredibly exhausting. Moving any time of the year is bad enough, but a summer relocation is the worst, in my opinion. It is a true miracle that no one suffered a heat stroke.

The night before the movers came, hubby and I relaxed for a moment on the couch and praised ourselves for what a great job we'd done preparing for this move. We were so much more prepared for this move than the previous one, we both agreed. After all, we'd been packing for three months and with the help of a U-Haul trailer had already moved every single box over to the new house by Friday afternoon. My, we were on top of things. Or so we thought.

The Day of Reckoning came early the next morning, and very quickly all our self praise turned to condemnation. How in the world could we have been so stupid as to believe we were really on top of things? When all the furniture had been loaded on the truck, we were faced with the reality that there was still a LOT left to be boxed. What had seemed like so little the night before suddenly seemed huge and overwhelming. While I should have been settling into the new house that evening, I was frantically packing up the remains in the old house and shuttling load after load over on the U-Haul. In the end, I'll bet we made at least 30 trips with that silly trailer ferrying all of our junk across town. The massive job was finally completed at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, a full three days and five nervous breakdowns after moving day.

As a result of this dreadful experience, hubby and I have a new motto: Less is more! We are posting our new mantra on bathroom mirrors, shower walls, fridge doors, steering wheels, commode lids and any other prominent place we can think of. We repeat it to each other as we help each other over boxes stacked shoulder high in our hallways and garage. I have sworn my dear mother-in-law (who took up a LOT of slack in the aftermath of my packing failures) to two promises:

1. That if we ever so much as HINT at moving again, she will make an appointment immediately with a psychiatrist to have our heads examined, for we surely will have taken leave of our senses.

2. That EVERY single time she sees me or talks to me on the phone from now on that she will ask the question, "What have you gotten rid of this week?" The reality that we have WAY too much stuff for five people has been waved prominently in my face all week, and if I know I'm accountable to someone for weeding through this mess and taking some serious steps to eliminate the clutter that has plagued us for years, I am much more likely to do something about it.

That's all I can write for now, but there is more yet to share. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 19, 2006

What's in a name?

This from Birmingham, Alabama today ...

The divine Trinity — "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" — could also be known as "Mother, Child and Womb" or "Rock, Redeemer, Friend" at some Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) services under an action Monday by the church's national assembly.

Delegates to the meeting voted to "receive" a policy paper on gender-inclusive language for the Trinity, a step short of approving it. That means church officials can propose experimental liturgies with alternative phrasings for the Trinity, but congregations won't be required to use them.

"This does not alter the church's theological position, but provides an educational resource to enhance the spiritual life of our membership," legislative committee chair Nancy Olthoff, an Iowa laywoman, said during Monday's debate on the Trinity.

A panel that worked on the issue since 2000 said the classical language for the Trinity should still be used, but added that Presbyterians also should seek "fresh ways to speak of the mystery of the triune God" to "expand the church's vocabulary of praise and wonder."

One reason is that language limited to the Father and Son "has been used to support the idea that God is male and that men are superior to women," the panel said.

Conservatives responded that the church should stick close to the way God is named in the Bible and noted that Jesus' most famous prayer was addressed to "Our Father."

Besides "Mother, Child and Womb" and "Rock, Redeemer, Friend," proposed Trinity options drawn from biblical material include:

— "Lover, Beloved, Love"

— "Creator, Savior, Sanctifier"

— "King of Glory, Prince of Peace, Spirit of Love."

I have to wonder if a single one of these delegates has consulted the Most High about His feelings about having his name changed. Or if they've read his clear warning in Exodus 20:7, "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name."

And just try singing "The Doxology," with "Praise Mother, Child, and Womb" or any other substitution ... there's nothing lovely about it.

Some things just shouldn't be messed with.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Potty Training Updates

I'm deriving comfort tonight from reading the posts of Katherine over at Raising Five who has been sharing her knowlege of potty training. Last night I was ready to bang my head against the wall after yet another day of soggy, soiled training pants. But tonight, I'm encouraged. So what if my brother and his wife had both their children completely trained before age 2? And who cares if my child is the last one in his class at church to graduate out of diapers? No one is handing out any awards for the most rapid success in this area, and even if they were, I'm not sure the added stress would be worth it. I love what Katherine writes:

My pediatrician tells me that the average age for potty training a child is 2-½. I personally think his other patients are just too embarrassed to admit the truth, or are just trying to make him feel good for statistical purposes. I love him dearly, but Get Real.

I like how those words sound. They're liberating to a mom who has flat run out of ideas for dealing with a very busy boy who just doesn't have time to stop his games of pretend to visit the restroom and who doesn't mind at all the feeling of being wet or dirty. I think I'll practice saying them for our visit to the pediatrician in a couple of weeks. Get Real!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Potty Training Blues

Kind, well-meaning folk started in with their well wishes before I'd even gotten Little Guy home from the hospital. Talk of how different little boys are. How much easier in some ways and more difficult in others. And the subject of potty training was inevitably invoked as The Primary Difference between little boys and little girls. The difficulties of training boys were expounded upon by mother after mother who had walked the path before me.

And I would nod my head as if to agree that yes, boys sure must be harder to train than girls.

But what I was thinking was, "After MY two girls, NOTHING could be more difficult."

And, indeed, for a time, it appeared that Little Man was going to defy the Laws of Potty Training. Shortly after his second birthday, he seemed to be well on his way to an underwear drawer full of SpongeBob boxers and Spiderman briefs. He could stay dry and clean for HOURS at a time and very quickly began staying dry during naptime.

I prematurely rejoiced with a few fellow boy moms, and then ... the new wore off.

And here we are nearly 2 weeks after his third birthday, and he can barely stay dry for 30 minutes.

So, imagine my frustration while we (the kids and I) were out on our daily box-gathering mission Saturday (we're moving in 12 days) and in the middle of the store, Gavin bellows, "I'VE GOT TO POTTY!!!!!" Of course, I did what any frantic, busy, overwhelmed mother would have done. I stuck my hand over his mouth! Only the second I removed it, all the noise I had been holding back suddenly escaped again and with 100 more decibels, he screamed his request again.

With my nose to his, I stared him in the eye and said, "Son, you have not managed to stay dry AT ALL for the past SIX MONTHS! Why then would it suddenly be such an emergency right here in Sam's that you have to blow the roof off with your screaming?"

Suddenly calm, he asked, "Oh! Am I wearing a Pull-Up?"

Friday, June 02, 2006

Happy Birthday, Little Guy!

My baby turned three years old yesterday. I guess it's safe to say that I don't really have a baby anymore. He's learning new words everyday, and with the expanded ability to communicate verbally have come fewer nasty toddler tantrums. He's completely quit riding in his stroller, and I noticed last night when I took the kids to play at Fun City that he could (finally!) climb to the highest levels all by himself. Yes, Gavin is officially a Big Boy now. With the exception of those pesky Pull-Ups which we just can't seem to get away from, he has shed all vestiges of babyhood and wants to be seen as the little man that he is becoming.

When I put him to bed last night, I leaned over to kiss him and said, "I want to be the last person to wish you again a very happy third birthday." I asked him if it had been a good day, and he just looked at me tiredly and said,

"I cried a lot today." (Not sure why he would say this. It didn't seem any more than usual to me)
"Were you sad?" I asked.
"No," he replied, and with his cute little lisp, he announced, "It wath becauth I wath DEPRETHED!"

Friday, May 19, 2006

A hard nine months - Part 2

As promised, here's the rest of the story ...

The nice middle-aged couple came late the following afternoon to see our house which was NOT for sale any more (in my mind). So convinced was I that we were supposed to remain in our current dwelling that I scarcely bothered to clean before they came. OK, I didn't clean at all. Not a bit. Winter was giving way to spring, and I was in the middle of switching out the kid's wardrobes with virtually every article of clothing they own separated into piles in the living room. With three kids, that's a LOT of clothes.

When they arrived and I looked around my very messy house through the eyes of a potential buyer, I could hear my own words ringing in my ears (Did they know their house was being shown today???!!!???) and I was humiliated to the point of hiding out in my office the entire time they were here and letting hubby do the grand tour.

Scarcely two hours had passed since they left, when the phone rang and the nice gentleman who had toured that afternoon told us he was ready to offer us our asking price (which we had purposely set a little high and never imagined anyone would really pay). He is planning to move his elderly parents down from Iowa this summer and thought our house would be perfect for them. We took it.

And so the house hunt, which until this point had been a pretty casual affair, now became an all-consuming activity. The Chief and I became quite proficient at searching the MLS, and would send as many as 10 emails a day to each other with various listings we wanted the other to see. I could call out the six-digit number of a listing with absolutely no explanation, and instinctivly, he would know to navigate to the real estate company's website and call up yet another listing. Our amazingly patient realtor soon had all three of our phone numbers on speed dial and we all became accustomed to visiting with each other on a daily basis. I worried if noon came and we hadn't spoken to one another. "Did we break up?" I would call him and ask.

We made offers on a half dozen houses, none of them really quite feeling like THE HOUSE to me. I wasn't altogether certain what THE HOUSE would look like; I only knew that we would know it when we saw it. Offers and counteroffers flew back and forth faster than the speed of light. One couple actually insisted on including an "escape clause" that would give them an out should someone else come along and offer them more money. And on two different occasions, we were told one thing verbally only to be countered on paper with something completely different. The whole experience was enough to make a person very cynical and distrustful of humanity in general.

Friends who knew we were looking would often call us with an address or two that looked like what they imagined we were needing. My friend Linda kept suggesting I check out the house next door to her which had recently been remodeled and had a large back yard. And yet, with all this help, we were still coming up short.

We were just about ready to settle on a house in our same subdivision a mere 100 yards from our present home when hubby decided to venture out into a part of town we hadn't really investigated and came home with three potentials he had run across. A quick call to Ron confirmed that two were already under contract, but one wasn't. Much to my surprise, it was the house next door to my friend Linda! Ron arranged for us to see it that afternoon, and I knew from the moment I stepped foot in it that my searching had come to an end. We had found, at long last, THE HOUSE. It's not a perfect house, and it's certainly not a beautiful house by most people's standards, but it has an amazing amount of potential, and it is just perfect for us.

There's so much more to the story than I have time or energy to tell right now, but it's just been really cool to me to see once again how specific prayers really do get specific answers ... even down to the proximity to schools, large fenced-in back yard, and about 15 other things that were very important to us in the selection of a new house.

Now, if only a dozen muscled men would show up at my front door tomorrow morning eager to do my packing for me ... perhaps I should make that number 16 on the list! LOL!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A hard nine months

I only thought my last pregnancy was longest nine months of my life. The stress that has held me hostage since last August has been torture. Sheer torture.

Since I haven't blogged at all about my husband's job and our search for a new home, perhaps I should start there ...

In August of last year, believing that hubby was about to receive a job offer from a police department 20 miles north of where we presently reside, we enlisted the help of a real estate agent and spent several Saturdays driving around Benton County looking for the perfect place to make our next home. Call me crazy, but I've always been enthralled with the idea of buying a "fixer-upper" and turning it into something quaint and charming.

Trouble is, most of the places that appeared on the internet to look like the perfect "project" looked in person like "the projects". Really. I can't count the times that I turned to our agent, Ron, and asked in amazement, "Did these people know that their house was being shown today???" We're talking junk piled so high on kitchen counters that I couldn't even tell whether it was granite or formica. We're talking about closets that looked like they'd been hit with explosives. One place had an uncovered kitty litter box so filled with cat feces, I had to cover my nose and mouth to keep from vomiting.

It was hard not to get discouraged at times.

We even looked for land on which to build a new house. We discovered very quickly, though, that unless you want to be in a subdivision (which we definitely do not ... we're a little tired of the Nazis POA and its Compliance Committee telling us we have to get permission for every improvement we want to make to our home) or unless you want to be half an hour from civilization (no thanks), land in Northwest Arkansas is scarce. And quite expensive ... we found several places where the asking price was $100,000 an acre.

And in the midst of this, after only being at his new department a little over seven months, another agency closer to home approached him with an offer to be their network administrator. It was a deal way too good to pass up. We finally realized the reason why we hadn't been able to find a house in Rogers ... God in His infinite knowlege, knew that we didn't need to move there and had blocked every attempt we'd made to buy a home there.

All this time, our house had been for sale with not a single offer in site. People had looked, but no one had been interested enough to call back, so the Chief and I breathed a collective sigh of relief as we simultaneously concluded that THIS is exactly where we are supposed to be. With that fresh revelation, that night after dinner, all five of us marched into the front yard and made a big production of taking down the "for sale" sign.

Decision made. Total relief.

Until two days later, when the phone rang, and a very nice middle-aged man asked to come see our house. We explained that we had just taken the sign out of the yard a couple of days before, but somehow a few minutes into the conversation, my husband agreed to let him and his wife come over the following afternoon.

And that's when the REAL adventure began ... which I promise to continue in tomorrow's blog.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

It starts early

Big Sis and I started Frontline Phonics several months ago and have absolutely loved the program. Much more so than Hooked on Phonics.

I hate to judge HOP too harshly, though, because I bought an older edition that seemed like a bargain at $20. It wasn't. We never made it past the first tape, because Big Sis couldn't stop laughing as a smooth-voiced female intoned (to a background beat and music) "read ... out ... loud ... sounding ... out ... words ... say ... and ... together ... say ... the ... sound ... " I suppose the idea is for the child to begin associating the words printed on the flash cards with the spoken words coming from the tape, but Big Sis just memorized the "song" and then tried to be as silly as possible when the tape began. In short, our experience with HOP turned out to be a real disappointment considering all the hype we'd heard about how great a reading program it was.

Frontline was altogether different. No tapes except for a CD of songs about each letter of the alphabet which really were helpful. The order in which the letters were introduced was logical, not sequential. M, A, P, S, and T are the first letters to which youngsters are introduced, and very quickly they are reading "books" filled with words like Pam, Sam, sat, and map. That very early success spurred Big Sis on, and she was begging me before too long to "do reading lessons". Now, at the end of kindergarten, she is easily reading on a second grade level and will probably be at least a grade higher by summer's end at the rate she is going. The child LOVES books and thinks an hour spent at Barnes and Noble is an hour in heaven. (The apple sure doesn't fall far from the tree, does it Mom??)

All of that to say that when we started this program, I promised to reward her with a new book of her choosing when she finished the entire program. The end came this morning as I stood at the stove stirring up our usual Saturday morning biscuits and gravy. Sis sat on the floor a few feet away with the last reader of the series in hand, and a smile as big as Dallas on her face. "So, do I get my new book today, Mom?" she asked. I assured her that as soon as the breakfast dishes were washed and everyone was dressed, we would be off for the bookstore and she could pick her reward.

I'll spare you the details of the "search for the perfect reward," but let it be said I discovered quickly that giving my 6 year old free reign in the kids' section of B&N was probably not the smartest idea. It took her all of about 2.6 minutes to amass an armful of selections she "HAD to have", none of which was anywhere close to what I had envisioned her selecting. (Jump back to the previous paragraph and note the "of her choosing" part. I'm rethinking that at this point). I tried steering her toward a couple of chapter books that looked interesting, but the "50 Outfits for Barbie" book with the three-piece pages that would have allowed her to assemble outlandish clothing ensembles for America's favorite blonde bombshell from now till Kingdom come held a firm grip on her attention.

In the end, we left the bookstore with nothing in hand and wound up at Target where she spotted "My Fantasy Wedding" and nearly hyperventilated on the software aisle. With stars in her eyes, she gazed at the description on the back of the box and gushed with excitement. "Oh, Mom, LOOK!" she said. "You get to pick the ring and the groom and the dress, and the flowers!" She was absolutely giddy just thinking about the fun of playing Comput-A-Bride, and I had to smile.

The desire for romance, to love and be loved, is present in a girl's heart from her earliest years. We all long for Prince Charming to sweep us off our feet, to pursue us with holy passion, to capture our hearts completely, and to give us the happily ever after that we've spent years imagining.

I pray that my daughters will experience all that and more. That my future son-in-laws will esteem them as highly as their daddy does their mommy and that they will not settle for anything less than God's absolute best choice of a mate for them. I hope they will be content with singleness until His choice is revealed to them.

And most of all I hope -- here's the big one -- that they can be satisifed with playing "My Fantasy Wedding" until they are at least 30!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Works for me: Cooking Double

Well, according to Shannon it's time again for "Works-for-Me Wednesday".

My idea is certainly not original. There have been a number of books written about once-a-month-cooking (aka "freezer cooking") and there's even a website devoted to the finer points of cooking in bulk. I must admit that I've yet to master the once-a-month marathon cooking session, but I DO try to make it a habit to double whatever I'm making for dinner several times a week. It's just as easy to whip out two meatloaves instead of one, and when I know a family who could use a meal, it's no trouble at all to write out the baking instructions on an index card, tape it to the top and off we go. It also helps everyone involved if at least some of those "extra" dishes are in disposable containers.

Friday, April 21, 2006

6 Random Things Meme:

6 Random Things Meme
I was tagged by Michelle to do the 6 Random Things Meme. What is a "meme", you ask? Break the word down and it looks like Me! Me! ... and that's exactly what it is ... a list of really useful and very interesting information ... all about ME!

So I was picked today for this great honor and since I still suffer posttraumatic stress from those angst-ridden moments in grade school when it seemed that I would NEVER be chosen forANYTHING (besides helping my friends finish their homework at the last minute), I'm just all too excited to share with you 6 random things about me:

1. I don't sit still very well at all. Ever. Even when I'm working, I'm tapping a foot or bouncing a child on my knee. Although I was never hyperactive as a child, something happened when I went to college. I'm guessing it was a toxic permanent buildup of caffeine in my system, but who can be sure? All I know is that long car trips and meetings are enough to make me crazy. Really crazy.

2. When I eat a meal, I eat one thing at a time. When I was younger, I couldn't stand for food to touch other food and would have loved for my mother to have served all my meals on those neat little divided cafeteria trays from school. She and my dad, however, were not amused by my quirky eating habits and insisted that I eat off the same Corelle the rest of the family used.

3. I'm a closet homeschool mom. My oldest went to public school kindergarten this year and we have had nothing but great experiences: A wonderfully supportive and encouraging teacher, a phenomenal principal who also happens to be a really godly man, and a curriculum that has been challenging and fun. But I still can't shake the feeling that I should be teaching her at home. My bookshelves are lined with homeschooling books and materials and my "favorites" folder contains links to more than a dozen of my favorite homeschooling sites. Unfortunately, I work full time and haven't figured out a way yet to be able to do it all.

4. I'm really two women wrapped up in one. Half of me is Compulsive Claire who can't rest until all the movies my husband pulled off the shelf for his Guy's Night are alphabetized once again and my grocery list for the next day's shopping trip has been completely categorized and alphatized. And the other half is ... I'm ashamed to say ... Messy Martha who doesn't notice (or care) that nearly every article of clothing I own is piled up on my closet floor in an ever-growing heap and the kids' bathroom hasn't been cleaned in nearly two weeks. These two gals wage war with each other every day, and let me tell you, when Martha's winning, it's not a pretty site.

5. My favorite drink in the world is a 50:50 mix of Dr. Pepper and Diet Dr. Pepper ... only half the calories and ALL the caffeine .... mmmhmmmm.

6. I love to laugh. Really laugh. A day is just not complete without a good belly laugh, the kind that leaves your sides hurting and your smile muscles exhausted. Lucky me, I married a really funny guy and have 3 funny kids, so there aren't too many days I have to spend laugh-deprived. Laughter is great medicine; the Bible says so.

So there it is. More than you ever wanted to know about me. Because I'm pretty new to the blogging community and don't know too many bloggers personally (and because she hasn't responded yet), I'm tagging Ruth again!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Works-For-Me Wednesday

A fellow blogger and very funny writer, Shannon, from Rocks in my Dryer came up with this great idea:

You know how it is--we all have come up with dozens of little shortcuts or ideas around our homes to make managing our lives easier. Maybe you came up with such an idea yourself in a moment of desperation, or you learned it from your mom or another doesn't matter how it came about. What matters it that your life runs the tiniest bit more smoothly because of your clever idea.

I'm not a brilliant homemaker or cook, but when it comes to finding shortcuts--THIS I can do (which probably doesn't speak much of my character, but that's another blog post....). Each Wednesday I plan to publish one of my own little make-life-easier ideas. They may not be spectacular (they may not even be original--I've learned so much from friends!) But they "work for me"--hence the title!

Now, here's where I hope you'll consider playing along. I would LOVE to see some of my fellow Moms Of The Blog World join in and do your own "Works-For-Me Wednesday". If you let me know you're participating, I'll link to you. Think how much we could all learn from each other if we share our own little ideas!. IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE EARTH-SHATTERING. Just simple, affordable and designed to make the tiniest difference in your day.

Now, as a faithful reader of "Hints from Heloise" since I was just barely old enough to read, OF COURSE I want to play along! I loved Shannon's idea so much, I can't wait for our next family vacation!! If any of you want to play along too, just link to me and link to Shannon and we'll both link to you! Here's my "Works-For-Me-Wednesday" for this week:

I have an enormous cookbook collection and used to get very frustrated trying to remember exactly which church cookbook that amazing shoefly pie recipe was in ... until I began organizing our favorite recipes on my computer. After I've tried a new recipe and it gets at least 3 thumbs up (out of a possible 5), I add it to the appropriate Microsoft Word file (I have one for appetizers, one for main dishes, etc.) I print out a new edition several times a year and store the printed pages in plastic page protectors in a three-ring binder. An additional bonus to this system is that anytime someone wants one of my recipes, it's as simple as cutting and pasting from the document and I can either email it to her or print off a paper copy.

Now it's your turn!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Resurrection Cookies

Here's an annual Easter tradition we're beginning with our family. The making of Resurrection Cookies provides an excellent opportunity to teach the REAL meaning of Easter. Kids love it!

You will need:
1 cup whole pecans
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 egg whites
a pinch salt
1 cup sugar
Ziplock baggy
1 wooden spoon

These are to be made the evening before Easter. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. (This is a critical step -- don't wait until you are finished mixing the dough). Place pecans in zipper baggy and let children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested. He was beaten by the Roman soldiers. Read: John 19:1-3

Let each child smell the vinegar (or taste it, if they're feeling brave). Put 1 teaspoon vinegar into mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross He was given vinegar to drink. Read: John 19:28-30

Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read: John 10:10-11

Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers and the bitterness of our own sin. Read: Luke 23:27

So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1 cup sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us toknow and belong to Him. Read: Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16

Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity in God's eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read: Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3.

Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoon onto waxed paper covered cookie sheet. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid. Read: Matthew 27:57-60

Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF.

Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus' tomb was sealed. Read: Matthew 27:65-66

Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus' followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read: John 16:20,22

On Resurrection Sunday (Easter) morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read: Matthew 28:1-9


Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Commercialization of Easter

As we walked through the mall last Saturday, my four-year-old daughter stopped dead in her tracks and pointed straight ahead. "What is THAT?" she asked, eyes wide. "What is what?" I asked, noting a photographer snapping pictures of a toddler in his Easter outfit sitting on the Easter Bunny's lap.

"That rabbit," she whispered, still pointing in awe. Hmmm ... how to explain the Easter Bunny? We've never mentioned him in our family in a good way or bad. He just hasn't existed at all. Now I will be the first to admit that our family gets sucked into the consumerism of Christmas much more than we would like but have so far managed to stay very clear of contributing to the commercialization of Easter. With the exception of buying egg dye and a few bags of Smucker's jelly beans (more for me than the kids!), I steadfastly refuse to help any retailer profit off what should be the most holy day of the year, the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. For us, that means no Easter outfits, Easter cards, and no Easter baskets laden with presents.

According to the National Retail Federation , the world's largest retail trade association, there will be more than 90 million chocolate bunnies, 2 million marshmallow chicks per day, and 16 billion jelly beans produced for Easter. Those who will celebrate plan to spend an average of $107.17, up from $102.76 last year. In all, consumers are expected to spend $10.47 billion on Easter this year.

Christians are notorious for complaining about the commercialization of holidays, but in this case, folks, I think we're responsible for it. As long as clothing manufacturers and greeting card companies know the fine churchgoing people of America will buy what they're selling, they are going to compete vigoriously for our Easter dollars.

As the discussion continued, my kindergartener announced, "Oh, yeah, ----'s Easter Bunny is bringing her the "Chicken Little" DVD in her basket this year." It was a wonderful opportunity to share with the girls why we've made the choices we've made and how we hope that they will keep Easter special in their hearts too.

God forbid that we should reduce the extravagance of Christ's love to a new outfit and a basket full of candy and gifts.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Armed and dangerous

About a month ago, my dear husband came home from work and casually mentioned that I should line up a babysitter for the second Saturday of April. "Oh, are you asking me out on a date?" I replied with great excitement. Oh no, he had signed me up for the required class to obtain my license to carry a concealed firearm.

Now anyone who knows much about me at all knows that as a working mom, Saturdays are precious to me. Sundays, too, for that matter. I don't give up a single moment of my weekend unless it's for a really worthy cause. Obtaining a permit to tote a gun definitely does not qualify as a worthy cause, but no matter how hard I argued with DH, I couldn't convince him to change his mind. As a police officer, he sees the worst of humanity and feels it best that Smith & Wesson accompany his wife and children wherever they go.

Six o'clock came too early this morning. Especially since I stayed out with my friend Laura until 1 a.m. catching up on the Girls' Nights Out we've missed too many of lately. So when I got up after less than five hours' of sleep and my allergies were going crazy, I thought for a few minutes that I had the perfect excuse for missing. And, indeed, when husband called at 6:30 to make sure I was up (he was on patrol this morning), he agreed that I sounded terrible and should probably stay home. The only problem with that was that the kids knew they were supposed to spend the day with their Nana and Grandpa, and I didn't want to devastate them all by changing plans at the last minute.

Once at the police station for the class that was to begin at 8 a.m., I realized that I'd sped through the morning's preparations so rapidly I hadn't even thought about eating. No problem, we'd be done by noon, right? No, I was told, the class would go straight through until about 2:30 p.m. with no meal breaks. Several elderly couples had the foresight to pack igloo coolers with sandwiches and snacks which the rest of us eyed enviously. There were two boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts waiting for us in the training room, and after resisting the temptation for an entire 10 minutes, I caved. The chocolated glazed sin did nothing to assuage my hunger, so I caved again ... and then felt terribly depressed and shaky. Chief showed up minutes later with a large cherry vanilla Diet Dr. Pepper which made me WIRED and shaky. Now, if there's anything you don't want to be when you're armed with a loaded weapon, it's exhausted, wired and shaky. Which is exactly the condition I was in by the time we finally made to the range at 2 this afternoon.

I will spare you the details of my rendezvous with a .25, but our fabulous instructor, Cpl. Kelley Cradduck, signed off on my papers and after parting with $144, yours truly will be licensed by the state of Arkansas to be armed and dangerous. And if that thought scares you, even more frightening should be the thought of the two 80-year-old grandmas I shot with today packing heat ...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Some thoughts on insanity

Since I moved out on my own at the age of 19 (almost 19 years ago!), I have moved ... you guessed it! 19 times! This grand total includes 14 moves before I was married (to college in the fall, back home in the summer, playing musical apartments with friends, etc) and 5 moves since Chief Potter and I married in October 1995. Now, if you do the math, you soon figure that since marrying, I've averaged a move every 2 years. So, it only stands to reason that since we've been dwelling in our present home since April 2003 ... IT'S TIME TO MOVE!

Some time ago, I ran across my text from the abnormal psych class I took my sophomore year of college and decided to see if anyone has labeled or otherwise named/identified this frightening disease with which we both suffer. It took me awhile to find it, but there it was nestled right in there with a whole slew of other obsessive-compulsive (OC) behaviors.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an illness that causes people to have unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and to repeat certain behaviors (compulsions) over and over again. We all have habits and routines in our daily lives, like brushing our teeth before bed. However, people with OCD have patterns of behavior that get in the way of their daily lives.
Most people with OCD know that their obsessions and compulsions make no sense, but they can't ignore or stop them.

Here are my driving obsessions and irrational beliefs:
  1. A move will force me to get rid of all that junk that's been accumulating in the attic and garage since the last move.
  2. A move will force me -- once again -- to turn over a new leaf and start being the organized gal that I know I was really supposed to be.
  3. A larger home will take care of all these clutter problems that threaten my sanity on a daily basis.

And so I surf the MLS listings religiously, weighing the pros of this house against the pros of that one I just adore across town ... all the while, knowing that we need is not so much another move as one of those ruthless guys from that cable show where they pull every blasted thing you own onto your front lawn and start culling through it as the neighbors walk by and chortle. "Get rid of it!" they echo in unison. "Now tell the truth ... are you REALLY ever going to find a use for the thimble collection your Aunt Gertrude left you ... GET RID OF IT!"

Yup, that's what I need. But until the cable network tells me that its boys are on their way, I'll just keep obsessively perusing those real estate listings to make sure the perfect house doesn't get away.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Some thoughts on contentment

As I listened to a friend lament the size of her 1,400-square foot home recently and dream out loud about the home she hopes to have after her husband finishes his degree, I thought about the number of times I myself have been less than grateful for the things with which I've been blessed. All it takes is 30 seconds of viewing one of those "Feed the Children" specials to remind me that there are probably hundreds of thousands of women around the world who would trade places with me in a heartbeat.

Now, it's not that we're rich people in a financial sense, but if I look at the overall quality of my life, I cannot help but conclude that I am one of the wealthiest women in America. Here's why:

1. I have a deeply personal, intensely fulfilling relationship with the Creator of the Universe.
2. I'm married to an amazingly wonderful man who treats me like royalty.
3. We have the privilege of parenting three of the sweetest kids God ever created.
4. I have a great extended family that is very supportive and helpful in the sometimes overwhelming task of raising the three munchkins described above.
5. What my list of "best friends" lacks in quantity, it certainly makes up for in quality.
6. We are privileged to worship and serve in one of the best churches in America
7. I have the joy of being a work-at-home-mom, enjoying the often-envied privilege of being both a "career woman" AND a stay-at-home-mommy.

I could go on and on, but those are the main reasons why I can wholeheartedly agree with Paul's words to Timothy in I Timothy 6:6-8: "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that."

Our success in life is not measured by our bank accounts, house size, the number of vehicles we drive, or exotic places we travel. It's measured, ultimately, by our relationships -- first with God, and then with others. When my journey in this life is complete, I may not leave a lot of money to my kids, but I hope that I leave them all they need to be rich in the things that truly matter.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Singing The Friday Song

Another week is behind us, and the thought of a weekend has me singing The Friday Song at the top of my lungs. What is The Friday Song, you ask. It's an ever-changing, always-crazy ditty sung to the tune of "I've Been Working on the Railroad". It became a weekly tradition sometime earlier this school year when my kindergartener awoke one Friday morning in a sour frame of mind. She got up on the wrong side of the bed, my mother would have said.

After numerous failed attempts to lift her spirits, I began singing,

"I'm so happy that it's Friday,
I just want to sigh.
I'm so happy that it's Friday,
I think I'm gonna cry.

Can't you hear the weekend calling,
Sleeping in so late on Saturday morning?
I'm so happy that it's Friday,
Come along with me!

Dontcha wake me up,
Dontcha wake me up,
Dontcha wake me up in the morning!
Dontcha wake me up,
Dontcha wake me up,
Dontcha wake me up or you'll ____ (fill in the blank with some threat like "cry")

Within a few minutes, the tune caught on and both daughters were singing loudly with me and laughing every time I changed the lyrics slightly. We now race each other on Friday mornings to see who can start the song first and when a week has been particularly long and hard and we're exceptionally thrilled by the promise of two days off from work and school, we'll sing "our" song on the five-minute walk to school. We're not embarrassed to be joyful!

Here's to an awesome weekend for us all!

Monday, March 27, 2006

A great weekend

The trip to Branson was absolutely wonderful. We awakened to snow on Thursday morning (yes, snow!) and three girls screaming in my bedroom, "ARE WE STILL GOING??? ARE WE STILL GOING??? It stayed cold and miserable that day but warmed up to a tolerable temp by the time we hit Silver Dollar City on Friday. The food was good (if you're into McDonald's and other kid fare) and best of all everyone played pretty. No peanut butter sandwiches at all! The only thing I can find to complain about was a serious lack of sleep, since all five of us slept in one room and one of us (who shall remain nameless) has a SERIOUS snoring problem.

Big Cedar as always was amazing. When Chief Potter and I retire and our kids are grown, we plan to move there and find part-time jobs. I certainly wouldn't mind being a Cookie Lady (one of the charming and very gracious women who take gingersnaps to the guests each night and turn down their sheets), and I'm certain that my sweet hubby would make an amazing gardener or shuttle driver :-)

Okay, there is one other complaint and that is that I did an absolutely TERRIBLE job of packing for this trip. If I listed all the things that were forgotten, it would take the entire afternoon. Suffice it to say that we stopped at the OshKosh outlet and bought windbreakers for my girls and at Wal-Mart to purchase several other necessities, and I thought I had all the bases covered. Until that evening when they were ready to hit the pool and we realized that the two big girls were without swimsuits. There was great sorrow and many tears until I promised them that they could swim as long as they wanted the next night.

Alas, the next evening came, we had suits for everyone, and at the close of SDC at 6 p.m. we decided to drive a few miles north to Lambert's in Ozark, MO, the legendary home of Throwed Rolls. To our great disappointment, we found a 60-minute waiting list with the wait being outdoors in the cold wind. No thanks. We turned around to head back to Branson and ended up going through a Mickey D's drive thru at 7:15 p.m. Needless to say, by the time we returned to Big Cedar, finished our McNuggets, got everyone suited up and to the pool, our swimming time was limited.

Back to my hasty packing, though ... In my rush, I did NOT forget to take along a stash of movies. We watched Cheaper By the Dozen on Thursday night. I had heard that it was a great family movie and, indeed, there were a number of laughs as the movie chronicled the lives of Tom and Kate Baker and their 12 children. However, had I read Plugged In Online in advance like I usually try to do, I'm fairly certain that I wouldn't have rented it for a trio of girls under 7. The message that big families are wonderful came through loud and clear, but there were several objectionable words (d--m and sucks, to be specific). Also bothersome to me was the fact that Nora, the oldest Baker daughter, had moved out of the house and in with her narcissistic and very condescending boyfriend. I kept waiting for my oldest to comment on the fact that they weren't married and ask why they were living together, but thankfully, that fact must have gone right over her head.

Much better was the following night's entertainment, Pride and Prejudice, a retelling of Jane Austen's classic work. Keira Knightly was absolutely wonderful as Elizabeth Bennet, and I was so delighted by the movie's end that I backed it up halfway and watched it all over again. Somehow I managed to make it through high school, college, grad school and three years of teaching English without reading this great work, so I'm heading to Barnes and Noble tonight to pick up a copy. To my surprise, I discovered this morning that the entire novel can also be read online with a great many annotations.

I will save the rest of the weekend's activities (and a few more pictures) for tomorrow's post.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Brilliant Idea

On days like today, I just want to give a standing ovation to the individual(s) who conceived and gave birth to the idea we now know as The McDonald Playland. We had the most gorgeous start to spring break last Friday. The walk home from school which normally lasts about 5 minutes lengthened by a few moments at the corner as we stopped and visited with some neighbors, then grew even longer as my Rachel and a girl she walks home with raced scooters on the sidewalk. More neighbors arrived home from school, and before I knew it, there were nearly a dozen kids running back and forth between yards throwing Frisbees, riding scooters, and enjoying life like there was no tomorrow.

And indeed, there has been no day like it since. Saturday brought cooler temperatures, and Sunday brought cold, miserable rain. Monday, the official beginning of spring, saw more cold nasty drizzle, and by today ... well, we all had a good case of cabin fever.

We spent an hour or so running errands this morning. Fortunately, they were "The Good Kind" as the kids call them, errands in which I can keep my eye continuously on the vehicle and thus do not make them leave the warmth and comfort of their seats (or, more importantly in their minds, the movie they talked me into popping in the DVD player for them today, a special treat normally reserved for road trips).

After the necessary items were checked off my to-do list and I had managed to get them through it all with a minimal amount of bickering and complaining, I turned toward my three angels in the back seat and announced, "Okay! The rest of the morning is yours! What should we do??" The question was met with quiet, as they contemplated their options, which I might add were pitifully few given the lack of cooperation from the weather.

Several ideas were tossed about including going to Fun City (an indoor playground that serves cardboard pizza), playing at the mall playland, or going to Mickey D's. The latter finally won out, and we were on our way to visit The Golden Arches. Along with almost every other NW Arkansas family with young children as we were to discover. The place was WILD with cooped-up kids set free for the morning with caffeine coursing through their veins and a warm, dry place to burn off the pent-up energy from the weekend.

My angels finished their McNuggets and apple slices and tore off toward the slides together. I settled into our booth with my needlework for some solitude (if you can call it that) and "Mommy Time". I let the troops romp wildly for close to an hour before sending up the call to head home for naps. It was an hour of divine peace as the madness went on all around me. I was even hit in the head once by an angry toddler's tiny purse, but for that hour no one wanted anything from me. No one called my name. No one called me on the phone. It was heavenly.

All of this for the price of three Happy Meals and a cheeseburger with extra pickles and mustard. Ahhhhh.....

Friday, March 17, 2006

This should be a great trip ...

Big Sis and I were talking this morning about the upcoming Girls' Only Trip we're taking next week to Big Cedar. Her grandmother (my mom) and cousin (my brother's nearly 7-year-old daughter) are coming up on Wednesday, and we will spend Thursday through Saturday in Branson. She asked me if I had plans to fill Brooke in on all "The Rules" that we live (and travel) by. I told her that yes, I was planning to talk to all three girls on Wednesday night and outline the following behavioral requirements:

  1. There will be no fighting or bickering.
  2. There will be no tattling.
  3. There will be no whining.
  4. There will be no loud, obnoxious behavior.
  5. There will be no talking just to enjoy the sound of one's own voice.
  6. When an adult asks you to do something, you will obey happily the first time.

She asked what the consequence would be if any of the above listed rules were broken, and after a moment's thought, I told her that I would be taking along some bread and peanut butter and if anyone just couldn't seem to comply with "Sheryl's Rules of the Road" that at the next meal while everyone else enjoyed mouth-watering restaurant cuisine, the rule breaker(s) would enjoy half a peanut butter sandwich and a cup of water.

She turned to me without missing a beat and said, "Sheryl, you better take the whole loaf!"

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

What I REALLY need ...

Here's a fun, mindless Google game for you. I saw this today on a fellow blogger's site and loved it! Here's how it works: Go to Google, type in "[your name] needs", and see what comes up. Here were my top 10 results:

  1. "Sheryl needs Helen's help" (I sure hope Helen is a great housekeeper, cook and nanny!)
  2. "Sheryl needs a bone marrow transplant" (oh, may it never be!)
  3. "Sheryl needs booze in her dressing room" (only after a REALLY hard day, haha!)
  4. "Sheryl needs to try decaf" (oh no, it's caffeine that keeps me going most days)
  5. "Sheryl needs a bass player" (no, I REALLY don't want any more mouths to feed)
  6. "Sheryl needs a swing DJ and a few dancers" (see previous comment)
  7. "Sheryl needs to eat a sandwich ... or two" (sorry, bread isn't on my diet)
  8. "Sheryl needs some hugs and a teddy graham" (I'll take all the hugs I can get)
  9. "Sheryl needs another chemo treatment" (see comment on #2)
  10. "Sheryl needs to come over after school" (will there be free back rubs and lattes?)

OK, it's your turn now! Have fun!