Saturday, November 29, 2008

diversity?

Me and some of the youth group girls went to see Twilight last night. You know, the teen flick based on the teen vampire fantasy book of the same name. It was a teen flick. That's all I'm going to say about that. Yes, it stuck pretty close to the book, so...

One thing struck me, though, as I watched the fictional characters run around the small Northwestern town of Forks. They were an amazingly diverse group of people. Asians, blacks, whites, and of course native americans (which actually makes sense) mingled freely and comfortably. But what was equally amazing is that apparently, everyone- literally EVERYONE- in the town was also skinny. I was impressed. I didn't think Americans looked like that. I thought, you know, we were a bit more diverse in the waistline.

And we wonder why two-thirds of college girls suffer from eating disorders...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

my song

Gonna tell you a little story
'Bout what happened last year
Living all nice and happy
In Skinker-Debaliviere

Bought us an old house
Deep down in the city
Didn't have no back wall
And it sho wasn't pretty

Got the bank to give us money
Make the place real fine
Now we ain't got no mo social life
Cuz we're working all the time

Rehabbing blues
Rehabbing blues
Got the re- re- re- re-
Rehabbing blues

Work hard all day
Just to get a door hung
Gotta tear it out the next day
Cuz the wall ain't plumb

Rehabbing blues....

Maybe in twenty years
My blues will be cured
My house will be as snazzy
As anything in the 'burbs

Rehabbing blues...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

favorite places to eat in St. Louis

an imperfect and arbitrary list...

  • Guido's (on the Hill)
  • Saleem's (in the Loop)
  • Gyro House (ditto)
  • Thai Gai Yong Cafe (ditto, though unsure of the spelling)
  • Venice Cafe (Benton Park)
  • Chimichanga's (not quite So. Grand)
  • Crown Candy (my neighborhood, the hood, Old North St. Louis)
  • Chocolate Bar (Lafeyette Square. Technically, we go there for drinks, but when you can have a chocolate martini, who really needs dinner?!)
  • McGurks (Soulard)
  • Empress Express (downtown. Cheap Chinese at its best)
  • Uncle Bills (So. City location. Diner/breakfast food with bona fide diner waitresses)
  • Banh Mi Bobba Tea and Creperie, and also St. Louis Bubble Tea (tapioca balls in your slushie drink? Woof, yes. Plus the food and the atmosphere are top notch, assuming you like unique Asian experiences like loud TV's and lots of Chinese-speaking)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

my cute kids

... at an interesting park in South City and at the Botanical Gardens with some amazing mosaic art...


Monday, November 3, 2008

Leftover biscuits and sausage gravy

With some cheesy eggs mixed in.

Oh, yeah.

Friday, October 31, 2008

one small comment

I'm intentionally avoiding a lot of political thoughts, comments, and news, but I am going to make one small statement here about the upcoming election day. Whatever happened to JFK's statement about 'ask not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country' (not a perfect quote there, I know) ? I'm not really a fan of JFK's legacy but you know, he had a good point there. I wish that idea would come up once in awhile, cuz I'm really sick of hearing about 'this candidate will or will not make MY life better'. I mean, wtf? Is that the point of the government, to make my life better? To a certain degree I guess it is- anarchy (though appealing) does make everyone's life slightly more challenging.  But the more we demand that the government be responsible for our comfort, the more we have to accept mediocrity and tyranny. Big Brother is born- not through the whims of a dictator, but from the necessity of protecting the easy life.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

my book

So, I'm writing a children's story about gigantic gourds that take over the neighborhood. It has a whimsical and melancholy edge to it.  I am now beginning the arduous task of trying to get it published (eek). My good friend Laura is going to help me lay it out and I am probably going to ask someone I know to be my agent and I will also send it to publishers who don't require agents (depressingly few in number). 

It's been fun and educational, and even if I never get it published I still think it is a good story :) And yes, I have no principles. I am willing to change it, slash it, burn it, and sell my soul (not to mention my children) if that's what a publisher demands!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

extra caffeine, anyone?

Well, the unthinkable has happened. I've cut back on my coffee.  For the last week, I've only been drinking one cup in the morning and one in the early afternoon (my previous quota was exactly twice that amount). 
The reason for this traitorous behavior is that I have a thyroid condition, suspected for a long time and finally confirmed. The modern American medical treatment for this condition is daily hormone replacement for the rest of my life. I'm really not into that. I think it is a bad idea in general that our medical practice basically consists of giving people a pill for every symptom. I prefer trying to fix the actual problem. 
Therefore, I'm cutting back on my caffeine, increasing the amount of water I drink, trying to eat more vegetables and trying to exercise every day. The purpose of all that is to help my body better process nutrients and thereby help my thyroid function better. I don't know if it's actually working yet, but I have to admit that I feel healthier overall and seem to be losing a little bit of weight. 
Is it worth sacrificing some of my daily caffeine dosage? Not really. 

Friday, October 17, 2008

The ups and downs of homeschooling

Sometimes I wonder why I get stressed out.  My kids are pretty good. I have breaks during my day and time to goof off (like now :). I should be able to handle everything pretty easily...but the reality is, child-rearing is a major endeavor.
For instance, this afternoon, right before spelling, India jumped off a toy outside and hurt her arms. She, of course, started wailing like she was being burned at the stake. We needed to work on spelling- Stuart and Anastasia's worst subject- so I held her while giving them their spelling words. So... India's screaming, Anastasia is more interesting in being 'Mom' than her spelling, Stuart is irritated because of the illogical nature of English spelling, and Malachi, who is supposed to be helping me take care of India, is having Malachi moments (what's tylenol?! he asks blankly) AARGH! 
This is why I need coffee breaks and good books (or manga, whatever is available).
On the other hand...now I can sit here and type during our science time, because Stuart loves science and has taken it upon himself to teach our curriculum for now. We also had fun learning about prime numbers today and looked up the largest known prime number (I know, we're geeks.) 
It's a great life.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

My sense of taste (and other happenings here)

We are suffering from a serious cold. Going on a week of misery here. I rearranged our school schedule so we can have our autumn vacation now- giving us time to recuperate without missing tons of school. 
With this cold, I have lost my sense of taste. The last time I tasted food was Friday afternoon (and today is Thursday, of the following week).  It is a surreal experience, this lack of taste (that could be symbolic of my whole life I guess ;).  There is a growing craving inside me for good food.  A feeling that something in my life is seriously wrong. I have to prevent myself from just eating, eating, trying to satisfy the need for taste. You would think it would be the opposite...that I would lose my appetite. That happened for a couple days. But now, it is almost like my need for sunlight. I know it's there, somewhere in the world...if I could only find it...
Other ramblings...during our time off, Anastasia and I are working on a doll quilt, boys are working on a pine car, and we've played a lot of games and watched some Hogan's Heroes. With the beautiful weather, we should really be outside more, so maybe we'll take our rolls of t.p. and our mugs of hot liquids and move outside this afternoon!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Yet another rant...

Seems like I currently use this blog as a way to get my feelings off my chest..oh well..

So last week was banned book week (hurray for banned books!) but as always, the people who fight against censorship forget a few important things.

1. 'Censorship' is when the government doesn't allow something to be published, spoken, read, etc. It is NOT when a private company or organization chooses not to publish something (sell something, advertise something, etc.) because they don't like the content. Several of the times people scream 'censorship' when a private individual/corporation is exercising their own freedom to print or not print something they find distasteful or disagreeable.  

2. The Bible is the number one banned book of all time, anywhere in the world.  Most of the time, banned book lists fail to include this holy book. I have to wonder why? Are these people, so intent on protecting freedom, censoring a censored book? What could be their motivation? Hmmmm....

3. Restriction is different than censorship. In other words, it is NOT censorship to rate a movie 'X'. Ratings are, first of all, not something the government does, and second of all, doesn't prevent ANYONE from seeing the movie. Children can see porn if their parents get it for them (though that might make the parents end up in court). Most people would agree that small children should be restricted from seeing certain material in most circumstances.  Do I want my 11 yr. old reading Lady Chatterly's Lover? No. Do I want Lady Chatterly's Lover banned? No. Do I want to decide when my child is ready for that kind of writing? Yes. That's not censorship, that's parenting, and if the anti-censorship crowd (of which I would consider myself a member) has a problem with that, than I would suggest that they find themselves a good dictionary and look up a few words like wisdom and maturity, unless those words are banned now too...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Modern Moralists

It’s been awhile since I’ve written- Talent Show, school, goofing off. My days are just packed.

But I have a rant I want to get off my chest...the modern moralists. People would generally associate the ‘religious right’ with the Puritans, and I can understand their view point. But how about the non-religious moralists? Let me give you an example...


I was watching a DVD last night that we rented from Netflix. It started with the now-customary anti-piracy message (you know, copy a DVD and go to hell).  This particular infomerical used the movie Casablanca as it's 'theme'...love, adultery, copying DVD's. It wrapped up it's morality play by basically stating that adultery is good, pirating movies is satanic. Do I need to comment on this?


And then the morality play continued with an anti-smoking commercial.


So I sum up the modern moralists like this:


Hurt others. Don't hurt yourself. Don't hurt the environment. And, whatever you do, DON'T SCREW WITH OUR PROFITS!

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Walking Platform

 Rather than simply criticizing everyone else's party platform, I have decided to create my own: The Walking Party.

The gov't will give a tax credit of $100,00 per year to everyone who doesn't own a car and walks everywhere instead, plus two good pair of walking shoes each year. This will instantly solve all the nations woes:

1. ENVIRONMENT: Less pollution, right? Plus, if you don't own a car, it's harder to shop a lot, which also helps the environment. Best of all- it will shut up those pesky environmentalists :)

2. CRIME: Everyone will be too busy walking to commit crimes.

3. ABORTION: Everyone will be too busy walking to get pregnant.

4. EDUCATION: Everyone will be too busy walking to go to school. 

5. FOREIGN POLICY: Ditto numbers 3, 4, and 5

6. HEALTH CARE: Walking alleviates most health issues, including mental ones. Plus the doctors will be too busy walking... well, you get the picture.

7. CIVIL RIGHTS: For the most part, pedestrians are treated poorly, with no regard to gender, race, sexual preference, hair color or economic class. Equality would be instantaneous.

8. BUDGET DEFICIT/GOV'T DEBT: The legislature will be too busy walking to spend money. Plus, since we'll be fighting no more wars, paying for no schools, building no roads, and basically not have much use for the government at all, there won't be much to spend money on.

I personally think it's brilliant.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

One Issue?

Ok, there are a lot of things I have to admit I like about the concept of Sarah Palin for VP. She’s a mom. She’s from Alaska (home of the weirdest people of the planet. I love them!) She tries to come across as anti-establishment (bit tricky for someone in the ‘burbs) and she has cool names for her kids.


There is that small detail about lack of experience (though David pointed out that she actually has executive experience unlike anyone else who is running!!) But other than that, I just can’t support anyone who suggest we end our dependence on foreign oil by drilling more.


This is like the scag junkie saying he’s going to end his dependence on the drug dealers by growing his own poppies. 


It doesn’t end the dependence, it just switches it.


If my neighbor was dying and the only way I could save their life was by drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Nature Reserve, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Give me the drill, let’s go in. But if my neighbor couldn’t drive to the mall to buy her spoiled 8 yr. old daughter the newest Hannah Montana t-shirt because there was no more gas, too bad. Walk your fat ass over there, honey. 


It’s not that I’m a one issue person or even that caught up in ‘saving the environment’. It’s that I’m tired of Americans thinking that the Constitution guarantees happiness through overuse. I hear Christians talk about God judging us for killing our children through abortion- that is very possible, as we will also be judged for slavery, treaty-breaking and reality TV shows.  But...how about judging us for destroying anything in our path that hinders us from driving everywhere in the largest vehicle possible just cuz we feel like it, screw the rest of the world who has to walk. 


Ok, my bad attitude is seeping- flooding?- out again and so I should stop.  Sorry, Sarah, you lost my vote.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

the beauty of homeschooling



Oftentimes if feel guilty about my lack of mothering abilities. I feel I am overwhelmed easily, short-tempered, and not a very good teacher. 


And then there are the moments like this afternoon, when everything seems beautiful. Malachi is investigating a dead a wasp, on his own initiative. He is at the table with gloves and tweezers. Since he is a arthropodophile, he is sad that the wasp is dead, but since it is indeed deceased...well, might as well take advantage of the fact and pin it up.

Stuart is attempting to invent a mop-machine for me, with India’s invaluable assistance. Not sure where that is going...and, of course, our domestic goddess, Anastasia, is making our dinner. Yes, definitely the best part. I get to sit and play my favorite computer game N. 


Actually the best part is knowing that the children are curious, resourceful, and motivated (ok, and bratty and stubborn at times too. Hence my feelings of inadequacy.) 


Speaking of resourceful, the boys did the stereotypical curious adolescent thing and looked up a couple of bad words in the dictionary. Then they came and informed us of the meanings and related surprise to actually see those words in the dictionary. It was a priceless moment.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

fried brain

I know it's been awhile since I've blogged...we started school last week and my brain has been fried. Things are going well, but it takes time to settle into the groove of housework plus schoolwork. India has joined the gang this year, as a preschooler, which is good since she needs to be learning and involved but also means that now I have four different learning styles and levels to cope with each day.
On a different subject, this August weather is amazing (in St. Louis the weather really is interesting to talk about!). I now step outside expecting pleasant weather rather than the stifling, oppressive, disabling heat and humidity for which August in St. Louis is famous. Did someone forget to turn on a switch?!

Monday, August 11, 2008

At Soulard, $20 buys me...

  • 1 qt. blueberries
  • 1 bunch of celery
  • 1 bag of baby carrots
  • 1 head of red leaf lettuce
  • 1 lb. of roma tomatoes
  • 3 lbs. of peaches
  • 1- 20 oz. jar of 'no added sugar' homemade plum (yummy) jelly
  • 2 sweet bell peppers
  • 1 onion
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1/2 lb. peanuts
not to mention a wonderful, cross-cultural experience!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Bad attitude

I’ve noticed in my recent postings that I’ve had a negative attitude about a lot of things. I’m sorry about that. In the future, I’ll only say nice, positive things about people and places.

Oh, great, now I’m lying, too. How about I just put duct tape over my mouth? Or would that be my fingers, considering that I’m typing this?

fjklfsdlkrsdkisiofdgfjkgfjkdslsajkl

Nope, doesn’t work too well.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Haggling Over the Price

There is a story about a conversation between Mark Twain and a wealthy woman at a party. The woman makes a comment along the lines of how she figures she would do just about anything for a million dollars. Mark Twain then asks if she would sleep with him for a hundred dollars. “What kind of woman do you think I am?” she replies indignantly. With his usual wit, Mark Twain responds: “We’ve already determined what kind of woman you are, ma’am. Now we are just haggling over the price.

I was recently reminded of this story while pumping gas in a suburb. From having lived in the city for so long we have gotten use to pre-paying for our gas- crime is high in the inner-city, you know, so the stations are afraid (perhaps justifiably) of gas-n-go’s. However, we have rarely prepaid in the nicer suburbs. No criminals there! And then last week I tried to pump my gas in South County without prepaying…I’m sorry, you need to come inside and pay first, or at least swipe a card. Hmm.

Are all my ghetto friends driving out to the suburbs to steal more expensive gas? I doubt it. I think gas prices have proven Mark Twain’s point once again. Criminality is not a question of geography, but of finding the right price.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

My August To-do list:

Anyone who would like to help will get free gingersnaps and coffee.


House chores:


  • CLEAN FRIDGE!
  • Work on (not necessarily finish) brick pathway in backyard
  • Paint dining room
  • Clean walls (yucky dusty things)
  • Shampoo rugs
  • Maybe some artwork for our back fence? I want to hang a window and door frame on it.
  • Organize kitchen shelves

Youth Group:

  • Write out talent show skit
  • Plan construction for stage
  • Find someone to run sound for talent show
  • Schedule, schedule, schedule!

Me:

  • Write some short stories
  • Design some winter clothes

School:

  • Buy new computer
  • Plan schoolwork

Kids:

  • Plan Stuart’s and India’s birthday parties

Go to:

  • Venice Café with David (sorry, no one else is invited)
  • Magic House
  • Butterfly House
  • Botanical Gardens
  • Grant’s Farm

Everything else has to wait until September…

Monday, July 28, 2008

Humility is so…humbling

Today, I was in the trendy, progressive, upscale area of the city known as the Central West End. There they are, with their uptight attitudes, expensive clothes, stylish haircuts, and big, gas-guzzling SUV’s (though everyone is also very environmentally-sensitive, of course. Hah.), and there’s me in tie-dye, a ponytail, and bad-driving skills. Beware, my shiny vehicle. The weirdo housewife is careering toward us!

I don’t realize just how much pride I have until I am in humiliating situations like this (you know, trying to parallel park my mini-van while everyone is turning their nose up at me). Logically, it is obvious that if I’m embarrassed, it’s because I have Pride. If I am truly humble, without the need for others’ approval or admiration, than it doesn’t matter if I can’t parallel park worth a damn. Or that I sometimes go out looking scruffy. Or that I have a preschooler (I forgot to mention that the denizens of the Central West End also Disapprove of Breeding).

And so I revel in these moments of extreme humiliation. The shedding of pride is a horribly painful process, and one which I expect will not be complete until the next world, but think of the freedom that comes with it…the ability to do what I need to do, what I want to do, how I want to do it, without continually living with the fear of opinions. If I am already a laughingstock, what else is there to lose? Or, as Salvador Dali so eloquently stated it, ‘The difference between myself and a madman is that I am not mad.’ And even better, ‘God resists the proud, but is near to those who are humble in heart.’

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Horse Camp and Modern Country Life

I’ll keep this post brief…I have just been too busy to sit down and write anything. Last week Malachi and Anastasia participated in a VBS and this week Stuart, Anastasia and Malachi are going to a Horse Camp everyday at Avalon Horse Farm in Milstadt, IL. Yesterday was the first day and it was wonderful. The kids cleaned stalls, rode horses, brushed their horses, cleaned stalls again- and had a good attitude the whole time. They are excited to go back everyday but have already informed me they are no longer interested in owning horses. It’s just too much work!

India is spending a couple days with grandma and grandpa so I took the time to wander around the farm, finish a book (The Gunslinger, by Stephen King) and then drive into Belleville to get a tolerable cup of coffee. I do love being in the country, but I would prefer to actually be in ‘more’ country- this area has nice rolling fields, open pastureland, and then suddenly there are these suburban-type neighborhoods popping out of nowhere, with a bunch of enormous, identical-looking vinyl-sided houses. If you’re going to make me live someplace far from coffeeshops and museums then at least give me decrepit old farmhouses and crumbling tombstones. Oh well. That’s progress for you. It’s always…progressing.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Mean, Green Mother

This morning my offspring informed me that I was ‘tough’. The conversation started with the boys commenting on how firm Anastasia is with her guinea pigs- she’s just like me, they informed me. India too. We’re ‘tough’ women. We have grit. I asked if that meant I was mean; Malachi immediately said no but Stuart wavered for a moment before agreeing with Malachi. Both the boys were quick to point out that being a tough woman is better than being the stereotypical swooning female. I don’t know if that makes me feel better or not. I mean, it comes to no surprise that my children view me as, ahem, firm. But now of course I have to worry- are they just being polite? Are they really afraid of saying what they think? Am I ruining my children by my lack of female tenderness? I don’t know, but I will never forget the face Stuart made when I asked for his opinion- eyes open wide, eyebrows raised, oh yea mom, you’re tough.

Monday, July 14, 2008

this week in the Life of the Holdens…

Another busy week of birthdays, grandmas, and VBS. David’s birthday was Friday so we spent a couple days celebrating that (Botanical Gardens and Grandma Peggy’s) and this week Malachi and Anastasia are attending Vacation Bible School at Memorial Presbyterian. Apparently I’m raising little rebels here. The boys are plotting a strike against the VBS since one of the activities encourages competition between boys and girls, which we strongly discourage in our household.

Stuart, India and I hung out in the Loop while the other two kids were doing expressive dance to cheesy kids songs (Sorry, I have a bad attitude toward VBS). I definitely think we had more fun- Bread Co, Plowsharing, Sunshine Daydream, and Bubble Tea. Plus a beautiful day with lots of walking.

Now we’re home again, doing some laundry, playing some computer games, and basically just chilling. Hopefully the rest of the week will go as well!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mosh Pits, Pow wows and Christians

On Sunday, we returned from our somewhat annual trek to Cornerstone Music Festival in Bushnell, IL. It was a good Cornerstone. The weather was amazingly beautiful- a storm threatened one night but miraculously split and went north and south of us (very thoughtful of it- storms and tents just don’t mix well!) Other than that, the skies were pretty clear and the thermometer never topped 85.

There is a lot I could say about the strange mix of people and events that comprise Cornerstone. But for now I’ll stick to the highlights-

Some Native Americans (mostly Crow, I think) shared their drumming and dancing. It was beautiful and inspiring. Because they are Christians, they are ostracized by their own communities (even a lot of other Christian Indians disapprove of the preservation of their traditions mixed with the Christian faith. Sigh).

The Imaginarium section of Cornerstone, which usually focuses on fantasy/sci fi, had a ‘British’ theme this year. Our kids got to play Cricket!

Over the Rhine put on their usual fantastic midnight, electrified concert. David and I dragged ourselves there with our friend Bob Havens while Gail stayed at the campsite with our sleeping children. It was definitely worth it. Karin threw in the f-word in the middle of one of their songs. I was so feckin offended.

Poor Stuart. The children were given more freedom this year, as long as they stayed together or stayed in the spot we left them. All Stuart wanted to do was hang out at some of the noise stages to hear people growl along to distorted guitars and drum-pounding. Mind you, these tents/stages are ALL OVER the campgrounds and can be heard anywhere at any time of the day. But every time we left him at a tent and told him to ‘stay put until we returned,’ something would go wrong and the band would stop playing, or the tent would take a break, or whatever. So there he was, surrounded by loud music for three days, and never got to enjoy it. Is that irony or what?

Speaking of irony, the last day we were there Anastasia turned to me and said, ‘I noticed that a lot of people here are Christians!’ Well, yea, that is typically what happens at a Christian music festival.

And I could go on…but this post is long enough, so I’ll have to continue on another day!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

prodigals and paper plates

I guess we are having to accept the fact that Charlotte really isn’t going to have much more to do with us. Sigh. The usual explanation is that, you know, she’s seventeen, has a job, has (somewhat of) a vehicle, and that would make sense except that…well, we’ve been expecting her to drop out of our life for quite sometime now. Children of divorce have to decide which parent is right and which parent is the loser. Guess which side of the coin we landed on?

I admit that whenever a family has ‘issues’ with a child I assume they must have done something wrong (in other words, if I do everything right, then I won’t ever have to go through that kind of pain.) And you know, there is truth in that. We do a lot of things wrong. But I also have to accept the reality that even when you do everything right, you can’t control someone else’s decisions. Yet I know the story of the prodigal son- I know how much fun he had at first, and I know where he ended up, and I know many other prodigal stories that have that same plot. Many of them don’t end as well, though. Many of them end up starving in the pig sty, always too stubborn to admit that maybe they had something to do with their situation, that even though their parents were the biggest losers on the planet they themselves could have been- dare I say it- a little bit less self-centered too. How will our story end? Only God knows.

On a funnier note, this morning Malachi (who is nine and a half) was shocked to discover that not all animals mate for life. I explained a few of the more…um…unorthodox mating behaviors of several animals. For instance, I said a goat will kill itself in its efforts to impregnate all the females it finds.

Malachi says he would rather die by eating too many paper plates.

Give it a few years, kid.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Gas Prices: My Opinion

So, this is an unpopular statement, but I think gas prices are just fine they way they are (we are currently paying $3.99/gal in St. Louis). Why do I feel this way? Well, I think that Americans have been spoiled for too long. We have access to an enormous amount of goods at ridiculously low prices, and have not been satisfied with all we have. We always have to have more (and yes, I’m including myself in this generalization, because I fall into that same trap, too). In a way, the high gas prices are a good antidote to our greed. We have to be more frugal with our driving and our shopping. I will admit that I gripe and have a heart attack every time I fill up the van (ouch! $71 last week, and I’m already 2/3 of the way thru the tank…no driving for me this week!) but honestly, I do think it is a good thing. Perhaps frugality at the gas tank will translate to frugality throughout our entire life. We could use a dash of Puritan ethics- make do with what you have (or something like that).
Having said all that, I do also believe the oil companies are truly evil. That is an entirely separate issue…I mean, I know the prices are partly a result of the gas companies’ greed, and that is wrong, but I also think the gas prices are good for us as Americans, if that makes any sense.
Well my children are pestering me so I need to stop my ruminations about rather insignificant things and go back to work. Sigh.

Friday, June 20, 2008

‘Europeans watch the time. Here, we have time to watch.’

I read that Moroccan saying yesterday and was seriously convicted by it. I have often thought about my obsession with productivity, inherited in a straight line from my distant Puritan ancestors and further encouraged by my years in the American school system. Getting stuff done is the goal of our life; it makes me feel valuable and important. And there are good things about that mentality- we are an amazingly productive society, which has given birth to all sorts of nifty inventions like computers and Netflix and made them easily accessible to the most frugal of housewives.

But of course, they are many, many problems with our (my) obsession with hurrying through life with one eye on the clock and the other eye on our to-do list. Mostly, we miss out on life. I really like the idea of sitting on the porch with my coffee and banana bread, idly watching the garden grow and chatting with the neighbors. But then I start thinking of the filthy bathroom (Yikes! I have to clean that today!) and dinner needs to be done and oh crap, I’m so far behind on the kids’ school paperwork and don’t even mention youth group stuff…and there goes my idyllic summer evening. How do we get out of this mess of over-achieving and busy-ness? I just don’t know. But I’m working on it.

‘Time is our servant here. We are not the servants of Time.’

Monday, June 16, 2008

Technological Stone-Age

We’ve been content for the last several years to live in the 90’s...you know, pre-universal cell-phone usage and easily-accessible DSL. We’ve tolerated our dial-up crawling along the information super-highway. We’ve waited patiently to get home before making all those important phone calls. Our back pockets and purses have been conspicuously silent, abstaining from the symphony of electronic beeping and bipping that rings out everywhere that 21st Century Americans congregate. We can only catch glimpses of all those popular YouTube videos, waiting two hours for a few seconds of jerky movement to download. We have proven- countless times- that we will not capitulate to the societal pressure to do multiple things faster in a more irritating way.

But now that the initial novelty has worn off, now that whipping out the cell-phone is not a contest to prove one’s yuppiness, now that it is pretty much pointless to surf the net at dial-up speeds, we are beginning to shop around for all those 21st century luxuries, which are now cheaper and laden with accessories. This is when I love capitalism.

However, I still refuse to watch TV. My brain is irreplaceable.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Rest

I have some sort of nasty cold and it is making me miserable. I know I need rest and I am forcing myself to sit down between bouts of housecleaning. It is just so difficult, sitting here doing nothing, when there are dishes stacked up and toys strewn everywhere and hair in the bathroom sink and $20 missing somewhere in the house...especially when that $20 is our ice cream money for tonight and I’d really like to find it before going out!

On the good side, the kids do a lot of work (which is as it should be, considering most of the mess is from them!) and I can enjoy the wonderful Putumayo disc we borrowed from the library (World Groove, for the other Putumayo fans out there) while I am resting.

Today is Anastasia’s eighth birthday- it feels unreal that she is so old!- and we are preparing for her birthday party tomorrow. Cookie pizza, sub sandwiches, homemade party hats and hopefully a clean house. The boys and I took breakfast to her in bed this morning. It is so good to see the children caring for each other. They have the usual sibling disputes and frustrations but it is always apparent they truly love each other. If they can make it through life with good family relationships I figure I’ll have accomplished something significant!

Well, I need to finish my tea and get back to work…or at least my task-mastering…those little sluggards are lollygagging while I’m distracted here! Hee hee hee.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

'We are from the Clan of Darkness. The Dark One.'

This is my favorite quote from ‘Bleach: Memories of Nobody’, the movie that Harper and I drove 80 miles to see last night. What can I say? It’s anime. Cheesy, melodramatic, but often funny and usually interesting. The movie was fun and well done- not as good as the manga or the anime but definitely worth seeing (if you’re already a fan). It is showing only two days here in the states, yesterday and today, and in ‘select’ theatres, just to insure that all the fans can prove their dedication.

And remember…we are from the clan of darkness…

Friday, June 6, 2008

Brick Heaven

We have found it- the place where all the good bricks go when they die.

It’s called our backyard.

The boys and I are digging out the topsoil in a small area of our yard so we can put in new, uncontaminated (supposedly) topsoil and then plant a veggie garden. Now, we are used to the travails of digging in an old urban area. Broken bricks, glass, miscellaneous trash- we have been dealing with this for years. But this particular area that we have chosen for our victory garden is a little bit beyond the norm. Row upon row of perfect bricks, lined up neatly on their sides, squeezed tightly together just a few inches below the surface. It’s like a mass grave- I wonder what merciless brick genocide happened here? Is this the forgotten evidence of the horrors of progress- defenseless old buildings demolished without pity or respect, torn down viciously to clear the way for modernity? Not that our house is modern, by any stretch…nor does the demolishing of old buildings even distantly compare to the atrocity of true genocide…but you get the point.

Well, these recovered bricks will now get the respect and proper burial they deserve. I will use them for the brick walkway I began some months ago, for them to be walked upon with dignity until the next wave of progress crashes over our neighborhood- perhaps, hopefully, long after we have gone on to our own burial grounds- and they are pulled up again and dumped into another mass grave.

Makes me glad that I’m not a brick.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Summer of Camps

I’m bowing to the inevitable and cutting back on school. I always have plans to school thru summer but something about the heat, the schedule, and just life in general prevents it from happening. BUT we will continue working on math and bible reading (the kids enjoy that anyway) just so that our days feel like they have some purpose. Then the rest of the time will be filled with camp, cleaning, gardening, and hopefully relaxing (yea, right.)

Speaking of camp, this will go down in history as the summer of camps:


India- one ‘Summertime Adventure Camp’ $18

Anastasia- ‘Summertime Adventure Camp’ $36

VBS free

VBS $20

horse camp $100

Malachi- Computer camp $750 (!!!!!) expletive inserted here

VBS $20

horse camp $100

Stuart- Computer camp $775 (!!!) stronger expletive inserted here

VBS $20

horse camp $100

Yes, poor India gets the short end of the deal, mostly b/c she is still only 3. Sniff sniff. And yes, we are requesting financial aid from everything and everybody- the boys are available for simple manual labor or baking. At the end of it all, we will either have the funnest summer ever or be dead.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Save Mary

I have not been feeling very much inclined to blog about anything lately. Not sure why.

So I’ll just write about our Atari.

I never had an Atari as a child, so I had to find one for my children. My offspring are of course not horribly impressed (but do enjoy it on occasion) and I of course love it.

Lately I have been playing the game “Save Mary”. We are not sure why, exactly, we have to save Mary- she keeps getting stuck in this chasm that is rapidly filling with water. The idea is to carefully drop concrete blocks in a neat stack so she can climb out (think about this in early 80’s Atari graphics, please. Lots of large square shapes.) But Mary doesn’t make it easy to save her; she is the stereotypical helpless female, crying ‘Help!’ and then getting in the way when you try to do something for her. And she can’t stand still, but must frolic about the quick trick block stack while you try to build it higher and consequently crush her beneath the concrete. We all wonder we bother to save Mary- honestly I kill her several dozen times each time I play- when clearly she is not worth saving.

The theological implications are overwhelming.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Teacher

So, I’m reading the book of Ecclesiastes (in the bible) and I keep thinking, man, this guy needed Prozac!

No, seriously, it is a very convicting book, despite its rather depressed tone. Solomon was probably the author, and like most people who have everything their heart desires, he was very unhappy by the end of his life. It probably didn’t help that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines…that would be enough to drive any man to suicide…can you imagine the nagging??? Plus I can’t believe he actually had close relationships with any one of them or his children. It was a recipe for disaster.

But enough about Solomon’s interpersonal relationship issues. The basic premise of the book is that stuff can’t make you happy. All our stress and over-worked-ness gets us precisely nowhere; we all just need to chill and enjoy life. Vanity, vanity- all is vanity.

It avoids nihilism by the repeated emphasis that though materialism is meaningless, there is much that is above and beyond our short lives - and my favorite verse from the entire book is about that: ‘He has set eternity in the hearts of man, but they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.’

Other notable quotes:

“The sun also rises”

“Nothing new under the sun”

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth”

…and perhaps most famous of all….

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:” turn, turn, turn…

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Names

We settled on names for our newest family members, the emergency rations in case of complete economic disaster- that is, the guinea pigs. Bear in mind these are technically Anastasia's pets (she is doing a good job caring for them, btw) so she had ultimate authority over name choices. Too, despite our many clever ideas (Smith and Wesson, Whiskey and Rye) they are guinea pigs- cute, fuzzy, squeaky, and not too witty.
So- drum roll please- they are now Gurgle and Plaid.
Plaid is a big bully (but cute and active). He steals lettuce from his littler brother, Gurgle, who is shiny and adorable and shy. When Plaid hears us walk in the room he lifts up on his hind legs and 'wheaks' sweetly, gazing at us with desperation, mouth slightly open, begging for lettuce.
Their lettuce-loving just cracks me up. Addictions are inexplicable.
More coffee, please.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Lettuce-Eaters

Oh, little guineas
Who love their food
Who eat much more than we


Cel’ry and pellets
Clover and hay
And dandelions, yum, yummee


But there is yet
One food, so great,
The sight makes you twitch with glee-


What is this stuff,
This mortal stuff,
Curly and green, its leaves-


You lift your nose
You stretch your toes
You nuzzle our hand to see-


Oh there it is!
That glorious food!
Munch munch, it goes quickly


Romaine! Romaine!
Oh, give us more!
They squeak, they moan, they plea


An opiate to them-
They waste away-
Longing for its iron and vitamin C!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

This Little Piggie...

Last night we bought our first cuddly pets. (I originally just said first pet but David told me our fish and lizard and millipedes would be insulted by that statement. Cuddly, however, is an indubitable adjective in this case).

We have two adorable, squeaky, calico male guinea pigs. They were cheap- just ten bucks a piece. But the cheapness ends there. Bedding, hay, food, fresh produce- these ‘pets’ are going to live better than my kids!

They are technically Anastasia’s birthday gifts, and she will be the ‘primary caregiver’ (that’s for tax purposes J ) But everyone loves them and will continue to help care for them, even after the novelty/excitement wears off.

I have to say, I’m much more smitten that I expected I would be. I’m not a cutesywootsy kind of person, but these little guys, with their huge, trusting black eyes, wiggly little snouts, and lovely habit of using everything as a toilet are just irresistible!

Oh, yea, names! We have a short list of appropriate names and will wait a week to observe their personalities before choosing.

Some initial thoughts:

Benjamin and Flopsy (Peter Rabbit’s family members)

Feo and Guapo (Ugly and handsome, in Spanish)

Othello and Hamlet

Ira and George (Gershwin)

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Hairstyle of Her Future

“Look, mommy, I’m emo,” India said to me last week. Charlotte had brushed India’s long bangs into her face, swooping them just slightly to the side so she looked like one of those over-emotional, self-centered teenage-types known as ‘emo’.

India, of course, had no idea what she was talking about it, but only mimicked what Charlotte had told her to say- which made it all the more hilarious. It is possible this is a prophetic vision of things to come… if indeed there is a subculture known as ‘emo’ in ten years, India’s high-strung and demanding personality may morph enough into a melancholy personality (as she begins to realize that indeed, the world does not revolve around her) for her to blend in beautifully with that crowd.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Deep thoughts (or not)

I was going to chronicle the deep and thought-provoking ideas upon which I was ruminating earlier today, but alas, I have forgotten those deep thoughts and am left with only the confusion and insanity of late afternoon.

Wednesdays are kind of our ‘off’ day in the middle of the week. I have my bible/book study on Wednesday mornings, so it’s pretty much impossible to accomplish any schoolwork. We did manage to squeeze in a trip to the library, one of our favorite places in the world, and then this afternoon we had Arthropod Emporium (the class we have been teaching for our homeschool learning co-op). So my inability to think much beyond making dinner and cleaning-up is understandable, I feel. Busy days- four kids- ten more kids over for class- it’s amazing we’re all still alive!

Now bean soup is simmering on the stove. I brought home some Bread Company remnants from the book study so I don’t have to make bread to accompany our soup tonight and I have a few moments to relax and catch up on the day’s neglected housework. David and Stuart are at my in-law’s house, doing yard work, and the rest of the family is engaged in quiet activity. Uh oh, I better go check on that…quiet is seldom good….

How does your garden grow? These are in my garden now...

  • hairy allium
  • irises
  • weeping pussy willow
  • firecracker flowers
  • echinacea
  • roses
  • lots of varieties of tulips
  • giant purple allium

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

When I get old, I want to be like Edith

My friend Edith lives in our neighborhood and attends church with us. She is also the grandmother-in-law of a good friend.

Edith is in her nineties (I think). I see her walking through the neighborhood on nice days, clutching her cane, slightly stooped but still brisk and bright-eyed. If it is winter, she will probably be wearing a beautifully knitted shawl and jaunty little beret.

In our bible study (where Edith is the oldest participant, though most of the other members are near or past retirement) she carefully chooses a seat near the leader and watches each of us intently as we speak- her hearing is just not what it used to be. Sometimes she has to ask the person next to her to repeat our words for her. But this does not prevent her from enthusiastically participating in the discussion. Her years of wisdom enrich our conversation, and her open, direct manner prevent her words from becoming pompous.

My favorite ‘Edith moment’ was when we were discussing violence from the perspective of a pacifist. She told the story of becoming violent with a persistent, irritating sin in her life- she opened the screen door and ‘kicked’ her frustrations out!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Jesus junk and the American Christian

For a variety of reasons, I’ve been thinking lately about people’s perceptions of Christianity, and how Christians display their beliefs. I think it is pretty obvious why the general public (American, in particular) tends to have a low opinion of Christians (it’s pretty much the same reason why I have a low opinion of many Christians- see earlier blog ‘Confessions of a Weird, Christian, Homeschooling Mom’). These ruminations have caused me to examine my external life for outward displays of Christianity.

Between all seven of us Holdens, I think we own two Christian-y t-shirts (David has a skull & crossbones one that he really likes, and I have a dragon one.) We have a few t-shirts of bands that are comprised primarily of Christians, but that’s it in the clothing department.

We have no Christian-y bumper stickers (unless the Pink Nun counts?)

We have no Christian-y wall-plaques, Scriptures, sacred hearts, crucifixes, or calligraphic Christian-y sayings. Zip, nada, nothing.

We DO have a few newsletters from missionaries- one from a friend working to end child sex slavery, one from a nurse in Africa, and one from some hippie-types working with the bohemian crowd in New Orleans. We also have a picture of children we sponsor in India and Bolivia, with some scriptures attached.

We have some posters of Christian cartoons (they are actually really, really, funny- I wouldn’t hang them up, otherwise!) in the upstairs hall.

We also have a plethora of bibles. Seriously. In Stuart’s famous words, ‘we have so many bibles we can’t count them’. I don’t know why this is. Maybe we attract homeless bibles? They make their way here, slowly, painfully; abandoned by their owners, unread, unloved, and find in our home a quiet, peaceful haven where they aren’t read, either, but at least they are off the streets. This gives me hope that one day I’ll find the house where all my missing socks wander off to…

I must now ask why it is we refrain from the typical American display of our faith. There is always the possibility that I am afraid of the stereotypes, afraid of what people might think, afraid of putting myself in a category. But mostly I think it’s because (let’s face it) all that Christian-y stuff is just plain cheesy. Bad artwork, bad puns, shallow beliefs. Maybe I’m picking on people here, but honestly, most of that Jesus junk is just that- junk. Plus I have this sneaking suspicion that a lot of those ‘Christians’ who fill their house, cars, and wardrobes with their statements of faith are trying to make up for a lack of real faith in their hearts. I know, I know, very judgmental of me, hopefully I’m very wrong, but there it is- that’s what I suspect. So for the time being, our bible collection and our lives are going to be the only public displays of our Christianity.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Sedimentary rocks and pudding cakes.

Yes, it’s a stretch, but it gets the kids interested and makes everyone happier than writing a report on how rocks are made.

I gave the kids the chocolate pudding cake recipe and am sitting in the kitchen offering advice and aid as necessary. Pudding cakes are made by layering a few ingredients, adding boiling water, and then cooking in the crock-pot for a few hours. Sedimentary rocks are made by particles being transported by water or air, then laid down as deposits and glued together by the minerals from warmer water that have cooled down. I can see the correlation…

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

There are Worms in my Fridge

But they are supposed to be there…worms for fishing, and worms for our lizard. Safely tucked away in hygienic little cans. Still, it bothers me, the thought of creepy crawly things living in my refrigerator (and occupying valuable real estate, mind you. My fridge is tiny!)

I have been just too busy to write lately, and, honestly, uninspired as well. Spring should be here. It is perceptibly warmer out. But it is still gloomy and chill and my flowers refuse to bloom; they are tall and green and bulging but too frightened by the strange weather to dare to actually blossom. My backyard is covered with bricks which I intend to transform into walkways as soon as the ground is slightly less soggy, and I have several more plants inside that need to be planted, once again, as soon as the ground is slightly less soggy. Life is busy, the children are restless from the storms and clouds, and there are worms in my fridge.

These are the times when I can only shake my head and say- life just isn’t what you expect.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cities and Thrones and Powers

-by Rudyard Kipling

Cities and Thrones and Powers,
Stand in Time's eye,
Almost as long as flowers,
Which daily die:
But, as new buds put forth,
To glad new men,
Out of the spent and unconsidered Earth, The Cities rise again.

This season's Daffodil,
She never hears
What change, what chance, what chill,
Cut down last year's:
But with bold countenance,
And knowledge small,
Esteems her seven days' continuance
To be perpetual.

So time that is o'er kind,
To all that be,
Ordains us e'en as blind,
As bold as she:
That in our very death,
And burial sure,
Shadow to shadow, well-persuaded, saith, "See how our works endure!"

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lent, reviewed

I don’t know that I can actually say that I observed Lent (which is kind of a weird thought to me anyway- I don’t think I’ve ever actually even considered observing Lent), but, if you remember a post from some time ago, I attempted to give up anxieties during the weeks preceding Easter. Now that time is over, and I am considering the success of my endeavor- or, rather, lack thereof.

No, I was not able to forgo worry during that time- not in the least. But it was not a complete waste of effort, because the experience revealed an important fact about myself: the enormous number of anxieties that I possess. Oh, my naïve soul had no idea.

There’s anxiety about my appearance. Anxiety about money (obviously). Numerous anxieties about my children, and numerous more about my husband, and then all the anxieties about my extended family.

There are worries about the house, the mail, the pets, the food, the gas prices (a separate anxiety then money in general), and then all the spiritual anxieties- do I read my bible enough? Do I really have faith? Am I ever going to mature spiritually, or will I be stuck in this rut of confusion and doubt for eternity?

Now, of course, I realize the foolishness of thinking I could shed anxieties as easily as I shed my winter coat as soon as the temperatures rise slightly above freezing. It is more like the shedding of stubborn weight- it takes a whole new lifestyle; changes in my thinking, in my habits, in my daily choices. It is a paradigm shift- from seeing myself as hopelessly battered back and forth by the vagaries of chance, struggling to do my best to maintain some sort of sense and order while protecting myself from the unknown future, to thoroughly accepting and taking comfort in the sovereignty and love of God, who easily moves people and events to bring about the best for my life, despite my own lack of faith and inabilities.

Cast your cares upon Him, for he cares for you.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rehabbing Blues

David took the week off work, to spend some time with the family and also work on the house. Unfortunately, he was hit by the flu. But he has persevered through his illness and managed to get a few things done- fixing the downstairs toilet (hallelujah!), finishing (almost) a built-in bookshelf in the girls’ room, and cleaning out the room that is going to be our master bath and which is currently storage for all our unused crap that we have never bothered to sort through. We hope to start work on that final bathroom soon (which means, sometime within the next five years!)

I love living in a rehab. Yes, it does have its frustrations- but any living situation does. And it’s a great excuse for me not keep the house perfectly clean- it’s difficult to dust floorboards when you don’t have any :) But I think the best part of it is the potential. It’s like a fresh sheet of paper, or a new bolt of fabric. We can do whatever we want with our house, if we have the creativity and willingness to devote years of sweat and hard work! It’s a great learning experience too- you really figure out what you can and can’t live without. (When we moved in, we had only a few windows, no countertops, only one finished floor, no walls, no doors except on the one bathroom, etc. etc.)

But I do have to be honest here- will we ever do this again? Probably not! We would like to spend our time and money on something other than ‘the rehab’!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Broken Routine

For a variety of reasons, today did not follow the scheduled plans, and so I am lost and confused. I find that I am very dependent on my routine, or at least my plans. When they are changed I lose my sense of direction- I don’t know what to do, or when, and nothing gets accomplished (even important things) and I don’t know what to do with the children and feel like my day has been wasted.

It is good, though, because so much of my life is hinged upon accomplishing tasks, following my neat little schedule, and protecting myself from feeling useless or unprepared. These unfocused days shake that up a bit: I find myself wondering what really is important; why do I do the things I normally do; what is the purpose behind it all anyway? My usual routine guides me through my days without having to address these perplexing questions.

But I anxiously await the normalcy of tonight’s scheduled events…

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Yesterday...

….I’m not half the man I used to be (thankfully, since I’m a woman.)

Have I mentioned that I hate the Beatles? Well, anyway…

The girls spent the day with my mother yesterday, so the boys and I played hooky and had fun. Hardware store (for Stuart), pet store (for Malachi), grocery store (ok, that was just an errand we threw in. No one likes going to the grocery store!) and then the Loop, where we had snacks at the Bread Co and walked around a bit. It was a lot of fun to be with just the boys. Malachi was giddy with all the excitement. And the nicest thing about not having the toddler around is that I can go to the bathroom all by myself! Usually potty trips are such a huge ordeal.

The boys rounded off their fun day with ice cream at Crown Candy Kitchen and Star Wars before bedtime. I drank tea, researched our next road trip, and continued my plodding thru the Lord of the Rings. Since this is about the sixth time I’ve read it I feel no rush to get to the next chapter.

Note- never eat White Castle and Crown Candy Kitchen on the same day. No need for details, just trust me on this one! In fact, you should probably just never eat White Castle at all.

Today we will go to my bible study in the morning, then the Botanical Gardens. That trip is my fun choice, since we did all the boys’ fun stuff yesterday. The Gardens are my favorite spot in St. Louis (possibly in the world, though the rain forest and Old Jerusalem vie for first place as well. Oh, and New Orleans is pretty high up there, too.) David will pick up the girls on his way home from work tonight and our vacation will be over :)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Housework Deficit Disorder

This is a malady that affects an unknown number of men and children worldwide. Typical symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Statements such as, “But I already do so much housework!” and “What housework? Where?”
  • Walking around large piles of objects on the floor without stopping to pick them up, put them away, or so forth
  • Complete oblivion and ingratitude to the amount of housework that the other members of the household manage to finish (while sick, tired, and already occupied with numerous other tasks)
  • Incessantly adding to the workload of the other members of the household because, of course, they have nothing better to do
  • Never finishing (or even remembering) the few tasks assigned to them, unless repeatedly reminded and/or nagged.

The only known cure is a good smack over the head with a frying pan.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Miracle Socks

Another busy weekend. Another extreme weather pattern. It’s déjà vu all over again.

Today, I want to discuss my socks. For years I’ve struggled with the 'sock issue'. I buy a pack of cheap Wal-mart socks. They get holes, they disappear, they end up in my drawer mismatched and unusable (Ok, I confess to frequently wearing mismatched socks. Most of the world doesn’t even possess socks, so how can I complain that mine don’t match?) I buy another pack of cheap socks. Same story. So I buy a pack of expensive socks.

SAME FREAKING STORY.

That’s when I get really irritated. Hey, I can understand- you get what you pay for. So when my cheap socks get holey and lost, no big deal. But when the pricey socks decide to run off to Greenland on a weekend jaunt (along with all our good pens and important legal documents) while developing holes and matching up with a slightly lighter shade of black, I feel burned.

Finally, I took the plunge, and purchased three pairs of ugly, thick, expensive wool socks at Sam’s. And oh, do I love them! My feet are finally warm. After several washings, the socks are still hole-free. And best of all, they are impervious to water. Drip a bit of dishwater on my feet? In the old days, I’d have to immediately run upstairs and quickly change out of the squishy socks. Now, my nice wool socks simply sop up the bit of water and keep my feet cozy and dry. I even walked across a dusting of snow on our sidewalk so I could spread salt for our mail lady- it was just like a commercial. My feet didn't feel a thing.

Now you may be thinking- all this is true, but how can she put up with wearing such ugly socks? Where is her sense of fashion? (I have been wondering the same thing since I was about five. Just one of those little things I was not inherently endowed with.) So my answer to you is-

Walk a mile in my socks.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

blessings

I feel happy. Though it is cold, wet and dreary right now, I know that Spring is just around the corner. And though this year I will not be able to spend a lot of money on buying flowers for our garden, I can plan for the autumn (when plants are cheaper) and I can work on the garden areas I already have.

So this last weekend was insanely busy, and I was uptight going into it, worried about all the details, all the kids, all the work. But God was faithful and provided not only the time and energy, but also quite a bit of fun. The youth group room- too long neglected- was cleaned and reorganized. David took care of a bunch of things for his dad’s business, since his dad was sick all last week. The kids’ puppet show was cancelled so we didn’t have to race from one activity to another on Sunday but actually had two whole hours at home, together, as a family (well, technically I was working most of that time, washing dishes, etc., but nonetheless, we were home rather than wandering around town). And today, Monday, despite having to recuperate from a busy weekend AND having several guests, we managed to accomplish quite a bit of schoolwork and conquer the typical Monday chaos.

We are blessed.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The 'Up'-Side of Motherhood

It’s difficult, sometimes, to really enjoy my children. The distractions of housework, teaching, and discipline can overshadow- even replace- the more important aspects of motherhood: loving and relating to these people who drive me nuts on a daily basis. Some of our more poignant moments…

India singing “O bess da yord, and sing his gory, and tew of aw, da marbles he has done.” (the best part is when she hits the high note ‘aw’)

Malachi and Anastasia being totally impressed and amazed by the removal of a spring-form pan. (for those non-bakers out there, a spring-form pan is what you use to make a cheesecake. It is pretty nifty.)

Stuart finding a miniature candy cane in his pocket, and cutting it into four tiny pieces so he could share with his siblings, even though they weren't around to ask.

India’s entire bedtime routine. Running like mad to her bed, covering herself up, and calling out “Come find me!” (she hides in the same place every night J ) Then we have to pray, kiss each cheek, and receive a kiss. That’s a total of six kisses for one kid going to bed! Recently she announced she wasn't going to hide anymore...aw....

Anastasia declaring “That’s just wrong!” at a picture in Malachi’s arthropod book (two bugs mating…I’d have to agree…)

When told that someone lived in India, India looked up and said, “He’s in my belly?!”

The kids were discussing where they wanted to live. I said the Mediterranean. Stuart said France. Anastasia said Puerto Rico. Malachi said MaplewoodMaplewood? Well, why not?

Stuart planning his birthday party…eight months in advance…I refused to let him mail out invitations!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Popularity

Wow, I need to go off on things more often. That was my most popular blog post ever.
Well, I'm off to join facebook....

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Maybe if Someone offered me a Million Dollars!

It’s my afternoon coffee break time. The kids are doing reading and art, which is self-supervising, so I have time to relax for a few minutes.

So, this ‘facebook’ phenomenon… what can I say? It’s like high school all over again- popularity contests (who has the most friends? and are those really friends? Does any American teen really know what a friend is? Certainly not someone you merely add to a long list of other acquaintances on your on-line social networking site!), cliques, (aka ‘groups’), pointless conversations, rudeness, and, worst of all, a bunch of adults pretending they are ‘with it’ because they, too, are on facebook.

How lame.

Despite much pressure put on me by various and sundry people to sign-up, I refuse to participate. It’s just another fad that everyone will look back on in twenty years and say “Oh, I remember facebook! We thought it was so cool! Hah, were we stupid or what?” Except for me. I will be wallowing in my superiority, gloating that I never fell for the scam, that I remained aloof from the whole social networking thing and proved my cool-ness by rising above such tripe. Never, in a million years, will I sink to such middle-class American, mainstream, self-centered twaddle.

So, um, is it fun?

Monday, February 18, 2008

My favorite foreign films

  • Life Is Beautiful (Italian)
  • Kung Fu Hustle (Chinese)
  • Run, Lola, Run (German)
  • Monsoon Wedding (India)
  • Pan's Labrynth (Spanish)
  • Il Postino (Italian)
  • The Host (Korean)
  • Mostly Martha (German)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

More about school

It’s easier for me to blog about school now, as we are in the midst of a week off. I actually have time to think, to sew, to clean, and to bake- not that I’ve done any of that stuff. Mostly I’ve read. Heck, I need some time off, too. So this week I’ve read two of the boys’ books for their book club, started a manga series (Full-Metal Alchemist, in case you were wondering. I’ve heard so much about it I want to read it for myself) finished re-reading the Hobbit for about the fifth time and started the LOTR for about the sixth time. That one I sip slowly in between the other, less intense fiction. I’m actually able to enjoy the story again- I’ve almost recovered from Peter Jackson mangling it on the big screen. (Oh, the Ents! Oh, Aragorn and Arwen! Oh, the scouring of the Shire! Ack, I need to go recuperate…)

That’s right, this post was supposed to be about school, not my reading habits. Sorry. As I mentioned in a previous post (I think) I am somewhat taking this year ‘lite’. It seems to be working beautifully. We have been hammering on the basics, and the boys are well on their way to memorizing the multiplication table while Anastasia is working on addition/subtraction up to the tens. The biggest encouragement to me has been Stuart’s spelling. Because he is so painfully left-brained, English spelling is simply torture for Stuart. Just when he masters a rule, he finds ten different exceptions. We have tried several different curriculums, spelling tests, games, rote memorization, etc., and the poor child has struggled to no avail- until this year. Suddenly it all seems to click for him. Now when he writes something, a good portion of the words- even some of the challenging ones- are correctly spelled. I feel that’s it a miracle- mostly that I was brave enough to stop fussing at him, and trust that he would learn it at his own speed. Gee, I’ve been spewing unschool philosophy for years, and now that I’m actually giving it a try, I find it works. What a surprise!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Confessions of a Weird, Christian, Homeschooling Mother

Today was our homeschool class with the Disapproving Christian Mothers (see earlier blog, ‘Am I Really That Weird?’). I intentionally wore a t-shirt sporting a drug reference, just to see if I could irritate them further. I mean, if my very presence is annoying, I might as well and really piss them off thoroughly. Really, it’s for their own good, I’m just trying to push them over the edge so maybe they repent of their snobbiness and are actually obedient to Christ’s command to love your neighbor, even the weird ones (that last part is my own addition, but I think it can be safely extrapolated from general biblical teachings.) Unfortunately, I don't think anyone caught the 'Feed Your Head' scrawled underneath Alice and the hookah-smoking caterpillar. Sucks.

Anyway.

We’re having a week off school. I do four weeks on, one week off, with a different ‘theme’ each four weeks. This last month we focused on spelling and math. Now we’re going to switch to geography and art, while still working on some grammar and math review and, of course, reading. I always struggle with the feeling that ‘I’m not doing enough!’ and attempt to force-feed too much information into my poor children’s heads. I have to continually remind myself: they are smart, they are learning, and they are children! I also have to admit that a good portion of my anxiety about their learning stems from my own temptation to show-off how smart my kids are. Eek, how despicable. Our hearts are so black….

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lent?

So, I’m not a big ‘lent’ person (I prefer Carnival :). I’ve always known people who have celebrated it (can you use the word ‘celebrate’ in conjunction with lent? ‘observed’ I think is the standard terminology) by giving up small pleasures- alcohol, cookies, broccoli.

Of course, what you’re thinking now is- ‘Ohmigod, Veronica is giving up coffee for Lent!’

Snort.

No, I’m taking a much more drastic course; something even more dear to my heart than even coffee, and much more difficult to abstain from (no, not sex either, I value my marriage).

I’m giving up anxieties.

Stop and think about it. God never commands us to sacrifice all those various pleasures that everyone gives up for Lent, unless of course they are causing us issues. But he does command us not to worry. So I’m basically killing two birds with one stone- keeping a commandment and preserving a tradition, while refusing to worry (which is also good for my health). How will I do it? Just like any other abstention. When I feel those little worries begin to creep up the back of my thoughts, I’ll just say no.

If it works as well as the anti-drug use campaign, I’ll be a nervous wreck by Easter.

Well, off to the coffeepot…

Thursday, February 7, 2008

boys vs. girls

So, I checked out the feminists’ websites, and there doesn’t seem to be a place among them for a traditional stay-at-home mom. I guess I’ll have to start another society: Women Who Want All Women Treated With Respect, Without Having to Make a Big Fuss About Anything Or Veering Off Into Various Political Discussions That Most Women Really Don’t Agree With (WWAWTWRWHTMABFAAOVOIVPDTMWRDAW)

Is that a winner or what?

The whole thing makes me consider critically the area of gender differences. I feel like my home is a good study of that: two girls and two boys, all with very distinct personalities.

I have an eldest son (ten) who is the quintessential alpha male: quick to anger, quick to lead, not good at spelling or grammar but fascinated by science. His goal in life? Stay home with his kids and fix engines.

My next child, nine, is also a boy. He has very few of the typical ‘boy’ characteristics. He is good in all academic subjects, and has zero common sense. He wants to study bugs or teeth, and has no interest in caring for anything, much less children, except perhaps creepy crawly things.

The seven yr old girl is prime cheerleading material (agh!) and only has interest in learning as it pertains to relationships. She finds a friend wherever we go. Her playtime typically revolves around salons, babies, and waiting tables.

Then there is the baby- toddler, really- who at three and a half appears to be a miniature version of me. Spunk and rottenness, through and through. I don’t know where she’ll fit in with the family yet, though her volatile emotions and eagerness to defend her territory seem to be most in line with her eldest brother. She loves baby dolls too, but is quick to tackle anyone she thinks she can take on. She also screams a lot.

Despite all these personality quirks, one thing stands out: the boys are boys and the girls are girls. The girls are sensitive to subtleties and eager to care for things. The boys exhibit some of these tendencies, but not nearly to the same degree. Simultaneously, the emotional demands of the boys are very real, but very easy to deal with. The girls, however, are bottomless vortexes of needs and emotions; unutterably exhausting! And that is really just a small portion of the vast differences between my boys and girls. I thoroughly believe that all people, without regard to sex, age, ethnicity, or hair style, should be treated with the same measure of respect, as humans created in the image of God, who is neither male nor female (though he currently relates to us as a father and king). But we can be treated the same while affirming our differences, rather than pretending that those differences are meaningless, or buying into the Western stereotype of what makes a man (beer and football) and what makes a woman (big boobs and gossip).

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I WANT CHOCOLATE!

Not sure why. Just craving the stuff. Already ate a few pieces of dark chocolate, and I don’t have anything more in the house, so I’ll just have to deal with the cravings.

Why are Tuesdays so much better than Mondays? I think there are some deep psychological truths here that we are missing as a society. Yesterday, I was ready to throw in the towel of life, and move to another planet under an assumed name and a recreated past. Today, I am upbeat, enthusiastic, optimistic, and for the most part, the kids are too. The only external differences between yesterday and today are the weather (yesterday was nicer) and the calendar. Perhaps I will try calling Mondays ‘Tuesday’, and treating our schoolwork and our schedule as if it were Tuesday. I’ll let you know if it works out!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Let it snow!

In typical St. Louis fashion, it went from 70 degrees to 7 inches of snow in a 48 hr. period. But we’re not complaining! The snow was wonderful. We quickly discovered it wasn’t the right kind of snow for building snowmen (sniff sniff) and the children had some altercations over throwing snowballs (Stuart would throw one at Malachi, who would complain, then throw them back at Stuart, so Stuart would throw more, hit Anastasia, who would complain, then throw them at both the boys. Then Malachi and Anastasia would try to snitch on Stuart…you can see how it went). But the highlight of it all was sledding on Art Hill. David and I could only climb the steep hill a couple times each, but the children ran up and down several times. We used an old-school metal and wood sled, which worked alright, and a green plastic toboggan, which definitely was superior for these conditions. The children did a beautiful job of sharing and had a blast.

We were exhausted for the whole weekend afterwards.

More about St. Louis weather- after hovering around thirty all weekend, today (Monday) it’s supposed to get up 64 degrees- oh, the inhumanity! My bulbs will be deceived into sprouting. The snow will finish melting into a complete slush. And by Thursday, it will be freezing again. Now I'm complaining.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

a bit of a rant

The stomach flu hit our household last week, incubated for a week, then hit me over the last couple of days. While my husband and boys were ill, I fetched them water, made special meals, and did my best to keep them comfortable while they lay around.

Of course, I received the same treatment while I was ill.

Hah.

I’m joining the feminists

Friday, January 25, 2008

Needful things

I have thought a lot about what I really NEED. Society pressures us to consider many of our ‘wants’ as bona fide NEEDS. But what is the truth? What are the physical things that I, in my time and place, really NEED? This is my list….

I NEED warm, hole-free socks. This is partly because I don’t need a thermostat set above ‘barely tolerable’ and I don’t need carpeting. However, I also don’t need frostbite. Therefore, the warm socks are necessary.

I NEED beautiful clothing. I’ve struggled with this one a lot; it seems frivolous at best, selfish at worst. But I don’t need a lot of beautiful clothes; just a few, enough that I can have some self-respect and enjoyment out of my wardrobe. After all, we are told to ‘consider the lilies, which neither toil nor spin, but Solomon in all his splendor was not dressed so well.’

I NEED to have a variety of foods, including chocolate. This is obviously something that would not be needed if I was dying of starvation. But good food is available to us here in America, reasonably priced and easily accessible. It is right for us to appreciate our bounty.

I NEED to be able to go out once in awhile, either for a whole meal or just a cup of coffee. This is part of the rest that God commanded us. Housewives don’t get vacation or sick days (in case you didn’t notice) and eating out is one of our only ways of taking time off.

I NEED things for the general maintenance and upkeep of the house. We need to take care of the things God gives us.

I NEED things that have to do with my own well-being…vitamins, eye-glasses, gloves, and so forth. Again, I need to take care of the things God gives me.

I NEED coffee. No explanation necessary.

And things I don’t need? Cable tv. Beautiful furniture. Landscaping. Knick-knacks. New appliances. More jewelry (that’s a hard one, I love jewelry. I also own a bunch already). New cd’s and books (ouch, that one is painful too.) A bigger TV set (already have a big one, which is a bit of an embarrassment anyways). A nicer car. New bookshelves (as much as I want them). More kitchen gadgets. Fancy haircuts. Weight-loss equipment. Loads of insurance. And about a million more items that are relentlessly sold to us in clever and enticing ways, all with the implied promises of eternal happiness and sexual gratification with every purchase.

Monday, January 21, 2008

winter is defeating me

I am tired, depressed, hopeless and apathetic. Winter is once again defeating me. The short days and freezing temperatures wear me to the bone (unfortunately, not literally. Actually the whole season makes me turn to food for comfort. Another depressing aspect of winter). I am unreasonably grumpy most of the time. I feel trapped inside the house but can’t stand the arctic blast that hits me every time I open the door.

But I feel the first stirrings of hope…dinnertime is not completely dark anymore. A few rays of sunshine still linger on the fringes of the western sky, and each day they last a bit longer. In just six short weeks the bulbs in our garden will begin to push their way out through the frigid soil. I have already bought a weeping pussy willow, which is currently sitting on the cabinet by my kitchen window, waiting to be planted as soon as Spring is finally here. And I am planning the rest of our backyard garden; peonies and roses and maybe even a Japanese maple…a brick path, perhaps, if I work up the courage to attempt it…

Winter may be beating me now, but I know I’ll survive it again this year. However, I think retiring on the Mediterranean is definitely in my future!