Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Talking Points

The sky is darkening and the wind is picking up - a storm is brewing. I love nights like this!

Well, I'm a wee bit stressed this week. We are going camping this weekend in western Iowa with Paul's sister and family. Now, I was alerted that this particular campground still does not have working showers. I called them today and the lady told me they are still hoping to have them up and running by this weekend. So I'm not sure just what I'm going to do if we get there and discover they have no showers. I am a twice a day bather - pretty sure it would kill me to not be able to continue this.

And going camping is an ordeal. Packing to go anywhere with a large family is an ordeal. But on top of clothing and necessities I also have to pack everything for cooking and sleeping and etc. And, since we have a fold down camper, they all have to fit in a very tiny space. I'm tired just thinking about it!

And then Paul mentions last night that his parents are coming this Thursday and Friday! Ack! They're coming to help with the basement project, for which I'm grateful. That has been stressing Paul out like crazy. Sat. he came into the house shaking and told me felt nauseous and when the fan blew on him he had the chills - sounds like heatstroke to me. He was using a pickax on 160 year old dirt that was like concrete. So now it's my turn to be stressed. On top of getting ready for this trip, I have to cook extra meals and clean the house. But at least they are sleeping elsewhere.

And Sam has just been really difficult lately. I just started doing time-out with him Sunday. And I'm not a big time-out fan. I've always pretty much viewed it as a cop-out punishment for parents who are afraid to spank their children. But when you're faced by a defiant two year old who pretty much has the attitude, "Go ahead and spank me - see if I care!" you kind of start to re-evaluate previously held convictions! Sam is, without a doubt, very strong willed. I'm still in shock because he was such an easy going baby. But anyway, he's been in time-out an awful lot this week! I'll tell him to apologize for whatever and he juts out his lip and says, "No! I don't want to!" After sitting in time-out for awhile, then he's usually more amenable to offering up a "Sowwy." But I haven't seen that it's changing his behavior yet. He's still hitting his brothers and calling everybody "poopyhead."

Last week he took a table knife to my new cupboards. We also discovered that one has big scribbles on it done by an ink pen. He also put the kitty in the refrigerator. I am really, really seeing the wisdom of having children in one's twenties...

Ben shocked me last week. He has long had an aversion to chocolate, with the exceptions of oreo cookies and tootsie rolls. So I'm always careful to plan equal numbers of chocolate and non-chocolate desserts in my menu planning. I always make sure we have some fig newtons so that he has something to snack on if all we have is chocolate goodies. So, I was eating a Hershey bar while driving (an older gentleman at church knows of my chocolate obsession and keeps me supplied - he's always slipping me king sized chocolate bars - bless his heart!) and Ben pipes up, "Hand me some of that, won't you, Mom?" I was so surprised! But I gave him half the candy bar and he actually ate it! He told me, "I like some chocolate Mom!"

Ben had a rough day last Friday. It started Thursday night when he got into a crying jag. He is very sensitive to music - has always loved it. But there are some songs that upset him. For whatever reason, he snuck this cd out of the cupboard and went and listened to it. It's a lullaby cd of hymns and the first time he ever heard it - about 2 yrs ago - it set him off. He literally cried all night long that time. Well, he came down the stairs bawling about 7:30 on Thurs. night and I soon got the story that he had listened to this cd. The back story too, is that this has to do with autism and fatigue. It's getting better as he gets older but when Ben gets overly tired he wails...and wails...and wails. Then he cries because he can't stop. It's awful. And being tired was to be expected, I guess - his first week of school and all. Still, I was irritated. He was up several times in the night crying and he bawled all the way to school. I didn't know if I should take him or not. I finally did. I explained the situation to his aide who is always waiting at the door for him. I told her if she couldn't jolly him out of it then to call me and I'd come get him. I never got a phone call all day. Later, I discovered a message on my phone (but it hadn't rang - weird) from his teacher and for some reason, I could barely hear him. But from what I could make out, he was saying that they had managed to calm Ben down. So, anyway, he made the whole day and never cried again. I was so amazed!

I got a note today saying that they started having Ben work on some of the school's recycling. They must do that with some of their sp. ed students. Anyway, that's good - he'll learn about organizing and sorting by category. I'm not so impressed with the whole environmental aspect of it, but if they want him to do it, that's fine.

This is what I AM excited about, though: Ben is going to have private vocal lessons through the school! He's also in the choir. Ben loves to sing. Unfortunately, he has very flat, off-key, voice. So the enthusiasm for his singing is pretty much one-sided - his. I don't know if he can be taught to carry a tune. But all we can do is try. And his voice is still changing, too. In a couple of years, it may be easier. Or we'll teach him to lip-sync. Oh, that reminds me. Paul pulled Will into church choir this year. Will is not really happy about that. But it's just for one year. If he totally hates it, he doesn't have to do it after this year. David has already emphatically stated that he will not be doing the same. I guess he'll see! Poor Will - forced to take a writing class he doesn't want to (he gets in the van yesterday - I ask, "So how was your class?" "Boring" was his terse response. "Like usual." Ok, then!) and now choir, too! I doubt he'll recall his sophomore year with much fondness...

I found a new author this summer that I really like. I'd like her better if she was a Christian author. But she's not. However, her books are pretty decent. I like them because they're deep but also full of action and suspense. Her name is Julie Kenner. I loved her "Demon" series (sounds worse than it is). Now I'm on her "Givenchy Code" series - reading them backwards, but that's ok. Except, I already know the heroine of my current novel dies, which is too bad, because I'm starting to like her.

Well, I AM going to get a new phone. But since the account is in Paul's name, he has to be with me when I do. Bummer. So I don't know how soon that will happen. But for now they gave me a new battery. They said my old battery is corroded and must have got wet. I bet that happened one of the dozen times this summer that I forgot to close my water bottle and I soaked my purse. Makes me mad how I always do that. All I have to remember to do is to punch the little button on top the bottle and then nothing can get out. But I just throw it in my purse until water starts dripping out the bottom.

Better start picking up the house and getting ready for tomorrow morning. I've got so much on my to-do list for tomorrow, it isn't even funny. And I am going to give an hour or so to my neighbors and go visit them. I had planned to do that today but when I called, they were at Walmart. So, I'll squeeze it in tomorrow. I really don't think I'll be getting a FW story in this week. That's the way it goes. I had an idea floating around in my head but it really hadn't gelled yet. So I guess I'll use it some other time. I'll be back!

Trojan Time

Here's my tough looking Trojan! We got the pictures in the mail and Paul saw this and just howled with laughter. Poor Will - trying to look so mean and footbally! I didn't realize until he had these taken how much he's thinned out over the past year. His face has gotten longer and leaner.

Will's first game was Friday night. That was a Varsity game that he was asked to play in. Oh, my allergies were just so miserable during the game! I brought an entire tissue box and I used about half of it. We did a double take when we walked in. We're used to paying JV prices and it cost us $16 to get into the game! I hope that's just because it was at Carlisle - that the other 1-A schools will have cheaper admission prices. Otherwise, this could be a very expensive season! We about had to chain down Ben because he saw all these people from his school that he wanted to go talk to. And then Ben and David were squabbling, as usual. Oh, and we froze! It had been quite warm that day so we showed up in our shorts and t-shirts but as the sun went down the chill came on. But all that worth it when in the 4th quarter we saw Will trotting out onto the field and heard, over the speaker, "Number 7, Will Heywood, to kick." We were SO excited! He did a good job kicking and he also got to hold the ball two other times for other kickers.

Will was supposed to have a JV game this past Monday night against Martensdale but it had to be cancelled because they didn't have enough players - what?!? I've never heard of that before. So his first JV game will be a week from tonight.

Well, Will is off to practice now and I have to round up the other boys and head to Des Moines. Ben has his social skills class and then I need to run some errands - not the least of which is stopping by US Cellular. For some weird reason, my phone keeps shutting off. I turn it back on and it shows a full battery. Yesterday, I was registering Will and David for a hunting class and it shut off as I was talking to the lady - how embarrassing! Maybe they'll give me a brand new phone. That's what they did the last time I stopped in for a new battery. I can hope anyway!

Be back later with more news!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wearying Week

Well, it's been quite a week. I've functioned through it only half alive. I haven't been able to take any of my vitamins at all (the reason later) which is definitely slowing me down and my allergies have been awful, so I've been alternately drugging myself and burning out my nostrils with capsaicin pepper spray. And, Ben started school on Monday, which means Mama is up well before 7 am to get him fed and ready. Ugh, ugh, ugh!

I also started homeschool with the other boys this week. Normally, I don't start with them until after Labor Day because I have a philosophical problem with school starting before then. But, considering it was August before Will finished up the 9th grade, I thought there might be some wisdom in starting a few weeks earlier this year!

It's been nice - really nice. The house is quiet and there's not nearly so much squabbling and ruckus. Ben was an utter pill a week ago Friday, so I yearned intensely all weekend long for Monday to arrive. I haven't been disappointed!

He is loving school. He came home the first day and informed me that "School is so much better than home, Mom!" Um - thanks? Actually, I could retort and tell him that Home is so much better when he's at school, but I haven't. His teacher and one-on-one seem to be bending over backwards to make things go well. I've gotten several phone calls from this week about various things, which I appreciate. They started a home/school notebook where they write notes about his day and then I can respond with any questions or comments I have. They're going to regret that. Today I sent back 3 pages of questions! That was because they sent home his schedule yesterday and it didn't look quite right to me so I had tons of things to ask about that. I felt kind of bad doing that, but I am the mom and I have to be convinced that Ben is being well cared for in my absence.

Ben told me today that he was given a job at school. He's delivering newspapers to all the classrooms. I think that's terrific! He is totally loving art class. It sounds to me like they are doing pottery or something with clay right now. Ben commented, "You never did anything like that at home, Mom." I've never done anything artsy with Ben. Some of it is just "me." I don't like messes. I'm not one to pull out the glue and glitter and construction paper and tell the kids to go at it. I'd rather they rot their brain on tv, because I don't have to sweep that up. But the other reason is just as much because of his cerebral palsy. Ben has only just mastered (and not quite the right way) scissors. He doesn't have fine motor control. So turning him into a Picasso has never been one of my goals for him. But mostly, I just don't want the mess! So, school is good!

I had an ultrasound and biopsy of my thyroid today. That's why I couldn't have any vitamins this week, as I talked about it earlier - or aspirin or probably allergy pills (but I took those anyway). I might have cancer. But I probably don't. And if I do, it's very unlikely I'll die from it, anyway, so don't get too worried. A week ago I went in for my annual hearing exam with Dr. Greiman. The next thing I knew, he had his hands on my throat, palpitating my neck. I hate having my neck touched, so I was not amused. He explained that he has recently started giving thyroid checks to all his female patients. He said that thyroid cancer is one of those things that sneaks up unannounced (don't all cancers? I mean do we get a note saying, "Hello, I'm breast cancer and I'm about to invade your previously unbothered bosom."??)

The short story is that he found something so today I had to check myself into the hospital and have it looked at. I really don't think there is anything to worry about. In my thinking, if I have cancer, I'll know it. But I feel just fine. So, I had the ultrasound, which is just like a baby ultrasound, only a lot higher up and with no happy news. I was completely confident that would be the last of it. The tech. would show the results to the dr. and I'd be on my merry way. But she came back and said, "Uh, you have to have the biopsy - now." Drat. Apparently, Dr. Greiman did feel what he thought he felt and I have a growth on the left side of my thyroid. But the dr. who did the biopsy told me that, more than likely, it's just a benign growth. Apparently, they're not uncommon. If it isn't cancerous, they will just leave it in there.

So, I had the biopsy. They had to take blood first. Then, about 20 min. later, with me sitting doing absolutely nothing and being totally bored, the staff finally came in to work on me. Ok, I learned something new today. Getting a thyroid biopsy is not pleasant. Oh, it was awful! They numbed up my neck, but that didn't stop the pain from when the needle would brush against nerves inside my neck. The dr. said that I have absolutely no fat on my neck and that's probably why it hurt so much. He said my windpipe is right underneath the skin and it was impossible to avoid nicking it with the needle. And he had a hard time, too, getting the 3 cells needed for the evaluation. But eventually it was over and I was never more thankful!

My neck is swollen and battered and it feels like I swallowed a wad of gum that won't go down. The dr. said it will look like I have a hickey for a few days...nice... Afterwards, I met Paul for lunch. He couldn't come right away, so I cheered myself up by going out to Victoria's Secret. I needed a new bra and I just got one of their $10 coupons, so it seemed like the right time! I had thought to go out there next Mon. while Will is at class, but I'll have David with me and he's bothered by nearly naked women (may it always be so) so it probably was best for me to go alone.

Since this was all in the interest of keeping me alive, I guess it was a good thing that I went.

Oh, I found a birthday present for Ben this week. He wants an mp3 player. But Will advised me that there was no way Ben's clumsy fingers would be able to manage the dials on the ones that he and David have. So I did some internet research and I found a place in Canada that sells 2G players. They're marketed to children and to disabled adults. They're larger than typical players, which is good, since Ben loses everything. Rather than dials, they have just 3 large buttons. The best feature, I think, is this: parent controlled volumes. In a way that the consumer cannot see, the parents set the volume. We have had such a problem with Ben using his cd player too loudly and now we're hearing reports of children losing their hearing because of the continual too-loud use of ear buds and their mp3s. Will looked over the product and thought it would be good for Ben, so that's what we'll order.

We may be pouring concrete this weekend. Maybe. There's still the problem of not all the dirt being yet dug out of the basement. Poor Paul. He's so frustrated. We were to go camping this weekend, but are delaying that by a week, which is a relief to me. Instead, we're going to go next weekend with Paul's sister and her family. Plus, they have boat, water skis, and tubes, so we'll be able to have some fun on the water.

Tomorrow night we'll be the first football game of the season. This is new. I had not planned on going to any games until this Mon. night when the JV team plays for the first time. The first Varsity game every year is against the Carlisle Wildcats. They're not in our division, but it's a Hwy 5 rivalry game that everyone enjoys. Will got asked to play in it! He's so excited and so am I! Go Trojans!

That's all my news. Time to open the fridge and see what leftovers (for supper) fall out...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Clothesline Connections

Here is a piece I wrote a couple of weeks ago for FW. Our topic was "smell." And it couldn't be a figurative smell (her attitude sure smells!), but a literal smell. I had a hard time coming up with something. This piece ended up being kind of a muse of sorts. I knew as I wrote it that it wouldn't win anything. It didn't, but it did place in the top 20 (8th in my division), which really surprised me. It's a very personal piece and it doesn't require the reader to follow a story line. Just some odd thoughts, culled together, really.

Clothesline Connections
Tossing the clothespins into the nearby basket, I pull the bed sheet off the clothesline, bunch it up in my hands…and inhale. Mmmm - it’s the smell of sunshine, a job well-done, and the assurance of a restful sleep tonight.

As I press the sheets against my face, I find myself thinking about all the relatives before me who have done exactly what I’m doing now. How many of my great-grandmothers buried their noses in clean cotton sheets as they labored? Granted, their sheets weren’t washed with electric washers, but with wringer washers and even scrub boards. But this simple act of inhaling the fresh scent of my washed laundry ties me to my past.

I don’t know an awful lot about the women who came before me. I knew my grandmothers, of course. I know that two of my great-grandmothers immigrated here from Germany. I know another one was a sturdy woman of the Kansas plains. And I know that one of my ancestors was an American Indian -- something that greatly intrigues me. But that’s about all I know.
Sometimes I wonder about these women whose blood now flows through my own veins. At times they seem like mythical characters to me out of the historical novels I enjoy. I wonder -- what things did they smell as they went about their daily lives, as I now am?

No doubt they smelled plenty of sweat since they were all hard-working farm wives. I imagine their kitchens teaming with the combined smell of baking pies, sauerkraut, sausage, and of course, the underlying smell of human odor. This was in the days before deodorant, central air, and daily showers! I rather imagine their houses all had the scent of burned wood, either from the wood burning stove that would have heated them in the wintertime or from the cook stove used for food. In the springtime they would smell the rich scent of the black Midwestern dirt as it was turned over by the plows. My Indian grandmother probably smelled the scent of her leather tee-pee and moccasins. I would love to have more knowledge of her life, just to get a glimpse of where I came from!

My twenty first century life is so different from those of my forebears. I do have a pretty old house, and like all aged wood, it has retained some of the scents from the past. But other than that, I don’t think the women before me would recognize too many of the smells I experience. I have automatic deodorizers in every room of the house, decorative candles let out pleasant scents, and some of our furniture still has that “store” scent. I daily experience the smells of pizza, bleach, chocolate, and body lotions -- things that would have been a rarity, or more than likely, something my ancestors never smelled.

But the smell of my freshly dried sheets draws me to the past I never knew. While my grandmothers and I had vastly different lives, there are certain things -- and certain scents -- that transcend generations. We all inhaled the precious scents of our new babies. We all delighted in the smell of freshly cut grass every spring. And I know my grandmothers had to have loved the Christmastime scents of evergreen and cinnamon.

And as I bury my face into my sheets I know that my grandmothers did the same thing. And despite the decades and centuries that separate us, I suddenly feel very connected.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Quick Note: Well, ok, quick for me anyway...

I won, I won, I won!!! We ended up not being ready to leave yesterday until 8:53 am. Sighing, I headed out to the van. Paul was sitting on the porch swing and suggested that I go sit in front of the computer, saying that another 7 minutes wasn't going to make a difference. So, I got to check FaithWriters before leaving after all!

I knew my story wasn't bad. When I submitted it I knew that people would either love it or hate it, thinking it was way over the top. I put myself in the shoes of a mother who is losing her only son to a brain tumor and I wrote from there. I ended up getting 4 positive comments prior to judging and so I began to have some hopes for my story. After reading all the other stories in my division I thought there was a good chance that my story might make it into the top 5 of my division.

It got FIRST PLACE! I saw that and I couldn't breathe. I jumped up and ran to find Paul, squealing, "I got first, I got first!" Then, I zipped back to the computer and checked the Editor's Picks. I seriously quit breathing when I saw that not only did I make it into the top 10 Editor's Picks (the stories that will be published in an anthology) I got FIRST PLACE there as well! Holy, holy cow!

I've only made it into the top 10 twice and the second time I get first?! I had to go through and count - there were 110 entries, total. I'm thinking I did pretty well! But I'm starting to sound braggy here, so I need to wind down. My friend Kristi, who got me started with FW in the first place, reminded me that getting a first place win with the Editors means that now I am in competition for what they call the "Best of the Best" awards which are given yearly and come with cash prizes. Definitely NOT holding my breath on that one!

So, needless to say, I had a very, very good day yesterday! I kind of floated all day long through Adventureland - and it wasn't only from all the hay fever meds I had to take (the ragweed has definitely bloomed!). We got home around 10 and I had to sit down as soon as we got home and read all the nice comments that people left about my story. What fun and oh, what a blessing!

I still have to place in the top 10 for Editor's Picks one more time before bumping up to the last level, "Masters." I'm thinking more than ever, that I really need to be doing more writing for venues other than FW. And that's where I'm drawing a blank. I can write articles and I know there are places that will take them. But I have found that my real delight is in fiction writing. Aside from novels, where would I began to find an outlet for fiction? I know there are answers - it's just finding them.

I began to pray in earnest about my writing some time ago. And I've seen that answered through my success with FW. But now I need some more direction. And a few extra hours in every day wouldn't hurt either! I don't have enough time to do what needs to be done and write, too. But somehow there has to be a way. If only I didn't need to sleep...

Paul told me yesterday that he'll be happy to quit his job so I can go to work writing full-time. Ha, ha, ha! Before we went to sleep last night he told me he was proud of me. That felt really good. But, I have to continually remind myself - it's not me. God gave me this extra ability with words. And I guess if He needs some things written through my pen, He'll direct my steps. But, even though I know it's not really me, it still feels awfully good!

Again, I won't be putting this one on my blog, but if you want to read, "Loving Luke Good-Bye" let me know and I'll send you the link to the story.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Midweek Musings

My baby! Let me tell you about this photo. This is my second disappointing trip to Portrait Innovations in a row. But it's not their fault - it's the fault of my lousy children who don't understand how much I need a decent photograph of them hanging on the wall to remind myself of just why I had them in the first place.

I had forgotten that Sam is not the most cooperative when it comes to having his picture done. I should have waited until a time that Will could have come along with us. Actually, Sam did just fine - for about the first 5 shots. Then, all of a sudden, his shoulders started shaking and great big teardrops began to roll down his cheeks. I have NO idea what the matter was! In fact, I had just had the thought that the shots they would get later would be better because he'd be more warmed up then. Little did I know, there would be no later shots.

So, this is what I ended up with. It looks like Sam and it's a good picture of him. The viewer gets a nice shot of his accident scar from last month (when he fell through the tarp)! I even bought him the most adorable Osh Kosh Gosh outfit for this picture - and he didn't need any more clothing. But I wanted something cute for his photo. And we get to see the whole collar. You'll have to trust me - it was a cute outfit!

This is for Sam's 3rd birthday, which is still 2 months away. But I have to stagger our portrait sessions in order to take advantage of their $9.99 specials that they only allow once every 3 months!

Tomorrow we are going to Adventureland. I'm really battling with my attitude tonight on this. I had planned to leave after 9 am since the park doesn't open until 10. The FaithWriter results will be posted at 9, so it was going to be perfect. Well, now Paul needs to swing by Wayne Dennis (HVAC supplier) for a side job he is working on. These poor people have only had their air intermittently all summer long because of their geothermal system that has had Paul scratching his head quite a bit. He keeps going over there, tinkering with it, getting it running and coming home with money from them. And then they call him again a few weeks later. So it's important. But the thought of having to be gone all day and not knowing the FW results is killing me! How am I supposed to enjoy my day? On the other hand, if I don't do that well, then I might be depressed all day long, too, and unable to enjoy my day. I think I'm starting to get obsessed which isn't good. Really, a little success and I've become a megalomaniac!

This week Sam came up to me and told me he needed my phone. He grabbed it and commented, "I need talk to my mudder." Just who does he think I am?

We picked up a dresser for Sam last night off Craig's List. He's only almost 3 - guess it's time to get him his own dresser! I was trying to save space after he was born so I put his clothes in some Rubbermaid drawers I have up in his room and the rest went in our room. It's worked out fine but his clothes are getting bigger now and he really needs his own space for them. Soon, the fooseball table will be out of the boys' room and in the new basement so there will be room for additional furniture up there. In the meantime, we'll just squeeze. It's really nice and even bigger than David's and Ben's dressers.

Anyone noticed how bacon prices have shot up? I sure did, the last time I was grocery shopping. There was an article in the paper Sun. that I found quite interesting. It explained that what happened is when the whole H1N1 fiasco - er, sorry - pandemic - happened it was initially referred to as "swine flu" even though it had nothing to do with pigs. So, people drastically cut down on their pork consumption. As a result, Iowa farmers couldn't get much money for their pigs, so they didn't raise as many the next year. Well, now consumption of pork is back, but there aren't enough pigs to fill the need. Ergo - price increases. Although, I did notice that Hy-Vee has their Corn King label on sale for $2 a pound this week, which is a really good price. I should stock up.

Paul attacked my bathroom yesterday. Now I have a hole in one wall and he ripped out half my linen closet. I just painted that thing this summer! If I had known he had such destructive plans, I might have let that wait. Grrr....

For my Iowa readers: I had something interesting happen to me. One of my FB friends commented yesterday about intending to vote for Jonathan Narcisse, an independent candidate for governor this fall. I commented back that I was thinking about voting for him as well. Then I went on to talk about the "angry Republicans" who are really ticked off that the establishment candidate has made absolutely no conciliatory gestures towards the social conservatives (of which I am one). I have heard it said that a number of them are planning to write in Bob Vanderplaats on their ticket this fall. He, of course, was running for the Rep. nomination, but lost to Branstad. My initial plan, I mentioned in my FB reply, was to vote for Branstad, but as the weeks have rolled in my conscience just won't let me. More than likely, if the polls are spot-on, he will win on Nov. 2. But I don't like him. The only difference I see between him and Chet Culver, the soon-to-be-ousted-one-term-Democratic-governor-of-the-great-state-of-Iowa, is the "R" after his name. Seriously.

Well, I didn't know it, but Narcisse is one of my friend's FB friends. So, he then replied to me personally about his candidacy for governor. He sent me this link - http://aniowaworthfightingfor.com/ I checked it out and that sealed it for me. My vote is going to Jonathan Narcisse. I would urge all my Iowa readers to carefully consider their vote this fall. Jonathan knows the Lord and he very humbly shares the depths to which he sank before being rescued. He has a workable plan for reorganizing state government and he's fiscally responsible - things I do not believe Branstad is and know Culver isn't. Sure, I was flattered that he took the time to address me personally. Although, I am a vote, so I guess I really shouldn't feel that way! But more than that now I know I can vote with a clear conscience this fall. Like millions of Americans I held my nose in '08 and voted for McCain. And like millions of Americans, I wasn't really voting for him, but rather for Sarah Palin (although my admiration of her has dimmed somewhat in recent years) and against Obama. I'm not doing that this time.

Well, time to knock some more stuff off my to-do list. I also need to get organized for our trip tomorrow. I think I'll need to get up bright and early and make pancakes for the family so that they're not begging for snacks as soon as we step foot inside the gates.

My neighbor, Jenn, is going to babysit Annie for me. That kitty is getting rather annoying. If she's not in her box, she now insists on climbing up my ankles and legs - which are both scratched bloody. And she gets so excited when I give her the bottle now that she has shredded the skin on both my forefingers and thumbs. I'm not liking this! As I recall, I suggested we snap her neck, but no, mister feline lover thought we ought to keep her. I'm not noticing any bloody body parts on him though! She's 5 weeks now, though, so I'm thinking it won't be long before she'll be able to drink on her own and handle kitten food - then she's outside!

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Quick Postscript on Summer

I had yet another thought on the difficulties of summertime...skin! Prizing lily-white skin went out about the time Queen Victoria gained her Heavenly reward. I keep hoping that the dangers of skin cancer that comes from tanning will eventually bring the "white" look back into vogue, but it hasn't happened yet. I don't tan. As a teenager, I would lay outside for hours, slathering myself with baby oil and lining my blanket with tin foil (to attract the sun). All I ever got for my efforts was a terrible burn that would render me unable to move for several days. Not too smart! My skin is adverse to tanning, it seems. Now, my left arm will darken slightly in the summertime but that's only from driving.

My great great grandmother was a full blooded Choctaw Indian. You would think, that in all fairness, some of her dark skin would have been passed down to me. Even with all the white spouses in the interim between her and me, still you'd think I could have attained at least a bit of leftover Indian color in my pigment, which would give me a nice, light, year-round tan.

But no. My grandma (other side of the family) was a red-head with the fair, freckled skin to go along with it. Apparently her genes dominated and, while my hair is not red, I did get her light skin. That means that while other woman glow in the summertime, exposing their beautiful tanned legs and firm arms, I simply look like a wilted white lily -- a lily that someone stepped on. And now that I am getting older, my white legs (that I usually try to keep covered) are gaining a collection of unsightly purple veins. Every year their number grows and every year my pants get longer...sigh...

Interesting note on skin: I have often seriously wondered if David got some of his great-great-great grandmother's Indian skin. That boy is SO dark, especially in the summer. His brothers and Paul and I look like the Cullen family standing next to him.

Yesterday our high was about 80 degrees - sunny and gorgeous. It is supposed to be that way all week long. As one of my Facebook friends commented, "This is what summer is supposed to be!" Indeed - and if it was, you wouldn't hear me complain nearly so much!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Summer vs Winter

I hate summertime. Absolutely, positively hate it. There are a few things that make it more bearable, but not many. Not too long ago someone challenged me, in the midst of all my whining about the season, that they would remind me of this when next winter rolls around. Go right ahead! I'll take winter anytime. And that's even after this last winter we had, which was pretty intense.

I hate the heat. There is not a lot of fun that comes from sweating and having one's undergarments stick to them. I hate picnics. Again - where is the fun? All I see are flies and potential salmonella poisening. If there's enough wind to make the heat bearable, then paper plates and potato chips are flying around. In mid-August, the hottest time of the year, the ragweed blooms and I'm a sniffling, sniveling, snotty mess until it freezes. I hate that everything grows and the weeds soon overtake my yard. I hate the dirt that gets tracked into my house. This year, my first year of not homeschooling year round, I'm finding that I even dislike the lack of schedule.

But there are some good things about summer. And to be fair, I'll list them:

1) summer shoes, and along with that, cute summery tops and capris
2) laying curled up in bed with one's husband, underneath a ceiling fan, with central air, and drifting off to sleep with just a light blanket and sheet
3) the drowsy, post-day-at-the-pool feeling
4) not having to hunt down mittens for little hands
5) not having to bundle up and risk death by simply going to get the mail
6) thunderstorms (as long as they aren't accompanied by a tornado that blows your house away)
7) corn on the cob

That's all. Nothing else is good about summer.

Now, also to be fair, winter has its drawbacks, too. I don't think anything hurts worse than a bitter north wind biting at your cheeks. It's a bit of a pain to have to bundle up to go anywhere. It's annoying when you have made plans and a blizzard gets in the way (like Christmas this last year). Losing electricity to an ice storm is horrible. And I'm not a big fan of driving on ice and snow.

But, winter has:

1) Christmas, and for me, my wedding anniversary
2) beautiful white snowdrifts
3) early evenings in
4) a great, cozy wardrobe
5) no sticky, I'm-absolutely-going-to-die heat and humidity
6) hot, hot, hot bubble baths
7)awesome blizzards
8) the popping of a roaring fire (as long as it's not your house that's roaring and popping because of the Christmas tree that caught on fire)

I do like winter. But truth be told, if I could live in a permanent state of autumn, I would. That, truly, is the best season of all. I won't say spring because I have come to abhor the mud that comes with it. There's nothing to fault about fall, though. It's the changing of the wardrobe, crisp air, back to schedules, the smell of leaves burning, and football nights. Paradise!

My Boy, Water, Heat, English, and the State Fair

Is he not the most beautiful boy - ever?! I caught this shot last week as he was playing in the suitcase Will had left in the living room. He looks so much older than 2 here, I think, and gives me an idea of what he may look like as he matures. It's amazing to me how all 4 of these boys, while from the same gene pool, obviously, have their own look. I'm not even sure if they even look like brothers, lined up next to eachother.

It has been super, disgustingly hot this week - heat indexes in the 110s and beyond. Last summer was so cool and now this summer - blech! But, the really good part of this is that Paul has worked all week long. Normally, that does not happen this time of year!

We've had a lot of flooding this week. Even as I write, the sky is darkening and a storm is rolling in. Sadly, the floods touched us. No, our house is fine, although it's a muddy mess down in the basement hole. Ames, an hour north of us, has been under water since early in the week. They show pictures on tv of Hilton Coliseum (Ames is home of ISU) and it's so weird to see that huge arena with water up to the stands! They don't have drinking water - I can't imagine how rough it is. The water is throughout all of central Iowa because there are bunches of rivers that come together here. Two families in our church were touched by tragedy this week. Their granddaughter and niece drowned this week when she drove into a flooded street and was carried away. She was 16 years old. This happened in Altoona, which is just a half hour north of us. Makes my heart ache.

Sam has been playing with "way-gos" (legos) all week long. He won't touch the over-sized duplo blocks we have, though. He only wants to use the tiny little regular legos. Then, he gets frustrated when he can't get the pieces to go together and throws them. I remember Will doing the same thing when he was little - getting so frustrated he would throw things. Not good!

I had a revelation this week, thanks to David. Sam's stuttering has not improved over the past weeks. It's only when he's beginning to talk, though, and it's been puzzling because he has always talked just fine before. Well, a few weeks ago the boys bought a bunch of old movies at a garage sale. One is "Space Jam" and Sam absolutely loves that movie. The boys have been watching that over and over. David pointed out to me this week that Porky Pig is in that movie and he, of course, stutters quite a bit. It was a lightbulb moment for me! Now, that may not have anything to do with Sam's speech, of course. He may just have a little impediment. But, I suddenly recalled how a couple of years ago after the boys received "Cars" for a Christmas gift, Ben suddenly developed a southern, hill-billy type drawl to his speech. I thought that was so strange until I realized that he was talking like Mater! I remember his speech therapist thought that was so hilarious, too. So, there may be some credence to David's suggestion. At any rate, we put the movie up and we're going to see if that makes a difference in how Sam talks.

All week long Sam has been singing, "My God is So Big." I love it! He must have learned that in SS because I didn't teach him that. So, when his brothers heard him singing that, Ben was quick to teach him to add "for you!" to the end. He told me that is how they sung the song at camp. This morning I was getting Sam dressed so I started singing the song in hopes that he would join in. He didn't but when I reached the last line, "There's nothing my God cannot do!" Sam added loudly, "for you!"

Stupidity - other peoples' - this week: I saw a hand painted sign someone had sprayed onto the back of their van window. They were advertising Herbalife. That caught my attention because Paul's dad used to sell Herbalife herbs (in addition to a slew of other things). The person had penned, "Get good nutricion now!" Um, how about getting a spelling lesson first? Sheesh...

Has anyone heard the radio ads for Right Size Smoothies? Those ads drive Paul and me insane. They are so, so, so stupid. Like anyone is going to actually lose weight by drinking smoothies and doing nothing else! That's annoying enough. Then, last week I heard a new ad for them. They used a minority-raced actress (politically correct, enough?) telling of how she struggled with her weight for 20 yrs after having babies. For one thing, her voice sounded way too young to have been a mother for 20 yrs. But then, she used bad grammar throughout the ad - like saying "I seen my good friend." It's a blatant attempt to appeal to the minority and under-educated classes of people listening to the ad. But it's patronizing. It's making a statement that if your voice sounds black or Hispanic, you're not going to be able to speak proper English. I just about came unglued when I heard that. Of course, it doesn't help that my biggest pet peeve in life is people who can't speak right, along with misspellings on public signs and improper punctuation. I about died this morning when I realized that I used "teamed" instead of "teemed" on a recent FW piece - and nobody called me on it! So, I'm not perfect, either. But I just cringe when I see and hear so many signs of unintelligence in our society.

Speaking of that, I finally forced myself to learn the proper use of "lie" and "lay" this week. For whatever reason, I never learned that and I have spent my entire life using substitute words rather than having to guess. I had to use one of those words this week in writing so I finally just looked it up on the Internet. It's simple - "lay" requires a direct object and "lie" does not. Why did I wait until I was almost 40 before learning that?

Well, we are headed to the Iowa State Fair tonight. I was so relieved to see that my friend Kim posted on Facebook this morning about how she really doesn't like the fair. I thought it was just me! Of course, she lives very near the fairgrounds and has to put up with the noise and traffic, so I'm sure that has affected her viewpoint. There are some enjoyable things about the fair. I very much enjoy looking at the 4-H exhibits, the craft entries, the photography, and the food entries (especially the cakes). But everything else - not so much. If the fair were held any other time than mid-August, I might have a different outlook. But mid-August is the worst time of the entire year. As far north as we are, Iowa still has some pretty brutal summers and the heat and humidity are typically at their worst during fair time (note my earlier reference to the heat indexes this week). And then the admission prices to the fair are just so expensive, as is everything in the fair that one might want to buy. Granted, my perception of the fair is probably colored by a particularly dreadful 12 hours I spent there 3 years ago while 6 months pregnant. It's hard to get past that! And then there's the whole segment of society that the fair seems to attract - the dregs. Lest you see how snobbish I truly am at heart, I won't go into my observations on that. But, anyway, unloyal and unpatriotic as I am, I do not like the Iowa State Fair!

All that to say - we are going tonight. But, it will just be the two of us. And the majority of our time will be spent manning the GARBC booth - in air conditioning. And our tickets were purchased for us. So, I will survive. I think.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bridges, Plans, and Basements

I may be able to finish this up today and then be caught up for a few days. That would be good, because this week isn't getting any less busy as it progresses.

Last night Will and I had an all-evening orientation at The Network in Des Moines. It's a homeschool co-op and this will be our first year of participating. I'm kind of excited about it. Will is just taking a writing class, but if it goes well this year, I may have him take something else next year. In the first session we attended the teachers all introduced themselves and explained a little bit about what subject they teach. A couple caught my attention. Will had a stinky attitude at the beginning of the evening. He has told me repeatedly that he already knows how to write and doesn't need to attend a class to learn how. I beg to differ. So, after the first session I asked him if he would be interested in adding any other classes to his schedule for this year. It would be a stretch, financially, but I'd be willing to do it for him. He looked at me as though I had suggested public castration. Ok, maybe not! But, by the end of the whole evening and after the second session, Will commented that he might be willing to take the computer programming class they offered. He doesn't want to do it this year because it would mean a 2 hr wait between classes, but it's something he's willing to consider for next year. He then commented that if they offered any meteorology or astronomy classes, he'd take those in a heartbeat. They don't; I'm going to have to find some other sources for him on those.

I came away from the meeting with a new perspective, too. For awhile now, I've had thoughts regarding homeschooling. I wonder how a homeschooler is supposed to make the leap to college life. I mean, I'm sure they will excel, academically, but my guess is that most would be weak in areas like time scheduling, note taking, deadlines. and just learning to work for somebody other than Mom. How does a parent begin to prepare their high schooler for college in those areas? They very clearly stated last night that the Network is designed to be a bridge between homeschooling and college life. I think I'm going to like this! They offer so much, too - drama, speech, all the basic subjects, chem labs, Bible, creative writing, etc. If I had the money, I could keep Will busy there all day long!

Well, we have yet another injury to blame on the basement project. Paul broke his pinky toe last Friday. He was carrying an antique jack up the ladder, when the middle fell out and landed on his toe - fully encased in a work boot, no less. It looks like a giant blueberry now (his toe does).

And, thanks to the ongoing project, I now have no downstairs bathroom. Paul disconnected the water to that room so now we are stuck using the upstairs 3/4 bath. This is not fun. It's a tiny room and there's no bathtub! I had to cart all my necessary supplies up there. I can barely turn around. Ugh - not happy! So, for that reason alone, this job must be hurried!

We rented a dirt elevator last weekend and some guys from church came over and helped, but it didn't get all done. So now we have to rent the elevator again for this Sat and hopefully the rest of the dirt will be gone. I was planning to go to Waterloo this weekend, but I called my mom today and said I thought I'd better stick around here. I felt guilty last weekend running off to Council Bluffs when Paul had all that to do. Not guilty enough not to go, but somewhat guilty, anyway!

Sunday we went to Pizza Hut for lunch and as we walked to our table, this older lady called out and asked, "Where did your boys get that curly hair?" I ended up sitting down with this couple and mostly listened to the lady. Boy, could she talk! But she was delightful to listen to - telling me all about her children, her babysitting, her grandchildren, her church, her house, and so on. As they were getting ready to leave her husband actually thanked me for sitting down with them. He said that most people run away from his chatty wife and it's the rare person that will take the time to listen to her. Kind of a different experience! But I really didn't mind doing it.

I'm caught up! I'm having my friend Gina and her boys over tomorrow so I need to do some cooking and cleaning. Thursday I am taking a meal to Jenny and her family (Jenny is the mother of Rebekah, whom I have mentioned. Rebekah is doing fairly well, but she is now in a care facility - actually at the same place where Ben gets respite care. Hopefully, hopefully, she'll be able to come home soon. She's almost 4 months old now). Friday evening Paul and I are working our church association booth at the Iowa State Fair (indoors, in air conditioning, thankfully). And then Sat. will be a big day for working under the house again. Busy days! One day next week we are planning to take the boys to Adventureland, so we'll have some fun in there, too.

Back to work for this tired mom...

Moms' Day Off

This past Saturday, Kathy and I got together. Here we are above exactly 3 yrs ago, almost to the day, doing the same thing! I think we need a more current picture of ourselves! That was a fun time, though. We were both unexpectedly expecting. Of course, I think most of my readers know Sam's story. Kathy and her husband had experienced years of infertility, too. They had their first two babies with assistance and then they suddenly became un-infertile and ended up with a total of 5 children! In March of '07 I had called Kathy to let her know the news that I was, amazingly, pregnant, after 8 years. She sighed and said, "Oh, Sarah - I am too!" Our due dates were 3 weeks apart. But it appeared we would deliver very close together since the drs get nervous if my kidlets bake past 36 weeks. As it turned out, we both had plans for Oct. 22 of that year. I was to have my c-section and Kathy was to be induced. So, our plan was that whoever got out of the recovery room first would call the other! But, Kathy blew it. She went into labor on Oct. 19th and had her little girl that night and I didn't go until the 22nd (I kept my end of the plan!). A year later on one of our trips together we brought Sam and Kelsey and photographed them together - the almost birthday twins!

When we lived in SW Iowa, Kathy and I faithfully got together every 8 weeks or so. We both love to shop so we'd schlep our kids to the in-laws or put our husbands on duty and then we'd meet up in Omaha and spend a glorious day together. Since I moved to central Iowa, though, it's been a lot harder and our visits had gotten down to about two a year. We decided this last year that that is crazy. The Omaha area is just about even between our homes and there's no reason we shouldn't see eachother at least every 3 months or so. So, that's what we did this past Saturday. And I have to say, we're both a lot thinner now!

It was a great day. We found some terrific bargains and had so much fun talking, talking, and talking. We both homeschool our broods so we have lots to discuss about that and our lives are so similar in so many other ways. And, of course, we bought the exact same red cardigan sweater at Christopher and Banks. Ever since we started shopping together as teenagers we invariably end up purchasing the same thing - our tastes are that similar!

I'll see Kathy again the first weekend of December when we head out to Council Bluffs and the guys go hunting. I can't wait!

Speaking of Council Bluffs...my SW Iowa readers will understand this: What is up with the horrible sculptures on the 24th Street bridge? They look like Edward Scissorhands or rusted out farm machinery - or maybe the remnants from a bad car accident. They have these two monuments that tower over the roadway. The workers were putting the finishing touches on them Sat. Kathy and I could not believe the atrociousness of the sculptures. I guess we're too plebeian to appreciate great art. Whatever it is, it's Iowan tax dollars at work!

More in a bit - I'm having company all day tomorrow and I'm really behind on getting stuff ready for that. Plus, David is pouting because he got in trouble and that's going to involve a long drawn-out discussion. It always does with him - his feelings get all tangled up in the facts.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

House Calls and Idiots

A few other notes from this past week:

Paul had a regular neuro. appt. this week. A couple of years ago he took part in a drug study for epilepsy medications. He's no longer doing that but we liked the dr. doing the study so much that we decided to just have him continue to be Paul's neurologist. I used to go with Paul to all his study appts. because they were up in Ames and he couldn't drive his company van that far. So I got to know Dr. Moore as well. Now that Paul is no longer doing the study, he just sees the dr. here in Des Moines. I couldn't make the appt. this week but I figured that was ok - Paul's a grown man and I think he can handle going to the dr. without me. Maybe not! Because, Dr. Moore called me during Paul's appt. to ask me some questions about Paul's seizure activity. Then, he outlined to me a new plan of treatment for Paul and asked me to start keeping track of his seizures. Then, when he found out I was driving, he shrieked, "You're not supposed to talk on the phone while you're driving!" Well, he called me! I couldn't help that I had to drive just then! So, anyway, the whole thing made me chuckle. I told Paul I'll go with him to his appointments from now on.

I was an idiot this week. And I have pink carpet to prove it. I have several gallons of paint under the back room buffet. They are all going down to my new basement once it gets built. But in the meantime, they have to stay in the house because it's too hot to store them anywhere else right now. So, I was moving the paint cans around when I knocked over a can of red paint! It shouldn't have spilled though. However, it was a can that I forgot to hammer the lid back on, so it did spill! So, I immediately scrubbed it which just made it worse. The paint stain spread all over and lightened to a coral pink instead of barn red. But I fixed it. I bought a big rug yesterday! Oh, eventually, that carpet is coming up once we knock out the wall between the two rooms. But that's still a few years away. In the meantime, I now have a very pretty woven rug in my back room! Dumb, dumb, dummy...

Oh, I was going to mention - I'm not reprinting my winning entry here in my blog as I normally do with my FW pieces. I haven't checked the rules yet, but I'm guessing that since they are publishing it, they would prefer to keep the piece to themselves - first rights and all. But, I'd be happy to email the link to anyone who desires to read it. So just let me know if you want that link. Or not! I won't be offended. In fact, I'm always a bit awed when people do take the time to read my writing, whether here or other stuff I put out. That takes time and that is often a precious commodity. And I know I'm wordy. I was talking to my friend this week. She and I are very close, although we operate with opposite sides of our brain. You all know how my brain works and her strength is in mathematics and science - stuff that makes me go "huh?" She always shakes her head when I talk about writing and says she can't comprehend wanting to write. She was telling me she has been trying to keep up with my blog, but added, "You just have so many words, Sarah!" Ha, ha, ha!

Will got a new leather coat this week. I had been mulling over in my mind what I ought to do for him for a winter coat this year. Last year he ran around in a hooded sweatshirt all winter long, which drove me nuts. He had a perfectly nice down filled jacket but wouldn't touch it. I was thinking of taking him to the store, being willing to buy something new and expensive, even, if it would just be something warmer that he would actually wear. Well, Friday evening Paul and a couple of the boys went over to a realtor friend of ours. He helped us with our house and has advised us about selling vs. not selling. And he's sent a lot of side work Paul's way. Paul has been working on his AC and so that's where he was Fri. night - getting it running for him. Well, this friend has some rental properties and apparently one of his tenants left a whole bunch of stuff when they moved. He sent it home with the boys - all kinds of kids dvds, toys, a bunch of pants for David (some with tags still on them!) and this coat for Will. The zipper doesn't work, but I figured I'll just take that to a tailor and get it replaced. I mean the coat is genuine leather, not the plastic stuff. Will was thrilled with it and had to show me right away. And he's not one to get excited about clothing at all! So, I guess I have the winter coat thing taken care of!

That's it for this post. I've been informed Sam is "leaking." Why is that always my job?

Good Decisions

There's Sam doing what he does best - looking for danger. Oh, I think he was pretty safe here. I happened to glance outside and he was at the top of our 8 or 9 foot dirt pile. Well, he was safe as long as he didn't fall (he didn't)!

I forgot to mention some pretty exciting news in my last "regular" post. Will is getting baptized! We have been quite concerned as he has gotten older and still has never made that decision. David got baptized a year ago and made some pretty pointed comments at the time to Will about how he thought it was strange that he was getting baptized while being younger than Will. I know Paul has talked to Will about it a few times - not wanting to push, but wanting to make sure he understood the necessity of it. Our pastor has told us to be patient - it would happen when the time was right. So, two weeks ago Will was at Sr. High camp and I prayed that week, as I had in previous years of him camping, that he would make a decision that week for baptism.

So that Saturday he got home, about 3 hours after he arrived, Will casually mentioned to me that he had decided to get baptized. Oh, I was thrilled to hear that! He said that he had gone forward on Wed. night of chapel during camp week and as it turned out, our pastor was the dean up there that week and he was the one who ended up praying with Will. And he'll be the one to baptize him. I'm not sure when that will be - sometime this fall, I'm assuming. Last Sun. night when Will shared his camp testimony he mentioned his decision and admitted it was something he had struggled with for a long time. So, I'm smiling!

Our kitty, Annie, is still alive. She's still a house cat, although she is not content to remain in her box for long, any more. She likes to roam and that makes me nervous because she's still so tiny that I'm afraid somebody will step on her and kill her. I'm also not excited about having to chase down kitty poop or having her decide to sharpen her claws on my furniture. As soon as she learns to drink from a bowl, she's outside! We believe our other female, Mittens, is pregnant again. This is the third time she is showing obvious signs of that. But, we have never seen any kitties with her in the past. I don't know if they don't live past birth or maybe she miscarries. Or maybe she kills them herself. Some female cats will do that. It's just as well. I really don't desire to have a slew of cats around here. There are enough strays as it is. But we're keeping Annie - until the day she wanders out onto the road or crawls up under the hood of the van. That's why I try not to get too attached to our cats!

Sam calls Annie, "Kitty Baby." One day this week she was sleeping, which she still does quite a bit of. Sam started shaking her box and I cautioned him not to, lest he awaken Annie. Sam grinned and replied, "She already 'wake!" Yeah, no kidding - wonder why?!

One funny from this week: I was listening to one of my cds and there was a song on there from the Jackson 5. As I'm sure you know, Michael Jackson used to have an even higher voice then as he did as an adult. Well, Sam heard that and exclaimed, "Sounds like David!" Ha, ha, ha! David actually has a lower-pitched and soft voice when speaking normally. But when he gets excited - which is often - he does have a certain Michael Jackson type pitch!

Well, I have more to report, but I need to go feed the kitty again. She's pretty insistent when hungry. But, despite the claws, it's still easier than nursing a human baby - takes less time and no cracked nipples!

Friday, August 6, 2010

On My Way

Well, maybe. Sort of. I guess it just depends on God's plan for my life. Seeing as how I still have all these young males underfoot, I'm thinking that it will be awhile before I am truly and totally "on my way." But it feels good to say that, even if it's not strictly the truth.

So what am I talking about? I'm going to tell you!

A week ago I submitted my piece on the topic of "See." It was fun to write, but I didn't think it was all that great. In fact, as the week progressed I only ever got two comments on it and I wasn't surprised particularly after I made my way through the other pieces at my level - lots of amazing writers there! I wasn't checking my in box every 15 minutes to see if someone had stumbled across my story and left a comment. In fact, I really didn't give it much thought at all.

Wednesday evening, my friend Kristi sent me the link to the story that she had submitted for "see." Now, that was good! I laughed and enjoyed that thing so much! So yesterday morning when I knew the results would be posted I went to the FaithWriters website purely to check to see how Kristi did.

To my complete and utter amazement my story, "What About France?" placed SECOND in the Advanced Level. Kristi got 3rd. I was absolutely stunned - totally did not see that coming. So, I had to call Paul and tell him. As I was chatting with him, my phone started beeping but I ignored it. I think call waiting is rude. Plus, I don't know how to switch over to another call. So, then I wrote my mom an email telling her all about my surprising win and sending her the story, since she is one of my biggest fans. Well, then I saw I had a new email in my box and it was from Kristi and she wrote, "Hey - I was trying to call you!" I was excited because I've never actually talked to Kristi in person. So I immediately returned her call.

We started talking and Kristi said, "Congratulations on placing 3rd in the Editor's Pick!" I said, "Wha-a-t?!" Kristi laughed and said, "Sarah, you're getting published!" You know how in movies and on tv shows someone gets amazing news and they have to sit down because the news is too great to absorb standing up? Yep - that was me! I had not even looked at the Editor's Picks yet. But as I've penned on this post, to make it into the Top 10 Editor's Picks has been my goal since starting FaithWriters.

As I understand it, there are two judging bodies within FW. One is a group of judges that rate the work in each of the 4 levels and assign winners. They also pick the top 30 overall, which is posted on Thurs. evenings. Then, there are a group of Editors that pick their top 10 favorite from all the categories combined. Those top 10 make it into a published anthology. That's where you start earning cash prizes, too - by placing first a certain number of times within the Editors Picks.

I felt like the screaming contestants on The Price is Right or Wheel of Fortune. Only I didn't get lucky by guessing prices or spinning a wheel. I wrote a story. I did what I was created to do (besides being a mother and wife - also things I was created for) and I won! I cannot adequately express the exhilaration of this! What a pick-me-up and awesome way to start a Thursday!

Paul called me later yesterday and when I answered, he asked, "Can I have your autograph?" Hardy, har, har. To be honest, I'm still a little baffled as to why I won. I still think my Eve story was much better than my France story. Oh well. Who can know the mind of a judge - or editor?

I know that someday if - when - I get 1st place in the Editor's Picks or I get a contract for a book of mine that some publishing house wants, I'll look back on this little win and just smile at my excitement for something that can't even compare. But for now, for today, I'm excited. And that's ok.

I still have squabbling children, a husband who doesn't always listen, a leaking toilet, and a dirty carpet. I'm still me and I still have this very, very normal life. But now I can also say that I'm a published author. And that feels, really, really good!

Oh, and Kristi got 6th place in the Editor's Picks. So we're on our way together (although, to be perfectly honest, she's a better writer than I am. Her name is Kristi Pfiefer. Watch for her. She'll have her name on a book someday).

It's a good day!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Kitten Tales

It appears we have a new cat, as you can see in the above picture. Meet Annie - as in "Orphan Annie"! About 3 weeks ago the boys discovered a litter of kitties in the empty fish tank in the shed. They've been keeping an eye on them ever since.

Well, Saturday, David reported that the mama kitty had moved all the kittens - except for this gray one. I told him she'd be back to get the last one. But Sunday morning came and poor Annie was out there, mewling away. So Paul brought her in and tried to feed her, but she was too little to eat on her own. So, we de-flead her and got a baby bottle made for kittens. Now she's living in a box in the kitchen. She's made remarkable progress in just the two days since Paul rescued her. She's sleeping a lot more and drinking really well from the bottle. She's very anxious to explore the kitchen. The boys are having a blast with her and David, especially, loves to feed her.

Everyone who knows me knows that I am not an animal lover - at all. In fact, I suggested to Paul that we just let "nature take its course" with the orphaned kitty. Or, I will admit, I even suggested that a quick snap to her neck would take care of the entire situation (don't hate me!). But, I have to admit that little Orphan Annie has wiggled her way into a spot in my cold, dark heart. She's still going outside just as soon as she's big enough to make it on her on, though! I guess between her and Mittens, our other female, we can be assured of having plenty of kitties around the old homestead for years to come! Although, Mittens isn't her mother. Annie's mother is a calico cat, but I don't know who she belongs to.

In addition to a new cat, I also have a new bathtub and door. Paul and Ben went to an all-day auction Sat. (Ben says he's never going to another auction for the rest of his life!). Paul got quite a bit of lumber for the addition. He also got me this beautiful Victorian door. I'm more of a "country" decorating type person, but I love this door anyway. It's got this huge oval etched glass in the center of it. Painted up, it's going to be absolutely gorgeous! And it's looking more and more like we're going to end up re-doing our downstairs bathroom with this whole project. We have a double sink Paul picked up at another auction a couple of years ago and the other night he was measuring the bathroom to see how we could make it fit in there. The subfloor is buckling so that's going to have to be all re-done. And now we have a new tub that he picked up for $10 at this auction. It's different from a standard tub, though. It's the same length, but it's quite a bit deeper and then it's wider at the top than it is the bottom. So, it will be good for soaking! But in the meantime, I have the sink on my deck and the bathtub in the driveway - kind of hillbillyish!

Saturday Paul plans to rent a dirt elevator (I don't even know what that is) to haul rest of the dirt out of the basement. Then he'll be ready to pour the floor. I have a feeling the rest of our savings is going to go "poof" in the next few weeks!

So that whole situation means my weekend plans may be up in the air. I'm supposed to be driving to Council Bluffs either this Sat. or the next Sat. to meet up with Kathy. I'm waiting to hear from her to see which Sat. works better for her. And then whatever Sat. she and I don't get together I had planned to take the boys up to Waterloo for the day. But I hate to leave Paul without Will if he's planning to do that much work Sat. So, I'll have to see what Kathy says and then plan from there, I guess.

In the last few days I've really noticed that Sam is starting to stutter. I don't know if this is a phase and will pass as quickly as it came on or if it's an indication he might be developing a speech problem. Both my brothers were stutterers in their preschool years and I have vivid memories of that so I've always been more conscious of that with my kids. So - I don't know! I guess we'll wait and see. Paul suggested that maybe Sam is imitating Ben because there are times that Ben still stutters when beginning a thought, although it's never been a severe problem with him. Could be - I don't know.

The other day my friend, Julie's, husband posted on Facebook that it had been six months now since Julie had died. Wow. I hadn't realized that much time had passed. In fact, her funeral was exactly 6 months ago today - Feb. 3rd. Thinking of that made me sad all over again. But, that's just sadness for me and those she left behind. I've been reading this amazing book called "Heaven" by Randy Alcorn and it is really opening my eyes to what is waiting for us after death or the rapture. I find myself getting so excited as I read and actually yearning for death. Ok, that sounds morbid and somewhat suicidal but that's not what I mean at all. I don't think we realize just how one dimensional and flat our life is down here. There's no way Julie would want to come back now, after all she's gotten to experience the last 6 months. And I wouldn't want her to.

Will leaves today for football camp. So, I let him sleep in this morning (he slept until well after 10) since he won't be getting that much sleep the next few days. Now he is hovering around my shoulders willing me to type faster so he can get on the computer. I really need my own laptop! Oh, Will says he's the one who needs the laptop!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Deceived to Death

Here's my piece from last week. I absolutely love this one! Can I do that without appearing braggy? It just flowed so easily and I really like the finished product. Our topic was "taste." My favorite line is the last. That came to me in a flash of brilliance as I was driving, a couple of days after I wrote the basic body of this, but had not yet submitted it. We don't know a whole lot about Eve, other than she brought sin into the world. I read a couple of different translations of the story and I copiously studied McArthur's notes in one of my Bibles as I prepared to write this. A number of years ago a SS teacher at our old church presented his view that Adam had eaten of the fruit as a protective measure. That's conjecture, but that stuck with me and so I wove it into my version of the fall of mankind. Enjoy!

Deceived to Death

The ground is hard beneath my mat and I shift uncomfortably. I am thinking that my day will begin early, as, again, sleep eludes these old bones. It wasn’t always like this. I can remember the sleep of the young. Actually, I remember a sleep even sweeter than that.

My thoughts take me back to the beginning. Adam and I spent many glorious hours sleeping in each others arms, our heads resting on the cushion of the plants that surrounded us. We’d awaken only after our bodies were sated with sleep. Plucking fruit from a nearby tree, we’d laugh as the juice ran down our chins and sometimes we’d even wipe our sticky hands on the coats of the lions and sheep that roamed around our feet. We laughed, loved, and spent our days exploring our paradise. We completely reveled in the glorious creation into which our Father had placed us.

As the days would wind down, our Father would come to us and we’d all walk together. I still recall the sweetness of those times. He’d murmur His love to us and we gloried in His presence. We loved him with all our hearts and He loved us. It was perfect fellowship. Of all that we lost, I think I miss those times the most.

Of course, I can never forget that day. I was alone when I saw him. At first, I thought it was just another surprise from our Father. He delighted in giving us gifts and I thought I had just stumbled upon another! This creature was unlike any other I had seen in our garden. I had never seen anything so beautiful. The creature’s skin shone as if covered in millions of jewels. His eyes flashed with the brilliance of diamonds and his voice seemed to be the softer than all the leaves in the garden, cloaking me with its sweetness.

He asked, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” I told him that we were free to eat from every tree, except for the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which we weren’t even to touch, lest we should die. I have wondered many times in the years since why I embellished the truth. Our Father had never told us we weren’t to touch the tree, only that we were not to eat from it. Adding that bit made my answer sound more dramatic, I suppose. But then, the creature told me that our Father was wrong. We wouldn’t die from eating the fruit, he said. In fact, our eyes would be opened and we would be like God.

Oh! Adam and I had, apparently, misunderstood God. In that moment, it made perfect sense to me. Our Father was so loving and so generous with us. Surely, He never intended to deny us this fruit. And so I reached out my hand, and with a smile, the creature placed the fruit into mine. The sweetness flooded my mouth and I knew I had never tasted anything so wonderful before. But before I could swallow, the sweetness turned into a sharp metallic taste. I turned around, and there stood Adam, horror written across his face. Wordlessly, I handed the fruit to him and he ate it as well, grimacing as he bit. To this day, he has never told me why he ate, but I’ll always be convinced that he did it out of love for me, not wanting me to be punished alone.

And punished we were. Gone was our garden and our idyllic paradise. Oh, God didn’t strike us dead as we both thought He might. And honestly, I think we both would have preferred that. The shame of what we had done was nearly unbearable. To this day, my face burns to think of my naiveté and my willingness to doubt our Father when tricked by that creature.
And so, here I am today, a woman of many years and sorrows. Our Father has been gracious to us but I miss what we shared. As I watch my grandchildren and their children, I sometimes wonder who will save them. And I remember what could have been. And then I weep.


Eve finally fell into a restless sleep. Four thousand years later a Man would taste death because she had tasted the forbidden fruit. And by doing so, He would save all her children.

Heart Song

Here's the first of the two FW pieces I wanted to post. This first one was written for the topic of "hear." In my mind, it was a much grander story. But it didn't come out that way once written. And then I was nearly 200 words over the 750 word limit so I had to do a lot of chopping, which was painful. It didn't place and I knew it wouldn't. The ending is weak and it's just not all that good, overall. But I'll post it anyway (if nothing else, so my readers can see that I'm not always in genius mode!:) I did get a few nice comments on it, despite its lack of quality.

Debussy’s “Golliwogg’s Cakewalk” pealed throughout the small house on Woodland Avenue as Anna’s hands flew over the keyboard. The happiness in Anna’s music sprang from the lightness of her soul. The reason for her joy lay curled up not far from the piano. Newborn Isabelle lay contentedly as her mother played.

Isabelle was a miracle baby, the one doctors said would never arrive. And yet, here she was. Anna was completely besotted with her tiny daughter and couldn’t wait to introduce her to her other love -- her music.

Anna was something of a child prodigy. Early in her life she showed a keen ear for music and was picking out tunes on her family’s old, upright piano by the time she was a toddler. Recognizing her unusual talent, Anna’s parents quickly arranged for her to start piano lessons. By the time Anna was seven, she had surpassed her teacher’s ability to instruct her, and at age eleven she even earned an appearance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Anna was touring the country by fourteen and by her nineteenth birthday she had played concerts in forty three different countries.

But Anna’s touring came to an abrupt end when she was twenty-five. A quiet professor named Jeff swept her off her feet. For the first time in her life, Anna dated and felt like a “normal” woman. Within three months she and Jeff were married. Anna quit touring, took up residence on Woodland Avenue, and taught music at the same college Jeff did. Life was perfect! Anna and Jeff soon desired to make three out of their love, but that was not to be for a very long time. But finally, Isabelle had arrived and Anna’s world was complete. While Anna had no desire for Isabelle to have an unusual childhood like she, herself, had had, neither could she wait for the day that she could introduce the piano to the little girl.

By the time Isabelle was a year old, Anna regularly settled her onto her lap as she played the piano. Isabelle would would look at the keyboard and sometimes tentatively touched a key or two, but she usually quickly squirmed to be let down. Anna assumed that her baby was just too young yet to have a musical appreciation. By the time Isabelle was two, niggling concerns began to enter Anna’s mind. Isabelle did not speak, which was a concern. But Anna reasoned that all children develop at different ages and Isabelle would speak when ready. However, the day came when Isabelle didn’t even flinch as a fire engine raced down their street, sirens blaring. Anna knew something was seriously wrong. It didn’t take long for the audiologist to confirm Anna’s worst fears. Little Isabelle was completely and profoundly deaf.

Anna and Jeff dutifully learned sign language and were able to easily communicate with Isabelle as she grew. The family led quite a normal life, in fact. Isabelle was able to attend the famed American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, blossoming as she grew.

But there were many nights that the keys on Anna’s piano became slippery from her tears. What kind of irony was it that she, who loved music so much and desired to share that love with her only child, was given a daughter who could not hear? Long into the night she would play, seeking solace from the one thing that had never let her down.


“All.set.Mamma?” Isabelle’s hands signed to her mother as she helped her to a chair. Anna nodded . It had been a long day as Isabelle and her strapping sons had moved Anna into the assisted living center. Anna’s once beautiful hands now lay frail in her lap, her purple veins prominent. “I should go and let you rest,” Isabelle’s hands signed. Suddenly, Anna lifted her frail hands and signed, “I just wish--”

“Wish what, Mamma?”

“I just wish - - I wish you could have heard the music.” Anna dropped her hands. It was a thought she had never expressed to Isabelle before and why she said it now, she honestly did not know.

“Oh, Mamma” Isabelle quickly signed, “I did hear!” Anna looked at her daughter quizzically. Isabelle was still just as deaf as she had been the day she was diagnosed!

Isabelle smiled at her mother. She touched her chest and signed, “Mama, I heard the music here. All those nights you played, I heard every note here in my heart.”