Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Things Worth Complaining About

or, as an alternate title, 5 Things that Suck.

I've been complaining today. It's gotten bad enough that I told several people I'm going to stop complaining for the rest of the day, but then I didn't. So I decided to get it out of my system by creating this list of five things worth complaining about:

1) Sugar Free Jelly Bellies. They're just awfulness masquerading as a healthier alternative. Once you realize you're chewing on gobs of nothing with sweet and low mixed in, you kind of have to gag.

2) When grades are due eighteen hours and fifteen minutes after the end of the six weeks. Really? I mean, really? Let's say on the weekend you were totally caught up - everything graded (yes, we're pretending. I realize that a teacher is never actually finished grading). Anyway, Monday and Tuesday are good, productive class days, and suddenly you have 2 assignments times 130 kids (for some teachers) that must be graded in eighteen hours and fifteen minutes. During that time you must also feed your kids, make their lunches for the next day, give them baths, consider getting some sleep, and teach 1st, 2nd, and 3rd periods. Is this humanly possible? I'm gonna go with no. Major suckage.

3) When you realize your fat pants are now your normal pants and you need new, larger, fat pants. How does this happen? It's like I'm a perfectly normal size I'll never put in print, and then suddenly I realize I've expanded. Could changes in atmospheric pressure cause this? Do I need medical attention for my swelling? Perhaps the cafeteria lady is sabotaging my balanced meal by secretly tossing a vat of butter into my spicy chicken sandwich. Maybe the people at the cleaners hate me because I always use my teacher discount so they shrink all my clothes by a centimeter every time I take them in. No matter the culprit, fat pants becoming normal pants is something to complain about.

4) Haagen Dazs Creme Brulee ice cream. This delicious treat should be illegal because it is very much like crack - if crack had a delicious caramelized sugar mixed into a frozen, creamy custard, that is. At 280 calories per serving (that's 1,120 calories in a pint - not that I'd ever consider eating a whole pint), it's like opening up your thighs with a butter knife and packing them full of cream cheese kolaches until your skin won't stretch anymore. (I'm certain this has nothing to do with the fat pants to normal pants problem, by the way.)

5) Visits to the eye doctor. Did you know that they actually touch your eyeball when you go there? They put drops in your eyes and tap, tap, tap with the pressure checker thingy and then shine ungodly wattages of light into your eyes and then ask things like "Which line is the clearest?" Hey doc, I can't see a thing because you've just blinded me with that ridiculous light. If you wanted me to see something you should have asked me before you tapped on my eyeball. Did you have to go to school to learn how to do this or just spend a week in a Afghanistan torture chamber?

So there ya go. Need to get any complaining out of your system? This is the place! I'm sure there are others things worth complaining about I've left out, so feel free to add your own.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Keaton can read...he thinks.

I picked Keaton up from school, and we were on our way to get Tucker. He opened his lunch box and pulled out a piece of paper, then handed it to me to read.

"Read this," he orders, and hands me the receipt for September's payment to Longmire Learning Center.

"It says we paid all our money," I explain as I hand it back to him.

"Okay, let me read this," he begins as he holds the paper upside down. "It says today is the right day and we have to go to Maggie Moo's but not until after we eat supper." (Maggie Moo's is an ice cream place.)

"I don't think it says that, honey," I reply as I gently crush his hopes of ice cream.

He didn't flinch. He mustered up his firmest voice to say, "Yes it does, Mommy. You call Daddy right now and tell him that my school says we have to go to Maggie Moo's tonight."

Thank goodness we arrived at Tucker's school so he could forget all about it. At least I hope so!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I love a good metaphor...

What would you do if you were the last good person on earth, surrounded by evil and madness? Could you keep your "fire of goodness" burning?

What if your fire were reduced to embers in the absence of your metaphorical firewood - family, friends, God. Could you continue to stoke those embers?

Such is the question posed in Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece, The Road. Yes, I said masterpiece. This is my best description of a novel I almost didn't finish. It is both horrendous and elegant. The story is of a man and his son in a post-apocalyptic world, struggling to keep the fire.

Those of you who regularly hang out with me (my lunch buddies and Trey) know that I started reading the book this summer but had to put it down because it sent me into despair. I am still amazed that McCarthy was able to pull the awful contents of the novel from deep inside his brain and articulate the details on the page. If that place exists my brain, I choose not to go there. I dreamt of the novel. It haunted me. So I put it down.

But I needed to finish it. The "obsessive" part of my perceived OCD reared its ugly head as I talked about the novel all of the time. I wanted someone - everyone - who had read it to encourage me to finish. I needed someone who had been into the book's darkness to tell me that I could wade into it without getting sucked in. My friends and fellow readers came through, and I finished the book.

Now, if you know my taste in books at all you've figured out that my mental rubric of book quality has the most weight on theme - the "why do I care? how does this apply to me?" part of the book. That's not to say that I don't enjoy a good fluff book from time to time (see Are You There Vodka? It's Me Chelsea on my book list for this year), but the books I love are the ones that give me something to chew on, something to consider in the twists and turns of normal and not-so-normal life.

Yet the best thing about McCarthy's road is where it didn't take me. Unlike the nameless father and son trudging through the end of the world, I am not the only good guy left. Neither are you.

And there's the lesson. This afternoon I was able to walk down the hallways of school and through the rooms of my house and see good guys everywhere I turned.

The student who sees that my hands are more than full and offers to help - he's one.

The friend who sends a kind email for no reason on a day I feel less than inadequate - she's one.

My niece who always notices when something or someone just isn't okay and always tries to help - she's a good guy, too.

My husband, my favorite person in the world, also on our team.

We're the good guys, and we're everywhere.

Look around you and know that you are one of many. And we're all carrying the fire.

Sidenote: I did not reveal more about the novel here than one would learn from the jacket of the book, however I would caution you that McCarthy's style of writing is a bit unusual. When discussing it with a friend (and one of the most intelligent people I know), he described McCarthy as having a sort of existential style in which the feelings of the characters aren't often revealed. I encourage you to pick up the novel, but be forewarned of the uniqueness of McCarthy's work.

Oh yeah, and the guy doesn't like punctuation.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Remember to be nice!

Keaton has been nice to Trey most of the day. Why is this surprising? Because of the way he's behaved all week.

If he needs juice or something to eat or to go potty or to brush his teeth, he needs Mommy to help him. If Trey comes to his rescue, he screams uncontrollably and yells things like "You stop it!" Sweet, huh?

I'm not sure how to handle this. On one hand, I'm always glad to step in and take care of Keaton because he's got to be driving Trey crazy with the screaming. On the other hand, me stepping in is probably part of the problem because it means Keaton gets what he wants. So I've implemented a three-prong plan of attack against Keaton's campaign against Trey and, well, pretty much everyone but me.

Prong #1: Every time we're alone I remind Keaton how much Daddy takes care of us and how nice he is. I tell him that I sure do love Daddy.

Prong #2: When Keaton specifically requests that I do a particular task for him, I make him wait. Forever. So long that when Trey offers to help he's so tired of sitting on the potty - or whatever - that he gladly accepts the offer.

Prong #3: When Keaton is rude to Trey or Tucker because he only wants to talk to me, I respond to him like he responded to his dad and brother. Then I explain to him that it doesn't feel very nice to be treated like that.

Okay, so I'm a pretty smart lady with just a little type-A inspired OCD, and I'm pretty sure that developing an intricate plan to solve a problem is the best way to approach it. I'm confident. I'm going to fix this.

Of course, the next part of this little datribe is what has gone wrong.

Prong #1 Problems: We're in the car on Wednesday on our way home from school. I had just talked to Trey on the phone. When I hang up, Keaton asks if I was talking to Daddy. I tell him that it was Daddy, and that I can't wait for Daddy to get home because I've missed him all day.

Keaton, being the random person that he is, responds, "Tucker is my favorite friend."

I'm touched. "How sweet," I think, "the boys are so lucky to have each other - brothers are a ready made best friend. I hope they're always close. I hope Tucker takes care of Keaton when he's a freshman and Tucker is a junior and Keaton has acne and likes a girl who doesn't like him back and that Tucker will help him with his homework and that Keaton will always idolize him and that Tucker will see that as a responsibility to make good choices...."

And then Keaton interrupts my plan for their high school years with a follow up to his random brotherly love: "And mommy is my favorite friend, too. But not daddy."

I explain how rude he's being, and Keaton tells me in his rational voice, "I not rude. I don't wike (some kid at school who's name I don't remember) either."

Basically his argument is that he doesn't have to like everyone. Get over it. Prong #1 is a bust.

So then I go on to prong #2. It turns out that prong #2 only causes additional screaming. Lots of screaming. Lots and lots of screaming. Screaming that usually goes like this: "MOMMYMOMMYMOMMYMOMMYMOMMYMOMMYMOMMY!" And then there's the obligatory "GET OUT OF HERE!! YOU STOP THAT!" when Trey comes in the room.

Prong #2 is a bust.

And finally I'm left with prong #3. Today in the car Keaton gave me the greatest opportunity to put my final attempt into play. He asked a question (I don't remember what it was) and when Tucker tried to answer him he snapped, "You stop it! I not talking to you! I talking to Mommy only!"

And then he asked me the question. To which I replied, "You stop it! I'm not talking to you because I'm only talking to Tucker."

Silence. He didn't cry. His feelings weren't hurt. He just sat there. Seemingly stunned.

So I calmly said, "That was a very ugly way to treat you, wasn't it? It doesn't feel very good. That's why I don't think you should speak that way to other people. Now what did you want to ask me?"

He asked me in a calm, sweet voice, and we moved on.

That was about eight hours ago. We haven't had another outburst from him in eight hours. Not only that, he went with Trey to the bathroom at the football game and took the toothpasted toothbrush that Trey delivered before bed.

While I'm certain prong #3 didn't solve the problem, it may have gotten us a new record for Keaton's niceness. He is a very sweet boy, sometimes he just forgets. That's his explanation anyway. Here's the story he told on the way home from school Friday (I wish I had a recording because no one can tell a story like Keaton):

"Mommy, I had one thinking spot today. It was for hitting. Blake was reading a book and Andrew tried to take that book away from him, and so I hit him!" (with a punch in the air for emphasis)

I asked, "Keaton, was that a good choice?"

He replied, "No ma'am. It was a bad choice so I had to sit in a thinking spot." Then with a sigh, "I guess I just forgot to be nice."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We'll be at the ball field...

Has it really been so long since I've written anything here? What on earth could the problem be? I know it's not that we have jobs and kids. It MUST be something else...

Oh yeah, wait a minute...I think I've got it...the problem is insanity!

That's right, Trey and I have lost our minds. But it wasn't on purpose. We lost our minds accidentally.

Here's why: What Tucker wants to do more than anything in the world is play football. College Station has a flag football league, but we couldn't figure out if he was old enough to play this fall. Next thing you know, it was the last day to sign up for t-ball which is Tucker's second activity of choice.

So we were faced with a terrible delimma. If we didn't sign him up for t-ball, and he wasn't old enough to play football, he gets nothing. Now, I understand that a five year old with no activities is not a tragic event. But we told Tucker he could play something. Frantically, Trey sped up to the t-ball sign up at the last possible minute and got him on a team.

Then we learned he's old enough for football. We signed him up like we said we would. And here, friends, is the evidence of the insanity.

Mondays at 6 - football game

Tuesdays at 6 - t-ball game

Wednesdays at 6 - football game

Thursdays at 6 - t-ball game

Fridays - tiger football

Saturdays - football games (Tucker's and the Aggies')

Seriously. He's five. I'm waiting for the invitation to Dr. Phil any minute. I am almost certain that my friends are making fun of me in their own blogs right now.

On the up side, tonight was his first football practice, so we all went. Tucker had even more fun than I imagined. He was laughing so hard and cheering on his teammates and running up and down the field and yelling "hike." He loved it.

Then there's Keaton - our little tagalong forgotten child. I told Trey I feel like Keaton's neglected, so I committed to getting Keaton involved in an activity he likes. (He really should be in gymnastics since he spends three quarters of his life standing on his head.) To allay my guilt I decided to ask him what he wanted to do:

Me: Keaton, do you want to go to gymnastics?

Keaton ponders thoughtfully for a moment, then: No.

Me: How about soccer? You might be old enough.

Keaton: Well....no.

Me: Do you want to go to choir at church? They have choir for boys your age.

Keaton: I think about it, Mommy.

Hmmm...then it hits me. We are not the parents who push Tucker. He is the kid who pushes us. We would be perfectly content to be at home every night, but that's not what Tucker wants. He wants constant sports involvement - while he was in the bath tonight he asked me to check his ranking on his fantasy football team, for crying out loud! Can you say obsessed?

So first I have for you Keaton's picture from football practice. This is the bouquet of grass that he picked and placed in the chair. Then he asked me to take his picture with it. He did this, of course, after taking the arms off of his firefighter (he took it to practice to play with) and replacing said arms with grass so that the firefighter was "full of grass arms!"

And here are some pictures of my baby at his very first football practice having the time of his life:

Yes. We're insane. If you need us, we'll be at the ball field.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Waiting on Ike

So there's this hurricane, and the news keep saying things about it like "worst case scenario" and "certain death." They even put those words up in one of the 17 boxes on the screen meant to constantly entertain every nerve center of your brain with information that changes every point-zero-eight seconds.

Trey has been very Trey-like about it. All week he's been saying that the weatherman's dream is that we have a hurricane. Tonight he's been making fun of the reporters standing on the Galveston Seawall talking about, well, "certain death." However, we did move all of our patio furniture so that it's stacked together and hopefully can't be used as a hurricane weapon.

Likewise, Tucker has been very Tucker-like. He's been checking our local tv station's website and clicking on all the links to different formats of weather maps. He's been studying the red, orange, and yellow and what they mean. He's been learning about hurricane names and categories. I think it's been stressing him out a little and he's dealt with it by becoming informed times one hundred. I think he could do the weather on the ten o'clock news.

Keaton has made up stories about the hurricane. He says there are two of them, and he knows them. One is nice and one is mean. Then he saw the hurricane on the way home - it was at church. I guess that was the nice one. He also said that he "wikes" hurricanes and that daddy's cousin Will used to be a hurricane. Tonight he says he's afraid, but I think he's just tired.

Finally tonight, when the weather folks issued a "hurricane wind warning" for College Station, I decided that we really could have some damage. I'm not really worried so much as I don't want to look stupid - you know, be that guy on the news who says, "Golly. I heard something 'bout a hurricane in College Station but I thought they was just kiddin'."

So I took pictures all around the casa of the stuff that would have to be replaced if the roof blew off or something. Then I asked Trey to make sure the flashlights had batteries. Then I remembered the two boxes in the top of my closet that are irreplaceable - one contains items related to my brother-in-law James and his death and the other contains items that came from my grandmother (things she made by hand, mainly). I asked Trey where to put stuff like that, and he kind of laughed at me. Anyway, I stuffed them in the tiny hall closet on the shelf along with our wedding album.

The only other irreplaceable thing here is our pictures - most of which are on the computer. If you're watching the news and see a crazy lady in her pajamas chasing a CPU down the street, just pretend she doesn't look like me.

And then I took some serious cough medicine - the kind I had to get at the doctor today because wishing my cough away doesn't seem to be very effective. Suddenly this storm seems less important than some sleep.

So I send thoughts and prayers to all of the people in Ike's path, even those people (*ahem* idiots *ahem*) who chose to stay when some important person (I don't remember who) said words like "worse case scenario" and "certain death." It's a comforting thing to believe we'll all be fine and everything else is just stuff. Happy Hurricane, I suppose.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Things and Such

I was going to start off by saying I have a bad cold, but the truth is that it's just a normal cold and the only thing that makes it bad is that I have it. It's my back to school cold.

Keaton had his allergy testing done today. Turns out he is allergic to EVERYTHING! Well, everything except milk, which is what we thought he was allergic to. He showed a marked response to all trees, all grass, dogs, peanuts, and eggs. So we start allergy shots next week and we've sworn him off the peanut butter. Fun.

Tucker had t-ball practice tonight, which meant McDonalds for supper (because I'm good mom, that's why). The boys were playing more than eating, so I told Tucker he'd better hurry it up because he was first in the bath tonight. See, who goes first in the bath is a huge fight every night, so Trey made a schedule. This way we know who goes first by what day it is and there's no fight. Simple, right?

Wrong. Tucker kept arguing with me. He kept on and on and on that he went first yesterday and Tuesday is Keaton's day and blah blah blah. Finally, I put my foot down, "We are not speaking about this anymore. Tuesday is your day. The end."

My wonderful husband was trying to keep me from taping Tucker's little arguing mouth closed in a back-to-school-cold-driven stupor, so he pulled up the page where he wrote it down. He explained, "Here Tucker, I'll show you. I wrote it down so we wouldn't forget. See?"

Then Trey looked at me and I knew. I knew Tucker was right. Then Tucker - AKA "Rainman" - looked at me with that impish little grin of his. And I knew he knew he was right.

And I asked Trey if I could lock myself in our room until tomorrow.

Maybe it is a bad cold.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

It's My Blog and I'll Write What I Want To...

So, today I'm deviating from my usual crazy stories to share something exciting I learned today. First, a reminder of some scripture you've probably heard before from Matthew 14 (courtesy of Bible Gateway.com):

25During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.
27But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
28"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
29"Come," he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
31Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

Today in my Sunday school class we watched a video lesson about this Bible story. Now, don't get me wrong, I really love our Sunday school class, but this is a story I've heard many, many times. So when I realized the lesson was about Peter walking on water I wasn't expecting to hear anything new.

Boy was I wrong! Rob Bell, the super-cool, frosted-tipped video teacher (his hair has been quite the topic in our class), pointed out something I've never even considered.

When Peter started to sink, Jesus said, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"

I've always thought this passage of scripture indicates that we shouldn't doubt the power of Christ. We should believe that God can do anything - even give a man the ability to walk on water. And I still believe that to be a true lesson found here.

But the question I've never asked is this: Who was Peter doubting?

Peter didn't doubt that Jesus could walk on water - Jesus wasn't sinking. Peter was. Here comes the new part.

He was doubting himself.

He was doubting his ability to follow through on what God told him to do. He didn't think he could do it, and the fact that Jesus himself was just a few steps away didn't keep him from doubting.

I was immediately reminded of all the times in my life that I didn't think I could do something - like the one kid I couldn't reach, or the one person I just couldn't get along with, or even little things like I can't listen to Keaton scream anymore without having a nervous breakdown. Rob Bell, super-cool video Sunday school teacher, said very simply, "God believes in you."


The story goes on. As I've reflected on this today I've remembered my parents who always made me think that they believed I could do anything. Whether they believed it or not isn't all that relevant because they made me believe that they believed in me.

And such is the parental nature of our God. With his support, we can do anything - duh, right? I mean, those of us fortunate enough to be brought up in Christianity are taught that from the time we're little.

Don't get me wrong - this isn't some kind of new age, "I can do it myself," power of humanity revelation that I've had. It's just as simple as God won't ask me - call me - to do something unless he believes that we can do it together.

And so the fact that God believes in me is a new, powerful revelation for me.

So powerful, in fact, that I wanted to share. I wanted to tell you that God believes in you. Even when you don't believe in yourself.

He believes that you can make a difference. He believes that you can be better today than you were yesterday. He believes that you are worthwhile. If he didn't believe in you, he wouldn't have asked you to do all of those things.

Feels good, doesn't it?

Friday, September 5, 2008


Tonight Tucker was reading a book called "I Stink" about a trash truck with an attitude. The last page says, "Who am I? The garbage truck, that's who!"

He read the lines out loud, and then he laughed a great big belly laugh!

I am excited beyond measure. He read something himself and understood it well enough to get that it was funny. Oh, the exquisite worlds of books he's opened himself up to...

(Yes, I am a nerdy mommy!)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


First, some background. Our principal left the high school last year to pursue other endeavors. I suppose there was something about the eighteen hour workdays and wanting to actually see his own children that contributed to his decision. Besides just being our former principal, he's a friend and an all around good guy. Anyway, I brought home a copy of last year's yearbook to give to him as a memento of his final year with us. When I got home, I called to tell him that I had the book if he wanted to stop by and pick it up. As I hung up the phone, this is the conversation I had with Keaton:

Keaton: Who is stopping by, Mommy?

Me: Mr. Fox

Keaton: Who is Mr. Fox?

Me: My friend

Keaton (excitedly): Oh! I wike your friend Mr. Fox!

Me (resentfully picking up all the things the boys dumped on the door when they came in): I'm glad.

Keaton: Is your friend Mr. Fox a boy or a girl?

Me: boy

Keaton (thinks for a moment, then his face lights up with what he's sure is a wonderful and appropriate question): Is he ticklish?

I guess that's the difference between friends at three and friends at thirty-one. I don't know if ANY of my friends are ticklish!

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Different Drummer

Keaton has been talking on the phone constantly lately. An old cell phone that doesn't work. He has what seems like very real conversations on this phone, and even takes it with him in his pocket when he can get away with it.

Today, Trey and Keaton spent their Labor Holiday together while Tucker and I were at school. Trey was telling me all about Keaton's phone conversations, and he finished by saying, "He really does march to the beat of a different drummer."

When Trey and I were talking about this, Keaton came bouncing into our room in his jammies and announced that his hands and feet were cold. So I told him to go get some socks. Trey and I kept on with our conversation.

A few minutes later Keaton bounced in again with bare feet.

And socks on his hands.

Then he begged and begged me to turn on a CD for him - one he had picked out. I was talking to Trey, so I only half paid attention while I put the CD in the stereo. Honestly, I was hoping it would quiet him down so we could finish talking.

Next thing I know, Keaton is jumping up and down on our bed with his socked hands waving in the air to the music of Whitney Houston belting out "Joy to the World."

I think it's safe to call that a different drummer.