Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The mediocre mommy has returned.

It's Red Ribbon Week at schools across the nation, and with it comes different dress up instructions for each day of the week. At my sons' school, Monday was wear your shirt backwards day ("Turn Your Back on Drugs"), Tuesday was wear red ("Take a Stand for a Drug Free Land"), and Wednesday, today, is dress as your favorite book character day ("It Takes Character to Take a Stand Against Drugs").
Seriously?  Dress as your favorite book character?

This sounded complicated when I glanced over the Red Ribbon Week flyer in the abyss of both boys' Monday folders last week, but it turned out not to be so complicated because I promptly forgot all about it. I suppose I subconsciously thought it sounded like too much work and totally blocked it out.

Too bad Tucker Hickman is my kid. Tucker likes to do what he's told (unless his parents tell him to do something, but that's a different blog), and that includes when he's told to dress a certain way. While I had forgotten all about the dress up day, Tucker had been plotting his costume.

Tucker came home Tuesday and filled me in on his plan, "Mom, I'm going to be Ronde and Jackson is going to be Tiki. I need a Bucs jersey for tomorrow."

Seriously? How on earth was I to find a Ronde Barber Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey in College Station, Texas, in one night? I didn't know what to do, so I gave him the standard Mediocre Mommy reply, "Let's talk about it after baths," secretly hoping he would forget all about it.

But he's Tucker, and I know better.

He hatched an elaborate plan to paint a white tee shirt into a jersey, and he even knew about fabric paint we had that I had forgotten all about. "All we need is brown," he instructed, and Trey and I immediately got sucked into his scheme.

As we talked this jersey-creation through, Keaton came proudly into the living room holding an old Batman costume and a Batman book. He was ready for dress like a book character day without me even lifting a finger. I love that kid.

But his display of independence was not up to Tucker's standards. Here's the conversation that ensued:

Tucker: Keaton, you cannot be Batman. He is not a book character.

Me: He's holding a Batman book in his hands right now.

Tucker: It doesn't matter. Batman is a movie. You are not allowed to dress as a character from a movie. There can be a movie about the book, but the book had to come first.

Me: Who says?

Tucker: Mrs. C. (his super-awesome GT teacher). We talked about how it's not really a book character unless the first place the character appeared is in a book. He can't be Batman. It's not dress like a movie character day. We talked about it in class. He can't do it.

Me (beginning to get frustrated with Mr. Literal): Well, maybe when you're in kindergarten you can dress like Batman. And Batman was a comic book first, anyway (I'm not sure if that's true, but I said it convincingly). And you worry about your own costume, not Keaton's. He can make his own decisions about things, you know.

But the battle was lost. Tucker said Keaton couldn't be Batman, so Keaton wouldn't, under any circumstances, be Batman. I wish I had that kind of pull, but hey, I'm just the mom.

Keaton and I flopped ourselves down in front of the bookshelf and began pouring through books. "I know!" he said, "I'll be a panda from Panda Bear, Panda Bear." Then "I know! I'll be Buzz Lightyear!"  Clearly he was unaware that Buzz didn't fit Tucker's stringent criteria for costumes, but it didn't matter because we don't happen to have a Buzz costume laying around the house.

Finally, at 8:00 p.m., just 30 minutes before bed time, I gave up. I told Trey I was going to Walmart to get brown paint and that while I was gone he needed to convince Keaton to be Max from Where the Wild Things Are. I planned to get a headband and attach some wolf ears, put him in pants and sweatshirt, and we'd be good to go.

At Walmart, I marched straight back to the craft section and began glaring, wide-eyed, at all of the possible craft products. Wolf ears. What could I make wolf ears out of?  I left there with brown felt, pipe cleaners, and a headband.

I ran back into the house around 8:20, and I threw the brown paint at Trey and asked where Keaton was.

"In his room crying," he said. "I gave up."

Determined, I went to his room and scooped him up into my arms. He wasn't just crying, he was sobbing quiet little puffs of tears as if his whole world had been ruined by this one dress up day. I felt like my poor planning had caused this great despair and I knew I had to fix it. I managed to calm him down, and back to the bookshelf we went.

I came up with three choices: Max from Where the Wild Things Are, a cowboy from Lasso the Moon, or a builder from I Love Trucks. The builder was a stretch because the book is just about big construction trucks, but, whatever, I was desperate.

He was happy for a moment, and then he once again dissolved into broken-hearted sobs. I realized then that this was a futile effort. He was too tired to care about a costume and until he got some sleep it would never be right. I put him in his bed, covered him up, and stretched out beside him hoping he would cry himself to sleep.

As his eyes began to slowly close and open, close and open, he asked, "What about my costume?"

"Baby, I will make all three costumes and lay them out in the living room floor and you can choose any one that you want when you get up in the morning," I cooed into his ear.

Wait. What? What did I just say I would do?  I looked around the room to see if anyone else was there. Was that me talking?  Did I just say I would put together three costumes between now and tomorrow?  Someone must have slipped me something because I was clearly out of my mind.

To make matters worse, this possibility perked Keaton right up. "I want to help you put them together. Let's do it now!" he exclaimed, and realizing that this situation was getting worse by the minute, I agreed.

I assigned him the task of finding tools for the builder costume, and I joined Trey at the table where he was furiously fabric-painting Barber's Bucs jersey. Quickly, I broke out the pipe cleaners for the wolf ears. It was then that I remembered something very important.

I am not crafty.

I stared blankly at the felt and the pipe cleaners, and it occurred to me that they should sell hard liquor next to the craft supplies at Walmart. After a moment of hesitation, I dove in, cutting pipe cleaners into ear-shaped thingys and twisting them around the headband. It looked pretty good, if I do say so myself, but then I had another problem.

How in the hell was I going to get felt onto pipe cleaners?

I folded and cut and wrapped and unfolded and unwrapped, but the task seemed impossible. There was no way this was going to work, and I really wanted to just drop it all on the table and crawl into bed and pretend that "dress like a book character day" had never even been mentioned in our house.

But Keaton saved me. He got so excited looking for tools that after we finished putting together the builder costume he forgot about the other two. Trey finished blow-drying the back of the Barber jersey, successfully painted the jersey front, and the boys went to bed only 30 minutes past bedtime.

Miracle of miracles, this morning Keaton woke up, put his builder costume and "tool belt" on (I affixed tools to a regular belt with pipe cleaners -- I guess they were good for something after all), and proudly went off to school carrying a copy of I Love Trucks.

And dress like a book character day was a success. A painful one, but a success nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mutton-Chopped Vampires

So I have this thyroid problem. It's not really a problem, I guess, it just doesn't seem to work. It quit right after Tucker was born and caused me some temporary, yet very real, insanity. Since then I just have to take a tiny pill every day so I can pretend my thyroid works like it should.

I'm supposed to take my medicine ate least two hours after eating and at least one hour before eating. This means that the window lies somewhere between second and third periods. Each morning when I get to school I put my little pill on my desk so I won't forget to take it during optimal-thyroid-replacement-hormone-time.  But that's not why I'm blogging. It's just background information.

Every year or so I have to get my blood drawn and see the doctor to make sure my medication level is correct. Usually I can extend that year by a month or so by calling and begging for a refill of my prescription and promising to get in for blood work right away. Finally, I get to a point where I'm sure the doctor's office won't take my calls, and I reluctantly make my way to the lab at Scott and White.

Now, I do not mind blood, especially blood that belongs to other people. I am ridiculously calm during a crisis, and I've yet to completely panic about even the most severe injuries I've witnessed in my life. For example, I rode the bus exactly one day throughout my high school career (because I'm very resourceful and I dated boys with trucks, of course), but on that day one kid stopped on his way off the bus to break the nose of another kid seated on the bus. I opened the first aid kit for bandages, nursed the broken-nosed boy ("lean forward so you don't choke or swallow too much blood"), and directed the freaked out bus driver to stop at the nearest gas station so we could go inside and call 911. I spoke to the paramedics and even had to be washed down with that magic bleach stuff they have because I was covered in the kid's blood. The bus looked like a massacre had taken place. It was gross, but it didn't phase me.

My own blood bothers me only slightly more unless it's being intentionally withdrawn into a little glass tube. I find this process to be unnatural. The fact that someone is drawing out my blood and measuring it into a tiny container is akin to something from a science fiction movie. My mind races during the procedure, wondering, "What are they going to do with the blood when they're done? How much blood do they have stored in this lab? Does anyone ever spill it?  Who has to clean that up?"

You can see why it is unfortunate that I am forced to attend regularly scheduled blood drawings once every year or so.

Alas, today I went to have my blood drawn, which is the real point of this post. I approached the window to find a young, mutton-chopped man in a lab coat sitting casually in an office chair.

Mutton-chop guy: Here for a blood draw?
Me: Yep.
Mutton-chop guy: I'm sorry.  BWAAHAHAHAHAHA!

This was strange, but I decided the guy was probably a fill in for the receptionist and let it go. Ten minutes later he appeared in the doorway and called, "Stormy Hickman?"

I followed him back to a small cubicle, and he pulled the curtain closed. That's when I realized that mutton-chop, laughing, "I'm sorry" guy was about to stab me to death with a needle. I became a little nervous.

Mutton-chop guy: Right arm or left?
Me (offering up both arms): Whichever you think is best.

He then proceeded to spend a full minute staring at the insides of my elbows, making little grunting noises like "hmph" and "mmmmm." Finally, he responded, "I think the left one is best."

I realized at that moment that I had a choice to make.  I could flee, run for my life to ensure my children don't have to live through a motherless future. I could maintain my composure and ask to see his credentials to calm my nerves. I had to save myself!

But I only started breathing hard and smiling bigger, hoping to ease this mutton-chopped blood-taker's nerves so that he didn't screw up.

He prepared his instruments of my torture and applied the tourniquet to my upper arm. Then he had another decision to make.  Which vein?

For yet another full minute he poked and prodded the veins on the inside of my left elbow, "humphing" and "mmmming" all the while. All I could think was "He will not stick me twice. I will leave. I do not need my thyroid medicine that much. Maybe if I stop taking it my thyroid will realize that I really do need it and it will jump in and start doing its job again. What if I pass out?  Will they know who to call to come get me? How come I never programmed that ICE number in my cell phone like Brian Nock told me to?"

He must have sensed my anxiety, perhaps because I was sweating profusely, and he laughed, "I didn't mean to scare you. Both veins are just so great!"

It was at that moment that I decided he must have been a vampire. Not a real vampire (I know those don't exist), but the kind of vampires that they do Dateline specials about. You know the kind I'm talking about, misunderstood, oft-mutton-chopped people who think they gain strength from drinking the fresh blood of thirty-something high school teachers. He was one of those, I decided.

But the procedure proceeded, and as the blood flowed freely from my arm into the tiny glass container that no doubt would later be fitted with a straw, I truly, honestly believed I would pass out. I wondered if the needle would remain in my arm on the way down or if it would be yanked out as I fell to the floor. I planned for which way I should fall to sustain the least injury.

And then it was over.

"Have a good day!" mutton-chop guy said cheerily.

"Thanks!  You, too!" I replied.

And that was that. It may have been the longest five minutes of my life. But if I see the doctor on Thursday and he doesn't have my test results, a little part of me will wonder if my super-happy, very competent phlebotomist didn't take my sample home with him.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pioneer Woman

Several of my friends enjoy reading the Pioneer Woman's blog. I must say that while I don't usually search it out, I love reading the posts they forward to me.  This evening as I cooked dinner, it occurred to me that I could,  perhaps, be a pioneer woman.

If you were here, you would hear the drip, drip of milk on my keyboard. Milk that I've been stopping every few minutes and soaking my fingers in to try to counteract the intense burning sensation left after I seeded jalapenos from my garden. See? I'm just like a pioneer!  I accidentally grew my own dangerously hot jalapenos and also drove to HEB to buy milk to soak my fingers in. They were accidental because I planted them last August, forgot about them, and just uncovered the plants to find lost of peppers ripe and ready. But that's neither here or there.

While at HEB I also bought a $6 bottle of wine which I opened all by myself. That's right, friends, I can open my own wine. It wasn't even screw top.

I had bacon wrapped, cream cheese stuffed jalapenos, corn on the cob, and seasoned steaks ready to go on the grill. I was feeling, dare I say it, domestic? Look out, Pioneer Woman, because the Mediocre Mommy is hot on your heels!

I went outside to light the grill, and just when I reached in to move the grates and strike up the heat, a mouse scurried out from under them.

And I screamed like a girl.

And I made Trey go outside to scare away the nasty mouse and light the grill.

Alas, now I must continue in my journey toward perfect Sunday night wifedom. My grill awaits, and I've waited sufficiently long enough for Trey to take over my cooking endeavors while I sit at the bar with my wine and good conversation (that's what usually happens, but not tonight, I guess).

That and there are now blisters forming on two of my fingers, and I can't type anymore.

Dear Pioneer Woman,
The title is all yours.
Love always,

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Crazy Love

I spent a large part of my life believing that if you weren't suffering, then you were doing it wrong.

I'm talking about Christianity, of course.

Our Sunday school class is doing a study of the book Crazy Love by Frances Chan. Chapter four of the book is about lukewarm Christianity, and it left me a little perplexed.

The chapter is meant to be very convicting, and many people in our group undoubtedly felt that conviction. I, however, just got a little perturbed. I remarked that  "I'm just over-analytical of books in general," but I admit that I may feel a little twinge of jealousy for those who got more out of the chapter than I. In fact, I found the author arrogant and manipulative, which is probably what closed my mind to the message he was trying to get across.

Statements like these fueled my fire:

  • "According to the account in Luke chapter eight, when a crowd started following Him, Jesus started speaking in parables -- 'so that' those who weren't genuinely listening wouldn't hear it. The fact is, He just wasn't interested in those who fake it" (66).
  • My thought: So Jesus only wanted to talk to those who wanted to hear?  How does this resolve itself with the Great Commission?  This statement implies that Jesus was being tricky to weed out the "unchosen." I read the scripture, and I'm having a hard time reconciling it to the Jesus who reaches out to those who need him most desperately. This feels like a predestination conversation, and I'm not up for that right now. I should definitely study this further. 

  • "I think most American churchgoers are the soil that chokes the seed because of all the thorns" (67). 
  • My thought: This is a gross overgeneralization. I don't know this man, and I'm reasonably certain that he's never been to College Station, Texas, Rice, Texas, or any other number of places in America.  It's simply not possible for him to have the realm of experience to decide that "most American churchgoers" are anything. To determine that the people of the church are the hindrance that keeps others from growing in Christ is ludicrous.  At least that's what I think.

  • "Lukewarm people are thankful for their luxuries and comforts, and rarely consider trying to give as much as possible to the poor. They are quick to point out, 'Jesus never said money is the root of all evil, only that the love of money is.' Untold numbers of lukewarm people feel 'called' to minister to the rich; very few feel 'called' to minister to the poor" (75).
  • My thought: Are we just not supposed to notice the "love of" part?  Is it okay to notice it as long as we don't point it out?  What exactly are these rich people ministries he speaks of?  Are rich people immune to the need for ministry simply because they have wealth? 

As you can see, I was so wrapped up in my vehement disagreement with these statements and others that I found it impossible to search for the positives. I've read the chapter again, and I did find redeeming qualities -- the fact that I don't always (I'll go so far as to say "often") put Christ first and the idea that I don't save up love for those who have wronged me (or my family) again and again. There is one person in particular whom I have deliberately shut out from my life because I find him to be "not worth it." It's sad, but it's true, and I freely admit it. I suppose there is an element of conviction there.

But what is conviction? This author gives me the impression that it's finding reasons to feel really terrible about yourself, and I have a hard time with that. It goes back to what I spent a big part of my life believing -- that if I wasn't suffering, then I wasn't being a good Christian.

Scriptures like "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (from Nehemiah 8) and "delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart" (from Psalm 37) teach me that going around in a funk all the time is no way to be. Radical Christianity is not necessarily living in poverty, weeping constantly at the terrible ills of the world.

I believe my best witness is to be positive and glorify God in all things, giving Him credit out loud for all of my blessings. I know I'm not worthy of any of the gifts I've received in my life, large or small, and the fact that I serve a God of grace is reason to rejoice rather than a reason to lament. Does that mean I am successful 100% of the time? Absolutely not! But I find little value in rolling around in my imperfections and great value in finding new ways to glorify God in my life.

All of this feels a little like "blah blah blah...I thought the book was stupid." That's not the case at all. I'm glad that the book has made a positive impact on many people, even many of the people I know. I'm looking forward to the next chapter that is titled "Serving Leftovers to a Holy God." I won't be in class for the discussion because I'll be at a baseball tournament. Should I feel more guilty about that than I do?

After this reading, discussion, and lengthy post, I've come to realize one thing.  That I am enough for God. I don't have to clean myself up and do a better job at Christianity to earn his love and grace. He gives that to me freely, whether this book offers me a great conviction or not. Do I want to do a better job serving my Father God every day? Definitely. Do I feel humbled and unworthy in the presence of my Savior?  Every day. Do I think the author of this text went a little overboard in his arrogant attempt to humble believers?  Yes, I do.

But I'll finish the book and maybe my opinion will change.

This post isn't funny or witty, but it's an exercise in what I tell students - sometimes writing about a subject is the best way to figure out how you feel about it.  Don't misconstrue my musings as me considering myself a Biblical scholar who has it all figured out because there's probably nothing farther from the truth.

Please don't decide to hate the book because of my one-sided, out of context excerpts because that's just not fair to Mr. Chan. You can visit his web site at  If you read or have read the book, let me know what you think. If nothing else, it's been very thought-provoking for me.