Carver's needs are so simple. He works hard in school all week and lives for Saturdays. Time to himself. Freedom. Silly, goofy jokes. And skateboarding. He needs me to take him to the skateboard park, and I do not begrudge him the desire. In all too short a time he will be driving himself, and I will be unnecessary. He won't shoot me his signature "thumbs up" sign after landing a tricky move because I won't be there to see it. Right now he wants me to watch him. So I do.
Lily--the middle child. She needs to have her voice--her opinions--heard. She needs to know that she has a role in the family. So when she pipes up that she wants to make dinner, and dinner will be PB&J on Ritz crackers, then that's what dinner is. She will be strong and determined, because I want her to be. And I let her try.
Zinabu wants to be loud and touching me all the time. Fingers on me every minute he's nearby. I need him to give me space, but he needs me to be parenting board, sounding board, and tactile board all rolled into one. He wants to reach out to me in love but doesn't always know how. He needs me to be patient. He needs to know that his exuberance is appreciated. So I try. Because I want to try.
This is the post where I give you life or death information on how to buy a cheap birthday present. There are so many of you who are going to finish strong in January after participating in 30 Days of Nothing. I am overwhelmed by everyone's hard work and discipline. I'd say January went well for us, but we hit a ginormous (my kids most favorite word that isn't really a word) roadblock.
We were invited to 4 birthday parties this weekend. Actually, let me rephrase that. My kids were invited to 4 birthday parties. My social calendar can hear the crickets chirping.
I debated long and hard about creating cute little coupons for gifts like, "This entitles you to a playdate and ice cream cone with Lily." But I could feel my creative juices shriveling up the more I thought about it, and it was a matter of "spend money now" versus "spend money next week." So I went ahead and bought 4 different presents.
However, I still tried to get the most bang for my buck. I went to Hobby Lobby and found plain canvas bags for $2.99. Inside the bag I put a pink T-shirt ($2.99), feather boa (.99), beaded necklaces (.50), and a pack of fabric markers. The idea is they get to color and decorate their T-shirts and bags. I also found polka-dot bandannas for .99 cents and stuck one of those in there. The entire gift totaled less than $12.00, but I like that it's a dress-up/craft/use it over and over again gift. I have 4 different bags lined up on our counter, ready to go. We're ready to rumble.
Today is my mother-in-law's 80th birthday. That's a photo of her, holding David when he was a baby. She looked pretty good for being a mom of 5 and working as a night nurse, don't you think? When I first met David, I was in my early 20s and he was in his early 30s. (I love to tease him that he married a trophy wife.) David is also the youngest of 5 children. Do the math. I am much younger than them. In fact, I have nieces who are my age.
As I was beginning to get to know David's family, I thought I had nothing in common with them. I thought they lived in a different era. I was young and stupid and didn't have any perspective beyond being young and stupid. Mostly, though, they intimidated me. They were all strong, independent, and unique. They were talented, intelligent, and determined. And I was just young and stupid.
Meeting David's mom scared the daylights out of me. David grew up in a small farming community and his mom had an enormous garden where she tilled, planted, and harvested vegetables. My mom killed green things by looking at them. David's mom canned thousands of quarts of fruit and vegetables. My mom bought canned goods at the store. David's mom worked the night shift as a nurse. Uh... my mom slept at night. David's mom loved to cut down trees and burn them, fix things with electrical tape, and make everything from scratch. My mom loved to sit by the pool and read a novel.
David grew up in Minnesota.
I grew up in California.
It couldn't have been more different.
So meeting Pat and hearing about her pot roasts and seeing the blankets she crocheted and the quilts she sewed and the legend of her nursing skills... well, I was a wee bit overwhelmed. But as I spent more and more time with David's family and with his mom, I realized I was incredibly fortunate to have the chance to be with them. They've taught me a lot, in ways they would never know, about how to live. And I grew up a lot and left behind my young stupidity. My mother-in-law is as dear and funny and sweet as all get out, and she has 80 years of life to celebrate today.
Happy Birthday, Pat.
This was the scene at our house this morning at 6:30 am. Pajamas and tissues. No matter how many times you watch The Lion King, the circle of life is cruel when it hits your gerbils. Both were brought down by a strange illness that slowly paralyzed them. Okay, to be honest, both gerbils were brought down by David but it was the illness that started it. No one tells you when you buy a gerbil, "Do you have an exit strategy if one or both of these animal begins to look creepy and starts doing the army crawl around their cage and are hanging on for dear life but are clearly suffering?" No, no one tells you that. So with as much dignity as David could muster, he took care of them.
It's like he's the new Godfather.
Er...Lily doesn't know that aspect of the tragedy. She just misses her gerbils.
Can you believe January is almost over? I'll have to blog a little more about my spending challenge and my final thoughts--which I promise will be boring and non-illuminating. I have two books waiting for me at the library: this and this, which I'm eager to read, but I'm also eager for February to start because I think my new challenge will be one act of kindness each day. More on that later.
Today everyone is excited because Auntie Bev arrives this evening. She is my mom's best friend and honorary member of the family. To know her is to love her. To know about her is to love her, too. She's just that way. She is staying for two weeks, which is not nearly long enough but we will take whatever we can. More on her later. She is just too, too delicious.
David is usually so busy at work I rarely speak to him. We are a no-texting family (except for relief aid to Haiti. that was my first real text message. aren't you proud of me????) so we don't text each other. But once in a while I'll shoot him an email because odds are he'll read it at some point in the day. Here's what I just sent him.
i'm sitting here working and lily is in the other room resting. she's very stuffy so she's having a mental health day. cherries (the gerbil) appears to be paralyzed from the waist down and i think we need to discuss "eliminating" him even though we do not believe in the death penalty.
i am very sad about the vikings and am trying not to think about it.
i also need to let you know that god is laying some heavy burdens on my heart about orphans and haiti and the state of the world. i want to know what else we can do and i want to adopt again and i don't know what to do with that desire.
whoa. what was that? that was me unloading on you.
I think maybe he would prefer my silence.
I tried the organic, whole wheat, real fruit "toaster pastries" that were on sale this week. Normally something this delish wouldn't be a breakfast option for our family, but a sale is a sale. Don't let the natural ingredients fool you. It's still a pop tart--and it's good.
That's my new coffee cup that David bought me for Christmas. It was from Starbucks and it came with a white pen. The idea was that the kids would write their names on it and maybe draw some pictures, and after you "bake" the mug in the oven, the white paint is permanent. I was so excited. But then the white pen didn't work. At all. And Starbucks was super lame and wouldn't take the present back (long story that would put you to sleep so I'll skip it) so now I have a mug in which I get to imagine my kids' artwork.
It's Monday morning and Carver and Z are at school. Lily is home with sinus crud, but she's happy and flitting around the house making rubber band balls. She just reported that one of her gerbils is not moving its back legs. Which makes me seriously wonder how a gerbil becomes paralyzed from the waist down. So tonight I will greet David at the door with a kiss, a blunt object, and "Hi, honey! What's the best way to kill a gerbil quickly and painlessly?" I imagine he will thank me very much for that.
Christina brought this article to my attention. About a family that downsized their lives and donated a lot of money. It's a fantastic article and I can't wait to read the book. Jayme and Melodie have both discussed their desire to give more. I have discussed my desire to give more. I struggle with the dilemma of giving to several organizations that I deeply love, or do I pick one and make a concentrated effort to give as much as I can to that one charity. Which option makes more of a difference?
And I'll just throw this out there. My heart now yearns to adopt from Haiti. I guess we probably all feel that way, but I want to scream, "Enough is enough with all the orphans in the world!" Let's get to work, people! At church yesterday my heart was so conflicted. I weep and ask, Why? Why so much suffering? Why so many orphans? Why such devastation in such a downtrodden country? And I have no answers.
I don't know what our future holds, but I know I am not ready to say, "I'm comfortable now. Let's chill."
I have no new pictures to post because I've been a tad occupied in the busy department and I don't think I could even tell you where the camera is right now. Rest assured we all look the same. Quick updates:
Carver has pretty much chosen the middle school he wants to attend, and rather than pretend it's not happening (a practice that was serving me quite well up until a few weeks ago) I have jumped on the bandwagon and am happy to say we're pleased with the school, how the 6th graders are sheltered from the big, mean, adolescent 7th and 8th graders, and the electives he can take to make it feel like he's not really in school although he is. He has a science project coming up and he has to pick a topic and run an experiment on it. So far he's come up with "leaving a lot of rotten food outside his bedroom window and seeing what animals he can attract."
Lily is growing again and I can hardly keep her in clothes that fit. She is taking a liking to cooking (proof we do not share DNA) and is always asking to make something. She is a great big sister, which is a role she has always enjoyed but was reluctant to fully embrace until recently. She and Zinabu are really, really good friends. YES, THEY FIGHT! But it is always outweighed by their creativity. Yesterday she pretended to be a kangaroo and Zinabu was her "keeper."
Zinabu is fully Americanized. He wanted to buy a pack of Pokemon cards. He is doing great at school and takes for granted that most of the staff there is friends with David and me. He doesn't realize that not every kid in school knows the other teachers on a personal level. He still never, ever shuts up. Ever.
30 Days of Nothing caused a few stumbling blocks in my schedule last week. I'm back on track though. I'm trying to think of a challenge for February, and every month after, for the rest of 2010. I have a few ideas I've been kicking around, and some I'm narrowing down to more achievable goals. Jayme is doing this as well. Jayme doesn't know it yet, but she may have to make a few "guest posts" on my blog. Everyone should have access to Jayme the way I do.
Coolest... person... ever. (you are too, David, just in a different way.)
I leave you with some pictures from Ethiopia. Look at that cutie pie!!!!!!
I'm physically and emotionally drained. What's going on in Haiti is crippling my ability to focus on much. Which is as it should be... right? We can't pretend it's not happening.
One of the opportunities that came out of the Haiti earthquake was being able to talk to our kids about how to respond to a crisis. I'm not usually a "rah rah, go America" kinda gal, but I felt pretty dang proud this week that the Red Cross was reporting millions and millions of dollars being donated by people in this country. David and I talked about teaching our kids that in an emergency you give right away. We teach them to give throughout the year, but this is different. We talked about Haiti and what the devastation is like there. Truly, they could not comprehend it. How can any of us comprehend it? We didn't want to guilt them into giving, but we certainly wanted to give them the chance. I was really proud. Lily and Carver gave from the heart. They dug into their money jars and handed it over to me. Lily even went and got her crutches out of her room and gave them to me. She wanted someone in Haiti who had a broken leg to have them. Her favorite Christmas present of all time and she wanted to give it away. So sweet.
Zinabu, well.... he was a different story. He chose to hang onto his money. He would put a quarter in my hands and then take it back and say "It's so hard!" At least he was honest. It was a starting point.
And if you're participating in 30 Days of Nothing, the timing is rather eerie. It's pretty easy to go without for the rest of January when you know an entire country is without everything. Interestingly, both Jayme and Melodie have recently commented that they like living this way now. They like knowing they're saving money and not spending it on "things," and they want to continue this curb on spending for longer than January. And I completely understand their motivation. Why do you think I wanted to do 30 Days of Nothing again? Because once you start, it becomes a bit addictive. You find it hard to go back to your previous lifestyle. Even if you're extremely budget conscious, challenging yourself to think about parting with every single penny is a worthwhile exercise.
I hope to be back this week with my normal trivial blathering. I'm still recovering from the shock of so much devastation. Thanks for listening.
courtesy of hosted.ap.org
Wyclef Jean, a musician and Goodwill ambassador to Haiti, seems to have one of the best ways to send help. Go here. You can donate by texting. It will take you less than a minute. Other reputable organizations ready to help:
• American Red Cross: Since its founding in 1881 by visionary leader Clara Barton, the American Red Cross has been the nation's premier emergency response organization.
• Action Against Hunger:Named for the original member of the International Network, Action contre la Faim, or ACF, the ACF International Network shares an overall vision of a world without hunger, collaborating closely and sharing human resources, logistics, and technical capacity.
• Operation Blessing International:Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation (OBI) is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) humanitarian organization based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA.
• AmeriCares: AmeriCares is a nonprofit disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization which provides immediate response to emergency medical needs - and supports long-term humanitarian assistance programs - for all people around the world, irrespective of race, creed or political persuasion.
• ConcernUSA.org: Concern Worldwide is a non-governmental, international, humanitarian organization dedicated to the reduction of suffering and working towards the ultimate elimination of extreme poverty in the world’s poorest countries.
• American Jewish World Service: American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is an international development organization motivated by Judaism’s imperative to pursue justice. AJWS is dedicated to alleviating poverty, hunger and disease among the people of the developing world regardless of race, religion or nationality. AJWS fosters civil society, sustainable development and human rights for all people, while promoting the values and responsibilities of global citizenship within the Jewish community.
• CARE: CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty.
• Beyond Borders: Beyond Borders is a registered tax-exempt (501c3) non-profit organization. All contributions are tax-deductible. We are certified by the state of Pennsylvania as a charitable organization.
• Catholic Relief Services: Help CRS rush humanitarian relief to survivors within hours of man-made and natural disasters around the world.
• Direct Relief International: Since 1948, Direct Relief International has worked to help people who confront enormous hardship to improve the quality of their lives.
• Childcare Worldwide: At Childcare Worldwide, our unique programs not only help feed hungry children and their families, they also help children receive an education that leads to employment. Our goal is to help children survive and succeed.
• Doctors Without Borders: Doctors Without Borders provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters.
• Feed My Starving Children: Feed My Starving Children is a non-profit Christian organization committed to feeding starving children.
• Friends of WFP : Friends of WFP is a U.S.-based, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that focuses on building support in the United States for the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and other hunger relief operations.
• Haitian Health Foundation: The Haitian Health Foundation provides health care, development, relief, and the hope of a future to more than 225,000 of the poorest people in over 100 rural mountain villages in southwestern Haiti.
• International Medical Corps: International Medical Corps is a global, humanitarian, nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering through health care training and relief and development programs.
• Hope for Haiti: Hope for Haiti has held the vision from the very beginning that the people of Haiti are the ones who take control of their future and we are here to lend a needed hand along the difficult path.
• International Relief Teams: International Relief Teams is a nonprofit, international relief organization dedicated to organizing volunteer teams to provide medical and non-medical assistance to the victims of disaster and profound poverty worldwide.
• Medical Teams International: Since 1979, Medical Teams International has shipped more than $1.3 billion in antibiotics, surgical kits and lifesaving medicines to care for 35 million people in 100 countries around the world. More than 2000 volunteers meet the needs of people worldwide each year.
• Meds and Food for Kids: Meds & Food for Kids is dedicated to saving the lives of Haiti’s malnourished children and other nutritionally vulnerable people.
• Mercy Corps: Mercy Corps is a team of 3,700 professionals helping turn crisis into opportunity for millions around the world. By trade, we are engineers, financial analysts, drivers, community organizers, project managers, public health experts, administrators, social entrepreneurs and logisticians. In spirit, we are activists, optimists, innovators and proud partners of the people we serve.
• Oxfam: Oxfam International is a confederation of 14 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change.
• Operation USA: Operation USA helps communities alleviate the effects of disasters, disease and endemic poverty throughout the world by providing privately-funded relief, reconstruction and development aid.
• Partners in Health: Our mission is to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care.
• Samaritan's Purse: Samaritan's Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.
• Save the Children: Save the Children is the leading independent organization creating lasting change in the lives of children in need in the United States and around the world.
• UNICEF: UNICEF is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children's rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential.
• World Concern: World Concern works in 24 of the poorest countries on Earth, giving hope and opportunities to vulnerable people in great need.
• World Vision: World Vision helps transform the lives of the world's poorest children and families in nearly 100 countries, including the United States. Our non-profit work extends assistance to all people, regardless of their religious beliefs, gender, race, or ethnic background.
Just so you know, I did spend money this week. I enrolled Carver in summer camp (sleep away summer camp... so I am an emotional wreck). But they were offering a sweet deal where if you registered by January 13th you saved $50. I thought it would be a stupid financial decision not to take advantage of that discount just to "experience" financial willpower. Besides, it was a very hard purchase to make. I'm transitioning to a new stage of mothering with Carver, and it's rough. Don't get me started.
Jayme has (as usual, if you know Jayme) some insightful thoughts on her blog. She wrote:
"One of my biggest personal challenges for this year is to learn how to appreciate the beauty in the world without feeling the need to possess it. I have this innate "need" to surround myself with aesthetically beautiful, whimsical, fun, colourful, and meaningful things. My house is an eclectic collection of African sculpture, Costa Rican Art, Thai Pottery, American crafts, ultra-modern statement pieces and antiques. Everything I own has some sentimental value, but recently I've found myself wondering when "enough is enough"? I don't "need" anything more to feel fulfilled and content. But that fact rarely stops me from wanting. From coveting. And from comparing what's within my means to what's within the means of others. I think that's the nature (and one of the worst aspects) of our "keeping up with the Joneses" culture.
It's interesting to me because I've never really been one to "follow the crowd". And yet, I've hopped right on the consumerist bandwagon with reckless abandon. And although my purchases might be off the beaten path, does that really make it any better? This experiment has given me a lot to consider."
How do you appreciate "things" without giving in to the need to "own" them?
Hope this Monday finds you well!
I went to get the mail today and found a darling package containing the most beautiful pants inside. A crude person would call them pajama bottoms, but to me they are "crack-open-an-elizabeth-berg-novel-and-pour-a-huge-cup-of-coffee-and-ignore-the-kids" pants. Oh no? Oh yes.
So who's the most thoughtful blogging buddy in the world? Sarah! That's who.
Perfect fit, and oh so comfortable.
Three different types of fabric...and a little pleat on the hem. Seriously? She's amazing.
There it is. I love different perspectives and different ways of life. But one thing seems to bind us all together. Coffee. I was a little surprised at how much money we, as women, dump down the black hole for a cup of joe. No wonder there's a Starbucks on every corner.
Right now I'm sitting in my kitchen watching water drip from the ceiling. I am also trying not to yank my hair out in frustration wondering how much this is going to cost us. Is this going to set us back from our spring break trip to California???? Is this "issue" still under warranty from our contractor? Was my cutting back this month going to be sidelined by a major repair bill? It kinda stinks. So, time to put on my big girl panties and just put all this angst into a kick-butt cardio workout. *
*Oh my gosh! You didn't think I was serious, did you?
The kids are back at school.
I tried reeeeaaaaallllly hard not to leave a footprint on their backsides as I shooed them out of the car. They were ready, I was ready, and my desire to not hear myself say, "Stop touching each other" was ready.
30 Days of Nothing continues to leave its mark in the lives of people I know. It makes you think and it makes you wonder what else you could give up/let go of/challenge yourself with/and see what mettle you're really made of. There are a few of us tossing around the idea of a new challenge every month. I know some of what I'd like to try, but I began to realize every single one of them was "me" focused. Eating better. Getting back my running groove. Challenging myself to read new authors or more thought-provoking books. Denying myself certain luxuries to sharpen my willpower. All of which are great, but this is also the year I think I need to branch out of my comfort zone with other people.
So here is when I let you know that I am a true introvert. I didn't realize how introverted I was until I had kids and couldn't figure out why I was always exhausted and craving time alone. I then realized I didn't just crave time alone, I needed time alone or I was a freaking wreck. I think I had always been a middle-of-the road introvert most of life, but kids just sent me down the fast-track of needing more alone time. Too much alone time isn't a good thing. I've become way too comfortable with myself and am finding it harder (sometimes) to make the effort to pursue deep friendships with others. The same can be true for extroverts: too much time spent only with others and never with yourself can lead to not knowing who you really are anymore.
So there's a balance to be found, and I am thinking this is the year I start tinkering with the balance. Add to that a very, very disappointing relationship in my life that is never going to get better and I'm discovering that I will need to get out there and find that relationship with someone else. There are a few wonderful women that live near me that I want to spend more time with. And there is this crazy blog network that surrounds me that I would love to take to the next level. People that I know through blogs that have been a source of support like I can't even describe. I want to take some of the focus off myself and put it on others. I figure nothing but good can come from that.
Jayme is participating in 30 Days of Nothing and has some big plans for her month. Her biggest sacrifice is going to be Sunday brunch (and perhaps alcohol, depending on how naughty her kids might be). It is her family tradition, and she and her husband and kids look forward to it all week. That's a big item to give up. Today, Jayme's husband informed her they didn't have any more deodorant. He is wondering if they should just "smell" for the entire month. That made me laugh! Jayme managed to stick to her budget at Target today (where she shops for food) and even used a gift card to help with some of the total. This brings up an interesting point. Where do gift cards fit into 30 Days of Nothing? I, personally, feel that if you have a gift card to Starbucks or The Gap, you should save it until February. Otherwise, how will you know how it feels to deny yourself? Using a gift card for gas or groceries is great, since you're more or less agreeing to buy those necessities anyway for the next month.
That's just my two cents. Do whatever you want with it.
In our news I am trying hard to hold it all together until my kids go back to school on Wednesday. We have had a sweet, relaxing, lovely break together. But we're done. We are so done. Today we went swimming at the Y and I heard myself say, "I need a few minutes of no one touching me!" I'm tired of being groped by people under the age of 10. Zinabu has taken to eating limes. So tonight at dinner I sliced one in half and put one half in my water and gave the other half to him. After ten minutes of watching him suck it dry, I asked him to set it down and start eating his chicken. He wasn't really happy about that.
We are so, so done.
I am so glad that so many families are trying 30 Days of Nothing. I promise you won't regret it!
Do you try to do New Year's resolutions? I gave them up a long time ago... about the time I became a mom, actually. Motherhood hit me like an 18-wheeler and I still haven't recovered. Being a mom is hard for me. I don't seem to carry the "Motherhood Is A Breeze" gene. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE being a mom and I LOVE my kids. But each day I wake up, I have to give myself a little pep talk to get going. There's work involved.
I remember the year we adopted Carver, I think my new resolution was to "not kill anyone." That was a rough year. Carver had colic and I spent most of my waking and sleeping hours bouncing him in my arms. I recall holding him--as a brand new mom--and trying to sing lullabies to him. I didn't know any lullabies. At that point in my life I was a huge Pixies fan and I didn't think Frank Black songs were the way to go with an 8 week old infant who needed to settle down. Why don't they put "Top 10 Lullabies to Practice" in baby information books?
Remember when I described the puke plan in our house? Someone forgot to tell the dog. He ate an entire bag of chocolate chips (my fault... I left them unopened in the pantry). Chocolate is a no-no for a dog. Buddy barfed them all up on the new carpet... please note, just INCHES from the hardwood floors. Why did I take a picture? For Meazi.
Meazi, this one's for you!
* Photo by Zinabu.
I married a great man. We just got back from a 2 day getaway and had a fabulous time together. To this day, I'm not sure how I landed such an incredible husband. I certainly got the better end of the deal when we exchanged vows. Now were back to the kids and the chores and the house and the noise... but the break was just what we needed.
Gearing up for 30 Days of Nothing!