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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Smiley Faces in Odd Places

This past Spring, my family took a vacation to Boston.  It was a great trip, but that’s not what this post is about.  During that trip, my daughter noticed a couple of smiley faces in odd places.  One was made from puddles in the street below our hotel room (kind of a stretch to say it’s smiling, but she called that a smile).

One was pressure sprayed onto a concrete wall.

Since returning from that vacation, I have seen more smiley faces as I travel through my life.  Yesterday I  saw this one on the back of a car that was stopped at a light in front of me.

I decided to start collecting pictures of the smiley faces I find in strange places.  I don’t think they have a cosmic meaning in my life, like God smiling at me or anything like that.  I just think it’s fun and funny.

If you happen to see a smiley face in an odd place, feel free to take a pic and send it to me.  I’ll post it in my Smiley Face collection!



No Going Back Now!

My oldest got his Learner’s Permit yesterday.

For most parents, that would strike fear and sadness into their hearts.  For me, not so much.  I have been anxiously anticipating this achievement, and I look forward even more to him driving independently.

Most parents of tweens and teens get to the point that they want their children to learn to drive, primarily so that the parent (mom) can quit her chauffeur job.  But for most of those parents, it’s a bittersweet moment.  It’s another milestone; their baby is growing up.  Some parents yearn for the days that their babies still fit on their laps, and the relative “ease” of having toddlers (as compared to teenagers).  Not me.

From the minute my kids were born, it has been my goal to help them turn into healthy, God-loving, productive, independent adults who move out of my house and bring home my grandbabies for visits.  Each time they take another step toward that goal, I’m a happy momma.  I don’t look back at pictures of their childhood and wish we could go back.  I like that they are becoming more independent of me.  I look forward to the day that I can retire from the daily intimate care, concern, responsibility, and worry for them.  They are doing exactly what God designed them to do, grow up.

So it is with great pleasure and excitement and anticipation and pride and care and concern and responsibility and worry that I celebrate my son’s latest acheivement with him:  his Learner’s Permit.

A Good Book

I spent some time at the mall today helping my kids finish up their Christmas shopping.  While we were there, we walked past what used to be a book store.  It has been turned into a toy store.  Sad.  That was the last real book store we knew of near us.

I sense that this is a sign of the times, and that with all of the electronic modes of reading, real paper books will disappear altogether.  I’m sure I’ll have to start downloading books sooner or later, but I think I might fight it harder than I fight the signs of aging.

Whenever we went to the mall (which was not often if I could help it), we always stopped in the book store and browsed.  I loved to pick through the bargain books and find one I would probably never pay full price for, but would gladly read for a discount.  Or I would walk through the travel sections and browse through the books about faraway places I’ll probably only dream of visiting.   I would stand and stare at the self-help books wondering if I shouldn’t pick up a few and improve my parenting skills or my ability to set boundaries.

I could (and probably have) spent hours in book stores and libraries just “looking”.  I enjoy picking up the books, reading the inside jacket, the Table of Contents, and reading excerpts.  I like to flip through biographies and look at the photographs inside.  I like the feel of a real, paper, book in my hands.  I like the weight of it, and the feeling of the pages flipping through my fingers.  I like the smell of a new book and the sound of the binding cracking as it’s fully opened for the first time.  I like the way an old book’s pages become softer and softer each time you re-read it.  I love looking back at the first books my children enjoyed (either by having them read to them, or finally reading them themselves).  The ones with crayon marks on them and the ones being held together with masking tape are my favorites.

The experience of reading a good book just isn’t the same when it’s on an electronic screen.  I’m going to miss that book store.

What’s the Real Lesson Here?

This year is my daughter’s first year back in public school after being homeschooled for a year and a half (which I’ll go into in another post).  She has hated public school, and has specifically hated her Science class.  While she received a “B” on her first report card in that class, she has continually struggled to master the concepts and also has a history of test anxiety which prevents her from performing well even when she knows the material.  I made an appointment with the teacher and discussed my daughter’s test anxiety with her, among other things, and the response I got was basically, “Oh well.  Everyone gets nervous on tests.  She needs to make more effort.”  So my daughter increased her efforts at home to learn the material and be successful in this class.

Up until this past week, my daughter’s highest grade on a test or quiz was a 72%.  (Lab and classwork grades were higher which is how she managed to get a “B” in the class.)  This week she took a quiz and earned a 100% on it.  You would think she and I would be thrilled!  But we are not.  The teacher decided that since the majority of the classes did not do well on the quiz, she is not counting it for anyone.  She’s just throwing out the scores.

I emailed the teacher last night just to make sure I was getting the correct information from my daughter, and to find out why she would throw out everyone’s scores when there were students who did well.  Here is my email:

Hello teacher,

I wanted to ask you about something my daughter told me tonight.  She brought home her most recent quiz (6.4) with a 100% on it but she said it doesn’t count.  Is she right?  If so, why?  I hate for her to FINALLY get a good grade in Science and then not have it count toward her grade.  She’s been making a greater effort and it looks like it is finally paying off for her.

I thought it was a nice email asking her to confirm the information I was given by my daughter, and to explain the thought process of such an action.  (My husband thought it sounded a little challenging, but I had already emailed it by the time he saw it so I couldn’t change it then.)  I also included that my daughter had done just what the teacher had said to do in our conference:  make a better effort.

The reply I got from the teacher was this:

I teach 150 students.  My decision was based on  best practices for all of them and my experience as a [sic] teacher. I am happy she did well on the quiz. She will get an opportunity to demonstrate her understanding on today’s test. I hope you and your family have a happy holiday.

But as we’ve already covered, my daughter does NOT do well on tests due to test anxiety.

While I understand that the teacher has to consider all 150 children in her decisions, I do not.  I only have to consider my daughter.  I am her advocate.  But having gone up against the public school system in the past, I understand how much wasted effort I could make in trying to get this good grade reinstated when I’m pretty certain it won’t happen.

So now I’m left with what my daughter and I can learn from this.  It does, in fact, appear that my daughter has learned the material for this section of the class.  I’m glad about that.

She could have learned that making the effort to learn the material well enough to get a 100% on the test is wasted effort.  I’m not happy about that.

What I hope she has learned is that there are some things that are always out of our control, there will always be some people or institutions who don’t reward hard work, demonstrations of knowledge, or masterful skill with commensurate reward, but that we must always put forth our best efforts regardless of the outcome.  I’m hopeful about that.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”  Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

There’s a Rat in Me Compost – Part 2

You might remember that I wrote a blogpost last week about seeing a rat in our compost bin.  We had set rat traps and anxiously checked them every day only to be disappointed that we had not caught the dirty little rat.  This weekend, we were finally rewarded for our patience!

Saturday morning I took the kitchen scraps out to the compost bin and opened the lid ever so slowly so as NOT to trip the traps and scare the beejeebus out of myself.  To my sheer delight I saw a little furry body half covered by a tripped and overturned trap!  Yay!  We caught him!

But my joy was short-lived when I realized this was just a little mouse.  While I was glad to have gotten him and kept him from possibly moving his whole family into my attic, this meant that we still had a rat on the loose.  Then I started to conjure up the memories of my only encounter with the rat.  If I remember correctly, I opened the compost bin, saw something small, furry, and almost cute scurry around inside the bin before he escaped out of a crack in the back door.  While he was making his exit, I was busy screaming like a boy, dancing a jig, and running into the house like the town crier.  I wonder if it’s possible that in that flurry of activity I might have actually seen a mouse instead of a rat?  This idea seemed perfectly plausible to me and I quickly relayed the good news (that we got what I saw) to Mr. Sunshine.  Upon hearing such wonderful and reassuring news, Mr. Sunshine assured me that what HE saw in the compost bin was much larger and was most definitely a RAT.  Darn!

Well, at least we got one rodent taken care of.  And with the rat traps re-set in the compost bin, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we get dat rat (dat’s what we gonna do!).

Please Eat….Anywhere But Here

The other night I was driving the kids to bible study and noticed a little food truck setting up on the corner of Gunn Hwy and N. Mobley Rd.  I think the signs said something like Buffalo Jerky and Smoothies.  Strange combo, I thought, and kept driving.  I didn’t think much of it again until I went to pick the kids up an hour and a half later.  It had gotten dark, and the vendors had set up decorations and lights around the truck.  And it looked like they were already doing a nice business since there were people standing around.  But wait a minute, those aren’t real people, are they?  Too late, I had already driven by.  So on our way back home, I told the kids to get my phone ready to take some pictures because I wasn’t sure exactly what was standing outside of the food truck.  And while my phone pictures (taken by my 15-year-old son while I was driving by very slowly) don’t really do this scene justice, you can at least make out that these are most definitely not real people.  They are, in fact, mannequins that someone took the time to dress in seasonally appropriate, casual attire.  (Please notice the hats for the cool evening.)  Even better, they’re mannequins that have been posed to point.  This might have been a clever marketing ploy if they were all pointing at the food truck, as if to say, “Look here!  We have yummy Buffalo Jerky AND Smoothies!”  But they’re not.  While you may not be able to tell this from the poor picture quality, they’re pointing everywhere BUT the food truck.  So what is the purpose of setting up these mannequins in seasonally appropriate clothing WITH hats, standing them outside of a newly set-up business, and posing them to point if you’re not going to have them point toward your business?  “Please eat…anywhere but here?”


I never cry.  But for several days now, I have been on the verge of tears.  It catches me off guard and makes me mad.  I don’t like it.  It feels like a loss of control.   And I LIKE to be in control.

These tears are motivated by my kids.  It’s nothing that they’re saying or doing.  It’s the fact that they’re there.  And they need a mom.  And I’m The Mom.  And that job title requires so much hard work.  And  worry.  And stress.  And prayer.  And planning.  And flexibility.  And sacrifice.  And thick skin.  And sleeplessness.  And I don’t want to do any of that any more.  I don’t want to be the Mom any more.

Let me be crystal clear about one thing:  I. LOVE. MY. KIDS.  I love them beyond words and measure.  I hope and pray and plan for the best for them.  They are worth all of the hard work, stress, worry, prayer, thick skin, and sacrifice I have already invested into them, and they are worth more.  I would give up my life for them without hesitation.  On certain days, that sounds like an easier option than continuing to be The Mom.

Sometimes I wonder why God didn’t just make human babies like animal babies.  They are born, feed themselves immediately, stand on their own two or four legs within a few hours, and leave the home within a few months or years.  I doubt that the real mama bear spends anywhere near as much time worrying about her cubs as we human Mama Bears do.  I don’t think she worries, “I wonder if they’ll learn to fish as early as the other bear cubs.”  Or, “I hope they don’t move too far away from home because I want to see my grandcubs.”  She knows they will be what they are supposed to be:  Bears.  That’s how God designed them.

Then why did God design us to be the way we are?  Aren’t we designed in His image?  Does that mean He worries about His children (us)?  Isn’t that why He came to this earth as an infant?  To take care of us?  To offer us the best?  And does He worry when we don’t accept His guidance and gifts and blessings?   Is God on the verge of tears when we turn away from Him or don’t follow his advice?  Does He think this parenting thing is hard?  Maybe THAT’S why he made us different from animals.  So that we can understand Him better and appreciate His love for us.  A parental all-encompassing, worrying, giving, sacrificial kind of love.

Yes, being The Mom is hard work.  But I’m not doing this job alone.  God is parenting me while I parent my kids.  AND He’s parenting them as well.  I need to remember that and quit being a crybaby.