Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dry as a Bone; I might as well cook

Must write today. Must write today. Must put something down on paper and write today.

I knew it would hit, but after just a few weeks I feel dry. I can't think of a single significant thing to say.

It might be because I am coming off the two busiest weeks of my summer so far. Or it may be because I'm heading into two more very busy weeks.

Today feels like a bit of a breather. And it makes it hard to think of things to write.

I'm sitting at my desk, trying to make it through the piles of paper that have collected here when I've been crazy-busy with other things. I'm almost able to see the bottom. Almost. It's storming out, and my kids are all otherwise occupied, so it's a good catch-up day.

But nothing's coming. No ideas. No nuggets of truth. No plummeting the depths of my soul. Nothing.

So where do I turn for inspiration? Why, my dad, of course! This is what he told me a couple of weeks ago: "Shell, people really seem to like recipes. You should put more recipes on your blog."

Well, Dad, king of the blogosphere, this one's for you!

Pulled Pork
1 3-4 pound pork roast
1 Cup water
1 18-oz. bottle of BBQ sauce (whatever you like best)
1/4 C. brown sugar
1 T. Tabasco sauce
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
Place the pork roast in a crock pot and pour water over it. Season with some salt and pepper if you like. Cook on low for several hours (7 or 8?) or until the meat falls apart. (You can also roast it in the oven at about 325 for about 5 hours if you prefer.) When meat is tender, shred it in the crock pot, then add remaining ingredients. Cook on low for one more hour. Serve on buns.

This is one of our favorite recipes, and it feeds a crowd pretty well. Hope you enjoy it!

And come back tomorrow when I'm, hopefully, more inspired.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Wedding

Saturday was a significant day for our small group (see yesterday’s post). We celebrated the first wedding of one of our children.

No, not a graduation (we’re starting to have one or two of those a year now—old hat, graduations) . . . a WEDDING. With bridesmaids and boutonnieres and bells ringing joyfully. A white dress and a blushing bride and a grinning groom. And even a red Mustang convertible to take them away after the ceremony.

It was glorious.

The day was perfect, too. Not too hot. Low humidity (which, around here, is fairly unusual for July). Beautiful blue skies. The couple couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day.

I spent a lot of time leading up to the wedding thinking about my friend, Julie, and her daughter, Amanda. So much excitement leading into this new stage of life. What it was like to plan a wedding together? Was it actually fun to shop for wedding dresses and to plan the ceremony? And how does one go about choosing a menu for the reception? Sure, there was a lot to do, but through it all there must be underlying emotions and I wondered about them.

Did all this planning and anticipation make Julie happy or sad or something entirely different?

I couldn’t get my brain around it; I couldn’t fully relate. That may be because my oldest daughter is 16, and if I got my brain around it it wouldn’t be a good thing at all. Aside from that, it just seems strange to think about the day my girls are whisked away by some “guy” they had only known for a couple of years.

I remember thinking about that when I got married. How could my parents send me off with a guy I had only known for three years when they had known me all my life? It just seemed odd to me. Especially when I was only 22 years old which, today, seems pretty darn young!

A long while ago, I asked my mom how she could let me get married when I was so very young. She just shrugged her shoulders and said, “We just knew you were ready. We knew B, and we trusted him. You were both just ready.”

I guess that happens—the couple just becomes “ready.” But do the parents?

Saturday was the first time I experienced a wedding from the parents’ perspective, and I have to admit it was just plain weird. Watching my own friend walk down the aisle as the mother of the bride, and my other friend, her husband, kiss his daughter goodbye startled me in a way.

I suddenly saw my own daughters (all three of them) in the bride’s eyes, some future groom looking at her as she walks slowly down the aisle. I pictured B kissing her cheek as he hands her over to another man to love and to cherish, yielding his place as first in her heart.

After the ceremony, on our way to the reception, I told B something I had never told him before. It kind of surprised him to learn that at every wedding we attend, I think about the parents. About how, at the end of all the festivities, they go back to their home and climb into bed, exhausted after a day of celebration and smiling and keeping things in order. I always wonder about just that precise moment. Just before sleep. Lying together in the dark. Reflecting on the day. What do they say to one another? What are they thinking?

Are they happy? Are they sad? Are they just relieved that it’s over?

What happens in that very private moment?

I can already picture myself in that moment. Lying in bed, holding my husband’s hand as I so often do just before I drift off to sleep, and slow, silent tears will be streaming down the sides of my face. They may be tears of happiness, but I imagine they will be mixed with sad tears. Because as much as I love my daughters and want them to be happy, I know I will miss them every day of the rest of my life.

We talked about this for a while as we drove, and I think B was surprised at my emotion. I guess I am too, because from the moment each of them was born we have raised them to be independent of us. This has been an important part of the way we parent our daughters, and now, suddenly, I wanted to throw my arms around them and never let them go.

As we talked, B summed it up like this: “I think I’ll be happy that night. It’s what we’ve raised them for—to go out on their own. To not need us anymore. Yes, it will be a happy time.”

And so, Julie, now that the months of planning are over, I hope you can see that this is what you’ve raised Amanda for. And you’ve done such a good job at it. Be happy—all of you.

[There’s a little P.S. to this post just to tell you that we counted up on Saturday and realized that there are 30 children in our small group. We have lots and lots of celebrations to share in the years to come. What a blessing!]

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Friend In Need . . .

So the sofa saga continues . . .

My doctor called and, thank goodness, my elbow wasn’t broken. Just badly sprained. So why did it look like the Michellin Tire guy’s elbow? And why did it feel like it was frozen at a 90 degree angle? But, hey, I’ll take “just sprained” any day. Much better than the alternative.

O.K. I have a sprained elbow. What am I going to do about this house I’m redecorating? Heaven knows, decorating is NOT on the top of my skills list, and it was taking all I had in me just to take on the project in the first place. Now I was hurt, and finishing the project looked just about impossible.

The words to the Rihanna song kept going through my head: “S.O.S. Please someone help me.” Fun song, only I couldn’t dance to it.

I decided to put out an S.O.S. to my small group—a group of friends from church who meet a couple of times a month to study the Bible, support each other, and pray for one another. Our small group has been meeting together for probably 15 years or more, and our kids are getting older and busier, so the whole studying thing has pretty much gone out the window. The twice-a-month thing has gone out the window, too. So whenever we do manage to get together, we usually spend the time getting caught up with each other and praying for one another. That’s about all we can handle at this point in our lives.

But we love each other, and we’re there for each other in times of need. And, boy, was I in need.

I sent a quick email to most of the people in our small group (one couple was getting ready for a wedding, so I didn’t want to bother them). And by Friday afternoon I had a small contingency of friends who were ready to help.

Of course, I enticed them with pizza, but hey, whatever it takes.

We met at the missionary house around 5 on Friday and set to work. We hung pictures, secured hooks on walls, put together Ikea furniture, made beds, vacuumed, and generally rearranged. By 8 p.m. we had finished—and eaten pizza, too!

What would have taken me at least two 10-hour days to complete—with a good arm!—had taken our little band of workers just a couple of hours. It was truly amazing.

Someone said that it was like our own “Design on a Dime” project. Like the HGTV show where they come in and redecorate your house with something like $500 in a day. Well, this cost a little more than $500 and took more like two weeks, but, yeah, something like that.

The best part about it was getting our small group to work together for a common goal. A few of the people there had never been to the missionary furlough home and had lots of questions about this project.

Who pays for everything? The foundation.

Where do the missionaries come from? All over the world, but ours seem to come from Africa.

How do you raise the money you need? The very small rent we ask and one fundraising letter a year.

How long do they live there? A year.

How come I’ve never gotten a fundraising letter? I’m not sure, but you will next year!

Our friends’ interest was so gratifying. Working together was so much fun. It drew us together like nothing we’ve done before.

And for me, personally, it was a huge step. I’m not one to ask for help. It’s hard to humble myself and admit that I can’t do everything myself. So to put out an S.O.S. like that was huge. Really hard.

But to see how God answered that call and how my friends responded without even batting an eye and to experience this moment of service together was just so wonderful. A real blessing.

As we were leaving the house, one of the guys said, “Hey, we should do this again next year!”

No problem. We can do that. And I won’t even have to put out an S.O.S.!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Random question of the day

Random question of the day: should a 45-year-old woman be moving a sofa?

O.K., it’s not really so random. My dad told me last night that I was too old to be moving furniture, but I disagree. I think that as long as I’m able, I should by all means be moving furniture. Once you give in, you die, right?

Of course, I’m no longer able. And I’m barely able to type or to get myself dressed or to wash my hair.

You see, above mentioned sofa just about did me in yesterday. Let me tell you about it . . .

We’re not necessarily do-gooders, but we do like to be helpful. Which is why B and I agreed, a couple of years ago, to serve on a non-profit board. Now, this is no give-your-advice-and-leave kind of board. It’s a get-your-hands-dirty-and-oh-by-the-way-you-just-might-break-a-bone-or-two-along-the-way kind of board.

This board owns 18 townhomes, and we rent these townhomes (at a very reasonable rate) to missionaries who come here for their furlough. (I guess these days it’s called a home stay or something like that, but we’re old fashioned and we still call it a furlough.) Every couple on the board is responsible for one of the townhomes—its upkeep, any repairs needed (we just call the right person), and the decorating. This is the do-good work we do.

We started with this group two years ago. The first year I didn’t do much with our house because we were just getting started, and we felt bad spending the foundation’s money. Last year I think I had two days between families, so I couldn’t get much done.

This year I had two weeks between families, so I decided to do a major overhaul of the decorating. I kid you not . . . there were still pictures hanging on the walls that were probably placed there in the 1975. And the wallpaper. Don’t get me started on the wallpaper. (To my shame, some light blue country bumpkin wallpaper is still hanging in the powder room. That’s a project for next summer.) Some things were truly hideous.

The decorating project kind of snowballed one day when I went furniture outlet shopping with two other women from the board. We found some great deals and some beautiful furniture, my credit card jumped out of my wallet, and things went from there.

I have been decorating and shopping like mad for the past 10 days. I now have a new friend at the furniture outlet, Charles, who is on the hunt for some chocolate brown side chairs. It is insanity.

Back to the sofa. You were wondering where all of this was going, I know. See, to get all of this new furniture into the house, we had to move out the old stuff. Our church runs a resale shop, so we decided to take a lot of the old furniture there. That way everyone wins. We get rid of the old furniture, the people who buy it get a good deal, and the local community center gets the profit. Good deal, huh?

Yesterday was the day that I just had to get the old stuff out of the house. Some of the new stuff had already been delivered and there just wasn’t room to walk around in there. I commandeered my oldest daughter, Kate, to come and help me because she’s very strong. And she’s willing. A real trooper, that Kate.

So we moved the sofa out the front door and headed toward my minivan. We didn’t know if it would fit, but I had taken all the seats out, and it looked like we might be in business.

Just as we were getting near the car I fell. Apparently someone had put a step in the middle of the sidewalk and forgotten to tell me it was there. I was walking backward with the sofa, totally did not see the step, and fell. HARD. My left hand went out to catch my fall, my left hip hit the ground, and the sofa landed on top of my feet. Oh boy, what a mess.

Not to be deterred from my mission of clearing that 1970s mess from its hideous furniture, I continued on. I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and started all over again. The sofa fit just fine in my car. We drove it and two more loads of stuff to the resale store.

Later in the afternoon I was in pain. I noticed that I couldn’t move my left arm very well and my elbow was starting to swell. I had been warned a couple of times in my life by various doctors that I have a very high pain threshold and that I should be careful. And since I was feeling actual pain, I figured I’d better get an x-ray.

Well, there’s nothing conclusive about the x-ray, and I don’t have the final word yet. My elbow is either badly sprained or broken—I'll find out tomorrow.

So now I ask you again, is 45 too old to be moving furniture? I’m just not ready to give in.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bumper Stickers

Last week I stopped by the grocery store in the late afternoon for something—anything—for dinner. I pulled into my parking spot and right away noticed the bumper stickers on the car next to mine.

“I PRAY. GET USED TO IT,” said one.

Interesting, I thought to myself. I’d never seen that one before. A little edgy maybe? No caffeine this morning?


Now that one I’d seen before. Pretty clever, I thought.

After I finished my shopping, I came back to find that the owner of the car with the bumper stickers had gotten whatever it was she needed and was sitting in the front seat. A newly lit cigarette dangled from one hand while, with the other hand, she was scratching off a newly-purchased lottery ticket.

Oh, the things I notice!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I Scream, You Scream . . .

I awoke this morning with a throbbing headache, ringing in my ears, and complete exhaustion that consumed me.

I did not have a hangover.

I had a scream-over.

Last night I took the girls to an amazing event. An event of such epic proportions that all Americans would call me their idol if they knew I was there. An event that makes young girls swoon and parents sway. An event so huge that even I thought it to be adventure-worthy. So we went . . .

. . . to the American Idol concert.

Oh yes indeedy, the girls and I rocked out last night. But we did not scream (well, only in jest).

We left the screaming to the four little girls who sat behind us. And to the two teenaged girls sitting in front of us. And to every other blessed person in the Allstate Arena last night who, this morning, have no vocal chords left.

Oh my, I have never in my life experienced such cacophony! It started out kind of regular-rock-concert-like when Chikezi came out. See, nobody in the audience knew what to expect, but when they flashed a great big old #10!!!! up on the screen, we soon realized pretty quickly that they were going to build toward the final set and that we’d have to wait a while to see THE. AMERICAN. IDOL. David Cook.

So some people saved their screams.

But not Little-Miss-Shrill behind me. For three hours this little . . . girl . . . screamed her lungs out.

By the time the intermission came, I had an unexplainable headache. Sure the music was loud, but I just couldn’t figure out who, sitting behind me, was whistling the entire time. Or why. I kept hearing what I thought was someone putting their two pinkie fingers in their mouth and whistling that high-pitched way that I’ve never been able to do.

But shortly after intermission, when Jason Castro came out (and I was tempted to scream, but I refrained), I looked behind me and saw that it was this little tiny thing making all that racket. She was no bigger than my Maggie, but boy did she have a set of lungs!

So as the anticipation of seeing Mr. American Idol grew, so did the noise.

Now, I must pause here and say that I know what you’re thinking. Geesh, she sounds crabby. She must sure be some old fuddy-duddy. First, let me say that I am not that old (girls, don’t laugh!). And second, I am no fuddy-duddy. I can rock out with the best of them. In fact, the last concert I went to was the U2 concert at the United Center when they came to Chicago a couple of years ago. It was loud, but I handled it just fine.

U2 seems to have a little bit different audience base. One that doesn’t scream quite so much.

So anyway, by the time David Arculetta came out on stage, I had just about lost it. Between screamer-girl behind me and the two teeny-boppers in front of me (who watched the entire show through the lenses of their cell phone cameras! Don’t even get me started!) I was quickly becoming unable to concentrate on the music or the performers.

Now, David Cook was great. He’s going to make it big very soon. And I’m sure he sang a really good set, but all I could think about at that point was the screaming. Every time that little girl opened her mouth I envisioned sharp arrows shooting through the back of my head and coming out the front. It was crazy! (Of course, if those arrows really did come out the front of my head they would hit the silly girls in front of me who weren’t even paying attention because they were recording the whole thing with their cell phones. What IS that?!)

My own girls, sweet precious things that they are, sat quietly in their seats the whole time. Occasionally they would sway. One time one of them stood up. But for the most part they were quietly taking it all in. We laughed a lot and had a wonderful time together, but not a single scream came from our section of the arena.

I really need to teach them some rock concert etiquette.

Edit: Thanks very much to my friend, Martha, who has a much better camera than I do and who shared her pictures with me!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hey y'all. Robin over at PENSIEVE is hosting a party and we've all been invited. We're supposedly feeling bad about not being able to go to some big fancy schmancy party for bloggers in San Fran, but since I'm so clueless about this whole blogging world I'm not feeling like I'm missing too much. Maybe next year I'll be clued in and crying in my drink. Who knows?

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to throw a party. Earlier this summer I even bought invitations for a party I wasn't even having just because I thought they were cute. I hope to have that party sometime before the summer ends, but just in case, take a look at the cute invitation and consider yourself welcomed.

I live in a suburb of Chicago with my banker-husband B, my three beautiful daughters who are quickly growing up and will be leaving the nest before I know it, and my wonder-dog, Thunder. Mom-life is great, but I also like professor-life, marketing-life, freelance writer-life, and volunteer-life. None of it makes me very much money (particularly because I'm not working at the moment), but I'm happy.

Funny that Robin asked about party food because B and I had our own little party on the back porch tonight. I wish I had taken pictures because it was all very lovely with twinkling lights and pretty plates, but basically we had bruschetta, shrimp cocktail, and baked brie. Oh, and wine!

Here's how to make the brie--one of my favorite appetizers ever. Take a sheet of puff pastry and thaw it on the counter for about 30 minutes. Take a piece of brie (the best piece of brie you can afford) and cut it in half, horizontally. Place about 2 tablespoons of raspberry jam on top of the bottom piece of brie and top with the remaining piece of brie. Wrap the brie with the puff pastry and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let set for a few minutes before cutting into it. Serve with crackers. Oh my, I could eat the whole thing!

I would love to get to know you better, so please leave a comment if you stop by. Thanks!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bag ladies

I have to admit, I like having older kids. The baby thing was just O.K. for me. I like it when the kid can talk back (did I just say that?!).

Another thing I like is living close to the library. It's an eight block walk straight down our street--you'll run right into it.

Today my three "big" kids have taken off on their bikes to the library, leaving me in the peace and tranquility of my home. I have a few things to do while they're gone, but I wanted to show you this picture I took just before they left.

Aren't the the cutest you've ever seen? The bags, I mean. These are the girls' library bags because, well, everyone should have a cute library bag, doncha think?

Kate and I bought them at Cath Kidston when we were in London last spring. Oh how we love Cath Kidston! We just had a blast in the store in Covent Garden, oohing and aahing over the beautiful prints and the cute bags. So, of course, we had to have some.

Kate's is made of oil cloth--so cute!--and the others are just a lightweight cotton fabric but still adorable. And perfect for the library.

Someday I'll have to show you my Cath Kidston market bag. I absolutely love it.

Yes, we're bag ladies and proud of it!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Perfect Line of Happy

One of my favorite people in the world has got to be the groomer. Yes, the groomer.

Not only does she take my hairy-beast-of-a-dog, shave her, wash her, brush her, and make her smell so good you could eat her up, she also gets same hairy beast out of my house for THREE WHOLE HOURS!

Some days, I would pay her just to take the dog off my hands for a little while—no washing involved.

See, my dog loves me. She REALLY loves me. She follows me around the house all day, just waiting for some affection from me. (Well, O.K., what she’s really waiting for is for me to put on my running shoes and take her for a walk, but still. . . .)

All the doggie togetherness just gets to me sometimes.

So yesterday was a good day, if only because Thunder was going to the groomer. I would have three hours to sweep the kitchen floor of all that hair (oh, how I hate the hair!); three hours of unimpeded walking around my house without tripping over the dog; three hours of answering the door without embarrassing myself or my guests by having my dog “eagerly” greet them. Ahhhh, three Thunder-less hours!

There’s only one problem with taking Thunder to the groomer—she hates the car. You know how you see these dogs riding in cars with their heads sticking out the window, face to the wind, ears pinned back, actual smiles on their faces as if they are having the time of their lives?

That’s not my dog.

She actually spends the time whining, crying, moaning, hopping from seat to seat like a nervous pit bull. It’s a pain to get her to the groomer because by the time we get there she’s crying so much and shaking so much that I just feel terrible for her.

And it’s only a 10 minute drive!

So I usually get one of the girls to help me keep her calm in the car and to help me keep my eyes on the road. Yes, it takes at least two people to get one crazy dog to the groomer.

Yesterday, when it was time to pick up our freshly washed, shaved, brushed non-hairy beast, Maggie came with me. She’s more like the head-out-the-window-face-to-the-wind-ears-pinned-back-smiling-all-the-while kind of image than our puppy is. This kid is just happy.

As we were driving along, enjoying a bea-u-ti-ful summer day (it was one of those days in Chicago that we wait for all year—perfect blue sky, low humidity, just lovely), Maggie took a deep breath and let out a big, “Ahhhhhhhhh.”

“What’s that for?” I asked.

“I’m on the perfect line of happy,” she said.

I let out a little laugh and asked, “What’s that mean?”

“Well, I’m not like ‘WAAH’ joyous, and I’m not sad. I’m just on the perfect line of happy.”

I love that! What a wonderful description of contentedness. The perfect line of happy.

Now, if I could just remember that when the snow is falling and the wind chill is way below zero. And my big, loveable, hairy beast is shedding like mad and lying in my way.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I'm so vain . . . I probably think this blog is about me

Occasionally other bloggers will play games. Lots of fun in cyberspace, I tell you. This morning, Musings of Housewife offered this game, which I thought looked like fun. If all three of my readers actually respond, I'll be shocked. But, hey, it's worth a try! She wrote:

"Here are the rules for this meme.

1. As a comment on my blog, leave one memory that you and I had together. It doesn't matter if you knew me a little or a lot, anything you remember!

2. Next, re-post these instructions on your blog and see how many people leave a memory about you.

I can't wait to see your responses. Come on, be a sport. Play along."

And have a great day!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Temporary set back

Well now, it just wouldn’t be a road trip if something didn’t go slightly awry, would it?

First there was the car. I’m currently driving (and have been for the past six years) a Chrysler mini-van with roughly 80,000 miles on it. It’s a car that, up until a few months ago, I really liked because 1) it can haul all of our stuff, 2) it had a pretty nice ride, and 3) it was a just fine way to get around town. As you can tell, I’m not so much into my car—it’s your basic transportation and that’s pretty much all I need.

But just before driving to Wisconsin to pick up Maggie, we had some “issues.” These weren’t just hiccups in the car--they were loud, obnoxious burps that I just could not put up with.

First, the shocks and struts went out (I say that like someone who knows these things, but I only know this because the car guy told me). One day B and I were driving along, happy as any couple could be. We stopped at a 4-way stop and then . . . “clunk” . . . something happened. The car literally “clunked!” We started driving and “squeak, rattle, screech” something was terribly wrong with our car. Shocks and struts.

Then something went wrong with the fuel injector—on, like, the very same day the thing with the shocks and struts happened. Whenever we’d try to accelerate, the car hiccupped and hesitated until it shifted into the next gear and then it was fine. Very frustrating for someone like me who spends a lot of time driving around town, doing a lot of stop-and-go driving.

So for the past few weeks I’ve been lurching around town in my crippled car, hoping I wouldn’t have to drive an adult anywhere because that would be embarrassing. According to the car guy, these things weren’t “dangerous” but probably needed to be fixed.

Well, before driving 400 miles to camp I had them fixed. To the tune of $1500! But at least we’d have a back-to-new-like car that didn’t go “squeak, rattle, screech” and didn’t hiccup and hesitate every time we asked it to do something.

Not three hours into our trip, as we got off the highway to stop for lunch, we heard a “clunk” and B and I looked at each other in horror. It couldn’t possibly be. But, alas, it was. The bumping, clunking, squeak-rattle-screeching was back. The SAME EXACT PROBLEM that we just had fixed to the tune of $750 was back! To say the least, we were mad.

But at least the fuel injector was still working.

Until we got to Rhinelander.

Yep, the hiccupping and hesitating was back too. So now, our complete $1500 investment into our car was a complete bust. (Now, before you write to me and tell me to call the mechanic, let me just say that I’m writing this on a Sunday and you can betcha that I will be on the phone first thing tomorrow letting him know just how great I feel about giving him all of that money for NOTHING!)

But at least we were able to get to Maggie and enjoy a lovely day with her at camp. That evening, we had to drive 45 minutes back the way we came because there was literally not a hotel room to be found in either of the two towns closest to the camp. And I made reservations back in March!

If I were smart, I’d start a hotel in Northern Wisconsin—there seems to be a great need for them up there.

After Family Day the families leave the kids at camp for one more night. A kind of bonding time during which most of the kids are already thinking about going home to their families, some even wishing they could be sleeping in the hotel with their parents instead of sitting around a stinky, smoky campfire one more time eating yet another mouthful of S’mores and still others dreaming about the video games and T.V. shows from which they had been deprived for two weeks. But it’s bonding time, and bonding is good.

The next morning, we were supposed to pick up our little charges at 7 a.m. SEVEN A.M.! Who is up then? And who wants to drive 45 minutes out of their way to go get these precious little ones?

I guess I do, because I was given the duty while B and the other two girls slept soundly in their beds.

So I left the hotel at 6:15 a.m. and headed up to camp. The idea was that I would be back around 8, B and the girls would be packed up and ready to go. We would eat some of the hotel’s “gourmet” breakfast and hit the road around 8:30, which would bring us home again sometime in the early afternoon which was perfect since Kate had to work at 6 p.m. and Abby had a babysitting job at 6:30. Time was of the essence.

As planned, Maggie and I arrived at the hotel for breakfast. As we were getting out of the car, Maggie wanted to show me something she had made at camp. “It’s in my . . .” and her eyes grew wide as she realized that she had left her string bag back at camp.

“Mom, we have to go back and get it!”

“No way, Maggie. It’s just too far. We’ll have to call the camp when we get home and ask them to send it. Hopefully they will find it.” I had HAD it with the drive to camp and I was NOT going to do it again.

“But MOM!” And the tears started.

She was still crying when we walked into the breakfast room.

“What’s wrong, Maggie?” her dad asked when he saw her.

“I left my string bag at camp and Mom won’t go back to get it!” Another fresh burst of tears.

“What was in it?” he asked calmly, something I had not even thought to ask.

“Some money, the letters you sent me, my Bible and my journal.”

“Well, that’s important stuff. We’ll just have to go back and get it,” said B, much to my dismay. I did not, under any circumstances, want to make that trip again.

But he was right. The stuff was important. Too important to a ten-year-old girl to risk losing it.

So, we quickly grabbed some breakfast to take in the car with us and we headed back, 45 minutes out of our way in one direction, to pick up the bag which, thankfully, was still there where she left it—underneath a big blue and white tent, right next to the bench she had been sitting on while she waited for me.

An hour and a half of extra driving, but we still got home in time to get Kate to work. An hour and a half to let this youngest member of our family know that her stuff was just as important as our time.

It was definitely worth it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I can't get this out of my head

I read the blog "Rocks in My Dryer" regularly--I'm learning a lot about this blogging thing just by reading good blogs like hers. Last week she wrote this post that has stayed with me all week. It's so sweet and touching, and it made me long for the days when I used to spend hours in the library with my girls. But more than that, it affirmed that what I do and what I have done with my daughters really matters.

Friday, July 11, 2008

These Just In . . .

The Wildfam just returned from an eventful 36 hours in Wisconsin, picking up Maggie from summer camp. I will post about it tomorrow, but here are some pictures I took of this beautiful part of God's green earth.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Just when you think you don't have anything to write about . . .

“Life on the Wild Side” has many meanings to me, but one reason I think that life is a little wild is because every day is an adventure. Sometimes you have to work a little harder to make your adventures, but other times the adventures just . . . happen.

Like today.

I had been kind of moping around the house all day, worrying about what to write, and the day was getting past me.

And past me.

And past me.

Since we’re heading to camp tomorrow to pick up our youngest from her very first time away from us ever, and since we had already gotten a couple of letters telling us how she’s now a card-carrying inhaler addict, I was starting to miss the little one.

So I decided to clean Maggie’s room, a once-a-year ritual I perform while children are at camp—it’s my way of feeling close to them while they are away. I don’t even get that mad about the Laffy Taffy stuck in the carpet or the CDs scattered around the room without a case to be found or the various Polly Pocket and Barbie pieces all over the closet floor.

Those Pollys and Barbies will be gone soon enough. As in next year, probably.

(I have to admit I was a little bothered by her back pack from the end of school with all of her leftover school supplies in it, but, hey, I didn’t tell her to empty it out, so it’s really my fault. Right?)

Later in the day, still missing my baby just a little, I headed to the mail box to see if she might have written one more time. Well, O.K., it wasn’t just a nonchalant I-think-I’ll-just-check-the-mailbox thing. I had actually been stalking the mailman, so as soon as I heard him step on our grass I was out there, retrieving the mail before it even had a chance to get warm in the sun.

Bills. Junk mail. Catalogues. Those nasty ad flyers that take up so much room.

And three (!) letters from camp. Again!

My lucky day!

I headed out to the back porch with my bottle of water, all ready to settle in with the letters when all of a sudden I fumbled the letters and a gust of wind came along both at the same time. Kind of like the scenes in old movies where a gust of wind comes along and blows the guy’s paycheck down the street. He ends up running along, trying to catch the wayward paycheck before it lands down a sewer grate.

Kind of like that.

The letters went flying out of my hand and one of them just happened to slip through the crack in the floor into the abyss underneath the porch. I grabbed the other two and held them tight as I just stood there crying, “Oh no!” and staring at the porch floor.

Now, there was no way I was going under the porch to retrieve the letter. I always think bunnies and skunks live under there. Nope. I’d wait until the other two girls got back from wherever it was they were off to.

In the meantime, I sat and read the remaining two letters which were considerably more upbeat than the first three I had gotten. Whew! Not even a mention of an inhaler. But then, I didn’t know what the letter-under-the-porch had to say.

The girls finally got home, and I sprang into action.

“Quick! Get a long stick or a rake or something! We’ve got to get Maggie’s letter from under the porch!”

They sprang too, grabbing at the longest rake they could find. I found a flashlight and shined the beam through the crack in the floor until I could see the letter--a little heart was drawn across the seal. I could see it through the crack just tempting me to get a jigsaw and cut right through the wood.

Abby valiantly tried to reach the letter from the most obvious point at the outside of the house, but it was just too far to reach with the rake. So she went to the other side of the house and tried to get it from there. Nothing doing.

Kate suggested going through the crack in the floorboard with some string and some duct tape—getting it out the way it had gone in. I just looked at her and laughed. Yep, and she’s a genius, that one.

We stood around on the porch for a while, scratching our heads, and trying to figure out which one of us was actually going to have to go underneath the porch. This jewel was too precious NOT to keep trying for.

Suddenly Kate said, “Hey! Let’s go through the window in the basement!” Of course!

When we remodeled our house three years ago we added the porch to the back of the old part of our house. The old windows were still there, although we never opened them.

We quickly ran downstairs.

“So, which one of you is going through?” I asked.

“Let’s get the window off, and then we’ll figure that out. Maybe we won’t even have to go through it.”

So, lots of tugging and pulling later we had the window off its hinges. But then came the problem of the screen, held in place by some very old, very stripped screws. One corner came off, but the other was not budging.

By now we were so determined to get the letter out that no little screen was going to stop us.

“Let’s cut the screen with a razor blade,” Abby suggested.

Well, why not? We had come this far, and we were three determined women, so cut the screen we did. We managed to just cut down two sides, enough so that, if we moved the screen over just so, the rake could get through the window.

But after a couple of tries we realized that the rake was still just inches too short. Kate tried. Abby tried. Even I tried, but none of us could reach it.

At this point we’re laughing hysterically at our own desperation. Here we were, standing in our basement, the window above the washing machine was off its hinges, the screen was cut, and our rake was too short. Thirty minutes had passed and we still didn’t have Maggie’s letter in our hands.

“We just need a couple more inches! How about a dust pan?” Huh? A dust pan?

"Yeah! A dust pan! We’ll tape it to the end of the rake and use the extra length to just scoop up the letter under the porch."

Yeah, that’ll work.

We found some clear packaging tape on the workbench and set out taping the dust pan to the end of the rake handle. Abby, no quitter she, reached in through the screen.

“I almost have it! I almost have it!” she cried as Kate and I peered into the abyss. “Oh no, the dust pan fell off.”

The three of us were just about to wet our pants, we were laughing so hard at this point. But, again, not to be deterred, we decided that clear packaging tape wasn’t the way to go. No, this was a job for . . .

Duct tape!

Grabbing another dust pan (I seem to collect those in my basement—I’m not sure why, but I can’t bring myself to throw them away), we DUCT TAPE (when, by the way, did duct tape become a verb?) it to the end of the rake. And just for good measure, we put an extra piece of tape on the end of the dust pan so that some of the sticky side was hanging off, hoping that it would grab onto the letter and pull it toward us.

“If I get this out, I get to read the letter first,” Abby yelled from the darkness, her top half under the house, her . . . ahem . . . bottom half back in the basement.

Believe it or not, it worked! Before too long we had Maggie’s letter in hand. Abby sat right where she was, on top of the dryer, and read it out loud to us.

She’s doing great, that little one. Having one adventure after another.

And so are we.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Three Letters from Camp

One week ago yesterday I dropped my baby off at the bus that would take her to camp for the first time ever. This is always a big step for me . . . letting go. But let's be honest here, what mother doesn't have trouble letting go?

So you can imagine my delight at receiving THREE letters from camp yesterday, all written on different days.

Letter 1:

“Dear Fam, Camp is great! My counselors are great! The girls in my cabin are great! My cabin is even great! I passed my swimming test. I even like the food. Love you! Maggie”

Well, now, wasn’t I the smartest mommy EVER to send my daughter to such a lovely place? Everything’s great! She’s having such a wonderful time. She’s having new experiences and meeting new people, even trying new foods, which, for Maggie, who doesn’t even like cheese—have you ever heard of a kid who didn’t like cheese?—is a real step forward. I just knew sending her to camp was the best decision I ever made.

Letter 2:

“Dear Fam, AARRGGHH!! Allergies! Last night we were going to sleep in the barn on the other side of camp, but my allergies kicked in and we had to leave. I think I disappointed all the girls in my cabin.”

Wait a minute! I paid HOW MUCH money for this camp and now she’s sleeping in a BARN?

“One of my counselors made me go back to take a shower to get all the dust off of me. That helped my eyes not be so swollen.”

Well, at least she’s had ONE shower this week.

“So we left the barn and went to another campsite, but the dust and ash from the campfire made my allergies even worse. So much for that shower! Love, Maggie”

Gosh, camp sounds rough. All that moving around, and showering. Looks like I’ll have my work cut out for me after she gets back. It’s so hard to get that campfire smell out of their clothes.

Letter 3:

“Dear Fam, Well, my eyes are still red and itchy, but I’m carrying my inhaler around with me wherever I go. I’m getting pretty good at taking it by myself.”

So . . . I see that the nurse is getting a little loosey-goosey with handing out the drugs. Things must be pretty bad if she has to carry that inhaler with her all the time. Gee, she hasn’t used that thing in over a year—I hope the medicine is still effective.

“Today I tipped over a canoe—that was sure fun! And this afternoon I’m going to try riflery—can you believe they’re going to trust me with a gun?!”

HOLD ON A SECOND! Tipping over a canoe in the middle of a lake that is probably 23 feet deep is one thing, but trusting that child with a gun is another thing all together. This is the kid who won’t even walk to school by herself! I guess if she learns some gun-handling skills she could take one with her if she ever decides to grow up and walk alone.

“Three days down, seven to go.”

This is where she inserted a chart with three hash marks on one side (three down, get it?) and seven on the other.

“I really miss you. Love, Maggie”

Enough to make a mother’s heart melt.

Two more days and I’m coming to get you, Maggie! I miss you too.

Monday, July 7, 2008

And I didn't even know they still did collect calls

“Collect call from Costa Rica,” a tiny voice with a huge accent was asking me if I would accept charges.

“Yes! Yes!” I quickly answered, anticipating some sort of terrible news from my daughter who was probably being held hostage by some fringe political group in the mountains of Costa Rica. It had been almost two weeks since she left, and, since I had not heard from her the entire time she was gone, I imagined the worst.


“Yes, Kate! Are you O.K.?”

“Yes, I’m fine. Our flight’s been cancelled.”

What?! I had been expecting my oldest daughter home later that night. I couldn’t wait to throw my arms around her and barrage her with questions about the food, the culture, and, of course, the beautiful beaches.

How could that AAirline do that to me? I needed to see my baby and I needed to see her now!

“Looks like they will try to get us on a flight later tonight to Miami, and then we’re going to be booked on a flight back from Miami late tomorrow afternoon,” she said. When did that little girl get so good at making travel arrangements?

My feelings of pride at her sudden foray into adulthood didn't last long as I quickly lost composure, pounding her with questions.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” “Is everyone else alright?” “Just tell me the truth, are you healthy and are you safe?”

And did you remember to buy my primo Costa Rican coffee while you were there?

“Yes, yes, and YES, mom. We’re FINE, really.” I could feel her eyeballs rolling to the top of her head as she shook her head in mock disbelief at how her mom could be so . . . LAME.

“Well, alright. We’d better hang up now. This is a collect call and those are really expensive. Just tell me real quick, how was the trip? Did you have a good time?” I asked.

“Yeah, it’s been great. Those little kids were so cute, and the people were wonderful. I don’t want to leave.”

Pppfffttt. (That’s the sound of the air being let out of my tires.) She doesn’t want to leave, huh? I tell you what, Missy, I want you to leave enough for the both of us, so get your little booty on the next plane out of there and come home!

Of course, moms can’t say those things. Moms have to be sympathetic and understanding and supportive, so moms just say, “Oh, I’m so glad you had a good time,” and I really am, but just now . . . at this moment . . . when you’re supposed to be getting on a plane and coming home to me . . . I’m a little bit bummed.

Well, dear daughter number 1 did make it home—in the middle of our 4th of July party and nearly 24 hours late. A little late and a little sleep-deprived, but none the worse for wear, she walked in with two suitcases full of dirty clothes and two weeks—more like two lifetimes—of memories.

I’m so glad she’s (finally!) home.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Some random thoughts about our day at the Taste

First, let me say, that I had worried for two days prior to our excursion downtown about what I would wear, particularly on my feet, to the Taste of Chicago. I mean, my current pair of tennis shoes has holes in the pinky toes, and that just would not do. But then, flip flops and my legs do not get along very well after a while, so that wouldn’t do either. I went round and round for days.
I didn’t need to worry.

Nobody looked at my feet.

At least I don’t think so, and once I got there I really didn’t care.

So random thought number 1: In a fashion sense, anything goes. I saw a lot of skin (as I had anticipated), but I also saw men in business suits and women in dresses (really!). Anyone who would venture into a crowd of about 500,000 people dressed in business attire only to have BBQ sauce dribbled down the front of his shirt or sweat pouring down her back is not only crazy but needs to report to H.R. immediately. You’re fired!

Random thought number 2: What’s with the body art? I am now officially in the old-fuddy-duddy-minority because I do not sport a tat. Seems like everyone else in the world has one. Now, I’m not one to make judgments—if you want to scratch your skin until it bleeds just to display an image that will undoubtedly sag and fall and become misshapen in not too many years is up to you. Who am I? But I did see the coolest tattoo ever.

Random thought number 3: Get the tasting portion and share it with a friend. Now, every booth has a “regular” portion of several different foods that would be equivalent to a meal. A full rack of ribs. An entire plate of fish and chips. A roasted pig on a spit. But, being the petite and cautious eaters that we are, we wanted to save room for other things, so we went for the “Taste” portion—just a small bit that makes you feel like you’re really not consuming as many calories, even though, over the course of the day, you really are. Here are just a couple of things we tried. The entire list will be given to you if you make a comment below, but only then. Suffice it to say, we “tasted” about 10 different things.

Random thought number 4: Be careful not to eat too much or you might end up like the guy sitting near me, doubled over, staring at the grass. You can imagine what came next.

Random thought number 5: If, after you get bored at the Taste, you decide to walk the entire length of Michigan Avenue, better wear the tennis shoes! I’m glad I did.

Random thought number 6: Macy’s on State Street has a really fine bathroom on the lower level, just through the restaurant area. We used it twice. Thank you, Macy’s!

Random thought number 7: If you really want to feel like a tourist (as if going to the Taste wasn’t enough) head to the ABC 7 Studio on State Street. You can stand there, gawking at the people doing the news like they’re monkeys in a cage, then pull out your cell phone and call your friends to say, “Hey, turn on the T.V.! I’m on the news!” That is, of course, if you actually remember to take your cell phone with you.

Which leads me to random thought number 8: Remember thy cell phone. Unless you want to know how much you mean to your husband who calls you 10 times throughout the day leaving various messages like, “Where are you?” “Why aren’t you answering?” “O.K., now I’m really worried.” “Should I call the cops?” Bless his heart.

Random thought number 9: Teenage boys are as fashion-conscious as the girls. At least the group that sat near us on the train sure was. They had actually bought a GQ Magazine and were reading it—out loud—on the way home. I learned that snakeskin is out, aviator glasses are in, and it’s never cool (unless you’re a drug dealer or want to look like one) to wear sunglasses inside. Who knew?

Random thought number 10: If you ever have the chance to make a day of it with just one child, do it. Abby and I had so much fun, and I know I will never forget our day together. Thanks for the adventure, Abby!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Pre-"Taste" Jitters

O.K., I'll admit it. I've lived in the Chicago area my entire life and I've never been to the Taste of Chicago. But with two children gone (see below) I wanted to do something fun with the one who was left behind.

The whole thing kind of freaks me out, to tell you the truth. Here's what I picture:

- lots of rather large men with beer bellies drinking, well . . . beer!

- same said men eating polish sausage until they look like they themselves are about to pop out of their casings.

- skin, lots and lots of skin. Makes mine want to crawl.

- Crowds. I don't do well with them. I had enough of crowds for the rest of my life on the Paris Metro this spring.

- Port-a-potties. Or Honey Buckets. Or Drop Zones. Whatever you like to call them, I just don't do them. I refuse. Could be interesting.

- Deep fat frying. I love the smell, but I don't like what it does to my already mid-life, flabby arms. I picture myself floating home like the marshmallow puff guy in "Ghostbusters" or the Bob's Big Boy balloon from "Austin Powers." That'll be me--Wildmom, as big as a house, floating on strings to get home.

So I'm picturing a crowded day of people from all sorts of walks of life bumping into me and eating like pigs. An adventure will be had, that's for sure!