Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Last week's great pumpkin saga brought such an amazing response from all of you. I am still laughing about how many of you have commented about it or made comments to me in person.
Will you now agree that this is, indeed, a crisis and I wasn't just making it up?
Well, to show my appreciation for your comments/responses/sympathies, I have decided to share some of my pumpkin wealth with you. If you'll recall, I did get four whole cans of pumpkin from Whole Foods . . . at the very dear price of $2.99 per can, no less! They are sitting in my pantry even now.
But I just don't feel right hoarding the nation's pumpkin supply, so I've decided to do a little giveaway. I am willing to part with two cans of Whole Foods Organic Pumpkin--that's half my stash, people!--to the person who sends me the best pumpkin recipe.
What is a must-have in your house every fall? Is it Grandma's pumpkin bread? Pumpkin muffins? Do you have THE BEST pumpkin pie recipe? Or is it a coffee cake that you make every year?
Here's what you do . . . either write out the recipe in the comments section and post it here on my blog. Or, if you have your own blog, write a post about it and link up to it here in the comments section. Either way, I have to be able to read the full recipe. (I also have to have a way to get in touch with you, so be sure to leave your email address.)
I'd like to test them all before I make a decision, but since the pumpkin supply is so short, I'll just have to judge them based on reading the recipe. And, of course, the outcome will be completely subjective. I'll judge the recipes and let my family have the final say.
I will post the winner on Friday and then over the weekend I'll make the winning recipe and post a picture of it next Monday. Along with the Wildfam review of it.
So come on! Play along! This just might save your Thanksgiving.
Monday, September 28, 2009
There I was, sitting at a football game, blithely talking to a friend who mentioned something about someone with a sick child, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I have a friend with a sick child too. And I was supposed to do something very simple for that friend on Friday. I was supposed to take dinner to her and her family.
But I forgot.
My week was busy, B was out of town, and things weren't as they usually were. The week got rolling, and I didn't check my calendar. And I forgot to remember my hurting friend with a very sick little girl.
Stupid, I know.
It pains me to think about this, to even write it. It pains me to think that I disappointed someone, especially someone who is already hurting so much. I was supposed to make things easier on her and my forgetfulness made it harder.
I have spent the weekend thinking about this, crying over it, and I'm wondering why I can't just move on. I wonder why I can't just chalk this up to a simple mistake and get over it. I wonder why it's so hard to forgive myself.
I think there's an answer to these questions. An answer that's tied up in my sense of who I am, or, at least, who I think I am. Strong. Capable. Reliable. I spend my days owning up to these names, especially to the people around me. I work really hard to present myself as all of these things.
But with one stupid act of forgetfulness I am suddenly none of those things. It's like the exterior "me" has been stripped away and the true "me" has been laid bare. Forgetful. Irresponsible. Unreliable.
But each of these images of myself--the strong or the stupid--are false. They are facades that I wear. The truth is that I am both of these things and more at any given moment. And the fact is that my image of me doesn't matter at all and if it does, that's pride.
Here's the thing I've come away with this weekend. No matter how much I screw up, God's image of me is not tarnished. He knows my strengths and uses them, if I let Him. He knows my weaknesses, my moments of extreme forgetfulness, and yet He accepts those as well.
Even though my image may have been a bit tarnished in the eyes of my friend and most certainly in my own eyes, God knows my heart, sees it all the way through, and isn't the least bit surprised by what He finds there.
"O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. . . . You are familiar with all my ways." (Ps. 139: 1-3)
Friday, September 25, 2009
So she sent me the words this week and I'm supposed to write about them. I wonder if there's any significance to the fact that all the words she sent me were "F" words.
Anyway, here we go. As Jon Lovitz used to say on Saturday Night Live: "Get to know me!"
Far. Oh, this one's easy. I love to travel--far. And there are lots of faraway places that I still want to see. Probably the farthest I've ever travelled is to Sao Paulo, Brazil which is 5,219 miles from Chicago.
Funny. I don't consider myself a particularly funny person, but when I think through my days I realize I laugh a lot. Maybe that's because the people around me are very funny. Or maybe I just crack myself up. I don't know.
Fickle. Fickle people annoy me. They even scare me a little. I am not fickle at all. I know my mind, and I make decisions easily. Usually. I mean, unless I'm just not sure about something and then I don't know what to do. So I guess you could say I can't make up my mind about some things. But then other things . . .
Favorite. I don't have favorites. Having majored in literature in college, I am often asked, "What's your favorite book?" or "Who's your favorite author?" I'm always stumped by that question because with all the great literature out there, who can pick? Maybe I'm just fickle.
Fate. I don't believe in fate. Believing in fate leaves way too much to chance for my liking. I choose to have faith in a sovereign God who has said, "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deuteronomy 31:8)
Thursday, September 24, 2009
We are having a pumpkin shortage.
Yesterday Kate was hosting her small group at our house, as she does every-other Wednesday night. She had very nicely asked me if I would make those yummy pumpkin squares that seem to pop up around this time of year. Sure, no problem. That's an easy request.
Or so I thought.
I had one hour between Bible study and the time I was to meet some friends for lunch so I thought I'd use my one hour wisely by stopping at the store to pick up the ingredients I needed for the pumpkin squares, namely . . . pumpkin. In a can. Is that so hard?
I started at Jewel, our local grocery store that has pretty much everything I need . . . unless I need something at Trader Joe's and then I go there. Perusing the baking aisle (yes, I do know my grocery store, and I do know that that's where I would find the canned pumpkin--NOT with the canned fruits and vegetables), I noticed a gaping hole where the pumpkin should be.
Thankfully, a man was stocking the shelves, so I asked him, "Sir, where is the canned pumpkin?"
"Not here," he replied. "We don't have any, and you're not going to find any anywhere else either, unless some Mom and Pop store has some."
Blood pressure starting to rise. Don't panic, I told myself.
"Why?" I asked. "Why no pumpkin anywhere?" My language capacity was starting to get affected.
"Something happened to the pumpkin crop earlier this year. Libby's is trying to get more, but they have to wait until they have enough to distribute to a wider area before they send it out."
That must be grocery store lingo, because he lost me at "pumpkin crop." Just the mere thought of distributing that much pumpkin to the entire Chicagoland area, much less the entire country, makes my head spin. You'd never know I was raised on a farm.
I mean, hello?! Doesn't he know what season we're entering?? Pumpkin season, of course.
I began to imagine the fallout. No pumpkin cake. No pumpkin squares. No pumpkin bread or pumpkin pie. Might as well kiss Thanksgiving goodbye. I was getting depressed. So I put down my little shopping basket and left the store.
O.K., he said some Mom and Pop store might have it. I'll just check around. I've got time. And I headed down the street to Walgreens because everyone knows that if you need a weird item, no matter what it is, Walgreens will have it. And at this point, pumpkin was becoming weird.
No luck at Walgreens.
Or at McChesney and Miller--a true Mom and Pop store.
Or at Trader Joe's where they did have canned pureed sweet potato and pureed turnip root, but no pumpkin.
Or at Aldi.
Or at the second Walgreens I tried. (What can I say? I'm an optimist.)
I even stopped at Williams Sonoma where I worked one holiday season and talked to my friend Dana who said, "Oh, yeah, we carried pumpkin one year. It came in this cute green can with orange pumpkins all over it. Yeah . . . but we don't have it anymore." Gee, thanks, Dana.
Are you counting? That's seven stores. SEVEN! No pumpkin anywhere.
So I headed to meet my friends for lunch where my friend, Kim, had one last suggestion. "Have you tried Whole Foods?" Of course! Why didn't I think of that? I'll tell you why I didn't think of that. I am not a shopper extraordinaire like Kim is--she would think of every possibility.
"Why don't you call them before you head over there?" she suggested. "And if they have it, have them put a can at the front desk for you." Of course.
Well, to make a long story even longer, Whole Foods said they DID have pumpkin and that they would indeed put one aside for me. At this point I was regretting not asking them to put aside a whole case for me, but oh well. I only needed one.
After lunch I drove as fast as I could to Whole Foods and ran to the front desk to claim what felt like buried treasure. As soon as I opened my mouth, the woman at the desk grabbed my hands and said, "Oh, I'm so sorry! As soon as we hung up the phone I went over to check, and we didn't have any pumpkin. That's so weird because we just had some the other day. But here's a $5 gift card for your trouble."
At least I got that going for me anyway.
Just in case you're keeping track, that's 8 stores. EIGHT. Do I love my daughter or what?
I came home feeling quite dejected. I was going to have to move to plan B. But before I did, I checked my email. Wouldn't you know it, Amy had sent me a recipe for a Pumpkin Bundt Cake that she made the other day. I emailed her back and said, "Looks like I won't be making that cake, or any other cake with pumpkin. I've just been to 8 stores and can't find pumpkin anywhere."
Within minutes Amy texted me with this message: "I have 1 cup of pumpkin in my fridge leftover from the other day. Do you want it?"
Here's all I have to say about how Amy saved my day:
One can of pumpkin: $1.19
One tank of gas spent running around looking for pumpkin: $45
One lunch, to make myself feel better about not finding said pumpkin: $7
One wonderful friend with one cup of pumpkin in her fridge: Priceless
Update: Whole Foods called me this morning to say that they had received a shipment of their Organic Pumpkin. They set aside four cans for me, so I ran in to pick them up this afternoon. And, you know, I love Whole Foods for what they've done for me, and they did give me that $5 gift card, but please . . . $2.99 a can?! You have GOT to be kidding! Of course, I bought it anyway.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Look at what I got in the mail yesterday. The real mail. Not email.
Apparently my mother took it upon herself to point out that I wasn't the only person in America who had the same idea last week.
Oh well. I guess Mike Smith of the Las Vegas Sun noticed that too.
Monday, September 21, 2009
I discovered this recipe last fall when I was looking for some kind of apple dessert. Well, wouldn't you know that my girl, Paula, would come through with a winner. I just love Paula, don't you?
Just the name of this recipe, Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping, tells you it's pretty much a perfect recipe. I mean, who doesn't like Caramel anything? And Apples? Can't beat 'em for a fall dessert. And then there's Cheesecake--pretty much a perfect dessert any way you look at it. In bar form. And Streusel--I love anything with a streusel topping, don't you?
Yep, now that I've analyzed it, I'd have to say that this is pretty much a perfect dessert. If there were any way to work chocolate into it, it would be even more perfect, but that's O.K. We wouldn't want to mess with it too much and end up with a pile of gloppy mess that is anything less than perfection.
And so, in honor of Fall, which arrives today or tomorrow (I can't ever remember), and in honor of my sister, Jenn, who told me I needed more pictures on my blog, I give you Paula's recipe for Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping.
First, you make the base layer. It's pretty much a shortbread that you bake for 10 minutes.
Once that's done, you add your cheesecake layer.
Then some apples tossed with sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Yum!
And then add the streusel layer. Bliss!
Bake it all in the oven, then drizzle caramel topping over the whole thing. It will look like this.
And if you can even hold yourself back from taking a fork to the entire pan, cut yourself a nice piece and enjoy. With a tall glass of cold milk.
Then go walk an extra mile.
(Note: You can download and print Paula's recipe HERE. It's just so much easier to do it that way than to have me type it all out.)
Friday, September 18, 2009
Completely irrational, I know. But the bedtime thing is one of my "issues." (Oh, there are so many. I think this blog will probably run for a long time as I work through my issues.)
Of course, I can't really tell the high schoolers when to go to bed, which is a totally different issue altogether. We'll get to that one another day.
Anyway, as I was putting Maggie to bed one night this week AT EXACTLY 8:30--no later!--she noticed a book we had been reading together this summer sitting on her bookshelf. We only got about halfway through because, you know, school started and usually when I try to read to her at 8:30 I end up yawning every five lines or so and it kind of stinks.
Well, wouldn't you know, Maggie started in on me. "Mom, can we please read tonight? We haven't read together in such a long time." And then she looks up at me with those big brown eyes, batting her eyelashes and giving me "that" look.
"No. It's already 8:30 and you're going to be totally tired tomorrow if you don't go to sleep NOW." Like she falls asleep the minute her head hits the pillow. No, she's not like her mama in that way.
"Pleeaasse, Mom? I just love reading with you."
"I said no. I mean no. How about tomorrow? Then we can plan for it and you'll still be in bed at the right time. Besides, I'm too tired to read tonight," I said.
"That's O.K., Mom, I'll read to you."
I hesitated. I never should have done it, but I hesitated. That is the most deadly thing a parent can do. Hesitate.
"Pleeaasse, Mom? It's a short chapter. It won't take long."
And then I did the second worse thing a parent can do. I caved. "Oh, alright," I said. "You read."
You know what she did then? She sat up in bed, pumped her fists, laughed, and said, "YES! I should be a lawyer!"
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I nearly hugged her. If I hadn’t been all sweaty, I just might have.
A couple of weeks ago I sat down at the high school football game ready to cheer the Falcons to victory when another dear friend turned around and said, “So, you’re going to write about public school, huh? Good luck with that one.”
We shared a bit of a laugh together . . . once I figured out that she had read my blog that day.
And this week I got the sweetest note in the actual mail (!) from yet another reader who mentioned that my blog was a blessing to her. Tears in these eyes, yes there were, when I read that one.
Seriously, I just love it when people tell me they read my blog. It doesn’t happen all that often, but when it does, I’m always pleasantly caught by surprise.
When someone tells me they’ve been reading the blog, do you know what I do? I mentally scan back through all my old posts and try to figure out what I’ve written that might possibly offend that person. (Chances are pretty good there’s something there—keep looking.) And then I mentally think of all the silly things I’ve written—the trite and the simple—that might make them not want to come back again.
And then I smile real big and say, “Oh my goodness, you have no idea what that means to me.” And I mean it. Just the fact that you’re sitting here right now, reading my insecure thoughts about my little life even though it is just a silly little hobby that has begun to mean something to me, means the world to me.
Of all the blogs in all the world in all the blogosphere on the entire internet, you chose mine.
But sometimes I feel like it’s not fair. All of you know what’s happening in my life, but I don’t know what’s happening in yours. I know, that’s the nature of the blog, and if you wanted to splash your “stuff” all over the internet you would start your own blog. I get that.
But here’s the thing . . . I sometimes wish I knew who was out there reading all my mundane musings. I wish I knew if what I write made you think about an issue differently or helped clarify your thinking or made you laugh.
See, the internet is a community—a dialogue, if you will (I really hate that word).
You can say anything you want in the comments. Preferably things like “I love this post” or “Great points!” or “Wanna have coffee next week?” but you could also tell me I’m crazy and I should go fly a kite. At least I’ll know you’re out there.
You are out there, aren’t you? Hello??
The comments let me know you’re reading me. But they also encourage me. A lot. And sometimes I get a new idea from a comment or I see an issue in a new way. And then a new blog post gets spurred just because someone took a minute to comment.
See? I need you, readers! I need your comments. So today, I’m going to ask you for a favor: LEAVE ME A COMMENT.
If you’ve never commented before, you can easily register on Blogger if you want to do that, but otherwise you can just leave an Anonymous note—those don’t scare me. If you have left a comment before, may I just virtually hug you? Thank you so much! And keep ‘em coming!
Yep, I’m begging today, folks. I need a comment. Even if it’s just a simple “hello, I’m reading” it will make my day if you do that. If you really don’t know what to write, just tell me where you live.
So, next time I see you at the gym or at the game or at the grocery store and you say to me, “Oh, I see Kate made a college decision!” I’ll be able to say, “Yes, and I know what you think about that.”
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Question: When someone gives you a gift, what should you do in response?
Question: Do good manners even matter anymore?
I think it’s time to pull out my Miss Manners persona because, frankly, I think some people need a refresher course.
And I’m not talking about my kids.
Now, our girls might not be able to tell you which fork to use first at a formal dinner party (but then again, they just might), but they can certainly tell you what kind of behavior is appropriate in public. Or not.
In just the past week I have noticed so many forms of bad behavior in public that I really think some lessons are in order. Maybe instead of talking about Healthcare all the time, we could start a new public debate on appropriate behavior.
I first noticed this growing problem last week when Michael Jordan was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame. Now, listen up, kids. When you’re being given an honor—most likely the highest honor of your life—you need to put on an air of humility, even if you have to fake it. And you need to receive your honor with grace. This is not the time to go bashing your former boss.
Michael, didn’t your mother ever tell you that if you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all?
And then last weekend, Serena Williams totally lost her cool during a match in the U.S. Open. Serena, Serena, Serena. Do you kiss your mother with that mouth? Really now. Tennis used to be the sport of the civil, the mannerly. You’ve suddenly made it into the sport of the classless and disrespectful.
You know who I’m going to pick on next, right? Joe Wilson, the congressman from South Carolina, during President Obama’s speech last week shouted out, “You lie!” in front of the entire Congress. Whether or not you agree with Mr. Wilson’s sentiments, you have to agree that this was not the time nor the place for his feelings to be made known.
I was taught to respect the office of the President, whether or not I agree with him. I was also taught that the American Congress is different from the British Parliament in that we do not yell out to one another or call each other names. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see a little more friendly banter between our Congresspeople, but that’s just not how it’s done here. We try to be civil.
Joe, your shout out to the President was not civil nor respectful.
O.K., last one. (Can you believe all of these happened within the past week?!) Kanye West. Completely dissed Taylor Swift in front of the entire nation. That poor girl didn’t know what happened to her. And neither did Beyonce. Both women were put on the spot, and not in a good way. I assure you, every person at the VMA awards was after publicity, but not the kind of publicity that Kanye West showered on Taylor Swift or Beyonce.
Kanye, embarrassing another person, especially on national television, is never considered polite. I guess Joe Wilson could take a lesson from that one too.
See, here’s the thing. My parents taught me, and it’s what I’m trying to teach my own daughters, that good manners have everything to do with the other person—-making the other guy look or feel good, even if it makes you look or feel bad. When you hurt someone’s reputation or when you make someone uncomfortable or when you put your own reputation ahead of someone else’s, it’s just plain rude.
Good manners puts the other guy first. Always.
One thing all of these people do have in common is this: they all apologized.
After the fact.
And, I gotta say, that’s disappointing too. Because if they had been taught better manners, none of this would have happened and no apologies would have been necessary.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Guess what. It was hot again. Really hot. Who ever thought going to Washington DC in August was a good idea?
Believe me, we figured out pretty quickly why Congress takes a recess in August. And it's not to give the tourists a break from all the long lines (although that was one of the side-benefits we liked). It's just too darn hot to be in that city in August! Nancy Pelosi's linen suits would get all wrinkled in that heat and humidity, and we can't have that now, can we?
Not to be deterred by the heat, we headed out early. We had scheduled an 11:30 Capitol tour, so we thought we'd check out the Library of Congress first. I remember visiting this building when I was in high school, but I had forgotten how spectacular it was.
Here's just one example of the beautiful mosaic work that surrounds most of the walls and ceiling:
As book lovers, we all fell in love with the Library of Congress--especially the special display of Thomas Jefferson's library. Talk about amazing! There we were with all of his books; I felt like we could almost touch history (but we didn't dare!). We didn't have time to take a tour, but we all agreed that next time we're in Washington that would be at the top of our list.
Know why we didn't have more time to spend at the Library of Congress? Because we had to zip across the street to the Capitol Building for our 11:30 tour.
I've already written a little bit about our Capitol tour here (go to the section labeled "Bad"). This was two hours of our lives that we'll never get back, and I'd really rather not rehash that experience, so I'll just leave it at that. Except to mention that once we finished with Tonythemonotonetourguide, we were starving, so we headed to the Capitol Building cafeteria where we spent $45 for a pretty mediocre lunch--B and I even shared a sandwich and we still almost had to leave our firstborn!
We all wished we had stayed back at the Library of Congress.
Anyway, fed and relatively happy, we headed down the street to the National Archives. I guess you could say we were taking the "National Treasure" tour that day since so many of the places we visited were in that movie. I wanted to see the Declaration of Independence because my family lore has it that one of the signers of the Declaration is my great-great-great-great-great (yes, five greats) grandfather--Charles Carroll of Carrollton, MD. Funny thing is, he's also highlighted in "National Treasure." (Of course, my husband would quibble with that family lore, but until it's proven otherwise, I'm sticking to my story.)
Because lines were short, we were able to zip in and out of the Archives pretty quickly. It's definitely worth it to take a look at the most famous documents in American history. Very cool (in more ways than one). And, once again, free. Plus, they have one of the best gift shops in DC.
After the Archives, we were at a bit of a loss as to what to do next, so we started walking toward the White House. But, have I mentioned it was hot? Just a few blocks down the street, we needed to get inside again, and since we were near the Old Post Office Pavilion, we ducked inside to get some relief from the heat.
In my research before the trip I had read that you could get a great view of Washington if you went to the top of the observation tower in the Old Post Office Pavilion. (And, yes, it's free!) So we braved the old, rickety elevator that wasn't air conditioned and made it to the top. Kind of a fun detour and definitely a great view. This picture was taken from up there--you can see the roofs of the Federal Triangle buildings in the foreground.
Our last stop for the day was the White House. We had seen the south side of the building on our bike tour, but I wanted the rest of the family to see the north side. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, everyone was SO hot and SO crabby, that they didn't exactly appreciate the view. Needless to say, the Christmas card picture didn't happen. 'Nuff said.
On our last day in Washington DC, B looked at me and said, "I feel like how I felt on the last day at Disney World." That pretty much sums it up. Tired. Exhausted. Hot. And starting to get ready to go home.
But we had a plan and we were determined to execute the plan if it killed us. It very nearly did.
Before we left, we decided that each family member could choose one thing that they really wanted to see or do. Mine was the National Archives . . . and the bus tour . . . and the bike tour. It pays to be the trip planner.
Abby's choice was to see the American History Museum of the Smithsonian. Maggie wanted to see the International Spy Museum. So those were on our list for the last day.
The American History Museum is really fun. We found all of the wonderful treasures that we wanted to see like Dorothy's ruby red slippers from "The Wizzard of Oz," the original flag that "The Star Spangled Banner" was written about, and, best of all, Julia Child's kitchen. Abby was our tour guide that day, and I'd say we pretty much saw every square inch of that museum. Again, this was one of those days when August played to our advantage because the lines were minimal. I really wouldn't want to be there over Spring Break.
We started melting down on our way to the Spy Museum. Literally. Hunger and heat were taking their toll on us. I think we would have killed each other if we weren't actually in public. Thank goodness for the cafe where we got some lunch and a little respite from our day--it saved our lives.
Next, the International Spy Museum. We had heard about this from some friends who had been to Washington earlier in the summer, so Maggie decided this would be her pick. I had reserved tickets online before we left, but we showed up about an hour early. Thankfully, they let us in.
This is an interesting museum (and one of the very few places we actually had to pay for admission) based on the CIA and FBI and spying of all kinds. Kind of made me want to start a new career. Many of the displays are interactive--the kids seem to love it--but it's a little narrow in places, and crowded, so you can't get near all of the screens. Even so, it was fun. If there's a little James Bond in you, check out the Spy Museum--you'll enjoy it.
Believe me, after that busy, crazy, hot, go-go-go week we were ready to head home. After a fun night in Grove City, PA, visiting with some very dear college friends, we finally made it home. To our beloved doggie, our own comfy beds, and mountains of laundry.
Even though it was a great trip, I'm with Dorothy. . . . There's no place like home.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Like I said on Friday, this is our experience, but if these posts help someone formulate a new perspective or understand our choice a little better, that’s great too. I’d love to know if that’s you, so please leave a comment.
I also said on Friday that we know we’re blessed to live where we live and have the schools we have at our disposal. But I guess that’s why we chose to live here. We knew early on—probably even before we had kids—that God would call us to be involved with public schooling, and so we knew we wanted to live where the schools were excellent.
After all, the point of school is the education, right? And, boy, have our kids had the educational opportunities. Not only have they had outstanding teachers, they have had opportunities for gifted learning that they might not have had in a smaller, private school. Since third grade, all three of our daughters have been in gifted programs for reading. Once they entered junior high school, they have all been in advanced math programs.
And high school. Don’t even get me started on high school—it’s so much harder than when I was in school! This year my sophomore is already taking one AP class, and my senior has five AP classes. My high school didn’t offer even one AP class, so they already have a huge advantage in that respect. They would probably say that they’re already smarter than their mom—and they’d be right!
But what if your kid needs help of a different sort? What if your child needs special help with reading, math, or speech? What if your first language isn’t English? Public schools have specialists who are ready to help with those kinds of issues too. And what I have found is that these specialists really care about students. It is a beautiful thing to watch dedicated teachers work to help all children excel.
Of course, private schools offer many of these same programs, so what’s the big deal? What’s the big difference? Well, this takes me back to the salt-and-light principle I talked about on Friday.
I asked each one of my girls this weekend if they were glad they had gone to public school. All three said yes (acknowledging, however, that they didn’t know what it would be like to be in a Christian school). But as they thought more about it, they all said something to the effect of “I get to see how other people live.” I think this is the key, and a great benefit of public school.
Of course, this is where a lot of parents get scared about public school. I talked about the fear factor on Friday, but here’s where I’ll borrow a line from “Julie and Julia”: “No fear, Julia (or, in this case, parents). No fear.” B and I determined early on that we wouldn’t live in fear of the unknown. We’d just move ahead with what we thought God wanted us to do.
You know, life is messy, and sometimes people live messy lives. Sometimes kids see that people who live lives that are different from theirs, maybe even messy lives, are not lives that they would want to live. My kids have seen first-hand that living a life without Jesus is one that lacks peace, joy, and fulfillment.
But also, they get exposed to different ideas—ideas that challenge them to take a stand for what they believe in. Ideas that make them explore more deeply what they do believe. I would say that nearly every day my girls are challenged in this way, either by a teacher or a classmate, and I see that as a positive thing, not as something to be feared. I want my girls to be able to take a stand for their faith or to be able to say why their life is different from a classmate who doesn’t have the same faith. We have had amazing conversations around the dinner table based on what they’ve experienced at school.
When I asked Kate what she saw as a benefit of public school she said, “I’ve met so many people at my school, and I get to see how they view things—I see how the world sees things. I feel like God might be calling me to minister in some way, so it’s important to have experiences with the people God wants me to reach.”
Another one of my girls pointed out that there are still lots of Christians at the public school which provides great support for them.
On Friday I mentioned that at first we put our kids in public schools so that we—B and I—could meet our neighbors and “do life” with them. What a blessing this has been for us personally. I think that having our kids in public school has opened up so many doors with our neighbors that we might never have walked through if our kids didn’t go to the same school.
Probably the biggest blessing came a few years ago when we met a wonderful couple through one of our daughter’s classes. We hit it off and became good friends right away. They knew where we stood in our faith, and we invited them to church. They came and were interested, but not consistent in coming. Finally, one day they asked us if we would do a Bible study with them—just two couples learning more about God together. We felt so humbled and privileged to do this with our friends, and we were happy to spend those weeks studying with them.
On the last night of our study together we had the best conversation about Jesus, faith, and heaven. It was a true blessing to be able to share openly with them how we came to have faith and to have them respond positively to God.
Would we have had this opportunity if we had not intentionally placed our kids—and ourselves—in a place where we could meet and really get to know our neighbors? I’ll never know. All I can know is that we have followed God’s call to be in public school and that He has used it to be an amazing blessing to our family.
Friday, September 11, 2009
First, let me just say that this is our experience. Nobody else’s. Deciding where and how your own children are educated will be your experience entirely. And I’m O.K. with that. I have enough on my plate with my own little brood that I don’t need to worry about yours.
Second, I’d also like to add that much of our decision has to do with where we live, and we know that. If we lived somewhere else that didn’t have excellent public schools with excellent teachers, we would have to explore other options. But for now, we have an abundance of riches, as they say, at our disposal, and we know we are blessed to have that.
So, how did it happen that our kids ended up in public school? Way back in 1997, as Kate was heading to kindergarten, B and I did a lot of praying about what to do. We knew our options. But it seemed like the doors to those options weren’t opening very far.
There was homeschooling. Um . . . no. My temperament just was not at a place back in ’97 (or even in ’09 for that matter) that would ensure success at homeschooling. Plus, God had opened a door for me to teach a college class, which I loved, and we felt like that was not something I should give up at that time. So, for those couple of reasons, plus the fact that we didn’t feel strongly about the homeschooling option, we closed that door. (I locked it securely while B wasn’t looking, and then I threw away the key.)
There was private Christian school. Again, neither one of us felt strongly enough for this option that it seemed that door wasn’t opening very widely either. We have lots of friends who have made this choice, and they seem happy with it. It just didn’t seem like the right decision for us.
But our public school choice wasn’t made by process of elimination. It was made with lots and lots of prayer, and public school was our first choice all along.
So what things did factor into the equation? Well, obviously, the education. I mean, really, why do we put our kids in school anyway? To get educated. Sometimes they get educated in things we’d rather they not know about, if you know what I mean, but that just comes with the kid territory no matter where they go to school. Really, though, the education in our school district is one of the best in the state, so we figured we should at least give it a try.
And, honestly? I’d prefer to leave the education of my children in the hands of the professionals—people who have gone to college for many years (lots of my kids’ teachers have master’s degrees) to learn how to do this well. Me? I would be a disaster with a bulletin board. There would be nothing on the walls. My classroom would be a sad place to be. I guess that’s why I taught college—no bulletin boards.
The other factor was what I’ll call the salt-and-light factor. This gets a little complicated in some people’s minds, so let me explain first that we never expected our children, especially in elementary school, to be “missionaries” at their schools. I really believe that a child’s job in school is to learn.
But it’s another thing for us adults. B and I thought long and hard about our community, our neighbors, and the teachers we might get to know in public school. We wondered how we would meet our neighbors—I mean to really get to know them—if we didn’t rub elbows with them on a regular basis. It’s one thing to see our neighbors at a Christmas party once a year, but when you’re serving on a school committee with them or sitting next to them at an all-school picnic, you start to get to know them. So we decided that we needed to put ourselves, not just our kids, in a place where we could “do life” with our neighbors. School seemed to be the obvious place to do that.
Both B and I had a very strong sense that we could not make this decision based on fear. Fear of the unknown, of the world, of other people—none of that could come into play. This decision needed to be based on more than that.
It seems to me, as I talk to parents, that there is a lot of fear out there—some justifiable, some not. I have seen it become a huge factor in some people’s schooling decision. But God clearly commands us throughout scripture “Do not fear.” Because along with that He also says, “I am with you.”
As we prayed, B and I both felt like the "fear factor" was one of the main reasons God was telling us to choose public school. We knew that for us, trusting God in our children’s education, as we have trusted in Him all along, would be a huge step of faith. As we placed our girls in public school, we were literally placing them in the care of our heavenly Father, telling Him that we knew He could protect them there.
About 10 years ago some dear friends left our church to plant a church in Chicago. I’ll never forget the time someone asked them, “What about your kids? Will they be safe?” Their response has stuck with me all these years. He said, “Our kids are less safe in the suburbs, if we are out of God’s will, than they will ever be in the city within God’s will.”
I believe that with all my heart. My kids are less safe in any other place than right where God wants them to be. And, for us . . . for now . . . that is public school.
The benefits have been amazing. God has blessed our entire family, not just our kids, through our decision to put them in public school, and I’ll tell you more about that on Monday.
So now, how about you? How do (or did) you educate your kids? How did you make that decision? I’d really love to know, so leave a comment.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
“No, Johnny! I said no!”
“Mom,” Johnny cried. And cried. And cried. “But why? I wa-a-a-a-nt it.”
Whatever “it” was, was NOT going to make it into their shopping cart, that much I knew.
“Johnny, just be quiet. I never should have brought you with me today. You’ve been naughty since the moment we walked in this store.”
Just then, the distraught mom and her equally distraught son walked past the end of the aisle I was standing in. I don’t even know what I was looking for because they were creating such a scene, yelling at the top of their lungs for the entire grocery store to hear.
I was embarrassed for her. The look on her face gave her away—this woman had HAD it. She was angry at her son, angry at herself for yelling at him, maybe even angry at having to be at the grocery store in the middle of the afternoon when she might have wanted or needed to be somewhere else. She was definitely at the end of her rope with this kid.
The scene in the grocery store reminded me of one time when I was probably a teenager. I was shopping with my mom and another distraught mother of a toddler was screaming at her child. I mean, really screaming. My mom couldn’t handle it—this always bothered her—so she asked me to finish the shopping while she left the store.
You know what? It bothers me too. It bothers me to hear a mother screaming at her very own precious gift, treating her child as if it were some throwaway rag doll or, worse yet, a dog. It bothers me to hear words exchanged in frustration or anger or desperation. It bothers me to think that that’s what’s going on at home.
Even more than that, it bothers me to hear a mother yelling at her child in a store because I wonder how many times I did that when my kids were little. I shudder to think that an older mom just looked at me, in my own moment of frustration, and shook her head at my inability to cope. It bothers me to think that I could have ever embarrassed myself like that in public.
But I’m sure I did--at least once. I know I had rough days. I know I had days when I actually said, out loud, “I have HAD it with you!” Oh, those early years of motherhood were hard.
And so, to the mom in the grocery store, I’d just like to say that I understand. I understand those bad days. I understand that you probably love your son with all of your heart, but you are JUST. SO. MAD. at him right now. And I understand that you want your day to get better.
It breaks my heart, but I do understand.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I’ve even gotten a few good recipes.
So I was excited when this month’s issue promised “A Month of Easy Dinners.” Now that’s something I can really use. A month of easy dinners is right in my bailiwick.
But when I turned to the article, honestly, nothing sounded good to me. And then I noticed something—all of the recipes are written like “This with That.”
I’ve been noticing this trend for a while now, and I’d just like to ask the recipe writers out there—what’s with the “with”? I mean really. Do we have to stretch out the name of a recipe to infinity and beyond?
Let’s just use this month’s Real Simple article as an example of my little pet peeve.
The first recipe was called “Roasted Pork with Brussels Sprouts and Apricots.” There’s just so much wrong with this that I don’t know where to start. With Brussels sprouts? Seriously? *shudder* Who puts Brussels sprouts with anything at all?
And not only that, there’s a bonus—“and Apricots.” Maybe they should add some more ingredients to the title like “and salt . . . and pepper”? I mean, while they’re at it, why don’t they just include ALL of the ingredients in the title of the recipe? That way you could just read the title to find out if there is anything in the recipe that you’re deathly allergic to.
O.K. I flip the page and every single recipe is a “with” recipe. Five of them, lined up across the page.
“Seared Lamb Chops with Minted Spaghetti Squash”
“Shrimp Pot Pie with Fennel”
“Ravioli with Apples and Walnuts” (bonus!)
“Salmon with Lemon-Cilantro Vinaigrette”
“Chicken with Spinach and Mushrooms”
I think “with” is code for something-in-this-recipe-is-going-to-be-gross-but-we’re-making-it-sound-like-it’s-going-to-be-good. Like putting “with” in the title of the recipe is going to make it all fancy-schmancy.
Chicken’s just chicken, right? No matter how you grill it, slice it, or sauce it, it’s just chicken. But if you wrote a recipe that just said “Chicken” nobody would give it a second glance. Which is why those sneaky recipe writers have to add “with” something—to make plain old chicken sound more palatable. Oh, they are a sly bunch.
You know, I think I’m going to start doing this from now on. I’m going to tell my kids, “Tonight we’re having Spaghetti with Sauce.” I know they’ll be so impressed.
Or when I make lemonade it’s no longer going to be just lemonade. I’m going to call it “Water with Lemon and Sugar.”
And starting tomorrow in their lunches I’m going to give them “Peanut Butter with Jelly and Bread.” I just know this one is going to catch on. Big time.
Maybe the Today Show would even invite me to come do a segment demonstrating how to make this latest culinary trend.
Just as soon as I finish my Cereal with Milk.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I was also reminded that I failed to deliver. Not that I was busy or anything last week with the P's in town and kids starting school.
So, in honor of Kira, whom I love and who will probably be taking DC by storm next year, here's a bit of a recap of our trip to the nation's capitol.
We arrived in DC in the afternoon and even though we had
Me: I think we were supposed to go the other way on that street back there.
B: Why didn't you tell me?
Me: Well, the roundabout was confusing.
B: Just tell me where to go now.
Me: Turn left. Like, now. HERE!!!
B: I'm in the right lane, Shelly! How can I turn left here?!?!
Me: O.K., don't yell at me. Turn left at the next street.
B: Which one? This one?! DO YOU WANT ME TO TURN LEFT NOW?
Me: TURN LEFT! NOW!!!!
B: You're going to get us all killed!
Me: Don't yell at me!
And on it went until we finally reached our hotel where we pulled up to the valet and tried to look like a family that had it all together. Even though not two minutes earlier we wanted to rip each other's heads off. Kids included.
We spent four nights at The Melrose which, to me, is in a perfect location. Very close to Georgetown. Just a few blocks from a Metro station. Within walking distance to the White House. And right around the corner from Trader Joe's (so I felt right at home). The hotel is a little older and in need of some updates, but for the special price we got ($89 a night--thank you, Travel Zoo), I was willing to put up with, well, a lot. Besides, I had called earlier and asked for a double room with a pull-out sofa and they graciously obliged. Our room was the size of a small apartment! We were most comfortable.
I had made reservations to do a biking tour on Monday night, and let me tell you, this tour was one of the highlights of our trip. If you're going to DC with your family, definitely do this. I found Bike the Sites on the internet before we left (just proving, once again, that doing your research ahead of time is priceless). Our tour was a three hour tour (NOT of the Gilligan variety!) of the monuments, covering about 4 miles total so the ride was easy for all of us. We started out at 7:00, so it wasn't dark yet, but by the time we were about halfway through it got dark. By the time we finished it was about 9:45 and completely dark. Kind of fun to be riding the streets of DC in the dark, I thought.
Anyway, this is THE BEST way to see all the monuments. I had no idea they were all so far away from each other--as we were riding we kept saying that there was no way we'd see everything if we had to walk it. Plus, it was FUN! Our tour guide, Emily, was as sweet as she could be and gave us lots of great information about each of the monuments we stopped to see. All in all we saw 8 monuments/memorials: the White House (I know, not really a monument, but we stopped there anyway), the Washington Monument, the WW II memorial, the Vietnam memorial, the Lincoln memorial, the Korean War memorial, the FDR memorial, and the Thomas Jefferson memorial.
A crazy-fun way to spend an evening!
I only have one word for you: Grayline.
Or is it two words? Gray. Line.
Our second day got off to a slow and frustrating start because we wanted to do a double-decker bus tour, but when I asked the front desk people at our hotel if they could sell us tickets (I had bought them there a year earlier when I was there with my sister, so I thought this was a possibility), they said they weren't selling them anymore.
Him: Were you looking for bus tour tickets? I can help you with that.
Me: Really? The guys over there (pointing to the front desk only 10 feet away) said you didn't sell them anymore.
Him: I can sell them to you.
Me: (with a confused shrug of my shoulders) O.K.
Him: You pay me half now, in cash, and you pay the other half when you get on the bus.
Me: Hmmmm. O.K. (I'm so stupid, I know.)
So I buy five tickets and head to where he said was the bus stop. One hour and a little stressful family time later, we were all back in the hotel lobby.
Him: What happened? Did you find the bus?
Me: I need my $64 back. The bus never came. Two Grayline busses came and picked people up, but your bus company never showed up.
Him: Really? (Looking all confused and nonchalant now.)
Me: Really. May I have my $64 back, please? We're going to do something else.
Him: Sure. O.K. (Opens his wallet and hands me back my money. Did you catch that? His wallet!)
I know, write "gullible" across my forehead.
Anyway, we decided that we'd take the Metro to Arlington National Cemetery and after we were finished there we'd try to find a Grayline bus.
Our plan worked. Arlington was great, but it was HOT that morning and our girls really weren't that interested in a bunch of gravesites. Not even if they held JFK himself.
It was just too hot to really appreciate Arlington the way we should have. Thankfully, we had the foresight to purchase Tourmobile tickets, so we rode most of the way around. That seems to be the way to do it.
After Arlington we did indeed find the Grayline bus just outside the gate. As we got on the bus, I handed my Visa card to the driver who said, "I just don't have time to do that right now. Go get a seat and pay on your way out."
We headed upstairs to get a seat in the sun because we just weren't hot enough after our morning at Arlington. But, actually, when the bus was moving it wasn't so bad--kind of like riding through a sauna at 30 miles per hour.
We rode about half of the route and decided to get off the bus at Union Station to have a little look around and to get cooled off in the air conditioned building. As we were leaving the bus, I handed my Visa card to the driver again to try to pay for our tickets. She then said, "You know, I can't do that right now. Why don't you just pay on the next bus? Consider this a free ride."
O.K. A free ride. Cool.
Union Station was cool--in many ways. The architecture was beautiful. The train station part was fun. But the McDonalds had sweet tea, and that was just about all I needed at that moment.
After a nice respite, it was time to continue on the bus tour, so we headed outside and got on the next Grayline bus. Once again, I handed my Visa card to the driver to buy our tickets. At least this time she told everyone else in my family to go get seats while she dealt with me.
I'll give her this: she tried. She really tried. But after about 5 minutes of her Visa machine not working she said to me, "We need to get going, so why don't you just go sit down? I'll get you later."
Alrighty then. I'll just go sit down now.
We finished most of the loop, but this time took considerably longer than the first half did because traffic in that city was, in a word, HORRENDOUS!!!! I nearly went batty sitting in that traffic on top of a bus in 100 degree weather. But still, it was a good way to get a feel for the city. I do love a double decker bus tour.
But here's the funny thing . . . nobody came to make us pay. I kept my Visa card handy, hoping that the assistant on the bus would figure us out and come get my payment, but nope. Nobody did. So we finished the tour and got off the bus near our hotel. It was a long, hot afternoon, but at least it was FREEEEEE!
Should I feel guilty?
O.K., this is getting long, so I'm going to call it a day. Next Tuesday you'll get the last two days of our trip, so come on back then.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Do you know how startling it is to look up at a yard full of green trees and see a big burst of red?
To top it off, these were scattered all around the ground.
Fall is definitely on it's way.
Tell me, what do you love about Fall?
Friday, September 4, 2009
Oh well. Those of you who actually do make it over here should really give this a try. It only takes five ingredients and it is SO GOOD ifIdosaysomyself.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
This summer I read the book of Daniel. I had read it before, but for some reason it touched me in a new way this summer. The first half of the book contains many familiar stories like Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego and Daniel in the lion's den. But the second half is mostly prophecy that Daniel receives from a "messenger of the Lord."
I was struck by these verses from chapter 10, after Daniel sees this messenger and is blown away by his appearance.
"And the man said to me, 'Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. . . .'" (v. 11, NLT)
"'Don't be afraid,' he said, 'for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!'" (v. 19, NLT)
These verses have stayed with me all summer, and I just thought I should share them with you today.
You are very precious to God.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
There’s always a story.
Before I get to the story, however, I have to backtrack and tell you that Maggie spent her Saturday afternoon looking through her dad’s old scrapbook. At one point, as I walked through the room, she said to me with all kinds of amazement in her voice, “Mom, one year Dad got all C’s.”
“Really?” I asked. I wanted living proof that my husband isn’t as perfect as he seems. “Show me that report card.”
Maggie flipped back a few pages and turned to B’s second grade report card. Yep, straight C’s alright. C for Commendable, that is. That’s like getting all plus marks today. Or, if you want to look at it this way, straight A’s.
We like to tease the only man in our house about being Mr. Perfect. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who is luckier than him. Not only did he win the lottery when he married me (sorry, but that previous sentence just walked me right into it!), he’s also won many a golf outing prize, raffle, or contest. The guy just exudes success. It’s weird.
So on the way to the concert we got into another of our teasing fits. Maggie even said, “I got kind of sick of looking at Dad’s scrapbook—it was so full of awards and straight A report cards.” We laughed at how everything he touches turns to gold.
But on Sunday night it was good to be in the same car with B because his Midas touch came through yet again. See, earlier in the week we had been sent a pink postcard in the mail with instructions about parking for Sunday night’s concert. It made very little sense to us, but it seemed like something we should hold onto and even take with us because it talked about “Patron parking.”
Now, B’s employer is a patron of the arts and a sponsor of this music festival, and since we had ordered our tickets through B's work we thought maybe the special pink parking postcard was somehow related. Since the instructions were very specific, and it was definitely delivered to B at our home address, we knew it wasn't a mistake.
We just couldn't figure out exactly why it was sent to us.
The concert was sold out, and even though we arrived near the concert venue three hours (yes, you read that right--three hours) before the concert, the line of cars to get into the regular parking lot was about 2 miles long and moving veerryy slowly. The line of cars crept down the center lane of traffic, and, if they were lucky, they might get a place to park in about an hour.
But our little pink postcard told us to head down the right lane where there was no traffic, basically bypassing all those poor people who were waiting in that 2 mile line. B and I kind of looked at each other for a second . . . but only for a second . . . and the decided to go for it. Let’s just see what happens when we get to the lot, was our thinking. It couldn't be any worse than waiting in this line.
Suddenly we were in Midas mode, cruising around a long line of cars toward the “patron” lot.
We were greeted by two security guards who couldn’t have been more than 18 years old. B handed them the pink postcard and innocently asked, “Is this where I’m supposed to be?”
These guys had no idea what the pink postcard was about, so they radioed ahead to their supervisor. “Ah, yeah, I’ve got a guy here who has a postcard that talks about patron parking. We don’t know what to do.”
After a brief conversation between the guards and the supervisor, the guard said, “Just head down there and talk to our supervisor.”
Great. Happy to oblige. We were a few yards closer to the lot than we were a few minutes ago, so we headed down to have a chat with the parking lot supervisor. B showed him the pink postcard.
“I’ve never seen one of these,” said Mr. Supervisor. “Are you a patron?”
“Yeah, I’m a patron,” said B. Sort of.
“Do you work for ____?” The supervisor mentioned the name of the sponsoring bank for that evening's concert.
“No, I work for ____,” replied B. His bank also sponsors some concerts, just not the one we happened to be attending.
He stared at the card, obviously unsure of how to handle the situation. “Well, just head on up there.”
We were in! Just like that, we were headed to the sweetest parking spot I’ve ever had, not twenty steps from the front gate. Oh, and did I mention that we didn't have to pay a thing? All because of Golden Boy.
Later that night we were laughing about how we got one of the best parking spots in the entire place and how we might not have been supposed to have that spot. Maybe. Probably. And we may have laughed just a little about the supervisor’s reaction to our pink postcard: “Hmmm, I’ve never seen one of these cards before.”
And then one of the girls let out this well-timed zinger: "Well, Mr. Parking Lot Supervisor, that’s probably because people don’t usually hand you their mail!"
That's when it hit me . . . Golden Boy might just be raising three Golden Girls. We'll just have to wait and see.