Friday, May 30, 2008

Yes, I AM trying to destroy the world, thankyouverymuch

A word to the wise:

Do not pull up in front of this:

Driving this:

With four of these:

Unless you want to be looked at like this:

Why, oh why, do I keep falling into the delightfully-lit trap that is Whole Foods? Why have I not learned my lesson? I am not the type of crunchy that they prefer. This is obvious. My car is too big. My family is too big. My butt is too big. And I am not even a member of the local Free Tibet group! How dare I peruse their supply of Robeez? How presumptuous, to oogle their house brands on snack items! I should just shuffle myself to Fred Meyer and grab a bag of the nastiest sugar-laden cereal I can find and gorge myself. Or better yet, I should get myself to a re-education camp post-haste. Because surely, no one that looks like me and dresses like me and lives like me can possibly be interested in organic foods. That's the exclusive domain of the rich and childless.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Dinner cost a little over $100. Yup--that's $50 less than our grocery budget for two entire weeks. The dessert and wine tasting flight on the cozy patio of the lounge was another $40. Add in the babysitter and the gas, and you're looking at a darn pricey evening.

I wore my most fab-u-lous, floaty skirt and a black stretch t that makes me look almost skinny. Hubby got way gussied up in his pin stripe button-down and nicest work pants. We looked dashing and felt like royalty.

The food was beyond tasty. Not only did someone else cook it ... they included mushrooms! Real mushrooms--
Enokitake, Nameko, Chanterelle .. not a white button among them! There were mushrooms in the appetizer, mushrooms in the salad, mushrooms in my entree. It was glorious. A true sign of grown-up food is, in my book, the inclusion of mushrooms.

Did I mention chocolate creme bruleƩ? German chocolate cake? Yummmmm...

A truly memorable evening!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bless the Lord, oh my soul!

There is nothing--nothing, mind you--better than slathering four bodies in sunscreen. The smell--summer in a bottle, I tell you. Memories of warmth and the slightly sticky, familiar feel. The bodies--which range from long and lanky to chubby and soft, willing and wriggling under my hands. The anticipation--water! sand! friends! This is the good life. Thank you for today, Lord.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dear Dave Ramsey

Dear Dave Ramsey,

You have an incredible plan for getting finances back on track. I thank you for all the time and effort that you've put into your books and programs and your radio show. It's been a huge help to my family. We're not die-hard in our commitment to your ideas, but we've learned a lot. And for that, I thank you.

I'm writing this note, though, to let you know that I am preparing to do something fiscally irresponsible and I don't feel one bit bad about it. I just wanted to let you know because I feel like we're sort of connected, you and I. All that time we've shared together preparing envelopes, you know.

This Saturday, my husband and I will be blowing a portion of our economic stimulus package at a really outrageously priced restaurant. Alone. In the end, we will have nothing to show for it. The money will simply be ... gone. Our debt will not be increased, but it won't be decreased, either. I know that this disappoints you, Mr. Ramsey. I know that you think we should keep whittling away at that debt until we're in the clear, and that anything else is irresponsible. But I'm o.k. with that.

My husband and I are walking out of a tough time of focusing on everything but our relationship. We're working hard to reconnect. I know that you value financial peace, but I also know that you value marital harmony. In truth, we could pack a picnic and head to the lake for the evening. But you know what? I don't want to. I don't want the mess of throwing together a meal and packing it. I don't want bugs and grass. I want to have fun that lets me get dressed up, go out with my prince and pretend to be a princess for a few hours. I want candles and servers who call me ma'am.

So that's what we're doing. Sorry to disappoint you, sir.

Mary Grace

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Looking ahead to summer

It's almost summer. It's so close I can taste it: watermelon, lemonade, popsicles and the little dab of sunscreen that dripped too close to my lips. I can feel the warm sunshine on my legs and sense the anticipation of pulling my floppy, wide-brimmed hat out of the closet.

In years past, we have had no problem tying up the loose ends of our SL Core and following the rabbit trails of individual interests for the bulk of the warmer months. All of those books that are too good to miss as read-alouds get pulled into rotation and savored on our back hill while I lounge in the shade and my children construct elaborate play spaces out of picnic tables, tree branches and old bedsheets. Math becomes pure pleasure as we experiment with game after game, pitting ourselves against the computer, each other, or even a clock. Language Arts is solely voluntary, and always lively; plays are written and performed, sidewalk chalk turns the concrete into a billboard and long afternoons are spent reading and re-reading favorite tales. Science is of the living variety as we walk through park trails, dig up worms and make rainbows with a garden hose.

All of this is wrapped around a general theme that I've chosen for the summer months. Using my children's curious questions as a guide, I fill our house with resources on whatever idea or subject has caught their fancy. This has been an extremely popular approach to the school in the past. Last year's theme (fine art and classical music) carried on well into the "school year" and is in fact still enjoyed by all three children. Spending an entire summer painting, drawing, listening to music, reading about composers and viewing some of the finest pieces of art ever created via our computer definitely didn't have a negative effect on the kids. And it didn't even take away from their pool time.

This year, our SL Core won't end on such a neat time table. Adding Oliver to our family threw a few more curves into the schedule than I could have planned for, and we're not quite ready to call it a year. Even so, I'm looking ahead to summer. I am leaning towards having our main theme be botany. The children are enjoying Apologia Botany, but have gotten a little frustrated with how slowly I am leading them through the book. Believe it or not, they want
more plants. :-) Summer is really the perfect time to dig into this topic: gardening, hiking, playing with a flower press, the options are almost endless. I see a lot of opportunities here, as well, for the big kids to take the lead in their own explorations, allowing me to enjoy some leisurely time in the kiddie pool with Oliver.

I can picture Jo digging in the dirt, Atticus collecting specimens and Logan cataloging every variety of leaf he can name. I can see the blackened soles of 8 medium-to-little feet padding up to the bath each night, and tubs full of water getting murky with the washing away of so much earthy fun. I can see my children's delight as their carrots are tugged from the soil, and their frustration in keeping the slugs at bay. I can envision Jo's lean body in her bathing suit and shorts, traipsing over the hill. Atticus, freckled and strawberry blond, dutifully following along behind. Logan, tall and trim, in his own world. And Oliver, losing a bit of his baby rolls as he toddles into his first summer without the routine of daycare to keep him indoors.

Can you tell I'm ready for the SUN?!?

Monday, May 12, 2008


A very special thank you to all who have privately emailed or commented regarding my post about depression. I am feeling somewhat better as of late--in large part because my husband and I have made a huge effort to reconnect in the wake of all of the changes that have sent shockwaves through our lives. While I'm still on the climb and nowhere near the summit, I can honestly say that I feel the prayers of those who are lifting me up, and I know that God is touching my life daily in ways both large and small to reaffirm to me that His presence is truly 24/7.

Letters to A.

I made a commitment when Oliver joined our family that I would keep his former fostermom abreast of the developments in his life. It seemed like the least I could do; not only is she a member of his extended biological family, she's also someone who loves him with a true motherlove--the kind that forces you to let go of yourself and recognize that your wants are not necessarily a child's needs. If there is anything good and pure that happened to Oliver in the long, often painful months before he came into our home, it is former fostermom A. I am determined to honor that.

Today I sat down and wrote my monthly letter to her. I let her know how his evaluation went (horribly), how his bio visits are going (as well as can be expected), and what toys he likes to play with (blocks and trucks). I told her about his fascination with friend J.'s 21 month-old son, and his seeming puzzlement at the fact that little S. can not only walk but also run and jump. I explained in detail the new depths of Oliver's relationship with his new siblings. I extolled the virtues of the Ergo baby carrier in bonding with a toddler, and gave a description of Oliver's activities during a typical school day. I listed foods he clamors for and those he turns up his oh-so-cute nose at. I wondered in writing about his teething habits, and pointed out how strong he's becoming.

And then I put the whole thing aside.

I'm mulling the letter over now, trying to find the place where the information is enough but not too much, where the emotions are real but not raw, where our joy does not trample wholesale over her pain. My heart knows that she hungers for news of Oliver. That her arms must still feel the loss of his weight, and that she still checks in the rear view window of the car on occasion and is shocked to find an empty space where his car seat should be. This is the woman for whom I am putting pen to paper: a real, hurting, hopeful young lady who has done something very good but very hard.

I have no idea what to say to her.

Having been on the losing end of the pregnancy ride more often than not in the past several years, I feel a certain kinship with anyone who must listen to those who have not felt loss as they recount the most minute details of their joy to an audience that may still be cringing from a pain unspoken. And while I know that the pain does indeed dull with time, and that the experience of sadness does not and should not overshadow the elation you have for others, I also know firsthand what a fight that is. The last thing I want to do is bring more hurt than healing to A.'s heart.

So I'm sitting on the letter for a day or two. I'm praying for wisdom, and that God can lead me through the process of bearing good news without opening wounds. Words are powerful. I want mine to bring A. joy, and an assurance that Oliver is well-loved.

Friday, May 9, 2008


Up until the day that Oliver came into our home, we had never had an immediate family member on state medical insurance, WIC or any other form of government assistance. Therefore, I'd never had the experience of standing in front of a receptionist's counter, balancing a baby on my hip, keeping a watchful eye on two children curled up in chairs with books and directing an over-zealous five year-old while digging in my purse. O.k.--I actually have had similar experiences ... but none with the same outcome. See, nowadays, when I go rustling through my too-big bag, I usually come up with what is obviously a medical coupon instead of an insurance card. And the difference is huge. When people spot that tell-tale slip of paper, I have to tell you: the way they look at you changes.

In an instant, my children go from being cute little moppets to being poor waifs. I noticed this trend the first time Oliver had an doctor's appointment. A new woman--not the usual receptionist--was at the front desk. When we came to the front of the line, she commented on my numerous and beautiful children, then asked who I was checking in. I told her Oliver's name. The woman smiled at him broadly, then turned to find his file. I produced the coupon I'd been told was his proof of insurance and set it on the counter for her to deal with. That's what I do with our insurance card, so I figured it worked the same way. The minute she saw it, her smile faded. She proceeded to fill in the new patient chart for me, as if I couldn't possibly understand the intricacies of this complicated form. At the pharmacy, I dealt with the same thing. The pharmacist who filled Oliver's prescription counseled me on the the meds as if I were an idiot being entrusted with the king's jewels. The people in line behind me avoided making eye contact with me, as if my seeming poverty was contagious somehow.

We won't even talk about how the huffy teenager at the Fred Meyer register rolls her eyes when she sees me separating out the WIC items in my cart and placing the check on top. Or how fellow shoppers put their hands on their hips and stare when I remind the cashier to ring up the items on their own bill.

Suffice it to say, I do not appreciate being treated this way. But this form of prejudice has taught me a lot in the past few months. First, who I am is most definitely not defined by how I pay for services. While I have never been a person that has invested overly in others' perception of me, I recognize that I have always taken a bit of pride in being a "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" kind of girl. No matter how hard things have been for us financially in the past, we have never relied on government support. In hindsight, I think that may not have always been the wisest choice but there's nothing I can do about that ten years down the road, can I? Anyhow, that pride in my own ingenuity that I was talking about is deeply ingrained. And being seen as someone who is struggling (which is, by assumption, what it is to be a client of any social service) is far more hurtful to me than just about anything else. Believe it or not. This is my own problem, and it's one I am laying at the Lord's feet.

The bigger, over-arching and unspoken lesson here has been that there are thousands of people right now being treated the same way. And while many are simply caring for a grandchild they didn't expect to be raising, or are fostering a child because they feel it is God's call, many more very well may be struggling to stay afloat in the stream of life. But how much worse is it to hand over a med coupon and be greeted with near revulsion when you are already consumed with a feeling of failure? How demeaning to be treated as uneducated and inadequate when you already down?

The reason for my post is not to preach, but simply this: if you happen to be in line behind someone paying for their purchases with a WIC check or EBT this week, can you do me a favor? Smile at them. Give them a real, genuine smile that says, "You are a human being." If you see a mom fingering a tattered medical coupon as she waits with a feverish toddler in a waiting room, can you say hello? Can you validate them as individuals for a mere second? You never know where these people are coming from, and you never know where they've been. But if for one moment you have made any discomfort that they've felt somehow more bearable, I believe you have handed over that cold glass of water that speaks of your love of Christ.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Truth comes out: I spent the past weekend in the California sunshine, hiding away from the grey NW not-quite-spring and enjoying the company of nearly 50 other homeschooling moms.

If you know very much about me at all, you are shocked and amazed that I partook in such an event. I'm not known for being especially social (who can forget my Christmas party run-in with the antler-sporting pastor?), and by the time you factor in my frugal ways and distaste for leaving my children for any real length of time ... well, let's just say I'm not a good candidate for a weekend away with 50 of my closest computer friends.

It was my husband who really pushed for me to make the trip. Convinced in February that by the time May rolled around I would be in need of some R&R, he urged me to commit to going. After doing some digging, he was able to land an unbeatable price on tickets to sunny Southern California, thanks in part to the fine folks at Alaska Airlines. Their mileage deals are pretty decent in the world of air travel; we only paid a fraction of the cost of what a ticket was worth. Add that in to the fact that I had enough money set aside from working at MOPS to cover the hotel, and I really couldn't find any other reason to balk. And, in the end, my husband was right--by the time I saw May looming in the distance, I was nearly drunk on the idea of not being a full-time mommy for a handful of days. Funny how God works those things out, isn't it?

The social aspect wasn't as easy a hurdle to jump. I admit to getting a bad case of cold feet as I stepped off of the plane. Within minutes, I'd be strapped into a car with not one but three
perfect strangers. This sort of thing doesn't happen to me on a regular basis. Heck--this sort of thing has never happened to me! And yet, there I was ... standing in a sea of fellow travelers, looking for my ride as I stood on the curb at LAX. The hardest part for me was the knowledge that even once I began to feel comfortable with my driver and fellow passengers, the fun was not over. I would have to meet--and speak to--more new people. We arrived at the hotel, where I was greeted by about a dozen women ... all of whom know me by my SL username. It was surreal.

I was tempted to duck and run. I do that rather well; in a fight or flight, I'm most apt to take flight these days. But I hung in there and mixed and mingled. I definitely wasn't the most chatty or outgoing person in the group, but I think I held my own. There was so much activity and information--not to mention the other worldliness of having your imaginary friends come to life--that I found my head swimming on more than one occasion. At one point, I seized the opportunity to take a one mile walk by myself. My brain whirled the whole time, treading water in a lake of names and faces and new memories as I made my way up the beach. I made it back to the hotel with a clearer frame of reference and more stamina for the evening's festivities ahead.

I had a great time. The highlights of the trip were, not surprisingly, meeting the people I've known up til now as words on a screen. They are all very real, and very much the kind of friends I would hang out with IRL. Which I did. And even if it was only for a weekend, I'm glad I did it.