Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Husband and I are blessed with good jobs and steady income, and never fail to be thankful for both of these things. With four children, though, we're also blessed with steady outgo, and sometimes that tide seems a little stronger than usual. Thus it was this month, what with all the moving in and out and traveling about and the price of gas making all that hither-ing and thither-ing a bit more painful.
We've tried to instill a healthy respect for money in the Boys, by which I mean we tried to keep a balance between being aware that it doesn't grow on trees, but that not having boatloads of excess cash was not necessarily the worst thing in the world. I'm sure our sons learned their eyerolling trick the eight-hundredth time we broke out the phrase "We do have the money for (video games, laser tag, authentic NBA jerseys, or whatever the fad du jour was), but we choose not to spend it that way."
And certainly we did not choose to spend our hard-earned cash getting mani-pedis for our three-year-olds. (Seriously? I just may have to break out an eyeroll for Gwen Stefani's parenting.)
There is something about choosing to live frugally, though, that is rewarding. When I decided two weeks ago to try to get to payday without infusing more money into my checking account, I knew it was only the frills I would be postponing. I could wait for my haircut an extra week; I would forgo the farmer's market and live out of the pantry.
I'm completely and fully aware that this is the financial equivalent of those teenagers who spend a night in a cardboard box, then claim to know what it feels like to be homeless. Or people who spend a one-week vacation in a foreign country and wax poetic about the hardships entailed in living there. I am not even visiting poverty, I'm just delaying gratification.
But even this delay reminds me how grateful I am for God's provision, in all of its just-in-time perfection. I'm with Solomon, when he wrote in Proverbs 30:8-9,
"Give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God."
Still, I'm glad today's payday. Wooo!
Posted by MomQueenBee at 2:25 PM
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
1. Stock up on plywood. Those new windows in the House on the Corner cost more than original price of the entire house (no, I am not kidding) so if there's not enough plywood to cover every window, station a spare Boy in front of each one.
2. Run to the store for milk. If power is going to be off for a week in this 105-degree weather, make sure there's plenty in the refrigerator to spoil.
3. Fill the bathtub. This water can be used for flushing the toilet, handwashing, and bucket baths. However, it cannot be used (as I saw one commentator suggest) for drinking, because I have cleaned that bathtub over the course of 25 years of Boy-baths and let's just say that if I were truly thirsty I would stand outside with my mouth open to the rain before I would drink from that tub.
4. Get ready for my close-up. If my calculations were right, there was not a single person on the entire East Coast not interviewed during this catastrophe, and with the comparatively small population in Kansas, I'm sure to be on camera at least once. And that leads me to my final and most important point,
5. Put on some clothes already. The cameras seem to gravitate toward the underdressed and the undressed (a la the guy who flashed The Weather Channel), and I believe we can all agree that if I'm going to be immortalized on CNN I would want to be wearing more than a pair of gym shorts.
And with that, I believe I'm prepared for the next hurricane that hits Kansas.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 10:04 AM
Monday, August 29, 2011
I spend my days surrounded by correspondence that is all but instantaneous. Between the e-mails, Facebook messages, two different instant-messaging programs, texts from the Boys, and calls on both my cell phone and work phone, it's practically impossible to be out of touch.
Still, there's something wondrous about a letter, or a handwritten note. Someone took the time to compose thoughts into a sentence, and sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into a letter. Then she found an envelope and a stamp and a place for the letter to be mailed, and the result is something that made me smile.
In not-so-many years our descendants are going to look back at our communication methods with fascinated pity, kind of the way we look back on the cross-hatched letters the Pony Express riders risked their lives to deliver to the prairie pioneers.
"They had to actually read e-mails and use their fingers to type a reply!" my great-grandchildren will marvel in thought-beams to their peeps. But then one of them will get an e-mail from me, writing from my nursing home, because we 114-year-olds just can't learn this new-fangled beaming technology, and I hope that child will smile.
Because when you work just a little harder at communicating, it's just a little more special.
*Congratulations if you recognized the source of this post title. I listened to Simon and Garfunkel's "Why Don't You Write Me?" a million times while I was in the Peace Corps, and was convinced they wrote it just for me.
Why don't you write me?
I'm out in the jungle and hungry to hear you...
Posted by MomQueenBee at 2:00 PM
Friday, August 26, 2011
"Well, good luck," she said. "What's the equivalent of traveling mercies for meetings? That's what I'll be praying for you."
We all know how to pray for traveling mercies. For safety on the road, and mechanical soundness. For new adventure and good companions. For alertness to danger and avoidance of delays.
But what about meeting mercies? What do I pray for when I walk into a room to do business?
The more I thought about the topic the more I realized that meeting mercies are remarkably similar to travel mercies. In meetings, I look for a safe place for discussion and for words and attitudes that advance the discussion and don't leave us stranded in disagreement. I hope for good solutions and compatible co-workers. I want to be sensitive to feelings, and open to viewpoints that I haven't suggested, and to remember that being kind is as important as being strong.
I want to get to the end of the meeting, as I get to the end of a trip, safely and in good company and with no regrets about the way I have treated others.
And come to think of it, that's how I want to get to the end each day as well.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 2:16 PM
Thursday, August 25, 2011
|Awwww. Poor baby.|
I. Hate. Grasshoppers.
I hate their scritchy back legs. I hate the tobacco juice they spit when they're cornered, and if it were only tobacco juice that wouldn't be so bad but heaven knows what it actually is and I don't want to know. I hate the whir I hear when one decides it's just too cool to hop and wants to be known as a GRASSFLYER, and I especially hate that GRASSFLYERS are magnetically drawn toward my face and want to scratch my eyes out with their scritchy back legs. (What? Yes, they do.)
I especially hate what they've done to my poor little struggling flowers. They have snacked on the zinnias as if they were popcorn and the movie was running long.
So I bent down to take a picture of the poor little zinnia above, and suddenly I spotted it.
|Holy cow! Look at the size of that thing!|
That was the moment I shrieked like a little girl, made slapping motions around my eyes, dropped the camera, and died.
And that's why there is no post today.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 1:53 PM
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Well, no, I'm not old enough to collect Social Security. Not by a decade or so. And certainly the accounts payable manager in the family was not encouraging the ditching of my paid employment. (With four kids still in college, and no end to school bills in sight, Husband enjoys a hearty laugh every time I discuss my retirement plans.)
A year ago, though, we were in our first weeks as official empty nesters. Instead of falling into a funk about the quiet house, I found myself with a little extra skip in my step. Hey! We officially managed to get them all to college age without paying bail for any of the four!
I managed to keep that extra little skip until I woke up one morning and realized I still had a job. Of all the empty nest symptoms, I was most unprepared for this one.
It's not that I don't love the job that so faithfully puts money in my bank account every month. In fact, many days I can't believe I'm paid to do something I enjoy so much. I write--they pay me! I talk--they pay me! I scold coaches for distorting the logo--they pay me! (Okay, some of my job is not all that much fun. The rule of thumb is that 90% of my job I'd do for free, but the other 10% is way underpaid and policing logo usage is in the 10%.)
Anyway, as someone who had only wanted to raise kids and suddenly discovered they were all grown up, it felt odd that I had any responsibilities at all. For at least a couple of months I found myself dragging through the days at work rolling my eyes (internally, of course) at everyone who came through the door. My inner whiner complained incessantly about these PEOPLE who didn't realize that my Boys were GONE!
Huh. When I put it that way, maybe I was in a bit more of a funk than I realized. The second year, I'm pleased to report, is easier.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 1:57 PM
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
They have something admirable, something I can't define but (like pornography) that is clearly evident when I see it.
So what captures that something I want to be when I grow up?
Aunt A was the perfect hostess, but during our three days in her home I also heard her admiration for the veterinarian she knows who has traveled to Haiti to care for hurricane-affected animals, the heartbreak she feels for those suffering in Somalia. My mother doubled and tripled the number of guests at her Christmas dinner to include orphans and widows, and volunteered to teach the Sunday School class of 80+-year-olds because she knew this would keep them connected and involved. I think of elegant Wanda sorting clothes in the thrift shop and helping women put together the perfect ensemble for a job interview.
And then I realize that I had unwittingly distilled the attar of quality that sets these exemplary females apart: These women spend their lives looking away from themselves. They're marked by their genuine care for others that demonstrates itself in a boots-on-the-ground way. Their hearts beat for the world, and for their neighbors, and they champion those who can't speak or stand up for themselves.
That's the kind of woman I want to be when I grow up, and now.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 1:35 PM
Monday, August 22, 2011
It's five-star treatment at its best, if by "best" you mean most efficient.
Boy#2 and I stayed with Husband's 85-year-old aunt during our trek back east. A long-retired teacher, Aunt A is the person I want to be when I'm 85, delightful and energetic and up at 0:DarkThirty to fix breakfast. The first morning we had cereal, delicious multi-grain toast and fresh fruit, with a chaser of bracingly strong coffee. The second day Aunt was up early to make omelets, and the final morning's breakfast was the best French toast I have ever eaten topped with homemade walnut syrup.
All of these were served on beautifully matching antique dishes, with no plastic on the table (think butter removed from the tub).
Suddenly I realized I've done my guests no favors by serving a breakfast that is more glorified self-feeder than family meal. The beautiful dishes, the lovingly prepared food, the grace with which it was served--to have gobbled this food with one foot out the door would have been like listening to a Beethoven symphony on 78 rpm. (Oh, yes, I'm old enough to make that reference.)
Instead, we slowed down to appreciate both the food and the cook, and in doing so, better appreciated the day stretching around and ahead of us.
And when you think of it, isn't this slowing down and reflection the whole point of art, whether the art is a painting or music or the lost art of being a hostess?
Aunt A may be retired from teaching, but she's still teaching me.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 1:54 PM
Friday, August 19, 2011
I thought of that apartment this week as Boy#2 and I set about furnishing his new place at Huge University.
We had driven from the heartland with his Taurus stuffed to the top with his most precious belongings (the books, computers, ukelele, tchotchkes and knickknacks that couldn't be replaced at any big box store) and six more storage boxes of semi-precious belongings were shrink-wrapped and ready for delivery by the folks who do this for a living. As we drove toward the apartment he had leased a couple of months ago Boy had everything he needed to start his new life as a graduate student.
Everything, that is, except something to sleep on. Oh, and something to sit on. Plus something to cook with, and someplace to put the clothes that were arriving in all those shrink-wrapped boxes. And dishes to eat from, and somewhere besides his lap to rest those dishes between bites.
What I'm saying is that we had our work cut out for us as we pulled into Huge University Town Sunday night.
Monday morning bright and early we were at the rental agency to pick up the apartment key, then we began the Great Stuff Quest. Boy had decided to bite the bullet and buy a new bed (because used mattresses? Ewwww.) but everything else would be doing a victory lap in the usefulness cycle.
Two days and forty-seven stores later, we had checked the most vital necessities off the list. Bed. Desk. Bookshelves. Couch. Recliner. Etc. Lots and lots of etc.
We discovered that people in his new state are friendly and helpful in spite of my preconceptions of East Coast dispositions, and that Goodwill rocks. (Seriously--a FULL SET of heavy silverware, including a butter knife just because, for $18.) Two made good decisions (the gorgeous and more expensive table would have been lovely, but he saved big bucks by going with the less-gorgeous-but-serviceable option) and stretched his apartment-furnishing budget further than I would have thought possible.
There was a moment during the weekend as we debated the merits of a $4 end table that I felt a pang of regret. I wished Two didn't have to settle for the couch with the crummy back cushion, or the mismatched everything. But then I thought of my first apartment, and of my four pieces of furniture and the cast-off and scrounged that I lovingly arranged to make my first grown-up place a home, and I smiled.
This is a rite of passage, and Two is going to be just fine. A rump-sprung couch may be hard on the rear end, but it's good for the soul.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 11:45 AM
Saturday, August 13, 2011
We're in Nashville tonight, a deliberately short day as Boy#2 visits a college friend on our trek east. As we tooled down Music Highway, I was struck by a billboard for "Loretta Lynn's Ranch and Kitchen--America's Favorite Attraction."
Really? Its favorite?
More than, say, this?
As Two pointed out, we're going to need to see the citation.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 3:29 PM
Friday, August 12, 2011
|Reading material for the trip.|
Seriously, I think I must have been traumatized by a boring trip when I was a kid--the thought of simply looking out the window and thinking deep thoughts makes me shudder. Not that I don't do just that much of the time, but deep down I'm probably afraid I don't really have much to think about.
In my car bag today were two books (one paperback from the library and one enormous book I own and can leave behind if it doesn't get read) plus my Nook loaded with at least a dozen more books I haven't read, plus knitting (a pair of socks I'm finishing) plus more knitting (a sweater I'm starting) plus my phone that lets me check my e-mail every four seconds. Oh, and my laptop so I could...I don't know what, maybe set up a spreadsheet?
Fortunately, Two is a wonderful travel companion. He doesn't count on me to navigate and he doesn't roll his eyes when I drop into contra-bass and do my best Paul Robeson impression as we cross the Mississippi. ("Ol' man ribber, dat ol' man ribber, he don' know nothin, but somethin', somethin', that ol' man ribber, he keeps on rollin'.... along!" I may have made up some words.) Two doesn't roll his eyes, and I don't give him a hard time because he had never heard of either Wichita Lineman or Moon Over Memphis.
It was such a nice day that the only surprise came after we checked in at the hotel and decided to get something to eat at this strip mall diner:
Fortunately we also love Chinese.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 10:15 PM
Thursday, August 11, 2011
|Boys in Arkansas, ca. 1998|
Tomorrow the Boys begin scattering to their respective schools. Two of them will head back to Texas, one stays in our home state but is four hours away, and Boy#2 and I will begin the three-day drive east to his new university. I was acutely aware of this moment in time as one that I'd like to preserve in amber.
All of us were there, and healthy, and laughing uncontrollably at a video of a tranquilized bear that Boy#4 replayed for us on his phone. Every time the bear went "Boingggg" off the trampoline we roared. Small Town is tolerant of this kind of behavior--the lovely couple at the next table have known the Boys since they were toddlers and instead of shushing us they walked past our table smiling and said "Isn't it wonderful to all be together?"
For once I was unconcerned that restaurant service was slow; I knew that when the meal was over the packing and the trombone practicing would begin again. We wouldn't be teasing Boy#2 about missing that one flight, that one time, leading us to say "Don't miss the plane!" every single time he travels. We wouldn't be reminding Boy#4 of that one little bike crash, that one time, that has led us to say "Drive carefully!" every single time he gets behind the wheel. Husband was underscoring to the Boys that a reputation is easy to build and hard to live down.
Eventually, finally, we finished our meals and left for home. I knew that in spite of the chaos and the occasionally too-high decibel level I will treasure these things, pondering them in my heart.
Being an ice skater could not be better than this.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 11:03 AM
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Nine minutes ago, the house felt way too small. I grimaced as I picked up shoes and stirred from sleep as late-nighters "tip-toed" up the back stairs.
Eight minutes ago I wondered if the furniture would survive the summer, what with the flopping down and the wrestling and the sheer physicality of youth.
Seven minutes ago I spent almost $300 at the grocery store and less than 24 hours heard a Boy say, "Isn't there anything to eat around here?"
Six minutes ago I made a list of things I was going to accomplish while I commanded the muscles of all these manly men to tote and carry--I'd finish the rock patio! We'd spiffy up the basement entry!
Five minutes ago I tore up the manly to-do list and made a gazillion cupcakes instead.
Four minutes ago I wiped away a tear that escaped when my family once again filled an entire pew at church.
Three minutes ago I remembered I STILL hadn't upholstered the rocker Boy#3 wants for his new apartment, and that time was growing short to get everything done.
Two minutes ago the tide of packing boxes showed up in the living room again, this time on their way to three different states. I tried to count how many times we've watched this here-they-come-and-there-they-go progression, and reminded myself of Boy#1's reaction when I asked him if he felt like he'd arrived home when he got back to Washington: "No," he said, "D.C. is someplace familiar that I love, but home is home."
One minute ago I realized how quickly time moves and that summer is over. I'm going to be missing the Boys again now that we're nearing low tide. I'm just glad home is home, and that in a few minutes the tide will come in again.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 2:36 PM
Monday, August 8, 2011
|Three sisters and the coolest aunt in the world|
(Before we move on, could we pause for a moment to admire the astonishing fashion plate I was at age six? That striped tee, those plaid pants, the high-water nature of both pieces of clothing--Tim Gunn would be proud of my daring. I made it work.)
Much Older Sister was just learning to ride her Western Flyer and I was holding R's hand as she posed behind her little tricycle. J and I were the big girls; R was the baby.
But the age disparity was only one of many differences between us. Although all of us were movie-star beautiful, J and I were movie star beautiful along the lines of the bowing Austrian folksinger who wouldn't get off the stage in the Sound of Music; R was more Audrey Hepburn.
|J and I were this movie star...|
|R was this one.|
As we got older, my hair was cut in a short, wispy pixie cut; R had beautiful thick braids that brushed out into a curtain of hair that fell past her waist.
It wasn't until this weekend, though, when R came to visit and we spent hour after hour drinking coffee and talking and laughing that I was able to pinpoint the crucial difference between me and my Much Younger Sister. I introduced her to some friends at church, and later one remarked that R seemed like she would be a wonderful friend.
"Oh, she is," I responded from my heart without thinking. "She is the only person I know who is good all the way through."
I remember when she was in high school and attended the high school career night. By then she had decided she wanted to be a doctor, but signed up to visit the booths of a cosmetology school and the U.S.Marine Corps because she didn't want those recruiters to feel lonely while everyone else was visiting the K-State booth.
Four decades later she is still as tender-hearted and compassionate as she was then. She worries about her children who are in the midst of teenage maelstrom, and about the patient whose nebulous symptoms she hadn't quite pinned down when she last saw him, and in all the hours of talking and laughing, she did not make one single unkind remark.
You understand how rare that is, right? That when someone is with her nearest and dearest and at her most unguarded she is unfailingly compassionate? Unfailingly willing to give the benefit of the doubt?
She is good all the way through, and the most wonderful younger sister in the world.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 3:17 PM
Friday, August 5, 2011
The Big Weekend reminded me, though, that I'm surrounded by a next generation that is stepping up to the plate in every way.
My two Husband-side nieces are a few years older than the Boys and their families are well underway. This weekend was the first time we've met many of their children, largely because over the course of about a year they went from having a cumulative four children to having a cumulative 10 children.
You read that right. These young couples offered their hearts and homes to kids who needed both, where most of us only offer our words. Niece the Older and her wonderful husband, who had four biological children, adopted a four-child sibling group and doubled their family size. Niece the Younger and her equally wonderful husband adopted two children, one from Ethiopia and one from Haiti. (You can read their stories on their own blogs, here and here.)
Truthfully, I was a little concerned about how well 10 children, ages 12 and under, would behave during a weekend dominated by Little Old Lady-ness. I shouldn't have worried: They were the best-behaved, most appealing children I've ever seen. And I'm including my own four in that assessment.
Then this morning Boy#1 called our attention to a note in our hometown paper. The son of my Much Older Sister has been named to the state human rights commission. He isn't even 30 yet, but this kid is an attorney and now has agreed to serve citizens of the state on this board that is pledged to end discrimination of all kinds.
This next generation may not be the Greatest Generation yet, but they're certainly making a run at the title.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 9:55 AM
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
When I needed someone to set up chairs for Sunday's party in conversation-friendly groupings, I turned to Boys#1 and #2. They were fast, but came up with this arrangement:
Sheesh. It's a good thing they're cute or no one would ever hire them.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 9:29 AM
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
"Cupcake queen abdicates?"
The birthday celebration we hosted for my mother-in-law was not just an opportunity to mark 90 years for the matriarch of the family, but was the perfect storm to unleash my own neuroses and insecurities. This is the moment when the Martha Stewarts among daughters-in-law shine; I am more on the Roseanne Barr end of creativity's bell-shaped curve, but I was determined to get the food and decor right.
Months ago I began compulsively trying out cupcake recipes. My self-esteem barometer rose or fell on the results of the day's results, which ranged from inedible ("I am incompetent! I am a failure!") to pretty good ("I have created FOOOOD!").
I scoured the internet for ways to display the bite-sized delicacies and blanched in horror at the expense. ($65 for a stand that holds a dozen cupcakes? I think not.) Finally I wandered the aisles of Hobby Lobby and grabbed one of this, two of that, half a dozen of another thing, and threw them together with a couple bouquets of cheap alstroemeria from the grocery store.
People, it may not have been Martha Stewart but it wasn't bad. The candle reflectors (silly me; I thought they were mirrors) that balanced on overturned flower pots reflected the tiny lilies that my fabulous sister-in-law arranged in antique cream pitchers, and the primary-colored plates and napkins fit perfectly into the old sewing machine drawers.
Of course, the arrangement had its glitches (who knew that lemon slush wouldn't flow through a drink dispenser?) but overall I'm calling this a win.
Just don't ask me to duplicate the success. I think one shot at being Martha Stewart may have been my limit, and as King Edward so eloquently stated, it is impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as Cupcake Queen as I would wish to...mmmm, something, something, whatever.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 2:51 PM
Monday, August 1, 2011
I never would have known this woman whose birthday we celebrated yesterday. I wouldn't have known that in her younger years she created beautiful cross-stitched canvases and made delicious cinnamon rolls. I wouldn't have seen the picture that made me laugh, the one of her being swung into a kiss in her young husband's lap--and seen the photographic evidence that the delight of the moment made her toes curl up.
I wouldn't have watched her hold our newborn son gingerly (as she should, with such a precious cargo) and two decades later seen tears fill her eyes when that same now-grown-up child called her from Hong Kong.
I wouldn't have seen my Boys and my nieces grow into the astounding adults they are without the one-quarter of their DNA that came from her.
If we hadn't loved the same man, I wouldn't be mourning the toll age is taking on her senses and the frailty that has left her less mobile, and the downward trend of her thought processes. I wouldn't have been on the edge of tears yesterday as I looked at her three sons, her two daughters-in-law, her six grandchildren and their two spouses, and her ten great-grandchildren, all surrounding her during worship service and in celebration of her life.
But we do love the same man, a link that inextricably connects our lives, and because we love the same man I also love her.
Posted by MomQueenBee at 9:13 AM