Thursday, December 01, 2011

I'm back!

Ahem. My name is Margaret, and it's been 9 months since my last post.

All of you: Hi, Margaret!

Oh wait... you say the point is to put up MORE posts, not fewer? Hmmm... sorry about that. :-)

Well, the figure of 9 months since my last post is not without significance. Roughly a week after my last post, way back at the end of February, I was scarfing crackers, trying not to barf, and collapsing on the couch after work each night. Happily, the reason for all that unpleasantness is now napping in his crib, cute as can be, and 3 weeks old already. :-D Add to that a job change, a move to a new home in June, and care for an active 2 year old, and you have the reasons for my poor neglected blog. And even though I run the risk of crying wolf when I say this, I am going to try to do better in coming months. :-) More to come!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Follow-Through (or lack thereof)

I loved reading this post. This writer often says exactly what's been rolling around in my own head and heart, but I could never find the words to express it. (This is also why the internet is a constant reminder that I am not a naturally gifted writer!). One quote: I have always been plagued with a not-so-fun combination of literalism, anxiety, and pessimism. You do not want me on your group project. See? :-)
But the main point of this writer's post was to share some things she's been working on for New Year's resolutions (wise idea- post on the resolutions after some time to actually get them into place) and several of her action points are ones that I've been thinking about as well. However, I can't quite bring myself to put them here and speak them aloud, because I too suffer from a horrid lack of follow-through. I've been (rightly) called on the carpet a few times by Bradwick for going on and on about resolutions or goals that I really never make a concerted effort to actually do. It's not for lack of sincerity, because when I say a goal or resolution I really do mean it. I think that the main problem lies in my thought that chance happens easily and without much effort... that a resolution, once stated, should just settle over my life like a blanket, there to stay. But instead, when I'm faced with actually turning away from my comfortable default action, and putting in some effort to follow the ungrooved path, I give a limp little sigh and say to myself how I'll really do what I'm supposed to do tomorrow. And then guilt piles up to the point where I toss the whole thing, rather than have to look that guilt in the eye day after day.
It would be nice if this post would end with a full-throated "No more!" and a declaration that CHANGE has arrived, but that's not how it's going to be today. Being able to understand my thought process, though, will hopefully lead me one more paving stone closer to the gate marked 'action'.

PS- the radio silence of the past 2 weeks? Creeping crud, visiting relatives, mountains of schoolwork, and hosting a Bible study at our house... it's been a busy 2 weeks!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


I had a lovely afternoon with Madeleine today. After picking her up from daycare at 4 (and hearing that she had another good day- hurray!) we went to get the car washed at Danny's Carousel. We stood at the window and watched the cars go through the automatic washer, soap and spinners and swishers- and Madeleine was very impressed. She was equally impressed with the Junior Mints I bought when paying the bill, which we sat and shared while watching the fish in the fish tank. We went out to sit on the bench and wait for the car to be dryed, and played silly together ("I've got your nose!" "Here, I'll put it back". She returned the favor, to my nose, my hair, my ears, etc. :-)
When we got home, we decorated for Valentine's Day by getting out the tablerunner and hanging some paper hearts from strings over the dining room doorway. Then we snuggled on the couch ("Me sit in your lap?") to watch Mary Poppins. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it with her, since I haven't seen it since I was about 7. After about 45 minutes I went to make carrot-onion-potato-kale-sausage soup (which turned out most excellently). We watched a bit more of the movie, ate dinner, and then played around on the couch. (Where was Bradwick in all this? At parent-teacher conferences, sadly) Then bathtime, story, brush teeth, prayer on the couch, lullaby, bed. During lullaby my nose brushed against hers and she started to giggle. We stood there in the dark doing Eskimo kisses and she giggled so much that she was still squealing when I laid her down.

I hope the future holds more kids for us, but right now, I adore this time I have to focus on my delightful little daughter.

Creeping Crud

I am finally out of the deep dark pit of creeping crud, after 2 weeks! First a cold, which became a sinus infection, which WOULD NOT go away. I am always over those things in about 5 days, and this was going strong after a week! Seriously, there were several times a day when my nose was completely stopped up. Have you ever tried to swallow when your nose is totally plugged? Serious unpleasantness! I finally caved last week and went and got some antibiotics, thinking that in about 24 hours I'd be doing much better... and it was still 4 days before I was feeling even slightly better! I was useless the whole weekend, which put all manner of things behind schedule (I need those weekends to keep up with my non-school responsibilities!) I did finally read the most recent two books in the Temeraire series, which was a nice diversion from not being able to breathe. But I'm finally doing better, and after some housecleaning last night, feeling back on track.

Writing this reminds me to stop a minute and be thankful for breathing through my nose. It's amazing how I take that for granted until it's gone. :-)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Yes, She's Definitely 2

Madeleine's birthday evening, after I picked her up from her 'fun day' with Grandma, was supposed to be a cute little family affair. We'd have dinner, she'd open her presents, we'd eat some ice cream, she'd blow out 2 candles and Brad and I would sing 'happy birthday' to her.

Instead, we heard "No, thank you!" to opening presents, eating dinner, taking a bath, or anything else we asked her to do. She mushed beans in her hair, almost dumped her plate off the table twice, threw peas, and barely ate half her food. We never made it to dessert or candles. We offered to sing and again, "No thank you!". Talk to Great-Grandma? "No thank you!" Open your cards? "No thank you!"

I was frustrated for a bit, but then thought, what a perfectly appropriate way to welcome age 2. :-) And, in Madeleine's defense, she had no nap today and was so tired that she could hardly see straight. She went to bed at 7:45 after complaining to me, "I'm sleepy!"

What I want to remember from today is: Two years ago today I was laying in a hospital bed, holding the most precious 8-lb bundle I could imagine. She looked up at me quietly with solemn eyes and I wanted to hold her forever.

Tonight I was standing in her darkened room, rocking her and singing her our goodnight lullaby after nightly prayers. She snuggled in my arms, sucked her thumb, and I still want to hold her forever.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Yay, it's Friday!

Hurray, it's Friday! I even got an early start on the weekend, although it wasn't for a good reason- Madeleine came down with a cold/ fever and by noon needed to be picked up from daycare. So I got to spend the afternoon with my cuddly, sniffy, sick girl... and since she's not too terribly miserable (well, she wasn't until bedtime tonight) I really enjoyed spending that time with her. Now it's sad because she was looking groggy and had a fever of at least 101 (thermometer was broken) and unhappy before bed. I hope she's better tomorrow!

Just for fun, I'm doing the 5 Question Friday thingy again from 5 Crooked Halos.

1. Where did you meet your spouse and did you instantly know it was love?

Hm! Husband and I met on April 12, 2003, on the front porch of Pastor Bob's house. My friend Candace had set us up on a double date (much to my dismay when she sprung the news on me!) so I was peeking out the blinds as he and N came up the pathway, trying to see what Candace had gotten me into. It was definitely interest at first sight, and that developed into love over the next several months of emails and visits. Even that first night we couldn't stop talking about all kinds of things we had in common and were interested in! After I went back to California, I hoped he would contact me and I did a little happy dance when his first email arrived 3 days later. :-)

2. What is your favorite room in your house?

My living room. I painted the walls bright green when we moved in, and I've enjoyed them every day since then. We have enough bookcases and stuff against the walls that it doesn't scream "GREEN!", and instead it acts a great background color. I give a happy sigh when I survey the room.

3. Can you wiggle your ears?

Not in the slightest!

4. What is your evening ritual?

Well, it's not what I'd like it to be, but... starting at 4 pm, it's 1) pick up Madeleine 2) play with Madeleine 3) cook dinner (most nights) 4) eat dinner with little M and Husband 5) clean OR play with Madeleine OR teach ESL 6) bedtime routine with M (Husband does half and I do half). Then, as soon as she's in bed, it's 7) check email/Facebook/Google Reader 8) do lesson plans 9) maybe watch a TV show 10) go to bed, usually around 11. Lesson plans take forever! :-(

5. How many hours of sleep do you need to function?

I am functional but unhappy with 6 (less than 6 and I'm not very functional!); I'm moderately productive with 7; I'm productive, cheerful, and creative with 8 or more. Sadly, my sleep deficit gets worse throughout the work week, and then I crash on Friday night, trying to catch up. I wish I could get by with less, just because there's so darn much to do, but I've discovered that one of the best things I can do for my state of mind is get that needed sleep!

And on that note, I'm off to watch Bones with Husband and then head to bed!

Pain in This World

Wow... I just read a most excellent post on the subject of pain in this world. So excellent, in fact, that I'm going to post Jamey's words in their entirety, because she's expressed so well the thoughts that swirl around in my own head, I don't think I could get them out any better.

I don't know where this is going. I'm just warning you in advance. Just in case you think I'm coming at this with an agenda or trying to make a point. I don't have one and I'm not. I don't even know what the next word is going to be as I type it. My life is like that a lot....

Being a grown-up was so much easier before I was one. I mean, did you ever look at your parents, even as a teenager, and think, "Wow, I bet they've got a lot of stuff on their mind." No. We all knew that parents had it easy. Work. Home. Clean. Pay bills. What's hard about that? Surely they didn't struggle, they didn't have friends having a hard time that they were trying to help, they didn't think about deep subjects, they weren't scared. They were just adults and what could possibly be hard about that?

It turns out...everything.

I mean, life is hard. What is going on with that? I keep reading these things (and I'm not actively seeking them out!) about husband's dying, children dying, awful things happening during wars, people have sick kids, wives have cancer, kids in Africa are starving. People are getting divorced, women and children are abused. Kids brought into loving homes have trauma issues and spreading their trauma into their new families. Moms are exhausted. Dads are stressed out. People don't have jobs, kids aren't getting good educations. People I love have cancer, are having heart attacks, are depressed.... Life is a daily struggle. Lives are going 180 degrees from the direction that seems right. Kids are hurt by adult decisions, adults are hurt by kids' behaviors, marriages are scraped over the rocks and both parties left hurt and bleeding. People are scared, alone, hurting.

I just don't understand. From the little pains to the enormous traumas, I don't get it. Where is the justice? How can this be okay? Where is God while the world breaks itself? Why does the suffering just go on and on.

(I'm just putting it out there, God, that I don't think this is a good plan.)

I grew up in church. I went to a Christian liberal arts college. I married a pastor's son and a Bible Theology major. I've read the books. I "know" the answers:

God is restraining himself. Grace and free will. Justice will be restored with the second coming. God weeps with us. And all of those other answers.

Theologically I can get it. Intellectually I can get it.

But my heart is not getting it.

The more I see of the world, the more I am given the privilege of seeing into other people's hearts and lives, the more I experience, the more I learn, the more I want to understand, the more I wish I knew how to respond, how to help, the more I want to help bring healing into others' homes, into my home, the more I seek, the more pain I find

the less I feel like I know God.

That's all.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thankful Thursdays

Some things I am thankful for....

-watching my daughter push her baby in her stroller and "take her to the bookstore" (the bookshelf)

-a soft, warm bed on a cold night

-cars with bun warmers

-being caught up (mostly) with grading

-a wonderful brother and sister-in-law

-leftover pizza

-hearing "I love-a yew" from little M

-mint-chip ice cream

-"Chicka chicka boom boom, look there's a FULL MOON!" (when there really is!)

-holding hands and talking with Husband

-tomorrow is Friday!


Sunday, January 16, 2011

5 Random Questions

I was reading a blog whose author does a fun little meme called "5 Question Fridays". There's a way to link up so that everyone's posts are linked back to the main one so you can read various people's answers, but I don't know how to do that bit of technical wizardry yet. Plus, I was busy on Friday and now I'm answering them on Sunday. But just for fun, here goes!

1) What movie could you watch over and over again and not get tired of?

Hm... pretty much none. I get tired of pretty much anything I watch too much, or listen to, or play... And the more meaningful and serious something is, the less I can stand to watch it, just because I feel it needs to be paid proper attention. So the more mindless and frivolous it is, the better to watch it repeatedly, especially when I'm grading paper and bored to death. :-) For that, I'd have to say that Across the Universe is awesome. Love story, the best Beatles covers ever, 1960s confusion, my favorite type of leading man (tall, thin, dark, handsome... just like a certain Husband of mine)... I love that movie.

2) What's your biggest pet peeve right now?

Now I'm remembering why I'm not very good at these question thingys. I am so indecisive about picking something. In fact, let's just go with that- my own indecisiveness is driving me crazy right now. We have some Major Life Decisions to make soon, and it's a special form of torture for me, because I go over and over the pros and cons so often that there's probably a groove in the surface of my brain. I need a Worry Room like Uncle Scrooge. But 'pet peeve' wouldn't be complete without referencing the 170 adolescents I spend most of my days with, and right now it's the fact that none of them seem to have a pencil most of the time. It's SCHOOL, people- a pencil should be an appendage of your body when you're at school!

3) If you had to describe your best friend in 5 words or less, what would you say?

My best friend is Husband. :-) "Just as quirky as me". We are such a good match!

4) If you did not have to worry about money, or go to school, what would you do for a living?

I would... (many minutes ellipsis here because there are so many possible answers!) live in Europe, teach English classes, homeschool my kids, and serve in a church there.

5) What is your one "splurge" item that you will always buy, regardless of the cost?

Well, as new acolytes of Dave Ramsey, I'm trying hard not to splurge on anything while we make like gazelles and be intense. And there are dozens of current items that may move from the 'necessity' category to the 'splurges' category as we continue to tighten the ol' belt. However, I will always subscribe to a few magazines, because there's pretty much no way I love to relax more than curling up with a new magazine. Time, Woman's Day, and Newsweek are my standbys.

Gee, that was harder than I thought. I better keep working on #2!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Too much input!

Today was filled wall to wall with things to do and things to think about. Here's some of today's mental smorgasboard:

Early this morning, checking Google Reader, I read Tonguu Mama's take on a new, apparently very inflammatory, article on parenting by a Harvard law professor named Amy Chua. So I had to skip over and read it for myself, and boy, people weren't kidding about inflammatory! Later in the day I saw it was one of the headline articles on Slate, so it really made the rounds. Chua talks about her 'Chinese mother' parenting style, which horrifies most 'Westerners'- in her eyes, it's expecting excellence, and in many others' eyes, it's control-freak parental bullying at its worst. (Never accepting less than an A in school, mandatory piano and violin, no playdates, no sleepovers, no acting, just getting ready for Harvard... and achieving this by railing at her kids about the family honor and how they're 'garbage' if they balk at her dictates or don't want to work hard). It really is a thought-provoking article, though, because she makes a couple points that are really valid: 1) that kids don't enjoy the practice necessary to become excellent at something- they only really enjoy it after they get really good at something, and should be forced to that point; 2) that hard work is a valuable skill in itself and parents should not accept laziness from children. My knee-jerk reactions are to agree with those points but still not agree with her methods in achieving them by putting a crushing load of guilt and pressure on her kids.

At school, I was deluged with the usual torrent of tasks to get done, and spend much of the morning immersed in helping students understand Jim Crow laws (they were reading about it online but, as usual, having lots more problems with comprehension than I'd expected them to have). Then in the afternoon with the 8th graders, I was answering all manner of questions about their World War II research topics and helping them find books and encyclopedias.

When I picked up Madeleine from daycare, I learned that she had a Very Bad Day, getting into trouble all day long, so J and I talked for a long while about what different consequences we could try. I'm really at a loss right now, as she doesn't seem to mind either timeouts or spankings, and I don't really want to increase either of those in frequency, as I don't think it'll make a difference. I know she's seeking attention (she's hitting the other kids, taking toys, saying "I don't like you") but I don't know why or how to help her find better ways (or, actually, tell J what I'd like her to do, since I'm not there to do it myself). Honestly, as soon as I heard about all this, I felt even more strongly that we've got to find a way for me to stay home and be Madeleine's primary caretaker- not because J isn't doing a great job (she is!) but because it's my job as her mom to be her teacher, her consistency, her nurturer.

Interestingly, then I read that a friend of mine (former Awana crony) -who blogs about her life as a stay at home mom- is joining the writing team for a site called Raising Homemakers. The purpose of the site is to raise one's daughters to be homemakers, and for them to be "stay at home daughters", living at home until marriage. This is one of the latest conservative evangelical trends, or so I gather, and appears to be headed for "I kissed dating goodbye" status as the idea everyone loves or hates. I went over to read my friend's profile on the site, so I scrolled through some of the other 30 or so contributers' profiles as well. One of the very first ones, that caught my eye, was a 19 year old girl who description includes "loves the Lord", blah blah, all the usual Christian description, and then says something to the effect of 'her talents lie in the area of academics, but her deepest desire is to serve the Lord at home'. That made me grate my teeth, because that sounds suspiciously like saying, "I'll bury my God-given academic talent that could influence the culture for good, as a teacher or professor, because at age 19 I already know that being a homemaker is what God has called me to, even though I'm not married and don't have kids yet". I know how quickly, in Christian women's circles, the idea that being a homemaker is an excellent way to serve God becomes the idea that being a homemaker is the best way to serve God. How can a 19 year old possibly know that? How much is my friend, whose daughter is 5, going to hint to her over the years that she is destined to be a homemaker, when God could call her to be a working mom? I have a suspicion that many of the blog's contributers might say that God never calls a mom to work outside the home. (Admittedly, the fact that I wrestle with my choices in this area all the time might make me just a tad bit oversensitive to this topic.... but still).

After all this, good thing that the education seminar I was supposed to attend tonight turns out to be next week. Now all I need to do is go figure out a way to teach 7th graders, in 45 minutes, about the injustices done to Native Americans by western settlers in the 1880s. In a differentiated, interactive, critically-thinking way, of course.

And then I'm taking my poor overtired brain off to bed!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


It hit me again today, this feeling. This is a well-known, though not welcome, acquaintance. It's inertia, malaise, the deep desire to curl up and do nothing, nothing except watch the world go by. It comes most often when I'm tired, when my list of obligations and responsibilities seems never-ending. Yet it's not a healthy thing, it's not a desire to rest, gain energy, and then to head out again... it's a feeling that every action is a burden. It's hard to describe- when this feeling taps me on the shoulder, I feel like there are weights on my arms and legs, and that the best thing in life would be to find a comfortable bed, pile up magazines and books, and never move from that spot again.

Part of this is circumstantial, I know- the aforementioned lack of sleep, and the times when I take in way too much sugar, so that I'm crashing and reaching for more candy or pasta and then repeating the cycle. After eating some vegetables and eggs tonight, I feel amazingly better. But it's deeper than that, because more than just bouts of fatigue, I feel like I'm out of sync with the rest of the people out there who want to do things. I don't want to do anything; I want to read, watch, and rest, and that's about it. This is not good, and I want follow this thing down to the root and then get it out.

Here is something that maybe is closer to the root: I see so many people who want to make things, who enjoy the process of creating. People build furniture; they cook gourmet meals; they write stories; they sew; they exercise, building their body; they build lovely, inspiring blogs; they compose; they paint. These all sound like chores to me, like tasks that have to be done, not things that I would want to do voluntarily. From time to time, a burst of creativity squeezes out of me, but not often. The couch and a book sound much more appealing (short-term, of course, not long-term: I would love to be the person who writes, who builds, who sews, who exercises). And I need to figure out if it's just that reading and watching the world and resting are truly the things that I enjoy the most, or if there's something I'm running from, something I'm trying to escape about myself.

I hope I can figure it out.

Monday, January 10, 2011

V.S. of A.

Vitriolic States of America.

That's what I've been thinking of these past few days, after Saturday's shooting of a Congresswoman and bystanders in Tucson, and as the media has exploded about the event, the aftermath, and the meaning.

I was all set to write quite a bit about this topic, until I read Kristin's post that said it a lot better than I can.

I cannot stand how ugly and inflamed political rhetoric has become in this country. Our government needs healthy debate, that's true; but the default today seems to be attacks ad hominem, and that creates a very hostile climate. Our political system also requires compromises, and you can't entertain the thought of a compromise if you see your opponent as the spawn of Satan and label him/her as such.

And yes, it does seem like this gunman would have acted on his own paranoid ideas even if things were completely calm and peaceful. And no, there shouldn't be laws that try to police language even more. This has to be a decision by the participants, to see opponents as humans and fellow citizens, and disagree with ideas, not with people. I hope that this chance for reflection isn't buried by people rushing to defend the status quo.

One thing I've deeply admired about President Obama, from his campaign to his presidency, is his determined attempt to be civil and polite to his opponents. There are many (many!) of his policies and actions that I disagree with, but his respectful tone, attempts to compromise and meet opponents halfway, and listen to ideas from all sides, are qualities that I wish every politician in Washington would emulate.

I hope our whole country will take this shooting tragedy as a reminder of how fragile the rule of law is, and how angry words create an atmosphere for violent actions to occur. That's something every citizen should keep in mind.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

New York, someday....

It's a dream of mine to someday live in New York City.

Something about the millions of people, oceans of differences, shades of history, all packed together, pulls me deeply.

I'm not a person who makes things happen. New York City seems like a place where things can't help but happen, and then I'd be there in the midst of it.

It's just a daydream of mine. But it's one of my very favorites.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Toddler Psychology

What I heard when I picked up Madeleine from daycare today: "Madeleine had a very rough day". Oh, dear. I waited for J to elaborate and wondered what Madeleine had been up to. Apparently she made it her sport of the day to push and hit all the other kids she played with, scoff at timeouts, and even try to hit J when she was given a consequence. J was at a bit of a loss, and as we talked about it, I was too. I'm pretty sure Madeleine is doing this for the attention, even the negative attention she gets from consequences. It's tough because it's not something Brad or I can work with her on, because we're rarely with her when she's with other kids, and we give her quite a bit of attention by default at home. We don't focus on her all evening, but after being away from her all day, we play and talk with her quite a bit and there's not a lot of competition for our attention. So maybe at daycare (with a whole 2 kids and 1 adult!) she's seeking more attention. Or bored? Or testing boundaries? Or just plain spoiled?

Trying to figure out what's going on in a toddler's head is not an easy task, I'm finding. And it's equally as hard not to project my own thoughts/logic/weaknesses on her, and try to analyze things as if Madeleine were a mini-me. Example: as a kid I was devastated by any adult criticism, and so far Madeleine doesn't seem too fazed with our (or J's) disapproval. (That could be the age, though, too- she's still very concrete in her thinking, and I don't remember that far back in my own life. I was sensitive to criticism as an older kid, but maybe as a 2 year old I didn't care either.) And because Madeleine is so verbal, it's easy to think that I can reason all this out with her, but I'm finding that toddlers and reasoning don't always mesh. :-) But the cycle of disobedience-consequence-lather-rinse-repeat gets old fast and makes me wonder, what's the magic formula I'm missing? What do I say to turn my daughter into the little angel I know she could be?

Then I remember- that's not possible. She's human, and a small one at that. A little sinner to complement my bigger version. So I'll just keep trying to figure out the best ways to reinforce that we do what's right, and don't do what's wrong, over and over. And maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

If anyone has some good tips on the subject of disciple for toddlers, I'd love for you to share!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Mean Teacher

I'm going back to work tomorrow with my game face on. I've made a new seating chart, moving some disruptive kids right up under my nose or away from their friends, and I've got some new policies ready to enforce. I will be laying into the kids about their constant lack of supplies (they're always borrowing pencil and paper from me) and getting class started right on time. I've got a lunch detention policy lined up to help enforce these new, stricter rules.
I'm going to be the Grinch, and all the kids down in HMS-ville will all cry 'boo hoo!'. Heh, heh, heh.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Year

I really love the start of each new year. I love getting things cleaned up, organized, and making lists of goals and tasks. This past week, being off from work, has been productive in organizing, and today I'm doing a few more tasks and just basking in the glow of my shiny new lists. Husband and I even went out to a coffeeshop last night and talked over our thoughts on 2010 and some goals for 2011, which was so soul-satisfying. (I used a great reflection questionnaire from Simple Mom, if you'd like to take a look.)
One interesting reflection on 2010, for me, was the realization that to-do lists and goals and organizing can actually turn into something negative. The more time and effort I spend in trying to get all my ducks in a row, the more worried and frustrated I get when things aren't turning out perfectly. It's an attempt to control life, and that never turns out well for me at all. :-) So this year, I will try to make lists and plans for my life, within reason, but also spend time talking with God about His plans for me.
A very happy 2011 to all of you!