Saturday, March 31, 2012

April Fool

Come on down! You're a contestant on this year's version of "Fool or No Fool?"  Half of the following statements are true. Half are false. Use your keen mind and complete chance to figure out which are which.  Guess all 10 right and you're a genius - or very lucky - or you really know me well. Guess 7-9 right and you're "cool ... nice!" as my favorite almost-2-year-old would say. Guess 4-6 right and I'll still be impressed. Guess 0-3 right and, you guessed it, you're an April Fool! Have fun - and please respond to this post with your guesses!

1. I have more than five tattoos.

2. I watch the news first thing in the morning and before bed every night so that I'm up-to-date on the happenings in the world.

3. I've been breastfeeding at least one of my children since the day my oldest child was born over 13 years ago.

4. I have never eaten a corn dog.

5. I despise reality shows.

6. I've never been arrested.

7. "Rannygahoots" is a term my husband's maternal grandfather used to describe his grandchildren.

8. I watch Star Trek every day.

9. I have taken up folk dancing.

10. I play an April Fool's prank on my kids every year and this year it's going to be epic!

True or false, I'll post a little about each of these on April 2 - if there are posts by contestants, that is!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Miracle Cure

I won't get into the details of the hour and twenty minute doctor appointment during which it took my primary care physician, two nurses, the Director of the Family Medicine Residency Program, and an ekg to diagnose what I had already told everyone concerned was a fungal infection. That hour and twenty minutes was spent with my five children in a very small room with only one chair. One of said children was four years old and overtired. Another of the children has sensory issues and for him this was sheer torture. But that's beside the point. 

I will fill you in on the results of this astounding appointment and the wonder drug I was prescribed. Hold on to your hats!

The prescription was called in to my local pharmacy, and as it took so long to diagnose my condition at the doctor's office, I didn't have time to pick it up that evening. The next day I was also short on time and chose the grocery store over the pharmacy. Spreading fungal infection or not, I only had time for one of the two errands. Later that day, I finally made it to the pharmacy - with four kids in tow and the delivery truck blocking the drive-up window. Half an hour later, I emerged from the pharmacy with my medication, four kids, and some snacks - or bribes - or whatever you want to call the foodstuffs I purchased as an apology to the children for dragging them out and waiting in line for what seemed like hours. 

After putting the kids to bed, I finally was able to investigate the potion that would rid me of my affliction. It was then that I discovered something mindblowing. The treatment for the fungal infection - the miracle cure - was selenium sulfide. "Ah! Selenium sulfide! How funny is that!?!" you say. Or not. Let's google selenium sulfide and see what image results we get, shall we? Here we go:

Hahahaha that's funny! No? Let's try again

Do you get it yet? Maybe? How about this one...

Selenium sulfide is the active ingredient in Selsun blue dandruff shampoo (and other medicated dandruff shampoos). Nearly two hours of my time and stressed out kids on two occasions for dandruff shampoo.

What have I learned from this? The next time tinea versicolor starts taking over my body, I'm going to pick up some Selsun blue while I'm grocery shopping and call it a day. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

For Better or Worse...

I am committed to this relationship for better or worse.

A lot of "better" has been happening lately. I've been given more freedom to do the things I enjoy and even take on a new thing or two. We seem to be living together more harmoniously than we have in a while, although we still have our tiffs. 

Some "worse" has been happening as well. I have become a bit upset over the insistence that I go to bed early on nights when I really want to stay up and chat or get things accomplished - and at the same time frustrated at being urged to wake up several times a night. 

It seems that my weekly dates with E seem to be injecting my life with new energy and new possibilities. Some say E is dangerous and have concerns about me adding this new relationship into the mix, but so far, I see only good things happening. E has added spice to my life that hasn't been there in quite some time. 

You see, Sporadic Artie (PsA, for short) and I have been on fairly good terms lately. Starting  nine weeks after introducing Enbrel into our relationship, I have joint mobility I haven't had in years and have a bit more energy than I've had in a while. Those two things combined have allowed me to join my younger kids in our homeschool co-op's folk dancing class on Fridays - something I couldn't have imagined doing just a few months ago. I've found a new balance of activity and rest, now having some days when it seems I can just keep going and going and others (usually a day or two before my date with E) when I just need a quiet day at home.

Continuing to listen to my body as I balance ability and energy with existing joint damage and pain seems to be the theme of the next leg of my journey with Sporadic Artie ... and his evil twin, AS, but that's a story for another day. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Marty's Corner

Photo by Haley Steyer, age 9
On the corner of the street I grew up on lives a treasure trove of memories. Growing up, we referred to the series of storefronts as Marty's Corner, even though that was the name of just one of the shops. Whether going to Marty's for italian ice or IBC rootbeer or to Ernie's (later Adrian's) for groceries or a grinder, a trip to Marty's Corner was always an event.

When we were very little, my sister and I used to walk or ride bikes to Marty's Corner with one or both of our parents. Every time we went to Ernie's I hoped to talk my parents into a child-size box of animal crackers, cheese tidbits, or chocolate snaps.  

Eventually we earned the privilege of going to the corner ourselves. Sent with money and a list, we'd go to Ernie's Market to pick up groceries, and with the change could treat ourselves to something from Marty's. 

Walking into Marty's, the grown-ups sitting at the long counter would pause their conversation and glance your way. A glass case held chocolate bars and candy, with another rack of candy next to it. There were racks of chips and other snacks, comic books, novelties, coolers of ice cream, sodas and other items. Figuring out what to get was perhaps one of the most difficult decisions of my childhood. I must have bought hundreds of packs of Bubble Yum - especially Bananaberry Split and Rockin' Raspberry. 

A dance studio moved in a few doors down from Marty's, and my sister and I took dance and gymnastics lessons there. I'll never forget the first walk home by ourselves in the dark when we ran from street light to street light - although neither of us would admit to being the least bit scared. 

Another highlight of Mary's Corner was Naugy Pizza. How Ray made such wonderful pizzas in such a tiny place is beyond me, but I'll always remember his friendly smile and how he cut the pizzas with a least when we came to visit. His bacon pineapple pizza remains the best pizza I've ever eaten. 

As we prepared for gatherings at our house, I often heard the phrase, "Amanda, could you make a quick trip to the corner for a couple things?" The couple things would turn into half a dozen before I got out the door and often return trips were necessary. This caused the adoption of the "there is no change" concept, as I felt the need to be compensated for multiple trips and managing to balance a gallon of milk on my handlebars and a bag of groceries between my legs as I biked home for the third time. 

My Dad once drove to the corner to fetch our neighbor, Steve, from the barber shop because his wife was in labor. On another occasion, after arriving home from school to an empty locked house and without a house key, I walked to Marty's to use the pay phone. I grabbed a catalpa tree leaf and seed pod from the tree that once graced the property to use in my sixth grade "leaf report." A rain cloud once chased me all the way home from Marty's - I could see the rain trying to overtake me as I ran home with a paper bag full of necessities. 

Trips to Marty's took on a new meaning when I stared bringing the kids I babysat there on walks. By this time Ernie had retired and Adrian was continuing the tradition of friendly neighborhood service.  New memories with a new generation - yet the memories were remarkably similar to those of my childhood: deciding which treat to get, hoping there would be fresh Portuguese rolls on Adrian's counter for sandwiches, and children begging for a box of animal crackers. First pushing a stroller, then pulling a wagon, then chasing after bicycles, I trekked to Marty's Corner  hundreds of times over Rachel and Myles' young lives, as I'm sure my parents did with Jennifer and I. 

Marty's is closed now. Many of the storefronts are empty. My hope is that someone will see the value in the corner store and start anew the tradition of the neighborhood store so that other children will grow up with magical memories of Marty's Corner. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

How to Clean and Organize Your Living Room in Five Easy Steps

Step 1: Volunteer to be Theme Basket and Silent Auction Co-Coordinator for a local conference. With this job comes the need to store theme baskets and silent auction items in your house.

Step 2: Clean off a couple shelves in your living room and store items there as they come in. 

Step 3: Realize that a couple shelves isn't enough. Clean out another area in which to store stuff.

Step 4: Pack up all theme basket and silent auction items and bring them to the Conference.

Step 5: Return home and use open spaces to organize bin of random items left over from making room for conference goodies. 

I'm on Step 3 right now and things are looking promising. In a little over a month, I'll reach steps four and five. The wait is excruciating at times, but I think I'll survive. If you're as fortunate as I have been, the process of making room will lead to the donation of lots of unneeded items, the purchase of a new storage system, and the basic reorganization of the rest of your house in the process.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

One-way Ticket to Hell

In the past year, several of my friends have lost friends to suicide and as a result there's been a lot of discussion about suicide, the survivors of suicide, and mostly about the intensely emotional nature for all involved. This has led me to a lot of thinking, copious writing, much deleting, and to the realization that I cannot write about this without getting emotional, or while making any sort of coherent sense. So I figure I'll just type and see where it gets me...

Suicide is a one-way ticket to hell. 

That's what many of us are told, what many of us believe. This is not what I believe, and I'm going to attempt to tell you why, from a Christian perspective - because is was a Christian perspective that I was subjected to when I was in a place where death seemed preferable to life (to put it mildly). It was a Christian perspective that added to my despair. I have a different Christian perspective: 

Those who commit suicide are forgiven

Suicide, by someone in overwhelming emotional and mental pain, is NOT a one-way ticket to hell . Someone experiencing extreme mental and emotional anguish is not in their right mind. The majority of suicidal people are mentally ill, and last time I checked, mental illness is not a sin. In fact, it's something to be concerned about, to be taken seriously, and to be treated. 

As a Christian woman who at one point in my life lived in such a state of despair and mental torture that I was blind not only to the Light, but to reality, I would hope that, if I'd succeeded in killing myself, God would have had mercy on my soul. In fact, I'm confident He would have. 

"But if you kill yourself, you're committing murder and you'll go to hell."

Let's think about this for a moment. Do all people to kill other people go to hell? Police officers? Soldiers? Those who kill others in self defense? Jesus himself forgave the murderer on the cross when he was crucified. In other places in the Bible, murderers like Saul (Paul) and Moses are redeemed. God forgives our sins, including murder. 

"But if you commit suicide, you can't repent for your sins, so you go straight to hell." 

By God's grace we are forgiven our sins.  As we live our lives, we acknowledge our sins and ask forgiveness. When you kill yourself, there isn't an opportunity to repent, but that doesn't mean you aren't forgiven. If you die in a car accident and the last words out of your mouth are "Oh, my God!" you do not go to hell because you didn't have time to repent for taking the name of the Lord in vain. God is merciful and just. Jesus bears all of our sins. If we die without asking forgiveness for every sin we've ever committed, God still forgives those sins.  Jesus died for us, bearing our sins - so if he bore the sins of the person who committed suicide, he bore the sin of suicide as well. Jesus saves completely - one cannot be partially saved. 

Ephesians 2:4-10
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We are saved through faith - through the gift of God - not by what we do. Salvation is a gift, given fully and with love. 

"Then you're saying that it's OK for people to kill themselves."

No. Suicide is never the right choice, although to many who attempt suicide it seems like the only choice at the time. This is something you cannot understand unless you've been there. Really. No one's imagination is that good. Suicide doesn't leave the world a better place - suicide robs the world of a beautiful soul

If you are ever the victim of someone else's suicide, let your own heart be at peace knowing all is not lost. If you ever know someone who attempted suicide and failed, say these things to them, "I love you. I forgive you. I love you." If you are ever at that place where your death seems like the only option, get help - and know that I love you. 

If you need help or think someone needs help, call 1-800-SUICIDE or find help where you live here:

Monday, March 19, 2012

My Dearest S,

I love you. I want you. I need you. 

I lay in bed at night eagerly awaiting your embrace. I long for you. 

Why do you tease me and then run off into the night, leaving me to toss and turn without you? 

My dearest S, please come to me tonight and make my wildest fantasies come true. 

I beg of you, stay with me for more than an hour or two. Take me fully and completely for hour upon hour until my body is done with your or one of the children wakes. 

I lay here in bed awaiting your arrival. For the sake of my sanity, please, my beloved Sleep, I implore you: bless me with six or more uninterrupted hours and I will be eternally grateful.

All my love, 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Seeing the Hat

We were sitting in a restaurant enjoying our lunch when a man came in on crutches. He was missing one leg and had prosthetic arms and hands. One of my kids yelled, "Hey, Mama - LOOK at that guy over there!" My brain readied itself for the possible situation at hand and my lovely child continued, "He has the coolest hat!"

Someone recently asked me if life is different for my children because of my chronic illness.

Life is different for them due to a lot of things. We homeschool, so I guess that could be considered different - but many of their friends are homeschooled as well, so they don't see it as different. My oldest has Aspergers - but he's just Alex to all the other kids, so his differences are normal to them. My children are different from many of their peers in that they are responsible for helping keep the house clean, but not only because I am unable to clean up after five kids, but because they are a part of this family and we all live here. They are able to cook and enjoy it – Coren makes a mean crockpot chicken! The three oldest can change diapers, make up a bottle of formula or breastmilk, and take great joy in entertaining babies and toddlers. My children are different because they live in a gluten-free home and deal with various food allergies ... but then again, they have friends who are gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, or have food allergies, so all those are within their realm of normal as well. My kids have friends who are Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, Atheist, Agnostic, Buddhist, and Christian, so they don’t necessarily feel different because of their own religious beliefs. 

Through my chronic illness my children have learned patience, because it takes me longer to do some things or they need to wait to do something like go to the museum or science center until I'm having a relatively good day. They have learned compassion and empathy and to be considerate of how others are feeling, physically and emotionally. They find the beauty inside of people and accept differences in outside appearance as what makes people unique, not as something to judge. My children have learned that a person in a wheelchair or using canes is the same as a person walking on their own two feet. Perhaps most importantly, they know that everyone has a bad day or two - a day when they need space and time and perhaps to cry a little ...or a lot. They know life isn't all roses and lollipops and purple bunnies hopping to and fro - and that that's ok. There will be other days to see rainbows - and if not for the rainy days, we wouldn't have the rainbow days at all.  

Perhaps the person was talking about the days chronic illness is at its worst - perhaps she was worried if she can be a "good enough" parent as a parent with a chronic illness. I do have days when I don't feel like or can't do much of anything. Sometimes those days are the days my kids like the best - cuddled in bed with Mama, reading books, playing card or board games, watching documentaries, looking up strange and interesting stuff on the internet, and just chatting. These are actually the days when I’m more focused on them because the housework and volunteer work have to wait. It's the quality of the time you spend with people that counts, not so much what you can or can't do with them.

So yes, my kids are different, in part because of my chronic illness– but in a good way, I hope. Am I a "good enough" parent in spite of my chronic illness? I think I'm actually a better parent thanks to my chronic illness - a parent who sees value in each moment and in each child, and has the time to live the moments instead of rushing through them...and a parent who defines herself by who she is, not by her illness. I think I'm doing a pretty good job- after all, I have kids who see the hat, not the disability.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Once up on a time in a land called Supermarket there was a very frugal shopper. She had gone to the store for just two things, but as usual had her eyes open for bargains. First she visited the Island of Reduced Produce and invited a pound of organic strawberries into her carriage for a mere dollar eighteen. Tragically there were no deals to be found on Meat Row. Undaunted, she carried on. Upon entering the village of Scratch and Dent, she discovered Eden. At first she was taken aback at the size of it, amazed that it just went on and on. There were five BPA-free cans of Eden Organic Kidney Beans in all. The three dollar price scrawled atop each cylinder seemed too good to be true. Into her cart they leaped - well, it would have been nice if they'd leaped, as at nearly seven pounds apiece they were not exactly as light and airy as you'd envision Eden would be. 

Purchases totaled and paid, a quite happy frugal shopper returned home. I wish I could say that everyone lived happily ever after, but alas, the strawberries met an early demise at the hands of a horde of ravenous children and the beautiful beans shall suffer a rather mundane existence on the pantry shelf until meeting their ultimate ruin in a fiery vat of chili. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Budding Photographer

When my camera has many more images on it than photos I've taken, I have a good idea which one of my children has borrowed it. Here are a smattering of photos, titled by the photographer.

Eye Don't Know
Flower Pretty
Please Do


Eyebrow Guy


Puppy In Purse

Together Feet With Dress
Alia, age four ( photographer): " person, skella girl, purple blackness"

Friday, March 9, 2012

Child-free Vacation

Or, A Parent's Guide to Grocery Shopping Without Kids.

It all started when this was posted on facebook:

It got me thinking. There is an art to grocery shopping alone when you're a parent - especially if you have plenty of time to do so. Or at least if your partner is taking care of the kids and you fail to mention how much you're shopping for and when you'll return. Here are a few basic steps to follow for a vacationesque trip to the grocery store...

Step 1: Do Not Tell Anyone When You Plan To Return. Vacation is about leisure, not about schedules (ok, if you talk to my grandmother, it's about making the most out of every second of your vacation, but this is not the type of vacation about which we're talking).

Step 2: Listen! ... to NPR or your favorite radio station or catch up on your favorite podcast on the way to the store. The store is only two minutes from you house, you say? Put those two minutes to good use and carry on listening. Don't worry - there's a plan!

Step 2.5 / 5.5: Stay Hydrated. By this, I mean: stop at your favorite purveyor of beverages and treat yourself to one. This can be done on the way to the store, or if there's one located within the store, after you get there. 

Step 3: Shop Around for a Parking Space. Upon arrival at the store, drive around for a while and make sure you carefully evaluate the pros and cons of each available parking space before deciding on one.

Step 4: Park, But Do Not Exit, Your Vehicle. Odds are, the NPR show or podcast to which you are listening is not yet done - or your favorite song may be up next. Sit in relative peace and quiet and enjoy! Perhaps put your feet up on the dash. Sip your beverage if you have it. Knit, read a book, or whatever else you may enjoy doing, until you feel it's time to commence shopping.

Step 5: Enter a New World.Yes, I realize it's just the grocery store, but it's you in a grocery store without kids - enjoy it! Leisurely stroll to the entrance of the store, perhaps grabbing a cart on the way in. Oh, is that a Redbox (movie) machine you see? Check out what movies they have, if it suits your fancy. You don't need to actually rent a movie, but you can catch up on what the most current dvd releases are, since chances are you have no idea what's been in theaters in quite a while, especially if you have very young kids.

Step 5.5: See step 2.5 if necessary.

Step 6: Go Sightseeing. Explore the produce aisles. Discover new fruits and vegetables. Marvel at the colors and textures. 

Step 7: Travel to Foreign Lands. Go from the USA to Mexico to New Zealand just by reading the "produce of" labels on fruits and vegetables. Explore the foreign food aisles. 

Step 8: Meet Strangers. Strange foods, that is. Find spotted dick and a lactic acid bar (yes, those are actual foods) and other strange and interesting foods . 

Step 9: Make Friends. If you're in the mood, chat with fellow shoppers. Grown-up type shoppers. Thank the person stocking shelves. Compliment a parent who is shopping with kids about the amazing job she's doing. 

Step 10: Remember to Buy Groceries.  You'd look fairly silly arriving home an hour or two after you left without anything to show for it, so please remember to buy what you went to the store for in the first place. Unless they happen to be fresh out of (or you forget to look for) everything on your list. If that's the case, you'll need to extend your vacation and make your way to another vacation destination (grocery store). After all, you can hardly be blamed if destination number one's produce wasn't up to snuff, but had a great sale on toilet paper, forcing you to make your way to a place with beautiful produce. Like, say, Florida. 

Step 11: Buy Souvenirs. Remember that person who is taking care of your children? They deserve something special for allowing you such a lavish respite. Chocolate? Flowers? Beer? Whatever it is, pick them up a treat. 

Step 12: Take Time to Reflect. One of the nicest parts of vacation is having time to reminisce about the most joyful and exciting parts of the trip. Trips to the market should be treated no differently. After putting your purchases in your vehicle, sit back and enjoy the peace and quiet...and the chocolate bar you couldn't resist at the checkout. Look up at the sky and watch the clouds. Breathe deeply. 

Step 13:  Go Home. If you are feeling somewhat hesitant about returning home, take the long way. Give yourself time to transition from vacation mode to parent mode.Once you turn into your driveway, the vacation is over. 

Step 14: Give Thanks. Thank your partner / childcare provider profusely for allowing you the opportunity to get the shopping done without children, explaining how wonderful it was to have the time and uninterrupted thought to compare prices, find good deals, discover products with healthier ingredients, and get new ideas for future culinary masterpieces. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In My Dreams...

In my dreams, I get to sleep until 11AM. I get to lounge in bed all day with nothing to do but read and nap. It's lovely and serene and relaxing. 

In reality, I slept until 11:30AM. I tossed and turned in bed all day and did nothing - while in pain, exhausted, and quite miserable. It was neither lovely nor serene. It was quite necessary and fairly restful.

This is not the day off for which I was hoping. Perhaps tomorrow shall be that day ... with chocolate.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Prostitutes and Whores

That got your attention, didn't it? 

Apparently those words got my youngest's attention as well. 

Listening to Les Mis, not three beats after the words, "prostitute attacked me," Alia, age 3 at the time, piped up from the back seat of the van, "Mama, what's a prostitute?" 

My mind reeled for a moment. Ummm... errr.... prostitute you say? Prostitute. Prostitute? How do I explain ... how the heck did she even pick that out so fast? Explain a prostitute to a 3 year old - really???!!!??? I'm trapped in the van with a three year old asking for a definition of prostitute. Why aren't we prepared for such things before having kids?

"Well, a prostitute is a person who gives up control of her body to another person for a short time in exchange for money." 

"That sounds scary. I wouldn't like that."

"It is scary, and the women who feel they have to do it probably don't like it either. It isn't a happy thing to be. It's good for us to always have control over our own bodies."

Whew. Got through that one. 

Fast forward 6 months. We're watching Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.

Alia, newly four years old, "Mama, I know what a whore is! It's like a prostitute!"

"Yes, Alia, yes it is." 

I start thinking I need to rethink what I allow my youngest to listen to and watch. What kind of mother am I that my four-year-old knows about prostitutes and whores?

And then...

"Remember that time Pastor said about the one who worked in the vineyard and the one who didn't and when we read it it said God forgived the prostitutes and money takers [tax collectors]?"


"Well, I was thinking..."


"That means God loves prostitutes and whores and scallywags and horse thieves and pirates and liars and brothers who don't treat you nicely. And it means he forgives them."

"Yes it does."

"Ok. Thanks for clearing that up."

"Happy to be of service."

First of all, if I wasn't there when she was born, I wouldn't be so sure she's only four years old. Secondly, I'm glad that the word yes and a pause is so helpful to the child. And lastly, I've given up on the concept of monitoring what that child sees or hears - she has everything under control, and perhaps thinks about things as deeply as many of us should.