I'm actually dusting off a very old WFMW of my own to share this week, because it's especially relevant in my house even as we speak. At this very moment, my oldest son (almost 13) is officially as tall as I am. I have absolutely no idea how it happened; hence, this tip...
* * * * * * * *
When I was a girl, my parents regularly charted my growth by marking my height on my closet door facing. It's a lovely idea, of course, with one big hitch--when my parents moved out of my childhood home a few years ago, my mom was devastated to leave those measurements behind. That prompted me to come up with a more permanent solution for our family.
I bought a long piece of lightweight lumber at Home Depot (about 2 inches wide, and six feet tall--it looks and feels like a very tall yardstick), and divided it into three long columns on the front, using a Sharpie marker. Each boy has his own column, and we mark his height that way. When Corrie entered the picture, we began marking her height on the back (you could easily mark up to six or eight kids on one stick this way). It's portable, stored away in a closet and pulled out every few months. Best of all, I will be able to keep it always, mounting it to the wall in my nursing home someday, when I am old and gray and need to be reminded of the fast-growing little monkeys that lived in my house all these years.
Here's a full-length shot of our growth chart (the mystery stains on the carpet are included simply for your viewing pleasure). You can see where the boys' names are written at the bottom of each column:
This has been such a fun thing to have--very cheap, and a real treasure.
Have a WFMW tip you'd like to share? Please enter your link below (if you're a newbie, you can read the WFMW guidelines here). Please note that this list will be closed to new links after a few days, to ward off spammers.
Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists and turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain.
--Rob Thomas, "These Small Hours"
The five-year-old curled up in her bed, her hair still a little damp from her shower a few minutes before, her mind racing through her options for the best way to delay bedtime.
"What if there's a fire? I don't like to jump out of windows," she told me.
"If there's a fire, I'll come for you," I said.
"But what if I get lost in the deep, deep forest?" she asked.
"You won't ever be in the deep, deep forest," I told her. She shot me a look that made it clear this answer was far too practical to satisfy her need for drama.
I amended my response. "If you get lost in the deep, deep forest, I'll come and find you," I said, and she nodded, satisfied. Her heavy eyelids started to droop. The 11-year-old wandered in, carrying his guitar.
"Could I play her a lullaby?" he asked quietly. I nodded, and he sat down and strummed "Jesus Loves Me" while his little sister held tightly to my hand.
Then the 8-year-old wandered in, playing his drum, because we all know that "Jesus Loves Me" is much more effective as a lullaby with a loud and driving drum beat.
The 12-year-old heard the ruckus and popped in, playing along on his harmonica. This would've been significantly more impressive if he actually knew how to play a harmonica. His playing messed up the 11-year-old, who stopped right at the "little ones to Him belong part" to whack his brother. The five-year-old was so excited by this exchange that she jumped to her feet and began to sing/shriek along while jumping up and down on her bed. The two big boys stopped their fighting, suddenly distracted by the fact that "Jesus" sounds a lot like "Cheez-Its".
The five-year-old continued to jump. The 8-year-old continued to pound. The older ones continued to shriek their hymn to the little orange crackers.
I laughed, and I wondered exactly where I lost my sweet moment.
I laughed harder, and I realized I didn't lose it at all.
The regular hostess of WFMW, Kristen from We Are THAT Family, is (as we speak!) en route to Kenya with Compassion International. Don't miss her trip updates at her blog--I know she's about to experience some powerful things.
This week and next, I'll be temporarily hosting Works-For-Me Wednesday--let's see if I remember how to drive this bus!
My tip is a quick one. Not too long ago, I was scrounging around for a measuring spoon. In this house, the measuring spoons all mysteriously migrate to the bathtub or the sandbox, so I couldn't find one. Instead, I grabbed one of these dealies out of the drawer:
Thanks to the revolving door of ear infections in this family, we have just a few (dozen) of these spoons. You know what? It turns out they measure spices/oil/etc much better than traditional measuring spoons, because the overflow doesn't come spilling over the sides, as in a spoon.
(In fact, the last time my mother-in-law was in town, she saw me doing this in my kitchen and said, "You should post that on the Wednesday thing on your blog." So hi, Gego--this one's for you!)
Have a WFMW tip you'd like to share? Please enter your link below (if you're a newbie, you can read the WFMW guidelines here). Please note that this list will be closed to new links after a few days, to ward off spammers.
If you're new here, here's the scoop: In early July I contracted with Wiley to write TypePad For Dummies. I have years of experience with TypePad (and, come to think of it, years of experience being a dummy), so it was a great fit. The absolute icing on the cake was getting to co-author the book with my dear friend (and mucho accomplished technical writer) Melanie.
Fast forward roughly seven months (and more nights of carryout than any family could possibly be expected to endure), and Melanie and I are standing in my kitchen, jaws on the floor, a real-live book with our real-live names in our real-live hands. It was a big day.
During the process, we didn't blog many particulars about the book (mostly because we were so tied up in the crazy demands of meeting deadlines). If particulars are the type of thing that float your boat, here (finally!) is a more detailed run-down of what you can expect to find in TypePad For Dummies:
BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE! IT SLICES AND DICES!
But the book does go on to address dozens of other TypePad-related issues, including TypeLists (one of my personal favorites of all of TypePad's features), photo albums, social media, blog monetization, importing/exporting, domain mapping, stat counters, and blog etiquette. In one of my favorite chapters of the book, we highlight ten highly-accomplished TypePad bloggers, hearing directly from them about their best blogging strategies (seriously, don't miss that chapter!)
This is all still just a sampling. Melanie and I worked so hard to give a thorough and detailed explanation of TypePad's service, going step-by-step, and keeping the technical jargon to a minimum. The book is chock-full of clear, step-by-step tutorials, the kind Melanie's famous for. We're really proud of how it turned out.
How about a giveaway? Courtesy of the kind of folks at TypePad, I'm giving away a FREE YEAR OF TYPEPAD (roughly a $145 value) and several copies of the book. To enter (I promise, it's easy) just click over here to my giveaway blog.
For those of you who have already ordered copies, and for the countless readers who dropped notes of encouragement during the daunting writing process, thank you for your encouragement! A very special thanks to the bloggers we featured in the book--there's some good stuff there:
Eat Local Challenge
Hey There's a Dead Guy In the Living Room (how much do you love that title?)
Money Saving Mom
HELLO My Name Is Heather
Build a Better Blog
To the folks at Six Apart (TypePad's parent company) who have offered support and encouragement--our hearty thanks to you as well.
Remember: comments left at this post cannot count as a contest entry--you must visit my giveaway blog to be counted (sorry for the extra click--advertising regulations, etc etc...)!
5:08 I pull the covers back up.
5:11 She kicks them back down.
5:11 I pull them back up, and in a spirit of tenderness (or maybe it was grouchiness, I can't really remember) I suggest she stop it RIGHT NOW.
6:30 The alarm goes off--NPR, on my clock radio. Waking up to NPR basically causes me to move from nighttime sleep straight into a good nap. Probably not a good plan, now that I think of it.
6:41 I get out of bed, stepping on at least four chunks of dried plaster en route to the shower.
6:42 Shower time.
7:15 I head downstairs to find that my 12-year-old son is dressed, fed, clean, and cheerful, and he's sitting at the table reading. I scratch my head.
7:16 I let out the dog and pour a Diet Coke (for me, not the dog).
7:25 The five-year-old sleepily wanders in. The 12-year-old immediately hops up and offers to fix breakfast for her. I walk over to him, embrace him with both arms, and I gently ask him if aliens invaded his body overnight.
7:32 In wet hair and a bathrobe, I drive my son to the bus stop, while remembering all the times I swore I'd never drive my kids to the bus stop in wet hair and a bathrobe.
7:34 He makes me belly laugh, no small feat before 9 a.m. I love that boy.
7:40 Back home to find Hubs eating breakfast with our five-year-old daughter, the only member of this family who is chatty and energetic in the morning. She is debating, aloud, the merits of pigtails versus ponytails.
7:45 Wake up the other boys and fix them breakfast. Think to myself that I don't know who invented Pancakes On a Stick, but I'd like to shake his hand.
7:51 Kiss Hubs goodbye.
7:56 The five-year-old shrieks in horror at a fly that is buzzing around our kitchen table, and she runs to get the water squirt bottle in self defense.
8:03 The eleven-year-old got a new haircut the night before, so I help him figure out the best way to fix it.
8:04 It evolves into a discussion about hair product and proper blow-drying technique.
8:07 It evolves further into a talk about some of the changes your body goes through during puberty.
8:08 I realize I might need some more caffeine.
8:11 The five-year-old has now coated every surface in my kitchen with water, while singing "I'm In the Lord's Army".
8:17 Attack the eight-year-old with a ferocious hug, because when his face is still sleep-puffy, he looks just like my baby, and a hug attack is the only logical response.
8:29 Out the door with the boys and a still-pajama'd girl.
8:38 Pull up to the school. "I-love-you-Be-good-Did-you-get-your-lunch-money?-Don't-forget-to-turn-in-that-yellow-permission-slip-Where's-your-coat?-I'll-see-you-after-school-May-the-Lord-bless-you-and-keep-you-may-He-make-His-face-to-shine-upon-you...."
8:39 Sit and breathe, and listen to my daughter sing a song she is making up about a fairy named Crystal Rainbow who wanted to be on American Idol but then a big fly came up and ate her.
8:40 Realize that I am profoundly blessed. Sleepy, but blessed.
One month following the 7.1 earthquake that struck Haiti, an all-star cast of musicians is gathering for Help Haiti Live, a two-city ticketed concert event taking place on February 27th, 2010 to benefit Compassion International’s Haiti disaster relief fund.
Don't live in LA or Nashville? Watch the concerts for free (streaming live) on the 27th at Help Haiti Live website. Go ahead and bring your wallet, though--at the website you'll be given a chance to donate to Compassion's work in Haiti. If you've not already done so, this will be the perfect opportunity.
One hundred percent of on-line donations through HelpHaitiLive.com will go to Compassion International’s Haiti disaster relief fund. One hundred percent of net proceeds from ticket sales will go to the same place.
Some of the artists participating in this concert include Jars of Clay, Amy Grant, and two of my personal favorites: Dave Barnes (*squeal*), and Alison Krauss and Union Station (*double squeal*). This will be a spectacular night of music for a great cause--I'll be watching live. Join me!
It's Valentine's Day. This afternoon Hubs and I climbed the stairs, closed our bedroom door and...
...finished scraping the popcorn off our master bathroom ceiling.
Who needs roses when you can have soggy chunks of plaster in your hair?
We're generally not impulsive remodelers--when we've tackled projects in the past, we've usually thought them through very carefully, with a budget and a plan in place. Early last week we began to wonder how hard it would be to strip our old wallpaper, which led to a wondering about how much bathtub refinishing costs, which led to a wondering about whether we could remove a doorway. Ten days later, my bathroom looks like this:
So, it would appear we're remodeling the bathroom.
I am learning many things in this little adventure, chief among them that plumbers are expensive, sledgehammers are surprisingly therapeutic, and wallpaper glue is forever. And I am reminded, with much thankfulness, that I'd rather spend an afternoon inhaling sheetrock dust with him than sitting at a candlelit table with anybody else. Come to think of it, maybe we should've written that into our wedding vows.
Happy Valentine's Day, Hubs. Thanks for the drywall and the babies and the sanity and for looking so dang good in a tool belt.
I am bizarrely fascinated by pronunciation.
(Let us pause to absorb the geekiness of that previous sentence. Carry on.)
Sometimes the differences are endearing. I love to hear my dear British friend Yvonne say "garage" to rhyme with "carriage". I think it's adorable that my dad puts another "L" in "alleluia" (he says "alleluLia"). It's great fun that Hubs and I have bickered for 15 years over the right way to say "thorough" (he says "THUR-oh", I say "THUR-uh") and "roof" (his rhymes with "aloof", mine rhymes with "hoof").
But I don't always find it entertaining; sometimes I climb up on my pronunciation high horse. I visibly wince when someone pronounces "realtor" as "REAL-it-or". (Side note: This weekend I spoke to a real estate agent, of all people, who didn't say it the right way. I bit my tongue and resisted the urge to shout, "RESPECT YOURSELF, MAN!") My Republican heart cracked a little every time Dubya said "NOOK-yuh-lur". And back in my office days I had a boss who insisted on saying "fLustrated" instead of "fRustrated", and I may or may not have made faces behind his back.
Since I am entirely inconsistent in my pronunciation moral authority, I don't feel qualified to make a stand on the following issue: the "r" in February. I've always said "FEB-yoo-ary"; in fact, I have a vague memory of being taught in elementary school that the "r" is supposed to remain silent. More and more, though, I seem to be encountering people who say "FEB-roo-ary". (And it's not pretty. I think "FEB-roo-ary" sounds a little like the speaker just had some painful dental work done, but she still has Novacaine and Valium in her system.)
Hanging in my laundry room, next to the door that is the traffic center of the universe our house, there hangs a white board for writing notes to each other.
Adam--take lunch money.
Sometimes entire conversations take place.
Hubs u r hot. I like u.
(Babe, so r u.)
(Mom and dad u r gross.)
Occasionally I use the space to write a pithy little quote I've found, one that will, I'm sure, plant gentle seeds of truth and wisdom in the hearts of my children and grow forever and ever, amen. (Do not disdain the use of pithy little quotes as an important parenting tool. After all, not a single one of us ever jumped off a cliff when our friend did, nor did we count our chickens before they were hatched, so there you go.)
I posted this one a few days ago:
The twelve-year-old, (he of the endless eating of protein), had a response:
(Yes, it's changing the subject and it's cheeky, but a boy can get away with a lot when he has the good sense to employ parallel sentence structure.)
There's plenty that's unpleasant about being a grown up. Income taxes and colonoscopies come to mind.
But adulthood has its benefits, too. Chief among them being no more recess and PE. I spent the first 17 years of my life trying to figure out creative ways to avoid showing my peers that I have the coordination of a drunk hippo on stilts. If it involves climbing, I will fall. If it involves water, I will sink. If it involves a ball, I will not only miss it, but I will position myself perfectly so that it smacks me in the forehead.
It's okay. I know this about myself. I faked it when I had to as a kid--just ask my dad about the Great Basketball Experiment of 1983. I still run into doorways and trip over grocery carts more than the average bear, but as a grown up, I've managed to tuck away my former humiliation quite neatly, thanks.
Until my athletic husband decided to plan a ski trip for the holidays. He's been talking about it for years--he loved to ski in college, and he had such a nice vision of our entire family shooshing happily down the slopes, eyes bright and faces flushed with joy. My vision of a ski trip involves ambulances, but I decided to be a good sport.
We left Christmas morning, in the aftermath of a blizzard (the universe was trying to give me a hint). We made it safely to a small resort about an hour from Denver, checked in, unpacked, and began organizing a dizzying assortment of ski gear and supplies. (Including, by the way, the stuff you smear inside your goggles to keep them from fogging--it's called, to the great joy of my sons, Cat Crap.)
The next morning, after my breakfast of oatmeal sprinkled with Aleve, we dropped off our happy, agile children at the kids' ski school. Hubs shooshed and I lumbered out to the place where our class would begin.
A friendly older man with silver hair shooshed up and introduced himself as our instructor. He lined up our class and asked us to introduce ourselves by explaining what kind of athletic experience we have.
When it was my turn, I mumbled a response that had something to do with stairs and laundry baskets.
(Somebody get me out of here, please.)
When the introductions of all my fellow (athletic) classmates were over, the instructor went on to explain that he's a retired high school principal, so if we don't do what he says, we're going to detention.
(No, I'm serious, somebody get me out of here right now.)
He began by explaining the basics, and he said the key not to falling is knowing how to turn.
(Really? Because I think the key to not falling is staying in the lodge, but what do I know?)
It's simple, he said, just lean here and push there and tilt this but don't tilt that and keep your chin up and put your arms out there and then lean here again.
We got started on a hill with the incline of a pimple. Our whole class gently coasted where they were supposed to coast. Well, almost the whole class. I made my first run down the pimple, and I stayed vertical for a solid seven seconds. Aaaaand then I fell. So I tried a second time. Aaaaand then I fell. Same with efforts number three and four. And five and six.
Fighting back tears of utter humiliation, I kept at it. The instructor explained that I probably wasn't cut out for this particular turning technique, so he was just going to advance me on to the next one, because he just knew it was perfect for me.
(Oh, don't you try your high-school-principal-self-esteem-inducing mind games with me, fella.)
Not surprisingly, the new and improved trick didn't work for me. The only stopping/turning technique that did work was the one I believe they call Hurling Your Body To The Ground. After two hours of falling every time I tried, I stopped to catch my breath at the bottom of the pimple. I thought about giving up. I looked over to where the kids were in ski school, and I could see my children actually beginning to shoosh with confidence and grace. I was so proud of them, and I thought some very lofty thoughts about perseverance and humility. I climbed back up for one last try.
Aaaaand then I fell--spectacularly, this time, with a flying ski pole involved. I muttered something under my breath that may or may not have been worse than "Cat Crap".
I told the instructor that some people just weren't meant to ski, and his mouth said "No, you can do it, just keep trying," but his eyes said, "Yes ma'am, you're more sit-by-the-fireplace material."
So I headed inside and I did sit by the fireplace, all week long. I had a giant stack of books and a huge bag of crochet supplies. I was a happy pack mule for the endless pile of ski gear (Colorado families, how do you do that all winter long?). I baked cookies and made cheese dip, and we played games and watched movies by the fireplace all evening, every night. It was our best vacation ever, in fact--I don't know when we've laughed together so much.
The moral of the story? If at first you don't succeed, be sure you've packed a good book and some comfortable shoes, and once you've worked through your adolescent insecurities it'll all work out beautifully in the end.
Especially if there's cheese dip.
I'm trying to grease up these rusty brain cells of mine and get back to writing the occasional blog post--not a bad thing to do when one has, you know, a blog. I've been working on a post documenting the vacation we took over the holidays, but as the story involves abject humiliation, I've been understandably reluctant. (More on that later. Maybe.) Instead, here's a few random questions, comments, and general wondering-ments.
1. My daughter got a Puff the Magic Dragon book for Christmas, including a sing-along CD. And never mind that I am 37 years old with a mortgage and four children and a PTA membership card--I am unable to listen to that song without blubbering over my lost childhood and bereft dragons. But what in the heck is sealing wax? (Also, please do not tell me that song is actually about drugs. I-have-my-fingers-in-my-ears-and-I-can't-hear-you-la-la-la.)
2. Thanks to my patient and crafty sister-in-law, I'm learning how to crochet. I can't get enough of it! I'm not exactly good at it yet, but I can stitch the heck out of a rectangle. If you know me in real life, congratulations--you're probably getting a scarf this year. Please act happy.
3. Over the holidays I've been plowing through my reading list. This and this were both outstanding, and this was really good, too. This was a fascinating concept, but I thought it came up short at the very end--it's so disappointing when that happens. I'm reading this now, and this is next on the list. What's on yours?
4. American Idol is back underway, and can I just tell you how much I love the "Pants On the Ground" guy from the Atlanta auditions? Here's a great post about him, including his history marching with Dr. King in the '60's. (On the occasion that A Particular Son Of Mine Who Shall Remain Unnamed thinks it might be funny to try the whole droopy-pants thing, I remind him that I have a staple gun in the garage and I'm not afraid to use it.)
5. Does anyone reading this know anything about chronic headaches (possibly migraines) in children? One of my kiddos is struggling with this, but I'm not finding a ton of resources online.
6. Please remember to consider Compassion when you plan your giving for the Haiti crisis. Follow their Twitter feed for helpful updates. While you're at it, see Ree's great giveaway to help raise some more Haiti funds. Another great effort to raise funds is underway here. Whatever you do, please give.
Have a good weekend, and remember to keep praying for our friends in Haiti.
"Should we go there?" my eight-year-old son asked me last night as we sat and watched CNN as a family.
No, I explained, we shouldn't--we'd only be in the way.
But I know how he feels. Watching the epic destruction unfold leaves me sitting with a shaking head and a heavy heart, wondering what on earth I can possibly do. Hand-wringing won't help, of course; there is always a course of action, even when the path seems overwhelming.
:: Give. There are people on the ground with access to the tools to help--give to these organizations generously, until you feel the pinch yourself. If you've never been a giver before, let this be a wake-up call and a chance to stretch that part of your heart, and see how your life is changed when you sacrifice for someone else. Compassion has had a strong presence in Haiti for a very long time, and--praise God--their office still stands. You can be sure that your gift will be stretched and used to its very last drop. Here's a great explanation (directly from the Compassion folks) about why their model for disaster relief is so effective:
In this disaster it is crucial that first responders receive support quickly. Because Compassion International ministers through local churches to meet the needs of that church's neighbors, and because these church partners are respected aid workers in their communities, Compassion is uniquely positioned to assess and meet the needs of its sponsored children quickly. This is an advantage of our church-based model in practice for more than 50 years.
:: Talk to your kids. Don't hide tragedy from them. Their world, unfortunately, is a scary place sometimes. Poverty and disaster should be jarring, and seeing it will help them grow into people who want to make things better. Pray together. Brainstorm as a family about things you can give up together to give more generously. Let them feel the pinch, too.
:: Live with intentional thankfulness. When I came home from Africa, I struggled with guilt--why am I comfortable when so many others aren't? I understand a little better now that I can channel those emotions into thankfulness, and I can teach it to my kids. I don't know why my kids are safe and my house is standing and our water is clean. But I will be thankful, and I will take opportunities like this one to re-tune my heart. So many of the things that occupy our minds are fleeting and unimportant. Let Haiti awaken us to a perspective that is laser-focused on what really matters.