Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The toughest things about being a woman

I had another spectacular trail ride this weekend with Blaze and B. and mom. Fall colors are getting close to peak, and the days are still warm enough to be called Indian Summer.

Soccer season started for Blaze and even though it requires a lot more driving around and coordinating schedules, its still fun to watch her run around panting while I am sitting in the folding chair with a cozy blanket and a thermos of tea, cheering her on. Then when we are all sufficiently chilled we get to come home to a crackling fire in the woodstove. I love fall.

Another nice thing about fall is that once all the summer travel has wrapped up, Bible study groups get going again. The Beth Moore "Esther" Bible study has started and boy there is nothing like a good dose of Beth Moore's energy and spirit to get one excited about the Bible and our wonderful Lord and Savior. One of her themes in this study is "It's Tough Being a Woman" and she did a survey to see what women listed as some of the toughest things...

#1 HORMONES! - no surprise there.

#2 yielding. Having to submit - not just to human authority but also to God. In other words - not getting our way when we want!

#3 balance. This would be #1 on my list. Making time for God in the midst of my crazy schedule.

Monday 6:30 Wake up and read the Bible, try to have some quiet time before the day's madness begins. But often this ends up being the time when B. and I relax and talk (uninterrupted by kids) while sipping coffee (him) and tea (me). 7 am. The girls alarm clock goes off. Ten minutes later I'm up there threatening to spritz Blaze and Dreamer with water if they don't get up and start getting ready for school. 8am Wrestle the twins into their clothes and get them off to preschool. 9am-last minute prep for lecture. 10am-11 give lecture to 44 students and try to keep looks of hostile boredom from appearing on their faces. Until 4 pm - try to catch up on everything else at work. 4:30 Get Blaze to ballet lessons then go for a walk (exercise keeps up those endorphins!) 5:15 pick up twins and Dreamer. 5:25 pick up Blaze and rush her to soccer game. 6:30 get everyone home and briefly consider making mac and cheese for dinner tonight but shucks I made that last night, better find something with protein and veggies tonight. Help with homework while cooking and listen to Blaze read. Sit for about a half hour on the sofa while the girls bounce all around me. 8 pm finally get up enough energy to begin the bedtime routine (baths, bedtime story, practice verses, pray... if I remember). 9pm. Ah the blessed peace and quiet of the house all to myself! Unfortunately, I can't pick up that novel that I would like to read, because I was up late the night before putting together a PowerPoint for my lecture, so now I'm so tired it's all I can do to drag myself to bed.

Tuesday - all the same as above, except minus the lecture (replace with grading) and replace ballet lessons and soccer with Sparkies club and then Bible study (for me). Okay we had protein and veggies for dinner last night so tonight I pick up pizza because there isn't time to make dinner between Sparkies and Bible study. Just to make things a little more complicated and fun, once a month on Tuesday I replace Bible study with Writer's group.

Wednesday - all the same as on Monday, except instead of ballet and soccer game, replace with soccer practice then CIA (Children in Action) for the children - keeps them occupied at church so we can have peace and quiet for Prayer Service. I still haven't figured out a good dinner solution to fit in between soccer practice and CIA. And bless her precious soul, Mom helps the kids get their homework done after school before soccer practice.

Thursday - same as Tuesday, except the kids don't have any activities (whew) and every other week B. watches them and does the dinner/homework thing so I can go to the Beth Moore study. After the study I go straight to Coal Creek Coffee House with my laptop, to get an hour or maybe even two hours of writing in. Sometimes this is the only writing/editing I accomplish all week. Sometimes I go with a friend, or over a friend's house. If I'm really lucky, we can kill two birds with one stone, e.g. hang out together and solve all of life's problems together, and fit a word war in at the same time so we both get writing accomplished too.

Friday - no work! I stay home all day with the twins. Oops, I forgot that the house needs cleaned after 4 days of complete neglect. And then I signed up to volunteer at the girl's school for an hour (just because I'm not busy enough all ready, of course). Then I give riding lessons to a couple girls in the afternoon if the weather is good (I do this to motivate myself to ride a little too, either before, after or during the lesson. This might be the only time the horses get attention from me during the week). Then I remember the stalls need cleaned. Then off to Mom and Dad's for dinner in the evening, or they come over to our house.

Saturday - soccer game in the morning. Afternoon - all MINE! Oops, that is unless the girls guilt me into letting them have a playdate. Oh yeah and don't forget the laundry.

Sunday - church - am and pm - need I say more? But this is still the best day of the week. I LOVE to worship the Lord. Just wish I was better at it all week long. Which brings me back to balance. I'm really good at keeping busy and getting day-to-day things done. Really poor at keeping God in the center of it all. Oh, and how much did I mention B. in the above schedule? Isn't he supposed to be my second priority, after God? Ouch.

What I listed above is my intended schedule. There is many a day where I have a mini-meltdown and decide that I just need to stay home and watch a movie while cuddling the kids on the couch, instead of going to Bible study or Prayer Service or Sunday Evening Service. I have been known to tell Blaze its okay to skip soccer practice (or even a game) once in a while. And if a really GOOD novel should happen to fall into my hands, all bets are off. No telling what my schedule will end up looking like.

Verses I have been working on memorizing this month for Beth Moore's scripture memory challenge.

Hebrews 11:1,6 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see. Without faith it is impossible to please God, because who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

Acts 20:32 Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Lately I have been fascinated with verses that talk about the Word and how it functions in our life. The living Word! Here are some more verses about the Word that I might try to memorize at some point:

I Peter 1:23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

I John 1:10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

One final note on writing progress:

With the National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) only a month away now, I wonder if I should even try this year. Chances of success (meeting the 50,000 word goal) this time are slim, because of all the extra work I'm doing with this class and work in general. Then also Stars will be here in November for Thanksgiving instead of over Christmas, and I don't want to cut time short with her because I'm behind on my word limit.

On the other hand, anything accomplished is still SOMETHING, and Nanowrimo is a great motivator. I'm just not going to get bragging rights this year for being one of the winners.

I am now working on Chapter 19 and feeling very hopeful that once I am past this chapter, the whole editing process will speed up again. But then I've thought that before, that once I got past a tricky section then things would be smooth sailing. The problem is if you re-write one section, there is a cascade effect of all the other things you have to change.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A really impressive pinata

We have the first few weeks of school behind us now and Dreamer is adjusting well to kindergarten. The twins think school is pretty fun too: Starlet likes to run around wearing Dreamer's backpack - and they both love it when we visit school on Fridays during lunch period and they get to sit with their sisters and the other big kids eating their PB&J's.

Here's a picture of the girls on the first day of school. They decided to wear matching outfits (not like there is a whole lot of variety with the uniforms)
Waiting for the bus. Dreamer's backback makes her look so small!

I'm really bummed I didn't bring my camera to Blaze and Dreamer's school "fiesta" on Friday night. I have to admit I get this bad attitude about school functions, that they are kind of lame and boring. But the girls were really excited about this one and since Dreamer just started kindergarten this was her first school party. So we all dressed up in bright colors and headed off to the school on Friday night. There were a bunch of activities for the kids, including a Mexican hat dance where the kids danced in a circle around a bunch of sombreros on the ground. They were each given red bandanas to twirl and wave around while they danced, it looked like so much fun I wanted to join in! When the music stopped the kids got to pick up whichever sombrero closest to them and see if there was a plastic duckie under the hat - whoever found a duckie got a sticker. Not your traditional Mexican hat dance, I believe, but the kids sure loved it.

But the best part of the fiesta was the pinata. This was a HUGE pinata and the toughest one I've ever seen before - it stood up to over 100 blows by some very determined kids. They started out letting the littlest kids have a shot so even the twins got to go up and take a swing. I thought for sure it would break before the second graders got their chance, but both Dreamer and Blaze got two hits at it and I think a few third graders even had a chance before it finally broke. Then it was also pretty impressive that when the candy finally showered down all the kids actually obeyed the rules and didn't push and shove and everyone got three pieces of candy (you can tell our school takes rules and discipline very seriously).

Here's one of those "life's little moments" that makes me still smile thinking about it. Last night we had Mom and Dad over for dinner at our house and after dinner we played cards. I've taught Dreamer how to play rummy but tonight we decided to play poker since that is Dad's favorite game, and I wanted to get him involved. The doctors seem to have finally adjusted his medicine for Parkinson's so he is steadier on his feet and able to get around more, but he is still clearly depressed - he hardly talks at all these days. His comment when I suggested that we play poker tonight was "well, I know you guys will make me anyway, whether I want to or not" - typical sour puss! But after the first few hands I could tell he was enjoying it (though he'd never admit it).

 We taught Blaze seven card stud and follow-the-Queen and no-peek and finally we ended with a hand of low-hold. I explained to Blaze how the lowest card in her hand was a wild card. So we got to the end of the hand and we were all showing our cards and Mom asked Blaze what her low-hold was. Blaze pointed to a three and said, "this is my youngest card." Of course we all laughed (she was too excited to care because she had actually WON the hand and she couldn't believe all the quarters she was raking in!) I actually saw my father SMILE.

Dreamer was "Star of the Week" this past week in kindergarten and got to make a poster about herself to take to school and show to all the other kids: pictures of her, her sisters, our pets (we sure have a lot of those!) and some of her favorite things. As we started working on her poster I realized I didn't have any recent pictures developed yet, so I promised Dreamer that I would get some pictures printed that night so her poster would be all ready to take into school in the morning. But after getting all the kids in bed I was too tired to make a run to Walmart to buy color ink for the printer, so I decided I would get up early in the morning and get the ink so I could print her pictures. Well, Dreamer woke up before I got back from Walmart and came downstairs expecting to see the pictures on her poster and when she saw that it was still pictureless, B. said she just BURST into tears and he had to hold and her and comfort her till I got back and we could finish the poster for our little "star."
I am so so SO happy Blaze finally made a breakthrough with her reading! All summer long she moaned and groaned about how much she hated reading, and of course that just made me so sad and frustrated because I love reading so much, it was so hard to see her struggle with it and hate it so much. But then my mom talked to my Aunt Connie who is a first grade teacher and she gave us some advice that made all the difference in the world. Blaze's reading program at school (Spalding) is very heavily phonics-based where kids learn how to sound out words based on phonograms. Even though Blaze knows all her phonograms she would just get overwhelmed, I think, having to constantly decode words.

Connie told Mom and I about a different approach. First I would read a paragraph out loud, pointing to each word, then I would read the same paragraph again outloud with Blaze saying the words along with me, and then she would read the same paragraph again herself. She loved reading this new way! She actually started looking forward to reading again, instead of groaning, and soon we would even start skipping the first part where I would read outloud by myself, and eventually when we'd be reading outloud together she'd tell me "stop Mom I can do it by myself." But best of all was last week when it was bed time and I told her she could stay up a little later as long as she was quiet, and she could read a book. AND SHE DID! She started reading an Amelia Bedelia book, and then the next morning she finished it, all by herself - of her own initiative. Oh thank you thank you thank you Lord! (and thank you Aunt Connie!) Now Dreamer is begging me to read a book with her the same way so she can "read by herself" too.

This is getting to be pretty long but I feel bad writing so much about Blaze and Dreamer and so little about the twins, so here's a little bit about Serious and Starlet. They sure do have different personalities.
Serious (older by just one minute) is the "boy" of the family. She likes to take things apart. She likes to grunt and she'll get really mad over the littlest things, like not being able to get her shoes on (B. calls her his mad little Chinaman). She doesn't care what she wears and she is the first to get dirty.
Starlet on the other hand is all girl. She will change her outfit at least three times a day. She loves to play dress up and preen and walk around like a model showing off her outfits. Starlet is also the devious one. She is a thinker and a planner and a manipulator. She knows how to work her expressions to get the most out of Grandma and Grandpa (whereas if Serious wants something she'll just grunt and grab until she gets it). One day at Grandma and Grandpa H's when Starlet discovered a basket of clean clothes in the basement, she decided to play dress-up. Mom and I found her prancing through the house with one of Grandma's silk panties draped over her!
Serious does this thing with her hands that I call her "happy hands". When she gets excited about something, it's like she's trying to clap her hands but she is too excited to actually get her hands close enough to clap, so she just shakes them. I haven't seen her do this in a while now, and I miss it, just like I still miss Starlet's warbling stage - she used to make the cutest little noise before she started talking. They are both getting out of the toddling stage, too, they can actually run now but I miss the adorable way they used to waddle when they tried to run. I keep thinking Serious's outgrown though is falling out of bed, but just when I think we are safe, I hear another loud thump and howl in the night!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Einstein's Dreams

Teaching GIS two days a week this semester is a lot more work than I thought - not sure I want to admit to how many hours I spend preparing for each lecture. But it is a new challenge for me and I really like it. It does not feel like "work". It will be interesting to see what kind of GIS projects the students come up with (there are 45 of them).

Last night I finally got back to my much neglected writing, thanks to the busyness of fellow writers getting me motivated. N.L. has made a wonderful start to her second novel, The Gift of Remembrance, a story about genies and jinns that I have been bugging her to write for years. Now that she is finally passing me sections to read I am not disappointed. It is wonderful even in rough draft.

Also, we have several new people in writer's group this fall. I was very impressed by the short story one young lady shared. She said she spent an entire semester working on this story in her advanced creative writing class. Now she is putting the final polishing touches on it and has a literary magazine she plans to send it to - I would be very surprised if it doesn't publish because it is excellent writing, a compelling story, striking images... made me sigh and wonder if anyone will ever say such things about my writing. Not unless I keep working at it! So I am back to working on chapter 17. It is a good day to write because after a glorious stretch of hot sunny days, it finally turned chilly today.

I am also starting to think about what I will do for NANOWRIMO this year, which is coming up fast - less than 2 months away.

There are several new Bible studies starting at our church this fall too - I am really looking forward to Beth Moore's study on Esther.

I am also including some excerpts from another great book recommended by Heather. I have this fascination with time, especially time travel or stories about twists in time (this is why the Time Traveler's Wife is on my list of favorites, and then I have my own back-in-time story that I'm writing, too. Though this book was a collection of essays rather than a novel, it offered some fascinating takes on time. Not to mention some beautiful writing.

Einstein's Dreams, by Alan Lightman

One description a variation of time:
On this late afternoon, in these few moments when the sun is nestled in a snowy hollow of the Alps, a person could sit beside the lake and contemplate the texture of time. Hypothetically, time might be smooth or rough, prickly or silky, hard or soft. But in this world, the texture of time happens to be sticky. Portions of towns become stuck in some moment of history and do not get out. So, too, individual people become stuck in some point of their lives and cannot get free.
Here is another poetic fantasy of time:
When clouds form faces, the faces stay... painted balconies exposed to wind and rain become brighter in time. The sound of thunder makes a broken vase reform itself, makes the fractured shards leap up to the precise positions where they fit and bind. The fragrant odor of a passing cinnamon cart intensifies, not dissipates, with time...In this world, the passage of time brings increasing order. Order is the law of nature, the universal trend, the cosmic direction.
Suppose there was a place where time stood still: where as you travel closer to the center of time, it slows down, until a kiss can last forever, where you can never grow old, or have to see your children grow up and leave, or fall out of love. "Some say it is best not to go near the center of time. Life is a vessel of sadness, but it is noble to live life, and without time there is no life. Others disagree. They would rather have an eternity of contentment, even if that eternity were fixed and frozen, like a butterfly mounted in a case."A world in which time is a sense, like sight or taste, a sequence of episodes may be quick or slow, dim or instense... orderly or random, depending on the prior history of the viewer... some people are born without any sense of time. As consequence, their sense of place becomes heightened to an excruciating degree.

Suppose time is not a quanitity but a quality, like the lumnisence of the night above the trees just when a rising moon has touched the treeline. Time exists, but it cannot be measured.

Time is a visible dimension. Just as one may look off in the distance and see houses, trees, mountain peaks that are landmarks in space, so one may look out in another direction and see births, marriages, deaths that are signposts in time, stretching off dimly into the far future. And just as one may choose to stay in one place or run to another, so one may choose his motion along the axis of time.

This one is my personal favorite, though it is sad:

Time is a flock of nightingales. Time flutters and fidgets and hops with these birds. Trap one of the nightingales beneath a bell jar and time stops. The moment is frozen for all people and trees and soils caught within. In truth, these birds are rarely caught. The children, who alone have the speed to catch birds, have no desire to stop time. For the children, time moves too slowly already. They rush from moment to moment, anxious for birthdays and new years, barely able to wait for the rest of their lives. The elderly desperately wish to halt time, but are much too slow and fatigued to entrap any bird. For the elderly, time darts by much too quickly. They yearn to capture a single minute at the breakfast table drinking tea, or a moment when a grandchild is stuck getting out of her costume, or an afternoon when the winter sun reflects off the snow and floods the music room with light... on those occasions when a nightingale is caught, the catchers delight in the moment now frozen. They savor the precise placement of family and friends, the facial expressions, the trapped happiness over a prize or a birth or romance, the captured smell of cinnamon or white double violets. The catchers delight in the moment so frozen but soon discover that the nightingale expires, its clear, flutelike song diminishes to silence, the trapped moment grows withered and without life.
One last one:

A world in which cause and effect are erratic. For instance, one day for no accountable reason a young girl's "heart soats, she blushes, she paces anxiously, she becomes happy... days later, she meets a young man and is smitten with love. Are the two events not connected? But by what bizarre connection, by what twist in time, by what reversed logic?... in such an acausal world, scientists are helpless. Their predictions become postdictions. Their equations become justifications, their logic, illogic... but... in this world artists are joyous. Unpredicability is the life of their paintings, their music...they delight in events not forecasted, happenings without explanation, retrospective.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

tons of tomatos

We spent Labor day weekend with B.'s parents in South Dakota. Here are the girls getting pulled behind the tractor by Daddy.

All FOUR of Grandma's dogs got in the tractor (you can only see three, but there is Cloud, Star, Chewlie and Rowdy in there) with all four of my girls.

Grandma planted a huge garden this summer, and has hundreds of jars of tomato sauce, salsa, pickles, green beans and jams. We were crazy about her salsa. She said if I would help her, she'd help me can some to take back. Here is the "before" picture (this isn't even ALL the tomatos)

Here is the neat little machine that you run the tomatos through to get rid of the seeds and skin (the girls loved squishing the tomatos in)

Here they are with cousin Breana (what a helper she was)
Here is my sister-in-law Josie bravely cutting up the jalapenos for the salsa. She said her hands burned for hours afterward.

And here is the finished product. Yum! My first experience with canning. We brought home 12 jars of salsa and 12 jars of spaghetti sauce, plus some pickles and jam. Oh yeah and a whole box full of potatoes. There is nothing like fresh garden veggies!