Love Matters Most

bleeding hearts

All of my kids are going through their day to day lives, diligently attending school and work and practice, and exciting things are happening to them.

They are graduating from college (The Overachiever) , receiving scholarships (The Brainiac), starting their own businesses (Mr. Nice Guy) and making Evil Knievil look like a wimp (The Athlete) and all they can think about is love.

The Brainiac and The Athlete are obsessed with a song by Taylor Swift that details the proposal of an 18-year-old boy to his high school sweetheart. I know they are imagining they are the girl and some nice fella is telling them he can't go on without them.

Mr. Nice Guy, who doesn't even like smoothies, is buying one every day at the smoothie bar near his house while trying to work up the courage to ask out the cute blond behind the counter.

The Overachiever, who is walking around with a broken heart because the guy in the song never got down on his knee, forges ahead looking for Mr. Right, but this time with a list of requirements that are so tough to meet that we have a flow chart of the guys who have tried and failed.

Here is that list. I found it on her Facebook page and got special permission to print it:

1. Hot and Sexy
2. College degree or a suitable job that pays the bills
3. Nice (rather than evil)
4. Does not drink and drive, risking the lives of small children on the road
5. No serious speech-language impairment (She's a little sensitive about this one, being a Speech Pathologist and all).

If any of requirements 1-5 are not met at any time within the relationship period, I reserve the right to terminate said relationship without question or recourse, and the "datee" (you're the "dater") shall immediately apologize and return to the dating abyss from which you obviously belong.

The Overachiever is proof.

The quest to find love can make you a little edgy if it takes too long.


Dancing To Her Own Tune

The Brainiac and Frenchie

Last night at 5:45 p.m. the Brainiac, who was sitting at the computer in her sweats, with her hair in a ponytail, announced she was going to Homecoming.

She was going to meet her boyfriend and the rest of the group at 6:30 to pose for pictures of all the couples in their dresses and suits and wanted to know if I would help her with her hair.

That Brainiac. She drives me crazy.

The problem is that the Brainiac's boyfriend doesn't like dances. So they don't go to the dances, but every now and then to be nice he will put on a suit and attend the pre-dance dinner and the after-dance party so that she can have the dressing-up experience.

Last night he decided to take the hit.

But - not knowing that - the Entrepreneur and I had made dinner plans with another couple and we were leaving at 6 p.m.

That meant that I didn't get to see The Brainiac all dressed up with MAKEUP on or get to tag along to the house where the pictures were being taken to stand around with the other parents with that puffed-up feeling we all have that our daughter is the prettiest by far and certainly the smartest.

I really felt robbed.

To make me feel better, The Athlete popped her head out the door as I was leaving for dinner. She was wearing a pair of giant athletic shorts that once belonged to her brother and she had mashed potatoes on her chin.

"Don't worry mom. You can do the big dance thing with me for sure," She said.

I think I can wait for that one. I'm not sure I'll ever be ready to see The Athlete in heels.


What's In A Name?

Do you like your name?

Yesterday The Brainiac asked me which of my kid's four names I like the best.

I told her. The Brainiac demands honesty.

But it got me thinking back to the agony involved in choosing all of my kid's names. I have kept the lists of all of the names I liked that I handed off to The Entrepreneur, who usually crossed off all of them.

He was opposed to any name that belonged to someone he knew in high school, someone he dated or someone he hated. That was a lot of names.

When choosing my kid's names, I tried to come up with something a little bit unusual but not weird. My goal was that there would never be a child with the same name in their first grade class.

It was tough picking those four names. I can't imagine placing more rules on the selection process, like requiring that all of their names begin with the same letter.

I'm sure you know families like this. And I'm not picking on families with three or less kids whose names begin with the same letter. It's possible that was an accident.

If there are four or more, you know it was on purpose.

When I was growing up in good old Sioux Falls South Dakota, we made a little game out of families like this. Who could say the names of the kids from oldest to youngest? Let's start with the Brick family. I can still do it.

Kevin, Karn, Kent, Kurt, Karen, Kathy, Konnie, Kaija

You just knew they ran out of options at the end. Kaija was my friend and she really hated her name. One time we looked up the meaning in a baby name book. It said: Fat Baby Seal.

O.K. now the Carlsons. That's an easy one.

Monique, Monty, Mia, Meagan and their darling dog Mindy

But the first letter stipulation isn't nearly as cruel as naming the child after something that has to do with your profession. Just because I am a garden designer, doesn't mean I have the right to name my girls Rose, Daisy and Petunia. And what would I have named my poor son? Thorn?

But that craziness happens. I went back home for a high school reunion. A guy I used to date and is now selling high-end cars was handing around pictures of his newborn baby Lexus. Her sisters Mercedes and Cadillac were so excited to meet her!


Phantom Liddy

While I am off this morning giving the scary Power Point presentation I blogged about yesterday, my funny sister Elizabeth is stepping in as my guest blogger. I know you will all enjoy her crazy humor as much as my family does. Thanks Lizard!

Today I had surgery on a special little growth on my eyelid that had been affectionately named "Liddy."

It was way worse than I expected. Nurse Debbie informed me that the growth on my eyelid was like nothing she'd ever seen before, but Dr. Bircham would know what to do with it.

So as my boyfriend and I are giving each other eye exams, the Doc strolls in. He sits on his little stool, skooches up to me, and says, “lets have a lookie”. So I put my chin in the holder, look forward, yadda yadda yadda and Doc informs me that it is a viral infection; a paploma on my face. And the boyfriend, being the supportive man that he is, yells, you have HPV??

Next, the doctor leaves and returns with a chainsaw and some sterilizing supplies. A needle appears. He informs me that he will inject my eyelid with 'something'. But first, he gives me a drop in my eye to do a bit of numbing. I ask if it is so I don't feel anything when he misses my eyelid and stabs my eyeball. The boyfriend seems to think this is funny, but I do not.

We did a trial run of sticking my eyelid. I don't think it was supposed to be practice, but since I yanked my face away, we failed at the first attempt. The problem was, Doc wanted me to keep my eye open, but when someone approaches your eye with a needle, you can't help but blink. The second time the needle stuck, even though I "slammed my eyelid shut". And then the snipping began. It felt like someone was just gently tugging on my lashes. Just a little blood, and viola! Liddy's free!
The crazy thing is, I still feel her presence. She will always be a part of me. I miss her so....Phantom Liddy.


Love is a Power Point

Today I am having a lot of anxiety, because tomorrow I have to get up in front of 25 business people and give a presentation.

I'll be talking about my Garden Design business to the other people in my business referral group. They are all really nice people, but tomorrow I will be very scared of all of them.

I will be scared that they will think I am unprofessional, uninformed, untrained and unattractive, even though I am going to be wearing my really pretty new green shirt that I saved for the occasion.

But one thing that I'm not worried about is that they will think I am unprepared because The Entrepreneur has been slaving away in his cave for a week now on the most beautiful Power Point Presentation I have ever seen.

All of the pictures I have been taking for years of the gardens that I care for and the containers I have created are in there, and he used Photo Shop to get rid of all the dead blossoms and scattered leaves.

All of the main points I have to make magically show up on top of the pictures after a moment to remind me what to say.

The only problem is, being techno-challenged in the way that I am, I'm afraid that this beautiful crib sheet will fail to function and then I will be left to stumble through 10 minutes on my own.

But The Entrepreneur has thought of everything. He is sending me to the meeting location today to "practice" on the equipment.

Flowers and candy are nice, but not just any man can give you the gift of a Beautiful Presentation.


My Traveling Post-it Note

There is something I do that I'm a little bit ashamed of. I've tried to stop but I can't.

I write stuff on my hand.

Not just for fun, like those little people whose mouths open and shut, but important information that would be very bad to forget.

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking: "Hey, idiot. That's what Post-it notes are for."

But here is the point I would like to make:

What if you lose the Post-it note?

If you write these little fatal-to-forget items on your hand, there is very little chance you will forget them.

Now some of you may be the types who have the Big Long List that you add to every day and then you get the deep satisfied feeling when you get to cross stuff off. Maybe you will admit that you write stuff on there that already got done just so you can see it crossed off.

If so, you have a bigger problem than someone like me who just writes on her hand.

The only trouble with writing on your hand, is that you have to make sure the message is legible.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote two letters on my hand to remind me of something. But then I forgot what they meant. All day long I looked at those two letters and they drove me crazy. They were kind of messy, but I thought they said: CC

What was that? Was I supposed to copy someone on an email? Write a thank you note to my friend Cecelia?

All day it drove me crazy. I stared at it for ten full minutes in the carpool line on Friday while I watched the kids pour out of the middle school. The Athlete came bouncing out to the car. When she sat down next to me, I noticed something written on her hand. It said:


The mystery of the message was solved.

Thank goodness I trained that child in the art of the Traveling Post-it Note, or the gymnastics team would have missed out on her birthday treat.


A Goal is a Beautiful Thing


I ran my first official 5K, and I beat my best time by four minutes! While it is true that The Athlete, who did not train for the race at all and has never run three miles in her life beat me by one minute, I am used to being humiliated by her skills.

But now a weird thing has happened. I am having this let-down feeling. It was kind of fun to be on a quest. So while I am relieved that I made it to the goal I set, I am kind of sad the race is over.

It was a cool race. We started out in the middle of a big pack running through the area of town that I love the best, past the old library where I took the kids for story time, past the elementary schools the kids have attended and past the homes on my favorite street, where I dream of buying a little house that is easy to clean one day.

I was doing great for a while, waving at the kids who came out to their driveways to cheer us on, checking out the sites.

I thought I had run about two miles and was starting to get a little winded and crampy trying to keep up with The Athlete, who was taunting me by running just ahead.

And then I saw a big sign that said Mile Marker One.

I turned around and looked at The Entrepreneur with a questioning look. Surely there must be some mistake, I thought. There can't be two miles left. I will never make it.

It reminded me of the time I went in to deliver my first baby and I was in the worst kind of miserable pain and the nurse came in to check me because by the way I was yelling everyone thought I was all ready to go and then she announced that I was only dilated to four.

Then, to try to calm me down, The Entrepreneur grabbed some stupid chart with a picture of a cervix that had little rings illustrating the stages from zero to 10 and he said in his pretend calm voice while pointing to a very small ring:

"Honey. Here you are. You just have to get to where the 10 is and then it is all over."
During the second mile The Entrepreneur had to walk a bit due to a leg cramp and I left him behind. Yes I am ashamed about that but a goal is a goal. Thankfully, some of that mile was down-hill.

I became very alarmed during the third mile when a 10-year-old passed me up. I was very afraid to look behind, because I was convinced I would quit the race if I was going to finish last.

I passed a group of spectators toward the end of the race who were pointing at me with worried looks and talking about my labored breathing, but there was no stopping me because I had seen a beautiful thing: The finish line was just ahead.

Looking at my watch I knew that I had to make up some time. And so I pulled out my sprinting form from my high school track days and ran the last half block at full speed.

My official time: 30 minutes and 11 seconds.

Now that's the new time to beat.


Let's Go Shopping!

The Entrepreneur is afraid of candles. Ever since our neighbor's house fire last year, he has forbidden candles from being burned in the house.

That's tough for a girl like me. I love my candles. I love the romantic little flicker and I love the way they make the house smell any way I want it to.

But I may have found a replacement for candles. It was tricky, and I have to use two items to get the full effect, but here they are:

First are Scentports Home Fragrance Diffusers from Bath and Body Works, a new product that is an improvement over Wallflowers, Scentports plug into an outlet and provide fragrance for four to six weeks.

There are several new yummy smells for fall including Pumpkin, Autumn Apple and Spiced Cider, in addition to 12 other fragrances. I am happy with The Perfect Autumn leaves, which will all the guests to my house have been loving for the past couple of days.

Normally priced at $12.50, they are on sale right now at two for $16.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas fast approaching, I will soon be missing the flicker of candles, but there is hope now that I have found Flameless Candles from Smith and Hawken . These are realistic (really) candles which are powered with an LED bulb.

They are reasonably priced from $12 for a set of votives to $30 for a large pillar candle.

There. Now The Entreprenuer is happy and so am I.


Smokey Has a Soul Mate

My cat is in love. She found another cat who loves her company. He was a little scary at first, but she has learned not to judge him for that.

He has a lot of other good qualities that the other cats in the house don't have. He doesn't use her litter box or hiss at her. He never comes near her food bowl and doesn't make any sudden movements.

Smokey will be very sad when The Graveyard Cat goes outside to sit near the tombstones we put out to scare the Halloween trick-or-treaters.

But until then, she is happy to sit quietly next to him, basking in the quiet glow of plastic love.


I did it!!!!! I ran 5K again and this time I did it in 34 minutes. My free running trainer Wendy says I get to take today off and tonight I get to "carb load," which is to eat pasta without guilt.

My neck is bothering me and my feet hurt but I am going to run in The Chili Challenge tomorrow anyway because I made the goal and now I am going to see it through. And afterwards I am going to reward myself with a great big bowl of chili and probably a slice of some kind of delicious dessert.

Thanks to all of you who encouraged me along the way! I'll let you know if the Madel Family makes it over the finish line.


The Gift of a Memory

I love how sometimes a familiar smell or the sight of a random object will bring back a long-held memory that plays out with exquisite familiarity.

This week the sight of Chinese Lanterns brought a special memory back to me.

I was at the craft store looking for something fallish to put in a big vase that sits on the mantle in the family room. I had found some great twisty branches that had fallen from a willow tree during a storm earlier in the week and I needed to add something for color to bring the whole look together.

I walked through the aisles of silk and dried flowers and had almost given up when I saw two long stems of Chinese Lanterns.

They are a perennial plant that is a bit rare. They bloom with beautiful orange lantern-shaped hollow pods this time of year. If you look, you can sometimes see them growing along the roadside in the midst of Pussy Willows and high fall grasses.

I pulled the two remaining stems from the display to take to the register and a memory came back to me that played out like a little movie in my head.

My son was five. He rode the bus home from school at lunch time every day.

His sister and I would watch from the front windows for him to return. He was a different little boy. A big nature lover. He liked to play alone in the fields near our house. Friends could come along, but he didn't really play with them as much as with the frogs and snakes he would find and bring home like trophies.

One day he came off the bus and told me about some flowers he had been seeing in the ditch along the road on the bus ride to and from school. He said he had been "watching" them all week to remember where they were so that he could take me there to show them to me. He was sure I would love them and want to bring some home.

This was the day he was sure he knew how to find them and he insisted we get in the car right then and drive to where they were. Curious, but a little annoyed that he wouldn't wait until after lunch, I buckled his sister in her booster seat and the three of us set off on our search.

About half-way to school he pointed excitedly to an embankment on the right side of the road where a stand of bright orange flowers stood out among the grasses and thistles.

"Pawk the caw!" he yelled. Thewe they awe mom! Aun't they pwetty?

And they were. They were really beautiful.

We cut a bunch and took them home. I saved some seeds and planted them but they never took.

I think they meant to stay on that roadside, shocking in their unfamiliarity, for another special little boy to notice one day on his way home from school.


Waiting For My Second Wind

Some of you may have noticed that the time posted next to my 5K results has not changed in over a week. It's not because I haven't been running. It's because I haven't been able to run the whole three miles again without stopping.

I think the only reason I was able to do it once was because I was running with The Overachiever and trying to be some kind of role model or something.

Please stop laughing if you are one of those people who think three miles is a little warm-up run. Because I have to tell you that three miles feels like 30 to me.

And don't tell me that if I keep running I am going to get my "second wind." I'm pretty sure someone made that up just to keep running hacks like me from quitting altogether.

How am I going my second wind when I haven't even found my first one yet? And how am I going to run three miles in an official race on Saturday in front of lots of people I know when I can't even do it by myself in my very own neighborhood?

At this point, I'm hoping the shame The Athlete and The Overachiever will feel if I don't finish might propel me toward the finish line.

I'm going to go out and give it another shot today.

Who knows, maybe I'll get my second wind.


The Game of Life

Recently I took a trip to the beautiful state of Colorado to visit siblings three, six, seven and nine. I stayed at the home of sibling six with her husband and two girls. One of her girls is at the age where kids like to get rid of the aggression they feel towards the bossy adults in their lives by beating the crap out them at board games.

And so we all played the Game of Life.

After struggling to remember the rules a bit, I soon recalled that the Game of Life is much like real life, where most of your success depends on the cards you draw, but some of it can be tracked to good choices.

And that’s why my niece can usually kick my butt at this game. Her mom gives her choices.

For example: She was driving her little Game of Life car around the board and she stopped to get married. This is the part of the game where a girl adds a blue peg to the car to symbolize her husband.
Or so I thought.

I was reaching for the blue peg to put next to her pink one in the front seat of the car and my sister kind of stopped my hand mid-motion and looked at her kid very casually and said:

“Honey. What color peg do you choose?”

I was very confused and said: “What do you mean?” I thought there was some new rule that had developed in the last couple of decades.

“Well,” said my niece. “We believe in choices. And so now I have a choice whether to be homosexual or heterosexual.” Today I think I am going to choose . . . . to marry a woman.”
And she popped a pink peg into the front seat.

When I landed on the marriage square, the pressure was on. I got the eye roll from my niece after choosing the blue peg (“boring,” she said), but defended my choice by saying I wanted children.

“You can ADOPT,” she smartly retorted.

I won that Game of Life, in the end, and she pouted a bit about that. But I think she is going to be a big winner in the real game of life because that kid has something that I never had enough of.
That kid has CHOICES!!!


My Favorite Send-off

There is quite a hub-bub in our town right now about an obituary written for a lady named Ruth Rencevicz. Ruth was a funny 81-year-old woman who died on Sept. 7 with specific instructions to her family to "keep it light" when it came to the business of her obituary.

Attempting to follow her wishes, her six children got together to collaborate on this tongue-in-cheek tribute to a mother who had spent her life making them laugh. If you log on to www.ohio.com and read Ruth's 16 guestbook pages, you will see that I wasn't the only one who loved this obit. Even Jack Black has left a comment.

RUTH E. (SECHRIST) RENCEVICZ Ruth E. Rencevicz (Sechrist) Ruth E. Rencevicz, born Ruth Elizabeth Sechrist on August 28, 1927, passed away on September 7, 2008 due to complications resulting from her children making her old before her time. (Ruth had a playful and irreverent outlook towards life, an attitude that she was fortunate enough to retain right up until the time of her death. This obituary is being written with that philosophy in mind. If you find this particular viewpoint offensive, then read no further. Instead, please take comfort in knowing that Ruth fought her leukemia courageously right up until the very end, and that she died peacefully in her sleep.)

Ruth passed away amongst the rich and famous in Greenwich, Conn. She is survived by brother, Clyde; sons, Wade, Bernard, Phil and Jon; daughters, Lisa and Sonya; grandchildren, Trevor, Grace, Casey and Sammy; an illegitimate child conceived when the circus was in town named Greg "The Donkey" King; her favorite dog, Lucy; and her favorite cat, Derrick.

Over the years, in addition to her regular jobs as a full-time mom and a switchboard operator at both Sears and BFG Federal Credit Union, Ruth also served her country as a covert spy for the Central Intelligence Agency, where during the Cold War she was largely responsible for the breakup of the Soviet Union near the end of the 20th century. At least, that's the way she told it.

Ruth was also very active as a volunteer with youth in her community in Tallmadge, Ohio, where she was known to selflessly give of her time by standing on her balcony yelling at kids for "playing that rap music" at all hours of the day and night. She also served as a mentor to young people by throwing rocks at teenagers dressed in loose baggy pants with their underwear exposed. She winged a couple of 'em pretty good, from what we understand.

Although born in Hammondsville, Ohio, Ruth enjoyed summering in Greenwich, Conn., where she loved drinking Fresca with Absolut Ruby Red vodka, and stalking Peter Jennings and Jack Black. Ruth reported being abducted by aliens several times during her life, and we don't mean the good kind of aliens who come from outer space. We're talking about illegal immigrant aliens from Mexico and West Virginia. Oddly, Ruth never really complained much about these kidnappings.

Ruth was adamant that people use the occasion of her passing to remember and celebrate her life. In lieu of formal funeral proceedings or viewing hours, she requested that those who remember and cared about her share both a special memory and a drink in her honor. Preferably Bud Light Lime, or if that's not available, gasoline or floor wax.

Published in the Akron Beacon Journal on 9/10/2008

Cheers to you and your funny family, Ruthie. Thanks for the gift of a laugh.


Let's Go Shopping

Can a pair of pants make you more attractive? I say Yes! if they are the new Perfect Trouser Pant from Gap. http://www.gap.com/ I purchased a pair last week after going to my closet to grab a pair of slacks for an important meeting and realizing that something very strange had happened to my hips since I wore my dress slacks last winter. This new problem has made it impossible for me to look good in the several pairs of petite slacks hanging in my closet. Turns out I am not petite at all. Just short.

Lucky for me that Gap carries ankle-length pants, which is just a nice way of saying pants-for-curvy-vertically-challenged-girls.

Anyway, the drape of these pants is so pretty, and they have a beautiful cuff (I love cuffs) and they were worth every penny because they make me feel cute.

I found myself at Wal-Mart yesterday because I am at last awarding the $10 gift card from my Most Useful New Item contest to my Aunt Mary. Sorry that took so long.
I’ve been feeling a little bit unorganized lately due to what my mom calls my Flight of Ideas.

This is the problem I have of jumping from one topic to the next in conversation and in life. Probably some medication would help, but I chose instead to purchase some beautiful notebooks and folders I found at Wal-Mart. Here is a picture I took of them:

I am going to put all of my garden design ideas and information in the flowered notebooks and folder and all of my blog ideas and information into the striped notebooks and folders. The little notebooks are for my purse and the big ones are for my desk.

I feel even better about my notebooks because I found out that they are a special collection from Carolina Pad and Paper called the Kendall Kollection www.ucreate.com/kendallkollection.html This collection was started by one of the designers from the company who knew a little girl named Kendall who was battling leukemia.

Clay Presley, the CEO of the company, agreed to make a special collection dedicated to raising funds to fight the disease in honor of this little girl, and the Kendall Kollection was born. A portion of the sale price of each paper product sold in this collection now benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society http://www.lls.org/

There. Altrustic Shopping. Now that should help assuage the guilt.


Living the Vows

Something really great happened yesterday.
The Entrepreneur got his first big order.

Just over two years ago, he walked away from his job in the Big Business World to start his own business. He was tired of planes and hotels. He was tired of firing nice people that the corporate world had decided were "dead weight." He wanted to do something positive. To make jobs instead of taking them away. He wanted to sponsor a Little League team.

Well, it has been a long haul. Not only for The Entrepreneur, but for myself. After years of seeing him on the fly, I had to sacrifice my space to him. He set up shop in the room off the kitchen and began working from home.

The kids loved it. He was making them breakfast, driving them to school, fixing their cars and helping them with their homework. Before it was too late, he got to spend quality time with them, something that was stolen from him in his years of Working for the Man.

For me it was tough. After years of raising my kids mostly solo, it had become my identity. I struggled with finding a new niche and with the financial uncertainty that I had not had ever had to face.

Sometimes I wondered if starting the business was a big mistake. I didn't feel as secure as in the days when someone else was signing our paychecks.

But The Entreprenuer was different. More relaxed and happy. He was in charge of his own future, and that was how he always had wanted it.

Looking back, I wish I had had more faith. Sometimes I was really supportive, but sometimes I wasn't. And I feel badly about that.

This first success has given me hope for the future and I want to go forward believing that we can do it and that in the end our family will be better for making it through.

We've met four of the vows we made when we tied the knot.

We're more than half way there.


The Terrible Threes

I recently took a little part-time job at a day care facility to supplement my income during the slow-down time for my garden design business.

I had no qualms about this job. Just a few afternoons a week watching kids while their moms work out at a fitness center. Beautiful building. Clean. Lots and lots of great toys to keep the kids busy.
Piece of cake.

That's what I thought the first day, until two three-year-old girls walked in the door.

There are just two words for three-year-olds:

High Maintenance.

One little girl was obsessed with snack time, which we were not having during her stay there. The big kids on the other side of the wall were having snack, though, and that did not go over big.

"Do you think we will be having snack?" she asked.

"Not today," I said.

She begins to color.

"I'm feeling a little bit hungry," she says.

"Your mom will be back in just a little bit and then I bet she will get you a snack," I say.

"Sometimes for snack I have graham crackers," she says.

We set up the Candyland Game.

"Do you have any candy in your purse? she asks.

NOOOO! (Just kidding. I didn't really say that.)

The other little girl was the intellectual type.

"What's this? she says, pointing to a mystery piece of artificial fruit.

'A beet?" I guess.

"No. That is an eggplant," she states, giving me the "you are a dummy" stare.

We dump out a puzzle with pictures of animals to teach the alphabet. She discovers a hangnail on one of her fingers and becomes very bothered.

"Let me see," I say.

"DON'T PULL IT!!!!" she screams at the top of her lungs.

I check my watch. A half hour has gone by. A screaming baby comes through the door.
"I'll take him," I say, a little too enthusiastically. I mean, he can't be more work than those three-year-olds.

Build a Smarter Kid

Our high school holds an information session every year at this time on the procedures involved in getting your kid into college. Since this is a very competitive high school, much time is spent on the tricks involved in getting your kid into a great college.

I noticed that not much time is spent teaching you how to afford college, but that is another blog, I guess.

Anyway, it seems like a lot more focus is put on test scores for the college entrance exams and essays written for the application process than the good old GPA.

A friend of mine, whose daughter graduated with a 4.0 and got a really great score on her first try at the SAT, was only offered a full scholarship to her college of choice after her parents hired a private tutor to help raise the scores on certain sections of the test, particularly the reading portion.

This section of the test is the one many high school students struggle with.

What helps significantly is if your child likes to read, because reading is a natural vocabulary builder.

The reading section of the test was a natural for The Brainiac, since she has a book attached to her at all times.

I don't think we will have this same luck with The Athlete, who thinks "alone time" is spending the afternoon with two friends instead of four.

She was very surprised to learn the other day that her middle school yearbook did not qualify as a response to the Teacher's question of:

"What was the last book you read?"

With her I have to be very clever and trick her into being smarter using things that inspire her, like competitions.

I was lucky to find the web site www.freerice.com

This site "pays" you in grains of rice for every word you get right and increases your level of skill as you go. It is a sponsored site, and the money raised goes to disadvantaged countries.

I also have an SAT practice question sent to me every day by The College Board. Go to www.collegeboard.com and you can too.

Another clever way I have of teaching The Athlete new words is to use words I found in my new book 100 Words Every High School Freshman Should Know. (You can order it from Amazon by using my shopping link at right of this page).

For example: In response to The Athlete's question of "Can I sleep over at Maddie's?" I might say:

It may be a formidable task for me drive the half hour to her house. I'm not feeling very enthusiastic or jovial about it.

The which she might reply: "So can you drive me or not?"

Anyway, those are some tools to help you build a smarter kid and cheat legitimately on those wretched college entrance exams.

Remember: A scholarship is a beautiful thing.


Express Yourself!

I’m not a fan of the bumper sticker. I think it goes back to an incident from my childhood. We were leaving church at good Old St. Marys in Sioux Falls, S.D. and were all walking out to the giant VW van that we used to hold our giant family.

My dad came around the back of the van to open the sliding door and blew a gasket when he saw the bumper sticker my older brother had placed on the back of the Van. It said:


Needless to say, that was not a pleasant ride home from church.

But now I’ve found something to stick on my car that gives it some personality but yet is very easy to remove and also non-offensive. I found Sticars. http://www.sticars.com/

They are these tricky magnetic designs that you just stick on your car to give it some pizazz.

Naturally, because I am a Garden Designer, I have chosen a flower for my car, but there are many designs for you to chose from. I think Sibling Nine needs a peace sign and Sibling Three needs a smiley face. My mom definitely needs a bird.

Here is a picture of my gardening truck decorated with my new Sticar. I am going to get lots more because they make me smile. If you get one, send me a picture of your car so I can post it on my blog.


Driving Etiquette

There is this corner by my house. Very treacherous. Lots of crosses and plastic flowers here and there along the roadside to indicate death due to traffic accident.

There is no stoplight at this intersection. I have to transverse it almost every day when I am driving The Athlete to practice.

I get to this intersection and I wait to turn left. Always a left. But the Bozo across the street from me, coming to the end of his scenic view out of the valley, is always in a Feel Good mood and wants to let me go first, even though he has the right of way.

So he does this: He flashes his lights at me.
The problem with this kind gesture is that there is usually a car coming from the right at 45 miles per hour just 40 feet away. And then the car who was being "courteous" by letting me go gets mad when I don't risk my life and try to turn left really quickly and dangerously.

Like I am going to kill The Athlete before she pays me back for my years of dedication driving her to and from to practice and far-away competitions with a college scholarship.

And while on this subject of driving etiquette, we need to talk about The Wave.

The Wave is the method of thanking someone for letting you into traffic. There are many different types of waves. The five-second consistent wave, the hand-up hand-down wave, the circular swiping wave and the sincere placing of the palm on the window for a moment wave.

I prefer the last one. I am the only one I know who uses that wave. The Entrepreneur thinks it is cheesy. But then, he does the Side-to-side vigorous wave. And that is just too extreme.

Whatever wave you use, at least employ one. Not waving in response to a traffic courtesy is just rude, even when the favor involves risking your life.


Let's Go Shopping!

The Athlete's trio of singing waiters at The Cheesecake Factory

Today is The Athlete's birthday. She is 14 years old. Boo hoo. The last one and she is growing up too fast. A boy she likes, but doesn't "like like" is bringing her breakfast in bed. Must be rough.

After that, we are going shopping to spend some of the birthday money from the Grandmas. The Birthday Girl will not be happy when I remind her that one third goes into the savings account.

Since we are shopping today, I thought it would be a good time to recommend some on-line sites that people have been telling me about.

Sibling Number Eight, who is the mother of my very handsome Godson, is having a trunk show for a new designer of children's accessories. You can check out the merchandise at http://itsallretrobaby.com/

Another favorite site of the new mothers in our family is http://www.coolmompicks.com/
Not just stuff for kids, but great stuff for moms too.

If you are the organized type, who gets their Christmas cards ordered ahead of time, check out http://www.goodgravydesigns.com/
It is the perfect shopping experience for me. Not too many choices to confuse me and a discount coupon (if you order by Oct. 4).

Happy shopping. Don't forget to save one third for your savings account!


The Fridays

I've got a case of The Fridays. Do you get those? It's when you get so excited about being close to the weekend that you pretend it isn't really a work day.

The other days of the week I am on task and I really focus on having a theme for my morning blog because my mom said she hates blogs like this one that are about nothing.

I wonder if my mom ever gets The Fridays?

Anyway, today I am in a good mood because the weekend is coming and I ran two-and-a-half miles today. I have no idea how many mailboxes that is because I ran all the way out to the new entrance to the development where there aren't any homes yet. The Entrepreneur and The Overachiever ran with me. Well, really I should say they ran on ahead of me. I didn't think that was very nice.

Anyway, I almost died, even though I had on my cool new tennis shoes that my sister Jen is opposed to because of the pink swish (not cool according to her). These shoes are so supreme! They have these little bubbles on the bottom for extra bounce. They make me feel like a running Superhero, even though I clearly am not.

So on with my Friday, which I plan to loaf through a bit. Enjoy yours and don't work too hard. The weekend is coming!


America's Got Talent

I've been thinking a lot about Talent

That's probably because I have been watching that crazy T.V. show America's Got Talent.

But you know what? America does.
America also has a lot of people who sadly do not have talent but think and wish that they do.

Because throughout your life, parents and teachers and people you listen to are always telling you this lie: "Everyone has a talent."

And that's just not true. And if you don't believe me, you can watch the show.

There are two kinds of acts on America's Got Talent: Acts where people have developed a skill to the point where the person or group can get up on stage and do their little dance or juggling gig and be mildly entertaining.

And acts where you are pressing the rewind key over and over again on your Tivo because you can't believe what you have just seen or heard.

Last night I was very touched because a couple of brothers from Queens with an act called "Nothin' but Strings" got up and played their violins. I had a little tear in my eye listening to them and I didn't even feel stupid because so did judge Sharon Osbourne.

What really moved me was the story about how their mother had struggled to pay for their lessons when they were growing up in the projects by working two jobs because she believed in their talent.

Because it is really the rare case when a raw talent can make someone a living doing what they love. Most of the time it takes a mentor or a parent to recognize and nurture that talent and to sacrifice time and money and sometimes their own personal goals to make sure that talent reaches it's full potential.

And here is the sad truth that a parent has to face sometimes: Maybe your kid doesn't have a talent. Maybe they are just a really nice kid who gets good grades and likes to play soccer.

Maybe you are sad because you know looking at the art work they bring home from school or reading their poetry that maybe they don't really have a talent.

Don't sweat that. I think God throws that pixie dust on very few.

But if you are lucky to have had some land on your child, or if it landed on you and you haven't used that talent, you have a job ahead of you.

Don't waste that talent. America is watching.


A for Attitude

I met a girl I like.

No. Despite the words to the new popular song, it's not what you are thinking. I just met a grown-up girl who is not one of my six sisters that I admire. And that is a big deal. Because I have some pretty high standards for my friends.

Usually it will be over for a friend before she gets a chance. If she is married and her husband is really annoying, or flirts with me in front of her, that is the kiss of death. Then there are some other things I can't tolerate. She can't:

  • Talk too fast
  • Talk too loud
  • Talk about nothing
  • Talk only about shopping
  • Talk only about herself
  • Eat too much
  • Eat too little
  • Talk on the phone while eating
  • Care too much about what she eats
  • Play too much tennis
  • Have a really dirty car or house
  • Have an impeccably clean car or house
  • Think her kids are perfect
  • Say mean things about other people that she is supposed to be friends with
  • Say the F-word
O.K. I know that's a long list. but I'm getting older and life is getting too short to spend with people who annoy me.

Anyway, the best thing about this new friend is that she is HONEST. It is extremely hard to find those people any more. With other people I know, you have to dissect each sentence in search of the truth.

If their husband lost his job because of the crappy economy, he is "tired of working for the man." If they want to sell their big house and use the money to send their kids to college or pay off old debt they "just want to simplify." If one of their kids can't hold a job, he is "finding himself," and if he gets a large new swastika tattoo and a tongue piercing he is "expressing himself."

It would be so refreshing if these people would say: "Wow. This sucks. I feel like we are going backward instead of forward, and to add to my stress my kid has gone off the deep end."

I think I would give that honest person a big hug.

This new friend of mine is like that. She just tells it like it is. But the great thing about her is that she looks her life straight in the eye and then she finds a way to be positive and funny about it. Not in denial about reality, but accepting of it.

Watching her operate is like going to attitude school. And I'm hoping to raise my grade a bit.


5-K or Bust

Some of you have been following my mailbox progression (see Running in past blog entries) and are wanting to know how I jumped from 60 to 84 mailboxes in less than a week.

The answer is that there is a 5-K race to support the Make a Wish foundation coming up on September 20, and The Entrepreneur, who has always had much larger goals than me, has signed me up.

Not only that, but he has created a "team" for the event, consisting of himself, our daughters The Athlete and The Overachiever and two new friends from down the street who run marathons. The woman on this team announced at our deck party last night that she had "run 18" earlier in the day.
"That wouldn't be 18 mailboxes, would it?" I asked.

Now this gets a bit tricky, since I am only up to 84 mailboxes, which is just two miles according to my recent calculations. A 5-K race is just over three miles.

So now I really need to get my butt in gear and also buy some cute running clothes to distract the onlookers from the fact that I am walking the last mile of the race.


Two Cents

I last blogged about homework. Finally a hot topic that people will argue about! Below are some of the comments that appeared on my blog and on my Family Web Site. I'm disguising the names a little bit, because not everyone is comfortable with their opinions being thrown into the blogosphere. As usual with my family, there is no middle ground. One of the siblings writes:

"What are (school-aged children) no longer doing, being exposed to, experiencing, learning because the precious few hours they have available to them in their lives are being consumed addressing learning that should be accomplished in "school."

Her sentiments are echoed by one of my blog readers who (believe it or not) is not a member of my family.

He writes:
"Homework is the system's way of reminding you that they are the ones pulling the strings."

And there was also from another reader:
"Homework is poison to peaceful home life."

But the rest of the crew seemed to think that homework is reasonable but would like to see it saved for the middle school and high school years. As a response to a reader who thought most of what is learned in school is never used in "real life," another had this to say:

"I'll grant you that I don't need to know how to prove geometry theorems, but the basics of algebra, geometry, science and English grammar are still pretty handy to have in your tool kit."

Others pointed out that homework is a tool that teaches time management. One reader opened my eyes to a valuable point about homework in opposition to other activities that are chosen by the individual.

She said:
"I think (homework) is also to learn time management from things we don't really want to do (homework, work) and things we do want to do (friends, hobbies, sports)."

So there you go. If you have a comment about homework or anything else I am blogging about that you would like others to read, you can leave it in the comments section of this site.

Have a happy holiday. I am going to have hot fudge cake for dessert tonight and that makes me VERY happy!!!!