Thursday, April 24

Throwback Thursday


In high school, my friends and I started a book. A part of the story would be written by someone and then left hanging at a crucial moment and passed to someone else to continue. The end result was a mixture of all of our individual narcissisms, ideologies, insecurities, obsessions with the sex we weren't actually having, passive aggressions, and opinions of each other, and very interestingly interspersed with the influence of all the literature we were reading in AP English. This book begins with:

"Once upon a time in the Land of Flowing Waters, lived a small community of students, dwelling together in a cottage. Life was grand to these people... Centuries later, we come to today. The community consisted of all punk teenagers."

And it ends with almost Hawthornian ambiguity:

"The club was a success until the monster Grendal..."

In between those pages were witch burnings, heists, multiple partner-swapping, betrayal, lies, poisonings, giant killer chickens and murder. Every once in a while, there were brief moments of happiness. This book is a classic waiting to be published.

I once tried to type it up (which I may try again when I get it back from Scotland... or did I bring it with me? Must check my stack of papers and folders I brought with me), but it made no sense if you couldn't see where one writer finished and another picked up. One day, I'll type it up, using some kind of formula to indicate who wrote what. I still recognize half my friends' handwriting!

(By the way, this is the first time I've ever done a Throwback Thursday. I think it's kind of lame. But it might be kind of fun too. Maybe I should also bring back the Friday Five.)

(It also gives me an easy excuse to blog on Thursdays.)

Wednesday, April 23

Easter Eggstravaganza

For our first Easter back in the States, we did surprisingly few corporate Easter eggs hunts. Count zero. (Well, the kids went to one with our new neighbor Amy and her family.) There are Easter egg hunts everywhere around here, at churchs, schools, parks, you name it. We kind of failed in that department. But we still managed to have eggstra special egg fun.

Early in the week, the kids (and my neighbor's boy) dyed boiled eggs. I've always wanted to try the all-natural, use-spices-instead-of-dye alternatives, but each year, Easter rolls around too soon and I end up buying some dye (or using food coloring) last minute purchased at the Pound shops/Dollar stores. This year was no different. Crunchy mum fail as per usual.





Luckily all of us love boiled eggs, so they aren't a wasted effort. (Fiona's going to be taking colorful boiled eggs to lunch for the rest of the week.)

On Easter morning, I made chocolate gravy and biscuits for breakfast. After recovering from overloaded tummies, I hid the plastic eggs in the yard and let the kids hunt them. They had a lot of fun.






Egg Hunt from superlori on Vimeo.


Then we took our boiled eggs and rolled them down the 'hill', aka our ever-so-slightly inclined driveway.

Egg Rolling from superlori on Vimeo.


Next we took the kids to the zoo. By the time we actually got out the door, we realized it was 12:30 and we hadn't done lunch, being so full from breakfast. We were going to just grab happy meals, until we got the brilliant idea to stuff ourselves silly for the second time that day at Western Sizzlin'. I haven't been there in who knows how long (decades, perhaps), and the kids LOVED it. (Who am I kidding? So did the adults.)

With stomachs overfull, we then hit the zoo. I'm so glad we got zoo memberships. We have certainly gotten use out of them. The kids are still excited about seeing their favourite animals, and there is no pressure to spend all day there seeing everything, since we can always come back again another day.




We spent as much time as possible at the zoo before heading back home to my mom's house for Easter dinner. We swung by the house to grab our contribution of colorful deviled eggs and a potato salad.


At Mom's the kids had another egg hunt and played with all the cousins, aunts and uncles. We enjoyed delicious barbecue and tons more food and desserts, and I literally felt (and probably looked) like a giant whale. It was all seriously tasty though - everything, the whole day's food. I love holidays. I love food.




(My three Arkansas nieces ^.)




We left Mom's late and put the kids to bed. What a eggsellent holiday.

Wednesday, April 16

The 1500th Post!

Wow, this post -- yes, this one right here -- is my 1,500th post on this blog!

I have apparently thought something about my mundane life was worth sharing with the universe exactly 1499 other times. And I do so again today.

This post feels kind of momentous; it feels like I should honor it with something special, something more than just "I had Fruit Loops for breakfast; well, actually they weren't Fruit Loops, they were Fruity Hoops, because I buy the store brands."

What I've decided on is a spin off from the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen (in the past three days), the question "Will Googling Google break the internet?" and it was asked like a real question. The short answer - No. The long answer - No, that is stupid. Anyway, so spinning off from that, I'm posting

Will blogging about blogging break the internet?

I'm going to answer the question that is on SO MANY OF YOUR MINDS (I know this because I'm magic) -- Why do I blog?

I've been blogging for ten years now. I've obviously felt for ten years that what I have to say is worth not only journaling, but publicly journaling, and that someone somewhere might possibly find my thoughts amusing or useful. Whether I wrote a blog to keep my family updated on my life abroad, or whether I was directing my writings as others with the same interests as me at varying times (motherhood, marriage, theology, sewing), I was always writing with the expectation that it was going to be read by someone.

For some reason, I still clicked publish, knowing someone was going to read my innermost thoughts.

Why do I blog?

I blog, I think, for four reasons:

1. I need to write in order to work out my own feelings. I often can't categorize or rationalize my thoughts without putting them to paper. Sometimes it's as simple as writing out a grocery list so I can remember what to buy; sometimes it's figuring out what I believe about spirituality, religion, or atheism. The act of writing helps me frame and outline my thoughts, and then if necessary, to expound upon each idea. I feel confused and disoriented if I haven't written anything (even a blog post) in a while. I need it.

2. I need to feel like I'm not alone. This is why I don't simply write out my thoughts in a private journal. Maybe in selfish way, I need them validated. I need to know that I'm not the only one who thinks like this, or who struggles like this. I write so that I know I'm not alone. If I am brave enough to put my thoughts and feelings out there, I might be rewarded with a connection to someone else I'd have otherwise not known was like me in whatever way. This is also why I read.

3. I want others to know they are not alone. After I've worked through the ideas or emotions that have been swimming around in my brain, I want to share what I've come up with with others. I want to have done the hard work for someone who is thinking amorphously about the same things but hasn't been able to solidify it herself. I want to give a voice to someone who hasn't been able to verbalize it himself. I want those who have been holding secrets in their hearts to know there is someone else out there with the same secrets. It takes a lot of courage sometimes, and there are still things I haven't yet the courage to say. But you are not alone; I am not alone. This is something that matters to me.

4. I enjoy it! That's it. I just really love writing. Whether it's a poem, a short story, a novel or just a simple quick blog post, I love writing. And I love others to read my writing. It's admittedly a completely narcissistic thing to do, writing for public consumption, yet I can't lie and say it doesn't excite me. Seeing my page views on a popular post thrills me. Comments thrill me too. I write, because it's fun and, oh what the hell, I love attention. No sense in lying, especially when every other blogger reading this will have to admit to some degree of loving it too! It's not the same kind of attention I craved in school when I wanted to be popular, though. It's more like desiring respect, a little nod, some credibility, and a group of faithful readers who consistently come back to read my lackluster words each time I publish. It's a great feeling!



So on this most momentous of blog posts, I give you the answer to life's most pressing question: Will blogging about blogging break the internet?

The answer is still no.

Sunday, April 13

Scottish (and/or British) Words I Hope I'll Always Keep Using

There were a few American words I continued to use when I moved to Scotland, like "ya'll", "elevator" and "sidewalk". However, there are a lot of British words I still use, and to be honest, I hope I always use, at least around the house with Scott and the kids.

- petrol (gasoline)
- nappies (diapers)
- trolley (shopping cart)
- queue (line up)
- pram (baby buggy)
- chips (fries)
- crisps (chips)
- mobile (cell phone)
- cinema (movies)
- biscuit (cookie, cracker)
- bin (trash can)
- boot (trunk)
- hoover (vacuum)
- creche (nursery)
[Edited to add:] - pants (underwear) and trousers (pants). I just can't call trousers "pants" anymore without giggling like a school girl!


And I still insist my kids call me "mummy" instead of "mom" or "mommy".

There are also those incomparable uniquely Scottish words that I hope we never lose.

- numpty
- eejit
- drookit
- besom
- glaikit
- crabbit
- dour
- dreich
- tumshie
- blether
- aye

I'm sure there are others. There are some phrases I still like to use too and want to keep.

- At the end of the day (like saying, "when it's all said and done")
- It's all six and one half. (Six and half a dozen = It's all the same, one way or the other)
- It would be rude not to!
- As you do (Example: "I was walking down the street, as you do..." but more often used ironically, when it's not something you typically do. "So I was trying to trap this fox... as you do..."
- bits and bobs

And there's a few Gaelic phrases we still use. Fiona still likes to say her Gaelic grace before meals, and we still like to say:

- Mar sin leibh
- Tha gaol agam ort
- Madainn mhath

Finally, I still like our little Cockney rhyming slangs. I caught myself saying yesterday at soccer "I haven't had that in donkeys!" Makes total sense to me.

- donkey's (donkey's ears = years)
- [Haven't got a] Scooby (Scooby Doo = clue)
- [A cuppa] Rosie (Rosie Lee = tea. More of a father-in-law thing to say, but I use it from time to time.)
- On your Todd (Todd Sloan = alone)
- [Telling a] porky (porky pie = lie)

Scott says he's already finding himself switching over to American words, probably much the same way I switched over to British words quickly so as not to stand out like a sore thumb. (He still uses them around the house a lot, though, and he definitely gets more Scottish again when he's angry or agitated!) I, on the other hand, love the words I picked up in Scotland and don't want to lose them now. It's a decade of my life that I don't want to lose all traces of. I also like the idea of my kids growing up with their Scottish daddy (and non-Scottish mummy) using these phrases.

What are your favo(u)rite Scottishisms (or Britishisms)?

Tuesday, April 8

Keeping Busy, With This and That

For someone who has taken a back seat to getting involved in too many things - and I've taken, like, the very back seat of the megabus here - I've managed to still get myself very busy lately. However, this time I'm doing things I love, not things that I'm obligated to do, and oh, man that kind of makes me sound like a spoiled, pampered upper class housewife, so let me start over...

Last year's theme was Simplicity. This year's themes are Satisfaction and Motivation. I started 'theming' my years last year with my annual 40 Questions. Simplicity was the year I really needed to streamline my life - in both material possessions and in activities. I had gotten myself involved in far too much, which meant I couldn't actually give any one thing enough care and attention to do it properly. It also meant I was away from home so much, I felt I couldn't keep housework under control or spend enough time with my kids and husband. It was the year we moved from Scotland to the US, so I really had no choice but to simplify my commitments and my belongings.

In doing all that, and then moving across the pond, I realized I had simplified so much that I owned practically nothing, which I perceived as a bad thing, and moving to a new place meant I had very few friends and no activities to get involved with. Thus Satisfaction (and subsequently Motivation) were introduced as my 2014 themes. Can I be satisfied with what I have? Can I be satisfied with this new laid-back - super laid-back - lifestyle, with not being involved in anything? The answer seemed to be that I needed to learn what I can or can't live without and to be satisfied with that. And as for not having friends or things to do, that was going to require a little motivation on my part to achieve.

And in all honesty, I've not done well on either of those challenges.

We have accumulated a lot of stuff that we don't need and don't satisfy me to have. I still haven't been very motivated to get outside my comfort zone and get involved with anything or anyone. It's still very depressing for me. I know I don't want to live here in Arkansas long term, and that's keeping me from making the effort to make close friends or get involved with anything. It's pretty much entirely my own fault that I have very little life outside my home right now.

Soooooo, having laid all that out there, what I meant to say was, for someone who is no longer childminding full time, teaching baby signing, running an online shop, volunteering on committees, rehearsing for musicals, leading worship at church, studying Gaelic, and juggling kids' ballet, football, drama and tennis schedules, I've been a pretty busy lady lately. Mostly from home. And what I'm finding is, it's kind of satisfying. For now at least.

Working
I have my one business. Just one. It isn't extremely busy, it doesn't take very much planning, and the actual work involved is fun and energizing. Having my own Pampered Chef business has been perfect. It gets me out of the house to parties (I love that my job is all about partying), makes us a little extra money and gives me something to be excited about. It does require me to work at getting parties lined up, which is the hard part, but everything else about it is really easy and fun. My goal is six parties a month, though lately it's been only two to four, but those parties, plus holding booths at vendors' events, keeps me fairly busy.



I get to make and eat things like this for money!

Reading
I've joined a book club. Two, actually, though I've only been to one meeting of either... However, I have actually bought and am reading the book for Book Club #2 (which is named "Velociraptors in an Opium Den" which I guess I'll understand the context of some day) and have the next meeting on my calendar... I intend to go, having read the entire book, and I'll even bring some food. That's involvement, people! That's a pretty big step for me at this pathetic stage of my life. We are reading An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke; I'm halfway through. It's good to have a book in my hands again. We sold/gave away almost all of our books when we moved. Not having a bookshelf in my new house makes me feel uneducated, nonintellectual, and dare I say it, unsatisfied. I have a series of books on my 'to read' list and in my Amazon cart, for after pay day. Next two books on the purchase list: Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Ehrman and The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream and Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama. As a Christian, I was always reading theology. It appears that now as a post-Christian, I still like the same genre! Politics, however, are my new interest. Religion and politics. The two things you should never talk about in polite company.



It was this book that got me interested in Obama's autobiographies...

Sidebar: You may wonder why I want to purchase books instead of check them out of the library or read them on a Kindle. Three reasons:
1) I want to build back up a collection of books. I re-read books all the time and love having them at my fingertips. I have books I re-read practically once a year. I don't want to go back to the library to check out a book multiple times. I also love having my own home library which leads me to...
2) I already said I feel uneducated, nonintellectual and unsatisfied with no books in my house. I want my kids to grow up surrounded by books. I want them to have books they can pull off the shelf at any time if they look interesting to them. I grew up surrounded by books - theology, biographies, fiction, encyclopedias - and I want my kids to do the same. Scott is also a reader - he's into early sci-fi - and together, we had a pretty fantastic library until we - sob, hiccup - had to part with them all. Damn, I miss my books.



All my books fit in this one shelf. Waaaah!

Oh yeah, and 3) I hate e-readers. I like real live books with paper pages.

Writing
I'm writing a book. I'm not ready yet to talk about what I'm writing or let anyone read it, but it does fill my time, and it's something I've always wanted - nay, needed - to do. I've been writing since I was old enough to print. I've been writing stories as far back as I can remember. I wrote a book in fifth grade titled Boys R Poo and if only I could get my hands on that incredible piece of literature... I'm sure I'd cry with horror over how embarrassing it is. I graduated college with a degree in English, with an emphasis in Creative Writing. I've written a book of poetry and self-published it as an eBook (which by all means, go buy. Right now.) But a book, writing an actual book, has always been on my bucket list. It's getting to the awful stage right now, the 'this is so not f***ing worth it, why am I wasting my time?, oh this is going to be terrible, I have to finish it though, I've come so far, but oh no one is ever going to want to read this drivel!' stage. Which, since I've never written a whole book before, may or may not be something like transition in childbirth. I don't know.




My e-book had to count as satisfying the 'before 30' part.


Sewing
Now that I have my new sewing machine, the thing I missed most after my books, I've started making stuff again. It's hard to find the time sometimes, but when I do get a few scraps of free time, I've been on my machine. I made another Caileanator and I've started making taggie blankets. I'm even considering making some taggies to sell. Ohhhh I can see myself slipping into that second home business trap again, but I can guarantee it won't become an online shop! I also want to make some new clothes. I've got a couple of peasant skirts I want to make myself in time for summer (if summer ever comes to this god-forsaken cold town - this cold weather is NOT what I signed up for when we moved back to the South) and some dresses for the girls. I love having a sewing machine again!



Because babies love chewing on the tags.

Mummying
Not to be confused with the practice of wrapping dead bodies in cloths and embalming oils, though at times I feel like a dead person being kept preserved by another person's will, mummying keeps me fairly busy. Isla starts kindergarten in only four and a half months, but until then, she and Cailean keep me going full steam most days.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Having her home with me again after a year and a half of her being in nursery (pre-school) has been tough, but it's been amazing for our relationship. She's a tough cookie to get to close to. This year has been really special for us, as a mummy and daughter. The child I thought I'd never understand, the child who kept me at a slight emotional distance, even as a toddler, has welcomed me into her inner lair and shared her little soul with me this year. We have become best friends through this unexpected year off. She drives me insane, and some days I'm pretty sure drugs wouldn't be such a terrible thing to get into after all, but it's worth it. Like taking her to her homeschool group's Box Car Derby this morning. She painted and decorated her own car, which I'm not going to lie, was one of those 'Anyone got any heroin?' experiences, but at the derby, she was so proud of her beautiful car and so excited to be in a race.



She told me, 'Mummy, I promise you I'll win.' And she did. That's my girl!

Extracurricular activities keep me mummying too. Soccer has started up again, too, so on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, I'm hitting the soccer fields again for two hours of watching Fiona then Isla practice. Fiona is in Girl Scouts as well which is every other Thursday night. So those are my social nights, sitting on the bleachers with the other soccer moms and dads, cheering on our little tripping, bumbling wonders of biology and nature.



Selling the crap out of some cookies.



I've started calling it 'soccer' instead of 'football'. Waaaah!

Exercising
Finally, how could I forget? My least favourite but most rewarding hours of the week? Here's where motivation really comes into play - the gym. I try to go at least twice a week, if not three times. This is my other social outlet, though I don't really socialize very much while I'm there. I'm too out of breath to try talking. I'm still going to my fitness classes while Isla goes to hers, and today I had a little epiphany. Or maybe it was less an epiphany but a kick up the backside. Instead of hating every moment of these classes (I just frickin' hate cardio!), I realized I needed to pace myself. Once again, a little like childbirth. If you go into a work out (or childbirth) already defeated, already ready to be miserable, then you will have a hard time getting through it. But if you pace yourself mentally, beginning with, 'Okay, I can do this, I'm feeling good, I'm working' then graduate to 'Whew, yep, I'm working all right, but I can maintain this, I can keep going' to finally, 'Right, now it's getting hard, I will keep going but this really is getting tough now', you'll get through it a lot more easily. And surprisingly, at the end of the work out today, I didn't feel like I was going to die or cry, because I'd mentally paced myself. I realized I was actually in good enough shape that if forced (and only if forced) I could keep going. Unfortunately, this is where the childbirth illustration breaks down, because in childbirth, when you hit the 'F*** this, I can't do this anymore!', well, hello, baby, is that a head I see? And you don't have the luxury of stopping any time soon, you just gotta keep working through that mess.

Thursday, April 3

The Summer Caileanator and Other Motivated Doings



Today was one of those rare, motivated days, where I had lots of things I wanted to do... and I actually did a fair number of them!

I usually go to the gym on Wednesday mornings, so Isla can go to her swimming class and I go to Step Aerobics. I woke up feeling... well... not unwell but unwilling to go through the effort of a class plus drying Isla off while trying to keep Cailean from diving into the pool fully dressed and un-life-vested. Besides, there were a million things I wanted to accomplish, and with an afternoon doctor's appointment booked, I knew there was limited hours in my day.

So I got up and did my stuff.

I actually did it!

I cleaned. I washed and folded ALL the laundry in the house (last loads are washing and drying now). I cleaned Cailean's room, researched new vacuum cleaners online, played outside with the kids for a little while, made lunch, and - here's the exciting part - started figuring out my new sewing machine!

My birthday present from Scott (one of them anyway) is my new sewing machine. This thing is AWESOME. It's a lot fancier than what I was planning on getting, but I'm so glad now that Scott encouraged me to choose a great one, instead of just a good one. This machine has 100 different stitches! Which I admit was a little daunting. It's electronic instead of mechanical - also daunting - with features like an automatic needle-threader and automatic button-holes.

(My other birthday present from Scott?  Two tickets to go see Les Miserables at the Little Rock Repertory Theater on Sunday!  One for me and one for... not him... but my bestie Devon!  He figured I'd have more fun seeing it with a fellow theater geek than with him.)

It arrived last week (the machine), but I didn't take it out of its box until Monday. It sat on my kitchen table all day Tuesday, daunting me. So I really wanted to get a chance to tackle it sometime soon, and I did it today.

I LOVE IT.

I started out just practicing some stitches on scrap fabric. Isla watched and wanted me to make her something. I grabbed some scrap fabric from her flower girl dress I made last month and made her a quick little bunny. Then of course Cailean wanted one. And when Fiona got home from school, she wanted one. Then Isla's little neighbour buddy wanted one. I got kind of good at making quick scrap bunnies, let me tell you. I also mended an old dress, one I bought back in college from Cheap Thrills in Fayetteville, that I better be able to fit back into now that I've done all the mending I've been putting off for years.

A few weeks ago, all excited from ordering my machine, I bought some fabric for making Cailean a new Caileanator for summer time. I held up two appropriate little boy fabrics and he grabbed the monkey one and cuddled it. Monkey print chosen.

Today was the first really hot evening (and by really hot, it was in the 70s). Soon, the old fleecy Caileanator is going to be too hot, so I decided tonight was the night. I got out my dressmaking scissors, my ruler, my notions box and got to work, designing a new, more precise, Caileanator.


(I wish I'd had some pattern-paper. I was mega precise this time, with measurements and everything. It would've been nice to make a pattern and never have to measure like that again.)

On my new machine, I experimented with some new stitches I've never used before. It was great fun, and the machine is so fast! I'm still learning on it, and so my finished product does have a few imperfections (everything I create does), but it's functional and cute and I can't wait to put Cailean in it tomorrow night!

(I also learned a little about fitting zippers. I still need to learn about turning under curved edges without bumffling up the hem...)

The only thing I didn't do today was read more of my book for book club, An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England. I'm loving it!


(Wow, I need to update my Shelfari shelf...)

Tuesday, April 1

Tattoo Trio, aka Happy Birthday To Me

Away back in November, I asked my readers for blog topics, which believe it or not, I'm still working my way through. Joy gave me the topic "tattoos", and today is the day, because it's my 32nd birthday, and while 32 is an unexciting age, I'm going to commemorate my first birthday back in the States with a new tattoo.

I got my first tat when I was 20 and in college. At the time, I was taking Arabic classes, and though I never felt like I was really getting it, I loved it and was doing pretty well with it. The script is beautiful, and I spent a lot of time practicing my handwriting. I knew that if I were ever to get a tattoo, it had to be something that meant something to me and would always mean something to me. After a lot of deliberation, I chose the word "faith", for the reason that I may not always have love or hope, but I'd always have my faith.

There was an Arabic calligraphist on the U of A staff. I asked him to create a calligraphy design for me for the word iman. He gave me a nice design, but it was a classic calligraphy design, not quite what I had in mind, and it wasn't very tattoo-able. I then discovered a contemporary calligraphist online, Nihad Dukhan, and contacted him. For a pretty little sum I now can't remember (well over $100), he designed me a beautiful iman, which I loved enough to have tattooed on my right foot.

(Why did I not just get the word as it is in Arabic if I loved the script so much? It felt too plain and a little too trendy. It is beautiful when written out... إيمان ... read it from right to left... but I wanted something more artistic.)

A few years later, I was living in Scotland and was ready for a second tattoo. I already had faith, so the idea struck me to go with a trio - "faith, hope and love" - the "greatest of the spiritual gifts". On Nihad Dukhan's website, there was already a design for hope, so rather than have him design a special one for me, I just used that image. I loved it anyway. I had it placed on the middle of my upper back, between my shoulder blades. Hope in Arabic, by the way, is pronounced amal and looks like this: أمل

By the way, did I mention that both my foot and my spine are incredibly bony places for tattoos, and I don't like pain? Yeah, the actual act of getting inked is not my favourite part.

For many years, I've been itching to get that last tattoo - love - but it's never worked out. I've never been really sure where I'd like to have it. My left tricep has always been my go-to place, but for various reasons, I've never quite committed to it. I've also considered my right wrist and my right side under the ribs. I even briefly considered my right foot but just didn't want my tattoos to be that symmetrical.

So here I am years later... eight years, possibly. Sadly, my original trio just isn't what it once was. Incredulously, I did lose my faith, something I thought could never happen. In a way, it seems odd that I want to finish the trio - maybe that's the Type A side of my personality? But also, it still seems fitting. While my faith is not what it was, nor is my hope, love still abounds. (Cheesy.) Love still conquers all. (Just going with the cheesy.) I have faith and hope already tattooed on me, there's no going back, and I'd never want to go back. Both of those things are huge parts of my life, and they made me who I am today. I don't regret either tattoo; I still love them dearly. Now, however, is the perfect time for getting love, or al-hib, or الحب 

The three greatest gifts are faith, hope and love. Love is meant here in the brotherly sense, the universal sense, the love for one's neighbor and all mankind. It is also the greatest of all the three gifts. Nothing as of yet has broken or destroyed my love for other people.

(That's not to say I'm great at it all the time.)

One other thing I love about the trio, is that they all represent the different segments, or if it were a book, volumes, of my life.  The first tattoo was from My Life Part 1 - Raised in Arkansas.  The second tattoo was from Part 2 - The Scottish Years.  This third one will be Part 3 - Return of the McFarlanes.  (If I make another major move again, I guess I'll just need to get a fourth one... I do have my eye on "peace"!)

So on my 32nd birthday I once again return to Mr Dukhan's site for my tattoo. I love this design as much as the others... and again, I'm happy I don't have to pay for a custom drawing! I just need to decide where... my wrist or my tricep.  I hope to get it done this month.  I'm pretty excited!!


Saturday, March 22

Over-Protective Parenting


You know what's kind of getting on my nerves? All this hype about how kids were so much happier and better off thirty years ago when they were allowed to run wild with no supervision and eat whatever they wanted and take bigger risks. That kids nowadays are over-sheltered, over-protected and molly-coddled.

Okay. Obviously we get the idea. Kids today spend too much time indoors, on computers and iPads and watching TV. Point taken. My kids are guilty of it too - or perhaps I should say we as parents are guilty of allowing it. But what annoys me is the rest.

Kids were better off when they were unsupervised? Allowed out all day to explore anywhere they wanted and only expected home at meal times or 'when the street lights came on'. First, I'm betting this is an exaggeration and a glorified version of the truth. But even if parents really did let their kids run off on their own all day, how is that good for kids?

Good for imagination and exploration and all yes. But what if - just what if - something happened to them while they were off in the woods or at a park somewhere and you were nowhere near to know about it? I know I'm overly irrational about kidnappers (I had a serious phobia about kidnappers and burglars when I was a child and have never really gotten over it), but what if someone took my child while I wasn't around? It maybe doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen. Kids also fall and injure themselves, get bitten by snakes (my new worry, now that I live in the South again), and get lost. Glorify the idea of letting your kids go wherever they want without you knowing where they are, but god forbid something happen to YOUR child and imagine the repercussions:

- You could have a missing, injured, or dead child.
- You have Social Services at your door for neglect, and possibly have your other children taken off you.
- You are a social pariah for having been so negligent as to let this happen to your child.
- You are vilified in the media.
- You can never forgive yourself.

I'm just really tired of all this 'You're over-protecting your kids/ giving your kids complexes/ destroying their sense of wonder/ making your kids fat from lack of play' hype. Maybe I'm just protecting them to the level that I, as the parent, am comfortable with? This level is different for all parents; this doesn't make us all over-protective.

By not letting my kids run all over the neighborhood unsupervised, I am not killing their confidence or squashing their imaginations. I'm keeping them within my scope of supervision and away from predators, snakes, and dangerous areas. By not letting my kids play with fire, saws, sharp-pointed objects - unsupervised - I'm keeping them from harming themselves or someone else. Imagine your kid injured someone else's kid because you let them play with a dangerous object? Can you imagine how those parents would react? By restricting what my kids eat, I'm hopefully teaching them some form of self-control and healthy eating habits. By restricting the amount of chemicals we use in our home, I'm hopefully doing a teeny tiny part in keeping their little developing bodies a teeny tiny bit less contaminated.

CONFESSION TIME. I'm not the best parent in the world. I know I have my own irrational (depending on who you talk to) rules, and yet I'm also not the most vigilant at all times either. I probably allow them a lot more freedom than I should in some areas, and not enough in others. I let my seven- and five-year olds play outside on the street - we live at the end of a cul-de-sac - while I'm inside. I don't watch them the whole time. They are allowed to go up to the end of the street on their own. If they want to play with neighbors further than that, they need to come ask. Sometimes I go outside to check on them, and I can't see them. I panic every time. Often they've just gone into a neighbor's house to play; they know they are supposed to ask first, but sometimes they don't. Sometimes they have left our street without asking. This may sound like over-protection to insist I know where my pre-school and first grade children are at all times, but is it? Isn't it just common sense? In a world where we are so aware of the dangers, wouldn't it be negligent to NOT know where they are?

Keep in mind that bad people have always been around, and kids have always been in danger of being snatched and harmed by them. It just wasn't as widely talked about or known thirty or forty years ago. A few years ago, when visiting my mom, I let five-year-old Fiona go outside and play by herself. Mom felt uncomfortable about her being on her own. I mentioned how she used to send us outside all day without watching us. Her response was 'things are different now'. Perhaps things aren't different, we just know more?

I'm also pretty lax about dangerous items and activities. I probably let the kids play with too many things that could hurt someone, and perhaps I'm just lucky that no one has been seriously injured yet. Scott freaked out when he saw Fiona carrying an axe a few weeks ago and I hadn't stopped her; I asked how that was different than him playing with a saw when he was half her age. He was probably right. A seven year old shouldn't carry an axe. But should a four year old play with a saw, even if he'd been taught how to use it? It's all about a parent's comfort zone. I let the kids climb trees and counter-tops, sometimes unsupervised (the older ones anyway, I'm much more vigilant with the almost two year old). At play parks, I let the toddler climb equipment that's probably too old for him without being as careful as I should, though I'm always watching. I don't always insist they wear helmets when riding their bikes, though I feel I really should. Accidents do happen, and I know if something happened and I, the parent, hadn't been careful enough to keep them safe, I'd have a hard time forgiving myself. The worse the accident, the harder it would be for others to forgive you too, and if the accident is really bad, you could have the entire town judging you. Maybe that's over-protection, maybe it's common sense.

Food. Cleaning supplies. Truthfully, I'm not the healthiest eater and neither are my children. We do not have a 100% chemical-free home. I do try to restrict my children's diets within reason, and we try to eat mostly healthy, but we don't always. I still use bleach at times and have recently started using normal shampoo on the kids instead of the expensive everything-but-beeswax-free stuff. I'm not perfect or rich. But am I being over-protective when I still choose to clean with vinegar instead of ammonia or choosing non-toxic options when possible and affordable? Or am I taking advantage of the knowledge and science we now have to try just a little to make my kids a little healthier and safer?

NPR did an interview with someone who wrote a book about play in this era versus play in the '70s. A man filmed a bunch of kids playing in the '70s out of interest and that footage has been compared to kids' play now. Apparently kids took more risks and really did play unsupervised. The author of the book who talked about her own childhood play was worried she maybe had romanticized the truth, but the footage backed her up. She and her peers really did 'play better' than kids do now.

All I heard from this interview was that a bunch of kids were being filmed by a stranger who was asking them questions about their lives and where their parents were, and no one noticed or cared. Parents were nowhere to be seen. Hands up if this would have made you uncomfortable?

There is some merit to the hype - SOME. Yes, kids should be allowed to climb trees, if they are physically able and it's safe to do so. Risk-taking and risk-management are good life skills to have. Kids fare well with a little autonomy and room to roam, within reason. Being able to play freely is good for teaching decision-making. It won't kill kids to eat something that isn't organic or to brush their teeth with an SLS-containing toothpaste, but it's reasonable to restrict unhealthy or toxic products. But can we stop acting as if we modern parents are dictators who are preparing our kids for therapy and career failure by limiting their unsafe activities? What is wrong with keeping our kids safe? Why does that make us 'over-protective'? And furthermore, stop acting as if kids playing on laptops or video games is going to turn their brains to mush. In our increasingly technological age, the kids who know how to use technology are going to fare just fine, if not better. Did you know playing video games is actually great for hand-eye coordination, math skills, reading and decision-making?

I just think the bottom line is to be the best parent you can be. Be comfortable with what you allow and don't allow. You, your children and your family are the only ones who have to answer for it. Unless something really horrible happens. Which, granted, is probably not going to happen. But if it did, I think you'd want to know you had done your best to avoid it.

Monday, March 10

Love/Hate the Gym



Okay, to say I "love" working out would probably be pretty close to a lie. I do love going to the gym. I love putting on work-out clothes and going to the gym. I love feeling like the kind of person who works out. I love the way working out makes me feel - energetic, healthy, a better sleeper, decreased junk food cravings. I love the results - the thinner thighs, the tighter abs, the defined arms. But what I don't love so much is the actual workout.

I judge how much I enjoy a class (and again "enjoy" is fairly relative) by how soon I start watching the clock. I went to Pilates a couple of weeks ago, thinking I'd enjoy an "easy" class. Make no mistake - balancing in any pose is never easy. I enjoyed the first twenty minutes or so. Then I started glancing at the clock. As the routines got more complicated (and required more balance), I became increasingly more clock-conscious. The class may not have had me gasping for breath, but it certainly had me sweating. I was relieved when it was over.

In a weight-lifting class, I usually genuinely do enjoy myself. Of all the different kinds of group fitness classes, Pump classes are the most fun to me. The warm-ups are easy, and the variation in movements keep my attention. I like going from squats (get them out of the way quickly) on to my back for chest presses, then back up on my feet for triceps. Back to my legs for lunges, and then biceps and back, my two strongest muscle groups. I usually don't even check the clock until I'm about forty minutes into the hour-long class. That's a good class.

Cardio workouts are much less enjoyable. I usually avoid them at all costs, but since Isla now has her KidFit classes at the same time, I am sort of trapped into going to whatever is on during that time slot. On Mondays, that's Kickboxing. On Wednesdays, that's Step Aerobics. I hate both of them.

Today I went to Kickboxing. This is the second time I've attended this class. The first part of warm-ups were fine. Then I looked at the clock. I'd been warming up for ten minutes. The actual workout was just beginning. I took a drink from my water bottle. I wondered if anyone would notice if I slipped out the door and just walked on the treadmill instead. But my jacket and my handbag were with me, and everyone would notice if I gathered up my stuff and left after only ten minutes. So I pushed on, telling myself I could sneak out a little later.

Twenty minutes into the workout, I was ready to stop. But no one else was really even breaking a sweat yet, and I couldn't bear the shame of leaving after only twenty minutes. "Only fifteen more minutes of cardio to go!", the instructor enthusiastically cheered. Another fifteen minutes?! Was that supposed to be encouragement?

Thirty minutes in. My "bounce" was more like a slight knee bend. My jabs were a barely perceptible wrist thrust. My chest was tight and my sides were splitting. I was half way there. When I wasn't watching the clock, I watched the instructor to make sure I was still following along, and at all costs I avoided seeing my reflection in the mirror. Any time I caught a glimpse of myself, I saw a frumpy, exhausted, red-faced chimp in cute workout clothes. Shimmy over to behind the fans that block the mirror. That's better.

Finally, at forty minutes, we completed the cardio segment of the class. We got out mats for the abs workout. I always look forward to the abs part, because I get to lie down. Then the crunches start, and I remember I sort of hate the abs portion. I'm pretty good at crunches... in moderation. But ten minutes of crunches and mid-way pulses and bicycling, and worse, planks and push-ups, make my flabby post-children squidgy tummy want to cry. I think there are some muscles in there somewhere, but I only know that because they hurt, not because I can see them or use them. At least during abs, if I lie flat for a second to take a break, no one really notices.

Then comes the payoff. The best feeling of the whole class is when the instructor tells us to lie flat on our backs and stretch. Ahh, the stretches. The cool down. My favorite part of any workout. I put more effort and energy into my stretches than I put into the first 50 minutes of exercise. I think, "Thank God it's over." We take our last deep breath in and out, and then, out of nowhere sane, I think, "Hey. That wasn't so bad."

It's almost like childbirth; you forget how bad it was right after it's over.

I put my mat away and walk out the door, feeling good, with plans to return again tomorrow for another "not so bad" workout class.

High School Musical


Last night, I took my two little girls to see Disney's Beauty & the Beast performed at my old high school. Though the Spring musical was held in the exact same fine arts building I used to perform in as a high schooler, the auditorium has been completely renovated since fifteen years ago into a genuinely exquisite theater.

My daughters and I, along with Devon and Liz, my two best buds from high school, and Devon's daughter, drove into the same parking lot I used to park in and walked the same footsteps I used to walk everyday into the building I spent my teenage life in.

The foyer is nothing like it was years ago, when the dingy carpets were brown and the three long steps crossing the foyer taking you up to the auditorium doors were perfect for sitting on to do homework or having gossip sessions, and the "box office" was just a folding table decorated with a plastic tablecloth. Now, there are real box office booths with glass windows for ticketing, and the building's structure is entirely different. Inside the auditorium, there is still the same incredibly large black stage with possibly the same red curtains, but the seats are now separated with aisles and rather than a couple of speakers and a light/sound board in the back row shut off with plywood walls, the sound booth is now a fully equipped media room in the balcony.

Despite looking so different, I was taken back years ago (when the budget was obviously not so generous), to the countless hours I spent practicing on that stage, watching performances in those seats, hall talks in those corridors and even a tornado warning lined up against those walls with books over our heads acting as very dubious protection should the roof by blown off.

My children, of course, did not have the same flood of memories. They ran around excited through the aisles to the seats we pointed them towards. Confusion and indecision broke out about who was sitting with whom, and we exchanged seats a dozen times before the kids were happy with their seating arrangements.

Mrs Tarvin - I'm allowed to call her Ashley now, even though it still seems a bit weird - said a few words before the play began. Ashley had been one of my Forensics coaches in high school, and hearing her speak, I still couldn't quite grasp the concept that she's not still my teacher.

The student pit band started up.

New memories rushed over me.

A few years ago, in Scotland, I asked my daughter's dance teacher about the local amateur dramatics groups, and how one gets involved. Scott and I had gone to the Arts Guild to see RENT, and I only discovered they were a local drama group when I heard the woman behind me say her co-worker was in the show. I realized then how much I missed acting and decided to find out more. Fiona's dance teacher, Linda, told me about a group that was soon holding auditions for Footloose, and I gathered up some (okay, a lot of) courage and auditioned. Little had I realized until that point just how much I had missed being on stage, and, well, that was me hooked. About a year later, the Greenock Light Opera Club (GLOC) did Beauty & the Beast. I had an absolute blast dancing around as a gold fork in some scenes, and singing savagely as an angry villager in others.


As the opening music filled the CHS theater, emitting from the same pit our fellow classmates used to play in, I was transported not only back in time but in space. I was in high school, I was in Scotland and I was right there with my wonderful daughters and friends, all at once.

The curtains opened and there on the stage was the Prince, being approached by the old peasant woman. (Considering I was half in Scotland at this point, I guess it might be understandable that my first thought was, "He's awfully young to be playing the beast." A second later I realized, um, that's because I'm watching a high school musical.) Moments later, the stage was fully lit with a lovely village set and villagers in fantastic costumes in a stage freeze. Belle appeared on stage. I had wondered previously what the standard of this show would be, seeing as they were all high schoolers, but as soon as Belle opened her mouth, I wondered no more. Her voice was beautiful, sweet but powerful. From the very start, I believed she was Belle and was immediately transported to 18th century France. My memories of high school and GLOC vanished. Aside from the instinct to sing where I had once been expected to sing, and in the first soprano parts, I forgot about myself and really enjoyed the show.

All of the characters were fantastic. Maurice, Belle's father was gentle and appropriately dopey-bizarre. Gaston was incredible - great voice and commanding presence. Lumiere and Cogsworth had the audience in stitches with their often off-script jokes. Mrs Potts was sweet and motherly and very endearing. The beast was frightening at first (my five-year-old jumped into my lap when he came on stage) but genuinely grew kind and lovable by the end. The enchanted objects' costumes were dazzling. The sets were effective and realistically Disney. The singing by all the main characters was beyond what I expected for a high school production, and many of them were worthy of far greater. The choreography, especially in the Tavern song, where they all sing about Gaston, was energetic and entertaining.

My girls loved it. Keeping them in their seats was a feat and keeping Isla quiet was impossible. Isla even cried at the end when the Beast was stabbed by Gaston. (Was that spoiler?) The girls said to me afterwards, "Thank you SO MUCH, Mummy, for taking us here!"

After the show, the kids raced around foyer getting photos with all the characters and autographs for their playbills. They were so excited, we could barely keep them all together!


We then took the kids backstage - calling them VIP - but backstage was nothing like it was in our day. We opened the side door and found ourselves not in the short hallway separating the choir room from the two dressing rooms, but in a long school corridor with classrooms everywhere. A student, still in her actor's makeup but now wearing a Beauty & the Beast t-shirt, pointed us in the right direction. Soon, we found ourselves in that very choir room I knew so well, which still opened up into the wings of the stage.

More memories. This is where pre-show excitement electrified the air, where we were shhhhhhed a million times, where girls did the boys' make-up (especially the boys we liked), where twenty-second costume changes were somehow managed in ten. Many arguments broke out in that room, and so did many make-out sessions. It's a magical room.

We entered the wings and walked onto the stage. Devon joked that she could feel our stage ghosts, but silly as it sounds, I kind of felt we could. I saw myself fifteen years younger standing behind that red curtain, with the hush of the audience, the pit band playing, all of us making silent, exaggerated faces to warm up, noiselessly shaking out our hands and arms to build up the energy, and waiting for that breathless moment when the curtains would be pulled and the full bright lights would blind us and we would turn into fiction.

As I watched our kids run around the stage, making lots of noise, and trying to climb all over the set (which we put an instant stop to), I wondered what passions they will discover as they grow and what experiences they will remember years later. I wondered where each will end up, and if they will have high school memories worth returning back for.

I may find it extremely difficult being back in my home town again after so many years away, but one thing I can say without reservation is that I have a lot of great memories of this place that have been worth revisiting.