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"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." ~Aristotle

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Foto Friday: This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. -SouleMama

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fun Fact: In early episodes of Star Trek, Dr. McCoy's medical scanner was just an ordinary salt shaker.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Foto Friday: This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. -SouleMama

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fun Fact:  Orcas kill sharks by torpedoing into the shark's stomach from underneath, causing the shark to explode.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Husband is Confused

If you had asked my husband a week ago if his wife decorates for Halloween, he would have given a resounding, "NO."  In the ten years he's known me, I haven't so much as put up a ghost or carved a pumpkin.

But this year, whether it's because I have trolled a few blogs (Halloween mantels are FAB!) or because my son's birthday party is this weekend, I have gotten into the Halloween mood.  You're not gonna see tombstones or blood here, but I did snap up some festive cute-ness.

That's hubby's jack-o-lantern.  Lovely, isn't it?

I went Martha on the steps: (I was going to make these myself, but I weighed the $7 against drawing and cutting, and the $7 won)  (Please don't look at the CRAP on the stairs ...

I have added a few friends to the house:

these light up!

And my favorite thing so far:

be nice ... still learning my photo editor thing!

I have some more odds and ends, and I will put up some spider webs right before the party... 

Monday, October 18, 2010

I Love This: Frixion Pens

Remember these?

I remember making "mistakes" so I could erase them.

I also remember the futility of erasing (by pen OR pencil) from that crap yellow paper... and the blobs of errant ink, smearing all over page and hand and mysteriously proving to be the only stuff non-erasable.  Black eraser detritus becoming more and more amalgamated with paper pulp, thus creating an indelible slime.  Oh, and lose the cap? You are now the proud owner of a not-quite-black writing instrument that has lost its only purported virtue.

So when I saw the new Pilot Frixion pen, I withheld excitement.  A large dose of skepticism and distrust, coupled with a tinge of contempt and even disdain ("Erasable? Yeah, we've heard THAT before.  Fat chance!")  But at the risk of throwing good money after bad memories, I went ahead and dropped a dime.

 I'm so glad I did.

This pen, along with its more colorful brothers and sisters -- red, pink, purple, blue (and cousins: ERASABLE HIGHLIGHTERS! *swoon*) --  have become this commitment-phobic pen geek's quill of choice.

To quote Cuppa Jo, "[T]his pen has revolutionized my life! My planner now works the way I need it to!" (I think she color-codes it, by category or person).  Hyperbole?  Maybe.  Still, it's very exciting to have a product fulfill a definite need (no more carrying around white-out tape like the big nerd I am) and work as it promises.

The cool, "space-age" feature of the pen is that it doesn't use an eraser ... it just uses a nib of rubber? vinyl? which when rubbed across the ink and paper removes the ink.  Friction, baby.  No eraser shavings, no used-up eraser.  Ever.  THE ERASING THINGY OUTLASTS THE INK.  Brilliant.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

K Squared

Last year, as Spring sprung, the Manatee's teacher pulled me aside to chat.  The basic gist was "she's young, she's not quite as emotionally mature as her classmates and you might want to consider having her repeat kindergarten."

[*insert Mommy-Jaw dropping here*]

Let me back up to explain that AM is frequently mistaken to be around two years older than her actual age.  This is partly due to her relative size (as a just-six year old, she's sporting size 7 clothing and size 2.5W shoes) but also has a great deal to do with her verbal and literary prowess; she's been reading (and I don't mean "cat, hat, rat") since she was three, memorized the alphabet backwards on her own around that same time, and, well ... simply doesn't miss much anything.  I think it's safe to say, in all humility: I gots a bright kid.

Repeat Kindergarten?  I had a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions.  I think the first was, "What? MY kid? but she's so SMART!"  Followed shortly by, "Hmm... so what is it that she hasn't learned, socially, that puts her at such a disadvantage?  Was there something we I could have done?" [*insert Mommy Guilt here*]

Her teacher rattled off the opposition I'd get: "She'll be bored," "What about her friends," "But she's so smart," "Won't she be upset" and "What will the other kids say?"  She assured me that in her many years of experience, none of these proved to be an issue --especially in kindergarten.  (She didn't prep me for "They're just trying to improve their test scores," and "They just want more taxpayer money" (huh?!?), but I digress.)

I spoke with a few more of her teachers, who all echoed the same thing.  Right now, everything might be fine, and she may be getting by, but at 3rd or 4th grade, everything "hits the fan" and educators see emotional and social problems with children who were "sent early" (which, technically, she wasn't).

I even sat in on a day of school, to observe her classmates.  I don't know what I was looking for ... some great disparity between her behavior and theirs that would signal, unequivocally, that she needed to do this K thing again.  I had no light-bulb moment.

I prayed for clarity a sign.

My Significant Otter's response was: "They're the professionals.  I respect their opinion."

I started to poll the community for a consensus (hey, I wanted to make an informed decision, ok?).  Every parent who "held back" --in whatever form that took-- is grateful and confident of that decision.  Those who chose to "send them on," (and some did both) have doubts.  Not that their kid is perpetually screwed up, but they can identify struggles based on the age-maturity gap.

I thought about my own school experience.  I was old for my grade (November birthday), and I don't recall any particularly immature classmates ... I do remember, however: MEAN GIRLS.  I can't protect her from them, but I can give her an extra year, can't I?  Equipped?  As her teacher put it: "we want her to be a total package."

In hindsight, had I known this would be an issue (is it an issue??) I would have waited to send her sent her to preschool an extra year.  But I trust that God was orchestrating all of this - when we moved, when she started preschool, when we moved again, etc - and so I have to trust that even though I could have waited, I didn't, and He has/had a reason for that.

Do I question our decision?  Sometimes.  Like when I walk into Open House and see her former classmates scooting about as first graders.  What's so different about my kid? Why can't she hack it?  But then we get on with the weekly grind, and I get over it.

People ask me, tentatively: "How's that kindergarten thing working for Audrey this year?"   I smile and say, "She loves it."  Because the truth is, she enjoys everything about school --the teachers, the students, the learning, the making and doing.  I don't really know how it's "going" for her; only time will tell.  The decision has been made, we're moving on with life, and I have to trust that God's got my back on this one, too.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Samuel Johnson observed, “A man should read whatever his immediate inclination prompts him to; though, to be sure, if a man has a science to learn, he must regularly and resolutely advance.” He added, “What we read with inclination makes a much stronger impression. If we read without inclination, half the mind is employed in fixing the attention; so there is but one half to be employed on what we read.”

Friday, October 15, 2010

Foto Friday: This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. -SouleMama

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

I Love This: Bac-Out

We have our share of mammal-based icky messes in this house.

Granted, we are done with diapers and have one cat, who is pretty fastidious.  Still, as any homemaker knows, bodily functions still happen.

This is why my short list of  household cleaners (vinegar, baking soda, Dawn detergent) must include this stuff:

(*if you are eating, please come back later*)

My daughter's issues with withholding and diarrhea.  Adventures in potty training.  My cat's urinary tract infection.  My husband's stubborn refusal to take anti-nausea meds.  My sleep-induced drool puddles.  Shoes that have to be set outside to "breathe."   The perpetual ring of pee around the toilet pedestal.  The litterbox.

Bac-Out is enzyme based*; it neutralizes odors on contact.  It comes in different concentrations and forms (drain cleaner, laundry and dish detergent) but I have found the basic stuff to work for all things - I add it to laundry, use it straight on some of the above offenses, diluted for others.  Newly added scents do not impress me (I'm not a fan of lavender); I prefer the original slightly-citrus scent.

The entire line is available at  If you can find it elsewhere online, please leave me a comment.  If you happen to live near me, you can get it here.

*Ingredients: Enzyme Cultures (Natural), Lime Extract (Food Grade), Food Grade Stabilizers, Vegetable Based Surfactants, Spring Water (Filtered)

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Tribute to David M Bailey

Troubadour and Brain Cancer Hero David M Bailey passed away October 2.  I can't really do the man, his music, or its meaning justice here, so I will post this, followed by my own blog entry, just one year ago.  Godspeed, David.

David M. Bailey

          David Mark Bailey, 44, of Earlysville, died of brain cancer on October 2, 2010 in Charlottesville , VA and was welcomed into everlasting life at his place at the Table with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Born February 26, 1966, David was the son of Kenneth and Ethel Bailey, missionaries to the Middle East .  For the first 22 years of his life, his home was Beirut, Lebanon , including the first ten years of the Lebanese civil war.  Because of war, the family was obliged to evacuate first to Switzerland (1967), and later to Cyprus (1982).  David’s two final years of high school were completed in a private school in Germany because he was, as a young man, especially vulnerable on the streets of Beirut . 

David attended Grove City College in western Pennsylvania , where he met and married his soul mate, Leslie McGarvey, of Emlenton , PA.  During his college years he was active as a performing songwriter, playing evening and weekend gigs with a music partner.  He also enjoyed choir, frat life, acting, and organizing an underground newspaper.  David graduated with majors in English and Communication Arts.  In the late 80’s, David and Leslie relocated to the Washington , D.C. area where David worked for the U.S. government in satellite imagery analysis.  His career evolved to training and then program management with numerous software subcontractors, ending with employment with Eastman Software inMassachusetts .  Their daughter, Kelcey, was born in 1992 and son, Cameron, in 1994.

The day prior to moving to the Boston area, in July of 1996, David was diagnosed with brain cancer – Glioblastoma Multiforme IV (GBM).  He was expected to have fewer than two years to live.  Eager to have his life make a difference in the lives of others, he gave up his career in the software industry and, with a great leap of faith, launched a third career as a performing songwriter – a “troubadour of hope.”  Following two surgeries, radiation, experimental chemotherapy and nuclear therapy, David criss-crossed America (and Europe ) singing in coffee houses and churches, for cancer conferences and cancer survivor groups for 12 years.  David wrote all of his own songs, which grew out of his experiences of war and of battling a deadly cancer.  He sang of faith, hope, love and of living life to its fullest each day.  He experienced a recurrence of brain cancer in late 2008, recovering enough to tour in 2009 and early 2010.  Enduring numerous additional surgeries and difficult treatments, David made a final tour in July of this year.

David is survived by Leslie, his wife of 23 years; his children, Kelcey and Cameron; his parents, Kenneth and Ethel Bailey; a sister, Sara Makari and her husband, Victor; numerous sisters- and brothers-in-law and eight nieces and nephews.  To quote a line from one of David’s songs, “The tears of the angels form a river where you can wash your pain, and even in the middle of the thunder, don’t forget the love inside the rain.”  His theme was “There may be years of tears behind you, but right now you’ve got One More Day.”  He leaves behind him a musical legacy of 23 professionally-recorded CDs.  His music and his personal testimony have affected the lives of countless thousands in this country and around the world.

The family offers deep gratitude to Drs. Henry Friedman, Allan Friedman and David Reardon at Duke and Dr. David Schiff at UVa and their caring staffs.  We also offer loving thanks to our family of caregivers at the Hospice House, Hospice of the Piedmont, Charlottesville .  Memorial gifts are welcome and may be made to Blue Ridge Presbyterian Church, 6566 Spring Hill Road, Ruckersville, VA 22968.  Half of those gifts will be equally divided between the following brain tumor organizations:  The American Brain Tumor Association, the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke, Gray Matters Foundation, the Florida Brain Tumor Association and T.H.E. Brain Trust.

David was a charter member and Elder at Blue Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ruckersville , VA , where he co-chaired the Evangelism Committee.  Baptized into the Covenant, he was a lifelong Christian and we will have a Celebration of his life and of the Resurrection at a Memorial Service on Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 2:00 pm at Meadows Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, VA.   His daughter suggests an attire of tie-dye, if you like.  David would be wearing jeans and ask you to check out his website,

Sunday, 05 October 2008
I'm ready for David
What a beautiful, clear,  crisp, fall day.  What a blessed amazing time in life.
I'm finally ready for David Bailey.
"You've got to hear this guy," my dad told me, nearly two years ago.  This folk-ish singer, just a man and his guitar, very introspective, very good, and a brain cancer survivor - 10 years, Glio (that's grade 4, the big one, for those unversed). 
He sent me cds.  He went to see him live, at least a few times.  He attended the brain tumor support group with my mother in law (and still does) every other Wednesday night.
Me: not me.  No support groups for me - fear of hearing the bad news?  Not wanting to be brought down?  Not wanting to make others feel jealous at how well Ian's doing?  Not wanting to dwell?  Wanting to grieve and grapple with Christians who had their own issues but recognized the shared struggle of sin and pain... really that's mostly the reason. 
No listening to cancer guy music.  Why?  Fear... of becoming emotional.  Of having those deep nerves touched the way only music can.  To connecting the sound of a guitar to this deep pain and fear.   To hearing someone talk about THE DAY.  The day you find out, the day they cut it out, the day you realize it's worse than you thought, the day  you look at your children and weep for their future(s).  I don't want that pain poked, rustled, jostled, brought to the surface.  Why put myself through that?
So today I looked down at my cd basket where a random selection lay - mostly jazz cds I've acquired since moving in, but a few odds and ends.  And there, lying amonst the happy, zippy swing tunes was David M. Bailey's 2-disk set:  Hope: The Anthology.  For the first time, even seeing the cd didn't cause a pang.  I thought ... I can do this.  I can give it a try.  I can confront the demons and embrace some beauty - beauty rising from someone ELSE'S pain. 
And it is beautiful.  It's not incredible, amazing music.  But it is the poignant, genuine, musing of a man who has been down this road ...   Hope, REAL hope.  Positivity in so many forms.  And just reading the song titles will give you an idea of the focus here:
1. The Message of Hope
2.  Live Forever
3.  Brand New Day
4.  Love the Time
5.  On a Day Like Today
6.  Time in my Mind
7.  I'm Thankful
8.  Life
9.  Give Me Your Today
10.  All Day Today
11.  Most to Give
12.  There's a Light
13.  Not Yet
14.   Keep On Walking
15.  Everything Will Be Alright
16.  If I Had Another
17.  So It Goes
~And that's just disk one.  100% positive message, no matter the topic.  Thanks, David.  Thanks, Dad.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What Are Your Kids "INTO"?? How can you tell?

My baby is four.



His new obsession: flashlights.  He received at least five for his birthday, and he loves every one of them.  They range from practical (solar charged!), to cute (pig! dog!) to ultra-convenient------> 

So it has this plan-ahead-and-buy-Christmas-gifts-in-July-at-garage-sales Mom pondering ... what are my kinds "into" this year?

For the last two years, I would have told you that Manatee was into Polly Pockets.  Only, that wouldn't be true.  It was MOMMY who bought them, bought more of them, bought them new clothes, always wanted them as a kid ... and then grew up to vacuum up their shoes.  My daughter, however, is basically disinterested.  A month ago I confiscated Polly and friends in response to the state of her room, but save the initial freak-out, she hasn't mentioned them since.  She's not "into" dolls, really -- doesn't carry them around or change their clothes.  It intrigues me: all of her creatures and little people are mute.  When I was six my dolls were getting married, going on adventures, and holding city council meetings where they all had a vote.  Hers lie about, "lifeless."

She's into books.  Truly, I could probably remove all else and she would be content.  It's hard to send out gift suggestions to family, though; which Magic Tree House book HASN'T she read? I have no idea.  Never thought to keep a "have read" log.  Then again, it's probably best we don't OWN all the books on the planet.

So my always-try-to-be-prepared brain was sent into a tizzy when I realized I had just distributed birthday party invitations to Monkey's classmates.... and it's likely that dutiful mommies will call soon, asking the dreaded "What is he into" question.  

"Uh, we could really use ... batteries.  Yep, batteries, carabiners and sticks.  Heck, dig through your junk drawer, you should be all set."

Some boys his age, I'm told, are into Star Wars or trains.  He wouldn't know a light saber if it zzhhhhhh'd his arm off, and he mostly ignores his train table.  He'll "play cars," but that mostly involves the cars embroiled in some sort of conversation: 

"Hey, big truck? Do you want to go see Sally? She's the YELLOW car.  Can you get there? Do you need a LADDER (grabs stick)?  We can go to her HOUSE and see what she has to EAT. [insert boy-making-motor-sounds noise here]"

We can always find something fun at the local toy store ... but how kosher is it to ask for gift cards?

How about you?  What are your kids into?
Fun Fact: The one-ounce brown bat, which is most common in North America, is capable of eating five hundred insects an HOUR during its nighttime feeding.  (moral: be kind to bats!)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

WTH Wednesday: Train Derailment

I call it my Daily Cadence.  The way my day goes.  Mostly it has to do with my internal life; the thoughts spinning about my cranium, arranging themselves any-which-way till I beat them into submission or brain-dump them onto paper.

Sometimes, it's also physical.  The pace of life.  The way we roll.  First we make the bed, then we get dressed...

When I say "we," I don't really mean My Hero.  I mean Mommy, Monkey and Manatee.  How we function day-to-day.  How we manage to get out of the house in the morning, how I manage to get dinner on the table most days and laundry done before it stinks (gah!).

The thing is, I talk to myself a lot.  Now that I live with people, my monologue has gone inward.  Which means I am the silent narrator.  I'm commenting on life in general, mixed in with planning next steps for the day, week, year.  What's for dinner? Did I say the right thing to Kelly today? Are these pants really worth trying to repair? ... all jumbled in there.

But then... horror of horrors: the constant, or at least predictable rhythm of interruption - the children.

Look, I don't expect my life to be silent and orderly.  I have kids.  I get that.  I also don't expect to complete all tasks without interruption with anyone else at home with me (including My Hero). What frustrates the POO outta me, though, is when I go an entire day without 1. finishing a task, or much worse 2. finishing a complete thought.  I call this "Train (of thought) Derailed" and it makes Mommy VERY, VERY cranky.

Example:  I have a "No Talking To Mommy When She's In The Basement" rule. Why? Because I have counted ... and I get anywhere from 2 to 4 minutes from hitting that last step until someone is at the top of the stairs.  Calling out Moooooooooommmy?  Mom?  Followed by a request (food), a tattle (he's climbing on the furniture) or a random question (where did we get the sandbox?).  ALL I WANT TO DO IS PUT THE DRY CLOTHES IN A BASKET AND THE WET CLOTHES INTO THE DRYER, PUSH ALL THE BUTTONS AND GO UPSTAIRS.  Why, oh why, can I not do this?

It's like the Phone Phenomenon, which I think was more an issue for OUR moms; as soon as Mommy is on the phone, the kids go nuts.  Why? Attention.  They either want the attention or they feel they can get away with things because Mommy is distracted.  Now in the age of emails and cell phones, I think part of that phone traffic has been reduced.  But the issue remains - for me it's "Look, Mommy's attempting to be productive.  How can I reassert my very being into that equation?"

Yes, my children are more important than the housework!!  But that doesn't mean I relish the derailment.  There are small windows in the day wherein the children are playing quietly, or alone, or at least not fighting, and I sit, motionless and hostage, afraid to rise.  Like right now.  I have a load of laundry in the washer as I type.  Kiddos are playing (together! a miracle!) with Connectagons in the parlor.  If I were to cross their lines of sight, I GUARANTEE I would get that same 2-4 minutes before SOMETHING would go TERRIBLY wrong ("MOMMMMMM!   He took all the RED ones!!!  He won't let me have ANY!").

So why am I writing this? What do you care?  Well, I guess it's nice just to put into writing.  Why some days I am completely frustrated and defeated and confused and irritated.  It's because I can't (yes, you can have that) get a complete (I think it's in the top drawer) thought out.  (NO, YOU DO NOT NEED TO WEAR A COAT TODAY, IT'S 90 DEGREES!!!!)

Am I alone here?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Foto Friday: This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. -SouleMama

"Chloe will see me and she'll say I look fabulous" -Z