Do You Know Where Your Instincts Are?

Okay, I imagine myself a fairly intelligent person. I can spell words over five letters, though I always wondered why 'vomiting' has only one 't' and, get this: bean, wean, Sean. English language, right? One of the toughest, and that's for natives too! While I can't figure out all the complexities of our language, there's something bigger I can't figure out: politics.
Politics is just a giant ball of who-are-we-pleasing-today-and-for-how-much-money. I can't stand it and I don't get it. The two coincide. I do, however, get morality. I feel I've got a good sense of right and wrong. Helping others to get clean water is good. Killing innocent human beings is wrong. Enter politics. Now how many people do we 'save' when we take over their land to 'help' them? And what exactly classifies as a human being? "Look! I'm being good!" said the snake while he brought food to the little child, also while he silently choked its mother. Something's not right with that picture.
If we have a funny feeling about something, like did-I-leave-the-oven-on type feeling, then we should probably listen to it and check things out. Worry is a self-preservation mechanism and, when in check of course, helps us to survive. Instinct is how we lived this long in history. Lack of it is perhaps why many other creatures are extinct (aside other outside forces.) But I digress...
I wonder sometimes if we've lost that instinct. We were mostly raised to be respectful from generation to generation. We were taught through the centuries that hard work usually paid off. We were shown lesson after of lesson that douche-bag leaders don't benefit the general population in the end. Speaking in human-kind terms, what happened to our sense of awareness, our sense of where-the-heck-is-this-leading? We've lost the desire for family and community values and replaced it with 'me' values. We've lost the hard-work-pays-off method and traded it for gimme-it-now-for-free. We buy into things I don't think our ancestors would have accepted and we flip the channel when we're sick of arguing, as though it will go away.
Our country went from a free nation of people looking out for themselves and their families and communities, to a nation where we're afraid to speak out and offend someone... a nation where we're not allowed to express our beliefs for fear of a lawsuit... a nation where defending the innocent means being labeled anti-women's rights... a nation where we may not be allowed to defend ourselves from physical danger and we can hardly defend our children from moral danger. I could go on, but it's late and I'm not feeling that eloquent tonight.
Yes, it's a rant but a short one (for me) and here's the question: do we still have those instincts? Are they intact? Is the red light going off? For many of my friends, it is, God love them. For the nation, I'm sorry but I feel like it's more this: "Hey, there's an annoying red light going off! Damn that red light! Let's complain about it! Arghh..." What we do about it is yet to be seen.

There's a Hole in the Bucket, Dear - SHINY!

I don't know which way is up sometimes.

{I swear I came to this webpage for a reason... Is that water on the bathroom floor. <Getting a towel...> Oh, forgot to turn the nightlight on. Should I shower now? No, I should finish email and check on... Ooh, haven't posted for the ministry today: doing that now. I forgot to email this person, so doing that... Wait, I need to check my calendar. Right! That's why I was on that page...}

Yeah, so uh, it's kinda like that. Yesterday I was singing along to KLove while uploading pictures from Creationfest and checking charts for work remotely. I tell people that my mind is like an octopus: if all the tentacles aren't busy, it'll start walking away. Somehow, I was never diagnosed with ADD as a child. (And I got by, but that's another story for another campfire, er, blog.)

Really, I need to stop thinking altogether sometimes. If I think about the calendar, I think about appointments and due dates. Then I think about how to rob Peter to pay Paul. Then I think about which medical things to hold off to avoid more money issues. Then I think about the fall and looming soccer schedules, Religious Ed and CYM curriculum, dry needs for volunteers and participants in some places, and the inability to stay on task in other areas. Then I have heart palpitations. (No, that's not a literal medical concern of mine - Thank God!)

Either I start carrying Ativan and a paper bag at all times, or else I really need to learn to let go and let God. I have two kids, a working husband and a full time job - these are blessings, not burdens! Cavities and muscle spasms are peanuts compared to real problems some people face. Still, the cross you bare sucks the most for you - because it's yours. Dear Jesus, give me strength, and fortitude, and wisdom, and knowledge, and a clue... I'm like a blind duck searching the desert for a lake, and I forgot I have wings.

I just bookmarked all the YM resource links I wanted to save and cleared out my inbox. That was a task! Yay, accomplishment! Now to get to that tack list I mentally created for myself to do this week while I'm on non-stage-crew-vacation. Oh look, it's Friday night of said week. Yup - it's like that. On the upside, which I must continuously remind myself, I started a new series of bedtime stories for my kids (Chronicles of Prydain) so Mama points! Lloyd Alexander to the rescue, but if only I had a real Hen Wen.

Is blogging on my tack list, no. But it's a release, a much needed release. Now I do need to send that email, and I do need to wrestle that list a little more before bed. Tomorrow, some of those things can be handled with children. It's a definite possible maybe. (zoning out...) Okay - back on ta- SHINY!

One-Step Parenting: Tough Love (and true Love!)

Those who know me (really well) know that I've come a long way in the parenting world. Let's face it, I'm a mean mama.
  • I say no, I ignore, I restrict, and demand chores, I let them cry and freak out, and I often demand that they stop crying and stop freaking out.
  • When they're too tired and want to be carried, I say, "Yeah, me too," and continue walking.
  • When they're whining that they're only hungry for ice cream, I tell them it will cause bad poops and nightmares to eat ice cream before grow-strong food and I don't want to hear them complain all night.
  • When they're whining that they're too tired, I offer for them to go to bed or take a nap.
  • When there's 'too many' toys to clean up, I say, "I bet they'd fit in a trash bag! Let's find out!" (Kudos to my BFF for actually sweeping them into a pile this week and causing a frantic clean-up session. Parenting tip: only start with toys you won't miss and that you know they can get over. Hide them, then days or weeks later decided whether or not to find them. Be prepared for loudness and treat this trick with care.)
  • I do not allow them to leave the table before being dismissed.
  • No one gets anything without asking politely and whining the word 'please' after being asked doesn't count.
  • Leaving the table forfeits dessert.
  • After leaving the table, they must leave the kitchen so as not to disturb those eating and having nice meal conversation.
  • No stuffed 'friends' or toys at the table, that includes the chairs.
  • No food or drink allowed at the computer, period.
  • Tub toys are tub toys; no other toys are; they are not exchangeable.
  • Treat books with respect, period.
  • When they whine and fight, unless it's physical or obviously unfair, I state once to, "work it out yourselves as best friends should," then ignore them. I will only intervene if it gets too intense. I make it clear that their 'job in life' is to make their sibling happy. (I treat it similar to a marriage where the greater good is done by putting the other person first.)
  • I make them put toys away where they belong or it's just not put away yet.
  • I say, "Yes if..." and stick to it; when they fail, they fail. (I try to help them succeed.)
  • If they want to achieve something new, I teach them and make them learn by doing, even if they want to give up. In those times, I say, "it's your choice, but if you want it, you need to keep trying. I can't do that for you."
  • I make them go potty by themselves when I know they're only whining for me for company. (I'll stand outside the door for their privacy.)

I sound awful don't I? This should help...
  • I throw them in bathing suits on hot days and let them paint outside, artist style on the old shed we don't care about.
  • I let them eat ice cream or dessert before supper... (yes, seriously) when they haven't had junk all day and I know they like supper and it's not for a while.
  • I typically don't say no to food requests unless right before a meal, and they never request anything unreasonable. (My kids snack on vegetables from carrots to zucchini!)
  • I let them, very occasionally, eat dinner on their kid trays during a movie.
  • I get stuff done and they actually eat well!
  • Books are ALWAYS allowed, sometimes after being tucked in as well. Then, they get one book each, may not share, must read 'in your head silently' and leave the book at the foot of your bed when finished. The only exception is when bedtime has come and gone due to childish 'delays.'
  • I'm not afraid to let them play with toy weapons at home, which they seldom do. (We've made it clear and understood no weapons, imaginary or otherwise, at any school/camp setting.)
  • I let them get pre-poured-and-capped juice from the fridge first thing in the morning and turn on the TV (left on Disney) or (without juice) turn on the computer with their login and play games. Yup, I'm mean and lazy.
  • My house is littered with their artwork which they put up pretty much anywhere.
  • They pick it: from library books to projects they want to make at home to racing RC cars or going on a nature hunt. (Kudos again to the BFF for the awesome solar systems hanging so well-balanced in our living room and their bedroom!)
  • I give music, dance, karate, riding (given by Trisha!), writing, reading, painting, science, math, geography, you-name-it lessons when requested. Yes, they request lots.
So here's what prompted this blog entry...

I was picking them up from our town's school-run day camp and the teacher couldn't stop telling me how wonderful they were. They were extremely polite, best behaved, completely independent, and very smart, and they weren't too upset when they missed the water slide (which was done in the AM session.) She didn't stop about it! I smiled and said, "I'm a mean mama. I say 'no' a lot and they're used to disappointment. I also make them do things for themselves." "Well," she smiled, "good job!"

The Biggest Challenge is Recognizing the Challenge

{Yes, I really do need to write more than once a month...}

I was heavy on the ADD today at work and couldn't focus, but once home it was put to good use. I had the kids in bed asleep, the kitchen cleaned, and the husband off to work before 9:15! Hey, that's pretty good for me! Plenty of time to write and chill, sotospeak in this heat.

I hope everyone else is finding a way to stay cool this summer. For me, staying cool is all about prayer. Dear Lord don't let the power go out again! Okay, not (just) that kind of prayer. We've been rather attacked with bills and financial crunches lately, more than ever for us. This always happens after we re-commit to some calling, some endeavor. We're currently focused on two right now: sponsoring another child and Catholic Youth Ministry. Our financial crunches are everything from utilities to medical bills to upcoming college payments (for the BFF, not the kids yet!)

Best way to not freak out, and believe me, the numbers would have me freaking out... Prayer. I get on my knees every night and lay it all on the line. Haggai 2:8, "All of the gold and the silver are mine, says the Lord." He also said, "Give to Cesar what is Cesar's." So wait, you mean the money is the Lord's or Cesar's?

The riches of the world, the nuts and bolts of what makes the world work, from produce to metal, is the Lord's. The fake printed stuff and all the bureaucracy to go with it, is the government's. Play the game and follow the rules in the country you're in, but know that the Lord can pull any strings He wants. Work like it depends on you; pray like it depends on God. That's been pretty drilled into my head by now, though it did take a while.

So we play the rob Peter to pay Paul thing once in a while. I have it in my heart that someday we'll be debt-free, but I'm not stressing over it right now. Right now I pray we stay afloat and make it by season at a time. When I feel myself slipping, ADD mind wandering into non-peaceful territory and losing patience, I stop and pray. I literally turn to Him in my mind and say, "Help! Talk to me and get my mind off this stuff! I know you'll take care where we can't but I can't see it for myself yet!"

I also have to realize that we were doing fine until we started focusing on more Godly callings. It's not like we've spent more money or starting sponsoring that second child yet. We've talked about it and mentally committed to the youth ministry with emails and plans to get this Teen Mass happening in the fall. Then, like a left hook, BAM! Crap happens. Cars make noises. Gas seems to run out quicker. Bills roll in faster. Needs happen fast and furious. Crunch! But when I realize that it's all a challenge, that it's a test of faith and a direct result of committing to His call, I wipe it away. Not the bills and RL things... I wish I could do that!

I wipe away the fears, the anxiety, the apprehension of starting new things and finding time for them. I turn to my Creator and ask for guidance. I was on a retreat in Fall River called Emmaus when I was college. Someone explained the word 'guidance' as meaning God+you+I=dance. He knows the way, the steps, the whole routine; let Him lead. I'm not afraid to move forward with these endeavors. I'm, well, sometimes nervous, but I'm not backing down. He's for me, so who can be against me? He's for all of us, and yet we fear. It's a big what-if, but what if we all united and stepped into the heart of fear and took the Love of Christ with us and brandished faith like no other and tore down the walls of doubt? Is the challenge too big? Not for One, and He's leading me. What have I to fear? (Sense a Casting Crowns song here?)

So off I go to do battle with a few dragons, thankfully not the fire-breathing kind, though you never know in this heat. We've already conquered a few little ones, but not until we acknowledged, out-loud, verbally, that this was a direct attack against our heavenly commitment, and prayed about it. God didn't set us up to watch us fail. There's a young girl who needs a sponsor and is too old to be chosen by most. There's a faith community whose teens need spiritual guidance outside the usual weekly Mass and Religious Ed classes. There's probably more, but my head can only take so much at a time. Maybe I could commit to writing a little more often.

Can You Write It Out?

A little grammar lesson:

Ya - Knock it off, will ya?
You - Thank you.
Ye - Hear ye, hear ye!
Yeah - Yeah, that's right.
Yay - I have a moment to blog? Yay!
Yea - Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death...
Yes - Yes, this is something I need to get off my chest.

We type out quick messages on Facebook, Twitter, or texts but do we take the time to think about what we're typing? When I was in school (here we go... yeah shut up,) we had to do our own grammar and spell check. Okay, I had some help, but we still did a fair load of handwritten stuff. Now everyone relies completely on spell check and grammar check. Now there's auto-correct, filled with a vague sense of humor no doubt. Does anyone know how to spell off the top of his or her head anymore, or how to form a proper sentence?

Less versus fewer = Can you count it? Fewer. Can you measure it? Less.

Holding up to these simple things? Don't worry; my brain doesn't get much more advanced these days. I do, however, have a fondness for semicolons. They tend to get shirked in modern writing, or so I've noticed. Also, did you know that punctuation belongs inside the parenthesis (even though it looks weird to me?)

Effect/affect = noun/verb
Spelling affects your grade. Properly spell and good grades may be the effect.

Don't even get me started on non-compound words like "alot." <shivers> Seriously? I dislike that a lot... A <space> LOT! Ahem... Sorry.

I'll leave widows and orphans and complicated rules like, "kill your darlings," "lose the articles," and "no 'be's allowed" out of it. Oh, the quote thing is like the parenthesis thing: punctuation goes inside.

A final note, one worth mentioning as it's still fluid in the ever-changing world of common grammar... Preventive and preventative are, in fact, interchangeable; however, the former is often an adjective while the latter is often a noun.

Yes, I'll correct papers for ya if you want. But mind ye, yea though I love writing I'm busy. So, I'll say, "Yay!" to the opportunity but later, "Yeah, I'll get to it."

Zoobean: The Future Catalog of Children's Books

A few months back I received an email from my brother in Texas stating something like, "Hey, you're a mom and you like children's books. Check out this cool idea my former boss is doing."

[Such was my initial introduction to Zoobean.] I followed the link to a survey which asked me about buying children's book, my thoughts on the quality of children's books, and how easy to find I felt good children's books were. I answered as best I could finishing with a 'yes' on whether or not I'd like to be contacted further. I was interested, not only because I valued my brother's opinion of 'cool' (a little sister's habit, true,) but because I liked the implication of a website that made finding particular children's subjects, down to the character demographics, easier. By the way this targets ages 2-8, and since my kids are 4 and 5, well, obviously...

I did what any interested mother/writer/person-with-free-time (wait-that's-not-me) would do. I applied to help build the database of books. Building? Books? Lots and lots of data? So up my alley. I started working with Felix and Jordan and many other wonderful curators as we poured through children's books cataloging and posting and helping to create a database of children's books the likes of which the web has never before seen. Truthfully, I was a little over-zealous at times and probably curated a little more quantity than quality at times. Thankfully, Jordan was checking for the utmost quality and has only allowed the best books to move onto the site. [Check out the Zoobean Blog for the story of how Felix and Jordan thought up this creative venture!]

Little vague still? For example, I pick a book... Let's use Emilie P. Bush's Steamduck Learns to Fly for instance. Yes the author and illustrator, William Kevin Petty, are listed. So is the Lexile measure (which indicates reading level and such,) character backgrounds, settings, subjects, language, format, and so much more. Emilie's book is cataloged with inventions, physics, rhymes, robots, transportation, how to, identity, and more. Every tidbit of information is considered in every book so that parents can search on all aspects and choose the book that's best for their child based on their needs. It really can't get more specific. [By the way, awesome book!]

I was completely sold on the concept and wanted to see it, well, fly. I guess I wouldn't be writing about Zoobean now if I wasn't convinced it's a great new way to find great books for your kids. And it's not just for the newest books out there. Classics like Ferdinand or Where the Wild Things Are are in there too. This isn't just for promoting new titles, but for sharing loved titles which we remember from our childhood. My BFF and I love seeing our kids light up as we turn the familiar pages of our youth.

While everyone worked towards making the database, Felix and Jordan worked towards plugging in every book to the site. As if that weren't enough, they created the Love Collection. This involves a group of books which have been particularly singled out as being especially great and a portion of the proceeds from these books will go towards a children's literacy charity. A different book is featured each month from a list chosen by the curators. Making something awesome and giving back? How cool is that?

Okay, Caroline, it's totally a sales pitch... There's another reason I'm extra excited about this, and wish it existed ages ago. An older friend of mine recalls a book from his childhood which he loved but the title escapes him. It was about children who went on a raft and got stuck down the river. The whole story is about getting unstuck. The last line of the book, when they're all in bed and their mother is tucking them in, is something like, "'Stuck,' said little Bill." I've searched high and low to help him find this book and it's nowhere! No catalog anywhere has the details needed to weed through countless books, in print or not, to find this book. Granted I have very little to go on. Zoobean is a new concept that solves this issue, if only there were a time machine.

Interested? If nothing else, it's a database of books and what's the loss in hunting through a database? We search Amazon and Barnes all the time, right? There's nowhere near as much detail there and those books haven't been as hand-picked by parents as the books on Zoobean. And besides, Zoobean... it's such a cute name, isn't it?

Well, thanks for reading through my story, and excitement. I really think Zoobean is on to something big. The database is constantly growing and with the countless hours, and love, put into the site, it can't be anything but great. Seriously, check it out and see for yourself, and for your kids. This was well worth my time and blog-space to get the word out.

A Tribute to Proper Healthcare

I've certainly had my fair share of hospital stays. True it could always be worse, but I'm really all set with spending my time in a hospital bed. I know I'm not the only person who feels that way. Who likes having to spend a day or more on a gurney or an in-patient bed, with an IV off your arm that may or may not have been placed properly, and with limited channels and pretty much nothing good on TV. Oh and chances are if you're there, you're hurting in some way.

All that said, it's pretty damn important to have whole process go smoothly to make the event as comfortable as possible. From the ER receptionist to the triage nurse, from the OR nurse to the anesthesiologist or the MD, from the in-patient nurse (post-op) to the aides. So kudos to the hospitals that can pull this off with medical and non-medical staff and practices and policies that work.

In this case, it was Lowell General Hospital. I have to say the ER was hopping for it being 1:30 in the morning. That considered (and there's fewer staff at that hour,) I was triaged fairly quickly then not much later sent to a room (in the ER.) Of course with kidney stone pain, it felt like days. Many more hours passed before there was a plan, but the nurses were on top of checking in, keeping me informed, and getting the process moving. The only downfall to that department was the nurse who put my IV in. Didn't ask, but I didn't intervene since I thought I'd get meds and go home after making a urology appointment. Nope, I should've stopped her. First of all, my veins are ginormous and my skin is transparent. So, kind nurse, grabbing my right arm and needing to fish around ("veins roll") for a vein that's visible and pinchable (practically) was a little unusual. Also, she placed it so near the bend that I couldn't move my arm without occlusion. Again, she was super sweet, just not a quick study in the IV world. So I dealt with that until about 10:00 in the morning. Maybe a little earlier. I can't remember, but there was a CT scan in there somewhere.

In the OR, waiting to talk to the on-call urologist who had yet to show up (as he was called in with me the emergency,) the nurses were constantly checking on me. I didn't even mind the multiple repetitive questions from each person involved in my care. I certainly didn't expect this place to be next, or at all, but docs didn't like the CT which showed a 5mm stone stuck at the bottom of my ureter. Guess I didn't like it either, nor my body as it led to infection. What I was most concerned about was making sure I wasn't getting a stent as my last experience with that did not go well. When I finally got to talk to my urologist, he was very patient and understanding, but also firm that I needed the stent. My other option was a kidney drain; no thanks. Lithotripsy was sadly out of the question due to the infection. He explained everything to me, he even understood my misgivings. Realizing I really had no choice, and that my doctor was really looking out for my health and made every effort to keep me informed, I had to concede. I also should've called the BFF right away, no cell signal in the OR, but I was taken so quickly and my head was spinning... I dropped that ball. So apologies to the nurses and doctor that had to deal with my fuming hubby. Props to the doc for talking him down nicely. I must've apologized enough to him later, I hope.

I went in, I woke up. I wake up quickly so I got a quick talk with the doc before he called Jess. When he finished (the desk he used was basically at the foot of my bed) I apologized again, both for being resistant at first and for angry hubby. He graciously said Jess was fine and no problem. I knew better, but that's okay. Every point of contact during my 39 hour 'visit' was easy going, helpful, and kind. Of course if you know me, you know I chatted it up with almost everyone. ER doc and I chatted about EMRs, talked with a nurse about her kids schooling, another nurse was the weather, yet another nurse was about his boards. One of the nurses even switched my occluding IV line to the top of my left forearm. I have awesome veins there, and despite that she looked about 18, she stuck it in 2 seconds flat. Perfect relief, and I could use both arms freely.

On the meds: while narcotics are most common for kidney stone patients, I don't do well with them. I requested Toradol, which is like a heavy ibuprofen that doesn't kill your stomach (when taken properly.) Happily, I got it. Check that out! Medical personnel who listen to patients who know their bodies? Refreshing! I'll spare you the details but I was fighting infection and once my bloodwork looked better and my fever was gone, I could go home. The best was getting a visit from my lit'uns and hubby. The in-laws also visiting, which was nice. And the best-best part was a late visit from the BFF where my cribbage comeback was stinky... hehe, yup, I skunked him. Irony was that all those hours spent together in the ER and we barely talked (okay I was hurting) and on the post-op floor we were limited on time since he needed to go to bed, at home. (By the way, lit'uns stayed with my rents.)

So I can't say to make a long story short; it's too late, but it could've been longer. But I can say that (initial IV aside) it was as comfortable as a kidney stone episode could be. Informative doctors and nurses. Quick request response. No resistance when looking to check on things or ask my doctor something. And speedy discharge.

Thank you to all who wished me well, and especially to those who prayed. I do have to deal with a stent but so far it's miles better than 11 years ago, plus the doctor isn't a prick this time. I hope I can make this the road to solving my kidney quarry. I'm really all set with getting further acquainted with the hospital staff, wonderful though they've been. Truly all it takes to make a shitty situation less shitty, is efficient and effective and courteous healthcare from all angles.