Friday, August 29, 2008

Catch Me If You Can

Tall. Handsome. Muscular. 30-something. Mesmerizing green eyes. Celebrity smile. *sigh* A definite catch. Alas, he’s not interested in me at this moment. No. His mind is on her instead. Blonde. Gorgeous. Big blue eyes. Incredible smile. Infectious laugh. A personality so magnetic, you can’t help but like her.

I watch him chase her. She’s definitely toying with him. She wants to be caught, but pretends to be surprised that he won’t leave her alone. She’s so lucky. I want nothing more than to be in her shoes right now. However, I can’t help but laugh and enjoy the cat and mouse game that ensues before my eyes. It’s endearing, really.

Eventually, he’ll tire out and give up. She’ll keep flirting, asking for trouble, before she comes to the conclusion that her pursuer has lost interest. Then what? Will I have my chance to gaze into his soulful eyes and find that my place in his heart hasn’t faltered?

I comfortably share the object of my affection with her (the blonde). Even though she has it all over me, I don’t mind a bit. I watch her turn her head and laugh as she watches him close in on her. He’s almost got her. Her eyes are smiling as big as her toothy grin. Her curly, baby fine hair bounces around her dimples as she swings her head back to keep him in her sight. Her bubbly giggles echo in the soft, still, summer air at dusk. The sun sets on the two of them running through the yard, ending the day on a happy note. It is true bliss. A precious blessing. A motion picture for the memory to cherish, always.

As my husband scoops up and showers my daughter with kisses, I begin thanking God for leading me to this wonderful man that I was meant to share the rest of my life with. Panoramic views such as this are what make my heart beat faster for him. Watching him care for, hold, and love our children only makes him more special to me. It is only right that I treasure every fiber of his being. He is my best friend, my heart and soul, my endless love, my everything.

Fun At Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart: the quintessential department store for your everyday needs. From the biggest must-have items down to the infinitesimal, last-season flops – Wal-Mart’s got you covered. Clothes, food, paper products, pet supplies, goldfish, silverware, dishware, paint, electronics, sporting goods, toys, gardening supplies, tools, movies, tunes, shoes, personal care items - it’s all there. (Unless you’re shopping at our local Wal-Mart store, then it’s never there.)

How does one get to such a fantastic place such as this? Well, my friends, you needn’t worry. Look north, south, east, west; northeast, northwest, southeast, southwest - there is a Wal-Mart no more than 20 minutes away in any direction you may choose. You could combine any two or three of those directions and you will still find a Wal-Mart within that 20-minute range. I have seen towns with a population of 900 built around a Wal-Mart. Bizarre – everyone works at Wal-Mart, then turns around and spends a majority of their paycheck there. Talk about being in dire need of an economic stimulus.

I don’t know about your Wal-Mart, but ours is a tad bit…unique, if you will. One might call it exceptional, but not mean that it’s exceptionally great; rather a little on the…uh… special side…if you know what I mean. Honestly, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. I have to give credit where credit is due – the employees are the ones who really “make the store.” For example:

My husband, Charlie, and I went to Wal-Mart one fine, cheery afternoon. We were in the market to buy some dog food and perhaps a few gadgets for around the house. I don’t remember exactly what was on the list that day except for the dog food. It sticks out in my mind, and you’ll soon understand why. When we finished our little shopping excursion, we proceeded to the checkout lanes. We were a bit tickled because, that day, almost all of the registers were open, so there were no outrageous lines that wrapped around the women’s department and over toward the toy section. We quickly located a particularly short line and skipped merrily, hand-in-hand (because that’s what you do at Wal-Mart) over to it. Charlie and I unloaded our items in the cart onto the little conveyor belt, all except for the dog food. See, dog food packages come with these handy little UPC labels or stickers on the top corner of the bag so that all the cashier has to do is reach over with a handy-dandy little scanner gun and *beep* - you’re good to go! Our cashier was apparently a little new at the whole scanner gun code of behavior because she pulled it out of its little holster and checked to make sure it was working. She did this by pointing the laser beam at her eyes (which were dancing in two different directions behind a pair of very large, very thick, very out-of-date tortoise shell glasses) and…
squeezed…the trigger. A bright red beam escaped from the scanner gun and began to melt the frames on her glasses as it cut through the lenses. The cashier stared with unblinking eyes directly into the big red light, seemingly unresponsive. Finally, after what seemed like we’d let the whole tragedy unfold in front of us for way too long and should probably stop her, she let go of the trigger. She then turned and looked beyond us with crossed eyes, snorted, and said, “Well, it seems to be working.”

Thank goodness, because I really didn’t want to lift that 50-pound bag up out of the cart and put it on the conveyor belt.

One thing I do have to say is that Wal-Mart always has the coolest toys, gadgets, and latest trends come Christmas time, doesn’t it? And the prices – to die for! Literally. No, I’m not kidding. You don’t want to be at a Wal-Mart on Black Friday, one of the two biggest shopping days of the year. As far as I’m concerned, that is the most appropriate name for that day. You can’t get more specific than that. Black Friday. The only other acceptable name for that day would be Hell On Earth. You could not coax me out of bed and into my Forester with a case of chocolate waiting for me in the passenger seat, a toasty hot cappuccino in my cup holder, the heater on, my favorite tunes playing, a chauffer, all the money I could possibly spend in a day, and my own personal shopper to go down to Wal-Mart (or anywhere else for that matter) to go shopping for Christmas presents on Black friggin’ Friday! The people that do it are nuts! I call them The Crazies.

And those people are crazy! Mostly women, and every single one of them a few eggs short of a dozen. Once in awhile, they’ll talk a man into going with them. “Oh, honey, it’ll be fun! Mary and Donna and I have it all planned out. We’ll take this route through the store - Mary is going to get the Nintendos and the Wii games; I’m going to grab the Elmos and the Bratz dolls; Donna will tackle the Pokemons, Digimons, and whatever other ‘mons she can find. All you have to do is get the iPods and the iTunes and then come find us with the cart so we don’t have to carry all that stuff around the store and fend off the shoppers who didn’t get there early enough.”

Whew! That’s a lot of planning just to grab a few hip items for the kids this year, isn’t it? Fellas, you may be asking yourself, “Why? What is behind this strategy? The shelves are always chock full of these things any other time. If we get there early enough, it’s not like they’ll run out or anything.” No! This is not a strategy - this is a science, ok? This is a marketing frenzy that only happens once a year, full of subliminal messages that entice those with the shopping gene to think to themselves, “I have to have that…for the children. How can I pass up that price? That’s incredible! I’m going to get that thing for twenty five dollars off the regular retail price and save!”

Herein is where the catch lies. You want the latest, hippest digital camera – regularly $199.99 throughout the year. The digi-cam people are going to let Wal-Mart sell it to you for $89.99! Wow – that’s a steal, isn’t it? But, oh – you forgot! Cameras need batteries (rechargeables are best), and what do you know? The battery people have raised their prices a tad bit for the holiday. But you don’t see that, because you are blinded by the great deal you just got on that little digital wonder, am I right? And what about the accessories? The memory card, the battery charger, the compatible printer…now that you’ve been hoodwinked into buying the digital camera, you have to buy all the stuff that makes it work, but is “conveniently” not included with the purchase of the camera itself. Otherwise, that’s a stupid Christmas present that you just bought your teenage daughter. If you just buy her the camera, that’s kind of like putting your underwear on over your pants – it just doesn’t make much sense, and boy, do you look like an idiot.

One year, my father-in-law got talked into going on one of these scavenger hunts. Poor guy didn’t know what hit him. One minute he was warming up the car for The Crazies (sorry, gals!) – just being a genuinely nice guy; next minute, he found himself waiting in line amidst a crowd of full-blown maniacs outside of Wal-Mart. He said hell never forget that day. People were glued to their watches, which were synchronized with the store clocks. There was a group of women, whispering amongst each other, staring down some of the other shoppers, and wielding brass knuckles and spiked balls on chains. Another group was shaking uncontrollably and their teeth were chattering; not because they were freezing in the cold, early morning November air, but because they were hopped up on enough caffeine and nicotine necessary to sustain acute lack of sleep. Some people were hurriedly marking the store’s newspaper ad and doing some last minute scheming for their run through the toy section. (Slackers!) And there stood Dad, a rose in a sea of thorns, oblivious to the horror that was about to unfold in front of his eyes in three…two…one…

The doors flew open and the cashiers fled to their registers. The Wal-Mart greeter was suspended from the ceiling joists, so as not to get trampled by the 4 a.m. shoppers. He was armed with a bullhorn so that everyone could hear his cheerful (fearful?) greeting as they stampeded in. The store manager stood on top of the courtesy desk, shoveling carts out of the turnstile with a hook-tipped stick for people to grab as they raced through the entryway. It was sheer mayhem as shoppers threw elbows and upper cuts, clobbered each other with handbags and cell phones, and crippled one another with shopping cart-to-ankle collisions. “I swear, you’ve never been witness to such heated competition,” recanted my father-in-law.

As the waves of people continually crashed into the small opening at the front doors, Dad found himself being carried, not forward, but backward by the tumultuous tide. He could see Betty (my mother-in-law) and her daughter, only identifiable by the tops of their heads, far enough in front of him that there was no want or will to catch up with them at that point. He slowly made his way through the front doors and toward the empty turnstile next to the courtesy desk where the store manager (now beaten, bruised, and passed out) had once stood. Dad saw his opportunity. He dropped to his knees through a slight opening in the mad dash of feet, grasped the floor with his hands (if you can imagine grasping a flat surface), and crawled out to freedom through the cart return. It was his only hope, and the reason why he is still alive and with us today to tell such a remarkable, heart-warming survival story.

“An experience unlike any other,” Dad set his jaw, his lips frowning ever so slightly. “I don’t recommend it; not at all.”

We couldn’t agree with him more!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I HATE SPIDERS!!!!

It was a beautiful spring afternoon when my sister called, regarding a question about her new puppy’s pedigree. She is the proud new puppy parent of a (then) 10-week old Doberman (Don Vito, or as I like to call him, “The Don”), and was interested in finding out if there were champion bloodlines in his family.

I know that both of my dogs have champions in their lineage, and I was pretty certain their pedigrees would display that. I searched through all the names of my German Shepherd’s family, from his parents to his great-great-grandparents. There were a few numbers and abbreviations here and there, but nothing that said “Ch.”, which would indicate a champion dog.

I was pretty sure my Gordon Setter’s pedigree would offer more insight. “It’s in the gun room, so I’ll have to be quiet,” I whispered over the phone to my sister. Our gun room is across the hall from my daughter’s room, and Gabriella was taking a much needed nap at that particular time. I turned the safety knob on the gun room door and walked in. Immediately, something caught my eye…

Ewww!!” I gasped. “There’s a big nasty black spider on the ceiling!” (No matter what, everytime I enter a room, I always look up...just in case!)

“Gross,” whined LeAnne. She and I share the same cosmic fear of the nasty little eight-legged beasts. “Just don’t look at it.”

“I can’t help it,” I hissed. Brodie’s pedigree was sitting on top of an old entertainment center that Charlie converted into a bookcase and game-call display. I quickly reached for the certificate and scanned it over, all the while keeping my eye on the little unwelcome visitor. “LeAnne,” I said gravely through clenched teeth. “I think it’s following me.” Indeed, the little monster was making a beeline from the center of the ceiling toward me. It was like it was asking for trouble. Did this thing really want to mess with me? Most likely, it knew I was terrified of it and would at least get a laugh or two out of seeing me run out of the room, flailing my arms about like a sissy.

“Oh, yeah – they will chase you! People say they don’t, but they do!” I could hear LeAnne’s heart racing for me. I stood in a frozen panic, my eyes darting around the room for a weapon. For a brief second I thought, I could always shoot it off the ceiling…

“What do I do?” I whimpered.

“Spray it with something!” Now LeAnne was the brave one. I followed her orders and thankfully found a can of furniture polish sitting on a footstool nearby. I bent down and scooped it up, ignoring the fleeting thought of the spray nozzle not working correctly. Holding the can at a shaky forty-five degree angle, I sprayed the polish toward the unsuspecting little menace. The mist fell short of the ceiling by about a foot.

“Oh no! It doesn’t work,” I cried as the spider changed directions once again, speeding towards me.

“Keep trying! Throw something at it! Smack it with your shoe!” LeAnne gave a plethora of advice on how to take the maniacal little thing down, but in the end, my only weapon of choice was the furniture polish.

“What am I going to do?” I felt close to tears at that point. “I can’t reach it, and I can’t just leave it in here! It’ll find someplace to hide and I won't know where it is!”

“Give it another try,” LeAnne cheered me on. So I did. And this time, I jumped while I pressed the nozzle down. That gave the spray enough oomph to reach the spider, and it immediately lost its grip on the ceiling. Of course, I screamed.

EWWWWWHHHHOOHOOHOO!!!! OH MY GOD!!!!

SSSSHHHHH!” LeAnne tried to silence me. “The kids are sleeping!” I was in no mood to care initially, but then the thought of Gabriella and Aiden being woken up by my screams after only being asleep for a half an hour began to sink in. That would not be a good thing.

Fortunately, the spider clung on to its silky butt-strand that was so dexterously attached to the ceiling, and carefully began to lower its nasty ass to the floor. Meanwhile, it threw in a couple of pysch-outs as it swung from its….uh….rope, like Tarzan, and made feeble attempts at trying to bite me. Brodie now joined me and watched the little acrobat lower its way down towards the floor.

Get it, Brodie,” I commanded. “Kill it! GET IT!” Brodie wasn’t having it. Instead he sniffed at it and then sighed, which gave off just enough wind to propel the spider to the floor. I quickly annihilated the beast; with what, I don’t remember. Something big and heavy, I’m presuming. And I think something in the form of a few swear words poured out of my mouth, rather unexpectedly. I’m not sure. It’s all so cloudy to me now…

LeAnne gave me an ostentatious “hoo-rah” as I announced my victory. I was proud of myself for claiming my stake and taking the bad guy out. It’s not everyday a girl over-comes her fears and shows people what she’s made of. And I hope that spider saw my unwavering fortitude with all ten….or twenty…of his beady little eyes!

Couldn't Say It Any Better

Charlie and I receive a daily devotional booklet in the mail from RBC Ministries every month called 'The Daily Bread.' Every night before dinner, we take turns reading that day's scripture. It is our alternative way of praying before we eat. Tuesday, June 10th, was a very heartfelt passage, and I'd like to share it with all of you.

"Loving Our Grown-Up Children"

"Now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." -1 Corinthians 13:13

When children reach adulthood, most parents have an opinion about how their offspring have "turned out." Some are proud of everything their kids have done, while other parents express misgivings or disappointment about the choices their children have made. How can we continue a positive parenting role after the birds have left our nest?

In 1 Corinthians 13, often called "the love chapter" of the Bible, Paul writes that the greatest gifts of speaking, understanding, and sacrificial service are worthless without love (vv.1-3). Love itself is a foundation of winsome behavior, and its influence never ends. "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; loves does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seeks its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all thing. Love never fails" (vv.4-8).

When our children no longer seek our advice, they still value our love. In every stage of parenting, it's not only what we say but what we do that counts.

- David McCasland

Friday, May 16, 2008

Temper, temper!

Some time ago (I believe it was around the 13 month-old mark), Charlie and I got a glimpse into the days of the Terrible Twos. Gabriella became a bit rebellious and very adept at demonstrating her frustrations through screaming, crying, whining, and throwing herself on the floor. It seems that once she was able to walk on her own, her sense of independence flourished. If things didn’t always go her way, and you caught her on a bad day, look out!! Temper tantrums were inevitable.

Last month, one of those days fell blindly upon us. Everything was going just fine; Gabriella and Aiden and I had spent the morning running errands, singing songs in the car, and even spending a few moments outside in the fresh, spring air. It was getting close to Aiden’s lunchtime, and I announced that it was time to go inside. That’s when all H-E-double hockey sticks broke loose.

First, Gabriella started screaming and running away from me. Not an easy task, running after and trying to catch a toddler while holding a 5 month old, 17 pound baby in your arms. I did manage to fetch her by the arm before she ran into the landmine field (skillfully laid out by our dogs, Brodie and Tank). We somehow made it into the house, amidst kicking, feet dragging, pretending to fall, and desperately clinging to the front porch banister.

Next came the Nonsense Game, as I like to call it. (That’s when Gabriella points to an object, while saying the name of it through whiney pleads [“Glasses! Glasses! WAAHH – glasses!”]. I have her say please and then I give her the object. She reaches out for it, then draws her hands back and cries out, “No! No! No! No!” I put the object down, and she asks for it again, this time a bit more fervently and with more pomp and circumstance. The scenario is repeated many times.)

The game continued on, with a different object every so often, until I had enough and began to ignore her. That made her really crabby. Pretty soon the Nonsense Game turned into the Oh No You Didn’t Game (her screaming at the top of her lungs and me saying, “Oh, no you didn’t!”). That’s when I picked her up, marched her into her room, and placed her in her crib. I told her I’d had enough and didn’t want to listen to her anymore. By that time, 45 minutes worth of temper tantrum had gone on, and it was only escalating.

I called Charlie in desperation. He offered to come home and I seriously considered it. However, since it wasn’t an emergency, I elected to call the doctor’s office instead and see if this spat was a cause for concern. It just didn’t seem quite normal to me – I often give up on my temper tantrums after a good half hour at the very most.

The automated secretary told me to press option two in order to speak with the nurse at the pediatric office. I was delighted to hear a friendly voice after the torture I had been through. I told her my name and explained my situation as calmly as I could; that I had a 19-month old daughter who had been throwing a horror-film type screaming fit for over an hour, that she wouldn’t calm down, and I just wasn’t sure what more I could do for her. “I can bring the phone in her room if you’d like to hear her,” I offered with all the generosity in my heart.

“No, no…that won’t be necessary. I only have a five month old at home, so I’m not quite sure what you’re going through-“

“Oh, just you wait!” I promised her.

She forced a chuckle, and I could hear her swallow hard. “Ok, I’m going to put you on hold and ask the other nurse what you should do. Just a minute.”

As I waited, I checked in on Aiden (who had gone down for his nap shortly before I brought Gabriella to her room), and then headed outside to breathe in some fresh air. I observed the looks on people’s faces as they drove by our house and hit the sonic boom that was emanating from Gabriella’s window. What a set of lungs that kid has! Finally, I heard the phone click, followed by the confident, matter-of-fact voice of the nurse.

“Ok, Mrs. Williams? This is what you need to do. First of all, make sure your daughter is in a safe place where she can’t hurt herself or others during her tantrum.”

“Ok,” I responded a little uncertainly. “She’s in her crib.”

“Great, that’s a good start,” the nurse said. “Now, take her to a chair. Tell her that is the time-out chair, and that she has to sit in it and calm down. Tell her that once she has calmed down, then you will talk to her. Then you need to explain to her why her actions are unacceptable.

It struck me then how blatantly na├»ve this woman was. “What?! Ma’am, my daughter is 19 months old. She is not going to understand that at all.”

“Well,” she went on in her sing-song voice, “the other nurse has a two and a half year old son, and she said that’s what works for him. Just give it a try, and if you need help, don’t hesitate to call us back.”

Yeah, because you’re a tremendous source of wisdom and assistance thus far.

“Alright…I’ll try,” I promised. And with that, I hung up the phone, walked down the hall to my daughter’s room, took a deep breath, and opened her bedroom door. There she was, her tear-streaked face as red as a bing cherry, screaming her lungs out. She stood up with her arms out and I picked her up, set her on the floor, and walked her over to her rocking chair.

“Gabriella, this is the time-out chair,” I pointed idiotically to the rocker that once belonged to me. I wonder how many time-outs I had to sit in this chair? Did I even understand what a time-out was? “I want you to sit here and think about what you did. When you...uh...calm down, then I’ll talk to you.”

I was met with a torrent of blood curdling screams that only a temper tantrum can fashion. I quickly exited her room and turned to shut the door, only to see Gabriella running at me with the most pitiful look on her face. It was a look of anger, frustration, confusion, and distress. How could I let that little girl continue on like that? Honestly, I couldn’t stand the shrieking and bawling, but it broke my heart to let her carry on so. Then all of a sudden, it got quiet. What the…?

I cracked open the door and peeked in at Gabriella. She stood there with her binky in her mouth, cradling her blanket, and rubbing her eyes. My heart finished breaking into a million pieces as I sauntered in and scooped up my little peanut. She rested her head on my shoulder and wrapped her arm around my neck. She stroked my hair and let out a shaky sigh. I held her tight and desperately fought the lump in my throat.

“Time-out chair,” I muttered to myself. No, I think the blanket and binky and the hugs work just fine.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cute comments

I got a kick and a boost of confidence out of the following comments that my sister, LeAnne, and Mom left on my last blog post (Cease, fire, cease!!):

cookie725 said...
The best part about this story, is as it was happening, she calls me... When I got on the phone, Jen is in one of those giggle fits that are SO cute and contagous -- but manages to get out "So, I think the fire department is on the way to my house!" *more giggles* Life IS always interesting, and I have great little stories like this to not only make me laugh, but make my day as well. Jen, I love the hell outta you!!
April 24, 2008 12:22 PM


mar5128 said...
I can just see you running through the house, over Aiden, looking out the windows, checking everything out, yet basically tiptoe-ing because the Gabbers is dozing. Then, after reading LeAnne's comment, I can just hear the giggles!!!!! You always did have the best laugh. So.....when are you going to take my suggestion & WRITE A BOOK????!!!!???? I love you, Jen
April 25, 2008 5:20 AM


cookie725 said...
Ah Jen, you really do have the best laugh -- it's like therapy!!! :)
April 25, 2008 5:42 AM



Thank you, ladies! That was really very sweet and made me feel really good.

Write a book? Hmmm....

My mom has been after me since I can remember to write a book. Problem is, I've started a few, gotten partially through the first quarter of it, then lost interest and tossed it aside. What would I even write about? What do I know well enough to put pen to paper and be confident enough that people would buy my book and read it? I like to write about things I know, because it is much easier to, in fact, write and get my point across clearly.

So when am I going to take the advice/suggestion? Already have. Baby steps, though...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cease, fire, cease!!

It's that time of year again. Everyone is burning trash and having bonfires in their yards...and their neighbors, upon seeing the plume of smoke, are calling the fire department or 911 in a panic, thinking someone's house is on fire. I think I've heard Bear Lake's siren go off at least four times this week (we only live about a mile and a half away from the hall). Not sure how many of the calls were false alarms - I'd say at least half.

Tonight, our friend Jim and his sons, Jimmy & Mike, are coming over. I decided that since they can't make it for dinner, I'd whip up some cookies for them instead. I turn on the oven to 350 and let it preheat. Now granted, we have a Caloric oven; however, it was here when we moved in 3-1/2 years ago and I couldn't tell you how long it was here before that. It is a bear to clean, and it always seems to cook off leftover drippings everytime we turn it on. Such was the case today.

Here I am, mixing away my oatmeal chocolate chip cookie batter when all of a sudden, our smoke alarm goes off. I grab a dish towel, leap in a panic over Aiden (who's sitting in his chair), and run into the hallway, fanning away before the noise wakes Gabriella up from her nap. (Naps are precious these days, as we are journeying through the terrible twos, and lack of sleep only makes the situation worse.) After repeating this scenario for the third time, I decide to open some windows and turn the ceiling fan on "suck." No sooner do I hang the dish towel back on the oven handle and return to spooning my cookie batter onto baking sheets, then I hear another alarm...only this time, it's Bear Lake's fire siren!!!!!!!!

"My GOD!" I cry out! I run out the front door, down the porch steps and out onto the lawn to survey the house. Nope...no smoke there. I run back into the house and go to the kitchen window. I slide the screen over with all my might and hang my upper body outside, craning my neck to get a look at the basement door. Ok, good...it's not the dryer. (Our dryer has been making these horrible noises - the bearings are pretty much shot, and I thought maybe it had caught on fire.) I run through the house, sniffing the air, checking electrical outlets, whatever I can think of. Nothing. I turn on the emergency scanner. False alarm - someone's burning trash again. *sigh*

Life...you gotta love it. It's always interesting.