Monday, November 7, 2011


Yesterday, as we were going about our business, my daughter, in the course of describing to me how angry she was at something random that had happened, dropped the f-bomb. You know, the "queen mother of all bad words". Yes, that word. Unlike when my first child first said such a thing in front of me, I simply told her to watch her language, and we went on with our day.
This is not how things were when I was growing up. My mother always told me that if I didn't start cussing, there would never be a day when I had to try to stop. My father, who knew how much my mother hated cussing, tried his level best not to cuss in front of us, but he merely ended up sounding like Daffy Duck. ("Racka-Sacka-Frackin-Nacker!") It became something of a game to us, betting on how long he could go without saying an actual cuss word, and was an endless source of amusement to us as children. Even my mother can be driven to an occasional "crap" when she is really angry.
I managed to go without cussing as a habit until I was in my late teens, when driving became a daily necessity, and my inner road rage emerged. Now, having lived in Chicagoland all of my adult life I, like all other suburbanites, drive under the illusion that my driving is better than all of those around me, and every other driver is a complete and total moron who deserves to have every cuss word in the book tossed at them in multiples, along with the occasional finger.
But I try not to have any illusions about my parenting skills, and I recognize that even if I and their father never uttered a single cross word, our children would almost certainly begin to use those words as they venture out into the world.
I attempt to keep an open mind, and to teach them that there are better choices of words to express themselves, and there are situations in which a cuss word might be appropriate, and other situations in which one certainly should not use such words.
For the most part I think I've succeeded. My children can have an entire conversation without using a cross word, and they know not to say certain things in, say, church. So I think they'll be alright.
At least she didn't blame it on Shwartz. (nod to the movie, "A Christmas Story" )

Saturday, October 22, 2011


1. How the heck does my dog sleep with half of his body hanging over the edge of the chair?
I would fall off and wake up with a concussion.

2.My daughter is obviously smarter than I am, and has the potential to go much farther. I really hope she does well.

3. I love how sometimes, my husband and I have the same thought, and say the same thing at the same time.

4. Wouldn't you think that the odds would be, that I would eventually win like, a dollar or something on the lottery? Sheesh. Come on.

5. I have always tried to be frugal, and use our money wisely. For instance, our neighbors have a van with a window that won't go up, and during the rain they keep a trash bag on the window. But they have something like 25 pumpkins on their porch. Until they rot. So, they spent somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty bucks on pumpkins. At least. And their window still doesn't go up.

6. Why didn't they ever make a sequel to E.T. ?

7. Why did they make another "Footloose" ? Good Grief.

8. I think shoulder pads for women should always be in style. They totally draw attention away from our, um, lower regions.

9. Really? Haven't won the lottery yet? *sigh*

10. I've decided to take ads for my blog. Please comment if you want to contribute to my lifestyle. Thanks. Really.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Garden and Other Household Stuff

Well, I spent a couple of hard-but-pleasant hours in the garden, both yesterday and today. Weeds were out of control and we badly needed to plant a couple fall crops. I'm not sure we got those in the ground in time, but I guess we'll see.
Yesterday I weeded the tomatoes and around the watermelon, and I was surprised and pleased to discover a baby watermelon hidden underneath the weeds near the fence. It's a good thing I didn't just grab what I thought was an unproductive vine out of the ground willy-nilly! I also pruned the living (or should I say non-living?) daylights out of the tomatoes. There was a lot of dead vine-age on them, and I hope they keep producing for a while yet.
Today Mr. GraceandPeace and I weeded the rest of the garden together, and got rid of the past their prime broccoli plants, hoed up the ground a little, and put in more broccoli and lettuce. There is something very satisfying about working together in the garden with my hubby. It's like we're hands-on planning for the future, or something I can't quite put my hands on. I just know that it feels very domestic to do something like that together, and I really love it.
It's like when he asks my help on something around the house he's working on, and I know what to do, or even just the right vocabulary to use. Today I asked him if he needed a schematic for something he was working on, and I giggled a little to myself at my use of the word "schematic". Not that I'm dumb or anything, but electrical work is just not my thing. I don't know enough about it to mess with it, so I wisely avoid it. My fixing ability regarding electrical things is pretty much limited to changing a fuse. Anything else calls for a shout out at my wise husband, who is the local Guru of All Things Needing Fixing.
That's all for today, I'm off to defrost dinner!

Monday, August 1, 2011


Disclaimer: Don't read this if you don't want to cry. Because I cried when I wrote it. And I'm sorry if this upsets anyone, or if you all think I'm a complete wimp and have something wrong with me. If that's the case, I'm sorry, but too bad.
It's been two months today. You know that scene in the movie Ghost, when Demi Moore's character say's to Patrick Swayze's ghost:, "It's like I can still feel you!" Well, in a very much less creepy way, that's kind of how I feel about Stitch. The day I said goodbye to him, at the vets, I buried my head in his fur, and the thing I remember thinking, was that I would never get to feel his soft fur again. I've cried in that fur before. And he always just let me.
So this whole summer has been full of firsts. The first time I peeled a potato and didn't have him to feed the peel to, the first time I cleaned out the refrigerator and didn't turn to find him waiting for the leftover meat. First car ride with the other dogs, and Buddy Lee in the front seat instead of Stitch. First bonfire we didn't get to laugh at him running from the fire, joking that he was the smart dog because he knew fire could hurt him. First thunderstorm I got to sleep through, instead of petting him to let him know it would all be ok.
I really can't understand how God could give me such a wonderful gift as that dog. Don't misunderstand me: I love our other dogs. But Stitch. Well, he was a gift. I just melted when I saw him the first time. And he ran right to us, like he knew he was ours.
So the question remains, why would God give us such a wonderful gift and then take it away so soon? We wonder, and we cry at odd moments, and we try to go on as normal. But the truth is, we've been changed. Changed, I hope, for the better.
Before Stitch, I didn't really want a dog, but I gave in. Now, I can't go to a shelter because I want them all. All the dogs, all the cats, even the flippin racoons and squirrels. Stitch changed us, for the better. Like all gifts of God that are accepted by man unconditionally, he gave us something we didn't bargain for. Love, yes. Companianship, yes. But a new perspective? A new thought, that maybe his spirit was straight from the Lord of all Creation? That maybe Stitch was not really ours, but loaned to us from God himself? And that we were lucky to be able to know such awesome love while we yet live, able to recognize it, and be directed by it, and apply it to our lives. Stitch loved everyone. He was climbed on by the daycare kids, petted by complete strangers who thought he was beautiful. But the beautiful part was really his spirit. And we who loved him knew where that spirit came from.
If you own a dog, and love a dog, then you know where that love and that spirit comes from. And that gives me hope, that God could give us all such a wonderful gift here on earth.
See you soon. 2004-2011.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Moment

Did you ever have a moment of revelation? You know, one of those sudden still-life moments that just happens randomly, but gives you some insight?
Happened to me this morning. All of the daycare kids were behaving at once-playing, napping, reading. So I took the time to read an article in a magazine I'd gotten in today's mail. It was about a woman who had 6 children under 5 years old, who wanted desperately to find the time to do things at church, to find some ministry she could participate in. And then she had a revelation, that her kids were her ministry, and it changed her life, and made her happier.
That's when a little voice inside my head whispered, "Remember?" And suddenly I had a flash of memory, back from when we lived in a little 2 bedroom walk-up attic apartment. Me, telling my husband I had to go to the store, handing him the baby, and literally running to the car. Just so I could get a moment to myself. Flash-forward a couple years. He's suggesting to me that I should get my daycare license, "because I'm so good at being a mom." It wasn't the first time he'd suggested it. I didn't listen then, but I did later. Later, when my own children were a little older, and I had the distance to realize that you do actually live through a few years of sleepless nights, puking children, and no money to spend on yourself.
Now, my daycare is part of my ministry. Like raising my own children still is. I get to teach, not just the children, but their parents. Share a little of the tiny bit of wisdom I've gained over the years. When to call the doctor, when to worry. When not to worry, how to get through the rough times. How to feed a family of two for a week on very little money. We share our abundance with our daycare families. Not just physical things, like food, but the abundance of our learning.
Like our children, sometimes they listen, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they have to learn for themselves, the hard way. Not every day is easy. Some days I need a drink to relax as soon as the last child leaves. Other days I spend my evenings catching up on all the things I couldn't get done during the day. But it's always a rewarding job to have, when I can remember to look for the silver lining. But here I still am, doing the same things I've been doing for the last 23 plus years. It's my ministry, and it's good to be reminded of that.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


1. Banquet frozen dinners have saved me from skipping lunch on busy daycare days many, many times. But there's nothing like taking what would be five dollars worth of food anywhere else, and making it available for 89 cents, to make me wonder what kind of meat is really in the chicken fried beef steak.

2.Had a scheduled inspection today. Like usual, I stressed over it and cleaned all morning, and like usual, she didn't even glance at the kitchen. Just reviewed records and watched me serve lunch. Passed with flying colors, though, so that's good.

3. Babies are weird. Yesterday she screamed all morning, and today she slept from 6:30 till 11:00. I wonder if they know somehow when you really need a break?

4. Speaking of breaks, it was humid and hot for the whole last week, but today is really nice. I actually turned off the air conditioner and opened windows today!

5. I'd really like to win the lotto. I wonder if it would change my life in any meaningful way, though. I mean, big house, a maid, a pretty sports car, help the family out, and all of that, but would the freezer still have frozen pizza and Banquet dinners in it, just a whole lot more?

That's all I got for today, see ya!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Just Another Monday

Last evening, around 8:00 p.m., I got my usual Sunday-night-gotta-get-ready-for-work-on-Monday, bad temper fit all riled up. I had to clean the kitchen, vacuum, get the daycare stuff out and ready for my first, 5 a.m. arrival the next day.
As I was slamming doors, banging pots and pans, and throwing things, my husband asked me what was wrong. I answered the usual way: "Nothing!" He knew better, of course, and managed to ferret out my real reason:"I'm tired of never having a day off!"
That's how I put it, but the truth is a little different. I work long days, most are 12 to 13 hours. At home, so I never get away from work. And then I go right into housewife mode and start cooking and cleaning, in addition to all the stuff I manage to squeeze in during the day. And sometimes it feels like I never have a moment to call my own, and by the time I'm done raising children, I'll be too old to have any fun at all. And lets not even talk about where the money goes: all towards bills, no time out, nada.
But as I write this on my laptop (my darling husband and wonderful children surprised me with it last year for my birthday), I'm listening to my Ipod (ditto, only this years birthday), and the washing machine and dishwasher are doing a good portion of my work for me, and the daycare kids are, miraculously, all napping at once, even the baby.
So I know I have things really pretty easy. I only go barefoot when the redneck in me can't stand shoes another minute, I have (way more than) enough food to keep me alive and happy, and a good deal of it is caffeinated and chocolate covered.
I'm not sure why I have such a hard time focusing on the good things on Sunday nights, but I do know these things for sure: I'm very blessed, and I am absolutely surrounded by love on all sides. I really am grateful to be able to do all that I do, and I really do all of this because I want to. I am so blessed to have a family who loves me, my favorite electronic toys, pets who are glad to see me wake up in the morning, a job, and yes, all of those bills.
I'm reminded of a bible verse, about your cup running over. It seems appropriate that when mine does overflow with good things, that there are a few things in there that keep me grounded, that keep me from forgetting from whom all of those good things come. So, thanks to God, from whom all blessings flow, and to my very patient husband, who knows when to ignore a fit.
(P.S. Listening to my favs playlist can go a long way to improving my mood too-during naps, it's like a mini vacation. How can you not smile when you're listening to the Cranberries and Joe Walsh?)

Thursday, June 2, 2011


We got Stitch 7 1/2 years ago, in the fall. His head was so big that when he wagged his tail his butt would come off the ground. He grew into a dog so beautiful that people would stop us on the street and comment on how beautiful he looked. He also grew into one of our best friends.
He had very high ideals on how a dog should behave himself, and we joked about how proud he was. He was always up for a kiss on the face in the morning, just after our showers. Nothing made him happier than chasing away the UPS man with a single bark.
Last night at 5:57 pm we were in the back yard and I noticed he was drooling profusely. He made a noise like he was going to throw up but couldn't.I called Bill to tell him to hurry home because I thought there was something wrong with Stitch.
Then Stitch walked up to me, and I saw he was breathing very heavily. He laid his head on my lap and waited calmly while I petted him, then he rubbed his head against my leg and walked inside the house. Only a moment later I heard Marissa scream for me, and I ran inside. He was panting heavily and his tongue was blue. I had already left a message for the vet to call me, but I left the room to get the phone book to try another vet. Before I could finish the call, Marissa screamed again. I went downstairs to find her on the floor, Stitch in her lap, wagging his tail feebly.
I called his name, and he moved his head a little. My phone rang. Bill calling me back, but as soon as I answered I got another call: the vet. I hung up on Bill and answered the vet, screaming a little incoherently. He said to meet us at his office. I called Bill back and he said to listen for a heartbeat, and do mouth to mouth. Marissa did mouth to mouth on Stitch all the way to the vet's office, sometimes with me pumping his chest over the back of the seat in a sort of attempt at CPR. I made the twenty minute drive in 12 minutes. Bill was there just as we got there, and carried Stitch inside.
I knew in my heart it was already too late, but we had to try. We were only there a minute before the vet came back out. He said Stitch had a twisted stomach, which I guess is common in large dogs. From that first panicked phone call to Bill, to the time the vet shook his head was 30 minutes exactly, so at least he didn't suffer. And he had time to say goodbye to the family members who were here. He got to spend the morning on the porch, waiting to bark at the mailman like always. He got a belly rub, and got to say good morning to Bill and I by kissing our face and smearing our glasses. And got to take a clandestine nap on the couch. It was a good last day.
Stitch was definitely a member of our family and his absence will be deeply felt, not just by us and our extended family, but by my daycare kids, who loved him as well. I know that the conventional Christian wisdom is that dogs don't have souls, and that they just stop being when they die, but I have never really been able to believe that. God doesn't do anything without a purpose, and I cannot believe He would create something capable of so much love, and capable of inspiring so much love, only to have it suddenly just stop existing. Maybe dogs are like angels, servants of God, who do his bidding and then get to spend eternity in His presence. I think so. And I know that Stitch was certainly like an angel to us. So, I guess I'll think of him from now on as being in God's presence, and not having to compete for a spot on the sofa anymore.
Stitch 2003-2011
Love ya pal.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Locking Them In The Basement

I'm reading the letter from the college, deciding if I can scrape up the money for the summer class, between her sophomore and junior year. She'll get to see a cadaver, talk to a surgeon, get college credit. And if she passes, get a small scholarship to help with her time at that college.

I blink, and I'm back in our walk-up apartment, showing her how to use the Mac, laughing with our friends about how true the 'rule of threes' is.( The third curriculum you try is the one that works.) I'm discussing homeschooling curriculums with friends , taking group tours to apple orchards, trying to teach her right from wrong.

And then I'm back in the here and now, and she's saying "Mom? Did you hear me? Can I go to my boyfriends' house for a couple hours?" I want to scream ," Of course not!! You're only a child!!!" But she's not. She's a beautiful, almost-grown woman, with morals, a drivers' license, a boyfriend, a life of her own.

I'm proud of her. We're proud of her. Of both of our children. But I really, really, really, want to lock them in the basement. For like, ever. Because, even though a life means I've done my job as a parent the right way, I want to fail. Because failing means they stay with me.

So I'm torn. But not really.

I smile, and say,"Of course, you can go to your boyfriends house. You know the curfew, see you then." And I know I will. Because she's just that responsible. So I kiss her goodbye, and fill out the class form and re-do the budget to make room for the summer class. I hope she's as successful as she plans on being. Because that means I did something right, and that she'll be happy.

Good luck, kiddoes. I love you both.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Visit to my Parents

The call came on an evening when I'd had a really rough day at work. Ask any day care provider, they'll tell you that a full moon means rowdy toddlers. So I was ready for an evening off, a drink before dinner, a night of meaningless television. But it all got skewed a little when my cell rang, and it was my sister. My mother had been taken to the hospital. Details aren't important, but it's the same story all people eventually participate in. Pain, incapacity in various ways, hospitalization, rehabilitation, a nursing home. Call after call, day after day, and the childish fear builds inside me.
Then another call, this time regarding my dad. Stroke, a pacemaker. Other things. So a visit is scheduled. A visit, oddly enough, that I will make myself, by myself, as an adult who is capable of doing such things. My husband has to work, but the kids will go with me. Because I can do this by myself. Right?
We check into a hotel. A first. We've always stayed with my parents. Then we go to the hospital to see my dad. Oddly, he looks good. He's surprised to see us, even more surprised we came to see him first, before we see my mother. Pleased, even, to learn this.
I'm glad to learn he's doing good. Pacemaker is working good, stroke was minor, no dementia. He's still my dad, just older.
Then the visit to my mom. At the nursing home/rehabilitation center. She's surprised to see us. A CNA comes to put her in a wheelchair so we can go visit her in the big room. We leave the room, to give her some privacy. When she sees us again, she's surprised to see us. Again. We talk some more. She asks us how old my kids are, many times. More questions. The same ones, many times. I'm pleased to see she remembers my kids, their names, what they're into right now.
We're there late at night, we get to tuck her in. I have an insane desire to stay all night, even though my kids are sleepy, falling asleep in their chairs. I want to watch over her, the way I did my children when they were small.
Back at home, I watch the shows I've DVR'ed. I cry. But I'm smart enough to know it's not the shows I'm watching that I'm crying at .But I greet the dogs, clean a little, do some laundry. Be a wife/mom, basically. Hope that I can forge an adult relationship with my sister and brother. Spend a lot of time being grateful for my wonderful, caring, loving, husband.
Full circle. Life is like that. I hate it. I'm glad I get to help, even a little.
Mostly, I am sooo glad that my parents were there for me. I will always love them, even though they aren't the same now as they were when I was little. I hope I inspire the same love and devotion in my own children, but I don't think so. I can't imagine being as great a parent as mine were. I can't imagine my husband loving me for the next thirty years. I'm a horrible person, I'm a failure at all I do. How can I measure up to my parents? I know I've failed, and I pray that God takes up the slack and turns it into something wonderful for their sakes. But I know that they've inspired me to try. Both my own parents, and the ones I got when I got married. How lucky can a person get? I got two wonderful parents when I was born, and now I've got a wonderful mother-in-law and step-father-in-law, to inspire me. And my husbands dad, even though he's passed away, has also given me instruction in how to be a parent.
God bless parents everywhere.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Of Monty Python, State Inspectors, and Calls for the Dog

At 8:30 this morning, I looked out the window to see a man in a suit and tie, carrying a briefcase, approaching my front door. Not dressed formal enough for a religious man, or cheaply enough for the IRS, I immediately knew he was an Inspector. And not just the regular, every day local inspector either. He was from The State Board of Education!!!!
I've always known they had the right to drop in whenever they want and demand to see my records and observe, but it's still a little intimidating to see the guy pull out An Official Form and start writing while he watches me.
My philosophy on these things, as always, is: I'm not doing anything wrong, so I won't worry about it. And when he was done, he told me I'm doing a fantastic job. So that ended nicely.
After he left, I fed the kiddoes lunch, cleaned them up and put them down for a nap. And then the phone rang.
When I answered, a man's voice said," Valerie? Is Stitch home?" Uh...Stitch is the dog. I had to fight the raging desire to say, " Yep, but he's got no thumbs. No thumbs, can't hold the phone. " Instead, I wisely said,"Huh?" The man then said,"This is Stan, from Animal Control."
Ok, now I'm really out of control, as I battle back the urge to yell,"Cheese It, Stitch, it's the coppers! They must know about that poodle! Ruuuuuuunnnnn!" I even giggle out loud a little at the thought, like the crazy lady I am.
Stan says,"Uh, maam? We picked up a Malamute in the area of your house, and we just wondered if Stitch was actually there with you."
Struggling to regain a little control, I stiffle another giggle, and answer as if I'm not completely out of brain cells,"Oh! Yes, he's right here with me! But Thank You for checking! That is sooo nice!" Stan from animal control says goodbye, and I take a little time to ponder my (apparently) odd sense of humor, and wonder if maybe I should move to England, where I am positively certain that they will get my sense of humor, since I got it watching Monty Python movies. But I know I could never bow to the queen without, say, falling on my face slapstick style and then making a raspberry noise with my thumb wiggling in front of my nose, so I abandon the idea, and go to fold a load of laundry.
Really, so far, a most interesting day.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Spring is coming! I can see the forgotten things on the patio, thawing out with the snow. A forgotten flip-flop, a crushed can, a box escaped from the recycling bin.
A squirrel runs down the back fence, grabs a bite from a forgotten corn stalk. But he's still fat and fluffy.
I find a clump of Malamute hair on the kitchen floor, all by itself. A lone box elder bug crawls up the window.
The grill sits on the only spot of dry pavement in the yard, having been shoveled around all winter.
I itch to clean the backyard out. The garden with the ferns needs clearing, I know the tree in the front yard needs the pavers moved and a few hostas planted around it.
When I reach out the door for the mail, I see the buds on the Russian Sage plants and smile. They've been buried all winter, but now I can see them. I raise the blinds in the living room, turn off the heat during the day.
I'm a winter person, really. Give me a sweater and a hot chocolate any day. But as I sip my morning hot tea, I find myself dreaming of long lazy warm days, grilling on the patio, seeking the shade, staying up until the sun goes down, and planning my garden.
I pet my Malamute, shake the loose fur off my fingers, and dream of a getaway to a beach with my husband. Then I turn up the heat, pull on a sweater, and cook a hot dinner. Spring is coming. I know it is.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I check the weather channel. Above 32 degrees Fahrenheit, in the Midwest that's good enough. I head for the store, to grab the usual things I forgot the day before. On the way home, with a crazy smile on my face, I pull into the local car wash, and ask for "the works". Later, with the van still dripping, I pull into the local fast food joint, for a quick shake for the current sick child.
Once home, I switch over the laundry, grab a couple steaks from the freezer to defrost, pour a cold drink for myself, and scrub a few potatoes. As I season the steaks, and wait for the grill to warm up, I look out the back window.
The spots where we've shoveled have started to melt. Mostly around the grill and the back steps, there are clear spots, where you can see nothing but concrete. DRY concrete!
Back inside, I notice a few clumps of dog hair; our Malamute is beginning to blow his coat, a sure sign that spring is coming, and that I'm in for three solid months of daily vacuuming.
The steaks are done, the potatoes are done. I look out the window, to make sure I've turned off the grill, and spot a little green where the silver miller plants in my planters are trying to come alive.
"Soon..." I think, "soon..."