Saturday, June 26, 2010

If Life Gives You Lemons, I'm Guessing She'll Charge You

There are only two days a year when I demand complete organization from myself: the first day of school and the last day of spring cleaning. (New Year's Day was supposed to be a third, but I gave up the dream when I married my husband and discovered that his bowl games and my obsessive compulsive disorder don't mesh.) I try to give myself a bit of grace on the other 363 days of the year.

Since organizationally I totally missed the first day of school, I took this year's spring cleaning very seriously. VERY. SERIOUSLY. I printed out last year's two-page typed list of chores, updated it to three, and assigned everything to fit into a two-week cleaning schedule. The list is pretty important, because I really like being able to check off each chore accomplished:
Scrub and disinfect the trashcans (check - GROSS!!!)
Move the refrigerator and vacuum underneath (check - Add "call the chiropractor" to the list.)
Touch-up paint the downstairs (check - Keep the paint out. Ty just walked by with a Popsicle.)
Wash the windows and wipe down all the woodwork (check - I get one lousy check mark for two day's worth of work???)
You get the whole crazy, ugly picture...
My plan was to host a garage sale at the culmination of this cleaning rampage, because I was hoping to net enough money to buy a comfy reading chair.

The problem with cleaning a house that has four children in it, unfortunately, is that while I was waging war against a battalion of dust bunnies under the fridge, a nuclear bomb was going off in the family room. And while I washed one window, sticky hands were smudging up the other ten. I spent a lot of time re-cleaning the house and re-checking the list in my pursuit of one, perfectly organized, post-spring-cleaning day.

I also stretched my two-week schedule into three... which pushed the garage sale back to Memorial Day weekend... which is a really lousy time to host a garage sale.

Of course, I didn't realize my timing was bad going in. I was a woman on a mission to clean out and restore my house to its pre-child glory - and buy that coveted reading chair. So I dutifully posted an ad on Craigslist, made a collection of colorfully-ballooned and directionally-sound garage sale signs, and organized and tagged a yard-full of quality discard items. At the last minute, I picked up some Country Time Lemonade and a package of Styrofoam cups. My goal was to keep the kids away from my busy sale by distracting them with a lemonade stand.

Garage Sale Day dawned sunny and hot. Mom showed up early with bagels and shmear, which we ate quickly in preparation for the onslaught of early-morning customers. Since the sale started at 8:00, I wanted to be all set to go by 7:30. Ella, who it turns out was totally on board with the whole lemonade stand thing, was also ready by 7:30.

"Are people going to give us money for our lemonade?"


"How much money, Mommy?"

"Uh, how about a dime for each cup?"

"Nah. Let's do a quarter. We get to keep the money, right?"

"Sure, honey. Y'all can keep whatever money you make at your lemonade stand, and I'll keep the money I make at my garage sale. Sound good?"


Ella made a sign for the stand while Emily and Evie took turns pouring lemonade into cups. And Ty tasted it for them. Several times. They were all pretty proud:

By 8:00, the kids had gone through about half their product and were starting to wonder if any customers actually planned to show up. Just then, Ella spotted our next-door neighbor taking a pajama-clad walk of shame to deliver her garbage down to the curb.

"Miss J! Miss J! Come buy our lemonade! Over here! Come buy some lemonade!!!"

The kids all took off in hot pursuit of the embarrassed Miss J, who managed to make it back into her house before they reached her with their lemonade-filled Styrofoam cups. Lucky for her, Ella spotted a car coming up the street before she could ring Miss J's doorbell.

"Hey, girls! It's customers! Customers! Hey! HEY!" She started chasing the car down the street. "Come buy our lemonade! And then go look at my mom's stuff!"

It turns out that no one in that particular car was interested in purchasing lemonade, or in looking at my stuff. However, Ella felt she was on to something and started shouting at every car that came down the street. Eventually, someone stopped and bought a cup - for $1.00. Then a couple more stopped. Miss J came back out - dressed now - with some money too. Even the garbage man hopped off his truck to buy a glass. Suddenly, the kids' lemonade stand was doing booming business. It didn't hurt that Nana, Papa, and Auntie M showed up about this time to enjoy a swig of Country Time.

Finally, FINALLY, one of the lemonade customers strolled up to peruse my garage sale goods. She picked up a chipped tea pot and handed me a dollar.

"There's a matching tea pot over here, if you'd like," I offered helpfully.

"I only have that dollar. I used my other change to get this lemonade."


"But I really like that second pot..."

"Oh, um, well here. I'll just give it to you, since that other one is chipped."

"Thanks!" She smiled and walked away just as I noticed the $20 bill hanging out of her pocket.


At least I had a second customer waiting in the wings. He'd already bi-passed the lemonade stand and moved on to inspect my junk. Evie, however, poured him a glass, chased him down, and handed him the drink anyway. Then she waited. Expectantly. Her four-year old stare (or was it the open hand) turned out to be more than he could handle, so he fished out a quarter, downed the lemonade, and headed back towards his car without making an offer on my kitchen table.

Double awesome.

By 10:00, my mom and I had dubbed our day "THE MOST DISMAL GARAGE SALE DAY IN ALL OF HISTORY." Meanwhile, the kids' stand was hailed by all (mainly Ella) to be a huge success. I decided to close up shop early and headed off to collect my signs. While I was gone, Mom reported, Ella kept chasing cars. Apparently, one of them laid a wheel trying to get away from the scary little girl and her lemonade.

Her hard-sale tactics worked, though. In the end, Ella and her team made $8.79 in lemonade sales. If you subtract what I spent on signage, my garage sale netted -$9.00.

"Wow, Mommy. We did a whole lot better than you did. We're really good at making money. A lot better than you. You didn't sell much at your garage sale. What can we buy with all our money? Can we buy noodles to swim with a the pool? That would be a fun way to spend our money, since it's ours and we get to keep it. You don't really have any money to keep, do you? 'Cause we made more money than you."

I'm thinking about setting her up with a stand at the front of our neighborhood and renegotiating our original deal. There may be more than one way to get my hands on a new reading chair. But stay away from our street if you're not interested in buying some lemonade. You're liable to get stuck with a drink you didn't want.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Did and I Do

Ten years ago I took this man...
... for better and for worse...
No, it's not all coming up roses in our house. Let's face it: Four kids can make for some pretty intense arguments, especially when we're both worn out from the effort of parenting. But we committed early in our marriage to put God first and our relationship second. Everything else - even our children - comes after those two things. It's a conscious, daily decision to place one another's needs above the more urgent demands of our family, and it's rarely easy. But having children seems to have opened up a line of communication in our relationship that wasn't there in the early years, perhaps because we are so much more conscious of the decision we've made to protect our marriage. These days, there's a lot more of the "better" and a lot less of the "worse".
... for richer and for poorer...
If four kids make for some pretty intense arguments, then watch out for the fireworks created by our "financial discussions". But there are two important notes I'd like to make about this section in our marriage vows. First of all, PRAISE GOD I married a fiscally responsible man. We would be living in my parent's basement or in a cardboard box if I controlled the family finances. My husband is a wonderful steward of our money, and I am so grateful for the opportunities we've had to live comfortably, travel extensively, and give generously. Which leads me to my second note: Even though we've (and by we, I mean my husband) worked hard to be responsible with our money, we've (and by we, I mean I) made plenty of mistakes. Yet by God's grace, we are kept secure.
... in sickness and in health.
This is a tough one. We've faced some pretty hard challenges in this part of the vow, namely in the area of pregnancy. I battled infertility and miscarried three times before Ella was born. My actual pregnancies were miserable and life-threatening. The twin pregnancy in particular was brutal, and we spent a lot of time in the hospital. Our marriage really took a hit around that five-year mark. But the celebration today is that we've learned something from those difficult times. No doubt there is a future in which we will face these trials again. Sickness is often a part of life. But I'm determined to celebrate fifty years with the man I love, so we're going to learn from past mistakes, lean on each other in the future, and take our vitamins!
T, I take you to be my husband all over again. For better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, I am committed to love and respect you as my husband. Now, ten years later, I know so much more about what those vows mean, and the difficult choices they require. But I choose you joyfully, gratefully, and lovingly. Thank you for being my husband, my friend, my lover, and the father of our children. I can't wait to spend the next forty years by your side, celebrating the sweet blessings our life together will bring.
Happy Anniversary, babe. I love you!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


My girls are high drama. Which is weird, because my husband and I are such calm, low-key people. I have no idea where they get it from.

Seriously. No idea.

Anyhow, now that summer's here, it seems that Emily and Evie have kicked the drama up a notch. Their early grasp of the English language has lapsed into whines, screams, and one-word demands, mostly for food. It seems I don't feed them enough, because one or the other is always "hungry, Mommy!!!". (At least until dinner time, when everyone is "too full" for chicken.)

Granted, I was totally over it the first day school was out. But I thought my ear drums were going to rupture this afternoon at 3:00 when the two of them were rolling on the floor squawking for ice cream. This is all I have to explain my temporary insanity: I talked them into some quiet time in their room by letting them color... with markers. Ten minutes later I was paying the price for happy ear drums, because I caught the two little girls who know way better coloring on their carpet and on each other.


Goodbye, happy ears.

I grounded them to their room - sans markers - until dinnertime, which led to the crying for Mommy, the begging for toys, and the "I have to go potty!" rotation. I'm used to it, so I can pretty much tune it all out. But when they started shrieking like their clothes were on fire, I went sprinting up the stairs.

Ella was in the hallway outside their door, set to explain. "There's a spider in their room, Mommy. I didn't want it to get out, so I locked the door."

"Okay. Uh, thanks Ella."

I unlocked the door and opened it to find Evie and Emily perched on top of their dresser, clinging to each other for dear life, and screaming at the top of their lungs about - yep - a spider. (I'm still curious as to why they chose the dresser and not the top bunk bed, but whatever.)

"Where's the spider, girls?"


"I don't see it."


"I still can't find it."

Evie stopped screaming for a moment. "It's a little spider, Mommy. You have to look hard."


I eventually found and disposed of Earth's tiniest spider, but I the process I gave up on the grounding. A few minutes later, I walked into the playroom where Evie and Emily were at last playing quietly. Evie was standing at the play kitchen, donning her oven mitt.

"What are you doing, Evie?"

"I'm a Pirate Chef." She whipped a plastic pizza out of the toy oven and set it on the table in front of Emily. "Pizza!" she shouted. "ARRRRG!"

"Yum," said Emily.

"ARRRRG!" Evie replied.

There has got to be a way for me to cash in on all this drama. Surely there's an Arachnophobia 2 in the works? Top Chef seems pretty popular. And aren't pirate movies hot these days?


Pardon me while I go Google the Olsen twins.