Wednesday, March 31, 2010 | By: Slacker Mom

What Happens in Vegas?

When it comes to travel destinations, I tend to lump them into two different categories. There are the places that I'm dying to see and experience, the ones that if I never get to visit them in my lifetime I will feel like I've missed out. These are the dream destinations. Then there are the places that I would go to because I feel like I have to. You know, the ones that just seem to be a place that every American should be able to say they've been to. These are places like Mount Rushmore or New York City or almost anywhere in South America. These destinations I like to think of as tourist spots. Sometimes I think the sole purpose in traveling to them is to be able to say, "Been there, done that. Check it off my bucket list."

Some of the places I count as my dream destinations are the African Savannah (or a nicely controlled game park would suffice), a Scottish castle, the water canals in Venice, and some place that is warm, tropical and has that beautiful, crystal clear, sapphire blue water that I believe only exists in screen savers.

Among my list of tourist spots is Las Vegas, the city that never sleeps. I've never had any burning desire to go there. I don't drink, don't gamble, have no interest in shows and I'm actually offended by the commercials that tout "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." So when I found out we would be traveling there in May, you can imagine my surprise in discovering how excited I was by the idea.

It just hit me why I get that burst of energy in anticipation of the day. This will be our first truly adult vacation since we've had the kids. We took a trip to Puerto Vallarta for our one year anniversary and our next trip away didn't occur until about 3 or 4 years ago. We spent a weekend at a cabin by the Sound. It was no Marriott. It wasn't even a Motel 6! But it was just the two of us and it was lovely. Our second vacation occurred 2 years ago when we got the opportunity to visit my family in Virginia for a reunion. We had a great time, but we shared a hotel room and a car with my parents. No offense to my parents since we had a good time with them, but it's just not the same as getting away by yourself.

This trip to Vegas is only for the weekend so we can attend a dear friend's wedding. But there will be no children. We won't be staying at a relative's house. Friends and relatives will be there but they're all adults who are fun to just hang out with. I can't remember the last time I was this excited about traveling. Our only obligation or planned event is the wedding and then the rest of the time there is ours. This is a real, adult vacation. And it's only taken us 14 years to get it!

Who Loves You, Baby?

It's a universal truth among mothers that no one, no matter how much they come to care for your children, can ever love your children as much as you do. It's simply not possible. The times that my kids help prove that truth are some of my favorite moments.

Driving home tonight, Bubba was upset because he had to miss an episode of his favorite show. His trauma was short lived, however, as he told me he would just go home and watch it on his invisible television. I told him that was a great idea. He then spent the entire drive home having a very animated discussion with an imaginary friend (audience? admirer?). I only caught a word or two here and there but apparently he and his friend were having a good ol' time. He did share with me when we were almost home that he was going to invent a video game and he was going to post it on his destiny (trust me, I have no idea what that means either). He said in a very enthusiastic voice, "You've heard of 3-D? Well it's gonna be in 5-D! That's a mixture of 2-D and 3-D." I, of course, answered in the usual way, "Alright."

Where all this comes from, I have no idea. And what any of it means is even more of a mystery. Even so, I couldn't help but smile as I spent fifteen minutes listening to his excited conversation...with himself. I just love that kid.
Monday, March 29, 2010 | By: Slacker Mom

I Heard You, God

I've really been struggling lately with Sunday worship. My struggles revolve around trying to figure out whether that weekly community worship time is given to us for the purpose of rejuvenating fellow Christians or if it is to be a place for us to bring in those who are seeking or a combination of both. This is a struggle that has been going on for more than a year now without any real conclusions.

The source of all of this can be traced to an in-depth, 3 year journey that our church has been going through in order to figure out how to be a missional church and how to find out where God is working so that we may join Him there. It's been an amazing journey.

One thing I've gained from all of it is the desire to be an active participant, a recognizable presence in my own community. We need to be the face of God where we live. How can we expect our neighbors to have a relationship with God if we, as His people, aren't accessible enough to have a relationship with? And in today's society, how many of those neighbors would be willing to drive 30-45 minutes to attend a church that they haven't even gotten to know yet?

It's an issue that has weighed on Hubby and I for a long time. Last summer we started looking around at other churches, hoping to find what we had in Federal Way but closer. Of course, things never work out the way we want them to. But we have found a church that is active in a neighboring community and shares our outlook in being missional. We haven't necessarily embraced the worship service, however, and so we've been struggling once again. I can talk myself into circles over how to define worship, what that service means to me, how much of it is about me and thousands of other questions. I believe I may have dumped on Hubby for close to an hour Saturday night about these very same things and ended up just as confused as ever.

But then God spoke to me on Sunday. For once, I didn't feel like I was just an observer at our worship service. I felt His presence; I felt His peace. I still have questions, I still am up in the air on many issues, but I heard Him. He told me to just have patience. Have patience and He will reveal what He wants me to do and where He wants me to go so that I may be effective for Him. He is doing great things and I need to trust that He will guide me in the path that He is preparing, so don't fret, don't worry, don't overanalyze.

God, I heard you. Thank you.
Friday, March 26, 2010 | By: Slacker Mom

Thank You, Rod

Thanks to my computer guru, Rod, my blog has been fixed. The comments feature is up and running for anyone who would like to leave a message about how brilliant and witty I am. I guess you can leave other comments as well but where's the fun in that?


It's been brought to my attention that no one can leave comments on my posts. I'm working on getting it fixed. It has to do with the template I'm using. I'll let you know when it's up and running.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010 | By: Slacker Mom

Make Yourself at Home

Have you ever had a friend that you were so close with you were just as at home in their house as your own? I've been pretty fortunate in life to have had two such friends, both named Amy.

Amy D. was my middle school best friend. We met in the 6th grade and we were inseparable until a tragic falling out in the ninth grade. Until then, we did everything together. We spent every weekend with each other. We invited the other on family vacations and we were like an extra daughter to the other's family.

The falling out that broke up Amy D. and I actually brought me closer to Amy R., who had been in my group of close friends all through middle school. We spent the next next four years together, the best of friends. It was just a given that we would be at the other's house. I started attending church with Amy R. and that brought us even closer.

I was so close to my friends that I was comfortable in their houses even when their families were home but they weren't. If I wanted something to eat, I could just help myself to the fridge. I knew where the TV and movies were if I got bored. I could just hang out and visit with the parents and siblings.

I did, however, learn the hard way that no matter how close you are, you should always knock before you enter. One morning, I arrived at Amy R.'s house around 7am. I was afraid of waking anyone so I decided to quietly let myself in (not something I was in the habit of doing). I walked in on her dad exercising on the mini his underwear. I'm still not sure who was more embarrassed.

But what happens to us as we get older?

I have a few (very few) close friends. One of them came over the other day and as I was showing her my new bookshelves she remarked, "I keep forgetting how big your house is." It struck me as odd that she didn't know my house very well. When I was at her house some time ago, I happened to be in her bedroom and I realized that it was probably only the second time I'd been in her room. I'm not saying that bedrooms should be open to the public, I'm just saying that I'm not familiar with her house.

Do you have friends that feel so welcome in your home that they can just help themselves to anything? My parents have this kind of house, they always have. The door's always open and everyone's welcome. Sometimes I wonder if my house doesn't look more like a fortress. It's not that I don't welcome my friends when they're here, it's just that I don't invite them to begin with. I want my kids to have friends like I did--ones who feel like this is their second home--but they haven't been learning from my example.

I can rightly put some of the fault on the fact that as an adult I have many more things pressing on my time. I don't have the luxury of hanging out and watching "The Brady Bunch" reruns for hours at a time. But that's just an excuse. How can my friends feel welcome in my home when I won't even let down the drawbridge for them to come in?

This my sanctuary, my place to unwind, but why not unwind with good friends? Why not take shelter with the company of those close to me?

I can't help but feel like God (if He blogged) would be writing this same thing. "My children make themselves at home in the world, why aren't they as intimately familiar with my home?" I know every inch of my house. I know where the floor squeaks and the windows draft and the water drips. I know the coziest spot on the couch and where to sit to soak up the best sunbeams. I know where everything is kept and the things that are never put back where they are kept. But am I as familiar with God's house? Can I honestly say that it's just as comfortable to me as being in my own house? Am I certain of walking in unannounced, knowing that I'll be embraced with open arms and told to kick off my shoes at make myself at home because, after all, I'm family?

There is no moat around God's house, no drawbridge to be let down. I doubt He even has a front door that we have to knock on. It's just always open and He's standing there in the doorway, beckoning us to come on in and "make yourselves at home."
Friday, March 19, 2010 | By: Slacker Mom

Here I Am To Worship

Yesterday I was driving home from Federal Way in rush hour traffic. The kids were being especially rambunctious--wrestling, hitting, shouting. I had the radio turned up in a pathetic and failed attempt to drown them out while my white knuckles gripped the steering wheel. It is in these ordinary, sometimes chaotic moments that God likes to make His presence known.

A song came on the radio, "Here I Am To Worship". It's a song that the kids know from singing at church and it's Libby's favorite. When the song started, the kids stopped everything they were doing so they could sing along. There were no words spoken that brought their games to a screeching halt, just the first few notes of the song. Everything else ceased to matter because they had to sing. It couldn't be helped.

After the song was over they went back to their usual routine of driving me insane but it didn't bother me nearly as much this time. In hearing them sing that song, I knew that God was laying on their hearts words that would bring them closer to Him. It is in those random, seemingly innocuous moments that God can be felt and heard. I am grateful to be in His presence.
Friday, March 12, 2010 | By: Slacker Mom

A Spot of Tea

We are creatures of habit. We have our routines, our way of doing things. Even if you aren't a branch in my particular obsessive-compulsive family tree, I would bet that you have a lot of routines that you rarely veer away from. When you shower, you do everything in a certain order. There's a right way to load the dishwasher. When you get home, your coat, keys, purse, shopping bags, etc. are all dumped in the usual spot. When you get ready in the mornings, there is a system to follow. For me, it's go to the bathroom, get dressed, do my hair, brush my teeth, eat breakfast.

But what about those things that we do that aren't habit? Do you have anything you do just because the act of doing it is enjoyable? Do you do anything that's become more of a ritual as opposed to a blind habit?

Dictionary dot com defines habit as an "acquired behavior regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary." We've performed these routines so often that they've become second nature to us--like going on auto pilot on the drive home from work. Your brain checks out while your body performs it's ingrained tasks.

Ritual is defined as "any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner." There's a slight difference between the two but it's there nonetheless. Habits are done so frequently that we can do them in the same way each time without thinking, but a ritual is deliberate. We perform in a set manner. We perform on purpose.

I have a ritual that I perform most every morning and sometimes in the evening. For me, my ritual is making tea. I know, I know. That sounds insignificant. How can that possibly be a ritual? Isn't that just a part of your everyday morning routine? Yes and no.

I do make a cup of tea most mornings to have with my breakfast but I don't do it out of blind habit. When I go through the steps of making tea, it is a very deliberate, even soothing, task. To begin with, I refuse to microwave my water. It's not that I have anything against the microwave, it's just that it's not the same if I don't use my water kettle that looks like a cow (it's a water "cattle", get it?). I fill up my kettle with water and set it on the burner. I listen for the sounds of the water heating, the burner quickly drying up any spilled water that may have run down to the bottom of the kettle. When I stay in the kitchen, I can tell the moment the water is about to boil and can take off the kettle just in time. Most of the time, however, I wander out of the room until I hear the familiar high pitch whistling, alerting me that I'm needed again in the kitchen.

I don't drink my tea out of a dainty, decorative tea cup. No, I drink my tea out of a mug, one that is ideal for a cup of cocoa with lots of marshmallows or even a cup of soup. My tea mug has weight to it. I can wrap both hands around it and let the heat seep into my usually frigid hands.

I use one bag of Stash peppermint tea. I don't use loose tea leaves and I don't drink other flavors, just peppermint. Peppermint is the flavor of winter, the flavor of cozy blankets, the flavor of comfort. And I always add sugar, real sugar--two scoops.

My favorite part of making my tea? The sound of the water as it fills my cup. I always have my mug ready and waiting with the teabag in it. When I pour that steaming hot water in, I almost want to sigh. It's a soothing sound. At that point, I can almost taste the mint, I can almost feel the ceramic warming my fingers, I can envision myself wrapped up in a quilt while I lose myself in my favorite book. Although this is rarely what happens next, the thought is comforting.

What happens next is always different. Usually I busy myself with chores or the computer until it my tea has cooled enough to drink without scalding my tongue. Quite often I'll get distracted and only notice my cold and neglected mug hours later when I'm getting ready to fix lunch. At that point it's usually heated up in the microwave and drunk so it won't go to waste.

But how and when I drink it is never the focus behind the ritual. The focus is simply the task itself. The motions of making my tea bring more comfort than the tea itself. This is my ritual of contentment.

Movie Review: Observe and Report

I told myself that I wasn't even going to post a review for this movie. After spending an hour and a half watching it, I figured I'd already wasted enough of my life on it, why waste more? But then I decided if I could save just one person from the painful experience of having to sit through it then it would be worth it.

Seth Rogan--with his Rolf the Dog laugh and schlubby, idiot persona--has grown on me and I usually enjoy his movies which is why I checked this movie out from the library. He plays a security guard at a mall where he crushes on Anna Faris. This came out around the same time as Paul Blart:Mall Cop, which I found funny. This movie is not. There is nothing likeable about Seth's character. He is rude, delusional and quite possibly psychotic. He dreams of being a cop so he can wield a gun and kill people. When the real police get in the way of his solving the case of a mall flasher, he goes after them with his flashlight as a weapon and, after beating several officers, ends up sitting in jail as a bloodied punching bag. He's in love with Anna Faris' character who is a mean, stuck up, drug abusing shrew who throws up on him and treats him like garbage. Seth, meanwhile, is condescending and dismissive to the only nice person in the whole mall, a girl who gives him free coffee and obviously likes him (which would only happen in movie land).

The movie is twisted but not in a fun, dark comedy kind of way. You can't root for Seth's character because the thought of him actually becoming a cop is pretty scary. Instead, you find yourself thinking over and over again, "Somebody actually wrote this? Somebody thought it was good enough to greenlight? And somebody paid money to put this movie together?" That producer should be made to watch this movie on an endless stream for 24 hours. Maybe then he'll learn his lesson. (*)
Wednesday, March 10, 2010 | By: Slacker Mom

Using My Powers for Good

It's amazing what you can accomplish when you set your mind to it. I posted yesterday that I was going to try to get back on track and join the "real" world. For a first day, it wasn't bad. The kids got their individual school work done and then we did some work together. I put together a dinner menu for the rest of March and all of April. (As I mentioned in an old post, if I have dinner posted up on the fridge the kids know what to expect and there's less arguing, even if it's something they don't like.) Libby and I had some one-on-one girl time. I even did a little bit of leg work for my business.

This morning, I woke up at 7am and walked 2 miles with my dogs. After breakfast, the kids and I did some group work and now they are tackling their individual work. I'm running loads through my washing machine so I can take them over to my mother's house to dry--my dryer was kind enough to die on me yesterday. I still have a list a mile long of things that are urgent--most of them business related--but it's still early.

I think it's all just a matter of having the right attitude. I love to organize but I hate to apply that to my time. I'd much rather organize things and not my life. The funny thing about that is, when I just put my mind to it, I'm very good at getting us on a realistic working schedule. The kids will work better and behave better when I do that.

I guess the trick is to remember that and keep it as a priority.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 | By: Slacker Mom

Coming Out of the Cave

I am about to make a forced emergence from my cave. It's so much nicer in here--cozy, warm, quiet. I don't have any deadlines or obligations, no one counting on me for anything. It's a lovely place to be. But unfortunately, by spending time here I am letting down my husband and my children. They seem to be under the impression that they need things like an education, home cooked dinners, clean clothes, and an income. I may find all of those highly overrated but they don't agree.

Leaving is painful, dreaded even, but it's something I must do. My family is counting on me and I can't keep disappointing them. As the mom, I am the measuring stick by which everything else is measured. I set the mood for my children and how well they behave. I control the home environment and what my husband gets to come home to. I directly affect how well he can get his work done in order to support the rest of us.

Being selfish is so much easier, so much more appealing, but that's not what this life is about, is it? I'm going to break out of my cocoon, put myself on the back burner and remember that those closest to me are more important than anything else.
Monday, March 8, 2010 | By: Slacker Mom

Movie Review: Bedtime Stories

Here is something you don't see very often--an Adam Sandler movie you can watch with your kids. Adam plays "Skeeter", a guy who works at a hotel his father started and has always dreamed of running someday. He agrees to watch his niece and nephew while his sister goes out of town for a job interview. In an effort to entertain the kids, Skeeter starts telling them bedtime stories the way his father always did. The kids, of course, have to add their 2 cents worth and the stories are played out on screen. The next day, events from the stories start really happening. Skeeter, of course, tries to find a way to manipulate the stories so he can eventually win the girl and his dream hotel.

Guy Pearce and Lucy Lawless are Skeeter's foils--Guy is Skeeter's competition for control of the hotel and Lucy is a mean hotel employee who is helping Guy. Lucy will always be Xena, warrior princess to me so it was odd seeing her in a concierge uniform. And seeing Guy Pearce, all I could think of was, "it's been a really long time since L.A. Confidential and Memento". If you've seen other Adam Sandler movies, you'll see some of the usual faces as well as Courtney Cox as his sis and Keri Russell as the other babysitter for the week.

Over the course of the week, Skeeter gets to know his niece and nephew and discovers he really enjoys them (How could he not? They're all on the same maturity level.), and he becomes friends with Keri Russell's character. Things work out pretty much as you expect them to but that's not necessarily a bad thing. This is a fun movie that I was able to watch with all 3 of my kids without any embarrassment. That's getting harder and harder to find. (****)

Movie Review: 17 Again

This is one of those movies that I knew would see at some point but was in no hurry to run to the theater. It's another in a long line of "do over" movies, which, with the exception of "Big" and "13 Going on 30", if you've seen one, you've seen them all. Of course, the same could be said about most rom coms too but I still keep watching those.

Matthew Perry is the bitter grown up who is convinced that if he could go back to one fateful day in high school and do it differently, his life would be so much better. He gets that chance of course, thanks to a magical janitor. Zac Efron plays the high school version of him. I'm too old to have jumped on the Zac Efron/"High School Musical" bandwagon and I haven't seen him in anything. I was pleasantly surprised, however, with his performance. He's a sweet kid and I could see the "adult" version of him trying to come through at times. He had a few mannerisms and way of carrying himself that you just don't see in teens.

He reverts to being a teen but in the present. As a teen, he hangs out with his son and daughter and gets to overhear his wife talking about their impending divorce. What he has to figure out is, is he there to change his life or his children's?

This movie is rated PG-13 because of frisky teenage themes. There is a teenage pregnancy, talk of birth control as the school hands out condoms, teens making out. The language isn't bad though so it was a nice change of pace. It was a good, sweet movie that you could watch with your teenage kids. (****)

Life Lessons

Howdy had a grand plan the other day. He decided he wanted to create his own version of a Pokemon game. We cut up a bunch of cardstock for him to draw on and color. He started out disappointed because he knew he wouldn't get the desired color effects he wanted with marker or colored pencil and he was a little leery of possibly making a mistake and leaving eraser marks but he took everything up stairs and got to work.

That lasted all of about ten minutes.

He came downstairs with tears in his eyes, frustration obvious. Here's what he said:
"Mommy, something keeps happening to me upstairs. I'm trying to draw but something is making my body not do it and it's making me lazy."

Welcome to perfectionism, son.

I've known for years that he's picked up that particular family trait from both his father and me, and I do my best to help him cope. What struck me about his words were how accurate a description they were. If you're not a perfectionist (do I even know anyone who isn't?) then let me explain. Being a perfectionist means that you don't just keep trying something until you get it right. It means it has to be right from the get go, it has to be PERFECT from the start. If perfection can't be guaranteed, why start? And so you procrastinate. There's no point in starting something if you know it will be less than you imagine or expect.

I am well versed in the trials of perfectionism. I had my first stress related ulcer in the first grade--I was 7. I am now 30-something. It's taken me years to identify my perfectionism, which areas it relates to (spelling, scrapbooking) and which it doesn't (housekeeping, cooking), how to keep it reined it as much as possible and how to let some of it go. It took a long time to realize that I am a procrastinator BECAUSE I'm a perfectionist, not in spite of. So to hear Howdy be able to put words to what he's feeling at so young as age, I'm heartened that we'll be able to help him deal with the things that come along in life.

Knowing that life doesn't have to be perfect and ISN'T perfect is a hard lesson to learn.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010 | By: Slacker Mom

Movie Review: The Hangover

As I've said before, the older I get, the lower my IQ goes. That's the only explanation for the things I find funny anymore. Needless to say, I found "The Hangover" hysterical. 4 men(?) head off to Vegas for a bachelor party 2 nights before the intended wedding. They wake up the next morning with their $4500/night suite completely trashed, a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet and the groom is missing. Oh, did I mention the chicken? And the missing tooth?

The whole movie is them trying to find the groom while piecing together what happened the night before as no one can remember a thing. This involves a stolen police car, a stripper (this is, after all Vegas), and a gay Chinese kingpin...for starters. Is this movie crude? Yes. Is there a lot of foul language? YES, way too much. Is it funny? To my rotted brain and twisted sense of humor, yes.

If you avoid R rated movies, do not go see this one. If you want some junk food for your brain, entertainment with nothing to offer but a couple of cheap laughs? Try this one.

Movie Review: Gamer

Confession: I generally hate sci-fi/futuristic movies. Actually I usually steer clear of sci-fi and horror. But I made an exception for this movie for one reason and one reason only--Gerard Butler. *sigh* He's my current choice for movie eye candy. That's why this movie showed up in my mailbox last week.

It's a well used plot--criminals from the future can earn their freedom by participating in televised fighting. You survive, you go home. There's a twist to this one, though. The criminals are controlled by regular citizens. They are real life avatars playing in a real life Call of Duty. They use real weapons and lose real limbs. Blood, death and dismemberment abound. Gerard Butler is the most successful so far, having won 28 of the required 30 games to earn freedom. Of course, he's been wrongly convicted and he's got a wife and daughter on the outside to keep him motivated.

There is NOTHING redeeming about this movie, not even the sight of my favorite Scot could save it. Besides the "slayers", as the convicts are called, there are other people acting as avatars in the "Society". Imagine an R-rated version of the Sims and you're getting close to the idea. Fat, lazy, freaky people control these avatars and make them do everything they've ever fantasized about doing. Let me put extra emphasis on the fact that these people are FREAKY. Let's just say dress codes are a good thing and leave it at that.

Take it from me, you do NOT want to go see this movie. You will thank me for it. (*)

Movie Review: Duplicity

This movie seems to have everything. A-list stars? Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. Good plot? Two spies who are in love with each other but can't figure out if the other one is playing them or not. It sounds good on paper but really it was a big flop on screen. As I said, they are both spies--Julia for the CIA and Clive for MI6--who quit so they can be together. They plan the scam to top all scams so that they can run away with the money and live happily ever after.

The problem is, the movie keeps jumping back and forth between various past meets and the present without being real clear as to when you're back in the present. I pretty much kept up with the gist of the story but unfortunately the story was incredibly boring. There was a lot of "can she trust him" and "is she or isn't she playing him" that I think was supposed to keep you guessing but I found myself getting sick of the constant back and forth. All I came away with was, "Wow, he needs to find a new girlfriend."

Unless you're just a rabid fan of either one of the actors, I would say skip this one altogether. (**)