"And I will call him Freddie."

Yesterday I watched a repeat of Oprah about the "Hidden world of puppy mills." I only watched the last thirty minutes, but that was enough to do me in.

I picked the show up about the time that they were showing scenes from an animal shelter in Ft. Worth. After talking about the pet overpopulation, they started talking about the process of choosing which dogs to put down. The camera panned the dogs waiting in their cages marked with a big red "E" for euthanize.

That's when I first started to get all choked up.

Then they actually showed scenes of the shelter employees putting a dog down. I couldn't hold it back, the tears just started flowing. And the worst, absolute worst part was when they showed them dumping trash bags that contained the dogs' remains into and old, ordinary trash dumpster.

Let's just say that the Golfer is really lucky that I didn't immediately jump into the car to drive to the animal shelter to rescue every dog there. Instead, I thought I'd take a minute to talk about our great doggy adoption experience and encourage others who might be thinking of getting a dog to do the same.

We went to three different shelters before we found him. I had always said that our next family dog would be a shelter dog and I was holding true to my word even though there was a pet store filled with cute little puppies just down the street. Instead, I drove 40 miles away to look at a Maltese mix that I had seen on the county's animal shelter Website.

When we got there we had to walk past lots and lots of cages, each filled with two or three dogs a piece. Most of them were large dogs; dogs that are darling and cute as puppies and then eventually grow up. When I asked the shelter worker about this she told me, "The small dogs and the puppies are always the first to be adopted." It made my heart ache.

When we first laid eyes on Freddie, he was pretty pitiful looking. His hair was almost completely covering his eyes and his legs and feet had been shaved.

They took us out into a caged in area so we could interact with the dog. We had done this before with several dogs during our two previous visits, but none of the dogs would interact with the boys. None of them seemed like a match for our family (which is important any time that you get a new pet.)

But this dog was different. He didn't run around the cage or run from the boys when they tried to pet him. He simply sat quietly and relished the attention. As the boys were petting him, the Cheese looked up and said, "And I will call him Freddie."

There was no way I couldn't leave him there after my child had given him a name. Just no way.

As I was paying the $50 adoption fee, the lady at the counter had asked me if I knew that he had been adopted a couple of days prior and had been returned.

"What reason did they give for returning him?" I asked her.

"They only said that he acted scared and skittish."

I decided that we'd take our chances.

Freddie is one of the best dogs we've ever owned. He spends his days quietly laying on the upstairs landing, giving him a good view of the outside. He hardly ever barks and was already potty trained. The worst thing that he has ever done was knocking over the trash can to help himself to some leftovers, but even that was minor. He likes to get on our bed and mess up the pillows whenever no body's home which drives me crazy but I can't bring myself to punish him since I've never actually caught him in the act.

We love Freddie and he loves us. He even traveled home with us to Oklahoma over last Christmas break. He was the best traveler out of all of us. He's a good dog that's just happy to be here.

And we're so glad that he is.

I'm worth what?

They briefly reported this morning on Good Morning America about a study that reported what stay-at-home moms are worth. Apparently, women like me are worth $138,000 in the real world.

I must say, I was a little surprise...at how low the amount was! I'm worth triple that at least!

The $138,000 takes into account the salaries for things like chefs, personal drivers, housekeepers, etc. I have a feeling that the amount would be much higher if it included things like a bedside nurse, a private tutor, a sports manager, and a personal psychologist to resolve sibling issues.

I have to admit though, hearing this report did make me feel a little better. My husband works hard at his job and is excellent at what he does. It's all of his hard work that pays for the T-ball uniforms, the trips to the grocery store, and the occasional video game rental. But his salary also pays for things like my make-up, occasional pedicures, and other things to keep me looking presentable. And even though I bring in meager paychecks of my own, it makes me feel guilty that I'm the one spending all of his hard-earned money.

In the midst of my guilt a few weeks ago, it dawned on me that I needed to stop bitching at him about his lack of domestic duties around the house. He travels for work and is gone a lot, and the last thing that he wants to do when he's home is tend to a long Honey-Do list.

So sitting at dinner, I told him my epiphany. I had heard it said before that mothers are the CEO's of the household, but I never invested much thought in that idea. It sounds good and makes mothers feel more important, but that's about as far as I had taken the idea. But you know what? It's really the truth.

It's my husbands job to bring in money. It's my job to take that money and use it to raise our family to the best of my ability. He pays for the groceries, I buy the food and cook it. He pays for the T-ball mitt, bat, and uniform, and I drive our child to practice, etc. You get the idea. But part of managing a happy household includes keeping my husband happy, which involves keeping myself looking good.

I consider myself a feminist. I believe in Girl Power and all of that good stuff. But I also believe that when you choose a certain path, when you made the conscience choice to stay-at-home and raise the children that God blessed you with, you have a responsibility to do it well. How many successful CEOs do you know that spend their days bitching and complaining? Not many. And if they do they don't stay successful for very long.

I earn every last penny of that $138,000 every single day. And just like anyone else who works hard for the money (Donna Summers anyone?) I should get to enjoy spending some of it every now and then. No longer do I feel guilty for spending a little money now and then on my own personal beautification. I figure it's just part of my invisible six-figure salary.

In fact, I think I'll go shopping and give myself a raise.

On this episode of Jon and Kate Plus 8

For the last 3 days I've done very little. Over the long weekend I read three whole books, something I never seem to make the time to do anymore. (Impressive, yes, but two of the three I had read half of and needed to finish.) I actually took an hour nap on one day, which I haven't done since I don't know when, and the only place that we drove to was the grocery store for a few staples that we had run out of like Lunchables.

Because I had been doing so much reading throughout the weekend, I was ready to watch a little television yesterday afternoon. Not much was on worth watching, but I persited. I landed on TLC, a channel that I used to watch all the time while I was pregnant (Baby Story anyone?) but haven't watched much of since. Except for one show--Jon and Kate Plus 8.

Whenever the Golfer sees me watching it, he'll usually say something like "Why do you watch that crap?"

"It's not crap. It's real life," I'll reply.

The Golfer doesn't understand why I would want to watch a show about parenting when that's what I do (and complain about) all day. But what he doesn't understand is that this isn't regular parenting. This show is about parenting 8 kids--six of which are all three-years-old.

Yesterday there was a Jon and Kate Plus 8 marathon and I watched just about the whole thing (the Golfer is out-of-town.) The more I watched, the more I fell for this family. It's refreshing to see other parents losing their temper, rolling their eyes, and getting fed up in general.

I've finally figured out why I'm so drawned to watching this show--these people are real. They aren't perfect parents and they'll tell you as much. And the mere fact that they are raising 8 kids amazes me. I struggle with only having two.

Sure, the mom, Kate, gets on my nerves some times. She's a little too anal retentive and controlling. But you know what? I have a feeling that if cameras came into my house and started recording all of my parenting moves, I would probably get on peoples' nerves too.

These people are doing their best and I appreciate that. Even though they have 8 kids, they seem to know each one of them so well. They recognize their kids differences and celebrate each kid for who they are. It made me wonder whether or not I do that with my two.

The Cheese stopped running around in his Storm Trooper costume long enough to ask me, "Why do they have 8 kids?"

"Because that's how many God blessed them with."

"Why don't we have 8 kids?"

"Because God knows better," I told him.

The Cheese: Potty talk?

The Cheese Eater was outside in the backyard playing yesterday afternoon. I was quietly sitting on the couch reading a book.

"Mommy? There's scat in the yard," he ran in to inform me.

"What is 'scat'?" I asked.

"Mommy," (rolling his eyes in exasperation) "...'scat' is another word for poopy."

"Oh, well, I need to come and scoop the doggy poop in the yard. But, buddy...poopy is not called 'scat'."

"Uh huh, yeah there is."

At this point, I wasn't sure what to say. My son walked back out into the yard and that was the end of our conversation. I was glad that it was over because I had a feeling that the word 'scat' was a word for poopy that adults sometimes use that he was mispronouncing--a kind of bad word that we refer to in our house as Potty Talk.

But I couldn't really get onto him because I wasn't sure if that was what he was actually saying. And I didn't want to pursue it too much further and end up basically teaching him the bad word in the end.

"No son. The word isn't 'scat'. It is actually pronounced sh..."

I'm a fairly liberal, open-minded, tell-it-like-it-is kind of parent, but that's a little too much even for me.

But not so far in the future I'm going to have to have a parental discussion about cuss words. I am a parent to two boys--it is inevitable.

And I have no idea what in the hell I'm going to say to them.

Update: Apparently, scat IS a word that means poop. From Wikipedia: "In medicine and biology, scatology or coprology is the study of feces." My child doesn't have a potty mouth--he's a genius with a better vocabulary than his mother. He learned it on a nature hike during a birthday party. I'm the one that's the idiot.

The Cheese: the best citizen

Yesterday there was an award assembly for the kindergartners at the Cheese's school. The week before I received a criptic letter saying that he would be receiving an award, but it didn't say for what.

They have an awards assembly every so often at his school. They award the kids for effort, scholarship, citizenship, and what every the character trait from the Character Counts program is for the month. In September, the Cheese had received an award for Outstanding Citizenship. I was so proud of him--being recognized for this consideration of others and the world around him. It affirmed for the Golfer and I that maybe we are doing something right.

So yesterday he received ANOTHER award for Outstanding Citizenship. Of course we would have been proud no matter what area he received his award in, but I love that basically he was awarded again for being a nice kid. Obviously while he's at school he is aware of how his actions affect those around him and always chooses the right thing to do.

Why won't he do that at home?

Afterward we took him out for a special lunch. Everytime the Golfer and I tried to compliment him or tell him how proud we were, he would tuck his head in imbarrasement. On top of being a good citizen, he is humble too.

He then asked if we could go rent a new video game since he had gotten an award. How could I resist? I know that it is only kindergarten, but I pray that his good attitude and thoughtfulness continues.

And if he could pass along his good habits to his brother, that would be awesome.

Works for Me Wednesday: Snack basket vs. Treat Jar

There is a long, narrow basket that sits on the bottom shelf of my pantry. For a long time, that it where I would dump all of the kids' treats. They are both old enough now that they can open the pantry door and get themselves a snack whenever they're hungry without always running to me.

This worked fine except for the occasional time when they would grab a random lollipop left over from a birthday party favor sack. All of their snacks seemed very sugar oriented. Fruit chewies are great and my children love them, but let's face it, it's a stretch to call fruit chewies a "healthy snack."

So I had to re-evaluate the Snack Basket. A healthy food line had to be drawn in the middle of my pantry. The Cookie Monsters words ("Cookies are a sometimes treat.") were ringing in my ears.

I took out everything sweet: rice crispy treats, fruit chewies, left over Halloween candy, etc. and moved it all to the Treat Jar. The Treat Jar is simply a large glass jar with a screw top lid that is big enough to hold even the biggest of treats. It's located on the top shelf of the pantry, well out of reach. Little eyes often gaze up in wonder and longing.

The Snack Basket was filled up with good stuff: small bags of pretzels, boxes of raisins, granola bars, 100 calorie snack bags of crackers, etc. It's still in the same spot, reachable and kid-friendly.

Next came the discussion with the boys about the differences between a snack and a treat. A treat was something that you sometimes had. It was for special occasions like pooping in the potty and being sweet to your brother. A snack had to be something healthy; something that will make you grow big and strong. (We have boys--we talk a lot about being big and strong.) I even showed them that they could grab string cheese from the refrigerator or an apple from the bowl.

And it has worked like a charm. No more meltdowns when I say no to a sweet treat. The division helped them to see the snack differences that there are in the world and to accept them. I do have to stay on top of the Snack Basket and make sure nothing accidentally sneaks in there, and the Treat Jar location often caused my 3-year-old to try and climb the shelves to try and reach it on his own.

But it's what works for us. Try it, you might like it.

Check out more Works for Me Wednesday here.

Number 8

Eight years ago today, I married this guy. The good thing is that I am still as crazy about him today as I was then.

Eight years ago, it was a sunny 80 degree day in Oklahoma City. We got married at 11:00 in the morning because we wanted to do something different. (All of our friends had gotten married at night, and although all of their weddings were great, we wanted something that truly felt like all our own.) The sun lit up the stained glass windows and drowned the church in light as if God himself was looking in and saying, "I am pleased."

The reception was outside. This about killed my mother with worry. May in Oklahoma can go either way. Lucky for us, there were no tornado warnings or other signs of pending doom. Gary England most likely had the day off it was so beautiful. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and all the guests had to wear their sunglasses it was so bright outside.

I can't say that my wedding was perfect. My bouquet wasn't exactly what I wanted and my veil was a little too poofy. But that was/is just me being picky. In truth, I didn't care about any of that 8 years ago today. All I knew was that I was marrying a man that I loved more than anything and in the eyes of eternity that was all that mattered.

It makes my brain hurt to think of everything that has happened since that day: 2 kids, 1 miscarriage, the loss of his father, and my father's cancer. I quit my job teaching and discovered another job as a newspaper columnist, author, and blogger. He quit his job in the financial world to chase his dreams only to discover that they were in California. We've lived in 3 houses and 2 townhouses, owned 3 dogs, 2 guinea pigs, and a fish. To say that our lives have been full would be an understatement.

And the best part of it? I love my life. I love my kids. I love my husband. None are perfect, but they are mine.

Is it summer yet? I certainly feels like it.

My boys have discovered a new treat: eating ice cream out of cones on the back porch. Is there anything better? No, I don't think so.

The problem with introducing a new treat is that they now ask for it every night after dinner. Who knew the promise of a vanilla ice cream cone could make a kid eat all of his corn? I've tried these kinds of bribes in the past, but my boys were always willing to give up the pleasure of eating a cookie for the pain of eating peas.

But it now looks as if I've finally discovered their currency--what they are willing to barter for. It didn't take them long to go through a gallon of vanilla, so yesterday at the store I promised that we would buy some more.

"Okay, guys. What kind do you want?"

"Hummmm..." the Cheese says as he slowly walks passed the frosted freezer doors with his hands folded, rubbing his chin. "Let me think about this."

"Green!" the Monkey replies. "I want the green one!" He's pointing to a tub of mint chocolate chip which I know that he won't eat.

"How about you guys pick a kind that you would both like. How about Cookies 'n Cream? That's yummy!" I told them.


"I want the green one!"

"No. No green ice cream, baby. You won't like it," I tell the Monkey as he now folds his arms and starts to pout.

"I think I want that kind up there."

"No way, buddy. No pink bubble gum ice cream."

"I want bubb' gum! I want bubb' gum!" The Monkey's joyous attitude seems to have returned.
Meanwhile, the Golfer has been standing next to the cart the entire time obvious to the ice cream drama as he checks his messages on his phone. Suddenly realizing what's going on, he offers a suggestion.

"How about popsicles?"

"No!" I snap back. "We're here for ice cream!"

He quickly returns to his phone with a sigh and a I'm-so-glad-I-don't-grocery-shop-with-you-guys-on-a-regular-basis look on his face.

After debating the 51 flavors before us--everything from lime sherbet ("Green!") to Dippin' Dot style ice cream cups--I grabbed a tub of No Sugar Added coffee ice cream that I knew no one but me would like.

And for the boys? Lime, pink, and orange sherbet Push Up Pops. Everyone left happy.


(Cheese Eater) "Mommy, I'm worn out."

"Hard day at school?"

"Yeah...can I rest when I get home?"

"You don't want to go swimming?"

"No, Mommy. Just like sometimes you need a rest, I need a rest."

"Well okay then. You're absolutely right buddy--sometimes we all need a rest."

"And Pop needs to rest everyday."

(Laughing) "Yes, Pop likes to take a rest everyday."

"Silly Pop."

(Monkey) "Pop funny!"

(Cheese Eater) "Where's is Pop?"

"Probably at home resting."

"Silly Pop!"

Who knew that Pop was so hysterical.

Works for Me Wednesday

I made the Cheese this special work station in his new room. It was really a big deal that he wanted his own desk (a small little desk that used to belong to the Golfer's grandfather.) I wanted to give him a space to do his homework; something that would "grow" with him over time.

The peg boards (light blue), cork boards, and magnet boards (navy blue) all came from Pottery Barn Kids Staton Collection. It was HARD to get them all up there perfectly straight--I literally worked on it all day long, only stopping to take and pick up the boys from school--but well worth the time.

The Cheese's response when he saw the finished result?


Don't buy me anything

Note to all husbands/fathers: When your wife tells you not to buy her a card that does not mean that she doesn't want a present.

Okay, so I had told my husband not to worry about getting me a card for Mother's Day. The green side of me didn't want him spending $2.99 on a card that wasn't made of recycled paper and that I would eventually end up in our recycling bin.

Well, he took that to mean that I didn't want ANYTHING for Mother's Day. Here is a good example where communication is key in a relationship. I was thinking no card, but I WAS thinking a nice little trinket of some kind.

Lucky for my husband, my boys both made me special presents at school. Their hand made presents were exactly what any mother would want on Mother's Day. Art work, pictures, a coupons for "taking out the trash" and "hugs and kisses" all put a lump in my throat bigger than Texas.

Here is where the controversy lies. I even think is was a part of Hot Topics yesterday on The View.

My boys gave me presents because I am their mother and it was Mother's Day. I guess I just assumed that my husband would take my boys out and do the whole "let's buy something special for Mommy" thing. Something that would acknowledge my being mother to his two children and a way of saying "Thank you for who you are and what you do." I didn't want anything expensive; nothing fancy or grand. Just a little "I love you" present.

But he didn't.

Yes, I agree with everyone who says that mothers should be thanked every day, not just one day a year, but that's not the way it works. We mothers get one Sunday in May to be pampered and appreciated. The other 364 are left over for us to continue to meet everyone else's needs with a muffled "thanks, Mom" thrown in every once in a while. It was my one day and I got the shaft.

Don't get me wrong; we had a special day planned. We were visiting my mom and step-dad at their beach house. My mom and I went on a home tour and had a lovely time. We sat on the beach with the boys and took them swimming on the pool. It was a fun day and we all enjoyed spending time together. I shouldn't be moaning or groaning about a thing, but Gifts are my Love Language.

A Love Language is something that speaks to your heart. It's your currency; what you respond to. When someone gives me a thoughtful gift, I feel the love that they have for me. Some people respond to Words of Affirmation, others respond to Touch, etc. But Gifts are my thing, and lately my husband has sucked at giving me any.

He didn't always used to be that way. Some of the most wonderful things that he has ever given me or done for me cost next to nothing. When they say it is the "thought that counts", that really is the truth. So to me, no gift on Mother's Day was sort of like saying, "I really didn't think enough about you to do anything special for you today."

So how do you say that you're feelings are hurt about not receiving a gift without sounding selfish and materialistic? It's hard to do. You feel like a 5-year-old, whining that you didn't get the toy that you wanted.

My husband truly thought that I didn't want anything--again, a serious lack of communication. I told him that from now on we just shouldn't buy presents for each other so no one would feel obligated to do so and no one would ever feel disappointed. I guess I sort of meant it.

I'm still unclear about what we decided. I think that we are going to start taking the money that we would use to buy presents for each other and start a separate savings account. We've often talked about wanting to go back to Italy (one of the places we went on our honeymoon) so this savings account would be for a special trip like that. It's a great idea, and maybe we'll actually do it.

But today is a new day. There are things to do, children to drive places. No more time to bitch about getting or not getting presents. I love my husband and children and they are the best presents anyone could have.

Blah...blah...blah. Whatever.

Thank you Ms. Karen!

The boys had their last swimming lesson yesterday. To say that I am pleased with what they've accomplished the last two weeks would be an understatement. The improvements they've made are UN-BE-LIEVABLE!

Before lessons, the Monkey would only get into the water if you were holding him. Now he will jump in and swim to you. He is only 3-years-old! I was trying to remember when I learned to swim all by myself. I couldn't remember, but I'm pretty darn sure that I wasn't 3!
I remember one of my swimming lessons. The lady would throw pennies in the pool and tell us to "go get them." I'm not sure what that was supposed to teach us exactly, but I'm pretty sure that whatever it was, I didn't learn it.

My dad tried to teach me to swim. He would hold me on his hip, put both arms around me tightly, and tell me to hold my breath. We'd be under water where I had no use of my arms and legs. I felt panicked and scared. I absolutely hated every second of it. It's amazing I'll get near a body of water at all.

That's why I made sure my boys had lessons from someone who really knew what they were doing and Ms. Karen didn't disappoint. The Cheese enjoyed going to the pool before lessons, but would not go in without an adult. I was glad that he had a healthy fear of the water, but I was worried that he would stay scared and never learn how much fun swimming can be. Well that's all changed. He loves swimming all by himself, jumping in, diving for rings. It's awesome!

I better start exercising because I'm going to be spending a lot of time in a bathing suit this summer.

I am actually a little sad that our lessons are over. Ms. Karen taught them so much and they've made such improvements working with her. She was worth every penny and we plan on going back to her every summer until she tells us, "Enough! 18-year-olds don't need lessons!"

Today we're heading to the pool. I pray that they show the same progress and enthusiasm in the water with us as they did Ms. Karen. I hope we don't screw up everything that she's done. I have a feeling it will all be fine and they've be swimming better than I can (which isn't saying much) before the summer is over.

Like when I play video games with them or try to put together a train track, my boys will be telling me, "Mommy, I'm better at that than you are.
And thank goodness they are. Anybody want to dive for pennies?

I felt like spraying my bangs with Aqua Net

I was in the car--yet again--picking up and dropping off. We were in between activities, just having finished swimming lessons and heading home to change for T-ball practice. It was the end of the day and I was worn out and pretty much sick of being a glorified taxi driver.

The boys were in the back seat talking about something, asking me questions that I was giving the tired mommy answer "uh-huh" to. There was a commercial on the radio for something obnoxious that I neither wanted nor needed. I was just about to turn it off--attempting to defuse at least some of the noise in the car--when a song came on that caused me to turn up the radio instead of turning it off.

I love hearing songs that instantly take me somewhere. This one took me back to my freshman year in high school. My braces were off, I finally had contacts, and I was just starting to grow out of what I refer to as my "shy and nerdy" phase. I was far from being cool or having a boy look my direction, but I was starting to figure out what was cool and what wasn't.

Picturing myself back at West Mid-High, I started singing along with radio.

"Oooohhhh...we're half way there...ooooohhh...livin' on a prayer...take my hand and we'll make it I swear...oooohhh...livin' on a prayer...livin' on a prayer!"

And I mean, at this point I am really singing. Loudly. Enough to even make my chatty children stop and take notice. And let me just say, I can't sing to save my life. I sing at church, but God help you if you're sitting close enough to actually hear me. But in the car yesterday, Bon Jovi was the man in my life making me smile at a time when I really needed it.

I was never a Bon Jovi fan. I listened to their songs just like everyone else did in the 80's, but I never actually owned an album or cassette. But I was a true teenager of my generation. I made out to Axel singing "Every rose has its thorn" and worn blue mascara and jelly shoes. I wouldn't say that I loved the 80's, but I made it work for me the best I could.

"We've got to hold on to what we've got...'cause it doesn't make a difference if we make it or not...we've got each other and that's a lot...for love...we'll give it a shot..."

I was amazed how I recalled the lyrics word for word. My boys were still silent in the back seat, making me wonder if I needed to buy a "Best of the 80's" CD to keep in the car. My singing apparently has some sort of calming effect--my children were mesmerized. They were like the dogs that hear a high pitched noise, caulking their heads to one side with their ears perked up and their eyes glazed in curiosity. It made me laugh seeing them in the rearview mirror, so I kept singing.

"...we're half way there...oooohhhh...livin' on a prayer..."

It was 20 years ago since this song first came out. I'm older, but so is Bon Jovi. I'm now a wife and mother who is too tired to make out in cars. Besides, after spending all day driving around in one, that's the last place I want to be.

The Cheese: Boomer!

Last week The Cheese had to dress up as what he wanted to be when he grew up. This is what he chose.

When you're only six-years-old, there's still lots of room to dream big. All of you that are worried that our boys won't grow up as Sooner fans, there's obviously no need to worry.

All week long, he came home from school and wanted to immediately put on one of his two jerseys, the pads, and the helmet. He would only take the helmet off to eat. At one point, he wore the helmet in the car while we took The Monkey to preschool. For those of you back home in Oklahoma, I've got one word for you...Calvin.

Oh, man!

"Mommy? The Monkey is coloring on the table!"

Distracted, I take my sweet time walking over to the table to see how bad it really is. Pretty bad--but done with washable markers. And besides, how can you get angry when he was coloring this...

You wouldn't have yelled at him either.