Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thinking of Retirement - yes already

This is my most favorite picture of my grandmother. We were in Michigan, celebrating Thanksgiving. I have no idea what she and Isaac were so tickled about, but they sure are laughing.

What brought retirement to my mind? The cover of my US News & World Report, a conversation with my brother over breakfast, the slight panic I sometimes feel when I think about the future.

Glen and I figured out long ago that we won't retire... or can't retire. We never were in that DINK category - the double-income-no-kids. Plus, for the first 10 years of our marriage, we worked in ministry. An emotionally-rewarding, but notoriously low-paying job with few retirement benefits. No matching 401K funds for us. (Although we did manage to contribute to a 403B for awhile.)

I started feeling a little scared, or sad about the whole thing. But then I realized, retirement is probably over-rated, a modern state-of-being fed by the baby boomer generation which has defined our culture since World War II.

My grandmother retired from ministry, but has never quit working. No, she doesn't get paid, but she has been involved in the lives of many people in her church and her community - bringing neighborhood children to AWANA, probating the wills of I forget how many different people, and tons of other things I don't know about.

My dad retired from teaching. For about eight months. Now, he's the interim associate pastor at our church. He keeps saying he wants to retire - but I know he's enjoying what he's doing. It's been a learning curve for sure, but what is life if we stop learning?

So, yesterday I realized that I am investing right now in my future. Not financially - homeschooling four children and living in the Chicago suburbs on one salary means that line item had to be put off for now. But, in my daily choices - investing precious time in my children, in my own health and that of my family. Those choices will make a big difference in 20 years - when Glen and I, Lord-willing, are still healthy enough to keep working, to keep living a full and active life.

Just like my grandmother.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


It's hard to believe that this mass of pieces strewn over - rather, placed carefully in, knowing my husband - our backyard will become a rather enormous playset. My husband says it will be gi-normous. I've never seen it put together, so I have to take his word for it. And that of my 11yo son, who helped take it down and put it in our backyard.

This all started years ago, when Glen and I debated over a playset for our children. We weren't sure what to do, since our kids had gotten older since we left our metal swingset in Florida. We finally saved up our money, and settled on the largest playset we could afford. According to our children, it was too small, and wouldn't be any fun. But after it was set up, they played and played and played on it last summer and the first part of this summer.

Then tragedy struck while the children and I were enjoying a day at Six Flags - a tree fell on our playset. Our neighbor's tree. The estimate to repair the set would cost half of what it cost us initially. We debated and debated, and with a very busy summer, did nothing.

"Go outside!" I would tell the children.

"The only thing we like to do outside is swing!" they would tell me (quite a change from the 'it's too small' cry of the year before).

Then, last week, a friend called. A client of her husband's landscaping business had offered them his super-deluxe Rainbow play set. "Just get it out of here - my kids are done with it," he said.

"It's too large for our backyard, and I know a tree fell on your playset so I thought of you." My husband was out of town, but I was more than willing to commit him to tearing it down and bringing it here. (Poor guy)

I recruited help, since both our fathers are recovering from surgery and couldn't help. Bob, Jon and Michael came Saturday morning. I don't think they knew what they were getting into, but they came anyway (bless you!). My dad and Chris loaned us their pick-ups, and off the men and Nathaniel caravaned to get the gi-normous playset.

So, by Saturday afternoon, the pieces were laid out in our backyard, waiting for another Saturday of work to put it back together. Nathaniel tells me we can have 11 children swinging on this playset at one time. Quite a change from our little 4 person set. I can hardly believe the blessing - neither can the kids. We are so thankful - and can't wait until we can invite friends over to play and play and play.

Although 6yo Isaac says he's going to start a business by charging kids $5 to play. I thought that was a little steep, but he says he's saving to buy a Lego DeathStar playset. "This is a great idea, Mom, to have my own business so I can earn money!"

Hm. Not exactly what I was thinking...

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Little Photographers

I'm always surprised, when I start uploading pictures from my camera to my computer, to find that some little gremlins in my house grabbed it while I wasn't looking and took pictures. Hundreds of them.

Mostly, I think they're creative, and funny, and crazy. But then I remember why I have my camera. These same said gremlins grabbed my last digital camera last summer, and dropped it in the middle of a fight. Which, of course, destroyed the camera and left us camera-less until my parents had pity on me and generously bought one for my husband and I for Christmas last year.

Such a dilemma for me - fun, creative pictures to laugh over, or protecting a valuable belonging that we cannot replace soon if it's broken?

For today, I choose to laugh.
I hope you do too.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Gardner Heist

Right before our trip to Ohio for Labor Day, I did a quick walk-through the New Book section at my local library. I needed something to read for my trip - preferably more than one something.

The first book I grabbed was True Mom Confessions, which I blogged about here.

The second book I grabbed was this one: The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser.

I felt vaguely familiar with the story - the detail that the empty frames still hang in the museum triggered the thought I had read about this art theft before. But not enough to remember the details of it.

Boser does a masterful job of telling the story of the history of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, as well as that of the theft. He introduces us to many interesting characters - insurance investigator Harold Smith and Isabella Stewart Gardner being a couple of the first. It is really a fascinating case - one which would take over Boser's life for several years. The story of his obsession is good reading.

The story of Boser's investigation does get involved. He admits to creating a database to keep track of the different people which whom he's talked - no wonder I felt like I was a little confused at points. But for me, that confusion did not overshadow the well-written, fascinating story of the Gardner Heist.

And I can tell you, a visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is on my list when I go to Boston.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Only 1 Week Left

Air purity is a hot topic these days – I’ve seen articles in the newspaper, online, in the paper’s weekend magazine about the dangers air pollution.

Oh, are you thinking the air pollution outside?

Actually, the quality of our outdoor air has steadily gotten better (in most parts of the country). It’s the quality of the air inside our homes which is really bad, and steadily getting worse.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned about it years ago – calling it America’s #1 environmental health problem.

As always, it takes awhile for the message to get out.

Now, you can find all sorts of infomercials touting the benefits of an air purifier.

Do you really need one? The short answer is yes. Especially if:

  • you have a newer home, have remodeled recently, or plan to remodel (including painting)

  • you have young children and/or pets

  • you have seasonal or environmental allergies

  • you have asthma or other respiratory issues

  • you have a compromised immune system

If you’re not sure why the air inside your home isn’t safe, let me know, or look at my website about air quality.

With winter coming on, it’s more important than ever to invest in a whole house air purifier. It will help you and your family stay healthier, because it frees your immune system from dealing with all the toxins in the air – allowing it to focus on what’s really important, killing those viruses being passed around work, school and church.

Shaklee’s AirSource 3000 is a great investment (you have to be a member to see the page). I’ve had one for over eight years, and cannot imagine life without it.

(Read more about my experience here.)

You only have until September 30ththat’s next Wednesday – to order your AirSource unit. Why? Basically Shaklee decided it wasn’t worth the expensive process of registering it with the state of California, as will be required starting October 1st.

Why am I encouraging you to purchase one before they go off the market? Several reasons:

  • Shaklee will still honor the original three-year warranty

  • Replacement modules (which you need once a year) will be available for three more years – allowing you to stock up before they’re gone.

  • You can consider an AirSource an appliance – it should last like one (at least 10 years, perhaps more).

  • You will be glad you did!

Please call me or e-mail me with any questions you may have. I found it is worth every penny I spent on mine – I’m healthier, my family is healthier – and with winter around the corner, that’s worth a lot!

If you would like to order one, and cannot access any of the above links, let me know. I can order one on your behalf.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

True Mom Confessions + Pictures

Over Labor Day weekend, we traveled to Ohio to visit family. I always have to have something to read when I travel, and that weekend, I picked up True Mom Confessions: Real Moms Get Real from the library.

Nathaniel thought the cover hilarious, pointing out the little blurb above the title, which reads: "I haven't taught my kids to tell time yet...that way I can say it's bedtime whenever I want."

I looked at him and said, "Oh yes. I did that too." He looked shocked. Good thing I didn't tell him that as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother, I chose not to teach him to tell time until he was at least six so I could put him in bed at 6:00 or 6:30. I'm not sure he would have forgiven me. (smile!)

Even if you're not a big reader, you will enjoy this book. It's mostly quotes from real moms who write anonymously on the blog. The book is organized by chapters into topics, with an introduction from the author, Romi Lassally. Each chapter ends with a short essay from a real life mom blogger.

It is a thick book, but with few words on each page, so you can feel good about finishing 266-page book in little snippets throughout your day. A definite plus for moms.

And, as promised (better late than never!), pictures from our trip, courtesy of Ann or Isaac, with some slight editing by mom.

Friday, September 18, 2009

not so big remodeling

Many years ago, my good friend Sarah introduced me to the book the not so big house: a blueprint for the way we really live by Sarah Susanka. Since then, I've occasionally perused the various books by Susanka. The pictures are beautiful, and it gave me ideas of what to look for in a house.

I found her newest book on the shelf in the library last week, and I cannot tell you how excited I was to check it out! not so big remodeling: Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live is a gem. This one I read, cover to cover. The pictures are beautiful, and Susanka does a great job of teaching basic composition and architectural principles to those of us who lack a good 'eye.'

One thing I love about not so big remodeling is that Susanka assumes that all her readers will be operating on a budget, and some a very small one. She starts the book by describing her own remodeling project in her own house - separating remodeling projects into different categories: immediate changes to make the house more livable, improvements to the character of the house, house changes made because of life changes and what would be nice someday, but may not ever get done.

I enjoyed seeing the before and after pictures of Susanka's own house. The rest of the book is full of wonderful pictures - including before and after pictures and floor plans - of other remodels. Susanka deals with different parts of our house - the exterior, kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, offices, etc. She ends with whole house transformations - which she acknowledges is out of the question for most of us, but is necessary for some poorly planned homes.

It inspired me to pull out the tape measure and measure out our kitchen and dining/family room. It's layout is not working for our family, so I drew it to scale on graph paper, made copies, and tried out some ideas. I'm not a detail person, so I'm not sure I got the measurements exactly right, nor am I sure I know the clearance needed for pulling out chairs, etc. To do it right, I'd need to enlist the help of an expert. But it was fun to dream.

After dreaming for a little, I pulled out the Sunday paper to read it. On the front of the Homes section, was a huge article about a $6.5 million mansion in northwest Illinois for sale - over 18,000 (yes, that's thousand) square feet. The couple decided they wanted to sell after their son moved out. I gawked at the pictures of the entry way, the living room, the indoor pool, and saw the contrast between a showpiece and a not so big house advocated by Sarah Susanka.

Even if I had the money, hands down I'd prefer a not so big house.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lost Tooth

I pulled out the camera this morning to take a picture of Isaac's first lost tooth. Really, a picture of his mouth missing his first tooth. He yanked it out yesterday after I discovered Monday night that he had a big tooth growing in behind his baby teeth. That boy worked and worked on that tooth all afternoon. Then we had corn on the cob last night, so his other front tooth is about to fall out.

I obviously got the focus on the wrong part of his mouth - but you can see his missing tooth, new tooth coming in (sideways) and an almost missing tooth. The tooth fairy gave him two quarters last night - anticipating the next tooth coming out I'm sure. :)

When I went to upload the photos for my blog, I was surprised to see that some little gnomes, namely Isaac and Lydia, had grabbed my camera and went on a shooting spree while I read school books to their older siblings this morning. I thought you'd enjoy seeing some of their handiwork...

Isaac is quite the little photographer. He pointed out to me that this last photo is Teddy's close up. He thought it hilarious, so I couldn't delete it - like I did about 80% of the 200 pictures they took.

I love digital cameras.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

So Much to Say...

The past 10 days or so have been crazy. First, packing up the family for a big trip to Ohio to visit family over Labor Day weekend. Then, recovering from said trip.

And, unfortunately, I wasn't not feeling very photographery, - if that's a word. I did give the camera to my kids a time or two to get some random shots. I'd share them, but am missing my camera-to-computer cord at the moment. When I find it, I'll post some pictures. It was a good time with Glen's extended family - we spent some time with Grandpa Jake and Grandma Marce, and Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma Cotterman - both sets of Glen's grandparents. And the kids played with a plethora of second cousins.

We were on a trip, which meant I read. And read. And read. So, I have a short stack of books I want to write about. I was planning on doing that this week, but apparently I'm getting old and having a harder time recovering from trips - family or otherwise. So, by the time I felt better, my wireless card went out on my computer, which meant I had a harder time working on my computer (had to go plug it into our home network).

Yesterday, Nathaniel, Anna, Lydia and I spent the day in Gurnee at our local Bible Bee competition. The kids had a great time and decided they wanted to go again next year. Anna made a new friend and they exchanged phone numbers to keep in touch.

All of which explains why I've not written much.

But back to the trip. The big controversy in our car is that a majority of us (read: the children and me) enjoy listening to audio books while driving. One of us does not (read: Glen). Before we left, we went to the library and picked up some audio books - both on CD and on Play-Away.

Oh, you don't know what a Play-Away is? It's a portable, digital book. You can plug it into the auxiliary plug-in on your stereo (car or home) or you can listen to it on earphones. My kids love these. Glen loves these because it means he doesn't have to listen to his music over the Adventures in Odessy tapes playing in the back seat. We always get three or four before a trip and the kids share them between each other.

But this time, the kids really, really wanted to listen to the books on CD. We had checked out (via my favorite interlibrary loan) the original Nancy Drew books, #4 & #5 (I think they were The Bungalow Mystery and The Mystery at Lilac Inn - Anna could tell you for sure) and an Andrew Clements book called A Week in the Woods.

Glen was nice enough to let us listen to all of them on our trip! We all (probably not Glen so much) enjoyed the Nancy Drew books. All of us, except Isaac, really enjoyed A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements.

If you've never read an Andrew Clements' book, you need to. They're written for older elementary school or junior high school students, so they're appropriate for children too. I love the way Clements writes. I'd recommend you start with Frindle - it's a classic. We listened to it when we were in Upper Michigan in July - Glen and I laughed out loud at several points. A Week in the Woods is quite enjoyable too.

I'm off to find my camera-to-computer cord. And yes, that's the technical term.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Help for Kidney Stones

Dr. Steve Chaney is a rare bird – so to speak. A very, very smart man who can talk about scientific topics in a way that even I, a non-science person, can understand. Dr. Chaney teaches Biochemistry and Bio-Physics to medical students at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Dr. Chaney reviews scientific studies and papers for those of us who don’t, or can’t, read them. He recently reviewed a study about the effects of sports drinks on kidney stones – I found it interesting so thought I’d pass it along. Thanks Dr. Chaney!

When you are the leader in the natural food supplement industry, people sometimes test your products without you even knowing about it.

That was exactly what happened with a recent study comparing the effects of Shaklee's Performance and Gatorade on the risk of kidney stone formation.

This was the ultimate independent study. Shaklee didn't initiate it. They didn't support it. And, in fact, they didn't even know about it until it was published a couple of weeks ago (J.W. Goodman et al, Urol. Res., 37: 41-46, 2009).

Before I get into the results of the study, perhaps I should start with an explanation of why you would even want to do that kind of study.

Let's start with the problem - kidney stones. They are extremely painful, and they can damage the kidney - particularly if they form over and over again.

To a urologist the solution is simple - just drink two liters of water a day. The problem is that you have to really, really, really like water to drink two liters a day, and most people just aren't that into water.

In fact, previous studies had shown that even when patients had a previous kidney stone and were told by their urologist to drink two liters of water a day, the average result was an increase of only 0.3 liters a day of water.

So this group of urologists asked what people were drinking instead of water.

The latest trends show that soft drink consumption is decreasing and consumption of sports drinks and energy drinks is increasing. And, there was absolutely no information on whether sports drinks increased or decreased the risk of kidney stone formation.

So they decided to look at two well-known sports drinks, Shaklee's Performance and Gatorade, to see whether they would increase or decrease the risk of kidney stone formation compared to the consumption of an equivalent amount of water.

They looked at the effect of each sports drink on the amount of citrate in the urine and by how much they increased the pH of the urine because each of these decreases the risk of kidney stone formation.

They also looked at the effect of each sports drink on the amount of sodium and calcium in the urine because each of those increases the risk of kidney stone formation.

Performance significantly increased the amount of citrate and the pH of the urine, while Gatorade had no effect on either of them. Neither Performance or Gatorade had an significant effect on sodium or calcium levels in the urine. Thus, they concluded that Shaklee's Performance was superior to either Gatorade or water alone at deceasing the risk of kidney stone formation.

Now you might be tempted to say that this study was of more interest to urologists than the general public. But my guess is that if you have ever suffered through a kidney stone this study is of great interest to you.

But to me the more important conclusion is that, once again, independent clinical studies show the superiority of Shaklee products.

My kids and I love the orange Performance. I particularly enjoy it mixed with a Pomegranate Cinch Tea packet. A burst of energy – and no nasty crash. What’s not to love?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture

I heard the end of an interview with Shane Hipps on the radio last month. He's the author of the new book Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith. The book sounded interesting to me, so I checked it out online. Those who'd already read it recommended reading his first book first, so I did. (Have I mentioned how much I love interlibrary loan?)

I found The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, the Gospel and the Church quite fascinating. Hipps' background is advertising as a strategic planner, so he's quite familiar with media and culture.

Hipps bases much of his thinking on that of Marshall McLuhan, a very smart man who lived in the 1960's. He was a forward-thinker, and saw how the media we consume as a culture would change our thinking and our culture. Hipps introduces McLuhan in the second chapter, giving us some background into his education, thinking and status as pop culture guru in the '60's.

But first, Hipps challenges his readers to "realize that our forms of media and technology are primary forces that cause changes in our philosophy, theology, culture, and ultimately the way we do church."

Yes, his book is addressed to the church. But I think anyone who is interested in media's influence on our culture would find at least the first part of the book food for thought. I especially enjoyed his discussion of a couple of ancient Greek myths as illustrations of how we tend to look at media and how we should consider media - personally and corporately.

The first myth he discusses is that of Narcissus. The classic interpretation of it has been a warning against self-love, but Hipps favorite philosopher, McLuhan, saw it differently. He said Narcissus's chief problem was that
"he failed to recognize himself in the fountain's reflection. ... If he had understood that this fountain was simply a mirror reflecting his own face, Narcissus would have been able to dispel the power of the pool and gain control over it. ... Narcissus suffered because he became numb to the technology that came to enslave him."
Contrast that to the myth of Perseus - the son of the god Zeus. He volunteers to go destroy Medusa - the monster terrifying the land. Anyone who looks at her directly was turned to stone. Perseus uses a shield as a mirror to guide him and Medusa's stare has no affect on him because it's a reflection, so he cuts off her head.

Unlike Narcissus, who was unaware of the 'technology' that ended up enslaving him (his reflection in the pool), Perseus realizes he can control that same technology (a reflection off a shield), which allowed him to survive his ordeal.
"When we become aware of the specific ways in which technology and media serve as extensions of ourselves, much of their power is dispelled. We are returned to being owners of technology rather than those who are owned by it."
I don't know about you - but sometimes I feel as if I'm owned by my technology instead of the other way around. This book is a good foundation for being able to be a Perseus instead of a Narcissus (controlling technology instead of being consumed by it).

The rest of part one is a discussion of three basic forms of media - writing, pictures and radio - and how they changed our thinking, perception and culture. Part two is the start of a discussion of where the church goes from here - how our thinking has changed as a result of the media we consume, and Hipps thoughts on ways the church can engage the culture in terms it can understand.

I highly recommend The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture - and I am looking forward to reading Flickering Pixels.