Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Summer Reading

Hey, only 7 hours and 45 minutes left of school for the year (or so my eight-year-old tells me)! Summer is nearly here. Of course we're not waiting on the official start of summer to start hanging out at the pool - we've been there the last two afternoons. Anyway, I'm excited about all the swimming and camping and boating and baseball games. But what I get really excited about as I start thinking about Summer is...reading!

Here's the deal: I'm always reading. The stack beside my bed never drops below about three books tall and usually towers higher. But a lot of that isn't light reading (see sidebar). It's "getcha thinkin'" type stuff. And I like to think. I'm hoping exercising my brain cells regularly will keep me going for a long time past a lot of other folks. Well, that and good genes.

So when Summer comes I look at that extra hanging out time - at the beach or the pool or the campsite and think: time to chill on some "just for fun" reading. Whaddaya mean, "just for fun", you're thinking? Now you're thinking I'm talking trashy romance novels. I'm not. But...well...I do have a thing for "chick lit" and "mom lit". So yeah, for me, good Summer reading involves a heap of Shopaholic, Devil Wears Prada, The Nanny Diares kind of books. Lots of light, unplug-your-brain page-turners.

Here's my problem this year: what to read. That's my criteria listed up above. Anybody got some recommendations? I'm hopin' to make a trip to the library in the next day or two to load up. Oh, I suppose if there's an excellent "thinking" book you'd like to suggest, I'll consider it. Just don't ask me to blog about it until Fall.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Family-Size Hospitality

Imagine having 50 to 60 people over for a backyard barbeque. That's what the Musing Family did yesterday. Actually, that's what we do every year on Memorial Day. And it's always a blast. But it's a ton of work getting ready and I often think to myself about two hours into the preparations, "why do we do this?". Then when the party starts and I'm having so much fun I remember why.

This year two hours into the preparations I wasn't pondering that question. Instead I was thinking about how much easier it's getting. In two hours we were nearly done with our top to bottom deep-cleaning on the house that included all the bedrooms, main floor, and even basement (yes, even for an outdoor barbeque because in past years we've been rained in). It was thrilling to see how much all five of us could do if we worked together. Sure, we were still putting the finishing touches on when guests started arriving, but that's only because Musing Dad had us filling 200 water balloons (he'd bought 400! Go ahead, ask him what he was thinking!). I think we only got about 50 done before my fingers were totally purple and threatening to fall off. Thankfully Llama Papa and some other nice dads pitched in to help Musing Dad finish (and then they pitched in later to help put those balloons to use).

I was pleased with how the party turned out. Everyone seemed to have fun, the gazillion kids (they multiply every year) played incredibly well together, the food was relatively plentiful and it didn't rain. But more than all those things, what pleased me about it was how it was totally our family's party. All five of us cleaned the house, all five of us worked at setting up the screen room in the yard (although I admit it's been amusing in the past to watch Musing Dad struggle with it on his own), all five of us put out tables and chairs and lawn games, together we filled coolers with drinks and ice and Musing Dad and his three girls set up the volleyball net. A sometimes gargantuan task is shrinking every year because of teamwork.

So, will we host a mega-barbeque again next year? You bet! And the year after that and...maybe one year not too far off Musing Dad and I will be able to flop our tired bodies into bed while the girls clean up. (I can hope, can't I?).

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Born & Bred Suburbanite

I've been reading Albert Hsu's The Suburban Christian (see it listed on my sidebar?) lately. It's an interesting read to me first and foremost because I'm a suburbanite. I have lived in the same suburban county for all by my first three or so years of life. My husband grew up in the same county, as did both his mother and father. We are raising third-generation suburbanites. And a desire to know the implications of this compels me to read Hsu's book.

Most recently I was reading his thoughts on the individualistic nature of the suburbs. That great American dream to have your own house that continues to feed the growth of the suburban landscape. He suggests that perhaps as Christians we should consider a communal model:multiple families residing in one home, sharing common areas, but having their own space as well. I see all his arguments in favor of this. Not having to each own large appliances, lawn equipment and even vehicles sounds like a worthwhile concept. And there are so many other economies of scale that could come into play. Plus having that built-in community where families could share life together - it's worth thinking about.

Two related thoughts: I wish Hsu knew about the group of believers that at one time began a looser version of this by all buying homes on the same block and near the same church in Westmont. I have not heard recently how this is going, but it seemed like such an incredible idea. It's in his backyard, so to speak, so maybe he does know about it.

Second: the whole thought of homes and land and what this ownership means makes me think of the Old Testament. Land was part of the blessing God promised in His covenant with Abraham. And all through the Old Testament getting or having land was greatly significant. Yes, that was a promise to a specific people and it applied to the nation of Israel as a whole. But was that promise made because it answered a desire that all people have for owning a piece of land? Is this desire for a place to call our own inherently wrong? I don't know one way or another. I'm just wondering (in case you didn't know, that's a lot of what I"m about).

Any thoughts?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Pampering Public Service Announcement

It's that time of year again. And I don't mean the start of the good swimsuit sales (although I think it's that time too and I need to get out shopping). For all you bakers and chefs, and anyone who needs an inexpensive source of organza bags, ceramic baskets or other favor items, it's time for the Wilton Tent Sale!

For those who don't know, Wilton Industries is the manufacturer of Wilton cake pans, Copco & Rowoco kitchenwares and Weston Gallery frames. They're located on 75th St. at I-355 in Woodridge, IL. You can see their big white tent from 355.

Every year in June they have this big blowout tent sale where everything is 50-75% off. It's a great place for shaped cake pans (we get our birthday cake pans there every year), cake decorating supplies, any kind of kitchen gadget and even picture frames. If you need a wedding shower gift - go there. My favorite Wilton purchase? A jumbo muffin pan. Now I can have cafe sized double-chocolate muffins that I like for a fraction of the cost. And each year I just stock up on the liners at Wilton. Anyway, enough description. Here's the important stuff:

This year it takes place from June 2nd to June 19th. You need to go north on Janes Ave. from 75th to get the drive to their lot. Hours are 9a-8p M-F and 8a-6p Sat/Sun. If you don't live in Chicagoland, but are planning to visit in June, it's worth a stop. You never know what cool stuff you'll find.

For more information on creating inexpensive gifts and decorations, check out the new book, Pampering Gifts: Crafting a Ministry of Treating People Well For Less.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Freaking Out About Sports

Saturday is soccer day for us. And it's a lot of fun. I mentioned before about TD's theatrics on the field. Over the season she's really grown and is now pretty focussed out there. She rarely looks over at the spectators now, unless she's scored a goal. Her eyes are on the ball and usually her feet too. Her team is doing so well and we have a blast cheering them on.

Then there's LMH's team. They struggled for the better part of the season, as a team. But last week things clicked together and it's been so much less stressful to watch them. As for LMH herself, she's been playing awesome. Her mind is in the game and she really has good control of the ball. The difference in her own playing personally is dramatic from last year to this one and even since last season (Fall). She has even scored two goals during each of the last two games. Now she's working hard on pulling off a hat trick like her sister did earlier on in the season. Even if she doesn't, I'm pretty proud of her.

But I'm also focused on the team as a whole, so I've been watching them all improve at their teamwork and not really paying as close attention to LMH. On the weeks the team did poorly Grandma had to remind me that LMH played terrifically. So you can imagine my surprise this week when her coach told us that a club team coach had scouted her out during the game.

Who? Our daughter? Being recruited? I thought this stuff only happened on TV and in the movies. Then again, I know where screenwriters get their material - from real life. Just not my real life. I was shell-shocked. She's only eight. I'd already thrown away the traveling team information because we're not ready to get that involved. Still this club didn't sound as intense. Maybe she should try it.

It's a tough call for us. We're not hyper sports parents. We want our kids to get a chance to try things out. And we applaud their success and like to see them excel. But we don't push it. It's more about having fun. Yet, when an opportunity like this arises...

Well, I don't know. It may be even more fun for her to play with a group of kids with stronger skills. But I still wouldn't want to get too hung up on it all and sucked into spending tons of hours every week on soccer. Doesn't sound like it, but we'll see. I'm just not used to having stuff like this happen. As a kid I usually went along my mediocre way without getting noticed and life was fine. This seems like a whole different ball game. And... Well, if you can't tell, I'm freaking out about it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Known By Our Gifts

My last post was a list of "interesting" facts about me. Well, maybe it was interesting or maybe not. Guess it depends on who was reading it. You probably don't care that I'm a morning person unless you're staying at my house and have to listen to all the goings on beginning at 5:30am.

But on Mother's Day as I was opening my gifts, I realized that those too were somewhat telling of me, or at least who my family thinks I am. And I thought I'd share that with you today. Just because.

From the uber-princess: a note with my real name on it, not "Mommy" because she's very proud that she knows how to spell my real name. And with the note was a brand new Illini shirt that will soon be a collector's item because it has the now-banned "Chief" logo on it. She had also purchased a matching shirt for herself. We're both wearing them today.

From timid daughter: a Martha Stewart ribbon organizer (thank goodness because my stash of ribbons was piled in a messy heap in a basket in the guest room). Now I'm more like Martha with my ribbons trailing neatly out of the robin's egg blue box. And a rubber stamp with girlie things on it like purses and high heels and stuff. 'Cuz I'm a girlie mom.

From little miss history: homemade rose water room spray. The kid's got her mother's gene for inexpensive pampering. She found the recipe in a Highlights magazine and begged her dad to take her to buy roses to make it. It smells pretty nice. She done me proud. Along with that was some cool clear letter stamps for labeling scrapbooks or making cards.

From a musing dad: Gran Turismo 3 auto racing game for the PS2. Because I love car racing games. And I'm still girlie. Did I mention my thumb was hurting by Sunday night from pressing the accelerate button? And that AMD & I were nearly crying we were laughing so hard at the replay of the races showing my car starting in reverse and running into walls and... I'm asking for a steering wheel controller for Christmas.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Eight Facts Meme

Craver tagged me for a meme (rhymes with theme). I don't normally do memes, but this one is pretty normal and a little interesting. So I'll take a stab at it. Here goes:
  1. Post the rules of the game.
  2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things
  4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
  5. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.
Eight Facts about A Musing Mom:
  1. Before I got married I changed my own oil on my car. Now A Musing Dad has me going to Jiffy Lube. I don't mind, but someday I'm going to teach him how to do an oil change.
  2. As a kid I had a paper route. I loved it. I got up a 5:30 in the morning and was done at about 7am.
  3. I'm a morning person.
  4. I'm not at all a tomboy despite changing oil and delivering papers. I'm pretty girly.
  5. Even though I love to do crafts, I don't really like craft shows. Why buy someone else's craft when you can make one of your own? Oh, but I do like arts & crafts fairs. There is a difference.
  6. I plan on getting a table at a craft show at least once next fall. The one at our daughters' school will be a good chance to try to sell my book and a few items shown in it.
  7. I totally, absolutely, positively LOVE laser tag! I love it! If you wanna hang out with me, suggest laser tag (although I'd probably hang out with you somewhere else too).
  8. I'm introverted, but I enjoy being around people.
And now this is the part where I'm supposed to tag eight bloggers. And I don't think I can retag anyone Craver has tagged. Darn! Okay, here goes: Wilyhacker, Charity Singleton, Sarah, Jenn, and any four of you out there who'd like to consider yourselves tagged.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


This past Sunday my husband packed our three girls into the minivan and headed downstate to Urbana to go to church (for a farewell to the pastor who married us). Ordinarily I would have watched them pull out of the drive and then skipped into the house and started the party. But I didn't. I had lingered in the open minivan door blowing kisses and wishing I could go, until the last minute. Then I trudged into the house and slowly forced myself to continue on with the preparations. I had to miss a family road trip to host a bridal shower. No time to enjoy the freedom of no kids in the house.

It was one in a series of commitments that has kept me from having much time for my husband, my kids, or for myself, or just for kicking back. I haven't kicked back for more than a few minutes in a long time. And I'm missing it - the time with my husband, the kids, alone. I can't wait until I can choose to just do something fun and not feel like I have to sneak that time.

So this morning I will be passing off a huge project I've been working for the last month and a half. And then? I'll be skipping all around the house having a big old celebration! Freedom! And this evening we don't have any commitments because Awana is over. Whoo hoo! I don't know what we'll do first. Play a game? Go out for ice cream? Run through the sprinkler? Or just cuddle in a blanket fort under the table?

Ah, the joys of freedom. Being able to choose what we do and when we do it - something we take for granted too often. This is one of the joys of childhood too and one of the best reasons to choose not to over schedule our kids. They need that freedom or they'll feel even more pressured and stifled than I've been feeling. It's unnatural, for adults and for kids. And while we've got a bunch of things left on our calendar for May, I'm really looking forward to June and Summertime. It's a blank slate right now and I'm going to keep it as much that way as I can. Then when July Fourth comes we can just amp up the celebration that's already going on.

I love my freedom!

(Note: the shower was actually a lot of fun and not the killjoy it might have come across as above. I had a wonderful co-hostess whose great planning skills had us sitting with our feet up an hour before party time. Thank you, Aunt Judy!)

Friday, May 04, 2007

It's Garage Sale Season!

I love to go to garage sales. To me, it's the thrill of the hunt. What great buy will I find? I've gotten nice pictures for my living room and dining room, window coverings for the living room, craft supplies, even candy!

Now, I'm not a garage sale nut. I look over the ads each week and find the ones in my corner of town. I don't drive all over the place. And I only go on Friday mornings. I don't arrive at the sales before the start time - nothing is worth being in the crowd of early-birds, with their brisk, deal-hungry approach. Being around those folks just brings me down. I don't need to "beat someone out" for a deal. If it's still there when I come later, great. If not, then I've been saved spending that money.

Plus I shop with a list. Really! This summer my list has two things: original Rummikube (the current versions have plastic tiles - I'm looking for the old style solid tiles) and decorative milk glass plates for the guest room. Oh, and maybe clothes for LMH if they're good quality.

So this morning the uber-princess and I set out for a handful of garage sales. She's got her eye out for American girl doll stuff - a rare find, but worth picking up if you do find it. No luck for her today. And nothing from my list either. But I did get a masonite clipboard for a dime. That goes into my stash for teacher gifts next year. Then it will become an altered clipboard. And I found a nice framed photograph of an English cottage. Don't know where it will go yet, but we've been drooling over this kind of photo at fine art fairs and so I knew it was a deal. Plus I just liked it. Now we're home and on with our day. No more garage saling until next Friday. And then, who knows what fun stuff we'll find!