Friday, August 31, 2007

Life's hard at the top

It is through sheer will power alone that I have managed to wait until now to talk about football. I didn't want to bore the non-fans out there to death, but the game starts tomorrow and really, if you're a non-fan, nothing can save you now.

We are SO ready for the first game. I really believe we have a fantastic team that can win a lot of games for us. The one person I worry about, ironically, is Darren McFadden. For those of you poor souls who don't know, he is our rock star running back who was the runner up for the Heisman last year, and lead contender for it this year.
Poor Darren is really in an unenviable position if you think about it. Basically, two things could happen for him this season. He could not perform as well as anticipated--if this happens, he gets slammed in the media, his NFL value goes down, and he loses the Heisman. Or he could be brilliant--tear up the field, win everything, get a gazillion dollar pro contract. In which case people will just say, Yep! It's what we expected. Big whoop. How unfortunate! Short of ending world hunger in the next 4 months, Darren's hype has ensured that he will at best meet expectations. That's a tough place for a kid (and these guys ARE still kids) to be in. Still, he seems to have a good head on his shoulders, so I'm sure he can handle it. And no matter what, he'll still be a gazillionaire, so life won't be that bad.

It's an action packed weekend for the AMEN family--well, the grown up half of it anyway. THe game is Saturday night, and Matt and I are leaving Sunday morning for a two day trip to Branson to celebrate our anniversary. We're using our full day there to--wait for it--go to White Water. We love water parks, and we figure it's our only chance for the next 15 years to go without spending the majority of our time in the kiddie pool. I can't wait! I'll tell you all about it as soon as we return. Happy Labor Day, and GO HOGS!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Beckham's got nothing on my girl!

I know that my posts have been a little Foxy Loxy-centric lately, but I just have to brag one more time--the girls played on Saturday, and Abby scored FIVE goals! She was a rock star on the field. She it! She kept stealing the ball and knowing just what to do with it. I was so proud! We caved and did the parent-tunnel, and the girls acted like we took them on a ride at Disneyworld--it was sweet.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Can you hear me now?

Yesterday, civilization as we know it came to a grinding halt for several hours. Did the sun fall out of the sky? Did nuclear war begin? Did George W. admit he was wrong about something?** No.

Northwest Arkansas' cell phone service crashed.

It takes something like this to make you realize how utterly dependent on technology you are. Ten years ago I didn't own a cell phone. Now, it is a rare moment that I don't have mine on and with me. I was filled with anxiety on the drive home from work--what if I had a wreck? How would I call Matt? Who would call 911, for that matter?? Would I have to wait until I got home to order pizza? (Just kidding about the last one, but you know someone was thinking that).

Never mind that 10 years ago these would have been issues all the time. I didn't know what to do with myself! And I had it easy. Lots of people don't even have a land line any more--they just use cell phones. They might as well have been in Siberia for the evening. And it apparently affected some Internet service as well. What did people do at work all day?!

It turns out that a backhoe (or some such thing) cut the main fiber optic cable (or some such thing) that supports the wireless network in NWA. Here's my main concern with that. You have literally hundreds of thousands of wireless devices, owned by and depended on by hundreds of thousands of paying customers, and your service relies on A SINGLE CABLE that is buried shallow enough to be dug up on ACCIDENT and unprotected enough to be CUT? This is absurd. It's like storing savings bonds in a child's toy box, or making freeways out of glass. Who thought up this brilliant plan? Well, it's the same people who make up those ridiculous cell phone commercials--I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

**This is not a political blog. The statement made here is meant to neither support nor disparage our President--I just thought it was funny. And you gotta admit, the guy does have a hard time owning up to his mistakes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


It wasn't us! It was them! The Foxy Loxies had their second game tonight, and it was an even match--proving my theory that Saturday's mess was not because of our girls' lack of ability, but the other teams' freakishness. Tonight was what a 4 year old soccer game is SUPPOSED to look like. And guess what? ABBY SCORED A GOAL! She was beside herself. I screamed my head off for her, and then started crying. The other moms laughed at me, but whatever--they cried when their babies did good too. She was SO proud of herself.

I am so far surviving the first week of school, though only barely at times. I looked just for fun, and I sent 92 emails today. Plus processed over 100 class override requests. I think it's fair to say I'm pretty tired of students right about now. Every once in a while I come across a nice one, though. Very occasionally, they even bring me gifts. I got some coupons for free salad dressing once. Don't mock, the guy worked for the company, and it was GOURMET dressing. One girl's dad worked for Staples, so I got a huge box of highlighters and Sharpies and pencils--the OCD color-coding freak in me went crazy. The most common thing that happens when I help a student out, though, is for their parent to email and thank me. This happens most often when the parent is high ranking in whatever company they work for for some reason. And without fail, the last line of the email is always, "I work at XYZ Bank/Smith and Smith Law Firm/Such and Such Real Estate Company, and if there is anything I can do for you in return for helping my child, please let me know." Then they sign and prominently place their title in bold below their name.

I never know what to make of this. Is it just something they are saying to be polite? Are they trying to assert their superiority? Are they trying to get business? Or could I go to Mr. Bank Executive and be like,"Hey, I did kind of set your daughter up real nice with her fall schedule--how about an extra grand or two finds its way mysteriously into my checking account?" I don't think I want to find out, so typically I just respond with a polite "Thank you, happy to help" and move on. Nice to know it's a possibility, though.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Foxy Loxies V RoboTeam

Today the Foxy Loxies played their first real game. Abby was very excited, and totally hammed it up once she was decked out in her gear. I do have to admit she looked fantastic--and not just becuase of the pigtails, which took me half an hour to do (she has very fine hair, okay?) Here's the little star ready to go:

The game was scheduled to start at 10:10. We got to the soccer fields, which were mass chaos, a little before 10. There are 94 teams of all ages in this league, and all of them were scheduled to play today. Kids in soccer gear of every color were everywhere, accompanied by overwhelmed looking parents. We found our field and started settling in. Soon, other Foxy Loxies starting showing up, but at 10:08 there was no sign of the other team. Then all of a sudden, there they were. They all arrived at once--I joked at the time that maybe they had marched in together, but by the end of the game I was half convinced it was true. This team was hard CORE. They are four year olds, just like the Foxy Loxies. But they totally knew what they were doing! They could get the ball AND kick it in the right direction AND run after it. And when their coach told them to play defense, they KNEW what he meant! I was shocked. The poor Foxy Loxies were bewildered. In all their practices and talk about soccer, no one had ever told them that another girl would come up the them and TAKE the ball AWAY from them! And that instead of giving her a time out, the thief's mom would CHEER for her! Fortunately, score isn't kept.
The other fortunate thing was that as long as we kept cheering for our girls like they were superstars, they believed they were. I think they really had a great time, but it was just so bizarre to have a first game against this machine of a team. I think all of the other FL parents and I were relieved to see the game end. What happened after is, I think, the best illustration of the differences of the two teams. Matt and Chad--who are FANTASTIC coaches with more patience than 95% of the fathers on this planet-- called the FLs onto the field, where they had a huddle, told the girls how awesome they were, and did the hands-in-the-middle-and-yell thing. Then, the other team did THEIR after-game thing:

Do you SEE that? This is not something you just do spur of the moment. This is a choreographed and likely practiced procedure. I almost expected smoke and strobe lights. When our girls saw it, the other parents let them run through too, so I guess it wasn't all bad. But still!
After the game we did a little team socialization at every 4-year-old's favorite hangout--McDonald's. The parents sat together and talked about what freaks of nature those other girls were, and guessed how many hours of practice they had put in, and mused as to the possiblity of a few of them dabbling in steroids. The Foxy Loxies had, by this point, forgotten entirely that they had just played a soccer game and were having a ball together. After all, they had all gotten matching pet kitties in their Happy Meals--what more could you want in life?

We play another game Tuesday, and we are all hoping it's against an equally clueless team so we have a fighting chance to score a goal. We're also making plans for our rematch against RoboTeam, which I think happens sometime in early October. We're considering carrying the FLs in on our shoulders, preceeded by a small marching band and someone dressed up as a giant girl fox. I'll let you know how it turns out.
Just so you don't think we've forgotten him, here's a photo of E being cool as a cucumber:
And, lest you think my last post was an exaggeration, proof of his love to climb and yell from our last trip to the park:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hey, at least he has hobbies!

I think poor Ethan is at a disadvantage in terms of blog appearances. He doesn't really talk yet, which limits his ability to say odd, blogworthy things--a gift that his sister seems to have in spades. All I ever talk about with E are his various illnesses. So in honor of my son I present, based on evidence submitted by him, the...

Top 10 Things 18 Month Old Boys Like To Do

1. Open doors
2. Close doors
3. Climb things
4. Jump on people and/or dogs lying on the floor
5. Eat things--preferably, but not necessarily, food
6. Yell really loudly
7. Run
8. Pull things out of drawers and cabinets
9. Be naked
10. Throw things

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Great Pumpkin

You know how sometimes you'll do something out of laziness, but you tell yourself and maybe other people that there was a perfectly legitimate reason for doing it? For example, maybe you don't mow the yard for a few days, but you insist that it's because you get a better workout if the grass is a little higher, or you take off your shoes by the front door instead of taking them to your room, operating under the theory that really you're a preservationist--by saving the shoes those steps, you are lengthening their lives. Maybe you've never done these particular things, but don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about.

If you're a pro at this like both Matt and I are, then you know that if you participate in this behavior often enough, every once in a while your laziness produces a truly beneficial result. Case in point: our pumpkin patch.

Last Halloween, Matt carved a pumpkin for the house. Now, anyone who visits our house knows that we love to decorate for holidays, but we're not quite so good at the removal of the decorations. My Easter wreath came down in mid-June, we had the Thanksgiving centerpiece on our dining room table for 4 months, and we finally accepted our shortcomings and left half of our Christmas lights up for next year--we figured it would just save time. See what I mean about this laziness thing? We could write a book.

Anyway, sometime in mid-November, we realized that the Halloween pumpkin was getting a little, well, rotten. Matt tucked it under the bush next to our driveway on our way out one day, convincing me, and himself I'm sure, that it would be good for the nearby plants. We forgot all about it until a couple of months ago. The first time Matt went out to clean up in that area, he was quite startled to find pumpkin vines growing everywhere. They have taken over the whole side of the house--some of the leaves are a foot long. Soon, we got a real surprise--right in the middle of our typical little suburban landscaping sat this beauty:

In case you can't tell, this is a very good sized pumpkin--the perfect carving size, in fact. Too bad it's reached its peak in August. I think if we had managed to grow a tree that produced Tootsie Rolls in the front yard we could not have excited Abby more--to have her own pumpkin growing in her VERY OWN YARD is the highlight of her summer. You would think she had tended the thing herself from when it was a wee little seed.

As fun and novel as our pumpkin is, I'm kind of relieved it's the only one. I can just imagine pumpkins piled up the side of our house, spilling onto the driveway, the vines starting to climb the walls. Matt thinks we'll have more next year, so we may have to prepare ourselves. Not that we'll do anything about it--I'm sure there will be an advantage to just leaving the pumpkin patch alone to do its own thing. If there's not, we can always make one up.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

My son has a drug problem

You know those days that you think are going to be one way, and they turn out being another way entirely? Had one of those today. Today was supposed to be a very busy day at work, then quiet evening with the kids. Matt left today for a quick business trip, so it would be just the three of us. Well.

Ethan woke up this morning with a high fever. He's had a cough, plus his ears seem to get infected if they even hear the word sick, so I arranged to stay home with him and take him to the doctor. Even then, I was reformulating in my mind what the day would be like. I should know better. I thought we'd zip to the doctor, maybe grab a prescription, and be home in time for me to catch a morning talk show or two. Ha! We didn't leave the doctor until 10:30. E has the croup AND an ear infection, so he was prescribed an antibiotic AND a steroid. We wait for 40 minutes at Wal Mart, only to be handed 1 prescription. One heated discussion and 20 more minutes later, we were finally on our way home with the drugs. By this point, E is semi-comotose from the combination of fever and exhaustion, it's way past his lunch and nap time and he's had neither, and it's about a million degrees outside.

We got home around noon, and I fed him lunch as quickly as I could. Then I had to give him three medications: the two prescriptions and Motrin for his fever. Showing spectacularly bad judgement, I attempted the nasty-tasting antibiotic first, which has the consistency of school glue. The moment it hit his lips, all the trauma of the morning caught up with him and he went postal. I mean, he was FURIOUS. But it's not like I could just let it go--he HAD to have the medicine. So I finally got most of it in him--the rest was all over both of us. I changed him for his nap, but then I still had two medicines to go. Well, of course the minute he saw the bottles he freaked again--who could blame him? I went with the steriod next. It at least smelled good, but it didn't matter--he hated it on principle. This time, the coughing and the fury and the attempts not to swallow coincided, with the unfortunate result that E threw up the steroid and probably most of the antibiotic all over both of us.

By this point, I was ready to call the doctor for a prescription of my own. I gave up on the Motrin entirely--some things are not worth the battle. Fortunately, he was so exhausted by the drama that the minute he was cleaned up, he was out, and had a good nap. I was able to recover, and tonight my mom came over and helped me hold him down while we gave him his medicine. It actually went much better this time--it all stayed down.

He's apparently quite contagious, so we'll be home again tomorrow. Abby will go to school, because we are not nearly as fun as the kids there. I will watch 150 episodes of The Backyardigans with Ethan, and try to regain his trust after shoving glue substitute down his throat again in the morning.

Monday, August 6, 2007

A little perspective can go a long way

I learned a very long time ago that the ability to gain perpective on your situation is a crucial one. I have lost count of the number of times that I was able to get over a funk by spending time thinking about how whatever had me in said funk really, truly fit into the grand scheme of things. Most of the time it didn't even belong in the same universe as the grand scheme of things.

Since sometimes perspective can be a little hard to find, I thought I would offer up a little to all of my loyal readers. Matt and I have donated in the past to the Northwest Arkansas Children's Shelter. The NWACS provides temporary housing and respite care for abused and neglected children. We receive their newsletter, and got the newest one just the other day. Talk about perspective. Allow me to demonstrate:

- Think you have too much hard work in your life? The NWACS cared for 113 children in the last quarter. That's 113 children who have been deprived of love and basic care their entire lives. Many are terrified of adults. Most have been abused. Few have ever been played with, read to or hugged.

- Hate having to let people down? In the same last quarter, the shelter had to turn away 171 children. That means that around twice a day, a child desperately in need of help had to be turned away because of lack of space and funding. Where did that child end up? Where did all 171 end up?

- Sad that you don't have enough money for a vacation this year? On the shelter's list of most urgent supply needs: ponytail holders and children's swimsuits. Imagine a little boy who can't go swimming because he has nothing but a pair of old blue jeans, or a girl with tangly hair and no way to get it out of her eyes.

This post was not meant to make you feel miserable, believe it or not. However, if you aren't tearing up just a little, I do worry about you. The point of me bringing this up is that this is one of the few problems in our world that everyone can agree is horrible. It's not controversial, it's not up for debate--we have a responsibility to protect this country's children. And amazingly, it's doable! You don't have to be able to give thousands of dollars to help these kids. If you have children, just give some of their old clothes to the shelter. If you buy your baby 10 jars of strained peas, and she hates them, donate the other 9 jars! Every time you buy the value pack of toilet paper at Sam's, set aside 1 4-pack to donate. And when you buy your daughter a pack of ponytail holders, pick out the colors she'll never wear and send them on. It may just be a circle of elastic to you, but it's an exciting gift to a child who has never had a single thing to put in her hair.

I am putting together some items to donate to the shelter. If you want to help, let me know and I'll gladly come and get anything you want to donate. The shelter's website,, has got a more detailed list of their needs. If you don't live in NWA, I would be willing to bet there's a similar place in your area that could use your help just as much.

I can't promise that donating a few things to a children's shelter will change the world. To the kids who get the things you provide, though, you will be a hero. There's your perspective.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

It would have made GREAT ESPN footage.

I feel like the second half of this week happened on fast forward. Thursday evening was Abby's first soccer practice. I was a bit nervous for Matt, who along with Chad had to coach a group of 4 year old girls who had never played an organized sport before. However, the men rose brilliantly to the occasion, and the girls displayed a surprising amount of talent for first-timers. This could be quite the season for the Foxy Loxies! Yes, that's the team name--Matt thought of it, if you can believe it. Foxy Loxy is a character from the movie Chicken Little. The name suits these girls perfectly. I am campaigning with the other moms to get our own t-shirts that say Foxy Mamas. Has a nice ring, don't you think?

Friday was my office's annual staff retreat. It is tradition that my boss Karen plans the staff retreat and no one but her knows what we're doing until that day. This year she let me plan it, and I had a great time. I'll spare you all the details, but let me just give you a few highlights. The theme was Office Olympics. The games we played included Post-It Note Fencing, Duct Tape Archery, and the Dolly Pairs Obstacle Course. The final event was an Office Chair Relay held on a full size track. It was hysterical. I worked my tail end off to plan the whole thing, and I think it went well--at least I think everyone enjoyed themselves.

Now we head into an equally, if not more, busy week. Matt is going on a short trip for work, my job dives from the kiddie pool of crazy straight into the deep end of insane, and somewhere in there we have to squeeze in soccer, gymnastics and a wedding. But hey, it's nothing a Foxy Mama can't handle!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Different is good

We live in a great neighborhood. It's not really even a neighborhood--just a quiet street of houses, filled with nice people (with the exception of the TOTAL punk that lives across the street, but he's moving).

One of the things I like about living here the most is that for a street with 25 houses, we have a surprisingly diverse population. We have a Hispanic family, an African American family, and several Indian families. It is incredibly important to both me and Matt that our kids grow up not just knowing that not everyone looks like them, and not even just not caring, but actually valuing it. Living here has helped.

Our next door neighbors are a precious Indian couple who had their first baby about 8 months ago. Since we first met them, they have known our names, and the kids' names. I am ashamed to say we have no idea what their names are, and it has now gone way beyond the point where we can ask. They delight in our kids and lavish attention on them when we run into each other outside. Abby adores them, and even asked one time if she could have a dot on her forehead like the lady next door. We always chat in the driveways, and we went over with a gift when their son was born.

At any rate, they have been gone to India to see their families for the last several months. Tonight, they brought over gifts they brought back for us. A necklace for me, bracelets for Abby, and a carved sculpture for Matt with his name engraved on it. Keep in mind that we did not do anything for them while they were gone--they stopped mail service and hired someone to take care of their yard.

I am totally overwhelmed. Never in a million years would it have occured to me to bring them presents. I'm sure most of you are the same way. Yet it fits completely with their sweet natures. I cannot imagine living in a country half a world away from your family, not being able to speak your first language, dealing with constant discrimination and stereotyping, and still having the guts to reach out and be kind to your neighbors. It should be noted that of all the American families on the street, we have met two. Take from this what you will, but our next door neighbors have caused me to be more grateful than ever that I don't live in a country where everyone's the same.