Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Makeup Safety Tips

Tonight is Halloween and everyone from kids to adults will be donning costumes, masks and makeup to achieve their most ghoulish appearance for the event. For kids, face makeup is much safer than wearing masks. A mask can obscure peripheral vision and make it more difficult to see cars and other dangers. But is your face make-up safe?

Fortunately, the answer is usually yes. Color additives in make-up are regulated by the FDA. Some make-up can cause eye irritation, so if the directions say not to use on or near the eyes, believe them.

Here are some Halloween make-up safety tips:

* Be sure to follow the directions on the product.
* Don't use things not intended for your skin to decorate your face.
* If the label on face paint or other makeup may says that it is not for use near the eyes, do not apply near the eyes. Be careful to keep makeup from getting into your eyes.
* Some products can irritate your skin if you use too much. Apply only the amount needed.
* If you have sensitive skin or allergic reactions to certain types of products, check the ingredient label carefully and do a test on another part of your body, like your arm, to check for reactions.

Most of all, be safe and have fun. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Blue is for Boys

My daughter was nearly five when I told her that we were expecting an addition to our family. All little girls are thrilled at the prospect of a new baby in the family, before they evaluate the consequences of another small voice clamoring for her mother's attention, that is.

The baby was welcomed as a somewhat cute oddity in her little world. Getting to hold him, laughing when he peed on Mom while she changed his diaper, listening to his strange baby gurgles; all of these things were appealing to her while he was in his baby stage. She wasn't very pleased that she got a baby brother instead of a baby sister, but at this stage it didn't make a lot of difference.

As The Boy grew into a toddler, The Girl wanted to play games with him but the age difference and the gender difference made it all a bit difficult. The Boy couldn't play more grown-up games with her, she didn't want to play trucks. She daily chastised me for bringing home a brother and not a sister.

And then one day The Girl devised a scheme so brilliant, so sinister in its objectives, that she just had to try it out. She had somehow convinced The Boy to play house with her. However, rather than being the daddy or some other male figure in the family, she had decided on a surprise role for him.

When The Girl called to me to come see their play - barely managing to get out the words between giggles - I had no idea what I would find. When I saw The Boy, my reaction was a mixture of amusement and horror.

She paraded him like a contestant at a beauty pageant. He was dressed in her best sparkly skirt and frilly top. She had put her pink plastic sandals on him and some strings of beads. She christended him anew with a femininized form of his name as she proudly displayed her "little sister".

Something about my less than enthusiastic reaction made it all the more fun for her, and for a year or so, she kept trying to dress The Boy in girl's clothing - no matter how much I tried to convince her that confusing him wouldn't be a good idea.
Sibling rivalry is one thing, but practicing sibling gender reassignment is quite another.

As The Boy grew it became more apparent every day that he was all boy, through and through. His daily routine was to find new and interesting ways to nearly kill himself and age his mother beyond her years. The Girl not only failed to make him into her little sister, she didn't even dampen his enthusiasm for boyish terror and danger.

I often wondered if things would have worked out better with a second child of the same gender. Certainly it would have been more economical. The younger could wear hand-me-downs from the elder, they could share a bedroom and Christmas could be the season of buying two of everything.

But The Girl probably never considered the ramifications of relinquishing her status as the "only girl" and I am sure would have tired quickly of the competition. She's lucky she didn't succeed in creating her own little sister, but I must acknowledge her efforts. She really gave it a good try.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A New Discovery

I had never planned on being an amateur genealogist, but I have found so much information on the internet lately that I think I may have a knack for it.

Many were the times that my mother told me of her Uncle Philip (or was it her great-uncle, obviously I need to research more). In any case it was told of Uncle Philip that he did exploring for the government of Canada and was quite the woodsman. The most fantastical tale involved Uncle Philip and a moose and a raft going down the St. Lawrence River.

Once again, this all appears to be true. I had heard of a book written by a family member about Uncle Philip and I assumed it was a vanity publishing. Research today proves that not only is this book in print and available for purchase, but that this particular cousin has written many books.

Now my only problem is funding my new-found desire to read his collected works. I do want to get the one on Uncle Philip first, of course, but the list of published works is quite extensive.

My biggest regret is that my mother never knew where to get a copy of this book, because I know she would have loved to read it. But when I do get it, I will gladly tell the tales she would have told if she could.

Theatre Church Conference

Growing up in a church setting leaves you with little nuggets of wisdom from which to draw on during rough times. One of my favorite Bible verses is just that - a succinct bit of sage advice, one I should take more often. The verse is Matthew 6:34.

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Basically, it means that we don't need to borrow trouble from the future, and we shouldn't waste time worrying or being anxious. We need to concentrate on overcoming the challenges that today sets before us and leave tomorrow to worry about itself.

Church today is a totally different experience for my kids than it was for me as a child. No longer is church boring and plodding, a thing to be endured. Many churches employ today's technologies to present a vibrant message with impact. You can Find out more because CineMeetings & Events is hosting the first-ever Theatre Church Conference in Silver Spring, MD on October 22 & 23.

If you're involved in a church that uses technology and performance to bring the good message to your members, you will want to Find out more about integrating technologies into your church experience.

The message is an important one and it's so sad to find people turning away when there are great avenues for capturing their attention and hearts. If you're interested in the Theatre Church Conference, Find out more at the related link.


The Sad Tale of Mr. Lion

Sometimes we are told that children don't develop long term memory until they are about 4 years of age. This may or may not be true. Although I think I have some spotty memories from before that age, I don't have a really good day-to-day recollection of life as a baby.

However, The Boy, probably because he spent most of his pre-school days as a superhero, has an unfailing memory. It may be one of his super powers.

When we moved into our present abode, The Boy was still in a crib. One room was already decorated with boyish things - brown walls and a wallpaper border depicting leopards frolicking (if, indeed, leopards can be said to frolic). It was quite fitting that someone gifted him a large, stuffed lion for Christmas. The lion was well-loved and had to accompany him to bed each night. I don't remember if he was christened with a name, he was probably called Mr. Lion, or something equally brilliant.

However, as time went on The Boy became dissatisfied with the lion and suddenly concerned about being surrounded by big jungle cats. Although the lion had a friendly face, a certain distrust of the lion's intentions crept into his thinking. He had obviously noticed that the lion was a bit taller than he, and had friends in the room. Honestly, I myself might have been concerned about falling asleep with a giant lion lying in the bed next to me, caged in by crib bars and rails.

The lion fell into disfavor and The Boy started to reject him at bedtime. As the months and years went by the lion was shifted from corner to corner in his room but never accepted into close friendship again. I don't know what eventually became of the lion. I believe he ceased to reside at this address years ago.

I was left without a response then, when suddenly, the other day, the Boy inquired as to the whereabouts of the lion. I thought of lots of ways to explain the animal's absence, some of which left me blameless (who wants to take the rap for animal abduction?). Perhaps I could say he ran away back to the jungle? I knew those stories wouldn't wash, The Boy is older now and he's not going to buy any such flimsy excuse.

In the end, I decided to face it. Steely-eyed and set in my purpose, I briefly explained to him that he had one day decided the lion was untrustworthy, and after a time it was decided that the lion must go. Therefore, the lion no longer lived at our house.

I waited for the accusations, the tears, the anguished cry of "how could you?" and braced myself to take on the full responsibility and guilt for my actions.

The Boy looked at me and said "Oh", then went about his business, unconcerned.

I had prepared for the worst and gotten no reaction whatsoever. All that guilt I was feeling was completely unnecessary.

Children are hardly ever emotionally scarred for life by the little things we think we have done wrong, or the small mistakes we have made. In the end, it's much simpler to just lay the truth out before them and let them deal with it.

I had to laugh though when later, after some reflection, I realized that the truth was even more exculpatory than I had thought. For it occurred to me that it was The Boy himself, engaged in the hated task of cleaning his room, who had carried that lion out to the trash one day.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Monday's Voyage

Today was Columbus Day. Every now and again they blindsided me with one of these Monday holidays I had completely forgotten about and gave the kids a day off from school.

Columbus Day is when we celebrate the fact that Columbus sailed east, hoping to circumnavigate the globe and hit the East Indies. As luck would have it, there were other bodies of land in the way, something he hadn't counted on at all. Columbus managed to find some Caribbean islands which he thought were off the coast of Asia.

I think the most intriguing part of the story is that they just didn't know how big the Earth was. They were all pretty sure it was round, but Columbus really had no clue that there was an entire continent between Spain and China. Maybe if he had known how impossible it would be for him to reach his destination, he never would have started out on such a journey.

I think that's always the way. Life is a long and hard voyage. We have to believe we can make it or we are doomed. It may be that our journey doesn't always take us to where we thought we were going, but we discover some wonderful things where we do end up. The most important thing is to make a start. You just have to load up the ship and sail.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Finding Your Family Tree

My mother loved to tell stories of her family and our ancestors (all of whom she claimed were illustrious and note-worthy). I have many times used the internet to discover that much of what she had told us was absolutely correct. The internet can be a great tool when one is researching genealogy.

The best way to get started researching your family tree, is to find sites and resources that contain information, names and documents relating to your family name.

One such resource is Find Family, where you can research your family name and find numerous types of documents in their archives - everything from birth and death certificates to old newspapers. Just choose your search name, such as kennedy family tree, and you will begin an exciting journey of discovery into your genealogical past.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Sad Morning

Today was one of those days when as a mother, you both sigh with relief and revisit fear. Mondays are always a bit hectic as you start the school week again, and there's a kind of calm that should overtake you once the children are safely on their way to their respective educational facilities.

But this morning I couldn't get over a feeling of restlessness and anxiety. It was one of those "impending doom of unknown origin" days. Perhaps drinking several cups of coffee within an hour or two on an empty stomach contributed to those fluttery feelings that rippled through my middle. It may have started when the Boy's bus was late, and came from a different direction. I always worry when the bus driver seems new, having found that new drivers often make mistakes and children aren't deposited when and where they are expected.

The morning was hardly underway though, when the phone rang. It was one of those recorded messages from the school. But instead of telling parents all about the upcoming open house or the next early dismissal, it was a sobering and heartbreaking message. A young girl had been struck by a car on her way to school. She was crossing a busy street to her bus stop.

I quickly digested what small detail was provided. I noted the street names and could breathe again as I confirmed it could not be one of my children. I listened to the description of injuries known and the fact that she was in the hospital. I was grateful for many things: one, that the girl was alive and two, that my children were safe.

I can only imagine the horror of her friends who witnessed this accident, and the terrible realization of her mother when upon hearing the brakes, screams and sirens, found that it was her little girl who had been struck.

I don't have anything to offer in the way of advice or comfort. As parents, we all do our best to watch over our kids and provide for their health and safety. Every day we take for granted that they will travel securely to and from school, that they will return to us with complaints about homework and a healthy afternoon appetite.

I pray that the little girl will recover quickly and will have no lasting injury or scars from this ordeal. I pray also that vehicles traveling that stretch of road now realize the importance of obeying speed limits and watching for children walking to school or crossing to bus stops. I pray for mothers everywhere who have watched and worried and for those who have had to endure the worst of news.

To my shame, I can remember driving very fast on that very same road early in the mornings on my way to work. We always believe that we are perfectly in control and that the worst can never happen. When you drive to work tomorrow, remember that school-age children are everywhere and they aren't always paying attention - children often don't. And remember that it is better to be a little late for work, than to endanger the life of a child.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Grief Revisited

A friend of mine recently sent me some writings by her late sister-in-law, a woman who journaled her thoughts about life, and then about her own impending death from cancer. I was moved by her words in ways that are hard to describe, my soul touched in places I that had not dared to explore for so long now, shining a harsh and exposing light on dark places I had not wanted to see.

I remember when I was informed that my mother hadn't been well, and was enlisted in the campaign to convince her to see a doctor. She had been losing weight without dieting, suffering night sweats and it was clear to all of us that she had lost much confidence in her physical abilities. She no longer wanted to drive, she seemed less balanced overall. When she had agreed, I made arrangements for her to see a new doctor.

The diagnosis was frightening, but as with all problems, the focus on the solution takes over. My mother had a large tumor in her abdomen. It explained why she was losing weight without actually appearing smaller except that her arms and legs were shrinking, leaving flaccid skin to hang listlessly.

The doctors removed a tumor - the size of a basketball, they told us. My mother recovered from surgery more quickly than I would have believed a woman of 77 could do. But the bleak news came after the biopsy. The tumor was cancerous, a form of sarcoma, not treatable with radiation or chemotherapy, and likely to return.

My mother had a few good months between that surgery and an ultrasound done as follow-up. She was lighter on her feet, thinner than she had been in years and seeming so much younger. But all the while, the cancer was spreading and growing in the background, launching a more aggressive attack.

She had already ruled out more surgery, and I don't believe she would have gone for other treatments had they been available. My mother had always believed in natural medicine, vitamins, minerals, and nearly anything but doctors.

They gave us no hope and short time by their calculations. The growing tumor would squeeze out other internal organs, she wouldn't be able to eat by September, she would not see Thanksgiving.

My mother didn't do as the doctors predicted, she never did what doctors told her. She lived on past Thanksgiving, and she never lost the ability to eat. Although the tumor was now enormous, bloating her body and making it nearly impossible for her to even move its frightening weight to roll over, on the eve of her death, she sat up on the side of the bed and ate her dinner from a bedside table. I can't think of anything that makes me more proud of her than that.

I meant to write here about loss, about grief, about courage and about the world and how it changes when someone important has left it. I can't right now.

One day, I will tell of those things, but for now I find I am crying over the death of someone I never met, but now know through her writing. Cancer is a powerful force that levels all its victims and their loved ones to a common ground. Grief is often unspeakable, it only escapes us through tears and deep groanings in our spirit. But through a few words today, I experienced more than my own grief over my mother, I experienced the utter callousness with which cancer steals from its victims and the futures that it claims.