Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top 10 Highlights of Vacation

10. Tornado watch.  I mention this first because if I were to begin with the fact that we were enduring 70 degree temperatures while my Northeast peeps froze under snow... well, then that might breed bad feeling.  So, I'll try this: guess what happens when temps jump 40 degrees? Tornado watches!

Now, I "do" hurricanes.  Yeah they're big, yeah they're scary, but you know about them days in advance.  You know pretty much where they will hit, when, and how bad it's gonna be.  Which means if you have a mind to pack up all your people and possessions and move inland, you can pretty much do that.

Hurricane watches are different than tornado watches.  Different than, "Oh, fyi o ye family touring outdoor historic sites, there is a possibility that a funnel will drop from the sky and take you into the next life.  Just so's ya know. Y'all be careful out there. Watch yer heads." Or something.

We were all in historic Jamestown when we got that particular weather news from a very nervous Park Ranger. My husband and sister-in-law took it in stride, and made attempts to tell me not to worry.  "It's just a watch.  That just means conditions are favorable for a [funnel cloud of death] twister to [drop from any point above us and] form.  That's all."

This did not work for me, an individual who's of a mind that people in Kansas should regularly live underground, or at least keep their babies and collectibles in bunkers all the time.

Somewhere between the Pocahontas statue and the archaeological museum that had already disturbed my children with highly unnecessary specifics of survivalist cannibalism, the watch became a warning and we were told to "go home."  Because a second story, vacation "home" was tornado-proof, I suppose.

Usually I'd post a picture here, but I was too busy dragging my blythely unconcerned children towards the relative safety of a small car to take anything as mundane as a photograph.  Here's my best at a visual:

We got to the parking lot, waited an endless 2.3 minutes while a male relative used the restroom, and began to drive off the island via a small, low bridge with no guardrails.  

On our left over the Chesapeake, a misty, grayish mass was moving over the water, spinning it into a froth as it went.  I had enough time to say, "Hey, look at..." and the car shook violently in (ha!) hurricane force winds.  Large hail pinged off the roof, and water started to flood across the bridge.  Grey was the sky, the rain, the bay, and the road, and little distinction could be made between any of them.  

I handled it...well, I prayed.  Yes, my voice sounded strangely like a weepy and very excitable Miss Piggy repeating the Lord's name and random, philosophical questions like "Can we go back?" and "Is it safe?"   

Steering her tiny car with my now-crazed self and two older daughters--one following her emotional lead, one mine--my much more level-headed, wonderful sis drove that car off the island to safety, avoiding fallen tree branches as well as open bodies of water as she went.  And we lived to spend the evening in the outdoor hot tub, watching the birds fly home across a gorgeous sunset, temps in the mid 60's.

Happy sigh.

9.  Awesome RI neighbors.  Absurdly awesome RI neighbors.  Neighbors who, while you are walking around Williamsburg in shorts, text you pics of your freshly shoveled stairs and walkway back home "so people wouldn't know you were away."  Oh, and they fix your screen door while they are at it.  

The south hasn't cornered the market on friendliness yet! :)

8.  Awesome, clean-looking indoor pool that is warm enough that you don't have to "get used to it."  LOVE!

7. Big Game Hunting Safari.  Folks, there is now a video game I'm addicted to.  Our resort place had a free (squeak!) arcade for kids and yours truly.  I got neck strain from the time I spent with that plastic rifle, while my progeny beat air hockey pucks and billiard balls behind me. Somewhere in VA now, "KD" has a high score record for her ability to shoot five bucks and the trophy (usually a poor zebra or giraffe or elephant).  I'm so very proud. Got extra points for shooting flamingos too.  In real life, I don't have the heart to kill anything bigger than a bee, but on Big Game Hunting Safari...booya!!

Oh and playing x-box dance games with my girls was loads of fun too.

6.  Winter Olympics!  And time to watch them.

5,  Historical sites.

I have an unreasonable love for historical sites--"George Washington was actually here!!!"--probably because I was once a homeschooled Rhode Islander who was a rabidly avid reader whose family wouldn't ever drive more than 15 minutes in any direction, practically, for oh, like, eighteen years.  So yay historical sites! 

If I could invent an app, it would be to get pinged to know when I'm passing a historical site and what happened there.  (Yeah it probably already exists, but my phone's out storage space...) Out of the collection of non-essential things that annoy me, few annoy me more than seeing a small, black and white historical marker while speeding down the freeway, with no place (and/or time) to park and read what it was, and only ever getting the first line and a half.  "Greenwald's Tears Near this site was the last stand of the noble..."  That's all you get.  Grrr.

So yay for Williamsburg and Jamestown and Yorktown!  Williamsburg was a lovely walk down a colonial street, 

Jamestown was right on the bay and would have been gorgeous if it hadn't been chock full of tornadoes and stuff, and Yorktown was awesome awesome because they preserved, like, the whole thing!  Acres and acres of battlefield.  So neat...

3. TVs.  As in, one in each of two bedrooms and a big one for the living room.  Deplorable.  Bad for the brain. Lousy for sleep.  Isolating to the family.  SO MUCH FUN!  My little ones could watch "Caillou" while my tweens watched "Good Luck Charlie" and Dan and I watched parallel slalom finals.  Crazy cool.  

2.   Bathrooms.  As in, 2 whole, full bathrooms.  As in, more than 1 bathroom.  As in, 50% better than my normal existence.  As in, I could technically (though unadvisedly) have two people brushing their teeth, two people bathing, and two on the potty at the same time!  I wouldn't but... man.   The possibilities.  Getting misty-eyed just thinking about it. 

That's it!!  As soon as I can figure out how, a "Go Fund Me" button is going up for a second bathroom!  I give in!  Bathrooms, happy sigh... oh and

1. Family. Of course. Sisters-in-law who hang out with the kiddos and put them back to sleep when they wake in a strange house. A father-in-law who chuckles at the antics of the two year old, takes you to dinner, and then plays board games with you for hours. And a mother-in-law.

0. A daughter losing a new iPod full of photos.  :(

-1.  A time share presentation.  Oh help.  Oh, they're good.  They are "just doing it for you."  They "know how it is to vacation with family."  The offer "is for today only."  Oh you want a better offer?  Oh that's impossible.  Just impossible.  But you know, "Let me just go check with my boss to make sure."  And guess what!  The impossible is possible!  Just sign here and you will be the owners of more time share property!   

Heck no!  We have enjoyed the timeshare that was very much "sold" to us when we were barely into our twenties and a month into wedded life.  But no more please, because hey, pretty much anything is an "upgrade" if it has more than one bathroom and the stove isn't harvest gold and does have more than two burners. It can pay not to be spoiled.  Heck, I'd happily try tenting.... but you know Daddy Warbucks has a taste for the finer things.

There we have it.  Figured it was time for an indulgent post, as this blog is taking the place of two decades of short-hand, illegible diaries.  Need to record these wonderful highlights for posterity....

Friday, February 14, 2014

In Memory of My Last Valentine's: Seven Quick Takes

1.  Ah la jour de l'amour, n'est-ce pas?  (This is me showing off my high school French).  (St.) Valentine's Day, the day of love.

My sexy plans for today include getting the TB plant checked on my arm (you know that icky thing where they inject a blister-looking bump under your skin? That), bringing my 11 year-old to the orthodontist, and getting the tires on my van rotated (you can't make this stuff up... wish I was, lol!)  My husband and I may (maybe) exchange cards and the occasional furtive glance of fatigue over the mounds of kiddie clothes we are packing for an upcoming week-long visit with my mother-in-law.

And what are your plans?  You're green with envy, I know.  Sorry.

2.  Despite my pathetically non-celebratory plans, I honor this particular day more than ever before, since last year.  I've resolved, each Valentine's Day, to learn to love better.  No, not just learning, like, wifely submission stuff: the only recent time I recall being really good at that was when my husband told me I needed to eat the rest of the ice cream in the freezer quickly because he was on a diet and found it tempting.  :D  While normally I have some sort of opinion on everything, in that case I submitted to the head of the household without question. 

I'm really good at the easy stuff, when it comes to love: the movie version, when Cinderella meets Prince Charming.... 

Yes, it's seems I'm all into Disney clips right now.  :) Like the other day (click here if you need some more humor).

Actually, Dan and I ended up having our first dance to this silly song.  Yeah.  At least we didn't look too terrible; the waltz lessons paid off.  As is perfectly demonstrated by this high-quality photograph:

Nope, still not upset my dress wasn't bustled right.  Not at all....
This is the song that Cinderella sings with the Prince when they dance in the castle in the Disney version. (The DJ my mother hired for our reception behind my back was deplorable). No.  That ain't love. That's the result of staying up late after a hard day of cleaning fireplaces, having a fairy godmother apparition, a straight-up gorgeous ball gown, and having a prince ask you to dance in a castle. Anyone could love anyone under those circumstances.

3. Let's see... what's true love? Here was my first love:

Yep, it's our moms, right? Then dads, and siblings.  Then our best friend.  Our first crush. Later maybe comes a spouse, a child.  And each time we're like oh...This!  So this is love!

Then, ultimately, it's God.  Love Itself. Meeting Love Itself... that will be a great day, a truly divine dance.  Maybe that sounds cheesy. But I have this awesome mental image of..  well, for me, I'm in a twilight blue dress, running into the arms of my Father, with Him catching me up and spinning me around. And as soon as He touched me, every earthly hurt is instantly healed. 

Caught up in Love.

4.  I thought a lot about the "ultimate" meaning of love on Valentine's Day since I heard about a little girl named Sofie.  A dear high school acquaintance of mine from my youth ministry days had moved away, married a great guy, and had a beautiful little girl... a typical enough story.  Except her umbilical cord had gotten compressed and caused irreparable damage. Her dear mom and dad tried everything medical care could offer, and waited some more--hoping and praying for a miracle--but her brain would not revive.  

On February 14th, three years ago, they took their baby home, put her in her swing, her crib, her bath, read her a story, and removed her tubes.  She stayed with them till the morning, and then slipped away Home.

It was definitely one of those stories you didn't want to read, and an ending you prayed and hoped would be different.  But while tragic, it was still a triumph.  Facing the awful dilemma: that while love desires union with the beloved, love also wants the beloved's greater good. To have the courage to love, and the courage to let go.  

So this is love.  

5.  One year ago today, I was laughing with delight in a dark room, looking at a black and white screen. Content to sleep on her knees with her bottom in the air (love when you see kids sleeping like that; Felicity will demonstrate here):

my little one finally finally woke up for the ultrasound and began to jump.  As if on a trampoline.  She jumped a couple of time--I've had quite a few ultrasounds but this was by far the most entertaining--then settled to suck her thumb on her back, eventually  turning away from the wand.  

She was getting so sleepy.  I had no idea how sleepy.

Last Valentine's day was the last time I saw little Pepper alive.  The next time was several weeks later, with a ultrasound tech named Jill who kept telling me to be calm, tears streaming down her own cheeks. 

My little one had also slipped away Home.

Valentine's Day is bittersweet for me now.  It's awful that I can only visit my daughter on a snowy hillside today, leaving red-foiled hearts that stick in the snow.  But today I just as keenly remember the joy of last year, looking at all the effervescence of an active unborn child.  Loving her every move, every heartbeat, every perfect finger.  That love has remained unchanged, while changing me, and for the better I daresay.

6.  Actually, I think all this tragedy, all such losses and heartbreak... these are actually some of the very best love stories just missing their next chapter.  Sofie's and Pepper's story is, as yet, unfinished. The best part is yet to come. 

Here's another little (Disney) preview of my heaven: 

True love always has a happy ending in store.  Love never ends with a loss.

7.  Today, I wish all of us the happy version of love, the chocolate-covered flowery kind.  But if we don't have that right now... I want you to know it will, really, be okay.  You originate, live through, and continue eternally in divine Love.  You're absolutely surrounded by it. 

Happy Valentine's Day

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Top Ten Steps to Being On Time...With Preschoolers

1.  Put the kids to sleep fully dressed the night before.  In the morning, decide that--for having had a Pamper-ed sleep--they're really quite dry.  Very reasonably dry, actually.  With a slight sleeve roll, that jelly stain is concealed, and that crusty section on the collar is hardly noticeable.  Really. So far, so good.  No one will care that your kid's hair looks like you fixed it with an egg beater.

2.  Forget the whole shower / wash-up routine.  You're a down-to-earth, real mom about to hang out with real people.  It's ah-ight.  No sweat. Mostly.  Just get in there and show your kids you mean business.

Which, to them, will look kinda like this:

3.  Skip breakfast.  No not just you; the kids too!  Too much of a risk to their already-clothed selves. Besides they eat all the time, and there's probably that leftover box of crackers in the car somewhere. (It got pulverized, but for now it's a place to hang some hope...)

4.  Budget a half hour to find the other boot.  Oh you know the one.  It matters not that the boot is much larger than a shoe and BRIGHT PINK for crying out loud... never mind all that.  It will take a full half hour of searching amidst the screaming protests swearing complete ignorance of the whereabouts of said boot because "I put it right there!"

Wax slightly philosophical for a second: the boot was "there." Where is there?  Ha! "There" is... well, look everywhere.

And where is your everywhere?

You accept the challenge to "push yourself further" and you find the boot!  In the highchair! With a truck and a peel-mostly-on banana (can you say "breakfast"?) inside!  Now--like the Visa commercial--you know where you want to be:

5.  GET IN THE [DARN] VAN/CAR.  Some experts argue that this is indeed the most important and most difficult step of the entire process.  Last minute potty visits, a full diaper, and your coffee--spilled over the welcome mat in the search for a glove--will need to be addressed.  Set aside 20 minutes for this step, and plan for these 20 minutes to go by in 3.

6.  Sit at the driver's seat and find your keys.  No not in your hand, not in your purse, not left in the door, yes you just had them otherwise you couldn't have unlocked the van, not in the empty coffee holder (sigh), not under the crumpled bulletin on the floor, not under the seat beside "ohmygoshwhatISthatEWWWWseriouslykids!!!", not near the old apple core, not near the frozen wipes, not in the back seat ("KIDS! Kids, everyone look for Mom's keys. Now. NOW! Yes you!  I don't know I don't know...down... On the floor... are you sure you don't have them?), not on the ground outside, where oh where is "there," still not left in the door, not beside the car seat, not inside the car seat, "No, I can't take you out yet" (WaaaaaaAAAAHHHH!  Wahhhhh etc etc), not under the floor mat, not on the roof of the van, not...oh wait. Yeah.  Back pocket.  Got it.

No, you didn't even feel it.  No, I don't know how....

7.  Insert key in ignition, turn it, and engage in driving.  Enjoy that moment.  Power. Speed.  Control.

8.  Look at clock. Panic.

9a. Reminding yourself that "you aren't late yet," resolve to drive carefully.  Better late than involving police intervention.  Say a quick prayer... hey, maybe you can get in a prayer, "Our Father, who art...."







"Mama!  Guess what?"


9b.  "I found my pincess!  She has a bandage!  A boo boo!  Is she okay?  Can you take it off?  Please mom?"

"Well I'm driving honey..."

"OH Myyyy POOR Pincess!!! AHHHHHH....."

9c.  Decide that "fixing" a McDonald's "Glinda the Good Witch" would be safer than hearing the screaming. Clamping eyes firmly on the road, you do that dislocating-shoulder-back-seat-reaching twist that accounts for the perpetual knot in your back. Grab, grab, grab, feel the toy and tips of tiny fingers, stretch more, a little more--wince--got it!

Tap toy on the radio knob.  This comes on:

Don't listen to the whole thing; just start singing the best part: "Ay ay oh Ay oh, Ay ay oh, ay oh..."

"Mama?" "What?" "Mama?" "What?  Yeah yeah I got it...."

Eyes focused on the road, blindly begin to pick at and peel off the melte-on band-aid. Mumble several un-Mommyish words under breath.  Now say them out loud as four year old's head pops up beside you.

"Mommy!  I love you Mommy. I want to sit aside you because you are my best, nice Mom..."

"STOP!  SIT!  NO!"  Dropping pincess, carefully find a spot to pull over. Remonstrate with weeping preschooler, assuring her of your love while strong-arming her back into her booster seat... how did she learn to undo that...  Tell her you'll be very glad to sit beside her later to watch "Caillou."  She smiles brightly through her tears.  You try to move your lips to an upward curve.  You have something to look forward to when you get home...

9d. Resume the driver's seat.  Cover dashboard clock with the apple core.  Sing along to the radio, "How am I supposed to be an optimist about this?  How am I supposed to be--"




"What?  Holy....  what?"

"Hee hee...Wanna hear a joke?"

You are a good mom.  You are a goooood mom.  A darn good one.  Tap off the radio.


"Why did the turkey cross the road?"

Gooood mom.  Nice mom.  C'mon....

"To lay an egg?"  You almost sound interested.  Good job.

"TO HAVE A TEA PARTY!!!! HAHAHAHA!  Mom!  MAMA!  Yook! YOOK at me!  I a TURKEY!  Yook!"

Stop yourself in the act of tilting the rearview mirror to look at the turkey.  "Aw honey I gotta drive..."

"But I'm a TURKEY Mom! Yook!!! ...."

10.  Oh yeah... look!  You're here!  Only 16 minutes past the time you were shooting for.  Now you just have to get a parking spot, find four shoes and three socks and two hats and one glove and put them back on their respective kid, close the doors before the crumbled bulletins fall to the ground, go back and get your key (STAY STILL! STAY!), and your purse and... no wait, there's no coffee.  Just get inside.

Adults.  Other adults.  Smooth hair behind ear.  Smile.  Smile smile smile.

"So sorry we're late... we..."

Find the eyes of other bleary-eyed moms toting kids who yell "I need to go potty!"

Behold the moms of older kids; ladies who sit chatting in a happy circle, leaning over mug with lipstick-smudged rims...

Oh yeah.  Makeup could have been step 3b.

There will be time to be on time.  Sometimes.  Celebrate those days!  For now...

Yeah.  Let it go.  Go all Disney Princess in your head and....
"Sweetie, keep your sleeve rolled up a little, 'kay?"

For Jamie F., Jen K., and all my fellow M.O.P.S.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Christmas 2013/ Candlemas 2014

Dozens of hand-mailed cards still adorn the entryway of my home.  I have looked over them for a couple of months now with an odd combination of fondness and guilt.  No, it's not just you, so please don't feel left out.  I didn't mail one card this year. :(

I'm late.  I know.  I had several false starts at writing.  I had a nearly completed letter that was deleted when my two year-old tapped my phone at exactly the wrong moment.  But I am writing within the octave of Candlemas, the feast of the Presentation, the "old school" end of the Christmas season.... right?  

If Baby Jesus is still involved, it must still be Christmas, right?  (Right?)
(Incidentally, I already received a gift of candles due to my mention of this somewhat obscure feast in my last post.  Given this, I feel it necessary to inform everyone of the even less known feast of "Chocolatemas" which occurs on the Sunday after Candlemas.  This is the feast where readers give chocolate (the darker the better) to their favorite bloggers. It just started.  Gotta love Pope Francis.)

Yes, I know that's a ridiculous excuse.  But I do have others.  Such as: But but but we just took the tree down! Because my two year old loved it like a pet, and showed it to everyone who came in with the greatest of pride and self-importance.  Her righteous anger at her father bringing the beloved pile of sticks outside (wa ha ha) is voiced frequently.  

Now picture this with no green.  You got it.
Also: my laptop was broken for a month and ate the first version of this annual letter, and the Norovirus raged through our home in December.  I'm sure the first version was the best too...

But those aren't the best reasons.

The truth is.... Traditionally I write humorous letters for Christmas.  I try to pull out all the stops to make people laugh at the antics of the Dancause family.  And that's just harder to do when you find you're looking back on the worst year of your life.  I delayed and hoped to find the words to make things more cheerful.  Now it's February, and... we gotta move on or it will be Lent. (Doesn't "Pre-Lent" start next week? Anyhoo...)

So here's the quick and dirty version I don't really have the heart to fully humorize: 2013 began and ended with illness. It started with moderate to severe morning sickness, continued through the slow renovation of our house from five rooms to a decadent sixth: all to welcome a little someone who never got to see it.  Spring began with a death, a pregnancy ended with the presentation of a white satin, rectangular box, buried with rose petals and I don't know how many tears.  

Summer wore on while I learned to ride the tidal wave of grief, and found meaning by working in a hospital helping others deal with loss.  With a strongly renewed sense of "why wait?" I pursued my love of theater in the fall, and was happily selected to play Mrs. Crachitt in a local and quite large Christmas Carol production, with my daughters as fellow Crachitts and past, future, and present tense ghosts. 

My girl (Annemarie) is the smiling boy in the hat (Peter Crachitt)
In the winter, I went directly from the show into the worst stomach bug I've ever encountered, going through my family on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and putting me into the hospital the day afterwards.  I got out just in time for 2014 to begin, and have battled chronic pain ever since... getting slowly and steadily better.  I did have a quote chosen for a calendar, and an abstract art painting was done to illustrate it. Here is August 2014's rendition from Small Bird Studios:

So... I've had better years.  

Now to bring some light to the lighter things: Annemarie

is at that blessed age where she's old enough to be really (really) helpful.  And for someone with inborn super-maternal instincts, that age is 11; she's quickly making up for my long months of seclusion while she was a preemie.  No, that's not why I started homeschooling her this year but... let's just say we are all thriving with this new education set-up.  She has already had several offers to be a mother's helper; when I get tired of her help, I'll let you know.  ;D  She's joined a hand-bell choir and is thoroughly enjoying two homeschool "co-ops" that teach stuff I'm nervous about.  Like chemistry. 

Sweet and just as dear 10 year-old Claire is in public school--just to assure I am totally diverse-- and is acing everything there with all her loomed jewelry-clad friends... she's turning out to be the trophy-collecting type

After her latest ballet performance
(By "acing" I humbly mean her report card says, after all the "exceeds expectation" marks, "Claire is an inspiration."  Wondering what this might mean, I congratulated Claire, and didn't put it on my status because it sounds worse than "My honor student trumps your honor student." So I just saved the news for my "Candlemas" letter.) In other news, she sings opera-style, and plays the harp... which sounds so lovely even while in practice mode...  Which is a good thing.

Cecilia is loud.  And four.  Mostly loud.  

She likes things that are loud, like tap shoes and microphones.  A hedonist who needs to be coaxed out of sweatpants and a princess who adores all things pink and sparkly and all creatures small and tiny, Cecilia has a huge heart to go with her strong will.  She's a handful of hilarity.  And yes, this is would be considered a normal "pose" for her:

Fliss complements her perfectly, and is the quiet dainty companion of her twice-her-size and age older sister. 

With a absurdly detailed vocabulary, Felicity holds her own as the youngest.  Whenever I return home from an appointment, she says, "Mom, welcome to my house!" her tiny hand making a sweeping gesture.  Gracious, and gentle, and all that is sweet, Fliss has been such a comfort to me during a year where I really needed a small someone to hold. 

This year, I feel led to also mention that I have a five year-old named Gabriel and and 5 month-old named Perpetua who have successfully completed their earthly tasks, kids I'm also very proud of and who look after us solicitously from their most excellent viewpoint.  And that aspect of this reality is really, really cool.

Rights purchased from the wonderful CarlyMarie
And we busy, tired parents of six?  Dan works in Providence and will soon vacation in Williamsburg with the rest of us.  He's rapidly becoming less and less of the man he once was, since he braved an extreme hospital-run liquid diet.  We are very proud of him. 

 Okay this is him in college (on the banks of the Jordan River, actually), but wait: actual "after" pictures to come!! :D

And it seems I'm one of those poor but artsy sorts now.... Though I can't actually draw to save my life.  This doesn't necessarily stop my from trying.  Like this charming illustration:

Primarily a dish-washing, laundry-driving, mini van-driving mom, I also play writer, editor, photographer, and philanthropist.  Mostly I blog here, but I do freelance the occasional article, was recently called upon to edit a book (!) and spend quite a bit of time in various meetings, informational sessions, and training events at Women and Infants Hospital, working towards making it a more sensitive place to babies who don't have time to stay.  I'm also very casually a distributor for the non-toxic Ava Anderson products I'm passionate about using now (feel free to buy a lip gloss or glass cleaner and make my day right here, using party # 21945), and very actively into theater these days.  Seems I'm trying to repress my inner hotel manager... that's the field my high school career test indicated I should pursue.  HA!

Speaking of theater, if you interested, kindly ask me about tickets: I'm required to sell a certain number for an "Annie" musical in the first two weekends of May, where I'll be playing Grace Farrell.   My children will be maids, Hooverville citizens, and "the lovely Boylan sisters," while my husband (oh it's really too awesome!:) will be Daddy Warbucks.  We are now "that" family that sings musical numbers while dancing around with brooms and feather dusters.  Just did that a few minutes ago actually.  I will thoroughly enjoy playing the personal secretary of a billionaire, on stage, with my tuxedo-clad husband.  

This is not us.  Yet.
Feel free to give us the opportunity of showing off our talents and/or making complete fools of ourselves for your amusement.  Either way, it will be fun.  

Already, this year looks so much better than the last. :)

I'm very proud of what God has led me to do and grateful I can do it; despite the hardships of this year, we have very much felt His love and caring presence even in--actually particularly in--the dark times.  I hope this letter finds you proud, grateful, and well as well, launched into a 2014 that will be much better than what came before.  May you feel how close He is: Emmanual, every day of the year.

In Him,
The Dancause Family

Saturday, February 1, 2014

What I want to die of: Seven Quick Takes

1.  I'm seriously ticked off.

You know when you go to a friend's product party, intending to buy one polite thing but--primarily, let's face it--you're there to socialize?  And then, under the influence of friends, friends' really nice wine, and the approaching hour of midnight on the last day of the month before the "specials" cease to exist... you sign on as a consultant? And then you're immediately hailed as part of a team and invited to a pow-wow meeting on Monday night...

:)  But that's not what I'm annoyed about.

2.  Okay, I have zero intention of asking anyone to host, or leading a home party, like, ever again.  No amount of well-intentioned hype, spirit of camaraderie, or general goodwill could lead me down the (for me) shudder-filled path of a "home business."  

Not that I have anything against those who enjoy and succeed at these pursuits; I applaud and wish them the very best!  (That goes for all you lovely ladies in my "upline" who may read this!) But for my more timid self, I truly signed on just to get a good deal on cleaning, hygiene, and beauty products that aren't filled with toxic substances.

Which is why I'm annoyed.

3.  Granted, I'm also annoyed at the whole prospect of "fear-based" marketing.  "Buy this or die of cancer" is far from a model business slogan.  (No, that's not a real business slogan... at least I sure hope not.)  

But I do buy into frustration with unconscionable American greed.  I am annoyed, for instance, that (apparently) companies like Johnson & Johnson make a cleaner, healthier version of their products for Europe as demanded by the EU, but sell a much less safe (and cheaper to make) version of stuff like oh, baby lotion, in the U.S

Take this interesting quote, for example:

The EU Cosmetics Directive . . . bans 1,328 chemicals from cosmetics; the U.S. FDA has banned or restricted only 11. 
I won't go into it all here, but here's one that really got me: "Fragrance."  It seems that any time you see "fragrance" on a bottle, it's a "trade secret" word.  Which means that--legally--any number of toxic chemicals can be concealed under that word:

"More than 75% of the time, there are phthalates present [when "fragrance" is listed] which are known endocrine disruptors, and are linked to birth defects, breast cancer, infertility, liver cancer, diabetes, obesity, autism, and ADHD during pregnancy." (Dr. Landrigan, Mt. Sinai, Children's Environmental Health Center)

4.  No I don't really know how to pronounce "phthalates," but I understood the other stuff.  Unless they mean that pregnant women become ADHD... that part is a little unclear.  And a little funny.  But either way, on a personal level, I'm royally annoyed that I've been spraying "fragrance" straight on my pulse points during every pregnancy. Especially because absorption through the skin is the quickest way to the bloodstream.  

And that's just the tip of the iceberg really; dozens of actually listed ingredients on our soaps and lotions and lipsticks are linked to lovely things like reproductive toxicity, immune dysfunction, are known carcinogens, etc, etc, etc.   And these ingredients simply don't have to be there

In the end, I'd like to die of something not caused by a detergent I was using on my dishes.  Ya know?

5.  Yes, yes, I DO hate fear-based selling.  As a practical, penny-pinching mom... I harbor a deep fondness and appreciation for 99 cent shampoos.  I love the idea of organic fruits right up until the moment there's an awesome sale on regular pesticide-flavored strawberries. 

I refuse to worry about everything.  Like my mother so benignly would say, "Well, everyone has to die from something."  The healthiest, most organically-fed, well-exercised individual could easily die from an gravity-attracted coconut on a Hawaiian vacation, right?

Still, if one can avoid using potentially dangerous products and buying from those who manufacture them... that's a good thing.  Safe products all manufactured in the U.S.... that's a positive thing to sell.

6.  Most of the reason I hated being a "consultant" in my former business endeavors was that I never could truly believe, despite many, many pep talks and team conference calls, that the product I was hawking was absolutely the best for everyone I encountered.  Try as I might, I did not--in the end--feel I was "doing people a favor."  So I stopped.

But this Ava Anderson stuff... well, it comes a lot closer to that reality of being "best."  No, not just because it's from Rhode Island and was founded by passionate 14 year-old girl bent on saving the world.  :)  I've tried these products--from window cleaners to lip glosses--and they are, simply, great.  Particularly their legendary diaper cream, which has been known to also heal eczema and even work as a deodorant.  

Almost as good as Shimmer: a floor wax AND a dessert topping... :D

Therefore, when I can afford to, I will buy these products, and I will be available for others--who would otherwise search in vain for it's equivalent on store shelves--to purchase it through me. Because, unless you have an allergy to any of the clearly listed ingredients, these things aren't going to hurt you. Unless you massage lotion directly onto your eyeballs I suppose... don't recommend that.  All ingredients can be found listed... you could pretty much eat these products though no, I don't recommend that either.  

7.  In sum: Sales will not be a new focus for my blog.  But as a stay-at-home homeschooling mom with 1.5 graduate degrees, who spends the majority of her "free" time in volunteer work at hospitals, acting "pro bono" in community theater, and writing an ad-absent blog for free...

It wouldn't hurt me if you browsed and shopped here.   Use "party" ID number 21945 during the month of February. 

And--best of all--these purchases won't hurt you either.  For real.  Everything smells good, looks good, is better than the stuff you find at Whole Foods, and way nicer than the homemade bug repellent you're currently mixing at your kitchen sink.  And if your homemade cucumber flower anti-aging extract is indeed better, it's returnable. :)

Thank you for your support, for looking around, spreading the word about using safer products from conscientious small companies, and helping me avoid the temptation of putting my 11 year old who looks 15 into the work force. ;)

I will now continue with my long-overdue regularly-scheduled program: finishing my annual Christmas letter.  In February.  Oh the shame.  A new all-time low.  In my defense: my Christmas tree is still up!  (I know, I know, I know...)  Okay, I'll attend to the fire hazard first.

Happy Candlemas to you all! :)