Sunday, May 31, 2009

They Know Not What They Do

When I got home from church today and checked my Facebook "stalker newsfeed" (as Meredith calls it), all my New Jersey friends were making their usual mundane comments about their everyday lives. But every one of my Kansas friends was decrying the murder of Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller in his church this morning.

New Jerseyans, as a whole, are not that up on the abortion fight that has been centered in my hometown. So, a little bit of history. Tiller was one of the few abortion doctors in the country who would do abortions in the last trimester, when a baby is considered viable outside the womb. Fifteen or so years ago, Operation Rescue staged their "Summer of Mercy" protest in front of his clinic, and he's been a lightning rod in the abortion conflict ever since. Recently, he's been in court defending himself against charges of corruption in how he gets "independent doctor" opinions regarding the necessity of the abortions. And Kathleen Sibelius was questioned about her relationship with Tiller while being considered for Secretary of Health and Human Services.

It's abominable, this act. I'm so incredibly sad. I'm sad for the many people who knew and loved this man, including some of my friends, apparently. I'm sad for the worshippers at this church who will live with the horror of the moment for the rest of their lives. I'm sad for arrested suspect, who is apparently (if his motives are what we suspect) extremely confused and disturbed. I'm sad for the family of the suspect, who will be shadowed by this for the rest of their lives -- and who will bear the wrath of the extremists in the pro-choice movement for the actions of their unwell loved one.

I'm sad for my pro-choice Christian friends who have expressed their inability to forgive this man -- after all, they have been forgiven much. I'm sad for the angry pro-choicers who are raging at their ideological opponents, blaming them for the acts of an insane person, forgetting that both sides have their share of wackos. I'm sad for the pro-lifers who may have made some ineffective and unwise moves in their history but who are sincere in their love for their fellow man, even George Tiller. I'm sad for the whole country who will have to deal with the rage and ugliness that will ensue in the days to come.

Oh, the sadness that has come out of this fight. I told a friend recently that I'm confident the vast majority of the country would agree on a lot of the questions involved in this issue: about late-term abortions, parental notification, reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies to begin with. Why can't we focus our collective energy on the areas where we agree?

I believe abortion is murder. I want legalized abortion to end. But for now, I'd rather settle for reducing the number of abortions overall by working with the other side on the areas we can agree on. That seems to make more sense than the all-or-nothing route that has made Christians look like hate-mongerers and inspired the unbalanced among us to kill for the sake of saving lives.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


My family loves salsa. The girls eat chips and salsa for snack two or three times a week. I got very excited when my friend Eileen made homemade salsa for us when we stayed at her house in Jersey. It looked easy! Throw things in the blender and hit the button. I can do that!

Now, realize that usually when I have these thoughts ("Easy! I can do that!"), I am woefully mistaken. But not this time. I LOVE my homemade salsa! And even better, so does the rest of the family!

So, as I was mixing up a batch this morning, I was thinking . . . why does salsa not qualify as a vegetable? I mean, here are my ingredients: tomatoes (canned right now, but I'll try fresh when they're available), onion, garlic, jalapenos, fresh cilantro and lime juice. LOADS of veggies in there! Nothing fatty, nothing processed, nothing sugary. I think salsa could downright qualify as a health food! (And not even in a Bill Cosby kind of way. "Eggs -- eggs are in cake. Milk is in cake. Nutrition!")

Of course, I am conveniently bypassing the question of the sodium-laden chips we dunk into the salsa. Maybe I can look for a healthier version of those. I'm also conveniently ignoring the fact that my girls don't usually eat any of the vegetables -- they just coat their chips with the sauce.

No matter. There's gotta be some nutrients floating around in the sauce, too. LOVE salsa. Thanks, Eileen!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Marital Implosion

Leslie has become a huge "Jon and Kate Plus Eight" fan. She DVR's almost every episode as they re-run, so I've seen much more than my share of the Gosselins. And I've usually found them relatively enjoyable.

Until yesterday. Leslie taped the season premiere and we watched it over lunch. I'd heard all the rumors floating around about the couple, but I'd heard they'd decided they weren't going to address them at all on the TV show.


For an hour and thirteen minutes, I got more and more depressed watching these two people whose marriage is clearly coming apart at the seams. I almost cried. How terribly sad. Why in the world did they do this episode? Shut off the cameras! Get thee to a counselor! I heard somewhere that Jon only agreed to do another season if Kate would agree to marriage counseling -- and that the producers had to talk her into the counseling. More rumors . . who knows.

But there was no denying the train wreck witnessed on the season opener. Jon's apparently not living at home much. Kate expected this to be their last family picture. Only one minute of the customary commentary with them sitting together on the couch. All sprinkled in with shots of the sextuplets fifth birthday party. Too sad.

For anyone who has watched the show much at all, this really shouldn't be a big surprise. I've frequently cringed at the way Kate speaks to and about Jon. And the deer-in-headlights looks he has afterwards -- or the shrug-and-eyeroll -- tell it all. She shames him. Shame on her. I often tried to excuse it; I mean, it's not like the couple isn't under tremendous stress. But it looks more and more like a pattern of behavior -- rooted in a pattern of thinking and beliefs -- than a temporary stress reaction. And why they continue to add the stress of displaying it all for public consumption, I will never understand.

I prayed for them this morning, because it made my heart heavy to watch them yesterday. And I apologized to Keith for anytime I've treated him with such disrespect. God help us all. Marriage is HARD.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Am I Boring?

Our family spent about nine hours yesterday at a pool party next door. If you know Keith or me very well, you know that is not exactly our kind of thing. We tend to be homebodies, much to our girls' chagrin, I think. But the Lapkes invited several neighbors we didn't know yet just for us to meet, so we were there. And it actually was a pretty good time. Nice people. Good music. Decent weather. Hot hot tub.

Lexi Lapke spent the night here with Leslie afterward. I found myself wondering this morning what our home and family must seem like to her. Their house seems to be the hoppin' place in the neighborhood -- the spot where all the kids hang out, and sometimes their parents, too. By contrast, we must seem dull as the dry, brown grass.

An old friend I've gotten in touch with on Facebook (could I ever express the impact Facebook has on my life these days?) recently shared with me her memories of my family. Unbeknownst to me, her own family was in crisis at the time. She remembers my home as a place of peace, security and predictability. Mom would always make dinner . . Dad was always a little stern-looking . . the bathrooms were always clean . . . church was every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening. She said our family made her feel loved and safe.

Funny. I always thought we were boring. I could never imagine why a friend would want to come home with me to my house. Boring, boring, boring.

I wish my mom was around now to hear what my friend has to say about the home she made. She would really have liked that. And I suppose I would be thrilled someday to hear that one of the girls' friends found our home to be a safe haven. I guess I can live with not being the hoppin' party place. Gotta be me, after all.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Breathe In . . Breathe Out . .

My heart is still pounding. About 15 minutes ago, we heard an earth-shattering shriek from Eastin's room and went flying up the stairs. Eastin was on the floor, staring at her arm, and her soccer friend Erika was standing beside her, staring at her. They had jumped off of the top of Eastin's bunk bed together. Yes, Eastin was told when we first bought the bed that no one was allowed to jump off the top. Apparently, that important instruction slipped her mind.

When I reached down to help her pick up her arm, I SWORE I saw it bend slightly in the middle of the forearm. Oh, no! Oh, no! It's broken! I thought. Of course, I didn't say that out loud, but I'm sure my face said it all.

However, as we all calmed down a bit, we discovered that although the arm hurt like crazy, Eastin could move her fingers. And eventually she tried moving the whole arm and could do that, too. Before long, we were all laughing about it, including Eastin. But I still felt sick to my stomach.

It's amazing how the mommy-brain kicks in at moments like that. As I sat on the floor holding her injured limb, I found myself talking calmly. But my mind was racing: the minor-emergency center up the street . . . keep Erika calm, tell her it's OK, it's not her fault . . . something flat and solid to rest Eastin's arm on in the car . . . an ice pack . . . Keith can take Erika home . . .

I think it was less than a minute, really, that we sat there before we figured out that her arm wasn't broken and she was going to be fine without professional intervention. But in my mind, I already had friends signing her cast.

She's got an ice pack on it now while they watch a bit of "The Little Mermaid", before we take Erika home. (I add that fact just to give me an excuse to revel for a moment in the music of this show. "Each little clam here know how to jam here under the sea . . each little snail here know how to wail here under the sea . . each little slug here cutting a rug here, that's why it's hotter under the water, yeah we in luck here, down in the muck here, under the SEA!!!" Really -- great stuff.)

In any case, she seems to be fine. Deep breaths. I'll probably be fine, too, in another hour or so.

Monday, May 18, 2009

It's a Mean, Mean World

I was watching Fox News late last night (don't any of my liberal friends throw things at me!). There's a show on there late on weekend nights -- "Red Eye" I think it's called. It's a group of people commenting on the week's news. I don't like the show -- because these people are like so many news media-slash-entertainment jerks who try to be funny and just end up being mean.

Now these mean people happen to be on my side of most of the issues (most of the time), but they're still mean. Such jerks are not limited to the left or the right side of the political spectrum. They ALL frustrate me.

And they're not even limited to the political world. I read internet articles once in a while about American Idol (yes, I know . . it's over this week, my obsession will stop then), and I'm stunned at the viciousness of people about some contestants. These are ordinary folks that they don't know personally, who are making themselves vulnerable to the world, taking a chance on a dream -- and people absolutely trash them for no good reason! It's disgusting! I mean, it's one thing to say you don't care for a particular contestant; it's quite another to call him an arrogant, ugly, untalented [bleep] and throw a party when he is voted off! Particularly if you work for the media -- you're supposed to be a professional! I realize they wouldn't do such things if it didn't earn them viewers, but the fact that it does earn them viewers is just as disturbing.

What in the world is wrong with our society? What ever happened to manners? To civility? To a sense of just plain decency? No wonder our government gets in such stalemates on important issues -- we've forgotten how to disagree without being disagreeable.

I watch my kids' favorite shows on Disney and Nickelodeon, and probably a good three-fourths of the humor in them comes from sassy, sarcastic comebacks between kids. Or even worse, between kids and adults. I know, that's nothing new. Children's entertainment has been like that for years. Maybe that's a big chunk of the problem.

Personally, I'm sick of it. I'm sick of the unkind words, and I'm disgusted at the cold, mean hearts they reveal. What I'm going to do about it, I don't know yet. But I may start with turning off the TV, if I have the gumption to fight my kids on that.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Who Said Summertime Livin' Was Easy?

We have 1-2 more weeks of school left (depending on how motivated the girls are to finish things up). And now I've got to figure out what we're doing for the summer. I've learned from history that if given nothing specific to do with their time, my girls will spend all day long watching TV or playing on the computer. Not what I want for their three months of academic freedom.

So I'm exploring the available activities in the area. The third week of June is Skill School at our church, every morning. We'll all be busy with that. The week after that is a drama camp at the Community Theater. The Sioux Center Recreation Department has very inexpensive tennis lessons in July, two lessons a week. And the Art Center has five different two-week art class sessions through the whole summer.

The homeschool group doesn't do much over the summer -- apparently, even the social activities they've tried to arrange in the past weren't well-attended. But one mom organized a group of families to play Ultimate Frisbee once a week, which may be fun. And I'm hoping to get a few of my own friends to commit to an afternoon a week getting together at a local playground or something.

I don't know why I always think I'm going to get so much other stuff in my life done when summer comes. I'm either remarkably optimistic or just plain stupid.

Now, I realize that some of my friends will tell me, "Gwen, you are not your children's recreational director. You don't need to sign them up for all these activities. Leave them alone; let them get bored. Then they'll find their own fun stuff to do."

Maybe so. But maybe not. Am I a wimp to not try that? I think I might have more courage to let them manage their own entertainment for the summer if they had more friends to be entertained with. If I knew that neighbors would be stopping by frequently to invite them out to play, I'd be OK with that. But we haven't met many of the neighbor kids yet.

That's my biggest hope for the summer. Friends in the neighborhood for both girls. Good friends. Nice kids. Girls that I can trust them hanging around without my direct supervision, and that I can stand hanging around my house without annoying me to death.

Why does making new friends have to be so hard . . .

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I'm trying something new for my sleep problems. I did some research on the internet and found out, for one thing, that there's a name for what I have: Periodic Limb Movement Disorder. Someone was in a creative slump when he came up with that one. But I also found some herbal remedies proposed as a solution, which perked my interest. I'm not a big fan of the better-living-through-chemistry movement. I'd really rather not have to stuff my body with chemicals every night to sleep, if it can be avoided.

So, I stopped by a local nutrition place and found something all loaded up with the appropriate herbs and such -- Valerian root, Passionflower, Magnesium, etc. etc. Not sure yet if it's going to work or not.

Someone else had suggested to me that I get one of those whole body detoxes. Said it might flush all the toxins out of my system and make a difference in my sleep. I've read some good things about those -- and I've also read that they're a bunch of baloney. So, I asked about it on Facebook. Some people think they're great; some people think they're baloney.

It's all rather frustrating. I mean, who are you supposed to believe? Really -- about anything? I have the same aggravations every four years during the presidential campaigns. Both sides will pull out their experts and their facts and their evidence for their side of every question. But which experts, facts and evidence are we to actually put our trust in?

I find that I put very little trust in anyone anymore. And I find that very sad. Not that I'm suspicious of people's motives -- I don't think they're all lying to me. But they are as likely to be mistaken as not . . or they may very well be lying to themselves.

Now THAT's a fascinating phenomenon to me. Self-deception. We tell ourselves things that we know are not true, and we believe ourselves! How sick are we?

Leslie said the other day that she wished there was a book out there with the name of every human being in history and God's specific directions for them for their lives. "Gwen Kandt: extra Melatonin, less refined sugar, and stop watching American Idol". That would be handy, I suppose. I tried to explain to her how huge a book that would be, but it occurred to me that just all the instructions for me alone would fill a monstrous tome. Bibliophile that I am, would I really read it? And would I follow directions? I do a pretty lousy job with the ones I have from Him now . . .

Hmph. This isn't a terribly uplifting post, is it? Blame it on the PLMD brain fog. And pray my new Valerian root concoction does the trick. After months -- and perhaps years -- of sleep deprivation, I'm anxious to see what the real me is like when she gets a decent night's sleep.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Have you ever had someone shower compliments on you that you knew you didn't deserve? Like, for the store-bought cole slaw you dumped into your own bowl and brought to the potluck? Or the witty remark you heard on the morning news show and injected into a conversation?

I just got in touch with another old friend on Facebook. She commented on our virtual reunion in her status statement and said this about me: "She was one of the sweetest girls around -- real, true sweetness of a rare kind."

Wow. I mean, wow. I can't decide if I'm more moved by that comment or aghast at it. Lord knows, I've always tried to be sweet to everyone. But He also knows the actual lack of sweetness beneath it at times. The descriptors "real" and "true" make me a little uncomfortable.

If there's one thing I've tried to become more and more as I've matured, it's real. I'm such an approval junkie and people pleaser, I've made a conscious effort to not put up an image to others that is not genuine. What good is it to know that people like a fake version of me? I try to show the real me . . . and if they don't like it, I don't cover it up -- I try to figure out why and if there's something I need to learn from that. Not that I always succeed in this endeavor, but I know I've improved.

On the other hand, I know there's a lot of people that really don't want to see the real me -- all my "stuff", all my ugliness, all my issues. (Another FB friend posted today, "I don't have issues . . . I have subscriptions." Amen!!) Sometimes, I may put on a smiley-face front not to cover up my flaws, but to shelter my companions from having to deal with them. It takes discernment sometimes to know which friends want the real answer to "How are you?" and which are making small talk.

Blah blah blah. In any case, I guess I'm glad that my school mate experienced sweetness from me. We all need kindness from others. I'm just quite aware that this sweetness was not inherent to me, and I won't take credit for it. I'm not the sweet one. I hope I get a chance to explain that to her sometime.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My Current Obsession

Hey, all! We're back home and starting to get back into the swing of things. I thought I should write, since it's been a while. And I realize people may want to hear about my trip (maybe . . maybe not . . ). But I usually write about whatever's on my mind at the moment --

And right now, that's American Idol.

I'm not sure how I got so obsessed with American Idol this season. Well, no, I do know -- Leslie's to blame. She got me started. But once I was started, I jumped in full-force. The girls and I were religious about being back at our hotels to watch each episode while we were traveling. Luckily, the Redekers are almost as obsessed as we are, so they watched with us in Virginia. And we all heaved a collective gasp when Adam was put in the bottom three last week.

Anyway, I'm on pins and needles waiting for tonight's results show. Because I really think all four of these kids remaining are incredibly talented and deserve to stay on. But that's not how the game works: someone has to go.

So here's my take on last night (for any of you who might care). Everyone knew going in that this was Adam's night. The boy's incredible, and rocking with Slash is his element. (For my musically inclined friends who are not following the show, you HAVE to go to and view the videos of Adam's past performances. Best one: "Mad World". He's phenomenal.) And everyone knew that Alison was the only one who could give him a run for his money. (Love her, too. Check out her stuff while you're there. Especially "Papa Was a Rolling Stone".) So that left Kris and Danny competing for third place and safety.

Here's the thing: I think tonight is going to boil down to what the fans of Matt Giraud (the one eliminated last week) do. Each of the final four has their own fan base that isn't going to change their mind after last night. But Matt's folks need a place to go now. And they're more likely to side with Danny or Kris than with Adam or Alison, just based on style preference.

So, it depends on which approach to last night they respect the most. Kris played it safer -- picked a song that he could be mostly himself on. A base hit, and he made it to first . . . but that's just not good enough for last night. Danny knew a base hit wouldn't be enough, so he swung for a home run -- and was tagged out at home. (I thought the beginning of his song was good, but the shriek at the end was, unfortunately, just horrific.) So, will Matt's people like Kris for being true to himself, or Danny for taking a big risk and stepping out of his comfort zone even though he crashed?

Personally, as much as I love Kris (a very original artist -- see "Ain't No Sunshine" and "She Works Hard for the Money" on the website), Danny has guts to try to pull off the song he attempted. And he has a more unique voice. I would vote for him.

Of course, I didn't actually vote, though. I'm not that obsessed. Yet.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Leslie's Birthday and more

Hi, it's Leslie.

Well, since Eastin wrote about her birthday, I decided I'd write about mine. Except I'm writing mine late. My birthday was actually April 30th. Yes, the day right after Eastin's!

After a nice, hot, educational, tiring trip in Virginia, we headed back to my friend Amanda's house in NJ. She and her mom had accompanied us to VA. Don't get me wrong! I had fun, and loved VA, but it had it's ups and downs. In the middle of the car trip, maybe near the end, we picked up my friend Sammy and her two sisters. That was fun too. Just so you know, Amanda is 14 (almost definitely), Sammy is 10 (I'm pretty sure), Julia is 8 (I think), and Chloe is 4 (I'm pretty sure). :-)

Well, not much happened on my birthday besides that. Tonight, though, we went to dinner at Olive Garden, one of my favorite restaurants! And we're getting a new basketball hoop! Yes! I got lots of other fun presents too. But I'm happy to say I didn't ask for any presents from my friends at my birthday party, I asked for toys to give to CHOP, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia!

Well, I would love to say more, but I could write for hours and it's getting late. Maybe I'll write more later. Talk to all later, Blog Readers!