Monday, December 31, 2007

Resolutions 2008

Review of last year's resolutions

ummmm.....

I didn't have any. I have to confess that I'm not sure I've ever had any New Year's resolutions. I have also managed to avoid eating the dreaded black-eyed peas that are supposed to bring you good luck. I know, I'm such a rebel.

Resolutions for 2008

1. Figure out what I'm allergic to and stop eating it. If you've come late to this party, my immune system has developed some severe hypochondriac tendencies, thinking that something I eat is a threat to the system and it reacts violently with hives. In 19 months, neither myself nor my allergist have been able to discover what my body is reacting to. No medication has helped with the exception of Benadryl. Lots and lots of Benadryl. To do: Go back to the elimination diet, *stick to it*, and keep written track of what I'm eating and what the reaction is.

I'm having trouble thinking of another...hummmmnnnn...maybe I should have started practicing last year.

Ok, how about this?

2. Get more involved in a ministry. Church choir, Meals on Wheels, something I can make a real investment in. I need to keep an antennae out for (not to mention be in prayer about) something that needs me. To do: Research ministries and time commitments and see where I can fit in.

3. Develop deeper relationships with other women. I've lived out here for 3 1/2 years and I have a lot of friends and people I enjoy being with. I have friends I call to get our kids together and friends I chat with at get-togethers, but I don't have a close friend that I get together with for coffee (of course, I don't drink coffee) or chat with daily on the phone (if I actually liked talking on the phone...hummmn...maybe I see why I don't have a friend like that). I've come to the conclusion that women really develop friendships in the days before we have the commitments of motherhood taking up our time and attention. After kids, most of our time, energy, and drive is focused on our families and we hardly have enough left over to maintain our existing friendships, much less build new ones. So this will have to be a concentrated, intentional effort. To do: Invite someone to Starbucks, talk to someone on the phone.

I've been thinking about working on resolutions #2 and 3 together by hosting a book study group. It's another thing I'm praying about.

4. Improve the blog. That breaks down into a few different areas. Get a custom blog design. I loving this whole blogging thing and I've been coveting everyone else's custom banners, layouts, fonts, etc. Put more effort into the writing, so that it really becomes an exercise in becoming a better writer. Be better about commenting on other people's blogs. It's only polite. To do: Save up my pennies for the design, spend more time writing instead of being lazy, write more comments.

No wonder I've never made resolutions before; this is work! I've been working on this for *hours* over the past 2 days and this is as far as I've gotten.

-----------------------

Day #3

I had thought of something else last night and it is totally gone from memory. Sigh. I guess it wasn't important.

I have grand ideas about yelling at the kids less, keeping up with the housework more, and being more organized with the homeschool thing, but I'm also a realist who knows it probably ain't gonna happen. So I'll keep them in mind and see what I can do about it. Maybe I'll make a list of Secondary Resolutions. But it's only going to be a mental list, cause this whole making resolutions thing is way too much work to do twice!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Prepping for the New Year

It's almost 2008, just in case you haven't noticed. We're deep in planning the annual New Year's Eve Game/Movie Night, but I'm thinking my friend's Disco Night might be a fun idea for next year :-)

This is the time of year when people put together their list of "Resolutions". I've never been the resolution type, but my friend Marybeth is asking for people to post a)a review of their resolutions from 2007 and b)their resolutions for 2008. It's making me think maybe I'll come up with some goals/resolutions for 2008, a general plan for reaching those goals, then see what happens.

Feel free to join in the goal-setting fun. Just check out Marybeth's post for the info. I'll be posting my goals in the next couple of days, whenever I can come up with some!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Overheard in my car today

To escape the holiday induced cabin fever, we picked up one of K's friends and headed to the movies. This was part of the conversation on the way home.

(This friend, M, is an 8-year-old boy, so consider yourself warned.)

K: "How are you going to get to Disney World? Are you gonna fly?"

M: "I'm gonna eat 20 pounds of beans and fly there on fart power!"

Oh, I am soooooooo glad I have girls!

The Death of the Mom Bag

You've heard of the Mom Bag, I'm sure. It's the purse that's big enough to tote around the whole house, but don't confuse it with the behemoth bags carried by young Hollywood starlets. Just to help you distinguish the two, here's how to identify a Mom Bag.

You can open up any Mom Bag and find the following:

Diapers and wipes
Leaky juice cup
Snacks
Snack crumbs covering the bottom turned to mush by the leaky juice cup
Coins to bribe the kids with rides on the Ernie fire truck in front of WalMart for good behavior
Gum to fill the kids mouths so maybe they'll be quiet for 1 minute
Cell phone to call for emergency childcare backup
Calendar so you don't take child#1 to soccer when you should be taking child #2 to dance
Business card with doctor info so you can fill out those forms in the emergency room
Toys to entertain the kids in case of an emergency room visit
Kleenex for nasty noses
Various wrappers and other trash that the kids just hand over to Mom

As you can imagine, the Mom Bag is heavy, bulky, and usually a bit smelly.

For the Christmas season, I switched to small holiday bag and now that the season is over, it was time to switch back to one of my Mom Bags. But I just didn't want to go back there. So when I headed to Target last night for scrapbooking glue, I made a little detour through the purse section and found a sassy *little* red purse on heavy clearance. Nice. It's the perfect size to carry the important stuff and too small to get overwhelmed with the flood of crud that defines the Mom Bag. And did I mention it's sassy? And red?

So let's take a moment and mourn the death of the Mom Bag.

Ok, that's long enough!

I'm sure the Mom Bag will still make limited appearances in my life, but I'm hoping to keep it confined to things like field trips, not Target trips.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Be careful what you read before bedtime

Last night I pulled out my friend, Lysa TerKeurst's book (okay, I've never met her face to face, but we've emailed once or twice, so I say that counts), What Happens When Women Say Yes to God. I had gotten a few pages into it, then stopped to tell Mr. at Home about Lysa's amazing adoption story. She and her husband adopted 2 teenage boys from Africa in a pure amazing God thing. I then put the book away and went to sleep.

And had one of those very realistic dreams. You know the ones. The kind that you wake up from and remember every detail and keep remembering throughout the day.

In this dream we were adopting a little girl from Africa. Instead of us traveling to get her, a whole group of children was being brought to the US together to meet their families. My mom and I went to a local community center to meet with the group and waited for the lady on stage to call our name. Our name was called, but instead of the little girl we expected, we were presented with a girl of about 9-years old with long strawberry blonde hair. Due to some sort of mix-up, all these kids were from Russia. The facilitators left us with the girl, whose name was Lauren, and I immediately knew that, despite what our other plans had been, this was supposed to be my daughter. We had all kinds of questions about her, but there was no one available to answer them (you can imagine the chaos in that room) and no one to translate between me and Lauren, so we were trying to use whatever signs we could. After all, I had been preparing for an African daughter and hadn't learned any Russian. The clothes we had ready were too small, K wasn't the oldest anymore, and I wasn't sure if I was ready for a 9-year-old, but it didn't matter because here she was and I wasn't giving her up.

And then I woke up. And I totally blame Lysa and her book for such a weird dream, even if the few pages I had read before bed didn't discuss her adoption at all :-)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

So what did you get for Christmas?

L's big gift was a polly-sized princess castle with a million tiny accessories. She was in princess heaven. She also got a new princess Barbie and a Barbie car. She ran and got the other princess Barbie so they could go on a car trip. Her favorite part was pressing both their necklaces so they each sang their very different songs at the same time.

K's big gift was a teeny-tiny polly car race track, named Race to the Mall. You use these hot wheel-sized cars with teeny-tiny polly drivers and they do a loop, go up the escalator, and swirl around before either doing it all again or heading out to visit the food court.

Mr. at Home's favorite gift was a tiny electronic gadget called an Arduino. He got giddy with joy when he opened it and immediately got out his electronics learning lab and went to work making LEDs blink. I've heard these Arduino things can be pretty cool so it'll be interesting to see what he can make it do.

I, my friends, hit the jackpot this year. Mr. at Home has all these reward points at work that he's never used as they never seem to have anything on the reward list that he wants. Then he also got his 10 year anniversary gift thing where he had to choose a gift from a list and again there was nothing he wanted. So he got my gifts from there. Woohoo! I came out with a beautiful watch, a cool set of flatware, a really nice set of bakeware, and a fabulous set of luggage. So I can now bake, serve, travel, and get there on time. In style. Add in the dishware from my parents and the scrapbooking set from my SILs and I am spoiled rotten.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Tis the season for Photos!

This is a very important post. One that you DO NOT want to miss, delete, or read it and forget it. This message could very possibly change your life.

Back up your photos.

Back them up now.

A month or so ago, a friend of mine had her hard drive self-destruct and despite the best efforts of the Apple geniuses, it could not be resurrected. They gave her the hard drive and said she might be able to pay a private company to try pulling the old data off, but there was only a tiny hope of success.

My friend was devastated. You see, she had months and months of photos on that drive. Events, moments, a once in a lifetime trip to Scotland. All lost. She checked the prices of those private companies that might be able to help, but for the cost of the recovery attempt, she and her whole family could just go back to Scotland and take the pictures over again. She was reduced to asking friends and family for whatever photos they happened to have taken of this year's events.

Don't let this happen to you. Most of today's computers have some kind of digital recording device - a CD or DVD writer. Find out what kind of media your drive writes to (CD, CD-RW, DVD, etc.) and go buy a stack of them. RIGHT NOW.

Copy every image you have. If you have iPhoto, select about 100 pictures, then select Share, then Burn. You can continue selecting pictures until the combined file size of your photos reaches the maximum printed on your media (CD, etc.). I have spent the past few days organizing my photos in iPhoto, and burning CDs. Each CD is labeled with the date and series number, ie. "2007 Photo Backup, Disk 3 of ?, June - Labor Day". I don't have the "?" number yet because I only have the photos backed up through 12/20. After our New Year's Eve party, I'll burn the last disk and have a complete set of 2007. I even went through and backed up the 2006 pictures from my computer because I can't remember the last time I burned a backup and better safe than sorry.

It seems like a no-brainer that I should be able to easily find out when I made my last set of back-ups. I ought to have them neatly organized in one central location, right? Ah, but I do and here comes the next very important, life-changing part.

Practice off-site storage.

This means, send your photo backups to a safe storage location that is NOT your home. I'm sure you've heard stories about families who've lost all their kids' baby photos to a fire, flood, etc. Don't be that family. Have copies of your photos at your house where you can enjoy them. Then send copies of those photos (CDs, DVDs, negatives, film canisters, etc.) to the grandparents, your sister, your best friend, your cousin's sister's brother-in-law, anyone that you know will keep them in a safe location. Preferably, far enough away that they won't be caught in the same natural disaster that could destroy your own photos.

I can't check the date of my last backup because my photo backups are 1000 miles away at my parents house, in a large ziplock stored away with my dad's important documents. That bag contains almost every picture I've taken in the past 10 years or so. If something happened to my huge stack of scrapbooks, I'd lose the countless hours and dollars spent on making them into beautiful works of art, but I could reproduce every picture in them. And that's the most important part.

So why are you still sitting there? Go! Burn, baby, burn!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Will at Home, Valerie at Home, K, and L!

And my flashy Christmas light socks.


Yes, folks, that's real light-up action.

Monday, December 24, 2007

'Twas the Day Before Christmas

'Twas the day before Christmas
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
not even a mouse.

Mom sprang into action
And cried,
"What are you people doing just sitting around? Clean something!"

And thus the family was introduced to Christmas Tradition #564.2. The house must be cleaned Christmas Eve so that the Christmas pictures will show a nice clean house and you can preserve the fiction for posterity that, of course, our house was always spotless. So I started my mental To Do list for the day, but DH quickly threw a wrench into things with the simple question of "Do the polly cars for K get wrapped or go in her stocking?"

Huh?

Oh. Uh-oh. I totally forgot that I had asked W to pick those up and hadn't accounted for them when buying for L's stocking. Think, think, think. By Santa, I've got it!! My sister had gotten L 2 dolls to go with her big present and for K she bought a Build a Bear gift certificate. So I can copy and reverse those in their stockings and have K get the 2 polly cars to go with *her* big gift and get L a BAB gift certificate, which I could buy online and never have to go to the store! Did that totally confuse you? It comes out even in that both girls each get 2 doll sets and $10 for BAB. And even is *very important*.

Then I got the bright idea to go ahead and pack the stockings. I started with W's and had to take a couple of things out of the package so it would all fit (because I'm just that nice of a wife :-)) and moved onto K's. I got both girls a teeny-tiny Littlest Pet Shop set, so I cut open the ridiculously hard to open package, clipped all the teeny-tiny twist-ties, stuffed all the pieces together and tried to close it. And kept trying. And bit my tongue to keep from cursing it out. And tried some more. And resisted the overwhelming urge to toss it against the wall. And finally set it aside and pulled out L's teeny-tiny Littlest Pet Shop. I cut open the package and all those twist-ties, put it all together, and...had no problem closing it.

At least it wasn't due to my ineptitude that K's wouldn't shut. It was legitimately broken. But it meant a trip to Target with the zillion pieces of packaging and a stop at the Service Desk and a walk through the toy section to find a replacement. The day before Christmas. That's a suicide mission, folks.

And my wonderful, thoughtful, amazing W offered to go for me. For a crowd-hating claustrophobic to offer something like that? That's LOVE. And he said he needed to pick up something at Target anyway, so I gladly handed over the bag filled with pieces and sat down to write this blog post.

But I can't sit here for long. I've got a house to clean.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Isn't it amazing

Tonight I was reading a fabulous blog keeping awake. When you have a few empty hours and a new box of kleenex, you need to read her blog, follow her heart-rending story, and be amazed and strengthened by her honest reflections on her faith.

She quoted a verse that I haven't really noticed before.

Isaiah 49:16, "Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands..."

Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, a prophet foretold of his humble birth and horrible death. And that, through the nail scars, we would be forever inscribed on the palms of His hands, never to be forgotten.

My friends, that right there is comfort.

My kids need to get out more

I was the very nice Mom today that let my daughters open one of their Christmas presents early. Gifts have been pouring in from very nice aunts, uncles, great- aunts, great-uncles, and grandparents and I figured to avoid the Christmas day overload, we could spread the cheer out a little.

Yesterday, I used the money my aunt had sent the girls for Christmas as a bribe. "If you finish your schoolwork quickly, I'll take you to the store to spend your money." We finished up the first semester yesterday and we were all ready for the break. We headed to Target where the toy aisles were packed even in the middle of the day. K chose some more tiny animals to stuff with her stuffing machine and L picked out a Barbie kitchen (I had a *very* had time convincing her to not get a toy she already has under the tree). So they each had one gift to occupy them last night.

Then W helped K get her webkinz online and we haven't seen her since. She has holed up in her room on her computer with the headphones on and we periodically check to make sure she's still breathing. She's discovered a whole new world that she had only heard rumors of and she's happily playing checkers to win "money" she can spend at the "store" on stuff for her webkinz' virtual alter egos. She's surfaced to eat and inform us that she wants another webkin for her birthday. (Smart kid knows that Santa has already bought all her gifts.) As proof that she's overplaying, she took her "bunnies" to the "doctor" who informed her that they weren't smiling because they were tired and she needed to let them sleep. Thank you Webkinz company for programming some common sense into your world! W has since taken both girls to the library.

Today we let them open the big box from Grandma and Grandad (that did entice K away from her computer for a little bit). L got a beautiful doll and chair and K got a movie she's been wanting for *months*. They also got some little things in the stocking Grandma always fixes them. L was *fascinated* with one of her gifts.

Not the doll.

Not the really cute teddy bear chair that came with the doll.

Not the Dora candy holder.

This...

She wasn't fascinated that it was pink or that it has a really cute Hello Kitty dangle. She came running to me crying "Watch!! Watch!!" because you can click and the tip comes out and click again and it goes back in.

Yes, folks, if you're still looking for that perfect gift for the 3-year-old in your life, try a ball-point pen. That clicks.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's all in the wording

I made us chicken wraps for lunch today. Grilled chicken strips, lettuce, craisins, and cucumber ranch dressing - yummy and oh so healthy. Cause you know how important that healthy part is to me. (Don't hurt yourself laughing over that last one.)

L, after having a very difficult morning where she ran tearfully off to the bathroom saying, "You're not being very nice to me!" (honey, if you only knew the restraint I have exercised this morning), finally reappeared.

I pointed her to the table and announced, "There's your lunch."

Belligerently, she stated, "I didn't want a taco!"

"It's not a taco; it's a wrap."

"Oh, okay." And she started eating.

The name makes all the difference.

Coats optional

We went to a friend's house yesterday to give the girls some playtime and the moms some adult conversation time. These things are important, you know. I made K and L wear socks (the horror!) and coats. Actually, K insisted on just a sweatshirt and I didn't push it. We walked to their neighborhood playground and once there, every one of the 5 girls dumped their coats (and sweatshirt) off on the bench and ran around playing. In short sleeves. In L's case, short sleeves and capris. She insisted she wasn't cold. Whatever.

On the way home from our friends, we stopped at the store. Where I waited for L to put her socks *back* on. (What is it with socks?!?) L finally gets her shoes put back on and we head into the store. And I notice that both girls have left their coat/sweatshirt in the car. And it's *cold*. Here I am in my coat and I can just imagine what the other shoppers are thinking. Any second they're going to be pulling out their cell phones and dialing CPS, "There's a woman here at the grocery store and *she's* dressed for the cold, but her kids are almost naked!" (because you know they would exaggerate like that)

It's not my fault! I *try* to keep them adequately dressed for the weather, but they insist on taking off whatever I put on them and running around like they don't even feel the cold. After the hundredth time of telling them to put their coat back on, I figure there's no better way to learn than experience.

At least I made them wear socks.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Walk Through Bethlehem

A local church does a program where visitors are invited to experience the town of Bethlehem as it might have been during the time of Jesus' birth. We went for the first time this year as 1) it was free 2) it was a beautiful evening and 3) we didn't have anything else going on and it sounded neat. We joined the crowd waiting in line where we received "shekels" from prosperous villagers and were harassed by beggars, who were hustled off by Roman soldiers (all with "classic" Roman noses). We registered for the census and paid half our shekels in taxes before we got into the marketplace. We saw animals, were assaulted by the smell of dried fish and chicken, and the girls got to make tiny candles in a sand pit.

We then went inside where we saw many more merchandise stands set up in the gym cleverly disguised with cloths, plants, straw, and lights, then we passed out into a courtyard where a stable was set up with live angels and holy family. This was my favorite part. All the children were fascinated with the scene and they went forward and dropped their beads and shekels in front of baby Jesus. It was very sweet.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Yesterday was Boomama's Christmas Tour of Homes.

Unfortunately, I was way too puny to make the required effort to participate. So here I am, a day late to be sure, but ready to show you this year's fabulous decorations.

We start with an early dinner of Marybeth's Christmas Pasta.


Yes the picture is a bit blurry, but you can still see the lovely Christmas colors and imagine it's yummy-ness.

We then move to a quiet evening where L has spent almost an hour quietly playing with her Barbies (I love girls!) and K is diligently (and with much whining) working on her schoolwork so she can hurry along her Christmas vacation.


Here's the paper chain the girls spent yesterday afternoon making. I think it looks very nice hanging up there.


Here's our lovely Christmas tree.

What's that? You don't think that's a Christmas tree?

There is a story behind that tree. Back in November we started a budget - tracking spending, categorizing everything, and all that. So when it came time to think about a Christmas tree, I was trying to decide which budget category it ought to come out of. We started decorating one afternoon and got all the other lights put up and the stockings were already hung...umm...from the bar...with care, but we didn't have a tree. So I grabbed the ficus from upstairs and started wrapping it with lights. The girls soon got involved and we decorated it with our favorite ornaments and decided that we kinda liked it. So, for this year at least, it's our Christmas tree. Next year, we'll just have to add a category to the budget marked "Christmas Tree".

And lastly, here's a picture of our "mantle".

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cold!

Remember when I was complaining because it just didn't feel like December here in NC? That it was awfully hot to be so close to Christmas?

Well, it got cold.

All at once.

And you know what happens when it's almost 80 one day and 40 the next?

That's right! People get sick!

Either my allergies are desperately revolting against the sudden weather change or I've caught a cold virus. I've been sitting in my chair feeling puny and sorry for myself for 2 days. Because I can kinda breathe when I'm sitting straight up. Any other time, breathing is sponsored by Afrin Severe Congestion Nasal Spray and Alka-Seltzer Plus in the Zesty Orange flavor. At least I think that's what that flavor is called and I'm too tired to trudge upstairs and find out for sure.

I wasn't a complete chair potato today. I did a couple of loads of laundry after K came flying up the stairs and woke me up with, "L's nose is bleeding!" We finally got that under control (and I didn't even faint), but it did necessitate stripping the bed and washing the sheets.

W's coworker, who's wife teaches TK, sent over some crafts for the girls. There were 3 separate activities and I managed to figure out 1 of them. So I set the girls to cutting strips and let them make a really long paper chain (DH later said he thought it was supposed to be Japanese lanterns, but it made a great paper chain). I even lifted L's scissor ban and let her work on her fine motor skills and hand strength by cutting many dozens of paper strips. We hung the chain from our banister and it looks very nice. Now to email the TK teacher and ask what we're supposed to do with the other stuff she sent. Anyone know of a craft that uses paper egg carton "cups", jingle bells, white glitter, gray paint, and ornament hooks?

I also organized all the girls' finished seatwork into notebooks, made lunch and dinner, cleaned the kitchen, *and* made 2 loaves of banana bread. I had 4 bananas that *would not* wait another day. That took awhile as I must confess to being a loser and only owning 1 loaf pan. Woe is me. I added chocolate chunks to the batter for the second loaf and it was very, very tasty. (Thank you, Marybeth, for the recipe and the chocolate tip!)

So, in spite of the crud that has taken up residence in my head, it was actually a fairly productive day. As a reward, I'm going to fix myself a small glass of sparkling orange medicine and go to bed.

G'night, folks.

Friday, December 14, 2007

In today's news...

In the midst of endless schoolwork, mountains of laundry, and the guilt over the million other tasks I *should* be doing, a friend called. She, another friend, and their combined 6 little girls were at the shopping center near my house. They were eating ice cream and chatting while their girls ran wild around the fountain and did I want to join them? Duh. She had to ask? After all, socialization is such an important part of homeschooling. Especially for the moms.

So we combed our hair and walked over to meet them. I was totally The Best Mom in the Whole World because I let L wear her beloved flip-flops. Because it's hot outside. That's just wrong, folks. It's December and we're traipsing around in capris and flip-flops. What is this world coming to???

On the way over, I decided it would also be a perfect time to walk a little further and pick up stamps so I could actually get the Christmas cards mailed out before New Years. So we played until L decided she *had* to go potty, then headed over to the grocery store for a bathroom and the stamps. I then spent the 1/2 mile back home chasing L who, being "tired of walking", decided to run the entire way home.

The cards are now stamped and waiting to be picked up by our trusty postal worker, so you should get yours soon. I also did my part to save gas and stop pollution. And work off the ice cream calories.

Totally, Shamelessly Stolen Story

I found this story on FiddleDeeDee's site and liked it so much that I thought I'd repost it here.

It's that good :-)

“The Snowfall”

author unknown

Once upon a time, there was a man who looked upon Christmas as a lot of humbug. He wasn’t a Scrooge. He was a very kind and decent person, generous to his family, upright in all his dealings with other men. But he didn’t believe all that stuff about an incarnation which churches proclaim at Christmas. And he was too honest to pretend that he did.

“I am truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, who was a faithful churchgoer. “But I simply cannot understand this claim that God became man. It doesn’t make any sense to me”

On Christmas Eve, his wife and children went to church for the midnight service. He declined the invitation to accompany them. “I’d feel like a hypocrite,” he explained. “I’d much rather stay at home. But I’ll wait up for you.”

Shortly after his family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched the flurries getting heavier and heavier. “If we must have Christmas,” he reflected, “it’s nice to have a white one.” He went back to his chair by the fireside and began to read his newspaper.

A few minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. It was quickly followed by another, then another. He thought that someone must be throwing snowballs at his window. When he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through his window.

“I can’t let those poor creatures lie there and freeze,” he thought, “but how can I help them?” Then he remembered the barn where the children’s pony was stabled. It would provide a warm shelter. He quickly put on his coat and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on the light.

But the birds didn’t come in.

“Food will bring them in,” he thought. So he hurried back to the house for breadcrumbs, which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail into the barn. To his dismay, the birds ignored the breadcrumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow.

He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. They scattered in every direction - except into the warm, lighted barn.

“If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety,” he thought. Just at that moment the church bells began to ring. He stood silently for a while, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. Then he sank to his knees in the snow.

“Now I understand,” he whispered. “Now I see why You had to do it.”

Thursday, December 13, 2007

K's Christmas Story

K's assignment yesterday was to write the Christmas story using her spelling words (which were things like Mary, shepherds, Bethlehem, etc). She excitedly sat down with the toy nativity set and a piece of paper and searched long and hard for the perfect opening sentence. (Yes, folks she not only looks like me, she acts like me.) After filling up the fron of her paper, she asked if she could type it. I started the text program on the big Mac and plopped her down in front of it. For the rest of the day. And a lot of the evening. And a long time again this morning.

Finally she asked if I could print it. Finally! I noticed that all the spelling words were all correct and she had very carefully fixed every word so that none had the squiggly red line underneath. Of course, it still made for an interesting result.

So here for your viewing pleasure. K's version of the Christmas story.

------------------------

This is the story of are savor . Who saved us from sin.Yes I am talking about Jesus . Well it all started wen Mary met Gabriel a angel of the Lord . Gabriel told Mary, you are to have a baby. Gabriel left. Mary thought how? Im only engaged. But she ow-bade. She told Joseph, the one she was engaged to. Joseph did not believe Mary. That night Joseph had a dream the angel came in it saying, you will marry Mary, she will have a baby you will name him Jesus! Then Joseph went striate Mary. The king wanted to tax the people. So all the families went to there home town. Then Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem Joseph home town. Mary rode on a donkey. And Joseph walked. They finely reach Bethlehem. they Were trying to find a place to stay. All the people they asked said no. But wen they reached one house the man said, no room unless you want to sleep in my stable. so they did. And it was just in time for Jesus to be born. angels came to the shepherds singing. You will find baby Jesus raped in swaddling clothes ling in a manger. The shepherds were filled with joy. And this is the resin we have Christmas to celebrate Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Evolution"?

A story on the CNN website is all about how female humans have "evolved" so we can carry the extra weight and bulk associated with pregnancy. This is obviously "evolution" because it's only in humans and their immediate ancestors, not chimps or apes. They went back to the oldest fossils and found the "evolved" vertebra and joint in a 2 million year old female spine. I'm not sure exactly what evidence they are using to call this an evolved characteristic since they don't have any evidence that it was not always there. Except maybe that chimps and apes don't have it, which doesn't really say anything at all. Conveniently, the article wasn't terribly clear on all that.

And they call this science?

Today is brought to you by the letter W

I added a neW blog to my blog roll. A Wonderful neW blog that I think has a lot of potential and one I think everyone should read :-)

The new blog?

Will at Home

WoW, What a coincidence that it has a very similar name to mine! And Would you look at that. It has a very similar url, too. What are the odds?

W (Mr. at Home) has long had a professional blog read by hundreds of people all over the World, but it frustrated him that he couldn't branch too far off his basic subject. Then I inspired him by my amazing blogging proWess (that or my ability to find a captive audience for my ramblings) and he started his oWn "at home" blog.

So go check it out. Add it to your RSS reader, your blog roll, and your list of "I need to check this everyday" Websites. Then leave him a comment Welcoming him to the World Wide Blogosphere. Tell him his Wife sent you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My First Works For Me Wednesday Post



One of my blog roll people hosts a really neat and not so little thing called Works For Me Wednesday. Bloggers post tips on all kinds of topics and I have finally come up with one I thought might be worthy of sharing.

Potty Training - the bane of many mommies' existence, causing a whole lot of tears, hair pulling, and desperate pleas for help.

My oldest was a *breeze* to potty train. In fact there was very little "training" involved. By 2 1/2 years old, I introduced the potty, let her sit on it a few times, then she found some Dora panties she had to have. I explained that panties meant going potty every time and she agreed. One day and one accident later, she was completely daytime potty-trained.

Fast forward to daughter #2. We adopted her at 20-months and waited awhile to introduce the potty. We finally got one, used the same laid-back approach as the oldest, and nothing. There was no interest. We waited some more and her 3rd birthday passed. We tried pressing it a little harder and still there was no interest. I was determined we were going to do this, so we tried all the common techniques - running around naked, rewards, books, princess panties, even an Elmo doll that went potty. She could care less if she was wet (or worse). I had almost given into despair when I read a blog post about "toy jail".

And I thought about the fact that toys are L's weak spot.

So I picked a large box and showed it to L. This is toy jail and every time you wet your pants, one toy (or set) gets put into toy jail. To make it relevant, I told her which toy set she would lose at the next accident (dishes, leapster, Barbies, ponies, etc.). When she had an accident, I put the designated toy in the box, put the box up high in her closet where she could see it as a reminder, and tell her which toy was next.

This went on for several days and she'd almost filled up the box, but then she made it through a whole day dry. That night we celebrated and I had a sticker chart with 6 spots where we put one sticker. When she had made it through 6 days without an accident, she could get her toys out of toy jail.

She had 3 stickers before she had another accident and since there were extenuating circumstances, I told her she got one freebie and she didn't earn a sticker that day. However, if she had another accident, she would lose all her stickers and have to start over.

L made it through and earned the rest of her stickers without any problem, getting all her toys back. She also learned to have pride in the fact that she *can* stay dry and we haven't had any further backsliding in the potty-training area. It's been especially difficult for her as she is currently on a diuretic post-surgery and so the potty trips have been more frequent and urgent, but she still *wants* to wear panties and *wants* to stay dry and does a fabulous job of it.

I think the toy jail worked so well as it was a novel concept to my girls, so they had fun with it, and the fact that L *loves* her toys. I just had to find L's personal motivation. And I don't have to worry that L will pass her (fast approaching) 4th birthday still in pull-ups. Thank goodness!

Monday, December 10, 2007

I feel for you guys out in Texas

I was doing a little random browsing, went to the Dallas Morning News website and noticed the 3-day forecast.

Monday - high 44
Tuesday - high 70
Wednesday - high 43

What in the world is going on out there? I know the saying in Texas is "If you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes," but those temperature swings are extreme even for the Lone Star State.

I happened to check out the website for Rocks in My Dryer and she posted pictures of their neighborhood trees bent over to the ground under the weight of all the ice. There were some huge branches that had already come crashing down and more were getting ready to take the plunge.

Have I mentioned the weather here? It's sunny and hot. We're looking at record breaking heat here in the next few days. Did someone forget to tell the NC weather department that it's DECEMBER?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Where have I been this week?

Why that's a good question. One I wish I knew the answer to.

I think it all went haywire Wednesday afternoon. When we finished school just in time to meet K's best friend, Natalie, and her mom and sister at Costco. We wandered through the huge warehouse and I *didn't even buy anything*. Well, okay, except sodas on the way out since we were all parched after our long trek. Then we left with Natalie in tow and we headed for the huge, new teacher store where we wandered some more aisles, then ended up racing out of the store to pick up W from his bus stop and heading over to church for the Wednesday night activities. After all that excitement, we went home and collapsed into bed (after making one up for Natalie, of course).

Thursday morning started with school, where I was the mean teacher and made Natalie take the same arithmetic test as K. I came across the realization that these poor girls have never been taught how to take a test without reading aloud, talking to themselves, or covering their answers. It was interesting. They spent so much time talking as they did their work that I finally threatened them with the fact that we wouldn't have time to eat lunch if they didn't get a move on. At some point in the morning, it dawned on me that I was supposed to bring snacks to the Brownie meeting right after lunch. So we left the house with the intention of grabbing a quick lunch, to the grocery store for snacks, then we could scoot into the meeting right on time. Then as we pulled in Wendy's, I remembered I was supposed to bring the Brownie checkbook (I'm the treasurer) to the meeting. Change of plans! We went through the drive-thru, raced back home where I grabbed the checkbook and W's box of lunch snacks, and we headed straight over the the meeting.

Where I ate peanut brittle.

And I made the important discovery that I am allergic to peanut brittle. Either that or the grape Kool-Aid.

At any rate, by the end of the meeting, I was broken out horribly in hives and couldn't stop on the way home at the store like I planned. I didn't want to scare the other people.

So we got home and dosed up on Benadryl and sent the girls to clean their rooms while I cleaned the rest of the house. Did I mention that I was hosting a little get-together Thursday night? A few friends were coming over to put together stockings for a community service project and I was supposed to pick up chocolate and red and green trimming for the stockings. Oh well! It went well, we had plenty of other things to work with and some very creative ladies. Another busy night that sent me crashing into bed.

Friday morning. I was up just after W left for work, then I got dressed, got the girls up and dressed, and we headed out to a political rally specifically for homeschoolers. Yes, it counted as school as I had to teach K a lot about political parties, the election process, and who Mike Huckabee is. It was very cool to actually meet Huckabee and his wife. They were both very nice and his wife loved L.

After the rally, we made a quick stop at the new uptown Target, then we headed over to the hospital to visit a friend's sick baby. When I mentioned to L that morning that we were going to the hospital, she had an immediate panic attack, "Why are we going to the hospital?!", before I could explain that we were just visiting. We visited baby Blair then headed down to the new pediatric CVRU as we had promised L's nurses that we would stop in and say hi next time we were in for a follow-up. L, by the way, had no memory of who those people were or that she had been in the CVRU for 24 hours. That anesthesia is good stuff.

We ate lunch at the hospital as the nurses insisted I take some free lunch coupons (twist my arm, ow, ow), then headed home to rest and get ready for a White Elephant party that night. (Are you tired yet? Just reading about it is enough to make me wonder *what* I was thinking!) We all headed over to our friends' house where the kids and adults had separate parties. It was a lot of fun and we saw people we hadn't seen in 2 or 3 years. It was odd that among the ~10 women there, we had *2* named Valerie. And yes, we had a lot in common. Except that she has 5 kids. Good for her (and not me!).

We have 1 thing to do today and next week is *much* less crazy. At least so far.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

This puts Dancing With the Stars to shame

Someone posted this link on a group devoted to adopting children from China with special needs. It's absolutely amazing and an excellent resource to help your children see that a physical disability doesn't have to be showstopper. People who are physically different can still accomplish beautiful things.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3346971965429876679

I have a new favorite Christmas album

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the Michael W. Smith marketing guys giving away his new Christmas CD to bloggers. Right before we went into the hospital, my CD came in the mail and got stuck in a pile on the kitchen table as I frantically packed and prepared for the surgery.

I found it again a few days ago and set it by the sound system (aka, the TV, Xbox, and small speaker system). The instructions were to do something Christmassy while listening to the CD and write a blog post about it. So I was dutifully waiting for a time when we got to actually do something Christmassy. Of course, I would pass the CD periodically and gaze longingly at it. Finally yesterday we were doing a quick housecleaning before some friends came over to play and I caved in and put the CD on.

Can we just pause for a moment in reverent silence? That man has talent!

I was a bit worried since the last time we saw MWS in concert, he was going through a very unfortunate midlife crisis where he was trying waaaay too hard to be hip and cool and ended up looking like a bad high school cheerleader wannabe. He has thankfully come back from the Dark Side and returned to his strengths of big orchestra and choir, which is why I loved him and faithfully went to his Christmas concerts with Amy Grant back in Dallas. He is an amazing performer and composer. Back when I was in high school band, we performed one of his pieces that was my absolute favorite. It was called Musical Instruments (appropriate!) and the melody was carried by the mallet instruments (marimba, xylophone, etc.), which I played (in fact, I was captain of the sideline crew, but that's just bragging). The drill team had chosen the music and one time they asked us to play it while we were all sitting in the stands at a football game. Ummm, that would be difficult as the mallet instruments were stacked on the sideline since it's kinda hard to carry a *marimba* up in the stands and we were the *only* instruments that had the melody line. They persisted so we went down and pushed our keyboards up right in front of the band and we played it. Cause we were just nice like that.

Anyhoo, back to Christmas. I put that CD in, started cleaning, then the music almost brought a tear to my eye. I put that sucker on repeat and listened to it like 4 times in a row. When our friends arrived, I just turned it down a little and kept on enjoying it. It's not just a bunch of weird versions of traditional Christmas songs, it's actually new and very well written music. So if you're looking for something new this Christmas, *buy this one*. Michael W. Smith, It's a Wonderful Christmas.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

While we were in the hospital

There were several funny things that happened while we were in the hospital and now that all the drama is over, I can start sharing some of the humorous side of things. Because you know that I will go looking for the funny side. It's just my personality.

On Wednesday we were wasting time waiting (don't you love all those "w"s?) and ended up in the playroom for the second craft of the day. One little girl was already there, sitting in her little race car cart, hooked up to her IV. K started making smalltalk and asked the girl what she was in for, kinda like something that might happen in a prison lunchroom. This little girl had gotten a stomach virus and ended up dehydrated. She went to the emergency room Sunday and it wasn't looking too good for going home on Wednesday. Sheesh! Heart surgery = 3 day hospital stay. Stomach flu = 4+ day hospital stay.

So if you ever find yourself listening to your doctor say, "I'm sorry, but Little Johnny is going to need heart surgery," don't panic. Draw your hand across your forehead in an exaggerated fashion and exclaim, "Whew! At least it's not the stomach flu!"

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I was thinking this evening

As we ran a quick trip to Target, I watched L run around smiling and chatting, including the obligatory request for candy at the checkout. If we had mentioned to any of the other shoppers that L had just had open heart surgery Monday, they would have taken one look at L and declared us liars with an expression of horror that we would make up such an obvious falsehood.

She's only complained twice today of a little pain and only slowed down a little this morning. Tonight I gave her a shower, which is not her favorite activity. She has a small dark spot where they ran her central line in her arm and a few little scratches. She has the surgical tape over her main incision and tape and gauze over the stitches from the drainage tube. I thought about taking the tape and gauze off, but I peeked at the spot underneath it and decided it could stay for a little longer. Did I mention that I'm a total wuss about blood? Or anything that might possibly have bled within the last...oh...year?

Tonight she is dressed in her princess pajamas, snuggled under her princess sheets and princess blanket and already dreaming princess dreams. On her stomach. That's one brave princess.

Home!

I tried to get on from late yesterday afternoon to late last night and couldn't get into the site, so this update is a bit late, but it's still good :-)

We're home!

L was done with all the wires by 10am when they finally disconnected her from the monitor and she spent the rest of the day walking up and down the hall, playing and doing crafts in the playroom, roaming around her room, and generally reveling in her freedom. She fell twice, the second she fell hard, caught herself with her arms, and learned the hard way that it really hurts to do that! It didn't make her much more cautious though and we still spent the day telling her "don't run!" and "don't sit like that" and "don't jump down". 3-year-olds just don't know what's good for them.

The hospital finally got the chest x-ray and all the paperwork done and let us go about 5pm. W took L home, and Mom, K and I stopped by Target to pick up L's prescriptions. Target had the pain killer, but they didn't have the diuretic, so they found it at another pharmacy across town. I dropped Mom and K off at home, picked up W and our insurance card and raced over to the over pharmacy, getting there 1 minute before they closed. Whew! It was such a neat little mom-and-pop place and they were so nice.

On the way home, we stopped at OTB and had a quiet dinner where W and I could finally just relax and talk. We picked up Mom some ice cream on the way home, then we all collapsed in bed, so incredibly thankful to have *everyone* home.

This morning, L is happy, but she's hurting a bit and has been content to sit still. She's still her ornery self and just told me, "Water doesn't make me feel good. I want juice!" Of course, Your Highness.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I'm about to break out into song


In college I was in a musical, Fiddler on the Roof. After spending a huge part of every day one summer in rehearsals, the songs are pretty well ingrained into me. There's one this morning that keeps ringing through my head.

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles
I was afraid that God would frown.
But just like He did so long ago in Jericho,
God just made a wall fall down.

Why this one? Because about 7:30 this morning, the surgeon and PA came in, popped out that chest tube (which caused one little squeak outta L which Dr. B said was the best any kid has ever done), and announced that if we pushed, L gets to go home this afternoon! The last labs were drawn around 5am, she just finished her last round of antibiotics, and then she can get off the rest of her tethers and go for a walk and to the playroom for activities and to the cafeteria for lunch.

Miraculous.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Day 2 and a Regular Room

This morning found Lydia sitting up in bed, watching Finding Nemo, and eating a big breakfast. She was exactly alert and happy, but she was a whole huge lot better than yesterday. She spent most of the night falling asleep, turning over to her side, trying to turn over on her stomach and getting mad that the nurse wouldn't let her, crying while they turned her over on her back, then falling asleep again. Repeat. Over and over again.

She has had most of her lines and tubes removed, including the pace maker wires, so we have no more worries about rhythm issues. She's down to the one chest tube and an IV line sticking out of her left forearm, but it's not attached to anything. She has an oxygenation monitor on her finger and some sticker monitors on her chest to measure her heart rate and breathing and that's it.

She was moved to the step-down unit after a little less than 24 hours in the CVRU and has been waking up more every minute. She finally got a set of child-sized hospital pajamas, she's sitting up, drinking water, eating graham crackers, and reading princess books with Daddy.

Now the issue is that she's getting far more interested in the stuff attached to her and the buttons on the bed. She's still too weak to do much about them, but it won't be long :-)

If you'd like to come visit, give us a call and I'll let you know the room number. Our cell phones actually work in here, so we can be reached.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Quick Update from the First Day


The CVRU people have been so wonderful and have allowed us to stay with L every moment. Which means that I haven't had time to post. I did want to post a quick update no before I fall over from exhaustion, allergies, and stress.

L did very well in today and is progressing as expected. She has earned herself a reputation for being a determined little fighter, though. When we walked in, there were 3 people around her trying to hold her down. Her arms were strapped to the bed, but she still managed to get her hands on her breathing tube and tried to yank it out. They quickly decided it wasn't necessary and removed it. The first thing out of her mouth was "Wake up!" as in I want to wake up and get out of this bed. Every few minutes she fought and struggled, then she would calm down and sleep for a few minutes, then start over. She managed to pull out her catheter and once she got herself turned over onto her hands and knees, which hurt (obviously) and couldn't get herself righted. They have since kept her fairly well sedated with pain killers and something to stop the agitation. She finally calmed down enough that they removed the restraints, one IV, and the forehead sticker that measures the oxygenation of the blood to the brain (technology's amazing).

She slept most of the afternoon and evening and was still out of it, but they said she ought to be awake and demanding breakfast in the morning.

A Successful Surgery

We just got the news that L is out of surgery. Dr. B said things went very well. They were able to do just the partial sternotomy (incision only on the lower part of her chest) and repair the 4mm hole using a patch from the pericardium. The post-repair EKG showed all the valves and rhythms operating exactly as they are supposed to be and there were no issues with bleeding.

They were getting her ready for transport to the recovery unit and they'll call us in about an hour when they get her settled, so we can see her.

Praise God.

First Update

We got up very, very early, grabbed the bags and the daughter and made our way across town to the hospital. I learned the interesting fact that there are lots of traffic lights near us that flash yellow at that hour.

They led us back to the pre-op area where they provided L with markers and told her to *write on the sheet*. Hello?!? Don't teach her that! After awhile they came back in with a medicine cup with a tiny bit of liquid in for her to drink. Within minutes after drinking that stuff, L was tottering around. The nurse anesthetist brought the wagon piled it with blankets and tried to sit her in it and buckle her in. Trust me the buckle was required since the child was floppy by that point. They finally just laid her down and she disappeared down the hall wearing a goofy grin and working hard at her princess wave.

The child life specialist escorted Grandma, W, and I off to the special waiting room where there's an attendant at the desk who passes on updates from the OR. We got our first update at 8:15. They had made the first incision at 7:45am and things are going well so far.

I had brought 2 books, my laptop (very important), the Christmas cards to address, and sundry other little tasks to keep busy. So far, it's been tough to find time to even post this update as we've had several visitors drop by and keep us company. I did have to make a trip to the cafeteria, which by the way is a soft drink mecca. They have almost any drink you could possibly hope to find on tap. I left with a Coke and a bagel. My stomach feels queasy either from drainage or nerves, probably a little from column A and a little from column B. My new BFF, Sondra, brought me a 1/2lb bar of "therapy" chocolate. Gosh, I love her.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Praying Specifically

I am a firm believer in praying specifically, so here are some of the details that need some special attention.

Dr. Baird, the surgeon, and all the doctors, PAs, nurses, and specialists who will be involved in the surgery and care.

The possible complications. The main possibilities are bleeding, infection, and something called heart block. The repair will be made very close to the part of the heart that regulates the heartbeat. Sometimes this part doesn't take too well to surgery and becomes...a little confused. This could mean a permanent pacemaker. Pray that we don't have to go there.

K. She's a worrier and is very concerned about all this and she needs some extra assurance.

Health for the rest of the us so that we can focus on the needs of the girls during this time.

L. Obviously. For her comfort and sense of security. For her body to handle all of the incredible stresses it will need to endure.


I'll try to keep you guys posted on what's happening as I can. We're incredibly thankful to know that so many people are praying and for the many, many offers to help. Our biggest need right now is prayer. Don't worry, if something else comes up, we'll be asking :-)

I *think* we have dodged the bullet known as The Stomach Flu

W is slowly recovering and is being very sweet about the forced quarantine. I know he's bored and tired of being sick and I'm grateful that he's still been so nice.

K tossed her cookies once last night, was sent to bed, slept all night, and woke up chipper and hungry this morning. She's had 2 meals and has been feeling fine all day, so it looks like an incredibly light case.

L complained most of yesterday afternoon and evening that her tummy hurt. I'm still halfway convinced that she just wanted some of those pretty pink pills that smelled so good that I gave K her *her* tummy ache. As soon as she saw K hurl all over the carpet and get put to bed, L MIRACULOUSLY experienced a full and complete recovery.

Mom and I have continued fairly well. My stomach felt...off...for most of yesterday, but it recovered and I've felt fine today. If you had seen us all yesterday, you would agree that it is *only* because of divine intervention that we're all healthy today. Thank you to all those who were praying.

Today has been busy with showing Grandma where the dentist is, doing laundry, and taking pictures for our Christmas cards (well, what better time than this week to address all those cards?). We've still got one more trip to Target (gotta pick up those cards. Did you know you can make your cards online and pick them up in an hour at your local Target? Way cool.), put together all the school stuff and show Grandma where everything is, pack up clothes and toys for the hospital, and deliver K to her friends who are watching her tonight and during the surgery tomorrow.

We're getting closer.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Aaack!! Nooooo!!

Grandma arrived yesterday, we are down to 2 days pre-surgery and W was up all night last night with a terrible stomach virus. We *cannot, cannot, cannot* have it spread it any further. If L gets it, the surgery will be postponed and did I mention that Grandma has already traveled 1,000 miles to be here? W is quarantined to the bedroom and I'm sending Grandma and the girls out so I can disinfect the rest of the house. So pray that the bug will die a quick death, W will experience a miraculous recovery, and the rest of us will continue in radiant good health.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy 100 posts!

Ok, so it's not an official holiday, but it is a celebration :-) Celebrating the fact that I like to write. A lot. In honor of this momentous occasion, I wanted to take on a little blogger tradition. Don't worry, it's a tradition you will love.

It's called The Giveaway.

Don't you just love it already?

At the last MOPS meeting, we made a very cool craft, one that I had seen and had wondered how in the world it was done. It's a purse-sized photo album that will have your family and friends oohing and aahing over the clever little album just as much as they will ooh and aah over your beautiful family in the photos.

This is the outside, It's about 4 sq.in.

Inside it's covered with pictures of my kids. See how the pictures are cut to accommodate the triangle folds?

You can even put more photos on the back for more viewing pleasure.

I was so impressed with these little books that I went home and made 3 more. Fabulous Christmas gifts, shower gifts, "I have no idea what to get you, but I'm sure you'd love one of these" gifts. Then it hit me, this would be a fabulous 100th Blog Post Giveaway item!

So here are the 3 I have made up (and I will be making more).



To enter the contest, leave me a comment on this post saying which album you like the best. Tomorrow evening I will pick a random number and post the results after 6pm. If you're not the winner and you'd still like an album, I could probably be persuaded to sell you one for $5 in the colors of your choice. Because they would make great gifts, but no, I won't put your pictures in for you. Unless you pay me extra, because I can be bought like that.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Pre-Op Results

The day started with the friend who was supposed to watch K during the pre-op appointment emailing me to let me know that one of her kids is still sick. Since we can't risk exposing L to anything, we had to find someone else. Thankfully, I have great friends who stepped up and we found a fun place for K to spend the afternoon.

We arrived at the clinic only to find that the receptionist seemed to have no idea who we were. After a little sojourn in their waiting room, they sent us over to the hospital where we waited in yet another waiting room *for a long time*. We finally got escorted up to the pre-op area where we met the PA, the anesthesiologist, some of the nurses, and the child life specialist. We filled out paperwork and got the run-down on what to expect before, during, and after surgery. L was also given an EKG, chest x-ray, and had a few tubes of blood drawn. After 3 1/2 hours, we finally headed out.

So here's the plan. We arrive at the hospital at 5:15am and report to the front desk where we'll be escorted back up to pre-op. They'll give L a drink that'll make her rather loopy (that'll be fun) so they can hook up some of the lines and tubes that are needed before the surgery begins. The surgery will be about 4 hours long--only 15-20 min. are required for the actual VSD repair, the rest is all the opening and closing.

After the surgery she'll be moved to the recovery room and ICU. She'll be kept partly sedated since she'll rival a Borg with all the tubes and wires running in and out of her. Can you imagine a 3-year-old *not* pulling all those out? We'll only be allowed short visits, but she'll have a nurse assigned exclusively to her full-time. By the next day or so, most of the tubes will be out and we'll move to a step-down room where we'll be allowed (required) to stay with her. After a few days there, we can go home. L will have to watched pretty closely for a little while for fever and such and to make sure that she doesn't rough-house or fall and try to catch herself with her arms. After all, the breastbone will have just been separated and it takes 4-6 weeks for a broken bone to heal. We also have to keep her away from germs as much as possible; I can't even imagine coughing or throwing up after all that!

Let's see...no swimming or hot tubs. Showers are good, but we can't let her stand and have water pouring on her chest for long. No picking her up under the arms. No dance class, Sunday School, Bible Study, or anything else where she could pick up germs or fall. Really, it's a pretty good time to do this since most activities are off over Christmas and we won't miss as much as any other time of year.

The child life specialist (that's a person who's sole job is to distract the patient during tests, keep them occupied and entertained, and just make sure that the whole hospital stay goes well for them) brought L a book that explains the whole procedure, with illustrations so that the parents and kids understand what's happening. I was looking through it tonight with K and L and they had lots of questions (K: "All those tubes look freaky!" and "Why is that in her neck?"; L: "Why is she sleeping on her bed?").

As we got ready to pray at bedtime, L reminded me not to forget to pray for "my hospital my heart". She knows that something's going on, that she's going to the hospital, and that they're going to fix her heart, but she's not real clear on what that means. K has a much better grasp on the details and she's worried about her little sister. My friend who watched her this afternoon said she was very quiet and thoughtful today, so I think we're going to have to do some extra explaining and reassuring. Thankfully, Grandma will be here to distract her and keep her routine going.

The Perks of Blogging

Since I discovered the blogging community, I also discovered that many bloggers get lots of cool opportunities, like free music, books, and trips to concerts and stuff. The very next thing on my mind was, of course, how do I get in on the fun? I mean, how cool is FREE???

I found one fun way this morning. The Michael W. Smith camp has found a fabulous way to market his new Christmas CD. It's fabulous not only because it takes advantage of the growing blogosphere for (almost free) publicity, but because I can get a free CD! Did I mention I like free?

So the MWS camp is hopefully sending me a copy of his new CD and all I have to do is write a blog entry about how I listened to the CD while my wonderful family spent a peaceful afternoon decorating our home with heirloom ornaments and enjoying wassail. Of course, I'm sure it'll be more of a comedy of errors than a painting from Currier & Ives *LOL*

If you'd like to join in the free fun, you can follow the link below for details.

mws banner

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

You know that you are loved when...

...your mother offers to fly to your rescue the day after Thanksgiving and of her own free will put up with all the airport craziness that will no doubt be happening.

Mom had always planned to come out and help when L had her surgery; we just didn't expect it to happen quite this soon. The whole, "Hey, you're free, we're free, let's do this now" thing threw a few complications into that plan. After all, Mom's a teacher and it can get a bit crazy when she's not there.

Since we weren't expecting Mom, we made plans for K to stay with friends so we could be free to stay with L at the hospital. Then Mom called back and said she just can't imagine not being here while L has open heart surgery and she's planning to fly out. She's coming out and taking care of K while we're at the hospital, even doing all the homeschool stuff and taking her to her dentist appointment. She even got just a one-way ticket so she can stay as long as we need her.

Thanks, Mom.

I must confess my newest addiction

I'm at close to 100 posts on this here blog, but my comment count is at like...5. Maybe. So I was getting a little depressed wondering if anyone was really visiting my little corner of the Internet or if I was just tossing my words into the void. Not that it really mattered since I'm just having fun writing it and I've heard that my sister reads it aloud to her office (hey, guys! I'm waving at you!) and my aunt prints it off and takes it to my grandmother (hello, Aunt Teresa and Grandmother!). Other than that, well, who knew.

I finally broke down and added a site meter to my blog. For the uninitiated in the blog world, it's a little program that keeps track of when the site gets visited and where it's getting visited from. Did you know that people from countries like Taiwan (we won't even get into the political issue of whether it's part of China or not) and Brazil have visited this blog? And then there's all kinds of people from around the States. It's addictive to watch.

The best part of it all is the fact that YOU can share in this fun! If you click on the sitemeter icon at the bottom of the page, you too can see who's visiting and where they're from. There's even a option to view it on a world map. Lots of bloggy fun and it's all for free.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Dear L,

You seem to be feeling over-tired this morning and are not acting like your normal sunny self. This is the second time today (and we haven't even had lunch yet) that you've been exiled to your room where I can hear the sounds of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, or at least some kicks to the floor. You *know* without a shadow of a doubt that this behavior is unacceptable and gets you into trouble, yet you still allow yourself to lose complete control of yourself and dissolve into a tantrum. Not even a spanking with the Kool-Aid spoon could break into your self-pity party. The worst part is you don't even have a really good reason for it. I don't even remember what set you off this morning, but right now you're screaming because you can't find your dress, which, by the way, is sitting right here at my feet. I would tell you this, but you have yet to ask or stop screaming long enough to listen.

And just so you know, I see a nap in your near future.

Love,
Mom

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Being Intentional

I'm trying very hard to teach my daughters some basic social skills. For example, when you enter a house, don't comment on the odor no matter how much it makes your eyes burn.

My current focus with K is introductions. There are a few basic pieces of info that are important to find out early in the acquaintance. Like someone's name. She tends to strike up friendships and never bother to ask the other person the most basic question. Asking and forgetting is one thing, but never asking...well...

Yesterday K and L went outside to skate and as I watched them from the window, I saw them stand and talk to a boy for a few minutes. I didn't recognize him, but he was obviously around K's age and was soon hurried away by his father (he was only supposed to take out the trash and come right back - oops!). When the girls came in, I asked about the boy and K was happy to inform me that he is almost exactly 1 month younger than her. So she knew his birthday, but hadn't thought to ask his name, what grade he was in, etc. I was going to get onto her about her manners, but then she floored me.

"Mom, he said he knows God, knows about him, but he doesn't go to church here yet. He just moved here. I know what God wants me to do. God put me here to invite that boy to my church."

Now that's getting to the heart of the matter. If only we could be so bold as to directly inquire about a person's relationship with God as absolutely the most important information we could possibly have. There are so many people I've known for years and I have yet to find the courage to ask that one simple question, "Where do you stand with God?" Not so I can be judgmental, pushy, or preachy; just so I can be an encouragement. Encourage others to think about where they really stand and where they want to stand. Is their knowledge of God limited to half-remembered lessons from childhood or an idea they've come up with or is it based on a personal knowledge of the Bible?

If you don't have a firm conviction of where you stand in regard to God, please take the time to read His Word for yourself, pray about it, and make a commitment. The Bible tells us we have to make a decision during our lifetime, because after death, it will be too late. Besides, I want to see you all again in heaven.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Book Cover


My first published story is coming out in a compilation book on March 1. Today I got the cover art work and I thought I'd share. And maybe drum up some excitement and find another mom or two who might be interested in going to the National Conference with me in mid-March (hint hint). I haven't ordered tickets or reserved a room, but I do admit that I'm cherishing a little dream of going. Maybe doing a little book signing...you know. So if anyone wants to take the 12-hour drive with me and see the sights of Normal, IL (because I actually have to *go* somewhere to experience "normal"), just let me know.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Date is Set and *Soon*

Monday, November 26 7:30am

The visit with the surgeon went very well today. He explained everything why they wanted to do the surgery, including the problems they could already see and future problems that would come into play without the surgery. He also explained what we can expect to happen before, during, and after the surgery. So this is the plan.

Next Wednesday - Pre-op appointment

The following Monday - We show up at the hospital around 4:30/5 am, the surgery will start at 7:30am and should be finished around lunchtime. She will be in ICU for the next 24-48 hours.

After ICU, she'll be moved to a regular room where she'll stay for the next 2-3 days. She could check-out anytime between Thursday and the following Monday depending on how she's doing. She ought to be back to her usual energy level very, very quickly, so we'll be having to hold her down for a few days. (The surgeon told a story about how one little boy had the surgery one day and the next day was jumping on the bed.)

Once we go home, she will take a water pill for about 2 weeks, then we'll go back to the surgeon for a follow-up. That'll be followed by a few check-ups with the cardiologist, then she'll be cleared to live a normal life.

It was rather surprising to have it happen so quickly. The surgeon wanted to do it soon, but it was not urgent. The calendar simply happened to be clear as I guess people weren't exactly anxious to schedule surgery during the holidays. At least it's less time to sit and fret and worry and prepare.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Belated Halloween Pictures




Considering that we're almost to Thanksgiving, I figured I'd give you a trip down memory lane and show off the girls' Halloween costumes. Since we were in TX and I had to fit stuff the costumes in the luggage with the rest of our clothes, they were pretty lucky that they *had* costumes to wear. All in all, they did turn out pretty cute, if I do say so myself.

Supporting Authors

A friend of mine just published an e-book (which means you order it and *presto*! It shows up moments later in your inbox ready to read) and I wanted to give her a little free publicity. I love Marybeth (even though she's too busy writing and wrangling 6 kids to learn to sew *LOL*) and her new book looks fabulous. She just posted the news that she was even *writing* a book last night, much less actually had it available for purchase, so I hope I can be forgiven for not having read it already :-)

It's a Christmas book chock-full of recipes, ideas, instructions, and all kinds of fun tidbits. If you'd like to learn more about it and, heck, order copies for all your family and friends, visit Marybeth's site at http://www.marybethwhalen.com.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Arithmetic Lesson for Today

Roller Skating + To Bed Late + Gummi Lightning Bugs for breakfast (don't ask) = 1 Crazy 3-year-old

L had a dentist appointment this morning and thankfully the dentist was a mom of a 3-year-old and she was completely understanding. The dentist thought L was the cutest thing ever because even though she was acting crazy, she had turned the charm all the way up to 11. We left with only a quick tooth count and check and we'll try again in 6 months for the x-rays and actually, you know, *cleaning* the teeth.

The rest of the day was spent trying to keep L from throwing things at her sister, breaking things, and hitting the cat. I finally just exiled her to her room for the rest of the night since she obviously was having trouble with the whole interaction thing. And I figured if she was being destructive, at least it would be her own stuff she was breaking, not like the antenna on my CD player.

In case you haven't figured it out, gummi lightning bugs are dead to us.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Roller Skating

When you've been hanging around the house doing nothing, getting bored, and you happen upon a message stating that tonight is $2 roller skating to Christian music (and that includes skates!), you go do it! I piled the girls in the car and we went. Heck, how else can you risk your precious children's life and limbs to tire them out so quickly so cheaply? Of course, this was before I saw that gas is $3.05 a gallon and started thinking this little outing might not be quite so cheap as I thought!

We get there and discover that the 3-year-old is free - woohoo! So for $2 we got 2 pairs of skates, 2 completely exhausted girls, any number of bumps and bruises, and a whole lot of fun. Even L was doing fabulously skating on the carpet and in the tiny practice area for little skaters. I'm thinking we might have to do that more often. I was momentarily tempted to get some skates for myself, but then I saw another mama walk in with a large bag embroidered with the word "Jordache" and I figured I was outta my league.

Educational Games

Our family has an addiction. It's called Pogo, as in pogo.com.

If you haven't found the gaming goodness that is Pogo, consider yourselves hopelessly behind the times. Or blessed. Because it's incredibly addictive. Pogo has a gazillion different games of every variety for every skill level and interest. You can play some of them for free and for a small monthly fee, you can play A WHOLE LOT MORE. It's definitely worth it to play without delays and advertisements that interrupt all that gaming goodness.

We have one paid account that W and I fight over in the evenings. If one person's playing and the other tried to log in, player #1 gets booted off. So we can share the account, but not at the same time.

Lately, the problem has grown since K discovered the greatness of Pogo. There are several games on there she can play and loves to play. And just so you don't think I let my children fritter away their time doing useless video games that turn their minds to mush, I would like to point out that there are many important educational aspects to these games.

Penguin Blocks teaches spatial relationships, planning, and the all important restaurant design skills and menu selection.

Our family's current favorite, Thousand Island Solitaire, teaches valuable math skills and strategies, as well as the basics of shipping and cargo and the value of some good salad dressing.

So next time you have a few hours to (waste) invest, head on over to Pogo and pick up a little more education.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Accomplishment

I have a mental To Do list of all those little projects that need to get done sometime, but not right now, just whenever I have some time and energy and motivation, and want to, you know, see the bottom of my closet again, for example.

This morning I tackled one of those projects and I had a fabulous reason for doing so. Yesterday, I was staring dejectedly at the clothes hanging in my closet lamenting the fact that I haven't been particularly motivated in the laundry department this week and I was out of clean pants. Well, except for some really dressy ones and I wasn't in a dressy mood. Well, there was those navy khakis (which doesn't make any sense, I know) which were really too tight. Except, then I started thinking about how my jeans have been getting noticeably looser and I had actually used the absolute smallest setting on my belt yesterday so maybe...

And they fit! They fit well! Score!

So this morning I made the bed so I would have a place to work (otherwise I *never* make my bed...sorry, Mom) and I pulled out all the boxes of out-of-season, I'll-fit-into-this-next-season, and I-hope-I'll-fit-into-this-again-some-season clothes. I rescued another pair of pants and some tops that haven't seen the light of day this year, and longingly gazed on all my cute and still-too-small clothes, refolding and organizing and packing them back into their boxes. Except 2 1/2 garbage bags full of stuff that will just never come back into style (thank goodness!). I did stack the winter clothes on top because I am determined that another few pieces will be rotated back into my wardrobe this season because I *will* keep on the downsizing my waist (and a few other body parts) trend.

Now, I just need to do some laundry.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Wondering how far this will go

Since I posted my tiny rant, I have seen a ton of blog entires and comments around the blogosphere blasting anything coming from China. Maybe it's the fact that many people have either started planning or buying Christmas gifts, so toys are prominent on everyone's radar right now.

Today I got to wondering what the next step is and the possible next step scares me. I fear that the prejudice people are developing toward anything Chinese made will translate into a prejudice against the Chinese people and people of Chinese heritage. Maybe I'm being a bit paranoid, but it's a possibility. Think about it. After 9/11, *anyone* that looked remotely Middle Eastern faced some terrible instances of prejudice, even down to a couple of very sweet Indian girls in my high school English classes. A huge segment of our population were treated like scum because of the actions of a few people. In regards to the recalls, the vast majority of Chinese manufacturers who are doing things right are being tarred with the same brush used on the few that are doing dangerous things. Will our fear and suspicion extend beyond the manufacturing realm and change the way we treat the Chinese people?

It's something to think about.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Vision of a Princess

I think I like this heart clinic

Our cardiologist called as soon as the surgeons meeting could reasonably be over.

The surgeon's people called an hour or so later with an appointment in 1 week, which the absolute earliest we could get in since the surgeon is only in the office there on Thursdays.

I'm liking their efficiency and quick response. I hate dangling on a thread, waiting for others to "get around to it". It's also the premier clinic that everyone knows and trusts, so it's an all around good thing.

And it's a go

We were not kept long in suspense. Dr. B called probably as soon as the surgeons meeting was over and gave the news. The surgeons want to do the surgery. They believe her heart is a larger than her age and size warrant and the hole is large enough that it will be best for her in the long run to have it closed. If it were not closed, there is the probability of long-term damage that would increase her risk of heart problems later in life. Closing the hole will allow the heart to return to its normal size and it will work as well as if she had never had a hole.

So the surgeons' office will call us to schedule the family consultation and we'll decide on a date for the surgery.

A Tiny Rant

Today there is yet another recall in the toy department - the odd looking Aquadots. The newspaper was quick to point out that the toy is manufactured in, where else, China. They then listed all the other toys that have been recently recalled that were also manufactured in China. I have seen so many mean-spirited comments about how we shouldn't buy anything else made in China and it's all China's fault and they're more worried about making money than killing our kids.

Naturally, the newspapers *don't* mention that most of these recalls are for design flaws made in the good ol' USA. The Aquadots thing today is because of a formulation made by the company in Canada. The company decided to use an industrial chemical that the body converts to a date rape drug and the kids go comatose when they decide "Hey! Let's see what these colorful beads that look like M&Ms taste like!" China had nothing to do with it.

There are, indeed, many issues with Chinese quality control that has caused some grave problems and they are working to correct that. But let's not vilify the Chinese for problems that they are *not* responsible for. Even the CEO of Mattel publicly apologized to China for making their recall seem like it was a Chinese problem when it was mostly a problem with Mattel designs. It's the responsibility of our country and its regulating agencies to catch these problems *before* the products come into contact with our kids. Heck, it's our responsibility as parents to do a little checking on our own and spend time educating our kids on what they shouldn't put in their mouths or keeping small things away from the small kids who put things in their mouth. Some things we can't see and prevent, but some things we can.

So that's my little rant for the month and I promise you won't have to read these too often.