Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Eve

As a child, my family spent Christmas Eve with my dad's side. My mom spent the morning finishing cooking a few things and putting together a platter of homemade Christmas candy, which she then loaded into our arms and sent us trotting out the back door, through the gate that connected our yards, and up to Nanny's house next door.
Why yes, her house is painted like an American flag. Nanny was born in Scotland, raised in England, and is the proudest American citizen I know.
Nanny is my great-aunt and she lived next to us with my great-uncle, whom we fondly called Ginkle, and her rascally youngest son, Winston, who lived to torment us kids. He's a lot of fun, though, and even gave me my very own record - Footloose.

Nanny's tiny house would soon be full of people. My Granny and Uncle Harold. My cousins and first-cousins-once-removed and my second cousins that were my playmates (henceforth they shall all just be called "cousins"). There wasn't a whole lot of expensive gifts or fancy foods, but it was always a lot of fun.

Since I got married and moved away, I haven't been back to Nanny's for Christmas Eve often, but we made a point to go this year. The kids of past years are grown up with kids of our own. My "cousin", Annie, has two kids that are close in age to mine. As soon as presents were opened and our two little girls discovered they had both gotten tiny dogs, they became instant best friends. Kylie and L came running to me at one point asking if they could *please* have a playdate. Even K and her "cousin" Jacob were having fun by the end of the afternoon.

Mr. at Home doesn't know this side of my family very well. He sat quietly most of the afternoon, until some of my "cousins" started talking bluegrass music. You see, Mr. at Home has a long-standing desire to learn to play the banjo and he soon found out that Anthony has two banjos. Before I knew what was going on, banjos and guitars had sprouted out of thin air along with picks and method books. There was much twanging and laughing and Mr. at Home had found some new friends. My "cousin" even insisted that we take one of his banjos back to NC with the stipulation that Mr. at Home must be able to play it before we bring it back sometime next year.It was a fantastic Christmas Eve for everyone.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Why I'm still not back in on-line land

On Friday, we made the long, but surprisingly pleasant, drive back to NC. The girls slept some, watched movies, and were generally quiet and calm. I crocheted a scarf for K's new doll and a hat for myself (finally! something to fit my big head!) and no one got sick.

On Saturday, we slept in, Mr. at Home pulled out his new (borrowed) banjo and practiced while the girls and I headed out to spend the gift cards that were burning a hole in their pockets. L picked out 2 new outfits for her big doll and a ferris wheel for her tiny dolls. K paid all of her money toward a new bike - a Mongoose BMX bike (in the shade known as "orchid" with BLACK TIRES, not those silly girly white ones) and she is already planning all kinds of tricks to perform. Two very enthusiastic girls send out their never-ending thanks to their Aunt Deborah and Uncle Phil and Aunt Shirley.

We picked up our cat from the boarder and she has been VERY happy to be back home. They took good care of her, but nothing's better than a whole house to run around and a new satiny comforter to stretch out on (thanks, Mom and Dad!).

Saturday night was spent at our friends' house playing RockBand and hanging out. They bought us a deep-fryer, which is awesome. I made them promise to come over for New Year's Eve to enjoy all things deep-fried.

Sunday morning, I woke up sick as all git-out with something mucousy that has settled into my head and chest. I dragged myself to church for a great service, but I picked up some medicine on the way home and have spent the rest of the day in bed. I'm so grateful that Mr. at Home has risen to the challenge of taking care of both the girls and me.

I'm also grateful that it's been 4 hours and I can take more medicine.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008!

I hope that your day was as wonderful and blessed as mine! The girls slept in a bit and when they woke up, they had completely forgotten about stockings (aka buckets). We made a visit to the American Girl store last Saturday and that was their main present, so all we did this morning was stockings. I have to admit that I like it that way. They loved all the stuff they got and had time to enjoy all their little gifts without being too overwhelmed. Mr. at Home opened his gifts, which was dominated by a black wool coat that looks fabulous on him. *I* got a new camera - woohoo!! A new point and shoot and it's RED!

After stockings, the girls decorated a little birthday cake for Jesus, completely coating the thing with a thick layer of sprinkles. We sang and had birthday cake and sausage balls for breakfast - yummy!

We got dressed, Mom bustled around the kitchen with last minute cooking details, and then we loaded up 2 cars to head over to my grandmother's house. The family meets there every Christmas Day for a big buffet lunch and gift exchange. We stuffed ourselves silly on turkey, ham, Mom's dressing (using the family recipe), Aunt Shirley's baked beans, Grandmother's chocolate pudding cake, Aunt Kelly's brownie pie - really, there were too many to name.

The children bounced around anxiously waiting for the adults to finish eating, because they knew they couldn't open gifts until then. It's fun to watch the youngest generation do what we ourselves were doing not so many years ago. Nowadays we're comparing who has the most gray hair :-)

The adults had a "chinese" gift exchange where we drew numbers, picked gifts, and stole the best ones from each other. I stole a gift card, then an awesome bird feeder (which my mother stole from me, but then she got it stolen from her), then the gift card again. It, at least, won't take up too much room in the car on the way back. The bird feeder was really too big to carry home.

Speaking of room in the car, we're pretty well packed and ready for an early departure tomorrow. It's been a good trip with lots of friends, family, and food. I must admit, however, that I'm ready to go home and sleep all weekend. May your weekend be as restful.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Word of the Day: Correlation

This morning I gave the girls a meaningful vocabulary lesson with the statement, "There is a direct correlation between your behavior right now and the number of tokens I will feel inclined to buy for you at Chuck E. Cheese's."

After I explained the definition of "correlation", the snotty comments and complaints vanished as K asked timidly, "Have I lost any tokens already?" They were far better behaved than I have ever seen them in a store.

Just goes to show that learning opportunities are everywhere.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Vacation

As you know, I'm on vacation. VACATION. Why that means that I have more to do than any other time of year, I don't know. I've actually even been too busy to blog. Sure I've started a bunch of posts, but I can't get a sufficient chunk of time set aside to actually finish one.

I'm popping in now to mention that I have a plate of Christmas goodies, a cup of chai tea, and a movie to watch with Mr. at Home. If I don't get another chance to stop in, Merry Christmas and I promise to finish those posts and put up pictures soon!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Going to school

We're down here in Texas, visiting the grandparents who both work at the local elementary. K loves coming to visit Grandma and Grandad, but she also loves that she gets to visit the school. The past couple of times we've been out here, K has gotten to spend the day in a classrooms of teacher friends Grandma works with.

Last night she was so excited that she couldn't sleep because today she was going to be a student at a REAL school! She had her "standardized dress" clothes all ready and this morning she got dressed and headed out with Grandma and Grandad to REAL school. She spent the day in the 4th grade classroom of an experienced (old), energetic (still teaching so she must be energetic), enthusiastic (slightly eccentric, but very fun) teacher. K took a math benchmark test, which she supposedly scored very well on (pretty good for a 3rd grader), and was given a part in the class production of High School Musical II. K *loved* everything about her day.

Tonight, I put together a teacher Christmas gift to thank her for letting K come into her room and experience REAL school. Tomorrow morning, I'm going to go get a visitor badge at the local elementary and watch my daughter perform in her first ever school play. It's so exciting.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I hate mud

Yesterday it started raining. And it hasn't stopped. After a whole evening, night, and day of constant, sometimes heavy, rain, the ground is a wee bit wet. Think huge mudflat. Because after all, we live in the middle of a construction zone and everything around us is in some state of being torn up and rebuilt. We live in a townhouse community and our mailbox is 2 buildings down. Right smack dab in the middle of 3 buildings that are in various stages of construction and none of those stages include landscaping or sidewalks. (You can see where this is going, can't you?)

It's been a messy pain to get to the mailboxes, but I've put up with it knowing that it's only temporary. Today I knew it would be worse, yet I decided to brave the elements and go get the mail anyway. I went prepared with my big umbrella and my tall rainboots because I'd seen the mud and muck that I would have to navigate to get to my mailbox. I get down there and decide that there's just no good way to get to the mailbox. The mailbox is several steps back from the road and the construction guys in their infinite wisdom have put up a little fence around it so we have to walk even *further* to get to the mailboxes.

I take one step and its not too bad. Another step and things are still going well. Right foot ahead for step #3 and suddenly I've sunk down into the mud up to my knee.


Did I mention that these mailboxes are in the middle of 3 buildings that are under construction? There are at least 3 dozen workers swarming around yet not one notices my plight. At least they couldn't laugh at me, but there wasn't anyone to help me either. I put the umbrella down, found some ground firm enough to support me, and managed to pull my leg out *with* the boot still on. As I was hauling myself up on the concrete platform where the mailboxes were mounted, a worker came hurrying over in concern. Sorry, too late.

There I was dripping mud and thanking my lucky stars that my phone and keys had survived. I finally got the mailbox open and...

It was empty.

Of course it was. The mail lady was obviously smarter than I was.

I made it back to the street without any further incidents, but I was mad. MAD. I remembered that I had just seen the construction supervisor at another house doing a walkthrough or something. I marched down the street, mud and all, thinking of *exactly* what I wanted to tell that man and it wasn't what you would call ladylike. I rang the doorbell and the prospective neighbor answered, staring in shock and horror at my mud covered clothes. When the supervisor came to the door, his eyes got huge. "You have GOT to give us access to our mailboxes," was all I said.

He almost fell over himself apologizing and assuring me that would call the guys *immediately* and the concrete will be poured the minute it stops raining. Yep. Showing up on the doorstep covered in mud makes a far bigger impact than just asking for something to be done. After all that plus 10 minutes of standing in the cold washing my boots and pants at the outdoor faucet, all I gotta say is my neighbors and the mail lady had better be thankful.

Monday, December 8, 2008

And the countdown begins

This weekend we're packing up and heading to Texas. A long drive, a long trip, and lots of details to be taken care of before we leave. I need a list so I can get it all organized.

1. Fix the car and fix it right. Please. For the third time, the check engine light is on and the dealership loaner is sitting in my driveway while the techs try valiantly to discover what in the heck is wrong. They get one thing fixed and a new error pops up.

2. Get the car inspected. The inspection has been out for 2 months, but they can't inspect it until the check engine light is off.

3. Renew my driver's license. Signing the paperwork for the loaner made me notice that I have to renew the thing this year and my birthday falls in the middle of the Texas trip. And I thought I just needed to change my address.

4. Finish a little more of my Christmas list. There are a few things that I have to get done here.

5. Clean house. My house is an absolute wreck and it's going to take a couple of days to get all the laundry and housework done.

6. Arrange for cat-sitting. We're going to be gone for 2 weeks. Should I get someone to come in a few times? What if she gets lonely? Do the boarding thing so she doesn't take out her anger by peeing on something (everything)?

7. Send out those Christmas cards that are sitting on the floor of the loft doing...nothing.

Lots more stuff needs to go on that list, but those are the big ones. No need to discuss the emails that I need to send, the schooling we must finish, the packing and organizing and cooking and parenting and the outing Thursday night and the field trip Friday morning. Thankfully, there's only 2 scheduled things for the calendar and the rest is open to get all the other things crammed in.

I'm off to bed to rest up. I'm going to need it!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Day of Cold Christmas Fun

Today was a busy one. It's our last full weekend here before we head west and it feels like we're trying to cram in as much holiday fun as possible. A slumber party, a Christmas party, a parade, a festival, and a cajun cookout. I'm worn out and we're not done yet.

This morning, Mr. at Home picked up K from basketball Skills Day while I took L to an elementary school Christmas parade where she rode on a float in the freezing cold with her dance studio. Dad and Sis got to the parade in time to watch the whole thing with K simmering in jealousy that *she* wanted to be in the parade.

In the afternoon, I took the girls to a local Christmas festival where they rode rides, bounced and slid on large inflatables, and watched dancers. The cold was getting worse and thankfully, we made it back to the car before the rain started. But it was a fun day and we got some great pictures.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A chance to give and get

A fabulous blogger, MckMama, has organized a raffle at her blog raising money for three amazing organizations all close to my heart - String of Pearls, No Hands But Ours, and The Elison Project. For a tiny donation to the cause using the ChipIn function on her blog, you are entered in the raffle to win a HUGE amazing complete ginormous fancy camera package. It comes with everything a serious or budding fashion consious photographer could possibly want. A chance to win something cool and the opportunity to help out *3* great causes!! How can you beat that?

Click the graphic above, go read all about the raffle, and donate, people!

Monday, December 1, 2008

We did the coolest thing today

This afternoon we went to the Operation Christmas Child distribution center where they receive all the boxes, check the contents, then load them into cargo containers to be shipped all over the world. Today was Family Day where they did tours showing kids exactly how a box moves from packing to being opened by a child.

We arrived at the warehouse with 10 packed boxes that we'd collected from friends and our Sunday Bible Study. We took 2 of them and colored pictures and filled out info sheets and stuck them inside the boxes while the morning chaplain explained the significance of a shoebox. He shared how each box is prayed over and told stories of the impact a single box has had. One box was filled by a couple who included their contact info and received by a young girl in one of the "-stan" countries. She wrote them a letter to say thank you and mentioned that her real wish was for a family, since she was an orphan. The couple was childless and went overseas and adopted that little girl. They shared their story and inspired many other families to adopt children from that country. All because of one box. Another box went to a girl in Belarus who's father was inspired to quit drinking and become a Christian. A whole family changed by one box.

The next stop was a relay race where the volunteers told the kids what kind of stuff couldn't be put in a box. No chocolate, no liquids, no mirrors, no snakes, no pokemon, no money, no toys with camoflage or war associations to name the big ones. Some of it has spiritual significance and some of it could put the child in danger.

We saw the forklift loading the cargo containers, we saw the stations where the volunteers go through each and every box, pulling out anything that shouldn't be in there and replacing it with something similar that fits the rules. They put on a Kenyan-style church service for the kids and even let them have the experience of opening a shoebox of their own filled with information about the organization.

Did you know that they pass out all the boxes and do a countdown to open the boxes so that everyone opens theirs at the same time?

Did you know that some shoeboxes are delivered by camel?

Did you know that each distribution center has a Shoebox Hospital where boxes are repaired if their lid has cracked or they've gotten crushed?

We were very impressed with the whole place. The people were great, the tour was well-organized and tailored to the needs of active children, and it was wonderful to see just how much difference one small shoebox can make in the life of a child, a family, a city, a country, a world.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

In 2 weeks

Right about this time in right about 2 weeks, we'll be pulling into a certain gravel driveway, driving over a little dam and up to a house where a couple of people will be waiting. The girls will ignore the stiffness of the long drive and jump out as soon as we stop and will race to the porch into their grandparents' arms. We'll set up camp in the guest room and spend two glorious weeks hanging out with friends and family. We'll eat lots of tex-mex and Whataburger and stop often at Sonic for drinks. We'll celebrate birthdays and Christmas over and over again with cousins I haven't seen in years.

I'm ready!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

WFMW: How to get little ones involved in your Rockband family band

It's been a long forever since I wrote a Works For Me Wednesday post. Not that I've started boycotting Rocks In My Dryer or anything. I just can't think of anything interesting that would actually be useful to anyone else.


I did come up with something kinda small that might be useful to a limited group of people. At least it's come in handy for us and someone else might need it. Someday. So here it is.

Our family recently bought Rockband 2 as a fun thing we could all do together. Yes, I know it's rated Teen, but it's not too bad and we play together, so we were willing to overlook that in the interest of family fun. As of right now, Mr. at Home plays lead guitar, 8-year-old K plays the drums, and I sing.

You'll notice this leaves out 4-year-old L and we can't leave out the 4-year-old. After all, it's a "family" band. We solved the problem with one small addition to the official game instruments.

A toy electric guitar.

L's guitar is black with flashing pink lights, strings she can strum, frets she can press, and even a tiny whammy bar. Most importantly, it has a volume knob that we turn down so the sounds coming from her instrument so she can hear the song from the game. Since the game instruments are wireless, L's guitar fits right in. She rocks out with the rest of us without the frustration of trying to play a real instrument and follow the game and when she gets bored, she can put down the guitar and pull out her dolls. It's a winning situation for everyone.

For more WFMW tips, go read Rocks In My Dryer here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What I "did not" do

MckMama, another cool blogger I recently found, does this thing every Monday where you confess all the things that you don't admit to doing. Things that of course you would never do. Today I figured I'd play along, so you get to hear about a few of the things I did(n't) do recently.

I didn't write a blog post about my fantasy to own a cool sports car and call myself a "Muscle Car Mama". Cause that would be just goofy.

I didn't yell at L in front of the body shop guy because she spilled 85% of a full cup of chai tea all over the car as we were getting out then splattered the remaining 15% of the tea all over his office floor.

I didn't spend all weekend playing Rockband and crocheting, letting all the housework continue to pile up.

And I didn't seriously consider adopting another child when someone posted this information. These kids are in desperate need of a home and soon. Take a look at the information and forward it to anyone you know who might be interested.

For more Not Me Monday reading, click on the graphic at the top of this post.

This mid-life crisis brought to you by Enterprise

Did I happen to mention that last Sunday our car was rear-ended? It was. On the way to church, no less. There wasn't much visible damage, but it seems that the other car did a lot of damage underneath the bumper. The claimed they didn't see my big red mini-van. I'll grant that the light shines blindingly over that hill, but still. My van is big! and red!

After a week of calls and dragging the van to shop and adjuster, I finally got to drop it off at the dealership body shop this morning. Have I mentioned how much I love the dealership where I bought my car? Honestly, how many people can say that? I love the service department at both locations and I've never dealt with nicer people. The body shop manager and his wife are raising the children of two different relatives because they couldn't sit back and watch those kids live in the horrible situations they were in before. These are good people.

The Enterprise guy came and picked me up and took L and I back to their office. He brought a nice little sedan, then offered to upgrade me to a minivan for $5/day. I hemmed and hawed and decided that no, the sedan would work fine for us. As he typed away, I looked out at the sedan and noticed that there were two Chargers parked next to it. dream car. I turned back around and asked the guy in jest what it would cost to get a Charger. $2/day.

No freakin' way!

So I've gone from Minivan Mama to Muscle Car Mama. I cruised in that black beauty all the way through Sonic and to dance class, because a cool car doesn't get you out of mom duties. I must point out that it does make those mom duties a little more exciting, though, and it's making Mr. at Home green with envy.

I have to give the Charger back at the end of week and it'll be a sad moment, I fear. It might even send me over the edge. So if my next post is how I traded in my faithful minivan for a muscle car, got a tattoo, and dyed my hair pink, you'll know who to blame.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My very first crocheting project

I'll let you all have a sneak peek into my brain and the wacko trains of thought that run often through the open mindscape.

"Hey, those snowmen are cute but I could make it myself for cheaper. In fact, I think I've made one like it before."

"I think I'll pick up the stuff to make those snowmen. Wouldn't it be cool if I knitted the hats instead of wimping out and using fleece?"

"Knitting takes too long. Everyone says crochet is faster. I bet I could learn to crochet. I'll pick up some yarn and this little booklet on learning to crochet and see what happens. Wouldn't it be cool if I crocheted the whole snowmen? Maybe I'll pick up the white yarn, too."

"Humn, the first few steps look easy. And hey! This does go faster!"

"This is supposed to explain how to crochet in the round, but this doesn't make any sense. I'll just start and see what happens."

One week from concept to finished product. Would you like to see what I made?

Aren't they adorable? My own concept, design, and pattern. I use the word "pattern" loosely as I just kinda stitched, increased, and decreased as it looked like it needed it. You'll notice that the girl snow...person has a ruffled looking bottom which was a total accident, but it looks kinda cool. I used whole cloves for the nose, eyes, and buttons, so they smell amazing.

The boy has already found a home and the girl is designated for a friend, but it only takes a few hours to finish one. As the holiday approaches, I may have an extra one that just might be in need of a good keep your eyes open.

Better dust off those musical talents

If you're planning on hanging with my family around Christmas, you'd better come prepared with your A game. We're headed to Texas and we're packing clothes, presents, and Rockband2.

My parents are cringing as they read this. That or they're saying, "What the heck is Rockband 2?" and then they'll cringe.

Dad, remember when you promised to revenge all those years of listening to me practice my drum by buying my daughter one? Well, we did it to ourselves. Plus a guitar. And a microphone. And we'll probably buy a bass guitar before we load it all in the car next month. The best thing is that all these instruments are electronic and completely volume adjustable - yeah, baby!! It's a video game with wireless instruments that you use to "play in a band" in your living room. It's a party in a box! Don't worry, I predict you'll see a whole lot more of the scattered family members when they can hang out in your living room and live out their wildest fantasies of being a rock star. The problem might be kicking them out to go to bed.

Won't Christmas be fun?!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Quick Quotes

We went to Fuel Pizza for lunch and L and I had the following conversation...

Me: What kind of pizza do you want?

L: I want mushroom! Where's the mushroom?

Me: Really? Mushroom? It's right there. You want that?

L: Yes! Yes! Yes!

Me: Ok....

A little later....

Me: L! Why are you picking the mushrooms off your pizza?!?

L: I don't like mushrooms.

Me: But you ordered the mushroom pizza!!

L: (pause) I don't like mushrooms on my mushroom pizza.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nothing slows you down like being sick

Monday was a little less crazy than predicted. Tuesday dawned with only one thing on the calendar - a meeting with the insurance adjuster at the "Drive-In Claims" office. Thankfully, he works with the dealership where I'd like to get the cat fixed and they'll take care of that together. If they ever get hold of the guy who hit us, that is.

After the insurance thing, L and I made a major grocery run and headed home. But the small symptoms I had been trying to ignore for the past couple of days came rushing in full force and I had to admit that I had a sinus infection.

By mid-afternoon, I was on-line looking for a doctor.

I love my insurance company. They have a really nice search engine for local doctors online. I also discovered that the closest office to our zip code is an express walk-in office, which was perfect for getting drugs for this stupid sinus infection. On the way there, I passed two other urgent care/express offices with big signs. The one I was headed to was small, hidden in a little office complex, and was brand-new. So there was no one else waiting. Can you imagine? I just walked right in, got the prescriptions that I needed, got over to Target to get the prescriptions filled, and was home in just over an hour. Not too shabby.

I am determined to kick this infection out of the house quickly. How am I planning to do that? Rest! I have spent the entire day in bed. K did her school, L has been playing, they've watched a movie, gotten their own lunch, and played legos. K even made chai tea for both of them. There have been no arguments, no yelling, and no screaming. They made me cards and L declared herself my servant and brought me a glass of ice water. They seemed to need a quiet rest day as much as I did. L has been a bundle of frenetic energy and K has just been mean for the past several days and I think they were just wound up a little too tightly.

While it's been nice, in a few minutes I'm going to get up, take a hot shower (hey, doctor's orders), get dressed in nice clothes, and join the land of the living for the evening. Our HOA has it's first meeting tonight and I promised to attend. Tomorrow it's back to laundry, housecleaning, and Bible Study where it's the last lesson in our current study. Can't miss that.

Monday, November 17, 2008

You just can't avoid it

No matter what I say or how hard I work to avoid it, the busyness of the holiday season creeps in until you're drowning in a full calendar without any warning.

I hate full calendars as a general rule. I prefer to keep it down to just a few scheduled things per week and have plenty of time open for last minute stuff. I do love to go and do and hang out with friends and I've found that having a busy calendar makes it so much harder because you've always got scheduling conflicts. As a result, I say no to a lot of activities and commitments and we're all much happier.

And then comes November.

And then December.

I've been trying to figure out when we can make a trip to Texas to visit the family and I'm having trouble finding a significant stretch of open days where we're not committed to 1001 different things. Mr. at Home is teaching, basketball is starting, we have concert tickets, K has a birthday party, there's a field trip, and a million Christmas parties for friends and groups of which we're a part. We don't have to do it all and we *won't* be doing it all, but there are enough "we really can't miss" events that it's overwhelming just looking at it.

Last week was the first hugely over-scheduled week (the girls were up late every. single. night.) and I survived because I kept telling myself it was just one week and the next one was much more quiet. Unfortunately, life intervenes. First thing in the morning, we'll be taking our car to the dealership because we got rear-ended on the way to church Sunday morning and by dinnertime, the check engine light had come on. After that, I have to make a run to the store to buy some chocolate for a friend whose son is having surgery in the afternoon. I have sat in that hospital waiting room myself while my own child has been the one with her life held in the surgeon's hands. I have to a least stop by for a few minutes.

Then L has dance and it's parent observation week, so I will be staying and cheering her on. We'll swing back by the house to pick up the rest of the family, drop Mr. at Home off at his uptown office, and we'll go commandeer a table the library so K can finish her schoolwork. At 3:30, we'll go to the hospital to deliver the chocolate, then it's back to pick up Mr. at Home, do a quick dinner, and he has to go back out to BSF while the girls and I collapse on the loft floor to watch a movie and unwind.

Thankfully, the rest of the week is still empty, but I have a feeling it won't stay that way.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A few things we're enjoying right now

Since there's not much/too much going on for me to put together an entire coherent post on one thing, I'm bringing a list today. So here are some short nuggets of goodness that are a big hit around here right now.

1. General Foods International Coffee, Sugar Free Chai Latte mix - My mom said we had to try it and after a bit of searching, we found it, brought it home, and discovered that it was the "sugar free" variety. I am not a big fan of sugar free as it generally means they used an artificial something or other that has an aftertaste. It also uses instant tea mix, which was a major strike against it. But we decided to try it anyway and this stuff is GOOD. The girls and I are loving it.

2. Kung Fu Panda - Funny, funny movie. Very cute, good message - can it get any better?

3. Rain - It hasn't rained around here in ages and it's been falling for the past two days. Yea!!

4. Golden Oreos - I know, don't mess with a classic like Oreos. It's a sacrilege. BUT. The folks at Oreo took their awesomeness to the vanilla side with amazing results. These things are delicious! And they go great with #1.

5. Sugarhouse Ink - I have officially ordered my Christmas cards. Ok, I have begun the ordering process. I sent in my order and my pictures and the lovely woman who runs the company is going to make my photos look awesome, adjust the card layout so that it will accomodate three photos instead of just the one it was designed for, redo the colors used in the design so that they match the colors in my photos, *and* send me a proof to make sure I like it before I pay and they print. All this without charging me extra. Talk about service.

6. Natasha Bedingfield and Taylor Swift - One day I was browsing around YouTube and found the video of Taylor Swift's "Love Story". The girls came up and demanded that I keep looking for videos of "that girl". I finally just bought them Taylor's first album and "Love Story" and put it on my iPod along with a couple of Natasha's songs ("Unwritten" and "Pocketful of Sunshine"). We've been listening to/singing along with them in the car often and the girls love them. Two days ago, "Love Story" came over the radio and Mr. at Home was amazed that L knew every word to a song he'd never heard.

7. Southern Christmas Show - Every year this enormous craft show happens and we try to make a trip over there to wander among the booths and look at the amazing stuff people make. We pick up a fruit cake and a Christmas gift or two, but mostly the girls and I just walk and take it all in. We're going this afternoon and K is so excited. This is the first year I won't have a stroller, so we'll just have to see how Miss L does because it's a whole lot of walking and a whole lot of "no, I won't buy you that." But there are beautiful displays and a collection of tiny dollhouses to look at, so it ought to be okay. Oh, I just heard the unmistakeable clink of money being taken out of the girls' allowance jars so it looks like they're planning to spend it today. Better theirs than mine!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

If you give a mom some new recipes...

If you give a mom some new recipes, she'll pull out the little binder that's supposed to hold her recipe collection. She'll sigh yet again over all the papers stuffed between those covers in any old way. She'll think of all those time-consuming failed attempts at organizing those papers. Then she'll remember this post over at Rocks in My Dryer and she'll be inspired. She'll tweak the idea just a bit, pull out her scrapbooking supplies, and this is what she'll create.

Isn't it beautiful? It's a binder that I made a cover and spine for out of all those papers and doodads I have left from my scrapbooking days. Inside there are 100 page protectors. I pulled out all those recipes I've clipped, copied, printed, and begged from friends and family over the years. I didn't bother retyping or copying them all onto full-sized sheets of paper. I organized them into categories and if they were on small papers, I simply taped them to bigger sheets and put them all into the notebook in sections. Then I made colorful title pages for each section out of heavy cardstock so that it's easier to see those when I'm looking for a particular recipe. The whole process took a couple of hours and its *done*. No longer will I have to dig through an unorganized file to find my great-grandmother's recipe for homemade ice cream or worry about losing the yellow sheet where my mom wrote out the recipe for her italian cream cake. It's all organized and easy to find and use and I am one happy, happy cook.

My new recipe

Tonight we're having a recipe swap for the ladies of our Sunday Bible Study class. Almost 20 of us signed up to bring our favorite dishes to make the perfect holiday meal. When the sign-up paper finally made it around to me, there were a ton of ladies already signed up for dessert and appetizers. There were several main dishes and salads already spoken for, but there were plenty of spaces left for side dishes. It looked like I was bringing a side dish. The only problem is that I didn't have an obvious go-to recipe for a side dish and I had to write down what I was bringing on the sign-up sheet. Oh, what to do?!? So I wrote down "sweet potatoes" and hoped that I'd be able to find something fabulous between then and the party.

A couple of days ago, I actually started looking. Did you know there are all kinds of things you can do with the humble sweet potato? From soups to desserts, it's pretty overwhelming. A sweet friend of mine, Angie, said her mom liked a Paula Deen recipe, so I searched and added that one to my "favorites" stash. Then the vote went to the family.

Orange or apricot?

Sliced or mashed?

Marshmallows or not?

Unfortunately, none of my "favorites" fit the winners of the voting. So after some thought that included the fact that I really didn't want to do any more searching, I decided to...ahem...*tweak* one of the recipes I already had. So Paula Deen and I have "collaborated" and come up with an AWE. SOME. recipe I call

Orange Sweet Potato Bake
By Paula Deen and Valerie Stranathan

3 cups cooked, peeled and mashed sweet potatoes (about 2 large sweet potatoes)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/3 cup melted butter
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. ginger
¼ cup heavy cream or half and half

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup walnuts or pecans
1/3 cup all purpose flour
3 T. melted butter

Mix all ingredients for bake except the cream. Beat at medium speed. Then add cream and mix well. Pour into a 2 quart greased dish.

For the topping mix all ingredients together with a fork and sprinkle over the top of casserole.

Bake for 25-30 minutes in a 325 degree oven.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A recipe for a neighborhood


1 copper fire bowl
1 bundle of wood
1 fire starter block
1 lighter
1 bag of marshmallows
5 roasting sticks
6 folding camp chairs
16 flyers

Post flyers on the doors of each occupied home in the neighborhood and drop a couple at the sales office. Take all other ingredients to the cul-de-sac and set them up appropriately. Once darkness falls, build a fire in the fire bowl. Wait a few minutes and watch as shadowy figures come out of the dark carrying their own chairs and drinks. Sit around the fire with your neighbors and get to know each other as you scoot closer and closer to the fire because it's getting colder. Makes one close-knit neighborhood.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Nothing profound

It's been quiet around here lately, probably because the grown-ups have been sick with colds. The kids are just fine, thank you, which is great since they've outlawed kids' cold medicine. I thought we were over the worst of it until I had a relapse yesterday evening, but I got 10 hours of sleep last night plus a 3 hour nap today, so hopefully my immune system is strong enough to kick the last of the germs out on their little germmy hineys.

My brother is engaged. Did I tell you that? He and his fiancee are planning their wedding for next August. Outdoors. In Texas. Please start praying now for a freak cold snap. I totally agree that since weddings only happen once in a lifetime (yes, that's the way it's supposed to be), you should have the one you really want. But a cold snap would be most welcome. And this will bring the number of special family days - birthdays, anniversaries - in August to a number just below infinity. At least it's easier to remember. If you can't remember someone's special day, just send the card in August and you're probably right.

(For those who are planning to send me a gift, my birthday is in December. Just so you don't miss it.)

Let's see, what else....

I lost my calendar which contains my life for the next year. All my appointments, birthday reminders, field trips, special events. I was torn between panic over losing all that data and joy at the thought of getting to select another planner (I know, I have issues), but then I found my calendar stuck under a half-finished pumpkin coloring sheet. It did remind me that I need to update my online calendar so if I do really lose the paper calendar, I still have the information.

Speaking of on-line, I think I've decided to do this year's photo album on snapfish. I finally ordered last year's album so I could archive those photo files and clear some space on my hard drive. I did the book on iPhoto and it's beautiful and it's wonderful to have a bound book. I just decided to do a little browsing and decided that I like the themes available on snapfish. I've been putting the book together and have gotten all the way through our mission trip a couple of weeks ago. I love how quickly the on-line books go together versus the scrapbooking method, even though I do miss the scrapbooking parties and weekend retreats and getting to pick out and use all those neat papers and accessories. I found a book yesterday about breaking free of all those unrealistic mom expectations and it included *scrapbooking*. Sheesh! It's such a phenomenon that we now need self-help books to help us get away from the self-imposed stress of it!

Oh!!! I think I hear the UPS truck!! I think they found us!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election?? Who cares! Look at these pictures!!

On Friday, I took the girls to a nature preserve a few miles down the road where we tried to take some portraits. It was awesomely, amazingly beautiful, but the pictures mostly turned out fuzzy or washed out.

Sigh...I have a new camera at the top of my Christmas list.

Today, I made the girls dress up again, charged the battery on Mr. at Home's fancy camera, and we headed back out there. And I am SO GLAD we did. As beautiful as it was Friday, the color and amazingness had multiplied a hundred fold. It was just indescribably gorgeous.

We redid the pictures we tried to take on Friday, but before I had gotten off one shot, I fell over backward. No really. I fell over backward. I tripped and instinctively grabbed the camera, which kept it safe, but I sacrificed my elbow. Of course, I didn't let that stop me and we kept shooting. The girls were in good moods and spent most of the time laughing and giggling and they took some fabulous pictures. Since I'm planning to use at least one for our Christmas cards, you don't get to see them all, but I'll share some. So when you get frustrated by the one-sided election result coverage, just come back and gaze at these pictures and feel the stress just flow disappear.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Visual Interruptions

Today, I am sharing some of the cuteness and beauty that is assaulting my vision today. This is your fair warning to click away before you simply get sucked in.

First is little L. If you've been reading this year, you know about the multiple hair cutting episodes we've experienced with her. Thankfully, she's moved on from cutting her hair and she's been anxiously awaiting the day when her hair is long enough to "have braids". This morning we decided it was time to try and L was sporting french braids for a few hours. She was so happy!

Second, it's fall here. Really fall. The leaves have reached their peak color and while we were driving around running errands, I could barely drag my eyes from the trees to the road. So I...ahem!..."borrowed" Mr. at Home's nice camera and took some pictures from our backyard so I could share a little taste of the beauty around here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Tinker Picture

I still haven't put the rest of the house pictures up on the website, I know. I'm working on it!
Ok, I haven't actually *worked* on it. The pictures have just been sitting here on my hard drive and I just haven't uploaded them and written the post. It's a lazy thing. And I still haven't got any intention of doing it tonight. I made the poor decision to clean the oven for the first time (which makes a lot of stinky smoke) when I had a headache starting. The headache is settling in to stay and I'm headed to bed. But I wanted to leave you with a little teaser.

This is our cat, Tinker. And this is one of the places she likes to sit. I still don't know how she manages the jump to and from this ledge to the loft wall, but she does.

Holiday Decorations and clearance

It's that time of year. The time of year when you're switching holiday decorations more often than you have to clean out your fridge. That is, of course, if you actually decorate for the different holidays. My mom does. She goes all out and has all kinds of holiday stuff all over her house. It's really cool looking, but way too much work for me. My holiday decor is much more...understated, but I do have to admit to buying some Halloween decor a couple of weeks ago.

We were Cracker Barrel and they had all their Halloween decor half-price. Half price! And I found the most perfect thing - a kitchen canister in black with a silver lid, which was perfect for my new kitchen with the black counters and stainless steel appliances.

It seems the weirdest thing to be in "seasonal decor". I mean, how many people change out their *kitchen canisters* each season? The only thing that made it Halloween was that it was black. I've been looking for new canisters since I first saw my new kitchen. This black one was exactly what I've been looking for. So I grabbed two (one for sugar and one for flour) and they now grace my kitchen counter. The only problem was that they're both the same size, so I made some bows of different colored ribbons to tell them apart. Aren't they (spooky?) pretty?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Congratulations, Mr. at Home!

As of today, the first of November, Mr. at Home got a promotion!! He's a now a senior whatever-they-call-him-this-week, which means that he's finally getting the title (and pay grade) that goes with the work he's been doing for awhile. It means he doesn't have to change jobs or responsibilities *and* he still gets to work from home a lot. I gotta love that!

Congratulations, Mr. at Home. You deserve it!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

It's the big reveal! The costumes I slaved whole minutes over.


We have Lydia as a butterfly made from last year's leotard, a new pair of purple wings, and some glittery face paint. She fluttered around, flying excitedly from house to house saying "trickertreating!!" until she suddenly had to go to the bathroom and the night was over for her. Ah, the 4-year-old years. Yes, it does seem to go on and on for years.

Kathryn was the much more daring robot. We spray painted a box silver, added some wires, an LED light fixture (that Will had to rewire so the lights were dimmer), and a candy sack integrated right into the costume. In case you're wondering, it was my own invention, taken from an idea that my friend gave me. I took a long piece of fabric, folded it in half, and glued the sides together to make a bag. I pulled the bag through 5x7 picture frame, wrapped the edges around the frame and glued them down. Then it was a bag with a stiff rectangular opening. I cut a hole in the box, stuffed the bottom of the bag inside, and glued the frame to the outside of the opening and viola! A candy receptacle right in the costume! She got a lot of compliments on it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Didja vote yet?

Up through last week, I thought early voting was for people who *needed* to vote early because they were planning major surgery or a trip out of the country or something equally as catastrophic that there was simply no possibility they could exercise their rights in this great country on the appointed election day.

Boy, how wrong I was!

Early voting is now for anyone for any reason. And there's a whole lot of people doing it. The lines have been wrapped around the early voting sites all week with waits of several hours in many places. It's nutso. But, I can definitely see the upside to being able to go vote when it's most convenient for you. Like when your husband volunteers to work from home and watch the kids while you go sit in one of those long lines.

After lunch today, I sentenced one child to a nap and the other to schoolwork and left them with their dad while I went in search of the senior center with "twice as many voting machines". The line just to get into the parking lot was long and there were parks & recs workers guiding traffic so we could all park. The line of people was stretched along the sidewalk, but it was moving pretty quickly. As we waited, there was one person handing out democratic voting guides, one person asking for votes for a democratic candidate, and two republican candidates for local office greeting people in line. I figured since there wasn't much else to do, I talked to all of them. I talked to another homeschool mom who brought her daughter with her. I went inside and brought back voter guides for everyone around me. Before I knew it, I was inside and signing in. I had brought my super-enormous travel mug full of iced tea and the lady behind the table stared at it incredulously, declared it the biggest cup she had ever seen, and commented, "I bet you've killed a few trees in your lifetime."

Um..huh?? Hello? I'm being environmentally conscious with my reusable cup, thankyouverymuch. She was very weird.

Anyway, I voted and was back outside with my "I Voted Early" sticker all in less than an hour from the time I parked. Not bad, and now I don't have to worry about Tuesday. No watching the weather, no making sure I had childcare or entertaining kids in line, no worrying how long the lines might be.

If you have a little time over the next couple of days, I highly recommend this early voting thing. It's not just for catastrophes anymore.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I love making costumes...kinda

After the pumpkin carving yesterday, I decided that it was time to start on the costumes. This year both daughters requested things I figured would be easier (cheaper) to make rather than buy. So we pulled out the bag of stuff I bought ages ago and got to work. K had to take frequent and lengthy breaks from her schoolwork to watch and L got excited to try her stuff on and show it off for Daddy.

The "kinda" part comes from the fact that the excitement gets the girls so wired up that they are in everything, constantly talking and offering suggestions, and just generally buggin' the tar outta me. I love them to death, but by the afternoon I was ready to toss them in their rooms and shut the doors. Aaahh! They kept playing with the costumes until things were ready to fall apart and I had to threaten them with their lives. Or at least their trick-or-treating privileges.

On the other hand, the girls are incredibly supportive and just kept saying how they had the *best* costumes and this is Kathryn's *favorite* costume ever! It is pretty cool, but you'll just have to wait until Friday for the big reveal.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In which I carve some awesome pumpkins

Earlier in the month, we visited a pumpkin farm where we got pumpkins and the girls extracted a promise from me that we could carve them. Between busyness, laziness, and knowing that carved pumpkins don't last, I've managed to put off their requests to please carve them now.

Until today. When I finally decided that we were home, we didn't have anything planned, and it is only a few days until Halloween. We gathered up the various sharp implements, scrapers, and bowls, and went to work. Make that *I* went to work. The girls just had to decide on a design.

L requested stars, hearts, a princess face, and leaves. She settled for a princess face. So I cut and scraped and ended up with a rather pretty face if I do say so myself. I even tried the method where you scrape the outer skin off, so that the light shines through the flesh of the pumpkin, creating a pretty glow for the princess' hair.

K wanted a moon background with a tree in front of it and a scarecrow if I could do it. Not one to shrink from a challenge, I created it.

We took them outside and took a picture with Freddy the Frog dressed up for Halloween. Freddy is a friend's "class pet" and he got left at our house by mistake. Since we can't return him until tomorrow night at church, we decided he needed to have a little adventure during his time with us.

As if all the carving wasn't work enough, I decided to try my hand at roasting the pumpkin seeds. I can't recall ever having even tried pumpkin seeds before, but I just hated to see all those seeds go to waste. I fudged and recipe I found on-line and they are awesome!

Pumpkin Pie Pumpkin Seeds

  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • dash salt
Rinse seeds well. Pat kinda dry with paper towels.

Combine all ingredients, except seeds, then toss the seeds in the mixture, coating well.
Heat oven to 300°. Spread coated seeds in a shallow baking sheet, stirring periodically, for about 45 to 60 minutes, or until nicely browned and crunchy.

"New" and "Improved" cold medicine?

It's the cold season here and I'm not just talking about the weather. Mr. at Home and I have been hit with a killer cold that just keeps on giving and giving - fever, chills, congestion that makes your head feel like a brick, and a snot factory that just keeps increasing production.

Like any good American, I ran to the store at the first sign of illness in search of a miracle cure. In the absence of a miracle cure, I resort to Alka-Seltzer Plus. Growing up, that's what my family used and over the years I got used to the taste. Then they went and changed the flavor, dadgumit. But at least you can get the orange zest, which isn't too bad, and the stuff still worked.

On this particular trip to the store, I found the cold section and imagine my surprise at the dizzying array of Alka-Seltzer Plus options. There were pills and fizzy tabs specifically for certain symptoms. There were day and night versions. There were new flavors. What the heck?!? Don't they know that people who are suffering from nasty colds have absolutely no interest in poring over new medications and reading labels? All the colors and words make their heads hurt. After a frantic search of the labels, I found the spots for the familiar original pills, but they were empty. It seems that everyone else wants the real stuff, too, Mr. Alka-Seltzer!

I finally found a box of fizzy tabs labeled for the general array of symptoms in day and night varieties and I headed to the check-out. On the way I continued reading the box and noticed a little symbol proclaiming new, stronger pain relief. Uh-oh. They had switched out the nice familiar acetaminophen with aspirin. ASPIRIN. Did they not take into account that I am allergic to aspirin?

Back to the cold medicine aisle I went where I put the Alka-Seltzer stuff back on the shelf and grabbed a bottle of Tylenol Cold liquid. I did a quick check of the label to make sure it still contained acetaminophen, then headed home to take some. I am happy to report that it worked just fine, Mr. at Home even took it and didn't complain about "medicine head", and I will be going back to the store today to stock up on a few more bottles.

"New" and "Improved", my...foot.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Home Tour - Part 2

My house was all clean all at the same time yesterday, so I quickly snapped some pictures to memorialize this rare moment in history. So to continue this tour of our home (and not overwhelm one post with a ton of pictures), I present The Bedrooms!!

Our bedrooms are all at the back of the house with windows facing the beautiful woods behind us, which are currently deepening in fall colors that make it an amazing panorama.

Downstairs, we have the master suite. It's a large room dominated by a king-sized bed covered in a new soft dark brown duvet. Eventually, the walls will be painted and the color scheme will be brown and robin's egg blue and there will be some shelves on the wall, but that can wait. For now, we'll just have a bed decorated with tiny stuffed animals.

As I said we moved Mr. at Home's desk down to the room and he's digging his new quarters by the open window. Where it's quieter. Where he isn't interrupted by one daughter's school and the other daughter's play. Yep, I can see why he likes it.

At the top of the stairs are the doors leading to the girls' rooms. Hanging in front of one door is this decoration:Can you guess who claims this room?

That's right! It's K! Someone commented last night that you tell when a girl starts to grow up because she wants to hang stuff in front of her door. Inside you will notice that K is not exactly a minimalist. In fact, both my kids seem to think that the more stuff they have on display, the better. But it's a fun room and K seems to enjoy it.

Across the hall is L's room. I asked her multiple times "Is your room clean?" "Is it perfectly clean?" "Are all the toys, paper, and pretzels off the floor?" Obviously her interpretations of these questions are different from mine. But at least you can see the girly, princess stylings preferred by my youngest daughter.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Repurposing a room

We've been in our new home 2 months. That's plenty of time to decide what's working and what isn't and do some rearranging. Like we did today.

Today, we

- moved Mr. at Home's desk from the loft down to the master bedroom where it's quieter for him to work during the day

- moved the TV with all it's players and game systems into the loft, making the girls ecstatic over having a "game room"

- rearranged the living room since there's more room without the TV stuff

I've spent the last two days cleaning and the timing worked well to get the rearrangement done and try something different.

So why am I cleaning?

Because we're having our first guests tomorrow night! A friend is graduating from the police academy and we're hosting a little get-together afterward in celebration. As of 5:45 tomorrow night, my whole house has to be clean and I think I should be able to get it all done without too much stress tomorrow. I hate stressing before an event with the frantic last-minute cleaning and I hate stressing during the event by trying to make sure everything is going smoothly. So I'm keeping things simple and I plan to spend at least as much time sitting and talking as I spend in the kitchen. It helps that it looks like we're only going to have a few people which is perfect.

I *promise* to get pictures of the rest of the house that I didn't get around to last time I planned to give you a photo tour. At least you'll get to see the new arrangement and not the old.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A thank you gift or two

Our mission trip to Mississippi was filled with helping others, but we were also blessed in turn by many, including two special people that I wanted to give a little extra special thank you. And what better way to give that extra special thank you than by doing something creative and personal? It's not like being crafty is a sacrifice on my part or anything, you know.

So the first thank you goes to our new neighbors who took care of our cat and watched over our home in general while we were gone. We've only known them a couple of months and they were still nice enough to do it, so I wanted to so something nice for them. They're a young couple and this is their first house, so I made them a fall wreath. I can't imagine they have much in the way of seasonal decor and nothing says "home" quite like a wreath on the door. The girls helped pick out the decorations that would go on the wreath and I put it together. Isn't it beautiful?

The second person we wanted to send an extra special thank you is the lady who owned the house we spent most of last week working on. Bev's such a nice person and she's been out of her house for over three years now and the reconstruction is finally coming to end, hopefully, by the end of the year. I was looking for something fun to do with the girls and my parents over the weekend and our contact at the church said Bev worked at a neat place called Ship Island. When Bev found out we were interested in going, she insisted on providing us with free passes. Ship Island was beautiful and we had so much fun walking along the beach and playing in the sand. For her thank you, we had to stay small and sturdy since we have to ship it, so I found a wooden wreath and decorated it with tiny tools. I do hope she'll be able to hang it on her tree in her own home this Christmas.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mississippi Mission Trip

We are at the end of Day 3 and so far we are having a wonderful time. We're sleeping on air mattresses on the floor of Sunday School rooms and taking showers in a small shed they've fitted with plumbing and shower stalls. We wake up in time for breakfast at 7 and we stay up playing games and doing laundry until late at night.

Mr. at Home was assigned to work with some of the long-term volunteers to lay the foundation for a new house. The rest of us have been moving around from job to job. We started Monday morning together to clean up a yard, where the kids found a really, really great old oak tree that was perfect for climbing. In between tasks, the limbs of that old tree were filled with intrepid climbers. The inside of the house was gutted and is being rebuilt by different volunteer crews. Those are the skilled workers, but there's still plenty of work for us grunts and we've been having a blast.

L has charmed her way into the hearts of everyone here, including three of the older girls in our group who have been acting as her babysitters/audience. K is loving having so many other kids around all the time to play with. K came with me yesterday to paint and L joined us today. The lady who's house we're rebuilding has been so wonderful and just adores all the kids. It's great that the girls have met some of the people that have given their lives to this rebuilding cause as well as some of the people that are being helped.

Driving around the neighborhoods, it's so odd to see the driveways that go to nowhere, the empty concrete slabs and posts, the houses that are still boarded up, and the damaged buildings that sit next to the glitzy rebuilt casinos. And this is three years after the hurricane.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Now that's an interesting way to look at it

A couple of bloggers that I read have recently posted about a different way to ask a very common question. You know the question as you were asked it hundreds of times growing up and it's come out of your own mouth, no doubt, a few hundred times more.

"What are you going to be when you grow up?"

How would it have changed your answer if the question were asked,

"Who are you going to serve when you grow up?"

After all, isn't that what it's all about? Serving. We serve. By focusing on the serve aspect of the rest of our lives, it would have given us a better direction, a better perspective. It's not about me, about how much money I make or how much prestige I win. It's about who I serve and how I do it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

We're almost ready

Today has been busy. Not crazy-pull-your-hair-out busy, just enough to do that we stayed active most of the day. There was a van to be picked up, clothes to be washed, bags to be packed, a few last-minute items to pick up at the store, tools to be labeled, miscellaneous stuff to gathered from around the house and organized into the back of the rental, the GPS to be programmed, the neighbors to be told where the cat food is - stuff like that.


Tomorrow morning we're off for Mississippi!

It's a family mission trip and we're headed down with two other homeschool families to do whatever it is that the church down near Biloxi tells us to do. We're told it'll mostly be yardwork since we do have children helping and they're not allowed on the real construction sites. But whatever it is, we're ready with our bug spray and work gloves. Do you *know* how hard it is to find work gloves for tiny preschool hands in October? We ended up with a pair of Hello Kitty winter gloves with heart shaped grippers on the palms and fingers. Naturally, L loves them and they'll make her feel like she's just like everyone else.

I'm told the church has internet access and I'm bringing my laptop so I can post pictures and updates during the week. For now, I've got to shut this baby down and pack it away in my bag because I'd hate to forget my laptop!

Friday, October 10, 2008

My morning routine

I'm not a morning person. Way back when I worked for an actual paycheck, I had to haul myself out of bed at dark-thirty, stumble through a shower and getting ready, and head off to the office or classroom. Mr. at Home learned fairly quickly in our marriage that mornings were not the best time for involved conversations. Or any other kind of conversation. In fact, it's probably better to just pretend you can't see me while staying far away.

Since I wised up and stopped working two jobs - one for a paycheck and one that involved taking care of my family and home - I've usually been able to avoid that whole "morning" thing. I taught the girls early on to get themselves up, get their own breakfast, and find something to do that doesn't involve making me get out of bed to deal with them. I get to wake up peacefully without an alarm, take a shower without worrying about the clock, and get a slow, gradual start to the day. I justify this because I don't get off at 5 and leave my work at the office. Even during those times when the girls are busy and I can sit down for a break, I'm always "on call" and there's always something I need to be doing.

Every once in awhile, though, I wake up really early and something prompts me to get out of bed. Like today when I woke up at 4:30 and laid there trying in vain to get back to sleep. Around 5:30 I got up and went to catch up on all my on-line reading. When Mr. at Home's alarm went off, I went back to the bedroom, got a shower, and decided to use the quiet of the house to organize my office. Unfortunately, it wasn't long until the girls decided to wake up and get moving, but at least they've been so well trained that they left me alone to work.

Today was a field trip day and we left early, without the chaotic last-minute rush, and we arrived at the pumpkin patch almost an *hour* early. The girls had time to enjoy the slides and other play structures before they got overrun with schoolkids on field trips. It felt so nice to be so relaxed and unhurried. Tonight I am sitting in a clean office with an empty inbox as I actually had a large enough space to take care of everything. And now I'm off to go relax and watch a movie with Mr. at Home and hope that I don't fall asleep!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Let's talk photography

I like to take pictures.

I have a nice little point-and-shoot camera that I keep in my purse so that I can whip it out and catch those pictures of goofy moments or hairclips or the little shirt I found at the craft show that I know I could duplicate at home for half the price.

I love my little camera as it takes great pictures. Unfortunately, it's falling apart. No really, it's literally falling apart. It's missing at least five screws so the casing is loose. It's also rather beat up because, as I said, I keep it in my purse and with me all the time. It's exactly 3 years old now and it's about time for it to be retired and make way for a newer, sleeker model. After all, 3 years is an eternity in the life of electronics.

Not one to do exhaustive research on something, I clicked over to the Target site and started looking at new cameras. I want something small enough to fit comfortably in my purse or pocket that I can whip out when I want. I want a big view screen on the back and I'd really like it to come in a cool color, like my new red phone. Hey, who says a camera can't be a fashion statement? I'd like at least 8 megapixels, but I was mesmerized by the ones that come in 10 megapixels. Who knows when I'll want to print something out in poster size?

Here's the deal breaker. Most of the ones I saw came with a lithium ion battery "so you'll never miss a shot". Huh? That seems to me like the ultimate way to "miss a shot". I would *never* remember to take the camera out of my purse to charge it and if I *did*, then I would never remember to put it back IN my purse so I would actually have it with me. I had to really search to find a high resolution camera that still took good ol' double-As. At least that way if my batteries die, I can run into the giftshop, spend way too much on new ones, and keep taking pictures. Of course, I could buy a back-up battery, but those things cost a fortune and I would still probably never have it when I needed it.

Am I just an old fuddyduddy? Anyone else see my point or has the lithium ion battery thing worked well for you?

I think it's time to get her own glue gun

On Tuesday after our MOPS meeting, I caught up with a friend to ask her a question and discovered her selling hairclips. She and her sister?/sister-in-law? have a little side business making and selling these hairclips through boutiques. They're really cute and all, but they're rather expensive. On further inspection, I realized how they were made and the simplicity of it all just floored me. I could do that!

Today we made a quick stop at a local craft store where they had tons of ribbon on clearance that was exactly the perfect width, so we picked out six different patterns and got a package of "quilt binding clips" (those little snap clips that bend back and forth), and a package of small jewels. I came home, grabbed the glue gun and my ribbon stash, and whipped up a whole batch of super cute hairclips. K wanted to help, so I taught her and she made two sets all by herself. These are easy to make and K was so excited that she can do it on her own. We made a few duplicate sets for friends and we're planning to make another batch of them for the Operation Christmas Child boxes our homeschool group is doing. It was so neat to sit side-by-side with K tonight and work together on the hairclips, but we did end up fighting over the glue gun so I've got to dig out my second one for K to have her own. Like mother, like daughter.

Here's a picture of the back. Can you figure out how it's made?

Monday, October 6, 2008

I am very, very honored

Today I was poking around my sitemeter records just for fun and what do I see but a visitor from Wasilla, Alaska! Maybe it was Governor Palin! I just wanted to say welcome. I hope you like my little corner of the blogosphere and I am very much a fan. You've done some amazing things and done them with just the right blend of tenacity and grace. I also want you to know that I'm praying for you as you deal with the public scrutiny and attacks on your private life. I see that you hopped over here from my friend Marybeth's blog. She's a great writer, isn't she? And a very understanding friend as I still haven't returned a book she loaned me way too far back for me to publically admit. She doing a giveaway right now for a mom planner that looks really neat and I could see that it might come in handy for keeping track of your busy schedule. (Get it? "Track"? Like your son's name, "Track"? Oh, I slay me!)

Hummnn?? What's that? Governor Palin isn't in Wasilla right now? She's on the campaign trail so it's not likely that she was visiting my blog from her hometown? Well, just burst my bubble, why don't ya? Oh well, whoever you are from Wasilla, welcome to you, too!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ok, I am *officially* a homeschooler

Tomorrow we are going to the zoo. The weather is beautiful and some friends wanted to go so we are loading up the minivans and heading down to the Riverbanks Zoo in South Carolina. I didn't really have any other motivation to go, but I did manage to find an educational application.

Tonight, K started making up a little list saying she could write down which animals are animals, reptiles, etc. She has a test she has to take Tuesday on classifying animals and this would make great practice. Great idea! I took it and fleshed it out with a worksheet on the attributes of each classification and included a sheet where she could write down what she sees in the appropriate category.

And what's good for one child is good for the other, right? I found some handwriting paper on-line and made short lists of basic mammals, reptiles, and birds so L can find those animals and practice writing their names. There's even room on each paper to draw some of the animals. To spread the love, I made copies of those sheets for the other young kids who are coming with us.

So tomorrow I will show up at the zoo gate with worksheets, clipboards, and pencils. I even have three lunches packed and lined up in the fridge along with travel cups already filled with milk for breakfast in the car and "to go" breakfast items waiting on the kitchen counter. Yep, I look like a real homeschooler. Heck, I even have a new *52 oz* car mug to hold enough sweet tea for the trip. I am ready, baby!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Serving our neighbors near and far

Last Saturday our church did a really cool thing. We signed up over 1100 people to spend the day doing community service in the parks, gardens, and the elementary school around our town. We installed benches, painted fences, planted gardens, assembled playground equipment, spread mulch - whatever was needed.

Our family signed up and reported to the church building for breakfast in the pouring rain. Not an auspicious start to a day of working outdoors. One of the elders offered a prayer for the food and asked that God stop the rain so that we could accomplish our work and by the time breakfast was over, the rain had stopped! We all went off to our assigned work areas and got muddy!

Mr. at Home was put in charge of a group to trim trees and shrubs and put up sticks - a perfect job for young volunteers! It was so neat to see the kids set to work so energetically and there were a ton of them. The whole day, I never heard even one child complain that they were tired and didn't want to work. L ran tirelessly back and forth dragging branches twice her size as Daddy worked the tree cutter and K hauled the biggest and heaviest branches. After awhile, L found a rake and went to work smoothing the new gravel we put down to fill in some muddy places while K commandeered a shovel and carried gravel from one side of the park to the other. L ended up visiting the nurses' station a few times - once with a HUGE bug bite and again for bug spray, but she didn't let that slow her down.

They did take an opportunity or two to be a little silly like when K decided to make "tree antlers" and L found a worm. The Princess had no problem picking up the squirmy, muddy thing and examining it quite closely. Mommy was just happy when the little girls decided to let him go.

It was a really cool opportunity to serve the community. The city told us it would have taken them three years to accomplish everything we did in just one day. I also loved watching my girls work with such enthusiasm and working hard. Mr. at Home and I were both incredibly sore the next day after our exertions, but the girls were just as active and happy as any other day.

In another week, we're going to take our little family work crew on the road. We're headed to Mississippi with a couple of other families to work with a church who's community is still recovering from the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. I've heard we'll doing a lot of yard work, but hey, we've got experience!