Thursday, January 31, 2008

The BFG and the Train

Tuesday I scored tickets to the Wednesday performance of The BFG (Big Friendly Giant). I was a bit curious as to how they intended to have a giant on stage, but mostly I was just excited for the excuse for a field trip. So were my children.

Tuesday night I mentioned to K and L that we were going to a play, and after a few questions along the lines of "What's a play?", my personal activities coordinator came up with a great idea. Why don't we take the new train uptown since it stops *right by the library/playhouse*? Sounds great to me!

So Wednesday morning, we got everything organized and made a quick stop by the Target because we had to have school badges for the show. Did you know your kids will be super-dooper excited when you say "Sure, we can use those really cute (and clearance priced) luggage tags as school badges!"? We drove over to the train station, bought our tickets, and sat down in the brand-spanking new light rail train.

For the next 30 minutes (we rode from one end of the route to the other; heck, may as well get our money's worth!), we were treated to views of the city I didn't even know existed. However, it wasn't the warehouses and questionable shops that stuck out like a sore thumb. It was the station names.

We started at South Blvd. Station, boring, but not too weird.

We passed East/West St. Station. You'd think the city could be a bit more creative in this naming streets thing.

Then there was Bland St. Station. I can just hear someone's address.
Mr. and Mrs. Boring
300 Bland St.
Snoozeville, ZZ 00 0 0 0 (zzzzzzz..........)

The one that took the cake, though, was Scaleybark Station. Hello?!? What kind of name for a street is Scaleybark? It sounds like some horrible tree disease and we're so proud of it that we put a train station there! On the train, a lovely female voice announces the upcoming stops, but even she can't improve that one.

In the end, the girls loved the play and they had a very interesting way to handle the giants. Sometimes the humans were puppets, the BFG was a regular-sized person, and the bigger giants were tall costumes. Sometimes the humans were regular size and the BFG was a big foam...puppet...thing. And sometimes they made it easy on themselves and used shadow puppets.

The girls loved the play and even L sat mostly quietly through the whole thing. She did have to jump into my lap when the big giants started talking about the kids they ate. Gross. The play was worth the trip, but I think the train ride would've been enough to excite us all by itself.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mixed motives

In reading my CBS lesson on Psalm 139, I came across this

"We are often perplexed by our errant thoughts and impulses, but He is not. We do not understand our mixed motives, but God knows the secrets of our hearts. Knowing us, He understands us and loves us, even when we do not understand and cannot love ourselves."

There are so many times in my life that I question my motives even when I ultimately know the action is right. Many times I'm motivated by equal parts of selfishness and duty, pride and service, desiring and giving. Perhaps it's a mission trip where I want to teach others about God, but I'm also excited about the trip itself. Or singing in the church choir - do I want a chance to show off and enjoy the challenge of singing or am I using the opportunity to minister to others through music? I know the motives behind my actions are infinitely more important than my actions themselves, but often I cannot pin down or understand my motives. Praise God that He can see through our human weaknesses and still loves us!

The Quiet Families

I read a post about The Quiet Family over on Scribbit's blog and was inspired to try my own hand at creating a set. Or two. When you have two girls, you can't get away with making just one of anything.

My wonderful, excellent Mr. at Home gave me a couple of hours off yesterday afternoon and I went off to the store to find the wooden game pieces, boxes, tiny painted toys, and felt. Less than $10 total. After dinner, I pulled out my supplies and got started. I painted the boxes and the dads and used scraps of fabric, ribbon, and scrapbooking fibers to cover the moms, girls, and babies. I lined the boxes with felt so the pieces wouldn't get knocked around (after all, this is the Quiet family) and packed them all up.

The girls *loved* them. I let K pick out the colors, fabrics, and hair for hers, but I did L's after she had gone to bed, so I had to pick out hers myself. The hair was hard as I was running out of stuff that was "hair colored", so her dolls have some...interesting hair. I did discovered that ribbon worked much better as clothes than the fabric and L was overjoyed at her "ballerina princess". This morning I had a hard time tearing them away from playing with their families to get them focused on school. Yep, the Quiet families were a success.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Eh....I got nothing

After a long and desperate search, I have found that I have nothing really worthwhile to say today.

I'm so sorry.

I *could* complain that I feel like I've been sick since Halloween with a variety of colds and other viruses. Add that to the on-going trauma of the allergies and my current sinus headache, I feel about as exciting as a wet rag. But no one wants to hear about all that.

Perhaps I could pass on a little warning to parents of elementary-age daughters. It seems that little girls have found a new way to diss each other. As K was getting in the car after girl scouts last week, I was treated to the tail end of a conversation between her and an older friend (of the "Yes, I will", "No, you won't" variety). It seems that the older girl was trying to look cool in front of her friends and was threatening to un-friend K on the Webkinz site. Ah, school girl spats in the internet age. We had to have a talk about how M was just trying to make her friends think she was cool by trash-talking and she would completely forget about it before she got home and actually carried through on her horrifying threat *and* she would still be begging to play next time we got together without the other 9-year-old friends.

I could astonish you with the fact that my house is in a fabulous state of *clean*. I updated the girls' chore charts taking into account the fact that they are old enough to be taking on more household tasks. Their hard work inspired Mr. at Home to create a chore chart of his own, so he's been helping to keep up with housework, too. Don't worry that I'm sitting around watching soaps and eating bonbons while my family is hard at work; I just figure my chore chart would be too long, complex, and dynamic to print. Saturday morning we did a thorough cleaning, even moving furniture to vacuum under it, which inspired us to once again put on our hospitality hats and invite someone over for dinner. So last night we had some new friends over and had a good time eating some of Mr. at Home's amazing spaghetti, watching the kids play, and discussing everything from Bill and Ted movies to the emergent church and the post-modern world.

Just so we don't forget to discuss L, I could tell you that we are a completely diaper and pull-up free household. FINALLY. We would have weeks of success, then relapses into frequent accidents. So I decided that the night-time pull-up was causing confusion and, despite the fact that I'm not sure she's ever been dry in the morning, I took it away. And it worked. In the 2 weeks or so since that fateful decision, she hasn't wet the bed and she's only had a couple of daytime accidents.

For having nothing to write about, I sure went on and on. Brevity. I don't have it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

And God Showed Up

On Wednesday night, I was sitting around at the church building when I reached for my phone to call my sister and wish her happy birthday. I then checked the time and decided she'd probably appreciate it more if I waited until *after* the dinner hour to call her. People are funny that way :-)

So while I was sitting there, a friend of mine walked by whom I hadn't seen in a few weeks. As we started to catch up and I casually asked where her husband was, she dropped the news that he had left her. Did you feel it Wednesday night when the whole earth came screeching to a halt? Um, excuse me, I think I was hallucinating there for a moment. Did you say he left you??? You see this was the strongest couple I know. The kind where they taught classes on marriage and spent time working on their marriage. He had an accountability group, taught Sunday School, attended conferences, and talked about going into full-time ministry. And to one day, out of the complete and total blue, to tell his wife he didn't love her, had never loved her, and he had no intention of doing anything but divorcing her? Huh?

Of course, looking back, he had been edging away from things for about a year, but not so that it was anything that would give any clue that he was rethinking some things in his life. Things like, oh, his life. My friend seems to be handling things amazing well and is adjusting, but then I was up half the night thinking about what I would say if I happened to run into her husband. After I slapped him upside the head and asked him what in the world he was thinking, of course.

Thursday morning was CBS and the discussion started down the most consuming topic on my mind after another lady mentioned that she was obsessed with *her* friend that was going through a bitter separation and divorce. I didn't say much, but I did listen as other talked about how you couldn't get bitter and angry. God showed up and talked to me as we were continuing our lesson. One part of our lesson was Psalm 139 and it hit me strongly as we read, " Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?". For the past year, my friend's husband has been pulling away from everyone who would be a reminder of God's word. Even now, he is running full tilt from *anyone* who has reached out. He knows he's wrong and he's trying to hide from any reminder of what he knows. God was showing me that that's what he needs to hear. He needs to hear God's word reminding him that no matter how fast or far he runs, God is there waiting for him. God is running right there along side of him, bringing others along side of him who can be help if he'll just turn his head to listen. Psalm 94 says "Blessed is the man you discipline, O LORD, the man you teach from your law; you grant him relief from days of trouble". God promises that my friend's husband will receive blessing if he stops, turns back, and faces the consequences of his actions. My friend has said she still loves her husband and wants them to get past this; she's willing to do whatever it takes. Please join me in praying that there will be someone who can get close to him, rain God's word on him with love, and that his heart will be inclined to listen and act.

After meeting so closely with God during CBS, I was feeling much better. We left CBS and headed to Girl Scouts, with a stop for lunch on the way. I wasn't feeling like McD or CFA, our usual lunchtime suspects, so I asked God to show us where we should eat, someplace we could be a blessing to someone. After all, God had been speaking all morning, why should he stop now? K piped up from the backseat that she wanted Burger King, a place close to scouts, not in the best part of town, but not too bad, so we went there. Walking into the building just in front of us was a woman that God said "That's her. That's who I want you to help".

As we entered, I saw the woman had sat down just inside the door. She was dressed in several layers of clothes with a small backpack she didn't take off and her hair was pulled back with a bandana. I glanced back at her several times as we ordered and waited for our food. She seemed like she might be homeless, but not desperate. She wasn't asking for money or doing anything to draw attention to herself, just resting and warming up.

I remembered the $5 bill I had tucked in my pocket this morning. It had been sitting on my jewelry box for days, but today I had grabbed it "just in case I need it". I knew God wanted me to give it to the woman, but by the time we had settled at our table with our food, she was gone. I knew God wasn't finished and I waited in full confidence that she would return.

We had almost finished our lunch, when she appeared back at the same table with a cup of coffee. I swallowed my chicken and my pride and walked over to her table. Sitting down across from her, I put the $5 on the table. "You'll probably think this is odd," I said, '"but God wants me to buy your lunch today." I pushed the money toward her and said, "I hope this blesses you." She looked down at the money in astonishment. "Thank you." She paused, "I think I'll take this money and get cleaned up. I'm going to go wash my clothes and get cleaned up." She looked back at me, "Thank you, thank you," she kept saying. I smiled, patted her hand, and walked back to my table and my wondering daughters.

As the woman walked out the door and across the parking lot to a strip mall, I explained that sometimes God gives us pretty specific instructions about what he wants us to do. Today he wanted me to give a woman $5 and we were both blessed because I obeyed.

I really needed a confirmation from God yesterday and He showed up and gave it to me like I have never experienced before. And today I'm passing it on to you.

And no, I didn't call my sister Wednesday since I was a bit overwhelmed, but I did talk to her last night. Happy belated birthday, Bethany!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Quick Kid Funnies

The girls both had some recordable moments today, which I thought I'd share. Really, I'm just not up to writing a real post tonight. I've got one preheating, so hopefully I'll get it organized, written, and posted tomorrow for all you to feast on. Tonight, however, you'll just have to be satisfied with these cocktail wieners on sticks.

After spending the morning in CBS (Community Bible Study), L was obsessed with it the rest of the day and kept popping up with comments about "Bible Study" and "Miss Nancy" and "CBS" and "CVS" (obviously she's worried about running out of Benadryl and movie snacks). At one point she came up with "CVS! org!...cyberspace!"

She's a kid of the 21st century. Or at least a PBS addict.

K had apparently been seriously contemplating the date and the fact that we are almost finished with January. She asked, "If a month goes by so fast, how come a year seems so long?"

Honey, if you only knew.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Organizing *Stuff*

A few days ago I started cleaning out our little office area, which when I say little, I mean *little*. There's a desk and two shelves above it and it holds all of our computer equipment, homeschool supplies, scrapbooking supplies, mailing supplies, file cabinet, etc. And all that means that the place has a tendency to gets *messy*.

I straightened up the shelves, but after a few minutes of working on the desk, I gave up in despair. Last night, Mr. at Home got ambitious and cleaned up most of his stuff, but he didn't have a clue what to do with all mine. I looked at it this morning and was struck with the same sense of despair. Every inch was filled and I still had more stuff scattered around the house that needed to be put back here. Then an idea struck and we made a little trip to my favorite Target after dance class. What do you know, the very shelving system I wanted is *on sale*! Woohoo! I ended up having to go to another Target to get the shelves I wanted since the first one was out of the biggest size (they were all the same price, so why wouldn't I get the biggest?).

So we put the new shelves together and organized all of the girls art supplies and some of their school stuff into the various baskets and shelves. That left plenty of room in the office area for everything else to be neatly arranged on the shelves. Yep, Mr. at Home will be one happy man when he comes home and sees that he has room on the desk to move his mouse and room under the desk to put his feet. And the girls think I'm Supermom because they can actually reach their art stuff!

So if your art and school supplies are overflowing, this whole shelving system, including the colored bins is ON SALE at Target right this minute. For more Works for Me Wednesday posts, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

HSM and HM

If you have young girls in your home, you know exactly what those initials stand for.

High School Musical and Hannah Montana.

My girls aren't the screaming, fanatical fans that some are. Probably because I'm just not cool enough to shell out a few hundred dollars for concert tickets. They do, however, *love* to watch the movies and the shows and joyfully sing along with the TV.

A month or so ago, K saw some pants with the HSM logo that she absolutely fell in love with, even to the point of talking about saving up her own money to buy them. That, my friends, is 7-year-old love. I had never seen said pants as I think it was Grandma that found them, but I have heard plenty about how they're pink and the legs zip off. True fashion, right there.

After a long and desperate journey, a box arrived at our door this afternoon containing the girls Christmas gift from Mr. at Home's sister Colleen and her family. Lo and behold, that aunt is psychic and she had sent the girls matching sets of the coveted pants with HSM jackets and HM shirts. K finally had her pants and another knit jacket (which that girl is obsessed with and has a growing collection of) and L was ecstatic that she had her very own "big girl" clothes.

So, thank you, Colleen, for sending the perfect clothes for the girls.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

And the crafting never ends

I was an avid scrapbooker until we bought a Mac and I discovered the iPhoto books. I was tired of being so behind all the time and the iPhoto stuff is just so *easy*, fast, and fabulous. My main problem with scrapbooking was finding the time to haul out the truckload of supplies, finding a space to spread it all out, getting all the photos and supplies organized, keeping the kids from examining and experimenting with all the neat tools and stealing all the pretty paper, and having to put it all away again so we could use the table for other petty things - like dinner and homeschool. Going digital was the best decision I have ever made and, just to make you jealous, I have my 2007 photo album completely finished ;-)

Now, don't you be frettin' that all those scrapbooking tools and supplies have gone to waste because nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, when I opened my Christmas present from my wonderful SILs and discovered that it was a bee-yu-ti-ful tote chock full of scrapping goodness, I almost swooned in delight. Because when you are sitting in front of the candy store of crafters, the possibilities are endless.

After yesterday's sewing success, the crafting bug bit hard and I just couldn't stop with two dresses, but I didn't really feel like getting involved in another sewing project. So I pulled out another set of projects I bought the supplies for this week and got to work.

To go back a few weeks, I made these and just didn't get around to getting pictures of them. Aren't they cool? Cheap clipboards, a few pieces of paper, some clear contact paper, and some ribbon or flowers and voila! Customized, personalized cuteness.

I started this afternoon by making these. A few scraps of paper glued to the covers turn these from plain composition notebooks to "Wow! Where did you get that?"

I then moved on to *this*. Is this not the most adorable thing ever? My planner is too big to fit into my new sassy red purse and the tiny one I made to replace it was too...well...tiny. This time, I took a $2 pocket calendar, removed the plastic cover, glued on some paper and pictures of my girls, and I love it! I added a matching bookmark so I could easily find the current month. (No, I didn't write the title on the bookmark; I printed it and cut it to fit. Yes, I know that's cheating, but it looks better that way.) I am totally making about 5 more of these tomorrow to send out to my mom, my sisters, my SILs, maybe even my brother in Iraq, but I don't think he'd really appreciate it. He'll like the girl scout cookies I ordered for him much better.

You know the best part of all this? It's all super inexpensive, easy, fast, and turns something cheap and ordinary into something you can be proud to pull out in front of your friends. "The 14th? Humnn, let me check my calendar. Why yes, I did make the cover on this calendar! Isn't it fabulous?! Soooo much easier than all that scrapbooking I used to do."

A trade in my favor

Last week a friend asked to borrow an air mattress and pump, so I took them over one afternoon and we stayed to play. We were flipping through a kid's clothes magazine and remarking about how they're such simple clothes, but so very expensive. I mean why spend $20+shipping for a shirt you could make for $5. It all led to me borrowing her sewing machine for the weekend.

I can just hear the announcer now, "Ladies, start your machines!"

4 visits to 3 stores for patterns (99 cents - on sale!), fabrics (1/2 price!), and notions (thread and buttons) and I was finally ready to sew. I sat down about noon on Saturday and by 3:15 the girls both had new dresses. *Cute* and warm new dresses. L loves dresses so she was easy to convince. K, on the other hand, hates dresses, but she really needed more church clothes. I managed to bribe her with her absolute favorite fabric - fleece - in one of her favorite patterns - Raggedy Ann. Grandma has been kind and generous enough to keep the girls supplied with fleece blankets for their bed and the very first blanket she made for K was a Raggedy Ann one that looks very similar to the print on K's new dress. The jumpers were ridiculously easy to make, even if I did have to use 2 completely different patterns, and I made them big enough that *hopefully* they'll still fit next winter.

Yep, I definitely got the better end of the trade.

The Great Escape

One of my favorite bloggers, Michelle at Scribbit, hosts a monthly writing contest. This is a good thing since one of my New Year's resolutions was to use my blog to work on my mad writing skillz and what better motivation than that of winning fabulous prizes? So here is my entry.

The Great Escape

On Thursday night, I am packing my new Christmas luggage and stowing it in the back of the minivan. An early bedtime will be followed by hours of tossing and turning in giddy excitement. I can never sleep the night before a big trip and this is one to get excited over. You see, very early Friday morning, I am meeting three friends for a girls only weekend away. No men, no kids, no laundry or dishes. Just the four of us eating, shopping, eating, doing crafts, eating, sightseeing, and did I mention eating?

The plan is to pick everyone up and head out of town by 7am, which means it'll be at least 8 before everyone shows up, we get all the luggage loaded up, and actually get on the road. Just over 3 hours on the road and we'll be in Charleston, SC. It's the perfect destination for a girls' getaway with the history, plantations, beach, and (of course) shopping!

The first order of business when we arrive is lunch and one of the girls swears she knows the perfect little cafe. From there, we can drop our bags off at the bed and breakfast, then head out again to do a little shopping and make sure we know how to get to the tour office for our sightseeing tour on Saturday (more about that in a moment). Friday evening, we're taking over the sitting area at the B&B for a craft and I've got the perfect one planned. We're designing our own hats - think the Red Hat Society. Surely at some point you've seen a group of women piling off a tour bus, wearing their distinctive red and purple hats. You have to admire their sense of self-confidence and the way they live life fully when they're wearing those hats. I have one whole suitcase of flowers, ribbon, buttons, pins, and all kinds of things that could be used to make the coolest sisterhood hats in the world. There's also another suitcase filled with snacks and chocolate, but we won't talk about that.

After a late night of talking, laughing, and snacking, we'll be up just in time for breakfast Saturday morning, then we'll don our hats and it's off to the tour office. You see, we've saved our pocket change and we're going on a day-long sightseeing tour that includes a carriage ride through the downtown historic district and lunch at a beautiful plantation, with the entire afternoon to explore the house and gardens. We will happily model our hats in the hundreds of photos we'll take and enjoy the envious glances of other women as they watch our fun and fellowship. Saturday night will be more shopping, eating, and just hanging out before we collapse into bed from exhaustion.

Sunday morning will be another breakfast and check-out time, but the fun isn't over yet. We're planning to drive around the coastline and admire the views, then spend the afternoon wandering around Freshfields Village. None of us have been there before, but the list of shops alone is enough to make us pretty sure it'll be fabulous.

By about 4 o'clock, we'll have to bid farewell to Charleston and head back toward our homes and our responsibilities. I'm sure we'll all be missing our families and it'll feel wonderful to sleep in our own beds again, but we'll also be sad to see the trip come to an end. We'll sort out our suitcases and shopping bags, give hugs all around, and go back to our real lives. Those hats, however, will sit in a place of honor and they'll be calling us to another adventure and soon!


Yawn....hummnn...wha?....Oh? It was only a dream? seemed so real!

You know, if I started saving my pocket change now and start talking it up to my friends, I bet we could make it a *real* Great Escape by the time the weather's warm enough to enjoy the ride in an open carriage.

So who wants to escape with me?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Interactions with the Aging

My friend, Lysa TerKeurst at Proverbs 31 Ministries, is holding a little writing contest. She asked for articles to be considered for publishing in her magazine. Since I can't resist a writing challenge, I've been working for 3 days and through several drafts and I've finally got one I'm kinda happy with. So here it is for all of you to enjoy.


From the cheer that erupted from my two girls, you'd think I had just announced that I was taking them to Chuck E. Cheese's for dinner. But no, I had simply told them that we were doing the Meals on Wheels route today.

When my friend asked for volunteers to help cover a Friday Meals on Wheels route, I was a bit skeptical. After all, I have two young children and we have homeschooling and other commitments that might get in the way. I automatically went into "Oh, I couldn't possibly" mode. The sign-up sheet was passed around in Sunday School for a couple weeks and still no one had signed up, which then activated the guilt mode. Honestly, it was something that interested me, so I asked my friend one very important question, "Can I bring my kids?" After being assured that kids were welcome, I signed on for a couple of Fridays.

Since then we have run the route several times and my girls look forward to it as a wonderful treat. They help to carry in the milk or rolls, ring doorbells, and talk to the people that receive the meals. These housebound men and women are always so happy to see the girls at their door and thank them profusely for coming. They show off the dolls their own mother made a century ago and the Chinese statues they've collected. They love to chat about the weather or their grandchildren or tell how old each cat is. We always run inside for just a few minutes and spread a little sunshine before it's time to deliver the next meal.

I know that it appears we are a blessing to the elderly in need, but the fact is that they are just as much of a blessing to us. Children in our society are so incredibly isolated from anyone who is not of their own age. In school, church, sports, and activities, kids spend the bulk of their time with other kids of basically the same age, experience, and background. So many kids never learn how to interact with or even take an interest in anyone who is different, especially the elderly.

We've lost the "village" aspect of our society where the generations mingled and its youngest members were daily shown what it means to grow up and grow old. People often fear growing old because their only knowledge comes from a few visits to their grandparents. How can we follow the Biblical teaching to respect and care for our elders if we have no knowledge of their interests and needs?

With the growing isolation of the family, we must be intentional about creating opportunities for interaction between our children and the elderly. When I was a child, we lived near my entire extended family and often visited the older generations of my family. I spent many a Sunday afternoon visiting the nursing home with my church where we sang and handed out Twinkies as bingo prizes. I want those kinds of interactions for my children so that growing old is not a big mysterious thing to be avoided at all costs. Maybe it will even inspire them to let me come live with them when I grow old and incapacitated myself. I can dream, can't I? Perhaps in another 40 years they'll be beaming with excitement when they make a few Meals on Wheels deliveries of their own to my house.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Sound of Music

For the past 2 days, K and I have been watching The Sound of Music. It's one of her favorite movies, but she proved that her powers of perception are increasing because she started asking questions about the subplot. You know, how the captain is being pressured to join the Nazi navy and just who are these Third Reich guys and why is everyone worried about Austria going away.

So how do you explain WWII to a 7-year-old without giving her nightmares?

I tried explaining the very basic facts, but I wasn't doing a very good job. I think tomorrow will involve a trip to the homeschool store or the library to find a kid-friendly resource on the war. Of course, there's not much kid-friendly about war. Especially that one.

Random Ramblings

Because I have a lot of little things I could mention and not enough brain power (or at least uninterrupted time) to put them in paragraph format.

  • At this moment I am listening to random burbling, whining, and gasping from a 3-year-old with a stuffy nose who is being *forced* to eat the lunch *she asked for*. Ahhh, the joys of motherhood.
  • On a positive note, L learned to write her first word today--"Hi".
  • I discovered that the little wire things we thought were handles to pull out the futon are actually supposed to hold the mattress in place. Woohoo, we solved the sliding mattress problem!
  • I came up with a fun, inexpensive, and relatively easy idea for L's birthday party that will thrill the hearts of her and all her 5-year-old girl friends (curious how all of her best friends are 5). Because I don't care how cool the new bowling alley/game room/jump room place is, I am *not* shelling out that kind of cash for a party.
  • On Sunday, I came down with a horrible stomach virus (food poisoning?) that kept me curled in a ball in bed most of the day. At one point I had Mr. at Home bring me some ginger ale and I discovered a valuable piece of information after I had finished most it. I am DEATHLY ALLERGIC to ginger ale. Between the virus and the hives, I felt so bad I *couldn't even cry*.
  • It is a horrible thing to have stomach issues and be allergic to lemon, lime, and ginger ale.
  • Mr. at Home is a saint for taking over care of the girls Sunday and Monday. He kept them downstairs and away from me, took them while he ran errands, fed them McD's, and played substitute teacher for homeschool. All while he took care of me, too.
  • We switched L from pull-ups to panties at night and she hasn't had an accident in 4 days and nights. (cue Hallelujah Chorus)
  • Being incapacitated for 2 days means that there is a ton of housework to catch up on.
  • By the way, L did finish her lunch.
  • The next 2 day vacation I get from mommyhood better not involve a stomach virus!

Monday, January 14, 2008

I can top that

I came across an article yesterday that included stories from parents about the time they searched high and low for a treasured lovey. You know what a lovey is, right? That one blanket/pillow/animal/scrap of cloth that your child carries around with her during the day and cuddles up to sleep with every night. It's the one thing in her life that can make anything better, it has the power to drive away the monsters under the bed or comfort her as she leaves her favorite Grandma's house. Not every child attaches to a lovey, but for those children that do, losing it is the worst possible thing that can happen.

When K was only a few months old, I bought a stuffed rabbit from an on-line toy store that was going out of business. The rabbit was motion sensitive and whenever K would wake up and start moving around at night, a light would come on in the rabbit's chest and nature sounds would start playing. We christened it Bunny and it wasn't long before he became K's favorite toy. And then he became indispensable. She carried that thing everywhere, pushing it in her doll stroller and serving it tea, and insisting he be in every picture she took. She developed a habit of holding his ear in one hand while she sucked her thumb and stroked his other ear lovingly. That habit got him taken away for 2 weeks when she was four so we could break her of the thumb-sucking, but otherwise he is her constant companion.

When K was 5, the time finally came for us to travel to China to complete the adoption of her little sister. We would be gone for almost 3 weeks and there was no way K could possibly undergo a trip halfway around the world, involving 9 plane rides, 4 cities, a whole bunch of strangers, and a strange culture, *and* get a new little sister without the help of Bunny. So she packed him in her carry-on and off we went.

Bunny was an invaluable companion as K's new little sister didn't take to well to her and K took the rejection to heart. He also helped calm her after all the attention she got from various Chinese strangers on the street--they loved her blond hair and freckles and she was constantly getting pulled into pictures and kissed on the cheek. Bunny made it through most of the trip without incident until the last week. It was city #4 and hotel #3. As most other adoptive families, we stayed in the White Swan hotel while the US part of our paperwork was being completed. You have never experienced *service* until you stay at the White Swan. Each floor is equipped with an attendant who presses the elevator button for you to descend (even coming inside and pressing which floor you want to go to) and they meet the elevator when you come back and direct you to your room from memory. If Bunny was going to get lost in any hotel, this was definitely the place to do it.

One morning we had gone down to breakfast, and when we returned K started looking for Bunny and couldn't find him. After a few minutes, Mr. at Home and I joined in the search with no luck. K was getting upset, so I started making jokes like, "Maybe Bunny decided to take a bath" as we checked the tub. We were all laughing, but anxious, too, as that rabbit was nowhere to be found. Mr. at Home started thinking and remembered that K hadn't had Bunny all morning, which meant he was still under the covers from last night, but housekeeping had already come and changed the sheets. Bunny had probably been rolled up in the dirty sheets and taken away. Uh-oh.

Mr. at Home and K went out to the little attendant's stand to explain what happened and ask if the laundry room could be notified to look for Bunny. A few minutes later, a maid came by and changed the sheets on our bed. Hummm, I don't think they understood. Remembering K's penchant for taking pictures of Bunny, I found a picture of him on my camera and we took it to try explaining the situation again to the attendant with his limited English. This time he understood and hooked us up with the assistant manager, who thankfully spoke much better English. The manager was *very* apologetic and assured us they would do everything possible to locate Bunny.

Throughout the day, K was despondent and frequently asked about Bunny. We assured her that of any hotel at which we had ever stayed, this one was the most likely to find and return Bunny. That night we got a call from the manager saying they had not yet located him, but they were continuing to search. The next morning, Bunny was the first thing on K's mind. Mr. at Home assured her that he would be returned today and if he wasn't, then we could search Ebay at home to see if we could find another. As soon as we opened the door to go down to breakfast, the floor attendant rushed over and handed K her Bunny. It was the happiest moment of her life.

Of course, we still did an Ebay search after we got back home and K ended up with the *entire collection* of Fisher-Price Peaceful Planet Soothing Sounds animals. The new ones are valued members of her stuffed animal menagerie, but not one of them is nearly as important as Bunny.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A very good prayer to pray

During Sunday School class this morning, a friend mentioned that she had been having a rough time with her kids lately. No matter what punishment she and her husband handed out, nothing seemed to be curbing the insurgence going on in their house. She phrased it in an interesting way, though, and it caught the attention of the other parents in the class. She was praising God that her kids were getting caught. The more we thought about it, the more it made sense. We *ought* to pray for our kids to get caught every single time they do something wrong. After all, it's easier to curb bad behavior when they're younger and bad behavior can lead to terrible consequences. An older mother in our class said she prayed that prayer for her children constantly as they were growing up and no matter *what* they did, God made sure they were caught every time. Just like her son, your kids may hate you for that prayer, but they will be safer and wiser the more they learn from getting caught.

The woman who originally brought up the issue pointed us to a Proverbs 31 devotional responsible for her change of perspective this week. I found the devotional on-line, so you can read more about it. As the writer says, it's much easier to discipline your child for getting a ticket than mourning him because he wasn't caught before he ran into a tree.

Friday, January 11, 2008

New clothes and a super sale

Now don't go quoting me on this, but I *heard* that you can go to Old Navy now, pick up some really cute and heavily clearanced clothes, then take the receipt back when they go on even deeper clearance (like this weekend or so) and get a refund for the difference. Based on this information, we made a trip to the new Old Navy, just to see what we could find. Here's what L wore out today. Is there anything cuter than a little girl in knee-highs? Especially with frogs on them!

So we came home with some new stuff. I let the girls pick what they liked in sizes that *ought* to be big enough to wear next fall, too. They got some really cute stuff that is so totally their own personal style. Even these matching shirts.

A new pair of fleecy pajama pants is K's favorite. (She hasn't taken them off since I made her model them for pictures.) She also loves her new puffy vest, which is exactly what she wanted from the moment she walked in.

L stuck to her favorite color pink and found some very cool pants and a sparkly striped sweater.

You know my favorite part of all this? I only paid a few dollars for each thing!

Happy Birthday, Mr. at Home!

As of today, Mr. at Home is officially as old as I am! At least for another 300+ days when I'll get 3 weeks ahead again. Don't worry, dearest, it's been a good age so far. You know, for all of three weeks.

I hope you have a wonderful birthday!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Two Stories

Tonight was the monthly MOPS meeting, which I skipped the first 3/4 of to attend another meeting where the speakers were missionaries. They spoke about where they're working, what they're doing, and how amazing it is to see God working in so many lives. It reminded me of a story I heard last year on a mission trip and I wanted to share it.

A disabled man moved from the country to the city to find work. He met many other disabled people who told him of a company that had hired disabled men off the streets, an unheard of thing in this culture. The man desperately wanted to work for this company, but he had no way to get his foot in the door.

One day he met a preacher who spent a long time talking to him about God. The man said it sounded interesting, but there was no way he could believe it was true. The preacher challenged him to pray and ask God for something, something that seemed impossible, and see what happened. The man, naturally, prayed for a chance to work at the wonderful company.

Later that week, the man was sitting on a street corner when a foreigner approached him and struck up a conversation. After speaking for a bit, the foreigner asked him about where he lived, if he had a job, etc. No, I have nothing, the man answered. The foreigner said he owned a company and he would like the man to come to his office on Monday to see if they could find something for him to do. He gave the man money to last through the weekend and handed him his business card. The disabled man took one look at the card and tears came into his eyes. He explained, "I asked God to give me a chance to speak to someone at your company and God has sent the president."

Cause God works big like that, people.

At the end of tonight's presentation, an older gentleman from our church stood up and asked to share a quick story. As he said, God's not just working in foreign missionary fields. The gentleman, BT, was recently out to get a haircut, but his normal place was booked and his backup wasn't in business anymore. He headed out to find another shop, missed his turn, ended up at a shopping center and finally found a place. He went in to find the shop filled with women, but was assured that someone there could take care of him. He was directed to a chair and struck up a conversation with the stylist that very quickly led to spiritual matters (BT, he is bold). He asked the woman if she was going to heaven when he died and she simply replied, "No. I don't know how." BT jumped right in and asked if he could explain it to her, so she walked off, pulled up a stool, and sat looking him right in the face. By the end, tears were running down her cheeks. She said, "You're going to think I'm crazy, but last night I prayed that God would please send someone to me today who could explain just what you've told me."

God is answering prayers in the streets of Asia and the salons of America and he is doing big, huge, amazing things. Are you praying for big, huge, amazing things? Go ahead, God will answer.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Since I did one...

...I may as well keep it going. Why? Cause we're going insane at the speed of crazy! (I found that quote yesterday on something K was reading or watching and loved it.) Here's my responses to Marybeth's questionnaire.

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? I have my aunt's middle name. My parents picked my first name from a book of baby names. They started at A and argued all the way to Valerie.
2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? I don't cry much, so I don't remember
3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? Yes, especially since I started teaching K to write cursive and I had to work on mine
5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? 2 girls
7. DO YOU USE SARCASM? Who? Me? As if!
8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Yes, but I've never seen them
9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? I'm not sure. I'd love the initial fall, but the whole bouncing around afterward I think would make me toss my cookies
10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? cracklin' oat bran
11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? I purposefully choose shoes that don't tie
12. DO YOU THINK YOU'RE STRONG? Heck, my name *means* strong
13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? The gold medal stuff from Baskin Robbins
15. RED OR PINK? Red
17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? my family back in Texas
18. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU? Not really, but I wouldn't mind reading it on your blog
19. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? dark jeans and I prefer not to wear shoes
20. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? Mexican food at dinner, but I'm about to have to find me something sweet
21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? Nothing except the clicking of the keys and I'm loving it!
23. FAVORITE SMELLS? Lavender, Yankee Candle Harvest, and bergamon corriander from Bath & Body Works (then they discontinued the scent and ruined my life)
25. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? I would hope so since I spent an entire afternoon sewing her daughter's Brownie patches on her vest and I wouldn't do that for just anyone
27. HAIR COLOR? brown, sometimes kinda red, depending on my mood and chemical reactions
28. Eye color? Blue
29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? My parents got me contacts after I broke my glasses for the one hundred and eleventyeth time playing basketball in jr. high, then I switched back to glasses, then LASEK
30 FAVORITE FOOD? expensive steak
32. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? Cheetah Girls 2 (why yes, I *do* have a preteen girl at my house)
33. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? white, with a couple of manwich stains from lunch
34. SUMMER OR WINTER? Summer, as the kids can play outside more often
35. HUGS OR KISSES? hugs, but only sometimes. I'm kinda touch phobic
37. MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND? I could name a few
38. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND? Usually me. I don't know what got into me today
39. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? Memoirs of a Geisha
40. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? I have a Macbook with a touchpad
41. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV.Late LAST NIGHT? I don't really watch TV. Too busy reading and blogging
42. FAVORITE SOUND? the first time I heard K cry
46. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Terrell, TX (just like Jamie Foxx!) After I was born, they tore down the hospital

A Day In the Life of Valerie at Home

A friend posted a link to a blog that's doing a fun little activity today. You write a post about your day. What does it look like? What do you do? So here's my contribution and you can click on the squirrel picture to go over to the original site to read more.

A Day In the Life of Valerie at Home

A day...a day...okay, how about a typical Wednesday? Why Wednesday? Why not? It's in the middle of the week and our most consistently scheduled day. The girls are also rather partial to Wednesday. It runs a close second to any Thursday we have Community Bible Study in the morning, especially if it's one of the two each month that we follow CBS with girl scouts.

So here goes.

It's dark 30 and Mr. at Home leaves for the bus stop and I wake up just long enough to kiss him goodbye then fall back asleep.

Sometime later, I hear the girls downstairs talking and the TV comes on. I drag myself outta bed and get ready for the day. I sit down and flip on the computer while issuing orders to the girls to get dressed and ready. Once the girls reappear (if L doesn't have an hour long meltdown over the dressing process), we sit down at the table to start school.

Only then do the girls announce that they haven't eaten breakfast. Sigh. So I send them to the kitchen to find something to eat and I get a little more reading time. 15-20 minutes later, we finally get started with our calendar time and Bible lesson.

We use the A Beka curriculum where I have the full school curriculum for K and a mixture of workbooks for L including A Beka and a few other things I've picked up from places like teacher stores and Target. We do calendar and Bible all together, then I get one child started on an individual assignment so I can work one-on-one with the other while we're all sitting together at the table, then we switch. It reminds me of when I was in elementary. I went to a very small school and for 1st and 2nd grade, I was in a split class. That meant that about 12 1st graders faced one chalkboard and about 12 3rd graders faced the other chalkboard. Mrs. Johnson would have to split her time and attention between us and we learned to tune out the other grade's lessons. For second grade, I moved to the other side of the room since that year, Mrs. Johnson had 1st and 2nd. I'm just thankful I only have 2 and not 20+.

We stay together at the table unless K has a test, at which point L has to go play in her room while we do that. Then, as you can imagine, the 3-year-old finishes her work first (K's goal is to one day finish her school before L) and I send her off to play. Some days she willing disappears into her room to play with her Barbies and some days she seems bent on sticking close and annoying K. Those are the fun days. Generally K and I finish up the class stuff fairly soon after L in done, that leaves K at the table to finish up her various worksheets assignments. In the middle of all this school fun, I'm generally switching out loads of laundry, fixing lunch if we happen to go long, handling phone calls and emails, and fitting in whatever little tasks I can during quiet moments.

But let's remember this is Wednesday and that throws a little kink into our well-oiled school machine. At 10:15, I pull L away from whatever she working on and get her dressed in her dance clothes. K gets her work sorted back into her folder and I grab a book/my knitting/curriculum guide/something to do for the 45 minute class, then we run out the door and drive over to the dance studio. K and I sit and work while K taps and twirls to the delight of her frilly pink heart.

We normally head back home for lunch right after class, but we sometimes run an errand or two since we're already out. Once we do get home, we finish up whatever's left of school and then we have the afternoon free for play and housework.

Around 5 we load back into the van and drive over to the bus stop to pick up Daddy, then it's off to church for the Wednesday night dinner and activities. We like to eat at church since the food's good, cheap, and plentiful and it makes our night a little less crazy. The girls love their Wednesday night classes and while they're happily singing, playing, and learning, Mr. at Home and I find a quiet little corner and we sit and talk grown-up talk. WIth no kids interrupting. And no housework to be done. And no computer calling "Come read more blogs!". Yep, we like Wednesdays, too.

By the time we get home, it's after L's bedtime and she goes straight to bed. K spends some time winding down, then she's off to bed, too. Mr. at Home and I usually waste away the rest of the evening lounging with our respective laptops, then it's off to bed for us, too.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Homeschooling Treasure Hunt

Today has been a good day. After 2 frustrating days of trying to get back into the school routine and never feeling like we got in anything worthwhile, we hit the jackpot today. The girls both attacked school with good attitudes, excitement even, right from the time we sat down with pencils in hand.

What made the difference, you're asking?

Erin from Embracing my Cup. And she doesn't even know it.

Last night I was catching up on my blog reading and I came across a post from Erin about a treasure hunt she set up for her boys. It involved maps, shovels, and a treasure chest and it looked like a lot of fun. Sheesh, why can't I ever be that creative?

Then I hit upon THE IDEA OF THE CENTURY. I broke down both girls' schoolwork into individual activities, then added a few chores and a couple of breaks. I wrote the activities down onto slips of paper - white for K, orange for L - and taped them to the bottom of things around the kitchen, dining room, and living room. I put them on the bottom of chairs, shelves, tables, even the shelves in the pantry and the drawers in the kitchen. A homeschooling treasure hunt.

I explained the rules to the girls then sent them off to find a paper of the appropriate color. Once they finished each activity, they got to go find another one. We got every class and chore finished quickly and without complaint since they were anxious to go find their next paper. K even had so much fun, she made ME my own papers to find with things like "Do londry" and "Make luch". Thankfully, she also gave me a "7 min. brake" from all those exhausting chores.

We got finished so quickly that I followed another one of K's papers that said, "Plan something" and we're spending the afternoon at Monkey Joe's. If your area doesn't have one of these, start your own franchise. This place is *the best*! You spend a few dollars to get into a huge warehouse full of inflatables. The kids can run wild and they think you've just given them the biggest treat in the world. But I'll let you in on a little secret; it's just as cool for grown-ups. There are recliners, a big screen TV (today showing classy TV like Jerry Springer), FREE WI-FI, and your kids are caged behind a gate for their safety (and your sanity). It's not nearly as loud and expensive as CEC since there aren't token eating games everywhere with all their bells and sirens. You can actually concentrate enough to write a semi-coherent blog post!

So after a day of being the Best Mom in the Universe, there's one question that can't be avoided.

What can I do that could possibly equal this on Monday?!?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Another Day, Another Crisis

We managed to get in a really long, good Bible lesson in this morning, catching up from where we dropped off to do the Christmas story and enjoying the history of Joshua. I introduced the new memory passage of Psalm 1.

Yes, the whole chapter.

Sheesh, it's only 6 verses. Stop complaining, people.

Then our friends arrived and the girls disappeared into their respective rooms to do...whatever it is that little girls do. They reappeared periodically to ask questions like "Can I borrow your computer so our Webkinz can hang out together?" and "Can you put this wedding dress on me?" and "Can I have a snack?" No, but I'll fix lunch.

I head into the kitchen, dump a bag of fish sticks on a tray and turn on the oven to preheat. You know, we've been having some issues with the oven the last couple of days, maybe I'll check to see if it's getting hot. Open it up, the top heating element is working, but the bottom doesn't seem to be. Look a little closer. I see the problem. The bottom heating element is broken. Not in just that it isn't getting hot. It's literally broken into 2 pieces. Fabulous.

This is why I love living in an apartment. I called the office to report the problem and they're going to send someone over to look at it today. There will be no repairman leaning back on his heels and saying stuff like, "Yep, it'll run ya." Someone else is responsible for fixing and paying for it. Of course, they'll probably have to order a replacement part so it looks like it'll be a couple of days before I can bake anything.

I did a quick mental check of the food inventory and realized I have nothing else in sufficient quantities to feed 5 people. Nothing that didn't require the oven. And massive effort. So I announced to the kids that we would be going out for lunch. You know what they did? They groaned! And complained! And K pleaded to stay home and eat leftovers! Where are these kids FROM?!?

So we raided the fridge. The oldest girls ate chicken and pasta, the younger girls ate scrambled eggs, and I had sausage balls from the NYE party. Cheaper than eating out and it helps keep the fridge clean and uncluttered. It's a win-win situation! At the moment they're in the kitchen scooping up ice cream because I said they could have it, but *I* wasn't making it for them. I'm too busy blogging, because what fun is a crisis if you can't share it with the world?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

It's Chaos as Usual

Today marked the first day back to our daily routine. Back to school, but only for 3 days this week. It would make for a great time to get back to an organized, structured, calm school time with each lesson receiving our undivided attention, each lesson plan completed in full, and each worksheet being explained, completed, checked, and corrected on-time.

And then Reality called and roared with laughter at my silly plans.

So we started the day with L spending an hour and a half crying because I asked her to get dressed. Oh, the horror! While L was having her nuclear meltdown, I got K organized and started on her work. I finally got L calmed down, put her Barbies in toy jail as punishment, got her dressed for her dance class, got K's work and some of my own packed up, and whisked them both out the door.

Only to discover that it's freezing outside and we're in light jackets. In the interest of time, I figure what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger, and we take off. Yes, I am the mean mother who makes her other kid sit on the floor at the dance studio and do her work, and I even get K's phonics lesson in while L is doing her class. (Who says "homeschool" has to take place at home?) When L finished, I noticed her arms and hands are freezing since she only owns the one sleeveless leotard, so we stop by McD and Target on the way home for a long-sleeved leotard.

We get back home where I make the kids put on warmer clothes and sit them down yet again to finish school. L finishes her work quickly then devotes herself to doing whatever it takes to annoy her older sister. Older sister decides that *everything* L does annoys her, so it was an...interesting...afternoon and they both got sent to bed early.

Will tomorrow be any better? Nope, we've got just a couple of hours first thing in the morning to squeeze in a little school, then we go from 2 little girls to 4 little girls due to some emergency childcare needs. We keep them until it's time to load everyone up to head over to spend the afternoon at girl scouts. And the day is gone.

So we're back in full swing over here at Valerie at Home. Valerie at Dance. Valerie at the Store. Valerie at Girl Scouts. Valerie at Crazy. Yep, just plain crazy.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Out with the old, it's Happy New Year!

I'm hoping your New Year has gotten off to a fabulous start. Of course, for those of us who are parents of young children who let them stay up far too late last night, it's been a bit of a whine-fest so far.

Of course, the fun of hanging out with good friends last night makes even the whine-fest more bearable.

Today has been a day of clean starts. Clean being the operative word. This is my refrigerator after Mr. at Home commented on the smell in there again.
I even reconfigured the door shelves.
It's a beautiful sight. I was inspired by my work in the fridge, that I continued and cleaned the whole kitchen, then started cleaning the living room, which let to putting away all the Christmas decorations and organizing the coat closet so all the games would fit back neatly on their shelf.
Now we don't have to duck and cover every time we open the coat closet!

After all that physical exertion, I sat down and finished my photo backup of 2007. Tomorrow will involve a trip to the post office to ship off the backup CDs, my sister and BIL gifts, and my other sister's gift. Well, maybe I'll just commit to getting them there this week. I wouldn't want to overexert myself on Day 1.