Sunday, June 29, 2008

THE aWAYkening

Acts 2
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common

Doesn’t this passage remind you of a conference? I can just picture it.

Join us in Jerusalem for

THE aWAYkening

Keynote Speaker: Barnabas

You are sure to be blessed by the dynamic teaching of some of the most influential leaders of Christ’s followers as they present powerful messages on topics such as:

  • Sharing the Gospel: How to tell your family and friends that Jesus really is the Messiah and He has forgiven them for the whole crucifixion thing.
  • The Holy Spirit: How the apostles are doing all these miracles. There will be a live demonstration.
  • Building a Strong Church: How to develop close relations within the church body. Includes specific instruction on feeding widows fairly and using CraigsScroll to sell personal items, such real estate, in order to distribute money to needy church members.
  • The Martyr’s Speech: How to prepare a powerful gospel message to have ready for your “last words” before you are stoned, crucified, or otherwise put to death for the sake of Christ.
One of the most important parts of THE aWAYkening is the close-knit community that evolves during the conference. All attendees are encouraged to stay near the conference site so that you may participate in communal meals and times of devotion and prayer.

For those who cannot personally attend the conference, Timothy of Challies, one of today’s foremost Christ-following scribes, will be live scribing the event. You can access his scrolls by taking the road to Internetia.

The training provided by THE aWAYkening is intense, emotional, and unparalleled. After the conference, each attendee is fully prepared to be run out of town and go into the world, preaching the gospel to all people groups.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Keep moving forward

Does anyone else out there live their life from one event to the next?

This month has been so busy with big things all over the calendar. K's softball tournament, church picnic, last-minute trip to Texas, She Speaks, L's first dance recital, family visiting here, getting the girls off with family, birthday party, baby shower. I've been surviving by focusing on only the next thing because the sheer magnitude of everything was overwhelming.

The biggest event, a mother/daughter tea baby shower I coordinated and hosted, was today. It turned out beautifully, but I'm so glad it's over and not hanging over my head. I was constantly worried about the food, how many people would actually come, and "shouldn't I be doing something to get ready?" all the time.

I gave myself the rest of the day off. Well, actually, a severe allergic reaction and lots of Benadryl pretty much mandated the rest of the day off. I was relaxing and trying not to think about everything that needs to be done this week. However, the girls called and the first thing each of them asked is how was the work going on redecorating their rooms.

I just can't catch a break.

Tomorrow it's back to my project to clean(out) L's room and change a few things so it looks redecorated. Then I've got to dig out the camping gear and make sure it's all in working order before we head to Texas on Friday. Somewhere in there I need to coordinate with my lead teacher for China Camp and help her with lessons and make sure they even received the girls' applications for camp. Then there's the writing stuff I want to/need to work on and the school decisions that have to made about the upcoming school year.

Wait, tomorrow's Sunday and I do truly need a Sabbath.

All that stuff can wait for Monday.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A post just for K

Here you go, K, a sneak peek at what your room looks like so far...

I took the flower decals off the front of your cabinet and replaced them with flipflops made from scrapbook paper and foam flowers and leaves. I also put all your earrings in your butterfly holder neatly. Please try to keep them that way.

I hope you like the new sheets as much as Tinker (our cat, for those not in the know). She's being taking naps up there lately. I love the flowers I found to go around your lamp. By the way, do you want to keep the Cars poster or put up the beach picture I drew for Grandma?

I put all your trophies on the shelf and found a way to display your FIRST PLACE tournament medal. I even hung up your team photo. I know they're missing you at the summer practices, but you'll be home soon to join them.

Did I tell you what a great job you did on your CAT test? Your scores came back and they are fabulous. Your lowest score was spelling and your best was social studies, but you did very well overall.

I miss you girls lots. It's been way too quiet here and I haven't had an excuse to go to the pool since you left. Just one week from now and Dad and I will be pulling into Grandad's driveway, ready to see you.

I can't wait!

A Psalm by K

As you know, I'm still stuck in K's room cleaning and redecorating. Today, one task was to clean off the old bulletin boards that will be going to L's room and putting some of in up on the new bulletin board. One thing she had posted was a psalm she wrote for CBS last year. I read it again and was amazed by her beautiful use of metaphor (it brought a tear to this former English teacher's eye) as well as the simplicity, wisdom, succinctness, and understanding of a 7-year-old.

A Psalm
by K

My Lord, My God,
You have left my sins behind;
You have also taken Satan and put him behind,
But you raise me up so high,
I land near the front.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

WFMW: Easy, cheap DIY decor for the kids' rooms

Since my kids are off at Camp Grandma for a few weeks, I'm taking the opportunity to clean, purge, rearrange, and redo their rooms. I've gotten a good start on K's and I wanted to show off the really cool decor idea I came up with.

K is getting a tropical theme in her room because Grandma has some stuff from VBS that she said we could have (I love my mom). Since the stuff is still in Texas and is currently decorating a tiki hut classroom, I can't show you the finished product yet, but I can show you what I've been doing to supplement the VBS stuff. And you'll love it because it's *cheap* and all it takes is a little time and a little creativity.

First we have this:

It's a plain cork bulletin board from The Wal-Marts and a yard of fabric - I got mine off the clearance shelf. Using your staple gun...

What? You don't have a staple gun? Go get one! It's cheap and very helpful around the house.

As I was saying, using your staple gun, fold the fabric edges under and tack it down all the way around the board. Don't forget to pull the fabric gently to smooth it and work from the center out along each side. In the picture, you can see the faint outline where the fabric is tucked under, but you can't see it just looking at the board on the wall.

So now we have a neat bulletin board with a swirly blue print that looks like water. After we get back next month, that will have these flower lights wrapped around the frame. For now, you'll just have to imagine it.

Second we have this:

Aren't these cool? I cut the shapes out of foam board and painted them with kid paint from Crayola. The shapes are basic and easy to make, then you get to be creative on the painting. I got the wood look on the board by painting it brown, then immediately painting it over with yellow, then adding some rust red color in spots immediately over that. The colors will blend and just be kinda sloppy and streaky with it. On the surf boards, you can be elaborate like the flowers or very basic like the stripes. Attach it to the wall with some tiny nails and voila! Even if you think it's sloppy or not as perfect as it ought to be, your kids will love it and think it looks cool, especially if it's personalized.

I'm still working on the surround sound system that will play Disney's "Tiki tiki tiki tiki room" song.

For more Works For Me Wednesday posts, visit Rocks In My Dryer.

Monday, June 23, 2008

All my new BFFs from SheSpeaks

Have you ever been so stinkin' excited about something that you hop out of bed early, rush through your morning routine, and discover that it's way too early to leave yet? Then you decide to go ahead and leave anyway?

Friday morning, I got to the hotel very, very early for SheSpeaks. So I wandered upstairs where I met Carrie McGinty of P31 and had a great conversation about publisher appointments (she was headed to one).

I then wandered downstairs to the lobby and happened upon a conversation *about me* where I met Emily and Amy Jo talking about Chinese adoption. We started a great conversation, then took it over to Chick-Fil-A to keep it going. Why Chick-Fil-A? Because Amy Jo had never had Chick-Fil-A. And get this.

You will gasp in horror when you read it.

Amy Jo had never tasted sweet tea.


But she is from the northwest, so it's understandable. Thankfully she liked it.

I had to race out of CFA to head to Chili's for lunch with some of the bloggers. And I met...

Robin - who is tiny as a toothpick with a personality that will fill up a room. She is a blast!

LisaB - who is totally comfortable in her skin and I love that she rides a Harley. I'm also supremely jealous of her shopping trip with Sheri, another new BFF.

Dawn - the ultra-talented web designer of some of my favorite blog looks. BTW, Dawn, after Mr. at Home worked on my blog, he said you don't charge nearly enough!

Back at the actual, you know, conference, we stood around watching people coming in, trying to identify people from their blog pictures. As Robin said, it was like Hollywood for bloggers.

At the bloggers' reception, I met Big Mama and BooMama because I caught them standing alone for a moment and pounced. I will tell you they are exactly like they write. Melanie is tall, model-thin with great hair and fabulous fashion sense and I absolutely *loved* Sophie's southern accent! A few minutes later, I met Shannon from Rocks in My Dryer, but I didn't recognize her even though I've seen pictures. She is tiny and cheerleader cute and a blast to talk to and shop with, trotting through the mall in search of flip-flops.

As I was talking to Marybeth, she introduced me to Megan, who was my editor for my story in I'm Glad I'm a Mom! I almost started singing "You are the wind beneath my wings", but I decided to just talk to her instead. I'm sure she's thanking her lucky stars.

At a table in the hall, I met Emily who has the most fabulous haircut ever and she was such fun to spend time with. She was in my peer critique group and is a wonderful writer.

At dinner, I met Fawn, who had great hair and the gumption to rent an RV and drive halfway across the US with her mom and 5 kids (only 3 were hers) for the conference, and Christie who is such a practical, encouraging person. I loved them!

There was Jo-Lynne who helped me get tickets to Sheri's "fashion show" by telling Sheri we wanted to go, which prompted Sheri to stop me in the hall and tell me that there were 3 tickets waiting for us at the desk - woohoo! Then I had to track Jo-Lynne all the way around the hotel to give her her ticket.

I spent Saturday night's bloggy buddies dinner across from Sarah and enjoyed just talking about cooking and acting and blogging. She gave me a yummy looking recipe that I think I may be cooking tomorrow night.

One of my most exciting moments was when I headed to Lisa's car to go to dinner Saturday night and I caught a glimpse of a name tag that read "It Coulda Been Worse". I almost fell over, "You're DEEDEE!?!?" I think I scared her. But hers was the second blog I ever read and I totally heart her blog. Trust me, she is just as fun in person.

Since this is getting long and Mr. at Home will be "at Home" soon and wanting dinner, I am cutting it off. There are a ton more people that I met and loved and drew encouragement from and I miss you all already!

It has taken me all day to sit down and write this post

Why has it taken all day to sit myself down and write this post?

Reason #1

Because I slept until 10:30.


And that was even after an indecently long nap yesterday afternoon. SheSpeaks is a fabulous, wonderful, life-changing event, but life-changing can be exhausting.

Reason #2

Mr. at Home called and invited me to lunch. And I wasn't about to miss a lunch date with the coolest guy on the planet so I could write a post.

Reason #3

Right in the middle of that lunch date, the facility that I reserved for a baby shower this weekend (my apartment complex clubhouse) called. You see, they're just not sure if the renovations are going to be complete by Saturday and could we maybe just move it to the theater room?

Ya'll, it almost turned me into a cursing woman.

After an hour or so, a few phone calls, and plenty of tongue-biting, we've gotten things kinda rearranged so they might work. We'll just have to see if the "kinda" and "might" turn into something a little more definite and we get this mother/daughter tea pulled off.

You know, after all that, I'm going to take a break, go do some laundry, and come back and have 2 fabulous posts ready for you about what a fabulous weekend I had and all the fabulous women I met and all the fabulous things I learned.

It'll be fabulous.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Thank the Lord for Sea Salt Pretzel Caramel

I am playing hooky from a sorta session this evening. Between the lack of sleep, the energy involved in being around 559 new people all day, all the names and faces and wonderful people I have met, and a massive headache, I decided that I really needed a quick break to find some Tylenol and some quiet for my poor little introverted soul.

I left the hotel and took off up the road to the totally cool SuperTarget I saw yesterday. You see, we don't have SuperTargets near where I actually LIVE and that might be something for Target to do something about.

I wandered in, found the Tylenol, and as I was walking out the doors, I saw an angel. An angel in a red apron. An angel giving away ice cream. Whole pints of ice cream.

Cue the Hallelujah chorus.

I almost wept great big ol' crocodile tears when I had to tell her that I was at a conference and I didn't have a freezer. And when she leaned over and said, "There are spoons over there, you can just eat it on the way," I could've hugged her, but that would've taken too long.

Believe you me, I whipped over to the counter, grabbed a spoon, snatched that ice cream from the girl, and RAN before she could change her mind.

It was Sea Salt Pretzel Caramel and it was heavenly. Oh my word, it was heavenly. Salty and sweet, crunchy and creamy. Those fudge-covered pretzels. Words just can't describe it.

I sat in my car and *ate the whole pint*.

It was complete refreshment for my soul. I'm about to head back over to the conference and make all my new bloggy friends totally jealous :-)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Confession time

I did not even open the file containing my article yesterday. I thought about it and mentally changed one phrase, but I filled my time with some cleaning that desperately needed to be done and some that I just wanted to do. So I tied my hair up in a bandanna, which is my way of getting into the cleaning mindset, and went to work. I cleaned the master bath first and about 10 minutes after I started, I remembered my iPod. But it was downstairs and I was elbow-deep in Comet, so I finished the whole room, singing to myself. Because cleaning just isn't cleaning without some tunes.

Then iPod going full-blast, I cleaned the girl's bathroom, rejoicing that it will STAY clean this time since they are out of town - whoopee! Yes, it the little things in life that thrill me.

After that, I was still jamming with the tunes, so I tackled my big project for my mommy vacation.

I cleaned K's room.

Now K is pretty good about keeping things generally picked up, but she is a packrat. How much of one, I didn't realize until I started cleaning her room. Shhh, don't tell her, but I threw out 2 garbage bags and 1 large box full of *junk* - happy meal toys, scraps of paper, old watch bands, church bulletins, and who knows what all else. I figure the girl's going to be gone for over a month and she won't remember any of it by the time she gets back. I cleaned out every drawer, shelf, and box and reorganized everything.

Basically so she can spend next school year collecting more junk.

At any rate, things are looking better in there and I have a few more things I want to finish before K comes home and we redecorate her room as a tropical paradise. Hummn, maybe I should get a beach chair and escape into there every once in awhile myself. But the rest will have to wait as I refocus on the SheSpeaks stuff. I completely finished my article this morning - down to 750 words one the nose, thankyouverymuch. This afternoon I'm using my Mother's Day gift certificate and getting a pedicure.

Yes, that's for the conference.

Ok, maybe it's just for me :-)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A confidence boost

Tonight after dinner I shut myself up in the bedroom and hammered out the ending for my article. I am happy to say it is completely written and only 31 words over the limit - yes!! Tomorrow I plan to work it down to 750 words and get two copies double-spaced, printed, and ready for Friday's peer review. I will be so happy to have that task completed.

In other news, my Valerie at Home business cards arrived in the mail yesterday and they look fabulous. It's so cool to actually have business cards again. You know, like I'm a grown-up. And since I had business cards, I needed a little case to carry some in, so I made a trip out to my favorite Target and bought the last little red card holder they had. It perfectly matches the sassy new bag I found to carry my laptop, my cards, and those double-spaced copies of my article.

I have been wanting/needing a laptop bag and I had created this vision of the *perfect* bag. Small enough to be easy to carry, but large enough to carry everything I need. Stiff sides so I could slide it upright under my chair. A few pockets to organize stuff, but plenty of open space to put odd sized items. The absolute most essential feature was that it had to be *cute* AND affordable.

Do you know what?

I actually found it.

I was wandering through Wal-Mart with my mom last week and there was my vision sitting on a shelf in the craft section. Bold black and white pattern with red straps. Stiff and sturdy construction, large interior, and pockets on the outside of one end. And $19.96. I snatched it up and haven't let go of it since. Technically, it's a sewing/craft bag (one end is padded and is supposed to be a pin cushion), but it makes one heck of an "I'm going to a conference and need to carry lots of stuff while looking like a Cool Rock Star" bag.

Even if my peer reviewers hate my article, at least they'll rave about my bag.

I'm running out of days!

Today is Tuesday and my schedule is packed as usual. A birthday party for lunch and then straight to my friend's house to help her pack. Dinnertime will come before I expect it and then another day is gone and SheSpeaks is that much closer.

With all the excitement that's been going on the past week or two, I haven't had much time to think (worry) about SheSpeaks and how I haven't gotten my article written, but I came home to an inbox full of emails from Proverbs31 with last minute details and reminders. Oh, right. That's this weekend and the insecurities started surfacing.

A few weeks ago, I made a monumental decision. One with life-altering effects.

I decided to let my hair color grow out.

In order to understand the magnitude of this decision, you have to know a little bit about my genetics. Out of 4 kids, I am the only one who inherited my father's dark hair, pale skin, and freckles. My dad has been going gray as far back as I can remember, which means that I shouldn't have been surprised to find my first gray hairs IN COLLEGE. Since then, Miss Clairol and Miss L'Oreal have been my best friends, but I've been growing ever more frustrated with them for the past few years.

Those girls are *expensive* friends. We get together every 6 weeks or so and I always spend a small fortune for the "privilege" of hanging out with them. I have come to resent the 2 hours they demand and I just finally decided to ignore their emails and resist their siren calls of "just one more visit" and "you'll look so good with those highlights". I may go through withdrawals over the next many months as I go through the emotional pain of clown-like quad-colored hair, but I just keep reminding myself that I will be better off. The addiction to Miss Clairol and Miss L'Oreal will be but a distant memory and I will be the fabulous 34-year-old with the gray hair cut in some ultra-cool style.

But until then, this is what I look like.
I'll just have to get over it and hope no one at SheSpeaks notices.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The stories of two soldiers

The explosion deafened the soldiers as a cloud of dust engulfed two of the trucks in their convoy. Believing there was no way anyone had survived the blast, they raced to the nearest truck. Two soldiers were on the ground, having fallen from the top gunner positions - wounded, but alive. The calls for a medic went unanswered as there were no medics in the group. One of the wounded soldiers, a sergeant, asked for a first aid kit and someone ran back to retrieve it. As the two injured men patched each other up, the soldiers inside the truck were found to be unharmed. The wounded sergeant was the first to lead the others to the first truck, the one that hit the land mine. The entire front end had been blown off, but the truck’s equipment protected its occupants and they had all miraculously survived.

As the soldiers surveyed the area, they realized that they had driven into a minefield. They radioed for assistance, but no one was available. They would have to get themselves out.

The wounded sergeant was a combat engineer and the only member of the team with the necessary training to operate the bomb equipment. In spite of a concussion, a deep gash, severe bruising to his legs and back, and crippling pain, the soldier walked in front of the convoy with the detection device for over 12 hours as he carefully guided their way through the minefield. The sergeant did his duty and brought them all to safety.

That wounded sergeant?

That was my brother.

Last week when I was home, our family hometown was draping itself in red, white, and blue. Flags sprouted from every pole and their jaunty stripes lined every median along two main streets. It looked as if a proud patriotic celebration was coming until your eye noticed that the flags that had yesterday snapped so briskly in the summer breeze were hanging quietly at half mast and tiny flags covered every inch of lawn in front of the funeral home.

Another soldier was being brought home, not to cheering crowds, but in a solemn procession lined with tear-streaked faces. Every business showed their support and the local newspaper asked families to fly their flags and come to honor the soldier who died in action in Iraq. Come to honor him, his family, and all those who bravely face injury and death fighting for the things that are good and right in this world.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The grumpiness of jumping back in

For almost *a whole week* I have had no one else to be responsible for except me. Just me to get showered and dressed and if there was whining about the wardrobe choices, well, I couldn't blame anyone but me and my love of all things that are sweet. Just me to get fed. Just me to get out of the house and into the car. Just me to think about when meeting my friend for coffee. Just me to convince that it was time to go to bed.

(You know I can see those dirty looks you're throwing at me right now out of jealousy. Just remember what your mama told you about your face freezing that way.)

We got back in town last night just in time for me to steam out a tutu, glue L's short hair into a "bun", get 7 people into cars and to an auditorium I have never been to, take advantage of an impromptu opportunity for professional pics of L in costume, find an electrical outlet to charge the video camera, get L to and from backstage, and call ahead to get a table for 7 on a Friday night. This morning we got Father's Day gifts for Mr. at Home and my dad, I remembered half the ingredients for beef carnitas, then had to run back to the store for the other half, and put it all together in time to marinate and cook.

After I sent the girls and Grandma to the pool and started cursing at the work of putting the marinade together, Mr. at Home commented that I seemed angry.

Well, I *was* kinda grumpy. I explained that it's hard to jump back into the "Mom" role after some time off. Because my natural laziness is hard to overcome.

Mr. at Home smiled in agreement and said strangely enough, he completely understood. After a lifetime of being responsible for...himself, he got thrown under the bus and had to take over complete responsibility for the house and the girls. Poor guy, but he did a great job. The girls were still alive and well and the house was cleaner than I usually have it.

Only a weekend of "Mom" work, then we load our visitors and the girls into their jeep and they head back to Texas for Camp Grandma and Grandad. Peace and quiet will reign.

And I'll be missing all the chaos like crazy.

Friday, June 13, 2008 own bed

I am back home and so deliriously happy to see my girls and Mr. at Home and my own pillows and my own internet connection.

Because these are the important things in life.

In Granny news, she has experienced a marked improvement over the past couple of days. Thursday morning, her stats were great and she was awake and responsive. The doc gave us the news that it would be weeks or months until she would be able to get off the ventilator, but as soon as we left, he decided she looked great and turned the vent off. She's been breathing on her own for 2 days and will be transferred to a rehab hospital tomorrow. All in all, a bright and happy turn of events.

After talking to the doc on Thursday morning, my mom and I joined my aunt and uncle for the long drive back to NC. Having Uncle Phil and Aunt Shirley along made the drive seem so much quicker and easier. We got home in plenty of time to sit and rest before getting L into all her fluff and stuff for the dress rehearsal. If you've never seen a bunch of 4-year-olds try to do 2 dance routines in front of a large audience, you simply haven't lived. They are hilarious! I got a few pics that I'll post tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Granny update

After a full week of no progress and none of their efforts working to wean her off the equipment, the doctor has called a family meeting for tomorrow morning.

Please pray that the family and doctor will know the best thing to do for Granny and that the family will be at peace with whatever decisions must be made.

The travel plans for me to get back to NC have been up in the air while we waited. As of this morning, my mother, aunt, and uncle were driving back with me then bringing the girls back with them next week. Now we're tentatively planning to leave tomorrow after the meeting, but it depends on what happens then.

So we're still in waiting mode. It's been disappointing that they have had to keep her sedated my whole visit and they've asked us not to touch or talk to her because she can still hear us and gets agitated. But I know that even if I don't get to talk to her now or get a chance before she dies, we will still have plenty of time for conversation in heaven. And that's reassurance.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Valerie NOT at Home

On Saturday the news from Texas was not promising, so by evening I had boarded a plane headed back. Granny's condition had quickly deteriorated and it was simply time to go see her. As of today, she is doing a tiny bit better, but we have been warned to not talk to her or touch her as it gets her agitated and her heart rate is still too high. It's been good to just be able to be here for and with my family.

I am very grateful that Mr. at Home quickly told me to go and willingly took on the girls and their activities for the week. Of course, the first day is the very busiest with lots to do and lots of details to think of and remember. Today there are 2 swim parties and a sleep-over with all the towels, swimsuits, sunscreen, floaties, toys, snacks, overnight bags, etc. If you have a minute or two this week, please say a few prayers for Daddy's sanity.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Championship Game

K plays softball.

K *loves* softball.

Friday night K's team plays for the county-wide 8U bracket B championship and boy are we excited!

Her team has made it past 2 rounds of tournament games and has pummeled each opponent, playing better than they've played all year. K had to miss the round 2 game with heat exhaustion. That's what happens when you spend 3 1/2 hours at the pool and refuse to drink anything because you don't particularly care for the drinks Mom brought. Tomorrow we are staying away from the pool and doing only indoor activities with plenty of cold air conditioning. Except for the home school yard sale in the park in the morning, because that is one thing we do not miss. Because there is books! And games! And toys! And curriculum! And homemade cookies! But after that, we'll find some air conditioning.

Of course, we'll then stuff them into their wool socks and toss those little girls out into the 97 degree heat and tell them to Hustle! Ah, the joys of summer in the South.

Updates on the medical issues round here

Ok, they're technically not "round here". One is in Texas and one in Iraq, but we're following them closely from here.

The current news on my Granny is that she is continuing to improve in small steps. They have her completely sedated because every time she starts to wake up, she starts pulling out her breathing tube. They are running a huge battery of tests and we're waiting for the results. She's not out of danger, but she is better. For now I'm waiting to see what happens before making any plans to go out there.

I also got to talk to my brother Aaron in Iraq. He, his chaplain, and the Red Cross are working to get him on a plane back to Texas because of Granny's situation. He won't get official approval until tomorrow, but they told him to pack tonight so it looks like it's going through.

In other Aaron news, there is a possibility that his back injury might get him bounced out of Iraq and stationed back in the States. He's under orders to do *nothing* for 10 days, then if there's still a problem, he'll see a specialist. Of course, the trip to Texas will delay that, but it's a good sign.

So we're all in a wait and see pattern.

And the winner of the bracelet is...



This morning I wrote everyone's name on a piece of paper, folded them up, and had K draw the winner. She drew Heather's name.

Then L insisted on drawing a winner, too. So I let her draw a piece of paper and she pulled out Heather's name also. (Heather left a comment both here and on Mr. at Home's blog, so she got her name in twice.) I guess Heather was just meant to have the bracelet.

So I'll drop this in the mail within the next day or two. In the meantime, K and L will be playing "giveaway" with all their friends and treasured possessions because they thought the whole process was HUGE fun!

Thanks everyone for participating!

When you're awake in the middle of the night

If your skin is crawly, itchy, hot, and hivey, it's really hard to sleep. Even after taking 3 Benadryl.

Now that, my friends, is when you know you have built up some serious immunity to Benadryl.

Anyway, when the allergies are keeping you up at night, you come to two conclusions.

  1. I am positively tomorrow going back to my turkey, ham, and green bean diet. My skin will thank me even if my taste buds don't.
  2. My husband would probably appreciate it if I stopped tossing, turning, and scratching and just get up and read some blogs.

I'm glad I decided to read some blogs, because Rocks In My Dryer posted a giveaway! And not just any giveaway, folks. This is a STACK 'o CDs from Wow Hits 1 that includes the Wow Hits 1 CD PLUS one CD from every artist represented on that compilation. It's a summer music extravaganza.

If you're interested in competing with me to fill up my new iPod, then visit the Rocks In My Dryer blog and follow the instructions.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

So much going on

Today I was planning a cookout with a friend and her kids who will soon be moving to Louisiana. Unfortunately, they had a hard day and weren't able to make it. There is much up in the air regarding their future, including whether they are even moving after all, and the confusion and uncertainty is taking a toll on them.

30 seconds after I hung up from my friend, my mother called. My paternal grandmother, Granny, is in the ICU and the prognosis from the doctor is grim. Her health has been going down for several years and she has been experiencing many more problems lately. This latest crisis has not been unexpected, but it is still a hard thing. Currently, she is stabilized, but she recognizes no one and the doctor is still saying it could be anytime.

This evening as I spoke to my mother again, I learned more about my brother's situation. He is in the army and on his second tour in Iraq. Over Memorial Day weekend, he and his men were out on a mission when their truck hit a land mine. My brother is the guy who sits on top of the vehicle behind the machine gun and the shock wave from the blast threw him out. The guys were stuck in the mine field for over 12 hours as they painstakingly searched out land mines and detonated them so they could get out. My brother, Aaron, suffered a concussion and the doctor reading the CAT scan saw something he couldn't identify, so the scan results have been shipped off to a specialist and we're waiting on the results. Aaron also has deep, severe bruising on his legs and back - even his kidneys were bruised - and the doctors have said it will be a long healing process. Last we heard, he is on "light duty" and lots of painkillers.

There is much cause for prayer in the At Home house tonight and my own plans are up in the air. The last essential load of laundry is in the dryer so that if I get a call during the night, I can pack up and head home to Texas tomorrow.

WFMW: The List and the Art Supply Cabinet

Today I'm offering 2 boredom chaser ideas.

Why 2?

Because I'm supposed to be cleaning/doing laundry and it seems that I have 2 brain cells left that each had only one idea.

Idea #1

  • Take a large piece of poster board and a sharpie.
  • On this poster board, write down as many activities as you and the kids can think of that do not in any way involve the TV. Try to keep them simple and something the kids can do on their own.
  • Get two pieces of masking tape and tape that sucker so that it hangs from the top of the set and completely covers the TV screen.
  • Whenever your kids wander in and try to turn on the TV, complaining that they can't see the screen because there's this poster hanging in the way, refer them to "The Great List of Summer Funness" and tell them to pick an activity.
  • The masking tape makes a good hinge, so as soon as the kids are in bed, you can flip the poster out of the way and watch whatever you want. It's pure genius, people.

Idea #2

  • Find a cabinet/drawer/large paper bag.
  • Fill it with art supplies - pom-poms, googly eyes, scissors, feathers, glue, stickers, construction paper, paint with water books, watercolors, foam shapes, etc.
  • Get a large sheet of hard plastic to protect the table. You can also use wax paper and masking tape or those plastic place mats from the baby aisle.
  • Make it available to the kids to make whatever they want as long as they follow two rules - they must use the table protector and they must clean up when they're done. If the rules aren't followed, then the art supplies go into time-out.
You will be amazed at how well this can entertain those kids.

For more ideas to combat summer boredom (and Mommy breakdowns), visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Grand (re)Opening!!

Welcome to the new and improved Valerie at Home!!

After hours of hard labor under a persnickety task master, Mr. at Home has produced a beautiful theme for my blog. Fonts, graphics, icons, heck, even the Google ads are in the new custom color scheme. It's a simple, clean look in my favorite sunny happy colors and I am so incredibly happy.

So what do you think? Do you like it? Is it working in your browser?

Of course, no grand opening is complete with prizes! And games! And a balloon artist! And cotton candy! I can't do much about the cotton candy, but I can do a give-away. This morning I made a quick run to the craft store in search of something with pink and orange circles. The thing that caught my eye was the glass beads.

In celebration of the new Valerie at Home theme, I am giving away one beautiful bracelet made this morning while I sat by the pool watching my kids swim. What? You don't make jewelry poolside? But see what you're missing!
To enter the drawing for the beautiful Valerie at Home themed bracelet, simply leave a comment on this post. As an added bonus, if you leave a comment on Mr. at Home's post, then I'll enter your name in the drawing twice. I KNOW! THE EXCITEMENT!

So get commenting and I'll draw the winner Wednesday night at 9 pm EDT.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Socialization of a 7-year-old homeschooler

Considering that our summer tour is coming up quickly, I'm putting in some advance prep for next school year. I've pretty much settled on our curriculum, but I'm still working on what our "extras" will be.

"Extras" are the outside classes and activities that supplement what we do at home. Like socialization and learning to interact with peers.

Because I just don't have a gaggle of 7- and 4-year-olds cluttering up my living room.

So far -

Wednesday - (afternoon) dance class for L, (evening) church classes for both
Thursday - (morning) Bible study with age-appropriate classes for both

K will play either basketball or softball, but I have got to find at least one class for her. One filled with kids (preferably girls) her age where they have some time to interact because she needs some more opportunities to find new friends.

You see, K isn't terribly confident when it comes to making friends. She doesn't know how to introduce herself and join in whatever activity is going on. She's always been kind of a control freak (yeah, yeah, I know, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree) and would much rather be in the center of things rather than the new-comer.

In light of that, I'm looking for a class or a co-op for K and I'm going to try to work on something myself. You see, since I moved out here, I have yet to find a really good friend that I call up and invite out for coffee or to go to the movies. The two closest women that fit that description are moving away this month, so my search has to start all over. I am going to be intentional about calling people up more often and planning play dates and visits. I'm going to be an example to my daughter that the persistence and the awkwardness involved in starting a friendship is worth it.

I've even already started. We met one friend and her daughters for a movie today, bringing home K's best friend to spend the night. That same friend is coming to swim tomorrow and another friend is coming over with her kids to swim and cook out on Wednesday. Yes, one look at my overflowing calendar for the next 2 days makes me want to hide under my blankets, but friendships do take work. And the reward is fantastic.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

When you give a blogger a new banner...

...she's going to want you to remove the outlines. Then she'll want it centered. Once it's centered, she'll ask the seemingly simple question of "Can you do one of those little icon things that match my new theme and put it in the address bar - all Web 2.0 like? And can you put the icon in front of all the post titles?" Once you pull off that bit of web design wizardry, she'll want all the fonts and font colors to match her new theme.

Just ask Mr. at Home; he'll tell you it's true.

So do you like the banner? I designed it, but it would never have gotten off my little screen if Mr. at Home wasn't willing to spend all weekend being my Techie Superhero, learning all kinds of new stuff about web templates and graphics and putting it into practice. He didn't even blink when I asked him if it might just maybe be possible to put a little custom icon next to my url in the address bar. Because that would be SO COOL! So he searched and read and fiddled and even moved where my blog is hosted and got it up and running. Do you see it up there? Isn't that SO COOL?!?

My blog revamp isn't entirely finished because Mr. At Home has more grand ideas about how to make it all easier to change and maintain. It is however, looking very close to what I want and I'm just so excited to have My Very Own Look.

Next up, new font colors!