Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy (Chinese) New Year!

Guo Nian Hao
Gōngxǐ fācái

Happy New Year! Welcome to the year 4707, the year of the Ox. We celebrated tonight with a trip to that authentic Chinese restaurant, Panda Express. Yes, well, it was the girls' choice.

I put L's hair up into ponytail-nubbin things, which turned out to be a very Chinese-looking hairstyle. Tonight at the restaurant, it was so cute to watch her little 4-year-old self eating her orange chicken and noodles with chopsticks. She'd take one in each hand and push the food together. Once she had some trapped between the sticks, she grabbed both stick with one hand to pick it up and put it in her mouth. She's pretty proficient with those chopsticks for someone so young. I grabbed my cellphone and snapped a few pictures.

Then I snapped one that would be perfect for One Thing's Metaphor Monday. Of course, it doesn't start until next week, but I'm going to go ahead and jump in this week. Because I'm a rebel like that.

By the time L was almost done eating, her hands were tired and put her fork to use, without putting the chopsticks down. As I watched her deftly using both types of utensils, I was struck by how she was balancing her fork and her chopsticks, but it's more than eating utensils. As an internationally adopted child, she will always have to balance her past and her present, her culture and...her culture. When she babbles nonsense words, her voice still retains the Chinese inflections that dominated her first 20 months. Her favorite foods are noodles and rice and the other day she turned down a *chocolate chip cookie* and insisted on a spring roll instead. However, she also loves chicken nuggets and french fries, Barbies and Hannah Montana, playing Chutes and Ladders with her dad, and she's eagerly looking forward to her birthday party at Build-a-Bear. A typical American kid.

A typical Chinese-American kid.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Not-So-Scary Couponing

I have friends that do the whole couponing thing. I mean, they *really* do the couponing thing. In that they buy several papers, clip and file the coupons, visit at least 3 stores on different days to take advantage of what product is on sale at what store on what day. Then they brag that they get their groceries for practically free.

Yeah, sounds great, but I don't have that much time or interest. It sounds like something that would end up being a second job, or 504th, since I'm a stay-at-homeschooling-mom. (I admit that I totally misspelled "homeschooling" the first time I typed it, but I fixed it so you wouldn't fear for the education of my kids. Really, my misspellings are really the least of my teaching shortcomings :-))

Last week, one new friend mentioned the dreaded coupons, but she made it sound much easier. So much easier and laid-back, that I decided it was time to take the plunge. On Sunday, what should appear but a free newspaper on my driveway complete with a large coupon section. Ok, ok, I can take the hint!

I pulled out an old binder, located some dividers, and filled the binder with plastic pages designed to hold baseball cards. I started going through the coupons in the paper with the intention of *only* clipping the ones for stuff we actually use. Surprisingly, that was a whole lot of them. I organized the coupons into 5 categories - Food Aisles, Refrigerated Foods, Frozen Foods, Snacks, and Non-Foods. Then I sat down a few days later and made out a menu for the week based on what I had coupons for. I made a grocery list and waited a couple of days more before I actually had time to go to the store.

This afternoon we hit the local grocery store. I got food for 6 complete meals, plus lunch stuff, snacks, and a few staples. It surprised me how many of the things I had coupons for were on sale just at the one store. Considering that it took me 3 days to find time to visit one store, there's no way I can take the time to go to 3 or 4. In the end, I paid about $100 and saved $30 on loyalty card savings and $50 on coupons. Not too shabby for the first week of coupons!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I have to take a moment and brag a bit

A couple of months ago I decided that I wanted to learn to crochet so I got a few skeins of cheap yarn, a few crochet needles, and a short instruction booklet. I started by creating some little snowpeople with some basic stitches. After 4 of those, I tired of making them and switched to other things. Would you like to see what I've been doing?

First, I made an assortment of outerwear for the girls' dolls.

3 hats with different embellishments, 2 ponchos, and one scarf. Don't these girls look warm, cozy, and oh so stylish? No pattern, just making it up pretty much stitch by stitch.

All these I made either before, during, or on the way home from the Christmas trip to Texas. I made the scarf as soon as it got light on the drive home, but it didn't take long. I then decided to make a hat big enough to fit my big ol' melon. I had it finished before we were out of Georgia, but I wanted to add a decorative border. I finally learned how to do what I wanted and I finished it today. Isn't it awesome?

The last thing is my crowning achievement. The thing that took the most work, learning, and concentration. The girls and I were in the craft store a couple of weeks ago and we wandered through the yarn aisles where they were loading me up with free patterns. And then they found The Perfect One, a pattern for a kid's poncho in bright stripes that made them erupt into covetousness. Checking the back, it said it was easy and it didn't look like it had too many different stitches, but I had never followed a pattern before. I needed a new project, so I decided to take the plunge. K picked out the colors she wanted and I got to work.

Do you know how hard it is to follow the cryptic directions given for crocheting? Some of the abbreviations were in my booklet, some I had to look up, and some parts just had to be done, pulled out, redone, pulled out, redone a different way, pulled out yet again, until I finally got something that worked. I'm still not sure if it's exactly what the pattern called for, but it worked. Check it out.

Isn't it great? The bright colors made me think of candy the whole time I was working on it. K loves it and L wants me to finish one for her already. Soon, kid, very soon.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Don't blink

Every once in awhile I happen to glance at my girls and notice that suddenly they've grown up a whole lot. A certain look, a comment, a different way of fixing their hair. Just something that reminds me that they'll only be little for such a short time.

Already this year, K has gotten glasses and has an appointment next week with the orthodontist. It's like she hit those awkward junior high years all at once and way too early. She's gotten a little more sassy and she's asking for more complicated information. For example, a simple discussion of what "N" stands for on the gear shift led to a discussion of the definition of neutral, neutral countries, WW1, WW2, the Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, atomic bombs, nuclear war, nuclear power plants, 3-Mile Island, Chernobyl, the power plant on the lake near us, and back to shifting gears. With some Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran thrown in there for good measure. That's what I call homeschooling. Or rather "van schooling" since we were on our way to Bible study.

K is playing basketball with her usual all-out enthusiasm and gearing up for softball. She's asking for quarter pounders rather than happy meals. She rides her new bike around our little block all by herself and rides in the front seat of the car sometimes (it's legal here in NC). Her bunny, which was her constant companion since she was a baby, has been seen far less frequently.

Even L is growing so fast. We've been planning her birthday party as she will soon reach that all-important age of *five*. That's another story in itself. As 5 is a pretty big milestone, I wanted her to have a nice party, preferably out of the house so I didn't have to do all the work to clean and organize. We looked into painting pictures and painting pottery, but those get so expensive so quick! I figure if I'm going to spend that much per child, I want to have something they'll get more use out of. So we're having a Build-a-Bear party, which turns out to be much cheaper after all.

L has been growing her hair out since the year of the 3 self-inflicted haircuts. It has finally gotten long enough that I can pull it all back in a ponytail. She is over the moon with excitement over that and it's a great way to wear her hair all pulled back from her pretty face. But it makes her look so BIG! She's started moving past the "will only wear dresses" phase and today was proudly sporting "High School Musical pants and High School Musical shirt and High School Musical jacket". It's the effect of having an older sister.

My babies are growing up. Soon they''ll be teenagers, then moving out, then becoming mothers themselves. But there is hope. Sunday night my mother, her sisters, and one brother had a slumber party at their mom's house. These grandparents and great-aunts and a great-uncle and one great-grandmother sat up late giggling and chattering like small children. I bet my grandmother spent a moment or two reliving the days long past before she blinked and her babies were grown.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Sports have started and our Saturday mornings are effectively booked until June. Today was even busier than usual and Mr. at Home and I had our plan ready. Divide and conquer. He was taking K to her basketball game and I was taking L to a birthday party. Easy.


Yeah, it's never that easy.

Last night was one of the coldest we've had here. It was supposed to get down to either 14, 10, or 4 depending on who you believed. The girls bundled into footie pajamas with lots of blankets, quilts, and comforters and Mr. at Home and I sat up way too late watching TV. As we finally headed to bed, he commented that it was really cold. Like really cold. Colder than it should have been in the house.

He checked the thermostat and it really was colder than it should have been. None of the buttons seemed to elicit any response from the system. He checked the thermostat upstairs and it was completely blank. This was not good. Mr. at Home bundled up and headed outside to check the breaker box. After all, we seem to throw breakers around here a little too often. Nope, all the buttons were in the right position.

So what do you do when it's after midnight on the coldest night of the year and your heat is out? You find the emergency number! And then you decide you don't want to deal with all that drama, so you pull out the space heaters. You open all the cabinets and set all faucets to dripping. You put faith in the fact that you live in a townhouse and that your neighbor's heat with keep your house warm enough. Then you go to bed praying that you don't wake up to a flooded laundry room because the pipes froze and burst. When you wake up in the morning and everything seems okay, you praise God.

We were all up around 7, Mr. at Home called the heating company and they scheduled us between 10 and 10:30.

Remember that basketball game? And the birthday party? Yeah, our obligations were stacking up like planes over La Guardia. So I quickly got dressed, put both girls in the van and I took them both first to the game then the party. Mr. at Home stayed to deal with the heat. When I called him after the game, he couldn't even talk from being so cold. He had to get off the phone and grab some coffee and a space heater.

Turns out the installers "forgot" to install one of the transformers and the repairman brought down a whole mess of wires that were all exposed and touching each other causing the system to short. The guy took it to show his boss. He, thankfully!, got the system back up and running, but at one point his foot slipped off an attic joist and put a large crack in the girls' bedroom ceiling. They're coming back to fix it. Like I said, it's never easy. Maybe next time I'll tell you about how it took 2 months to fix my car. It includes all kinds of fun stuff that involved every related part being boxed wrong at the warehouse and some guy having to open every single box and compare the part inside to a picture of what we needed. On second thought, both I and the service department manager would just like to forget that ever happened.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New garage shelves

One day I noticed a car pull up outside our house and stop. A moment later there was a strange sound at the front door and yet another one of those shiny little flyers was being shoved through the door. Sigh. What I wouldn't give to be free of those annoying things as well as the people who want to sell me cleaning products, meat, security systems, paintings, etc.

This particular flyer was for a man who built shelves in garages. Curiously, Mr. at Home had *just* cleaned the garage out the day before and we had talked about needing shelves to put everything up so we could, you know, actually *park* in our garage. Talk about timing. We caught the guy as he came walking back around, talked to him about what we wanted, and got a quote, which was incredibly reasonable. Then Mr. at Home mentioned that we needed to call a friend who had just gotten his general contractor license and was looking for work. It was a tiny job, but we felt like we needed to see if he wanted it.

We called our friend, Rodney, and he came out and quoted us a comparable price. A couple of days later, this is what our garage looked like.

Isn't that awesome? The best part is that it *still* looks like that over a week later. All our camping stuff is up out of the way, we can get to everything quickly, and the girls have taken a renewed interest in their outside toys since I organized them to where they can easily get them (they're in tubs at the end of the garage near the door, which is why you can't see them in the picture). I can park my minivan in here and open all the doors and walk all the way around it.

If you have any projects that need doing, I can get you his contact info. He does big things like home additions as well as the small stuff. Like very strong shelves in the garage.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Yes, I'm a bowhead and you can be, too!

Over the Christmas holiday Tour of Texas, my oldest had the chance to be a "real" student in a "real" school. My mom asked one of her fellow teachers if she would be willing to have her precious, darling, intelligent, "bowhead" of a granddaughter in her class for a day or two.

What's a bowhead, you ask? A bowhead is one of those sweet little girls who show up to school everyday dressed in a cute dress with an enormous bow perched on top of her perfectly combed hair. She sits in the very front row, gazing with adoration at her teacher, and her hand is the one that shoots in the air before the teacher finishes asking a question. Yep, that's my girl. Except for the dress and bow thing. She's much too tomboy for that.

She did come by her "bowheadedness" honestly; she inherited it from her mother - a perfectionist, eager to please, quick to learn, horrified at the mere thought of getting in trouble. A girl who always wanted to answer the question, work the problem on the chalkboard, or be chosen to simply be *involved*. Funny how I never really grew out of that.

Now, both you and I have a chance to be involved in something HUGE! Amazing! Awe-inspiring! Something that will break your heart and inspire hope like nothing else.

I've posted about Compassion and the trips they have been organizing for various bloggers to go, see, and write about their work. As a result of that first trip, I sponsored a child in India named Nibha. Since that first trip, I have been dying to go on a trip and I've wanted so bad to go to India. Today, I was notified that the next Compassion blogger trip is to India!! I have submitted my blog for consideration and I'm reposting the link here for anyone else who'd like to try to go. If you're interested, go to and enter your blog info. Of course, if you get chosen and I don't, I won't promise not to stow away in your luggage.

I'll even pack a few bows.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I have...

I'm generally not one to do a "meme", but this one looked interesting and easy enough. I also was feeling guilty that I've been kinda neglecting the old blog. So here are a few things you may not have known about me. The things I've done are in bold. The rest are things I haven't gotten to do or things you couldn't pay me enough to do (like #26).

1. Started my own blog

2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band

4. Visited Hawaii

5. Watched a meteor shower

6. Given more than you can afford to charity (except that I like the quote that if you have enough money to buy all the groceries you need, you can "afford" to give to charity)

7. Been to Disneyland/world

8. Climbed a mountain

9. Held a praying mantis

10. Sang a solo

11. Bungee jumped

12. Visited Paris

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child

16. Had food poisoning

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18. Grown your own vegetables

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train

21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitch hiked

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill

24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping

27. Run a Marathon

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

29. Seen a total eclipse

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run

32. Been on a cruise

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors

35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught yourself a new language

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

39. Gone rock climbing

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David

41. Sung karaoke

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant

44. Visited Africa

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance

47. Had your portrait painted

48. Gone deep sea fishing

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris

51. Gone scuba diving or snokeling

52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia

60. Served at a soup kitchen

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies

62. Gone whale watching

Bold63. Gotten flowers for no reason

64. Donated blood, platelets, or plasma

65. Gone sky diving

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp

67. Bounced a check

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten caviar

72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book (I wrote a story in a published book)

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had your picture in the newspaper

85. Read the entire Bible

86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

88. Had chickenpox

89. Saved someone’s life (not to my knowledge)

90. Sat on a jury

91. Met someone famous

92. Joined a book club

93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a lawsuit

98. Owned a cell phone

99. Been stung by a bee

New Year, New Hobby/Obsession, New Look

It's 2009!

Wait, just said that in the last post.

We are officially all back into our regular routine of school, work, cleaning, activities, etc. There is much to do and get ready for this first week back. L started back to dance and K has her second basketball practice Thursday and her first game Saturday. *That* should be interesting. Speaking of K, she had an appointment with the eye doctor this morning. She's been having daily headaches for awhile and I figured it was her eyes. Turns out, I was right, and K is the proud new owner of a nifty set of glasses.

K picked out a very stylish pair of women's frames. Between the simple, understated glasses and the smirk she has from trying to avoid the camera, doesn't she look older? The glasses make me think of Sarah Palin. K doesn't have to wear them all the time, just when she's reading or watching TV or stuff like that. Thankfully, she doesn't need them for basketball or softball so maybe they won't get broken nearly as often as mine did when I was young.

And speaking of me, I have discovered the ultimate in fun awesomeness. Last month I saw a float in a local parade for a place called Cajun Canvas. It was a pick-up covered with canvases painted with all kinds of fun pictures that they taught people how to paint. Like I said, awesome. I turned to Mr. at Home and said something along the lines of if he really loved me, he'd get me a gift certificate to there for Christmas. And, by golly, he does love me!

Last night a friend and I went out there equipped with Route 44 drinks from Sonic (she never knew those existed!) and a pizza. Because you never show up without the necessities. We ate, chatted with the owner, and then got started on our masterpiece. In 2 and a half hours, we went from blank white canvas to this.

Isn't it awesome? We had so. much. fun. Tracey and I laughed and chatted and compared and the teacher was amazing in how she could break it down into how to sketch the big details, mix the colors, load the brush, and put it all together. Absolutely anybody could do this. And it was *cheap* considering that they provided all the materials and expertise. The most huge incredible thing is that Mr. at Home was thinking way ahead and put enough money on the gift certificate that I can go again. Gosh, I love that man. So if you're interested, Tracey and I are both headed back there very soon and we'd love to have some others come with us.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!


Gotta remember to start writing 2009. That's always my biggest challenge. Of course, I don't write too many checks to have to worry about it much, but that just makes it harder to develop the habit.

I've been reading everyone else's posts where they're looking back at the last year and making resolutions for the new year. I've briefly thought about doing the same thing, but I just can't get motivated. Last year is over. It was a good year, nothing real exciting. We moved to a new home in a different part of town. Mr. at Home started working "at Home". Most of the rest was just normal, living life kind of stuff.

I have no resolutions for next year. Not that there's nothing I need to do to better myself or do better for my family. It just seems that making something an official "resolution" dooms it to failure. I want to find something that's just for me on a more regular basis that just the once a month MOPS. I want to eat better and exercise more. I want to keep my house cleaner and make it more of a calm sanctuary. I want to make it easier to find activities to do around the house rather than just sitting in front of the TV or computer.

We've gotten a good start on the year, actually. I got of bed early and the girls and I hung out. This afternoon we cleaned out the garage, well, Mr. at Home and the girls did most of the cleaning work; I just came in at the end and helped organize things back into the clean garage. We then started a fire in the fire pit and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows before it just got too cold. It was a low-key, fabulous day.

Now to just keep it up!