Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The perfect Christmas scene...

Christmas lights, snow and a warm, toasty house!
December 20, 2008

The BEST packing snow ever!!!

The temp has warmed up just a couple degrees, so the snow is becoming less powdering and more watery. Just watery enough to pack the second you touch it!

I just made the coolest snowgirl ever! I just rolled and rolled and rolled the snow until I got huge balls perfect for the body and head. Scott helped me lift the middle ball up onto the bottom one and as I was smoothing it down, he put rather large boobies on her! I laughed, but scolded him. There are kids on the street (and in our own yard) and we need to be appropriate! He just laughed and walked away.

In her final state, our snowman is a snowgirl.

It's my birthday!!

Happy 35th to me!

I'm officially in my mid-thirties. I could be star in a modern version of Thirty-Something, except I don't have that much drama in my life. I remember watching that show when I was barely 20 and not being able to imagine being this old.

I know, I know. 35 is not that old. I completely agree and I'm certainly not complaining about being 35. It's just... well.... it's just weird! I'm officially grown-up. In five short years, I'll have to start thinking about mammograms and perimenopause. How did I get to be 35 so quickly?

In my head, I'm only 24. It's just how old (young) I feel. I don't feel experienced enough or knowledgeable enough or mature enough to be 35. (But then again, people have told me since I was a child that I was a 35 yr old in a child's body.)

At any rate... we're off shortly to pick up some snow chains. (I finally found some at the fifth place I called.) Then we'll head across the river to DSW Shoes (yes, Melanie, you read correctly!) because I have coupons for $15 of free merchandise! They expire today and I can't let them go to waste, can I?

Hopefully we'll be able to go out for an early dinner and then with any luck, we'll make it to the Christmas Eve service at church. With the chains, we should be able to get there fairly easily.

And then it's home to get ready for Santa!!! Ho Ho Ho!!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This just totally sucks...

I am a very healthy person. I have a very high pain threshold. I have very high stamina. I am on the low end of average weight for a woman of my height. I don't drink. I don't smoke.

So what's with these totally random things happen to my body?

Due to a couple of random, but fierce, alleged bladder infections, my GP referred me to a urologist who then wanted an ultrasound and an x-ray of my bladder and kidneys.

Long story short, I have a very large kidney stone in my right kidney. If it was any bigger, the doctor would recommend surgery, but as it is (1.5 cm x 1 cm) I have a couple other options. After a long discussion with Dr. Smith, I decided to go the laser route.

An outpatient procedure, they'll knock me out for a couple hours then thread in a laser through my you-know-what and chop the stone into dust it. It will take a bit of time, though, since the stone is large and the laser is very small. (They use a very short laser so that it doesn't cut the surrounding tissue, only the stone.)

I still have to pass the pieces, but the doctor will leave a stent in place to widen the tubes and hopefully make the passing process that much easier. I'll be on the couch for several days with a bottle of pain medication close by. Guess I better get a stack of movies and a stack of library books to have nearby as well.

This is so not the end of the world, but what a nuisance to have to deal with the surgery, the pre-op tests, insurance claims, etc. Ugh. We're not even finished paying off Scott's hernia surgery/complications/hospital stay from last April!

As I said in my title, this just totally sucks.

I need a temper tantrum emoticon right now...

My parents' flight was cancelled due to weather and icy runways at Portland International Airport. I'm so mad!

They can't get a flight until Christmas evening which is better than nothing, but now they won't be here to spend my birthday with me! I thought about postponing it till the day after Christmas, but it's too important to the girls.

We will adjust our Christmas schedule a little bit, though. The girls will open their Santa presents in the morning, but wait to open the family gifts till after Grandma and Grandad arrive. We'll save the yummy rib roast till the following day since I know that's something they both look forward to all year.

I have no doubt that we'll have a wonderful visit when they do arrive, but Mom and I had been counting the days till they came.

I love snow. I really do. And I'm not angry at the snow for postponing their trip. I'm angry at Portland's lack of equipment to take care of the issues caused by the storm. Safety first, I know. But still...

o/ Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow o/

Vancouver, WA, usually gets a few snow flurries during the winter. Maybe some snow even sticks for a couple hours. But the past week really takes the cake.

It has snowed every day for a week now. And I'm not talking flurries. I'm talking snow showers and even a couple semi-blizzards! There's probably 12-18 inches on the ground, three foot snow drifts and icy roads.

Local businesses are sold out of snow shovels and tire chains. Grocery stores shelves are depleted. That's the only good retail news for Vancouver businesses this holiday season. If you weren't done with your Christmas shopping by Thursday of last week, then too bad, so sad. Mother Nature decided you were, in fact, done and businesses were out of luck.

It was blizzarding outside on Saturday afternoon, but it was Scott's birthday and he really wanted to go out to lunch. We just went up the road to a German place called Gustav's, but even so, we had to drive about five miles an hour to get there.

Sunday we were officially snowed in. We had a great time playing games, watching movies and just enjoying some much needed relaxation.

On Monday, though, I needed to get some groceries since my parents were flying in. I'm not kidding you -- it took almost an hour just to dig my car out!!! The entire minivan had a 1/4th inch layer of ice covering it! So cool, I tell ya!

We finally made it to Wal-Mart. Generally, Wal-Mart is my least favorite store ever, but there were some fantastic sales on the groceries I needed, so I decided to go and brave the crowds.

What crowds? It was the least crowded I'd ever seen a Wal-Mart! I didn't even have to wait in line! Woohoo!

Today is another beautifully quiet and relaxing day. We've got a Monopoly game going (taking a break from it right now) in front of the fireplace. Everyone is getting along. The world outside is incredibly beautiful. Life is wonderful.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Whoa. How cool is this?

I'm going to have to break the bank just to add this month's installment of the Green Fund!

Keep reading, my friends, to find out just how much I get to add this month...

Homemade Christmas cards: $75
supplies $25
printer ink $7
postage $40
paper $3
Natural gas savings: $42
Paper napkins I didn't have to buy: $3
Re-useable bag refund: $1
Gas savings from taking Scott's (smaller) car to CA for Thanksgiving: $26
Better gas efficiency/smaller amt. of emissions by taking said car: $20
For a grand total of .......


Actually, I'm sure there's more, but I was negligent in writing down such savings this past month. Too bad, so sad for me... If I don't write it down (or remember if), I don't get the green credit.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Green Fund Gets Greener!

I have been waiting with anxious anticipation for about a week now, just to see what my new gas bill would be. (How often do we actually look forward to getting bills?) Remember that on Nov. 1st I turned my thermostat down to 67 degrees? The last bill was lower by about $20 than the year before. This month?

Dun Dun DUN...........

It is $42.22 less than last year this time!!!!

Doing the happy dance! Woohoo! Woohoo! Doing the happy dance!

I can't wait to go to the bank later and withdraw some cash to add to my Green Fund!

I'll try to do a write up later on other green savings this past month. I know that sending out e-Christmas cards saved a HUGE expense! Hhhhmmm... how does one calculate the fossil fuel savings?

My paper towel update...

Ok, well we all knew that eliminating paper towels was wishful thinking, albeit noble thinking. So it's no surprise that I have not been successful.

If you remember from my previous post about, I cut up an old sheet to use in place of paper towels. They worked ok, but for long term use, I'd have to hem them and I just don't have time to do that.
I was thinking about alternatives when the obvious hit me right in the face. Yes, literally hit me. One of the girls tossed a dish towel onto the counter, but missed. Oops!

Dish towels seem to be the perfect replacement for paper towels. You have to have a really large stack of them, which I do, so that you have plenty available. They absorb so much better than the sheet squares and are larger to boot.

But how do I get my family to remember to pull a dish towel out of the drawer instead of a paper towel from the holder? My solution may not be aesthetically pleasing, but it's caught their attention... I simply draped about five dish towels over the paper towel holder, right? I still see the family, though, moving them out of the way to get to the paper towels. Argh.

I was putting away a stack of clean dish towels this morning when it occurred to me that only I know which are the "rags" and which are the nice "hang on the oven handle" varieties. So what to do?

Different stacks? That would never last. Constant reminding? We all know that would be a losing battle. Then what?

I finally came up with a solution: I rearranged the drawer where I keep tin foil and baggies and put about five or six "rag" towels in there. Later, I'll alert the fam to the change. I'll still leave the other towels draped over the paper towel holder for now, just as a reminder.

Yes, breaking the paper towel habit is one of the hardest green things I've tried to do yet. I *will* make it happen, though!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dear Santa...

(These are verbatim.)

Dear Santa,

Please tell Mrs. Claus I say happy holidays. Thanks! Here is a list of things that I woulk like for Christmas:

  • cheese (cheder!)
  • make-upCheck Spelling
  • marshmallows (BIG please)
  • more Rainbow Magic books
  • a new flashlight
  • stuffed animal cats
  • Barbie magazines
  • Aley & AG music
  • Cat posters
  • a vinilla smelling candle
  • a foam castal craft
  • some plants
  • a white long-sleave sparkly dress with sequins
  • a big pink decoration pillow (for my bed!)
  • a pet kitten

Thanks for reading my letter! Marry Christmas and be safe!

Love, Emma
(P.S. I have ben very good!)
Dear Santa,

For Christmas this year I would like the following items under my family's Chistmas tree or in my stocking.

  • all of the Narnia books
  • the Harry Potter books on tape
  • stuffed animal puppies (or even better...)
  • a golden-doodle puppy (a real one) or a miniature poodle (a real one) (I'll even pay for half of the one you get me)
  • jelly beans! -- the Harry Potter theme
  • dog and dolphin posters
  • ocean posters
  • cookbook
  • clothes for my stuffed animal dogs
  • new pair of glasses/bigger pair (same Rx)

Thanks! I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

~Hayley Davis~

(P.S. Mabey a GPS for my parents.)

And my take on it all...... What????????? Seriously, where do they come up with this stuff? Hayley knows she's not going to get a real dog -- we've had this discussion every single day (without fail) for the past several months.

And why exactly do Scott and I need a GPS? LOL! We don't get lost that much!

And Emma... the poor child is obsessed with Tillamook cheddar cheese and marshmallows.

Where's the emoticon for shaking your head in confusion? I am truly mystified.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Living the season...

It's 10pm on Sunday night as I write this. The house is quiet and I'm sitting on the couch enjoying the candle light and Christmas lights I set out on my piano. I thought about putting on some Christmas music, but I think silence is even better right now.

Every year about this time, I sit alone for a while and think about God and Jesus and Christmas and gifts and stress and cookies and calories and goodwill and good deeds. I try to gain some perspective on the holiday season, try to replace the emphasis on love rather than stuff.

One of my very best friends in all the world is Amy. When we lived close to each other (how I miss those days!), she and I would have the most amazing discussions about helping others, sharing the season's joy, inspiring our children to understand and live the true meaning of Christmas. She, and her faith, were, and still are, such an inspiration to me. Thank you for that, Amy!

I've been debating things to do for others this season, shying away from the things that make me feel uncomfortable. My heart would love to volunteer for WHO (Winter Hospitality Overflow -- an overflow shelter) at our church, but my head is nervous. Other things take so much time and coordination. How can I fit it all in?

Sometimes I forget it doesn't have to be complicated...

My wonderful (and extraordinarily deaf) neighbor, Gloria, is 86 years old and no longer drives. She's a shut-in with less than ideal family in the general vicinity. She is the most active and vivacious 80-something I've ever met!

I drive her places, like the dentist or the bus station. I invited her (and she came!) on a ladies' night out last summer. She and I hit the new JC Penney's the day it opened in our neighborhood. We've gone to lunch at the new Olive Garden, too.

Last week, Gloria came over and asked if I would take her out to the stores "to get in the holiday mood". She puts on such a happy face, but I know she's lonely. I was so glad that she came over and asked. The next day, we went to Joann's and she just loved browsing through all the amazing craft supplies. Her smiles just filled my heart.

I think this week, I'll try to take her to the mall for a couple hours and let her enjoy all the holiday splendor. If I can convince her to sit on Santa's lap, I'll post the photo here!!!!

I think I achieved my goal in writing this post. That being said I wasn't sure if the simple acts of helping an elderly neighbor were enough to demonstrate Jesus' love. But it is. It's so easy to help Gloria, to make her smile, to break the loneliness. It's not complicated or time-consuming, but it's God's work nonetheless.

At some point, I would love to do more. To have the courage to break through my hesitations. To expand my carefully protected little world. Maybe that will take several years' worth of prayers. I don't know. I'll just have to trust the signs God will send to tell me when I'm ready.

Enjoy the peace of the season, friends.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mrs. Scott D_____

Call me a traditionalist. Proclaim me as conventional. Declare me as old fashioned. But you know what?

I really like being called Mrs. D____. It's proper. It's grown-up. It indicates respect.

Ever since I can remember, I've dreamed of being Mrs. Someone-or-other. I couldn't wait to be a wife. How fortunate was I, then, to meet and fall in love with the man of my dreams at the age of 18? We got engaged eight months later and married as soon as I graduated from college. I was only 21 and I was a Mrs.!

But seriously, no one ever called me Mrs. D____. It was the '90's, after all, not the '50's. The grocery store employees didn't care to know me or my name. Nor did the librarians or the servers at the restaurants I frequented. Leave it to Beaver my life was not.

But then I had babies! I thought with glee, "Now someday their friends will call me Mrs. D____!" (I know, it's the small things that make me happy! LOL) Hayley and I joined a playgroup and as the babies began to toddle and chatter, we moms sat down to have a serious chat: what should the kids call us?

I was all for the Mrs. bit. All the other moms in attendance voted for Miss S0-and-So, though, and I thought it might be a bit confusing for the wee ones if I was the only mama being called Mrs. "Miss Kate" was alright, too. It didn't have the allure and maturity of Mrs. D____, but it was still respectful. It still separated the kids from the adults -- you know, the "respect your elders" theme.

Five years later we moved to the Chicago 'burbs and I joined another playgroup. At the ripe old age of almost three, Emma was the oldest (and only talking) kid in the group. She knew to call the other moms "Miss ___". So when their kids started chattering, they taught to call adults by "Miss" or "Mr." as well. (I love being a woman of influence!)

We moved again. And again. Seems no one was teaching their kids to address adults with a title anymore. Why? Is it the complete informality of the latest generations? Does it have to do with the familial parenting techniques that popular books purport? Or is it simply something that many parents don't think about or consider significant or worthy of teaching?

Is it providing just one more reason for young people to disrespect their elders? Why has respectful formality gone the way of white gloves?

Certainly it is every parents' prerogative to teach or not to teach their children to address their elders with respectful titles. And let me disclaim the fact that I know many wonderful parents who don't require this method of respect. I have absolutely no doubt that they are teaching their children to be well-mannered, responsible and respectful adults. Calling adults with a measure of formality is just not a priority for them. I respect that.

But having said that (famous last words, right?), it really bothers me when kids run around calling me simply "Kate". I just prefer a more traditional level of address, a more formal acknowledgment of respect.

(And I'll let you in on a little fantasy... I would love to live for a few weeks having to wear those white gloves and hats and floofy skirts. Where there are still drug store soda fountains and family-owned pharmacies. When dress making was inexpensive and movies were cheap and families sat around on the front porch. When mothers played bridge and had delicious, warm snacks ready for the children after school every day. Yes, again, please feel free to call me June. Except you kids. You have to call me Mrs. Cleaver!)

<--- Not so glamorous (I should have worn my pearls.)
The epitome of the 1950's mother --->

Someone will eventually find comfort in my knitting struggles...

After writing that post a few weeks ago about my volunteer work, I realized that I wasn't doing anything current for my church. I spent so many hours as the VBS director earlier this year that I needed a big ol' break. It felt like break time was up, though, so I prayerfully considered what I should do.

Pretty quickly came an offer to teach Sunday School. Nope. Nuh-uh. No way. Not going to do it. I felt guilty about saying no, but I *really* don't feel like it's my calling right now.

I was considering joining the Prayer Shawl Ministry, but hadn't made a decision yet. Well... the big guy upstairs made up my mind for me. He put me right in front of the coordinator minutes after she announced that she was looking for additional volunteers. I heard myself tell her I'd be there that next Thursday morning.

Now there's something you have to understand. The only things I know about knitting are that you use two needles and there's something about "purl". I have never once felt the need to learn which, on thinking about it, is kind of odd for me. I love creating things -- stories, clothes, decorations, scrapbooks, crafts, blogs (!), etc. So why has the knitting bug never hit me? Who knows?

I actually looked forward all week to that prayer shawl meeting and was excited to learn to knit. The wonderful ladies there, about eight in all, gave me the needles and yarn and got me started. It was really fun, I thought, and I so enjoyed getting to know my fellow knitters better.

By the end of the meeting, I had cast on my first row of 57 stiches. I came home excited to start the next row. But, um... I had no idea how. I spend days trying to figure it out. Going online, looking at books at the bookstore, asking people if they knew how to knit. I didn't want to put the whole thing down until the next meeting. After all, they only meet once a month!

I ended up finding a knitting shop in the area and going in to ask for advice. The owner looked at what I was doing, showed me how to start the next row and then looked at me kind of oddly. "You know," she said, "You're making this way too hard on yourself." Huh? "These needles are huge and metal and way to slippery. And this is the wrong kind of yarn." I repeat: huh? She explained herself, got me sorted out, gave me my receipt for the new needles and yarn I bought and sent me on my way.

After practicing and practicing on smaller needles and wool yarn, I felt ready to go back to the prayer shawl materials. The going was great for about a week! Then I ran into a problem I didn't know how to fix, so I decided to go to the open class night at the knitting shop.

The verdict? I suck at knitting.

She made me pull out the six inches of two foot wide shawl I'd accomplished. I was ok with that, actually. Apparently, it was mistake-ridden. I tried and tried and tried for the next hour plus to understand what she was saying to me. It didn't work so well.

At one point, she laughed and said, "Are you nervous?" I didn't think so, but sure enough, I was shaking and sweating. Actually, I think I was just concentrating really hard. By the end of the class, I felt totally dejected. No praise. No encouragement. Nothing but do-overs.

Who even came up with such a convoluted mess as knitting? I'm not giving up or anything. I don't give up that easily. I will most likely find another knitting shop to frequent, though. And if any of you, my trusty readers, have knitting advice, I would love to hear it!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Back from a Turkey Day break...

Gobble Gobble!

We spent the week in CA with my parents and had a really great time! Some of the highlights...

-- Mom took care of the kids for a couple days so Scott and I could have time all to ourselves! The B&B Scott and I stayed in ("The Grateful Bed") was pure heaven!

-- Lots of relaxing, reading, doing puzzles and playing games.

-- The entire family was happy and relaxed!

-- Hayley made some fantastic turkey hats for all of us to wear!

Family from back left... Joe, Barbara, Scott, Kate, Ken, Will
From front left... Gillian, Sophia, Emma, Hayley, Matthew and Brandon
(Pam was taking the photo. I need to photoshop her in here!)

-- Watching the deer play outside Mom and Dad's back yard! (Hayley took these photos, btw.)

-- All the kids (ages 4, 5, 7, 8 and 11) played so nicely together!

-- Thanksgiving dinner was delicioso! Turkey, gravy, two different kinds of stuffings, mashed potatoes, green beans, turnips/rutabagas, two different kinds of cranberry sauce, roasted cauliflower, Pam's famous Green Fluff, rolls, pumpkin cake, apple pie and chocolate cream pie. Heaven on a plate, I tell ya!

-- Writing on the Thankful tablecloth... Last year, we started the tradition of everyone writing what they're thankful for on the Thanksgiving tablecloth. Of course, family and friends are mentioned often, but here are some of the more unique entries... cheese (from Emma), the Red Sox (from Joe), soda (from Matthew), my mouse (from Sophia).

-- Schatzie (the dog) stole the turkey leg off the table while we were all taking family photos!

-- We got to swim in the motel pool (and sit in the hot tub) on the way to CA and on the way back.

Are here are just a couple other photos I thought were funny...

Sophia... Just a little excited, ya think?

Schatzie... The picture of patience...
Mom and Me... Isn't this a great photo?

And now we're home again, home again, jiggedy, jig (remember that nursery rhyme?) and it's December!!!!

I love December. Of course, it all the holiday excitement, but also the birthday month for both Scott and I. I relish the traditions, the music, the decorations, the spirit and most of all, the fact that more people are thinking about Jesus.

And contrary to most people, I don't get stressed out because of the holidays. I'm so organized, have my shopping done and packages shipped super-early. There's not much to do except enjoy it all!

Today I'm going to pull out all the holiday decs and get a few things up. The girls love, love, love helping with this, so I'll leave most of it for them. We won't get our tree for another week or so since they don't generally like to survive longer than a couple weeks.

The girls are busy practicing holiday music for their recitals/concerts. Hayley is learning "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" and "Frosty the Snowman". Emma is learning seven (!!!) different songs. They are all fairly easy since she's in a concert with a bunch of little girls who are not as advanced as she is.

So off I go to tackle my laundry list of daily tasks while enjoying the bits of holiday cheer I can intersperse among them all.

Remember, Jesus is the reason for the season!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Can I break my addiction to paper towels?

Seems ridiculous, I know, but I think paper towels are one of the greatest household tools of all time. A spill? Tear a couple off and wipe it up. Peanut butter splooge or syrup stick? Scrub it off with a paper towel. Dry a freshly washed apple. Catch potato peels. Wipe away milk mustaches and dab off scraped knees.

Is anything else as versatile, convenient, comparably inexpensive and just plain useful?

I'm not sure of the answer to that one. What I am sure of, though, is that our family goes through way too many rolls in a month. All those paper towels may biodegrade comparably quickly, but we're wasting a truck load (or several) worth of trees each year.

So it's time... time to break the addiction.

I have a stack of squares I cut from an old sheet, so I'm going to use those instead. I can use them, rinse them and toss them in an tupper (with a lid!) till the next load of laundry is tossed in. These days, that's at least every couple days.

I didn't think I'd be ready for this step for a while, so I may fall off the proverbial wagon. I promise to try really hard, though!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Deliciously Great Green News!

Got the gas bill today and by turning my thermostat down to 67 degrees, my bill went down 30%!! And not only that, but according to various sources, I saved 1000 lbs of C02 from entering the atmosphere!

Yahoo! *Doing the Happy Dance!*

Of course, PUD decided to raise their rates so I actually only saved $3 compared to last month. Grrrr!

So let me ask you this... What amount should I add to my Green Fun? The $3 I actually saved or the amount I would have saved if rates had not spiked? That would have been around $20 give or take. I'm all for the $20. The more I can add to the fund, the better, right?
67 degrees is not nearly as frigid as I though it would be. I just wear a sweatshirt or sweater and I'm fine! The kids are rarely cold since they rarely stop moving. Even Scott, who I thought would fight the issue, didn't mention the temperature too much. Maybe it didn't bother him too much. Or quite possibly, he knew this was a battle I was willing to fight. Either way, the temperature adjustment worked!

Deliciously Reviewed: "New Moon"

The second book in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, New Moon was every bit as compelling, engrossing and fascinating.

More than once I found myself yelling at the book, "Don't do it! Don't do it!" Scott looked at me a little strangely, but knowing the depth to which I incorporate myself into such stories, he refrained from asking for details.

New Moon is slightly more intense than Twilight, but not so much that I had to put it down. (Remember, I am the one who, when watching Miss Congeniality in the theater, sat shaking and barely breathing from fear. Pathetic, I know, but I *don't* do well with suspense.)

Emotionally, the romance factor wasn't as strong as in Twilight, but it was the teeniest bit more physical. Still very much PG, though -- one slightly longer kiss vs. the occasional peck on the lips.

But once again, I couldn't put the book down. I read while brushing my teeth and blow drying my hair. I read while stirring meatballs and while eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Ok, I admit it. It was probably a bad mom moment when I let my kids eat dinner in front of the tv just so I could keep reading! LOL!)

So another 36 hours and another 500 pages, I'm done with New Moon. I can't wait to start Eclipse, the next in the series. It might be a while, though. The library has 66 copies, all of which have holds placed on them by over 300 people. Here's to hoping that they're not just fast readers, but fast returners as well!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Deliciously Reviewed: "The Mysterious Benedict Society"

Another Young Adult novel, The Mysterious Benedict Society was intriguing, but slightly disconcerting. It was very much like a children's version of George Orwell's 1984 with one very strange and unpredictable man, Lepthora Curtain, trying to control every one's thoughts in order take over the world.

The Mysterious Benedict Society itself is a group of four children who passed a random and inexplicable series of tests. It is their mission to prevent Curtain from succeeding in his diabolical plans. These children, no older than 10 or so, must muster incredible courage and strength to carry out their own plans. And, most importantly, they must learn to work together even though the four of them are completely and totally incomparable.

It was a good read, but I can't say I would read it again. I just thought it was a little weird. The possibility of someone, fictional or not, controlling the thoughts of the general public makes me shutter. It's just not something I want to imagine. I almost stopped reading the book a couple times because I was getting uncomfortable with it. But every time I walked away from it, I couldn't help but walk right back and pick it up again.

Hayley, my little fantasy genre lover, is sure to appreciate The Mysterious Benedict Society more than I did.

Deliciously Reviewed: "Twilight"

One of the most popular YA (young adult) books in years, the Twilight series has never once caught my attention. Sure, I've seen it at the bookstore but the cover is something my eyes would never stop on. I couldn't have even told you the title.

Then three people in two days mentioned the book. Of course there is plenty of furor over the upcoming Twilight movie, but clueless as I am to the outside world, I had no idea.

My wonderful friend, Amanda, and her fam came over for dinner on Saturday bearing yummy cake and the first two books in the Twilight series. I started Twilight that night -- 500 pages and 36 hours later, I finished it.

Could not put it down! Fantastic story! Irresistible. Humorous. Suspenseful (but not in a bad way). Romantic (pg rated).

17 and clumsy, Bella Swan moves to the Washington coastline to live with her father. Her first day of school brings the usual fears, but also an unusual biology lab partner -- Edward, the most beautiful young man she's ever seen. After months of mixed signals and several convenient "rescues" by Edward, they form a unique and intense relationship.

The story follows Bella and Edward through compromise, understanding, sacrifice and a profound love possible, but not usually felt, in those so young.

High five to author Stephenie Meyer for her character depth. Bella is multi-faceted and tangible, a very real person in every sense of the word. Edward has a personality to rival any living human, plus also the mysterious and extending characteristics of a (hopefully) mystical being.

Aside from her appreciable development of characters, Meyer's writing was basic. Not bad, mind you, but definitely tailored to the young adult set with no attempt at expanding their knowledge of literary style.

Here's what I didn't care for too much in the book... Bella, as I mentioned, is clumsy. Not just a little bit, but extraordinarily so. If any real person had as many accidents as Bella does, he/she would be undergoing serious medical testing for possible causes. Completely unrealistic, but certainly convenient to the story line.

Because of Edward's limitations, Bella must put aside her own needs and wants -- physical, emotional and cognitive. She doesn't question, or mind, doing so because she loves him so intensely. I can't help but think that this may send the wrong message to the readers who, please remember, are tweens and teens who are inclined to think everything they feel as intense as Bella's feelings for Edward.

Then there's also the Prince Charming syndrome -- you know, boy repeatedly saves girl. This doesn't bother me so much because it is such a common theme in past and current stories. I think it's lost much of it's importance -- there is a fantastic amount of "Girl Power" expanding through media and toy outlets. I guess I like to believe that we can preserve antiquated story themes just as we can preserve antiquated furniture, linens and tools.

None of this was so prevalent as to detract from the story line, but as an adult critiquing a YA novel... well, they're just food for thought and tools for expanding my own writing expertise.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The earth needs to open up wide and swallow me whole right now!

Embarrassment doesn't even begin to describe how I feel right now. Chagrined? Oh yeah, times 100. Discomposed? Doubtlessly. Mortified? Yup, this is probably the closest word that can aptly describe my humiliation.

"So what happened already?" you're anxiously (and bemusedly, I'm sure) asking.

Ok, so the six of us (the D____ four, plus my parents) went to dinner at this great restaurant called Beaches. They have fantastic service.

Let me say it again: They have fantastic service.

The food is great; the atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable; the food is delicious and well-priced; the employees treat you like old friends.

Tomorrow being Hayley's birthday, she immediately pronounced the fact to our server, Stephanie. We had a great dinner, with the girls and my dad all getting individual little pizzas. Hayley ate all of hers. Emma, with leaden chewing, managed at long last to get through half of hers. Dad, with my help and Mom's, ate all but one piece.

Stephanie offered to put the left-overs in box. Scott had also needed a box half an hour earlier when he had to take off for Men's Group, which he then took with him. I'd forgotten, though, that he took it with him, so as we were leaving the restaurant, I realized I only had one box and I thought that it was Scott's burger. Did I bother to check?

Of course not!

I asked the hostess to see if she could track the tiny box of pizza down before it was too late. In the process of trying, she asked Steph, who could have sworn she gave us the box. The manager came over, too. I told them it wasn't a big deal at all and not to worry about it. I mean, it was half a kid's pizza, plus a small slice of Dad's. Really not a big deal!!!!!

But the the overzealous folks at Beaches it was a HUGE deal! I told them not to worry about it, but thanks very much, then got the family into the car. (Remember, Dad is in a wheelchair, so it takes a bit of coordination.) It's pouring. I left my jacket at home. I'm getting soaked as I balance Dad into the car. Mark, the manager, and Steph came running out to stop us.

Did I mention that is was raining?

They were so concerned about this damned half a kid's pizza. I kept telling them it was ok! They kept saying it wasn't. I finally told them (pleasantly, of course) to go back inside so they wouldn't have to work the rest of the night soaking wet. We told them we'd be back anyway and not to worry. (Beaches is Dad's new favorite hangout. We've been there four times in seven days.) At last they went back inside.

Dad, Mom and kids were finally in and buckled, so I pulled my wet self into the driver's seat. I'd just shut the door when Steph came running back out.

Did I mention that it's still raining?

"Can I have your address?" she asked. "Really," I say. "Please don't worry about this. It's not a big deal!" "But it's your daughter's birthday. It's a huge deal!" I gave in and recited my address.

Finally we get to leave. It's only been a few minutes. But a few minutes in Stressville is like a hour, as you all well know. The roads were slippery. It was hard to see, but we got home safely. I settled Dad in, flipped on CNN for him, booted Emma into the shower and Hayley into her room for pj's.

Somewhere in among all the activity of driving and coordinating, it occured to me that Scott took his burger with him and that I had the pizza. Sure enough, when I peeked in the box, the pizza is nestled in a delicious pile. I was so embarrassed and planned to call the manager to let him know my mistake so he really wouldn't worry about it.

Too late.

We'd been home five minutes (well, maybe seven) when someone knocked on the door. I peaked out the window and saw a guy holding a pizza box. I opened the door to tell him he was delivering to the wrong house but I caught my words just in time.

It was one of the chefs from Beaches, hand delivering a full-sized pizza and a mouthful of prolonged apologies!!!!!

Do you see now why I'm wallowing in mortification? All this hullabaloo for three tiny pieces of pizza that I had the whole time!

A whole pizza. Delivered by the chef. In the pouring rain.

Yeah, that qualifies as fantastic service.

Friday, November 7, 2008

School and Girl Scouts and Church and More! (Part 2)

Part 2 of volunteering: Girl Scouts!

I am having so much fun this year as leader of a Girl Scout Junior Troop. We only have three girls in the troop (down from eight last year), but they are the most dedicated, adorable, funny and responsible girls.

They are working towards their Bronze Awards so dedication is necessary at this point. A Bronze Award is a service project on which the girls spend at least 15 hours working -- half is planning; the other half is actively doing. The girls can choose anything they want as a service project (provided it's feasible and I agree with it!) An original idea is challenging to develop, but listen to what these girls are planning:

"Doctor's offices always have toddler toys, board books and half-destroyed picture books, but they never have anything to entertain older kids. We plan to put together baskets for older kids that include things like a Rubix cube, an Etch-a-Sketch, game books, markers and magazines like American Girl and Sports Illustrated for Kids. We are going to donate four boxes each to The Vancouver Clinic and The Free Clinic."

Isn't that a great idea? Most Junior troops seem to perform a service project around pets and humane societies. Noble, to be sure, but overdone and a bit droll in my opinion.

Last Monday was the monthly GS Leaders' Meeting and my Jr's came along with me to announce their Bronze Award project. They did such a fantastic job! All three of them spoke clearly and loudly. A terrific round of applause accompanied them back to their seats. Compliments on their ingenuity flew as they passed out their fliers as did questions on when and where people could donate. I was (and am) so proud!

At any rate... having a small troop is so much more manageable and there isn't nearly as much drama. I talk to the other two girls on the phone a couple times a week and I really feel like I'm making a difference in their lives. And they are most definitely making a difference in mine.

All three of them are so different in personality, but so similar in values. They're a wonderful support for each other and I have the fantastic benefit of seeing how other tweens operate. I sincerely hope all three stay with GS through high school. There are some amazing opportunities out there and some great scholarships available for Girl Scouts who have earned the highest honor -- the Gold Award!

4 states and 7 years of service -- can you tell how strongly I feel about Girl Scouts?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

School and Girl Scouts and Church and more! (Part 1)

I realized the other day that I have posted very little about my title claim of being "Volunteer Extraordinaire". Kind of interesting considering that volunteering is such a huge part of my life!

So relax for a few minutes while I regale you with tales of the crazy, headache-inducing, but incredibly fulfilling insanity that is Volunteer Work...

Monday afternoons I love, love, love because I go into Emma's third grade class to help the kids learn the writing process. Sometimes I meet with small groups -- one or two kids -- to discuss what they're writing and how they can expand, edit, add detail, etc. Other days, I wander around the classroom answering questions and helping to clarify the sticky points.

Occasionally, the teachers will call on me to talk to the kids about techniques from a "real life author". It is so much fun! Many of these kids want to be writers when they grow up, so they are really listening and really trying and really making progress.

Walking into the classroom yesterday (Monday) afternoon, I set my things down and settled in to listen to the writing lesson. When she finished, Mrs. L. gave me a run-down of what she needed me to do. Before she turned back to the kids, she said, "The two kids you helped last week came back into the room so excited! I listened to them tell their table mates all about the ideas and suggestions you gave them. It was awesome!"

Yes! I am actually making a difference! I'm somehow imparting my experiences on these little people in a way that they understand and can employ to advance their writing skills! How cool is that!!

Last year, in Hayley's fifth grade class, her teacher asked me to help a boy with the beginnings of an essay. We sat in the co-op and he said, "I'm not a good writer. I'm just no good at it." By the end of our half hour together, he was so excited with what he'd been able to do with his heretofore lacking essay. All I did was ask him questions and help him understand what makes writing great. As he stood up to go back into class, he gave me an brilliant, lopsided grin and said, "I can't wait to tell my mom about that! She's going to be so proud of me!"

I left the school that afternoon so incredibly fulfilled.

The next time I came in to help out, Ms. V. told me that the boy came back into the classroom after I'd met with him and he was ecstatic! He couldn't wait to tell everyone what he learned -- most importantly, that he was a good writer!

I made a difference in this kid's life. I made a difference that will help him not only through the rest of his school career, but his work career as well. I know without a doubt that he will remember that half hour for a very long time to come.

**Delicious Disclaimer**
If you know me well, you know that I am one of the last people on earth who could brag about themselves. If you don't know me well (or at all), please understand that I haven't shared all this to say "oh look how great I am". I've shared this because volunteering has fulfilled me in so many different ways that I never could have imagined. These kids I work with inspire me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What did yoooooooouuuuuu have for dinner on Halloween?

(That "yoooooooouuuuuu" was supposed to sound spooky like a ghost. Did it work?)

Years ago, Scott's parents gave us a fantastic recipe for Muenster Chicken. The girls, of couse, immediately started calling it Monster Chicken so we decided to make it our traditional Halloween dinner. (You can find the recipe at the bottom of my blog under "Delicious Recipes".)

We have it often enough, but since it's one of our favorite dishes, we were all excited about having it on the big night. Chatting about it a few days before Halloween, over a scrumptious dinner of Garlic Chicken, Pasta Alfredo and carrots, I looked at the dish of pasta in the middle of the table. "Oh, man!" I said. "I should have waited till Friday to make the pasta alfredo!" "Why?" they all asked. "Because," I laughed, "pasta a-fraid-o goes great with monster chicken!!!!""


Well, of course, we then had to come up with a spooky vegetable. Any guesses on what we came up with?



Friday, October 31, 2008

Make Your Own Napkin Rings!

Over the past few weeks, I've been searching for really cute napkin rings. Apparently, they're not as easy to come by as you might think.

I found ugly rings, black rings, bronze rings (eew!), braided rings, boring rings, expensive rings and poorly made rings. And every time I looked at all these hideous things, I thought, "I should just make my own." Yesterday, I just happened to have three toilet paper tubes and a free hour, so I finally got down to work.
Here are the supplies you'll need:

3 toilet paper tubes
scrapbook paper
3-D scrapbook embellishments
glue dots
card stock

Here's what you do:
1. Cut the toilet paper tubes in half. Make sure the tube edges are relatively even.

2. Stick several glue dots onto the tube, then roll them in pre-measured and pre-cut scrapbook paper.
3. Trim any excess paper.

4. Cover paper seam with ribbon by cutting the ribbon to the proper length, then sticking a glue dot to each end. Tuck the ends inside the tube so you can't see the rough edges of the ribbon.

5. Affix the embellishments where you like them and voila! You have cute, personalized napkin rings for virtually free!

**Delicious alternative***

If you don't have any 3D embellishments on hand, don't worry. Print out a few pieces of clip art that you like, then cut them out. If you print on regular printer paper, you'll need to glue it onto card stock for strength. (If you have white card stock, you can print directly on to it.) Attach your images to your rings and you are all set!

So now your table is not only stylish, but also Green! You gotta love that! Plus, they are so simple and speedy to do that you can make them for different seasons or holidays.

Hey, it just occured to me that this would be a fantastic gift for kids to make and give! Aha... one more way to reduce costs this holiday season!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A homeschool/public school split?

Public school has its many woes, but I always assumed that my girls would be fine. They'd learn what they needed (academically and socially) to become intelligent, participatory members of society. But having been in five different school districts, I am starting to doubt that my girls are getting what I believe they need in a comprehensive and well-rounded education.

Only one out of those five districts have/had spelling programs. Sure, there are still district standards for words kids need to know how to spell, but those words are so basic it's pathetic. My friend, Kelly, just sent me her son's 6th grade spelling words from last week. Here are a few...

a lot any friend beautiful because school quiet

Tell me, are you as shocked as I am? Both my girls knew these words in first grade! So what do I do to compensate? I give my girls spelling tests at home with words that I deem appropriate. I supplement their lacking education.

I don't think either one of my girls is learning as much as they should be. There's just not time in the school day. Homework for both of them is minimal, at best. I seem to hear an awful lot about movies watched at school. And there are minimum days all the time! Field trips have been severely minimized because of budget cuts. The only art program is the parent run, once monthly "Art Discovery". (I have to say, though, that the music program in this district is phenomenal.)

As with the spelling I do with them each week, I would love to supplement their learning even more. But, honestly, there is just no time. Hayley is gone from 7:15 to 2:45. Emma is gone from 8:50 to 4:00. By the time they snack, do what homework they have and practice instruments, they're ready to relax for a little bit! I truly believe kids shouldn't be overscheduled because they need time to be kids! Dinner and bedtime come before we know it and another day is gone.

I would love to homeschool my girls. They would learn so much more; I could tailor their learning to what I, as an active member of society, deem important. I could teach them at their levels -- not allow them to be held back by others who are behind academically.

But the social aspect of school is almost as important as the academic, so I have trouble whole-heartedly embracing homeschool.

So here's what I propose... The district should offer a homeschool/public school split. Kids could attend two or three classes at public school -- math, science and history, for example. Then parents could teach the kids the other mandatory subjects, plus electives.

Kids would then have the advantages of public school, but still have an academic standard more tailored to their individual needs. They'd get the best of both worlds. The district still gets paid for their attendance. (Plus, homeschooled students generally score better on standardized tests then their public school counterparts.) Parents would then be satisfied that they are doing everything possible to prepare their children for a successful adulthood.

What do you think? Would this work? Obviously, it's not a choice everyone would want to make. Many parents work outside the home and don't have the time. Still others don't have the desire or the resources. That's why it would be a choice! What would you choose?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I know all parents think their kid is the best, but...

I have to say that Emma really is! That amazing (and generally fairly reserved) kid volunteered to play her violin in our church's talent show! She did try to get out of it this afternoon, saying that she was scared. I basically told her "Too bad, so sad."

Well, the show started tonight at about 6:30. Em was fifth on the list. When she was introduced, she went right up to the mic and said, "My name is Emma and I'm going to be playing Minutes 1 and 2 by Bach." She flicked her hair back, got in position and took off playing.

SHE WAS AWESOME!! Just listen...

After finishing the first song with a flourish, she went into rest position and took a bow. The applause was thunderous. The laughter and "awwww's" melted my heart! She smiled faintly, lifted that bow again and launched into Minuet 2. It's a longer song and she was concentrating so deeply. Another fantastic finish and I saw her breathe a little sigh of relief. She had done it!

When the show was over, so many people came over and told her how amazing she did! I know it's only a matter of time before the church's music director asks Emma to play during a service. (She's already asked Hayley to play her trumpet!)

Em also did fantastic at her violin recital on Saturday night. She was really nervous about that one, but did fabulous, of course! Boy, was she ever mad that other parents brought flowers for their kids. She said, "It is just so inappropriate! How can parents even do that!" (Of course, it was really jealousy talking. I thought about getting her flowers, but then I hadn't gotten Hayley flowers after her band concert the other day. I wasn't about to start the vicious circle of envy!)

I am so thrilled that my daughters are learning to perform in front of others. I have horrible memories of recitals and the abject terror I felt. In fact, Emma's violin instructor asked me to play the piano while Emma played on her violin during the recital. There was not a single second of hesitation before I said, "No!" with vehemence and determination to run if need be! He got the point.

Schumann's "Happy Farmer" is next in Emma's book. I'll upload a video of the finished piece when we get there!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ever have those "snapshot" moments?

Those moments where you're doing something, anything, and you suddenly see yourself as if through a camera?

I felt that camera click just a few minutes ago and it left me with such a feeling of contentment...

Emma and I were in the living room waiting for her school bus to pull up outside our house. I was measuring a twin size white sheet on her so I can cut it into a Princess Leah costume for next week's big day. Sitting on my knees, leaning over the material, I measured and marked and cut and measured again.

We heard the school bus coming up the street, so Emma grabbed her pink backpack and rushed out the door. She made it three feet to the steps before running back to give me a hug and kiss.

I stood at the door, costume in hand, watching her climb those steep bus steps, smile at the bus driver, walk down aisle and plop down next to a friend.

That's when the camera clicked.

I saw myself, a stay/work-at-home mom seeing my amazing daughter off to school while I finish up her costume. How blessed am I? This is what I've always wanted! My biggest, most significant dream has come true -- to be a wife and a mother, a housewife, if you will.

It's certainly not all fun and games. Laundry isn't particularly fulfilling and the constantly askew dish towels make me want to pull my hair out. My eyes glaze over at the dusting to be done yet again and at the miscellaneous pile of stuff we tend to move from one place to the next, but never put away.

But in spite of all this, there is a familiarity, a comfort in the routine. A feeling of security. A sense of achieving domestic perfection (haha!) a la Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best.

My house isn't perfect... the beds are unmade, there are weeds in the yard, various things are missing and despite all the laundry being done, Emma still can't find socks. But I generally manage to keep the chaos somewhat under control, stay mostly on top of dishes and laundry, keep the pantry stocked (although Hayley would beg to differ) and occasionally find time to write.

I'm content.

I think I'll go make cookies so my girls will have a fresh, homemade snack to come home to.

Should I put on pearls while I do so? No... I think the colored macaroni necklace is better suited.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Learning to deal with death wasn't exactly on my agenda this week...

I'm 34 years old and have fortunately only known, up to now, three people who have died. Uncle John died when I was maybe 10 and Grandma Wegener passed on when I was 15 or so. Just because they were related, though, doesn't mean I knew them well. I certainly didn't. John lived in Texas; Grandma in New York. We were then in San Diego and saw each of them only once or twice that I can remember.

When they died, I was sad. But I was more sad for my mom because it was her brother and more sad for my dad because it was his mother. I don't want to sound callous, but their deaths were not earth shattering events for me.

When Grandma Kettleman died, I was 27 and two weeks away from giving birth to Emma. I visited her weekly in the assisted living home she was in. She could barely hear, though, so visits could be frustrating. She was well into her nineties and her body was failing. She wasn't happy and was ready to go. She even asked my mom at one point near the end, "Why is it taking so long?"

(This photo was taken on Mother's Day 2000. Lydia, Scott, Hayley and a six-month pregnant me.)

I was with her just hours before she died. I remember telling her that I loved her and to hang in there, that I'd be back first thing in the morning. Looking back, my comment to "hang in there" sounds so naive. She didn't want to hang in there. She wanted to go. But what did I know? I was so young and had no idea, had never really even thought about wanting to die. Being ready. Looking forward to it, even.

She stopped breathing around 4am and when Mom called me, I was so very sad, but didn't cry. Grandma was happy again. I knew that and I was comforted by that.

I met my parents at the assisted living facility later that day and I did start to cry when I looked at the bed where she died. Her tiny imprint was still on it. A grandma-sized tissue was crumpled right where her hand had laid. It was suddenly real, but I knew everything was okay.

Michael's death this past weekend has filled me with thoughts of a wife widowed too young, daughters grown but still dependent on their dad, friends shocked that they'll never hear his laugh again. I've cried along with Scott, feeling his pain as my own. But yesterday, I felt the pain as Michael's wife's and I don't think I'll ever be the same.

I've coordinated a meal rotation for Joann and her daughters. I delivered the first meal last night. Joann was so grateful and she hugged me for such a long time, sobbing on my shoulder. I cried with her, feeling her anguish and her disbelief. She kept saying, "I just want to touch him again."

As her daughters cried, I held them, too, even though I'd never met them. They shared memories with me and we laughed and then cried and then laughed some more. I felt so honored to be there, to help them, to hold them.

I cried much of the rest of the night. Not for my own sorrow or for Scott's. But for theirs. I've never been so close to death before. I've never seen what it can do to the family. I've never tried to comfort a widow. But I learned. I learned that there's little you can do, no words that can comfort. I learned that there is laughter after tragedy and smiles and blessings to be thankful for. I learned that, God forbid anything similar happen to me, that I want Joann to comfort me.

Death is such a common occurrence, but the incredible pain cannot possibly be. It is, but it shouldn't be. There's no love without loss -- we all know that. And we know death is a constant. But I guess the bottom line is to remember to cherish every single moment you have. Tell your spouse every single day how much you love him. Hold your kids tight even when you want to strangle them. Be kind those around you. Pray.

Hayley's Band Concert -- Oct. 21, 2008

This is the 6th grade concert band at Hayley's middle school. They all started playing in 5th grade, meeting for lessons twice a week. Now, band is a year-long elective and since the kids are playing every day (and hopefully practicing every day - haha!), they are getting really good! I was so impressed!

Hayley is playing the trumpet. She's in the middle of the screen and is the only trumpet player who's trumpet you can see. It's the gold thing in the middle of the screen, so you can't miss her!

In Memoriam: Michael Antonelli

It’s not often that we actually recognize an angel here on earth. How amazingly blessed we were to know such an angel, to smile at him each Sunday, to enjoy dinner with him, to feel safe and protected in his hugs, to know without a doubt that he cared.

Michael was one of those amazing people who lived his faith. You could see it in the way he talked to people, the way he listened. It was easy to hear God in his voice. People magnetized to him because of that. He was a mentor, a teacher, a leader, a comforter, a hero, a friend.

At only 47 years old, a heart attack took Michael up to Heaven this past Saturday. Michael, along with the men’s group at church, was having a blast at their annual retreat – a weekend they all looked forward to throughout the year. He had been laughing when it happened. It didn’t take him immediately, so he was able to tell the men at the retreat he loved them and to tell his wife he loved her. The paramedics did everything they could, but there was no way to save him. They tried for two hours to bring him back. Michael was already with God, though.

Michael made such an imprint on my heart. Now as I sit here in Starbucks with tears in my eyes, I see snapshots of Michael over the 14 months we’ve known him…

  • His genuine and welcoming smile when we first entered what would become our church…
  • The concern he showed when he visited Scott in the hospital earlier this year…
  • His laughter as he helped me organize paperwork for VBS training last May…
  • The relish in which he ate the fajitas I served when he and his wife came over for dinner two weeks ago...
  • The words of praise he poured over my husband, telling me how amazing Scott is and how lucky St. Andrew is to have him in his congregation…
  • The day he caught me in the sanctuary and told me how impressed he was with Hayley doing the high ropes course…
  • His arm around my shoulders as he’d ask how my week went…
  • His honesty when he told me that life wouldn’t get any easier for a while – not until my home was free of teenage girls. (Joann whacked his arm and said, “Don’t tell her that!”)…
  • The amazing way he greeted my parents when they came to service during a visit and his concerted offer to help my dad up to the alter for communion…

Michael was most definitely an angel on earth, so I have not a single doubt that he is now an angel in Heaven, watching down on his beautiful wife and daughters and all of us whom he touched so deeply.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I've been thinking a lot about the environment lately...

and I want to go green in my house. I feel like it's the one thing I can do to help the earth. I can't make a difference on carbon emissions. I can't control factory pollution. And you know what? If I call the Chinese government and ask them to make some serious and prolific environmental changes, I really don't think they'd listen. So in my small .07 acre of the world, I'm feeling the need to go green:

Here are a few green things we're doing already:

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

  • Buy many fragrance free, dye free products

  • Switch household items to the less waste variety (microfiber clothes, one heavy duty tape dispenser, canvas shopping totes, etc.)

  • Print on both sides of the paper

  • Give the kids boxes, fabric scraps, egg cartons, etc. to play with

  • Use tuppers to pack sandwiches for the kids' lunches

  • Wash and reuse plastic baggies (the girls even bring the ones in their lunches home to reuse)
  • Send reusable water bottles to school with the kiddos

  • Replace old bulbs with flourescent

  • Recently switched from paper to cloth napkins

  • And most importantly, continuously impart the crucial needs of our earth to my children

Here's what I'd like to do:

  • Put more plants around, including ferns since they're supposed to absorb extra chemicals.

  • Get rid of toxic cleaning chemicals (I won't waste money, though. I'll use them till they run out, then use environmental alternatives.)

  • Replace my teflon-coated pans with the old-fashioned variety. (My pots and pans are just fine, though, so this one won't happen any time soon.)

  • Convince my local recycling plant to accept much more than they currently do.

  • Eat organic. (Hahahahaha! When I win the lottery, that is...)

I was reading a book the other day about greening your home. Many, many useful tips, I thought. So many, in fact, I almost bought the book. But as I continued to read, my frustration grew as the author continuously intoned that I was killing my family because of the way I keep house. Yes, I use Comet to clean my sinks. Yes, I use dryer sheets. And yes, I do actually use the microwave!!!!! (This is where you take in a quick breath of horror and disbelievingly say, "No!")

I do have to live, you know!

The book ended up at the bottom of the pile we weren't buying. I'd love to read a less accusatory book about Going Green. Any suggestions? I'll have to peruse the online library catalog. (Oooohhh, totally off topic, but the city just broke ground on the new GIANT library! I'm so excited!!!)

Seriously, we're all so busy and overwhelmed. We need a book that can provide doable suggestions while understanding that as much as we want to make going green a priority, we have to be able to fit in around violin lessons and dr. appts and grocery shopping and Girl Scouts.

But tell me... what is it that you do in your home to go green? How much of a priority is it for you? Is your family cooperative?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I can't believe that I didn't...

put this in my post below regarding where I would go if I had time to myself...

If I had a free weekend, I would most definitely fly down to LA
and spend the weekend with Jessie!

Jessie is one of those amazing forever friends. We met on, the predecessor to iVillage, when our ten year olds were newborns. At first we were just online friends, but shortly before our girls' first birthdays (they're 12 days apart), we arranged an actual family-to-family visit. Husbands immediately entered Geekville and stayed there for the entire visit while Jess and I got to know each other better. An fantastic friendship formed between us all!

She and her family then lived about an hour and a half northeast us, so we didn't see them as often as we would have liked. But Jess and I did talk on the phone practically every day during the years our daughters were two, three and four. And we always drove the distance for birthday parties, baby showers and other extra-special events.

They moved and we moved. Then they moved and we moved again. We ended up exactly three hours apart until my family and I up and moved to Chicago. Thank goodness for email because the two hour time difference was a killer! I'm back on the West Coast again, this time 1000 miles and 15 hours of drive time away.

So the further distance and crazy schedules currently prevent us from catching up as often as we'd like, but occasionally we'll catch up with an hour long call. No matter how long it's been since we've last talked, though, it's like we just talked the day before.

We've gotten each other through loneliness, financial crises, miscarriages, hospital stays, family drama, relocations, deaths, sick children and frustrating husbands. We've celebrated with each other through births, promotions, moves, job offers, amazing husbands and our children's milestones.

How blessed are we to have such a friendship?! I miss you, Jess!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Emma Plays Minuet 2 by Bach

Emma will be performing in her fall recital later this month. On October 25, she will stand in front of a sizable audience and play Bach's Minuets 1 and 2 and High School Musical's When There Was Me and You. She's currently memorized both Bach pieces and will soon have the HSM song committed to memory as well.

Later this month, our church is hosting a talent show. Emma is so excited about participating with her violin. These will be her third and fourth performances and while she gets a teeny-tiny bit nervous, it doesn't show. She speaks loudly and clearly while introducing herself and her music, then plays with a passion and flair not often seen in most 8 year olds!

In the above video, it's just about bedtime and she's getting s-l-e-e-e-e-e-p-y. That's why she's not smiling. It's taking all her energy to remember the notes!

Enjoy her performance!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"Pushing Daisies" is starting again tonight!!!!

I am so excited!!!!!

Scott and I have been anxiously awaiting ever since it went off the air last winter because of the dumb writer's strike.

If you haven't seen it before, start now! It is hysterical and completely random. And, unlike 99% percent of other shows in tv land, it's original! It's not the same insipid story line that we've all seen hundreds of times before. It's totally unique and well worth even the time it takes to sit through the commercials. (We TiVo almost everything we watch, then fast forward through all the ads. Pushing Daisies is worth watching on live tv!)

Tonight. 8 pm. ABC.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Hayley... the Piano Maestra!!

She's pretty good considering she just started lessons in June! Since then, I've already had to buy her four new sets of books! Playing the piano is her ultimate favorite thing to do. She often wakes us up in the morning with her playing and will sit down several other times throughout the day to practice. Think maybe I should start saving for Juilliard?

You've gotta love a husband who...

forces you to buy yourself clothes! I guess he was sick of me playing with all the extra fabric in my shorts and jeans. LOL He finally said, "I'm taking you shopping later and you will buy some clothes that fit you!" Ummm... ok!

So we left the kiddos at home (it's so cool that they're old enough to leave them for an hour or so) and drove to Kohl's. Not my favorite store, but I did actually pick out several things that we on clearance. Typical of me, I started feeling nauseous on our way to the check stand. I tried to convince Scott we shouldn't spend the money, that I didn't need the clothes, that we should just go home. Nope. He wasn't buying it. (Hahahaha! Pun completely unintended!) He wasn't buying my panic attack rationale, but he did buy the clothes. I had to walk outside so I wouldn't see the total. It actually wasn't that bad -- $100 for a pair of capris, two shirts, one sweater top and the world's softest jogging suit (pants and jacket).

I must admit that I am *loving* the capris! I'm wearing them today and it feels so good to wear something that actually fits!! I've lost four or five sizes in the past year/year and a half. I don't know exactly how much I lost in pounds because I don't weigh myself. Ever. Seriously, if I go to the doctor, I step on the scale backwards and tell the nurse, "I don't need to know." I think that's very healthy of me, actually. I'm just not concerned with the number.

A new, stand-alone Penney's just opened up in the neighborhood. My 86 year old neighbor, Gloria, and I went together to check it out. We had both gotten $10 coupons in the mail (you know the ones -- good for any purchase over $10) and were excited to see what we could get for free (or nearly so). I saw several things the girls would love, but they weren't on sale enough to actually buy, even with the coupon. I ended up purchasing two long-sleeved t-shirts for me. I'm so pleased with them because the cotton is actually fairly thick, so the white one doesn't look as see-through as so many other white t-shirts to. I ended up paying $6 for the two shirts. Coolio!

I love a wardrobe that costs next to nothing!