Monday, September 29, 2008

Introducing...

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?


video

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!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I went to the movies by myself tonight

I had to get out. The girls hadn't been too difficult today, but I found myself losing patience all the same. I was trying to breathe deeply and stay calm and I was fairly successful. But all the same, I knew it would not be a good idea for me to do the bedtime routine.

Scott has been working round the clock -- during the day at work, during the evenings for Dubli -- and I totally appreciate all his tireless efforts. But tonight, I was done with having sole responsibility for dinner and homework and instrument practice and chores and dishes.

So I put dinner on the table, enjoyed the muenster chicken and roasted cauliflower (no, I didn't drop it this time) and then left them to fend for themselves. I saw House Bunny. It was actually really funny! I wondered if it be one of those movies where all the funny parts are shown in the trailers, but it wasn't. I laughed out loud multiple times throughout. The lead actress played her role perfectly!

Now I'm home, feeling calm and collected again. Emma is still awake (it's 10pm); I haven't checked the kitchen to see if the dishes were done; and Scott is, again, working. But I can handle it now. I'm ready to be Super-Mom again (she says as she leaps through the air, cape flying behind)!

Two absolutely neccessary kitchen items!

Last week, my scraping spatula broke. The rubber part actually broke right in two as I was trying to get that last tiny bit of mayo out of the jar. My two other spatulas are getting old and worn as well so during my weekly Target shop, I gave myself permission to peruse kitchen section. (I don't look there too often or I see things I somehow "need"!)

And there, right in front of me, was the most perfect solution to an issue every single one of us struggles with... dirtying multiple utensils to make a dumb sandwich! Chefmate has just come out with a spreading spatula! One side of the spatula is flexible and jar shaped so you can scrape the bottom/sides of the jar and plop your peanut butter, etc. on your sandwich. The other side of the spatula is stiff so you can actually spread without tearing up the bread or dirtying another knife! How brilliant is that?! And even better, it comes in a set of two, with one being about 6" long and the other about 12". Now you really can get the last of the whatever out of the jar! Woohoo!


My other great find, which may not be new to the rest of you, is the scrubby microfiber dish washing cloth. Again at Target, I was scouring the cleaning tools aisle for an alternative to the sponge. I can't stand the sponges anymore. No matter how well I rinse and squeeze the things, they get stinky within two or three days. You know that smell I'm talking about -- the mildewy, pervasive, gag me smell. I throw them in the laundry. I throw them in the dishwasher. But even after a couple washes, I have to throw them out and they are just too expensive for the "invest and toss" method. So I needed a new solution.


And the scrubby microfiber cloth was it! It's soft on one side, scrubby on the other just like the Oscello sponges I used for years. This cloth removes stuck-on muck with minimal effort, rinses cleanly and best of all...... dun dun dun...... dries quickly!!!!!!! I rinse it, squeeze it and place it on the faucet to dry. And it does! And it doesn't get gross and stinky!!!!


I bought just the one to try out and used it for about two weeks. It still didn't smell icky, but I threw it in the laundry anyway. I just purchased another ($3.99) so I can rotate them each week.

I am so thrilled with my discoveries! They are making my life so much easier! I love getting that last little bit of jelly out of the jar! (Waste not, want not -- right?) And saving money and the environment by avoiding the necessary "invest and toss" method is just so cool!

Monday, September 22, 2008

What not to do with your amazing Roasted Cauliflower...

Dropping the pan in the oven and watching your much-looked forward to cauliflower strew across the oven and floor are not good things to do!

Nor is it a good idea to forget to put a plate under the rice in the microwave because it then boils over and makes a huge mess.

Nor is it a good idea to let your 10 yr. old open a can of beets. Can you guess what happened? Well, the beets themselves landed in the bowl but the liquid was all over the counter, floor, cupboards and child.

Nor is it a good idea to let that same 10 yr. old microwave hot chocolate and try to drink it before testing it. She took a sip, discovered it way too hot and spit it out across my brand new (as in used once) tablecloth.

What is a good idea then, you ask? Marrying an amazing man who takes you in his arms and offers to go buy you dinner somewhere.

Due to a Girl Scout meeting at our house, though, I had to decline. Dinner turned out fine in the end. The meatloaf flowers were delicious (and cute! I'll have to take a photo of the leftovers), the beets were yummy (yes, I actually love beets!) and the rice was perfectly cooked.

A bit of background on my book list...

So have you wondered about my random selection of books read yet? Perusing through the titles in my "2008's List of Books Read" is a bit of an adventure, I admit. So I thought I'd dedicate a post to my choices in literature...

My very favorite genre to read is historical fiction. I love learning about history when it's related to a character I actually care about. How many of us remember much from the history tomes we had to lug home from school every day? Not me and I actually liked history class! So when I open a big, fat novel full of life and vibrancy and excitement, I'm sucked in. Good bye to all until I'm done!
I'm currently about half way through reading Nancy Cato's The Heart of the Continent. It's about 500 pages and I started it on Friday. Emma rolled her eyes at me this morning when I came into the bathroom, with the book under my arm, to brush her hair. She said, "Mommy, can't you go anywhere without your book?" I had to laugh. I wasn't actually going to read while brushing her hair! I was simply carrying it downstairs to read while I ate my over-crisp and somewhat burnt English muffins. But I totally understand her point.

But listen to this... a couple days ago, I was around the corner from our subdivision and I noticed a lady walking her dog. What caught my eye, though, was that she was simultaneously reading a book! Trust me, if I tried to do that, I'd end up with a broken ankle. I laughed, though, knowing I'm not the only one with such a deep book addiction!

So back to the list. You'll notice a great variety of children's literature on there. I love, love, love children's fiction (both picture and chapter books). Only chapter books are listed, though. My very favorite children's novel of all time is The Princess Academy. If you haven't read it, do so immediately! I have heard nothing but praises about this book from everyone I've met who has read it.

Here's my little disclaimer for my list. I do not (intentionally) read romance novels, so even though some of the titles might sound like romance, they're not. I've been enjoying the Love Comes Softly series for the past couple years. (Similar sounding titles are on the list.) It's a Christian series (several of the books I read are Christian-based) and have been made into movies over the past decade or so. The movie Love Comes Softly is a wonderful! It's successors (the movies, I mean) are also good, but become progressively cornier and less realistic.

I had to insert the word "intentionally" in my earlier sentence regarding romance novels because I did indeed read one last Spring. Melanie and Amy and I planned to do a long distance book club. I choose the first book last year, then Melanie chose "Naughty Neighbor", a Janet Evanovich mystery. Ok, it was more romance than mystery, but I read it nonetheless and pretty much blushed my way through it!

Non-fiction is SO not my thing. It bores me to tears. I'm trying, though, really hard to like it. I've just finished Anne Lamont's Grace (Eventually) and I really enjoyed it. I can read parenting books without a problem since I can relate to them, but other non-fiction? Ugh! Let me know if you have any great suggestions (barring finance, the economy and politics)!
Also let me know if you there are books you adore. Recommendations are a bibliophile's calling card!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Things like this make it all worthwhile...

Some friends of our just had a baby girl on Tuesday night.
This is the card Hayley made for them...





The front....



The inside....




Somehow we must be doing something right as parents.



Where, oh where, would I go?

Scott and Emma both individually told me the other day that I need some time to myself. Scott suggested a day. Emma suggested an entire week! Then she amended that thought and told me that a weekend would be better!! LOL!

Are Scott and Emma trying to tell me something about my mood lately? Is it showing that obviously that I need a break? Is my exhaustion (mental, physical and spiritual) that apparent? Am I reacting badly to the stress of trying to raise a pre-teen daughter? (No, there is no gray hair yet, but the fine lines aren't quite so fine anymore.)

So I got to thinking... What would I do with myself for an entire day? An entire weekend? A full week? Delirious with all the possibilities, I finally narrowed it down...

A day...
Washington Square Mall (the nicest mall in the greater Portland/Vancouver area)
Powell's (one of the world's largest independent bookstores -- seriously an amazing place)
Lunch at Gustav's (they have a prime rib sandwich to die for!)
A pedicure
A nap in the hammock
A movie (with buttered popcorn)
Dinner at Maggiano's (forget the meal, I just want the bread!)
A hot bubble bath with a side of chocolate cheesecake and a cold glass of milk
Fresh sheets, a fantastic book and a hour to read before I fall asleep

A weekend...
A trip to the Oregon coast (only if it's summer, though)
--Sunbathing
--A stack of great books!
A cabin in either Olympic National Park or Gifford-Pinchot National Forest
--Hiking
--A couple of my favorite movies
--Eating whatever I want, whenever I want (brownies for breakfast? Right on!)
--A warm rock next to a bubbling creek
--Reading (preferably in sunlight)
DeSmet, SD (if the weekend was just slightly longer -- maybe three days)
--I could spend as much time I want looking at the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites

A week...
Chicago
--to see Melanie and Amy and all my other friends
--to spend hours and hours in the Art Institute
--to listen in blissful peace to concerts in the Cultural Center (the most beautiful bldg. I've ever been in)
London (I've spent less than two weeks there ever, but I still miss it.)
Northern Scotland (the most amazing scenery I've ever enjoyed -- peaceful, colorful, God-like)
Hawaii (just because it would be nice to sit on the beach and do nothing but relax for an entire week!)

I'm practically relaxed right now just dreaming about all of this! I know it's completely unlikely that I'll get much more than a couple hours to myself any time soon, and that's ok. It's great, though, to imagine myself away when the currency of daily life threatens to interrupt its fluency.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Vegetable Haters Anonymous

From Sept. 11...

Several months ago, I made a new recipe I found for roasted cauliflower. We loved it so much that we started serving it to all our friends who came over for dinner! So when our wonderful friends, Dave and Amanda, came over with their two little cuties, I, of course, made Roasted Cauliflower. They loved it, too! In fact, they loved it so much that now they eat it all the time! And Amanda wasn't even too keen on cauliflower in the first place, yet now she can just about eat an entire head alone!

Amanda posted the recipe on her blog (http://www.mandajuice.com/) and she was telling me just yesterday that that particular post gets more hits than anything else! People across the nation are raving about my Roasted Cauliflower. Coolio! So I perused her blog this morning and found the Roasted Cauliflower post. Confession: I really just wanted to read all the comments. And commenter after commenter said she didn't care too much for vegetables (my Roasted Cauliflower recipe aside. LOL!)

Amen to not liking vegetables! I don't like them one bit. I literally have to force myself to eat them 9 nights of out 10. I used to be able to do canned veggies okay, but now I can't even stomach the thought of them. I'll eat corn (preferably on the cob), carrots, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, beets, most beans and the occasional squash. That's really about it. No peppers, no onions, no mushrooms, no artichokes, no eggplant or zucchini, no peas and most of all NO TOMATOES!!!!

Tomatoes are the worst things in the entire world. I won't even touch them. Oh, sure, I'll eat them in sauce or ketchup form, but my relationship with the horrid things ends there. I can tell you exactly why I severed all potential relations with the squishy, oozing, seedy blobs -- Kristy Reed's mother.

I must have been about five or so when I spent the night at my friend Kristy's house. With dinner her mom served sliced, raw tomatoes. I didn't like tomatoes and I politely told her so, but she would not let me leave the table until I ate the two slices she put on my plate. I gagged and gagged, but finally got through them. I have not willingly eaten another since.

But seriously, what a hideously cruel thing to do to a small guest in your home!!! I would never in a million years force a guest to eat something they don't want to. That woman scarred me for life! I've always been a selective eater (note the "selective" instead of "picky"), but there are plenty of things I've learned to like over the years. Tomatoes could have been one of them. Alas, it was not meant to be.

I did, however, finally figure out how to eat salsa! I love the taste of the juice, but would not touch those tomatoes. Makes it hard to eat salsa, right? So now, I pour the whole jar into a bowl and use my hand blender to mix it till it's just this side of smooth. Oh, bliss! The taste without the texture!Back to the original point of Vegetable Haters Anonymous. There are way more of us out there than we think! Grown up women of all ages and stages don't like vegetables. There's all the pressure out there to eat a zillion fresh fruits and veggies a day. I would love to eat more vegetables! I would love to make a recipe without having to tailor it specifically for my particular tastes (and Scott's allergies, but that's another post altogether). I would love to choose from a restaurant menu without sounding like Sally in the restaurant scene in When Harry Met Sally.

My name is Kate and I hate vegetables. I, the founding member of Vegetable Haters Anonymous, vow to support any member in their refusal of the healthy ruffage. I vow to help assuage the associated guilt whenever a member looks at that damned food pyramid. I vow to stand behind all members when others put them down because of their vegetable dislike.
Vegetable Haters Anonymous unite!

My brain is smoodge...

From Sept. 11...

I'm seriously beginning to wonder what's up with me? I'm exhausted all the time! Like falling asleep on my feet exhausted. I actually stalled yesterday while I was grocery shopping and just stood in the aisle staring into space. Once I finally roused myself and realized I was never going to finish my shopping like that, I left and went to... Brewed Awakenings!

For probably 98% of people out there, the typical response would be, "Yeah, so what? You got a coffee? Big deal!" Actually, it is a huge deal for me. Huger than huge! I hate coffee! I can now count on three fingers the number of times I've actually had it. Uh huh. Three times is all. But I was so desperate that I actually dragged myself inside Brewed Awakenings and dumbly asked the adorable teenage employees what they had that didn't taste like coffee but had enough caffeine to wake me up.

One White Cow later, I was actually functioning! Holy cow! (Oh, hahahaha! That pun was not intended!) I was good to go for the rest of the day. I might need those more often...

My baby turns 8!


From Sept. 8...

It's astounding to me how that teeny tiny bruised and squalling kitten of a baby is now 8. She is such an angel on earth and is truly a gift from God.

Her birthday was pretty darned perfect, excepting the tantrum at having to go to church on her birthday. She got over it, though, and was so glad she went because she saw her friend Mallory there.

Normally on a birthday, the birthday person chooses what restaurant he/she wants to eat at for either lunch or dinner. Emma strangely did not want to go out at all. She had her birthday menu planned for about a month and was not going to stray from it: orange rolls for breakfast, pigs in a blanket for lunch and Rachael Ray steak for dinner. Mmmm.... it really was a delicious day!

After lunch, Hayley took her to Baskin Robbins for ice cream while Scott and I coordinated the gifts. We needed Emma out of the house because she was getting her much longed for desk! We had to rearrange furniture a little bit and set up the desk. This is an extra super special gift because Scott made it! In about two days, too, I might add. He is amazing, that fellow.
For months I have looked for the perfect white desk and could not find it anywhere! I was so incredibly frustrated that I finally asked Scott if he'd be willing to make one. He was really excited about it and so the timing/supplies/Home Depot/power tool adventure began. By staying up late on both Friday and Saturday, he finished it and it is gorgeous. He has yet to put the drawer in (it was either a drawer or the white paint in the time available), but he will put that together this week. The chair was also an issue. How come no one carries a basic white chair? It is that uncomon? I searched high and low to no avail. I'm just going to have to order one online, bucking up to pay for shipping.

At any rate, Emma was thrilled with her desk and all her presents.

Next on the list was rollerskating. It's been um.... 20 years since I was comfortable on skates. It took some confidence, but I did get out there and cruise around that rink. I'd forgotten how much fun it was! Emma was doing great (only her second time skating) and Hayley took to it right away. She's taken ice skating lessons before, so we knew she'd have a blast. Scott, of course, instantly remembered all his skills and was flying around, whizzing past the three tottering D______ women.

After a super yummy dinner and scrumtious cake and an unexpected visit from friends, both girls promptly conked out.

Now Monday has returned and with it, the first full week of school and activities. My eyes deserpately want to shut, whether due to birthday exhaustion or in hoped avoidance of the schedule at hand, I don't know. Emma purposefully reminded me as she got on the bus this morning, "Don't take a three hour nap today, Mom!" Ya see, last year when I was supposed to take birthday yummies into her class, I fell asleep. Yup, for three hours. And then I didn't even realize where I was supposed to be for a bit after I finally woke up! Of course I rushed over with the treats and it was no big deal that I was late. I felt horrible, though. Here it was the first week of school and already the teacher is going to think I'm a flake! LOL! Not so much, though. He was very understanding, especially when I told him we had just moved in three days before!

And now I am off to deliver another batch of birthday cookies -- this time, on time!

The potential of 5 1/2 hours

From Sept. 6...

Now the third day of school, I finally have a day to myself. I'm not volunteering in Emma's class, so I can now focus on ......... ??????

Which of the many things I want/need to focus on do I actually do? Here's my potential list for the day, in no particular order...

1. Library (I'm out of books to read! Ack!)
2. Grocery store (Have to return spoiled meat I tried to cook last night. Grrr!)
3. Blog (Hey, look! I'm already doing that!)
4. Clean my bedroom (Woohoo! I did most of it while Emma was getting ready for school.)
5. Make a dr's appt.
6. Costco (I must buy no more than $100 of stuff. I must. I must. I must. I must...)
7. Find a white, wooden chair (long story on why)
8. Work on my book
9. Work for pay (There hasn't been any work all week. Will today be any different?)
10. Play the piano. (Lots of fun. When kids are not around, that is.)
11. Write Emma's birthday letter (I guess I should also do last year's that I never got around to.)12. Call my dear friend Melanie.
1 3. Plan the dinner menu for the next week. (I have a new cookbook, so maybe this won't be too bad.)

I could probably keep thinking of things. You know, all the housework, cooking, dishes, etc. Blah.

So how much do you think I will actually get done in 5 1/2 hours? Here's my bet... Costco, grocery store, white chair research, library and phone calls. I'll also check for work to see if there is, in fact, anything to do. But most of all, I plan to enjoy the bicker-free sounds of a household. For the next 5 1/2 hours. Oh bliss!

And the middle school verdict is.........

From Sept. 5...

She loved it! Shock and amazement basically describe my reaction to Hayley's announcement that "middle school is so much fun!" Oh, sweet relief!

As I wrote yesterday, I worried all day about my Hayley-Girl. When it was time for the bus to drop her off, I walked out to the bus stop to meet her. The bus soon pulled up and kid after kid after kid tumbled off, but no sign of Hayley. Before I knew it, the bus closed up and left. I asked the girl who lives across the street if she'd seen Hayley on the bus. She said she hadn't and that she, too, was wondering where she was.

I ran home and called the school. After 10 minutes of waiting on hold for them to track my daughter down, they finally did! She was on a different bus. Apparently, the school had given Hayley a slip of paper with her name on it and a new bus number. She wasn't sure what to do, so she asked at the office and they told her to get on the new bus. Wrong-o! The office staff was so apologetic, but I was still really angry. I know that mistakes happen, especially on the first day of school. But we're talking about Hayley here -- worried, fretful, emotional Hayley. I freely admit that my anger was really concern over the high unlikelihood of getting her on the bus the next day. Of temper tantrums. Of hysterics.

But my kid surprised me. The driver of bus she was actually on dropped Hayley off right in front of our house and she leaped out of the bus. I tried to give her a huge hug, but she pulled away because she had to go to the bathroom. As she came out, I tried again to give her a hug. But she was hot and had to change right away. I tried again, but still no luck. Can you tell I was the one who really needed the hug? LOL! I could tell she had been crying a little bit, but really, she was fine! And the child did not stop talking the entire rest of the day about how great school was!

And four months later...

From Sept. 4...

When I started blogging last Spring, I was bound and determined to do it regularly. That plan certainly didn't last long! So here I am, four months after my last post, and I can tell you exactly what derailed my blogging plans...

Summer Vacation!

Yup, the kiddos were home and any extra time I had (scant to begin with) was sucked away. As of today, though, they are both back at school and my time... well, it certainly is not my own but at least I have a little more control over my activities.

And what will those activities be for the next ten months? Writing my book, blogging (I really mean it!), working (didn't I tell you? I now have an actual paying job!), volunteering, housework, shuttling, cooking, sewing and lots and lots and lots of reading.

But let's get back to the first day of school news. Today was the first day of middle school for my ten year old daughter, Hayley. As I watched her climb on the bus and look forlornly out the window, all my confidence as a parent drained away. Is she ready for middle school? Should I homeschool her instead? Am I pushing her too quickly? I realize that middle school is a right of passage and just about everyone has to do. But here is why I'm concerned about my Hayley-Girl:

1. She's painfully shy.
2. She's incredibly sensitive.
3. For being so intelligent and talented, she lacks self-confidence.
4. She hates the bus.
5. She's younger than all the other sixth graders. (She's not even 11 and many of them are already turning 12.)
6. Middle school can be brutal.

She wanted me to walk her to the bus stop. I asked if she was sure she wanted me to since none of the other kids' parents would be there. She was sure. It's a two minute walk to the bus stop and she stopped several times with tears in her eyes telling me she couldn't do it, she couldn't go. Then she held my hand till we got there and then flatly refused to stand within about eight feet of all the other kids. My poor angel was terrified!

My heart has been so sad all day. I've been praying for her to have confidence, to keep her chin up, shoulders back and act like she owns the school, even if she's scared to death. I'm worried that her best friend (who's more outgoing) will find another best friend and leave Hayley behind.
I had such a horrible time in jr. high and I'm terrified that my sweet girl will have an equally difficult time. But there's not much I can do right now. I have to let her grow into her own, make her own mistakes, enjoy her own successes, etc.

Oh and I have to say that Hayley looked so adorable this morning! She was wearing a shirt and pants that I handmade for her. She knew she looked good, so at least that was comforting to her. I guess we have to count the small blessings, right?

Emma, on the other hand, was excited to go to school, knew just what to do, found her friends and sat down. I spent the morning helping her teacher coordinate the mountains of school supplies the kids brought in. I watched Emma throughout the morning and she was absolutely fine. She's a confident kid to begin with and I knew she wouldn't have any problems, but it did make my heart smile to see her so comfortable. It took her a few years to find her self-confidence, but now that she's found it, not a thing in the world is going to stop her!


She, too, was wearing clothes that I made for her. This morning, this is what she told me as she admired herself in the mirror. "Mommy, you know what I'm going to tell all my friends? I'm going to tell them that they haven't seen these clothes in any of the stores because my mom made them and they are all going to be codfish because my clothes are so beautiful and you are so talented!" Awwwwwwwww!!!!!
(Did anyone actually get that codfish reference? Remember in Mary Poppins when Mary is pulling things out of her bottomless carpet bag and Michael stands there with his mouth agape? Mary Poppins says to him, "Close your mouth, Michael. We are not a codfish." So in the land of the D_____ family, being a codfish means that one is agape with surprise. Random, I know, but funny, don't you think?)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Indiscriminate Ramblings...

From May 16...

I just pulled two loaves of Amish Friendship Bread out of the oven. They smell absolutely heavenly! When they cool, yum yum yum...! Bye bye appetite for dinner. But, wait! We're having hot dogs. I like them, too, so maybe I'll try to save some room.

My parents left yesterday from a 5 day visit to my house. We had a great time, as always, but the stress of entertaining was beginning to break me down a bit. (No offense, Mom.) Saturday was my mom's birthday, so we splurged on gas and drove to a lilac farm about 30 min. away. It was incredible! Lilacs and tulips and begonias were all in full bloom and made for a little piece of heaven on earth. (When we lived in the Chicago 'burbs, we had a huge lilac bush in our front yard. Emma called it "The Heaven Bush" because "it smelled so heavenly". Right on, Sister! )

We shot many photos (a few of which I'll attempt to post on my baby blog). I'm also planning on posting photos from the weekend before when Scott and I took the kids to a tulip festival. Talk about incredible! The colors were so vibrant, they were almost hypnotizing. Most of our photos turned out awesome, but I did perform a little PhotoShop magic on a few of them -- deleting out all the extraneous people. Now you'd never be able to tell that there were other people anywhere near the gardens! PhotoShop is a wondrous thing, I tell ya.

On a different subject... a few weeks ago, as I was tortuously scraping hideous wallpaper off the living room walls, Scott came home from work grinning with excitement. You know that giddy look people get sometimes? That was it. I was exhausted and frustrated and filthy and sticky -- in no mood for conversation. That was okay, though, because my sweet husband couldn't contain his question......... "Want to come work for me?" Now, dear reader, imagine the following... I have spent two full days scraping off less than six feet (wide) of wallpaper. The looming walls are daunting and as I balance on the step ladder, scraping away, I'm thinking of all the other things I need to accomplish. Girl Scouts -- coordinating meetings and outings and uniforms and parents and paperwork. VBS -- I'm the co-director and even though VBS is still months away, there's plenty of work to be done. Volunteering in the classrooms, playing with my kids, keeping house, writing my book, the list is endless. There is simply not enough time to get it all done. Not headling news by any standard I realize, but my point is that I was already overwhelmed with all my responsibilities and not prepared for the question "Want to come work for me?"
The wall in front of me was blue with Dif gel, but I just didn't care as I leaned my forehead against it and closed my eyes in disbelief. When? When is there time to actually work for money? That's all I could think, over and over and over again. Scott kept talking, giving me details. I half listened, the chanting in my head growing louder. He was excited at the prospect of having me work with him and I am flattered by the sentiment. It was all I could do to squeak out a "Can we please talk about this later?"

So almost a month has flown by and the issue is again at hand, this time much more imminent. I'm supposed to call the marketing director this week, but I want to update my resume before I do so. It's really an ideal job -- part time, work from home most of the time, great salary. So what's curbing my enthusiasm? I don't want to go back to work! I like being at home! I like the routine I have, the flexibility and the freedom. But a salary and the promise of more recent work experience deserves serious consideration, don't you think?

Scrabble Babble

From April 21, 2008...

I love the game of Scrabble. So when I saw in Borders' clearance section a book entitled Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players by Stefan Fatsis, I had no choice but to spend the $3.99 and bring it home.

A list of adjectives to describe the book:

random
droll
humourous
wacko
hard to put down (not impossible, but difficult)
inspiring
astounding

Contradictory terms, I know. Droll and humourous in the same book? But it's true. At times, I laugh and laugh because the players (real people, all of them) are just so insanely wacky. At other points, though, my eyes start glazing as I read paragraph after paragraph of word plays and scores and anagram possibilities.

Seriously, some people dedicate their lives to this game! They can't hold down jobs. They have little or no income. Relationships are minimal, at best, excepting, of course, their Scrabble buddies. They practice and study, then practice and study some more. I'm certainly not judging them. If Scrabble completes their lives and gives them the sense of control we all seek in something, then more P-O-W-E-R (10 points) to them!

Last night, I read a fascinating couple of pages toward the end of the book. Fatsis noticed a distinct gender separation among the top Scrabble champions. Interviewing three women to get their take on the disparity, they acknowledged simply that yes, men do dominate the coveted Scrabble championships. Not because they are smarter, but because they are more dedicated. "Dedicated" in that last sentence can and maybe should read "obsessed". Women don't put their lives on hold, ignore their families, forego friendships to focus solely on learning the 240,000 or so acceptable Scrabble words. Instead, they balance their love of the game with their love of their families.

And, personally, I must agree. As much I love the game and could play against Maven, the Scrabble software opponent, all day long, I do need to maintain balance. I think I do pretty well. A game or two in the evening. Maybe a game after I eat lunch. The rest of the time I convince myself to write or clean or volunteer or best of all, play with my girls, who are just like their mama: Scrabble officianados. I've taught them well!
Posted by CA girls at 1:49 PM

Thump THUMP thump THUMP thump THUMP

From April 21, 2008...

The telltale sign of nerves: the pounding heart.

What causes the heavy thumps, you ask? Well, my friend, I'll tell you...

You know, I hate even saying this because it's such a cliche. People don't even take you seriously. They respond with that obligatory look of interest and thinly veiled disdain. The "I can't possible take you seriously" vibe erases all words proclaiming the opposite. So here I go, ready for your arched eyebrow...

I'm writing a book.

Yup, it's true. I've been writing for about six months now and have made fairly significant progress. So much so, that now it is time to start looking at agents. Not that I'm ready to actually hire one yet, but I do want to have a list prepared for when I finally gain the confidence to send out query letters.

I bought a tome the other day at Borders, advising me on particular agents and their preferred genres, ideal client and their advice in actually hooking an agent's interest. Many of them said what I've been afraid of and thus, the heart thumping began.

Developing credibility takes more than just writing a book. I've known this all along, but somehow hoped that it needn't be true in my case. (Gee, ya think I should be held to the standard of rules just like everyone else? Hmmm, go figure.) So now it's time to teach a class, start a website, consult. And therein lies the nerves. Capability doesn't factor in, but more the simple fact that I am reserved and don't feel the burning need to speak. Never have. I prefer to listen, to write, to read, to observe.

Let others do the talking. There are only three people with whom I speak completely freely, without fear of censure or condemnation or condescension. And when I speak to this person, the conversation is 50% mine. An oddity, considering that throughout conversations with everyone else, I let the other person dominate. Sure, I'll chip in when needed, give the basics of interesting info in my week, ask questions, be a friend. And I'm happy to do so; indeed, I love phone calls. Simply, though, the reserving properties of my personality prefer the ease of listening rather than speaking.

Occasionally it happens that I call a friend to say hello and she's sick or out of sorts; i.e. she's not in the mood to talk. Then the burden of carrying the conversation shifts to me and I am always at a loss of how to fill the chasm of silence. Those calls never last long.

But back to the issue of nerves. I must perform, demonstrating my expertise, and I'm nervous! Aside from the difficulties of working through my reservations, I can't help but question myself. Am I ready? Am I really the expert I think I am? How do I handle questions for which I don't have an answer? How to I work through the inevitable anxiety? And, the biggest question of all, how do I garner the wherewith all to coordinate speaking engagements?

Confidence lies in security -- security in my capabilities, in my writing, in my expertise. It will develop as I work through the apprehension and just believe in myself. I just need to hurry it along lest someone else publishes a similar book first! Eek!
Posted by CA girls at 7:51 PM

A Day of Reminders...

From March 21, 2008...

I try very hard to remember that God is present in everything at every moment. Certainly this is challenging for the best of us. Today was a day that served to remind me several times over that no matter the frustration, God is always there helping.

Checked my email first thing this morning. I've been expecting a reply email from my realtor for about a week. Still no response, so I emailed again simply saying, "Everything okay? Didn't hear back from you after my last email." An hour later I get her response. She is pulling out her sign and taking off the lock box because she doesn't have our paperwork.

Ummm, ok.... We have faxed and emailed her the paperwork five times!! Yes, five times. We have the paper trail to prove that it went through, but apparently she can't be bothered to let us know that she hasn't gotten it. Fine then. If she isn't going to be proactive, she doesn't get my business. Good riddance. But still, I was furious. We have now wasted another 2+ months with this lady.

I got busy calling a couple other realtors I had in mind. One we used when we bought the house; the other has a really great track record in this market. The former realtor, Greg, called back within the hour. He asked what was going on and after I gave him a brief rundown, he took control complete of the situation. He told me exactly what I needed to do (get a particular cancellation letter from the prior realtor and get him a key), then told me what he would do: everything else.

I'm not going to have to insist on better photos, write my own description, design my own flier or anything else like I've had to do in the past. He will take care of everything. He's even going to get a stager in there to coordinate furniture since the house will show so much better if it's not vacant. Why didn't my past two realtors suggest that? I told him he was my hero. He calmed me down, took control and helped me feel confident in him and my home. There was God speaking through him telling me it was all going to be okay and that since none of it is really in my control, I need to let go.

A little later my financial planner called. I had called her earlier in the week asking for help filling out some 401K rollover forms. The wonderful woman said, "Here's my FedEx number. Just sign them and send them back. I'll do all the work for you." Thank you, Jesus! (You have to say that with flair, btw!) And thank you, Kathy! God took one more thing off my shoulders that's been plaguing me for the past several weeks.

I need to remember to have more faith. I need to remember that frustration and stress happen. Without them, I wouldn't be able to appreciate the calm and the grace that I see everyday.
Posted by CA girls at 7:02 PM

My Virgin Blog!

From March 18, 2008

Hooray! I'm finally getting started! I've been thinking about starting blog for several months now, but couldn't seem to find the time. Now here I am! True, I should be working on my book or printing off directions to the Girl Scout store I need head off to in just a few. It wouldn't hurt to run to the grocery store to replenish the ever low stock of peanut butter and bread. But the blog took priority today.

I've been reading so many other blogs and I'm curious about something. Where do these people find the time? Seriously, I just read one blog in which the writer documented every single expense on the moving company quotes he had just received! I don't know what his situation was, but when I've moved (more than just a few times), I don't have the time or the inclination to share such detail!

Other blogs I've noted are equally detailed and/or lengthy. I suppose if I forewent all my normal responsibilities, I could do that. I'm not sure I'd want to, though. But since this is my virgin blog, I can't really say what or how much I'll be blogging down the road. Maybe it becomes an addition of sorts? Any thoughts on that one?

I've also hesitated to start blogging simply because I didn't know where to start. Then I worried that I didn't have anything interesting to say. I've since made up my mind that it honestly doesn't matter. At this point, it's more online journaling. If it becomes something more, yay for me!

So right now I'm waiting for a friend to arrive. We're driving down to the Girl Scout store in Portland to buy supplies for the Junior troop I'm starting. This whole Girl Scout thing has been an interesting ride so far this year. See, last summer my family and I moved from the Detroit suburbs. As I said earlier, we've moved around quite a bit and one of the best ways I've discovered to make new friends is through Girl Scouts. (I imagine Boy Scouts is much the same, but I only have daughters, so my experience is limited to GS.) In September, I contacted the local GS council and asked for a troop, but it was three months before I heard back. I was more than a little annoyed. I mean, come on already! When I finally did get a call from the membership chair, she had a Brownie troop available for my younger daughter, but no Junior troops available. It seems that there are many Jr. troops in existence, but none of the leaders will accept additional girls. My daughter and I were out of luck.

Unless, of course, I wanted to start a troop of my own. It's not my first choice, but Hayley wouldn't be in a troop unless I did. I signed up, did the training and was given a list of 9 other girls waiting for a troop. I contacted them all and not a one was still interested. Apparently, the list was several months old and the girls had become busy with other activities. I was afraid that was going to happen. Now the tables had turned and there was a leader without a troop. Very rare in the scouting world!!!

I sent fliers to my daughters' school. I talked to other moms. There was minor interest, but no one seemed likely to commit. Thanks to Hayley we finally found some interested girls! She did a presentation on GS in her class and several girls told her afterwards that they wanted to join. Hooray!! It's taken a few weeks, but we now have 6 girls registered to be in our troop and another two girls (and parents) thinking about it. I'm thrilled!! Our first meeting is next week!
Posted by CA girls at 11:14 AM