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!