Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hard Things

Last year I came across a book entitled, Do Hard Things. I didn't read it, but I liked the title.

What a simple idea.

At the time I was preparing to do something I had dreaded for years: pack up my family and leave my motherland for the frozen tundra. Such an endeavor definitely seemed worthy of "hard things" status. In fact, maybe it was one of the hardest things anyone had ever done. I was pretty sure I should have been awarded some kind of "hard things" medal of honor.

I've realized recently, though, that it's not the grand, momentous things in life that are truly hard. Sure, it's difficult to move to a faraway land or, I imagine, to risk one's life as a missionary or to take a leap of faith in taking a new job or embarking on a new, scary endeavor.

But, you know what's harder?

Forgiving someone who's hurt you.

Humbly submitting to your spouse.

Loving unconditionally.

They're not gradiose or attention-grabbing. There's nothing sexy about the packaging of these challenges, so it's not likely that they'll garner you any applause or pats on the back. At least not by men.

Nevertheless, God honors them and counts them among the greatest acts to which a person can attain.

I'm struggling with a couple of these things right now. There's a person in my life whom I've felt hurt by and am pretty angry at, and I would like to just wallow in my self-pity, wrap up in my hurt feelings, and snuggle up to my righteous indignation. I am right, after all.

Unfortunately, God doesn't seem to care.

"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Mat. 5:44)

Um, sorry, God, that's a verse I like to apply to big things like Muslim/Christian relations. Or maybe even to how Christians are discriminated against by the government . . . but not to my friend who's hurt me.

And, so my conversation with God goes something like this:

"Pray for her."
"But, she hurt me and hasn't apologized.
"Reach out to her."
"But, SHE is wrong and I am right."
"But, I tell you . . . love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:2-28)
"I don't want to. It's hard."

Do hard things. Why doesn't anyone ever mention that it's harder to pray for someone who's hurt you than it is to give an extra tithe or to spend a summer doing mission work?

Love one another. Now that's hard.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Joshua's letter to Santa

This is the letter to Santa that Joshua wrote in school today:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rebel without a cause

Is it just me, or is the world being seriously dumbed down? Take a look at the antibiotic I got a couple of days ago.

It seems to me they could have just said, "Take two doses the first day and one dose for the next four days." That's not confusing. Not difficult to understand. Was the big circle around the first two pills really necessary? The arrow? The labeling of all the subsequent days?

As you can see, I chose to rebel against the insulting instructions and illustrations. I took the "Day 4" pill on day 3. So there.

I also sometimes refuse to put my seatbelt on just because I WON'T give in to the dinging sound my van makes when the driver's belt is not buckled. Doggonit, I'll buckle because it makes me safe and only because it makes me safe and NOT because the vehicle manufacturer decides I need to!

Perhaps I have a problem with authority?

Friday, December 18, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday


So, I went to the doctor yesterday because I thought I had a kidney infection. Turns out I have pneumonia. That's right. Who mistakes pneumonia for a kidney infection?? It's almost like my imaginary medical degree isn't worth the paper it's not written on.


Of course my timing is impeccable, as usual. We're supposed to have a Christmas party at our house tomorrow night. I'm trying my hardest to make it still happen. Don't worry, mom, I won't overdo it. I'm only cleaning the house, grocery shopping, cooking, and taking care of the kids. Nothing to fret over. Seriously, you know me and a party. Once we've been introduced, we're not easily torn asunder.

So, I'm pulling myself up by the bootstraps (which is difficult because my boots, cute as they are not, don't even have straps) and trying to move ahead with the party. I've always been one to put up a fight. Unless it involved something I really didn't want to do anyway, like clean out my laundry room; then, I'm pretty easily put down.


Thank you, thank you, thank you to my sweet friend Jenny for helping me out in my crisis yesterday. Not only did she keep Lauren the whole day so I could take some knock-me-out-and-make-me-feel-better-pills, she also let the boys ride the bus to her house after school, and then play at her house until suppertime. What a friend!

While being blessed by such awesomeness, I almost felt for a moment like maybe I can really survive living here without my mom. Almost.


So, one of my favorite blogs is hosting one of my favorite giveaways ever. Sarah is giving away an adorable apron from Jessie Steele. I actually asked David for one of these for Christmas weeks ago, so much do I love them.

I know what you're thinking: isn't being a good cook sort of a prerequisite for loving aprons? Nay, nay, my friend. I may be a lousy cook, but I'm an excellent baker. Plus, I bet if I owned such an adorable apron, I'd become a better cook. I'm pretty sure that's all I'm missing.

If you like the aprons, head over to Sarah's blog and enter the giveaway. Even if you don't, you'll be glad you checked out her blog.


I never did post pictures from our Buffalo weekend. This is the kids with the animal "skins" they selected at the Build-a-Bear workshop.

And, here is Joshua putting the stuffing in his:

The rest of the pictures turned out sort of yellow for some reason, and I am not up to editing this morning, so that will have to do.


On the way home from Buffalo, we went skating with the youth from our church. I'm pretty sure this is the most adorable roller skater there has ever been.

Thank you to the person who told me that you can ask to have your kids' wheels tightened so that they barely turn. This brilliant piece of advice saved my back from much pain and suffering.


Some of my favorite Christmas lyrics to meditate on:

Long lay the world in sin and error, pining
'Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was Born;
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Has your soul felt its worth this Christmas? Find it in Christ.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

I enjoy the gaiety of the Christmas season as much as the next person, but I have to admit I'm finding it harder and harder to keep a reflective spirit this time of year.

Radio stations, in an effort to spread "holiday cheer," play so-called Christmas music round-the-clock. But, how many of these songs have anything to do with the birth of our Savior? How many of them speak of joy and good cheer but don't point listeners to the only Source of lasting joy? We hear of good tidings to men, but do we reflect on just how good the news really is?

While there's nothing wrong with "Frosty the Snowman" or "Jingle Bell Rock," I find myself thinking that we have let the pendulum swing way too far with the holiday songs and not far enough with the sacred.

One of my favorite things about our church in Georgia is the music. The wealth of timeless songs with deep, spiritually reflective lyrics. One of my favorite Christmas hymns that I just learned last year is Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. (Click the link to hear the beautiful melody.)

Based on Habakkuk 2:20, the words to this song were originally penned in the 4th century. (It was translated into English 1500 years later.)

I need the reminder that we are marking the birth of a sovereign God, and this is no trivial event. In fact, if we had any comprehension, any true understanding of what this means, it would render us speechless.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow (A Wordless Wednesday)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Creations by Us

Joshua built his first snowman yesterday. Here's Josh with Frosty and the two neighbor kids who helped him build it:

And, here are the Christmas tree snacks I made for Ethan's class for tomorrow. Each month the teacher assigns each student one "special day," during which that student bring an item (or twelve) for show & tell as well as a special snack for the class. It doesn't have to be a big deal, but I saw these in a magazine and just needed an opportunity to make them. (They are upside-down sugar cones.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A true feast

One of my favorite things about staying in a hotel is the breakfast buffet. Yeah, I know, that's kind of sad, but it factors significantly into my choice of hotels. The buffet in Buffalo last week did not disappoint.

We had eaten a rather early dinner the night before and had accidentally left the bag of snacks in the car. Since it was 20 degrees outside, neither David nor I jumped at the chance to retrieve the snacks, so the kids had to endure - gasp! - and entire night without snacks.

The happy result of this was that at breakfast the next morning, they were famished. They ate everything they put on their plates and then some. No chiding, no scolding, no negotiating how many more bites they had to eat. (This is only ever an issue with Ethan and Lauren; Josh is the world's best eater.) Apparently, when we're at home, I let my kids snack too often, because at lunch the same thing happened. We spent the entire morning shopping, so it was a bit late by the time we went to lunch, and they had once again had no snacks. They cleaned their lunch plates in record time.

This was sadly like an epiphany for me: when the kids are hungry, they will eat. Huh.

As I was considering this groundbreaking newsflash, I couldn't help but think about my own spiritual state. Too often I fill myself up with things other than the Bread of Life, and inevitably my appetite for Him wanes. I snack on worship music, spiritual readings, and fellowship with the saints.

Oh, it looks like a good diet, chock-full of vitamins and nutrients, but the truth is those things are meant as supplements. Side items. Christ is the feast, the only food that gives life. May I always hunger for Him.

"For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." John 6:33

Friday, December 11, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday


Lauren and I were making her construction paper prayer chain a couple of days ago, and as we were thinking of people to put on each link, she told me she wanted to pray for Grandma Nita. Grandma Nita was my step-grandmother, who died of cancer this summer. I guess Lauren just remembered praying for her often and putting her on the chain last year. I told the kids about her death this summer, but since we were in Pennsylvania we didn't go to her funeral, which was in Tennessee, so I guess it just didn't register with Lauren that she was dead.

"Lauren," I said, "Grandma Nita died, remember? She had cancer and was very sick, and she died."
With the most stricken look, Lauren said, "Grandma Nita's DEAD?"
"Yes, sweetie, she died."
"She can't talk anymore?" she asked with anguish in her voice and then broke down sobbing.

I felt so bad for her. I guess she didn't really understand what it meant before.

It must be so hard to comprehend death when you're four. For that matter, it's hard to comprehend it at thirty-four.


Speaking of praying for people, that is one of my favorite things about sending out Christmas cards every year. I end up seeing the names on mine several times because I first address them all, then I put stamps and return address labels on all of them, and then I seal them right before I take them to the post office.

It's such a blessing to me to see the names of people I cherish and have been so blessed by. I love thinking of each family and praying for them as I prepare the cards.

(And yes, by "prepare the cards," I mean only addressing, stamping, and sealing. I use photo cards with a printed greeting, and I'm not ashamed of it!)


Why are socks sold in resealable bags? Does anyone actually put the socks back in the bag? Or take out just one pair and seal it back up? I'm baffled by this.


Ethan, age five, to Joshua as he made a bank-shot to get his dirty socks into the clothes hamper: "Dude, you're awesome!"

When did my five year-old start sounding like a surfer?


Also Ethan: While riding in the van the other day, he said excitedly, "Mom, can we make some figgy pudding when we get home?"

"I don't know how to make figgy pudding, bud."
"Well, I do."
"You do? Did you learn at school?"
"No, I just know."
"Well, how do you make it?"
"You put some fig newtons in some pudding," were his words, but his tone clearly communicated, "Duh, mom!"


We've just arrived home from the elementary school Christmas concert. This consisted of songs sung by the kindergarten and first graders (Josh and Ethan were both appropriately adorable) and a performance by the 5th and 6th grade band.

I have to tell you, 5th and 6th grade band director is one job I would not like to have. Can you imagine??? Every day???

I think I will add that poor man's name to Lauren's prayer chain.


Advent Reflection

We most often read the account of the nativity found in Luke, but I love how the account in Matthew begins:

"Now this is how the birth of the Messiah came about. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit."

I love that. Here is how the Savior of the world came to be: in what looks like the most unholy, unrighteous of circumstances, He came.

It couldn't have been more scandalous. Mary was unmarried.
It couldn't have been more unlikely: Mary was young and poor.
It couldn't have been more impossible: Mary was a virgin.
It couldn't have been more unexpected: As far as we know, four hundred years had passed since since God had spoken.

But, this is how the Messiah entered the world.

Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Things I Did Not Know About Snow

1. When it rains on top of six inches of snow, that soft, fluffy snow turns into six inches of ice.

2. You cannot build a snowman out of ice.

3. When the snowplow drives by, it blows lots and lots of snow next to your car (which is parked on the street in front of your house) so that you cannot open your car door or pull out onto the street without a shovel.

4. The snowbrush I bought is about as effective as getting snow off my car with a toothbrush.

5. You MUST brush the snow off the top of the car over your door BEFORE opening the door. I keep finding this out the hard way. Maybe now that I've written it, I'll remember.

6. There is not a magical snow barrier around my front porch. Everything on it is now covered with snow and ice. Why did I think that wouldn't happen?

7. The mailman really does deliver in rain, hail, sleet, or snow. I feel like I should clear a path for him because our mailbox is on the side porch of our house, which we never use so we don't clear it. Do people clear paths just for the mailman?

8. Catching snowflakes on one's tongue is a timeless tradition. (Okay, I probably did know that one.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Beauty Revealed

As I was driving through our newly blanketed town today, I couldn't help but think how pretty everything looks in the snow. It may be tough to walk through, difficult to drive in, and beyond annoying to get off of my kitchen floor, but at least it's pretty.

In fact, I bet you could take the most abandoned and run-down looking of shacks and cover it with snow, and it would look beautiful. Something about the pristine whiteness of newly fallen snow just overshadows everything else about the object on which it falls and reveals its true beauty.

Reminds me of the blood of a Savior I know.

Speaking of the Messiah to come, Isaiah wrote:

The Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted . . . to give those who mourn in Zion beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of fainting, so they will be called oaks of righteousness, planted by the Lord, so that He may be glorified.

Isaiah 61:1-3

Lord, thank you that you came to rescue me and to cover me with your beautiful blood.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Perfectly Poetical Tuesday

I thought I'd give this a try again this month since it's a pretty simple style of poetry again. This month's assignment is a couplet.

A princess, lovely, kind, and full of grace,
Caring not that she has chocolate all over her face.

Visit The Little Stuff of Life for more - better! - poems.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Footprints in the snow

Lauren, upon seeing the large spot devoid of snow because David's car had been parked there:

"Wow! Mommy, look at that HUGE footprint!"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Make Way for the King of Glory

Lift up your heads, O gates
and be lifted up, O ancient doors
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O gates
and be lifted up, O ancient doors
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.

Psalm 24:7-10

Lord, prepare my heart for the King of Glory who has come to rule and reign and who, someday, will come again. Let my head be lifted up in praise to You, O King.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Our weekend excursion

Lauren got a gift certificate to Build-A-Bear for her birthday, so last week we told the kids that we would go to Buffalo (the nearest honest-to-goodness mega-mall) on Saturday (today) to let her use it.

What we didn't tell them was that we were actually going up on Friday afternoon to spend the night in a hotel with an indoor pool first. When the boys got home from school yesterday, I had the suitcases sitting in the kitchen ready to go. It was so much fun to surprise them.

I told Lauren about it yesterday morning, and she said, "When Joshandethan get home, I'm going to say, 'Guess where we're going! It starts with h-o-t-e-l!'" (She made the sound for each letter, basically saying the word very slowly.) "They'll never guess!"

So it was that we headed out of town around 3:30 yesterday afternoon - after jumpstarting my van because it seems to have a fear of travel and dies every time I'm pulling out on a trip.

I'd love for you to have the full experience of being there with us, so imagine as you're reading this post that you are interrupted every 70 seconds or so by, "Are we almost there?" "How much farther?" "She's getting a longer turn with the Leapster than I had!" "I'm hungry." "I don't like this song." "I'm thirsty." "I need to go to the bathroom."

Make sure you imagine it the loudest, whiniest voice possible and that you imagine your husband asleep in the passenger seat as you drive. (Though he has an uncanny ability to tell me, while sleeping, what the speed limit is every ten minutes.)

Arrived at hotel, ate some takeout from Applebee's. Next stop: the indoor pool.

Wouldn't you assume if a hotel - in Buffalo, NY - advertised that it had an indoor pool, that said pool would be heated? Yeah, me too. Sadly, we would both be mistaken. Ohmygod, it was cold. Send shivers down your spine cold. The kids and David managed to acclimate to it, but it never ceased to feel like sheer torture to me.

When I couldn't take it anymore, I decided to try the hot tub. David and the kids joined me as I dipped my legs into the scaldingly hot water that felt like a million needles piercing my frozen skin. Again, David acclimated and climbed in all the way. I sat on the side with my legs in. I admitted that it was feeling less painful over time, but I was pretty sure that was just because I'd lost all feeling. Ethan and Lauren did the same thing, but Joshua insisted it was fine and got in all the way.

While this was going on, another lady who was using the hot tub decided to go see if there was a way to turn on the jets. She came back and told us that there was a hot water alarm going off and a sign saying, "If alarm is sounding, do not under any circumstances use whirlpool."

Oops. Pround Parenting Moment #5872.

The rest of the weekend went well, and we all had a great time. Here are the high's and low's.

  • Five people sharing two beds. (Three of those people appear to have approximately 48 elbows and knees.)
  • Keeping track of three kids in an enormous mall three weeks before Christmas. While carrying three giant Build-A-Bear boxes. While also toting my purse that weighs 15 lbs, I kid you not, because it contained my digital SLR camera, my camcorder, my wallet containing every receipt or coupon I've possessed in the past seventeen years, my makeup, and six orphans.
  • Twenty thousand people in one Build-A-Bear store. One checkout line.
  • Lots . . . and lots . . . and lots of trips to public restrooms.
  • Five people. One minivan. Lots of whining.

  • Seeing the kids' excitement as they chose their stuffed animal skins. (I had not given the boys a definite answer as to whether I would let them "build" one as well, since this was for Lauren's birthday. Tonight as I was putting Josh to bed with his newly stuffed snow leopard, he said in the most grateful voice ever, "Mom, thank you for letting us do these.")
  • Snuggling with the kids as we watched tv in bed until 11 pm.
  • The massive continental breakfast. (I'm pretty sure buffets are a bad idea for Joshua, who has no "stop" button when it comes to eating. "I'm just gonna go see what else there is," he must have said a dozen times. All told, he had a large belgian waffle, a bowl of fruit loops, a cup of yogurt, some bacon, a danish, and about a quarter of an apple.)
  • Adding another suprise to the end of the day . . . we met the kids and youth from our church at a roller skating rink about 45 minutes from home for Family Skating. Our kids have not been skating since we moved and were THRILLED.
  • Eating at restaurants, none of which starts with Mc.
  • Target.
  • Playing games in the car with the kids. When they weren't whining.
  • Seeing Ethan's face light up when he realized that he had not forgotten how to swim. "Mom, I can still swim!!"
  • Josh's enthusiasm for the ice machine in the hotel. I think we could have just skipped everything else and let him fill the ice bucket all weekend.
  • The milkshake at Fudrucker's.
  • Lauren's delight as she roller skated - on the actual rink, not just the carpet - for the first time.
  • Making memories with my four favorite people on the planet.
Clearly, the high's significantly outweigh the low's. Thank you, God.

Friday, December 4, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday


While driving Lauren to ballet last week, I noticed that there were a couple of guys wearing reflective vests and directing traffic, but I couldn't find any sign of road construction. It appeared they were directing traffic into some sort of wide driveway/parking area just off the main road.


On the way home, I was able to look a little more closely and saw that there were large signs on either side of the driveway that read, "Bear Checkpoint ---->" and "Bear Weigh-In."

Ah, that's right. Last week, for three days, it was bear-hunting season.


Lauren was an hour late for school this morning. Not because we had some pressing appointment or some kind of crisis or anything else going on.

I just forgot to take her. Who forgets to take their kid to school??!! (In my defense, she only goes three days a week . . . but she's been going those same three days since early September.)

I did impress myself once I realized it, though. I remembered it at 9:06 when I was IN the bathtub, not yet having washed my hair, yet I managed to drop her off at school at 9:19. Not bad if I do say so myself.


We took the kids on a train ride the day after Thanksgiving. It was supposed to be a "Polar Express," so the kids wore their pajamas, and we rode to the "North Pole" to pick up Santa. Then he rode with us on the way back and gave all of the kids a silver bell. It was cute . . . though without snow it didn't seem very North Pole-ish.


If you look closely at Joshua in that last picture, you'll notice that he has a t-shirt on under his pajamas. That's because, as I found out when I offered him that pajama shirt, any shirt with an applique on it is the "most irritating thing in the whole wide world. AAAUGGGHHHH"

Socks inside out? Check. T-shirt under annoying shirt? Check.


Maybe it's his artistic nature that makes him so sensitive to how everything feels. Check out his latest picture that he brought home from art class this week:

(I can't fit the whole picture in my scanner, so it's a little cut off.)


While I'm bragging on kids, Ethan brought home another perfect behavior certificate yesterday for the month of November. That makes the entire school year so far without a color strip (the school's discipline system).

Actually, it makes a whole year of perfect behavior so far for both boys. Josh's class just doesn't give out certificates of honor.


Today's Advent reflection. (I should note that I am not following the liturgical calendar with any of these. This is actually a prayer for the final Sunday where you light the Christmas candle and celebrate Christ's birth, but, it's one that I love this morning. And I'm not catholic, anyway.)

As you go about your day toady, consider these reasons we have to rejoice.

Let the just rejoice,
for their justifier is born.
Let the sick and infirm rejoice,
For their saviour is born.
Let the captives rejoice,
For their Redeemer is born.
Let slaves rejoice,
for their Master is born.
Let free men rejoice,
For their Liberator is born.
Let All Christians rejoice!

Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advent reflections

I love Advent.

The anticipation, the excitement, the longing.

What must it have been like to wait and hope for the Messiah? To cling to a promise given centuries before that someday he would come?

How amazing it is to have an AD vantage point, knowing that the Great Rescuer would be God himself. I'm sure the Israelites never saw that one coming. They watched and waited and prayed for a Messiah to appear, but how many thought God himself would come?

How many recognized when He did?

Simeon is one of my favorite people in the Bible, because he felt what we feel.


I know most people in non-liturgical churches don't participate in Advent, but I challenge you to consider it. Consider how it encourages a reflection of our hearts as we wait for our Savior. How it creates a sense of wonder and expectancy. How much more meaningful Christmas morning is when we have been "counting down" in a spiritual sense and not just a secular one.

Though we do the "secular" as well, but with a twist.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions with my kids is the construction paper countdown chain. Super-spiritual, right? Well, yes. It can be. We sit down together, and the kids think of people and things they want to pray for, and we write one on each link. Then each night as we cut off a link at bedtime, we pray for the person or thing that was on that link.

It's not a traditional advent ritual, but it helps in taking their focus off of me, myself, and I, and turns their hearts toward others.

During the time between now and Christmas, I will be sharing thoughts to reflect on most days. Some will be scriptures, some prayers, some Advent readings, and others lyrics from hymns.

I'll start today with some words from one of my favorite hymns: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.

Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free.
From our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art.
Dear Desire of every Nation, joy of every longing heart.

Joy to those who long to see Thee, Dayspring from on high appear.
Come, thou promised rod of Jesse; of Thy birth we long to hear.
O'er the hills the angels singing, news glad tidings of a birth:
"Go to Him, your praises bringing; Christ the Lord has come to earth!"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Date Night

In our former life, ie before we moved to Tinytown, it was easy, common even, for David and me to have a date night. Hire a babysitter - or better yet drop the kids at Gaga's house - for a couple of hours, have dinner at one of a zillion restaurants, go see one of the 20 or so different movies being shown in our town, and that was that.

It's a little more trouble here.

David's parents came for Thanksgiving, so we decided to take advantage of having sitters in the house last night and have ourselves a bona fide dinner and a movie date.

Except the only thing showing in our town right now is Astroboy.

The simple and obvious solution in my book would be to go see New Moon since it was showing in a town about 20 minutes from here. Unfortunately, my non-teenage-vampire-loving husband disagreed, so we set off for the hour drive to Olean to see The Blind Side, which we both actually wanted to see anyway.

Knowing the earlier show had sold out, we decided to swing by the theater and buy our tickets on the way to dinner. Too late. Already sold out.

Since New Moon was still not an option David would consider, we had to settle on a different movie. Our options? 2012, Planet 51, Old Dogs, and something about a Fantastic Fox. We decided the lesser of four evils was 2012.

Sadly, it started a half-hour earlier than Blind Side, so we no longer had time to go to dinner. But really, who wants an oriental chicken salad and a martini from Applebee's when you can have popcorn and coke?

Since I'm such a great person, I will save you the eight or ten bucks you may have spent so see 2012 if you found yourself in a similar situation. Here's the plot synopsis.

Begin the film with a young scientist in some obscure place discovering a geologic abnormality that will lead to the end of the world. Introduce a few minor characters, most of whom will die. Show the US president and other world leaders agonizing over what to do, all the while being prodded by some unscrupulous politician to make immoral choices. Make sure movie's hero is a divorced dad who is spending the weekend with his estranged kids who don't like him. This way when he saves the world they can reconcile and realize they really do love him. And, whatever you do, don't kill the dog.

What you've seen it already? No, that was Deep Impact. Or Armageddon. Maybe Dante's Peak. Day After Tomorrow? Outbreak?

I'm pretty sure the point of these movies is to make us feel like maybe the end of the world wouldn't really be such a bad thing. While watching 2012, I found myself thinking, "Really, a tidal wave is going to destroy us all? Can it PLEASE happen NOW??!!"

I have to say that eating greasy popcorn while watching the world brace for impending doom would really not be all that bad of a date night . . . if we didn't have to drive an hour even to do that.

Sadly, the most entertaining part of the evening came when David dropped me off to buy the tickets for Blind Side. But, like the good scriptwriter that whoever wrote 2012 was not, I'll leave you hanging until tomorrow for that. As long as the world doesn't end before then.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lauren's Party

It still feels quite strange to me to have birthday parties for my kids without my parents and brothers and nieces and nephew being there. I am quite thankful, however, that we moved to a place where my kids have so. many. cousins. Everyone at Lauren's party today except one little boy was a cousin. And we were even missing several!

The cake (yes, I made it):

The princess tablescape:

The food was chocolate dipped strawberries, chocolate dipped pretzel rods (aka princess wands), grapes, and heart-shaped sandwiches. We also had pink lemonade in clear plastic cups.

The girls decorated princess crowns, the boys visors:

Everyone in their creations:

My favorite princess blowing out her candles for the fourth time:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Here's what the kids contributed to today's meal:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I should keep a tape recorder in my van

It's where the kids and I seem to have the best conversations.

While we were in the car yesterday I told the kids that they would each be allowed to pick out a new Christmas ornament when we go to Buffalo in a couple of weeks. I reminded them that each year we mark the ornaments that belong to each of them so when they grow up and move out someday, they will have a collection of ornaments.

Joshua: Do we have to use our own money?
Me: No, I buy you each an ornament every year.
J: So by the time I'm in my 20's and move out, I'll have that many ornaments?
Me: Yes, you should have more than 20 by then.
J: Alright! Then I'll never have to spend my own money on an ornament . . . until I have kids. I guess they'll want new ones.
Lauren: I don't want to have kids.
Me: You don't want to have a baby someday?
Lauren: I want a baby, just not a kid.
Me: Well, babies grow into kids. Look at you guys. I had three babies, and you all got so big.
Lauren: Do mommies have to change baby's diapers?
Me: Yes, mommies do change a lot of diapers.
Josh: I'm glad dads don't have to change diapers!
Me: Oh, yes they do. Your daddy changed a lot of your diapers.
J: I'm not changing diapers. I'll just stay at work all day.
Me: What about when the baby needs to be changed at night?
J: Well, some people work until like midnight, don't they?
Me: Yes, but then you wouldn't get to see your wife and baby very much. Wouldn't you miss them?
J: I'll just come home when the baby's three.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Weekend snippets

1. Today was a milestone for me. For the first time in my life, I have Christmas lights adorning the outside of my home.

I grew up in a house out in the country, in the woods at the end of a very long driveway. I suppose my parents' rationale was that there was no one to see the outside lights, so why put them up? So it was that I just sort of grew up an inside-lights-only kind of Christmas decorator.

I've changed. My kids so love seeing the Christmas lights on other people's houses that it has always been a disappointment to them that we didn't have them on ours. So this year I decided to change that.

(I admit it's early, but if you follow me on Facebook - and why wouldn't you - you know that I have two very busy weekends coming up after this one, AND the weatherman says snow next weekend. It was cold enough hanging them today when it was 45 degrees outside. (That's Fahrenheit, Shannon!))

So . . . raise your hand if you think it's a bad idea to let me have a staple gun. Raise your hand if you think it's a bad idea to let me balance precariously on a ledge to hang lights.

You there, in the back row . . . the one without your hand raised . . . have we met?

Amazingly, I managed not to kill myself, though Josh told me I looked like a sloth when I was in that last pose. (I had my leg wrapped around the post for leverage.)

Despite my proclivity for accidents, I did not fall off the stool or the ledge. Though I did have to ask David if it's bad to pierce the wires on the lights with the staple gun. My aim wasn't so great when I was bending over backward. Apparently, yes, it's bad. Especially when I managed to pierce both of the wires with one staple. Good thing I keep a husband on hand to fix such things.

2. Is this the cutest helper you've ever seen or what?

Joshua did all of the picture taking today, and I thought this picture of Lauren was quite good.

3. Another reason it was a good time to get out and hang the lights today was that we have barely gotten out of the house at all for the past week. We have had one little sickie after another.

This is how Lauren and Ethan have fallen asleep (around 6 pm) for the past two (Ethan) or three (Lauren) nights:

Ethan is on the mend but still running a fever. Joshua also decided to start running a fever on Friday, and the problem with more than one kid being sick at the same time is that we have an exception to the "no sleeping in mommy and daddy's bed" rule when a kid is sick.

Ethan slept in our room Wednesday and Thursday nights, but Friday night they both had fevers. What to do? Friday is waaaay too far removed for me to remember what we did, but I do know that I ended up on the couch last night and by morning, I was sharing it with TWO other people. The couch. Ouch.

4. Lauren has been on a knock-knock joke kick. She cracks herself up with "jokes" that all involve eating.

Who's there?
Tissue who?
Why do you have to eat all the tissues?! Hahahahahahahahahahahah!!!!!

She will say the same thing over and over with a different object each time. Cracks. Herself. Up.

Friday, November 20, 2009

No Takes Friday

I've been home with sick kids all week, so I'm not really feeling the Quick Take love this week. Truly, there is not much to report on when one has hardly left the confines of her home all week.

Except there is this: When I was taking pretzel sticks to the boys' school this morning (don't ask), I looked to see what movie was showing on our one-screen theater this weekend.

Of ALL the movies to choose from - like, I don't know, TWILIGHT or The Blind Side - they are showing Michael Jackson's This Is It.

Sometimes I love this town, and sometimes it makes me want to cry.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

On Pee Cups and Throat Swabs

I've had to head to the pediatrician's office twice this week. The first time was for Lauren, the second for Ethan. Two visits; zero diagnoses.

Which is just what one hopes for when one has no insurance. I could have flown home for Christmas for what I'm spending in doctor's office fees and lab costs. Because, you know, the quick in-office test could have been wrong, so they have to send it to the lab for longer, more expensive testing.

Which also came back negative.

But, don't worry, there was lots of fun to be had while we were there. For the low, low price of only one arm and one leg, I was able to experience the joy of getting my three year old daughter to pee in a cup.

What? You haven't had the pleasure?

It only took three tries, several plastic cups, one rubber glove, countless tears, and forty-five minutes. All to find out that she did not have a UTI. Or at least, she probably didn't.

Since getting my five year old son to pee in a cup would not have been much of a challenge, he decided to have a ridiculously high fever and excruciating sore throat instead of painful urination. That way I could have his throat swabbed.

Still . . . a throat swab? That's not bad. Come on, it could be worse, right?

Yeah, they could make my everything-irritates-him, pulls-his-shirts-collars-down-to-his-nipples-because-they're-always-"choking"-him, can't-stand-anything-touching-his-neck son wear a mask. Apparently anyone who comes in with a fever and a cough must wear a surgical mask.

I could see him starting to freak out a little when I got the mask out of the box. As his eyes darted to and fro with that crazed must-escape-somehow look, I tried reassuring him that it wouldn't hurt. It's just thin, like paper. See, Ethan?

He folded his body inward and said he was scared to put it on in front of all the people in the lobby. No problem, said I, we can go down the hall and put it on right outside the door to the doctor's office. (The pediatrician's office in a hospital.) I carefully put it on him and tied the top string around his head.

His body tensed up, and I could see him starting to panic. We entered the waiting room, and hallelujah, there were no other people in it. It was an empty room! Surely, he won't have to wear the mask since the room is empty. Right?


I signed him in, asked the girl in the window if he had to wear it even though there was no one else in the room, was told yes he did, and turned around just in time to see his eyes well up and to hear my oh-so-brave five year-old wimper, "Mommy, I'm gonna cry!"

And cry he did.

Once he finally composed himself, it was time for the throat swab. You know, the strep-negative throat swab. The why-did-I-even-put-us-through-this throat swab. The send-it-off-to-the-lab-in-case-our-test-is-wrong throat swab. The you-could-have-bought-a-plane-ticket-instead-because-this-will-cost-you-so-much throat swab. The I-told-him-it-wouldn't-hurt-but-I-forgot-his-throat-was-already-raw-and-painful-even-BEFORE-he-began-crying-from-the-mask-from-hell throat swab.

Of course, it came back negative. And, apparently it did hurt.

At least he got what the doctor's office refers to as a "free" popsicle. Since it's pretty much all we got for our money, I'd say it was decidedly the most expensive popsicle he's ever eaten.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thank you, Gaga!

The perfect antidote for a little girl's sickness arrived in the mail today.

I didn't realize the items inside the box were not wrapped, so I opened the box and was going to let her open just one thing and save the rest for her party. (I should have realized this since the box itself was wrapped in princess wrapping paper, but I didn't.) Once she got started, there was no stopping her.

She loves all of it. Thanks, Gaga!

Friday, November 13, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday


It's Friday. Which means only four days till Tuesday. As Joshua would say, "What matters that?"

Well, I'll tell you what matters that. Tuesday is when I am hosting a bunco group at my house.

Never heard me mention my bunco group? That's because technically, they're not "my" bunco group. Last month was my first time attending, so that means I've met 99% of the women in the group a grand total of . . . once.

So, what exactly made me open my big mouth and say I'd have the next one at my house? I have no idea. But, open it I did, so in four days I will have a whole bunch of women I have met once, most of whom have known each other for a loooong time, come to my not-done-being-decorated, usually-looks-like-the-circus-must-live-here, contains-only-one-table-with-chairs house to play bunco.

And, did I mention that the hostess provides the food and the prizes? (The money comes from the whole group, but the hostess is responsible for choosing and purchasing them.)

What have I done?


It's become my routine to eat lunch around 12:30 every day. I usually turn on the television and catch the last half of What Not to Wear while I eat. (I don't really care for the first half where they tell all about the person and make fun of her clothes. I just like to see the new outfits and the hair & make-up makeovers.)

Of course, Lauren always wants to sit on the couch and watch it with me. She calls it "the haircut show." Upon hearing her playing with her dolls one day this week, I realized maybe I let her watch this too often. This was the running monologue she had going on:

"Hmm, it's a little longer than I thought. Let's fix this. Long hair doesn't always look good when you're old."

"Now I'm just fixing your eyebrows. Much better. And, you need some lipstick and some eyestick. Ooh, you look so good."


Speaking of Lauren, she has begun to really dislike being away from me. She's started crying when she leaves for preschool, and her teacher told me that she cried for me for almost 20 minutes on Monday.

When I dropped her off on Wednesday, I said, "Now remember, there's no reason to cry. Mommy will be back in three hours, and you're going to have so much fun."

Nevertheless when I picked her up her teacher said she had cried again saying that she missed me. I asked her why she cried, and she said, "Mommy, I tried not to, but I just wanted you."

She never did this before and has never minded being away from me. Yesterday I had to make an all-day trip to Olean, so I asked her if she wanted to go with me or stay home with a sitter. She chose stay home because she hates the long drive. Still, when I got home our sitter (who is actually one of Lauren's cousins who has babysat her many times) said that she cried for me a couple of times.

Lauren said, "I just love you. You give me a lot of kisses, and I needed one."


Operation Get Back Into My Jeans has officially begun.

Time for some brutal honesty. Just between you and me and the worldwide web, I have gained 17 lbs since I moved to Pennsylvania. SEVENTEEN! Consequently, I have decided that I must lose 15 pounds by Christmas. That gives me exactly six weeks from today. I began by getting back into a gym routine on Monday, and to give me even more incentive to stick with my exercise program, I'm taking classes to become a kickboxing instructor.

Yes, you read that right . . . a kickboxing instructor.

So, if you have any rude comments you'd like to make about me and my overweight butt, I'd suggest you do it now, because come January I will take you down.

You and my jeans size.


Check out these homemade pretzels we made a few days ago:

They were so unbelievably good. I think if there is any hope of Operation Get Back Into My Jeans succeeding, I'd better not make them again.

(Yes, Lauren's is shaped like a cat.)


I finally got around to listing my china on ebay last week, and the auction ended last night without a single piece of it selling.

I really want to buy some new dishes, and since we have used our wedding china approximately, I dont know, maybe zero times in nine years, I thought that would be a good way to pay for the new dishes I want.

Then again, maybe not. To add insult to injury, I still had to pay the ebay listing fees, so instead of making a little money, I spent a little money. Splendid.


Sorry, folks. I have to go pick up Lauren, but if you need more Quick Takes, head over to Conversion Diary. You won't be sorry.