Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or Treat

Wow, three Halloween-related posts in two days. Oh well, gotta document, right?

Ethan as a skunk. He got the most comments and laughter . . . from every house. I told him only to spray on the rude people.

Lauren as a princess. She has a really cute Cinderella dress on under the coat, but alas, it was 45 degrees and very windy, so she had to wear a coat. I put on her most princess-y looking one that her Grandma gave her, but it made her look more like Little Blue Riding Hood than a princess. Oh well, just don't tell Lauren.

Joshua as a ninja. Though for some reason I labeled the picture jedi. I guess they're kinda the same.

My niece Lesey as a Renaissance Queen. Not to be confused with another time period. I don't think queens back then typically colored their hair blue, but we had some colored hairspray, so they all wanted to use it.

This was our first time trick-or-treating in Tinytown, and it was awesome! In the past our experience with trick-or-treating has gone something like this: Walk up to closed door and ring doorbell. Person inside will come to door, hand you candy, and then close the door behind you.

That's not how it works here. Practically the whole town is decked out, and most people are sitting on their porches or in their driveways waiting for the kids. Closed doors were the exception tonight.

Josh wanted me to add this picture because, with his ninja hood on, you couldn't see that his hair was red and blue.

Happy Halloween

Look what we made!

Friday, October 30, 2009

The third floor haunted house

The kids decided today that they wanted to turn the third floor playroom into a haunted house. (For the record, my kids have never actually been to a haunted house. I value my sleep way too much to permit such a thing.) Joshua and Lesey spent over an hour working on it alone and then recruited the help of my aunt Bobbie who's here visiting. After school, Ethan and Lauren joined in the creation, and here's what I saw when I was finally allowed upstairs.

"The Haunted House"

"Enter if you dare"

The kids with Aunt Bobbie . . . the room is much creepier with the lights off, but then I can't get a good picture. (Though with the lights on, I'm not sure what's scarier - the spider webs or the mess on the floor!)

This is an Optimus Prime ghost, I'm told.

Joshua said they put these hangers on the floor because when I stepped on them in the dark, they would clang together and sound like bones. He was a bit disappointed when I did not mistake them for a human skeleton in my playroom.

Halloween parties

I loved getting to go to my kids' classes today to help with their Halloween parties. They love showing off how they know their way around, and I love seeing them in that environment.

Ethan's class made Halloween hats and were in the middle of reading to themselves when I arrived.

I have to brag on Ethan for a moment. I got to be there when his teacher announced who had perfect behavior for the month of October, and Ethan was the ONLY one. In fact, he has had perfect behavior the entire year, that great kid of mine. :)

Lauren wanted to sit in my lap and be held the whole time I was at her school. Except she did love to skip ahead of me and "show me the way."

"Pin the stem on the pumpkin" is maybe not her strong suit.

Unfortunately, Joshua is still sick, so no school for him. He and Lesey (my niece who's visiting from Georgia) have spent the afternoon busily turning our third floor playroom into a haunted house. I'll be back with pictures when I'm allowed to go up and look.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

You might be at our house if . . .

I have spent the day getting my house ready for company.

Granted it's family, but still it's probably best not to have them show up to two-day old pb&j spots on the kitchen floor, piles of clean laundry on the sofa, and a dress-up bin that looks like it formed some kind of suicide-bomb pact with the transformers bucket wherein they blew themselves up in the playroom . . . which, unfortunately, also happens to be the guest room.

I know, it sounds too good to be true, right? It's sort of like Disneyland. But not.

But, seriously, life as a house-guest in a home with more kids than adults doesn't have to be all bad. If you're ever a guest at my house, here are a few pieces of advice I hope will make your stay as stress-free as possible:

1. Yes, those are dinosaur sheets on your bed, but hey, at least they're clean dinosaur sheets. That's more than I can say for my own bed.

2. If you're looking for 27-grain whole wheat bread and chickpeas in the pantry, don't fret. Just look behind the juice boxes, Spiderman mac-n-cheese, and graham crackers shaped like bumblebees. You'll find them.

3. Be careful getting out of bed during the night. Your room is also the playroom which houses approximately six billion and five tiny leggos. They hurt when you step on them, so I recommend using a night light. And shoes.

4. Don't be a towel snob. A piece of terrycloth is a piece of terrycloth, and if it happens to be shaped like a butterfly, it will still get you dry.

5. If you plan to sleep in, I recommend earplugs. Made by NASA.

6. Check the toilet seat before you sit down. I have boys. If they didn't put the seat down, don't worry, it could be worse. It could mean that they never lifted the seat, in which case there was almost definitely major splashage. Just check the seat.

I hope these tips will make your stay as relaxing as if you'd won an all-expenses paid cruise to Atlantis with a stop at day spa on the way and a wine-tasting on the way back.

If not, feel free to ask for a full refund.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Refuge

Moving to a new town in a new state a thousand miles from home is not easy. Admittedly, it does not rank up there with serving in Iraq or becoming a missionary in Bulgaria or giving up sugar for Lent, but it's difficult nonetheless.

There have been many things that have made this transition easier than it could have been. Lots of family. A loving church. A great house with plenty of room for the kids to play inside or out. Good neighbor kids that provided my children with fast friends.

These things are all good. (Except when the neighbor kid teaches your seven year-old son how to do a supermodel walk . . . that's never good.) But, I realized recently that they cannot be what sustains me. While I'm thankful for these pieces of respite that God has mercifully provided, I must assess them accurately, not giving them a place of more importance than they deserve.

Yesterday in church we were singing a song that I love even if I have been singing it since I was four. It's taken directly from Psalm 91:

"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. And I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge, and my fortress; my God in Him will I trust." (Ps 91:1-2, emphasis mine)

As I was singing those words, I felt the Lord speak to my spirit. The conversation went something like this.

"Am I?" He asked.
"Are you what?" I replied.
"Your refuge."
"Yes. Thank you, God, that you are my refuge."
"Am I?"
"Of course. Your word says you are."
"An umbrella keeps you dry but only if you use it. Am I your refuge?"
"Well . . . I guess so."
"I think you've been finding refuge elsewhere. In friends. In activities. In busy-ness. In projects. In entertainment. Am I your refuge?"

Lest you think I've completely lost it, this conversation took place entirely in my head. I did not hear God speak audibly about an umbrella any more than I took off on one like Mary Poppins, but I do believe He impresses these thoughts into my spirit and that they come from Him.

The good thing about God's voice is that it does not lead to condemnation but to conviction. The difference is that one leaves you feeling guilty and hopeless; the other leaves you feeling briefly saddened at your mistake but blissfully hopeful in the God of grace who showed you your mistake and wants to help you correct it.

There's nothing wrong with all the other things that I've been finding solace in, but it's important to be conscious of what I'm doing. God promises that He is my refuge and my strength, an ever-present help in trouble, a strong tower and a shield over my head. But that does not mean I can't find solace elsewhere. He is not the only refuge game in town, but the others will all prove a shabby substitute in the end.

Lord, help me to continually find my refuge in You and You alone.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Friday: A Timeline

10:30 am: I decide to go to they gym but discover that my already dilapidated sneakers are now cutting into the back of my ankle causing me pain. Realizing I cannot wear these, I decide to go to Olean to get some new sneakers.

Olean is an hour away, so while I'm there I will make a stop at Old Navy, the dry cleaners, and the grocery store. This will take a few hours, so I decide to pick Lauren up from preschool early so I can make it back before the boys get home at 3:00.

10:45: I pick up Lauren and decide to go to Olean via a different route since Lauren's school is in that direction. I have never been this way before.

11:05: Begin to worry that I passed my turn because I don't think it's suppose to be this far out. Can't call anyone because there is, of course, no cell reception. Decide to turn around. Also my "check engine" light comes on. Also it's snowing.

11:10: Finally reach a road/driveway in which to turn around.

11:35: Get back into town and decide to trade cars with David since I don't know why my check engine light is on. And it's snowing.

11:40: Finish transferring Lauren, Lauren's carseat, and the bags of laundry for the dry cleaner to David's car. In the snow. Turn on David's car to discover he has no gas. Since I remember him telling me on MONDAY that he had no gas, I know he must REALLY have no gas.

11:50: Finish pumping gas.

11:53: Pull through McDonald's to get a drink for my daughter who has been whining about being thirsty since I picked her up over an hour ago.

11:55: Leave McDonald's and head to Olean the way I know.

12:03: Lauren begins crying that she "weally has to go potty!"

12:10: Stop at our church so Lauren can use the bathroom.

12:15: Get in car and head home because I no longer have time to get to Olean, do all I need to do, and get back before the boys get home.

Tell me again why anyone would choose to live an hour away from Walmart.

Friday, October 16, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday


Lauren has been curious lately about where she was before she was born. She's got this idea in her head that she was in heaven all by herself, which she does not like because she says she would be scared all by herself.

I've explained to her that I have no idea where we were (if anywhere) before we're born but that maybe she's right and she was in heaven with God. Today she came to me out of nowhere with a very pouty look on her face and said, "Mommy, when I was in heaven with God, I didn't get to see how tall he was."

The things my kids can find to complain about.


Last weekend I saw a sign in front of a restaurant in Harrisburg that left me baffled. I spent miles perplexedly pondering its meaning. It said, "Beer to go. Draft or six-pack."

I know, it sounds just like the kind of thing that would leave you deep in thought for half an hour, too, right?

But really, I've never seen a sign for beer to go before. Draft beer. How do they do that? Surely a cup with just a lid would violate open container laws. Do they put it in a bottle? That would sort of defeat the purpose of it being draft, wouldn't it? I was tempted to go in and order some just to satisfy my curiosity so I could stop wasting precious brain cells thinking about this.

Anyone know how this works?


Here's what our yard looked like yesterday.

Here's what it looks like today:

Remember what my mountain looked like one week ago?

Here's what it looks like today:

So much for Fall.


So glad I bought snow gear in Harrisburg last weekend! I really thought I was being supermom and buying things way ahead of time. That's so unlike me that I should have suspected something was amiss.


Apparently October is Fire Safety Month. All of my kids have come home this week with some sort of fire related homework assignment. Count how many smoke detectors and fire extinguishers we have. Test the batteries. Have a fire drill.

Lauren's preschool sent home a note letting us know that there will be firemen and a fire truck at her school on Friday. When I told Lauren about it, she said, "I hope he doesn't spray me with fire!" "Lauren, firemen don't spray fire. Remember what comes out of their hoses?" "Yes," she replied, "Water. Then it turns into fire, right?"

I'm thinking fire safety month is going to be a bit lost on her.


I suppose once the snow melts we really should get around to raking the hundred million leaves that are currently covering our yard and sidewalk. Somehow it just doesn't seem right that it could be covered in snow before we've even had a chance to rake the leaves.

Interesting tinytown trivia: There is no city trash pickup here. You're on your own for finding a way to dispose of your garbage. But, leaves . . . those the city will pick up for you. Drive around right now, and you'll see piles and piles of leaves on the curb just waiting to be picked up.

What kind of place picks up your leaves for you but not your stinkin' trash?!


The bad thing about winter is that it requires covering up

all one's cute clothes.

Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's like Laurel and Hardy

Helping Ethan with his reading homework tonight:

Ethan: See the fan.
Me: No, it's a question. "See the fan?"
E: Yes.
M: You say, "See the fan?"
E: I see it.
M: No, I'm not asking if you see it. You're supposed to say it.
E: I did.
M: Say it like a question. "See the fan?"
E: Yes.
M: I know you see it, but there's a question mark, so you need to say it like this: "See the fan?"
E: I see the fan!
M: Turn the page.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Harrisburg Trip Highs and Lows

This weekend was Josh's birthday, and the kids also happened to be out of school Friday and Monday, so we made a quick trip down to Harrisburg for the long weekend. I was going to post some pictures tonight, but between watching the Grey's Anatomy I missed while we were gone and editing photos, I've been looking at this screen for so long I'm going cross-eyed. So instead I'll just offer up some highs and lows, with a couple of pics thrown in for good measure.

The highs:

1. Shopping. I'm the not-so-proud owner of those new jeans I so desperately needed. And approximately 87 other things. What? I only went to Target four times in two days.

2. Eating. Red Lobster. Chik-fil-A. Bruster's. I really wanted to get in another restaurant while I had the chance, but considering how much of #1 I did, I tried to keep things under control.

3. Granddad's garden. Okay, so this was a high for the kids and not so much for me, but it makes me happy to see them so delighted.

(They picked all of these peppers, many, many green beans, and even an eggplant or two, I think.)

4. Carving jack-o-lanterns. The best part about this is that it didn't involve me at all. I was - where else? - at Target shopping while David and his dad took the kids to the pumpkin patch to pick out pumpkins and then took them back to the house to carve them. And clean up the mess. Awesome.

5. Traveling with great kids. This was the first time I can honestly say that traveling with our kids was pretty easy. We did have to make several more bathroom stops than seems humanly possible, but the kids were generally good. Which is even more impressive considering that the video-player in the van doesn't work. Yeah, that's right, no movies. Go us.

The boys are old enough now to entertain themselves with sketch pads and tic-tac-toe games, and Lauren is old enough not to cry and shriek every time she needs something. (Though she did ask if were were almost there about 739 times. Sweetly, she would supplement it with, "Because I NEED to see Grandmom and Granddad.")

I think we have reached a real milestone here. I traveled with my kids and didn't hate it.

6. There was also bowling, birthday celebrating, and a stop at ReptileLand on the way home. I'll save those pictures for another day. I know you'll wait with bated breath. Especially for the reptile ones.

The Lows:

1. Discovering that the cigarette lighter in my van doesn't work. You know how I love those Camels. Okay, not really. But, I do love to listen to my ipod via a radio transmitter that plugs into the cigarette lighter. I thought my transmitter was broken, but upon buying a new one which still didn't work, I realized that the problem is my van. Which makes me sad because that's a lot less simple to remedy.

2. Carsickness. The roads between here and there are slightly curvy. And mountainous. Yuck.

3. Shopping with my mother-in-law. This is not because of any ill-will toward her or any trouble with our relationship. We get along fine, and she's a great person. It's merely because of the conversation we had while shopping for those much-needed jeans.

MIL: What size do you need now?
Me: Six.
MIL: Really? You were smaller than that?
Me: I've been a four for a long time. Right up until about six weeks, or several cartons of ice cream, ago.
MIL: You were a size four? I never thought of you as that thin.

Thanks. Really, I would much rather be a larger size and have people surprised because I look thinner than have people be surprised at my small size because I apparently look fatter.

Maybe sweet tea and leftover chocolate frosting wasn't an ideal lunch.

Friday, October 9, 2009


This is what my mountain looks like now. I love seasons.


Joshua lost another tooth at school this week. He has now lost six teeth, three of them at school. He wants to put all of his lost teeth in a container to save and make something with. (He also tries to collect the clippings when he gets a haircut because he wants to make a wig. I always check his pockets before we leave the salon.) So, it is really a shame for this kid that he got me for a mom. I just do not have the ability to keep up with and hold on to things for sentimental reasons. I definitely did not throw his teeth away. At least not on purpose. I just can't exactly remember what I did with them. "Them" would include the teeth he lost last year in Georgia as well as the one he lost two weeks ago. It must suck to be my kid sometimes.


I'm pretty sure he gets the creativity from his dad. David is a model railroader. Yes, apparently, there are people under age 65 who participate in this obsession hobby.

He is working on making a mountain right now for the trains to tunnel through. Having lived with David for almost a decade now, it does not surprise me to walk into the kitchen and find a giant pot full of boiling trees.


I saw this ad in a magazine the other day, and really I think whatever marketing genius came up with it should be fired. Who brings up great abs when trying to persuade a person to buy a quesadillas? "Hmmm, I was going to have some melted cheese wrapped up in bread tonight, but now that you reminded me about wanting great abs . . ."


We are taking a trip to Harrisburg soon, and I am trying to make a list of all the things I need to get while we are there.

Of course, there are the usual things we've always needed and just can't buy here: new jeans, underwear for my finicky son, a towel rack for one of the bathrooms.

Then there are the things we've never needed before: snow boots, long johns, parkas, snow pants.

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.


We live very close to the local high school, and my kids love to see the marching band go by our house when they practice. Gotta love small towns. (The older girl is one of many neighbor kids who practically live at our house when not in school.)

Speaking of small towns and schools, can I just say how awesome it is that my son is in public school and has SEVENTEEN kids in his first grade class? You can't get that small a class in most private schools these days!


Pops, are you coming?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Like Mother, Like Daughter

I will admit it. I am afraid of the dark. Always have been and probably I always will be.

It's not fun being a perfectly intelligent, rational adult who hears non-existent noises in the night. But, I can say from experience that it sure beats being a less than rational four year-old who hears noises in the night any day. Or night. Whatever.

Lauren has recently become afraid to sleep in her room. I can sympathize. I can remember as a child lamenting the fact that I was the ONLY one who had no one to share a room with. My parents had each other, my brothers had each other, and I had nada. I know, it was a pretty horrid childhood I had being forced to have my own room and all. I even used to pay one of my brothers a quarter to sleep in my room until he figured out that a quarter wasn't really worth sleeping with his sister.

The past few nights Lauren has come to me with the same lament. She BEGS Ethan to let her sleep with him since his bottom bunk is a double bed and he lets Josh sleep with him on a regular basis. The problem is even Ethan is old enough to appreciate a good night's sleep, which is a scientific impossibility when sleeping with Lauren. "She always tries to put her legs on me and sleep on my pillow." I know, kid, she does. This is why I can't force him to let her sleep with him.

So tonight after she came down twice crying about having a bad dream (she had been in bed for three minutes, none of which involved sleeping), I went up and sat with her for a bit. After about ten minutes, I told her I was going downstairs and would come up and check on her again in five minutes. She sobbed and begged me not to go. I was determined to go with tough love. Nip this in the bud so she doesn't spend her whole life afraid to sleep in her own room.

This is what I found when I came up the stairs a few minutes later.

For perspective, here's a wider shot. That's her brothers' door to the right.

Yes, I moved her to my bed, not hers. I think I'm doomed to perpetuate the cycle.

It's a good thing she's so cute and cuddly.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

PETA would be proud

Me: Lauren, put this shirt on; it's nice and warm.

Lauren: Not a turtlehead, Mommy, I don't like those.

M: You mean turtleneck. That's fine, I'll pick a different shirt for you.

L: And make sure it's not made with ANY animal necks.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Small Towns Make You Fat

That's the only conclusion I can draw from the fact that I have gained a significant amount of weight since we moved here. I'm too vain to admit out loud exactly how many pounds, but less just say it's more than 10 and less than 100. It's a jeans size for sure.

Which is such a disappointment to me because I really thought it was going to be easy to lose weight living here. There is a gym half a mile from our house, and I figured since there's nowhere else to go anyway, I would be fit and toned in no time.

Turns out there is somewhere to go besides the gym. There's the kitchen. And I go there a lot.

I'm realizing that now that I live in such a small town and don't leave the house all that much, I spend a lot of time baking. Cookies. Muffins. Yeast rolls. Homemade pizza. And then I spend an equal amount of time eating them. No wonder my jeans don't fit.

The good news is I'm going back to work in December. I expect merely getting out of the house on a regular basis for more than four minutes at a time is going to shave inches straight off my hips. The bad news is that December is two months away, and I sort of need to get dressed in the meantime.

It saddens me to take the plunge and admit that I can't really breathe when my jeans are buttoned and that even if I could, the resulting muffin top is, um, less than sexy. But, alas, admit it I must. So, inspired by Sarah, I've decided to head to Olean tomorrow and buy some jeans. Assuming I can find some at Old Navy because, other than Walmart, that's the only place within an hour that even sells jeans.

If only there were so few places that sell flour and sugar.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Birthday party #15

Between my three kids, I have now hosted fifteen birthday parties. You'd think I'd be a pro at this by now, but alas, I am still me.

For the most part it went great. The cake was yummy, the kids had fun, no one got hurt. I was extremely pleased that in the middle of at least a week of COLD, wet days, we managed to get a sunny 62-degree-er for Josh's party yesterday. I was thrilled to be shedding layers during the boys' soccer game yesterday morning. "Yes, it's going to be a beautiful day after all," I thought.

The games ended at 12, and the party was at three.

I had to run a few quick errands on my way home and had a lot of cleaning and party prep left to do, so I decided just to pull through McDonald's to get the kids some lunch. I ordered, pulled up to the first window and paid, and then drove away. I got a couple of blocks when I thought, "Mmm, that smells good; I think I'll swipe a couple of fries." There were no fries to be swiped. I had driven off without getting my food. Drove right past the second window. You know, I've only been pulling through drive-through windows for 18 years now, so it's understandable. And, don't even ask me what I smelled that made me want a french fry . . . I am at a total loss.

Got the food and headed home. Decided to be oh-so-efficient and get the outside tables ready well ahead of time. Put the cute western-themed tablecloths on both tables and even taped quarters on the inside of each corner to keep them from blowing away. Came inside, and five minutes later it began pouring rain. Josh rescued the stick horses, but there was no hope for the paper tablecloths.

It rained for approximately six minutes and was a beautiful, sunny day again for the remainder of the day. I picked the worst possible eleven minute span of the day to set up the tables.

And, no, of course I did not remember to get the quarters off the tablecloths before I asked someone to throw them away.

Everything else went pretty smoothly, and Josh thought it was a success, which in the end is all that matters. (I accidentally clicked on the wrong layout for my picture/text format. I am NOT going back and reloading them to make it easier for you. Sorry.)

My Old West fort cake:

You know how he loves to be the center of attention:

The soldiers were prepared for battle. Guess which piece Josh wanted?

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Apparently, he liked it.

There was pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey:

Stick horse races (which began at the O.K. Corral):

The kids had to shoot out candles with water guns. This game was a much better idea in theory than in execution. It was nearly impossible to get two candles to stay lit at the same time because of the wind, and then they were wet from the water guns and very difficult to re-light. I went through at least fifty matches.

Nevertheless, the kids had fun.

And Josh loved his presents: