Sunday, November 30, 2008

Whew, it's over

Day 30 of NaBloPoMo and I DID IT. I filled up the internet with meaningless drivel every day for a month. I hope that I will be able to keep up the regular posting, but don't expect to see me every day.

My brilliant husband was mentioned in a New York Times article today. You have my permission to say, "Wow, I know this guy!"

My Christmas list consisted of exactly one item, and it is apparently the Tickle Me Elmo of Christmas 2008. It is back ordered and expected to ship in 11 to 13 weeks. Three months, are you kidding me? Oh, you can purchase one on eBay for about a thousand bucks, but I am not insane and neither is my husband. So tell me, my friends, what do I want for Christmas now? That's what I get for being fiscally responsible and not buying it for myself months ago.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Scenes from the Wiikend

We hung around my parents' house this morning long enough to see my youngest brother, who had been visiting his in-laws in Florida, and we arrived home with just enough time to buy our Christmas tree and get the lights on it before the kids went to bed. We dragged all of the Christmas stuff out of the attic and there are boxes everywhere. The only piece of the decor that is completely up is the nativity scene, but it's the only part that is non-negotiable anyway.

As I was flinging decorations out on every surface it occurred to me, as it does every year about this time, that sweet merciful heavens someone is going to have to put all this mess away in a month.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving, and I took almost no photos. (Shocking, I know. I have got to start carrying my good camera again and get back in the swing of taking better photos.) The ones I did take were pretty awful, but I had to share these two of sweet baby Ford, who is so amazingly gentle with my mom's hateful mutt dog Xena. Poor Ford has been really sick with some respiratory ailment and was even hospitalized overnight last week.

Friday, November 28, 2008

You'll pardon me if my post is brief tonight...I am a bit sore from all of the sports I played today. I am not used to playing tennis, baseball, and bowling all in one day.

Ron and I did head out for some Black Friday shopping this morning at the crack of ten. I'm not sure we got any huge bargains, but we did almost finish our Christmas shopping. Ooh, I did get seasons 2 & 3 of The Office for $13 each--score! We came back to Mom and Dad's with two bags; one containing some socks and disposable razors and the other full of clothes for our "Adopt-A-Snowflake" kids. Thomas and Annamarie were surprised and puzzled that we let them look in the bags and that we didn't have anything else stashed in the car. They don't know about the stop we made at the Pak'n'Mail, heh heh. We shipped home a big box of stuff that we never could have kept out of their sight, sneaky little ponkers.*

We are heading home tomorrow to purchase our Christmas tree and get it decorated before Thomas heads back to school Sunday. It will truly be a Christmas miracle to have the shopping and decorating done before December first.

Now I'm off to ice my pitching arm.

* "Ponker" is one of our special family words. Annamarie made it up when she was little and it stuck.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I am thankful for y'all and for the Wii

Happy Thanksgiving! I am very grateful for all of you, my seven readers, and I hope you had a wonderful day with your families. I trust you're as pleasantly stuffed as I am. For the first time this year my mom ordered most of our feast from the K&W. It was pretty good, although nothing could beat Mom's stuffing, and I was glad that my mom had some time to enjoy the day outside the kitchen. We had a small crowd this year as well, with one brother visiting his in-laws and my niece and nephew at their dad's house, and no aunts and uncles available. We missed them, of course, but it did mean that we had fewer people to fight over the Wii.

Several weeks back Mom and Dad were having dinner at the home of some friends who introduced them to the siren song of the Wii, and they went home and bought one! My parents bought a Wii before any of their three technology loving children, and they bought a big screen TV to maximize their gaming experience.

I had never had the opportunity to play Wii before, and after today I am wondering whether I am going to need an accountability partner after Santa comes this year. It is so much fun! We bowled all afternoon, and the suprise natural talent is Annamarie. She doesn't overthink anything, just flings the ball and beats the pants off nearly everyone. Thomas the video game junkie was eaten up with jealousy and bad sportsmanship.

I did take photos of the Wii-playing and of my precious nephew loving on the dogs, and I would happily share them with you if I had remembered to bring my USB cord. I promise you that the photos of Ford and the dog are even cuter than you're imagining.

Still deciding whether I am going to do any early morning shopping.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Over the river and throught the woods

To Grammy's house we came. We are in North Carolina visiting my parents for the weekend. I can't imagine why my children decided to revert to their toddler years and whine and squabble through every one of the 270 miles we drove today. We had to institute "silent time." The only reason this worked at all was that it was too dark for them to make faces at each other. I may have to FedEx them home in separate boxes because I am not sure I can face a repeat performance.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

You broke your bed, now you must lie in it

About six or seven years ago we bought new bedroom furniture, including a king-sized bed to replace the queen we had before. Not too long afterward, Annamarie dropped one of her precious items of plastic jewelry down behind the headboard and commenced to screech her fool head off, which was her preferred method of communication before she learned to talk 16 hours a day. The only way that infernal noise was ever going to stop assaulting our eardrums was for someone to retrieve the jewelry. To this day I don't know why we didn't get a long stick with duct tape or a broom or anything more well thought out than trying to move that whole king-sized bed, mattresses and all, by yanking on one corner of it.

Not surprisingly, the wood splintered at the point where the sides hook onto the footboard. As a temporary measure we put a stack of books under that corner, which luckily faces away from the door, and thus it has remained until this very day. Well, with slight modifications by Ruby, who decided the books were great fun to chew on. Upon which to chew? Whatever. Isn't this fashionable home decor?

The time has come to purchase a new bed and probably other stuff to match. The rest of our house has fairly nice furniture, but the master bedroom is propped up on dog-chewed books and features an armoire that we bought for $269 at Office Depot and I assembled myself. It is made of genuine wood products (TM) and pressboard and the drawers don't close quite right but it has served us well for 14 years or so.

The challenge now is that Ron and I have different tastes in furniture. I am wanting something in a style like this:

And Ron would prefer something more like this:

I think that formal cherry furniture is lovely, but it doesn't go with the rest of our casual, country-ish home. There is certain to be marital discord before a compromise is reached.

There is also the question of where to buy. Do we hit the local furniture stores and hope for holiday sales? Do we drive to High Point, NC, furniture mecca, and overwhelm ourselves with choices? Do we trust online vendors and buy furniture sight unseen? Maybe we ought to just replace the books.

Monday, November 24, 2008

All that stands between me and frostbite

Sometime Saturday night while we were sleeping, our furnace bit the dust. We woke up Sunday morning to find that it was 60 degrees in the house, and please know that I am fully aware of the millions of people who don't even have walls or blankets or heated mattress pads that kept them blissfully unaware of the malfunction until the alarm went off. I totally acknowledge that this is a first-world whinefest.

Ron leapt out of bed like he always does. It's one of his superpowers, that ability to just get up without moaning and cursing the injustice of morning. My own superpower is, well, not that. He exclaimed, "It's COLD in here," so I stuck an arm out and discovered that it was indeed frosty, at least in contrast to our normal balmy 72 degrees.

I was cozy still under my quilt and flannel sheets, and lying on the aforementioned heated mattress pad which was set on 9. I briefly considered skipping church because I couldn't bear the thought of leaving my toasty cocoon, but I realized that at some point during the day, probably several points, I'd have to get up and go to the bathroom, and the toilet seats would probably be warmer over at the church.

The heating and cooling guy arrived shortly after we got home from church, and was here (along with his 5-year-old son) for two and a half hours. Apparently the blah de blah on our 15-year-old furnace wasn't sending a signal to the bloogity bloog to turn the fan on, and of course they didn't have a replacement in stock. But if we would just keep the fan set to ON instead of AUTO it would be fine and we would be warm until the part came in Tuesday.

Except that when I went to bed Sunday night it wasn't working at all. And this morning it was cold again. So I was forced to keep warm by going to IHOP with a friend and eating stuffed french toast, oh! and to Lowe's to get a space heater so that Annamarie wouldn't freeze to death in the night. Ron brought that little one in the photo home from his office and it is keeping the icicles off of me and my computer.

[Side note: I love the English language and grammar, and although I remember the rule about never starting a sentence with a preposition, I cannot seem to write a blog post without doing so several times. Witness the last four sentences. The grammar po-po are surely coming to take me away.]

I hope the repair guys are back promptly in the morning, but I feel 99.8% sure that they are going to want to come by around 12:45 which is when I am going to have my thyroid ultrasounded.

Also, I am not a big quote person, but I heard an ancient Chinese proverb today that I really love: "My barn having burnt to the ground, I can now see the moon."

And one last thing (again with the prepositions): Am I entitled to a discount because the repairman's cute little boy broke the hurricane lamp on my coffee table, necessitating the vacuuming up of hundreds of fake berries?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Flushed with discount fever

Way back in 1997, Ron and I took a weeklong driving vacation to New England and I still look back on that vacation as one of the best we ever took. The stars seemed to be aligned such that the whole trip was perfect, and besides it was about 100 degrees when we left Virginia and about 75 in Massachusetts. It was one of those before-kids times when it actually worked to take a road trip with no planned stops, just a vague idea of where we wanted to end the day. But if you asked Ron, he would probably say that I have such fond recollections of this trip because of the outlet shopping we did in Maine. Freeport, Maine is not only a picturesque coastal town, it is home to some truly awesome shopping, including the home of L.L. Bean. At the time(remember that this is 1997, and please be forgiving)I was a huge fan of Laura Ashley clothing and I found huge stacks wonderful items at the Laura Ashley outlet almost for free. When I came out with a giant bag of treasure that I had paid about $30 total for, Ron laughed and said that I was flushed with discount fever. I couldn't argue with that, because I was pretty darn excited. Who doesn't get feverish about saving big bucks on stuff that you probably would've bought anyway?

Once again my background information is probably excessive, but I felt that flush of bargain shopping again today. I had asked Thomas to mail home his Christmas list and received it in the mail before he came home on Friday. This is the child who usually has a terrible time coming up with three or four items for Santa. It's not that he doesn't want anything; rather he expects us to know him so well that we can read his mind. Either that or he's too lazy to look up the proper name of the video games he wants, but this year he had about $1000 worth of stuff on his list. Ironic given that we had already given both children the lecture about the economy, cutting back this year, blah blah blah.

Anyway, seeing Thomas' list inspired Annamarie to make one of her own. When she pointed out that she didn't know how to spell most of the things on her list I told her to cut out pictures of items from the many catalogs that she has been saving and glue them onto a piece of paper. She might as well have just handed me the Limited Too catalog. The sheet that she handed me was covered on both sides with photos of sweaters, purses, Webkinz, scarves and jewelry. If it wouldn't wake her up, I would go into her room right now and take a photo of the racks we hung up tonight to hold her purses, scarves and jewelry. I don't think she could squeeze in another item on those racks. But as I have taught her to say recently, "Bygones."

I went to the Limited Too website just to see how many thousands of dollars this is going to cost us, and to make a long story short (too late) I lucked into a double coupon situation that ought to make my newly penny-pinching husband want to be my best friend forever. After narrowing down her list a good bit, I was able to order $180 worth of pink sparkly crap for less than $70 plus shipping.

I am understandably flushed and trying very very hard not to reward myself by spending the $110 I saved on scrapping stuff. I do not want to upset my new BFF.

Unrelated to any of the above, we took the kids to see a university production of the musical Oklahoma! last night. Ron and I both love the theater and have tried to cultivate a similar love in our children. I think we have mostly succeeded in Thomas' case, but unless there is tap dancing and sparkly costumes Annamarie has a hard time following along. She enjoys herself as long as there are snacks at intermission, and because she just generally loves being out and about. It's not a review that you will read in Variety, but as we were leaving the theater Annamarie exclaimed, "Mommy, I was not too bored!" For what it's worth, I wasn't bored either --- I thought it was great for a local production.

(When I think about it, I compose my posts using Dragon Naturally Speaking and a microphone rather than typing, at which I am exceptionally terrible. A couple of paragraphs back the speech recognition program went all wonky and I said to myself, "why are you not working?" My computer heard that as "re: network gaming." Either I talk too fast, or I'm mumbling, or God is sending me a message that I am playing too much Slingo online.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The gang's all here

Thomas is home this weekend and we have had so much fun being all together for the first time in a month. We had a big Sorry tournament Friday night.

We love Sorry because even Annamarie can understand and play it well. And it's such a dramatic game. The highs...

And the lows...

And I won't mention any names, but some of us wear a horse on our heads for good luck.

I won, by the way. SORRY!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

An extra post, because it is important

I stole this from my friend Jean's blog, but if just one more person sees it, it will be worth it.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Doing my part to boost the economy

My friend Sandy is a bad, bad influence and yet, so much fun. Today we went to a fabulous antique mall about an hour from here, and darned if I didn't forget to bring a tractor-trailer truck with me. I could have bought that much stuff easily.

Antique stores are hit-or-miss for me...I can appreciate the beauty of fine antiques but they are both out of my price range and generally too formal for our comfortable country house. What I love are primitive antiques, pieces that are genuinely distressed from years of use. This antique mall (Through the Garden Gate in Mechanicsville, VA) is just perfect for me--a ton of little treasures tucked into a bunch of different rooms.

Our small house doesn't have room for any more furniture, and my husband the economist tells me that many, many peanut butter sandwich meals lie in our future, so I wasn't after anything big today. I actually said a prayer last night that I would be able to enjoy looking at the lovely things in the store and then leave them there, for the good of my family's finances. Well, I did leave many things in the store, but I brought a few home too, all of them Christmas-y home decor items.

Since I'm planning to participate in Boo Mama's Christmas Tour of Homes, I won't share photos today, but among my favorite purchases were a garland made from vintage cookie cutters (that thing is HEAVY) and a Christmas tree-shaped pillow made from vintage fabrics. I am unreasonably excited about the bloggy tour o' homes because I do all this decorating and then no one sees it but the four of us and the UPS man. I hope that I will have many visitors because y'all, last year Boo Mama had nearly five hundred homes on the tour. Yes ma'am, I said FIVE HUNDRED. If ten or twelve of those people drop by and leave me comments I will die of happiness. Maybe if I'd write something interesting they'd come back again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Giving thanks in all circumstances

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:6-19

This month I've been attending a Wednesday night Bible study about Advent, the season of preparing for Jesus' birth. I suppose we are preparing for the preparing, heh.

At the beginning of tonight's meeting, our pastor Jason welcomed us, led us in prayer, and then said, "We'll get started in about two minutes." He sat on the edge of the desk, and after about ten seconds of uncomfortable silence someone piped up with a question unrelated to the study. After answering the question, Jason pointed out what terrible "waiters" we are. We weren't able to just wait for the session to begin...we had to be doing something. This led into a discussion of the fact that when we can't control our circumstances, the only thing we can control is our response to them.

As an example, Jason was talking about the frustrations of air travel. (Amen.) He mentioned a mission trip that we took to Mexico in 2006, which involved opportunities to give thanks for all kinds of unforeseen circumstances, or to feel angry and put-upon if one were so inclined. This trip included flight delays, missed connections, an emergency landing because of smoke in the cockpit, and a flat tire on our 15-passenger hoopty rental van, out in the middle of nowhere. The first Spanish word many of us learned was "flexibilidad" and as a group I think we did a pretty good job with the concept.

I got to thinking about how those experiences, unpleasant as they were in the moment, made for amazing bonding within our group. Some of my favorite memories of the trip wouldn't have happened if everything had gone according to our plans instead of according to God's will. I find that that happens often when I travel: The unexpected inconvenience, detour, or change in plans often results in some joyful surprise that just may be the highlight of the journey.

Isn't that generally true of our whole lives? We believe we know what is best for us, and we despair when our best-laid plans go awry, when relationships end painfully, when babies don't arrive as easily as we had expected, when whatever we thought we needed is yanked away. My life is full of those unanswered prayers, and when I look back I thank God for his infinite mercy in guiding me to where He wants me. I hear all the time the saying, "When God close a door, He opens a window." I think that in most cases, that window was always there but we were too busy clawing at the door to see it.

Not surprisingly, my children are the area of my life where this rings most true. Adoption was not part of our original plan, and raising children with special needs was certainly not part of the plan. I will not say that I have never grieved for a more "normal" or easier parenting experience, because that would just be a lie, but I will say that I wouldn't trade my children or our life together for anything. If you've never read Emily Perl Kingsley's "Welcome to Holland," it's about as perfect a summation of those feelings as I could imagine.

I know that God has equipped me for this task, but sometimes I forget. OK, LOTS of times I forget. I fully believe that some of the toughest parts of raising these amazing, challenging little people may give rise to the most precious moments of the journey. I pray that God will lend me the wisdom and patience to wait joyfully and be thankful even in the circumstances that wear on my very last nerve.

Ooh, pretty

I bought a couple of nice but plain notebooks from Target over the weekend. I spent a few minutes and a few leftover odds and ends dressing this one up for my purse.

I also finished my banner and will try to get Ron to help me hang it tomorrow so I can decide whether it looks festive or just goofy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This is the way I blogroll

Yesterday I mentioned that I read many blogs, and I have long felt that it was unfair of me to keep them to myself, but I have simultaneously been too lazy to actually create a list of the wonderful writing that entertains me.

I have left off the "celebrity blogs" that everyone reads, because they don't need the publicity. Yes, I thoroughly enjoy Dooce and Pioneer Woman and Finslippy and Fussy, and in the scrapbooking world Heidi Swapp and Donna Downey and many more, but you probably already do too.

Click on a few of the links over to the right. They're MY favorites, so some might not be to your tastes, but like I'm always telling Thomas, "If you try something new, you might discover something delicious."

And, hey! If I am missing something that you love, post a link. Especially if it's crafty or inspiring or laugh-out-loud funny.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dilemma of the Day

It is no secret that I read many blogs. According to Google Reader, I subscribe to 52 of them. Many of those are infrequently updated, but still I will not be surprised when the crew of Intervention shows up on the doorstep with my extended family. I read Christian blogs and parenting blogs and craft blogs and photography blogs, and they are all food for my soul.

If you have a discussion with me in real life, it will probably not be long before I say, "One of the bloggers I read says..." It has occurred to me that this might a) be really annoying and b) indicate that I should get out more, but oh my stars you bloggers are some smart and funny people! Often with pretty pictures!

That's background info for the real issue here. Several years ago my youngest brother and I were having a discussion about our TV viewing. Now, I am not a huge watcher of TV. Perhaps you are speculating that it cuts into my blog reading? HA, I say! I have a TV tuner card that allows me to watch shows in a window on my computer. Nonetheless, I am picky about what I watch and am reluctant to get invested in new shows. Somehow I always miss "the big ones," the ones that everyone watches, because if I don't see the first show, I can't jump in in the middle.

LOST? Never seen it. 24? Ditto. Amazing Race? The Hills? ANTM? Gossip Girl? Heroes? Never seen an episode of any of them. And also, The Office. When I admitted that to my brother, he gasped and claimed that it was the best show on TV. Eh, but he's my baby brother. What does he know?

Recently, though, BooMama has been posting her favorite moments of each episode of The Office and I feel left out. And don't tell her because she doesn't know me from Adam's housecat, but she's one of my best girlfriends. If BooMama thinks it's hilarious, it must be hilarious! Then my dear friend Pioneer Woman started making references to the show as well and then it popped up on more and more of my favorite blogs.

Naturally I decided I needed to get in on the secret and so I downloaded Season 1 from iTunes for only $11.94. A bargain! I watched all six episodes yesterday and not surprisingly I am hooked. Those people are so hilariously dysfunctional that they make me look well-adjusted. Is that why everyone watches? No? Never mind.

My dilemma arose when I went to download Season 2, which has not six episodes, but 22 and costs $35 even if I choose the non-HD version. It will cost me $105 to get caught up to this season and by the time I have watched four seasons I will have missed most of the current one and have to purchase it too. Do you SEE what I am up against?

As far as I can tell, here are my options:
1) Just start watching in the middle of the current season. Pros: It's free. Cons: Nope, can't do it.

2) Buy seasons 2, 3, and 4. Pros: Quick and easy. Cons: Bad economy, children expecting Christmas presents and college educations blah blah blah.

3) Reinstate my Netflix account and rent them on DVD. Pros: It's $8.99 a month. Cons: I canceled the account because it was taking me approximately three months to walk out to the mailbox to return each movie, making each movie rental cost about $27.

Please share your thoughts on the matter.

I May Need to Get a New Boyfriend*

I got a huge unexpected package from My Little Yellow Bicycle today, filled to the brim with items from their new Love Letters collection. The pictures on the website DO NOT do this collection justice. The colors are gorgeous, a ton of the elements are flocked, a ton of shaped papers, there are silky fabric tags and so many cool clear elements...I can't wait to play with it all. I'm going to have to wait a bit because right now I am feeling a powerful Christmas crafty urge.

Look, I am making a Christmas banner for my living room, using some gorgeous Chatterbox papers from last year. I hope it will add some festive to the room.

I should be putting a huge stack of layouts in albums, but they'll still be there after I make some Christmas shaker boxes and felt pillow covers. Anyone know a good source for wool felt?

*Because there is so much lovey-dovey stuff in this line that I feel kind of silly using it to create layouts about my husband of fifteen years, beloved though he is.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Inspiration at Busy Bee

I just posted four great new articles by the Booya Girls at Busy Bee Scrapbooking. Check them out if you are looking for some great inspiration straight from your stash.

Despite the Booya Girls' excellent work, I am having trouble inspiring myself to scrap. I did this layout last night, and it just isn't doing it for me. This may be my favorite photo I've ever taken of my kids, and I wanted the layout to be special. You know how that is, don't you?

The detail photo is supposed to show how sparkly this page is in real life. The background paper is glittery, the cardstock is Bazzill Bling, and all of the embellishments are glittery. Maybe if you click on it you'll get some idea. I am still debating whether I am going to redo this one from scratch.

Anyone? Anyone?

I took this photo on the way to church this morning. I am assuming that it's maybe on its way to a barbeque restaurant (for decoration, not dinner)? Anyone have another plausible explanation for this strange porcine transport?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Burning Questions

Where is my scrapping mojo?

Is it with all of my black and white long sleeve t-shirts that have gone missing?

What am I going to wear to church tomorrow? (Not that I would wear the b/w t-shirts if I could find them. These questions are unrelated except that they both fall under the general heading of I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR.)

And again with that topic, why can't I find a decent pair of khaki pants that are neither too low-rise for my freakishly long waist nor so high-waisted as to be totally unfashionable?

What am I going to give Thomas' RIs (dorm parents, both 20-something guys) for Christmas?

Why can't I seem to take a decent photo anymore?

Is anyone out there?

Friday, November 14, 2008

The goose is getting fat

I need to confess that I still have most of my Halloween decorations up. Ordinarily our pumpkins have been so thoroughly devoured by squirrels that by Halloween, all that is left are the rotting bases of our beautifully carved creations. (See my first ever blog post.) This year we succumbed to the lure of plastic lighted pumpkins from Target (of course), and since the squirrels have not turned those into moldy masses there has been little impetus to unplug them and put them away. Also, I haven't redecorated my Hoosier cabinet because a) I don't have any Thanksgiving decorations and b) it would mean redoing it twice in a month.

I have been thinking it is way too early to start Christmas decorating, but lo and behold December first is just 16 days away! The past few years I have enjoyed doing some handmade home decor projects for Christmas, like this canvas from two years ago:

and these countdown blocks from last year.

I am thinking seriously about making some Christmas shaker boxes similar to the ones I did for Halloween, and maybe some kind of photo garland. I also need to get started on Christmas cards if they are going to be handmade. Anyone have any cute Christmas home decor project ideas for me?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lessons from Dad

Annamarie is so blessed to have a dad who has the patience to teach her important life skills like making pumpkin pie. Here he was helping her read the recipe from the back of the can. After years of experimentation, I can tell you that that is the location of the perfect pumpkin pie recipe: on the back of the Libby's Pumpkin can. Fortunately, he remembered to buy fresh spices as well.

Showing her how to crack an egg, scientifically. Ruby seems interested in his method as well.

Ruby is still interested in the proceedings and hoping someone is going to drop something.

Continuing the lesson all the way to the oven.

The pies turned out yummy. Poor Ruby didn't get any, but I hope Annamarie will have yet another memory of how much her Dad loves her. The photos are pretty bad because my point & shoot was the closest thing at hand and I was trying to be stealthy with the zoom, but I think they captured the moment anyway.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Excuses, Excuses

Reasons why I will not be writing a real post this evening:

1) I can't stop sneezing. I've been feeling a head cold coming on for a few days, and it seems to have arrived.

2) My mind (the part not filled with snot, anyway) is occupied with the upcoming battle with Annamarie's school system. We are actually hiring a lawyer, something I have only done in the past for good reasons, like buying a house and adopting children.

3) I have been shopping online. One of the biggest online scrapbook stores is having a HUGE sale and I just got about $11,000 worth of stuff for $63 shipped. This store has had some stocking and shipping issues in the past, so we shall see what actually arrives and when. I am optimistic.

4) I must go to bed and rest up for my annual exam/pap smear/lecture about my weight at the crack of dawn. Maybe that will involve something interesting enough to post about tomorrow. Something for you to be optimistic about.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Some things we're better off not knowing

Lately I have been very annoyed by my spice cabinet. It is tiny and narrow and jam packed. Every time I cook something, which is frankly not all that often, I have to dig through the entire cabinet. Somehow the spices know that I am coming for them and they go all Anne Frank and hide in the very back. By the time I find what I'm looking for, several avalanches have ensued and bad words may have been uttered. Setting this mess to rights has been in the back of my mind for a while, and earlier today I was (reading a blog? playing games?) on a website that had a banner ad for McCormick Spices, advertising a web page that would tell me exactly how old my spices are.

I made Ron empty all of the spices into a box and lug them to my desk, so right away he knew it was going to be another big night of entertainment. He read off the codes and I entered them into the website, which gave exact creation dates for most of the bottles we have. (Except for the few that aren't McCormick brand, of course.) Here are the results of our research:

If you need a refresher on greater than/less than symbols, the big group over there on the left are all more than ten years old. A surprising number are more than twenty years old. Ron and I have only been married for 15 years, and I brought no spices to the marriage. The grand prize winner was celery salt, which dates from the 60s. I cannot tell you what my husband might have been doing with celery salt in his teens.

The good news is that the spice cabinet will be much less annoying and I will be able to easily find any of my nine remaining seasonings. The bad news is that if you come to my house I will be unable to make you cinnamon toast or anything that includes fennel. And also, my marriage was obviously much spicier in the early years.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Because I find myself endlessly fascinating

Where I went today:
* Lunch with Sandy at Riverside (legendary hamburgers and a basket o'fries)
* Target (lots of Christmas shopping done and a new sweater)
* Dog park

What I'm looking forward to:
* Neil Diamond concert on Dec. 9
* David Cook's album release Nov. 18
* Ultimate Scrapbooking Cruise Jan. 11
* Thanksgiving in Charlotte with my family
* Twilight movie release on Nov. 21
* Decorating for Christmas

Blogs I have discovered this week and think you should too:
* Cool Mom
* Pleasant View Schoolhouse
* Bye Bye, Pie!

Who is on my mind and in my prayers this week:
* My 2-year-old nephew Ford, who was hospitalized over the weekend with breathing problems
* My friend Michele who just lost her father-in-law
* Another friend whose marriage is struggling
* Our friends the Gritskos who are awaiting a foster-to-adopt placement

And look at the post time...did I squeak that in under the wire or what?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

In the Name of Fairness

I was reading back through my posts on this new blog, and I realized that poor Thomas is almost completely unrepresented. Since he has been boarding at school, I have no stories to tell about him, and no photos to share except for the odd soccer game pic, and they all look the same anyway. My action photo skills are somewhat lacking. Thank goodness for the photographer who shows up at the games with the giant white "I-am-a-professional" lens, who will kindly sell me a 4x6 of my son that is neither blurry nor shot from 50 yards away, all for the bargain price of $7.85 including shipping.

Several people have asked how Thomas is doing, and the answer is that he seems to be thriving. The boarders are required to write home every Monday, and I suspect he is cutting and pasting the previous week's letter, changing a sentence, and printing it out. I can tell you off the top of my head, because he has repeated it every week for the last seven, that:
* He is getting along great with his roommate
* His RI (residential instructor) is very cool
* Classes are going great
* Can he please bring his PlayStation 2 back to the dorm with him?

Given that he expected dorm life to be a 24/7 slumber party, Thomas has been a bit surprised at the amount of responsibility the boarders have. He has told me that he has even less time for TV/video games/computer than he did back at the gulag at home, AND can you believe they have to change their own sheets?!? Every. week. When I pointed out how glad I was that he knew how to perform that skill now, he looked concerned that maybe he had overshared with his mom.

He has also told me that in effect, the students are kept so busy that there is no time for misbehavior. Thomas has never done well with unstructured time, and I am far too lazy to provide constant activities to keep him occupied. He is in the perfect situation in that regard at school. It's interesting how receptive he is to concepts that his parents tried to introduce for years; for example, an old-fashioned notion known as "playing outside." I have to concede that it probably does look more appealing when it comes with a bunch of friends and a 400-acre campus.

Our boy has always been an extremely picky eater, and my only real concern is whether he is getting enough to eat. In the past the school has used a food service contractor who served typical borderline junky kid food, much to Thomas' delight. This year they let the contractor go and hired an in-house chef who is also an RN with a nutrition background and a passion for locally grown organic whole foods, which sounds awesome and healthy, but practically guarantees that my son is subsisting on a diet of rolls and saltines. And only if the rolls are white. With none of those seeds on top. Every Friday we receive the menu for the upcoming week and I laugh until Ron has to whack me on the back.

Here's what's on the menu for tomorrow's lunch: Watermelon, Feta and Black Olive Salad, Shrimp and Veggie Risotto, Tortellini Aioli, Tuna Salad, Spinach Salad, Garlic Roasted Hummus, Warm Onion Dip with Sliced apples and pumpernickel bread. And Tuesday's dinner: Black Beans and Rice with Andouille Sausage, Wilted Spinach, Roasted Vegetables, Snowflake Rolls, Banana Bread. Personally, my mouth is watering just retyping it, but my child refuses to eat corn. And apples. Wilted spinach? Get real. I just hope they have plenty of snowflake rolls.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Wow. Ron and I saw Fireproof today. I had heard a lot of wonderful things about this sleeper hit, made by the same Georgia church that produced Facing the Giants, and let me tell you it lived up to the hype. I foolishly left my purse full of Kleenex in the car, and my shirt sleeves suffered all sorts of tear- and snot-related indignities.

Please, take your husband or wife and go see this movie, even if you feel like your marriage is rock solid, but especially if you are struggling. Or if you're single but hope to be married someday, or if you're divorced and hope to try love again. You will leave the theater as I did, wanting to love better, and thinking hard about what real, sacrificial love is. I needed that message now. I pray that I am equal to the challenge.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Alrighty then

So far I haven't had any problem coming up with things to blog about this month, but here it is Day 7 and the well is dry. My mind is a total blank. Mean, mean Michele disqualified my earlier post...who made her the post police anyway?

Ummm...I suppose it is newsworthy that I was a domestic diva today, simply because it happens so rarely. I did four loads of laundry, made chili in the crock pot, and baked a crustless pumpkin pie to take to our bible study group tonight. It was yummy and tortured me with its delicious aromas while it was cooking. Perhaps you might like the recipe?

Crustless Pumpkin Pie

4 eggs, beaten
15-oz. can pumpkin
12-oz. can evaporated milk
1-1/2 c. sugar
2 t. pumpkin pie spice
1 t. salt
18-1/2 oz. pkg. yellow cake mix
1 c. chopped pecans
1 c. butter, melted
Garnish: whipped topping, chopped walnuts,
cinnamon or nutmeg

Combine eggs, pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, spice and salt. Mix well and pour into an ungreased 13"x9" baking pan. Sprinkle cake mix and nuts over top. Drizzle with butter; do not stir. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour, testing for doneness with a toothpick. Serve with whipped topping sprinkled with nuts and cinnamon or nutmeg. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

I would post a photo, but I forgot to take one before it got eaten up.

Tomorrow is Annamarie's last horseback lesson for the season, and we are planning to go see Fireproof. I have been really excited about this movie, so don't be surprised if tomorrow's post is a review of it.

Photo and link addendum

When I crawled into bed last night I realized I forgot to add the photos and links that went with yesterday's post, but I was too tired to get up and fix it. I added them this morning, if anyone cares.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my 43rd birthday, and it has been a nearly perfect day. I had imagined that the day would pass largely unnoticed, but instead I am feeling very blessed by friends and family. I thought I would post a list of 43 things I am grateful for today, in no particular order.

1. Birthday cards in the mail
2. Lots of birthday greetings from internet friends
3. Lunch with my sweet friend Sandy
4. A new “little camera” from my awesome hubby
5. Comments on my blog
6. Reading other people’s blogs
7. Stumbling across new blogs to read
8. Good health
9. Having so much to eat that I have to limit myself
10. Being married to the best husband and father
11. My healthy, happy children
12. 72-degree weather and a lovely breeze (photo taken on a hill 2 miles from my house, which is over in the middle left part of the valley)

13. Fall-smelling air coming through my open windows
14. The view out my window:

15. People who care enough to make a difference
16. Being back in touch with old friends
17. My wonderful parents
18. My brothers and their sweet families
19. The privilege of living in the United States of America
20. Pumpkin spice lattes
21. Gingerbread tea
22. Our funny dog, Ruby
23. Good books
24. Phone calls from Mary Beth
25. The children in my Sunday School class
26. Reese’s cups
27. Scrapping supplies
28. Sterling silver jewelry
29. Sweaters
30. Fleece pullovers
31. A gift of tea from my friend Jean
32. My comfortable little home (should have put the trashcans away :))

33. Eddie Bauer jeans
34. Birthday dinner at Red Lobster (taken by Annamarie)

35. With dessert
36. And a Malibu Hurricane
37. Thursday night TV
38. DVR technology
39. Diet Coke
40. Gas at $2.15
41. A new People magazine
42. Scented candles
43. God’s immeasurable grace

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Gifts and Curses

A few days ago Annamarie and I went through the Wendy's drive-thru. The man at the window was a familiar face, but I didn't think much about it. If I had I would have just assumed that we had seen him working at Wendy's before. But the man greeted us excitedly, and asked, "Do you remember me?" I stammered for a couple of seconds, hoping that I would make the connection, when Annamarie leaned around me from the passenger seat and said, "Well hey, Billy!"

It turns out that Billy had waited on us several times at a restaurant that closed several months ago. Billy is a wiry middle-aged man who gives the impression of not having lived an easy life, and he told us briefly how he had shown up to work at the restaurant one day to be told that they were closing that day. After the connection was made for me I did remember Billy and that he had been an attentive waiter and particularly kind to the children.

When Annamarie recognized Billy without prompting, his face lit up and my throat closed up. She and I had been talking about gifts and talents just a little bit earlier, and this is hers. She has never met a stranger and she never forgets anyone she meets. If she asks you your name, she will remember it forever, and she will remember that you told her about your little grandson or that your knee was hurting or that you have a little dog named Skippy. She knows the name of every driver of every bus at her school, while most of the other children can't name their own bus driver.

In a recent post, I said that one of the patrons at the dog park had jokingly referred to Annamarie as the mayor of the dog park. Socially, it's an interesting place, the dog park. Those of us who are regulars know the names of most of the dogs but not of their owners. We refer to each other as "Ruby's mom" or "Jack's owner." We are familiar with many of the personality traits of the dogs --- we know which ones are possessive about toys, we know that if you throw a ball for Bailey once you had better be prepared to do so a hundred times, we know that if you aren't vigilant, Belle will jump on the picnic table. But for the most part, we the owners don't know much of anything about each other.

The exception, of course, is Annamarie. Sometimes I don't know whether we go to the dog park more for Ruby or for Annamarie. She greets each new person who enters the gate, learns their name and their dog's name, where they live, and the history of any surgeries or serious illnesses they have had. Often people are taken aback by her forwardness at first, but for the most part, they end up being charmed by her innocent interest in the details of their lives. Annamarie is fascinated by anything medical, and a number of the dog park patrons are residents at the University Hospital. She is especially excited to see them and asks, "What procedures did you perform today?" When she announced that she wanted to be a surgeon for Halloween, they brought her scrubs and a white doctor coat from the hospital. Annamarie will greet the people that she already knows by asking, "What did you do today?" One young man has taken to beating her to the punch, asking Annamarie, "What did you do today?" He teases her gently and she giggles in delight. Leo and Bailey's mom will play endless games of rock paper scissors with her. Meri, one of Annamarie's favorites, brought her a jewelry making set for her birthday. I am so grateful to these adults who are my daughter's friends, but I can't help wishing that she had just one friend her own age.

This post is already much longer than I had planned, and everything I've said so far is only background. Yesterday Annamarie and I went over to her school to spend an hour helping with the fifth-grade bake sale. Several other fifth-grade girls were already behind the table, and as Annamarie greeted them excitedly they rolled their eyes at each other in disgust. My socially clueless girl introduced me to one of her classmates, saying, "She is the one who is so nice to me, Mom." The girl turned away from her, appalled, and ignored her pointedly.

One of the girls decided that some of them should stand outside the polling place with signs, advertising the bake sale, so three of them skipped off with signs and danced around chanting, "Hot chocolate, coffee, brownies, cupcakes." After a few minutes they decided that it was someone else's turn, and they handed off the signs to different girls, including Annamarie. The other two girls stood as far as they could from her in a dramatic display of exclusion.

I know that it is a sin to be so angry at a group of little girls. I know that as a Christian I should be able to say, "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do." But I am angry, at them and at their parents who are raising them to behave this way. I am angry at the school for not doing a better job of working with these children on sensitivity issues.

I have written about these concerns before, and if you're still reading, bless your heart. I'm not even sure what my point is or if I have one. Actually scratch that --- I know what my point is. It is that I hate the bitter unfairness of watching the most caring and loving person I know, who has never intentionally hurt another person, who loves the young, the old, the disabled, people of all races, be so thoroughly excluded by her peers.

And most of all, I hate the fact that as her mother I can't do anything to fix it for her.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I hope my children remember this day

I hope they remember that their parents voted and were excited about the privilege.

I hope they remember that in The United States of America, people of all races can achieve their dreams.

I hope they remember the excitement of watching history in the making.

I am overcome. I am hopeful and grateful and proud of my country.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bakin' the Vote

The fifth graders at Annamarie's school are hosting a bake sale tomorrow, hoping to squeeze some money from the inevitable throngs of people waiting to vote in their cafeteria. Annamarie and I spent a couple of hours today making Raspberry Cream Cheese Turnovers to sell during our shift at the bake sale table.

This was a great baking project to do with kids--Annamarie did almost all of the work herself until I realized that we had 20 minutes to get the last two batches in and leave the house to get to a doctor appointment. Those batches might have been a little rushed.

Naturally ours didn't turn out as pretty as the ones on the original site, but they are yummy. I am seriously considering just donating money to the school and eating all the turnovers. Ron thinks that they need to be reheated and covered with ice cream, but he feels that way about everything. One of the commenters at Ordering Disorder remarked that they are like homemade PopTarts, and maybe that explains why I love them so much. I think they would go great with a nice cup of tea.

Annamarie and I were just doing quality assurance.

Don't forget to vote. And if you vote at our school, help the fifth graders pay for their field trips by buying some brownies or cupcakes, and ignore the crumbs around my mouth.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Read this post with a British accent

My buddy Jean, whose blog is a veritable treasure trove of nutritional info, posted a few days ago about her great love of tea. I enjoy a nice cuppa myself, especially this time of year, so of course I ordered one of everything she recommended, because I may have a wee bit o' the internet shopping addiction.

I received my new goodies on Friday, and I am totally enchanted with this little ingenuiTEA pot from Adagio Teas. It makes using loose tea every bit as easy as using tea bags, and in just three short days it has turned me into a tea snob. It is microwavable, so you just boil the water in the microwave, add the tea, steep for 5 minutes and set it on top of your cup. The perfect tea drips down into your cup, leaving the leaves in the filter, which you simply rinse out. One can also pour boiling water into the ingenuiTEA if one's tea snobbery extends to the use of microwaving devices.

I also had to have this beautifully simple glass mug. I don't add any milk or sugar to my tea, or at least I haven't added any to the 75 cups I've had in the last 3 days, and I don't plan to any time soon. I had no previous experience with loose tea, so when I made my first cup I used about a tablespoon of leaves, which turns out to be about three times too much. I'm not going to tell you, though, about how I was trying to fill the ingenuiTEA with water while resting it on the edge of the sink, which opens the valve on the bottom and may or may not have resulted in a lot of water on the floor and a bit of puzzlement about why the pot was not getting full. Because sharing that story would be embarrassing.

I had ordered sampler sets of black teas and holiday flavored teas so that I could avoid commitment before deciding what I like best. I literally gasped with delight when I opened the sampler boxes and saw these adorable tiny tins. They are so going to be altered after I drink a boatload more tea. If I had fifteen more I could make the cutest advent calendar ever.

When Annamarie had Epizootics* yesterday, I whipped her up a cup of peppermint tea (it was really candy cane flavor, but play along, OK?) and there was something so comforting about it. For me, anyway.

To go along with my tea theme, I procured a packet of Pim's biscuits at the market today. Do drop in and have a spot of tea with me.

*I was about to write about how my Papaw made up this word to describe any unpleasant illness, especially those involving upsets of a digestive nature, but it turns out that "epizootics" is a real word! And just to show you how my husband's memory is a freak of nature, when I shared this information with him incredulously just now, he said, "Oh yeah, it was in the movie Rambling Rose with Robert Duvall."

We came, we scrapped, we shopped

Well, so much for timely posting about my classes at Scrapdoodles! Sandy and I had a fabulous time and the classes were amazing. We did not even come close to finishing our projects, but we learned some awesome new techniques including HELLO, gel medium--how did I ever live without you? I have spoken before of my altering addiction and gel medium kicks Mod Podge's butt. No wrinkles, no drying time, and it makes adhering fabric to chipboard a piece of cake.

See the mess around me, and next to it Sandy's spotless area? This is how I scrap, always amidst chaos with stuff flying through the air, and I am wholly unapologetic about it. It's how I create.

Photographic evidence of Sandy threatening me with a hammer.

Look, it's Cindy Liebel! It was so much fun to catch up with her. Cindy is a sweetheart and a super talented scrapper.

And the obligatory celeb and Sandy with Donna Downey.

I finished my blue damask album this week (except for some captions that I'm still pondering about) and it may be the most beautiful project I've ever made. I can't even take credit for it because it was designed by Donna Downey, but hey I put it together! And see that Fancy Pants tiny ball trim? Totally my idea. This little album is so full of awesomeness that it won't favorite thing!

We were privileged to have dinner with Donna and some of the store staff and teachers afterward. HUGE thanks to Cheryl for working Sandy in so I didn't have to leave her standing outside the store in the pouring rain while we ate. Thanks also to Donna for creating such great projects and making the classes so much fun. I'm looking forward to taking more classes with her on the cruise in January.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

First of 30

I'm going to try NaBloPoMo again. If you're not familiar with NaBloPoMo, it is a commitment to post every day for a month. Prizes are involved, but I just seriously need the inspiration. There is no theme for November, and I can't decide whether that makes things easier or harder.

Annamarie had a great time trick-or-treating last night, as she always does. It is very much a social event for her...she has lengthy chats at most every house she visits. Typing that makes me think about just how far she has come, a long way from the year she ran into every house to find the homeowners' shoes. We didn't have many trick-or-treaters at our door, so I will be taking a big bag of candy to church tomorrow. (Apologies to the parents of my 2nd & 3rd grade Sunday School class.)

Today was Annamarie's fall horse show, and it could not have been a more gorgeous day for it. Because it has been so cold and blustery this past week, we really bundled up. I wore fleece-lined jeans and y'all, it was over 70 degrees by the time we left. Annamarie won the blue ribbon in her class, Youth Equitation, and took second place in the barrel race. She was lucky they did not penalize her for excessive celebration when she did a little nanny-nanny-boo-boo dance on her horse.

Her celebration ended rather abruptly when she threw up on the living room floor just after we got home. Apparently she has the bug that has been going around like wildfire. I'm praying that it passes quickly.

I promised some time back that I would post a picture of my Hoosier cabinet after I got it decorated for Halloween, so I thought I'd better do that before redecorating it in a more general fall theme. You can click on the photo to see it larger. That's Diane Duda's cute print on the bottom there.

And let's see, what else? Oh, my husband went to a dog party this afternoon. One of the patrons of the dog park decided that everyone should bring some beverages and munchies, so the owners chowed down while the dogs wrassled. (Yes, I know that's not a word, but it's what they do.) I stayed home with my sick girl, who was disappointed to miss the festivities. One of the guys there sent greetings back with Ron and said that they consider Annamarie the honorary mayor of the dog park. That's another post, but it made me laugh.

Ruby enjoyed the party too.