Monday, December 31, 2007

De-Christmasing Stinks!

Tomorrow is New Year's Day and you know what that means? It means it's time to de-Christmas my house. I hate putting away the Christmas decorations, don't you? It's a little sad for one thing because it's over so quickly. And besides that, it's WORK and no fun whatsoever. My husband is so good about helping too, so why am I complaining? I don't know. I just hate the after-the-holidays-time-to-get-back-to-normal thing. I wish it would snow!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Recalled due to lead paint?

After Christmas last year I decided to stock up on some "favors" for my kids' to give away to classmates at school during the holidays. Even if there's no official Christmas party (and there wasn't, which is terribly sad in my opinion) the boys still like to give a little something to each of their friends, and I'm cool with that.

So the favors I bought on sale last year were boxes of miniature wooden sled ornaments, half painted red and the other half green. We dug them out of the "stash" of gifts I keep handy and decided to write each classmate's name and the year in permanent marker. The boys agreed they would be appropriate to hand out to everyone, so we cleared it with their teachers first and then set about to personalize the ornaments.

Just as I wrote the last kid's name on a sled, I happened to turn the ornament over and notice the "Made in China" sticker on the back. Uh-oh! It dawned on me that over the past few months there had been multiple recalls on items made in China due to the use of lead paint. I started to rethink this whole gift-giving deal. I mean, think about it... It's tough enough being a kid these days, but give a gift that makes someone else sick and you might be shunned for life. I can hear it now... "Yeah, that's the kid who gave away ornaments laced with lead paint."

I was reminded of the "Seinfeld" episode where George's fiancee` died from licking toxic envelopes as she addressed their wedding invitations. Yeah, not exactly the kind of thing you'd want to be remembered for causing, not that any of the recipients of these ornaments were going to be licking them, but they're kids - YOU NEVER KNOW!

I decided not to panic though, contacting the company from which I'd ordered these ornaments, and they promised me there had been no recall on this item. Whew! Crisis averted. But next year (NOTE TO SELF) I'm buying "Made in the USA" items, just in case.

Who's reading my blog?????

Okay, I know someone is reading my blog because I can see the "hit counter" going up little by little, but I don't know WHO'S reading. Please leave me a comment occasionally! Inquiring minds wanna know. Come on, throw me a bone!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Unwrapping Christmas

It's so much fun to watch children's expressions as they open gifts. Here are our boys receiving some coveted wishlist items at Christmas...

I forgot to ask Santa for a new figure!

Christmas has come and gone, and I have eaten so much that I'm sure I could go without food for the next week and just live off of what I've stored up over the last few days alone. I have no self-discipline... I mean ZERO willpower when it comes to all the sinfully delicious foods available to me during the Christmas holiday season. I don't even have the good sense to stop when I'm full. My thought is, "It's Christmas! Time to strap on the feedbag and dig in!" Too bad I forgot to ask Santa for a new figure, huh? I HATE January! That's when reality sets in once again. Oh well, the eating frenzy was fun while it lasted.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

When I was in school....

Kids today don't know how lucky they are, and as I type those words I can hear my parents saying the exact same thing to me when I was younger. Scary, ain't it? Anyway...

The topic of interest today is school cafeteria food options. If you don't have school-age children, then you might not know there are actually options. Students at our kids' school have the choice of 4 different menu items every day, and then they have a choice of two side dishes as well.

A couple of nights ago I read the following day's lunch menu to the boys so they could tell me whether they wanted to eat what the cafeteria was serving or pack their lunches. My husband was commenting on how nice it was they had all these different food options. The boys had no idea what he meant.

He explained, "When I was in school, there weren't any options. They had one menu and you ate what they were serving or you were outta luck."

David, our 11-year-old, pipes up and says, "Like in prison?"

Things that make you go "Hmmmm..."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

You Might Be a Redneck...

If you use Christmas stocking hangers with the letters E, L, N and O to spell "LEON" instead of "NOEL," you might be a redneck.

That's just what my husband did several days ago after we'd first hung our stockings on the mantle. We were having some new friends over and I was rushing around trying to make sure everything looked nice and in order. I NEVER noticed the stocking hangers spelled "LEON" and he finally had to point it out to me. I'm not sure what that says about me. I'm either not very observant or I really am a redneck, which is probably the case.

We decided to leave the hangers as they were to see if our guests noticed. No one said a thing for the longest time, but eventually their teenage son pointed it out. These new friends are probably a little leery of us now, not quite sure what to make of us and our stab at humor.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Josh Groban's "Noel" Christmas CD

I don't know about you, but I have a crush on Josh Groban, the young pop-classical singer who's about the hottest thing since sliced bread, in my opinion of course. His 2007 Christmas CD, "Noel" is breaking records in the music industry and after purchasing it last week, I can certainly see why. It's fabulous!

I first heard of Josh Groban a few years ago when my girlfriend Stacey gave me his "Closer" CD (THANKS, STACEY!), the one which includes the song "You Raise Me Up" which is still one of those songs that makes me stop whatever I'm doing and just listen. I just love this guy's style! He's so relaxed when he's singing and has such a pure quality in his voice. I'm not an authority on music, but I know what I like, and I like Josh Groban!

This Christmas CD has a smattering of duets with singers like Faith Hill and Brian McKnight, and it also had a tear-jerker version of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" in which the listener hears voices of military personnel sending their holiday greetings to loved ones throughout this beautiful Christmas classic. It makes me cry every single time I hear it.

If you're looking for a great Christmas CD to purchase this year, I highly recommend this one! Happy listening!

Bethlehem Walk

For the past 7 years our church has put on an amazing event during the Christmas holiday season. It's called "Bethlehem Walk" and it's basically a re-creation of the city of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus' birth. People dress in costumes, there's a live nativity and it's just a great way for families to come and experience the true meaning of Christmas. This year our boys not only sang in the kids' choir, they dressed as students in the synagogue as well and they had a blast.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Gift Giving 101

Okay folks, there are only 8 more days until Christmas, therefore your shopping days are numbered. If you have yet to purchase all of your gifts and need some advice, you've come to the right place... well sort of. I might not be able to tell you what to buy, but I can surely tell you what NOT to buy for that special person on your gift list.

First of all, when purchasing gifts for others, don't give gifts YOU want, give gifts THEY want. Get it? You're giving the gift to someone else, not to yourself. If the recipient is conservative and is the flannel jammies type, don't buy them the skimpy new lingerie you saw in the Victoria's Secret store. Have an idea about who the person is and what the person wants, and if in doubt, ask them! What a novel concept, huh?

Never buy anyone clothing unless the person flat out tells you what they want, including the size, the color and even the store in which one can find the item. If you guess at the size, your gift is guaranteed to be offensive because a) you end up insinuating that the person is larger than they are willing to admit, which will really tick them off, or b) you appear to be thoughtless when you buy an item that's too small and now the person has to be faced with the embarrassment of admitting they are too large for the garment, thus ticking them off. It's a no-win situation. I'm telling you, clothing purchases are usually a waste of time and a total headache because the person will either take back or never wear the item you give them. They'll tell you they love it, but will you ever see it on them? I don't think so.

Another gift item to avoid giving at Christmas is jumper cables. What? You never thought of giving a set of jumper cables to someone you love at Christmas? Me neither, but I received a set one year! No, really, I kid you not. I'm sorry to have to steer you away from that idea, particularly if you're considering buying them for your significant other. While it might make you think you have the other person's safety and best interests at heart, it won't fly. Trust me on this. They're JUMPER CABLES! They don't say "I love you." Seriously... I think Jeff Foxworthy could use this in his act. "If you give your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife a set of jumper cables for Christmas, you might be a redneck." Enough said... let's move on.

Have you ever been the proud recipient of a household appliance at Christmastime? Come on, you know nothing says "I love you" more than a blender or a toaster! Listen, and listen good, my friends... If someone requests a household item, that's one thing, but if they don't request it, don't even go there! One Christmas I received a vacuum cleaner from my former in-laws (Note the word "former"), and while I pretended to be ecstatic about the gift, I couldn't help but recall the fact that my then-husband (Note the word "then-husband") received all the personal items he'd requested. I thought the vacuum cleaner made a better couples gift, especially since we were both working outside the home. The gift I received made it very clear to me who was expected to do the vacuuming in our house. Are you people listening? NEVER buy a household appliance for someone you love unless they put it on their Christmas wishlist. I'm telling you, you'll be sorry if you refuse to heed this valuable piece of advice. And if you are the recipient of such a gift, you have my permission to pout and vent all you want! I certainly do my fair share.

That's all the advice I have for today. I certainly hope you will benefit from my experience. Happy shopping!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Random complaints

It never fails... I go to the bathroom to do my "business," go to grab a wad of toilet paper and there are maybe four squares left, hardly enough to finish the job. Why is there seemingly NEVER any toilet paper remaining on the roll when I have to go to the bathroom? It's probably because my kids use practically the whole roll in just one trip to the bathroom, thus the recent blog regarding clogged toilets.

Same thing with paper towels in the kitchen. I go to clean up a mess of one kind or another and, lo' and behold, there's either one paper towel remaining on the roll or none altogether. Naturally someone has to replace the roll, so it might as well be me, right? It's my job. I live for it.

Here's a little test question for you....

What would you do if you ate the last Pop Tart in the box?
a) Throw the box away.
b) Put the box back in the pantry.

My children evidently think "b" is the correct answer, however, I assure you, "a" is the correct answer. This happens a lot at our house. What's so difficult about throwing away an empty box? I'll never understand the reasoning in putting the box back in the pantry.

Same thing with drinking the last bit of ANYTHING in the refrigerator. Why, in God's name, would you put it back in the refrigerator? I just don't get it!

My children and I have differing opinions on what's clean and what's not clean. When asked to clean and organize their rooms, they pick up clothing items and occasionally hang or fold them, but usually they just put them in the hamper, even the clean clothes because it's easier. The toys and trinkets and so forth? They've become masters at shoving them into the nooks and crannies of their bookshelves. It makes me crazy! And of course we can't ever get rid of anything! Everything has value and should be kept forever, even if it's broken. Makes total sense to me, how 'bout you?

Those are just the things that are on my last nerve today. What (or who) is on your last nerve today? Come on, you can vent to me. I won't tell anybody.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What's a "gyro" anyway?

I've been spending way too much time in the mall lately. I normally get most of my Christmas shopping done via the internet, but I've had to actually break down and physically go in search of a few items this year. I'm not really a mall shopper for the most part, so this experience doesn't thrill me in the least. Last night I had to take my youngest son to see Santa (the oldest bowed out) and we'd just missed the bearded gentleman as he had taken a break for dinner, therefore we had to come back an hour later. Oh joy! Another hour in the mall - just what I had been looking forward to all day!

I've had the opportunity, or misfortune, depending on how you look at it, to eat a meal or two in the mall during a couple of these excursions. I've walked past the same little food court area several times now and one place in particular makes and sells "gyros." Now, I've heard of these, and I believe they're a Greek sandwich of sorts if I'm not mistaken, but a country bumpkin like me could certainly be mistaken. I'm just curious to know what exactly are these "gyros" made of anyway?

I had also wondered for years (Yes, YEARS!) how to pronounce the word "gyros." I've heard people call them "jie-rose" or "hee-rose" or "gee-rose" (hard "g" like in "goat"). Well, let me tell you, I might not know what these sandwiches are made of, but I now know how to pronounce the word... sort of. This place in the mall had it posted in their window. I guess they got tired of answering the question, "How do y'all say that there word?" It's pronounced "yee-ros," but of course I don't know if that's supposed to be a short or long "o," which disturbs me greatly. Inquiring minds wanna know!

My, that's FESTIVE!

You hear the word "festive" a lot this time of year. Ever notice that? People talk about being in a festive mood or they'll use the word to describe how something looks. I guess it's just one of those words associated with holidays, and it's meant to be positive, complimentary even.

Whenever my husband and I hear the word "festive," we share a look and a little chuckle. During our first Christmas holiday season as married folks, we spent some time driving around the area in which we lived, looking at the Christmas lights. We noticed there were some homes decorated to the hilt and we found ourselves comparing them to the Griswalds from "Christmas Vacation." Maybe we'd see all blue lights on a house with the exception of a strand of red where perhaps they'd run out of blue. Or maybe we'd see a combination of huge colored bulbs mixed with strands of small clear lights. In other words, we thought they were tacky.

We finally came to the conclusion that we were being way too critical. I mean, who were we, the Christmas decor experts? At least folks were getting into the spirit of the season, which is what's important, right? So instead of calling someone's Christmas decorations "TACKY," we called them "FESTIVE." If they only knew...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Big girls DO cry!

Yesterday I was shopping in the local Giant grocery store. I kept seeing the same lady over and over again, one aisle after another, which of course is common when grocery shopping. This lady finally commented, "I notice you're tall and big like me." I just stood there, not really sure how to respond, but I finally sputtered, "Yeah." I didn't want to agree with her, which would then insinuate that I thought she was big, but then again, she just said I was big. It's official... I'm fat... even strangers are commenting. Merry Christmas to you too, lady!

Hallelujah! The toilet's working & the lights are on!

I finally plunged enough today to unclog the toilet in my sons' bathroom. Can I just tell you that made my day? Isn't it pathetic and sad when something like unclogging a toilet is the highlight of your day? No matter... I'm one happy momma!

My husband and I were talking over the phone (He's still gone) and I told him about the outdoor Christmas lights being on the fritz. He asked if I checked the fuse box in the basement. Yes, I assured him I had tried that. No dice. He then suggested I try pushing some other button in the basement, a button like the one in our bathroom that trips EVERY single time I dry my hair. It miraculously worked! We now have outdoor Christmas lights once again.

I need a "Life is good" t-shirt to wear or something.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas cards

I'm finding that quite a few of the Christmas cards we mailed are being returned this year. Now, I expect that from our military friends because they, like we, frequently change addresses. It's understandable that a few of them might have moved since last Christmas, therefore a handful of cards may get returned. No biggie. But this year we're getting cards back from non-military people as well. What's the deal? Is everyone moving? Are they trying to hide from us because they know we're sending that mind-numbingingly long Christmas newsletter AGAIN this year?

Of course I love the fact that I have sent a Christmas card to an aunt and uncle at the same address for years and years, but all along I had been using an incorrect house number, however, it still reached these relatives. Why they never told me I had the wrong house number to begin with is beyond me, but I suppose they figured it didn't matter as long as they were getting their mail. This year the card was returned.

Years ago in my previous life, my then-husband and I sent a card to his cousin & her husband. When we received her card in return, there was a note inside letting us know her husband had died in October of that year. No one told us! We sent a card to a dead man! Talk about being mortified!

Some of this year's returned cards also had the forwarding address sticker attached to the front. That whole process confuses me a bit. I guess it's good to let the sender know the recipient has moved, but doesn't it cost the postal service to send it back to us? Why can't they just forward the doggone card?

Many of our friends send picture cards of their kids. Those are a nice way to see how much your kids have grown, but send me a picture of yourself occasionally. I miss you too! I want to know if you've put on as much weight as I have or if I'm going to be jealous of you for the entire next year.

A handful of my girlfriends rubber stamp beautiful, handmade greeting cards every year and I just love them. They're so creative and I know how much time and effort that takes since I, too, am a rubber stamper. I've never stamped our Christmas cards though because we send out way too many and I'd have carpal tunnel syndrome by the time I was finished, so that won't likely be happening.

Lots of people are now deciding it's just too expensive to mail Christmas cards. You have the expense of the cards themselves and then the postage on top of that. Throw in a newsletter or a picture or two and you've managed to spend a few bucks. I'm still okay with that though. It's the only time of year I'm likely to correspond with many of the recipients of our Christmas card and newsletter, so I'll spend the money. We have several friends and family members who never send cards, and I don't get that, but we continue to send ours, whether they like it or not! :)

Lots of people are now going to the online greeting card, but I wonder... If you're down and out and can't afford to send cards, an e-card is cool, but I really think most of the people who send those aren't fooling anyone. They don't want to spend the money or take the time to address the cards. Just admit it people! You know it's true!

I still love sending and receiving greeting cards any time of year, but especially during the holiday season. It makes my day to go to the mailbox and see a handful of cards just waiting to be read and re-read. It's one tradition I'm not ready to give up.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Murphy's Law

Why is it that things usually run pretty smoothly when my hubby is around, but the minute he leaves, things start going to hell in a hand basket? The timing of this TDY couldn't be more inconvenient. Not his fault, and I'm quick to say that because it's true, but it still doesn't change the fact that it's inconvenient for me and I find myself searching for my happy place and wanting to scream "Serenity now!" at random moments of the day.

First of all, I feel as if I need to clone myself in order to get the boys everywhere they need to be, especially this time of year. There's an activity here and a practice there... a meeting here and a birthday party there. I can't imagine what I'd do if I had more than two children. Moms with more than two kids, I salute you! How do you do it without losing your mind?

Our home is all decorated for the holidays, and I love it! It's really beautiful, even if I do say so myself, and I do say so myself. My husband always takes care of the outdoor lights and this year was no different. He did a fantastic job and the lights look great... er.. um... that is they LOOKED great. Two days ago my kids and I were off to church for a Christmas event in the late afternoon and I plugged in the outdoor lights so they'd be on when it got dark. I never leave indoor lights on when I'm going to be away from home, but I'm comfortable with leaving the outdoor lights on. So... I didn't actually look to see if the lights were lit when I left because it was still very much daytime and I just wasn't paying attention. When the boys and I got home from our event, I noticed the outdoor Christmas lights weren't lit. What's up with that? I thought perhaps someone unplugged them without my knowledge. Nope, they were still plugged in. They just no longer work. I'm sure there's a blown fuse somewhere, but I haven't had time to check into the problem. Will work on that one sometime today.

The other nice little surprise is the fact that the boys' toilet is completely stopped up, backed up, clogged up... however you wanna say it... it still comes down to the fact that it won't flush. How did I discover this? My youngest informed me that every time he uses the toilet in his bathroom, it won't flush. "How long has it been this way?" I ask my son. "Oh, a couple of days I think," says Little Man. What? He's just now waiting to tell me the toilet doesn't flush after TWO DAYS? You can imagine my utter despair and aggravation, right? Thankfully the water was only slightly yellow and not brown. But there was LOTS of paper in the toilet bowl! Oh joy! I plunged and plunged, and then I plunged some more, and I still can't get that doggone toilet to clear, but now I have toilet water on the bathroom floor to clean up in addition to a stopped up, backed up, clogged up toilet. Lord, give me the strength not to lose it.

I'm trying to find my happy place again, and when I finally do, I'll try to stay there until my husband comes home. Serenity now!

Thursday, December 6, 2007


My dad passed away six months ago today. I just realized that this afternoon and I felt compelled to blog about him. I still find it hard to believe he's gone. I guess that's because we don't live near my family, therefore Dad's passing doesn't affect me quite the same way it does those who saw and spent time with him on a regular basis. For the last several years I saw Dad once or twice a year, so not seeing him isn't unusual. It's when something reminds me of him that I stop to think, "Dad's not here," and it's still such a jolt to me.

Dad never went to the doctor, not unless it was absolutely necessary. If you feel good, why go, right? Dad actually suspected he had Parkinson's disease. His mother has it and he was showing similar symptoms. He never even had a family doctor, but because of family members urging him to go for a checkup, he finally relented and scheduled a full physical, complete with a colonoscopy. The rest is like a blur.

Dad was diagnosed with colon cancer sometime in February, if I remember correctly, and had surgery on March 1st. Doctors seemed to think the surgery was a success and that he'd be able to start chemo treatments right away. Other health issues would prevent him from starting chemo, and eventually the cancer spread to other organs and he died on June 6, 2007, just two days shy of his 66th birthday. I still find it hard to believe how quickly cancer took his life.

I was blessed to have been able to visit with Dad days before his death. My brother had been to see him and shared with me his concerns for Dad's survival. I hated leaving my husband and kids, but my both my mother-in-law and my husband urged me not to wait. We never know how much time we're allotted on this earth. It would have plagued me for years had I not been able to see Dad before he died. My husband put me on a plane and I went home to see my dad. As it turned out, Dad and I spent time together over the better part of a week. We held hands and said things to one another that needed to be said. I thought there was still hope for a recovery, even though Dad was weak and very sick. I saw him have one really great day before leaving to return to my family. I will never know if he really felt better that day or if he was simply putting on a brave face for my benefit, knowing it would make leaving easier for me. Regardless, it did my heart good to see him "almost himself."

I left on a Friday and Dad died the following Wednesday. Had I not gone to visit him when I did, I might not have seen him at all, and I know our experience would not have been the same, for hospice had been called in at the very end, and Dad was slipping farther away from everyone by then. God surely orchestrated my visit. It was a blessing, a gift to have had that precious time with Dad, and I'll forever be grateful.

I'm comforted by the fact that Dad was ready for death and was a Christian. He had no doubt about where he was spending eternity. I'm also further comforted by the knowledge that I will be reunited with him when one day we meet in heaven.

Because my parents were divorced when I was 4, and Mom had custody of my brother and me, I didn't spend a great deal of time with Dad. We saw him on a regular basis, once a week, all day on Saturdays. But we shared him with other family members - my grandparents, aunts and an uncle - so there wasn't a lot of one-on-one time. I couldn't know then (or even a few years later) what I know now... that I would truly miss him.

When you don't live with a parent, it's really hard to KNOW them. Dad wasn't a big conversationalist either. He listened more than he talked, didn't reveal a lot about himself, and was a very uncomplicated man, happy to just be where he was, doing what he was doing. There are often certain unpleasantries associated with a divorced family situation, but in all honesty, I think we dealt with those issues pretty well. Dad was not perfect, as none of us are, and he made his share of mistakes, but he never put me in the middle between him and mom. He took whatever attention we were willing and able to give him over the years, and he never asked for more or complained it wasn't enough. Now I find myself wondering about all kinds of things... what his favorite things were, what were his innermost thoughts? I grieve for the loss of the man I knew and the man I'll never know, but I also rejoice for the knowledge that he loved me, plain and simple, and I loved him back.

I suppose Dad's death has shown me more than ever the fragility of life. We think we have all this time, but we never know when it might be our last day, or the last day of someone we love. I'm trying to take better care of myself... spiritually, physically and emotionally. I want to live my life using the talents and wisdom God has given me to glorify Him. I want to take care of my physical health so that I can be around for my family for a very long time. And I want to reach out to those I love and let them know how much they mean to me. Life is short, it's but a breath, and I don't want to waste a minute of it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Solitary Christmas

I was a little bummed earlier this week to learn my husband has to be away on work-related business for a few days starting tomorrow. This weekend our church has a Christmas event in which our entire family was supposed to participate, but of course my husband can no longer be there and I hate that! Some things just aren't the same without him, but I've decided to get over my funk and be appreciative for the blessings in my life.

My husband is only going to be gone for a few days. It's not as if he's deploying or serving a remote tour like some of our friends are doing. He won't be away at Christmas, but LOTS of our men and women in the Armed Forces will be separated from their loved ones this holiday season. We've done the "Christmas apart thing" and it's not something I'd care to do again, but we managed, and I believe came out stronger for having endured the separation.

My husband left early-September 2004 and returned mid-January 2005. 4 months! That initially sounded like an eternity to me because we'd never experienced a lengthy separation. He'd been through deployments, but that was before we even knew one another. He knew what to expect, but it was even a little different for him in that this time he had a family he was leaving behind.

Naturally my husband missed lots of holidays and special events, a first for our family. I had moments when I felt really sorry for myself. I told myself families shouldn't have to be apart during these special times, and of course they shouldn't, but sometimes they have to be, and the only choices we have are to accept and deal with it or not. Let's face it, if you're part of a military family, you're eventually going to endure separation from time to time, especially now. No one is exempt, no matter how fair or unfair that may seem. It's reality.

I didn't enjoy being separated from my husband. I love him! I'm crazy about him! Our kids are all about hangin' with Dad and I knew we'd all miss him terribly. But then I realized that while we'd be missing one person, my husband would be missing three people. He would be in unfamiliar surroundings with strangers, only seeing a familiar face once in a while. The boys and I would be in our comfortable home in familiar surroundings with lots of friends supporting us. That humbled me greatly.

I also felt I couldn't allow myself to complain about a 4-month separation when there were (and still are) families enduring year-long (or longer) separations, sometimes back-to-back. Nope, I wouldn't complain about 4 measly months when I knew it could be much longer. And my husband's job, thankfully, didn't put him directly into harm's way. That was a huge comfort for me, a luxury many families do not experience.

One night during that memorable Christmas season a group of spouses from our squadron surprisingly showed up on our front lawn, kids in tow, to sing Christmas carols and bring the boys and me a gift basket of thoughtful goodies. I opened the door to them and just stood there, tears streaming down my face. These ladies understood what we were going through and they cared enough to share the Christmas spirit with us. I will never forget what a special moment that was and how grateful I felt.

This year we have several friends who will be spending Christmas in faraway places, separated from their families. We're grateful for the service and sacrifice of both the military members and their families. We wish them comfort, joy, peace and love this holiday season. Please keep these special families close in thought and prayer.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Shoot the rock, baby!

Shoot the rock, baby! I can hear Dick Vitale saying those very words, but unfortunately, no one on the University of Kentucky's basketball team was able to carry out that mission today. Kentucky played North Carolina this afternoon (and lost), which can be an ugly scenario for our family anytime the two teams meet up. You see, I'm a UK fan, but my husband is a UNC fan. Luckily our teams aren't in the same conference, or we'd really be in trouble. We love college hoops and can easily cheer for each other's teams, but only if they aren't playing each other.

When my husband and I were dating, I went to visit him during the NCAA conference and we knew UK and UNC would be playing one another. I brought all of my royal blue Wildcat attire to wear and of course he had his light blue Tarheel garb. I was feeling particularly confident in (SMUG ABOUT) my team that year and I was really bragging (TALKIN' SMACK) about how UK was going to beat (MOP THE FLOOR) with UNC. Well... UK lost to (GOT SCHOOLED BY) UNC and I wasn't feeling so confident (COCKY) after that. In fact, I was very subdued (CRABBY) and informed him that I was passionate about (OBSESSED WITH) my UK basketball, and if he gloated, I was going home early. :) He was very sweet and didn't rub it in at the time, but of course has since managed to rub it in a time or two.

Thankfully I've grown up a little since then and can handle it when our teams go head to head. We invited friends over today to watch the game with us. These are folks we just met a few months ago and they both happen to be UK fans. It was nice having other UK fans around for the moral support. God is good, isn't He? :) UNC has a really good team this year and are ranked #2 right now. And Kentucky? Well, let's just say we're in a rebuilding phase and let it go at that. I'm not a fair-weather fan though. I'll always root for the Wildcats, no matter if they suck. GO BIG BLUE!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Decking the halls...

We're in the midst of Christmas decorating and I'm simply wiped out! I know I'm out of shape, and I'm not getting any younger either, but I could swear those doggone Rubbermaid containers get heavier every year. I also forget from one year to the next just how many Christmas decorations we have. It's fairly overwhelming to be honest. We don't have a lot of outdoor decorations, but we have our fair share of indoor stuff.

We can't even put all of our Christmas ornaments on our tree because we have so many. Seriously, we could easily decorate three Christmas trees with all the ornaments we have. Two of them could be themed trees too - patriotic/Air Force and snowmen.

I wanted to get all the decorations out right away so we can enjoy them before we have put them right back into storage. I LOATHE packing up the decorations after Christmas. Thankfully my sweet husband is willing, able and very good at that dreadful task.

I wish I could be like Samantha from "Bewitched," and then I could just wiggle my nose and the decorating would be done. Sigh... The decorating will have to wait 'til tomorrow 'cause I'm too tired to wiggle anything except my big ol' backside as I head upstairs to bed. ZZZZzzzzzzzzz....

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I'm a personal shopper, but I don't get paid...

Christmas is quickly approaching, or haven't you noticed? The stores have been decorated since September, for heaven's sake, so I'm sure the fact that Christmas is approaching can't have escaped even the least observant person.

This year I have started my own personal shopping business, only it's not a business, which of course means I don't get paid either. Hmmm... how did that happen?

We're blessed to have lots of loving, generous people in our lives, all of whom want to buy us Christmas gifts. What could be wrong with that picture, right? I'm grateful... really. The dilemma here, if you can even call it that, is that I'm the personal shopper and/or giver of gift ideas for seemingly everyone. Many of you are probably in the same boat. I guess it's a mom thing. Everyone asks me what to buy for each person in my family. Does that happen in your family too? Are you responsible for insuring everyone gets exactly what they want for Christmas? I understand asking what to buy for the kids, but why can't people just ask my husband what he wants instead of going through me? I have to rely on lists to help me remember who I told to buy Matthew the Star Wars Lego "whatchamacallit" this year, otherwise he may be receiving two of them! I'm telling you, my hair hurts from all the thinking my overworked pea brain is having to do right now.

This year I'm also actually DOING the shopping for a couple of people. Now... I'm not really complaining about this part because there are extenuating circumstances. My mother-in-law fell a few months ago and broke her hip and leg and injured her shoulder. She's doing great, but is still recovering. She sent me money and asked me to shop for my family. I'm fine with that because the woman physically is unable to go shopping. She has been pardoned.

I've also been doing part of my mother's shopping this holiday season. I gathered the gift ideas from everyone in my house, emailed Mom our wishlist, including where the coveted wishlist items could be found (catalog or store). If the items were found in catalogs, I included the phone #s, item #s, page #s, cost of the items... You get the picture. Some things she ordered via telephone and the other things I had to order online because she has a dinosaur computer and just simply can't do the online shopping thing. I feel sorry for her because, frankly, I don't know what I'd do without the ability to shop online. I rely so heavily on the internet for holiday shopping. Without it, I'd be completely insane rather than just partially insane, like I am now. So... I helped out my mother and I'm okay with that.

I've given gift ideas to my sister-in-law too, however, I still have to communicate with both of my brothers, my grandmother and my aunt, who are all waiting for me to come across with a list of gift ideas as well. Again... it's a blessing to have so many people wanting to give to your family, and it seems a downright sin to complain about it. It's just that it sometimes physically and mentally exhausts me beyond words. There are times when I just want to tell people to get us whatever they want us to have, but then, that could be disappointing and perhaps scary. And then there are times when I'd like to tell people to just give a gift to a family in need instead of giving to us, which I really should do knowing there are lots of needy families and we simply have more than we need. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or tick anybody off, particularly since I know they're being thoughtful and generous in wanting to get us (namely the boys) things we really want. It seems there's a fine line between selfish and unselfish, but I have a hard time determining into which category I fall. I've tried to explain this sometimes difficult situation, but I don't think I got through to anyone. So... I guess it's just part of my purpose in life - to be the personal shopper for everyone. Sigh...

Oh yeah, I still have my own shopping to do as well. I hope I didn't give away all the great gift ideas to other people, which has happened a time or two over the years. Now where on earth did I put that wishlist?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Human Growth Development

We all know that one day our kids are going to learn about sex, but most of us dread it with a passion and stick our heads in the sand until there's no denying that it's time to have THAT talk. And the main reason it's time for US to have that talk is due to the fact that our oldest child is in fifth grade this year, and his class is getting ready to study human growth & development. We're okay with that and want our son to participate in this program, but we want to be sure we know what they're teaching and how we can help here at home. The school will be covering all the basics (puberty, personal hygiene, reproduction, STDs & the benefits of abstinence), but you and I know they can't get into morals or bring religion into the classroom. We know that's where we need to step up and give our child some direction.

My husband has chosen to take the lead with this challenge and I'm ever so happy to allow him that opportunity. I also love him dearly for the time and effort, not to mention the sensitivity he's putting into giving our son the scoop about the birds and the bees. My husband bought a book at the Christian bookstore to help give him some guidance and it's been very helpful so far.

We're trying to determine how much our son knows. He's not the type of kid to share information about his physical self, unlike our youngest, who would tell a stranger on the street anything they wanted to know and then some. I'm not kidding. My husband has had the opportunity to take advantage of times when our youngest hasn't been around, therefore he's able to talk a little more freely with our older son.

This is a special time in our son's life, but it can also be scary and awkward for all involved. We don't want to mess this up! My husband and I are attempting to prepare our son for what he's about to start studying in school without giving him more information than he's ready to process. We want to be upfront, honest and open about things so he'll feel comfortable coming to us with his questions and concerns, but at the same time we want to treat this subject gently and respectfully. How I wish there was a foolproof manual with step-by-step instructions on how to do this the right way! Parenting isn't for wimps, that's for sure!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Don't dis' Santa or Mom & Dad!

We are quite fortunate, and yet cursed, to have some very generous relatives. Someone in our family (I won't name names - TONY - because you know who you are!) always gives our children gifts above and beyond the price range of Oprah. Okay, that might just be a wee bit of an exaggeration on my part, but you get the picture.

While we appreciate the generosity of you-know-who, we also want to tell them to knock it off. First of all, we don't give quite the same amount to their child because we have LOTS more people with whom we exchange gifts, and we just can't afford to give in the same way you-know-who does. They don't seem to mind, and that's a relief, because otherwise they would definitely be sad people at Christmastime. I believe they simply enjoy giving and if it's something they really want our boys to have, they don't necessarily look at the cost of the item... They just buy it!

Of course our boys think you-know-who is AWESOME, and who wouldn't? And I'm sure that makes you-know-who feel rather special too, which is great. I'm all for mutual admiration.

But what ISN'T awesome is the fact that you-know-who has a tendency, probably unbeknownst to them, to make a bigger and better impression on our boys than we and Santa combined could possibly make. That ain't right! You can't dis' Santa or Mom & Dad! Seriously. We're supposed to be able to trump everyone when it comes to gift giving to our children at Christmastime. Now... if you-know-who wants to give ME an over-the-top, expensive gift for Christmas, that would be okay. That would give you-know-who the pleasure of giving generously, it would give me the pleasure of being Top Dog with the little people on Christmas morning and of course I would be the recipient of a fabulous gift. See? Everyone can be happy and fulfilled. Now, what did I do with my wishlist?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Stinky Sweatsock Casserole... It's what's for breakfast!

Yesterday morning my youngest decided he wanted Eggo waffles for breakfast, so I get them out of the freezer and see that there's some kind of label attached to the front of the box. The bottom of the label, in case you aren't able to read the small print (I couldn't either), says, "Smells and tastes like old shoes. Yum!" What is it with my kids and stinky feet references? Turns out my oldest was behind this deed and thought himself quite funny. I rather think he is too, but don't tell him I said so.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Could the jig be up so soon?

My kids are growing up and I'm a little melancholy about that statement of fact. Yesterday afternoon when we were at the pool, my youngest was having his swim lesson while the oldest was working on homework. I was making small talk while he was getting his notebook out, etc. Here's sort of how the conversation went down...

Me: So are you excited about Christmas coming up?
Him: Yes.

Me: Do you want to go visit Santa at one of the malls this year?
Him: No, I don't think so.

Me: Why not?
Him: I think I might be getting too old for that.

I'm nervous and dying to know what he's thinking at this point!

Me: You're too old? Don't you believe in Santa?
Him: Oh, I believe, but I just think I'm too old to sit on his knee.

Me: Hmmm... Do you and your friends at school talk about Christmas and Santa?
Him: Not really.

Him: I'm not so sure I believe in the Tooth Fairy anymore.
Me: What? Why not?

Him: I'm just thinking the next time I lose a tooth, I'm going to check the amount of money you have in your wallet before I go to bed, and then I'll check the amount of money in your wallet again the next morning.
Me: (About to laugh) So you think I'm the Tooth Fairy?

Him: Maybe... I'm just sayin' maybe.
Me: I'm not saying you're right, but what if I am? Would you keep it to yourself or would you share that information with other people? (I'm hoping he won't spill the beans to his younger brother.)

Him: I'd tell the world!
Me: (Mortified) Why would you do that?

Him: Because I'd want other people to know the Tooth Fairy and maybe even the Easter Bunny aren't real.
Me: (Sadly) But think about how much fun you've had believing in them all these years. You wouldn't want to ruin anyone else's fun, would you?

Him: Well... I don't know.

The conversation ended and I'm thinking the jig is up, folks! The smarty-britches 11-year-old has our number and I'm betting the younger brother calls our bluff soon enough. Doggone it! I've been dreading this day for so long, the day when innocence and childhood fantasy come to an end and the realization sets in that your parents have been lying to you all your life. I can only hope we have helped give our kids some very special memories of these years. Maybe our oldest will keep his thoughts and opinions to himself and allow his younger brother to believe for a little while longer.

A hot fries, ho-ho and grape juice kind of day...

I've had one of those days I'd either like to start over or totally forget altogether. Nothing significantly horrible happened, thank the Lord, and I'm okay now, but earlier today I was just not enjoying life. I don't know where things went wrong.

I started out the day just fine. The boys got up early, made themselves breakfast and got ready for school without having to be begged or threatened. The house was orderly and I was ready to run my errands by 9am. I guess that's when I met with challenges. I had a bulletin board project to finish that involved emailing some information to my church for approval. When I got to the church, I realized I'd failed to attach the file I'd intended to, and therefore, I had no information to work with and couldn't finish my project. Grrrr... I hate it when I do boneheaded things like that! I was not very nice to the ladies in the office and later had to call and apologize for getting so bent out of shape. Of all places to get bent out of shape too - the church!

I did what I could do with the project and then had to quickly leave because Mondays are "short days" at school for the boys in that they are dismissed at 1:10pm. And now both boys have swim lessons after school on Mondays, so I have to pick them up at school rather than have them ride the bus home, otherwise we'd never make the lessons on time.

I also needed to go grocery shopping today, but that didn't happen either, which seems to be a trend for me lately. I have a real aversion to grocery shopping anyway. Of course I thought about ordering groceries online, but after the first experience with online grocery shopping turned out to be a total waste of my time and cause for me to use ugly language and pitch a royal hissy fit, I decided to get that idea right out of my head. Today was not the day for the grocery store morons to dis me yet again.

I picked up the boys from school and remembered I hadn't even eaten lunch and my stomach was telling me about it too. I was so hungry, but didn't have time to even stop at a drive-thru, therefore I'd have to suck it up and eat something from the ever-healthy vending machine, that is if I could manage to scrounge up enough change since I had NO MONEY in my wallet and no time to stop at the ATM.

After we'd arrived at the pool and everyone was settled, I go to look for some change and discover I can't find my wallet anywhere. I could just envision having to cancel my credit cards, get a new license and military I.D. card, all things I'd rather take a beating than have to be faced with doing. Thank the Lord my son found my wallet lying on the front seat of my vehicle. Things were looking up! Lunch ended up consisting of a bag of hot fries, half of a package of ho-ho's and part of a grape juice. Mmmmm...

The little kid swam while the big kid did homework and things were fine. Then we did the switcharoo and the little man came to do homework, but he didn't have any homework except for reading and he'd forgotten to bring a book. He decided he'd like a healthy snack as well and share my drink. Somehow he picked up my drink and promptly dropped it in his chair and it proceeded to pour out onto the floor. He just sat there with that "deer in the headlights" look kids get when they know they've messed up. Luckily the juice hadn't spilled on the seat, therefore the little man was clean, and thank God too, because he HATES getting sticky.

We made it home and finished homework and I started trying to decide what to do about dinner. My husband is my hero tonight, seeing as how he brought home pizza for dinner since we, once again, have no food in the house. I'm hoping tomorrow will be a more productive, positive day for me. My reflux simply won't allow for another hot fries, ho-ho and grape juice kind of day. Would somebody pass the Prilosec, please?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Just go already!

Friday night our family ate dinner out at one of our favorite restaurants, IHOP (a.k.a. International House of Pancakes for those who aren't familiar, although I can't imagine anyone not being familiar with IHOP). We often like breakfast food for dinner and our boys really love the chocolate funny face pancakes. Okay, I know it's not the healthiest of entrees, but it makes my kids happy and I usually get a bite or two because these pancakes are so big they cover the ENTIRE plate and then some. It's not like we feed our kids chocolate for dinner every night.

So we're sitting in our booth enjoying our meal when this family sits at the table on the other side of the wall from us. It's two men, one obviously a bit older than the other, and two kids - a teenage girl and a little boy who might have been 3 years old at best. If I had to guess, I'd say it was a single dad with his kids, meeting the man's father for dinner. I'm a people watcher and I notice things, what can I say?

Now... I don't make it a habit to eavesdrop on others' conversations, however, I couldn't help but overhear this family's discussion. They were talking about plans for Thanksgiving and it appeared the younger man was attempting to talk the older man into joining the family for the holiday. The older man was hemming and hawing about not wanting to "drive all that way" and the younger man tells him he's just making excuses and asks him what the real reason is for his lack of desire to join everyone. The man finally says it's because he doesn't want to dress up and he doesn't enjoy eating out. I'm thinking to myself, "Hello? You're sitting in a restaurant, aren't you?" and I nearly laughed when the younger man said EXACTLY the same words at the very same time.

Grandpa (That's what I'll call him) says that eating with just a few people is fine, but not huge crowds and certainly not dressed up because that makes him uncomfortable. The teenage girl and her dad (Again... I think that's the relationship here) both tell him he doesn't have to dress like he's going to a wedding, but wearing a nice pair of khakis and a decent shirt or sweater is sufficient. Grandpa tells them he likes jeans and sweatshirts and he's simply not going to this Thanksgiving gathering... period. End of discussion. The younger man says something to the effect of "I don't understand why you don't want to spend time with everyone. Other people make concessions. Why can't you?"

That was really the end of the conversation and I sat there in my booth wanting so badly to speak up and tell the old guy to lighten up, get over his attitude and join his family. I wanted to scream, "Just go to the dinner already!" I came so close to going over as we were leaving, but I didn't have the courage. I figured I'd cry if I even began to speak. I lost my dad almost 6 months ago. My parents were divorced when I was 4 and I saw him once a week throughout my childhood, more sporadically throughout my teenage years and college, and rarely ever (maybe once a year, sometimes twice) during my adult life because we're a military family and don't get home very often. I never expected Dad to die so soon and what I wouldn't give to be spending some time with him this holiday season. So many people don't have the opportunity to be with family, for whatever reason, and yet here was this man complaining about the fact that his family wanted him, and was practically begging him to join them for a holiday dinner, but he was unwilling because of ridiculous reasons. Open your hearts, folks, and gather close those you love and those who love you back.

Stinky Feet

Last night all four of us gathered in the master bedroom to watch a movie. Our youngest son was lounging on the bed between my husband and me when he began talking about his feet and how he's betting they probably stink. He takes off his socks, then proceeds to pull one foot up to his nose (I used to be able to do that about a hundred years ago) to take a whiff. "Yep," he confirms, "they stink alright."

Friday, November 16, 2007

You can date when you're in middle school

I have no idea how my boys got on the subject of girls and dating, but a couple of days ago, I heard them (Okay, I sort of eavesdropped on their conversation!) talking about when it's appropriate for kids to start dating. My oldest son informs his younger brother that he can start dating when he's in 7th grade in middle school. What? That would mean he's going to be dating in less than two years!

My boys are 11 and 8 years of age... Isn't that terribly young to be concerned with this kind of stuff? Let's talk about sports and bodily functions and other gross things! Now I'm wondering if there's more to the story. Is the oldest starting to take notice of girls? Does he have a crush on someone? That could explain the occasional blank stare when he's doing his homework. I'm going to keep my eye on this situation!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

'Tis the season...

Don't you just LOVE all the catalogs that are delivered to your house during the holiday season? It's not even Thanksgiving, folks, and today I received 18 catalogs in the mail. 18! I was totally overwhelmed and immediately threw 15 of them away. I guess it's only going to get worse between now and Christmas, huh? 18 catalogs! That's crazy! 'Tis the season, I suppose, but it still amazes me at the amount of junk being printed and distributed every single day. Save a tree or two and stop sending me your catalogs!

Report Cards

The boys' report cards came home yesterday and we were very pleased as well as very preplexed. Both kiddos did well academically, but let's start with the our little man. 2nd graders don't receive traditional letter grades yet, which I honestly didn't know until the parent/teacher conference last week. They receive O's for "Outstanding," G's for "Good," S's for "Satisfactory," and N's for "Needs Work."

The little man brought home a couple of O's (His teacher tells me she doesn't give many of those), lots of G's and a smidgen of S's. Of course every parent would love for his/her child to come home with straights O's, right? That's just the way we are. What perplexes me is that he received S's in the area of "Work Habits," specifically "Complies with Established Rules," "Exhibits Courteous Behavior" and "Respects Personal and School Property." What? Okay, I understand these S's mean my kid is doing fine, that his overall works habits are satisfactory, but they aren't "good." I'm not necessarily worried, only curious. What I'm wondering is... what on earth is he doing or not doing that prevents him from getting a better rating? And he's not respecting personal and school property well enough to at least get a G? Is this how juvenile delinquency starts? Things that make you go "Hmmmmm."

The 5th grader brought home all A's and B's, which was definitely pleasing to us. He's in an advanced math class, which challenges me daily (That's another blog), but he pulled out an A and we're thrilled. Go get 'em, Tiger! He received A's in all academic areas except one... Science, where he received a B. B's are good and we're cool with those.

But here's the perplexing part of the report card... He received B's in P.E. and General Music. What? How do you get a B in P.E. and Music? I didn't think that was possible, but apparently, I'm wrong. Come to think of it, he received B's in P.E. last year as well. Do we have a lazy, couch potato on our hands or what? I guess we should be happy he's not in high school where GPA means everything these days, otherwise how would we begin to explain to perspective colleges that our son just couldn't attain that elusive A in P.E.? I did notice that every category in which the big man received A's, he also received an "Outstanding" for effort, however, every category in which he received B's, he received a "Good" for effort. Things that make you go "Hmmmmm."

What to do?

Today I was shopping in a local Hallmark store, looking for special cards since I don't have a lot of extra time to stamp my own right now, but that's a different issue...

While I was perusing a card aisle, a woman approached me asking for money. She had just asked a man shopping nearby and he waved her off. This woman appeared to be someone who didn't speak English as the only word I understood her to say was "Please." She thrust a hand-written note at me that explained she was poor and couldn't afford to feed her children, and in the name of God would I please give her some money.

I was totally caught off-guard by the whole incident. My heart goes out to anyone who doesn't have the ability to feed themselves or their children, and it's in my nature to want to trust that what someone is telling me is the truth. I reached into my purse and pulled out some money to give the woman. She thanked me and went on her way.

After she walked away I found myself standing there wondering if I'd been "had" by some scam artist looking to get a hand-out. I watched the woman to see where she would go and I noticed that she went into the adjoining room, which is a separate store. I approached the salesperson in Hallmark and asked her if she knew the woman and she said she didn't, but another customer had reported that the woman was begging. I can't imagine that this woman could stick around in the store very long because I'm sure it can't be good for business.

I made my purchase and walked outside and saw this same woman talking to another woman, then they parted ways, walking in different directions. The woman to which I'd given money then started approaching people in the parking lot, I'm assuming asking for more money.

I still don't know if this was a legitimate plea for help or a total scam, and of course I'll never really know. I now find myself wondering if I should have handled the situation differently. Should I have given her money at all? Should I have given her more? Should I have asked to pray with her on the spot? I don't know. I wish I had been better prepared.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Precious Moments...

The last couple of days have been full of simply precious moments for my husband and me. Yesterday was Veteran's Day and our boys joined their Cub Scout Pack for a flag-raising ceremony at the beginning of the school day. I love it when the kids participate in patriotic events because they are so intent on doing a good job, taking it all very seriously.

The boys wanted Daddy to wear his military uniform because it was Veteran's Day, so he obliged. They're very proud of the fact that their dad is a military man. So am I!

Later in the day, we were fortunate enough to be able to attend the school Thanksgiving dinner and joined both of our boys during their classroom lunch periods. Each classroom met parents in the lobby and sang a patriotic song before going in to the cafeteria. I fought back tears listening to those sweet singing voices. There's just something incredibly moving about hearing children sing.

Thanksgiving dinner was actually pretty tasty (turkey & gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing and green beans) and brought back memories of past Thanksgiving dinners at school. We were getting ready to eat with our 2nd grader when he surprised us by asking if we would say the blessing with him. Usually he's shy about praying in public, and if we do pray, he wants us all to say our old stand-by "God is great, God is good" prayer together. Yesterday he held our hands and prayed his own special prayer. My husband and I were both fighting back tears.

Last night my husband and youngest son made a bird feeder together in the basement. It was a Cub Scout activity they needed to do for an achievement. The little man was so ecstatic about doing something special with his dad. He got to use some of Daddy's tools and he was so proud of himself afterward. He immediately ran upstairs to show his brother and me what he'd made. He told my husband, "Daddy, that was fun! When can we make another project?"

Today I was invited to read a story to my youngest son's class (I volunteered last week in my oldest son's classroom). This morning we picked out a book together and then I showed up this afternoon to read. He was so happy I could be there and I just felt this overwhelming feeling of thankfulness for the opportunity. So many parents don't have these opportunities, so I realize how fortunate I am to be able to volunteer.

These moments with our children are fleeting. I feel the days just flying past us and I want to freeze time and savor every day. Before we know it, our kids will be in middle school and won't want Mom and Dad to come to their school. It won't be cool then and we'll probably be an embarrassment. I'm enjoying these precious moments while I can. Investing in my children is the greatest gift I've ever given myself.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thanksgiving Memories

Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week? Wow! Where has the time gone? The older I get, the more I feel time is just flying by. I reminisce more than I used to and Thanksgiving always brings fond memories to the forefront of my mind.

We always spent Thanksgiving at home when I was growing up. There was no "over the river and thru the woods to Grandmother's house we go" when I was a kid. Instead, we invited family to our house, which I rather enjoyed. My maternal grandparents, step-grandparents and uncle were always there, and occasionally another uncle and his wife would come or someone would bring a guest. We would clean the house until it was sparkling and then my parents would begin to cook a day or two in advance.

Thanksgiving morning was always spent watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. To this day I truly enjoy the parade. Even if I'm too busy to actually watch it, I know it's on and it represents a special time in my life.

Family would arrive while everything was being prepared and they'd sit in the family room and watch TV and munch on summer sausage, cheese, beer cheese and crackers. By the time dinner was ready, it would be around 1pm or so in the afternoon. We'd all gather in the kitchen and my step-dad would say the blessing before the meal.

Our Thanksgiving banquet was something to behold! Honestly, I don't think I've ever tasted better food in my entire life. Do all kids feel that way about their mom's and grandmother's cooking? I obviously did and still do! We served traditional fair - turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato casserole, green beans, dressed eggs, jell-o salad, tuna salad, a pickle and beet relish tray (a must for us southerners), yeast rolls (Those things would absolutely melt in your mouth!), and of course lots of sweet tea (Is there another kind?). For dessert my mom usually made pecan and pumpkin pies and perhaps a Derby pie (If you don't have this recipe, you NEED it!). My step-grandmother usually brought butterscotch and key lime pies too. Our family loves sweets, so we had to have a variety.

We ate until we were sufficiently stuffed and then still managed to eat a little more. After we ate, the men would retire to the family room to watch football and nap while the ladies cleared the table and cleaned the dishes. Now that doesn't seem very fair to me, but at the time, that's the way it happened year after year. The rest of the afternoon was spent watching football and just conversing with one another.

Along about 5 or 6pm, we'd get the food back out for "Round 2." We'd heat up the leftovers and have another plate of food. I LOVED Thanksgiving leftovers, especially turkey and Miracle Whip sandwiches! My aunt, uncle and cousins would come to the house and we'd eat and then draw names for Christmas. I looked forward to this for weeks! Drawing names was so much fun.

Thanksgiving was truly the kick-off of the holiday season for me. I guess that's one of the reasons I love it more than any other holiday. It's a time to reflect upon all the things for which we are thankful, reminisce about the past, and to think ahead to Christmas and the joy the season brings.

Now that I'm married and have children of my own, Thanksgiving means even more to me. We move a lot and circumstances don't always allow us to be with our families, so we spend it with good friends instead. We have a big meal, serving favorites from our individual pasts, turn on the parade and later watch football. I want our boys to have fond memories of this special holiday. Next week on Thanksgiving Day we're gathering at my in-laws since we only live a couple of hours away, therefore "over the river and thru the woods to Grandmother's house we go" really applies this year.

May you and yours have a most blessed Thanksgiving, remembering to pause and give thanks, enjoying time with loved ones, and making cherished memories for years to come.

Boys like to make noise...

The boys went to a birthday party yesterday afternoon. A kid in the neighborhood had his party at an indoor laser tag/arcade place and he was kind enough to invite both boys. It was a great deal for my husband and me in that we didn't have to go hang out and help chaperone. We had several hours of uninterrupted free time to ourselves. What did we do during that time? That would be none of your business...

The boys came back from the party and told us about the great time they'd had. They were given whoopie cushions at the party and it's amazing how entertaining those things have been in only 24 hours. If you have boys, you understand what I'm talking about. Any noise that simulates a bodily function is simply hilarious and needs to be repeated over and over and over.

The boys have been chasing one another in the house with their whoopie cushions and have come up with a new game called "Toot Tag." Think we could market that idea or what? Boys! You gotta love 'em!

Friday, November 9, 2007

How'd I do that?

I now have music on this blog! I'm very excited seeing as how I'd been wanting to do this for a while now. There are a couple of other blogs I've been reading lately that have music, therefore I was prompted to COPY the idea. It took FOREVER to figure out how to do this! One of my friends explained to me how she did it, saying it was pretty easy. Yeah, okay, Shannon... whatever you say! You don't know who you're talking to. I'm techno-challenged!

I got my husband in on this and even he had some issues (one of my favorite words by the way... ISSUES) and he's pretty computer literate. I didn't feel so bad about myself then.

Anyway... we finally tried this music-on-my-blog thing again a couple of nights ago and somehow... someway... we miraculously made it work. Okay, my husband made it work, but I was there for the moral support.

Yesterday I got brave and decided to try to change my original song choice, just to see if had enough sense to do it. I also wanted to see if I could change the widget because I didn't like the one I had because it was way too big. I actually did it, but the crazy thing is that I have no idea how I did it. Does that ever happen to you? You try and try to make something happen, nearly give up and then it happens, but you have NO IDEA how it happened, thus you'll probably never be able to duplicate it again?

Anyway... enjoy my current choice of song (or turn your sound down or click on the widget to turn it off - YOUR CHOICE), but only for a short while because I'll be changing songs periodically, if I can remember how it's done........

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

If it ain't one thing, it's another...

Yesterday was one of "those" days, if you know what I mean. I woke to find it raining, which was actually okay because we need the rain and I rather like rainy days from time to time. No biggie. But because it was raining and the boys were home from school for those parent/teacher conferences days, I didn't feel like dragging everyone out to go grocery shopping, therefore I decided to go online and order from a local grocery store because they will deliver. Shoppers just have to be sure to place an order prior to 9:30am for same-day delivery. No problem. I finished my order at 8:16am and scheduled the delivery for sometime between 4-6pm. I thought I was doing great since I'd already done my grocery shopping in my pajamas sans makeup. That's the ONLY way to shop!

I gently reminded my 5th grader that he would be going back to school the following day (today), therefore he needed to buckle down and get the remainder of his homework done. He complied and got busy, finishing his homework in no time. I went to check his homework, as I always do, and discovered he hadn't followed the directions in one section of social studies questions. He was going to have to re-do all 10 questions. You'd have thought the world was coming to an end! I explained how great it was that we figured it out rather than to have turned it in the way it was. I was trying to put the positive spin on the situation, right? He wasn't seeing it that way at all. It's like I had done something wrong by catching his error. He finally starts to try to fix his mistakes and he's just sitting there, doing nothing. I ask what's wrong and he complains that he can't find the answers. It's because they don't literally jump off the page and say "Here I am!" and I tell him he's lazy. I got a little ugly with him and he nearly teared up and cried. I hate it when that happens! Makes me feel like a lousy mother. He finally got a better attitude and he finished the homework.

In the meantime the rain stops, the skies clear and the day ends up being absolutely beautiful. Maybe we should get out and enjoy it. Oh yeah, the 5th grader is doing his homework. And once the homework is done, we only have a short time before the groceries are to be delivered, and of course we have to be here to receive them. Can't go anywhere.

Along about 5:00 or so, my husband calls and says he needs me to pick him up at the slug lot just up the road because he can't ride the Metro home since there was a FIRE in the tunnel at his Metro stop. So he's jumping in a vehicle with some other sluggers and heading our way and will be at the slug lot in about 20 minutes. Of course I go to pick him up, thinking the whole time that the grocery delivery people will probably show during the 5 minutes I'm away from the house.

Miraculously, the grocery people hadn't shown yet, but it's now 5:30-ish and I haven't even started dinner because part of the dinner was supposed to be delivered. Our 2nd grader had a Cub Scout meeting at 7pm, and we need to go pick up my husband's vehicle from the Metro station, so we're not so patiently waiting for those groceries to arrive. I don't know what happens if you're not available when the delivery is made. I'm sure they charge you, which is understandable.

6pm comes and goes and still there has been no grocery delivery. We go online and make an inquiry, but we know we won't hear anything back right away, so I also dial this 877 number and ask what's going on. The man I'm speaking with tries to locate the driver of the delivery truck and can't seem to find him. My options are to schedule a re-delivery for the next day or to get a total refund. I have things to do the next day (today) and can't give them a delivery window, so a total refund is in order. I'm so disappointed... No, I'm hopping MAD! This is the first time I'd tried to order from these people and I was very careful to make sure I'd done everything correctly.

Now it's 6:20, we have no dinner, we still have to pick up my husband's vehicle and get the little guy to Scouts by 7pm. We leave the house and head to the Metro station. Our plan is to divide and conquer. I will drop off my husband and the little guy at the parking garage and they can go on their merry way, stopping at a drive-thru for dinner and going on to the Scout meeting, while I take our oldest son and also stop at a drive-thru and then go grocery shopping.

We get to the Metro station and it's a zoo, an absolute snarl of traffic and people because of the fact that the Metro isn't running and people were stranded all over the place, trying to get back to their vehicles. We're in traffic for quite a while. My husband and I just look at each other and start laughing. This is such a typical thing to happen to us!

My husband's plan has now changed and he's taking the little guy to Scouts with no dinner. I'm still going to stick to my plan until my husband calls me on the cell phone and says the little guy has decided he wants biscuits and gravy for dinner. Biscuits and gravy? Where did that come from? Since my son hasn't had much of an appetite lately, I figured I'd feed him whatever he requested, therefore my plans then changed. I took the oldest son and went to dinner at Bob Evans and ordered two entrees to go, one of which was biscuits and gravy. Needless to say, after having dinner in the restaurant, there is no time for grocery shopping before the other half of our family will be home from their meeting, starving and in need of food. The grocery shopping is nixed and we go home.

The little guy comes in from his Scout meeting and is excited about the biscuits and gravy (and a few scrambled eggs as well). He takes a few bites and then stops eating. He's not hungry for that anymore and opts for a can of mandarin oranges instead.

Today I have to go grocery shopping.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Parent/Teacher Conferences

Yesterday I went to parent/teacher conferences and spoke with both of my sons' teachers. These meetings always seem to make me nervous and I don't know why. The boys are good students, they're well-behaved and things always go just fine. I somehow end up feeling intimidated and want to just run from the room. Is it because I'm afraid something negative is going to be said and I'm going to be disappointed or hurt? I'm very sensitive when it comes to my children. I suppose most mothers are though. I end up talking incessantly about anything and everything and later I can't even remember what was said. Good grief! What is my problem?

I do remember a few key things that were relayed to me regarding my boys and I have to share them because they made me laugh and nearly made me cry...

My youngest son is a social butterfly. His teacher told me he's well-liked, but talks too much. In other words, he's being a "Chatty Matty" (His name is Matthew) and he's disruptive at times. He's sweet as can be, she says, and always wants to please and is incredibly helpful whenever she asks him to do something, but he simply can't quit running his mouth. I have to laugh because he's JUST LIKE ME! I got in trouble for talking in class in 2nd grade too! I even had to stand in the corner because Mrs. Pearson didn't tolerate talkers. I think Matthew's teacher is a little less strict than Mrs. Pearson, thank God.

I also was told Matthew has BEAUTIFUL handwriting. He does have remarkable penmanship and I told the teacher, "Cattle prods work wonders!" Of course I was kidding! I have always stressed good penmanship though. I think teachers appreciate the effort, and even if you don't get something right, at least it was legible.

On to the next parent/teacher conference....

David's teacher told me he doesn't always pay attention, therefore he doesn't always get the full scoop on homework assignments. I didn't have to be given that tidbit of information because it's evident on the nights when I get the blank stare and the response "I don't know" when questioned about homework. Give me strength! I did hear some AWESOME news in that David currently has an "A" in advanced math. We may have to celebrate! That class has totally stressed us all out, but it's great to know our efforts (Yes, "OUR" efforts!) are paying off.

Lastly, David's teacher told me he's very kind to other students, particularly those who are in need of a friend and perhaps serve as targets for ridicule. She relayed a story to me about how he'd made another student feel better after receiving a poor grade on a test. He was very positive and told the kid it was okay, that it just meant she could do better next time. Now that almost made me cry. I don't care if my child is or isn't the smartest kid in the class, but I do care that he treats others with kindness. A mother longs to hear these kinds of things about her children.

The boys had to come with me to the conferences because I didn't have another option yesterday, but they sat outside the classrooms and played their Game Boys (LOVE those things at times like these!) quietly. After the conferences were over, we were walking down the hallway and Matthew pipes up and asks, "Did she say I talk too much?" I ask him why he wants to know and he says, "Because I do talk too much." When a kid confesses his sins and shortcomings upfront, it's difficult to be too tough on them. Do you suppose they know that?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Is it this year or last year?

I engaged in a very confusing conversation with my 8-year-old son today. We were talking about baseball season, which ended in June. I made a comment about "this year's baseball team" and my son tells me that was "last year." I explained to him about how baseball season ended less than six months ago and it was 2007 then and it's still 2007, so it was "last season," not "last year." He then goes on to say that he was in 1st grade "last year" when he was playing baseball, and now he's in 2nd grade. I have to further explain that the school year actually starts in one year and ends in the next year, but it's different than the "calendar year." Oh my goodness! This had my poor child thoroughly confused and frustrated. And of course we're having this conversation while in the vehicle, so I can't just show him a calendar and make things more concrete for him. I ended up with a major headache and he still doesn't get it. I'm not so sure I want to bring it up again either.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Scenes from Halloween

These neighbors always have lots of fun, spooky decorations.
This year they had this scary mummy in the window.
The boys thought it was way cool.
The neighbors went all out and decorated their front lawn with caskets and had lots of scary characters roaming around. The kids thought it was awesome! I was rather impressed myself.
Several of the kids in our neighborhood went trick-or-treating in one big group, which made it a lot of fun. My boys dressed as Harry Potter and Peyton Manning. The older one was going to be Spider-Man, but changed his mind and decided to wear his coveted Colts jersey
and be Peyton Manning instead.
We had a blast carving this pumpkin!
Boys love gross things, especially fake vomit.

Monday, October 29, 2007

It's Me, Marva!

I was looking at the books on my youngest son's shelf and had totally forgotten about a particular book called It's Me, Marva! by Marjorie Priceman. I bought this book a few years ago because of course it has my name in the title. It was evidently a Parent's Choice book and considered quite a good read for children ages 5-8. How about older children, say 42 and older?
What I wouldn't have given for this book when I was a kid! I always wanted something with my name on it, back when I.D. bracelets and such were very popular. Do you ever think I found anything with "Marva" on it? Not a chance! Naturally when I came across this book I simply had to have it.

I'm a size WHAT?

Friday night we took the boys to the mall. The day before I'd purchased a couple pairs of flannel pajama pants for them, but made the mistake of choosing the wrong color for the little man (What was I thinking, right?), therefore we went to exchange them.

On the way home we were teasing the boys, telling them we were going to put on their comfortable new pants and lounge in front of the fireplace when we got home. We're always able to get the little man to "bite" when we say we're going to take something of his for ourselves. He said I couldn't have his new pants and I asked why. Then our 11-year-old smarty britches pipes up and says I'm too big and that I wear a size "billion." Ouch! I have yet to decide whether or not I'll allow him to live another day.

Witching you a Happy Halloween!

This week is Halloween and I'm reminiscing a little. I remember a time in my life when Halloween was such a big deal. Seemingly everyone celebrated the holiday and it was just plain fun. We'd trick-or-treat, bob for apples, tell ghost stories, go to haunted houses, etc. That was back when you got homemade treats such as popcorn balls, fudge and cupcakes when you went trick-or-treating. We even had Halloween parties at school where we were allowed to dress up in our costumes and have a parade around the school. Man, those were the days!

I don't know where those days went, but they certainly don't exist anymore. Children don't often have Halloween parties at school, and if they do, they have to refer to them by another name such as "Fall Festival" or something similar. No one gives out homemade treats to trick-or-treaters anymore. Now we're afraid someone will try to poison our children or put needles or razor blades in their treats.

I realize there are groups of people in our country who don't celebrate Halloween for various reasons, with the main reason being religion. That's a choice people have to make for themselves and their families and of course that's totally acceptable, but what I don't understand is why the rest of us can't still celebrate the holiday in the same traditional way. Our kids love Halloween, and for them it's all about dressing up and pretending to be someone else for one evening. It's also about hauling home a whole bunch candy in a big ol' plastic pumpkin. To them Halloween is harmless fun, and it holds no sinister, evil meaning whatsoever.

For the last few years we've put up a Halloween tree (See pictures) and the boys just love it. We carve pumpkins and put out a few other decorations as well. It's so fun to watch how excited the kids get when the decorations come out of storage. I know soon enough they'll be too old to really enjoy Halloween in the same way, but I want them to have some long-lasting memories of the holiday, just as I do.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I won! I won! Well... sort of.

Last night the boys participated in their monthly Cub Scout pack meeting and in addition to the regular Scout business, the kids were invited to wear their Halloween costumes and bring spooky desserts, both of which would be judged in separate contests. The boys "cleaned house" in the costume category last year, but I don't know why since they were Captain Jack from "Pirates of the Caribbean" and Harry Potter, not exactly the most original costumes, and most definitely store bought. Whatever... the boys won and they were happy as could be.

This year the boys' costumes are once again not very original in that Harry Potter has been chosen yet again (Hey, I saved a few bucks since we already had the costume, so that works well for me!) and we've added Spider-Man (the evil one from Spider-Man 3). They didn't win anything this year and my youngest was a little bummed. Hello! There were multiple Harry Potter and Spider-Man costumes, so what can you expect? All I'm saying is... use a little more imagination and originality next year.

Okay... on to the part where I actually win something... the spooky dessert contest! First of all, no one's kids actually make their own desserts. Everyone knows the parents do it, right? The spooky dessert contest had each den competing for the honors, but I didn't know that at the time. I thought they gave a prize for the best overall dessert. Since my oldest son is in a den of only 4 kids, and no one else entered a dessert in the contest, I figured I'd enter my dessert to represent his den. Besides, our youngest son's den had several desserts entered in the contest. I ended up winning the best spooky dessert for my oldest son's den, but it was only because no one else in the den brought anything! So, yes, I won... well... sort of. It's a bit anticlimactic.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sock Issues

My oldest son has sock issues. He can't (and won't) wear just any sock. In the past when I've purchased him new socks, he's complained that they "hurt" his feet. Have you ever in your life heard of socks hurting someone's feet?

I can't tell you how many times I've returned socks and the folks at the customer service desk at the store just look at me as if I've lost my mind. Most stores want to know the reason for returning an item and I just cringe when I have to explain my reason.

"Yes, I know what size my son wears, and yes, these are the right size, but they don't fit him."

This kid is literally walking out of the socks in his drawer. They are nasty, dingy and have holes wearing in the bottom. I don't want him to take off his shoes anywhere for fear someone will call the Department of Social Services and have my child taken away from me for suspicion of neglect.

Something had to be done, so today I broke down and bought more socks in hopes that my son will wear them. As I was shopping in the local Target store, I nearly dropped to my knees and prayed on the spot for these socks to fit. I'm happy to report they are keepers. Life is good!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'm a Mark Bishop groupie!

Today I was listening to my Mark Bishop CD and remembering the concert I went to a few months ago. If you aren't a follower of southern bluegrass gospel music, you probably have never heard of Mark. I had heard of Mark, but not because of his music...

Mark Bishop and I went to school together from the 1st grade all the way through high school. I knew Mark could sing, but I didn't know how well until recently. Back in the winter when the Grammy Award nominees were announced, my husband and I were looking at the line-up of nominated artists and I saw the name "Kenny Bishop" listed under the category of southern bluegrass gospel. I knew a Kenny Bishop, but I figured it couldn't be the same person. I was wrong. It was very much the same person. I googled Kenny and found out lots about him and Mark, his older brother.

These guys have been incredibly successful in the gospel music business (first as The Bishops with their dad, and later as solo artists) and I had no idea. I'd never really listened much to gospel music until the last couple of years and I still hadn't been listening to southern bluegrass gospel. I was so excited to find out that these two guys I've basically known all my life are making music for the Lord and had been doing so well. It's a pride thing, I suppose. "Small town boys making it big" is what was in my mind.

I bought a couple of CDs, one of Mark's and one of Kenny's. I was so impressed and still am! I listen to them all the time and so do my boys. The boys have memorized several songs and have their favorites. Mark writes all his own music, which I think is just an incredible talent. I can't imagine having the ability to do that! Every song tells a story and they're so personal and beautiful. I can see (and hear) myself or someone I know in all of his songs. I love that!

A few months ago my family had the great fortune of attending one of Mark's concerts. The boys were so excited and they thought I was way cool because I knew somebody famous. They wanted to know if Mark would remember me and I told them I hoped he would. I mean, how many "Marvas" could a person know, right? But I didn't think Mark would look out at the crowd, see me and say, "Hey! It's Marva!" Let's face it, I've changed a bit. I'm SEVERAL pounds heavier now than when I was in high school and it had been 20+ years since we'd seen one another.

The concert was held in a small church and we were getting ready to go into the sanctuary and wait for things to start, but stopped in the lobby where someone was working at a booth selling Mark Bishop CDs, etc. That someone was Mark himself. I walked right up to him and said, "Excuse me, but I was wondering if you'd remember me." Give me a break! Did I really just say that? I was mortified!

Mark was so nice though. He looked at me as if he recognized me (I'm sure he didn't) and said, "Where do I know you from?" I filled him in and we chatted for a while. He met my husband, sons and my in-laws. I told him the boys' favorite song and don't you know that was the first song he sang! At one point during the concert he began to chat with the congregation and he asked if anyone knew where his hometown was and then he said, "Well, anyone besides MARVA!" He said my name and my boys looked at me like I was really somebody. "He said your name, Mom!" my oldest son said.

After the concert we lined up in the lobby to purchase Mark's newest CD, "Abundant Sunshine," and he posed for a picture with our family and gave each of the boys an autographed picture. We're now official Mark Bishop groupies!