Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Wishes

Well, we're off to celebrate Christmas with my family in NE PA, after a wonderful weekend of celebrating with The Boss's parents. We have several "Christmases" lined up, exchanging gifts in stages with different segments of our big and happy family. So, I am off to pack the suitcases and the car. We wish all of you the merriest, most blessed Christmas celebration ever!

Merry Christmas


Happy Birthday,

King Jesus!

From “The Gang’s All Here!”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holiday Traditions

We have a favorite family tradition. It started with a newlywed who couldn't get herself together enough to plan a meal and plan to shop for a tree on the same day. It has since become our most talked-about, most anticipated, most treasured tradition for the whole Gang. It is the tradition of decorating our family Christmas tree.

Over the years, The Boss has added the element of hiking into the woods to chop down our own tree. Most of the time now, I am home wrapping presents, or out shopping for him. I don't enjoy the trek into the woods. In fact, I actually prefer buying our tree from a local stand that donates its profits to a local charity. For example, the Boy Scouts used to have a great sight right around the corner from our first apartment (there on Simpson St. - you West Shore gals know where I'm talkin' about!) and we always tried to give a little extra toward the charity they were supporting. Anyway . . .

Once the perfect spruce has stood in the garage for enough time to allow the bugs and spiders to shrivel up and die after being sprayed liberally with bug killer, we bring it in and crank up the Christmas music. This year it was Josh Groban's Noel, over and over, with a little James Taylor and Steven Curtis Chapman thrown in for good measure. The Boss strings all the lights, in his meticulous manner, followed by our heavy wooden beads on string. These beads came from our former landlord's beaded seat cover for his car and I re-purposed them because we were broke and I really don't like tinsel or icicles - just not folk-art-y enough for me! We added some red beads that I found on clearance after Christmas and VOILA! A very rustic garland. Finally, once the beads are all nestled on the heaviest boughs, we open the boxes and the reminisces begin. Each of our many ornaments has a story, a memory and a connection - I'm sure your ornaments are no different.

My favorite ornaments are the ones that Tiny Boppa carved for the kids once he retired. Each one represents that child's "it" thing for that year and it is so fun to hear the stories and the "remember when's" that the ornaments evoke. We have Sesame Street faces, Jimmy Neutron characters, Strawberry Shortcake characters, a darling black bear (from the time that LadyBug got up early with Boppa to see a black bear cub rummaging through Boppa's garden), Boppa's truck (when BBE was fascinated with all things "truck!"), and so many more. They are better than a photo album in some ways.

Sometime toward the end of the decorating, I place an order to the nearest Chinese restaurant. When The Boss returns with the food, we shut off all the lights in the house, save the tree. And we have a Chinese-food picnic in front of our tree. Sometimes we just listen to carols while we chow down. Sometimes we watch a beloved Christmas movie. But every time, we laugh, I cry, and we re-connect. It is quite possibly my most favorite day of the whole year - no phone calls, no company, no other family but us. And the beauty of our tree, glowing right in the middle of it all.

*Update: I am so grateful to all of you who weighed in on the great photo debate. I think I'll take the suggestions of a couple of you and include both of the scenes for the letter. And thanks, Thrills, I never thought of framing the fun one for the house - I was too myopically focused on getting this letter planned and concluded!

Monday, December 17, 2007

What do YOU think?

The Boss mentioned the other day that he actually liked this picture for our family/adoption update letter. I am partial to it because it was a sweet, spontaneous moment with the kids - but I thought including the whole family might make for a more complete picture (pun intended!) as we share our heart for the adoption with our friends and family from around the country. So, I'm taking an informal poll . . . The spontaneous one of just the kids (above) or the more traditional group shot of the whole Gang (below)?? Let me know what YOU think!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Favorites Friday

I love Christmas music. I start listening to it on Thanksgiving Day. And truth be told, I'd start it sooner if (ahem!) some people in my house didn't object so strenuously. (You know who you are!) I love the classics, I love the funny new stuff, I love country, I love jazzy, I love swing. I have quite the collection of Christmas music and try to expand the collection every year. So today, I'm sharing with you my favorite Christmas albums - in my own particular order. I can't pick a most favorite. I could hardly narrow it to five, but I thought listing all of my Christmas music (cd's and tapes!) would be utterly boring for all of you. Here you go . . .

My Favorite Christmas Albums
  • Newest: Josh Groban's Noel. Just got it as an early present from my cousins and the duets are the icing on the already amazing cake of this man's talent. An amazing cd.
  • Oldest: The Nutcracker and Classical Christmas. I have a couple different versions (tapes when we were newlyweds and later cd's). I love them for the peaceful and elegant atmosphere they set and the great memories they evoke of the early years of our Christmas celebrations.
  • Trendiest: American Idol's The Great Holiday Classics. It's a fun, spiffed up version of the classics featuring the voices of some of their most talented kids from a few seasons past.
  • Steven Curtis Chapman: He's got his own category because I have three of his Christmas albums and they just keep getting better. The latest one features one of his adopted daughters and her sweet voice cuts right to my heart every time I hear it.
  • Instrumental: Chris Rice's The Living Room Sessions, Christmas. When this is playing softly in the background of our family festivities, I feel a peaceful hush and a reverence in my home. I love all of this guy's music, but I could listen to this one all day long.
I left out so many! I just looked at my storage case and even I am surprised at how many I have. (All neatly arranged in alphabetical order for quick and easy access!) So, do you have a favorite Christmas album? Do you have a little-known gem that you would like to share with us? Have you found a new one this year that we might love? Leave a comment and share your favorites here!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Holiday Pics

Warning! Not a normal post today - I've got two little sickies in the house, so I have to re-evaluate my ever-lengthening "To Do" list. The school district has a random 1/2 day and we were going to jet right out all together and finish shopping for Daddy, get birthday pics done for Dr. Doolittle, and knock a couple other holiday errands off the list. Now, Shaggy will have to babysit LadyBug and maybe Baby Blue Eyes while Dr. D and I condense our time out. This virus is single-handedly wiping out all my lovely, meticulously planned "To Do" lists one day at a time. I am far too ambitious with my lists anyway, but now I'm feeling as if covert operations have been set in play to chip away at my carefully constructed days just to "see what will happen!"

It started on Sunday, when I kept BBE home from church. We spent the whole day hanging around and relaxing. Silly me. I thought I had all week to "get it all done!" Monday, he was still sick so I cleaned, finished some baking and completed a book that's been sitting too long unfinished. Yesterday it didn't get to me too much. He was just so sad and pathetic that I was happy to keep him home and bundled up with Christmas movies running all day. I decorated the rest of the house with one hand and chatted with my dear friend, Amy, with the phone in the other hand. Today? Another sick kid and now I'm just ticked! There's an ice storm moving in tomorrow and I can't just keep baking every time I'm housebound. The sugar high alone is enough to drive me to distraction. (The kids', not mine!)

Here's a shot of the Gang - back when we were all healthy and well. (tee hee, it's not that bad, honest.) We're thinking of using it for a family/adoption update letter in the beginning of the new year. Provided we have some update to share at that point . . . which I'm fairly sure we won't! There's not much to share while you are waiting and waiting. That's another "to do" that's been moved from this month's list to next.

Enjoy the picture. I'm looking at it in shock - can those grown up little faces really be my kids? It's bittersweet. They are gorgeous, wonderful, kind kids but they are all growing up way too quickly for my liking! How do I stop the madness of it?! I know I'm being melodramatic - but I haven't had my coffee yet, so please forgive my insanity. And my broken, disjointed post - the cabin fever must be getting to me . . . . .

Off to revamp that list. And to find something soft to feed to tender little throats. See, I'm not really all about my lists . . . . I'm not :)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Holiday Preparations In Full Swing

Here are a few pics from the weekend. We baked. The Boss and the Gang got a tree out in the woods. Then He decked out the front of the house. We all had a great time! There were Irish Gingersnaps, Peppermint Snowballs, Oreo Truffles, Coconut Macaroons, Butter Pecan Turtle bars, and mini cheesecakes. Beef stew simmered in the laundry room and Cracked Wheat bread whirred in the bread machine.

There was lots of coffee, carols in the background and a sweet little baby girl in the middle of it all, getting her first experience at family female bonding. I'm unofficially known as the "sap" of the family, so it's probably no surprise to some of you that I was full of tender emotions and happy feelings most of the day. And the happiest feeling of all: The Boss and the Gang got totally muddy and gross while out chopping down the tree and I didn't have to be muddy too! :) I will post pics of our gorgeous tree once we get it in and decorated. Right now, it's in the garage steeping in bug spray!

Here's some shots of the lovely nativity scene that friends of ours sell every year on e-bay. It's a little "family" business that spreads the Good News in a beautiful and tasteful manner. Buying any yard ornamentation is a huge deal for me, as I fall in the "Less Is More" camp of Christmas yard decor. We live up the street from perhaps the tackiest, gaudiest, most horrific yard display ever imaginable. No theme, no rhyme or reason, no taste. You get the idea. Actually, get that idea and multiply it by 100 times of tackiness. Then that's the real idea. And until this spring, there was a "(In-) famous" family around the other side of our neighborhood that had a HUGE, EYE-POPPING, "Christmas in Vegas" type display complete with their own radio station. They moved. To Colorado. Far away. But if I look carefully on a clear night, I bet I can still see the light show. Since we moved here, I'm perhaps even more extreme in my "Less Is More" camp-out. You can understand why. Anyway . . . . this one won me over with its simplicity. If you like it, drop me a comment and I'll put ya in touch with my friends.

Finally, here is the wreath that has been with us since the last Christmas in our first home. I "splurged" one year after the holidays and bought two wreaths and some old-fashioned plaid ribbon and silk florals and created matching Christmas wreaths. I was so excited about them that I could hardly wait to hang them - the day after the following Thanksgiving! And I'm so pleased with the way they've held up over the years - 8 years! I love the spotlight on the big one, and I am just OCD enough to really love that my front and side doors match. Sad . . . I know! ;)

So, there you have it - we are in full holiday mode now. Except for the shopping. I still haven't really done the shopping. I will, I will, just as soon as I can stop baking and just as soon as Baby Blue Eyes gets over this nasty cold. Which better be soon. Only 15 days left till Christmas Day! Wooooo Hoooooo! Merry Christmas, all!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Favorites Friday

I tried all day yesterday to get to this - but I never sat down to relax or regroup until 10 p.m. - with a mug of hot soup and a blanket. At which time I promptly fell asleep next to The Boss on the couch. The last thing I remember was being profoundly upset that I couldn't get the last dregs of soup out of my oddly shaped mug. So anyway, here's my list, better late than never, in honor of some of my favorite women. My Li'l Sis, Li'l Sis-in-Law, Cousin BFF, and Li'l Cousin are all joining me here in about 2 hours for a day of Christmas baking. It's a loosely held tradition that we try to schedule in as many years as we can manage it, and one I look forward to with great joy. There will be coffee, laughing, chatting, sneaking bites, and good old-fashioned female bonding while we bake. And of course, Christmas music. Lots and lots of Christmas music weaving its way through all the day.

My Favorite Christmas Cookies
  • German Christmas Cookie Cut-outs: a brown sugar-based cookie that I got from Stacey G years and years ago - it's become our favorite tradition and favorite treat, reserved only for the holidays! The mess involved with four little Gang members and The Boss all frosting them requires a day set aside just for these cookies alone to take center stage!
  • Coconut Macaroons - my Grandma's recipe. Just making them chokes me up and brings a flood of happy memories of holiday dinners with a big, noisy, crazy Irish clan.
  • Pecan Turtle Bars - a completely decadent, buttery, sugary confection from my friend Amy. I only trust myself to make these in December. If I let me make them other times, I would be as big as the Galapagos Turtles!
  • Mom's Italian Wedding Cakes - also known as snowballs, these little buttery treats melt in your mouth with their nutty goodness.
  • Candy Cane Cookies - by far the most labor intensive, I don't make them every year. But they are so festive with their red and white twisted dough and hooked shape. I fondly remember the gal who shared the recipe with Mom years ago and the kind interest she took in me. I felt like she was my first "grown up friend," even though I was an awkward little 5th grader.
There you have it! If you want any of these recipes, please leave a comment or email me. I love to share my faves :) Happy Saturday to you all and Happy Baking Day to me and my gals . . .

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Not What I Promised You!

I'm not done decorating yet. Who am I kidding?! I haven't even started yet! So I'll post promised pics of the extravaganza soon . . . And I really do want to share with you some stuff I'm brewing over in my heart and mind from my Pastor Brother-In-Law's most recent sermon, but I'm way too frazzled and pressed for time right now to logically process it for you. So I'll post that one soon too. Instead, I found this meme while I was wasting time last night after the kids went to bed (I should have been sleeping, to prep for the frazzled rushed pace I've had to keep today!). It looked kinda fun, so if you try it out, let me know to read your version. Enjoy and I'll see ya around for Favorites Friday . . . . Christmas themed for sure!

A Christmas Meme About Me!

  1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I like a combination of both!
  2. Real tree or artificial? Whenever possible, REAL – really tall, really fat and really fresh.
  3. When do you put up the tree? Usually by the 10th of December.
  4. When do you take the tree down? Sometime in the first week of January.
  5. Do you like eggnog? LOVE it!
  6. Favorite gift received as a child? A hardback copy of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.
  7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes, a couple.
  8. Hardest person to buy for? My in-laws – they buy themselves the good ideas before I can shop for them.
  9. Easiest person to buy for? My kids and my nieces.
  10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? mmmm, I'll plead the 5th on this one.
  11. Mail or email Christmas cards? When I do them? Mail.
  12. Favorite Christmas Movie? The remake of Miracle on 34th Street and A Charlie Brown Christmas.
  13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Usually in September, done by November. This year? Not even one gift purchased yet! AAAAAACK.
  14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes, a long time ago when we were poor newlyweds with too many of one certain wedding gift!
  15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Yes!
  16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Tiny white lights.
  17. Favorite Christmas song? TRUTH’s version of A King Is Born; The Royal Guardsmen’s Snoopy and Red Baron Christmas song, anything by Amy Grant – particularly her 1st Christmas album.
  18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? We alternate between my folks and The Boss’s folks but we try to do Christmas Eve and Christmas morning at home first.
  19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Ummmm? Yes, of course I can!
  20. Angel on the tree top or a star? A beautiful white angel that my sister made for me the Christmas before I got married. She wanted me to have a meaningful topper for my first Christmas the next year. I love it!
  21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning. Period.
  22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? The pace, the traffic, the grouchy people who want to be PC, the grouchy people who despise those who are PC.
  23. What I love most about Christmas? Baking, lots of company, spending time with my family, Christmas music all day long.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Soup's On!

Here's a new family favorite from the Gang's house. I made it last week, modifying it from a recipe that used broccoli and cauliflower that Li'l Sis made for a recent family birthday dinner. My little Gang members don't all love cauliflower, and the original soup was a bit too heavy and creamy for my preference (DELISH for special occasions, but not for regular weeknight dinners), so I played around a bit. I think you will like it. Dr. Doolittle had 4 bowls and called "dibs" on the left-overs, and even The Boss had seconds. (His mid-life crisis has come in the form of a boycott of all veggies green!) It was especially yummy paired with some hearty whole grain rolls I had in the freezer for just such an occasion.

Broccoli Soup

2 (10 oz.) boxes frozen, chopped broccoli – thawed slightly
1 small onion, chopped
1 ½ - 2 cups chopped carrots
1 – 2 minced cloves of garlic
2 – 3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cans (14 oz.) fat free chicken broth
2 Tbsp. flour
2-3 Tbsp. butter
salt and pepper to taste
1 (8 oz.) block light cheddar cheese, cubed
1 (8 oz.) block light Velveeta, cubed
4 cups 1% milk
2-3 cups cooked chicken, chopped - optional
1 cup shredded cheddar – optional (reserved till end of recipe)
  • In a large soup pot, sauté the broccoli, onions, carrots, and garlic in olive oil. Once softened, reduce heat and add chicken broth.
  • Meanwhile, in saucepan, make a roux of the flour, butter and salt and pepper on medium to low heat. Slowly add milk, whisk till it is lump free and starts to thicken. Add cubed cheeses and stir frequently over low heat till cheeses melt and sauce is very thick.
  • Pour all cheese sauce into the soup pot of veggies and broth. (If adding chicken, do so now.) Mix well and allow to simmer on low at least an hour before serving. If you desire a thicker soup, add the shredded cheese about 10 minutes before serving and stir well.
Today's a great day for a thick, hearty soup: we're getting our first "real" sticking snow here - up to 1" or so in our community. Enjoy the recipe and let me know what you think when you try it!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

100th Post

Today marks the auspicious event of my 100th post. Rather than wax eloquent on the lessons I've learned about life, love and other mysteries of the cosmos since I've begun this blogging adventure, I'm going to celebrate by sharing a pic or two of my adorable niece.

Baby Blue Eyes and I got to babysit for a couple hours yesterday while Li'l Bro took his bride out for a quiet lunch date. We cuddled, we sang, and we talked baby talk. But the most precious of it all was having her fall asleep on my chest while I rocked her and listened to BBE practice math facts. I forgot just how warm and soft and amazing it feels to sit quietly in the midst of a busy day with a little head tucked under my chin. I forgot how the presence of a baby in the home forced me to stop the craziness for a little while. How the weight of that sleeping body held me in my seat to re-focus on the eternal. As I was rocking her, I prayed for her and sang quietly to her along with the Christmas carols in the background. It was a beautiful time and I really felt the presence of the Lord while I worshiped and rocked her to sleep.

So there, I waxed nostalgic instead! Enjoy the pics and take some time today to snuggle with a little one or really listen to the Christmas music that you should have playing by now. Take that moment to slow it down and get refreshed. And Happy 100th to me :)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Didja See It? Didja?

Last night was a special night for The Boss and I: Extreme Home Makeover got to help a family by building them a beautiful new, safe, clean home AND by sending them to Philadelphia for a vacation and a consult at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)! I was so completely touched by their story and by the hard work and dedication they both put into every day - making sure their kids get through the day, and making each day count for good memories and loving times. Although The Boss was a tad disappointed that they didn't feature more about CHOP, we were both proud to be associated with an organization that works so hard to save kids' lives, and improve the whole family's experience during times of sickness. If you didn't catch it, I encourage you to go here and click on the Stockdale family to see the full episode. It makes me incredibly grateful for a healthy family and proud of what The Boss does everyday to support the families and employees of CHOP.

One thing that I also found very interesting and very inspiring was the part that CVS played in helping out the Stockdale family. Without giving anything away that would ruin it for those who have not seen this episode, I was blown away by the generosity and the compassion that the retail pharmacy chain showed to this deserving family. In fact, I was so impressed that I emailed them last night to thank them for being so caring and responsible - their example of corporate philanthropy to this family goes a long way toward "buying" my loyalty and I told them so! I encourage you, if you were also moved by what CVS did for the Stockdales, why don't you take a minute to tell them so. It's my personal opinion that we are usually to quick to speak up when we are unhappy with service or disappointed by a corporation's policy statements. At least I know I am. So when I have the chance to give kudos to a company for something as worthwhile as this kind of generosity, I want to be faithful to do that.

Well, I have a lot brewing here - Pastor Brother In Law preached a great sermon yesterday and I just have to share it with you all this week. And The Boss and I are getting ready to put up all our holiday decor, so some pics might be in order. I can't promise it all today, but I'm working on it all. And of course, I HAVE to share some cute pics of my adorable niece - Baby Blue Eyes and I are babysitting today :) So, I'm off to cuddle with her and I'll be back soon . . . .

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I'm not a home-schooler who likes formal tests, especially not in Kindergarten! But this week, Baby Blue Eyes has been finalizing some review of basic math facts, early phonics sounds of short letter a, and what we call "good student skills" (basically sitting at the table or island, doing what Teacher Mommy asks when she asks, and trying our very best). Surprisingly, the "good student skills" have been the hardest for BBE to get down pat. The transition from occasionally playing with workbooks and playing school to honest-to-goodness real daily (almost!) lessons and learning things that don't come easily the first time he tried has proven to be more challenging than I would have guessed for him. I am realistic enough to know that some of this was my consistency (or distinct lack thereof!) with the amount of time and regularity with which we schooled. And that some of it was volunteer work I do and the incredibly busy pace that each week seemed to push upon us all - making it just too easy to push lessons off for "just today. . ." too many weeks in a row. "After all, it's just Kindergarten, right?!") Ugh.

But I also recognized early in October that some of this difficulty in taking lessons seriously was his maturity. He's a young 6. In our loud, crazy, busy house, he has had 6 years of enjoying playtime, arts, music, and craft time pretty much all day long. Expecting him to hop into his chair with his pencil, eraser and pocket protectors at the ready was and is completely unrealistic. It's almost as if I forgot that "good student skills" are learned. Like math facts must be learned by regular practice. Like the individual sounds of the letters must be said and sung and repeated over and over and over . . . So I backed way off, purchased some fun and colorful workbooks that were below his academic level and we practiced holding our pencils. We practiced the "top to bottom" and "left to right" motions of writing. We did letters and numbers on our MagnaDoodle. We practiced saying "Okay, Mommy" when Teacher Mommy requests another page of practice. We read silly books and we played computer phonics and math games.

Then I re-introduced our Hooked on Phonics & Math tapes, flashcards, and workbooks. While I was down for the count a week or so ago with the flu, BBE had his first spelling test: he scored a perfect 100% on his "-at" words. It was on his MagnaDoodle, so I didn't get a picture of it. In the same week, he read his first story and quickly progressed to his second. How priceless is the giggle of pride and the shining eyes of joy at his new achievement! And today, my boy scored another 100% - this time on his first Level 1 math test (+0 and +1's). He's beyond ready for the next level of both his phonics and his math - and now I'm ready too! We have some new workbooks to supplement the fun and we are ready to go, first thing Monday morning! In the meantime, enjoy with me the picture of his "star, please!" and the 100% at the top of the page . . . .

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Comfort Food For a Cold Windy Day

Today has been a really cold, windy day. It's the kind of day that makes me want to putter around my kitchen in my flannel pants and fuzzy slippers, simmering and stirring and creating scrumptious dishes to warm the belly. In case you are feeling similar cravings, here is my recipe for Basic Potato Soup. I got the recipe from a former pastor's wife and over the years I've added and replaced and enhanced it for lots of different tastes. Some of our favorite modifications are also listed below the basic recipe. Enjoy a big bowl of it with your family this week!

Basic Potato Soup
1-2 medium sweet onions, chopped
10-12 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped (1" cubes)
salt and pepper to taste
parsley to taste
3 oz. jar of real bacon pieces
3-4 cups of any milk or cream combination
(if using skim, thicken slightly with cornstarch first)

In a very large pot, boil chopped onions & cubed potatoes in JUST enough water to cover them. When fork tender, DO NOT DRAIN! Add salt, pepper & parsley to taste. Add bacon pieces. Stir and let blend for about 15 minutes. Add milk or cream combination and allow to simmer until all flavors are blended. I've added shredded cheddar cheese at the end to thicken it up and make it richer. Serve hot or cold, garnish with chives, sour cream and/or cheese.

Our favorite modifications:
  • Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder: Use equal parts sweet and white potatoes. Instead of bacon, add one can of Fiesta Corn (drained) and 1/2 pound of cooked, sliced smoked turkey sausage.
  • "Like Olive Garden's" Potato & Sausage Soup: Instead of bacon, add cooked bulk sausage in large crumbles (turkey or pork). Use equal parts of reduced fat chicken broth and cream/milk combination.
  • Veggie Potato Soup: I also add chopped carrots, celery, and sometimes chunks of chicken breast instead of bacon. This week I'm going to add frozen chopped broccoli that has been cooked and drained. Maybe it'll be a brand-new favorite for The Gang!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Birthday, Again!

Okay, so I'm sitting at my father-in-law's desk in the mountains of VA, feeling terrible about waiting this long to post for Li'l Sis's birthday. The last two days have been a flurry of holiday preparations, packing, and catching up on my household. Being sick for 10+ days is a great way to see just how many things can mysteriously pile up on counters, in corners, and in the laundry room. I swear to you I had no idea we had that much STUFF. Now that I'm away from it all and can clear my mind, I am already plotting which rooms and closets to tackle first when we return home. How sick is that?! While I'm sitting here with a rested mind and a very full tummy, I want to share with you what I love most about Li'l Sis - to honor her on her birthday.

Li'l Sis is a beautiful woman. Physically, she is a very attractive girl. She has always received compliments about her beautiful eyes and her pretty face. What makes her beautiful to me is so much deeper than that. Her beauty lies in her purity of spirit and her depth of character. She believes strongly in the virtues of honesty, integrity and compassion. She works hard to instill these things in her children and the junior highers of our church family. She believes whole-heartedly in a radical faith lived out in a tangible and practical manner. It shows in her convictions and her teachability of spirit. Li'l Sis is a great example to me of a Proverbs 31 woman: she is frugal, industrious, diligent and energetic. She is intentional in her marriage, in her parenting and in her friendships. She is loyal and faithful to those she loves. She has incredible wisdom for a woman as young as she is - after all, she's the first one that told me The Boss was a keeper! She is fun and funny, laid-back and easy to be with. Beside The Boss, I love hanging out with her, just relaxing and chatting. Throw in a shopping trip to Kohls with coupons and it's the perfect night as far as I'm concerned!

Best of all, Li'l Sis is a wonderful sister. Through all the years we were growing up together, I remember her always being there supporting the rest of us siblings. Encouraging us. And as my younger brother can testify, fighting for us! I always loved that she never let anyone pick on him, even if he was wrong. She stuck up for what she believed in, and she believed in family. No matter the hard times I have gone through, I have always known that I could count on her for love, support and loyalty. I knew she'd tell it to me straight, but that she'd do it in love and she's still doing that today. She is real in her compassion over my struggles, but she carries a mantle of wisdom and authority about her that reminds me that it doesn't have to be like that and that I can make it through. I love that idealistic spirit - I especially love watching her pass it on to her kids, my kids, and the families that she and Pastor Brother-In-Law minister to every day. She is certain that God's best for YOU can be accomplished here and now.

Li'l Sis represents the best of both of my parents. She has taken the wonderful godly traits that they both carry and allowed the Lord to steep them into her spirit. She honors the Lord and my folks with the way she lives her marriage, parents her kids, ministers to her family, and works in her local church. Some of you are blessed to call her friend. Some of you get the benefit of calling her your pastor's wife. I am the most blessed of all: I call her my sister!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Okay, so November is a really BUSY month for our family - beyond the holidays and the changing of weather patterns. Last week was my Dad's birthday, yesterday Dr. Doolittle turned 12 and today is Li'l Sis's birthday. I'm still sick (now it's a sinus infection!), I'm running behind, but I must pause to acknowledge these important people in my life. After all, the people are what keep me going and doing all that my "To Do" list dictates that I do. What good is a "To Do" list if what I'm doing isn't for and about the ones that I love the most? The next two posts are dedicated to honoring Dr. D and Li'l Sis. I hope you hang in with me to share the joy that they bring to my life - and yours if you are blessed enough to know them!

Dr. Doolittle is 12 now. He's my "brown-eyed boy" and the family joker. (I always wanted a brown-eyed son, since I was in high school!) He's always got a funny story or a joke or a prank to play and most of the time keeps us laughing. He's sweet with little ones, so tender and caring that they are drawn to him and his antics immediately. He's crazy about the Eagles and a loyal fan even when they are driving the rest of us to complete frustration. Dr. D is hopelessly optimistic that "this might be the big play," and I love that about him! He's our resident nature lover and devours non-fiction books like they are candy bars for his brain. Sometimes we look up random crazy facts about exotic animals just to try and stump him with a question, but he's way ahead of us - he knows the most bizarre facts about the most bizarre animals. He's recently taken up photography, and is thinking about becoming a wildlife photographer someday. I often tease him that I don't want him to graduate because I may never get him back from the remote jungles of the world after that.

Beyond all these interesting and fun personality traits, I see in Dr. D a caring and tender heart for Jesus. He takes great pleasure in the simplest things about the world around him - thrilling over the sound of a wild turkey calling across the woods at Grandma and Grandpa's mountain home, cracking himself up over the crazy characters he makes up to entertain us all, wonder and awe at the sight of the huge turtles at the Aquarium or the hawk and woodpeckers that live in the gully behind our house. This joy in simplicity is a quality that I admire and desire to emulate. It's something that many of us love about Dr. Doolittle - I think that's because many of us have lost that child-like faith and awe somewhere along the way. Dr. D makes me stop and remember that the creation that makes him drop his jaw in wonder should make me pause too.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Doolittle. You are an incredibly important part of this family - you make us all laugh and remember to stop and enjoy the little things in life along the way. Don't lose that child-like exuberance for the world you are in - we all need that. We all need you and are so grateful to Jesus that He chose US to be your family. You are special and you are unique. Even if you do leave your socks laying all over the house when your feet get hot :)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Favorites Friday

In honor of my Dad's 65th birthday this week, I'm going to share my favorite things about him. I was going to make a special Monday night edition just for him, but I've been down with a flu type bug most of the week and am just clearing the fog today. Yeah, I know, the week started so great, didn't it?! Anyway, in celebration of one of the greatest men I know . . .

My Favorite Things About My Daddy
(yes, I occasionally still call him "Daddy!")
  • He prays for us. I know this because all my life, I've seen him praying for those he loves. He believes strongly in the power of prayer, and lives it out every day. He is faithful to pray, faithful to trust, and faithful to wait on the Lord for His answers.
  • He cares a lot about legacy and history. He studies the history of The Church, of our family and of our nation. He learns from it, treasures it, and lives his life in a way that honors it. Watching him be so passionate about where we have been makes me want to be diligent about where I'm going.
  • He is a survivor. No matter the hard times that he and Mom have been through, he has trusted the Lord, he has clung to the Rock, and he has survived. And from where I'm sitting, he hasn't just survived, he has overcome and conquered. Faithfully. Trustingly.
  • He never accepted mediocrity from me. I may have chafed at that as a child and later as a young woman; but now that I'm a mom, I am incredibly grateful for it. I hear him in my heart when I tell my kids that I don't care about the actual grade, I care more that they did their best and that they challenged themselves. It makes me strive to be a better wife and better mom. And I think it makes me willing to take risks in areas that I wouldn't otherwise.
  • He loves his God, his family, and his community. As a pastor, I've seen him lay his life down for more than 25 years for the same church family. As a dad, I've seen and experienced his care in countless ways: cereal marshmallows for a certain little grand-daughter's sweet tooth, power washing our deck when The Boss mentioned it had to be done soon, a beautiful family vacation home that he shares generously, and those Valentine cards that have been coming addressed in his hand to each grandkid every year without fail. As a member of his community: I hear stories of the garage mechanic he's been sharing Jesus with for 20 some years now, the police officers who know him by name, the luncheon to honor the fire department that saved their church building from a dumpster fire. All these relationships are borne out of his love for Jesus and the love that he allows Jesus to pour into him for those around him.
I know that not all of you have been blessed to have this kind of "Father" relationship in your life. And I know that often our view of our Heavenly Father is skewed by our relationship with our earthly father. So, trust me when I say that I am completely grateful to the Lord that He saw fit to rescue my dad and pour Himself into dad all those years ago. It changed our family's course for generations to come. And I am very grateful that my dad emptied himself and cried out for Abba Father to fill him anew. And that he keeps doing this even now. It's a great example to me and to my whole family. Faithfulness, steadfastness. Daily renewal, daily grace. This verse always reminds me of my Daddy's example of a true, faithful, daily Christian walk:

Lamentations 3:22-23 "The steadfast love of the Lord
never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness."
(English Standard Version)

So, Happy (belated) Birthday, Dad! You are a treasure to our family and to all those who know you. Your steadfast following of Jesus Christ is an example to us all and an honor to the One who gave up ALL so that we might be His. I love you!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Great Start to the Week!

Imagine my joy! First, I get to start my week slowly and quietly at home with Baby Blue Eyes and my cousin, S. Then, the pinnacle. The joy. The perfect start to a quiet, peaceful Monday morning.

They talked about Philly, about his dad's weather gig on Action 6, about his adorable little boy, and of course, about Bones. There was a clip of an upcoming episode. Oooooh, I love that show. The dialogue, the intrigue, the science. Well, I could do with out the cutting and the dismembered body parts. But I do love that show. If you don't watch it, you really ought to give it a try. But be warned, you'll get hooked. It's simply one of the greatest crime shows out there. A perfect balance of levity, snappy dialogue and serious crime. Intelligent crimes, none of that thug knocking other thugs off stuff. Smart stuff. Really! There was a passing mention of a new movie coming soon, filmed here in the greater Philly region. I know I didn't miss the title or the date of the movie, as I was glued to my seat and the volume was as loud as BBE would tolerate it. So, now I must google it and see what to expect and when I can expect it.

But that was a great start to the week. I may as well not watch any more morning television all week. They can't top that. That was the perfect Monday morning kick-off. Especially on the heels of the news and other important updates and features by Matt (Lauer, of course!). Really, the week is off to a grand start!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Favorites Friday

As promised, today's favorites are the sites and links I check regularly. Because we are in the waiting process of an international adoption, my "regulars" may look different than other stay-at-home, home schooling mommies. I hope that translates to something different and new, maybe even fun! for you. I try to limit the amount of time I spend surfing any sites on a daily basis - we all know how it can just "suck you in!" to wasting a whole morning over a cold cup of coffee while PBS blares endlessly in the background. No? Well, maybe it's just my house! But when I do check these sites, it's mostly a quick stop to see what's new in recent days.

  • TLC; HGTV; DIY; Good Housekeeping; Foodnetwork, etc. - I surf these sites several times a week. I follow up on information from shows I caught while folding laundry or ideas for decorating, saving money or organizing my home. It's especially useful to check these sites when I can't sit through a whole show but am really interested in specific segments. I also love to enter the sweepstakes - as long as I'm there :)
  • - I love this site! I love the feature to search for a recipe by ingredients, I love the readers' ratings, and I love that almost every time I go there I find something new I want to try out on my family. It's gotten me out of a rut many times, when I just can't face another boring meal of chicken, cream soup and mixed veggies thrown together the same way.
  • Dayspring - I'm a card sender, a note writer, and a "word-y" (you know, like a "foodie!"). So when I found the free e-card page here, I was thrilled. I've thoroughly enjoyed the technology that allows me to jet a thoughtful hello with some cute pics and music to a friend that the Lord brings to my mind. I have also surfed the other popular card companies' sites, but still come back to this one most of the time.
  • ChinaAdoptTalk - well-known in international adoption circles, "The Rumor Queen" runs this site to track rumors and time lines for families in the process of adoptions from China. There is a ton of helpful information on this site and I've learned a lot about the inner workings of various agencies, including the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA). I do have to limit the amount of time I spend here, as they are still rumors and emotions can often run very high among forum members and commenters to her blog. And I try to check in to our agency's site (Living Hope Adoption Agency) if for no other reason than to take some cheer and encouragement from the adorable faces on its different pages!
  • My local ABC affiliate - I love current events but I often don't have time to sit and watch each story that catches my eye. So I check here first when I hear about local happenings or news flashes that may affect our family or our community. I also love my local ABC station because David Boreanaz's dad is our afternoon weather guy, Dave Roberts. I can totally see where David gets his acting charm and that "camera loves him" smile. And yes, I am completely aware that this connection has nothing to do with real news or being more informed. Just another little quirk of mine. Look for yourself: aren't their smiles remarkably similar?!
I didn't hear from very many of you regarding your favorite new sites, so hopefully this time around you all will share with me some "oldies but goodies" that you love. And yes, that was another shameless plug :)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Between The Rock and a Hard Place

We are in a very difficult season. I don't feel liberty to discuss the details, Lord knows I've about talked it to death in my head and in my heart already. The Boss told me this morning that he feels "at the end of (his) rope." I agreed - I'm dangling there with him. We have no alternatives before us right now but to trust.

This was confirmed to me on Sunday, when someone who knows a little of our situation shared an option with us that cut straight to the root of the fears that I've been struggling with in the heat of this pressure cooker. He doesn't even know how his words ministered to me, as The Boss just very casually mentioned that "so & so" had something he wanted to share and "here's what he said." This was on the heels of Pastor Brother In Law's sermon that focused on the question "Who Do You Trust?" from II Kings 6:8-17. It was the story of Elisha's servant whose eyes were opened by the Lord to see the real battlefield. I've been holding all this and more in my heart since then - brewing and brewing over them.

I've been spending a lot of time in the Psalms. Countless times, the Lord has dropped a number into my mind, and I've scurried off for my Bible. See, when I get NUMBERS in my head, then I know it's the Lord. One of my greatest weaknesses in learning Scripture is that I have the hardest time keeping references in my head. I flip them around, transpose them, blank out on them, whatever. So when I get a reference that hangs in my heart and mind like a blinking neon sign, I pay attention. And this morning, the Lord sent me to Psalm 61 and 62. That's me - hanging in there, crying out to the Lord. Feeling more desperate and strangely more numb than I've ever felt in hard times like these. As a writer, David's heart and eloquence gets me every time. In desperation, his words are leveling me. Flat on my face, leveled.

It's hard to be here. But even as The Boss was telling me this morning how he felt, I felt a peace that at our end is exactly where He wants us to be. And as hard as it is to be here, I've felt such a peace in the past two days that this will work out - for our good. That we will come out the other side and that the journey won't be as crippling and as painful if we snug up to the Rock. So that's where I want to be - face first, flat up against MY ROCK.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Whew! What a Weekend!

This was a fun and busy weekend in the Gang's household. After months and months of meetings, planning, organizing and creating, our local elementary Home And School Association hosted its first annual Basket Auction fund raiser. I was on the planning team and played a minor role in the final product, so I'm very proud of all that we accomplished. The goal of the event was to raise enough money to eliminate some of our older, worn-out fund raisers. I think we did that, in spades. Final numbers won't be out for a week or so, but it's looking promising.

Saturday morning was spent moving donated "baskets" full of goodies from the chairwoman's home to the hall and setting up tables, displays, check-out stations, food stations, and so on. I had to scoot out early to help The Boss with a big project at home. Boy, am I glad I came home when I did! He moved our tv from one side of the fireplace to the other, with all the wiring, cables, and such that go along with that. In doing so, we also moved our stereo, all the furniture, tables and lamps. And while the shelves above the built-ins were accessible, I dusted and re-arranged all our "pretties," too. I was so tempted to stay at the hall and keep plugging through with the rest of the set up team, but I knew The Boss was going to delve into something big. I didn't want it to become an all-weekend type project, so it's good that I showed up to help him. The afternoon was fun; working with The Boss on any home project is one of my favorite ways to spend time. The kids were in and out, playing with Favorite Neighbor Girl and enjoying the sunshine.

The evening at the auction was a blast. We went with Favorite Neighbors and bid on some raffle baskets, ate dinner, chatted and visited with other school parents and enjoyed the night out. The Live Auction at the end was pretty late but well worth staying for! The bidding over a signed National League MVP ball was intense - quiet and purposeful, but intense. We had a few teachers donate fun "day experiences" with the kids and the bidding was fast and furious for most of them. The "movie date" with the librarian was hilarious to watch, the parents were so intent on winning. One of the days (a pool party for a family at the gym teachers' home) went for $400! And to our surprise, the auctioneer made (pre-arranged) deals with the next highest bidders to throw in additional, identical days for the same price - and they all sold! Huge thanks to the teachers who all are giving so generously of their time with our kids - all for the sake of keeping our school moving forward and being the best it can be. The whole night, my mental wheels were turning: looking for ideas and ways to improve upon this year's event for next year. I know, that's sort of sad. I couldn't just sit and have fun, although I did do that. I am already looking ahead! No wonder it took me almost 2 hours to wind down and fall asleep when we stumbled in after 11:30.

Sunday was spent hanging out with The Gang and the nieces and nephew. They played outside so nicely together, but every time I started to doze off on the couch, one of the 7 of them came barging in for something! Finally, I gave up and read for a while. We had a church meeting later and then I finally got to fall asleep on the couch, while The Boss watched the very disappointing loss of the Eagles to the Cowboys. Normally I care very much about seeing the Eagles trounce dem Cowboys, but last night I couldn't muster the energy. Whew! What a Weekend!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Favorites Friday

Today, I'm sharing with you some sites that I've found recently. Some of them may not be new to you, but all of them are new to me. I am after all, only a hobbyist when it comes to blogging, the Internet, and site searching. Most of the time, I find sites I love, only to forget how I got there. And I happily move on, only after I realize that I didn't bookmark it to navigate my way back. Seriously, for as organized and orderly as I'm supposed to be for an ENFJ, I am absolutely scatter-brained and near dingy (or wifty as an old friend used to say) when it comes to my computer. So here they are, the sites I've found recently and can actually track down the site addresses for, for your surfing pleasure!

My Favorite Sites, recently:
  • Menus For Moms - they offer all kinds of household management support, in the form of free menus with corresponding grocery lists, cleaning and organizing tips and recipes to help you out of your cooking rut. It's a lot to take in, so I've been there several times processing information in smaller doses. They even have a home school page or two!
  • The Reluctant Gourmet - this is actually the spouse of one of the bosses in The Boss's office. Did ya get that? He's The Boss's VP's hubby and this site is a delight to read! Candid, informative, creative, and so inspiring - I've tried some new tricks from this site and I just heard about it last weekend. Their family has a great story and this site is so well done, I love just paging around, even when I am not looking for anything in particular.
  • Puzzle Maker - I forgot about this site for a while, but recently recommended it to my co-homeroom mom. We've used it for baby shower games, spelling list practice, vocabulary lessons, and other special projects for school. I even used it for a Christmas party that The Boss and I hosted when we first moved to SE PA. Makes learning fun, and anything that makes words fun is alright in my geek handbook :)
  • - This site is amazing! I can make up math sheets, let Baby Blue Eyes play phonics games and fill my head with all kinds of fun ideas and inspirations in my schooling. I love the coloring pages, too. It's not the easiest site to navigate the first couple times you are on it, but you get the logic of it quickly. I do still struggle with making up the math sheets, but we are still doing simple addition of 0's, 1's and 2's so I don't stress about it too often. And you can pick the objects to be added - there are frogs, dots, lady bugs, penguins, and so on. Very fun for all of us!
  • Indian Valley Trading Post - Finally, this is a home-based business of some new friends of The Gang. They are creative, interesting and entrepreneurial spirits who make soy-based candles in their home. I have three (Spiced Cider, Vanilla Shake, and Grandma's Kitchen) and let me tell you: I doubt I'll EVER go back to paraffin based candles again. These things are so pretty, they smell amazingly true to the "real scent" (read here: craving an old-fashioned vanilla milkshake and homemade sugar cookies right now!), and they burn slow and clean. I've always been a candle fanatic, with pillars, jars, tapers, and votives all over the house. But now, I think my fanaticism has risen to a whole new level! And I think I got my MIL hooked this weekend - she couldn't stop raving about the Vanilla Shake. Sure makes my Christmas list easy :)
So, there you have it. My five favorite new (to me) sites. Maybe next week, I'll share the "oldies but goodies" that I check regularly. If you have some new faves, be sure to list them in your comments to me. If you are a lurker, come out of hiding and share your faves. And yes, that was a shameless attempt to lure my lurkers out of hiding :)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Yummy Week of Crock-Potting

I've been inspired by the cooler temps. I love this season, with the colorful leaves, the chilly mornings and the dark crisp nights. And I love the food. I've been cooking my brains out for about 5 days now. Shaggy and Dr. Doolittle think they are in heaven. Stews, soups, breads, comfort food casseroles, you name it and I'm whipping it up in my cheery red & yellow kitchen. I'm even surprising myself! But Oh! the comfort of a hearty-grained bread, dripping with chicken broth and veggies as I clean my bowl. Is there any better scent than a crock pot simmering dinner in the corner while I curl up with a mystery novel under my faux fur throw? I think not!

Last night, in lieu of trick or treating, we had a mini-Family night. We watched old episodes of I Love Lucy, and a few other sit-coms. All this while cuddled up in the dark cozy family room with a big bowl of French Chicken Stew. It's a recipe I created a couple rainy springs ago and it is officially now my favorite crock-pot meal. So, as a gift to you, my faithful 5 readers, I'm sharing this recipe today. Enjoy it with garlic bread, baguettes, or hearty 12 grain rolls. I guarantee, you will make it again. And again! And when you do make this, let me know what you think. I love feedback and input about recipes.

French Chicken Stew

1-2 cups flour

1 tsp. each: salt, flour, garlic powder

½ - ¾ c. olive oil

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

or 8-10 thighs, cut into 2” chunks

2 (10.5 oz.) cans 98% fat free cream of chicken soup

8-10 oz. white wine

2 (14.5 oz.) cans diced tomatoes, Italian seasonings

1 medium sweet onion, chopped

2-3 medium white turnips, peeled

1 medium butternut squash, peeled & seeded

2 cups baby carrots

In large Ziploc bag, combine flour, salt, flour, and garlic powder. Heat oil in large skillet. Throw chunked chicken into bag and toss to coat well. Place chicken pieces into hot oil and allow all sides of chicken pieces to brown and sear till golden. Remove to plate and allow to drain on paper towels. Discard remaining flour and oil.

Lightly spray your crock pot with baking spray. Chop peeled turnips and peeled, seeded butternut squash into about 2” cubes and place into crock pot. (If you don’t like turnips or squash, you can substitute white potatoes and sweet potatoes.) Cover with chopped onion. Chop baby carrots in half and place on top of onions. Cover with browned, seared chicken pieces.

In separate bowl, whisk together the cream of chicken soup and the wine. Pour over everything in the crock pot. Turn crock pot on to Low and allow to cook for at least 6 hours. Do not stir for first ½ of cooking time!

About 1 hour before serving, stir in the diced Italian seasoned tomatoes. Stir gently, to avoid mushing up the vegetables or shredding the chicken. If necessary, thicken the stew.

To thicken the stew:

Mix 1 cup very cold water with 2 Tbsp. flour that’s been well-whisked to remove lumps.

Pour in slowly and stir gently.

Allow to thicken for about 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Once an ENFJ, Always an ENFJ

Well, I'm on the bandwagon. Thanks to "Like I Was Saying" and the rest of the MIA posse, I couldn't resist taking the test one more time. I'm still an ENFJ. But as I mentioned to a couple other bloggers in their comments, I like to think that I'm a kinder, gentler version of myself. I always tell The Boss that more of him has rubbed off on me than me that has rubbed off on him. Which frustrates the snot out of me - I wish some of my obsessive compulsion "that everything has a place and the world is so much more FUN when it's all in its place," would rub off on him. Now THAT's fun. Yeah!

Click to view my Personality Profile page

When I read this site's list of famous "real" ENFJ's, I couldn't help but laugh out loud, then gasp and feel intimidated, insulted, and amused. These names crack me up - I don't think I'm like many of them, but it's quite a round up. See for yourself:

Abraham Maslow - psychologist
Andy Griffith - actor
Ben Affleck - actor
Ben Stiller - actor, comedian
Bob Saget - actor
Brenda Vaccaro - actress
Craig T. Nelson - actor (Coach)
Dennis Hopper - actor
Diane Sawyer - television journalist
Dick Van Dyke - actor
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - minister, civil rights activist
Elizabeth Dole - senator
Francois Mitterand - French President
James Garner - actor
John Wooden - basketball player, coach
Johnny Depp - actor
King David - King of Israel
Kirstie Alley - actress
Lauren Graham - actress
Margaret Mead - cultural anthropologist
Matthew McConaughey - actor
Mikhail Gorbachev - last leader of Soviet Union
Pete Sampras - tennis champion
Peyton Manning - NFL quarterback
Ralph Nader - attorney, political activist
Randy Quaid - actor
Ross Perot - businessman
Tommy Lee Jones - actor
William Aramony - United Way president
William Cullen Bryant - poet
Okay. Kirstie Alley I can see. She's obnoxiously like-able, like everyone's friend from high school that got you into trouble. But I don't know that I'm really like that. Am I? Well, okay. Maybe I am. A little bit. Not so much that I actually get into trouble. But I do enjoy my naughty little rebellious thoughts and suggestions to fellow wanna-be rebels once in a while. Shhhhh, don't tell my mom.

And Johnny Depp and Matthew McConaughey? I like them, but am I like them? Enough. Enough! Enough already.

But Popeye? Now I know I am like him: "I Yam What I Yam."

Monday, October 29, 2007

On Bad Haircuts and Sermons, Part II

I left you at the end of Part I (here) with the saga of a really bad haircut, but you are probably all wondering what that had to do with sermons. So, here's the end of the story!

That fateful day, (a Friday) I cried on the way home from this bad haircut. Cried for the choppy locks that were sticking out all over. Cried that I was too wimpy to stop her and make her listen better. Cried that I was stupid enough to pay her full price and tip her (albeit very little! A girl's gotta have some dignity, come on!). Cried that I have to start all over again, with my growing out and with my search for a stylist. I don't even want to search for "The Perfect Stylist." I'll be happy to search for a really great one. I cried when I was drying it and when I was styling it. But soon, those tears turned to downright anger. And frustration. I was irritated. And angry. And I griped about it at Panera Bread that night with friends. Did I mention that I was angry?

I went church on Sunday morning. My friends who hadn't heard my sob story at Moms' Night Out on Friday night were complimenting my funky new cut. One very sweet friend even said she wished she could carry off a cut as short as mine. Pups N' Horses kept whispering in my ear, "Breathe! Breathe! It'll grow." I was trying hard not to stew and fume. I was trying hard to receive their complements and be gracious about it all. I was getting even madder at myself; frustrated at how this haircut wasn't just awful, it was ruining my ability to enjoy a Sunday morning worship service and fellowship with my church family! Angry that something as trivial (in the long view of things) as my hair was holding me back from peace and joy. OOOOOOh. I was ticked! Then my dear, wonderful Pastor Brother In Law got up to preach. The subject of the morning?


Ugh. Right away, I squirmed. I resisted. I tried to daydream. I doodled in my notes. And the first thing I said to Pups N' Horses when the service was over? "Well, I guess I really need to forgive that stylist." I was only 1/2 kidding - once I decided that I really must forgive her, I felt so much better. My hair is still way shorter than I intended. And it's still slightly uneven. But, I feel better about it. I can get ready in less than 45 minutes - hair, make-up and everything. And blowing it dry takes less than 5 minutes. But I'm not wallowing in unforgiveness. I'm choosing thankfulness. Like I said earlier, the checkbook is happy - and I'm thankful that I won't need another haircut for at least 3 or 4 months!

Oh, yeah. And I'm thankful that Pastor Brother In Law was obedient
to preach the Word. The Truth.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Favorites Friday (not)

We interrupt regularly scheduled Favorites Friday to bring you an important message. Favorites Friday will (hopefully!) resume its normal programming next week. :)

I'm taking today to brag on The Boss a little bit. Last night, he and his team won the prestigious Human Resources Department Of The Year award for Excellence In Technology. This award is given by Human Resources professionals in the Philly region each year, to acknowledge significant HR advances and innovations and we are very proud of The Boss and his peers.

The award was given to recognize the HR Information Systems Department at Children's Hospital for their conversion to a more paperless and more user-friendly database (among other more technical gobbedly-gook that I really don't understand!). The team spear-headed the project to place kiosks all over the CHOP campus, allowing employees individual access to their own information (benefits, compensation, etc.) and giving managers/supervisors access to updating and managing their employees' information themselves. The Boss's team has gone from a data-entry environment to a database management environment and they are all to be commended on the very long hours, the new things they've had to learn, and the ownership they all share over this innovation. It's improving the lives of all the employees and helping CHOP do more to support the people who are all there to save kids' lives.

So, huge kudos to the HRIS team and the IT team at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Your hard work and long hours of planning, scheming, strategizing, and troubleshooting have been greatly appreciated and now widely recognized! You should all be very proud of yourselves and your efforts. And to The Boss's team: a very special THANK YOU from me, for all your support and participation and "buy-in" - you make it pleasant to be the wife of such a hard-working, focused and motivated Boss :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

On Bad Haircuts and Sermons, Part I

Recently, my hair stylist called to say that she was leaving the chain salon she was currently managing to join a more up-scale (she means pricey!) full service salon a few towns over. That phone call rocked my world. And created all sorts of dread and panic that only a woman could possibly understand!

See, when I lived in South Central PA, I had the world's BEST stylist. I started with her upon the recommendation of one of the patients in the dental practice where I worked as a receptionist. We clicked, and she quickly became a friend as well as the best stylist I'd ever been to. She was completely honest about what my hair could do and couldn't do and was great about pulling and pushing me off the ledge when I'd waffle about trying something "new" with my hair. I'm not foolish enough to believe that my hair is so incredibly unique and that no one could ever experience the same angst I do about my hair and its temperamental nature. But I am certain that there are a few things that make my hair a bit more difficult to work with than the average head of hair. Say, for example, the ridiculous number of cowlicks (what a gross word!) on my lone little head. And the rug-like thickness it tends toward. And the wiry, coarse texture that consistently dries out at the drop of a hat.

So when I moved here to South Eastern PA, I actually spent the first year or so travelling back to my stylist. It was cheaper (for the cut, not the gas!), it gave me a chance to keep up with friends and it kept me looking fine :) However, after a while, The Boss encouraged me to look around and find someone closer. By at least 2 hours! After several mishaps, unfortunate cuts and over processed (read platinum blonde) highlights, I found Jen G (cue singing angels and rays of light falling on her name). She was a godsend - I don't say that lightly. She fixed a botched cut, texturized like a dream and was cheaper than even my stylist/friend back "home." I was happy, The Boss was happy, the checkbook was happy.

Until the phone call. Which led to a really bad haircut. That looks NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING like the THREE pictures I brought to the new stylist I tried. At one point, there was shaving of my head going on. This, after emphasizing that I was GROWING it out for a softer look. Two weeks later, I'm still catching sight of myself and gasping at just how short it looks. There's so much more to the story, but I will save that for a later installment. But let's just say, at least the checkbook is happy. This cut only cost $15 and I won't need another till April. Maybe February if I drink lots of milk and fruits and veggies!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'm Here . . .

I am here. I am still around. I've just been crazy busy! I feel as if I've been running behind my life, watching it wave through the rear window smiling mischievously at me as it speeds away. Not the best feeling in the world, when your four kids, your hubby, and your friends and other family are on board as this life hurtles down the road. So I've been devoting some time to catching up, tightening up the routine, and carving out time to breathe a little. Whether or not the weather wants to cooperate, I've had to devote some time to getting fall clothes out, re-stocking the pantry, planning some menus, getting my grocery lists in order, and sprucing up the house with seasonal candles and fall decor. I had to read a few good books. I had to do some research on homeschooling ideas. I had to crank up the homeschooling. And I had to buckle down and just ADJUST to the school-year routine, already.

I've got a couple posts brewing, including but certainly not limited to the following: bad haircuts and sermons, going back to what you know, and adoption updates. I've got a great poem to share, and some fun new recipes for fall. But tonight, I'll leave you with these book reviews. I haven't read for a long while, but with the football, baseball play-offs, and now the World Series, I've gotten the chance to sink my teeth into these treats. I think you'll like them!
  • Sweeping Up The Heart, by Dr. Paul W. Nisly - this is the story of Dr. Nisly's daughter's death and his grief and healing in the years that followed. My friend "Pups N' Horses" found it at a local second hand shop and thought I'd be interested. I was. VERY. I remember Janelle's death, out on Route 15, when I was just a sophomore at Messiah. I remember the family's grief, the whole community's sorrow. The book is beautiful in its honoring of his daughter and an earnest attempt to be honest and open about the grief and pain of her loss. It was incredibly moving and beautifully written.
  • The Color Of Water, by James McBride - a gorgeous tribute to the author's mother. I loved the way he unfolds what he learns about her and how he reconciles his perceptions with her life story along the way. It was, again, beautifully written and I found myself quite emotional during certain segments of the book. This is a book I could read a couple times and enjoy differently in each reading. And I may just search out additional books by the author.
  • The Boo Series, by Renee Gutteridge - a zany, funny and light-hearted set of three books about a small town in Indiana. From the name of the town (Skary) to the prominent theme of cats (black ones!), it's my only ode to the "season." I found myself chuckling out loud and that was a great thing for me after the previous two books! Plus, after HOURS of bad football games and endless nights of baseball, I appreciated the pleasant diversion these books provided.
My only complaint is that I'm almost done the third book and the World Series JUST started! Oh No!! All my mending is caught up and the only thing left for me to do is send The Boss to the other tv with basic cable so I can watch Breast Cancer movies on Lifetime. Like I need that emotional intensity right now! NOT. But I am here. I've been here - I've just been not HERE but I'm back. I think ;)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sweetest Thing!

My Li'l Sis brought me a gift today that I will treasure always. It was a writing project that her son did in school. The writing prompt was "If I could fly to anywhere in the world, I would travel to . . . . because . . . . . . "

My sweet nephew, in his darling primary grade scrawl, wrote the following:


because I want to see my cousin Aidan.

Melt. My. Heart.
Puddles. On. The. Floor.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Back On Line!

It's been a frustrating day or two around here: my computer was down for the count, after periodic episodes of freezing followed by error messages that effectively booted me off my own system. I couldn't complete a survey I was being paid to complete, The Boss couldn't load Shaggy's new MP3 stuff. I couldn't even reference my resources to prepare my mini-teaching at MOMS' Group and had to "wing it" with no notes. That's really my own fault, I shouldn't have tried so hard all Monday afternoon (between the letter J and math facts games) to trouble shoot the computer problem. Rather, I should have sat down and done my notes the old fashioned way: with paper and pen! I did get a good start on re-vamping and starting a new homeschool approach with Baby Blue Eyes, but that was all derailed by one very long phone call and a bad head cold.

Tuesday after the MOMS' Group crowd left and I cleaned up the kitchen and got lunch going for Shaggy (home on a 1/2 day) and Baby Blue Eyes, I called Dell for some tech support. No exaggeration, I was on the phone with them for 4 hours and 6 minutes. Most of that time was spent initiating and monitoring the diagnostic tests as directed by my new friend, Jersohn, since we couldn't get the Internet connection to unfreeze. Finally, after about 3 hours, he took over by remote and played with thing for a while. The good news is that it's not a hardware problem. The rest of what he said it might be just sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher to me, after 4 hours on speaker phone, basically stuck in one chair: "waht, wah, waht, wah, waht wah . . . ." Something about internet safety software interfering with the transfer of information and the sharing of data. So The Boss came home, ate a hearty meal of leftovers and dug in to cleaning up and disabling the "waht wah." By then, I was about comatose on the couch, trying to stop the burning in my eyes, the humming waht wah's in my ear and the pounding in my head. I vaguely remember channel surfing, a baseball game, and a fleeting concern over Baby Blue Eye's slight fever and cough. The rest of the night was a blur.

Today, I'm reclaiming my territory! Losing two days to that kind of busy-ness really put a crimp in my plans, but I'm gonna keep rolling. I dragged BBE to an early weigh-in, dinner is prepped, and I ran to Curves when Shaggy came home (again with the 1/2 day, although I have no idea why they have it!). Now I need to power through the mail, "Backpack Wednesday" school papers, Bible study homework and and some Homeroom Mom duties. I also need to find a good recipe for salt-dough for Shaggy's home ec project and get BBE on some homeschooling, even if he is a little sick. At some point, I really need to finish the fall clothes change-out and make lists of who needs what. I probably ought to consider making a list. And cutting the list into two or three days.

But first I need a shower. And a big lunch. A really good one - I worked out hard and I'm starving now. Plus, today is my "cheat day," cuz I weighed in this morning. I lost 3.4 lbs. And I have no idea how. Especially since much of Monday and Tuesday was spent in this desk chair, fiddling around with Restore Systems and msconfigs, while eating one of Shaggy's gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. But I'm up and running again - back on-line. With my computer and now the rest of my week, too!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Favorites Friday

It's cool and rainy here today. There's a chilly breeze, kicking the slightly colored leaves off their branches. It's the perfect day for a "jammy day." Jammy Day started when the gang was all very young and loved long Disney movies as a reward for great behavior or a treat to distract them on a rainy day. We'd all race up to our rooms, change into our jammies, grab blankies or pillows or cherished teddy bears and meet in the living room. I'd pop big bowls of popcorn (sometimes offering this as lunch), pop our Disney fairy tale pick of the day into the VCR, and pile on the couch for snuggle time. That's back when we all fit on one couch!

In recent years, with the arrival of the adolescent and pre-adolescent years, Jammy Day has evolved into a "laze around" and hang out day. Movie and popcorn optional. But still included is the elements of snuggling, blankets, and of course, the jammies. We often all read quietly or spread out through the downstairs of the house making blanket forts or building K'Nex. Crayons and coloring books sometimes replace Disney movies. Whatever the loose definition of Jammy Day has become, they are a necessary respite for the hectic and busy life we share. So, today's Favorites Friday is in honor of our family's tradition, no matter how it's changed over the years.

My Favorite Memories of Jammy Day
(recent and ancient)
  • The first time we all watched the animated version of Charlotte's Web. Big eyes, tears brimming, and happy smiles. What more could a mom want from sharing her favorite story with her two precious boys?
  • Laughing together with glee over the antics of Manny and Sid when we (finally!) got Ice Age on DVD. We still have some of the lines from that movie memorized.
  • Warm little bodies crowded on the couch, wriggling and giggling and pushing and shoving to get comfy. Now spread out over two couches and sometimes the floor!
  • Warmer little bodies, with eyes heavy and sleepy, lingering on the couch long after the movie is over. Soft, sweaty little heads in my lap begging "Watch it again, Mommy?"
  • The peaceful quiet of pages turning and blankets rustling. The not-so-little bodies (mine included!) drifting off to sleep on the couch with no particular schedule to keep.
LadyBug's class is having a Pajama Party at school today, a reward for 100 Accelerated Reader points earned since school began. Baby Blue Eyes and I have been keeping a crazy pace since Sunday, out for something different every day this week and squeezing our Hooked On Phonics alphabet tapes in between our activities. I've had some really late nights and always too-early mornings; even the coffee isn't working some mornings this week! So today, I declare a Jammy Day here at home. Slower pace, quiet morning, and no where to go till later this afternoon.

Enjoy your Friday - I'm off to savor mine!