...because we all have our motley moments!


Sunday, November 30, 2008

These are a few of my favorite things... and a Rant About Oprah

Did anyone see Oprah's "Favorite Things" show this week? I found it to be a little depressing. There's nothing like being reminded (repeatedly and relentlessly) that our economy is in trouble and the purse strings are tighter this year..."I'm dreaming of a thrifty Christmas" just doesn't have a nice ring to it. I watch Oprah to escape reality, not to wallow in it, and each year I look forward to seeing that crowd of people go into cardiac arrest as they open their millions of dollars worth of loot during the "Favorite Things" show. The gratitude boxes were nice and thoughtful, I guess, but come on--I just saw cocoa mix in a plastic bag shaped like a cone at Walmart earlier today--give us a little credit, please. And I have it on a higher authority (Donna's MIL) that preparing an excellent turkey is not nearly as hard as and requires far less basting than Ms. Ferrare's method. (By the way--who is Cristina Ferrare? Wasn't she famous for some reason years ago? And why is she suddenly a cook on the Oprah show?)

So, I propose we make a new law: The word "thrifty" is NEVER to be used in the same sentence as the word "Christmas." I mean, really, is anyone else insulted by this? Why must we always put a price tag on a holiday that, at its heart, celebrates something (Someone, rather) that was a free "gift" to us in the first place? I also propose that we all have an extravagant Christmas, and by extravagant I do not mean expensive--one that is so full of joy, love, merriment, and light that when we wake up on the 26th we say, "Whoops! We were having so much fun that we completely forgot to open the gratitude boxes and cocoa cones!" A Christmas so festive that we order pizza because we just don't have time to baste a turkey every fifteen minutes!

You know, as I'm typing this I remembered something--do you remember the scene in How the Grinch Stole Christmas where the Grinch has taken all of the town's gifts and he's waiting to see the townspeople's devastation? What happens? They all go hold hands and sing around a Christmas tree. He took their gifts but he couldn't take their spirits nor could he dampen the Spirit of the holiday.

Did you read Karly's blog this week? I totally agree with her--we are trying to re-evaluate our traditions and re-focus our attentions this year, too. For us, we don't want the tone of our holidays to be set by the amount of money we spend (whether it's a lot or a little), and we don't want our son to judge the success of our endeavors by the number of gifts he receives--thrifty or not!

(breathe)

All right, now for the fun stuff. To start this joyous Advent season I'm reflecting on some of my "Favorite Things" during the holidays. Here's my list:
  • Favorite Christmas Movie: The Night They Saved Christmas (Jaclyn Smith plays a mom who lives in Alaska? with her family. Her husband works for a drilling company that is drilling too close to the North Pole for Santa's tastes. Santa invites the family to join him at North Pole City, and the unbelievers--in Santa, of course--learn a little about themselves and the meaning of Christmas along the way. It's a wonderfully cheesy Christmas tale that I would love to watch over and over if they would just release it on DVD!)
  • Favorite Christmas Movie that My Family Wishes Would Disappear: Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory (It's really a sad story in the end, but I'm just riveted watching them make those fruit cakes. It was a quite accurate adaptation of one of his short stories.)
  • Favorite Christmas Beverage: Boiled Custard (This may be more popular than eggnog in my neck of the woods, but if you grew up somewhere else you've probably never heard of it. My great-aunt used to make it from scratch every Christmas morning.)
  • Favorite Christmas Song: O Holy Night (Sung by Josh Groban. "Chains shall we break for the slave is our brother, and in His name, all oppression shall cease..." chills)
  • Favorite Christmas Candy: Divinity (My Mom's, of course!)
  • Favorite Christmas Special: "Shrek the Halls" (I can't help it--the Gingerbread Man's story is hilarious--"You weren't there!"lol)
  • Favorite Old Christmas Tradition: I haven't done this is several years, but I used to love driving around with my sister at night with huge cups of coffee and hot chocolate to look at the Christmas lights.
  • Favorite New Christmas Tradition: Turning on the Christmas lights. My Little Guy says, "Whoa!" and grins every time.
Of course this list could continue for days, and I could get very deep and philosophical, but I want to hear your list! Happy Christmas Season!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Light It Up! Our Advent Wreath

On the eve of the first Sunday of the Advent season, I am reflecting on this "Great Light" God shone upon us when he gave to us his only Son, his Prince of Peace. I've read Isaiah 9: 1-7, which has gotten me into an anticipatory mood.

I'm one of those who doesn't have a clue what anyone is talking about when they reference scripture. I have to actually hear the words or read them, then I realize I've read it enough times that I should know it, but I just don't remember the reference. Isaiah 9: 1-7 is the one that starts, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light..."

How can we make this light shine in our home, upon our family during this busy holiday season? Kids love candles. They especially love blowing them out after watching the flame dance around a few tentative test puffs from across the table. Cause and effect in action. The Light is what it's all about, so I'm thinking I need to fashion an Advent wreath, with one candle for each of the four weeks leading up to Christmas, then a fifth to light on Christmas Eve, symbolizing the birth of Jesus, the light of the world. Nothing fancy. Just five tapers or pillar candles, set in a circle on the table with some greenery.

I think lighting the Advent candle each night at dinner will be an opportunity to reinforce the true meaning of the season. Even if all they get out of it right now is "Jesus is the light of the world," this will become an important and expected part of Advent, helping them see the growing light leading up to Jesus' birth.

So as we "green the house" this week, preparing our hearts and our home for this ultimate birthday celebration, I think we'll add some extra greenery to the table for our Advent wreath.

For ideas about how to use color in your Advent wreath and other general Advent information, go here.

This blog gives lots of ideas for making a wreath, along with great photos of her family's homemade Advent wreath and the symbolism of the things they used to adorn it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Food



Football



Turkeys



I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I know I did :).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Eve

I'm grumpy right now. Grrrr.

My kids woke up first and asked to go downstairs. I said "OK", but I didn't add the usual "But make good choices..."

Well what I got was them eating the ice cream I bought yesterday. They are in their rooms right now. Did I do the right thing? What's the big deal, right? No one got hurt. Are they being naughty or normal? Maybe it's just normal for them to be naughty?

Parenting for me usually is like all of these rules I impose and then when they are invariably broken, I think "Well, should I even enforce that?". Am I making sense? My brain hurts.

I fully intended to write something deep and whimsical regarding Thanksgiving that's tomorrow. For the life of me, I can't come up with anything. I sat at the computer last night for an hour trying to write something, and .... nothing.

So, here it is.

I really am thankful for all that God has given to me. My life is the best it has ever been. For real. As a girl, I never really dreamed of how my life would turn out. I imagined a husband, but after that, nothing concrete. My life now is great. Thank you, God.

How has your life turned out? Did you dream big dreams, or let life just carry you along like it did me? Are you truly thankful for where you are at today, or do you constantly wish for more? Yes, I know life is not perfect, but is your heart and soul settled into a place of content?

Well, I wish for all of you readers, a truly wonderful Thanksgiving. In the midst of all the preparations, I hope you can take just a moment to take stock of all that you could be thankful for.

Ok, I think I can let them out of their rooms now. Should I let them have their ice cream after breakfast? That's what I'll do. Am I too easy? Too harsh? Heck, I don't know. I'm just a mom trying her best every blooming day. What I do know is that I'm thankful for those two little gems and hope one day they will also be thankful for what God has blessed them with.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve
!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Hangover

Today was a great day for an adventure. No school, no work. We were free as birds and didn't have a care in the...

Not really! We made homemade Christmas cards this morning and made a HUGE mess in the dining room. But we got about 50 cards made and even the King of the Jungle was able to help! I try to have a fun "project" for us in the morning after breakfast when we don't have school. It helps to avoid venturing toward the TV where I have a tendency to barter my way into watching the Today Show for 30 minutes in exchange for a "movie." [In our house it's normally a Mr. Rodgers rerun.] It's a sucky deal for me, because THE Princess asks me every 2 minutes, I swear I am not making this up, if it's time for the movie yet. "Excuse me mommy, is it time for my movie yet? Is your show over?" So much for my 30 minutes.

So, I gave up on that a long time ago. Now I plan an activity. Smart, right? Generally it's an artsy thing that values process over product. That is mostly so that I can linger over a second cup of coffee and read my TIME magazine. But, not today! Today we crafted with purpose. My purpose was clear, we were going to make our own art that we could send to friends and family to kick off the holiday season!

THE Princess, too, had a purpose. And that was to put glitter glue on pretty much everything we own. Not exactly what I was envisioning, but I kind of just followed behind her smearing the drips onto more paper and miscellaneous artifacts so that she could do her 'thing.' Even, KOTJ got in on the action by drooling and swiping wet fingers all over our art. I think it adds to the whole effect.

My job, other than janitorial, was to frame each masterpiece when it was deemed complete. I had precut the frames to fit, that made it pretty easy. Then I trimmed anything hanging over the edges so that I could lay them flat to dry and finally press them in my huge dictionary so they would lay flat in an envelope.

We worked diligently. THE Princess glitter gluing, KOTJ drooling, and me trimming. I got to have a nice little pile of the stuff that was hanging over. Like a sandwich bag sized amount. Some but not a ton. So, I did what everyone would do in this case. When we finished our art, we picked up everything, swept the floor, wiped the table, put our supplies away, and I bagged up the hangover and smashed it all into a zip lock sandwich bag. I probably should have used two bags, but why waste the bag, right? Smash it up! Then, because I was now trying to get the kids ready for a new and exciting adventure, I sat it on the table and forgot about it.

Until we got home from the aforementioned adventure. As we entered the house I realized that Sammy the One Eyed dog had discovered the hangover and was doing some Christmas decorating of his own. In the midst of my sweeping up the mess with KOTJ in the sling, THE Princess started chasing Sammy and attempting (unsuccessfully) to get him to pull a card, sit in time out, and think about his bad choices. I just stifled my laughter. Until Sammy started to hide and howl from under the couch. KOTJ started to cry, and THE Princess started to yell over the commotion to us that we were all making bad choices! This rather funny situation was now not as funny as before. I had hangover stuck all over my very awesome and expensive, but not very cute, shoes. Not cool.

My phone rang. RM called to see how our first day of vacation was going. My response, I thought, was very logical.

"You see, it started with this stupid hangover this morning." By this time, I had stepped out onto the back porch, so RM and I could hear each other. "I just couldn't get rid of it."

RM, the darling that he is, says, "Honey, I know the kids sometimes drive you crazy, but I didn't realize it was this much of a problem. You know hiding it could be a serious problem."

"Yes, but the problem today is that I didn't hide it. I left it out on the table and the dog got into it. It was all over the floor. THE Princess was trying to discipline the dog and KOTJ started crying. Then, KOTJ was crying and I got it on my shoes. Things are better if I hide it. Much better. Now it's on the floor, on the kids, it's pretty much everywhere!"

"How much is there?"

"I would guess 5 or 6 cups if I had to measure. But, don't worry, I'll get it cleaned up and everybody calmed down."

"Why don't you throw it away?"

"I can't WASTE it! That is so, like, wrong. I can use it, probably even tomorrow. I'll need it and be mad that I got rid of it! Sometimes I don't think you know me at all. I have this handled, don't worry. Will you be home at your regular time?"

"No, I'm gonna leave early and come home and help you. Do you want me to call your mom to come over and help you until I get home?"

"Why would you do that? No. I don't need help. I'll have everything under control in a few minutes. See you tonight I have to get back in there. Love you!"

My mom called me about 10 minutes later that she got a frantic call from RM. He thought I was drinking and the kids were getting into it. He wasn't sure what would make me upset enough to drink. Could she please come and check on me?

I told her about what had happened with the hangover. She started laughing. Then I started laughing. Then I called RM and told him what happened. I was still laughing. Laughing so much I was crying. Laughing so much I was even snorting (but don't tell anyone, okay?) He didn't think it was quite as hilarious. He thought I was playing a joke on him. I kept telling him I wasn't. It was an honest mistake. He grumbled that it was okay and said he would be home at his usual time.

I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. Seriously. And, just for added measure, I had an empty bottle of sparkling grape juice that I left on the table for him. Just to be funny.

Guess what? Now I am in time out with a red card. IT. WAS. TOTALLY. WORTH. IT.

Postscript: If you get one of our beautiful handmade cards, please enjoy it fully. And, when RM gets over being annoyed with me, it will be a great story to tell. Probably next year. Or the next one.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What I Love about Thanksgiving

A few years ago, I was asked to host the Davis Family Thanksgiving (my Dad's family, not to be confused with Sammy Davis, Jr.'s). I was happy to entertain, but I wasn't so thrilled about Thanksgiving. Easter or Christmas would be far more fun to host. After all, Easter has soft fluffy bunnies and fuzzy baby chicks. Christmas has sweet Baby Jesus mangers and jolly round snowmen. Thanksgiving only has turkeys, which are not very cute or decorative. In time, I grew to love Thanksgiving, and here are some of the things I love most.

The one true God who gives me everything else on this list and more. The one true God who loves me as I am because he made me that way. He has adopted me as his own, and I am a friend of God even though I don't deserve it.

Underdog and all of the other gigantic balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Ribeiros – we met the Ribeiros when adopting Alex from Russia. Thank God he paired us up with them. They have been more help to our family than they will ever know. They are angels on earth!!

Kinfolk – my wonderful friends and family. I am so blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life. I am especially thankful for my loving and supportive parents, my brothers and their families, and my husband’s family. Our family is extra blessed this year with a new niece and a new nephew.

Everything chocolate! I have tasted chocolate from all parts of the world and have yet to try some I didn’t like. My favorite was purchased in the Astor Mall in Astrakhan, Russia.

Y didn’t come – Norah Jones sang this on Sesame Street, and it is one of Alex’s favorites. Y is for this song, and Sesame Street, which is probably my all time favorite show.

DH – chat lingo for Dear Husband. Just yesterday, I was listening to the Amy Grant song, “Oh how the years go by” and thinking of our marriage. My Aunt Mary sang this song at our wedding, and it fits our lives. “When the storms came through, they found me and you back to back together.” There is no one else I would want to face any storm with besides my wonderful husband!

Alex, you are a precious gift from God, and I am so thankful we are a family.

Yams, cranberry relish, pumpkin pie, turkey, hot rolls, noodles and warm cider - these are always on the menu at our Thanksgiving dinners.



What do you all love about Thanksgiving?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Turkey Laughs

With Thanksgiving just a few days away and the last minute rush looming in the distance, I thought we could take a few moments to relax and laugh a little. I found this cute (um, I mean incredibly cruel) story online.

Pregnant Turkey

Last year at Thanksgiving, my mom went to my sister's house for the traditional feast. Knowing how gullible my sister is, my mom decided to play a trick. She told my sister that she needed something from the store.

When my sister left, my mom took the turkey out of the oven, removed the stuffing, stuffed a Cornish hen, and inserted it into the turkey, and re-stuffed the turkey. She then placed the bird(s) back in the oven.

When it was time for dinner, my sister pulled the turkey out of the oven and proceeded to remove the stuffing. When her serving spoon hit something, she reached in and pulled out the little bird.

With a look of total shock on her face, my mother exclaimed, "Patricia, you've cooked a pregnant bird!"

At the reality of this horrifying news, my sister started to cry. It took the family two hours to convince her that turkeys lay eggs!
Do you have any funny Thanksgiving stories? Please share! Have a great week!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Criticism Gets You...More Housework

Saturdays are great for getting housework and yardwork done. Much as we'd love to go into our weekend with a clean house, we just haven't figured out how to achieve it during the work week. I always end up with a pretty messy house by Friday. So now you know what we're doing today.

But there's something I'm not doing today. Maria’s post on Wednesday inspired me to share a little secret with my Motley friends: My husband does all of the laundry around here. All of it. Occasionally, I will surprise him and move a load from the washer to the dryer, or even from the dryer to our bedroom where we sit and fold at night (while watching TV). But I rarely have to do a whole load, from start to finish, myself. It’s wonderful.

It wasn’t always, though. A few years ago, maybe even before we had children, if Paul did a load of laundry, I always had some criticism, or, as I like to call them, “help points.” As in, “I think there are too many clothes in the washer. If we put too many in there, they won’t agitate properly and they won’t get clean.” Or, “It helps to check the clothes before they go into the dryer. If something stains them in the washer, the stain will just set in when it dries" (this usually as we folded a load of pink socks, underwear, and towels, plus a red sock).

I also had a lot of rules about what could be dried in the dryer and what could not: bras need to hang-dry, my wool sweater lays flat, and that nice shirt with the diamond buttons is dry-clean only.” Funny thing is, I ended up doing most of the laundry when I criticized and nit-picked.

These days, I’ve learned that I’d rather wear only the things that can be washed AND dried and let Paul handle the laundry. I also try to be very cautious about criticizing when he helps around the house. Sometimes it’s hard because I know how I like things done. I’ve developed systems over the years since I’ve been lucky enough to stay home with our children. Sometimes stupid little things grate on me: I open the bag of diapers from the top so I can pull them out of the bag by the fold. He opens the bag (without fail) by ripping open the bottom so that the diapers have to be yanked out by their tops, usually pulling several others along with them and/or tearing the little tabs off in the process. Will I say anything? NO WAY. He’s doing it his way and he’s getting the job done. It’s worth a few casualties along the way (I’m talking diapers, not kids). And I love that he’s pitching in and giving it his best.

He knows I appreciate the help, and now I can even gently remind him (at the beginning of sweater season) which sweaters dry flat. Offered as information, rather than criticism, he takes it in stride and tries to remember before it all goes in the dryer. And again, if I end up with a doll-size sweater from the Gap, my kids will be thrilled and I will gladly stow it in the doll case with minimal grumbling (I'll try really hard to supress it!)…a small price to pay for never having to do the laundry.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Christmas Miracle

We've been cooped up this week with a case of The Pinkeye, or, as it is now, The Double Pinkeye, and we're all about to go crazy with cabin fever. It was different when we were sick and didn't really feel like doing anything, but with pinkeye you don't feel bad - you just have a gross, contagious eye. Tuesday night I went to Walgreens to pick up Ethan's eye drops and can I just take a minute to curse the meth heads who have made it nearly impossible to buy Sudafed without alerting the FBI? Anyway, I was tired and cranky and hungry and I decided to take matters into my own hands - I found the all-Christmas music station on XM radio (channel 35 in case you care). I normally eschew Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, but the situation was dire. I was in need of some serious cheer and it did help, a little. Wednesday morning we were back in the house, cooped up again since the doctor said we couldn't go out until Thursday, and I was back to my cranky, tired self when I decided that what we needed was a trip to Wal-Mart. I mean, could we really make Wal-Mart germy-er with our pinkeye? Could Wal-Mart be any germy-er? I've mentioned my hatred for Wal-Mart in this blog before and I was anticipating our usual run in, stand in line for 20 minutes to buy 3 things, and run out. But a funny thing happened - we had fun. We went through the garden center and admired the trees with their lights and the inflatable Santas and snowmen. We traveled the toy aisle and Ethan completely cooperated with my admonition that, "We're just here to look. We're not going to buy today." He gazed longingly at toys and exclaimed, "Look!" more times than I could count. We found possible gifts for Micah, enjoyed the piped-in Christmas music, bought a copy of Wall-E and when we went to check out, we didn't have to wait very long at all. Wal-Mart evoking any sort of positive feelings in me is a true miracle. I am now officially in the holiday spirit. I continue to listen to XM 35 and already have plans to buy a train for around our tree and have it out as a surprise for Ethan on Christmas morning. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday next week and if you're traveling, travel safe.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Laundry. Yikes!

I'm writing this blog, but what I really need to be doing is putting away my laundry.
It's upstairs waiting for me.
It's been there exactly one week.
One week ago today I went to the laundromat and washed about 100 lbs of laundry. That's about 12 full loads. Really.
I was so behind on washing it wasn't funny or pretty.
And yes. There is a science to it.


Steps you need to take to complete a project like this:

1) Accept that you have a laundry problem and just embrace it.

2) Figure out how you are going to get your laundry there and back efficiently. In my case, I went to the store and bought 4 huge wash baskets that are SQUARE on the bottom NOT ROUND. This is crucial for when you get to step 5 and you need to fold everything.

3) Make sure you have money, dish soap, softener and bleach. It cost me about $25 to wash and dry everything.

4) Schedule your big wash day when you can just sit and veg for a few hours or bring the kids. The place we have here has TV, videos, kids area and other entertainment.

5) Timetable: It took 30 minutes to wash and 45 minutes to dry. The time consuming thing is the folding at the end. That took at least 2 hours because I had my kids with me and I kept having to stop and redirect them.

5) Pack your car with all your clean and folded laundry!

6) Smile! You did it! Try to enjoy this state of euphoria for as long as possible because...
7) When you get home, you get to put it all away!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Redemption

THE Princess has taken to calling us and just about anybody she is playing with "Sweetheart." It took me awhile, but I figured out that it means to be the child. She'll say to me, "Mom, you be the sweetheart and I'll be the mama." Or, "Daddy and you are the sweethearts and I'll bring you a bottle if you cry."

Every night we read books after we crawl into bed. Lately, it's been one of my very favorites. Love Song for a Baby by Marion Dane Bauer.



"You came into our world like a comet,
Like birdsong in the silver silence of dawn.
And, oh, how we love you!"


So now, after a bad day. Redemption.

My comets, my birdsong, my sweethearts. Oh, how I love you!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Share the Magic

A few weeks ago, I signed up for facebook and began reconnecting with some of my high school friends. BTW (by the way), in case you are not on facebook, it is awesome. Not only have I found friends from high school and college who are scattered all over the US, but I also found Vika, who was one of our translators while in Russia.

I was very happy to learn that my friend Dale (from high school) also lives in beautiful, sunny central Florida. We have been talking and decided to get together so our families could meet. My family loves Downtown Disney, so I thought we could meet there. Well, Dale and his friend Travis have both been working for Disney for several years, so they invited us to join them at the MAGIC KINGDOM!!!!


From left to right, we have Travis, Dale, me, Alex and my husband Charlie.

Dale and Travis's invitation is one of the nicest, grandest gifts, and it came at just the right time. I am like most other people. From the outside, I'd like to think that other people think I am happy. I would like for them to think that I have my life under control and that things couldn't be better. Again, like most people, that isn't exactly the truth. We all live with secret pain and suffering because most of us want to keep our pain and suffering a secret. The same is true for me. Even though moving to Florida has been a dream come true for my husband and I, it has come with a large price tag. To accomplish that dream, we had to use many of our financial and emotional resources. We are like the Corinthians that Paul is writing to in 2 Corinthians 4:8. "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed,...struck down, but not destroyed."

The beauty of Dale and Travis's gift to us is this: it seemed small to them, but gigantic to us. It was so amazing see my son having the time of his life when there was no way I could provide that for him right now. It was also great to see my friend Dale again and to have our families meet.

Your challenge for this week is to share your magic with someone else. It should be something of a small cost to you like Rachel's paper clip. Maybe you could smile to a stranger or hold the door open for a frazzled mother. Our good deeds could start here in central Florida and hit the US and beyond like a Tsunami. I hope you join me, and I really hope Dale and Travis get hit by some great acts of kindness this week to repay them!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

God even blesses my messes...

...and boy is my purse ever a mess! After a day of my deal chasing it is full of coupons, receipts, torn-apart store ads, lists, and anything else I might need including but not limited to tissues, Hot Wheels cars, snack containers, pens, pencils, crayons...just all kinds of probably-not-necessary stuff. Add a few layers of obvious trash, ten pounds of coins, and scattered dollar bills, and it's a real jungle in there.

That day I realized that I was practically weight-lifting when I put the bag on my shoulder, but I had one more errand to run for French class before I could go home and play "Clean Sweep" with it. I grabbed what I needed at the store and headed to the check-out in the Garden Center (after a sometimes strenuous trip through a super center I find being surrounded by flowers and Christmas trees helps my mood a bit).

My phone rang just as I was getting close to the cash register, so I stood back and took the call. While I was talking I noticed that the cashier was flustered. She was searching the area for something. She eventually threw her hands in the air and called over her shoulder to another employee, "It was just here, but I can't find it." I finished my call and started piling bread and food coloring on the counter, but this normally really friendly person was obviously agitated about something.

When she told me the total, I began rummaging through receipts, coupons, and lots of other messy stuff to find the cash I planned to use for the purchase. I pulled out a folded bill as she waited and I was embarrassed to see that a paper clip had fastened itself and some other non-cash stuff to my money. I put on my trying-to-be-funny smile and said, "Need a paper clip?" in my best caught-in-an-embarrassing-moment tone. Her eyes grew wide, her jaw dropped, and she just nodded.

After her initial shock, she shook her head, nearly jumped across the counter, and said, "That's what I've been looking for! I need a paperclip!" Instantly her cheerful demeanor returned and she started smiling for the first time. I stood there staring, a little shocked myself.

"See," she said, beaming and turning to her co-worker, "God provides!"

So, to make an incredibly long, drawn-out story short, my prayer for you today is that you would see the fulfillment of Maria's verse from earlier this week in your own life. Also, if you're able, try to look for unexpected ways to bless others this week. Finally, if you are in need of paperclips, well, you know who to call.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Coca-Cola: An Economic Indicator?


I bought a 2-liter of Coca-Cola today at the grocery store. In our house, Coke is a treat we (the grownups) rarely indulge in, due to the sugar and sodium content, and switching to the Diet variety is just not an option. It has to be regular Coke.

So, Friday night being Pizza Night here, I thought a little indulgence after a long week might be nice. Let me just say, I am still in sticker shock over this 2-Liter of Coca-Cola. Remember when it was 99 cents for a 2-liter? And even cheaper when it was on sale? Like, four years ago???

The regular price of a 2-Liter of Coke has now reached a whopping $1.79!!! That's almost double the price of only a few years ago! Wow!

I know this is only one tiny indicator of inflation and the effects of fuel prices, but for some reason, this really made it all hit home for me. I have felt really bad about how much I spend at the grocery store lately, but I bet if I compared a receipt from today with a receipt from four years ago, I would see a LOT of differences in prices for basic items. So I'm gonna go a little easier on myself about the grocery slice on our budget pie...
I'm sure there are still a few slivers I can take off and add to our slice of savings, but it's a work in progress (just like me!).
Edited Saturday at 9:45 AM: I looked up the Consumer Price Index for some common household staples and took a 10-year view of these items to see how they've increased. Items I included are: ground beef, whole chicken, bread, gasoline (unleaded, regular), milk (no data was available for some reason for milk), electricity, and coffee. Click here to select items and create your own table of consumer prices. Unfortunately, Coca-Cola was not included. Apparently the government does not agree that Coca-Cola is a good economic indicator...maybe I'll write my congressman.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ethanisms

Today my son locked me out of the house. They were both in the kitchen and I went outside just for a minute to get the recycling buckets. I said, "Ethan, do not play with the door. Mommy will be right back." Then he locked it. Go ahead, laugh. I could see Micah through the window, cracking up in the high chair. I would've laughed, too, if I would've seen myself banging on the door, yelling, "ETHAN JAMES YOU OPEN THIS DOOR RIGHT NOW!" I'll admit it- I lost it when he finally did open the door. I gave him a spanking and a time-out. Ethan has been right squirrelly this week. After a month of being sick, he's had a course of antibiotics and is feeling much better. The following are a few of the funny things he's said recently. I call them "Ethanisms" and I'm making a list.

While taking a bath: "Mommy, sit potty. Mommy, you sit on big white oval."
Daddy asks, "Ethan, do you want to wear your Wall-E shoes or your Lightning McQueen shoes?" Ethan's response, "I no wear shoes. I wear Ethan feet!"
"Daddy run naked!" No explanation needed.
From the den, to me on the other side of the house, "MOMMY I WATCH ROBIN HOOD DADDY TURN ON ROBIN HOOD FOR ME DADDY GOOD MAN YOU NOT MAN YOU LADY!" All one sentence.
"Kota [our pet cat] can't dance. Kota a kitty. Kitties don't dance."
On the phone to my friend Erica, "I watching Thomas. I probably see a silly engine."
"It dark in my shirt!"
"I want another big cookie!"
And the kicker:
"Ethan, did you toot?" my friend Lori asks. "No! I don't toot. My mommy toots."
Thanks, Buddy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Be Encouraged



Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow
or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Are you not much more valuable than they?
Who of you by worrying can add
a single hour to his life?


Matthew 6: 26-27
NIV Women's Devotional Bible

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Chore Chart...Free Download for You!


I have extolled how THE Princess is going through the Obstinate Threes. Well, I have finally figured out a way to lessen the chaos of our days. The chore chart! I kid you not. I realized that THE Princess needed a more defined way to show that she is a valuable and contributing member of the family.

First, I listed the things that she can do every day. Feed and water the dog. Help set the table for dinner and clear the dishes when we are done. Help with laundry (sorting, carrying, helping me fold, pouring in the soap, or moving the wet from washer to dryer). Picking up toys and the general mess before we go upstairs to bed.

We used that for a couple weeks and then I modified. We added if she did Triple Play at church on Sunday. What color she was on (behavior-wise) at school for the day. Then I added a place where we can list what her job at school was, something nice she did, and something she did without being asked to do. We have had a lot of luck with these! She really likes to be able to fill in these squares. I have tied it in with some vocabulary I want her to know. These include: compliment, gracious, and cooperation.

You can fill it in with stickers but at our house, I just draw in stars. Lame, I know. Plus, I know if I get stickers I run out and forget to pick up more. Then what? Major. Disappointment. Seriously. I am trying to keep her expectations low.

**Edited to add: This has been working really well for us. If all the stars are on the chart at the end of the week, THE Princess gets to have a "date" with mom or dad to go to McDonald's for an ice cream cone. Can I just say that is is totally worth the $2. Totally. Worth. It.

You can create a chore chart with all the things you do, but who wants to do that? Not me! I searched in vain for a free download that I could use. They are out there, but I didn't really like any of them. So, I made one myself. (This is my first attempt at the file share thing. Please bear with me!) So try it for yourself here and see what you think.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Miracle of Sleep

We have sleep issues. I have spent countless hours waiting for Alex to sleep and trying to figure out just where things went wrong, but I really can't blame all of our nightmares on one particular reason. In the orphanage Alex shared a bed with two other babies, so I was afraid he would be lonely and scared when we got home. In our defense, we were warned about this in our pre-adoption training. In fact, our trainers recommended we share a bed until we were all used to the new family dynamic. We got home in November, and by December, we were all sleeping in one room with a lamp on and the TV turned on a music channel with the volume turned all the way down. Although it was quite a hassle, I loved having him in our room. The first few nights we were home, I would just lay there and listen to him breathe. Finally by the start of the New Year, he was in his own room all by himself.

One afternoon a few weeks after we came home, Alex would not take his nap. I sat right beside his crib with my back to him, just like I saw on the Super Nanny and waited quietly for him to fall asleep. He walked from side to side in his crib just playing and laughing. Then he tripped and fell into his aquatic mobile/noise maker. It was his first ever bloody nose, and I felt awful.

Over the years, we have tried numerous different tricks to make bedtime and nap time easier and longer. For a while, I had a small mattress beside his bed. Then, we tried a CD that played a comforting lullaby over and over. We have read stories, established a "routine", soaked in a relaxing bath, nibbled on a small snack, called our doctor so many times that I'm sure our file was color-coded, and faithfully said our prayers. Short of hiring a witch doctor, I have tried it all - all with very slow, snail-like progress.

Transitioning to a toddler bed was a gigantic nightmare. My good friend Stephanie said to put a baby gate by his door to keep him in his room, but how to keep him in his bed? When I called the doctor for advice, they said to just ignore him, so I did. This is how that theory worked for us. For the record, ignoring him on any occasion has never resulted in the desired behavior.

In Alex's defense, he did have to adjust to a nine-hour time change and a whole new life, but that would account for only some of the problems. He has always fought sleep, especially while riding in the car. He just keeps himself awake fidgeting or humming. He will do anything to stay awake longer. We have just gotten to the place where we can usually put him in bed and stay with him for a few minutes until he is settled down. When he is very calm and quiet, we will stay with him longer. I love those days when I can spend quiet time with him. Even now, when he starts to drift asleep, I am afraid to look at him or move a muscle. I am so curious to see what it looks like when he falls asleep, but I just can't risk looking. There I lay next to him, holding my breath and praying to God for relief. He is silent for several minutes, but I am still afraid to look. Finally, I slowly move a bit, just to test him. If he isn't asleep, we start all over again, but if he is I have once again been blessed with a miracle.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My Motley Dad

We do a lot of talking about being a mom here at Motley Moms, but today I would like to tell you about my Dad.

Since I have known him, my Dad has been a loving father to my sister and me, a loving husband to my Mom, a provider, a proud and honorable Veteran, our family's genealogist, a craftsman of masonry and wood, a builder, our family's zookeeper (thanks to all of the strays my sister and I brought home over the years), a runner, a scuba diver, a mountain climber, an avid Civil War enthusiast, a musician, and probably a list of things that I don't even know. He is a devoted man of God, and I can remember having "church" in the woods when we went camping in the Smoky Mountains, my Dad officiating in flannel from a weathered tree stump. We've had long conversations about religion, politics, history, 24, and Alias, and he is always there to answer when I have questions about finances, illness, home repair, child rearing...you name it. He's also the one who taught my sister and me to show others respect and to always do our best, and those are qualities that have served us well in our adult lives.

His most recent title is "Papa," (coined by my three-year-old nephew) and he is fitting right into that position. His grandsons adore him and are always eager to go to the barn with him to feed the horses and the fish. I am so grateful that the boys have him as a role model, and if he manages to teach them a fraction of the values he has taught us over the years they will be truly blessed.

Happy Birthday, Dad, and thank you for being such a motley and wonderful influence on my life.

Love,
Your Very Motley Daughter

Saturday, November 8, 2008

TGIOAMC Day!!!

OAMC Day! OAMC Day! OAMC Day! OAMC Day! OAMC Day! OAMC Day!!!!!!!

Yay! I've got my spreadsheets and charts ready to go. I ran out of frozen meals a couple of weeks ago and I'm so thankful that our Once-A-Month-Cooking Day is finally here!!!

This month we're enjoying:
  • Mexican Chicken Manicotti
  • Spinach-Bacon Lasagna
  • Bacon-Wrapped Chicken
  • Way Easy Pork Stir Fry
  • Sweet Soy Marinated Chicken
  • Panko-Parmesan Oven-Fried Chicken
  • Sausage-Stuffed Shells
  • Spice-Rubbed Chicken Breasts
  • Chicken and Rice Wraps
  • Shaker Chicken and Noodle Soup
  • Molly's Sister-In-Law's Not Chili
  • Mexican Torta

A few of us are even doubling the number of meals we take home, since we're not cooking again until January. Hopefully 24 prepared meals will really help alleviate holiday stress! We went heavy on chicken recipes (about half), but threw in a couple beef and pork meals for variety.

I'm looking forward to a fun day in the kitchen with 7 other women and all that professional kitchen equipment! Yipes! It is so awesome to be able to bake 8 chickens simultaneously! And brown 24 lbs. of ground beef in ONE BATCH! (We will use our church's brand-spanking-new kitchen facility, since we are an officially sponsored outreach ministry now...God is so good!)

Just pray that we don't scorch anything...especially the church kitchen...........that would be bad.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Writer's Block Redux

This is late because I had a long day. I packed my son off to preschool this morning and when he got home his temperature was 101.4. He has been sick off and on for about a month, so I finally took him to the doctor, who diagnosed an ear infection. Then my husband and I had a meeting with a CPA and we were supposed to go to a meeting at church at 6, but by the time we sat in line at Walgreens for Ethan's antibiotics, it was nearly 6:30, so we blew off the meeting and went to Romeo's instead. We were punished for this by being seated near a group of 17 retirees who were drinking lots of beer and wine and who had obviously started losing their hearing. At least the food was good. I haven't slept all week and I can barely remember my name, so for this blog I am going to continue my list. Without further ado, 21-40 of The Things You Might Not (Want to) Know About Me:
21. I am allergic to dust. So much so that I have to wear a mask when (if) I dust my house.
22. I love Eminem. I can't help it. He is a lyrical genius. I will concede that he uses his powers for evil instead of good, but he is still incredibly talented.
23. I have the same sense of humor as my 16-year-old nephew. I'm not really sure what this says about me.
24. I have a cat named Dakota. Dakota is very special. He was a stray and he stayed hidden for the first 2 weeks I had him. Now he curls up on the couch with me every night and he adores my son.
25. I have owned 8 cars in my life. Not at the same time.
26. I have 50 episodes of "The Backyardigans" recorded on my DVR.
27. I've seen every episode of "Friends" at least once.
28. Lake Wales is the largest city I have ever lived in. It's also the place I've lived in the longest.
29. I moved to Lake Wales to attend Warner Southern College (now Warner University!), from where I graduated.
30. When I got my first degree black belt, I broke 3 cement blocks with my elbow. It hurt.
31. I have been mountain biking in Florida, Alabama, Colorado, and Alberta, Canada.
32. I have an irrational fear of water. Once my friend and I went to Typhoon Lagoon and she swam across the lagoon to see the coral reef underneath and I stood at the edge, paralyzed with fear. It's 18 feet deep. I couldn't do it.
33. I hate shopping, but if I have to go, my favorite store is The Gap.
34. One of my favorite things to do it stay in a hotel, wear the robe, turn the A/C down real low, lay in bed, and watch TV.
35. I am not superstitious, except when it comes to Alabama football. For instance, this morning at preschool I was talking smack to a Gator fan about the SEC championship game. I am actually afraid I have ruined their perfect season. If they lose to LSU Saturday, it's my fault.
36. I love to mow. I fight with my husband over who gets to mow the yard.
37. I hate Wal-Mart. Hate it. I try to go to Target a couple of times a month so I don't have to go to Wal-Mart. If Wal-Mart burned down, I would dance on the ashes.
38. I met my husband at tae kwon do. In class he would kick my ponytail. My roommate informed me that this was his way of flirting, but I still thought he would never ask me out. Obviously, he did :).
39. Right after college, I went on a road trip with my grandparents from Alabama to San Diego, California. Longest. Trip. Ever.
40. I have bad luck with cell phones. My last one fell in the pool. Okay, I dropped it. On purpose. Long story. The one before that Ethan threw in Publix and it broke. Before that, I dropped one in Wal-Mart and it broke. Now I have an iPhone and I am very, very careful.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A New President


Wow! Our first African-American president.
Congratulations to Mr. Obama, his family and
all citizens that supported him
through his election year.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's Voting Day!!



Today is THE DAY. Voting day.

Personally, I absentee ballot. It gives me time to go over every Amendment, Judges, and other races on the ballot. Plus, I don't have to race to the polls when I get off work. For years, it has made me crazy that I didn't get an "I Voted" sticker. But, this year they sent me a sticker with my absentee ballot that says, "I Voted By Mail." Sweet!



As far as the presidential race, I have been phone calling for my pick for about 2 months. I feel so strongly that we must be part of the process. During college I got to go to DC and join the National Press Corps. Mostly, I got to see how everyday people can make a difference. Voting is first. Then, communicating with those who represent you frequently can, in fact, make a difference. I email our representatives at the state & national levels a couple times a month. I tell them how I want them to vote on upcoming legislation. After the vote, I email to tell them if I agreed with their vote and why.



Our house is divided, however. RM, is for the other guy. We kind of have a battle of wills going on. My sign went out on the left side of the yard and his went out on the right. Then, after about 2 days, we took them down. A house divided, politically, anyway.

The thing I am most proud of is that THE Princess knows who Barack & Michelle Obama are. She knows who John and Cindy McCain are. She knows that Barack and John want to be the President and Michelle and Cindy want to be the First Lady. The one she likes the best changes daily, however. Last night it was Barack Obama. When I asked why she said, "Because I love him." The day before it was John McCain because, "He makes good choices." Some days it's because she likes their name or their wife is nice or that they have kids like her. Since we don't watch much TV, most of her exposure to these guys is through our household discussions and TIME magazine (both have been on the cover frequently).



Plus, as a highlight, Starbucks is giving away a free coffee to anyone who votes today. So, instead of heading to the polls after work, I'm going to Starbucks!!! YEA!!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

God Bless America!

OK everyone, please humor me as I take one more trip down memory lane. In case you missed my posting last Monday, our son Alex is adopted from Russia. Last Monday was three year anniversary of our Family Day.

Three years ago today, we all flew home. I have heard countless other mothers share the stories of their children's births with pride. They survived a battle. How long was the labor? C-section or vaginal? And most importantly, drugs or no drugs? It's like a mom's rite of passage. Our flight home is my equivalent of the birth story.

Alex was 13 months old and had been with us for one week. It is very common for the babies to get a rash on their face from changing their diet, so I was very careful to try to keep him on Russian food. No matter what I tried, his rash kept getting worse, and he was becoming colicky. By the time we left Russia, I was only giving him the formula we bought in his region. Once we were home, we learned the formula was making him sick. When we picked him up, he had only two bottom teeth, and quickly began cutting two more. On top of this, Alex was born with a hernia. We were told that up front, but we had no idea how it would affect him. He was in so much pain and discomfort, that he almost had to have surgery in Russia. Surgery would have meant adding at least a week to our stay, which was not financially or emotionally possible. We had to get him home as soon as we could.

Apparently, when you are flying internationally, the plane departure time is just a guideline. If you can be there at 9:15 am, great. If not, we will cram everyone else on the plane and wait for you. We took our dear sweet child to the airport and began our migration home. Our agency dropped us off about three hours early, so we waited. We finally boarded the plane and waited another hour. I spent most of this time worrying that we would miss our connecting flight to Indy. Finally, we were off, and Alex was doing good. He was such a friendly happy baby, so we had a chance that things would go well. All our fellow passengers thought he was so cute.

Somewhere over England, things went south - and not just the plane. Alex's hernia was acting up, and he began to cry. At the same time, our in flight movie started, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith". Then, he began to scream. I am not exaggerating when I say he screamed for the whole entire movie. When you adopt internationally, it is very important for attachment that only the parents hold the child for about six weeks. Once Alex started screaming, a thirty-something Russian American offered to help me with him. I resisted, but after an hour, I handed him over. She didn't have much luck either. Then the lady next to us showed me how to rub his tummy counter-clockwise. It is what all Russian mothers do to calm their Russian children. It didn't help much either. As time wore on, I began to cry too. A sweet Russian grandmother (Babushka) came up and asked something in Russian. Our neighbor answered her, and then she addressed me in signs. She shook her head no and pointed to her eye. Then she made two thumbs up at her waist and lifted them up. She said, "No cry. Umph!" Some of what she meant was lost in translation. She did this over and over. Alex ended up screaming through the whole movie and finally slept when we were about an hour away from New York.

Now, I had been praying too this whole time for God to deliver us from this situation. I was pretty angry at God for a long because I felt like God turned his back on not just me but my new child. Christian artist Scott Krippayne's song "Sometimes He Calms the Storm" fits our flight to a tee. God could have calmed Alex, which was my will. Instead, he supplied us with three guardian angles to help us in our time of need. Looking back, I am thankful to have the wonderful story and memories of our angels. God was right. Again.

When we landed in New York, we had 25 minutes to go through customs with no less than 100 other people, make Alex a US citizen, get our bags, re-check our bags and get to our flight. By the grace of God, and with the help of another guardian angel dressed as an airport worker, we made it.

Here are some before and after flight pictures. Can you guess which one was the before and which was after?





And to answer the common birth story questions, my labor was 18 hours, and if I ever do this again, yes, I want drugs - just a Valium or two.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

We Have a Winner


I was amazed at all of the sweet comments on the Ribbon Minky Dot Blanket giveaway!
The winner is....Celeste!

Happy Time Change!

It's that time of year again! It's the day when we get to roll our clocks back an hour and get that extra hour of sleep (knowing full well that most of us probably stayed up an hour later the night before). I don't know about you, but this is one of the most refreshing days of the year for me.

Before I was married I would enjoy waking up, looking at the clock, and realizing that indeed I did have another hour before I needed to get up. I would reset the clocks eventually, but it was fun playing "Hey, I'm not late after all!" until I did. I was actually an hour early for church once! It was a great day--I headed to McDonald's for a McGriddle and ate a leisurely breakfast before returning for the service.

Now, things are a little different. I married a math guy, and one of his favorite time change activities is to actually change the clocks the night before so that in the morning everything is correct. Oh well. I still have my watch and the clock in my car!

As I was pondering the magic of the time change and reminiscing about time changes past, I started thinking...what would I do if I actually had a real extra hour in the day? Would I spend it actually getting some work done? Would I play more with my son? Would I have a real conversation with my husband? Would I read a book? Would I blog more? I really don't know...

So, what would you do with an extra hour in your day? Have a happy time change day!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Consequences of Blogging While Parenting

I've written a couple of brag posts about how great my playroom is and how organized and clean it stays. We've purged and planned, making this room a space the kids can play in and clean up all by themselves. Sounds great, right?



Well....




here's how the playroom looks after Mommy blogs:







That stepstool belongs in the kitchen...I don't even know how it got in there. And our strict playroom rule is "ONE TOY AT A TIME and PUT IT AWAY WHEN YOU ARE DONE PLAYING WITH IT."

This pic was taken from my office chair, so I can see the playroom and even hear what is going on. The problem is, they realize that I'm not paying them the least little bit of attention when I get on this computer (unless one of them starts crying or screaming). Why follow the rules if Mommy isn't watching?

So, anytime you read any of my posts, here or over at Growing Great Kids, just know that I paid the price for every single post...in fact, I'm probably busy cleaning the playroom right now.