Saturday, December 29, 2007

16-0

Videotape this.



What Christmas Means to Me

Little Gifts that Mean A Lot
LM didn't think I'd get him drum sticks, despite the
fact that he's drumming on everything with everything.
Since I kept discouraging him from buying a set
(because I already had a pair for Christmas)
he thought I just didn't want him to have any.

Seeing LM Just Shake His Head
When once again, I try to ingrain in his mind that
he is a Wolverine (Go Blue!)

Reminders of Jenny
My mom used to always tuck animals in the tree,
write something funny on the gift tags,
or create a game out of finding your present.
I love bringing memories of her into our holiday.
Having Three Kids to Spoil
Need I say more?

Funny Little Moments
George and Maggie, both banned from the kitchen.
Like two peas in a pod.

Laughter
Whether it's G playing Dance Dance Revolution
or finally getting my sister to play cards
I never laugh nearly as much as I do when
I'm around my family.

Seeing Loved Ones We Haven't Seen in Awhile
Including Maggie. The life of the party.

Nerf Dart Wars
Let's just say all my years of saying "we don't play with guns"
or "don't shoot that at people"
went completely down the drain when we
were fighting for bullets and running through the house
shooting at each other
and laughing too hard to aim straight.

Being Together
We're so very different but we have so much fun together.
Remembering the Reason
There's no greater gift than salvation,
no time will ever be as joyous or fun as an eternity in heaven together,
no love as real or complete as that from our Heavenly Father.
I hope you all had a holiday season as blessed and
full of joy and peace as mine has been.
I wish everyone a joyous 2008
where I encourage you to make people a priority in your life.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Par For the Course

My left thumb has been bothering me all morning. I kept wiggling it and rubbing it wondering all the while what on earth I could have done to have injured my thumb of all things.

And then it occured to me.

Playing G in a head to head round of golf requires a well developed swing - performed entirely with the left tumb on the XBox360 controller.

I wonder if Tiger's thumb ever gives him such trouble.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

He Knew

...that I broke a spatula a couple weeks ago. And so he bought me a new one (and an extra!) for Christmas.

...that we broke our favorite wooden spoon making applesauce this year. And so he bought me a new one f(and an extra!) for Christmas.

...that you cannot lie to Mom. So he bought me a plaque for Christmas that says, "You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool Mom."

...that I love York Peppermint Patties right from the freeer, so he wrapped some and led me to the freezer with a clue under the tree.

...that I don't have salt and pepper shakers and that I might be embarrased if we ever had company over for dinner. So he bought me a set.

...that he accidentally broke my small Pyrex glass measuring cup (in our pre-microwave days) and so he bought me a new one.

...that I love Hershey's with almonds, so he tucked one in my stocking.

...that our attempt to make homemade moose munch at Thanksgiving didn't go so well, so he bought me some of that, too.

...that I love plants, so he conspired with Nana and bought me a beautiful Ivy topiary for Christmas.

...that I love the little things about Christmas, so he wrote funny things on the tags and made a game out of some gifts.

...that I have a sense of humor, so he sang the "cha-cha-cha" part with George when we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus. (Forgive me, Heavenly Father. First, a store-bought cake, and second the Scooby-Doo Birthday song...)

...that Thank-You notes are a big deal to me, so he wrote them during the ride to Ohio today without complaint.

...that this was an extra special Christmas for us, spent with my sister and her family here in Michigan, and hugged me several times and thanked me for such a great Christmas after the evening was over.

...that I would miss him terribly over the next two weeks while he spends time with his grandparents and his dad and so he jumped out of my car and threw his stuff into Nana's and never even hugged me goodbye.

Well, I'll forgive the last one. But I'll hug him extra tight when he returns back home.

Thanks, LM for the best Christmas ever. You know me so well and shared such a special day with me. Enjoy your time with your dad and I'll see you in two weeks!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

If It's Good Enough for God

In preparation for our Christmas celebration tomorrow night (LM is off to spend the holiday with his dad's side of the family early Saturday morning) I headed to the kitchen to make cake. As part of our family holiday traditions, I bake an angel food birthday cake in honor of Christ's birthday each year.

Only the cake pan is in a box in Julie's barn.

When I call to tell her I'll be climbing up in the barn tomorrow when I drop off the kids, I interrupt her pie-baking. We talk for a few minutes and I realize she's making a lemon meringue pie from scratch (two of them, actually) to take to her outlaw's for their Christmas celebration this weekend.

From scratch.

I told her that God gave Betty Crocker a gift. A talent to share with the world. And that I certainly thought that a pre-made or bakery-made or even a store-bought pie filling would be good enough for her outlaws. I mean, if a boxed cake mix is good enough for Jesus, isn't it good enough for Bear's family?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It's Kinda The Same, Only Without The Weird Opening Ceremonies

Just because he scores in the 99th percentile, just because he's in the gifted pull-out program one day a week, just because he reads at a high school level in sixth grade, just because he uses words like "botany", "trebuchet" and "je ne sais quo" in his conversations, just because he's on a special science team preparing to compete with other science teams across the area, the state and possibly the nation, does NOT imply that he can actually spell "Science Olympiad".

The folder on my desktop containing his research is labeled "Science oylimiad".

I.kid.you.not.

I Could've Saved Myself a Fortune

Hundreds of dollars invested in these....
And LM is giddy over the idea of dissolving packing peanuts.
He spent 20 minutes and 54 billion gallons of water (so much for environmentally friendly) playing with them in the kitchen sink.


All that money, down the drain.

Stacy, you had no idea what a hit your gift - er- the packing of your gift - would be, did you?


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Curbing the Competitor Within

I've given it more thought than I'd like to admit. Over the past few days I've asked the opinion of no less than five other people about what to do. Even today, the day of decision I was still uncertain if I had done the right thing.

You see, it's all about fantasy football.

My team did well this year. Not as confidently well as last year, but I made the playoffs and then the final four. But it was that last milestone that gave me pause. Last year I won the tourny to the great surprise of everyone including me. This year, my former company was kind enough to include me in the league, but I would imagine few expected similar success.

Making the final four was enough, to me, to say hey, I'm not half bad at this. Certainly there is a lot of luck in such things, but at least I demonstrated that what little skill I had, I put to good use on occasion (and made some remarkably dumb move, too). But I found myself cheering for former co-workers to go the distance and win the tourny this year instead of wishing I would win myself. I just didn't think that would be much fun for everyone else. I don't even work there for crying out loud.

So I started to think maybe I should tank on purpose. But there are male egos to be dealt with a tanking on purpose wouldn't go over well, I suspect. So I decided to leave my team alone and just hope that either in this semi-final round or in the finals next week I might be outplayed and I wouldn't win it all, leaving someone still in the office, still around to enjoy the glory to win.

And it would seem as though Mother Nature stepped in and honored my request. The New England blow-out of the Jets would have solidified my spot in the final game. But today, with inclement weather, the Pats ran the ball leaving Brady without a single touchdown and a fraction of his usual passing yards. Moss was left with a less than stellar day. And while some of my other players stepped up to the plate and made some big yards and a couple touchdowns, it won't come close to being the points I will need to win.

And so I am relieved.

And no male egos are injured. And everyone back at the office should be happy that the final game will be between two of their own.

And while I expect I might play next year, I won't play again in this league as I think it's time to move on. Thanks, guys, for inviting me to play and for all the fun of becoming a completely obsessed football fan. And to PC - I wish you all the best in the finals!!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bird

She's me when I was eleven. She loves horses and cats and all stray animals. She's a second mother to George and any child put in her charge. She loves homework and helping her teacher. She sings with the radio and talks to her friends on the phone for hours. Deep down inside somewhere my sister and I must be somewhat alike for her to have produced a child so remarkably like me.
Little Bird


In early December, Bird celebrated her eleventh birthday. It was at her birthday party at a local indoor pool that I realized our first major difference - she is completely uninhibited. Standing in the locker room completely naked, she's talking with her friends, telling me about something that happened at school and was in no rush whatsoever to actually get her suit on. I was ready to crawl into a bathroom stall out of embarrassment for her, but she wasn't phased at all.



Queen of the High Dive

Her birthday party was so much fun. It was still fun and not yet embarrassing to have her dad and her uncle cannonballing off the diving boards to see who could make the bigger splash. Everyone had fun, friends, cousins, the young ones and even the boys all had fun

"Is it time for cake yet?"

Littlest Cousins

George the Sea Dragon

LM Ready to Swim

We enjoyed a Hannah Montana birthday cake and Bird opened more Littlest Pet gifts than I knew existed. George kept us entertained with his antics as well and LM endured sitting in the close proximity with several fifth grade girls without complaint.



Bird admires the purple fuzzy scarf we gave her
(along with an American Girl doll skirt and a new wallet for all her birthday cash!)

Happy Birthday, Bird!
Thanks for letting us share this day and every day with you!

The Concert

Earlier this week I had the honor and the privilege of attending LM's band concert. It was the first concert since our relocation and since his promotion as a sixth grader into the seventh and eighth grade concert band. LM has been practicing hard this year and is currently fourth chair amongst eight trumpets.

The concert was held at a local high school since LM's middle school doesn't have an auditorium. I had spent the previous week fighting with LM's school trying to get the necessary "uniform" materials for LM for the concert. His director had instructed them all to wear black pants, a white long-sleeved t-shirt and a school t-shirt for their concert uniform. School t-shirts were to be purchased from the school office but every time LM tried to buy one the office staff said they had no idea what he was talking about. LM voiced this issue to the director who told him "of course they know what we're talking about. It's a school t-shirt." Well, it was five days later and three days before the concert before we secured for ourselves the t-shirt in question.

The night of the concert it was raining and dark and we got lost on the way to the high school (by a misread in the google directions. When you have an eleven year old read you the directions, he might tell you to turn South on a certain road when the directions actually say to take the north exit onto South Main street. I agree, it's confusing, but it left us miles from where we needed to be. Thanks be to Bear for giving us good directions via cell phone and getting us there on time.)

Arriving at the school in the nick of time still struggled to find an unlocked door into the buildings. While the parking lot was full of cars, none of the doors we tried would open. Running, in the rain, all dressed up, we sought, with other tardy families to find the entrance to the auditorium. At last we were in and LM ran off to find his director and get set up for the concert. It was of great relief to me that the concert band would perform last.

I found a great seat, the room was surprisingly not all that full. I had neglected to get a program in my rush to get seated, but I figured I would grab one (for the scrapbook) on the way out the door later. For now, I was in my seat, glad to see LM sitting amongst his peers in the back, relieved to have arrived on time.

The orchestra was to perform first. It turned out to be a combination of sixth, seventh and eighth graders in the 25 member orchestra. It was all string instruments and as I waited for the concert to begin, I was suprised by how casually the orchestra students were behaving on stage. It was as if none of them realized they were on stage. They were playing around with each other, they were messing around with instruments. There were only a select few trying to get their instruments in tune.

The principal welcomed us and introduced the orchestra director who was in the back row helping to tune some instruments. He didn't acknowledge the introduction, nor did he immediately come forward. When he did, he admitted he had no idea what the principal had said but announced his group and got ready to perform.

"Ode to Joy" was their first song, overly typical of a young musical group, but it was barely recognizable. While I realized some of these students had only held a violin for three months, it was as if none of them had ever seen the music before. It was horrible. They went on to play a couple more songs before the group split in half, assumingly so the older students could now showcase their abilities, although no announcement was made to that effect. The other students all moved to the back row and sat down, instruments casually on their laps, obviously not to be played.

The 15 or so older kids were as bad as the total group had been. I couldn't believe it. While they played the younger students talked amongst themselves and one late-comer actually came up on stage in her coat with violin still in its case and sat amongst the kids in the back row (she never did play, she must have been a sixth grader and their part of the performance was already over.)

When the orchestra completed their final song, the parents and siblings in the crowd whooped and cheered and shouted and screamed as if we were at an Arsenio Hall show. I was appalled.

The choir was the next to perform and only added to my astonishment. Two of the girls were dressed in evening gowns while the rest wore holiday colors of red, black and white in various degrees of dressiness. The girls in gowns, however, wore HOODIES over top, presumably to keep their bare shoulders warm.

The one girl, on the end of the choir was clearly not enrolled in the optional class to enhance her singing ability. She couldn't clap on rhythym, she barely sang and while the smaller ensembles stepped forward to sing, she would trounce down the risers in her very-loud clunky heels and peer over in the direction of the quartet and then scurry back up in a loud clunk-clunk-clunky manner and whisper to her peers some scandalous information about the performers.

(Do take notice that in this picture, the girl on the end is in a white hoodie with her black evening gown and heels. DURING the performance she and the other hoodie-adorned girl SWITCHED sweatshirts.)

The director had made the point to tell us that the choir members themselves had chosen the songs to be performed and they included such juvenile favorites as Rudolph, Jingle Bell Rock and the like. There were no harmony parts. There was no complicated or unique renditions of the tunes. Played to track music piped in, the entire ensemble - mainly seventh and eighth graders sang as if they were at a slumber party. They behaved as if that is where they were, too, and the director was the "mom" who wanted to be chummy with all the girls.
At this point I'll admit, I was near tears. I mean, I'm not some cultural snob but I do expect a certain level of decorum at such an event. How could I have enrolled my son in a school that didn't even teach etiquette and respect? How could I expect him to learn the valuable things in life if he's spending his days with students and teachers that have standards this low? The parents I was surrounded by were no better; one choir dad had spent the time walking in front of the front row stopping to take pictures as if he was the only one present. The cheering was more like football game shouting than a musical performance.
I panicked. I thought about making him move schools at the end of the year. I'd enroll him in my sister's district or somewhere out of the city. I would find a way to pay for the college education we would have received nearly free. I've had my concerns as we've transitioned to a much more urban school environment about what all LM is learning - outside of the classroom - and now I felt as if I were witnessing it all first hand. I would find a way - I just couldn't let this be his education.
And then the band came on stage. The director stood at the podium and checked to make sure every instrument was tuned as well as the ensemble. When he raised his baton, instruments came up in unison. The music was beautiful and complicated and delightful from the first note to the last. My boy, my little trumpet boy was outstanding. They played Winter Wonderland, Over the Rainbow and a Christmas Suite that blended all the favorite carols into one ensemble piece. I took pictures and intended to video tape for LM's dad but was so enraptured by the performance that it was over before I even hit the record button.


No more tears, I was smiling ear to ear. I was so proud. But not only of my son, of the director, for teaching these kids all the parts of being a performer, not just how to blow air through an instrument.

Afterwards, I hugged LM and asked if he would take me to where the band room was. I shook the directors hand (a man who calls me by name) and thanked him profusely, not only for the concert but for all his help with LM. He's been so encouraging to LM this year and has really pushed him.
As we left the band room, two older boys shouted to LM, "Hey! Hey you! Is that a trumpet?" LM raised his case and shrugged, "yeah?"
The boy said, "Do you live in this area? Will you be attending this high school?" A question LM's band director asks him almost daily. With two high schools in town, his band director has been pushing for LM to attend the one he used to direct at.
LM said he wasn't sure where he'd be attending, his standard answer since we haven't bought a house yet.

"Oh man, you have to come here! We heard you trumpets out there and you guys were awesome! We really need some good trumpet players here!"

I smiled and said quietly, "you'll have to wait. LM here is only a sixth grader." The boy looked astonished and then replied, "It's worth the wait. Besides, I'll still be a senior. Just remember, when you get to high school, you have to come here!"

As we finished the evening off with our traditional post-band-concert ice cream treat I smiled and thought to myself that maybe, just maybe this was exactly the education LM needed.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What I've Been Missing

"Aunt Fred? What's in the box?" asked George when we stopped at the post office today on our way home from school.

"A Christmas present for someone far away."

"What is it?"

"It's actually several things, George."

"How many things?"

"I don't know, maybe seven or eight. Just some little things I wanted to send to a friend."

"Is it corn?"

"No, George, it's not corn."

"Is it a violin?"

"No, it's not a violin."

"Is it a bouncy ball?"

"No, it's not a bouncy ball."

We approached the counter and the postal clerk asked me if anything was fragile, liquid, perishable or hazardous. I said it was fragile and perishable.

"Aunt Fred? What does 'perishable' mean?"

"It means can it get rotten," I replied, trying to explain the idea to a seven year old.

"EWWW!! You're sending something rotten to your friend for Christmas?!"

"No, George. It's not rotten now. It just could get rotten if it got lost in the mail."

"What is it?"

"You remember in my hall closet all those jars you saw when you were over? A friend of mine wanted me to send a couple to her."

"Aunt Fred!! You're sending a friend 8 jars of rotten applesauce?!"

"No, George. It's not rotten!"

"But it will be! EWWWWW!!!!"

There was no convincing him otherwise. Even the postal clerk had to stifle a laugh.

So, my dear friend who is receiving the specifically requested applesauce, I doubt there is anything about it that is worth a personal shipment (and don't worry, I didn't send 8 jars of sauce!), but I am ever so grateful for the occasion that provided me with such an incredibly precious moment with George.

These are the little moments I've been missing. But now, now I can treasure them. And oh, how I treasure these moments.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Box

Yesterday LM called me on my way home from school. "A box came today, Mom. I don't know who it's from or what it's for." He spelled the last name to me, never pausing long enough for me to say I know who it's from. He read the city and state that it came from and started to tell me how big the box was and that it wasn't heavy but wasn't light either.

"LM." I said, waiting for him to stop and take a breath.

"I know who the box is from."

(While he had been rambling incessantly I had actually thought of shouting, "It's a bomb, get out of the house!" as a joke until I thought better knowing he might actually believe me and while playing jokes on my kid is funny, scaring the crud out of them isn't. Well, it isn't most of the time. Well, it isn't some of the time. Well...)

The box needent have contained a thing. It meant the world to me to just know that a friend, a very dear new friend thought of me and wanted to send me something. But inside were two packages, one for the boy and one that I know to be homemade although I don't know what it is. Both went ceremoniously under my tree to await Christmas Day. There were two tins of cookies which were immediately opened and went ceremoniously down my throat (okay, I waited until after dinner and I didn't eat all of them, but still, they were delish!) And there were cranberries. Which are meaningful in their own special way.

As I sit here tonight, I am delighted to have little bits and pieces of things (not literally pieces of things) to send back in the direction this box came, I am delighted more by this friendship than I have words for. Mig, you are my kindred spirit. You bring joy into my life every single day. I am so glad that distance and space aren't challenges to this friendship and I thank God that he brought you into my life this year.

I wish all of you a sweet box full of friendship this holiday season.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Can I Just Say

How much I hate when little kindergartners reek of cigarette smoke?

And that says nothing about how hard it is to look at these children who are far far behind their peers, who have various disorders impairing their learning abilities and come to school hungry and filthy and exhausted. The school district can supply a hearing-impaired child with extra auditory enhancements including a microphone that her teachers dutifully wear and pass along to one another but they will do NOTHING if the wax and dirt build up in her ears is so thick and disgusting that sound wouldn't dare venture in if it were forced.

And can I just mention how disturbing it is to me to be working carefully with a second grader who is doing his best to make English his primary language and to catch up on all the schoolwork he has missed due to migrant parents only to have him write in his journal entry every.single.day about how he can't wait to get home to play Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4.

And to think that I spent no less than a full hour every day doing therapuetic sensory brushing and compressions on more than five different children three times during the day every school day knowing that these same techniques are never performed by the child's parents after school.

Can I just say that I don't know how my second mother taught special education for so many years and didn't lose all hope for the children of the world (or their parents)?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Gift Giver

I've talked about taking LM Christmas shopping before. This year, my sister and Bear both offered to take LM shopping so he could buy something for me without my knowledge at all. Unfortunately we just weren't able to get that squeezed in to our schedules so I took LM out this Saturday to finish his shopping before the crowds and stores got beyond bearable for me (they are already near that point).

LM and I had already talked about Christmas gifts. We knew what we wanted to buy for his dad's side of the family and had just a couple of those gifts left to get. LM had his wallet with his saved money and a few additional dollars from Mom to buy a gift for her.

Instead of tagging along in the stores and being there to pay at the counter, this year he was on his own. I asked where he wanted to go ("Lowes") and I drove. And I waited in the parking lot while he went in to choose and to buy. And when he came out empty handed (whew!) we headed out to another store, one full of unique craft items. Again, he headed in alone and I waited in the parking lot. I was instructed to "pop the trunk" when he came out so I wouldn't even see the bag (he knows how much I enjoy the surprise of a gift!) This time he came out with a bag, although I quickly covered my eyes so I wouldn't see too much and when he got in the car he proclaimed, "Mom, I don't know how you don't OWN that store," after seeing all the options he knew I would love inside.

Even later, in Target, he thought of something he'd like to get and told me he'd meet me at the car.

Today, he spent four hours wrapping seven gifts. He had music on and was hiding behind a closed bedroom door lest I see. (Not all seven were for me and I knew what all of those were, but he was still hiding while he wrapped.) He came out at one point with a tiny little package. He laughed and waved it in front of me and said, "You'll never guess what this is!" Proud of himself for the choice and the secret wrapping.

I wonder what the store clerks thought of this boy wandering around looking carefully at various items. Did they worry because he was unaccompanied? Did they think he would steal something? And what did they think when he approached the counter with an item and pulled out his wallet to pay? I wonder what was going through LM's mind during the four hour wrapping event. Did he smile thinking about the recipient opening his gift? Did he worry if they will like it or if he should have chosen differently?

I hope the store clerks and all LM's recipients, like me, realize the milestone my son just surpassed. He is now officially his own shopper. He did it all on his own. I hope someday LM's wife tells me what a great gift giver he is. I'll just laugh and smile and say, "I know."

Saturday, December 08, 2007

I Was So Going to Blog Tonight

but I was just looking at my sitemeter to see the funny ways people come to my blog. And someone came to me after searching for "some way to make my sister nice".

I'm just laughing too hard to blog. Sorry. I'll try again tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

How It's Done

For as long as I can remember I've mailed Christmas cards out on December 1st. I almost always have all my shopping done by the first week of December as well, although I'll admit, I often pick up little things throughout the month just for fun (and to completely blow the budget).

For the past two years, however, I've been a little pre-occupied with NaNoWriMo in the month of November to focus any creative energy towards the ol' Christmas card, and frankly, starting such a holiday task in October is just a little too much for me.

Similar to last year, I started to panic during the last week of November. How on earth was I not only going to write the last 10,000 words for NaNo, but also complete a somewhat witty, fairly informative Christmas letter, too?

The solution: write the letter while stuck in the car going back and forth to Ohio!

LM took notes while I spewed clever ideas and phrases and helped me to work it into an organized format. I actually wish you could see his version of the letter, it's really cute in its own right.

As of Thursday, November 29th, when my NaNo novel was complete I had only LM's notes on the letter and nothing more. Friday evening after a church event, I spent about an hour formatting and getting the cover design ready (by ready I mean downloaded). Saturday morning I put it all together, addressed and stamped envelopes and with LM's help, printed out the cards and a photo to go inside.

Once again, my cards are out on time. Even more shocking to me, however, was that after being placed in the mail Saturday at noon, cards have already arrived in Eastern PA today (Tuesday).

Happy Holidays!

According to Dad...

"...You know you've spent too much time playing on your new laptop adjusting settings and controls when you enter your pin number into the microwave."

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Happy Birthday to My OLDER Sister

Dinner out with the family


The kids were on their best behavior
(well, sorta. Those notebooks? They are full of 'secret' code to talk amongst the grownups without being understood.)

There were presents to be opened.
(My sister looks beautiful in red, so we got her this gorgeous sweater from Coldwater Creek)

There were wishes to be made, candles to be blown out and cakes* to be eaten.

There was even a little time for horsing around with the kids.


Happy Birthday Dear Sis!! As you pointed out, for two years in a row now we've had the chance to celebrate your birthday together! Thanks for letting us share in your day!


*A note about the cake(s). I offered to bring the birthday cake and coordinated with Bear about the details. Ms. Birthday Girl stepped in to tell us exactly what kind of a cake to provide (as if growing up with her all those years ago didn't leave me with a lasting memory of her disgusting peference for German Chocolate Cake). In her defense, she suggested I bring something everyone would like, not just her. As one who loves surprises, I decided to make neither, but instead paid a visit to Coldstone Creamery in hopes of ordering a special birthday cake. I was overwhelmed by the options, however, and decided to order a selection of their mini-cakes instead. Thinking there would be 10 of us there to celebrate, I ordered 7 cakes. There only ended up being 6 of us there with more cake than we knew what to do with. But, oh, what a sweet problem to have!


Snickers, Peppermint, Peanut Butter, Cookie Dough, Butterfinger,
Mint Chip, and Red Velvet Cakes











Wouldn't Trade it For the World

Today is my sister's birthday. It usually means a card went in the mail a week ago and today I made a phone call to wish her a great one and to hear about her day.

Not today.

Today I spoke with her around one, when she called to talk about various things, none of which were really her birthday. We didn't have to talk about her birthday, we were going to be a part of it.

LM and I went over to Jules' house around 3:30 after picking up the cake(s) (more on that later). I helped Jules work on her Christmas cards and we laughed and enjoyed a call from Dad. The whole gang of us went out to dinner together and then back home for cake and present opening. Knowing my sister was onto the plan that I was making her birthday cake, and after she took the time to tell me exactly what kind to make, I decided to shake up the plans a bit. I had gone to Cold Stone Creamery to order her a cake, but was overwhelmed with options. I ended up ordering seven MINI-cakes, all different flavors. Seven? Yes, seven. I thought there were four other people joining the six of us, but there weren't. So we had a lot. I'll post pictures at some point so you can see how amazing these little cakes were.

I had so much fun sharing part of the day with my sister and sharing cake and presents with her. It's how a birthday should be: full of laughter and family. Happy Birthday, Jules!! Thanks for letting us share in your special day!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

It Still Doesn't Have a Title, and It's Not Finished, But...

Dear NaNoWriMo 2007 Participant:

So it's official.

Our word-counting robots have analyzed your November novel, and they've delivered their final, binding assessment: Winner.

You did it! You did it! You did it!

This was, without a doubt, one of the hardest years on record for NaNoWriMo participants. At some point in the literary marathon, most of your fellow writers fell by the wayside. They lost their books to work, to family, to school, and to the hundreds of other distractions and interruptions that tend to shutter creative undertakings like NaNoWriMo.

But not you. Not this year.

This November, you set out with the ridiculously ambitious goal of bringing an entire world into existence in just 30 days. When the going got tough, you got writing. Now you're one of the few souls who can look back on 2007 as the year you were brave enough to enter the world's largest writing contest, and disciplined enough to emerge a winner.

We salute your imagination and perseverance. The question we ask you now is this: If you were able to write a not-horrible novel in 30 days, what else can you do? The book you wrote this month is just the beginning.

From here on out, the sky's the limit.

We wish you well on your many upcoming adventures, and hope to see you for Script Frenzy in April, and again for NaNoWriMo next November.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Joy

I know, my blog is so boring lately. First, I don't post for days on end under some guise that I'm actually writing a novel. HA HA HA, boy, you people are suckers aren't you? (I'm within 5,000 words, I promise, the end is in sight!) Then, when you think I'm actually posting, you realize I'm just sharing more highlights from our life right now and your eyes start to glaze over and you click on the back button and you pray that someone on your blog roll actually wrote something intelligent and funny and well, worth reading.

Yeah, you're not going to find that here. Not yet anyway.

BUT, tonight's Beth Moore lesson was on Joy and wow, can that woman make you feel JOY!!

My day might have felt like a real bummer to me in different times. I was subbing in a first grade (and have I mentioned how much I love subbing? I know you think I'm being sarcastic, but I'm being serious. I mean, SERIOUSLY I love being in the classroom!!) Anyway, to make a long story short, I cannot get the maternity leave position until the state of Michigan officially declares me certifiable. Wait, that didn't come out right. I mean, TEACHER certified. Ahem. But she really wants to get me in and hopes that the state doesn't take too long and she even told me that the teachers have really liked having me as a sub and other warm fuzzy thoughts that I will savor for weeks. Ahem. Right, where was I? Oh, yes, so I can't sub more than four weeks in any given classroom (in a row) or they have to send a note home to all the parents saying I'm not certified in the state and no one wants to do that (including me) BUT, the principal has an emergency opening for a pregnant woman who was going on maternity leave in January but has been ordered by her doctor to bed rest and so they have asked ME to fill in for her for the next four weeks or until they find a replacement that will work all the way through her maternity leave as well.

Which is good news in a bad news sort of way. I mean, I really want full-time employment, and short of that, I really want long-term employment but this certification thing is the current hang up, but you know what? I was absolutely tickled today that she asked me. I was tickled that after subbing in the district for about a month they already like me that much. I was tickled, I tell ya. And so I accepted the position (which starts tomorrow) and I let myself feel joy. I mean, it's four weeks, before the holidays, of steady, consistent work, in the district I might hope to one day have a full-time job in. JOY, I tell ya!

Until the panic set in.

'Cause it's Special Education.

And I've never taught that or had classes in that, or read a book on that, or even sat next to a teacher who sat next to a teacher who once had a job teaching special ed. The one GREAT thing I have going for me? My second mom taught it for years.

Yeah, Verizon? Could you just direct connect me with Judy for the next four weeks? Um, thanks!

And again, the plug for Beth Moore. I kid you not, go find her Fruit of the Spirit Bible study - at your church, at your cousin's church, somewhere....and do it. Seriously. JOY COMETH!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving

Things I'm thankful for this holiday:

1. I had NOTHING to do with getting the innards out of the bird. Ew Yuck Ew Yuck.
2. I wasn't the one who tried to carve a turkey that was upside down at first. (It fit better in the slow cooker that way apparently.)

3. That I didn't have to be responsible for getting everything hot at the same time. I was in charge of appetizers and dinner rolls. Easy Peasey.

4. That my sister and Bear didn't call the insane asylum or laugh out loud (in my presence) when I was out in the rain the day before picking up leaves with the intent of making place cards with them for the holiday dinner.

5. That Squirt decided he was in charge of cleaning up the table after dinner.


6. and 7. Pies.
Pumpkin and Apple. With whipped cream and ice cream to boot.

8. Knowing that LM was having a wonderful time with his dad and his family in Pittsburgh.
9. Spending the day with family.
10. Not having to drive 11 hours to get back home.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Catching Up

Today I am writing and wrapping.


11:35am:
I've written 2,000+ words this morning, bringing my word count up to 32,248. (17,752 left to go by next Friday at midnight.)


I have yet to wrap a single gift.


1:26pm:
Almost 1000 words more, bringing me to 33, 182. Still a whole mess to go, but I'm getting closer.

I have yet to wrap a single gift.

But I did talk to my dad. And I'm thinking it's time for a nap. (I know, I've done nothing so far today, but I haven't napped yet during this holiday break and I certainly can't nap while driving to Ohio tomorrow!)


5:08pm:

Nap is complete. I've wrapped about six gifts and there's no stopping me now.

As for writing? Well, nothing more since I last reported. But there's still hope.

11:52pm:

I'm up to 34,000 words. Yipppee!! I'm getting there, slowly but surely. Still haven't really gotten the main activity going in my book, but that's okay, I think it's developing along. I won't be any where near the end of my novel at 50,000 words, I'll just be getting rolling. Maybe in January I'll have time to write again and finish it up, at least the first draft anyway.

All gifts are wrapped. At least all that I have. I'm still missing a couple, but they'll be here soon enough.

Now, to catch some zzz's. 9am departure to go get the boy.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Joyful

I never would have guessed when I first became friends with C and K in college that I would ever share a day like today with them. For starters, they didn't date in college. It wasn't until after we all graduated that they took a more serious interest in each other. And when I was in college and knew them both, I was falling in love with J. But here we are, 14 years or so later, spending the day after Thanksgiving together in Michigan, them married for years now with three kids and me, now since divorced forging my life on my own.

All those years ago, I never would have said that K would be such a hands-on, willingly involved, active father. I never would have said he'd have so much fun with his two daughters or even his infant son. He's Type A all the way (and then some) and to see him so relaxed, so dare I say, carefree, so focused on fun and people and family, it was such a beautiful thing.

And while C is everything I knew her to be from the first day I met her, to still be so beautiful inside and out, to still be filled with such joy, such love, it never ceases to amaze me. They have been through a lot in the nine years they have been married and it has all brought them closer together. There's no bitterness, no pain, no anger in either of them, even though few could fault them for feeling any of it.

They have three children here, two in heaven, seven times pregnant all things considered. The three children I have the pleasure to know are beautiful, well mannered, sweet, precious children. I am sure they have their moments, all children do, but the care in parenting shows through with these kids. K and C both parent equally, they both support each other in their roles, they both work together and it shows.

I sat and talked with C for hours today. K, too, but he was also getting kids down for naps and entertaining while we had a chance to catch up. I could have sat there for days and not grown tired of talking with her.

And they brought me a gift. Not really for the holidays. Not really for any reason at all. Just because after reading my blog (particularly how I hand-peeled 145 pounds of apples) they saw this apple corer/slicer/peeler gizmo and just knew I needed to have it. And so they gave it to me today. That's the perfect kind of a gift.

And they let me hold the baby. So amazingly precious. So beautiful. So sweet. He still smells just like a baby should smell and he still coos and wriggles and just looks at you like he could look at you for days.

And I got to giggle with the girls. I got to put in pony tails and help in the potty. I got to tie shoes and zip coats and see the twinkle in their eyes.

And they sent me home with homemade pie (made by grandma - God bless this woman, she's so kind to me, lets me invade her home to see her kids and grandkids - ).

And while yes, I'd like to steal the baby, frankly, I'd like to steal all their kids, but I'd like more to know their secret to such happiness, their secret to such a beautiful relationship together and as parents. I'd like someday, for them to tell me so that I might have it, too. While J and I never fought, we never disliked each other, we also never had the spark, the chemistry that C and K do. It's the whole package that I honestly envy.

I drove home in silence, in the dark, wishing once again I had someone in the passenger seat to talk to. If I had, I realized, all I could have said tonight was "wow." Wow. C and K you two are such a blessing in my life. Your love for all those around you just shines through. I know, sometimes I struggle when we're all together, but it's just so hard for me to think of all that went wrong with J and how it really should be all four of us sitting there together laughing and reminiscing. It makes me miss all that I thought he and I had once.

But you give me such hope. Such joy. Such complete bliss. Just being around all of you does my heart such good.

Today, I give thanks to all of you, the Joyful Family. I hope you all love each other so completely and so beautifully for years and years to come. And I hope I get to be such a close part of it for years and years to come. Thank you, for a beautiful day. Thank you for being such beautiful people. And thank you, both, for being such wonderful friends.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I Am Grateful For

1. LM. Without question, every single day. I love that kid more than I ever knew I could.
2. The personal relationship I have with my Heavenly Father.
3. Finally being near my family. (Trust me, visiting for a few hours instead of days - it's AMAZING!)
4. That I didn't have to stick my hands inside a bird and pull out all the gross parts today (Thanks, Jules! Love ya!)
5. All the Christmas presents I have hidden in my bedroom that are wrapped or ready to be wrapped this weekend.
6. My dog and cat. Every night they both curl up on my bed looking for love. I just adore my pets!
7. Substitute teaching. It not only pays the bills currently, it has been so much fun for me the past few months.
8. An understanding ex-husband who has worked with me to change our custody arrangement since our move and is willing to meet in the middle to see his son.
9. So far, only an inch of snowfall.
10. A car that works.
11. Finding a church home so quickly, and one that has been such a blessing.
12. Football. (What? You haven't noticed the Pats are undefeated?)
13. Friends. Near, far, old, new. I am so grateful for each and every one of them.
14. Microwaves. I know it's so materialistic and there are people with no food in this world, more or less no microwaves, but thanks, Dad and Judy, for this wonderful machine that reheats my leftovers, pops my corn and makes my boy his favorite oatmeal.
15. Books. For entertainment, for inspiration, to teach me how to write, to teach me how to teach, to help me challenge my boy, to make me laugh, to make me cry.
16. Beth Moore and her lessons on the Fruit of the Spirit - I've already learned so much and we're not even halfway done!
17. for NaNoWriMo - which is forcing me to write, even when I JUST.DON'T.WANNA.
18. For laughter. George, Bird, LM and even little Squirt - their laughter does my heart good!
19. For music - especially beautiful Christmas carols that remind me further the reason for the upcoming season.
20. For all the fun of the holidays - even just playing games with my unwilling sister in WalMart - it's fun to have fun

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Have I Mentioned

that I'm having computer issues again? (I'd link back to the spring post when I spent a nary fortune on this stupid laptop and got completely screwed in the deal, but if you understood how slow my laptop is, you wouldn't subject me to something as trivial as linking.)

I've tried to go into my startup applications list and to eliminate some of the nightmare programs that are running in the background all.the.time, but my computer would like to speak to the manager and doesn't seem to understand that I AM THE DOGGONE MANAGER. Seriously. If I weren't intimately aware of what a pain it is to rely on the library for the internet, this dear Dell laptop would have long since sailed right through the patio window.

So, if there is anyone out there who can offer advice, or who might have a word with my not-so-inspiring Inspiron and inform it that I am, indeed, as it were, the ADMINISTRATOR, and that should I so choose to click on some options it needs to LET ME DOGGONE IT, I would greatly appreciate a stern voice and a swift hand.

In the meantime, if you're awaiting email from me, it might take awhile as Yahoo has joined in the fun and refuses to let me delete, move or start a new email. It's such a remarkable pain.

Or maybe it's just trying to convince me to finish my NaNo novel already. Do you suppose it knows I use email to procrastinate? Hmmm...

I'm Doomed

So yesterday was Part I of the two-part drive to O-hi-O to meet up with LM's grandparents. It's really sweet of them to meet me halfway and take him back to Pittsburgh so he can spend the holiday with his dad.

En route, I decided LM and I could at least take advantage of the time and write our Christmas letter. It's lame but has a certain cuteness to it (sorta. Work with me here.) The whole time we're writing it, LM keeps adding in little jokes about learning to dance the Tango. I'd say, "Okay, so now we need your goals for 2008." Without missing a beat, he'd say slowly as if he were writing it down, "LM intends to learn to dance the Tango." Or, I'd say, "What other interests do you have besides reading, trumpet, Star Wars and the like?" and he'd say, "You mean, other than the Tango?" Maybe you had to be there, but it really was funny. It was all in his timing and how he kept working it in.

When we finished with the tango, I mean, the Christmas letter, LM resumed reading his Tom Clancy Novel, "Red Rabbit". He says, "You know, Mom, it wasn't until just this last time when I started reading again that I realized why Clancy named the novel "Red Rabbit"." (Having absolutely no idea what Clancy's intentions were or what the novel is even about, I asked for the reason. "Well, 'rabbit' is code for a defector and 'red' is a communist symbol. The novel is about a Russian defector."

Um, yeah, okay, I knew all that.

A few miles further down the road, LM asked me what the Greek god, Apollo, was a god of. "LM, I honestly have no idea. I know I should know, but I had a horrible time with mythology. For some reason, I want to say he's a god of war, but I might not even be close on that one."

"I think you might be wrong, Mom. I think he's the god of peace. I mean, think of the word 'apologetic'. That's a word about peace and compromise, not about war and I think it comes from 'Apollo'."

Um, yeah, okay, right, wrong or otherwise, you can't say the kid doesn't make a sound argument.

"Mom? What does KGB stand for?"

"Russian Secret Service."

"Yeah, I know that, but what does K. G. B. stand for?"

"Oh, um, something in Russian?"

"What does U.S.S.R. stand for?"

"United States of the Soviet Republic?" I totally guessed. I realize I'm way off. History was not my strong subject.

"Mom, do you know anything?"

"LM, it would appear I do not."

Monday, November 19, 2007

How Not To Do It

I suck at it. I suddenly don't know what to say. I forget everything. I'm inarticulate. I'm flummoxed. I'm struck dumb. And stupid. I cannot support my point with any credible evidence or data.

I cannot share the gospel well.

In particular, I have an unsaved friend who weighs heavily on my heart. He knows where I stand spiritually and we've always allowed for the difference. But lately I've been trying to press the situation, to get to the heart of his belief of lack thereof. But I go about it all wrong.

For example, we get into the conversation easily enough. He'll allow me a certain amount of rope and then he'll promptly let me hang myself with it. Tonight I spoke about how I hope that some day he marries. And he readily admitted that he has baggage and stated that he just isn't ready to let go of it yet.

Ah ha! I thought, an opportunity!

And so I spoke about how he doesn't have to bear that baggage, he can hand it over to someone else. And he knew, of course, exactly the WHOM to which I was referring, and said that no, he feels it's his to bear...blah, blah, blah.

And so we got talking about God and specifically to the heart of what it is that he believes or doesn't believe. In a nutshell, he said, "I think I'm a fairly compassionate individual and I would never willingly condemn someone to the hell as it's described, why would a being with infinite compassion condemn nations of people to hell then?"

I, uh, I mean, um....well, it's like this...you see, there's God....well, I mean....

Yeah. Great response, Ames.

And he talks about how it's really a power trip for this God to want everyone to worship him and that the churches are really just brain washing all of us believers...

And I talk about how God created the Garden of Eden to be perfect and for us to be in perfect fellowship with him, but because of the right to free will, (which inherently gives us a choice) we made the wrong choice. And I spoke about how having the ability to choose means there have to be choices, and God is one of the choices.

Blah, blah, gobblygook blah.

I make no sense. I have no argument. I see his point. It actually makes sense. And I have nothing with which to refute it. So I try to get on solid ground. Remember all that education about how to share the gospel. People are not good enough, we must need God's gift of salvation.

And so I ask him about heaven. Well, he doesn't really see heaven like some people do, and frankly, if it's some big party that only a few get invited to, then he'll be damned (literally) if he's going to give in to that power trip just cause the big man himself says it needs to be so.

Yeah, well. Okay. Point taken.

But he doesn't really believe in hell either. I mean, again, loving God? Condemning people for eternity? Doesn't make sense to him.

And now that he mentions it, to me either.

I know, I can hear my Christian critics saying "the devil is trying to keep you from saving this man! He's trying to turn even YOU against God."

But yet, I have such a hard time sometimes. I believe, I do, but I can't really make it make rational sense all the time. To me, the big bang theory is just a little too hokey. But what if I thought it actually made a bit of sense? Then where would my faith be?

I know I can't make this man believe. I know that. I also know that I'm ill-prepared to even try. But when the sound argument comes back at me, I just find myself sitting down and admitting defeat and saying, "You know, I just don't know."

But that doesn't get the boy any closer to God.

It doesn't get me any closer, either.

I fear that I turn more people away from faith than to it. Suggestions? Help? Ideas?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Still A Ways To Go

I turned on the games after church today. LM camped out in the living room with me albeit with a laptop in hand. When the first game started, LM demonstrated his growing football knowledge by reading the team abbreviations on the score graphic. "So this is the New York Giants and the Detriot....?" I waited to see if he would figure out "Lions".

"Seahawks?"

"LM, is Detroit anywhere near a SEA?!"

"I don't know. I have no idea where Detroit is."

Well, one step forward, fourteen steps back.

This week the focus shifts from football back to geography. SP, wanna jump in here?

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Guest

LM spent the night and all of Saturday at my sis's house last weekend. Tonight, we went for dinner and a movie and he's bunking with the kids again. When I called him downstairs to say goodnight before I left to come home, he said, "Thanks for coming tonight, Mom."


Um, where exactly does this boy live? (And if he lives at their house, how come I just spent $100 on groceries for the week?)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

H.A.L.T.

If you remember, LM and I do "H.A.L.T." every night at dinner. It's our highs and lows and thanks for the day. I already spoke about the good news on my certification for this week. My low for the week would 3 of the last 4 sub days. From the day I subbed in a second grade, first grade and Kindergarten all in the same day to the second grade MONSTERS I had yesterday, it's been an exhausting week. My high? Today's class of third graders. I can't even tell you the 100 ways in which they were remarkable. They were just incredibly awesome and I had the opportunity to tell the teacher so at the end of the day.

And my thanks? That today was payday but better yet was that I won my battle with the cable company, and since I didn't have that bill to pay this month I stocked up at the grocery store. (This morning, our fridge literally held condiments, filtered water, lettuce, an egg and one can of Pepsi.)

How about you? What are you highs, lows and thanks for the day or the week?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How It Comes Together

I've talked about my move and how all the pieces just fell into place at the perfect time to make it happen. I've talked about how perfect it was that I held a teaching degree and that I feel so comfortable in the classroom because if I weren't substitute teaching, we'd be starving and living in my car. I've talked about how just putting my faith in God's plan for my life has truly made all the difference.

And yet, I still have my moments when I panic. (What can I say, I'm a slow learner.)

I can still hear my ex mother-in-law telling me years and years ago to never let my teaching certificate expire (she had made that mistake and had kicked herself for years over it.) And for years I kept up with it. But trying to remember exactly what year your teaching certificate needs to be renewed and then remembering to do so after June 30th but before July 31st of that year (by sending it back to Illinois to the regional office you were once affiliated with) somehow slipped my mind in '05. And my Illinois teaching certificate expired two years ago. Which didn't matter until recently when my heart started to skip a beat at the idea of teaching on a more permanent basis.

Especially a week ago. When I subbed in my sister's school district - which I love - and the very pregnant teacher I subbed for asked after she watched me manage her class for the day (she was right outside the door doing assessments with the kids) if I'd be interested in her maternity leave long-term sub position. YES YES YES. But she was concerned about my certification. Because her principal is actually selecting the sub and she wants someone certified. Which I am, or I was, and I will be again, but...

And today, the substitute caller for her district spoke with me and said the principal had asked her about my certification (which means the teacher did indeed recommend me to her principal, who is now considering me for the position) and I tried to explain but this woman said, 'but you'll have it soon?' and I had to say I really didn't think 'soon' was the right word, exactly...

But it had occurred to me (which is my way of saying God worked through me to make me realize) that perhaps I should contact the state of Illinois and find out what the requirements would be to get my license renewed again because perhaps that might make it easier for the state of Michigan to then certify me. It was a shot, anyway, and so I sent off an email asking. And a reply came back today that said that all I needed to do was register it. And I was provided with an online link to register my certificate. And I clicked and typed and clicked and typed and entered in my debit card info and $25 and ten minutes later, I hold verifiable proof that I am registered and renewed in the state of Illinois.

One further in my celebratory dance, I reviewed the information I have ready to go to the state of Michigan (I'm just waiting my official transcripts) and it says, "Candidates for the Provisional certificate must pass the appropriate Michigan Test for Teacher Certification (MTTC). However, if the applicant holds a valid out-of-state certificate and meets all requirements for the Michigan Provisional certificate except for the MTTC, a 1-year Temporary Teacher Employment Authorization will automatically be issued as part of the application process."

Now, I still have to wait to see if I meet all the requirements. And I still have to put together my information to give to the school principal on Friday. And I still have to pray that out of all the candidates, she chooses me.

But if all that comes together, I could have a long-term sub position very very soon, and hopefully get my foot in the door in a very big way with the principal and teachers of a building and district I would be ever-so-happy to teach in on a permanent basis.

If it doesn't come together, I know without a doubt that God has something better in store for me. But at least right now, tonight, I can rest assured that I am so much closer to having that teaching certificate than I ever thought I could be right now.

God is soooooo good to me! (to you, too!)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Boy

just asked me (while he's writing his NaNo story - he has 2,014 words to date!), "Hey Mom? How do you spell 'ushin'?" I gave him that motherly blank stare that meant I'm going to need more to go on that just that. "You know," he explained, "when two things happen simultaneously?"

Oooooohhhhh, you mean UNISON.


LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

This kid cracks.me.up.


(you can tell he's a reader, can't you? He actually does this quite often. He knows what the word looks like and what it means but he hasn't heard it spoken enough to know how it's pronounced. I'll try to share these little gems when they come up as they often give me quite a good natured chuckle!)

How He Speaks to Me

No matter how good the class was last week, no matter how nice the women are, no matter the church is not two miles from the house, I am never excited about going to my Wednesday night Bible study. But every week, every single week, I am stopped dead and captivated by the speaker, no, not the speaker, by the message. We are doing a Beth Moore study called "Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spriti". We are only on the third video and have started exploring the actual Fruit of the Spirit" (Gal 5:22-23, " The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law.")

Now I know, some of you are ready to stop reading. Hang with me. Just let it fall across your heart like it did mine tonight.

Tonight, in the video, Beth Moore discussed love and with that (and my paraphrasing will not begin to do her message justice) the one obstacle that prevents us from truly loving all and being loving to everyone and that is rejection. She reminded us all of the rejection scars we still wear on our hearts, how the wound of a past rejection left a void in our life that we filled with something (or some one) that we would not have chosen if we were in our right mind. She reminded us of the lengths some of us have gone through to fill that vacancy, or perhaps the continual chain of attempts we have made to fill such vacancies (i.e. the love of my life broke up with me, so I hooked up with some other man and ended up preganant; the man left when the baby came so I started drinking...) We tend to believe that we must either recover the rejected (get whatever it was back - the man, the job, the child) or we must reject what rejected us (to get revenge).

And while she spoke on all of this, she shared passages of Scripture that remind us that Christ was rejected (and still is! "The entrance test to hell is to simply reject Christ") but that didn't seem to make the wounds I carry feel any less. To know that in some way I can relate to some small portion of Christ's sufferings does not make me feel any better about my own suffering.

But then Beth Moore reminded us of the Sovereignty of God; that not only does God have a plan for our lives (my life verse, Jer 29:11) but that he has a plan for the REJECTION in our life. He uses the rejection. Sometimes he appoints rejection so that we don't for less than the best He has in store for us. (Think back, ever get upset over a rejection but now you can say that was a good thing it happened?) She reminded us also of the Supremacy of God; that God can handle everything - including our rejection.

She made the point that if we had never known what it was like to be rejected, how could we truly embrace what it means to be chosen?

We concluded the night by reading I Cor 13:8, "Love never fails". Beth spoke to the exact thoughts arising in my head, "yes, maybe God's love never fails, but I have loved someone before and it was not enough. My love has failed."

And then she translated "fails". The Greek translation (ekpipto) means: "to drop away, to fall (away or off). And there was an incredible visual scene they played out that shows us that every time we have loved and the recipient of our love let our love drop, or rejected our love completely, our love did not fail...it did not drop away...it never hit the ground....while it may not have been caught by the one we intended,

it was caught by God.

And He is holding onto it for us, and will give it back to us in His glorious kingdom.


Not only did I realize tonight that my wounds from past rejection will forever taint my life (and not in a good way) if I do not turn them over to God; not only did I realize that God has used those rejections for my own good; not only did I realize that God has the power and the desire to take away the pain of those wounds; but that every time I thought my love failed in the past, it went to God. He caught it. My love has never been lost on anyone, it has always gone to God. And He is holding it like a treasure and will return it to me when I am in His presence.

I can say little more tonight than an AMEN and a heartfelt Thank You God.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Weekend Update

So a few weeks ago I mentioned to J (LM's dad) that LM had this Friday off of school. I had thought we might go visit grandparents in Illinois, but J thought maybe he would come for a visit. Since I moved his boy 12 hours away, I thought it only fair that I give him first dibs. I offered the apartment (I would stay with my sis) and my car and anything else he needed for his weekend here. Didn't hear another word. Until a week ago when LM's grandpa called to 'finalize the plans to get LM to Pittsburgh'. Um, wha? It would seem that J never actually looked into flying, just decided we could ALL spend 12 hours on the road (and $120 in gas) so he could see LM for three days. So I spent Thursday substitute teaching and then flew home to shove stuff in the car (including the dog) and drove 3 hours one way to meet up with the g'parents and exchange the boy. And then I drove 3 hours back home. And then I got up early to sub again on Friday. It's a good thing I was subbing at George's school and that he was so darn cute to see throughout the day (no, he wasn't in the class I had) as it helped to keep me happy when I was otherwise tired and beat.

So I basically did little more than collapse on Friday night.

Other than try to check my email and check for sub assignments for this coming week. Only I couldn't because LM TOOK THE WIRELESS CARD. Not that he needed it, he just forgot to leave it behind when he got into Nana's car. So I can't blog. I can't check for sub jobs. I can't balance the check book. I can't email. I can't change my fantasy team lineup.

Yesterday I actually sat down and wrote about 6000 words to get caught up on Nano. Even though LM took the notebook with my notes in it. (Have I mentioned his short life span?) And I made thank you notes for George's birthday party (since I made the invites, I wanted him to have matching thank you's). And I cleaned out the calcium and lime deposits in the dishwasher that have caused it to leave GUNK on all our dishes for the past two months.

And today I earned a jewel in my heavenly crown (at least I better have!) I did not stay home and watch the biggest game of the year (Pats v. Colts for those of you living in a cave). I drove to Ohio again to pick up my dearly beloved son. And I sat and had dinner with my out-laws at Bob Evans. And I drove home listening to Larry the Cable Guy (okay not really, but it sure sounded like him) announce the Pats v. Colts game on the radio. And I was a nervous wreck the whole time (and not just because I was afraid the car would break down in Indiana and no one would help me since I was wearing a Pats jersey) but because I needed about a million points from Brady and Moss to make up for my wretched defense choice (um, 44-0 is going to leave me with negative defense points. Thanks Denver.) But I'm so thrilled that the Pats pulled off the big win and that LM had a great weekend with his grandparents.

But I'm 8000 into Nano, my boy is home safe, my Pats are 9-0 and I have internet access once again so I can keep tabs on sub openings.

Life is indeed good.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Let the Fury Begin

NanoWriMo starts today. I participated last year (as many of you know) for the first time and really had fun with it. About six remarkably gluttonous people voluntarily read my first little novel (a children's book) and the reviews were, well...non-existant. LM spent much of his time after reading it telling people that I wrote a children's book but it was NOT ABOUT HIM. He wanted to make sure no one confused poor Charlie's misadventures with something LM might have done. Ahem. So I didn't submit it to any publisher. I didn't even send it in to a local contest. I didn't actually do anything with it other than stick it in my hope chest along with all the writings I did when I was seven.

So what on earth am I doing participating again this year? I have no idea. Do I expect to write anything worth reading? Nope. Do I expect to write anything I'd like to send off to a publisher? Nope. Do I anticipate even using my lame chapters as blog posts when I get desperate? Nope. But here I go again.

Did I mention that LM is participating too this year? So for the next 30 days there will be two of us frantically typing away, drinking gallons of lemonade, eating chips and pacing around the room. Great mom and son bonding, huh? 50,000 and counting. Here goes nothing (literally).

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

About Books

I've noticed that some people actually reach my blog through book searches. I thought perhaps it would be nice of me to link my reviews to my list of reads so I took the time to do that today. This is not to say that my reviews are golden and should be taken for gospel truth. In fact, I would love for someone to leave comments on posts where they disagree with my take on a novel! If you've read any of the books listed to the right, please feel free to leave your own comment, complaint or praise!

By the way, Into the Wild is coming out as a movie!! I really think it'll be a good one, even if I do wait for the DVD version!

Any book recommendations you might make for me? Let me know! I'm on the prowl for something good!

Grace at Low Tide - Beth Webb Hart

This book does not even warrant a detailed critique in my book (no pun intended). I didn't enjoy it. I didn't think the characters developed into anything, I didn't think there was any plot to speak of, I didn't think it had any sort of conflict or climax and therefore was lacking in resolution. It just kind of wandered along a meaningless path until it abruptly ended.

Not worth the time to even think about reading it.

House - Peretti and Dekker

I was introduced to Frank Peretti as an author back in college (thanks, Chris!) and LOVED his trilogy "This Present Darkness" and "Piercing the Darkness" and "Prophet". Last Spring I happened upon his books again, including one I bought for LM (which he thoroughly enjoyed as I recall, but I can't remember what book it was.) Recently, I stumbled across some novels he has written in collaboration with Ted Dekker and found two at my local library. I started with "House".

Boy am I glad I didn't spend money on this book.

It's a simple salvation plot drowning in unremarkable dialogue and a never-ending and never-riveting chase. Peretti and Dekker stage this novel in a mysteriously haunted house. The characters are unwittingly lulled into the home and then trapped there against demons real, imagined, external and internal. The house continually shifts and changes creating an ongoing maze for the characters within. The novel takes so much time explaining the changes (which were difficult for me to visually imagine anyway, so I started skipping those parts). There were few characters if any that seemed worth redeeming so it was difficult to even wish for their salvation (I know, I'm cruel).

The book was written so simply it felt insulting to an adult reader and yet the plot was certainly not for a child. I had intended to pass the book along to LM when I finished but it was an easy decision not to when all was said and done.

If the authors are trying to captivate a non-Christian audience and demonstrate the gift of salvation through their plot I would suspect they turned a lot of readers off long before they could even get to it. If they are assuming a Christian audience, then the plot was so transparent as to not be the driving force behind reading, and yet the dialogue and character development was so weak it was hard to tough it out through the end.

All this is to say I'm remarkably disappointed. I brought home "Saint" by the same two authors but now I have little desire to open it. I suspect there are a lot of people who do enjoy these novels, as there are several written by these two, so perhaps they get better. I still highly recommend Peretti's other novels, but would not suggest you add this one to your list.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Again

I have fallen asleep on the couch to Joe Buck's voice three nights this week but not tonight. Despite a cold (thanks, Kindergartners!) and a 5:30 alarm tomorrow, I'm not going to miss the final out of the 2007 World Series.

And just like that the Red Sox have won the Series!!

(Jenny, take a week or two off of laundry. You have my permission!)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Blessed

I no longer own a home. Our apartment is tiny, crammed with furniture and belongings and smells a bit like cat pee (not our cat). I have no full-time job. I spend most days in someone else's classroom learning the names of 24 students and doing my best to not only keep them in one piece but to educate them at least slightly during the time they are in my care. Our budget is tight, we don't eat out and we know where to find hot dogs and mac n' cheese on sale. I've had interviews but no job has really struck me as something I want to do for the next five years. I've had offers but after careful consideration, I've turned each one of them down.

And yet

I've never been so content. I've never felt such peace. I've never been quite so happy. I just feel content. I feel satisfied. I feel as though each and every day God will give me what I need and not more than I can handle. I am not anxious or worried or stressed.

Last week I sat down to calculate how many days I had subbed in the district and when that money will be in my pocket. The car needed two new tires badly and the brakes needed to be looked at. With the cold weather coming, I wanted to make sure we were safe on the roads. I was also looking ahead to Christmas and wanting to be sure I had a little extra for gifts for those that we love. On Friday an unexpected check arrived in the mail. It wasn't a huge amount, but it paid for the new tires and a little extra for me to start thinking about Christmas gifts. It was exactly what I needed and nothing more.

The church we've been attending is huge and yet on Wednesday evenings, each and every week, someone I don't know introduces themself to me and asks if there is any way they can help me while we get settled. On Sunday mornings now I am greeted by familiar faces and even a hug. This past Sunday my dad and second mom sat beside us in the pew, a special treat that means more than I can say.

I can look at the real estate in the area and know that one day in the not-so-distant future, we will have our pick of homes. We might have that fireplace we've always wanted, that garden out back, the sunroom for all my plants, a windowsill just perfect for Jonah.

I am looking into the requirements to convert my Illinois teaching certificate to a Michigan one, and I'm meeting with other school districts to perhaps find a comfortable home for subbing - maybe even secure something long term somewhere. I'm taking my time to follow my passions and my heart and I'm allowing God to lead me as I go.

I'm not sure why it ever took me so long to just let go and let God. But I'm ever so glad I did for I am truly blessed.

Amy and Jacob Fall 2007

Joy!

My dad will tell you I'm a bit stubborn and usually refuse when they try to help with travelling expenses or to buy me something for our home. This visit, however, when my dad offered to fill a void in our new Michigan lives, I readily welcomed the gift and thanked him profusely.




You just don't know how much you miss it until you don't have it.

Welcome our new microwave. More than ten weeks without popcorn is long enough. No more broken glass bowls on the stove because we tried to heat up a cup of sauce on the burner. No more setting LM's watch alarm to know when the next batch of cookies should come out of the oven. No more heating up the entire oven just to re-heat a pork chop. And did I mention the popcorn? Ahhh, now, this is the life!

Thanks Dad and Judy!!

Party

This weekend my folks came up from Tennessee to help us celebrate George's seventh birthday. We had a fantastic time (well, I did anyway, I don't know about everyone else!) My sister made the most awesome cake (with a little help from Judy). I'll admit, I was skeptical, but she exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds! Well done, Sis! George was sick on Friday - throwing up sick- but was much better on Saturday and had a great time with cousins and family from both sides.

Some highlights:
The Invitation.
George (aka Robby) had picked out a dragon cake
so I tried to stick with that theme for the invites.
The cake. I'm telling you, I was seriously impressed with my sis after this marvel!!

LM picked out a remote-control plane for George.
Now they can both fly RC stuff together!

"You're gonna shoot yer eye out!"
Best Gift Award goes to Papa and G'ma Judy for a BB gun.


George aimed at targets in the yard.

All the kids took turns trying out the new gun.



The Cousins. (Minus one who was home with bronchitis.)

First Things First

Before I can even begin to post about my weekend, I have to say

RED SOX ROCK!!!!


Those were some of the best games I have watched in years!!

Look out Colorado Rockies, your dream season ends here!!!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

8-1 Bottom of the Third

Jenny must be doing some serious laundry!

And now it's 10-1.

I hope she has a busy (and dirty) day planned for tomorrow so she'll have more wash to do tomorrow night!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hillary is Smarter Than Me

How smart are you?
Am-I-Dumb.com - Intelligence Test

I got 23 of 25 correct (my guess is I didn't get the distance ones right - no surprise there!)

And you?

His Magistrate

So I went to court. 8:30 am on a rainy Thursday morning.

As I read a book waiting for my turn, I heard the gentleman currently on the stand being cited for EXACTLY the same violation as me. Failure to Stop at a Stop Sign at the exact same intersection on the exact same day. I closed my book and listened thinking I might glean some valuable information from his case proceedings.

He was also cited for no proof of insurance and a seat belt violation. The judge asked if he had cleared up the proof of insurance. The gentleman said yes. He asked if the seat belt issue had been dealt with. The gentleman said yes. And before the judge could even ask how the gentleman pleaded in the accusation of failure to stop the officer says, "If he's taken care of both of those issues, I am unconcerned with his failure to stop" and the case was dismissed and no charges were filed and the gentleman in the blue shirt was free to go. Yippee! I thought.

And then a woman was called to the stand who had been pulled over for speeding on I-94. The judge said she was ticketed for going 65 in a 60. I thought, "Holy cats! A ticket for 5 miles over the speed limit? I'm doomed in this state!" The woman admitted guilt but requested leniency because she was a "good driver" and even had a letter from the State of Illinois stating as such. The judge pointed out that the radar gun actually recorded her going 78 in a 60 mph zone and that it was a construction zone (I was certain I could hear Music of Impending Doom playing in the background). He explained to her that the officer COULD have written her ticket for 18 over the speed limit, the most egregious of speeding violations. He COULD have written her ticket for between 11-17 over the speed limit, the Mama Bear of speeding violations, but no, he actually showed her a remarkable amount of leniency when he wrote the ticket for just 5 over. BUT THEN the judge goes on to say that he will take into account that the woman stated she was a "good driver" (he never looked at her document) and that she had driven quite a distance for a court hearing and so he changed her citation to going 75 in a 70 which is somehow a much less offense in Michigan (with only 2 points on her license instead of 3) blah, blah, blah. And I thought YIPPEEE this judge is awfully nice today. (Cause, seriously, if I lived in Illinois and got a speeding ticket in Michigan and the officer had already reduced it from 18 over IN A CONSTRUCTION ZONE to 5 over, I think I would have said a prayer of gratitude and gotten out of the state and never looked back.)

And then it was my turn. So they state, for the record, what my citation is for. And the judge asks me for my plea. And I tell him that I am not guilty of the citation. And so I'm sworn in.

At which point the officer goes into a five minute explanation of their little sting operation that got me ticketed in the first place (along with the gentleman in blue) and all the details of my violation and blah, blah, blah. And then the judge asks me if I have anything to say. And I say that I do and that I distinctly remember stopping because I had JUST MOVED THERE three days ago and had to CAREFULLY read the street signs and that even if I had wanted to turn the corner (more than 5 mph according to the officer) I would have hit the two cars who were immediately stopped in front of me. I did not point out that the officer did not ask for proof of insurance. I did not point out that I was, indeed, as I always am, wearing my seat belt. The judge suggests that perhaps I was paying so much attention to the street sign and the cars in front of me that I failed to stop. The judge then asks me if I'm now a permanent resident in the state of Michigan. I say yes. He says, "Then I suggest you get a Michigan Driver's License." I said, "I have one now." (but no, three days after my move to the state, I had not yet taken the time to get a new driver's license. I was too busy trying to SELL A FREAKING HOUSE IN PA.)

So the judge says that he'll change my citation because I'm new to the state. So what do I get? A reduction in the fine by $15 and instead of a "Failure To Stop" violation, I now have an "Impeding Traffic" violation. So, instead of going to fast through a stop, I was apparently going to slow for traffic.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I will try to be thankful that I don't have points on my license for this (I think, he mumbled the whole thing so I'm not certain) but still. I have to say, I'm a little miffed.

Next time, I'm wearing blue to court and I'm going to blow through the stop sign at 78 mph without my seat belt on and without any proof of insurance.