Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Disaster

Well, if I get the stomach flu, at least I'd be better off than these Californians... If you are checking blogs tonight, you can say a prayer for them.

First Babies of the New Year

Here's a cute article on all the past "First New Years Babies" in the Washington Post. It's adorable and packed with all kinds of trivial information. It's always fun for me to read about life in DC way back when because both of my grandparents grew up in DC. My grandfather grew up in northeast, his parents the owners of a cluster of rowhouses, my grandmother in northwest. Both were actually born in their houses, not at the hospital. Neither was a first baby, but my mother may have been a last! Her birthday was late one Dec. 31st. I won't tell you which one or she'd never forgive me!

Won't Be Long Now!

Well, we've got 2 1/2 hours until the ball drops. I'll be lucky if I'm around to see it!! I'm feeling it already - the beginnings of the stomach flu! I know it's coming, it's just a matter of when...

We had some fun playing some of our new games. Em won our first game of Princess Monopoly. It was fun having T be pink Mulan!! I was the first to lose. After that we played Disney Scene It! It was Kt and T against me and Em - OK, against me! I won. It was pretty close, though. Kt's a pro at anything Disney. She takes after me!!

I'm hoping to join them for the Dick Clark special. I'm just not sure my stomach will hold out. It's a good thing I didn't have anything major planned, like a trip to Time Square! I've done that already. I went one year while I was in college. A friend of mine and I went with a small group from high school. We got a great deal on a hotel room (corporate rate through someone's father on a suite) about 4 blocks away. We had a great time - you know, running through police barriers, hanging out with people who decided it would be "fun" to sneak in some champagne. We ended up one block from the ball, right by Beefsteak Charlies - not there anymore. It was great fun for one time in my life. I don't think I'd want to do it again, but I might be persuaded, should I find someone who could afford a room right on Time Square so I wouldn't have to brave the cold again!!

NYC on New Year's is really something everyone should do once. I don't know how I'll feel when one of my girls asks to go, but at least I will have some spectacular memories from the time I did. I don't know what my mom was thinking?? We had about 9 people crammed into our hotel room. I didn't know most of them, but they were all really nice. A whole group of them actually missed the actual dropping ball event due to a fire on the subway, but we all met up afterwards, played some poker (why would you do that in NY? I'll never know!) and just had fun. If you ever do it, try to go with someone who is familiar with NYC. It definitely helps!

Well, Happy New Year to everyone. I'm off to, well, I'm not sure. It's promising to not be very pleasant, though!

Tip for Friends in Florida and California

I've admitted before that I play VMK, or Virtual Magic Kingdom. It all started when I got this Disney email (because I'm a Disney freak!) asking me if I wanted to be a "cool" parent and sign my child up for this virtual game free of charge. I took the bait, signed Kt up and have been playing online ever since. We aren't die hard fans, just log on each day, get our daily credits, I play some games for credit or magic and Kt loves to visit with online friends.

Now, one of the benefits to living in Florida or California is the close proximity to these theme parks. Our good friends live close to Disney World in Orlando and have seasons passes to the parks, which cost quite a bit of $$. They were kind enough to pick up some Holiday Quest cards for us when they visited the parks over Christmas. VMK quests are trivia questions you must answer in the park and then you pick up these cards for items you can only obtain if you visit. Well, we aren't planning any trips to Disney that I know of yet, so getting my hands on these items would be nearly impossible, but for some fabulous Florida friends!!

The went on the quest while visiting (which was a surprise for us!) and got their hands on 3 full decks of cards, plus some extra. Apparently, the trivia was a bit challenging - I won't tell you what they got. What I'm not sure they know (until they read this post!) is that I was trying to figure out what is in those decks of cards, so I did a google search on these holiday quest cards. I came across them on ebay, selling for $40-60!! With three decks (or more) of these cards, you could pay for your season's passes. If I were living in Florida, that's exactly what I'd do!!

Now, K and M, I love you both and I thank you VERY much for picking up these cards for us. We won't be selling them on ebay, but I wouldn't be offended if you decided to do that. Of course, Kt is already expecting one set, but I think that's a crazy deal! Thanks so much!

New Year's Resolution: play less VMK! It's just way too addictive!

New Year's Resolutions

I've been thinking a bit about these today. We never really did these when I was growing up, unless it was a school assignment or the one year we made everyone in our family do them, stick them in the stocking only to completely forget we had ever done them in the first place! I don't believe I've ever actually done any of the things I've resolved to do for a year because I don't think I've ever remembered to check. I could be wrong about this, but this is just dragging on. You get the point - I'm not a resoluter.

So, if I'm not one, why am I even bothering to think about it? Well, there are some things I'd like to do this year. I'm not sure I'm brave enough to admit them on here. I mean, I wouldn't want anyone to hold me accountable or anything (LOL). What I was thinking was more in terms of the kinds of resolutions I want to make for this year. They would have to be ones that I could keep, that I would keep, that I could achieve even if I faltered a bit. I have this terrible tendency to give up once I know there's this point where I'll never get there anyway. This is not a good thing to be, but I know that is how I tend to think and act, so I know I need resolutions that would avoid this happening.

In thinking about it, I've decided that I need to make daily resolutions, or rather, ones that can be achieved each day, measurable daily/weekly instead of "let's see if I can do this by Dec. 31, 2006" kind of resolutions. The reason being I'm also a major procrastinator. It's not always a bad thing, but it's rarely a good thing! I will put off everything until the last possible moment (except blogging, of course!) and then perform incredible feats to complete a project, ones that make me wonder what it might have looked like had I spent the time deserved on it. I do think I work better under pressure, but my doctor doesn't like that approach!

Anyway, I'll share a couple of my resolutions with you. These are the ones I don't mind being held accountable for. I'll save the more embarrassing ones and keep them to myself. You'd likely laugh if you knew them, but I'll still save them!!

1. I want to be in the Word of God daily. I certainly have the time, I'm just very forgetful sometimes. Now, by saying "in" I mean reading it, not being written about, although I'm sure there are plenty of stories in the Bible that I would fit into - I won't elaborate!

2. I want to engage my children in daily devotions. This is the more difficult of the two - our schedule (and lack of discipline) don't lend themselves to us having a set time to do this. This is very difficult for me. I'm the Monday-shopping, Tuesday-library, Wednesday-laundry, Thursday-gymnastics type person, so when we don't have a set time to do something, it really throws me off!

3. I'm choosing three areas of my house that will be clean before I go to bed each night. No need to elaborate here - I'm guessing most of you either will never see my house or you already know the three areas!!

This resolution list could be longer, but I'll just throw these out there. These are the ones I think about the most, which is why I want to admit to them. I have other more personal resolutions, but I haven't even laid them out yet! Next year, I'll have to come back to this post to see how I did. Fortunately, I won't have to have it in my "favorite post of 2006" because it's still 2005! but I will look for it so I can grade myself - the quintessential teacher that I am.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year's celebration and good luck with your resolutions, if you have any!!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Mass Exodus

Well, that's it. We scared the last of the party bunch away. After an afternoon of shopping and a nice dinner at the Melting Pot, my mom, sister-in-law and brother returned to the news of Kt still sick, Em just getting sick. That little bit of vomit (haha) was enough to send my sister-in-law promptly into panic mode so they are packed and out the door. Just to add to our disappointment...

Tomorrow is my mom's birthday, so she's really unhappy. It will be her first birthday alone. The last two years we have spent New Years together and had a wonderful birthday/new years celebration together. Now she will get dropped off and left at home. I'm kind of concerned about this so we are planning an IM fest tomorrow evening. I might even have to add a bit onto the phone bill. I really wanted to hop in the car with her but I guess I need to stay here and take care of my girls.

I'd have to say the most difficult thing about my dad dying has been times like these. I have always wanted to live closer to my family but that's never really been an option. So, here I am, having to send off my mom to an empty house on what should be one of the most fun days of the year. My girls are upset, I'm upset, my mom's upset and my sister-in-law, well, she doesn't care. My brother and T? Don't you all just feel sorry for them???

Stomach Flu Count

Out of 10 ppl in this house for Christmas, 6 have gotten the stomach flu already - possibly 7. The adult version SEEMS to be very mild, so we aren't totally sure about 1 or 2 adults. Kt is down for the count - worst case. Em just threw up. It's a good thing we remembered to call Leslie to tell her not to come!!

The Girlies

We managed to catch these pictures last night BSF. That would be "Before Stomach Flu", not to be confused with Bible Study Fellowship! Unfortunately, we don't have a family Christmas photo. The intention to get one was there, but we forgot and now, well, illness has caused us to rethink the picture!! We'll try to get one at some point, but it will likely be one of those "press the timer and run" kinds. Should be interesting...

This first is a picture of our two beautiful girls - we can't believe how big they are!! The second includes our adorable Skyler. She's come a long way in the past year and we enjoyed every minute of our visit with her. We can't wait to see her again!

Favorite Post for 2005

I just do not understand how anyone can just choose one favorite post. I have way too many favorites. Instead of choosing one, I'll just have to tell you why certain ones were my favorites and let you guess which ones they were.

I loved any post about my family - they are so much fun, so funny and I love them all. I did a few about my dad because I wanted my girls to be able to read about him someday. Probably the funniest one about the girls was our visit to the dr. to get the flu vaccines - what a trip.

I like my posts that had comments on them, especially comments that made me think (thanks William!). My most frequent commenters are Jeremy, Colleen and T. I can't believe you guys read this so much! Thanks for you encouragement, your wise words and to Jeremy and T, thanks for the model of great blogging that you've given me. I appreciate it!

Finally, I loved my post about Disney. I know I'm a Disney nut, but some of our favorite family memories are from there. I can remember camping at Fort Wilderness as a child in our pop-up, carrying around our Disney "tickets" and watching movies by the campfire. I also enjoyed returning and staying in the resorts that we would never have dreamed of staying in with my parents. Of course, just seeing the look on your children's faces when actually there makes it all worth it.

Those are really all my favorites. For next year's blog, I guess it will be much the same as it is now. It's mostly a collection of thoughts from a middle aged, Christian mom who decided to blog as an outlet for all those pent up thoughts she was unable to share with her toddlers at home!! Thanks for reading, if you've stopped by, and your comments are always welcome. They make me feel like I'm not alone and sometimes they really make me use this brain of mine!! Not that God Himself doesn't give me plenty of food for thought, he just sometimes uses you to get my attention.

Happy 2006 a couple days early!

UPDATE: Had to add some more links for my OCDblogging husband, who informed me that if I wanted to a be a "top-notch" blogger that's what I needed to do. I'm sure he won't be happy with the two I added, but he'll just have to live with it!! If you need to read a top-notch bloggers favorite posts, you can go visit him.

Where Did it Come From?

We are under siege by none other than the stomach flu!! UGH! Nothing can ruin family fun like this ailment. We had it three times last year in the worst form. This year my sister, her husband and their daughter went off to Lancaster on Christmas Day. My sister called me Tuesday night to say that she had had the stomach flu the night before, her daughter on Monday morning. They returned, against our pleading, on Wednesday claiming that Uncle R wouldn't get it because he had gotten the flu vaccine. Now, even I know the vaccine does nothing to prevent intestinal flu!! And they are both biologists!

Last night, guess what??? Uncle Rick got the flu! This morning, Kt woke up with it. Hers has been the worst case so far!! We are just waiting patiently to see who the next victim will be... Of course, we postponed our aquarium trip (and I won't go into why - it will only extend my rant!) to today, so I guess we'll have to skip that all together.

I sent my mom, brother and sister-in-law off to shop and have dinner. I'm sort of wondering if they'll have to come home early. I hope not! Em's been fine, but she just told me about 15 min ago that her stomach hurts. Of course, she's been hanging out down here with everyone all day.

So, we have spent all day talking about where it could have possibly come from. Who knows? It could have been hundreds of places, possibilities, origins. We'll never know. That's what is so disturbing about this illness and a myriad of others. If we knew, we wouldn't have it anymore, right?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Daily Dose of Laughter

We just finished our nightly game of Trivial Pursuit. This year we have moved onto the DVD Pop Culture edition. My brother has taken my father's place as Master of Useless and Random Facts. Along with this distinction is his place as the family comedian. He is by far the most hysterical person I have ever known. My sides hurt from laughing tonight!

As our game came to an end, we switched off the DVD player and the TV landed on an infomercial for the "Open the Eyes of My Heart" worship CD. My brother, who is a percussionist for his church's worship band, began to belt out, "Please close the ears on my head, Lord, Please close the ears on my head. I don't want to play this song one more time in church...." As we all burst into laughter for the hundredth time this evening, he informed us the only thing worse than having to play overplayed worship songs was playing medleys of songs that don't go together. He said the last time his music director gave them a medley to play, he asked him if it was entitled "Toothpaste and Orange Juice." As we are all rolling on the floor once again, he said that his music director said, "No, this one is from Willow Creek." This, of course, only added to our way past midnight laughter.

I don't know where my brother comes up with these kinds of things, but it's never ending. He is always funny, and his sense of humor is very unique. While he'd make a great stand-up comedian, he's probably a much better architect. It's always so fun to have him around, although I imagine if I was his music director I might not agree. My mom said to him after his hysterical comments, "So, is that why you haven't been playing much anymore at church?" She can be kind of funny, too!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Cody Update

I just wanted to update readers (who read this) about Cody. He is doing better. Fortunately, after a consult with an oral surgeon yesterday, he will not need surgery. The bones that were broken/crushed from the golf club incident are the same ones the surgeon would break for a reconstruction, so they will just allow them to heal in place. Cody was quite depressed after this incident, so we continue to pray for this little 7 year old!

The downside to all this is that in the separation agreement, Cody's dad was to have him this week. It's a messy situation, but his father came anyway, despite the warnings, and took him back to SC after the appointment. Doctor's orders were for Cody, who hadn't eaten anything since last Friday, to be on a bland, soft diet, so daddy stopped to get him a cheeseburger on the way home. You can pray even more about this!! mostly, that Cody wouldn't return next week with an infection. This would be extremely bad as Cody's dad decided to save himself a little money and cancelled not only his soon-to-be ex-wife's dental insurance, but also his children's dental insurance, without informing anyone. So, Cody is uninsured at this present time.

Your prayers are appreciated in this matter. I told Cody's grandma, my mom's best friend, about my big fat lip and about our prayers for Cody. She believes they helped - I think she knows this. Of course, my mom has taken this opportunity to SHOP for a gift for Cody - any excuse to hit the stores, so I'm off!! again!! Hopefully, some of those not so nice shoppers are back to work today!

Children: Casualty of Divorce

There is just not way around this one, I'm convinced. I've been up all night with the story of this little girl who's not so little anymore. A part of her always will be, though, because when her daddy left, he forgot to return to help his daughter grow up. Fortunately, another man stepped in and tried to fill his shoes the best he could, and he did a fabulous job. But there are some things only a real daddy can do, and this one...

He took off one day and married his girlfriend, had another child, a son. In the mind of his little girl to this day is the "reality" that that was all he ever wanted, a son, and she would never be good enough. In her pursuit of "good enough," she has had disappointment after disappointment. There was counseling in second grade, being diagnosed with a learning disability, being in special ed. most of her educational career, competing not only with this stellar half brother but two other stepbrothers of her stepfather, being a troubled teenager minus a daddy. The list goes on.

When she went off to college, it was the shock of the century. No one believed in her, her mom and stepfather were consumed with his illness, her father griped about how he probably couldn't afford to help her much, the "special ed." teachers even deserted her, claiming she wasn't really learning disabled after all. Thankfully, her boyfriend and their family stepped in, helped her fill out college applications and essays, drove her up and down the East coast for visits home, called her, wrote her, and tried to keep her head above the water. She saw something different in them, but there was this nagging need to be accepted by her father.

Every holiday, every special event, every vacation there is that nagging question: do I call him? or should I wait to see if he calls me? It continues from there: does he care about me? does he love his son more? will he even want to see me? do I matter to him at all?? And the clincher: what can I do to make him notice me? see me? love me?

Time goes on. Stepdad passes away, mom remarries a man with three stepsisters who live up to the famous "cinderella" tale, dad tries slightly harder because he recognizes a void AND a way out of his financial "obligations" having a distant daughter requires of him. She is getting married. She is taking a big step for someone who is a casualty of this split. She has given her boyfriend 8 years and has decided he can be trusted so now, daddy has something to be proud of her about. Does she let him walk her down the aisle? A father who was absent her entire life, who begrudgingly fulfilled minimal financial obligations on her behalf, whose wife fits all the criteria for (I'll let you fill the blank in here!), who is excited to be gaining another son. Her new family encourages her to let him in, maybe against their better judgement, and she does. It's awkward, it's kind of sad, no one knows how to act, whether they show their true emotions without being misunderstood. When it's all over, the only positive thing out of that experience was the satisfaction of knowing she'd tried.

Being married, while it is a good and strong relationship, just doesn't fill the big hole created in a toddler's heart. Even coming to know Jesus Christ as her personal savior didn't extinguish the deep need to be loved by an earthly father. Months of training couldn't have prepared for this moment, on vacation, when she invited her father, stepmother (who declined) and her stepbrother to participate in a 5K while on her vacation. She had spent months getting in shape, running race after race to be ready to impress. She knew in her heart that daddy would be really proud of his son, but might he also take an interest in his beautiful, stealth daughter?

She and her brother started the race together. Her father waited, camera in hand, at the finish line with her mother-in-law. When her brother crossed the finish line, there was proud father, clicking photos, waving him on. When she crossed, there was mother-in-law clicking photos... not daddy. The thought had never crossed his mind to click even one picture of his gorgeous daughter. In fact, the ride home was going to be long and his wife was expecting him back right away, so that "bite to eat" and visit never happened either.

Here we are, it's Christmas. He has made more attempts to contact his daughter, but she has likely made more. She has shrugged off the summer's experience, as she has done so many other times in her life, as just the way her father is. He loves his son more than her loves her. And if the summer and the thousands of other experiences hasn't confirmed that, maybe his last conversation with her has finally laid it all out for her.

To me, it's a conversation that never had to happen. It was not necessary. We could have assumed as much without him bringing it up. He has made some good financial decisions for once in his life, some real estate investments that have really paid off well. In fact, now that she is someone else's responsibility, the money is just rolling in (no need to hide it anymore!). BUT, he just wanted her to know that when he dies, not to expect much. The fortune will not be divided EVENLY, she should know that.

As I'm sitting across from my sister-in-law (actually, she's standing, because of those lovely people at the mall!) I cannot contain my disdain at this poor excuse for a father. How could he say such a thing to his beautiful daughter that I have grown to love so much? I have come to the same, horrible conclusion that she has always believed in her own heart. I mean, who wouldn't? The writing is on the wall. And she says to me, what I already know, "It's not about money. I never thought there would be anything for me anyway." OH, if only he had known that before he opened his big, fat mouth.

I'm so thankful that we found Aunt J. Really, Jesus found her, brought her to us, and has begun to heal this terribly broken heart. It's not the kind of thing that happens overnight, because it's a continual process. I mean, this guy just keeps breaking it over and over again. It's a battle my brother has entered. It's enraging to watch this happen repeatedly to someone you love. And while he would prefer to take her away from this situation, it's a journey she has to complete.

I'm sure there are children out there who face this same situation and their parent never left, but there is a different dimension to the pain when the parent is absent. We have tried to love Aunt J with our whole hearts, but we recognize the pain as very real, very present. Remember dads, it may look like it's about money, but it really never is. They just want a piece of your heart.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Uh Oh!

As I'm sitting in here blogging, my daughters are just outside my door playing. My older one is crooning a song she apparently came up with on her own. It repeats OVER AND OVER, "Ask for a second chance...." What have they done now???

Unfulfilled Expectations

When the 101st Airborne first reached this remote village in Iraq's northwestern Sinjar Mountains in 2003, elderly Yazidi tribesmen were thrilled: Their ancient religious prophesy had come true.

"We believed that Jesus Christ was coming with a force from overseas to save us," said the village leader, Khalil Sadoon Haji Jundu, wrapping his gold-trimmed cloak around him against the morning chill. Scrawled behind him on the wall, images of U.S. helicopters and soldiers depicted the arrival of the blue-eyed fighters awaited by the Yazidi, an obscure sect of sun worshipers with roots in Zoroastrianism who have inhabited the valleys of the Sinjar range for centuries.

But more than two years later, as the Yazidis struggle for a political voice and an escape from the poverty they suffered during decades of oppression under President Saddam Hussein, tribesmen such as Jundu say they feel let down.

"We thought you guys were our saviors," Jundu told Lt. Col. Gregory Reilly as the two ate figs and sipped spiced coffee one recent morning.

"We still believe it. But we actually thought we'd be helped a little more," he said, his voice tinged with frustration. "We're kind of disappointed."

The rest of this story here, in the Washington Post.

Reading this story, especially the details about how much more primitive life is for these people, brought to mind how disappointed people in Jesus' time must have been not have their prophesied savior save them from religious persecution, political oppression, poverty, etc. In all fairness to them, I would have expected the most obvious "chains" to have been broken by my all powerful, all mighty savior, God. I may have missed the spiritual freedom that this savior was to provide as well had I lived in such conditions.

How often do we get disappointed in the circumstances we feel God should deliver us from?? For me, I'd rather not answer here in public, because I'm ashamed to admit it's often. When I have a chance such as now, to sit down and absorb the freedom that Christ offers compared to my circumstances I want changed, there is just no comparison. Of course, in the midst of those circumstances it is difficult to reconcile the purpose of Christ and the salvation He offered to my crisis at the moment.

At the end of this article, there's a little story about a man who asked if the army could just park a tank in front of his house forever, and it made me chuckle, out loud. Not because I think this man is silly, but I think to myself, that is exactly what I've asked God to do for me so many times in my life!! God, can you just park your tank of protection around me and keep me safe from all the bad things out there in the world??? Even if you refuse to change my circumstances or help me in any physical way, can you make sure nothing else bad happens to me??? And I laugh out loud again.

I'm in the middle of reading Erwin McManus' The Barbarian Way and I just read a bone chilling segment in which McManus states that God is not interested in our being "normal." I don't like that, but I understand that. God is concerned with so much more on our behalf, so much greater than what our minds can conceive. It would be perfect to be fully protected FROM the big, bad world, but God would rather protect us from ourselves sometimes, I think!! God is calling us to represent Him to the big, bad world, and we can't always do that with his big tank in front of our door!!

I feel deeply for these people in Iraq. I don't really understand what the solution would be for them. I find it intriguing that they believed that Jesus Christ accompanied the US Army into Iraq, that they know His name, that they want to be saved. It does sadden me that they are disappointed and I hope for them that they find Christ among some soldiers in a way they did not expect, but are willing to accept. I know He wants to save them, possibly not in the way they are expecting...

Post Christmas

Well, Christmas is officially over! So say the shoppers, anyway!! Yesterday, my mom, my sister-in-law and I went shopping at the Mall in Columbia. We found little in the way of after Christmas sales and much in the way of grinchdom. It was a little disappointing, but I guess once the Christmas mood dissipates, that is what you find.

We started our journey by finding some cute outfits for the girls (mine and my niece) to get pictures in. I'm not sure my sister will go for it - she doesn't like professional photos - but we'll give it a try once they return from Lancaster. We then decided to grab a quick bite to eat.

The food court was mobbed. It was 2 PM, the race to find a table was in progress the entire day, and it's a LARGE food court. I picked up food for my mom, my sister-in-law hit Chick-fil-A, which they do not have in New England. Once I found them, they had secured a table for four with one chair. The woman to our right had two children, one in a high chair, one in a chair and that left an empty chair at her table that she refused to give us! The woman behind us sat eating her salad alone with an empty chair across from her filled with all her purchases. She refused to give us her chair. I could hardly stand it, so my mom and my sister-in-law made me sit down in our only chair to shut me up. Have I mentioned before how I dislike the people in this area???

Just as we were finishing up, the woman to our right pulled her child out of the high chair and plopped him in the empty chair, which he refused to sit in. I guess she finally realized how stupid and insensitive she looked, so she had to try to show us how she NEEDED that chair for a child who didn't even want it. I wanted to leave with a big THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH, but decided just to walk away from those ridiculous people. Plenty of people saw this, witnessed it and so I know we weren't the ones who looked that way. I figured I didn't need to change that perception.

It's really amazing that a holiday like Christmas, that was meant to celebrate the birth of the world's savior, can extinguish any semblance of good cheer in people. I would venture to say that in some in only propagates more selfishness. I can see it in these people, and sadly, I can see that in myself. Rude and inconsiderate people are a pet peeve of mine, but I'm sure I've exhibited these characteristics myself. Who am I to think that if I'd spent all morning shopping with thousands of other people who were disappointed in the lack of after Christmas sales too and then fought for a table to sit, eat and keep my purchases safe that I wouldn't zone out on the world? and it's needs around me? Or if I'd done the same while dragging my two children around and just needed to keep them happy I wouldn't reserve the right to have a chair for my unruly toddler should he throw a fit and need a chair?? Still, the good cheer of Christmas has clearly been spent, and what's left is nothing I feel like participating in.

We finished our shopping trip in our usual haunts, Bath and Body, Yankee Candle, Sephora (not my usual, but my sister-in-law lives there!) and any store with on sale clothing. Bath and Body had advertised through email they were starting their semi-annual sale, and my sister-in-law who used to work there had to go yesterday because they ALWAYS begin this sale the day after Christmas. Well, this year, it's the day after the day after Christmas, so we have to brave these crowds again, today! Now with children!!! HELP! I might just stay home with the girls and send them, because after yesterday, I'll just be belligerent with these post-Christmas shoppers!

Our Christmas, as a whole, was awesome. In every way, we all had a wonderful time. I love to be with my family, give gifts, play with gifts and acknowledge the true meaning of Christmas with people who really matter to me. T's parents chose not to have Christmas with us - that was our only disappointment. We had 16 for dinner and plenty of food, plenty of help, plenty of laughter, plenty of fun. We are already planning our New Year's party!!

Favorite Christmas Moments:
- Skyler, my niece, and everything she has said - she is amazing to us!! a true gift
- Em's face when she saw her pretend computer and her carrying it all over the house with her
- Kt's face when she saw her PC trainer AND her carrying around her first REAL Bible (she never liked any of the children's ones!)
- T with his Seagate (?) portable hard drive - he's such a geek. I don't even know what it is or what it does, but he couldn't put it down
- Sprinkling reindeer food all over ours and my aunt and uncle's yard on Christmas Eve
- Telling Em it was Jesus' birthday and having her be surprised (for the 100th time!), she decided that for his birthday, he would probably like a picture of himself! Hmmm... we got some work to do!
- Having my cousin's two grown children show up for dinner - I had no idea they were coming, but it was SOOOO special to have them join us. I felt honored to have them!
- My mom opening her gift from us - a satellite radio she can use in her car and at home. Each year we used to give my parents a special gift from all of us. Lately, we've tried to come up with good gifts for my mom but she never wants us to get her anything. We really surprised her this year and she LOVED her gift (as far as I can tell!) We all love to make her happy!
- Uncle Doug and Kt playing Xbox together - it's nice to see my brother relax because he works too hard
- My brother telling his wife, who has been sick since she arrived, to stop cleaning and go take a nap. He rarely tells her to stop and she is a cleaning freak. We all love her, but she can't stop. It was nice that HE finally noticed!

I have a lot more, but those are the ones that stick out on my head. I don't think I have least favorite ones, except for my older daughter sulking in her room that no one was paying any attention to her after she had just opened $250 worth of presents!! I guess it's the age? Or maybe it was the fact that there really wasn't a $175 American Girl Doll Trunk under the tree that she was hoping for! We'll sort all that out after the relatives leave!

We are planning Christmas somewhere else next year, likely Savannah. I love Christmas in the South. Maybe we'll even squeeze in a Disney day! although I'm not a big Disney at Christmas fan - too crowded! It's a whole year away, and a lot can happen in one year...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas Eve

I'm up here hiding in my bedroom, complete with a big fat lip. Actually, it's the largest cold sore I've ever seen! That ought to look great for our Christmas photos tomorrow. I ran out yesterday and paid $15 for the tiniest tube of Abreva. I'm beginning to think I've been ripped off, as this thing keeps getting bigger and bigger. I am not exaggerating, either, as I've been known to do in the past. What is going on?

I'm actually beginning to wonder if God gave me this hideous cold sore to remind me to pray for this little boy in Florida who got hit in the mouth with a golf club two days ago. He's the child of a family friend, we just visited them this past August. He's a sweet boy, had a difficult year with his parents going through a messy divorce. Apparently, he and a friend were playing outside when the friend took a swing and clogged him in the face. After a trip to the ER, he was airlifted to another hospital for reconstructive surgery. He's 7.

What I know is this: he has lost one permanent and one baby tooth, his gum/roof of his mouth was separated, his lip is completely split open down the center. We haven't had an update, so I'm guessing there is likely more damage. With everyone traveling yesterday, we decided to wait to check in today.

This is a family we know very well. Their extended family moved to FL a couple years ago from CT. I'm sure this will make for a very somber Christmas. If you think about it this year, send up a prayer for Cody and his family. This is a family that I grew up in church with, but they have wandered far from the church in recent years.

Cody's mom, who is going through this divorce, recently told me during our last visit that she has been attending church with a co-worker. She said this friend kept hounding her to visit with her and when she finally agreed, everyone at the church welcomed her saying they all knew who she was and had been praying for her. I cannot express in words (because I saw it in expressions/tears) what that meant to this 30something, single almost divorced mother of two. I will say she has spent the past few months dragging her parents to this same church, her mom is my mom's best friend.

Anyway, your prayers are quite welcome for this family. I'll take my cold sore over oral surgery and keep it as a reminder to pray for these dear friends. I hope you all have a restful, peaceful Christmas!!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Learning to Give

So as not to be left out of the festivities, Em has shown great interest this year in gift wrapping! Yesterday, upon realizing that today would be Kt's birthday, she brought me a monkey puppet to wrap for Kt. This puppet was actually made by Kt for Em, so I'm not sure if she just wanted to wrap something or if she really was giving something she loved (and she loved this puppet!). So, we wrapped it together.

I love my children to give at Christmas. At the preschool the girls both attend(ed) they have a no gift policy and instead the parents pool together money and give that to the teachers. Now, the thought is nice, but it teaches nothing to the children about giving. So, we always break the rule! We give to the pool AND we give gifts. Last year, Em was kind of impartial to giving, but this year she was excited to give. She handed each person their gift and you could just see the smile on her face and in her heart. (Now, it might have helped had I remembered to put the Starbucks gift cards in the adorable little tags - I had no idea until TODAY - so embarrassed - will have to run them in first thing in January!!)

Last night, I had a little plan. We had this "extra" gift lying around so I decided to let Em wrap it for Kt's birthday. Now, I thought ahead a bit, because every gift Em has given she has desperately wanted. Each time we wrap something up for a friend, Em will tell me over and over, "You know, I would like that for me. How about we give her...." So, I called her in and said, "Now, Em, I have something for you to wrap for Kt's birthday. I want you to remember when you see it that even though it might be something you would like, you will have a chance in a couple weeks to get lots of things your sister will like. Don't worry - you will get plenty for your own birthday." In typical second child fashion, she took one look at the Nail Design kit and said, "Oh, I don't like that. Let's go wrap it!" She didn't even know what it was!! All that preparation... I should have known!

This morning, Em came running into our room bright and early. T was in the shower and I was trying to catch a few more ZZZ's before all the things I needed to do today. She jumped up on the bed and said, "Kt's wants to open her birthday gift. The one I'm giving her. Can she open it?" She could hardly contain her excitement. I knew what had happened. Em's our morning child, Kt could sleep all day! Em wanted to give. There was the scrapbooking fanatic in me that wanted to say, "Wait - let me get my camera!", but then I thought better about it. I didn't want to spoil that rich moment between sisters (who really do love each other), so I let them have that moment together.

On top of that birthday present was also something her sister can treasure. It was a homemade birthday card, the first Em has ever completed on her own. I spelled out the message and she wrote each letter (first time!). The front said: Katie, Happy Birthday, Emily Sheng. On the inside it reads simply, Katie, I love you. Emily. That was all she wanted Kt to know!

I'm so excited for this Christmas. We have for each person a gift from the girls and I'm going to have Em pass them out this year. She is just bursting forth with generosity and I want to give her an outlet. She will learn this year, I believe, how it is often more blessed to give than to receive. (although, she is getting some sweet gifts this year!)

Kt's 8 today!!

Isn't she beautiful? Of course, the frosting on her mouth reminds me that she loves to party!! She also has an inner spiritual beauty that has been present since she was a toddler, no kidding!

This child of God has been inquisitive since before she could put two words together, she leaves no stone unturned in her pursuit of truth and her love for life and people is inspiring - at least to her mom!

In looking back at the last 7 years, it amazes me all the things that a child has taught me. I could not even begin to list them here. I've known for a long time that God has claimed this one for His own. From her insistance upon knowing what a broken spirit is at the age of two to her passion for AIDS children in Africa, He has grabbed hold of her heart and He hasn't let go.

I can remember at the age of 3, when she was persistant about being allowed to go on the merry-go-round at the mall by herself. Against my better judgement but 8 months pregnant, I agreed to let her go, but only if she went on the spinner, not the horse. She was thrilled and ran right over to that spinner. I'll never forget my mixture of amazement and fear as she came running up to us after the ride with pure intensity written in her expression. She exclaimed, "That little boy on the ride with me- he had not EVER heard about Jesus. I had to tell him ALL about Him!!" And thus began her life as a missionary.

I love Kt's passion for people, her caring heart, her compassion for anyone in need, her desire to bring everyone along with her to heaven. One day, early in her kindergarten year, she went off to the school bus complete with many, many letters. There was one in her bag for every person that she knew, including her bus driver, Mr. Gary. He called me over to the bus the next day because I think he was a little worried that maybe I didn't know that my daughter had written him this "love letter," but I assured him that every person in her life at that time had gotten one. Even the bus driver! They were all straight from her heart.

Probably the most surprising thing to me about raising this particular child is her spiritual awareness. When Kt was very young, I purchased Hide 'Em In Your Heart tapes by Steve Green. We listened to them in the car, everywhere we went. There was one song, in particular, A Joyful Heart is good medicine. One part of the song goes, "But a broken spirit dries up the bones." For months, she insisted on a good definition, one that was understandable to a 2 year old, as to what a broken spirit was, because she was quite certain she NEVER wanted one. When my father died, she never once questioned the spiritual aspect of death. All those months of teacher her about spirituality at an age when I doubted her understanding of such an abstract idea all came to fruition. To watch God prepare a toddler for such a great loss - it's just amazing.

This past year has been one of extreme growth for Kt, in so many ways. It has been a pleasure and joy to watch, but also bittersweet. She's not my little toddler anymore, far from it! All of her good (and bad!) character traits have grown, matured a bit into a fresh understanding of herself in the world. She announced to me a couple months ago that she had dedicated her life to Christ in a Sunday School class. She does this often and I always try to make sure she understands that once is enough, but rededication is OK. She said to me, "Well, this time it was different. I felt like they explained some things to me today that really made me understand even more what Christ did for me. I think this time I really know." I think, this time it's about Christ and not about heaven. I think she does know, and I hope and pray that as the years go on, she'll continue to learn more, know more and grow more.

Happy Birthday, oh little light of mine.

Her Big Cheese Book from second grade, she shared these facts about herself with her class:

My name is Kt. I have one sister. My favorite holiday is Christmas. My favorite color is rainbow.

To The Troops

I'm just going to say this to anyone who might be reading - don't forget our military in all parts of the world this holiday season. Pray for them, write to them, pray for their families and friends. I am thankful to have one of my cousin's sons home after a year in Iraq. We are praying for and supporting his other son who is now in Iraq. Whether you agree with war, this war, any war or not, please do not let the men who serve us and our country suffer from being forgotten in this debate. I am honored to be served by these brave hearts and thankful to them and their families for their sacrifice. THANKS!!! for your service.

I know I've posted this before, but my cousin mentioned to me when he was in Iraq last year that most of his friends who did not typically receive letters or packages would register with If you are interested, you could certainly start there!

Thursday, December 22, 2005


So, I'm running around my house, trying to find a hole punch so I can punch holes in the recipe cards that need to get attached to the 8 jars of cookie mix I have just made for various people, thinking that I'll never get to make all the caramel corn for Kt's teachers tonight to fill the three large bowls I bought expressly for that purpose (what am I going to do with them now???), when I stop by my computer to find this. It's my anonymous blog commenter, and he left me a really good comment so I'll just post it for everyone to read:

OK. I was the anonymous poster. The mystery is over. I am basically a nobody. So there is no need to get too emotional over my post. And, there is definitely no offense taken. I wish you wouldn't have taken one either. Sounds like you just need to get well physically before xmas..good luck!

I don't think YOU are stoopid. I think that the "theory" word gets tossed about with the wrong meaning and that leads to confusion. And it makes people look stoopid when they do it.

My whole point is this:

It seems that whenever christians bump up against unfinished science investigation, like evolution, or the 16th century notion that earth was the center of the universe, or complicated structures inside cells they immediately jump to "god just made it that way".

One by one, all of the old wives tales that christians believed in the ages past are being replaced by reasonable explanations. The church has a pretty sorry record of dragging people down and quenching reason in the past. Why should we keep on falling for that old worn-out pattern?

What would happen if we all just said, "OK. God just made it that way."? Wouldn't that just put a lid on thinking and research? Doesn't that just keep us from seeking for answers to the things that make our world a better place to live in? What is there to research if things were just instantly created? There would be no need to look for the patterns and processes that brought about all of the life around us cuz god just popped it out of nothing.

There are documented advances in science and medicine that are directly related to people who refused to fall asleep in the "god just made it that way" slumber.

Anyway, have a nice xmas. Get some rest. And consider thinking outside the manger. There is much more to the universe than that.
Now, I like the name William. That was at the top of my list of names should I have had a boy. I didn't (and likely won't!). Not that that has anything at all to do with this comment, but the thought did pop into my head when I was thinking about him while I tied all those recipe cards onto the jars that are FINALLY done - no caramel corn, though!

William, thanks for your comment. I think it's clear we are mutually misunderstood. I loved your comment tonight. I agree with everything you've said. I do think there are more people than just Christians/the church who have disregarded science in acceptance of "spiritual it's just that way" answers. I am not opposed to science, research, and the improvement of lives through these means. I do have some limits, of course, because of my deep belief in the sanctity of life based on what I believe is the origin of life - I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. If not, let me know.

The funny thing about me and science and being a Christ follower is that my parents (both Christians) never shoved anything down my throat. In fact, when I first stepped foot into that biology class, I'd never heard of evolution and certainly not in terms of or as an antithesis of creation. It was all new to me, and I was in high school! I was shocked to learn, when I approached the subject at home, that my parents knew all about it!! I thought I was going to teach them something new, but they beat me to it. I like this approach and it's one I've been using (not sure if it's a good one - we'll see) it with my own.

My oldest daughter, Kt, loves math and science. She is constantly sharing all her new "theories" with me, testing out her "hypothesis" and coming up with her conclusions based on flimsy "research." It's a fun process to watch and I think someday, she may find the answer to something amazing, maybe even save lives or at the very least improve someone's quality of life. I would be so proud of her.

As a believer in God as creator, I also believe that He left for us mysteries of life, of the universe and our world and I don't believe He meant for us to just accept it all as it is. He also created us with an incredible capacity to think, which I think separates us from all other creatures on earth. I just cannot accept that this intrinsic difference is something that can evolve, but I also don't think it should deter us from finding out.

My father was an avid science fiction freak, although I'm not really sure he considered it all fiction. It was difficult for me, as a child and even moreso as an adult, to fully understand his wonder with aliens, life on other planets and the metaphysical, but I have never been afraid to explore these possibilities. I think it has made me, as a believer, more open to spiritual truths and circumstances. I would love to see science embrace more than just the physical attributes and "hard evidence" and look beyond what we can see, but I guess that's not really science, is it? I think there are many Christian researchers who practice this kind of science these days and I believe it will change the face of science, but I'm getting a little lofty perhaps...

William, thanks again for your comments. I'm really no expert in this field and I believe that my thoughts that I put down in here may not be able to be substantiated all the time. I'm still learning how to blog, what it means and who will even bother to read it. I never expected you to stop and take so much time to correct me and make me think. I do appreciate it. And, I'm feeling alot better, too. Thanks!

I hope you have a wonderful holiday. Stop by again, any time, and share your perspectives. It's really good for me because at this point in my life, unfortunately, this is one of my only outlets into the real world. Me and my four year old spend a lot of time exploring life together and honestly, we rarely run into people who make us think. It's refreshing!!

House Cleaning

I went to the doctor, which was really a complete waste of my time, other than I now know that I'm fine. Feeling better already. Now, I have a weeks worth of chores to complete by tomorrow, that's why I'm blogging. Realistically, there's no way that's going to happen. Fortunately, it's just my family coming - expectations are low, because they all know I've been sick for over a week. Apparently, some of them will be arriving sick, so we'll keep the Lysol handy!!

T informed me today that I'm supposed to list my favorite blog posts for 2005. It's some kind of known rule of blogging that one must do this!?! So, we'll add to my list of things to do reading my entire blog. People actually do this, even when they have a years worth of posts? Are they crazy?? I need to stop posting more than once a day because come next December, there is no way I'll be able to read through my entire blog for this "event." I'm dreading reading through three months, so twelve is just overly daunting to me. I think I prefer to never look back!

On top of catching up with everything, tomorrow is Kt's birthday!! I did manage to make her brownies to take to school to share with her friends. Tomorrow, she has a full day of school (I really think that is unnecessary!) so it'll just be dinner and cake and wait for everyone to get here. Big debate - Kt really wants to go to Friendly's for dinner, but my sister insists that she and her husband will be here for dinner. They are leaving southern Virginia in the afternoon (2 or 3) and think they will be here for dinner? She was not happy with me when I suggested it might take them hours to get around the beltway at rush hour on the Friday night before Christmas. But, as is typical with my sister, what do I know?? Nothing. So, we will just wait here.... I asked her to give us a call around 4:30 - she never replied...

Sneaking Suspicion

I have one of these about how awful I feel right now. I'm thinking that once Christmas is over I will feel much better. I'm contemplating calling the doctor, which for me is always the very absolute last resort. I avoid my doctor at any and all cost. I feel so awful, though, it may be my only alternative. I've tried every cold remedy I'm allowed, except maybe sleep, because I have a billion things to do before everyone arrives TOMORROW!! I'm beginning to accept the fact that Kt's teachers will likely only receive the gift certificates I've gotten them, not the other goodies we typically make. It's just not happening, along with cleaning the whole house, wrapping gifts and a week of the worst cold I've ever had. We currently have 16 people coming for Christmas dinner - thankfully, every other adult in this house will be helping with the cooking because I'll be lucky if I can get up in the morning!!

Believe it or not, I'm still excited about Christmas. Sure, I wish I felt better, but it could be way worse. Watching my dad at Christmas with lymphoma I know it could be a lot worse than a cold, or even bronchitis. I'm here, my family is coming, Santa is on his way (haha), and I might even get away with having some quiet time to myself with a full house, considering no one will want to come close to me! Maybe I'll actually feel better - now that would be a miracle.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Bite Worse Than My Bark

So I put a little post out there about the whole "Intelligent Design" vs. "Evolution" theory, woof, woof. When I got home last night from last minute Christmas shopping, feeling pretty worn out after being sick all week I find these two comments on my blog. Nice, I rarely get comments, so I was interested. After reading them, I was wondering why is it that I like to receive comments. Very interesting...

I find it amazing that these guys searched on this particular subject and basically chose me like a needle in a haystack of celebratory evolutionists. I mean, I couldn't find my post until around page 10 or so and even then I was only the second or third post that was procreation. Thanks for picking on me, guys!

Anyway, truth be told, I have no idea if they are both guys because one critic chose to remain anonymous. I guess if you are going to tell a blogger they look stupid, you ought to do that! In my insensed, worn out and exhausted state, I furnished a reply that was quite a bite. My husband, T, read it and after his exclamation (I won't repeat it) he made this little snide comment to me, "Well, I guess you're not a 'new kind of christian.'" We both laughed and he threatened to report me to the powers that be. I replied, "No, I'm not!" He also mentioned I might want to take a little more time and post a "thoughtful" reply. I told him THAT WAS my thoughtful reply! Of course, in order to not embarrass him, I trashed my comment. I'm not sure who had the chance to read it for the hour it was posted...

So, my unemotional reply to these fellows, and I'll try to keep it brief, is this:

1. Evolution is not a fact. It is loosely supported by "evidence" that is widely disputed. There is, in fact, just as much if not much more evidence against it.

2. Although creationism is an "origin of life" topic which is seemingly in a different category than evolution, there is an aspect of evolution that IS taught AS FACT in biology (I did pay attention, maybe not absorbed...) that life started as a single cell. In essence, this opens the door to other possibilities, especially if you are going to put this theory to it's proper test.

3. I am opposed to a narrow minded point of view presented in classrooms pertaining to evolution, I admit. I do think "Intelligent Design" is worth a mention, even in a science class. I think to suggest that it is "unconstitutional" to do this is absurd. Tim - religious education? You'll not find that in any public school in America. This case is the perfect example of why. There is complete and utter fear at the mere mention of religion in schools today.

4. I will give you this one - I sound stupid, "Mr. Anonymous." I don't remember actually claiming to be brilliant, especially where this subject is concerned. My blog is merely a collection of thoughts, memories, insights. I taught first grade, that's 6 and 7 year olds if you don't know that. You might be relieved to know that I taught the five senses, plants, air and water and weather for science. I don't think that required a complete knowledge of scientific theories, hypothesis, and any other details I may have misconstrued. I was well liked by my high school science teachers, who were best friends, and they gave me great marks and told me never to pursue a career in any field of science. I listened and you've confirmed to me that I made the right choice!!

5. I do believe in creation - as if you couldn't figure that out! In many ways, that makes me narrow minded, although I will try my best to convey to my children what they will encounter in life, including evolution. As I have previously mentioned, my understanding of this subject is minimal at best, but I can crack the books with my children and that is what I will do. I will present the balanced version of what they are hearing, the other possibilities that will never be presented in a public school setting in America. As a parent, that's my right and while I would love to see more balance in public schools, I will not pursue any legal avenues to attain this. I choose to spend my energy on other things, like my kids!

6. I DO believe in dinosaurs. Are you surprised? Do you think I'm completely nuts now!? I think there is ample evidence to suggest they existed before the time of the flood, that the atmosphere of the earth after the flood changed in such a way that they could no longer exist. So simplistic, I know. I guess that's a symptom of faith.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. Hope I haven't offended anyone in my response or looked too stupid again! It's hard being a 'new kind of christian' when I'm so old!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Intelligent Design vs. Evolution

In public high school, I had a very popular biology teacher who was VERY outspoken against any kind of creation theory. He was such an evolutionist, he would ridicule any student he knew believed anything other than evolution. It's surprising he got away with it!! I knew as a teenager that I believed in creation, but I truly didn't understand where evolution fit into that belief UNTIL I met this guy. Because of his absolute disdain for anything having to do with creation, I knew without a doubt that I didn't believe what he believed, therefore I based my disbelief in evolution on him.

Now, I'm not sure that makes any sense. This case in PA, though, does not surprise me. Evolution as a THEORY is just not accepted in public schools because a majority of those who teach it believe it to be fact, and that is exactly how evolution is presented. Why would we not teach ALL theories of how life began? I really don't know! Why would we not teach ALL holidays as they exist? I really don't know! Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that we taught all holidays or none. How about, then, all theories or none? Also, not acceptable.

I think the important thing, as parents, is to know what is being taught in your child's classroom. We can add to what they are learning, we can even dispute what they are learning. It's all a part of the learning process and hopefully we will produce well-rounded, intelligent children who know their way around the THEORY of evolution.

Having taught in a private Christian school, I was in the minority when first presented with the question of what should be taught in a Christian science curriculum. When I was teaching, I never saw a practical, hands-on Christian science curriculum (hopefully one exists today) so I preferred secular material. Our school administrator was pushing very hard for Christian science curriculum to "protect" students from references to "billions of years ago" and evolution. These are references our students will face everywhere they go, so why not address it when they are children? and educate them on these issues?? Well, that idea nearly landed me in the unemployment lines!

I just felt, coming from my own background of not really being able to stand on my own two created feet in high school biology, that we need to teach our children about this issue, because they will face questions when they first step foot into that classroom. I want my kids to look smart, intelligent and for their friends to see something in a different way that is not embarrassing to my girls. I want them to confidently be able to defend their beliefs without disregarding what is being taught for what it really is, a theory. I want them well versed in all theories so they can even make a decision for themselves. I'm not afraid to teach them a theory when I know for certain there is a truth.

It will be an uphill battle to have "intelligent design" even uttered in a public school classroom, let alone be taught. And for all those Christian biology teachers out there, I don't envy you! I'm going to start praying now that my children find one!!!

"Doubled Eggs"

My four year old has become the expert on batteries in this house, and just in time for Christmas!! She is quite convinced she can predict the type of battery needed in each of her electronic toys, and typically they all take "doubled eggs." I'm just trying to envision what that might actually look like in a battery compartment...


I am not a huge fan of politics, therefore I would put them right up there on my list of reasons why I'd love to move. The "local" news around here consists of all the rantings of politicians and their scheming, crooked ways. Growing up in New England, we really only ever heard of the glamour of politics, you know, lifestyles of the rich and Kennedys. Being here, the inconsistencies of politics are just glaring. It's all based on public opinion polls, the blame game, election season, etc. The media just feeds off of all these inconsistencies. In the end, it's the people who lose to the whole stage show.

I'd have to say that I'm moderately conservative to very conservative in my political views. I don't think I fall in one place on the spectrum because I feel very strongly about some issues, such as abortion, and differently on others, such as poverty and health care. I feel like there's always room for improvement, no matter who is in the White House. What I do like is having a President who is consistent, honest, strong and without scandal. While I may not always agree with the decisions George W. Bush makes, I think he exemplifies what I would like to see in a leader of my country.

Lately, W's been getting some bad media. In fact, even when he was at his best the media was always trying to find that needle in the haystack, the one bad thing he did during his life on earth. It has bothered them and many a Democrat that there's hardly anything in his life worth reporting on, no big scandal that they can lay claim to, especially not while he has been in office. He appears to be a loving husband and father in the most authentic of ways, he seems committed to making decisions based on his convictions about what is best for our nation as opposed to his bank account, he doesn't bow to his critics but stands strong and supports those he places in positions of leadership. Now, I'm quite certain any opponent of Bush could come railing back with all kinds of interesting examples of how wrong I am, I mean, that's what their lives are all about, making W look bad, and it's a frustrating job because he's not looking so bad from where I sit.

Now, about this wiretapping thing. Are we to honestly believe, as Americans, that this proposal was meant to strip our freedom away? Well, maybe if you are an international terrorist, or you support them, then maybe you have a point. As a law abiding citizen, with no apparent connection to anything involving terrorism, I trust that my phones will not be tapped, even living only miles from NSA. Truth be told, if my phones were ever tapped, the guy on the other end listening would be snoring away! Now, I don't know all the little intricate details about this particular case, but I do know that if there's a wrong it will be made right but it won't be done by trying to claim that you never supported such a dastardly thing - as is common practice on both sides of the political fence. Fix what's wrong and stop playing the blame game. Find the terrorists in the fastest, most effective way possible instead of spending months arguing about how you are going to do it. We don't have time for that!No kidding, this was in my sitemeter a while ago. I saved it for such a time as this.

Monday, December 19, 2005

More Crazy Kid Flashbacks - The Shed

I should be taking a nap, but since I can't breathe I'm putting away all the stuff in our bathroom that has been sitting in my room until the bathroom is complete, which it is! YEAH!!!!

Since my little trampoline post, I've been remembering all kinds of things from my friend's house when I was growing up, especially the crazy kids - surprised we're still alive things. There aren't a whole lot - I mean, we WERE girls!! We loved girly things, so we pretty much stayed out of big trouble. One thing we loved, but had to share with the big boys, was this very awkward "shed" in my friend's backyard. It was about the size of a garage, two stories high and very dilapidated. The stairs were unattached, so it was kind of hard to get in. I refused (being the little lady that I was) to crawl under the shed and up through the gaping hole in the floor. The whole while I was in that shed, I would worry that floor was going to collapse beneath me.

Whenever we were allowed, J and I and whoever else might be hanging around would have our "club" meetings in the shed. We had so many clubs, so I can't really tell which ones met in the shed because I don't really remember. What I DO remember is that we had a ticket to get into the clubhouse. It was a leaf from our favorite bush (probably more like an overgrown weed!) and these leaves smelled like oranges. I haven't the slightest idea what kind of weed or plant this might be, but I'll never forget it! It smelled better than the honeysuckle that was near the trampoline.

Inside this shed, once you presented your orange fragranced ticket, was just a huge nothing. There were three or four window, most too high for me to see out of, and there was a ladder that went to the loft. We were not supposed to go up in the loft and we didn't. I think we were all too scared of two things. First, that we would fall, as all the wood in that shed was rotten, and second, of the wrath of her brothers and their friends. They did things in the shed we were not allowed to talk about, which was fine with me because I wouldn't have known what to tell about them anyway. I had no idea what they did up there (although now that I'm grown, I have a pretty good idea...).

I loved that shed and I'm quite certain it was the source of many of my childhood splinters. It's where we like to play Wonder Woman with the coffee can wristbands her brother had cut, where we found old souvenirs from times past, where we collected various bugs, the likes of which we had never before seen, it was for us an alternate reality to the already idyllic life we led! Thinking back on it, it's a wonder that thing didn't collapse on our heads while we danced inside!!

Get Those Wheels Turning!

I just found this article while browsing the WP about a boy who travels extensively with his parents. There's no indication why, but they did mention their trip to Africa over the summer was a vacation. It prompted this boy to do something amazing!!

T and I have talked over the years about when we might be ready to take the girls along on one of our summer missions trips. Many times I wince at the idea of exposing them to cultures so different from ours at young ages. Many people do this frequently, and I think it's great for children. For now, it wouldn't be frequent for our children, so I don't really know how I feel about this. This story gave me a bit of encouragement because I can see that kids can make such a positive impact when given a vision for something that really matters to them.

It's important, living in suburbia, that we cultivate some kind of compassion and passion in our children that reaches well beyond our comfortable, lavish lifestyles. Unfortunately, getting caught up in the "lavish" lifestyles we often begin to think of them as just the opposite. How are we going to demonstrate to our children that life in 90% of the rest of the world is just not like ours? I guess we have to take them there and get those wheels turning, just like this boy. I applaud these parents, no matter what the purpose of this trip, that they weren't afraid to expose their child to different cultures, poverty and encourage his pursuit of improving lives around the world.

Teacher Thing

My mom emailed me this hysterical song - I left the copyright stuff at the bottom, hope this is legal!

This Is Why I Am a Teacher
To the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming winter break.
We all need some relaxation and some fun, for goodness sake.
If we had to wait much longer, then our heads would surely ache.
It's time to take a break.

This is why I am a teacher;
Breaks are such a special feature;
I could certainly be richer;
But I can't give up those breaks.

Lawyers and investment bankers don't get all these breaks,
So they make a lot more money; is it money that it takes
To be happy and fulfilled in life? It's teaching kids that makes
Us need so many breaks.

This is why I am a teacher;
Breaks are such a special feature;
I could certainly be richer;
But I can't give up those breaks.

Oh, there is one week in winter and there is one weeks in spring;
There's a weekend for the presidents that February brings;
But these ten days for the holidays is most certainly the thing
That makes me want to sing…

This is why I am a teacher;
Breaks are such a special feature;
I could certainly be richer;
But I can't give up those breaks.

Song lyrics copyright 2005 Eric Baylin

Saturday, December 17, 2005

My 2000th Visit!

I just had my 2000th visit - I've been watching all week to see who it might be. And the winner is... drumroll please.... my husband, T. We both laughed. He wants to know what his prize is. We'll have to negotiate later! It better be good, though, because he spent all day priming and painting that bathroom to get it finished before everyone arrives. I'm happy because we started that bathroom project in August! Anyway, I'm not sure how many posts I have, but that's a lot of visitors. Happy to have you all!

Trampolines and other crazy things we did as kids

My four year old is a bouncer! Not the kind you might be thinking of. She's never stepped foot near a bar at the wee hours of the night, but she has been bouncing around everywhere she goes since she could stand. Tonight she announced to me that she is very careful standing on beds. I told her she should never stand on beds, she will break both her ankles. (I love spreading the lies that my mom told me!) She laughed at me because apparently, she has stood on so many beds that she knows beyond a doubt that I was just pulling her leg!! Truth be told, Em can't stand on a bed without checking out it's bounce quality. Yes, she's taken tumbles off her bed and gladly she has survived them all! To her advantage, also, as she was the first in her preschool gymnastics class to be able to sit/stand on the trampoline, and we don't even own one!

While she was telling me about how fun it is to jump on beds, I was remembering how my best friend growing up had this huge rectangular trampoline in her back yard. I grew up in Fairfield, CT, the child of two teachers, one of whom stayed home with me. My best friend grew up down the street, sort of. She lived in this huge Victorian house, complete with a dumbwaiter, a third floor, a back stairway, both her parents (at that time) and her four older brothers. I practically lived at her house until she moved away. We did crazy things because her mom had been through it all with four boys. What trouble could one little girl and her tiny playmate be?

We would spend hours on this trampoline in the backyard and believe it or not, we survived! This trampoline was the stripped down version of what we see today. There was not one iota of padding on this thing, all the rusty springs were exposed, leaving us open to all kinds of injury and disease. It was typically located on the portion of the yard that sat right in the center of her long windy driveway, meaning it was not 20+ feet of grass surrounding it - more like blacktop! We never, that I can remember, had any adult supervision on this contraption. We jumped to our hearts content, and I mean jumped!! We did flips, somersaults, cartwheels, twisty turny things. You name it (or dare it) and we jumped it on there. Did we ever fall off? Sure we did! We are so lucky, looking back, that neither of us broke our necks.

When the weather was too cold to be outside on the trampoline, we would take our fearless jumping skills up to the third floor. The third floor of this incredible house had it's own bathroom, two of her brother's bedrooms and a huge playroom, where there was a mattress set in the corner that was surrounded by those windows, you know, the spire of the Victorian castle! We would do all our acrobatic moves right there, way up high, with only glass between our fantastic flips and three story drop. What fun we had!!

I could go on and on about all the wonderful memories that house and that family holds for me. The trampoline itself was the one of the best! I've often thought about buying one of those trampoline's for Em. She would love it and I'm sure it would hold many memories for her, but nothing like the unsupervised ones of my past. Life just isn't the same. We'd have to get her the one that looks like a cage, with all the netting and padding necessary so that we aren't accused of child abuse or neglect should there be an accident. We would need a much larger yard in order to have the recommended amount of clearance for this beast. I would have to watch each and every jump so I would never feel guilty about having missed that ankle-breaking leap. Have we just taken all the fun out of life or what??? I guess for now, the bed will have to suffice. I mean, she's going to jump whether I'm there or not! and it's no bother to her that there is no padding! As she always says to me, "Don't worry, Mom. I don't matter!"

Goggle search

I'm feeling slightly better today, although I'm still not ruling out bronchitis, I'm hoping I can ward that off again!!

I've been getting hits from the funniest searches and I'm hoping I don't disappoint! The most common search is "Christmas Brag Letter" and the second, which is kind of funny that people on opposite sides of the US would search this at almost exactly the same time and land on me, is "creative Christmas letter." Seeing as I've had one comment on that letter, I'm slightly worried what people will think, but I guess that's all part of blogging. We have no idea who our audience is and most of the time, they remain anonymous and silent. It's a little disconcerting for a people pleaser like me.

Thanks goes, then, to my #1 commenter/responder for the positive feedback - Jeremy DelRio. Not only is he a great encourager, but he does an incredible work with teenagers in NYC. One can only hope there are more people like him around when our kids are that age!! Thanks, Jeremy! Should you be searching something like "how to spread good Christmas charitable cheer" you might consider sending some his way!

Friday, December 16, 2005

National Aquarium

This weekend is the grand opening (several months delayed!) at the National Aquarium in Baltimore of the new Down Under exhibit. I am very excited as my mom just purchased us this awesome membership package for Christmas. We have been members in the past, but they have revamped the whole package, I guess because of this huge addition, so the benefits have dwindled and the package has become much more expensive.

I cannot wait to see this new exhibit. Good friends of ours from CT will be in town for this event. I'm disappointed we won't be able to see them, but I'm hoping I can convince them to return with my mom sometime. I've written about them before - they are those really good friends of my parents who still hang out with my mom all the time. Anyway, Mr. G works for the company that installed all the plumbing in this new exhibit. Apparently, he's been down here every week for about two years. Have we ever seen him here?? NO! Oh well - being only 15 minutes from downtown Baltimore, it's hard to believe we've missed him, but work is work. He says he flies down in the morning, works, then flies home. No time for us!

Anyway, I would highly recommend this aquarium UNLESS you have stroller bound children. No stroller allowed, only backpacks that are provided. Through February they have a great discounted rate after 5 PM on Friday nights, which is typically a slow time to go anyway. It's very inexpensive and combined with dinner at the Inner Harbor, it's a great evening. I'm excited to be spending more time down there this year with our passes. We can bring along two visitors for free, so if you're planning to be in the area...

Here it Comes Again!

UGH! In September, I had bronchitis. It was awful, mostly because I'd never had it before and had no idea what it was. I wasn't coughing, I just couldn't breathe, sleep and I was tired all the time. When I finally called the doctor because I was sure I was dying a slow and painful death, they told me over the phone that it sounded like bronchitis, and it was. Even after a round of antibiotics, it still took weeks to feel better.

Now, I'm quite certain this was partially caused by our bathroom renovation. In our master bath, we had a serious mold problem, so the dust was incredibly, well, sickening! At least in my case it was. I had been sick most of August and never really recovered. When the tile was complete, T brought the shop vac up and "cleaned up" but left the vacuum in our room for a few days. That's when it started. I finally asked him to get that thing out of the house, change the filter, bleach it out, etc. I just didn't ask in time!!

So, here I am, only one day after thoroughly cleaning that same bathroom and I'm wondering if I found some of those same particles that started the last episode, because I'm feeling lousy again. The last thing I want to do is end up at the doctor's office again! If you all don't hear from me for a while, it's because I'm lounging around, inhaler in one hand, Robitussin in the other, with nary a finger to type!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Party House

There is laundry piled up in the family room, which still has not fully recovered from the slumber party last week. I have spent most of the day cleaning up my bedroom, so I haven't really gotten around to cleaning up after T's little "meeting" for orbit, which also took place in our family room. Right now, Kt is organizing a little movie party in our family room, complete with popcorn, movie (Herbie Fully Loaded) and all the neighbor's kids, who parents weren't expecting them home by 1. As soon as these parents arrive home, I have this feeling their very noisy, very excited children will be begging to stay. It's a good thing kids don't care what your house looks like! :-D

Notice Something Missing?

So, I sent my daughter off to school today. I wasn't sure she was going as she was home sick yesterday, but fortunately she felt much better. Fortunately, because today I have it!! I feel lousy!! Anyway, I sit down here to check my email AFTER I've shipped her off to school and visit my local news to find "Complete list of delays and early closings" across the top of the screen in red. I promptly go to and find freezing rain/sleet/snow heading our way. Then onto the Washington Post where our weather has made front page AGAIN! So, what's missing? Practically every county in the state of Maryland is sending their precious children home early, except for Howard County?????!!!!!! Why is that? I'm beginning to wonder if I should have kept her home from school!

UPDATE: 10:15 - Howard County closing 3 hours early - that's a first! They typically have a 2 hour early close. I guess parents are scrambling now! I feel better!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

'Twas the Night Before Christmas Cards

(Our Christmas letter by the popular vote of 2 - Enjoy!!)

'Twas the night before Christmas Cards and all through the Sh's house
Not a creature was stirring, just De and her computer mouse.

The stockings were all hung waiting to be stuffed
By Santa himself, or his helpers who had shopped enough!

The girls were all nestled, all snug in their beds,
While visions of Christmas bliss danced in their heads.

T in his (I can't tell you), all curled up in bed
Popped up for a midnight work session instead.

When off in the office arose such a clatter
It's surprising not everyone arose with a chatter!

T came running, finding paper in flight
As De was trying to keep quiet in the night.

The moon shone through the window telling of late
"Keep it down!" calling T, "or the girls will awake!"

When what did our wondering eyes doth behold?
But a Christmas letter finally finished in bold!

With so many paragraphs about a year of activities.
Too many stories about ourselves, the busy bees.

More words than a dictionary spewed forth from the printer.
T whistled and whispered and read through the paper,

"Now stomach flu, Disney World in January and winter,
Onto birthdays and spring break in New England with mother.

To the pool in the summer after Hilton Head, Florida and the Ehr's,
In the country, first time on a farm for our country hearts.

And T off to Brazil with a group of students in August
While De stayed home with girls, bathrooms all dust!

Renovations that still leave our bank account dry
But our hearts full of thankfulness for the opportunity to try!

Now on T read, about Kt in second grade,
After chess camp and brownie camp and selling lots of lemonade.

And Em, we can't forget her in pre-K,
She's finally wanting to learn ABC's and counting away.

The girls, in their fun and fantastical ways,
Have brought more joy into our lives than we know how to say.

But really, our letter was just about our family,
We had almost forgotten to acknowledge the three.

Three Kings that came from afar with some gifts,
To worship a new King whose glory our spirits would lift.

Three or more shepherds, awaken by a brilliant angel,
Who announced the great occasion of Jesus in a cradle.

But not really, He rested in a manger on hay,
With young parents weary from traveling all day.

This new babe, our King and our Savior, Behold,
This is the story that on Christmas should be told.

So our best efforts worthless, we happily remembered,
To leave Jesus out of Christmas would be absurd.

He is the reason we have the things that we do,
He is the Great Gift Giver and Provider for you.

He gave us His Word, He completed His quest,
That provides our Salvation with only one request.

That we believe in His name as Creator of all,
That we follow Him with our hearts fully open to His call.

His invitation is most miraculous now,
As we see Him, our king, laying next to a cow?

How could it be? That our king was thus treated?
He wants you to know that your best is not needed.

He wants to show the world through you at this Christmas time,
His heart, His love and His Perfect Mind.

He's calling to you, and I imagine He's said,
"Merry Christmas to you, your ransom has been paid."

For those of you who came here to view this AND made it this far, here's this year's hot off the presses....2008 Recap. Not nearly as clever, but another idea. Merry Christmas!

The Generational Sin of Prejudice

So, tonight was my last Beth Moore study until summer. We had a great dinner together in a gorgeous house in our suburban, comfortable neck of the woods. Yes, we are all white, to make matters worse. The topic of Beth's video: the generational stronghold of prejudice. I think this topic might have been more comfortable had women of other races and religions been present!! It really amazes me how blinded we are about our lack of willingness to admit that we are prejudiced, even after listening to an hour of how obvious it is and how sinful it is. I don't think I have to spell this out for anyone - you know what I'm talking about!!

I could go on for hours about this topic, how I was influenced by prejudice as a child, how it has affected me as the white wife of an Asian man, how I feel as a Christian in a very liberal left area of the country... I would propose that isn't a single American who hasn't formed some prejudice in their life against some group of persons, yet is unwilling to call it what it is: sin, and unacceptable to God.

My good friend and co-leader of this study is a Messianic Jewish woman who happens to also be my neighbor. She really hit a nerve tonight - and it was felt by all of us, me included, although I think I might have been the only one who was convicted by her words. A couple women shirked at her mere mention of how offensive Christians are by imposing their religion/holidays on non-believing, non-religious, non-Christian people. They were quick to point out 1) our country was built on the Christian faith, our founding fathers meant for our country to be "christian" and 2) we need to stand up more to this leftist "minority" that is trying to suck God out of everything. They were slow, if they were at all, to admit that we do not take any amount of time to consider how we look to this "minority" that actually may not be a minority at all!

I felt really convicted by her words tonight. I am offended by the ignorance that I see at my daughter's school about what is "religious" and what is clearly not. In my uppity Christian way, I refuse often to see the offensive side of Christianity. I'm not lobbying to include Jesus in schools - He is there in the hearts of the many Christian children who attend. But my very argument about why a menorrah can hang openly and not be called religious, while a Christmas tree or Santa are not welcome is sounding like I'm pushing my religion in this public school. I'm being misunderstood while I'm misunderstanding.

Beth Moore made some very wonderful points on this topic, ones that I hope to implement in my family. It is our choice to recognize strongholds in our lives as just that and change them for our children. We need to stop making excuses for things like prejudice and start recognizing them for what they are. If we want the future for our children to look less like our past, it is our job to make that happen. Stop being "that way you are" or "the way you were raised" or trying to say "it's not my fault" or "I didn't do that." This sin still exists and the people who did start it aren't here to make it right, but we are.

It was a great discussion cut off by uncomfortable suburban women who decided it was getting late and they needed to go home. I was the lucky one because I got to ride home with this friend and I made sure we finished that conversation! And we barely scratched the surface...