Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Two Encounters

I've been thinking about two encounters I had with "unbelievers." I'm calling them that because I honestly don't know if they are or aren't, but I'm drawing a conclusion based on my observations.

The first is a man I met at the park yesterday. I'll spare you all the unnecessary details, but in our conversation, he expressed to me and another woman how intensely devoted he is to his two-year-old daughter. He and his wife were married later in life, had this one child even later and now he is dedicated to making everything happen for this child. He left a relaxed, carefree lifestyle in a beachside community to come here and provide first a family-filled, friend-filled environment for this young child. He does not like this area, he has yet to find a job or a good cheeseburger. I might add, this man was hysterical, very intelligent and extremely passionate about being a dad.

My second encounter was today at lunch. Em and I have Tuesday free - I chose to do this this year - and we've been meeting T for lunch. Today we had lunch with an old grad-school friend of his who is single, non-religious, and the adoptive mother of a beautiful little girl from China. She shared with us her first adoption process, and what really stood out to me was her firm belief that her cousin, who fell and died the next day, was in complete control of that adoption. She believes that "their souls crossed," meaning his and her daughters, and she she's many of his attributes in her. She is in the process of another adoption and is not really seeing the same connection she saw with the first.

My first reaction to both of these people is that I'm similar and different from them - sort of the way we are with everyone! So, not such a revelation. Not to compare myself with them, I moved onto: what if these two people translated their passion and belief to one true savior? This man, who was so passionate about his daughter, would be expressing to us his love and devotion for Christ. This woman, and her belief in a spiritual connectedness with her dead cousin, what if she could convey this same connectedness with Christ? What about me? Am I passionate about Christ? Can I communicate a spiritual connectedness with the Savior of the world??

What I found most striking in both of these instances was the unabashedness of the revealer. Each of them was proud of their allegiance to their passion and belief. This man believed that living for and loving his daughter completely, with complete disregard for his comfort (well not complete - he is living in a $750,000 home!) and lifestyle, was quite honorable. This woman thought nothing of this connectedness she felt with a well-loved cousin, whose presence in her life was quite welcome. They were not embarrassed to share, made no attempt to convince me they were right or wrong, honestly just expressed from their hearts, without any regrets, the way they felt.

There are times in my life when I hear things from people and my response, in my heart, is to offer them a peace that passes all understanding, a joy that is overflowing, a savior who knows them better than they know themselves, but I don't think they will accept my offer. Maybe it's because it's an offering and not a revealing, it's a "come try it my way" instead of a "this is what my life is like!" And then there's always that little voice inside my head that tells me, "They already know what you're thinking, and they don't want to hear it." And on those very rare occasions, when someone actually asks what I'm thinking, there I am once again, fumbling around my words so as not to offend anyone.

I think I want to be unabashedly Christlike in my encounters with others. I want to reflect what He has done for me, not be pushy but spark some interest. I want more people to ask what I'm thinking and not be afraid of my answers. I want to shine a little light.

The truth is, I listened to these smart, funny people and thought to myself, "I'm not really all that different from them at all!" I love my kids, I think often about my dad and wonder how much influence (although probably none at all!) he has in our lives. I just see things through a different lens.

My Kind of Winter

One of the warmest Januarys on record here in the DC area. I'm loving it!! I can't stand snow, which is kind of funny considering I grew up in New England. Maryland snow has always been a bit more tolerable for me, but this winter? It's going to rank up there as one of the best! However... the year I moved here, in 1992, I was driving around with the top down in my Cabriolet on New Year's Eve - at midnight! It was around 70 degrees. In March of that year, a huge blizzard that shut down the state for a week. So, while I'm out enjoying these unseasonable temperatures, I'm not expecting an early spring. I'm waiting for the blizzard!

Christmas Addiction

One of my jobs at Christmas is to purchase Christmas and birthday gifts for my daughters from their grandparents. After doing that for myself, giving ideas to my whole family I sometimes am left dumbfounded and blank as to what to get for them. Then there's always the question of how much to spend...

This Christmas I tried something new. I bought them a gift to share because it was expensive and it's something they can (someday) play together. It's the leapfrog Explorer's Globe. It's a great teaching tool! and fun to play. Unfortunately, I think Em is probably too little for it right now. In fact, my brother, T, my mom and virtually every adult in the house became addicted to this thing! You can put on different levels and settings so that you are finding continents, countries, seas, cities. It's hard but amazing to see how quickly you begin to learn where everything is located. It helps that it keeps score - especially for my family. We're a little competitive in spirit!

The one thing it doesn't do is flags. So, here's one for you. Name the country that belongs to this flag:

Good luck!

3,000th visitor!

OK - so my 1,000th visitor was my husband, T. He also managed to be my 2,000th visitor. He's a devoted fan!!! And, drumroll please, my 3,000th visitor???? Well, you guessed it! Although, it might have been me. We're just not sure! What's a blogger to do? You have to wonder if we're the only ones who read our blogs!!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Ah, yes...

"Investigations" is what it's called. For more on our experience with this new math fad, refer to this!

The Barbarian Way

Finally finished this book the other day. Kind of pathetic (of me) considering it's rather short and it took me so long! It's packed with a lot of thought provoking statements that I needed some time to mill around. Here's my favorite quote:

Somehow Christianity has become a nonmystical religion. It's about a reasonable faith. If we believe the right things, then we are orthodox. Frankly whether we ever actually connect to God or experience His undeniable presence has become incidental, if not irrelevant. We have become believers rather than experiencers. To know God in the Scriptures always went beyond information to intimacy. We may find ourselves uncomfortable with this reality, but the faith of the Scriptures is a mystical faith. It leads us beyond the material world into an invisible reality. We become connected to the God of eternity. Who you are at the core is spirit. God is Spirit. To walk with God is to journey in the spiritual realm. -Erwin McManus, The Barbarian Way, p. 61.

I wouldn't necessarily say this quote summarizes the book, because it's only a small step in understanding what E. McManus is really getting at in the book, which I think encourages believers to step out of a mundane, comfortable lifestyle and really take part in the world that God is calling us to. Become a barbarian for God. Well, something like that. Being a lifetime civilized, suburban chick it's a bit of a stretch for me, but I do get it.

This particular quote really struck me because in some ways it really says what I think the "missing generation" is saying, that just believing something doesn't cut it any more. If you aren't going to act on your beliefs then are they really authentic??

There is an aspect of all the intellectual discussions that I can't even make it halfway through on some of these blogs that really make me wonder if the writers ever put into practice what they are trying to articulate. One of the reasons I loved the Born into Brothels movie so much was because it documented the developmental process of a "barbarian." I don't know if she was motivated by God, but she chose a project, became passionate about saving these children from a hopeless life of slavery and worked tirelessly to reach her goal. She recognized that there not many more barbarians out there who would join her, so she offered them a way to support her by selling the children's photographs to raise money to accomplish her dream. I found it interesting that only one man chose to join her in the quest physically. He came, worked side by side with her and even chose one of those children to take to Amsterdam for a week. One man.

I would highly recommend this book, but don't read it if you don't want to be challenged to change the way you respond and act to the world around you and your system of beliefs. I will likely read it again because I'm quite certain I missed a few important points the first time around. Not to mention, I can see that I'm still not quite the barbarian that I should be!

Sunday, January 29, 2006


This is so funny! I took this quiz online - a friend's wife (I don't really know either one of them!) and I got a 30%. So, of course, because I have so much time on my hands, I made a quiz of my own. You can take it here. Good luck!

So, only three brave souls so far??? Good job, T, Aud and Les!!

Yeah - 2 more. Good job Colleen! And Ben, well, that's pretty awesome for someone who's never met me! Now we're even (because I think I got the same on yours!).

And yet another brave soul! Em Gb - great job. I think if you had been able to come on the Winter Expedition, you might have done better!! Too bad!

Three for Three-D

Em and her friends are all set, glasses, tissues and all for their midday viewing of Barbie and Magic of Pegasus. What more could a girl want? They are trying to watch it despite the fact the all the kids in our court are in our house!! T's a bit harried by this, until I reminded him that it's what we've always wanted, to have the fun house on the block. Now he's down there playing walkie talkie with them all - sort of!


I got up today at the crack of dawn - at least for me, that is! 7:45 isn't my thing, especially on the weekends. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when I have to go get a real job again! I went up to church to help out in the Totzone this morning, as the numbers of little kids have increased substantially since we opened the new building.

I met some nice women, some really adorable toddlers/infants, some super parents and ended up feeling a bit disheartened by the lack of willingness many people have to serve. Everywhere I turned this morning they were looking for someone to help. We had too many toddlers (sent some away), too many infants (one young mom offered to stay and didn't enjoy it!), not enough check in people (I actually hung around when I was done to check in for the second service), and if that wasn't enough! I stopped in to grab a bite to eat - a woman, as her ministry, provides great food to those who work in the TotZone - and she was trying to recruit, likely from the wrong crowd! - someone to do clean up for her so she doesn't have to stay for both services.

While I was walking into church late I ran into a friend who asked if I was still doing games for the kidzone K-1st grade. I told her no, that I wasn't. I did that for two years, every week I put together "games" for 100 students, divided them up into six groups, gathered together various pieces, delivered them to church, where I had to clean up after last week, file everything away and deliver the following weeks games. Along with this came the quarterly planning, leaving pages of copying, picking up the copies in close to two xerox boxes and storing them at my house while I cut, stapled, glued and organized all these "games." Many times, only 2 or 3 were used on Sunday, so it was slightly frustrating doing all that work when they probably only needed about half of it. This friend of mine used to organize the crafts for these same grades - of course, no one ever told me she did that and it might have been helpful to know. She also was frustrated for many of the same reasons so she quit. She told me today that they don't have crafts or games now - nothing.

Now, I have just come from working first with toddler 1's - the crawlers, moved to infants because they were shorthanded, filled in for check in because they needed someone to finding out there is still no one to fill in for a job that I gave up. I am easily guilted into things, so I'm starting to get a little leary... I went on to church. It was a fabulous message about living by the word. I'm going to make t listen to it online. Great points, and I was sort of wondering how it all fit in with these situations if at all.

I leave the service, where I also ran into a woman from my Grief Share group who three years ago lost her husband. She is the mother three teenage girls and son in kindergarten. This, of course, reminded me of how much that group meant to me and what an important ministry that is in the church. I had always thought that I would return to help with that...

I picked up Em, then headed to the KidZone to pick up Kt. As I was nearing her, a woman approached me and stated that she decided to stay and help in Kt's class today as the teacher, a woman who Kt LOVES and has invested a lot of time into Kt's desire to know her Bible, did not show up today and no one was sure she was ever returning. (huh??) She informed me that they needed a teacher, she was going to come next week and that my daughter seemed bored through the entire class because there was nothing planned for the children to do. Now, I'm not sure what to believe because on the way out my daughter proceeded to educate me on Jesus as the vine, we as the branches and how He cuts off the dead branches. I'm thinking she learned something, I don't have a clue who taught her, but someone did!

As I was leaving today, my head was spinning with all the needs that were presented to me. I am reminded that I am limited in what I can do, that I need some guidance as to where I am to serve BUT I don't want to sit around and wait. I want to get my hands a little dirty and let God speak to me about what He wants me to do. If I'm not in his kingdom, how can I hear Him? I'm just not sure. There are so many opportunities, so many needs, it's a little overwhelming.

Could it be that I find the answer to this "where do I serve?" question in His word? In searching for His heart in all of this?? I'll think about it tonight as I head back up to church to serve with the little kids again for the Fusion service!

(Disclaimer: very few of my Sundays look like this!)


OK - I'm a little addicted to sitemeter! Everyone knows that by now, at least if you read this regularly. Today I checked the number of visitors is a little low, but I've also become addicted to finding the locations of the visitors (more likely some place other than exactly where a visitor comes from!) by copying the longitude/latitude and pasting it into google maps (love that satellite picture, too!). Now, some of you may be thinking that my husband's geekiness is rubbing off one me, and you might be correct. He is, after all, the one who taught me all this!!

So, today I get this visitor from LA - big place, some of my relatives live there in Palos Verde, Newport Beach, so I did my little map trick to see if they may have found me. I had to laugh out loud when I saw that my visitor lived on Sesame Street! I thought that was just a TV show, not a real place. I guess my new fan is either Big Bird, Grover or Ernie and Bert. That's OK - they were all my favorites when I was little. I wonder what their blogs would look like if they had one??!!

Born Into Brothels

After watching the first 30 minutes of this movie without the subtitles, it was well worth the wait! Our one DVD player wouldn't recognize them, so we finally pulled out our other one from upstairs and voila! We had a movie we could understand, well at least the language! What you learn in this movie in almost incomprehensible because it's difficult living in the cushy world I live in knowing that children are living in such abhorrent conditions.

The movie is beautifully executed, a glimpse into the lives of children who are raised in the red light district of Calcutta who have little hope for a future of any kind other than living in servitude either in prostitution or illegal services of some kind. They are smart, bright, witty and extraordinary children. The woman who was inspired to make this film began by documenting life in the brothels, decided to start a photography class for a group of children living in them (most who had never before seen a camera) and ended up using their pictures to try to provide better lives for them. It is an inspiring, eye-opening film about how a vision is birthed in the heart of a woman and how hope is given to a small group of children who later (you MUST watch the "reconnect" part in the special features) come to realize how amazing this gift of hope and life was for them.

There is no way you can watch this film and not have your heart break for children around the world who are living lives of poverty, filth and full of darkness. I would recommend this movie for anyone who needs a wake up call!! If your subtitles don't work, don't put this movie aside. Find a DVD player that can read them because it is well worth the hunt.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

It's a Day

How nice to have such a laid back, relaxing day!! This morning, after being woken up by a squirrel running around on our roof, we took the girls to the opening of The Studio in Fulton, a paint-your-own pottery shop that a friend of ours just bought. The girls had fun painting and T and I got to catch up with this family. The girl who bought the place was a member (as a teenager) of one of T's first missions trips, her father was T's youth pastor and the pastor who officiated our wedding and the rest of their family? We love them all! It was super hanging out with them, catching up and it was right around the corner from our house!

When we came home, T took Kt to an ice-skating birthday party - her first time skating - and Em and I went to the park with our neighbors, along with the rest of the world, and enjoyed our unseasonably warm weather - in the 60's! Then we came home, played a game of Princess Monopoly Jr. and just as we were cleaning up, T's parents arrived with dinner - Chinese food, of course!

Right now the girls are cleaning up, T's out picking up a movie for us (I hope it's good) and then it's bed time! I have to get up EARLY tomorrow because I agreed to help with childcare at the early service. Apparently, the children's department was unprepared for the influx of new children. Since we went from 3 to 2 services at our new building, all the parents of little children have decided to come to the early service. They had ordered 100 new little chairs for the new building and after two weeks had to order 75 more!! That's crazy. Of course, no one wants to work in these rooms with crying toddlers so I'm going to give it a try. Pray for me!

I've been reading up a bit in the past couple of days on the whole homosexuality debate between BMclaren and MDriscoll. Hmmm.... what to think? Many people have chimed in about their feelings on this matter, I've given it much thought and I'm kind of embarrassed to be associated with either of their views, honestly. Again, my husband is most likely shaking in his boots that I'm even bothering to mention all this in my tiny voice! I'm not going to post links to either of these opinions, but I will post to this, which I think is probably more in tune with the way I want believe:

What I'm trying to get across [at Mosaic] is, This is what God is saying about who you are, how God has created the cosmos and how life is to be lived out. It'’s very practical. Ironically, we probably talk more about the character of God than most congregations. We connect everything. Whether it's homosexuality, lying, stealing we connect everything to the character of God in that human beings were created to reflect the character of God. We function in the most healthy, powerful and vibrant way when we reflect the character of God. [Erwin McManus - in an interview for Relevant Magazine.]

The rest of this interview can be read here.

I think what is going on in the other conversation is very damaging to the church. There is a lot of name-calling, many accusations, "Christian" bashing, and it's, well, just plain embarrassing. I think Christianity is about building relationships, and it's the relationship each of us build with Christ first that will shape us, our beliefs and our attitudes toward each other. When we are secure in that relationship, when we synch up with the heart of God, there is little room left in our hearts for the questions that I'm reading online. God desires to know you, He pursues you NO MATTER the sin in your life. There is not one human being on this earth that He does not desire to know intimately and for anyone who chooses to accept His heart view, there is little question about these "issues."

My questions to myself are this: what will I do to present to pre-believers the true character of Christ? How can I better be used by Him in the world he has placed me? How do I articulate His heart (not mine) to each person He puts in my path? In what ways would He have me improve my relationships with other believers so that His kingdom come, His will be done (not my will)?

These are only a few of the questions raised in my mind while I've been reading through posts, comments and more posts on this subject. I guess my feeling about homosexuality is that I don't know much about it. I'm a woman, a mother, a wife and a teacher. Those are the things I know. I don't know what it's like to be a man, a homeless person, to live in poverty, to have a handicap, to be rich and powerful, to live outside the U.S., and while I could pretend to be any of these things, it would be humorous at best. If I were called on the spot to make a judgment about any such issue that I am personally unfamiliar with, I would have to defer to God's Word.

In the meantime, in the pursuit of a fuller, richer relationship with God, His Son, the Holy Spirit - I pray for the time of completion, when we can come together as one body, working for the good of the kingdom, together, in unity, undivided and worthy to be called His children.

Well, T's back so we are off to watch Born Into Brothels. I hope it's good!

(In my readings/searchings on this subject, I had MANY questions about the "emergent church" and found this post very helpful in understanding the origin, history and present state of this "movement".)

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Party's Over!

Well, I'd have to say it was a huge success, and more importantly my friend, C, who did her first Pampered Chef party here tonight, was thrilled!! Everyone who came knew that the credit earned would be for her to start her business, and they went nuts!! We had 9 people come and C ended up earning over $100 of free products. She didn't know that - it was a surprise for her after everyone left!! How fun! I'm still thinking about getting myself something, too.

I think I would love to have more parties here but not really to sell stuff - that's a bit uncomfortable for me. Everyone left with something - a little goody bag, food and I'm pretty sure everyone had fun. We also had several kids running around - they also had a blast. It really couldn't have gone much better than this!

I am very excited for C, even though I'm a bit frustrated that they felt they needed to do this. Her husband is an evangelist/missionary with Open Air Campaigners in our area so they live solely based on raised support. That's hard enough when you serve overseas, but I think serving in the US is almost harder. It's more expensive and people aren't as eager to support home missionaries. It was fun to serve C tonight in return for all that she and her husband do, for the many sacrifices they make to spread God's word on college campus and the cities around our area. I just pray that this job opens more doors for them and allows them to be better supported, or, shall I say maintained.

If you don't support a local missionary, find one! There are so many ways you can support them and their families and it isn't just about money (although that's very important!). I think you caring for them and recognizing the work they do speaks volumes.

Olives Have Pits

OK - I don't eat olives, or pickles for that matter. The extent of my liking for pickles starts and ends with sweet gherkins, and I'm not even sure they qualify as real pickles!!

I started making these Southwest Pinwheels for tonight. I couldn't find my normal sliced olives at the grocery store so I bought a can of ripe olives - whole. I poured a few out on my cutting board and gave it a good wham! I was a little surprised that they were so hard to chop, but I proceeded to wham, wham, wham to my hearts content with my Pampered Chef food chopper (one of the few gadgets I actually use quite often!). When I realized I wasn't getting very far, I poured out the pimento filled olives and started away on those. They all ended up like mush. Oh well.... sometimes my blonde really shows!

I mixed up my olive mixture and put together my first pinwheel. Like a good chef, I decided to cut myself a small slice and give it a try. At first, I thought my tooth had fallen out! What is typically a soft cream cheese, olive filled tortilla had a huge hard chunk in it - not what I was expecting. What could it be??? All of a sudden, I vaguely remember seeing somewhere on a can that some olives are "pitted." Hmmm... look over at can, do not see word "pitted," realize all that work down the drain!!

All I can say is, if you are coming tonight, beware!! I did remake those pinwheels, so they are safe. My food chopper? Well, let's just say it's a good thing I'm having this party tonight!

The Sneakers

This morning didn't go quite as planned. I guess after staying up until 2 am to finish some laundry, clean up and watch Project Runway in marathon fashion was a big mistake! I rolled out of bed this morning, threw on some workout clothes, checked email and then gathered a bunch of things I needed for today. I pulled together Kt's homework, the book order for Em's school that I input last night, my little recipe book with all the ingredients I needed to buy - no time to write them in a list, and then went downstairs to have my measly breakfast - dieting is no fun!

After the 10th or so reminder to Kt to get her socks and shoes on she was still aimlessly wandering around the house with a piece of toast in hand. With only minutes to spare, she suddenly realized that she had no idea where her shoes were, which only made me more ornery than I already was. With this party tonight it was glaringly obvious that all I had left to clean was all the girls junk that is scattered throughout the house. Everytime I clean something, it is quickly taken over by more stuff and my pleas for help are often ignored. I explained to Kt that her shoes, which were supposed to be in the mud room, had to be somewhere and it was her job to find them before the bus arrived. She looked twice in the car, up in her bedroom all over the first floor - nothing. They had to be sneakers because today was PE.

By this time, 9am, I'm quite certain the bus has come and gone, which only adds to my increasing anger. While she is standing in the living room, in one spot, just looking (she inherited her "looking for things" genes from all the males in our family) I went out into the garage, opened the car door and there they were. In plain sight, her sneakers. How she could have looked twice and not found them is beyond me!! Bright white with light blue stripes, she's the only one who has a pair like that and the only one who wears that size. No mistaking they were hers!! So, I was, needless to say, livid at this point.

With the bus come and gone, two children who are giving me strange looks (was it the purplish tint in my face??) and my lack of sleep, we were in for a ride!! Looking back on it, it's one of those embarrassing parent moments, but they deserved it! I laid down the law, I set them straight, I let them have it.... I think I skipped the lesson on "finding lost items" in Parenting 101. Whoa was that ride they will never forget. Chances are, in the annals of our family, they will not even remember why I was raving, but they'll talk about it for years to come. I know this because we do it all the time to my mom!

As I got both the girls to school and began to head to Curves it struck me - I'm bent out of shape over a pair of sneakers. Sure, it has a bit to do with irresponsibility, disorganization, and just plain disobedience, but I'm ashamed to admit that a pair of sneakers can make my day miserable. With people in the world starving, wondering where they will find their next meal, out in the cold with no coat or any means to obtain one, people who have to consider which route to take to work to try to avoid "insurgents" and roadside bombs. There are also people who don't have to worry about finding their sneakers in the morning because they don't even have any. It's a strange world I live in, where I have so much, worry so little and still have a bad day.

I walked into Curves with all these things in mind and spotted an old friend that I haven't seen in a while. In fact, oddly enough, I saw her yesterday and now she just joined Curves. She is my friend who had open heart surgery in August due to a misdiagnosed blood infection she received at the hospital where she was having routine surgery. After chatting with her and catching up a bit, I just hung my head in shame. I have got to learn not to make such a big deal about sneakers!

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger;
Jame 1:19

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Is there nothing more precious...

than a 5 year old singing praises to her King? On the way home from Bible study today, I was listening to WGTS and the Michael W. Smith song "Open the Eyes of My Heart" came on. Now, I am one to sometimes get annoyed by old, overplayed songs but this is not one of them for me. This song first was introduced to me when my father became ill and it really meant a lot to me. During a time when I didn't feel like I could see clearly, when nothing seemed to be going "our way" and when bitterness might have overtaken my sense of being loved by Jesus, this song brought me out of many dark and dismal days. I would sing it out loud (something I try to spare my friends and family!), hear it in my head, turn it up on the radio and almost cry through it at church. I really wanted to see Christ in all that was happening around me.

Today, as we were coming home, this song began in the car and just as soon as it started I heard my daughter in the backseat singing along. Instead of joining her, I just listened to that sweet sound. It was totally off key, totally off beat, her words trailing the actual song by a few words. It was enough to emphasize what the message of that song really is, what the request is. When we arrived home I didn't want to turn it off, but clearly the request was granted as my daughter, who typically tells me she "rather not talk about it" began a little question and answer session about heaven with me. Funny, that we would thinking the same thing.

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You, I want to see You

To see You high and lifted up
Shining in the light of your Glory
Pour out Your Power and Love
As we sing Holy, Holy, Holy

Holy, Holy, Holy
Holy, Holy, Holy
Holy, Holy, Holy
I want to see You

(Paul Baloche)

I cannot wait to really see Christ one day, and I think that's what Em was thinking, too. Although right now she just wants to see Pabu! Thus, all her questions about heaven.

Thank you, Jesus, for hearing our cry, for helping us to see You.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Pampered Chef

So, this is how it goes... I agree to have this party, I plan it around my one friend, who I know will attend come hell or high water, and as the party date approaches, family crisis!! What can I do? It's completely out of my hands!! Oh well, not plan parties around my friends. But really, in a nutshell, most of the people who I thought would come are not, and more people who I never even thought of are coming. A neighbor of mine sent me an email from her friend who can't come but wants to place an order. It's hysterical!! Here goes:

I would like to invest in your neighbor's party. Here's my order:

Serrated Bread Knife - $8.50

Paring Knife - $14.75

Chef's Knife - $25.75

Carving set - $45.00

Hold-n-slice - $3.50

Meat Lifters - $25.00

Yes, this is spurred by my lack of proper tools at this past Thanksgiving festivities.

I added the bold, because when I read this, I completely laughed out loud!! I wish she could come Friday night, because I'm sure she'd be a lot of fun, which is really why, in some sadistic way, I don't mind having these parties. They always end up being lots of fun!

This past weekend I went to the Christmas Tree Shoppe (which is one of the best things about New England!!!) and got a few party items. I then visited the Yankee Candle Shop, per the advice from my sister-in-law who works there, to take advantage of their 12 for $12 votive sale - once again, for the party. Now, if no one shows up, at least I will be stocked up on votives!!

I really am hoping for some people to show up - that's always nice for the person doing the show! My friend, C, who is doing this show is originally from England and has the accent to boot. That, in itself, makes the show fun!! Or, should I say, brilliant! in that delightful way that Brits exclaim. So, should you happen to be in or around the area and would like to stop in, you are welcome to join us! The more the merrier - and I know, there really is no such thing as a pampered chef. Just humor me a bit here!

Red Light Cameras

OK - this a completely random blog, but every time I drive into my neighborhood I think about this! We have a red light camera at the entrance to our neighborhood and I see people make the mistake of screeching to a stop, just beyond that white line, then, after the light has turned red, backing up so they are no longer over the white line. Now, I'm not sure why they bother except that 1) they think they are blocking the intersection (which they never are), or 2) they think that the camera will click a picture of any car over the white line. The key here, everyone, is that the camera is motion sensored. (at least that's they way the first ones were made!)

When these cameras first came into use in Howard County, they were motion sensored. How do I know? A co-worker of T's did exactly what is described above and received a little ticket in the mail inviting him to traffic court. It was a very clear picture of his license plate and in the picture you could clearly see that his reverse lights were on. He demonstrated to the judge what he was doing, which was backing up so he was not over the white line. The judge thought that was "nice" but proceeded to fine him some exorbitant amount of money anyway. Had he just stopped his car (over that white line) and not moved, he likely would never have gotten that invitation.

I could be wrong about this, but I've watched cars back up and I have seen that camera at night flash a little picture of that car. I've never actually gotten one of those invitations in the mail, and I hope I never do. Hopefully, I'll remember when it's me just to stop!

Day Care Shooting

I've been following this story on the daycare shooting in Germantown. I am horrified that this 8 year old child was able to smuggle a gun out of his house so easily and then apparently use it to "rob" this little girl. While yesterday it sounded like it was totally concealed in his backpack, today's story seems to indicate that the entire incident was intentional.

A couple other points in the story stood out to me, like the one child who seems "unfazed" by this event that he witnessed yesterday. How is it that we have created a generation of desensitized children?? We are horrified, they are "unfazed" by this? Maybe the event was surreal, but no fear of returning?? I just find this all very peculiar, disturbing, and really shocking.

It really is sad that in a seemingly short time, our lives have gone from fearless and carefree (sort of!) to violent and uncertain. I can remember as a child being outside from after school until dark all over our neighborhood. My mom would ring a bell outside the back door to let us know when dinner was ready and we'd all scatter. When I was a bit older, we'd ride our bikes everywhere for miles without any concern for safety other than whether or not a car would hit us. I don't remember my parents getting too crazed over dropping us off at the mall for an afternoon with our friends. We also went over other people's homes, most of the time without our parents having ever met. Times have really changed!

Now, I plan whole days around monitoring my kids playtime. It's only been in the last year that I've let them play out in front of my house without me watching. I'm nervous still when I know people are having their homes worked on, then my children never stand outside alone. I like be at the bus stop, which is right outside our door, and they have never been to the park without an adult. All this in our self-contained neighborhood. Even our heat pump guy laughs that I lock our front door! But times are different. I've gone over this with my mom many times. Few moms stay home, day care is the norm, our kids are growing up in different times, and carefree isn't in the description!

Having an 8 year old myself, I feel like I have a better perception of what this story really says. I vaguely remember 8 years old - it's one of the few times in my life that I have little memory of. I wasn't young enough for everything to be new, not old enough to be experiencing anything life-changing. I guess things are different now. My 8 year old is learning things that I never knew about until I was much older, and she's learning them all from her friends. Is it any wonder that so many people are homeschooling?? I don't wonder anymore.

Germantown is pretty far away, not terribly far, but far enough to feel safe from this kind of incident. Of course, if you read the whole article, you'll find at the end a reference to another similar incident in, you guessed it, Columbia, MD. So if you're thinking it can't happen where you live, think again!

UPDATE: Just this evening, I received an email from my neighbor. She sent me a link to a watchdog site where you can plug in your zip code and check to see how close any registered sex offenders live near you. I have done this before, but it appears we have a new one, and he's 0.1 mile away from my house. Guess I'll be joining my kids outside again - forever!

UPDATE: And, as usual, the story gets even more bizarre...

My Birthday Weekend

My blogging friend wrote that her husband is taking a day off for her birthday weekend, which sounds fun!! My birthday is coming up, also, but I'm not planning anything. For a bit there it was shaping up to be a fun, fun birthday!! Here's how it went:

Mid-December, someone says to me:

I have an idea for your birthday, but it will take some planning. How would you like to go to Miami?


I'd love to!!!!!! Can we drive out to the Keys? I've always wanted to go there!! Oh, somewhere warm for my birthday will be great!


Well, I guess we could. I was thinking we could fly down Feb. 4, Saturday, hang out for a couple days....


My birthday is February 20th. That's kind of early, kind of soon, plus my mom couldn't babysit, she has report cards, conferences, etc. How about we go while she's on winter break - February 18th??


Well, we'll get my parents to babysit, and then we can go to the thing that Alex McManus is doing Tuesday and fly home late Tuesday night. I found these really cheap tickets we could buy.


So, this isn't really a birthday present for me. It's really a trip for you. OK, buy the tickets.


Well, what if we can't find someone to watch the girls? We can't return the tickets.


Why don't you just buy yourself the tickets? If your parents can babysit, then I'll get myself tickets.




Babysitters: No. Wouldn't do it (my mom said she'd watch them on her break!).

Trip: Not happening.

Birthday: ? Not Miami!

This is kind of the way someone in our family is, and I knew it early on. While I expect this kind of brainstorming stuff I won't let it happen with my children!! The first time he tells them they get a trip to Florida for their birthdays, guess what I'm doing???? I'm buying the first tickets I find!!


So, what's the point of these things?? For those of you who have never heard of them, they are round sandwiches you can find in your grocer's freezer. Em likes the cheese ones and loves to press the buttons herself on the microwave. My question is this: why bother? My kids both ate bread crust until they saw other children do not. Now they pull it off, I refuse to cut it off like many other moms do. I decided to try these uncrustables with Em. No crust, just cut out the middle with less filling than a regular sandwich. So, what does she do?? She pulls the edges off around the outside! It doesn't really matter how you explain to her that there is no crust, to a child, whatever is around the outside is "crust." I just can't win with this child! Now we just call them "crustables"!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Biking Expedition

Em has been bugging me ever since she inherited Kt's "big girl bike" to take her to the park with it. Today was a balmy January day, in the upper 40's (UGH - I don't tolerate cold very well!), so I decided to take her.

While there, I remembered a post today by a blogging friend about posting pictures of a little stroll to Starbucks. We don't have a Starbucks, or anything for that matter, within walking distance except for our park. Our neighborhood has one entrance/exit onto a major road and inside, it's homes and a park. So, here's our little trip.

I also used my new toy - my camera phone. Pretty good quality for a phone!! It took me a while to figure it all out AND send the pics to my email AND download them AND post them here. I'm feeling a little, shall we say, geeky today!! T would be proud!

Em wanted to take one of me - with my new haircut. I had to practically lay on the ground because she was having trouble holding the camera up to take the picture. I forgot to take any for the earlier part of our day - haircut, post office, lunch with T. Oh well! This was so easy, I'll hopefully remember next time!

This is our exit from the park. The kids all love the sound of bikes and feet across this bridge, under which flows the tiniest stream you've ever seen. In fact, sometimes it's not there at all!

We made it across the bridge and while I was trying to send that picture, I was telling Em to slow down, then stop and finally STOP! I think the entire neighborhood heard me. But like the geeky mom that I am, I never took my eyes off my camera phone that I was pounding my email address into. The next time I looked up her bike was laying on it's side and she was covered in mud. No tears - she's fearless! She laughed the whole way!! Dangerous child - she's already a barbarian. HELP!

We made it home. This is our court and that's our house behind Em. There are 6 homes in our court so I always laugh at that speed limit sign. I'd like to see someone try to go 25 miles and hour around our little circle. Oh wait, the UPS and Fedex guys do it all the time!! I'm always curious to see the inside of their trucks after they try that one. That must be why they always stop once they get around - to adjust their heads!

Well, that was our excursion. If you have one to share, let me know because I'd love to see yours! Coming soon - more camera phone pictures - what fun;-)

This One's For Men

Of course, can't hurt for women to read, too. It all sounds vaguely familiar, though. Is it the Men Are From Mars thing? or something else that's ringing a bell. Anyway, go ahead a review these things, T. (haha)

Monday, January 23, 2006


One of the things that happens when I go to CT is that I remember what life was like way back... well, OK, I'm not ancient or anything, but I see how different life is for these teenagers and I wonder sometimes...

When I was in high school, typing class was on a typewriter. I bet most of these kids have never seen a typewriter! The mother of my best friend growing up is a published author and I can remember visiting her after she moved to Virginia and her mom started writing. Her mom's office was floor to ceiling books, and on her desk one of the oldest typewriters I've ever seen. Visiting her a few years ago, with her MacIntosh, she told me how hard it has been to make that transition. Email, computers, internet - it's a totally different life!

When I graduated high school, my friends and I all wrote letters to each other and sealed them to be read while away at college, homesick. Some of us continued writing, occasionally called each other with huge phone bills to boot. There was no IM, no email, no internet. Out of all my high school friends, I've remained friends with two. Others I rarely hook up with, two managed to hang on despite our distance. My boyfriend? Well, one can only wonder what IM or email might have salvaged, although I'm quite certain it would have only prolonged the inevitable!

The funny thing is what email is today. Tonight I called a good Bible study friend who hasn't come this year due to getting a job. We've been emailing each other to keep in touch, but I decided to call tonight for that personal touch. I decided emailing is more fun! We say more, accomplish more, sad! I also find myself emailing my neighbor several times a day. I can see her house yet I choose to email. Why? Our daughter's are playmates and when we talk on the phone, they interrupt constantly, when we get together they monopolize our conversations, and when we email we get so much more accomplished!! It's kind of weird!

Email just changed everything in so many ways. I feel more connected and less personally connected, I feel like I have so much more information at my fingertips but am becoming so much more of an introvert. How do extroverts deal with email?? It's wonderful for me, yet I'm starting to feel challenged. If I sit here, behind this computer screen, will I ever be able to GO like I'm called? Will I lose all sense of reality, all my social skills (or lack thereof!), my presence in the world?

I've seen kids today who spend hours at the computer (like me), who depend on all these things that didn't even exist when I was their age. Sure, we had video games, arcades, cable TV, but this is different. It's creating a generation of introverts who might have been something huge in the world - don't you think?

Weekend in a Nutshell

Our "Winter Expedition" was a blast! T brought 8 people from MD up to CT. Only a couple had ever been there before and I think we were able to highlight a few key differences culturewise for them. In many ways, Fairfield County and Howard County are similar. They have about the same cost of living, average income and a large host of people who have grown up and stayed in the area. Both also represent suburban lifestyle, "soccer mom" types and a very low percentage of people who attend church on Sundays due to lack of interest, need, etc. Materialism reigns in both communities.

Some differences - the proximity of city/country in CT is much closer. I think the kids were surprised that Bridgeport was literally right down the street from my mom's house and you could really feel the difference between the two. While they were so close, I was pretty sheltered from the darkness as a child. Fairfield is also a "beach" community - that was fun. We also introduced them to the Greek diners - always a treat! Typically open all night, offering almost anything your heart desires any time of the day or night. That would pretty much sum up the heart of CT - instant gratification! There is also the issue of lack of cultural diversity in one community juxta posed with a very multicultural neighboring city. I could count the number of African American students on one hand in my high school, whereas right down the street, in Bridgeport, I could count the number of white students on one hand. How does that happen?? Some good discussion.

Since I didn't participate in the service project the kids were involved in, I can only speak for the experience they had at my mom's. I remember when T and I were looking for a house, I spent many hours on homesdatabase.com, where I could search to my hearts content for homes that I couldn't afford!! Over Thanksgiving, just before we found the house we are in, I was looking at homes while in CT and I found one in our current neighborhood. I said to my mom, "I can't imagine paying ### for a three bedroom, one bath house - that's ridiculous! How does a family survive with only one bathroom???" Of course, this was coming from me, the complete failure of a housekeeper, who really couldn't imagine having to keep one bathroom clean for guests!! My mom replied, "What wrong with that? That's what you grew up with!" And, she had me there!

My mom's house is now a 3/4 bedroom, 2 bath house, since they added a bedroom and bathroom when I was 14. That was our first shower in our house, which is over 100 years old. One student mentioned that is was strange that all the places they went (my mom's house, the mission in Bridgeport) had latches for doors and not locks on doorknobs. Funny observation - I've never even noticed that! Also, all the houses are different, there are not many developments with the same houses, like you find frequently in MD. (This is also a complaint that my brother, the architect, has echoed and my mother has decided to adopt so she doesn't have to move here. Boohoo!!) The kids actually noticed a lot more differences over the course of a couple days than I had.

Altogether, it was a fun weekend. I cooked a lot, spent a lot of time with my mom and enjoyed our new experience together. We also talked about all the vacation ideas we have - too many to mention. We narrowed them down to Williamsburg, Hawaii and Las Vegas. Of course, Disney came up, but it always does when the word vacation arises. I could just vacation at Disney for the rest of my life and be happy! (I really was thinking Land and Sea, but T gets a bit seasick - not his thing!)

I sent T to perspectives for me tonight to take notes. I'm a bit wiped from this weekend and the drive home. We made it in 4 1/2 hours - quite good with the girls. Easy drive, but still tiring. I can't wait to go up again - it seems that I'm not sooner back in MD than I start thinking about my next trip. I just can't seem to get enough of home!

Still in CT

Just checking in. The girls and I spent one more night in Ct and are now waiting for the temps to rise slightly more before heading back to MD. Fun weekend, I'll write more later. My mom was a great hostess!!!
This is the first time I've had so many people from MD come to my home. It was fun showing them how life was different up here, having them meet my family and doing something for this community that I left 13 years ago. My sister-in-law asked me if we would ever consider moving up here. Ever consider it?? I've dreamed about it ever since I left!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Christmas in Connecticut!

I'm so excited - it's still Christmas here!! Sometimes I wonder what people in Maryland think of me. Last week, last Thursday to be exact, we were the last ones in our neighborhood to take down our Christmas decorations. It was sad!! After Em's party Saturday, the moms who were there were talking about how wonderful it is once all the Christmas decorations are packed away. I thought they were crazy, but I guess I should have added that to my weird list! I would love it if Christmas were year round.
Tonight, as we were leaving my moms house to go out to dinner, I was standing on the front porch (one other thing I LOVE about New England) and I yelled in to my mom, laughing, "You still have your Christmas wreath up!!" She said, "Yeah, I know. So does everyone else!" Sure enough, as we drove around town tonight, there were still wreaths, Christmas lights, TREES and garland everywhere. At least there is one area of the country that still has the Christmas spirit and isn't afraid to show it! Even without a flake of snow to be found, it's still Christmas in Connecticut!

a Couple or a Few?

Some time ago, T and I had a conversation about the difference between a "couple" and a "few." I found it odd that he didn't know the difference, but maybe I'm the odd one! Anyway, correct me if I'm wrong, but a couple means two and few means three or more. A married couple is two, a couple of earrings is two, sort of like a pair. A few things would be more than that.
Now, I thought I'd educated him on the difference but clearly it didn't sink in. This morning I asked him to grab me a couple of Q-tips for my couple of ears. He brought me 6! Now, honestly, who ever needs six Q-tips? (If you do, I don't really want to know!) We have a lot more work to do on this one!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bridgeport, Here We Come!!

Tomorrow we take our first ever missions trip to CT! Seems kind of silly, I guess, but having grown up there, on the "gold coast," I can tell you there hardly a place in the entire United States that needs Jesus more than New England. They need Him so bad they don't think they need anything at all!!

While New England is a place where materialism abounds, it's scattered cities, like Bridgeport, can contain some of the darkest of souls. To this day, Bridgeport give me the willies!! I can remember as a child, everytime we drove across the "border" between Fairfield and Bridgeport (which was often as we lived less than a mile away!) my parents would say, "Lock the doors!" and in an instant, we'd hear the click, click, clunk of each door locking. I was petrified when I was older anytime I had to drive anywhere near Bridgeport alone. All these crazy ideas we plant in our children's heads...

Tomorrow the girls and I are heading up early to CT to shop for food, get situated and wait for T and 9 others to arrive. My poor mom - you can pray for her! We will have 14 people staying in her 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house that's over 100 years old. They will have the privilege of working with our old family friends (who I wrote about a while ago) on a house down in Bridgeport that is being renovated for a mission. High quality people who have dedicated a lot of time to reaching people in recovery. I'm excited for this trip - plus I get to show some of my favorite people where I grew up. I hope they don't mind sleeping in the dining room!!

Add: Monday night, one of the people going up with us asked me about Bridgeport. Not many people have ever heard of it! Well, for starters I told her it was the first city in the US to go bankrupt. Is that a bit of a clue??

Jews and Christians Unite

Well, that's what the article in the WP seems to suggest. I'm sure many people were already aware of this connection between emergent and Jews - I was not. I am not all that well versed in the "emergent" movement, but I've heard positive and negative things about it.

This article might leave someone thinking that "emergent" Christians disagree with or dislike the "church." Could be true. I'm not sure. Certainly, the sentiment is that Jewish leaders see a general attraction of Christians to emergent and are trying to duplicate that in their "religion" by attracting young Jews to synagogue. I find this all very intriguing.

I'm probably opening a can of worms here. My husband warns me all the time not to use the word "emergent" in any of my posts - in fact, he may make me delete this post!! I guess I'm just perplexed because I thought the emergent movement was trying to attract non-believers, not unhappy Christians. Could their target be both of these groups?? It would appear that Jewish leaders have either missed the essence of the emergent movement OR they have somehow been led to believe that emergent groups are for Christians who don't like denominational churches or church politics and are seeking something more authentic.

From what little I know and understand of the emergent church movement, I believe there are certain ideas that I would ascribe to. I like more authentic worship, unscripted, spirit-filled. I like the challenge they present to love as Jesus loved, to be less judgemental of people who practice alternate lifestyles, although most christians in denominational churches might feel a bit judged themselves by the condemnation that they don't. [While this is OK for me, a hesitancy to "admit" God's view on these particular lifestyles does not sit well with me.]

While these are only a few of my observations, I have also found certain things attached to this emergent movement that seem cautionary to me. This article points out a couple of those things that I have heard/read that would make me hesitant to adopt this particular kind of thinking.

Some traditional churchgoers [that would be me!] have questioned whether the approach is superficial and not dignified enough for worship. Others worry that small groups independent of denominations and the oversight they provide are vulnerable to leaders who spread distorted theology.
I guess the "watered-down theology" part of emergent is what is most terrifying to me. I want authentic worship, I want to be active in spreading God's glory throughout the earth, but I want to do these things within the context of His Word. I believe that most emergent believers do this, but it is worrisome to me that this characterization is prevalent outside of emergent.

As far as the article goes? Well, I do have a special love for Jews and I'm not really sure where it comes from. I am thankful for the emergent movement in the sense that it is the first Christian movement that I know of that has caught the attention of Jews, at least since Christ! Maybe, in this connection and this open door, some may come to know Christ. At least I hope that is what is going on. I believe He is the missing piece for these Jewish seekers that will authenticate their need for deeper spirituality and worship. It's a big responsibility God has placed in emergent hands - and it's worth our support of prayer!

Tagging Update

Well, so far, I've had ONE PERSON fess up to being tagged, my blogging friend, Deana. I like that name, by the way!!

Last night, when I was trying to think of weird things about myself (it's kind of hard, even though I know there are many of them!) I asked my husband and daughter for some help. T was MORE than happy to share a few, things I didn't really think were that weird. Kt piped up with, "You LOVE to clean!" Huh? Who is she talking about? Does she live in this house???

Deana, I forgot to mention, I also hate housework and I'm terrible at it. It wouldn't be so bad if I actually felt like I accomplished something. It just seems that with a 5 year old trailing behind me, the results are fruitless. Not to mention the fact that it's all cyclical. Do the dishes, use the dishes, do the dishes. Do the laundry, wear the laundry, do the laundry. Being a task oriented person, I need a project that can be completed, and I'm completely ruined by tasks that never end!!

If you've been tagged, let me know. I'd LOVE to read your answers!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I've been tagged...

I guess this is what happens when your husband's friends are all in high school - he could have put that down as one of his strange things!!

What are 5 weird things about me?

1. That I'm 35 and like to play VMK. It would appear that this is not so strange, though, as many, many players are my age or older...

2. I like lima beans.

3. I used to ride a unicycle - everywhere. I wouldn't dare try to now, though, for many reasons...

4. When I take pills I 1) take them all at the same time, no matter how many and how large, and 2) I take one small sip, then a larger one to wash them all down. (T happily pointed this one out to me!)

5. I'm a lefty and a righty - I write, bat, golf (mini), eat with my left. I cut, bowl, catch, throw and kick righty.

I'm tagging anyone who has at least one of these things in common with me!!

Party Pix

Happy 5th Birthday, Em!!

OK - second try. Let's see if I can download a couple pictures of the party. I chose to include only Em's friend's whose parents won't sue me for publicly posting pictures of their children!
Em and her favorite color balloon - purple! Notice it's pastel (for those of you who read the birthday post!!
Here's Em blowing out her candle AS we all sing Happy Birthday. She's not one to conform. She will blow them out when she is ready, not waiting for you!!
Enjoying some Dora cake. She REALLY enjoyed her presents. We went a bit over at the end and some moms were arriving before she was done. When she finished unwrapping all her gifts she said (much to my horror!), "OK, everybody, you can go home now!!" We need to work on those manners!

Party Plans: Craft (magic wand - didn't fit in with the theme, but Em wanted to make them!) and coloring page, Backpack game - items in backpack that kids had to guess by feeling them, Map - go through water, gather balloons, get Em to her birthday surprise! The water - blue balloons in a pool in our living room - paper balloons on bottom of the pool with each child's name on it. They had to find their balloon to cross the "lake". Pin the balloons on Dora - in the foyer. Once they all pinned their balloons on, they each grabbed a balloon from the living room, handed it to Emily so she could "float" to the top of the "tree," which I made in our foyer. Not sure we actually got a picture of this. T, (though he missed his cue and needed to be told), carried her up the stairs while she held the balloons and found her surprise - a pinata. The kids busted that open in the basement. All in all, a very successful party. We then had food, cake and lastly, presents. It was great fun. Next party - anywhere but home!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


I was going to post some pictures from Em's party, but blogger isn't cooperating right now. I'll have to do that later!! Instead, I'll post about one of my hobbies that can sometimes be lucrative - calligraphy.

As a child, I loved visiting my grandparents in West Chester, PA and have fond memories of riding (on my grandfather's lap) to the milk store, playing in their trailer, chasing bunnies around and out of my grandfather's garden and playing with all the strange and wonderful things that grandparents always seem to have lying around their homes!! We spent so much time at my grandparents house that I even remember all my friend's I made there. There were the sisters next door, Lauren and Taren, the girl across the street with the pool - Tony and then the girl up the street, Barbie, whose family won a trip to Disney World off a Cheerios box.

My grandparents lived in a ranch house on a nice size piece of land with some strange rectory or something behind them. I'll never forget the time my grandmother offered to pay us 1 cent for every dandelion we picked. She failed to mention that she was talking about HER dandelions, so we went straight for that field behind the house, the one that was rarely mowed, and we picked dandelions to our hearts content!! My poor grandmother didn't even have enough pennies to cover all the ones we brought to her, but she had plenty of yellow weeds left in her own yard!

I also remember being very intrigued by my grandfather. He was so creative, a carpenter, draftsman, perfectionist. His basement was half workshop, half gameroom. He had a pool table (and taught me well!), an air hockey table, shuffle board painted on the floor and a ping pong table that doubled as his dollhouse building workshop. I also remember spending hours at the desk using his typewriter and allll his typing paper. Grandparents are known for their generosity with supplies parents are generally unwilling to share freely!

My grandfather was very organized, all his screws were in baby food jars, labeled and arranged by size on his homemade shelves. He also kept a coffee can full of nail and a box of scrapwood. Those were my favorites! Papa would help me choose the correct pieces, we would put them in the vise, plane them smooth, sand them and then proceed to nail all the scrap pieces together. I received many a blood blister in that basement!

Of course, being the perfectionist that he was, we didn't stop there. We continued on with the staining or painting so that we had a completed and final project. I don't have a single one of those creations - I'm quite certain they ended up in that huge garbage bin that I watched my grandfather toss his mistakes into while yelling, "Oh, phooey!!!" Then there was my grandmother, who always nursed my blood blisters while rolling her eyes and huffing at my grandfather's lack of concern over them with an, "Oh, Good NIGHT!" They were both so predictable!

The one talent of my grandfather's that I really desired to own was his precision in lettering. I'm sure this began from his training as a draftsman. But, like everything else in my grandfather's life, he honed this skill until it reached his level of perfection. He was a calligrapher, sign maker, engraver, and he taught me everything he knew about all those things. I'm not nearly as proficient as he was in all those things, but I am a calligrapher. While he introduced me to this art form, he's not the one who taught me. I wanted to know how to do this when I was 10 years old, and he didn't have the patience for me at that age. Instead, I learned by accident!

When I was in junior high school, a friend of mine and her mom had signed up to take calligraphy. They asked if I could babysit her brother while they went to this evening adult education class. After the first night, her mom decided she was not interested and offered to send me in her place. It was great fun!! About 12 weeks of class and I loved every minute of it! I've been doing calligraphy ever since.

Right now, I mostly attend Creative Memories functions and do work in scrapbooks. I also, on occasion, have addressed envelopes for various functions. I do much work for friends and it's on a pay me if you want to kind of basis. In other, I could never charge a friend, but most of them give me something. I do wedding invitations, corporate invitations, etc. Last year, a friend of a friend asked me to do a small project. It actually ended up being a very lucrative project, although I had meant it to be a gift. Now, T has decided I should get to work!!

I actually love calligraphy - it's fun for me and I would hate to ruin that by making it a job. I love being able to offer something to friends that they will cherish and enjoy at an affordable (free mostly!) rate. It also allows me to reminisce about my grandfather, whom I love dearly. Since he passed away several years ago I find that I cherish each little creation that he made even more than before. To have carried on a talent is even a deeper connection, as I know he was proud that someone in the family enjoyed his artistry.

Someday, I may turn this into a business, but for now it's just an outlet and service for people and friends who appreciate it. Kt has always been interested in learning it, of course, we'll have to work on that handwriting a bit first!! Not to mention, I'm a lefty and I'm not sure I can teach a righty how to do this. Aw, just kidding! I can teach it - but only if it's something you REALLY want to learn. We'll see about Kt!

Pump It Up!

Em and I just got back. It was fun! The place was actually much smeller than I'd envisioned. There was a large structure that the kids climbed through and it ended as a slide, two moon bounces, one smaller with big boxing gloves (not liking them too much) and a larger one with a flower bouncer in the center and then a huge slide. I actually witnessed a scary slide incident. A larger kid decided to go down head first, like many other children were, but his face slowed down the rest of his clothed body and got stuck - looked like a near broken neck. Many hearts stopped in that moment as his body nearly flipped over his head - hard to envision, I understand, but it was scary. He was fine, but as parents (there was no one from the establishment in the room ?) we instated the feet first, on your butt rule.

All in all, it was fun. I went in the large circular bounce with the flower at the end once most of the kids had cleared out. It was me, Em, her friend Er and her mom, my Jewish mom friend. We had a blast for about 5 minutes - then the moms were done!! I'm not sure how the kids can keep that up for 2 hours, but it's a great energy spender!!!

Afterwards, A and Er invited us to Chick-fil-A for lunch. It was fun, got to chat a bit. A, the Jewish mom, knows everyone. Everywhere we go she knows someone or even a few other moms. I sort of learned today that I really am not in that "soccer mom" category. These moms are way overcommitted, or at least their children are, they stopping in at Chick-Fil-A not to eat, but to let their kids run around because they had 30 minutes between activities and didn't feel like going home. I've never done that. All they talk about with each other are their children and all the things that they are signed up for. We aren't that, either. Oh well - at least I know for sure now that I'm not a soccer mom!

Now that I'm home (should be grocery shopping but to pooped!) I need to get this Pampered Chef party organized. Next big event... here, anyway! We still have CT this weekend.

Putting Perspectives to Work!

OK - last night was phenomenal!! I loved the speaker, who reminded me of Scott Brown with a little "Jack" from Will and Grace - although, he's happily married with three kids. Where do they find these guys? Last week, a man who secretly went undercover behind the iron curtain, memorizing city maps in Russian and learning how to outwit the KGB. Tonight, a guy who has worked in the military, became a Christian at 38, went to seminary and now works as an anti-terror something training high-ranking military officers from countries like Egypt right here in the US. Hmmm... it's this whole reverse missions thing.

I had this nutty idea a while back about doing a reverse missionary trip. It was something like "have our kids bring a friend on a service oriented missions trip" and I never really got much past that. Now it looks like we might actually be hosting a group like this from Brazil. I am very excited about this, especially for the kids who went last summer and their families, as they will be offered the opportunity to host these kids. Wow! I have a billion ideas, but I want to know what these kids think.

Of course, I'm thinking NYC - we can run them to DC for some sightseeing, but I think kids who come from so far away really would just love to say they'd been to NY. Am I wrong?? Of course, maybe they really just want to see what real life is like in the US. T and G talked last night and G, our contact in Brazil, really wants to get his students involved in a service project. Last summer T's team perked up a rundown park with this group and it really was a highlight of their trip. For the unchurched kids in Brazil, I wonder what they were thinking?? So, our homework - find a really good service project, either around here or in NYC, for these kids. I'm going to really start praying for this. Of course, I know how these prayer sessions go. We'll end up in LA or something!!

So, last night, there was this underlying theme about missions being temporary. Glorifying God will be eternal, it's our goal. We have only a short time to spread this message to all the nations of the earth. Also, the idea that Israel was chosen for this mission, to show the Glory of God to the nations. It was never meant(God's blessing), even in the OT, to be solely for them. He chose to bless them SO THAT OTHERS MIGHT GLORIFY HIM. God's desire, that all may come to Him, worship Him. Very interesting point. Not one I'd ever visited before, believe it or not!

Em and I are off to Pump It Up - a big moon bounce playground around here. I've never been, she went last week and loved it! I hope I don't get sick!!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Perspectives Homework

Enrichment is the key word for me today! Boy am I glad I'm not taking this class for credit!! The amount of reading is ridiculous. I sat down today to do a bit of it and Kt wanted to "listen" in. Of course, this meant that I had to read out loud, which I had not really planned on. So, I started with an array of verses about God's covenant with Abraham, during which Kt quickly picked up the redundancy of the word "blessing." While I knew she was paying attention, due to her comment, she remained busy with her reading quizmo game.

I continued on with Genesis 22. "Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." And He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the ....." Kt quickly jumped to her feet and screamed, "WHAT? Wait a minute, did you say 'burnt offering'???"

Hmmm... I thought to myself. Have we skipped over this important story with her? How could she not have heard this one before? Is it one of those bad parent stories that we are afraid to tell our kids lest they think God may ask this of us? I looked right at her and said, "Yup, that's what God told him to do!" and I kept right on reading.

She sat straight up in her chair and listened intently to the rest of the story. She was mystified by it, couldn't take her eyes off me. The Word of God can do that. It speaks to a believer's heart. As I came to the end, she seemed quite relieved. "So, God told him not to. Wow, but he said 'We will worship and return to you.'(vs 5) Did he know that God would not make him kill Isaac?"

OK. I was a little stumped. Sometimes four years of Christian college can't even help answer the questions of a child. When these teachers at Kt's school tell me she's not a top reader, needs to work on comprehension, I really don't know what they are talking about. Really! I told her I didn't know, maybe he hoped God would make a way to save Isaac, but that he did a lot to prepare for that sacrifice. I can't imagine... It's a story that haunts me and comforts me at the same time. It's hard to explain.

I have much more reading to cover before this evening. I doubt I'll get to all of it. I'll have to be more disciplined for next week! It's been a long, long time since I've had to do a reading assignment!


Kt was working on a reading bingo game with T this evening while Em "played" along until she was bored out of her mind. Feeling left out, she decided to test out her newfound ability to "spell" and said to T, "What does E-M-O-B spell?"

T replied, "It spells emob."

I looked over with my quizzical glance, trying not to laugh out loud.

Emily looked at me, raised her eyebrows a few times and proudly announced to me, "I SPELLED EMOB!!" with a rather large, very genuine smile.

Not wanting to ruin the moment (with my thought to ask Daddy what that word meant!) I said, "Wow! Good job!"

Now, that's Shenglish for you! (It's probably a good thing we don't homeschool!)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Rubik's Cube

Wow! I'm so out of it!! I thought these things were gone with the 80's but it appears I am wrong! I cannot believe someone actually solved a Rubik's cube in just over 11 SECONDS! That's crazy!

I have vivid memories of this cube, and the little book that went along with it! You know, the book that most of us had to use to solve one layer of that cube, maybe two layers and for some reason I could never get the last layer to work, even with the book!! My sister, on the other hand, practically memorized the book. She probably would have ended up at one of these competitions had they existed when we were kids.

My sister, the genius, got my mom a Sudoku (?) book for Christmas - she may as well have gotten herself that gift!

Crazy Weather

Last night was a bit crazy!! I don't think I've ever heard of "wind storms" until I moved here, which would seem a bit odd to me. We had one last year and it was crazy! T had to work last night from 10PM and didn't get home until this morning around 10AM. The wind was howling all night and I do remember hearing a couple huge noises in our backyard last night. I was wondering what it might look like this morning!

One year, when we were back in our townhouse, T was away on a missions trip (always an adventure to be left home during one of these!) and we had what I can only describe as a cyclone in our back yard. I watched as our glass table on our deck was lifted up, turned over on it's side and shattered all over our second story deck, glass shards on our shed, all over our yard and our neighbor's yard. Also, all the toys in our backyard, including a Little Tikes playhouse were transplanted into our neighbors yard all piled on top of each other!! It looked like a small mountain of twisted toys!!

After several loud bangs last night I was sure the morning would show something of that nature. Fortunately, it was just our gas grill, fallen over, top gone and pretty busted. I think we might have been lucky!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Did they kickoff?

So, the party is OVER!! Actually, other than all the work we put into it, the party was easy. The girls were wonderful, everyone had fun, the parents who stayed enjoyed themselves and were very helpful. The birthday girl, other than a few little spats, had a great time - it was all about her, so we tried to make it all about our friends!!

I sent T out this morning to pick up Kt (she was invited last night to a play and for a sleepover at a friend's house - very good timing!) and get balloons. He asked what colors, I told him bold Dora colors - hot pink, orange, purple, green and NO PASTEL!! Those were my last words. Guess what he brought home? I should know by now to write it down!!!! It looked a bit like Easter around here, of course the kids didn't care one little bit!

We are now all exhausted. T's asleep - has to work tonight. The girls are still playing. The group for the party was so quiet and tame, my two made up for that as soon as everyone left! They are playing in the basement with all their old toys - funny! I'm cleaning up here and there, finished the Thank You cards so I don't forget and now I'm sitting here... trying to absorb what just happened.

My friend stopped by with my Southern Living order. She's lucky, had she come a little sooner there would have been complete mayhem. She peeked in the door, then when she saw how quiet it was (I had told her there would be a party here) she said to me, "So, have they kicked off yet?" I gave her a funny look and said, "Yeah, they all left a bit ago!" She looked at me like I was from Mars and said, "NOT THE KIDS, SILLY - the GGGAAAAAMMMMEEEE!" You know, we are so not football people. Being in Redskins country I forget sometimes how fanatical everyone is here. Are the Redskins even playing? I thought they lost their game?? I have no idea so we just laughed.

Now, I may not be a football person, but I grew up in a Cowboys household. My father was a religious football fan - Dallas Cowboys all the way. I KNOW what a kickoff was, just not on a day that I just entertained 12 little girls for my daughter's birthday. I know who Tom Landry and Roger Staughbach (?) are, Emitt(?) Smith, Troy Aikman (?) - OK - so I can't spell their names, I can only say them. I might even be able to name them if I saw them. That's it, though. I know nothing about the Redskins and now that my dad has gone ahead to heaven, I haven't heard or seen football in almost 3 years!! Oh, well.

Now, I'm moving on to my next party. I don't like doing those home sales parties but I did one this summer (Southern Living) and it was fun. Of course, my rule is never two parties in one year. It wears on the friends. This one is different, though, so I'm breaking my rule. Friends of ours who are area missionaries have been very low on their support for the past year - sometimes below 50%. C decided this past week to begin selling Pampered Chef to hopefully make up some of what they need to survive in this area. Since she homeschools her children jobs are hard to come by, so after a year of consideration she took the plunge. I'm hosting her first party for her. It's OK if it's small. She's a little quiet and because it will be her first I think she'd prefer something non-threatening. I may buy one item but I'm donating all my credit to her to start this business so it would be nice to have at least a few friends show up!! I have two weeks to prepare for this one - should be easy... I'll let you know how it goes...

Well, I'm off to rest a bit. Once T wakes up I'm jumping into to tub to disappear for a bit. Since T is working tonight I'll probably have to brave church tomorrow with the girls myself. That should be interesting. Traffic is pretty bad there and we aren't making any friends at the small Catholic church - kind of a bummer. Our neighbors are off to Disney in the morning (I'm a teeny bit jealous) so Em will be without her playmates for a bit. All these things, but at least the party is over!

Friday, January 13, 2006

I'm gonna be on Oprah!!

Or at least that's what I was thinking today when I received this phone call...

I'm lying, no Oprah - YET! This afternoon a man called asking for "Sandra," and I promptly informed him that he had the wrong number. He then asked for T, my husband. I told him he was at work. He replied, "Well, I guess he's the one who would know Sandra." I told him I doubted that and asked what this was in reference to. He said it was about a "claim" involving insurance, later stating it was about an inheritance. He then asked if we knew "Patricia S." and I told him no, we didn't. He again thought that T might know more about these women.

After almost 12 years of marriage, I told this guy I highly doubted my husband would know two women I have never heard of, of course, stranger things have happened... The story then gets even fishier, as he starts rattling off the names of T's parents, where they live, where the soc. security cards were issued, he described T to me, and then the clincher - Sandra is from Fairfield, CT. I mean, how weird is that. I finally said to this guy, "Am I going to end up on Oprah or something??" He laughed, told me no...

I got this guy's name, because it turns out that Patricia, who they are having trouble locating, does have T's father's name. I had T call him, and by the time T called, this guy had figured out that he was actually looking for some other guy, who he found, in Baltimore with the same last name, first name, well, it's a stretch. Of course, identity theft did cross our minds. It's scary the amount of information these attorney's can scrounge up on someone. No wonder identity theft is such a problem.

So, no, I doubt I'll be on Oprah, and I'm glad about that. Of all the people I know, T would be the last on my list to have secret relationships. That's one of the reasons I married him - I can trust him. I know there are crazy stories of men who can't be trusted and I've even known some, but not this one. And if he is one of those men, more than Oprah will be looking for me!

The Frazzled Party Mom!

My posts have been thin and non-existent - sorry, for anyone who checks!! Tomorrow is Em's big Dora party and I'm not sure I'm even halfway ready. I offered for her to have this party anywhere else but here, but my homebody baby only wanted a Dora party at home. I am not kidding you - this is MUCH more expensive than gymnastics, Build-A-Bear or any other kind of party. Not to mention the amount of cleaning, preparing, planning.... I'm pooped and the party hasn't even begun!!

Em is so excited, though. She plopped her head on her pillow last night, clenched her fists together and in a loud whisper, with a huge smile on her face she said, "It's almost my party day!! YIPPEE!" It's fun as a parent to do something special for your child, even if it does require some extreme commitment and time. I'm hoping not to get so stressed (like I normally do) that I can't enjoy her party with her. Of course, my list is enormous and cooperation is at a very low level at home. We all have differing definitions of "clean," "now," and "need." My definition is pretty straight forward, of course, while everyone else's is sketchy at best! After 3PM on Saturday, you can find me (or not!) locked in my room in a full bubble bath. Don't come lookin'!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

About Face

Today, in the midst of my running around to get Em to school and her snack for her birthday finished, I also had to run to Kt's school to tutor. I missed the week before Christmas and last week, so I felt I needed to go. It was very disappointing and as a former teacher, very challenging...

This little boy that I tutor is in kindergarten and is way behind. At first, he was very excited to see what we had to offer, but now it is clearly apparent to him that we have nothing that he understands. In my last session with him, he was almost in tears until I pulled out the prize box. Of course, he was rather unimpressed with the bookmarks and pencils inside (I actually was, too!). Today I met with complete defiance right from the start. About the only phrases out of his mouth were "No," "I don't know," "I'm not going to tell you," and "Because I don't HAVE to." It was the most unpleasant he's ever been.

He shared with me before the holiday that his family does not celebrate a holiday. Today, when I asked him if he received any gifts over the holidays he said, "No." That was it. I asked what he did during the vacation and he said, "Nothing." (Oh, I should have added that to his few phrases of the day.) Apparently he didn't sleep, eat, play or watch TV the entire vacation (I asked!). He did nothing. Truthfully, I'm starting to get a little suspicious. Of course, these suspicions are being fed by other observances that I don't care to elaborate on.

I am totally at a loss about how to handle this situation. I don't feel like I have a whole lot of authority over this child - I'm just a parent volunteer. As a former educator, I don't see the value in forcing a child who is clearly not ready to perform to continuously be subjected to any and all forms of performance. I'm really torn because I know, from my previous tutoring experience, that our county schools NEVER retain students, nor do they recommend retention. The policy is basically "this child will," whether they are ready or not. So, in simpler terms, this child, who for 3 months has been unable to look at the letter C and tell me it's a C despite me and another tutor working with him twice week, must and will learn about 30-60 sight words before entering first grade. That would be by June 13th. That's that, and they are asking me to help facilitate this. I happen to think it's a disservice to this family, but I volunteered for this. Shame on me!

I really thing this student has witnessed a lot of anger, a lot of defiance and is finally expressing it in the classroom. It's possible that this classroom has been a safe haven for him. He's very secretive, avoids personal questions (which is highly unusual for a child 5 years old) and clings to his friends in class. I don't have any idea whether he has a learning issue or if he is just developmentally delayed. Since I've seen this progression from enthusiastic learner to completely defiant participant I am more suspecting the learning issue. I could be wrong - this is definitely no specialty of mine. I just see so many inconsistencies that I believe there is more to this situation than meets the eye.

I don't know if I'll be returning. I'll go if they want me to, but I feel like I'm not really helping this situation. One thing I've noticed about this public school is that the teachers rarely, if ever, give individualized attention to any student. It's difficult when the classes are so large! I don't know where this little boy will end up, but I hope they discover early enough how to help him.

Dangerous Dogs

This is the second report of a dangerous dog in Virginia in the past week in the WP. The first was the story of a woman whose cat was mauled in her front yard by a new neighbor's wandering dog. They did DNA testing to prove that this particular dog was, in fact, the culprit. Very lengthy story, very bizarre case. I'm not at all sympathetic to dog owner who allow their animals to roam free, so I do believe these owners should have been held responsible but the VA county disagreed.

This case is a bit different. First, it involves a child, not a cat. Second, it appears that the child entered the dog's territory. The dog was in his fenced in yard, the father of the child thought he had put his 3 year old down for a nap but the child possibly ventured out of the house (I'm not sure how the father could have missed that, but 3 year olds can be very smart!). It's quite sad, I doubt the owners of the dog will be charged with manslaughter, as might happen elsewhere. I did find this quote of interest:

The deputies entered the neighbor's yard, with the dog barking and threatening to attack, Smith said. One deputy drew his weapon, pointing it at the dog, which then withdrew into a corner of the yard.

What was the weapon?? When I read this, I assumed a gun. If a child is not responding, face down and an animal is acting aggressively, would an officer pull out a gun or a billy club? Either way, the dog responded. Now, I don't own a Rottweiler. Quite the opposite, I own a Maltese. Maybe larger dogs respond differently when they see a gun, but my dog would not have a clue what a gun is! He'd probably walk up and sniff it. This dog's reaction did make me a bit suspicious about the training and experience of this particular "pet."

We had an unfortunate dog even in our neighborhood back in the fall. Two new neighbors, both with dogs and children. One family has a Rottweiler, the other has a miniature poodle. The larger dog was being walked around the block by this other family's new home. The poodle, which remained in his yard, penned in by his electric fence, came up to greet the larger dog and ended up being mauled. This all happened while the larger dog was being pulled away by his adult owner and the smaller dogs owner and two 5 year old daughters looked on. It was very unfortunate, and left many questions for the rest of our neighborhood.

One question, how secure are those electric fences? They may keep your dog in, but they don't keep danger out. Another, how safe are large dogs who cannot be controlled even on a leash? Like animal control has told this family with the mauled dog (that survived! after surgery), as long as the owner keeps their dog on a leash and shots up to date, there is nothing that can be done. Finally, knowing this new, big, poodle mauling dog lives within eyesight of our house, how safe are my children, and the many others, playing outside with the possibility of it getting out? I must say, it has us all concerned. We don't want to be the next story in the WP.

This is a tragic and extreme story, one that I hope is rarely repeated. T has always wanted a large dog but they really do make me nervous. I think many are unpredictable and too large to manage. If your dog is walking you, then it's too big for you!! Fortunately it's a no brainer for our family - Kt and I are allergic, so we stick with the tiny dogs with hair, not fur. I doubt Calvin will make the front page of the WP for mauling anything other than his chewy toy!