Sunday, September 30, 2007


This one was pretty obscure, but the fact that it said I'm a match for the Visionary Soul... that's what I would guess T is!

You Are a Seeker Soul

You are on a quest for knowledge and life challenges.

You love to be curious and ask a ton of questions.

Since you know so much, you make for an interesting conversationalist.

Mentally alert, you can outwit almost anyone (and have fun doing it!).

Very introspective, you can be silently critical of others.

And your quiet nature makes it difficult for people to get to know you.

You see yourself as a philosopher, and you take everything philosophically.

Your main talent is expressing and communicating ideas.

Souls you are most compatible with: Hunter Soul and Visionary Soul

Saturday, September 29, 2007


In reading and watching all that is transpiring in Burma, I'm completely perplexed about what can be done to help these people. I really feel like it's a humanitarian crisis, nightmare, injustice and I am one American who feels that yes, we are called as a nation promising liberty and justice for all to do something proactive about this.

I joined a facebook group and have been following closely with some stories that just aren't making it onto CNN or FOX, probably because many of them are difficult to confirm. One interesting site, however, has a chilling claim tonight - that injured protesters have been burned alive at crematoriums. Does this sound like Nazi Germany? I honestly am just having a difficult time wrapping my mind around a government who would do this to their people.

I think it's important to keep in mind while reading about these recent protests and given the history of this nation, this is not a national protest arising from higher fuel prices. There's a lot more to this - years of oppression, poverty, hopelessness, military dictatorship, disappearing villages, fleeing refugees, and it's a huge cry for help from the world. I just hope the world does not choose to ignore it!

Six Flags America

Two weeks ago, T scored some tickets to an event at Six Flags in Lanham. I've never heard good things about that place, mostly due to the type of crowd it attracts, various illegal activity in the parking lot, etc. Two weeks ago, however, the whole park was rented out by his company. We had the whole park to the company, which is huge!

The day was perfect, a bit chilly, but great for an amusement park. We opted to skip the water park because it was nippy, but next year, if we have the opportunity to do this again, I'm thinking we might just go to the water park! Before we went, I had done a blog search for info on this park. I came across a report that compared it to the Magic Kingdom, on a much smaller scale. I don't know why this surprised me, but it did! And I think the guy was right. There's a little main street, a few different "lands" and a kids section. They have various characters roaming around, a parade, lots of artery clogging food.... but I wouldn't go so far as to even claim it is similar to the magic kingdom - I'm just not seeing that at all!

I think the girls had a lot of fun! They rode on some rides, we had lunch provided, drinks and chips available all day and just enough of a thrill. We were somewhat disappointed at the number of rides that were closed. Kt especially wanted to go on the two water rides - a pirate one and a family river one - both were closed. She somehow managed to get me on the ROAR - which was a terribly rickety one - gave me a headache! and her, too! Then we went on a ride that if I'd thought better of it and it's single purpose I would have passed on! It was simply a ride to get you totally soaked! If the pool of water in the bottom of that fake boat wasn't enough to warn me, I might have been deterred by the returning passengers who looked not only soaked, but incredibly speechless!

After being totally drenched, wondering if I'd suffer from some mild form of hypothermia, we finished up our day sending dad on a small ride (he's a baby when it comes to amusement parks - won't even ride the carousel!) and touring the water park. We had to leave a bit early because T had to work! (Yes, on a Saturday!) We were all ready to go and are looking forward to this company pampering us like Verizon never did. I believe that one day might have equaled in cost what VZ spent on our family in 12 years - honestly. What a nice company to work for!

Vanishing Front Porches

It's a beautiful fall day here. The only thing spoiling it for me is knowing that it will lead to winter, shorter days, darkness.... But I was reminded this morning of how nice it was growing up with a big front porch that was used. We used it for hanging out, playing on, chatting with friends on, playing the car color game, blowing bubbles from, bike storage, many falls down the stairs onto the concrete sidewalk.... It had and still has many uses.

One of my favorite things about that porch was the fact that we lived in a very mobile neighborhood. We had plenty of neighbors, and right down at the corner we had a little pharmacy, grocery store, bank, gas station, vet, pizza shop, newspaper stand and at one time even a little bagel store, video store and travel agency. Because all those things were so close, everyone would walk to them, right by our front porch. It was the point of neighborly social gatherings. We could sit out on our porch, say hi to everyone who passed by and even chat a bit. In fact, many friends would drive by our house and pull up and stop if we were out on our front porch - it was awesome!

I can also remember as a child my father talking about growing up in a similar neighborhood in a suburb of Chicago. One of his neighbors was the first to get a television on the block, and he would turn it around in the window for all the neighborhood to pile on his front porch and view it each night. Can you imagine, the draw of a new "techie" toy and use of that front porch? What a great way to meet your neighbors!

Today, front porches seem to be vanishing at an alarming rate! At first, they were just shrinking. Our house has a baby front porch. We can fit a couple chairs on it and it even has a little overhang to cover it. It's not the best place to watch a hail storm from (something we also used to do!), nor is it a good place for keeping outdoor toys. There is also barely enough room for 3 people on it! What's worse? only one other home in our court even has something resembling a front porch. The rest of the homes have no place to congregate outside a home. It's really quite sad!

I need to take more advantage of my mom's front porch when we go to Connecticut next time - teach my girls the fun of having one, using one and the value of meeting people from one. Maybe we'll play that car color game, or see which step they can leap from without crashing or maybe we'll even try a game of hide and seek or capture the flag with full use of that porch! So many memories.

OK - now back to my regularly scheduled activity - making guacamole. Too bad I can't serve it from my big front porch!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Save the Cupcake!

I read this on Fox tonight - a man after my own heart!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Moon

Moon, Moon, what's tonight?
It's nice to see you beautiful and bright
Up so high, in the sky
You soak the earth with your bright light

The girls and I wrote this poem tonight. We came out of the gym and the moon was big and golden. Stopped us in our tracks! We went round and round with lots of different lines that we voted on and then ended up with this version. It's pretty rough - LOL - and some little girlies are complaining that their lines got nixed. I guess that's what happens when you have multiple authors!!

So, the moon was a welcome sight after my week of self-mutilation. Monday - group power, Tuesday - FREE!, Wednesday - water aerobics AND group power, Thursday - water aerobics. Tomorrow? I'm not sure I'll be able to get out of bed! I was thinking I had to stay home for a delivery, but they aren't coming until 2:15. No excuse. I guess I'll go swim laps, as that is the more relaxing than anything else I've done this week! Oh, yeah, and I walked on the treadmill - but that was only for 15 minutes, going about 2.5 miles an hour. I didn't think I'd make it through group power if I did any more than that!

Moon, moon, you're a welcome sight
for an old, worn out body that is tense and tight
you beckon slumber, the stamp sealing night
your creator thought of me when He sent you tonight.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I'm Not Who I Was

by Brandon Heath

I wish you could see me now
I wish I could show you how
I'm not who I was
I used to be mad at you
A little on the hurt side too
But I'm not who I was

I found my way around
To forgiving you
Some time ago
But I never got to tell you so

I found us in a photograph
I saw me and I had to laugh
You know, I'm not who I was
You were there, you were right above me
And I wonder if you ever loved me
Just for who I was

When the pain came back again
Like a bitter friend
It was all that I could do
To keep myself from blaming you

I reckon it's a funny thing
I figured out I can sing
Now I'm not who I was
I write about love and such
Maybe 'cause I want it so much
I'm not who I was

I was thinking maybe I
I should let you know
I am not the same
But I never did forget your name

Well the thing I find most amazing
In amazing grace
Is the chance to give it out
Maybe that's what love is all about

I wish you could see me now
I wish I could show you how
I'm not who I was

I have heard this song many times but never really listened to the lyrics until today. It reminded me of the conversation the other night about high school reunions. My friend who attended hers shared that she was not a believer in high school, so going back was amazing for her. She found others who had also "found Jesus" or old friends who had been Christians all along.

My high school senior yearbook was kind of funny because a bit after school was out they mailed us this "senior insert" that we were supposed to tuck into the back of that encyclopedia sized monster. It was a cute little addendum and there were some interesting things in there. Namely, one student had mentioned that he became a believer and I thought.... I wish I had known. I didn't pay much attention to the 570+ seniors I graduated with, but I wish I had.

Now it's almost 20 years later, and next year, when I maybe head to my reunion, in my mind most of those people will still be in high school. But they really won't be, and I'll have to remember that they are not who they were. I know there will be some who didn't ever grow up, but I want to be more aware of those who have changed in many ways, and be interested in who they really are. No preconceived notions. Not easy, but I want to try and practice some amazing grace!

I'm Really Parle Vous Francais?

This should make my new friend happy, and I think it's changed from another time I might have taken this!

Your Inner European is French!

Smart and sophisticated.

You have the best of everything - at least, *you* think so.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Car Rental Nightmare....

So, next week I'm heading to Savannah to help my sister out. Her husband is off to Florida on his first ever business trip. My mom is flying in on Saturday and my sister can pick her up. I, on the other hand, am landing at 11:30 PM Tuesday, when most people (with small children!) are sleeping! My brilliant plan was to rent a car, drive to my sister's, which while in Savannah is a 30 minute drive from the airport, and then have my mother drive it the next evening for her flight out at 7. It was a great plan, especially because my sister crazily has a huge party that evening, so I have to pick her kids up at daycare around 4/4:30 and I wasn't too keen on driving my mom out to the airport with two small children who eat dinner at 5 and go to bed by 7. I had sort of warned my mom about this schedule thing, but I think that was her only option or something....

Anyway, two problems. First, the cheaper car rental place we use closes at midnight! I'm not really interested in being stranded at the airport if my plane is late (very common these days!), nor am I interested in renting at the last minute from a price gouging more expensive car rental agency. Second problem, the addition driver issue. There are SO MANY requirements in order to add an additional driver. First and foremost, you must both appear at the car rental counter together. That right there defeats the purpose of my brilliant plan, which has one goal only - that my mom or sister do not have to come pick me up!! Duh. I had naively assumed my mom could just take care of all that paperwork when she arrived Saturday at the airport, but no.

There are many other requirements, but at this point they mean nothing! What's worse? I now have to rent from one of those price gouging expensive places because they are the only ones open past midnight! I hate renting cars! Too bad I can't just walk it!

Opaque Reflection

We sat by the fire last night with our small group, catching up on each other's summer activities. It was a beautiful night, crisp, clear caught somewhere between summer and autumn. There is a thin layer of leaves on the ground, we were clad in our T-shirts, capris, flip-flops and sweatshirts making S'mores, having treats.

We started around our group, sharing what we'd done, where we'd been, what we walked away with. One couple had attended a high school reunion, with multiple reflections. There were memories of life past, friends who'd moved on and those who remained attached to their wild and crazy high school roots, typical, common stories one might hear about a reunion.

Next couple had taken a much needed break to the beach for a few weeks with family, friends, having fun, swimming, relaxing away from life as a pastor at our large church. It was great for them, but left them feeling like they needed just a little more time away.

Another couple had taken their four children, ages 5-7 (a set of twins in there!) to California for two weeks on an adventure to the mountains. The kids enjoyed meeting family for the first time, waterskiing, hiking, Sequoias, and just getting attention! They had a great time, very memorable, all positive.

The last family had taken a trip to the Colorado Rockies, and told of adventures driving up to 12,000 feet, seeing beautiful creation, meeting up with old friends, some family and just creating beautiful memories for their family. I have to admit, with all the talk about out West I was becoming slightly jealous! I LOVE Arizona, Colorado...

Tucked into that conversation was our recollection of our Hungary trip. That was pretty much our "vacation" for this summer, given that T's new job means very little accumulated vacation time. As it was, we had to borrow time to go! We told of the families we'd met, the third culture kids, the spiritual condition of Europe... it was exciting to talk about, we felt passionate about what we'd done and where we'd been. I didn't feel like that excitement was felt by anyone else. It was almost like looking into a pool and seeing no reflection at all.

Sometimes, that is exactly what a short term trip translates into. It's very difficult to transport someone to where you went in just a little 5 minute synopsis. They were interested, just not really understanding and definitely not getting our connection. And that's OK. That trip left an indelible mark on our family, on our hearts and I think we're about ready to put together our trip report. Processing nearly done. The challenge will be to express to our supporters just how amazing our summer trip was.

I'd love to take a family vacation next year, and I have some dreams for that. I have gone places with my family that they don't know about (hehe), but the truth is that God's plan just seems to be taking precedence over my fantasy vacations. Of course, after Hungary, I can see that God knows my heart, because there was something there I'd never thought to dream about, a much richer treasure than I'd ever come across in my own la-la land. And I'm really excited for next summer!


I have never seen nor heard this word before today. Apparently, it was introduced into this world by the Simpsons. While I've not been a big fan of the Simpsons, never watch it, I'm liking this addition to vocabulary by them. I saw this word today on facebook when I added more names to my friend wheel and it told me to "Click here to embiggen." And I laughed... out loud... because that word was so funny to me!

My goal today is to use that word at some point just to see the reaction I get. It could be possible that I am the ONLY person on earth who has never heard nor used this word. Or, I could get some bizarre looks. I'll let you know as I embiggen my vocabulary today!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Is God Enough?

That wasn't the title of today's sermon at church, but that was the question in my mind as our pastor introduced the Old Testament Challenge study on the Prophets. It was a great message today and one that is so applicable in our culture. It was the story of Elijah and his message to the 10 tribes of Northern Israel under the leadership of King Ahab.

King Ahab is best known for his choice of brides, Jezebel, who was from Sidon, a country where Baal worship was it's centerpiece. Baal was the "god" of agriculture, fertility, storms... here's what Wikipedia says:

Ba`al (baʕal;Arabic,بعل; Hebrew: בעל) (ordinarily spelled Baal in English) is a Northwest Semitic title and honorific meaning "master" or "lord" that is used for various gods who were patrons of cities in the Levant, cognate to Assyrian Bēlu.

"Ba`al" can refer to any god and even to human officials; in some texts it is used as a substitute for Hadad, a god of the rain, thunder, fertility and agriculture, and the lord of Heaven. Since only priests were allowed to utter his divine name Hadad, Ba`al was used commonly. Nevertheless, few if any Biblical uses of "Ba`al" refer to Hadad, the lord over the assembly of gods on the holy mount of Heaven, but rather refer to any number of local spirit-deities worshipped as cult images, each called ba`al and regarded as a false god.

I'm using Wikipedia as a source because it gives us a more universal, as opposed to just Christian, definition of this "god". The nation of Israel had turned to Baal worship as it's chief religion, and all that worship entailed, including child sacrifice and massive orgies. In turning to Baal, God fell into the background and was none too happy about that. Along comes Elijah, sent to Ahab to deliver this message:

Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe, in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word." I Kings 17:1
After this message, God sent Elijah into hiding for three years. Hiding from what? who? Jezebel, who saw each prophet from God as an expendable enemy. Through many miracles, Elijah survives and finally, when God is ready to lift his water ban, gets to speak with Ahab secretly, revealing to him that Elijah is not the one responsible for the drought but Ahab and his family, who have chosen Baal over God. He gives Ahab these instructions.

Ahab went to meet Elijah. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, "Is that you, you troubler of Israel?"

"I have not made trouble for Israel," Elijah replied. "But you and your father's family have. You have abandoned the LORD's commands and have followed the Baals. Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table." I Kings 18:16-19

When Pastor Mark was painting a picture of this event on Mt. Carmel, I saw something that I've never seen before in all the times I've studied and read this story. It was a familiar story to me, and most of the important elements were easily recollected. I just think it might be more meaningful to me now because I'm feeling a bit more convicted by it than ever before.

All the nations were present, all the prophets - 850 of them!! - there to bring an end to this 3 year drought. Elijah allows them to go first, to allow their god of storms, rain, thunder, lightening, fertility and everything in nature essentially, to bring an end to this madness. They spend all day performing their rituals, praying, dancing, begging, pleading with their "god" and nothing happens. All day. Nothing. What would you be thinking if you were there?

After sitting around watching them all day, Elijah chastises them with these words:

At noon Elijah began to taunt them. "Shout louder!" he said. "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened." So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. I Kings 18:27-29
All that, and nothing. Not only that, the people were silent. Maybe it was disbelief, maybe it was disappointment, or maybe it was fear. Maybe years of turning their backs on the one true God caused them to become ambivalent towards any god.

Finally, it's Elijah's turn. Pretty much everything he does is symbolic, a reminder to Israel of His plan for them, His (God's) design for them, their nation, and a reminder of just how jealous a God he is for their hearts. He did not forget them, though they forgot him. He did not turn His back on them when they turned their backs on him. Here's what He did.

Elijah rebuilt the ancient altar to God using 12 stones - one for each tribe. He piled wood up in it's center, sacrificed a bull in pieces - a bull is often used in covenants between God and His people, then had the people pour 12 large buckets of water over the sacrifice, wood until it filled the trench. A soaking wet pile of wood and sacrifice. Then he prayed - no dancing, no singing, no cutting himself to sacrifice his own blood or anything like that - just a simple prayer.

At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." I Kings 18: 36, 37
And what happens?

Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
Poof, just like that, God sends a ball of fire from heaven that consumes everything, STONES included. I have to tell you, our pastor is a great story teller, but when everyone in church this morning was cheering it wasn't for him (this might be the first time in my church I've heard everyone cheer during a sermon!). It was for God. He did in an instant what none of the 850 prophets of Baal were able to do all day, or in three years for that matter.

How many times do I avoid going to a God who will consume stone for my heart, but instead turn to the other gods in this world, who are powerless to help me? Who are not really gods at all but sorry excuses for me avoiding the God who is so jealous for me, my heart, my life? I'm sad to admit that it's much more often than I want it to be. This message today, though, will be a stark reminder to me that my one true God is the only God I want to serve. And He's more than enough for me.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Funny Cultural Anecdote

I had a neighbor relay this story to me, and the more I think about it the funnier it is to me. Kids are so innocent, unaware and fresh in the way they make connections and think.

One of our neighborhood families is from India. Well, actually, more than one but for this story I'm just talking about one in particular. Last Sunday night, they were having an Indian celebration and had invited many friends over. Typically, when they have these celebrations everyone, kids included, arrive in authentic Indian dress, very intricate, vibrant colors, ornate and absolutely beautiful. There tend to be several children and many times they end up playing outside.

This past Sunday, my "American" neighbor (and we also have many more of those!, but just talking about this one!) and her two young daughters were outside, enjoying the friends next door in their unique "Indian" clothing. Unbeknownst to my neighbor and her husband, who were busy (yardwork??), their youngest, a 4 year old, disappeared into the house and emerged wearing her Native American "Indian" headdress from a Halloween costume. According to my neighbor, who caught the tail end of her daughter introducing this new wardrobe piece, the Indian neighbors were quite taken aback that their Indian wardrobe did not include anything that even remotely resembled this amazing Indian headdress that their new American friend had presented. They were quite impressed!

I wonder what the conversation that night sounded like at home with mom and dad! My neighbor and her husband just sat back and said not a peep. Kids can be so enlightening! LOL

Shades of Green

Interesting fact: T called Shades of Green yesterday and found out that we qualify to stay there. Can't tell you why (because I don't know... and if you or I did, he'd have to kill us!), but this presents an interesting option for a Disney lover! T is going to Florida in February and I had opted this time to stay home with the girls. Typically, when we decide to go to Florida in Jan/Feb, it tends to fall around our annual SFF, better known as the "stomach flu fest". Either that, or it's a MWE, known also as "major weather event". In 2005, we attempted a trip and ended up with a combo - SFF & MWE - now THAT was a treat!!;-)

I'm still leaning towards not going, but if his government contractor status is renewed at the end of February, this could mean a trip with the family sometime... not sure when or who. Now if I could just convince T to go on a Disney cruise...

Cupcake Ban Hollow

Last night, we had cupcakes for T's birthday. While we were enjoying them, I said to Kt, "Do you remember when you were allowed to bring cupcakes to school for your birthday?" She replied, "Yes, but that was a LONG time ago!" I said, "Yes, it was, and your poor sister will never know what it's like to bring cupcakes for her class, and every other teacher she loves!"

Really, it is sad. It's a rite of passage in some ways, a simple pleasure afforded to kids on their one special day of the year. Kt even remembered one girl bringing in Rice Krispy Treats - HOMEMADE! She said they were HUGE! Maybe they were, for a second grader, and they were peanut free. Em will never have the chance to experience that - good thing we did that in preschool!

I also must admit, after a full year of no birthday or party treats at school, I don't notice any of the kids getting thinner. After a year of "healthier initiatives" they are still selling cookies and ice cream daily, kids can bring in their lunch boxes anything they want, neither of my girls is being taught anything about eating healthy, or at least they aren't absorbing anything if they are. I just don't see the point in denying kids that special birthday treat.

I do know of a great way to make those birthday treats even less fattening, though. I wonder if the school system would buy this idea? Once, when I was in elementary school, my mom had the brilliant idea of making my birthday cupcakes in our brand new microwave. For a busy working mom, this seemed like a great plan. It was fast, affordable, and we all enjoyed watching our new microwave oven in action, as it was prominently displayed on our kitchen table for our viewing pleasure! LOL

The next day, I brought my beautifully decorated birthday cupcakes in for my birthday. I had just enough for my class, my teacher, the principal, the janitor (who I loved! Mr. Noran!), the school secretary, the art teacher, the librarian, possibly the music teacher and gym teacher, although I don't remember much about them!. After my class had sung to me, I headed off with a friend to deliver said cupcakes. Upon my return to enjoy my own, the kids in the class were all giving me funny looks, asking if we'd forgotten something. Low and behold, each cupcake had a huge air bubble in the middle of them! I was completely mortified, but everyone really thought it was hilarious!

That's a story that's gone down in our family as a bad mommy story, but it really illustrates for me that memories are made in school with cupcakes and field trips. Who remembers the day to day seatwork, classes, lunches? Nobody, but we remember hollow cupcakes and the trip to see the Broadway play, Barnum! I'm sure my kids will have funny stories about elementary school when they grow up, I am just slightly sad that they won't involve fun parties or special birthdays. Are we just sucking all the fun out of school?

Living Dangerously

I was living on the edge today. I actually wore my crocs on an escalator! Yup, I did it, and I felt empowered!

OK, not really, but I was laughing!;-)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Em on T's Birthday

I had this conversation yesterday morning with Em but didn't want to blog it until after today.

Em: Sooooo, what did we get Daddy?

Me: Nothing.

Em: Oh, but I wanted to get him a Wii! Then he would let me play it because I'm his favorite daughter!

Me: Oh, really. How do you know that?

Em: Because I'm the youngest, so I'm the favorite.

Me: Well, maybe it's time for us to get another youngest.

Em: That's fine, too, because it will be too young to play a Wii!

What a booger that one! And NO, no more Shengs on the way. Just not happening - sorry to disappoint all our fans.

We had a very uneventful birthday, but it was fun. I spent two days shopping for Mr. Sheng and found nothing, although I did buy him a copy of the movie Munich, feeling it was very meaningful to mark his 37th year, when we spent one night about 30 minutes outside of Munich. Oh, well... maybe it wasn't that meaningful! LOL

We had Asian pork wraps for dinner - yummy! - and some bread with dipping sauce and steamed veggies. Cupcakes for dessert - per T's request, they are his favorite. I totally forgot the ice cream I bought especially for tonight. I guess we'll have that later!!

The girls are finally in bed, we are going to watch a movie if we can find one. This is the kind of birthday you have when you are considering getting your basement finished, the possibility of replacing one or both of your cars, the prospect of a trip to Florida come February and in light of all the home improvements you've made over the past year - sewer, landscaping, replacing wood trim with synthetic..... those cupcakes were really good!;-)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Happy Birthday, T!

Today T is 38 years old. He looks like he's in his 20's - it's sort of disgusting, but it's also good because getting old is not easy. Anyway, Happy Birthday Mr. Sheng!;-) (More later, when it's not my bedtime!)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I love my crocs! In fact, I'm thinking I need a pair for winter... hehe! I lived in them in Europe and have barely taken them off since arriving home. They are super comfortable and I bought myself a nice pair - not the cloggy kind - so they go with practically everything.

This morning, however, I read this report about Crocs and escalators - BEWARE! Especially if your children have crocs. I think it's worth taking the stairs for. Apparently, all the Crocs are good for make escalators a thing to avoid with children - of course, they have always scared me with children!! Anyway, just so you know!

Monday, September 17, 2007

This is So Me

You Are a Cookie-Browine-Sundae

Totally sweet, delicious, and comforting.

You are a total glutton for... everything!

And now I need to say Good night!

Pizza Personality

What Your Pizza Reveals

People may tell you that you have a small appetite... but you aren't under eating. You just aren't a pig.

You aren't particularly picky about pizza. It's so good... how could you be? You fit in best in the Western part of the US.

You like food that's traditional and well crafted. You aren't impressed with "gourmet" foods.

You are dependable, loyal, and conservative with your choices.

You are carefree and friendly. You should consider traveling to Hawaii.

The stereotype that best fits you is upper class preppy. You don't anything too ordinary or vulgar.


If you are interested in African culture, you should read this article in the Washington Post today. It's intriguing at the very least, inspiring at the very best. This is what is meant when people say there is no culture in America. There's no community, there's no reliance on anyone but ourselves. It's quite sad, we have a lot to learn about getting together.

A harambee is about so much more than money, Warega explained. It's about people and being together. About feeling you belong. "We give thanks. We pray. We eat. We chat chat chat chat. We eat some more," Warega said. "It's how we spread the news in the community."

In many ways, harambee is like a church. We pull together, support each other, travel far and wide to help each other and it's a community we can depend on. But it's the people that make a church, not the organization of church itself. We need to be a community of believers, not a building or a denomination. It's all about the people and the unity they share in Christ.

Sister Sweetness

My girls are sometimes super sweet to each other. Not always, but sometimes they really surprise me. Last week, Kt got her first prize from the prize box for good behavior. She chose one of those hatching animals - for Em! Then on Friday, Kt received the ACE award at school. Each week, one child is chosen from each class. Last year, the girls each received two (I think their teachers should have stuck to one per child per year!), and I was thankful they had gotten the same number.

This year, Em's been a bit, shall we say, challenged, so she was not the first one in her class to be chosen as she was last year. When I got home Friday and there was a call from the principal about Kt getting her ACE award, not Em, I was quite worried how Em would handle the news. T assured me that Em was extremely excited about Kt's award. She made him find Kt and congratulate her when he went in for lunch. That little sweetie was so proud of her sister... if only they could always be that sweet on each other!!

Now, if I could just get the dogs to get along so this place didn't sound like a dog kennel all day long!


The amount of disorder in a system - namely, my stuff.... in a constant state of!! I spent part of yesterday trying nearly every possible way to clean the bottom of my fiberglass shower. It's the one I asked the guys to replace when all the tiles fell off our shower 3 years ago exposing years of built up mold. But no. Nobody wanted to replace the disgusting, uncleanable floor. I was told by these "experts" that I could use bleach, Borax, Tilex.... yada, yada.... Well, everyone, nothing works. That floor is just going to be dirty forever!!

Then I hopped in my car that sounds as if it's going to die. Soon. It's been sounding like this for months, I've been asking to have it looked at for months, I keep hearing someone in agreement with me saying it needs to be looked at.... but I'm still driving it. It's a little scary, and I know it sounds bad because everywhere I go, people look at me now. Embarrassing! We actually took it somewhere before we left for Hungary and they said it's the transmission.... but have we had anyone check that transmission? No. Instead, I'm just driving it everywhere I need to go.

So off I go in my unreliable vehicle with my cell phone that doesn't work anymore. I sure do hope it doesn't decide to break down on me, because I'll be sunk. I charged that battery in the cell phone all night, no charge. It needs a new battery and of course, they didn't have any at the mall yesterday. Just my luck. So I'm driving around in my old car that's about to quit with no cell phone. I'll be driving it tomorrow to Let's Dish (yay!) so I can fill up my freezer with the collapsing shelves. Our refrigerator, for everyone who already knows, is basically in an end state of entropy. "Nuf said about that old thing!

Basically, my body is doing the same thing all these other items are doing. It's totally falling apart before my very eyes. I need to go to the gym today to try to build it back up, but instead I'm running around in my old beat up car without a cell phone and cleaning my dirty house. And now all I can think about is entropy. At least I have a house - right? and a car... and a body...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Community Service Hours

I logged in 11 of these this week. Ah, what to do next week with all my free time!?! I guess it's back to the basement for me.

Tomorrow - Six Flags Lanham. Ordinarily, we would not step foot in that park for various reasons.... HOWEVER, T secured some tickets from his work and the park is closed to the general public (which is part of the reason I'd never step foot....) His company has the whole park tomorrow - should be fun and interesting! I don't know that I've ever been to a Six Flags park. I mean, once you've been to Disney.... LOL Anyway, wish us luck!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mars Bars

Do you know what a Mars bar is? I admit, I had never had one until our flight home from Germany. International flights, by the way, reminded me of the way all airline flights used to be, back when they actually served food! Anyway, they gave each of us a WHOLE regular sized Mars bar. The great thing about it? We really didn't have anything like that (except the delicious chocolate from our CA moms!) while away, so having a WHOLE candy bar on the way home in addition to the ham and swiss sandwich was awesome.

A Mars bar is a Milky Way - I never knew that. I don't eat candy bars anymore - an occasional Twix, some M&M's, but I try to stay away from those large size things, otherwise I'd eat them all the time and be even larger than I am. Anyway, somehow my husband managed to smuggle an extra one off the plane. I just ate it. It was good. It reminded me that I'm not longer there, I'm here - but it was still good! Now, I'm off to get some dinner together. (hehe)


(I thought that looked strange when I spelled it wrong. How ironic - LOL!)

Well, it's pretty likely that in the position of "pseudo-social worker" there are likely many things that can get past me. I'll admit it - I'm a sucker for a sob story, and while empathy may not be a strength of mine, sympathy is. I'm also not so adept at reading all the various forms and printouts DSS provides. It's obviously a learned (interpretation) skill!

I helped out again today with the registration for the Salvation Army, and truthfully, I can't go into a lot of detail as the information I see when I do this is extremely confidential. But here is a small taste....

- a sweet man on dialysis, has brought his two year old with him, listed another little girl on his application.... no birth certificates or social security cards....their mother has them and is holding on to them.... are they his? He was sweet! He did know they like Dora the Explorer....

- everyone wants a Nintendo DS for their child. Mind you, the gifts must be $30 or under.

- a family of ?, living on SS, food stamps, housing assistance - their Comcast bill is $400 monthly...?? That's without the late fees and cut off notice fee....

- a woman in a wheelchair, on disability, asks for one and only one gift: roller skates.

Now, I might be naive when it comes to TCA, SSI, and Section 8 housing, but there are some things you can't put past me. Well, unless it's a good day! LOL It's been eye opening. Truthfully, I don't know who I feel worse for: the families who don't work, live off nothing and are barely making and seem hopeless OR the single moms who are working their butts off, out making a living and because of their effort are barely squeaking into programs like these that are actually meant for them. You almost have to not work to get benefits - something is so wrong with that!

I can also say that I've never been happier that I am a tax paying citizen, because I can see that some of my money is actually being allocated to people in need. Sadly, it's just not enough in most cases and there is a definite racial injustice involved - that's just obvious to the eye. And the only way to get more money? Have more kids... and so the cycle persists. Thanksgiving and Christmas benefits are nice, but these people need more than a handout during the holidays - believe me. And if you think you live in a nice area and there aren't any people in need, think again!

"Whatever you do for the least of these...."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

School, Schmool!

I think that must be what Em thinks everyday when she gets on that bus! School is like a big social networking activity. Everything else, well, it's for the birds! Back to school night was a big indicator of just that. Out of her entire class, she was the only one who did not complete her face - just didn't have time! And there's always an excuse - Mrs. P didn't give them enough time (but everyone else had a face!), C was talking to her all day - blah, blah, blah - so she couldn't concentrate (C had a face!), all my other work took forever! I just wish there was a key.... but there isn't, and if there is, I don't have it in my possession at this time. Neither does her teacher, unfortunately! You know there's trouble when the teacher has to talk to you on back to school night - I mean, that's about the last thing any teacher wants to do on THAT night!!

I guess it's time to lay down the law with this child. Oh, wait, we've already done that! Well, maybe we could actually institute consequences - have tried that as well. I'm thinking it will have to be that communication folder - oh, already have that!! What to do? It's only week three. And here I was worried because she wasn't in that top math class.... what was I thinking? She can barely finish her work in the math class she's in! Why? Not because it's hard, because it's a cinch! No, she's just busy, as she tells me, worrying about what she'll do if she gets hurt. Huh? I had no idea little kids were so preoccupied with the possibility of bodily harm. Does she mean she's worried about what her mother will do to her when she finds out she's not doing her work??

Of course, having a perfect big sister is a tough thing to live up to. Having two parents with very high expectations only adds to the anxiety. Poor thing.... it's going to be another tough year ahead for her. Thankfully, she likes recess!;-)

Busy, busy, busy!

OK - week three of school and already I'm just busy! Add to that trying to clean out my basement and we've got some trouble. I just remembered that I forgot to send Em with her brownie vest - which doesn't even have anything on it yet. Oops!

Yesterday I went to my first group power class in two months. I'm going to start calling it group torture, because I came home feeling like I'd been twisted, poked and stretched and I'm really feeling it today. I think I'm supposed to find that class again somewhere - twice in a week. I must be insane!

After that bit of "fun", I spent the afternoon volunteering at the Salvation Army registering families for the holiday season. That is interesting in itself, and terribly eye opening. We do live in one of the wealthiest counties in the US, and fortunately for these families generosity is a hallmark here. But the truth is that day to day, the generosity doesn't really flow. Just at the times people remember or are reminded. It was quite a wide range of cases I saw yesterday and it's given me a new appreciation for how blessed I am. If you really want to help struggling families in your community, doing that through the Salvation Army is a great way to get started.

OK - I'm off now to make a quick grocery store run before work. T's dad is in surgery right now to biopsy something found in his bladder. If it ends up being something cancerous, this would be recurrent bladder cancer. I'm not really sure what that means for him, but we'd appreciate prayers for that. T will visit after work and then we have Back to School night tonight, so it's a really full day for all of us. If we haven't felt like we're back to real life, today is the day!!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Serves Them Right

Our basement is really disgusting. We have not really used it for much in the past couple of years. The first deterrent were the bees that somehow managed to get in. That put an end to the girls playing with ALL their toys down there. The next deterrent was the sewage backup... need I say more?? Now, it falls on my shoulders to try to clean everything up down there in hopes that we can begin to finish the basement. That's why I've been taking frequent blogging breaks today!

Between the dust, the cobwebs, the spiders, the dust and the mess, I just have to laugh to myself and wonder what those college kids were thinking when they decided our basement would be a great place to have a party! Who in their right mind would do that? And where, I'm wondering, did they actually have this thing?? I can hardly see a square inch of floor space down there. And I just keep laughing to myself, because it serves them all right!

A Grandmother's Legacy

One of the things that impressed me while we were in Hungary with all those missionary families was this one little girl's Bible. It was passed around by a group of girls, who were quite as impressed with it as I was. This Bible was a gift from a grandmother who served with her family and daughter (who is now serving in France) in East Asia. What was so amazing about this Bible?

Upon first glance, the Bible is quite ordinary as far as Bible's go. But upon closer inspection, you will find that each and every single page of that Bible has been highlighted and notes to a dear granddaughter written in the margins. EVERY SINGLE PAGE! It was impressive, and there was quite a buzz around dinner the evening this Bible was brought out for a "show and tell" of sorts. Those doing the showing, however, were not the owners of this rare, unique treasure, but the friends of it's owner who were clearly enthralled by it. Oh, if every little girl could have a gift so precious!

Kt and the granddaughter praying (or playing?)

I have never seen a Bible in my lifetime that was so well read, noted, passed along. Mind you, this wasn't an old Bible by any means. This was a true labor of love, crafted specifically for a beloved granddaughter in hopes that.... I don't know, someday might find the very same treasures this particular grandmother had found in all those words of God. The book was quite new looking, although I'm sure this grandmother poured hours of love into it in order to present something that expressed her true heart and soul. What an amazing gift. I was really impressed.

I'm sure my mom is reading this with a pit in her stomach, but the truth is that it is pretty likely that all grandmothers pass along something to their granddaughters in the way that best represents them. It's pretty unlikely my girls will received a Bible that has been poured over like that. I know I never did! But my girls have had the privilege of living near enough to their grandmothers to spend a lot of time with them, to experience their lives, their loves, their disappointments, struggles and friendship. Grandmothers know how to give immeasurable gifts, and they are always trying to outdo eachother! (hehe) Grandmothers are a gift, and they give good gifts because they typically take the time to get to know their granddaughters in a way parents just don't.
Sorry, Mom, it's the only one I had!
Thank goodness for Grandma's!

Buggin' Me

I have to get this off my chest. I've broached the subject with T a number of times, but with no good conclusion. For anyone who knows my husband, it will come as no surprise that he is fully invested in developing students in many ways. A couple of tools he prefers to use to help students first understand themselves are the Myers-Briggs personality assessment (I've taken this numerous times... and it's hardly changed at all, much to my husband's dismay ;-)), and more recently, Strengthfinders, which is a tool for understanding your most active strengths created by Gallup. Neither of these tools in inherently "christian", but both are used, widely perhaps, by christian organizations. Along with these, many churches including ours have use of several versions of a "giftedness" assessment, which assesses which "gifts" have been bestowed on someone by the Holy Spirit. I don't have any idea how accurate it is, but altogether, each of these tools definitely have some positive use.

Here's my dilemma, and I'm still working on the differentiation between "personality" strengths and physical strengths. In other words, I'm open to WHATEVER insight, advice, ideas anyone may have on this line of questioning. I'm going to point to one particular scripture written by the apostle Paul, but in my mind I'm working from what I know from years of Bible stories the underlying theme that God uses our weaknesses (not our strengths) to make Himself known to others through us.

7To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." II Corinthians 12, NIV
(I copied and pasted this from - which I LOVE! I did add the bold myself...) Anyway, this is the message that keeps popping up into my head when I read about, hear about, think about Strengthfinders. I'm not so opposed to people knowing and understanding their strengths or those of the people they work with. I happen to think that is highly beneficial to understanding why people do the things they do. I'm also not opposed to streamlining operations based on these findings. I think it's great to put people into positions where they will succeed and prosper - makes for good business. I guess my question is this:

If we limit ourselves to only the things we are good at, are we limiting what God might choose to do in our lives, how He might choose to make himself known to the world, how He might reveal his power?

It's sort of a loaded question, I know. I just worry that maybe by unraveling all the "mysteries" of our personalities to determine what direction we should take, we are slowly becoming more reliant on ourselves and not what God can do. Can God take a man with a speech impediment and make him a leader of a nation, delivering them from slavery into a land of milk and honey that was promised to them? If Moses took strengthfinders, what would he have determined about the role that God called him to? Would his pastor have blessed him in a ministry that involved public speaking, leading and representing the nation to pharaoh? I don't know.

I could go on about other examples, but really, I've just been intrigued by this idea that we can put people in the correct positions with these few assessment tools we have and based on our analysis of a team of people and all their strengths and personalities decide whether or not they will be successful. I just think that leaves little room for God to work. Maybe I'm totally wrong about this. Anyway, just a thought that's been on my mind.... aren't you glad you don't know the rest of what's on my mind! LOL

So Sad

Our elementary school has a new website, and I was quite excited when I discovered it. Upon browsing around it again, I was reminded about this.... Last year, we lost our vice principal to another school. It was someone who had been at our school for years, she knew everyone, was an extremely personable person, well loved and we all miss her dearly. Our new vice principal last year seemed the complete polar opposite. I didn't even know her name!

This year, before school began, I told T that it looked like we had a new vice principal as well as a new principal. I was excited at the prospect of meeting a new vice principal, hoping it would be a more pleasant experience than last year. I didn't recognize the name on the website at all! Come to find out, it's the same woman we had last year! The joke's on me! When I saw her trailing behind the principal on the first day of school (while helping with kindergarten lunch), I realized she had never left. Now I see they've updated the website with pictures and her name, while I'm sure it hasn't changed, is one I don't remember ever seeing last year. My bad!

Thursday, September 06, 2007


I find myself longing for Fanta Citrom. I'm not typically a regular soda drinker, sticking mostly to water, OJ or lemonade. Since lemonade was virtually non-existent in Europe, and water was a bit sketch (unless you could find it "sin gas"), I ended up drinking quite a bit of Fanta, most naranc - orange. At the grocery store, however, I did find these liter bottles of Fanta Citrom that were absolutely delicious, light, lemony and very refreshing. I have yet to find anything like it here in the US, which is so surprising given that it's made by Coca-cola! I feel like the BFG looking for my frobscottle!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Word of the Week

This may become a regular post of mine, but I just keep cracking up about this so I figured I'd share. This year in Howard County each elementary school has a technology teacher, which means all the students have a new "special". Both of my girls, being born and raised geeks, have completely fallen in love with this class. Two kids couldn't be happier having been assigned their very own computers that take pictures and are hooked up to the internet. The only thing that could make them any happier would be if they were allowed to access Webkins from their classroom!

Em has been talking about this class ever since school began, and she call's it "tech-a-nology". That in itself has me rolling. In fact, this post could be just about that, but it isn't. Instead, it's about what she told me today that was so cute. I went in to have lunch with her after she begged and pleaded. She explained to me that after lunch, they would go choose a star for the afternoon (she was the star for this morning), have some DEAR time, then have some other fun first grade activity, then "tech-a-nology". She explained to me what was so special about that class is that it's right at the end of the day. After "tech-a-nology", they all get "dismissaled". After that, I was rollinged on the floor laughinged!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

1st Child Counseling

My oldest child has taken to sharing with others either what I am not willing to hear or what she chooses not to share with me. This year has started off with us not wanting to overwhelm her with activities. We gave up Girl Scouts - her choice, signed up for G/T math - her choice, signed her up for gymnastics - again, her choice, signed her up for piano - again, her choice, and we are now considering band, my choice. Maybe I'm just being the vicarious mom here, but I have my reasons.

First of all, I loved band. I only chose to be in band because ALL my friends were in band, and yes, we all played the flute together!! I don't see the same thing happening here, and that could be because Kt is not with any of her friends this year. In fact, the entire spirit of competition has seemed to vanish from her life. Not only does she not tell me what every single one of her friends is doing, but she claims to not know and seems to not care. Even when she brought home permission forms for two different G/T extra classes that she loves, she decided to only sign up for one, something she would never have done last year, passing up an opportunity to spend even more time in an exclusive class with her friends. In fact, she does not even know, has not even called her friends, who is going to be in that class. Weird, I tell you!!

Secondly, I really want her to experience something as a team. She has consistently, since the time she was young, thoroughly hated anything competitive. That is, everything except the brainy stuff, which she typically welcomes the competition in because she is quite sure of herself in that arena. If you aren't going to play sports, I think band is a great alternative in that it teaches you how to work together to make music, something she enjoys. She doesn't really see any value in that aspect of it, of course, she has never even tried!

Finally, it's free! Other renting an instrument for a nominal fee, she would have two music lessons a week for FREE! After forking out $30/week for piano, $50/month for gymnastics + registration and clothes, I'm all for something free. Even that is not enticing to her. Instead, I'm just being "pushy" and "annoying".

Today, she begrudgingly missed Language Arts so she could sit down with the music teacher and explain to her that she already takes piano and feels that taking a musical instrument would take away from her piano practice time. What??? I kept my mouth shut, but I'm lucky if I can get this girl to practice for 10 minutes a day!! And she has plenty of time, I kid you not! I guess what she's really saying is, "My mom is making me do this and I'm telling you I really don't respect that at all!"

Anyway, the music teacher/counselor is a woman after my own heart. She laid it out for Kt how beneficial music could be for her piano and handed her a couple of instruments to try. It's either flute, which I played for a long, long time, or french horn, which I have no experience with so she'd be on her own! I'll leave it up to her, but I can tell it's going to be an uphill battle. Is it even worth it? I'm having major second thoughts.

On a final note, playing the flute for fun earned me 3 1/2 years of scholarships at Gordon that amounted to $7,500 toward my education. I'm not proud to say that I wasn't a great musician because I limited my practice time and dedication, but I am saying that even minimal effort can be valuable. I played in the wind ensemble and a flute quartet, but my kids have never been hampered by my ability. In fact, I've pretty much been non-musical to them because I gave it all up when I started teaching. Maybe that was a mistake, or maybe it will just help to lighten the load for my daughter.

I guess our next round of counseling will revolve around the swimming coach, because next summer she'll be on the swim team, if only just for a year. Hey, I never made her play soccer or basketball. I feel the need to be mean at least once or twice in her lifetime. Someday, I really do think she'll see the value in it, just maybe not in my lifetime!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Just Another Day at the Beach

Today was the quintessential beach day for me. We slept in, had a small breakfast, puttzed around and then packed up for the beach. Well, Emily, T and I, that is. It was a cool, sunny - not a cloud in the sky - kind of day. The sailboats were out in full force, beachcombers, frisbee players, yellow jackets and sea gulls... I totally love the beach.

When I lived here, I spent hours at the beach. With my friends or without, long, quiet walks, winter or summer, day or night, it was really just a part of my life - a really important part. I have yet to find even one thing in Maryland that inspires and relaxes me like the beach. When I first moved there, I had my little old Cabriolet that was so much fun here on the coast. Once in Maryland it was more of a hassle than anything. So I traded that, and my beachcombing life, for a Paseo and high blood pressure! I'm feeling like it was not really a fair trade.

Seriously, if there was any reasonable way I could live here and raise my kids near the ocean I'd do it in a heartbeat. My heart is permanently attached to the shore and when I'm away from it I am just a very different person. I miss the smell of sand, ocean, sunscreen, and all of that mixed together. I miss going out on a summer night in sandy clothes that smell like beach, meeting for late night s'mores in the grillers, climbing all over those off duty lifeguard chairs, driving around with the top down all along the ocean. It's certainly a way of life my kids will never experience - and to me, that's just sad.

Fortunately, I am still able to have a taste of this each summer, even if it's just not long enough or even fulfilling enough. No more friends scattered all over the beach, no more skinny body to feed unlimited amounts of ice cream and Duchess, gone is my adorable little convertible (although I'm thinking that now that my kids are older....) and now, two kids in tow, which changes that way I beach - but really, in a good way! Maybe someday I'll move back to the beach, I'm just not sure when!