Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best. Present. Ever.

So I am guilty of saying a time or two - or twenty six thousand, but who's counting!!! - that, "Sigh... if only I had a palm tree..."

Here in Pennsylvania, winters are miserable.  I could move to Palm Tree Land and be totally content.  There is just something about palm trees that make me happy.  Summer.  Sun.  Sand.  Froo froo drinks with little umbrellas.

Joe and the kids got me the best Christmas present this year.  The kids were so giggly.  "It's just what you've always wanted, mommy!"  I had no clue what to expect.  I was NOT expecting this.

I have a palm tree!   In my living room??!!

In my defense, in the summer we will put it out on the patio.  But for now, maybe it makes me happy.  Every single one of the hundreds of twinkling bright (BRIGHT!) LED lights make me happy.  There.  I admit it.  Hey - I have a palm tree!

 Everyone had to get their pictures with it, too funny.  Just wait for our Christmas Card next year, ha ha ha!

Joe even made me a froo-froo drink.  CHEERS!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Annual Stand In Front of The Tree Poses

 You have no idea how hard it is to get a picture of 2 kids and 2 dogs.  Whew!!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like...


Today we kicked off the Christmas week with our annual family get together.  My dad's brother's family (there are 8 kids, spouses, and kids-of-kids!) has a Christmas party the Saturday before Christmas - and somehow we get invited.  So we go :)

The kids always have a great time seeing relatives we only see once (sometimes twice) a year.  We do too.  We wouldn't miss it!

Poor Emma, she is the only girl no matter which side of the family we visit...  These are my cousin's kids, so not sure what that makes them?  Second cousins once removed?  Hum.  Just cousins sound much better!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

We did it!!

We've been in the same house for 15 years.  It's not too big.  It's not too fancy.  Yes, I would like to change a few things.  Yes, I wish we had more room.  Yes, I sometimes get the discontent bug and start to look up houses for sale.

But it's our home.  The yard is great.  We love the location.  We know what to expect.  We've never had any water problems.  When the sun shines brightly in the morning, it comes in the big picture window in the living room and warms up the whole house. 

And the best part of our house!?!? .....  As of today, IT IS PAID FOR!!!  Yahooey!!

  I had to block out that private info, you know - to keep me private!

Our final payment was not a full payment.  We only had a little bit left.  Final Payment. Those words sound so heavenly.  Didn't think we'd be here so soon....  when we bought the house, we took out a 30 year loan.  When rates dropped, we refinanced and cut the years in half.  15 years later, here we are.  The final payment is in the mail.

Maybe this house isn't so bad afterall....  Yeah, "paid for" sounds much better than "bigger house"!

Friday, November 16, 2012

But It's Not About the Game

Tonight was the last game Luke played on his hockey team.  (He is aging out - this team is for 7-9 year olds.)  It was the championship game.  There are 4 boys on this team who have played together for a couple years.  They all go to different schools.  Call it team spirit, call it 'birds of a feather', call it true friendship.  It really has been amazing to watch them.  Honestly, they have more fun AFTER their games when their hockey equipment comes off and they just run around, hang out and tackle each other. 

Tonight, they lost.

There were tears.

But it wasn't about the game.

Some of the other teammates were trying to console them.  "You had a great game!"  "We played tough!"  "We only lost by one goal!"

But how do 8 and 9 year old boys explain to others that their hearts were broken?  This bond that had been formed over the last few years is now - moving on.  2 of the 4 boys will be 10 years old soon.  No more weekly hockey games together.  No more seeing each other twice a week - every week.  Back to their own schools. 

Finally one boy said to a well-meaning teammate, "IT'S NOT ABOUT THE GAME, ALRIGHT?!?" 

Luke would've said the same thing - if he didn't have the tears streaming down his face.  Afterall, big tough hockey players don't cry.  Even if they are only 9, almost 10.  And big tough hockey players certainly aren't more worried about friendships than the game - are they?  Are they?!

Trying to hide the emotions for the camera. 

Life will go on. But I'm very glad for this season in Luke's life - where he learned that life isn't about the game.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Say it isn't so, Ho Ho!!

I just heard that Hostess is shutting down.  My beloved Ho Ho, what will happen to you?!  I grew up on you, I still sneak you as an adult guilty pleasure.  Please don't leave me.  We've been through so much together.

I am seriously hoping someone buys you and knows how to bake a good Ho Ho.  I just can't bear to see you go.  And that other brand that looks like you - well, it is not you.  Just a bad tasting imposter.

I better get to Target before the shelves are bare.  What a sad, sad day.  :(

Friday, November 9, 2012

When the Bible Comes Alive

Hebrews 4:12 - For the Word of God is living and active....

Sometimes I forget this verse.  Sometimes I think the Bible is full of stories that happened long ago.  And it is.  Sometimes I wonder if those stories have anything to do with me or the things of today.  It does.

If I ever needed proof of that, I witnessed it first hand last night.

I co-lead the Operation Christmas Child ministry at our church.  This organization sends shoe-box packed gifts to children around the world.  For many children, this is the first - and sometimes only - gift they may ever receive.  Each box is packed with love and prayer and filled with small gifts.  Before each box is shipped, a Gospel story is included so that kids all over the world (and their families) can hear about the love of Jesus. 

All pictures from Operation Christmas Child's website. 

So our little church in our little corner of the world tries to do our little part.  We went all out this year.  We had a "push" for the entire month of October.  We had in-house videos, display tables, bulletin inserts, contests between the Sunday school classes to see who could bring in the most supplies.  We had information at Trunk or Treat and announcements in the services.

Our goal:  to beat last year's record of 315 boxes.

We give three options for donations:  1) Pack a box, 2) Donate loose supplies or 3) Donate money.  With the loose supplies, we have a packing party and all the supplies turn into shoebox filled gifts. 

After our month-long push, our packing party was last night.  I went to the church yesterday afternoon to survey the situation and to see what we might need.  (Usually we need extra soap, washclothes, toothpaste, socks, etc.) 

I stood in our fellowship hall in shock.  Our church has 3 locations.  All supplies were being centralized within the last few days.  I was expecting to see a mountain.  Instead, I saw hardly anything.  Hardy. Anything.  Maybe an 8-foot table or two with supplies on them.  Maybe 2 tables with packed shoeboxes, maybe 2-3 boxes high.  And that was it.  We had a whole fellowship hall to fill!  8-foot tables were set up end to end, probably close to 100 feet of table lengths.  We were expecting to fill these tables with loose supplies like we did last year in order to have a successful packing party. 

And I'm standing there staring at - well, almost an empty fellowship hall.  I did what any sane person would do: I panicked.

I knew some money had been donated so I called the pastor and asked if I could spend $200.  "No, hold off, we might need that for shipping."  Shipping what?!?  We hardly had anything!  "Well, maybe pick up some socks, toothpaste, and soap,  I do think we are short on those things.  We've got to leave the rest to God."

But... But!  We've got a crisis here!  Last year we had more than 50 people show up for the packing party and we will be done packing in 5 minutes!  Shouldn't I do something?!?

Leave the rest to God.   Such a hard concept to grasp. 

When I showed up at the packing party, a half hour before it was supposed to start, I couldn't believe my eyes.  Every table was full.  Every table was full! 

"Where did all this come from?"  I asked.
My co-lead and pastor had the same answers:  "I don't know.  We just started unpacking the bags that were on the tables and the tables just filled up."
"But we only had a handful of bags that only covered a table!"
"We know.  Amazing, isn't it?"

If I hadn't witnessed it myself, I wouldn't believe it.  Surely someone had bags of supplies hidden somewhere.  Nope.  The bags just turned into bottomless bags.

Luke 9:13-17 - Jesus said, 'You feed them.'  "But we only have 5 loaves and 2 fish."...  There were about 5,000 men there....  Jesus took the 5 loaves and 2 fish and blessed them.  Then breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people.  They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up 12 baskets of leftovers!

At the end of the night, we had almost 300 shoeboxes, fully packed with gifts.  And at the end of the night, we even had leftover supplies.  We even had leftover supplies!

Unbelievable.  God's like that.  He shows up and shows off.  He doesn't just give us enough.  He gives us more than enough.

And the monetary donations?   Well, it all worked out perfectly.  We have enough to cover shipping and some left over to get a few more boxes.  Amazing.

Leave the rest to God.  What an awesome philosophy!   He definitely provides.  No doubt.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I'm a rare parent

I had  a parent-teacher conference with Luke's teacher this morning.  I always meet with the teachers after report cards.  Truth be told, it started out of necessity when Luke was in 1st grade.  He couldn't read, he couldn't keep up with the class work, he couldn't keep his hands to himself, etc. etc.  His teacher was ready to retire and had no patience for him.  It was a disaster, to say it mildly.

Since then, I have kept in close contact with his teachers.  It has been an uphill battle for Luke.  If you think of school as a swimming pool, he couldn't even tread water.  No chance for swimming. The water was always deeper than he was tall and someone tied weights around his ankles. 

He'd always sink.

If I am honest, I admit I blamed Russia.  If he hadn't been there for 3 years, with no one to love him, no one to help him.  He had no language skills.  No one read books to him.  No one sang to him, cuddled with him, did early educational things with him.

Those first 3 years have a lot of influence on the rest of your life, I'm told.  He didn't have that.  I grew bitter.  But then I had to let it go.  Had to.  We can blame our past for our current situation or we can pick ourselves up and figure out how we are going to change the future.

So I stay in close contact with his teachers.  I always expect some kind of miracle.  One of these days, he will become a genius.  Just kind of like a *poof* and the past is erased.  School won't be a struggle anymore.  He will not only tread water, but swim.  Like a fish.  Swim and swim and swim!

This year,  he is enjoying school.  WHAT?!?!  The tears at homework time are diminishing.  WHAT?!?!  This year, he is reading at grade level.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Never thought I'd see the day.

So at the conference this morning, his teacher told me he has no issues bothering other kids. He gets his work ready when she asks him to.  He is responsible.  He almost always remembers to take his homework home.  He still struggles some, yes.  But he is doing well overall!

She thanked me for what we are doing at home.  I told her, "We just want to support what you are doing and we want him to succeed in school."

Her response?

"You have no idea how rare of a parent you are.  Thank you."

Seriously?!?  I didn't think what I was doing was anything extraordinary.  I make sure he gets his homework done.  I help him study.  I help him with coping skills when he doesn't want to work anymore.  I remind him that he isn't the only one in 4th grade who has homework.  I encourage him to always work hard and do his best.

How is that rare?

School is tough.  It is a lot of work and not a lot of play.  The stuff they are learning in 4th grade - wow.  Unbelievable.  The teacher has him more hours of the day than I do.  (That stinks!)

But she is not the enemy.   She is a partner. 

Do I agree with all the things she does?  Probably not.  Do I enjoy all the homework?  Usually not.  But at the end of the day, she holds some of the keys to my kids' futures.  I respect the job she is doing and I want my kids to do the same.

If that defines me as rare, so be it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Halloween Hangover

I woke up yesterday with a huge headache.  It must've been a migraine, I have never had one before.  But wow.  If I moved, it hurt.  The light hurt.  Noise hurt.  My face hurt.  My neck hurt.  Every part of my head hurt.  It took me 3 advil, 3 cups of coffee, a glass of water, several tears, and 3 hours of laying still to recover to "just" a headache. 

I wonder if it was from 19 kids screaming like crazy.  Hum.  One might think.

I wish I could blame it on some fancy and fun drink I had at the party, but I only had water and hot apple cider! 

The neighbor kid gets on the bus at our house.  This morning, he was going on and on -and on! about how awesome our Halloween party was.  He said, "The only thing that would've made it better is if you would've had robotic zombies in your maze!"  "And how would I have done that?"  I asked.  "Well, duh.  You could've MADE them!"

I'll get on that right after I make the cupcakes next year.  ha.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Very Kid Friendly But Still Kind of Scary Halloween Party

I hate Halloween.  The one day out of the year when it is okay to see blood squirting out of someone's head because they have an ax stuck in it.  The one day out of the year when the devil and witches are glorified.  If we would see this stuff on any given Tuesday, it wouldn't be okay.  But on Halloween....  It honestly makes me cringe.

So when Luke asked if he could have a Halloween party, I didn't say yes, no, or maybe so.  I ignored him completely. 

Then I thought about it for a day.  Or two.  Or maybe three.  I thought maybe it wouldn't be so bad.  We could have pumpkins and bobbing for apples and eat cupcakes.  I announced my decision:  "Luke, do you still want to have that Halloween party?"

"Yes, mom!  YES!  We can have it dark and scary and I want tombstones that say rip."  Not R.I.P., mind you.  Rip.  Like you do with a paper.  "Luke, do you even know what rip means?"  "Yes, I know, it's rest in peace, but rip sounds so much better.  Rip."  as he slides his arm to the side like some kind of new dance move.

So.  How to make a scary - yet appropriate - Halloween party for a 9 year old boy that won't glorify this stuff I hate but will still be fun for a 9 year old boy?  While keeping it tame enough for the 6 year old sister and her friends. 

My brain went to work.

I am okay with skeletons, after all they are just the bones in our body.  Bats and spiders and rats: all okay.  Even monsters are okay, since they are just made up.  As long as they aren't bloody.  I can even consider a tombstone with rip.  As long as there isn't something bloody coming out of it.  I could do this.  After all, I love a good kid party :)

I have very few Halloween decorations, since, well....  since I hate Halloween.  I had less than 2 weeks to plan. Luckily Halloween things were already 50%-70% off. Skeletons, bats, rats, and spiders were suddenly in my home.  So was a rip stone.  I mean a tombstone with R.I.P.   Strobe lights, black lights.  Don't tell anyone....   I was starting to have fun with all this.  GASP!

I think I pulled it off!  It was after Trick or Treat so it was dark.  A few games on the driveway like monster bowling, (which used 2 liter pop bottles filled with rice that had pictures on them and a pumpkin for a bowling ball.)  A bean bag pumpkin toss.  Throwing things = pure enjoyment for 9 year old boys.  A costume contest.  Food.  Running around the yard (which was like a bathtub after raining all week) in the dark = unplanned but priceless fun for 9 year old boys.  Sorry, moms, for the dirty shoes and mud up their backs!

The little ones stayed warm in the house, no running through the yard for them! 

Bobbing for apples was such a hit, most of the kids had never done this before.  Once they got past the "Ew, gross, we are all sticking our head in the same water?  What about germs?!?" panic, they bobbed and giggled and bobbed some more.

The cherry on top: we turned the garage into a maze!  I bought black plastic sheeting from Lowe's and with the help of my dad, a staple gun, tons of duct tape, strobe lights and black lights, we totally transformed the garage.  The kids LOVED it!  There was only one dead end, but it was dark and the paths wound around the garage and some of the strobe lights made scary noises.  The kids were scared to go in at first, but once one brave kid did it, they went through it over and over and over.  And over again.  And again.

Luke and Emma named the entrance and exit.  Perfect!

Around the first turn.  The entrance was a long hallway that got darker and darker... 

At the second turn.  Looked a lot better without the flash of the camera.  It really was pretty dark in there!  These skulls have built-in strobe lights and there was a black light above them.

More strobe lights and a black light down this hallway.  The arrow led to this:
The only dead end, with another strobe light and scary music.

Getting close to the exit, I tried to trick them :)
Black plastic and bats hanging from the ceiling. With another strobe light.  Right before the exit, there were several twists and turns.  Nothing too dramatic or scary, but it was a hit!

I had Maze Rules posted outside the maze.  #1 Rule: No Running.  They didn't listen.  One dad was quite happy to hide in the maze and scare the begeebers out of the kids, so they'd all come running out screaming.  The maze got knocked down eventually, but just on the one side.  Emma's friends were excited once that happened because the maze wasn't as dark then.  Way to make lemonade out of lemons, girls!

I made up a story about a mad scientist who was trying to make a Halloween monster but something went terribly wrong and all he had were monster body parts.  The kids felt the body parts in a bag but had no idea what they were.  Heart = water balloon.  Brain = spaghetti.  Finger = hot dog.  Eyeballs = grapes.  Tongue = banana peel.  I heard, "Oh disgusting, gross!" every time.  Shrieks of disgust or enjoyment, not sure which.  And I couldn't believe I had 19 pairs of eyes on me.  The. Entire. Time.  I didn't know if I could keep the focus of 9 year old boys and 6 year old girls, but I did it.  Score one for me!   To end the story, I shook a bag and made a big deal about how difficult this little bugger was being but I thought I finally had the moster back together and I pulled out - Elmo.  The kids were hysterical!  Perfect. 

Didn't get many pictures of the food, people were coming while I was still setting stuff out.  We had moster much (popcorn), cupcakes with candy corn on top (too cute), black bean dip that looked like a spider web with sour cream piped on top (and a black plastic spider in the middle), monster bites (mini cheese balls rolled in shredded cheddar with candy eyes stuck to them), chocolate covered pretzel rods, hot dogs, apples & caramel dip, hot apple cider and hot chocolate.  (Both drinks were a bigger hit than I imagined they'd be.) 

 I also had a Trick-or-Treat Candy Bar.  (You can see it in the buffet in the background.)  It was NOT a hit.  I guess they got enough from Trick-or-Treating, I can not believe how much I have left.  Ugh. 

My little Trick-or-Treaters, before the party started. 

All in all, not a bad party.  In fact, it was kind of fun.  Maybe, just maybe, I'm looking forward to next Halloween for the first time in a long time. :) 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Little Sneaks!

They're not supposed to be on the furniture....  and they're obviously not smart enough to get down when they hear me coming!  Or they just don't care.  I mean, who runs this joint anyway?!?

 Too cute, how could I be mad?

 Even cuter!

Bringing the kid into it.... definitely too cute for words!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Trunk or Treat

Our church had Trunk or Treat tonight.  The cars park in the church parking lot, decorate their trunks and pass out candy to the trick-or-treaters.  They think there were about 550 people there!  It was a rainy, cold night. Brrrrr.  I wish Halloween was in the summer! 

Truth be told, I wish every day was summer!!

And so... the theme of our trunk:  the beach.  My sister-in-law and I turned her trunk into a beach.  With lots of plastic accents, we made it happen.

Sis-in-law to the left with her Hawaiian shirt over her hoodie and gloves on!

Me behind Mario in my grass skirt and bikini top - over my sweater and winter coat!  

There were lots of creative ideas:  Alice in Wonderland, The 60's (they carried around a sign that said, 'Bare Feet, Not Arms' - hysterical!), The Duck Hunters, Cowboys, Shrek.  Plus lots more.

The best part of the night:  the Golden Gourd Contest.  All the trick or treaters voted for their favorite trunk.  And the winner was.....  Drum roll, please...... Us!  I think it was only because everyone who walked past us sighed, "Oh, I wish I was there right now."  We brainwashed everyone into a win!  ha ha.

I mean, look how gorgeous this award is.  

If I didn't know what it was, well....  I wouldn't know what it was!

I forgot to take pictures of the kids in their costumes, ugh.  What kind of mother am I?!?  Hopefully I'll remember on Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

So THAT's the ticket!

I was not popular when I was in school.  Not at all.  Every once in awhile, I thought I'd be in the "in group" with the elementary school girls when I actually *knew* who they were all mad at for the week.  And that happened for a whopping two weeks out of the year because the other 50 weeks it was offically 'We're mad at Amy week'.  No wonder I never knew who they were mad at.

Anyway.  School seems different nowadays.  I volunteer in my kids' school and it just seems like everyone gets along.  Some better than others, but for the most part there doesn't seem to be the cattiness that was there when I was young.  Everyone just plays kickball.

Luke, being the big 4th grader, is trying to figure all this out.  He had a revelation the other day.  "Mommy, I think the other kids really like me because I am fast and have big muscles." 

Oh yeah, the muscles just pop out of this kid, I'm telling you!  :)

No wonder no one ever liked me.  I should've hit the gym, bulked up a little and ran some sprints.  Hey - I wonder if it is too late?!?!  Oh yeah, I hate working out.  Nevermind!  ha.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I feel like a celebrity!

My before and after made an appearance on this really fun website today!  Check it out!!  And then browse around some, it really is a fun site.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dear Teenage Me

Dear Teenage Me,

It's me.  Do you recognize me?  Probably not. I'm a little more wrinkly than you, a little wiser than you (sorry, I know you think you know everything) and a little older than you.  But it's still me.  And you.  Kind of mushed together into one morphed me.

I wish I could tell you that those things you're going through - you know, those things that seem so important and life-changing! - really are not that important.  Sorry.  I hate to minimize what you're going through.  But it's okay that you have to go to your senior prom with just a boy friend, not a boyfriend.  I know you wish you had a boyfriend, but you'll find him.  He's already in college, you'll meet him shortly after you get there.  And he's it.  I mean IT.  Eventually he'll ask you to marry him and you'll say yes.  Don't worry about those other boys that do or don't ask you out.  They're just temporary.

I know you wonder if your mom will ever stop being such a pain in the butt.  The truth is, she will grow to be your best friend.  She really does love you.  A lot.

Those girls that you wonder if they are friends or not?  They're not.  Your high school is so small and you've run out of friends. That's okay.  You won't see them again.  22 years from now, you will still never see them again.  When you get to college, you are going to meet amazing friends that will stick with you throughout your life.

You'll also meet new friends when you are a grown up.  Good friends.  Friends who don't care what clothes you are wearing, what car you are driving, and whether you smoke (you don't) or you drink (you do, but just every once in awhile).  They will be there for you.  No matter what. 

Some of these friends you will meet at church.  Yes, you go to church. In fact, you even like it!

When you get married, you will get an apartment and really ugly furniture.  I mean REALLY UGLY.  Unfortunately, this furniture is made really well and it just won't wear out. For like 16 years.  Please do not buy it.  That hot hunky guy that you met in college who has now been your husband for 16 years will not let you get new furniture because there is nothing wrong with the old stuff.  He won't get rid of his socks with holes in them either.  Just giving you a head's up.  Be careful what you buy, you will be stuck with it a LONG time.

After living in the tiny apartment for a year, you will buy a house.  It isn't the biggest house or the nicest house, but it will be your home.  Many times over the years, you will wonder if you should buy another house.  Stick with it. It will turn into your home.  And there is no place like home.  It helps when you're not even 40 and you have your mortgage paid off too.  Kind of like the cherry on top.

You will go through all the normal life stuff.  You'll get a job.  You'll be a financial advisor.  You'll really like it, but you'll never be really successful at it.  That's okay.  What the world defines as successful (making a lot of money) isn't what will be important to you.  You will get more satisfaction out of knowing you have helped someone.  And you will.  Several times over. 

Dealing with those jerks in high school really do prepare you for real life.  One thing your mom is wrong about - people aren't mean to you because they are jealous of you.  People are mean because they are jerks.  There are lots of jerks in this world, unfortunately.  As you grow up, you will learn to walk away from them.  You can do that.  Life is way bigger than your high school.

You will get a cat.  Then a dog.  You'll travel a bit.  Then it will be time to start thinking about having kids.  Yep, you will grow up and want to start your own family.  I wish I could keep you from the pain you are about to experience.  Unfortunatly, even with help from the doctors, you will not be able to have kids.  It will devastate you.  Your husband too.  It will be the most stressful thing you will ever face.  You will feel like you are barely hanging on to a spinning, crazy world where everyone else has babies.  I mean, they just pop them out like *poof*.  For 7 years you will go through pure hell on earth.  But it will not rip you and your husband apart, thank God.

Once you come to terms with what life has thrown at you, and you go through many, many tears, you will decide to adopt.  Let me tell you something - it is NOT SECOND BEST!!  Oh my goodness, you will adopt twice and your kids will be AMAZING.  And yes, they will be YOUR kids.  You also get to travel around the world since your son will be from Russia and your daughter will be from Guatemala.  You love to travel.  And you love kids.  When you first lay eyes on these children, you will know without a doubt that you were meant to be together.  Without a doubt.

You will then retire and stay at home full time as a mom.  You will wonder what your college degree is good for as you are reduced to a house-cleaner, butt-wiper, taxi-driver and chef.  Do it anyway.  It is the best thing you could do for your family.  They really do appreciate it, even if they don't always tell you that.  Plus your kids grow up so fast.  SO fast.

You know how you're always missing the bus?  Apologize to your dad.  He takes you to school every day and you know it bugs him.  Try to give yourself 5 extra minutes.  It doesn't get any better as you get older and you will get so annoyed with yourself that you are late for everything.  Again.  Your dad doesn't mean to yell at you every day, but you know he hates to be late.  And maybe he is trying to help you to break this habit.  Thank him for that.

Enjoy your grandma.  She dies before you have kids and you will miss her terribly.  You two have always had a special bond.  Spend as much time as you can with her.

Don't be afraid to be you.  Stop trying to act like everyone else just to be cool.  It would be boring if we were all the same anyway.  Soon enough, you will be appreciated for being YOU.   It's okay to be you.  Honestly. It is okay to be you.

Get some length on your skirts and shorts.  I don't mean you have to look Amish, but really.  I know your legs are all cute and skinny, but you do not need to barely cover your butt to look good.  Your mom is not old fashioned when she says to leave something to the imagination.  She's got a good point.  You will understand that so much more when you have a daughter.  Trust me on this one.

Nothing that you go through is a waste of time.  You can learn from your mistakes, grow from your experiences and look forward to tomorrow while appreciating today.  Time does go by fast.  I know you can't wait to be a grown up but it will come soon enough.  I know you are at a crossroads in your life where you look like a grown up but still feel like a kid.  That's okay.  It's all a part of growing up. 

Trust your parents, they really do have your best interests at heart.  I know you think your friends are much cooler than your parents but they don't love you like your mom and dad do.  Your mom and dad would do anything for you.  Anything.  Love them back.  You'll be glad to have them as you become an adult.  Really.

Hang in there, your teenage years are almost over.  You'll make it!  The best is yet to come.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Before and After

The neighbors wanted to know... What WAS going on around here for 2 1/2 weeks?!?!  Our first big home improvement project.  We've only been here for 15 years, it's about time!



Love you, Coffee Creek Brussels pavers with Copthorne border by Unilock.  LOVE YOU!

The firepit wall is so pretty at night!



(Grass will grow in to the left of the steps; flowers to the right!)

We also got a new front porch and walkway.  Plus we re-landscaped the front of the house. Before. Oh my. I thought I had a picture of the front of our house but this is all I can find. 1st day of school picture from a few years ago.  But hey - check out those overgrown shrubs!

Good grief, you think if I was doing a before and after project I'd take before pictures. Oh wait, here is a before-the-after shot.  This is after we ripped out the big shrubs.  And by we, I mean Joe.  That big hunky muscle man of a husband I have ripped them out with his bare hands.  Well, kind of.  He ripped out a few, threw his shoulder out and then the neighbor offered to help pull them out with his 4WD truck.  But I did a good job telling them what to do. ha ha ha. Thanks, neighbor!  And thanks, big strong husband!  Did I mention how big those roots were?  Oh. My. Goodness.

And the after. 
Hello garbage can on the corner that can't hide behind big bushes anymore!

We picked out the new landscaping by going to the nursery and just picking what we like. And setting it by another shrub we liked. And adding another one. And then taking a step back and saying, "Looks good together." We asked the owner-lady if the shrubs would stay small. Then she piled them all in the back of our van. A little DIY digging when we got home.  Now I just have to figure out what to do with that biggie in the middle. I wanted to keep it, but.... well.... it's a little big in the middle, even though I gave it one heck of a haircut. We also picked up all the river rock and put down mulch.

A close up since the new landscaping is so little!  It looks much better close-up... I'm noticing from the above picture that it looks like NOTHING from the street.  Sorry cars, but it looks good to me when I'm using the front door!

And I don't have a before of the concrete front porch and walkway, either.  Nope, just a Halloween picture.  From a few years ago.  With the neighbor kids.  But hey - look at that concrete front porch and sidewalk.  If you squint, you can also see it in the above picture.  (We did part of the landscaping before the new sidewalk was put it.)


It all makes SO happy!!!!!  Our house is quite small so the back patio really increases our living space.  I think I am lusting after my patio. I could just roll around on it all day.  ha ha ha. Sometimes I turn the lights on.  And off.  And on.  Just to ooooo and aaaahhhhh at the prettiness of it all.  Can't wait till spring when (hopefully) the baby landscaping in the front will fill in just a bit and look a little more estabished.  Not as established as it was though!

Now, if I can finish the landscaping....  unfortunately the contractors did not bring more mulch or re-plant my flowers out back.  And they even have 'landscaping' on their truck.  But they only do hardscaping. The nerve of them!  ha. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Are you SURE??

Something has been a little stinky around here.  Any guess who??

Here are a few clues:
  • He's almost 10.
  • It seems like he should still be 6.
  • He's not quite a man yet.
Oh my goodness, I had the conversation I never imagined:  "Luke, you stink.  I think it is time for deodorant."

"But mom, are you SURE???  I mean, I'm not quite a man yet!"

Oh baby, I know.  But....  well, yes.  You stink.

He couldn't stand the smelly kinds so we bought an unscented one.  Ironically, he picked SURE.  Too funny.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Getting big!

Wow, do puppies grow fast!  It's been a month since we got Crosby.  He's doing really well learning commands and becoming a part of our family!  He and Baxter are now BFF's after a bit of a rocky start.  The kids adore him.  I do too :)

 First few days home, he was so cute and small!

He didn't stay little for long! 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Something big going on around here!

The neighbors are wondering what we are up to!  Lots of noise around here.  Lots of activity around here.  Our quiet little neighborhood isn't used to all this excitement.  I haven't seen so many of my neighbors in 15 years - and they all came out in just a few days!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Glimpse of the teenage years

On the phone with her Baba!  She seems so much older than 6.  ha.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

1st day of school

This day never makes me happy.  Summer's over - back to school.

 The dogs have no idea they are going to be stuck with just me all day long now! 

The obligatory pose while waiting for the bus.

Okay, I admit it.  I'm not that sad.  I kind of surprised myself.  I thought I would be.  But right now I think I'll go get some breakfast with a friend and have some grown up conversation!!
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