Monday, December 22, 2008

An Early Christmas Gift

Each year, my mother and father-in-law get the kids a season pass for Christmas. Last year we did the Aquarium, and the year before that we did the zoo. This year, the kids are getting a season pass to the Museum of Nature & Science, which is located at Fair Park, home of the Texas State Fair. Unfortunately, it is also the home of the State Fair Ferris Wheel, so each time we go to the museum, I get to hear, "Can we ride the Ferris Wheel?", "Why isn't it running?", "Is it broken?", "Why does it only run during the State Fair?", "When is the State Fair?", and "But whyyyyyyy can't I just riiiiiiiide itttttt?"...I can't wait.Anyway, I had planned to wrap the pass up and put it under the tree, but today was so gray and gloomy, and the kids were just climbing the walls, so I decided maybe Grammy's gift could be given early. And now here is a photo summary of our visit: Convoluted mirror photos and people with things on their heads. Enjoy.

I like my Giant Claw Hand. And my teeny tiny waist.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

For Joy

A few years ago at Christmas, I was the mother of a four year old, a two year old, and a nine month old. In the first week of December, the four year old came down with pneumonia. We lived in DC at the time, and the kids and I stayed home for the duration of her illness, away from the frigid wind and snow. She had a fever and a wicked cough for 7 days. On the 7th day, just as she was feeling better, the two year old started running a fever and having a wicked cough, and was diagnosed with pneumonia. We continued to hibernate in the house while the illness ran its course for another seven days. On the seventh day of his illness, just as I thought I was going to lose my mind from cabin fever, the baby coughed a raspy little cough and looked at me with those glassy feverish eyes. You know the ones. I immediately took the baby to the after-hours clinic and informed the on-call doctor that she had pneumonia. The doctor disagreed. I insisted on an x-ray. The x-ray showed the early stages of pneumonia. Pneumonia that stuck around for, you guessed it, seven more cough-filled days.

At that time, my husband was the worship pastor at our church, and was in the throes of his busiest season, working from early in the morning until late at night, coming home occasionally to catch up on sleep and lend a hand when he could. I missed every single Christmas party we had planned to attend, including the one that I was to host. I couldn't go to the grocery store (thankfully there was an online delivery service in our city). I basically stayed inside our house with all three children for most of the month of December.

There was a sweet sweet lady in my life at that time by the name of Mrs. Ruth. Mrs. Ruth was the first person I met at our church in DC, and while introducing herself to me, she announced that she was going to grandparent my children. I didn't know how to react to that, as no one had ever announced that to me before, and besides, my children already had grandparents, only they happened to live very far away. So I smiled and thanked her, but I wasn't sure what to think about someone who would just pledge to serve a family of strangers like that.

From then on, Mrs. Ruth took me under her wing and ministered to me. She called me almost every Tuesday and asked if she could come over and watch the kids while I ran errands. Sometimes she went with me on outings so I could have an extra pair of hands. During my pregnancy with Katie, she made sure to write down all of my doctor's appointments so she could watch the kids for me. When I went into false labor at 4 a.m, hers was the number I called, and when she got there, she informed me that she would not need the guest bed because she was going to stay up and pray for me as I went to the hospital.

When Katie was born, my parents and then my mother-in-law could each only stay for a few days before they had to return home. My husband was in the throes of Easter season at church, and couldn't take any days off work. (sound familiar?) Mrs. Ruth called me a few days after everyone had left, and asked who was helping me. When I told her I was going it alone (with a 1 week old, a 19 month old, and a 3 year old), she announced that she was on her way. That woman picked up my older two children every morning at 9, took them to her house, and delivered them back to my door at 5, just as Greg was getting home from work and my Sunday School class was delivering my dinner, every day for two weeks. I remember hugging her with glee that first day and saying, "I don't know what to do first, take a shower or take a nap!"

On Christmas Eve in the Year of Pneumonia, the baby still had a fever. I had looked forward with such anticipation to celebrating Christmas Eve at church that evening, and I was devastated that I would have to miss it. When the phone rang that afternoon, I should have known it would be her. "Make sure you're dressed," she said, "and I'll come over after I attend the early service, so you can go to the later one."

A few weeks later, we announced that we were moving to Texas, and she kept my children for four days while we flew to Dallas to look for a house. I wish I could have convinced her to move here with us.

I think I learned a lot of things from Mrs. Ruth about being a friend. I now employ her 'announcing' technique quite a bit. I used to ask my friends if there was anything I could do to help, and of course they would always answer 'no', and then I would go home and think, well, I offered, that's all I can do. But now, when I see that someone needs something, I simply inform them that I am going to do it. Are you sick? Well I'm coming over to get your kids. Don't have food in the house? I'll bring you some. Going to the doctor? Drop the baby off here on your way. It cracks me up to do that to people and watch their reactions of surprise, protestations, and then relief, much like my reactions were to many of Mrs. Ruth's declarations. The wonderful thing that I am seeing now is that my friends adopt the same tone with me when I need help, and I have learned to accept it gladly, another lesson learned from Mrs. Ruth. It's a tremendous blessing.

I don't really know what the whole point of this story was, except that my friend Joy is home with a very sick baby right now, and I just have this overwhelming desire to show up on her doorstep with food...only she lives a thousand miles away. I can only hope and pray that she has some friends that live nearby that are as pushy as me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Oh, Hi there. Remember me?

I used to blog here. Not so much any more, apparently.

We've been busy around here as usual what with all the virus-recovering and tree decorating and cookie baking and Christmas partying. In fact, I've got a date tonight with my husband to go to his office party, and I'm pitifully overexcited about it. I don't get out much, I guess. Later this week, I'll go to my office party, which will be lunch at a restaurant, and even more pitifully, I am THRILLED! to have LUNCH! at a RESTAURANT! with PEOPLE! and no KIDS! Woo Hoo!

In other news, I have baked about a bajillion cookies and have given almost ALL of them away, leaving very few for my poor pitiful underfed family. We made goody bags for all of the Sunday school teachers, school teachers, teacher assistants, not to mention trays for each and every party we're attending and good Lord I never want to make another cookie again as long as I live. My friend commented at our neighborhood party last night that I had been hiding my Betty Crockerness all year, and had let it all out at Christmas.

That is only partially true. I am a good cook, and I like to cook, it's just that I only like to cook when I don't HAVE to. So you know, those three times a day that my family expects to have food stuffed into their faces? No, I do not enjoy that. But I will gladly spend the day wrecking my kitchen and letting the laundry and housework pile up while I create cookie goodness.

Speaking of cookie goodness, I will now once again break my no-recipes-on-the-blog-rule and share with you the world's easiest Christmas cookies. Well, they're not cookies, but whatever.

This one was stolen off someone's blog last year that I forgot to bookmark, so if it's yours, speak up:

Get 'butter snap' pretzels (they're waffle-shaped) and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Place a Rolo candy on them and put them in the oven for 3 minutes, until melted. Take out, place another pretzel on top to make a sandwich, squish. Refrigerate. Eat. Be merry.

My four year old made these the other day. She spent a good twenty minutes unwrapping a bag of Rolos and putting them on the pretzels, and it was wonderful for me. Also, they have no name, and no one in my house could come up with one that pleased me. Give it a shot, if you like.

The next recipe is one of my mom's and people ask me for it every year. It's SO easy.

Rocky Road squares:
Melt 1 bag of chocolate chips, one can of sweetened condensed milk, and 3 tbsp butter in a pan. In a bowl, place a bag of mini marshmallows and a cup of chopped pecans (we always leave the pecans out because no one likes them but me.) Pour chocolate onto marshmallows and stir, adding 1 tsp of vanilla. Spread into wax paper lined 9 x 12 pan, refrigerate, cut into squares. Bask in the praise of everyone you know.

I'm hoping that these recipes will change your life. I don't think that's too much to hope for. The last (and only) time I shared a recipe it was for bananadillas, and the effects were far-reaching. My cousin Tracee and her friend Kelli introduced Arizona to the phenomenon, and my friend Jody fed them to her children for an after-school snack in Georgia. So, you know, that's like TWO states where they eat bananadillas now, thanks to this humble blog. I promise not to let the power go to my head.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmases Past

I was going through the photos on my computer tonight, and I found so many old Christmas photos, I just had to post a few.
2001: Sweet Baby Grace.
2003: Pay no attention to those crooked bangs.

2005 at a Christmas festival.

2007 Christmas Card

This next one has nothing to do with Christmas, in fact it was taken just an hour or two after Katie's birth. I just had to post it because of the sweetness. Just look at my husband's face. Gorgeous.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Places I'd like to visit in 2009

Something about being home for a few days with a miserably sick kid (who is a terrible patient, by the way), makes me want to plan an escape. Below are a few of my wishes for the new year, in no particular order. I limited myself to places that are reasonably doable and affordable, but let's face it, they won't all happen in one year. It would be nice, though.

1. Big Bend National Park. Drive time: 9 hours. I went there a year ago with my sister, and I can't wait for Greg and the kids to see it. There's something special about that place, it's hard to's just so beautiful that its worshipful; it's a spiritual experience. God has made unbelievable beauty there. Like I said, hard to describe.

2. Baton Rouge/New Orleans trip. Drive time: 7 hours. I'd like to see my cousins and aunt and visit with my dear friend Heather who moved out there two years ago and has been asking me to visit ever since. Of course I want to go during Mardi Gras.

3. San Antionio/Beach trip. Drive time: 7 hours. Greg and I have been talking about going to San Antonio ever since we moved here, and we haven't seen it yet. I figure we could stay a night or two in the city, then drive down to the beach and go camping at a State Park right on the water. They let you make campfires right on the beach, and I've never done that before. What do you think, Spring Break, maybe?

4. Cincinnati Trip (to see my parents' new house, of course). Drive time: 15 hours. We would likely stop over to see our dear friends in Nashville, who conveniently live halfway to my parents'. This trip should definitely be in August, because August is unbearable in Texas, and I'm hoping Ohio will have a sensible enough temperature at that time.

5. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Drive time: 14 hours. Okay, this trip is much more likely to happen in 2010, but a girl can dream, right? I have never been to Colorado, and it has been a dream of mine for a while. I'm thinking we need to make this trip in the heat of summer as well, let's say July.

6. Georgia/South Carolina trip. Drive time: 15 hours. My soul needs a week by the lake at my parents' Georgia house every June. My soul needs that right now, as a matter of fact, but it's too cold for swimming. And of course I will need to drive an extra couple of hours to see my South Carolina in-laws.

7. Weekend in Charleston with my friend Becky. Drive time: too long, must fly and must go alone. Charleston is best in April or May, I think, but let's face it the seafood is good year round.

8. Camping in the mountains in Arkansas. Drive time: 6 hours. Let's do this one in the fall, shall we?

9. Houston, to see my relatives there. Drive time: 4 hours. It's really pitiful that my aunt and uncle live four hours away and I haven't been to visit them in years.

Okay, so nine vacations in twelve months seems a bit excessive, but I'm dreaming here. Is there any other place I should go? Have I forgotten your house? What places are on your list?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Greetings from the Land of Swollen Tonsils

We're hunkered down in strep throat quarantine around here, going on Day 3. Actually, the girls are feeling fine, but Tommy, poor Tommy, has such swollen tonsils that he cannot eat. It's really sad, too, because he keeps crying about being hungry. He's been given a free pass to eat as many milkshakes as he wants, so that helps, I guess.

And now for something completely unrelated:

Aren't you glad you are not this guy's neighbor? (or wife)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Don't Hate

I would like to take this opportunity to announce that I have just mailed all of my Christmas cards, and that I have finished all of my Christmas shopping. All of it. The teacher gifts, the stocking stuffers, everything.

After the last few years of stressing out about trying to get child care so I could shop, trying to get everyone dressed just right for a Christmas photo and frantically sending out cards on Christmas Eve, I decided to come up with a strategy. This year, I broke my shopping up over several months; the nieces and nephews in October, and the kids and my husband in November. (I think it also helps that I don't really do any shopping for the other adults in my family, by mutual agreement.) It's easier on my budget to do it a little at a time, and it saves me the stress of having to worry about it all coming out of the account in December.

For most of my nieces and nephews, I decided to order from, and I just had their items shipped directly to them. WHY hadn't I thought of that before this year? It was so much easier than buying something, wrapping it, finding a box to fit it in, and waiting in line to ship it.

Another goal of mine was to have the Christmas cards done by Thanksgiving, and since I'm also photographing several of my friends' families, I did ours super early. I sat at work the other day and addressed all of them, and I dropped them in the mail on Monday.

Normally, I do a lot of my shopping on Black Friday (at the reasonable hour of 6 a.m after all the loons are done), but this year I didn't need to. I got it all done online. I got free shipping from just about every store, so why waste my time going there in person, right? And it is just fun, SO fun to get the packages in the mail.

There is a purpose for all of this... December is a busy month. My husband works long hours getting ready for a Christmas production at church, the kids and I have tons of activities and parties that we like to attend, and the calendar just always seems to fill up with one thing after another. This year, I'm hoping to slow that down a little bit; at least to decrease the level of activity for myself. To be done with the obligations and have time to actually enjoy this season for what it's really about. To really teach my children about the birth of Jesus, and about giving to others. To take my kids to buy presents for needy kids and not stress so much about the budget. To have time to do the sugar cookies and the gingerbread houses. To maybe, just maybe, not be so crabby and tired. And mainly, to avoid running around like a chicken with my head cut off, scouring the grocery store shelves at 11:00 on a Saturday night to try to find gifts for the Sunday School teachers.

Not that I speak from personal experience, ahem.

So anyway, that's my "Christmas strategy" for this year. I'll let you know at the end of the month if it actually worked. Ha.

The kiddos

The kiddos

Kidney Peril Updates
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