Monday, March 30, 2009

Pride Goeth...

I spent a lovely Sunday in a local German town (about 25 miles from here), that's mostly known for it's downtown tourist shopping area and charming cottages that frequently show up on various HGTV shows and in decorating magazines.

The vast majority of my day I spent in a Hampton Inn conference room doing some Women's Ministry Leadership Certification, but we wrapped up a little early and were encouraged to do a little shopping before we headed home. I actually had an hour before the shops were to close and got to slip into several home decor type boutiques sans children - whether or not you spend any money that's a TREAT.

Please don't think I didn't find anything to buy - with Easter just around the corner I've been looking for more "grown up" decorations and have an affinity for the antique and vintage looking items. I was able to procure a couple of pretend baby ducklings to tuck in my decorative baskets full of pretend chocolates and pastel blown out eggs. I meandered along my way, even stopping in at the local Cracker Barrel before heading home, just to see if there was anything else I "needed".

I arrived home at about 6 p.m. to make a quick dinner and get the family up to the church for our weekly Dave Ramsey, Financial Peace University meeting. I entered the door of my peaceful abode and my lovely day away recharging came to a very sudden stop.

Wasn't someone just mentioning a post or two ago how our household hasn't seen illness in who knows how long?

For the record, I'd like to state that crossing body parts and knocking on wood is not counted as homeopathic treatment, preventative or otherwise.

The pestilence started almost immediately. Jacob said his stomach didn’t feel good – and by 6:14 p.m. we confirmed that it wasn’t “the diarrhea”, but rather, "the throwing up". (Until recently I had been saying it all wrong and not preceding either term with "the"... You learn so much from your blogging friends and their children.)

There are currently two out of three kids gripping mixing bowls and as a precautionary measure, my Darling took one to bed also.

Ah... bed. Must be so nice.

First Thessalonians 5:18 says that in everything we should give thanks.

  • I am thankful that the first wave hit the kitchen floor and not the carpet, sofa or love seat that I just steam-cleaned last week.
  • I am thankful there's (so far) no fever associated with this bug.
  • I am thankful for a daughter with an empathetic heart that decided that the moment her brother began not feeling well she would begin her early medical training and kicked into doctor gear.
  • I am thankful that my house is clean right now and if I do succumb to this bug, I have a pleasant place to be under the weather - not a garage/storage room with a king-sized bed and my dresser in it.
  • I am thankful for a husband that takes care of his body, seems to have an iron immunity and rarely gets sick.
  • I am thankful that I've been DVRing educational programs that will be perfect for kids to watch from a sick bed on the sofa. (Some of the education might be in the way of home renovation...)

Any prayers to gird up the mommy are greatly appreciated.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Kids Are Next

Garage Sale, Tag Sale, Rummage Sale, Yard Sale... What do all these things have in common?
Yup - they all require a great deal more work than they're usually worth.

We finally got around to doing this ourselves a few weekends ago. Don't be sad if you missed it - we plan to do it again next weekend too! Don't tell the city officials... Seems they have a few ordinances in our town governing such things - Only one garage sale every three months, no more that four a year and only ONE sign can be put up advertising it. The sign must be less than six square feet, be ON the property of the sale, and cannot be hung on any public utility poles. If you look in the way far background of this photo, you'll see our silver van parked on the corner of our property. It happens to have two great big SALE signs on it for oncoming traffic to see.

Just in case you can't read my mailbox sign, it says, "Stimulus SALE - Dave Ramsey says, 'the kids are next!'" We did get more than a few drive by snickers on that one, and one guy came back by at the end of the day and asked my Husband if he could have the sign... I asked him how much the guy paid for it and he said he just gave it to him. WHAT??!!! Husband says the guy did make another purchase - bought that annoying Easter Bunny that sang Rockin' Robin for a dollar - which is what I'd paid for it in the first place on clearance at Hallmark. For the record - Husband is no longer in charge of the haggling...

The entire process is more than a bit humbling. There's just something odd about having people come rifle through your stuff and often times reject it. I almost want to grab some of it out of their hands and say, "you know what...? I don't think you're respecting my junk enough and I'm not going to allow you to buy it for fifty cents!"

Rich people just don't usually have "garage sales". They give their stuff away or auction it off at Christie's. Turns out Christie's didn't want our......stuff. I can't imagine why... These boots alone were a STEAL! I purchased them a couple of weeks before our sale for a 70's birthday party that I helped host for my perfect friend, Lisa. The "compare at" price was $45 - after all, they are Sketchers... I was surprised to only pay $7.50 for them (they were on a secret surprise 50% off of the clearance price. Gosh... I just don't see why someone didn't snap them up sooner!) I truly heaved a sigh of relief when someone was willing to pay $3 for these "only worn once" beauties. "By the way sir, we have a no returns policy..."

We let the kids (just the boys - the girl was sent away to Gramma's so I could sell her stuff off in peace...) in on the action too.

They both helped me set things up - dragging boxes and bags from my bedroom that was doubling as our garage for the last several months. Since we don't really have a garage, the master bedroom had become the dump all room for anything we wanted hidden from the view of company.

Zachary was our cashier for a good part of the day and I taught him how to make change the old fashioned way. Now if he finds a career at McVeggie Burgers some day he won't freeze like a deer in headlights if someone gives him payment plus some odd coins to round up the change to the nearest coin that isn't a penny. He'll also be able to do it without that gargantuan calculator. (Side bar: He asked for a calculator for Christmas and promised he wouldn't use it for actually doing his math homework - which is all the work when you're homeschooled... This way if he pulls out the calculator, I have to be sleeping or out of the country to miss him using it.)

Jacob even ran his own booth of lemonade and cookie sales on Sunday. He did fairly well making about $10 during the day. I'm sure he could have made a bit more if he hadn't eaten all of his cookie profits. Every time I turned around I could see him cutting up a few more "sample" cookies. Somehow, they just kept disappearing and I never once saw a bird swoop in and carry one off. I'm sure he couldn't help it though... each time I was within arms length of his little booth I snagged a bite myself. Nothing like a warm oatmeal cinnamon chip cookie... ::sigh:: And the blazing sun kept the samples and bagged cookies warm all day long.

Now that I think about it - I don't think one real customer purchased any of his cookies. I saw them try the samples and rave about them, but in the end, only Grampa purchased any - and I think he spent a couple of bucks on them. His lemonade was a hit though, and brought in the complements. I don't believe he ever did give away his secret (frozen concentrate) recipe. I'm betting that some people bought his lemonade just cuz he's a cute kid and they were impressed with his manners. And I'm OK with that.

Over the two days, Friday and Sunday, we brought in almost $300, which isn't too bad considering everything we had to sell was pretty "small", no big furniture or cars, mostly just clothes and odds and ends, and books. I felt good about selling many items that I didn't have any of my own money tied up in - things left behind in the house when we bought it, like curtains and butt ugly plates hanging on the kitchen wall, or, (gasp) gifts I'd been given that didn't speak to my heart. Yes... I believe it's OK to sell something someone gave you as a gift if you don't love it - or you need the money more than you love it. The rule is: when you give something to someone, it's theirs to do as they wish with it - even if that means they sell it in a yard sale.

There were other items I wish I could have gotten a bit more for... Those two $100 each (not including the alterations...) Flower Girl dresses are a prime example. One of them went for $5 and the other for $2 - in all did have red icing stains all over it still...

The best part of the whole weekend was getting our bedroom cleaned out (and ready for re-arranging/decorating) and we still have enough stuff left (plus more we've since added to the "pile" that now resides in our shed, to have another sale next weekend. You'll have to come by to see if I'm selling anything you gave me :0) Don't tell the city we're having another sale so soon. I figure it this way - the first sale was at the end of the first quarter and the next one will be at the beginning of the second quarter. I'm sure that's what they meant...

What I still don't understand is that we didn't even get one serious offer on any of the kids. Better luck next time, I suppose.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Step Backwards

Here's your first Throwback Thursday... (that has actually become a "Forgot About This Friday"... Let's head all the way back to Christmas 2008.

The year of our second ever artificial tree - this lovely one purchased from Costco and prelit! OOoooh...Aahhhhh... We've been using "live" trees for the previous four Christmases, and shopping for just the right real looking fake tree. This one was almost in budget and real enough looking for me.

Here's our little Cowboy tree in the kitchen. We put up 5 trees this year. What we lacked in fundage we made up for in decor.

Because I have the kids gifts each wrapped in their own paper (and I don't tell them whose is whose) I only have to tag the gifts to the adults. This drastically cuts down on the shaking, and saves money on tags!
There's so much I haven't told you all about... I didn't tell you about how wonderful our Christmas was... How I went to a great class that my friend Sally put together and several more of my friends and I made really cute Advent Calendars. I had intended to fill the little boxes with various activities we could complete as a family, but never got to that part. I just filled them with candy, which was easier and probably cheaper in the long run.

I didn't tell you about my Gift Wrapping Party (AKA - sneaky way to get your friends to help wrap your stuff...)
I didn't tell you about the Women In Touch dinner at church and the exciting light blue and red peppermint tablescapes...
...which we (my friend Lisa and I and our many helpful friends) repeated at the Homeschool Mom's Christmas dinner / social and stepped up a bit with a "baking" theme in addition to the peppermints.

This is my Perfect Friend, gloating as she literally skipped away with the lovely picture frame I'd ended up with in the gift exchange game. Bwah ha haa...she probably thought this photo wouldn't be remembered. Thankfully, I've cropped it so that you can't see what appeared to be inappropriate sign language. At the original viewing I didn't notice it, but she was kind enough to point it out for me. (I must now confess - she (re) gifted me with the frame - which was really three frames chained together - I tried to tell her at the time that her kids would have had to be pretty small and three to a photo to all fit in there...)
I didn't tell you about getting those perfect holiday card photos that completely misrepresent my children's characters. And you can stop pouting now... you weren't removed from the card list... I just didn't send them. I did do better than past years, though. This year I didn't buy as many cards (to not use) or print as many photos (to not use), and actually got some of them signed and addressed! (just not mailed...) What? You're not proud of me??? Oh well. I can live with that. I've managed to do so for the past four years. There are people out there that still may not know we've moved to Texas yet...I didn't tell you about making matching snowman PJ's for my three kiddos... and when I say "I made them" what I mean is, "I cut them out and handed the pieces to my mom a' la assembly line and she sewed them together".
I didn't tell you that Zachary tripped in his bedroom on Christmas Eve and ran his face into his brother's bag of knitting supplies (including needles) that poked into his cheek requiring mom to apply butterfly sutures.

You also missed my lovely Christmas dinner table (the new tree added to our collection that my husband never did mention...) and this reaction of Jacob when I told him no texting AT the table. (Forgot to mention the floor NEXT TO the table...) That's not a cell phone, by the way... it's just a "texter" that he can text back and forth to his brother that has the twin unit.
Previously, they had been "texting" each other (WebKid 2 Fsh Boy) during (homeschool) classes via white paper and stubby pencil shuttled back and forth across their desks, urging each other to "fnsh math quik and letz play"

You even missed Zachary's joy (seen here) as he received the first of three $25 Bass Pro Shops gift cards. What a nightmare... It was a rough couple of months trying to get him to spend them wisely. I finally got to the point where I just wanted them SPENT so he didn't hound me to use them every time we were within 50 miles of the store...

And how could you stand to miss this?? Michaela said this was the best gift she's ever gotten. No... Not an American Girl (at about $100 each plus the wardrobe that out prices my own) but rather a "Madame Alexander" for $25 at Costco. When she wondered what to name her Zachary pointed out that she was already named, "duh... Madame Alexander...".
The one thing that made this Christmas very special was having my Gramma (82 next week) with us since just before Thanksgiving. I can't remember the last time I had Christmas with her. Sadly - she can't either since that horrible disease of Alzheimer's has taken some of our best memories from her.
One slightly amusing thing did happen though. I was sitting next to Gramma when she opened her stocking of goodies, then watched as she (in an obsessive compulsive sort of way) repacked her stocking...
And then a few minutes later - opened it all up again.

She seemed to like it a little better the second time.

My favorite saga of Christmas was Jacob and the gift at the top of his list. He wrote me a note letting me know that even though it was going to be "Christmas Lite" at our house, the one gift he wanted above all others, going as far as to tell me if he could have nothing else, what he wanted really, really, really bad was the Webkinz Blue Trigger Fish. I figured for $10 I could swing it.
One thing I like to do is disguise the gifts within the packaging - I never want a CD to look like a CD or a Webkinz to look like a Webkinz. The poor kid was so sure he was getting that Trigger Fish that every "Webkinz size box" he saw he could hardly wait to tear in to. I do admit... I did wrap more than a few Webkinz sized boxes for him... I'm mean like that.
During my gift wrapping party my Grateful Friend had the idea of squishing the little plush guy into a wrapping paper tube. To throw him off further, I added some peppermint candies (wonder where those came from...) to either end of the tube for the rattling effect.
When we were down to the very last gift to be opened he was more than a little dissappointed. You can see it on his face here... He KNOWS there's no Trigger Fish in this strange sounding package.

It took him a bit of effort to actually get it open and after dumping the candies out of either end, he can tell there's still something inside. He's just barely able to brush it with his fingertips and finally catches a little glimmer of Trigger Fish hide. He's renewed in his quest to get the darn thing open, but doesn't want to give away his excitement and tries to stifle his grin...

FINALLY, he's able to free his scaly (in a strangely furry way) little friend and the smile is completely restored. This was my favorite moment of the day.
Now whenever I need a REAL smile instead of the plastic ones he usually gives me for photos these days, I ask him to remember opening his Trigger Fish.

Even though we really scaled back on the gift buying budget, (the trick is little, inexpensive gifts in big boxes, wrapped in paper I purchased last year after Christmas - I'm set for next year too) we had a very festive time and it was one of the most, if not THE most relaxed Christmas I've ever had. Gifts were all wrapped early - even the stockings were stuffed the day before. I learned to just let some of the detail things go and the holiday was still so enjoyable. I had my act together enough that I was up (after actually having SLEPT for several hours!) completely dressed and able to get photos of the stockings leaned by the chimney with care before the kids even got up.
And did I mention that I wasn't SICK at ALL this year??? Usually, I'm deathly ill right through Christmas - but I was taking my immunity booster from Melaleuca (which I continue to take every few days) and NONE OF US has been sick in a very long, long, time. *Knocking on wood, rubbing the cat backwards, crossing my fingers, toes and eyes. Probably shouldn't have mentioned it...
Less than 9 months and we get to do it all again! I've started shopping already :0) You?
Merry Spring!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Something New

You know - there's a lotta blogs out there - so many I wish I had time to read daily cuz these women (usually women at least) are great writers that get me thinking and giggling and realizing my life isn't as hard as I think it is. (Especially these women with 32 kids and 12 dozen loads of laundry per week...)

They often have very clever ideas that give them a jumping off point for their writing. Some that spring to mind are Tackle it Tuesday, Works for me Wednesday, Fro me to you... all very clever.

So being the emulator that I am, I'm going to steal this idea and add Way back Wednesdays and if I forget to do that then I'll have Throw Back Thursdays... This will give me an opportunity to do one of those posts that I intended to make but never got around to - and then in my anal-retentiveness couldn't post since it was out of chronological order...

Now, I don't know exactly how to do those "Mr. Linkey" things... maybe I'll eventually figure it out and get a cute button and all, but for right now I'm just using it as an excuse to post my old stuff. Feel free to take this opportunity to post your old stuff too. I'll be starting next week - probably on Thursday...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ode to the DVR & Spring Cleaning Symphony

How did I ever live without my new DVR? (digital video recorder in case you're living in a cave... with a laptop...)

I've no idea... Now I can watch all those shows I kept forgetting to watch or record before. I can even watch shows that I didn't know were on!

And no more unmarked video tapes floating around or that chance that my wonderful husband of 18 3/4 years will record over our wedding video.

Another plus is I don't have to fall asleep in front of the TV watching a show because I didn't have a tape to record it on - now I can just hit that little "R" and head to bed (in my five-star hotel room bedroom... watch for that post - I'm THRILLED with the make-over I've given our master bedroom!)

I'm pretty sure this is going to be a "plus" overall. I'm not watching more TV - but rather just the shows I'd like to, and not getting distracted by all the other stuff that's on. You know... Just watching that one decorating show I want (usually Divine Design with Candice Olsen) and not getting sucked in by the trailers and commercials for stuff "coming up next".

OH! And I get to skip ALL the commercials! Gotta love that!

I heart my DVR!

If I weren't so busy doing home improvements around here I'd show you more of what I'm actually doing. Here's what I've done so far (or "paid" my darling husband to help with...)
  • redone the master suite
  • gotten shelves up in the laundry room to store that extra junk I can't get rid of because I NEED it
  • re-organized the game and candle closet (yes... I have a closet dedicated to storing board games and candles...)
  • purged and decluttered pretty much the entire house and
  • had one garage sale and organized for a second garage sale (quite a feat seeing as how we don't even have a garage...)
The post is "coming up next" though. I just wish I'd remember to take the "before" photos! I always love a good "before and after", don't you?
Edited to add: I've now got "programming the DVR to record from my cell phone or puter" figured out. This is the best invention EVER! If you want to switch to Direct TV let me know... They'll give us both $50. They are so cool...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Thanks Anyway

There's been a lot of purging, sorting, straightening up and general cleaning going on around here. Part of it is "spring" and part of it is getting ready for the cable guy to come. It doesn't matter that I'll probably never see him again. I just don't want to be the topic of one of those Nextel conversations between the Direct TV service vans about the hideous heap of cat hair, stray socks and Legos that was found once the entertainment units were pulled away from the wall.

In the midst of rearranging the dungeon that is the large closet in our office-school-scrapbook-guest room, I found this:
In case you can't tell, it's a box of greeting cards and mostly blank Thank You notes... from when our daughter was born. I say mostly blank, because some of them actually have writing in them. That lovely card on the top was lovingly made by my friend Shirley. She took the time to make a card and send a cute gift (a very cute navy and green plaid romper with a sweet crocheted flower and lace collar, matching socks and also some scrapbooking supplies for baby girl pages...) and I didn't have the decency to even thank her properly for it! If I'm remembering correctly, Emily Post allows 6 months (no more than a year for wedding gifts) to get such thanks sent. Shirley - I apologize. I'm about 6 and 3/4 years past due! THANK YOU for your thoughtfulness and please forgive me my rudeness. And the rest of you too... If you didn't receive your due "thanks" at the time, (at ANY time) it's not because I wasn't truly grateful for your kindness - my follow through just stinks!

This is the story of my life - full of good intentions and thankful thoughts never completed. It's my least favorite character flaw (assuming one can have a favorite character flaw...) and something I'm really trying, with the Lord's help, to correct. I have a rule that my mother taught me: "You can't use it until you send the thank you note for it". And thus, I have a basket full of blank thank you cards and a stack of birthday gifts on my desk that I'm not allowed to use yet (except for maybe the Culver's, Hallmark and Target gift cards...) I seem to be plagued with AOUADHWTD (Adult Onset Undiagnosed Attention Deficit "Hey, What's That?" Disorder). This is further proved by the stacks of 37 cent postage stamps I have stored in my wallet.
During this same box sorting I came across several "get well" "hang in there" and "thinking of you" cards I'd purchased too. (Not to mention the myriad projects I've started making for others.) The irony of it all? I'm currently teaching a "Ministry of Card Making" class in our homeschool Co-Op. I'm still kicking myself for not sending a little get well wish to one of the young ladies that was out sick last week. What kind of an example is THAT?

Today's to do's: send a "hope you're well now" card, finish thanking my friends for my wonderful birthday nearly 6 months ago, and now that Michaela can write, get her to finish those baby gift thank yous...

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Love" In A Pan

I have a little something for you. You know, Saint Patrick's Day is tomorrow... and everyone is Irish irrespective of their last name or hair color. (By the way... did you know that only 4% of the worlds population has natural red hair? I thought that was pretty cool.)

Anyhow, what's for dinner at your house tomorrow night? I'm hoping to have me a big, thick, juicy, Ruben sandwich. But in a house full of vegetarians it will be a trick. I may just have to call on a local homeschool mom to do me a solid and accompany me to Culver's for one of their big, thick, juicy, Ruben's (and a side of curds... Oh... and probably some mint Oreo custard too.)

If you don't have a Culver's near you, I have an alternative dessert that's actually GREEN (no... that doesn't mean it's made from homegrown ingredients and baked in a dutch oven over coals in the backyard. Green is still just a COLOR in some parts of the world - don't get me started...)

In our family this dessert has a couple of different names - depending on which side of the family you talk to. One side calls it "Better Than S*x" and the other side calls it "Yummy Layered Pudding". We have good friends that call it "S*x in a Pan". You make it and decide what you want to call it.

You might actually have this recipe, but just in case...

Mix together:
1 cup butter
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup flour

Press into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Cool completely. You might even want to give it a light freeze... the second step is much easier that way.

1 bar (8 oz.) cream cheese at room temp.
1 cup powdered sugar
fold in 1 1/2 cups Cool Whip.
Spread over the cooled "crust".

2 small boxes of Pistachio pudding
with 2 1/2 cups milk
Spread over cream cheese layer

Top with:
Cool Whip and garnish with a sprinkle of chopped nuts.

If you're not fond of the pistachio, you can do the "original" recipe and go with Chocolate. (Always a capital C.) If you go Chocolate, the flavor is best (in my opinion) if you mix one box of chocolate and one box of vanilla pudding.

You can really cut the calories down on this and it tastes fantastic! I substitute 50/50 Smart Balance spread and butter. It's sold in the butter section and looks like butter sticks. You can use light Cool Whip (better than the fat free) and sugar / fat free pudding and skim milk. This will cut the calories in half and you won't miss them at all!

Incidentally... if you're wondering about that Sugar Mold on my dinning room table... I bought that in Canton at First Monday Trade Days when I made a trip there at the end of February with my dear friend. I'll be sharing more of my purchases in the days to come as I get them up and around the house. Lots of spring cleaning going on here...the place is shaping up nicely.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

You Gotta (re)Start Somewhere

Alright already. I hear you.

No… I’m not dead. But I will admit that my blogging life has been a bit.

The other day I went looking for my calm serene life, but it seems that somebody has moved it from where I left it. All that’s left now is the chaos of jumping from event to event. Something has happened and every month is as busy as only December used to be.

Being caught up in living it all (read: recovering) I’ve neglected to tell you, my faithful four readers, about what’s been going on that has kept me from the ol’ blog-a-roo. The irony of it all? My four faithful readers already know exactly what’s been going on, because they’re usually THERE in the midst of it. But yet…somehow they manage to find time to blog. My guess is their houses must be a MESS! Of course, completely opposite of my own immaculate dwelling… (cough, cough)

And so ends the quarter of a year break since my last post. If you're lucky I won't catch you up...

Here we go again.
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