Monday, December 29, 2008

The longest year-end Meme ever...

Year in Review Meme...

I did this last year and enjoyed going back and reading the answers so much that I decided to do it again.

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?

My initial reaction to this question was that I hadn't done anything new this year and I may have to rename this meme "End of the year reflections of the worlds most boring mom." But then I hit the blog archives and realized that I did have some firsts, that while not life shattering, were meaningful or memorable in their own way.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I love to make resolutions! However, due to many years of failure in this department, last year I decided to keep it simple. Forgoing my typical "Lose Weight" and "Be more diligent with my quiet times" I just vowed to be a little more presentable when I left the house. Wear makeup. Try to put myself together a bit. And overall I would say I was successful, with the exception of carpool which I still pretty much do in my pajama pants and slippers. And there was that one incident a couple weeks ago where I actually wore my PJs into Walgreens, but hey, I was sick.

This year, I am going for more simple New Years Resolutions.
  • Blog more.
  • Facebook/Twitter less. (Maybe not at all, not sure)
  • Keep my entryway/living room a little more picked up.
  • Remove the awful wallpaper that has been on my kitchen walls since we moved in 5 years ago.
  • Better follow through on praying for friends.
  • Be at least one size smaller by this time next year. Just one size. Surely, I can do that.
  • Master this darn laptop mouse.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Several people I know at church, and acquaintances but no close friends or family members.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

The Man's grandmother, Hazel, left us this year. It was hard to say goodbye but she was ready to be with her heavenly Father. We rejoice that she is finally now free of pain.

We also lost our old cat, Tigger, after losing his brother the year before.

5. Where did you travel?

We don't travel much and this year was no exception. The furthest we made it from home was our anniversary weekend in Asheville. In fact, other than that the only time we left the state was this week when we rang in the new year with my brother and his family in Greenville, SC.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

A clean house. Not sure I actually managed to have the entire thing clean one time in 2008.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

It's hard to know which memories will last. So much doesn't that you think will.

This week I walked into my sister-in-law's house and was met by my 2-year-old nephew. He looked me in the face and said "Hi!" It s the first time he's ever spoken to me. He and his twin brother are autistic and we have been praying like crazy for them to speak for well over a year. They still have a long way to go but their progress this year has been amazing. I don't think I will ever forget that moment. It felt kind of like I met him for the first time.

Putting Tigger to sleep. He was part of my family before even my husband or children.

We also got a new cat, Kelso, this year which we will no doubt remember, as he will be annoying us for many years to come.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I took over the director position of my 3-year-old choir. I do not have a leader personality and it was extremely nerve wracking for the first couple weeks to be in charge, but now I absolutely love it. Also, in the last couple years I have worked very hard at becoming a better cook.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Honestly, not getting control over my eating/weight.

10. What was the best thing you bought?

Well, right now I am tempted to say this laptop.

11. What song will always remind you of 2008?
Probably this one, because Allie was obsessed with it, which means we heard it 679 times this year.

12. What do you wish you’d done more of?

More playing with my kids/taking them to do things. More exercising. More cleaning and therefor more entertaining. More praying.

13. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Facebooking. Chauffeuring. Eating. Yelling.

14. What was your favorite TV program?

Most of my series disappointed me this year so Probably, So You Think You Can Dance. I also really loved watching previous seasons of 30 Rock and Battlestar Galactica on DVD. And Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog online.

15. What was your favorite movie?

Ummm, can I use Dr Horrible for this category too? No? OK, probably Juno.

16. What was the best book you read?

I read a lot of mediocre books this year and very few memorable ones. I would say my favorites were probably The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I also really enjoyed The Host by Stephanie Meyer for a light and fluffy diversion. Although I may be the only person who preferred this book to her crazy popular Twilight series.

17. What one thing would have made your year measurably more satisfying?

A maid.

A maid, especially a live-in one, would have made my year measurably more satisfying.

18. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

Personal Fashion Concept? Bwahahaha I guess it would be "I wonder if I can still fit into this?"

19. What kept you sane?

Prayer. Coffee. Friday nights with my girlfriends. Coffee. My husband. Wednesday morning Bible Study. And Coffee.

20. Who did you miss?

My brother and his family moved to Greenville and while we still see them fairly often, I really miss having regular playdates with my nieces.

21. Who was the best new person you met?

When I started teaching choir I was assigned several helpers who are all wonderful. But I have been particularly blessed by the friendship that formed with one of them. Each week I feel like she encourages and blesses me and it has been an honor to get to know her.

22. Tell us a valuable lesson you learned in 2007

I am incredibly blessed. This is something I have given lip service to for years. I have a great marriage and four healthy kids. I live in the United States, for goodness sakes; of course I am blessed. But over the course of this year I made a conscious decision to try to grumble less and notice the beauty in my life more. I'd be lying if I said I was overwhelmingly successful. I still grumble a good bit. But I can honestly say that more than ever before I stop and notice the beauty contained in everyday moments. And I must say blogging has helped this more than any other tool.

23. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense

Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middle
~Casting Crowns

And that concludes the worlds longest meme. God Bless you if you made it to the end. It took me nearly all day to complete so I won't tag anyone but if you are one of the three people left in the blogosphere that hasn't done a 2008 Reflections post feel free to tag yourself for all or part of it. I'd love to read it and I think next year, you will be glad you did.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The most wonderful time of the year...

Relatively speaking, four children is not a lot. It is however, just enough past the status quo to make revealing our family size feel a bit like a badge of honor. It is typically met with some type of exclamation and a look that runs the gamut between admiring and incredulous. It's the same look I give people when they tell me they are training for a marathon. Two parts awe, one part "Are you insane?"

Having four children was a calculated decision. Well the second two were calculated, the first two came before we calculated anything. But at some point we did decide that four was the right number of children for our family. We realized with just the older two we would be empty nesters at forty and we like even numbers. Six people at the kitchen table. Busy schedules. Loud family outings and game nights. And eventually, we hoped, a slew of grandchildren. But, as is usually the case, the idea was much easier than the reality.

Four children is hard. It has not come easily for me. I have a friend who does it with ease and grace, who gives real meaning to the phrase "joy in chaos" but the reality in our house is that I am more often short tempered and overwhelmed than joyful. Which is not to say that I am not madly in love with all of my children. Individually they each own a piece of my heart that seems far bigger than the whole. But the collective responsibilities of giving them the time and structure they need pretty much kicks my butt.

And Christmas? Preparations for Christmas for a family of six definitely falls in the kick my butt category. Times ten. And a part of me believes that we have taken something beautiful and life changing and perverted it into a season of stress and excess in our need to create some kind of magic in our lives. We do our best to share with our children the miracle of the first Christmas. Of Christ incarnate in a tiny child. Of the first step in a plan that gave us direct access to the King of Kings.

But, if I am being honest, another part of me has bought wholeheartedly into the dream of modern Christmastime magic. Like everyone I know, I love Christmas morning. I purchase too much despite resolutions to keep it simple, and sleep fitfully the night before. Because, oh, if it isn't a heckuvalot of fun to have four kids on Christmas morning. Suddenly, for a little while, the dream I had for a large *happy* chaotic family is a reality. The laughter, the mess, the noise is all multiplied and our home becomes a three-ring-circus defying my ability to take it all in at once. Picture taking takes a backseat to exclaiming with the older kids and assisting the younger ones. And then, once the opening and celebrating with extended family is over we settle into the week that follows.

The week that I refer to as "the most wonderful time of the year." Schedules are clear and - most importantly, I think - The Man is home. Bickering seems less in the light of new toys to share. And I get to be, temporarily, the mom I thought I would be. Saying yes, more often than no. Staying in PJs til noon or later. Playing with my kids in lui of cleaning house or running errands. Family outings are planned. Boardgames are dusted off. And blogging commences while snuggled on the sofa with my sweetie because of my brand new laptop.

(OK, that's just this year, because did I mention I got a new laptop? I am beside myself with hi-tech glee!)

I know that in a week things will be back to normal. And I pray, as I always pray, that I will find more balance, more patience, more organization. But for now, I am thankful I have this reprieve. This time called Christmas.

And now, I must go. The Man has laid down a game of Blokus and a challenge and I need to go kick some board game butt.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

It's 1AM on Christmas morning. We are home from Christmas Eve at my mother's and The Man and I just finished wrapping the last of the presents and putting them under the tree. The stockings are stuffed. The dollhouse is arranged for Clara to discover in the morning. The video camera is charging in the kitchen. My children are all sleeping and dreaming of Santa and reindeer. Or cellphones and ipods.

I am excited, but absolutely exhausted. Whether it should be or not, Christmas is hard work.

But before I go to bed, I wanted to stop best wishes to all of you who come here. To wish you well and let you know you are a blessing to me. Because that,

and this...

really is what it's all about.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dear Santa,

This week's Monday Mission at Maypole's place is to write a post in the form of a letter to Santa. I feel duty bound to participate because it was my suggestion and she obliged me. I had an idea I thought might be cute or clever, or at the very least participatory, but I haven't been up to much in the way of writing this weekend. And I'm definitely not feeling funny or clever.

Because I am still freakin sick. I had one stupid tease of a day on Friday where I thought I was recovering, but now, once again, I resemble the woman in the NyQuil commercial. Except that no amount of green liquid leaves me sleeping peacefully at night. I won't go on about my ailments. Everyone I know is battling illness right now. Mine is nothing remarkable. Not even close. And Clara continues to improve, for which I am very grateful. She was one sick little girl.

But Ben is now coughing and feverish and I am just over all of it. A week of me, and my kids, flat on my back is quite enough, thank you.

(It's true, one lousy week and I am toast - Kyla, honey, I don't know how you do it.)

So with no further ado,

Dear Santa,

When you stop by our house on Christmas Eve you don't have a to leave us a single thing. However if you'd be so kind as to take every bit of sickness out of our home and leave us all bright and bushy tailed for the rest of the Christmas break that would be awesome. That's all I want.

However, if you insist on leaving a gift, I wouldn't mind a personal chef. And maybe peace on earth, while you're handing out miracles.

We left you cookies, but I wouldn't eat them if I were you. Awful lot of coughing and sniffling went on during the baking process. So sorry.

Yours truly ,
Chaotic Joy

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This week in a nutshell...

Yep, Clara's sick. Heartbreakingly so. And I'm not doing so hot in the health department myself. And those six parties? We have already missed three.

But I did get these "I know you're sick and Clara's sick and neither of you have slept and you have a million Christmas obligations and I am working 546 hours this week and can't help you" flowers from The Man.
Ain't guilt pretty?

Honestly though, sometimes it really does make a big difference just to know he gets it. I do love that guy.

And since everyone I know is either sick or has a sick child: I'll toast to a happy cough and sniffle season for my friends. May your soup be chicken, your humidifiers be clean and your antibiotics be cheap.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Status Report - December the desk in our dining room. (This hasn't changed because this is still our only computer...Santa, are you listening?)

Smelling...Not much. I'm pretty stuffy. But if I wasn't I suspect, I'd be smelling the Christmas tree and the cup of coffee, long cold, with lots of Gingerbread creamer, sitting on the desk.

To my three youngest children in my bedroom raiding the craft supply box. Allie is hunting for glitter (this can not end well) and my son is telling her a completely fabricated story about how he saw a knight costume at the store, but it didn't have a helmet so his mom (presumably me?) said she would make him one with lots of glitter. I am enjoying the story so much that I haven't had the heart to go in and call him on the fact that it's all a complete lie. Besides, I am sure Allie knows it's a lie as my name is never mentioned along with the words "Make a costume" or even worse, gasp, "glitter."

Diet coke with ice. No, not the cold coffee, that's pathetically, still sitting here from before church this morning.

Reading...I just finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. A gorgeously crafted young adult novel about a girl growing up in Nazi Germany. This is, I think, the best book I have read this year. I absolutely loved these characters. It was, however, also heartbreaking and I read the last two chapters through my tears. I am now ready for a lighter diversion for the holidays. Something that will whisk me away but not leave me in tears. I'd LOVE your suggestions.

Also reading...She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb. I started this today, but I am not feeling it right now. I don't think it's quite the light and fluffy distraction I want. I may put it aside and pick up something else instead. I have no doubt I'll get back to it eventually.

Loving...The "Gift of Hope" thing my church did this year. Everyone was supposed to pick one way to serve others this Christmas. I chose to bring Allie and her friends caroling to the sick and homebound on Friday night. Surprisingly, this was more difficult for me than I thought it would be. Allie had already hosted a caroling party in our neighborhood the last few years so I thought it would be an easy transition to take that on the road. But man, what a blessing I received by stepping out of my comfort zone. But more about that later.

Also Loving...The cold weather and Christmas Lights. Uncharacteristically unScrooge-like of me, but true.

Dreading...Finishing my Christmas shopping and the SIX Christmas parties/programs I have this week. Characteristically Scrooge-like of me.

Eagerly anticipating....December 25th. The week starting with Christmas and ending with New Years Day is the best one of the year for me. The Christmas hustle and bustle is behind me, The Man and kids are home and we get to spend time together as a family. With a new laptop new toys!

Worrying...about my kids. Especially the older two. All the time. Every minute of the day. I'll leave it at that.

Wishing...that this nasty cold descending upon me would move right on along. Too much to do to be sick this week.

Also Wishing...The Man would provide me with some idea of what to get him for Christmas. He says "nothing" but he has worked so hard this year, I would really love to give him something that would blow him away.

Praying...for wisdom and discernment and more wisdom. This parenting gig is hard.

Grateful...That my mediocre Christmas cards are mailed and that most of my Christmas shopping, which is also likely mediocre, is done.

Also Grateful...for Psuedoephedrine. Even if I am forced to feel slightly criminal now each time I purchase it. I mean really my dear power crazed pharmacist, aren't I slightly too um...well fed to be a Meth addict?

Sharing...This video of my baby girl.

Who, incidentally, is still sporting permanent marker spots and now also has runny nose and a rash on her face. She's got quite the orphan-child look going on these days. Poor dear.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My little boy

The Weekids and I were snuggled in the chair-and-a-half for our nightly story time. This ritual is one of the highlights of my day. We were reading a story about bears waiting for Santa and each time Clara pointed to the page and said "Santa Cwas" my heart turned to warm pudding inside my chest. I looked over at Ben, munching away and because suspicious.

"Ben, what are you eating?" I asked casually.

Ben giggled. "What do you think I'm eating?"

"Is it a toy?" I guessed.

He giggled again. "Nah, it's just a booger or somethin."


And now, after that lovely vignette, I will leave you with these two, very brief, videos of Ben's preschool Christmas performance from tonight. Here, he is the blonde boy in the center and as you can see he had two entire lines to sing "all by himself."

Go ahead, play it again, it may take you several tries to appreciate the awesomeness of his 2.5 second performance.

Let's just say he makes up in passion for what he lacks in subtlety. Or pitch. When he finished his song he backed up from the mic and waved his little heart out at his family. The five of us, sitting on the second row, roaring with laughter and waving right back at him.

And lastly, here he is having some kind of spasm vigorously doing the sign language to the end of Silent Night.

He is a boy, through and through. And he makes me laugh every single day.

And, gracious, he has my heart. Tucked right there in his pocket. With goodness knows what else.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Joy in Chaos

Last night my girlfriends moved "Girls Night Out" to my house to come and rescue me from being stuck at home with my children. The children literally ran or drove circles around my home while we ate obscene amounts of carbs and chatted. We even managed the next segment in our Bible Study on finding lasting joy through Christ despite your worldly circumstances, which felt like it was speaking directly to me. And by the end of the night I was renewed and The Man had returned and life felt infinitely better.

As my friends were arriving they found Brandon on his hands and knees scrubbing the hardwoods because he somehow managed to explode a permanent marker all over our kitchen by shaking it at his younger siblings. They were also greeted by this little blonde head.

While I was taking pictures of her, Brandon growled from the floor "You are NOT going to put that on your blog?"

And I responded, "Dude, you turned your sister into a Christmas Dalmatian, it's totally going on the blog."

And I can't bring myself to listen to her scream while I attempt to scrub blobs of permanent ink off her head so, this morning, she is spotted still. And probably will be until it wears off through regular washings.
It's been a tiring couple of days. The Man is out of town and while it is true that I solo parent during the week, I miss his presence. There is a rhythm, an inhale and exhale, to our lives together. An underlying comfort in knowing that I can go downstairs to his office and plop down there to unload. I rarely do, but I can.

And then, at the end of our days we find each other, at 10:00PM when he is finally off work and the kids are in bed (or on their way there). And we have a routine, even if just for an hour. Recorded TV shows. A ratty beige blanket. First sitting side by side and then eventually with my head on a pillow in his lap. Sometimes television will turn to conversation, more often sleep finds me first. My daughter says we are not romantic, but I laugh. "There are better things than romance" I tell her but she doesn't believe me. She can't comprehend the beauty and peace in a collective sharing of our loads, a happiness in being together, in just being. I hope that someday she will.

He is the last one up at night and closes up the house. Locks up the doors. Recovers the sandbox, puts things back in their rightful place. He makes sure the animals are fed and turns on the monitor. Simple things I rarely notice. But today our sandbox filled with water from the rains. And it was good, for I noticed his absence. And it is nice to be missed.

And that absence is even more pronounced tonight because my oldest son, has left me crumpled in a heap of worry and anger. About things I cannot share, but wish I could. He's a ghost on this blog, by his own demands, but never think that his place in my heart is not as substantial and ingrained as all the rest. I often find myself wishing I could share my joys and trials of life with him - the way he makes me pull out my hair and laugh in spite of myself. I see the gaping hole of his absence here, and it bothers me. My story has a character missing. The main character tonight. My smart, funny, boy with the potential he cannot see.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gratitude - Day 30 (Whew!)

It's over. I did it. Thirty gratitude posts in thirty days and it was hard. Not as hard as last year, but still more difficult than I anticipated. Overall though, I would say it was a very worthwhile exercise and one I would encourage you to try, even just privately. It's amazing how my mindset changed knowing I needed to record something I was grateful for each day. I started really noticing the blessings that were there all along.

I'm must say though, that for now I am grateful that the this daily posting thing is over. I'm ready for a break from generating words. Now, maybe I can find time to start reading them again. Farewell NaBloPoMo. I doubt I'll participate again. But who knows, I've said that before.

Drumroll please...

We put the names in a hat,and my trusty assistant drew out a winner!

Congratulations Painted Maypole, you won the custom cape from Superflykidz! I'll be contacting you in the next day or two with details. Thanks to everyone who played along.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gratitude - Day 29 (Online Shopping - and a PSA)

As I mentioned earlier this month my sister-in-law has been joining me in this 30 Days of Thanks thing. I have been surprised at how often I will check her posts and see that she is thankful for the same things I am. It's been fun to see the similarities. Except when I see she has given thanks for something I was planning on being thankful for in a future post, thus rendering it off the table. I can't have our shared relatives thinking I couldn't come up with my own Thanksgiving topics.

Yes, I really am still that immature. And paranoid.

Anyway, yesterday she gave thanks for online shopping. And man, if she didn't steal the words right out of my drafts file. But you know what, today I got online and comparison shopped Playmobil new and used at a dozen different stores. I ended up with two crazy deals on a castle and knights for Ben. One item, predictably, on EBay and another at a random store that, inexplicably, had a set marked for 75% off the going price of anywhere else on the Internet. A rare moment of shopping rapture, folks, right there in my spinney chair.

Ben's Christmas shopping is officially done. And I did all of this by 11AM while drinking Peppermint Mocha Coffee and wearing my pajamas. She said it first, but it bears repeating: Online Shopping Rocks.

And speaking of good deals on online shopping...

Old Navy has all their pajamas 50% off tomorrow (Sunday) ONLY. In stores AND ONLINE. Which means all their sleep pants (men's, women's, girl's, boy's) are $7-$8 each. Petites. Tall. Plus sizes. The whole deal. Baby/Toddler PJs are $7 for the set. So go now, and buy for everyone you know. Who doesn't like pajama pants? Oh, and the tops are on sale too if you are inclined towards matching pajamas.

And if you want to thank me for this kind public service announcement, I like the white/pink plaid. Size XL. Thankyouverymuch.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gratitude - Day 28

It's an easy kind of day to be grateful. Lazy and full of moments that whisper of beauty and contentment if I stopped to listen. And today, I did. I stopped to note a girl sitting in a movie sighing in her first infatuation. I knew the characters on the screen would always hold happy, wistful place in her heart. I saw the way she stopped by the mirror when the show ended to smooth her hair and reapply shine to her lips. The movements not yet practiced enough to be natural. My heart aching a little - just a little - at how soon they would be.

Later, basking in the chaos of our weekly dinner, I watched the backs of my boys as one led the other down the hall, trying to imprint the scene like a snapshot in my mind. The tall boy - nearly a man - stooping to guide his miniature counterpart.

Then, tonight, with all of my being I marked the feel of two small bodies pressed against me. Savoring their weight and scent as we read our bedtime stories. It was Christmas stories tonight; the beginning of a new season. A season I find myself anticipating with a tentative and unexpected peace.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1896)

We walk on starry fields of white
And do not see the daisies;
For blessings common in our sight
We rarely offer praises.
We sigh for some supreme delight
To crown our lives with splendor,
And quite ignore our daily store
Of pleasures sweet and tender.

Our cares are bold and push their way
Upon our thought and feeling.
They hang about us all the day,
Our time from pleasure stealing.
So unobtrusive many a joy
We pass by and forget it,
But worry strives to own our lives
And conquers if we let it.

There’s not a day in all the year
But holds some hidden pleasure,
And looking back, joys oft appear
To brim the past’s wide measure.
But blessings are like friends, I hold,
Who love and labor near us.
We ought to raise our notes of praise
While living hearts can hear us.

Full many a blessing wears the guise
Of worry or of trouble.
Farseeing is the soul and wise
Who knows the mask is double.
But he who has the faith and strength
To thank his God for sorrow
Has found a joy without alloy
To gladden every morrow.

We ought to make the moments notes
Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;
The hours and days a silent phrase
Of music we are living.
And so the theme should swell and grow
As weeks and months pass o’er us,
And rise sublime at this good time,
A grand Thanksgiving chorus

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gratitude - Day 26 Random Randomness

Today I am thankful for Pumpkin Pie. It's baking in the oven right now and making my house smell like Thanksgiving like nothing else can. It's not a special recipe, just the one off the back of the Libby's Pumpkin can. Because that's what I had growing up which, obviously, makes it the best.

I'm thankful for Clara who has been walking around the house with a quarter all day singing "My money, my money, I love my money" to the tune of The Bunny song from Veggie Tales. Which is just so completely opposite of what Big Idea was trying to teach with that episode I just can't stop laughing at it. Which just makes her keep doing it, my little oblivious idolatress.

And I wrote a post over at Worst Mama today about the Second Hand Christmas theme I am doing this year. And I am thankful for that too. Even if it has elicited some strange looks.

Oh and to beat a dead horse (or dead contest as it may be) tomorrow is the last day to enter the Superhero Cape drawing so go leave a comment if you are interested. Your odds are looking pretty good.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gratitude - Day 25

Today after a marathon shopping trip I made a big pot of soup. I am gearing up for a lazy couple of days and know I won't want to do any cooking tomorrow other than the requisite pumpkin pie baking session with Allie. Feeling uncharacteristically in the holiday spirit I picked up The Polar Express at Blockbuster when I was running around. So after dinner the kids and I (all but Brandon - who, sadly but predictably, ditched us for some friends) piled on the sofa to watch it. Ben had never seen it but I figured with a boy, a racing train and Santa it would be hard to go wrong. And I as right. He absolutely loved it. Watching it through his eyes brought me such joy. He was positively riveted through the train scenes and would periodically bounce or cheer in his seat in excitement.

(Although what is with the part where the creepy marionette comes to life and starts screeching at the kid? I forgot that part was even in there and it scared Ben to death. Poor kids gonna have nightmares tonight about rabid toys.)

Sitting on a sofa snuggled under a blanket with my children is one of life's simple pleasures. A pleasure that is often neglected in our home. More often than not when my kids are watching a movie it's because I am trying to get something else accomplished. It's rare that I just sit with them in peace for any length of time. Let's face it, it's rare that there is peace for any length of time. So today I am thankful for the time we spent piled happily on top of each other. And for the opportunity, when the movie was over, to talk about what the first gift of Christmas really was. The gift I strive to be thankful for most of all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Gratitude - Day 24

Today I cleaned out all the Weekids toys. What a process, but man am I grateful that I accomplished it. All those baby/toddler toys have been weeded out and bagged up to pass down to someone with an actual baby or todder. I thought I would be sad, but so far I am just glad for the increased floorspace. Maybe there is hope for a living room with a coffee table again after all. One day.

I am also grateful that for once, when I went to find out what my too quiet kids were doing during this process, I was not met with destruction.

Instead I found these fierce pirates sailing the high seas:

(Or in other words, two kids in a diaper box with some swords.)

At last it's here...The Giveaway!

Do you know what this is?

Okay, if you look closely, you will see it is bad picture of my bed, unmade and waiting for me at this unseemly hour of 12:38 AM, but let's not dwell...

I'm talking about those gorgeous brightly colored things, do you know what they are?

They are the personalized superhero capes Ben and Clara are getting for Christmas! Couldn't you just die from the cuteness? When I decided I wanted to give away one of my favorite things again I thought it might be nice to share one of my favorite ideas for a Christmas gift. But then I remembered that I am horrible at picking out Christmas gifts and probably shouldn't be advising anyone.

Well, wouldn't ya know it, but these beauties showed up in the mail a day or two later. I ordered them from the Superflykidz shop on Etsy. Surely you know about Etsy? The great black hole of handmade awesomeness?

Oh and by the way, I also ordered two for my nieces' Christmas gifts. Because girls are super too.

And I cannot tell you how excited I am about this. Because here's the kicker. They are only 15 bucks a piece including personalization. $15!!! You pick the cape color, the design, the design color, the letter and sparkles vs no sparkles. (I vote for sparkles) That is crazy people!

And look what a good job she did:

I was so tickled with how well they turned out and all the cool aunt points I was going to get that my giveaway seemed a no brainer. So I contacted Superflykidz and amazingly she responded with a really kind offer to donate one. Which makes her not only the creator of one of the best cheap kid gifts around but also in the running for my new best friend.

So, if you want to be entered in the giveaway to win a personalized cape for one of the super kids in your life, then I want you to do one small thing for me. Please leave a comment on this post letting me know one thing that you think would make a good inexpensive Christmas gift for you or someone else on your list. Because as I mentioned before I am gifting challenged and I could use the help.

Note: Superflykidz doesn't have a ton of examples on display at the Etsy shop right now because she has been innundated with Christmas orders and everything has sold. However, you can do a custom order at anytime. This giveaway will end at midnight on Thursday (Thanksgiving) night so that the winner may be able to get their cape in time for Christmas. You do not have to have a blog to enter but please make sure your contact information is in the comment.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gratitude - Day 23

Wow, what a difference a day and some sleep makes. I got nearly eight hours last night and feel like a whole new person. It was a lovely day full of little girls in tutus, boys tearing through house, football on the television and obscene amounts of food. In short, we had my side of the family's Thanksgiving. And I am so grateful for my family, the whole motley lot of them. My brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews and their Gramma and Pop. It is a blessing to be part of a large family and I am thrilled we chose to continue in that tradition. I hope that someday my kids will have their own noisy chaotic holidays with not enough seats and children constantly underfoot. I just can't imagine it being any other way.

I am also grateful that this week is over. Today, for the first time in weeks I am sittting at the computer prior to 11:30 at night. I have nearly 200 posts in my google reader and 87 requests in my Facebook account. And I am planning on ignoring every single one of them. And even better the week ahead of me seems amazingly devoid of entries on the calendar. With two very important exceptions. Thursday we will be celebrating Thanksgiving with my husbands equally wonderful and chaotic family and Friday Allie and I will be going to see this movie. And yes, I know the book is a pile of sappy, juvenile fluff-n-nonsense, that is far beneath my high brow tastes. Except that apparently it's not because we are both pretty darn excited about it.

And now, I'm off to write the mildly anticipated and much delayed giveaway post. It will go up at midnight: two entire weeks after I said I would. I am so sorry, but try as I might sometimes real life gets in the way of my blogging life. The nerve.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gratitude - Day 22

Today I am thankful for my busyness. For seeing friends at a birthday party, for seeing my beautiful niece dance, for seeing my two other nieces bundled up in their PJs at my home after hours of play with their adoring cousins. For having so many blessings it was a challenge to fit them all into my day. And for coffee, because boy did I need it.

Gratitude - Day 21

It's midnight and I just walked in the door after another whirlwind day and tomorrow will be more of the same. We have a basketball game, a dance recital and a birthday party to attend, as well as company coming in to spend the night tomorrow evening. I promised myself that I would not grumble about my decision to commit to 30 days of Thanks, but man have I been tempted this week. Not from lack gratitude fodder, but from lack of time to record it.

Every other Friday night I have girls night. There are four of us and we meet together sans husbands and kids for Bible Study and food and talk and a general unburdening of our hearts. These three friends know me better than anyone in my life, with the exception of my husband. And in some areas, better even than he. Some of us have been friends for nearly twenty years. Twenty years. I can tell them anything, and I have. We've loved each other through so much:
Heartaches, weddings, divorce, babies, infertility, depression, new jobs, lost jobs and kids. Kids that have stolen our hearts and sometimes broken them. Prayers that were answered and the ones where God said no. 247 diets and twice as much chocolate. Laughter and tears and wine and prayer and insecurities and encouragement.

Our enduring friendship is a rare and amazing gift. And I can honestly say there is not a day that goes by where I am not grateful for it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gratitude - Day 20

Today, I am thankful that it is technically already Friday and this long crazy week is coming to an end. And I am thankful for my friends.

The one who sent me a devotional at the perfect time this week reminding me that
"God never intended for us to make completing a to-do list the purpose of our lives."
~Rick Warren
Hurray for that piece of good news! Because if that was my purpose I would certainly be failing. But it's not, and I know it's not. But too often I fall into the trap of judging my success as a parent, as a homemaker, as a child of God by how much I get checked off my list.

And I'm thankful for my friend who recently reminded me to get up close with my camera. I did, yesterday.
And look what I found.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gratitude - Day 18 (Jello)

On the way home from school today:

Ben - Mom. I really want to know what Jello tastes like. I think it tastes good.

Me - Really? Did someone have Jello at school today?

Ben - No. It's something I've been wondering for a long time.

Me - (Ha! A long time. My kid is the cutest.) OK, well we will have to make some sometime so you can find out.

Ben - Can we make some when we get home?

Me - Ummmmm... (Do we have Jello? Have I ever actually purchased Jello? You know, since I stopped using it to make shots in college?) I'm not sure we have any Ben.

Well, we came home and on a whim I searched the back of the pantry and amazingly found one box. I think it's been there for years. I have no recollection of purchasing it. I couldn't find an expiration date, so I took that as a positive omen and we made Jello. Ben actually squealed when I poured in the boiling water and it turned from pink powder to bright red liquid. And then he burst into tears when I explained to him that it wouldn't be ready to eat until after his nap.

Thirty minutes later, he popped out of bed. "I slept! Is the Jello ready?" He did this two more times. When we finally scooped it into a bowl, he did a little happy jig, and then he sat at the table and laughed and laughed as he tried half a dozen times to get it on his spoon. And when he finally got a bite, he said. "It's wigglely Mom. It's wigglely on my spoon and it's wigglely in my mouth. And it's yummy, just like I knew it would be!"

And then my heart exploded from all the cuteness.

And so today I am thankful for the mystery box of strawberry jello in the back of my pantry. And for taking ten minutes out of another insanely busy day to say yes to my four year old. What a beautiful reminder, as I enter into this season of chaos and excess, that the magic really is in the simplest things.

Oh, and lest you thought I forgot about my giveaway, I didn't. It was just taking a little longer than I thought to get my ducks in a row what with all the Thanksgivinging going on around here. But it's official now, and I have something super cool to give. And it was actually donated to me for the giveaway, when I said I wanted to use it as one of my favorite things! Oh my goodness! I'm just like Oprah. Except, that I don't have my own TV Show or Magazine or a Kabillion dollars and I think Exhaert Tolle is full of Baloney. But other than that...The Same!

Anyhoo, I am doing a giveaway. Tomorrow. Or the next day. Or Friday at the latest. But soon, and I'm really excited. In case you couldn't tell.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Gratitude - Day 17

Today was another busy day, chock full of glamorous things like grocery shopping and laundry and sorting the 18 inches of socks that had accumulated at the bottom of the basket. Mondays are always hard for me, because the week starts with a dreary and seemingly insurmountable list of chores. A list made even more dreadful by being virtually indistinguishable from the weeks before. It's hard not to feel like I am spinning my wheels. So I really tried, in the spirit of this project, to stop and notice the positive things. And today it seemed obvious, I am thankful for Clara.

When we were grocery shopping Clara sang and talked to everyone we saw. All my kids have been obnoxiously friendly shoppers at this age, but Clara's exuberance is really something to behold. She will start shouting her greetings 50 ft away. And if they stop and speak with her, she will shout at them again as they walk away. "Buh bye, Honey! See ya soon!" It cracks me up every. single. time. And when we are in the car she will demand Christmas music. And not just any Christmas music, but "Sleigh ride" by Amy Grant. And then she will dance and sing like nobodys business. It's fantastic. And impossible to resist. We make a humorous picture, the two of us, twisting and throwing up our hands in the carpool line.

Clara is our child that looks most like me. And the one most unlike me in personality. But I am just so thankful to God for the blessing of my loud, feisty baby girl. She brings such a spirit of passion and joy (and unpredictability) to my life. And I think, sometimes, it's just what the doctor ordered.

The week ahead of me is looking a bit crazy. And by crazy, I mean I went grocery shopping today for four Thanksgiving type feasts between now and Sunday. And that doesn't even include the actual Thanksgiving shindig at my in-laws on, well, Thanksgiving! That's a lot of shopping, and baking and casseroles to be toting around. And we won't even discuss how hopeless fitting into my jeans will be when it's all over.

So I resolved to take a hiatus this week from Facebook and Blogging. Ironic, as I am participating in NaBloPoMo by doing this Thirty Days of Thanks thing. My resolutions are conflicting. Which, strangely enough, is not an unusual problem for me. So, while I will still be spitting out a post a day on gratitude, I probably won't be reading and commenting much this week. And yes, I do realize, this falls in the category of very bad blogging etiquette. To which I say: Four thanksgiving feasts people. Four! Cut me some slack.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Gratitude - Day 16 (3-year-olds and sleep)

Today was my last choir class until the new year. I am so thankful for the opportunity to sing, dance, play instruments and praise, praise, praise with my small group of 3-year-olds. What an amazing transformation we have seen in our shy, quiet bunch since the year started. That first week I was seriously concerned that my class was going to be the "Joy Preschool Solo Hour." But now they sing and dance and get out of control just like 3-year-olds should. And while I have been known to grumble when it cuts too far into my Sunday afternoon nap, I genuinely look forward to going each week.

And man, am I grateful for the faithful people that put aside their their own naps (and pride) to show up and be silly right along with me - not to mention saving me about 243 trips to the potty. I have made new friends and - after six years in fourth grade choir - have found a brand new passion. (Making music with preschoolers...whooda thunkit?) If Christmas wasn't such a hectic season I really would be sad for such a long break.

And also, right now, I am thankful for the clean sheets I am about to go put on my bed. And the down comforter. And the seven hours of sleep I am going to get. Ha! That's positive thinking if I ever heard it. Or maybe just plain claiming a miracle. But who knows? It could happen.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gratitude - Day 15

It was a long and busy day today. I took Allie out shopping for warmer clothes. Shopping with an adolescent daughter is always a tightrope walk. Sometimes we have a wonderful time. Sometimes there are short fuses and tears. Today fell somewhere in the middle. We did - after many hours - finally find some things we were both happy with. The day ended well. She was happy and grateful which left me the same.

And when I walked in the door to my home, after just a few hours away, I was met with two fans squealing my name and clamoring to touch me. It is such an exquisite thing, the uninhibited, unconditional love of little ones. And I am so thankful today for this undue gift. Even more so for knowing how soon it will slip away, like water through my fingers.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Gratitude quickie - Day 14

The Man is out for the evening playing poker with his friends. The weekids are in bed and I'm hanging out with Brandon and Allie and one of Allie's friends. We're eating ice cream and playing word games and having a heckuva time.

I have cool kids. Cool, smart kids - Brandon keeps kicking my butt at Twirl. So in the interest of getting back to the important stuff - I'm just going to keep this short and just say:

I am thankful for my life as a mom of two teenagers (OK, one teenager and one almost teenager.)

It's hard. Really hard. But when it's good, there's nothing better.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gratitude - Day 13 (Books)

Tonight I loaded the Weekids into the car at 8PM to take Allison to our used book store. She had run out of books and it was "an emergency!" In her defense, she has been doing extra Weekid watching and I had agreed to compensate her in used books. But the hour of our book run was a prime example of the coddling I was referring to in my last post. That girl knows my weaknesses too well. I doubt I would have made it through my truly horrible middle school experience without books. And even now, I have been known to prowl the house like a jittery addict when I run out of things to read. I can't fall asleep without at least one chapter to ease the transition from real life to dreams.

So simply because her quirks mirror my own, I caved. And withstood squinty looks from the staff while attempting to keep Ben and Clara from completely trashing the small children's section thirty minutes before closing. So she could select a few borderline appropriate young adult novels.

Oh, and for the record, Publishers...if a book has sex in it, it should NOT be labeled YA. I don't care if the sex is between teenagers. That just makes it more inappropriate for my impressionable girl to read. Please move these books to the adult section. Or maybe create a new section called "Books with teenager characters that have sex and/or do drugs and curse like sailors." But I digress.

Later this evening, as I was sitting on the sofa with my husband watching Survivor no less, it dawned on me that in 2008 there are still many people for whom this experience would have been inconceivable. And by "experience" I don't mean wrestling a two-year-old out of a lovely display case of handmade quilts at the bookstore. (Oh yes, she crawled in and made herself at home!) I mean going to a bookstore. I mean reading a book.

I don't think I had ever thought about this before.

I cannot remember a time in my life when I didn't love books. Being read to by my mother is ingrained in my earliest memories. It's one of the few things I was passionate about passing on to my own children. Realizing that there are still many children in undeveloped countries who will live their lives without ever reading, or being read to, is just another reminder that I will never really be able to comprehend how blessed I am.

So today I am thankful for books. For the people who taught me to read them. For growing up loving them. For passing that love on to at least one of my children (The jury's still out on the other three.) And for living in a society where I have access to more books than I could ever read, for free.

And, if I may make a plug, for organizations like Compassion International who are changing communities one child at time. So that hopefully, one day, no child will grow up without food, or medicine, or books, or hope.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gratitude - Day 12

Ben can't write. He knows all his letters. He knows all the sounds they make. He's just on the cusp of putting them together into words. He's discovered that adding or subtracting a letter can change things. He's fascinated by this. His enthusiasm makes my heart swell. I am thrilled with where he is cognitively. He's funny. And well mannered. And a people pleaser. And enthusiastic about everything. But he can't write.

He attempts to write B. E. N. on papers but it's pretty much illegible. He can't even trace B. e. n. with a modicum of success. He just can't. This has started to bother me. To cause me to worry. And that worry is making me angry. He's four.

And I want him to be four.

I don't want to care about whether his fine motor skills are going to give him trouble when he enters kindergarten next year. (Because I suspect they are.) I want him to explore what he is passionate about and nudge him gently towards things he may not be. I want him to sing songs and climb on rocks and read lots of books and color pictures and pretend to be a pirate for hours on end. I don't want him to sit at the table practicing writing his letters. He's not ready. Or maybe he is.

I'm not ready.

I'm not ready for the next phase. Where they started getting rated by what they can and cannot do. Where words like "behind" and "struggling" and "needs extra help" enter our vocabulary. Again.

Allison's having a difficult time in school. I have alluded to this several times before. I won't go into details but let's just say she's in 7th grade. And her problems are not academic. For the first time since first or second grade she leaves for school each morning dreading the day ahead of her. She feels unwelcome. Unaccepted. The other day she told me she feels invisible. And my heart, it crumbled.

I am relieved that Allie is talking to me about what is going on with her. But I don't know how to fix this for her, and it's killing me. I walk around with a pit of anxiety boiling in my stomach. Imagining her feeling unwanted. Imagining her feeling unworthy. I find myself treating her differently. I don't make her do quite as much around the house. I buy her small things to make her smile. I write her little notes. When she walks in the door from school I can't help but pounce on her, asking her a little too cheerfully and pointedly how her day was. I want so badly to make home a soft and comforting place to land.

When Allison was Ben's age we had concerns about her starting kindergarten the next year. Her birthday falls 6 days before the cut-off so she was the youngest. She didn't really know her letters and she was just seemed immature compared to the other kids. It seems so obvious to me now that she wasn't ready. But her teachers encouraged us to send her on, and so we did. (Incidentally her fine motor skills were amazing)

Eventually she caught up academically but socially she has always been younger. We will always regret the decision we made to send her on. Even now, eight years later, I cannot help but wonder if she would be in this place if she were a year older.

Did we make the right decision by her back then?
Probably not.
Did that decision cause her the pain she is experiencing now?
I don't know. There is no way too know.
Is it helping her to deal with her current situation by coddling her at home?
I don't know.
Am I afraid to send Ben on to Kindergarten because of Allie's struggles then and now.
Would it be the right decision to hold him back as well?
I don't know.

I just don't. And it kills me that I don't. And that I may never know if the decision I make is the right one. The most difficult part of parenting is not doing what needs to be done, but knowing what to do. And relying on God when you don't. I'm not so good at this.

Today I am thankful for my two sensitive children.

May I always do right by you. And may my prayers be enough to carry you when I don't.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gratitude - Day 11 (Crockpot condoms, peppermint mocha, and a blurry picture)

Imagine my surprise to find out that some of you were not familiar with slow cooker liners, which are - as Karen pointed out - also commonly called crock pot condoms. I might, however, refrain from referring to them as such when trying to locate them at your local grocery store. Just so ya know, they are located with the Ziplock baggies and saran warp. I am delighted to have been able to share such life changing information with my readers. BigMama* has her trip to the Dominican. I have crock pot condoms. We all do what we can.

So now I'm thinking we should all do some kind of post-your-favorite-slow-cooker-recipe carnival in honor of not having to clean our slow cookers. What do you think? Would you participate?

As for gratitude, today I am grateful that there was Coffeemate Peppermint Mocha Creamer at my Publix. They've been out since it arrived on the shelves. I'm starting to doubt it was ever really there. I think they may have been trying to build up demand with the "Peppermint Mocha" label in front of a large gaping hole in the creamer section. Like with gas. Encourage peppermint mocha creamer hording. It worked. I bought three.

And I am thankful that yesterday, while making dinner I stumbled upon something previously thought to be an urban legend. Look:

Four children. Snuggled together on the sofa. With no fighting or bickering or pushing for an entire hour. Yes, the spaced out expressions are because they were watching Ratatouille on TV. But I won't make a single apology about it. An HOUR, uninterrupted, to make dinner take pictures and post them on my blog while my children enjoyed tolerated each others company.

That's the American dream right there.

* Please don't take my attempt at humor as diminishing anything the compassion bloggers are doing to make a difference. This is a wonderful group of people and a wonderful organization. If you haven't been there, you really should check it out.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gratitude - Day 10 (A wandering mind)

Today I made chicken and rice in the crockpot. I love those crock pot liners they came out with in the last couple years, and yes, that's what I am thankful for. I think they are worthy of an award. It gives me great satisfaction to bundle up the nasty goop from the bottom of the pot and throw it all away. I use the slow cooker once a week now and I think it's partly because of not having to clean it. What can I say, I am a dirty dishes wimp. My daughter comes by it naturally.

It occurred to me today, as I was smoothing down my liner before throwing in chicken, that this is an incredibly simple concept that could be applied to other areas of my life. Like what about a liner for the bottom of my purse? I could remove the cell phone, wallet and umbrella and then pull out the liner to throw away the 67 receipts, cracker crumbs, used tissues, stray army men, straw wrappers and the half eaten sucker.


Or what about a liner to completely cover the floorboard of the car. Just like that... happy meal toys, 18 pieces of school/church/bible study artwork, french fries, gold fish, crayons from the Mexican restaurant, stray army men, empty water bottles and the dried milk from the spill last Friday.

You know what, I could even take this a step further and just line the entire inside of my house with plastic. Then when we pulled it up each week all the crunched up cheerios, dog hair, and sand tracked in from the sandbox would come with it. Oh, I am sure we'd loose some toys (stupid army men) hairbows and shoes, and an occasional ipod or pet in the process. But just imagine the benefits. I'd never vaccuum up another polly pocket or lego again. In fact, I don't think I'd even need a vaccuum. And I'm sure the kids would start picking up their stuff eventually, when they are down to one brown dress shoe and some coasters to play with.

So that's what I need. Disposable liners for the inside of my purse. And car. And house. So I can wad up all the left over trash and throw it away.

And, it seems, one for my brain as well. There is obviously a lot of stray trash in there. Like this whole ridiculous post.

Crockpot liners...that's what I am thankful for.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Gratitude - Day 9 (Three hundred)

This is my three-hundredth post.

300 posts! I can not fathom how I still have something to say. But even more so, I cannot fathom what you people are still doing here!

But oh how I love it. This crazy self-indulgent kinda scary, kinda great, addiction of putting my words, my fears, my joys, my silliness, my heart out there. Out here. And I love all of you, for each. and. every:

I know.
I hear you.
I get it.
I'm so happy for you.
I'm so sorry.

You made me laugh.
You made me cry.
I've totally been there.
You're kidding me.

I'm praying for you.
You can do it.
You're kids are so cute.
This is what I did...

I'm listening.
Me too.
Have fun.
You are a good mother.
You'll be OK.
She'll be OK.
He'll be OK.
Don't give up.
I love you.

that you have given me. I don't get back to all of you the way I should. And I don't understand why you are still here.

But, I am so, so grateful that you are.

Gratitude - Day 8

Today I am thankful for those adjustable waist elastic tab button things that they put inside pants. I am glad that you can now find them everywhere. Without this development my food challenged son would always be wearing pants 2 sizes too short. Or experience repeat performances of the time his pants fell to his ankles in the church parking lot.

(Oh dear drawstring, how I miss thee)

So thanks to all the brands that have come forward to give aide to the cause of skinny kids. Sewing impaired mamas everywhere are in your debt.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Gratitude - Day 7 (Allie)

I'm crawling back to the computer exhausted again tonight. It's 11:3oPM and I just now finally made home for the first time today for longer than 15 minutes. I'm operating on 5 hours of sleep and just took 2 sleeping pills. I have about twenty minutes before I start drooling on the keyboard.

That being said, it was a great day with so many things to be grateful for. But as my brain is turning to mush as I write this, I will just focus on one.

Today I checked Allie out of school. She's been having a bit of a hard time lately so I decided to take her out for dessert and hot chocolate.

By the way, have you TRIED Starbucks new Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate? Oh. My. Goodness! But I digress.

Allie and I chatted over marble loaf about my friends and her friends, her school and my work and what we would do when she turned thirteen and was finally allowed to wear makeup. (The important stuff.) Then I took her to get her hair cut. She looked lovely and sweet with her blonde bob and it was so easy for me to see in her the little girl who used to sing a silly song about me being her best friend. We were always together then. She thought I hung the moon in the sky.

We have displaced each other in our rolls in recent years. She, with new friends and interests, and me with two new little blonde fans. It's been a difficult transition for both us, having to share. And my fall from grace in her eyes has been more than a little painful for me.

But in these simple, quiet (and way to rare) moments together, I see a glimpse of something even lovelier that may yet come between us. A relationship not based on me holding up the sky for her, but on each of us holding it up for each other. Based on equal footing, and shared memories, and - I am hopeful - friendship.

She's only twelve now. There's still a long - and probably bumpy - road ahead of us to get from here to there. But I'm looking forward to it. Because my girl, she's gonna make a wonderful friend.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gratitude - Day 6 (Random stuff)

I'm really tired tonight. It's been a long busy day. And I have promised myself not to let this 30 Days of Thanks thing stress me out. So I am going to keep this simple.

Today, I am thankful for:
  • One hour photo development.
  • Gas at $1.99 a gallon!
  • My job, that allows my children to attend the preschool they L.O.V.E. for free and lets me speak to adults two mornings a week.
  • My children's preschool which they L.O.V.E!
  • Ben sitting in the back of my car adding an "s" to every word he could think of. It went something like this. "If you add that little "s" to the end of car, you get cars. If you add that little "s" to the end of Army Man you get Army Mans." Oh, the cuteness of hearing him saying "that little s" over and over again! I couldn't stand it! And oh, the joy that comes from watching your kid learn to put letters together into words!
  • Exclamation Points!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Gratitude - Day 5 (Fall)

Today I am thankful for fall. How generic is that? But it was such a beautiful day today. A cold morning warming to a sunny afternoon. A breeze sending showers of red and gold swirling off the trees. I felt like I was back in high school strolling home down a sidewalk crunchy with leaves, wearing a striped scarf, carrying a load of school books and gossiping with my girlfriend about the high school quarterback.

Except that when I was in high school I would never have worn a scarf to school, and I'm pretty sure I didn't know who our quarterback was. And I rode the bus.

But the point is, fall is here and it's GLORIOUS. Suddenly I feel like sipping spiced cider or mulled wine. I want to bake gingery pumpkin bread, or apple pie with pecans. I want to brew big pots of too spicy chili.

Hmmm. Actually, maybe it's just fall foods I am thankful for. But that works too.

Oh! And sometime this weekend I am going to hit my 300th post. Glory, that's a lot of talking about myself. And to celebrate still having people come here after 121,432 grammatically creative words, I am doing another giveaway. I am just not sure exactly what I am giving away but it will be more of my favorite things. More of my favorite things that I can obtain for really, really cheap. Or free. Cause I'm klassy like that.

So tune in next week for round two of "Joy's favorite things that she ccould get for next to nothing" giveaway. I know you can't wait.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Gratitude - Day 4 (I voted)

Today I voted for my choice of candidate for president of the United States. The people in my life are passionately polarized in their opinions on who I should have voted for. I researched my options more carefully this election than ever before. I wanted to make sure that my vote was my own, and not a result of my associations or preconceived notions. I can tell you now, the candidate I voted for did not win. And for that I am disappointed, but not surprised.

And yet, I am thankful. The gratitude that was so elusive yesterday abounded in me today. I went cheerfully, book in hand to pass the time, (I didn't need it, the line was crazy short!) to stand in line to make my opinion known on whom I wanted to represent me, my state, and my country. This is a right many people have died for in our history. A right still denied to millions and millions of people in our world.

The election did not turn out the way I wanted. But I had a vote, a say in the outcome. And in the end it turned out the way the people of the United States chose. And whether we are conservative or liberal, black or white, a donkey or an elephant, I hope we never forget what a blessing it is to be permitted to choose. I pray that someday the rest of the world will also be so blessed.

You are here. Now go there...

While you are voting today Kaytar is having her surgery to have her feeding tube put in. And her tonsils and adenoids removed. And to check on the progression of her hearing loss.

I know!

It has to be a lot for Kyla and Josh to handle. So go here and give them some support. We all know Kaytar is going to be just fine, but I am sure they could use your prayers for comfort and peace. And a little extra cyber-lovin.

The encouraging kind. Not the creepy kind.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Gratitude - Day 3

I confess that I came to the computer tonight ready to go through the motions of gratitude. Throughout the day today I had been making note of blessings (Gas for $2.15 a gallon! Clara playing happily in the sandbox for nearly an hour. A new friendship.) to list on my post tonight. That process in itself is valuable, but by the time I sat down tonight to record them, my heart wasn't in it.

This evening I found out that Allison did not make it into All-state chorus. Because of some misinformation we had received on the cut-off scores, we thought she had. So, when I finally connected with her chorus teacher tonight we were both surprised to find out she had missed the cut off by half a point. With a score that would have qualified her the last three years. She was sad. And I was sad for her. She worked very hard to prepare for the audition, harder than I had seen her work towards anything. And it wasn't enough. It's a stinky life lesson to learn.

For her, I put on an encouraging face. I told her how I proud I was of her efforts (I am!) and how close she came, and how she always has next year (she does!). But I wasn't feeling gratitude, I was feeling sulky and disappointed and like the whole thing seemed cosmically unfair.

But as I was putzing around on my computer, trying to drum up the right frame of mind to write my post, I saw a comment from my sister-in-law stating that she was going to play along on this gratitude thing. I went and read her post and it was beautiful. She expressed thanks for devoted moms doing their best, for missionaries giving their all and then...for her twin sons' autism.

And provided my sulky, self-righteous-mama-bear self with some much needed perspective.

So Lynn, today I am thankful for you. For the warrior mama you are. For the inspiration you provide. And for giving me an (unintentional) kick in the tail.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Gratitude - Day 2 (Someday...)

  • When the clocks fall back, I actually will get an extra hours sleep.
  • When I stumble out of bed I will not trip on toys on the way to the kitchen.
  • I will get to use the bathroom all by myself. When I take a shower it will not be to the soundtrack of a toddler wailing and pounding at the door.
  • When I get ready for church on a Sunday morning it will only be my hair I have to wash, my teeth I have to brush, my clothes I have to iron, my shoes I have to find.
  • My van will not smell like sour milk. Or be littered with cheerios and goldfish and Happy Meal toys. In fact, someday my van might not even be a van. It might be something infinitely cooler. Like a car.
  • When I mop the kitchen floor I will not have to mop it again fifteen minutes later. And then again in an hour.
  • My living room will not look like a romper room.
  • There will be no more arguments left to referee or time-outs to enforce or groundings to police.
  • I will walk through the grocery store again leisurely. Comparing prices on fruit and never once uttering the words "Stop hitting your brother" or "No, you CAN NOT HAVE THAT."
  • Not a single room in my house will smell like a diaper pail.
  • I will be able to eat an entire meal without getting up to retrieve a fork, clean a spill, or cut someone's food.
  • I will not have a calendar hanging on my pantry door with multiple entries for every day of the week.
  • I will only have to run the dishwasher once a day.
  • I will only have to sort two sets of socks.
  • I have plenty of time to write on this blog.
But right now, while children are giggling and my husband is wrestling and my dining room is littered with enough toys and clothes to create a formidable obstacle course...I am thankful. Very, very thankful that day is not today.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

30 Days of Thanks-Day 1 (Halloween)

This Halloween season got off to a rough start. It was the costume thing. We thought we had it figured out ages ago. Ben was going to be a Pirate and Clara was going to be Tinkerbell. (We were going through a Peter Pan phase.) Ben chose a Pirate costume out of the Costume Express catalog and my sister-in-law graciously offered to lend us a Tinkerbell tutu. A month before Halloween and my ducks were in a row. Virtually unheard of in the Chaotic household.

Fast forward two weeks and things have taken a considerable turn for the worse in the costume saga. Costume Express called us when our costume was supposed to be arriving to let us know that they were sold out of the Pirate Costume we ordered. And all other pirate costumes in size 4/5. But our eye-patch and sword would be there soon. You know, in case he wanted to be a naked pirate.

And, to make matters worse, Clara screamed bloody murder every time we try to put the Tinkerbell costume on her and Party city, Target, and Wal-mart are all out of Pirate costumes in Ben's size.

Fast forward one more week and I have ordered a handmade pirate costume from Ebay for a reasonable price. I am feeling relieved and proud-of-myself until the costume arrives in the mail.

Ben hates it.
And, Clara has rejected the hodgepodge of other costumes we have from Halloweens past: Ladybug, Butterfly, Princess, Fireman. She screams at each and every one. At this point I am thinking of canceling the holiday entirely, because really, what's the point if the kids aren't having fun? EXCEPT, my Brother, sister-in-law and two adorable nieces are planning on coming in town to spend the night and trick-or-treat with us.

Fast forward to last night and somehow we managed to pull it off. With lots and lots of encouragement from teachers at school:
(thanks guys)

and family members Ben accepted (although never entirely loved) his pirate costume with the puffy shirt. And I was able to trick Clara into a semi-costume by throwing some cat ears on her head and pairing them with a leopard vest. She was adorable in spite of her best efforts.

And last night was so. much. fun.

The dread pirate Benjamin

Lady AllisonPumpkin designed by Allie.

And, as for what I am thankful for today, well that's easy. I am thankful for my brother and his family. They recently moved a couple hours away and I have missed them (especially my nieces) terribly. I was so happy they came last night to spend the holiday with us. It wouldn't have been the same without them.

Ben and his cousins.