Monday, December 22, 2008

How do you get two adults, three kids, five suitcases and WAY too many Christmas presents in the car?

Weather report doesn't look good for Illinois and Missouri tomorrow, and since we're supposed to drive across both states, B and I have made an executive decision. We're leaving today.

Know what that means?

Pack like crazy. Pray the laundry in the dryer actually gets dry. Hope the Christmas shopping is done. Drink copious amounts of caffeine. And head on out.

We'll be enjoying sunny, and hopefully warmer-than-here, Dallas for Christmas. I'm not taking my laptop and won't be blogging, so check back with me around New Year's Eve.

And have a wonderful time celebrating the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Seven Quick Takes Friday

I’m joining Jen’s group today to give you 7 Quick Takes from my week. Hop on over to Conversion Diary . . . after you've read mine!

-1-

I’ve never been an athlete . . . or a photographer . . . but I sure wish I had had a camera with me when I visited the 5th grade gym class this week. Parents were invited to come play volleyball with their child’s class during gym time and, of course, I was summoned by the queen. I couldn’t even come up with a lame excuse to miss this one.

So there I was with the 5th grade class and three other suckers parents playing volleyball with a huge, soft, colorful volleyball. And it was fun, by golly. It was fun! The kids got such a kick out of us “old folks” trying to hit the ball and not get hurt. Thankfully, I didn’t fall down or embarrass myself too much.

-2-

The same cannot be said for a couple of other times this week. On the way over to the elementary school for the holiday program I wiped out—with an umbrella in one hand and a bag holding Maggie’s shoes and my video camera in the other hand. Quite unflattering and embarrassing. AND I pulled a muscle in my arm. Oh help me.

Then, yesterday morning, on my way out to the garage with an armful of packages to return to various stores, I wiped out on our driveway. Unfortunately, the Nordstrom bag didn’t fare so well, but thankfully my knees survived.

Let this be a lesson to all you new drivers out there (you know who you are!), snow on top of an inch of ice makes for VERY slippery conditions.

-3-

Costco. Christmas season. Need I say more?

I think, yes.

How on earth can a parking lot with probably 2,000 parking spaces in it be completely filled up? It just didn’t seem possible—and with a week to go until Christmas. But, friends, I’m here to tell you that it IS possible.

Yesterday, on my last day to do errands, I needed a couple of things at Costco. O.K., “needed” is a relative term here--I had coffee cake (have you tasted their coffee cake?!) and croissants on my list. But when I could barely even squeeze the ole’ mini-van into the parking lot, and then, after driving around and finding nary a parking space, I decided that coffee cake and croissants would have to wait. I’ll just have to improvise. There is NO WAY I was going to tackle the store if I couldn’t handle the parking lot, so I turned around and left.

-4-

Is anyone else as paranoid about gift-giving as I am? Just wondering, because every time I buy a gift I think, “I have no idea if this person will like this.”

I wish I could change that about myself.

-5-

I got home from my big day of errand running to find the strangest sight in the middle of our street—packages strewn about . . . in the middle of the street! I wasn’t sure what to do, but I stopped my car and opened the door to check them out. Both were being shipped through FedEx and both were being delivered to the same street in our town. One box, I could see, contained a ham because the box had broken open and the ham was falling out.

Obviously the FedEx man had taken the corner a little too quickly; I’m guessing the back door of his truck may not have been closed.

So, being the good citizen that I am, I put the packages in my car, pulled into my driveway, and took them into my house. Both of the names on the packages were, thankfully, in the phone book, so I called both numbers. (I did NOT want to have to deal with FedEx!) The one person who called me back was so happy to get her package from L.L. Bean that she had her husband drive over immediately to pick it up.

He took the ham with him and was, I think, going to deliver it to their neighbor. Unless they needed something for their Christmas dinner.

-6-

In case you hadn’t heard, we had a snow storm last night. Well, it was kind of like a sleet storm here—I woke up all night to the sound of little sleety pelts hitting the window. So, no school today for the kiddos, which is a true bummer because the older two were supposed to finish up finals today (now they have to wait until the day after break) and my youngest was supposed to have her Christmas, oh—excuse me—holiday party at school. Youngest is obviously sad; older two are obviously rejoicing (until January 4 when they realize they have to study for finals again!).

So we’re dealing with snow and ice and REALLY cold temps over the weekend. GRRR. (Note: I don’t want to fall into the I’m-constantly-complaining-about-the-weather-on-my-blog thing. It’s just an anomaly, I promise.)

But would someone please tell my family in Dallas to stop telling me it’s going to be 75 there today?!?! Enough already!

-7-

We absolutely love our little elementary school; it is the most precious place. It’s the smallest elementary school in town with only two classes per grade, so we pretty much know everyone there. It’s two blocks away from our house, so all of my girls have spent countless hours walking to and from school. And it is filled with the most wonderful families and teachers you could ever ask for.

Anyway, this has been a year of “lasts” for us since Maggie is in 5th grade. The last first day of school. The last Halloween parade. The last curriculum night. And this week was our last Holiday Program.

I have to admit that, as I listened to the kids singing “Up on the Housetop” and as I watched some of Maggie’s dearest friends dress up as elves to do a dance, I got a little nostalgic for that dear place. And I was especially thankful for our music teacher (and for our principal who allowed it) who finished up the evening with everyone singing “Silent Night.” I had tears in my eyes as I saw my neighbors and friends (some of whom are Jewish and Muslim) singing about the true meaning of Christmas. Hey, it is what it is—there should be no denying it. The spirit of unity was amazing, and our common love for that sweet little school brought us together.

We will certainly miss it next year when Maggie leaves that place.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Caution: Spoiler Alert

I'm going to tell you about Santa. If you don't want to know the truth, don't keep reading.

O.K., I admit it, we played Santa with our kids when they were little. It was fun. It was harmless. Don't judge me, please.

I had determined when they were born that I would not lie to my children--about anything. Of course, you might be thinking that even playing Santa for your kids is a form of lying. Semantics, I say. Anyway, I had decided that if questions started coming up about Santa, I would answer them as truthfully as I could. I would even tell "the secret" if pushed.

About five years ago, I had the last "Santa talk" with Maggie.

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was shortly after Christmas, and the girls and I were at the local mall, probably exchanging a sweater for something more useful. At any rate, the time came for lunch and we headed to our favorite place to eat in the mall--A & W--where you can not only get a frosty mug of root beer, but you can also get your complete fat intake for the week in one chili cheese dog. Heaven.

So we were sitting at one of their "high" tables with the stools, happily munching on fries and sipping ice cold root beer when Maggie blurted out, "Mom, is Santa Claus real?"

I think I spewed root beer all over the table. Where was this coming from?

So I started "the talk" as I had started with each of my older girls. "Maggie, I am not going to lie to you. Are you sure you want to know?"

"Yes, I think so," was her reply. I've found, after having been through this three times, that they usually don't ask the question until they pretty much know the answer.

So we trudged forward.

"You're sure? Because if you're sure, I'm going to tell you."

"Yes, Mom! I'm sure."

"O.K." I said. And then I simply and slowly shook my head.

Quietly, her reply came. "I thought so," she said.

"Are you sad?" I asked.

"Kind of," she said with tears forming in her beautiful brown eyes. "But I kind of knew it was you. Santa's handwriting looks just like yours. Why didn't you try to disguise it?"

Good question, I thought. But the reason I never tried to disguise it, I told her, was because I sort of wanted them to figure it out. The whole Santa thing was fun, but didn't need to be carried on until they were teenagers. I figured by the time they were five or six they would put two-and-two together.

We sat in silence for a minute, and then came Maggie's next question. "Mom, does that mean you're also the tooth fairy?"

"Oh, Maggie, I'm so sorry. Yes," was all I said.

I could feel her world shifting beneath her, and I felt so terrible that there was nothing I could do about it. Things were changing for my baby, and I couldn't stop it. She would look at the world differently from here on out.

Maggie sat quietly, contemplating.

I sat nervously, awaiting the next question.

"Mom," she finally said, "if you're Santa AND the tooth fairy, . . . then don't even tell me about the Easter Bunny!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Tour of Homes


Well, I'm late to the party, as usual. I hope Boo Mama doesn't mind.

Even though I'm late, I wanted to invite you in to my home and to show you some of my favorite Chrismas decorations.

Let's start in the family room where most of the decorations are anyway. Here's our tree, or at least part of our tree. Last year we got a new tree that's about 9 feet tall, a little on the slim side, and, here's the best part, pre-lit! Consequently, I can't really show you the whole tree at once, but here's the bottom half . . .


And here's the top half . . .


Every year my parents give each of my girls a Lenox ornament which I absolutely love. As their collections have grown, my tree has certainly gotten more beautiful. This year our tree is mostly adorned with these ornaments, and I think it's lovely. Unfortunately, in just a few short years when my girls leave home and take their Lenox ornaments with them, my tree will be seriously lacking.


My mantle is simple this year--just a few greens and pine cones--but I like it that way. The stocking holders are simple silver with candles sitting on top. (And, yes, Thunder gets her own stocking!)


Now, let's take a closer look at one of those stockings. My mom has made one for each of her grandchildren when they were born, and I think they are just about the most beautiful Christmas things we own. The designs are by Mary Beale, who is a cross stitch designer who--I found out after I already had the stockings--lives right down the street from me and who also attends my church! Isn't that weird?!

Anyway, here's Kate's stocking:


If the stockings are my most beautiful Christmas decorations, I'd have to say these little gems are my most treasured. I have a handprint wreath for each of my girls--they made them when they were in preschool, and I absolutely love those little handprints. So precious.


Probably one of the best ideas I had this year was to adorn my transom windows with greenery and candles. I have thirteen transoms in my family room, so it's kind of impressive when you see it. Here's what they look like:




Finally, my sister gave me this little doorknob hanger a few years back. It's a prayer that I pray regularly for our little family. I pray the same for yours.


Have a very merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ho, Ho, Ho . . . Where did the time go?

Well, the holidays are upon us and with that brings cookie baking, party going, and guests arriving.

And very little time for blogging.

So the next few days might seem a little weird around here, as in not-too-much-blogging-going-on, but keep checking back. You might get a little surprise here and there.

I am so excited about this weekend because some people we met in Switzerland who actually live in Spain are coming to visit. I always worry when new people come to visit us because we have this dog, see, and the Wonder Dog is pretty darn friendly. I'm just hoping she won't bowl them over with her "friendliness."

At least she's clean--she spent the ENTIRE day at the groomer spa yesterday because her mama got the drop-off time wrong (showed up an hour early--oops!) and didn't have time to pick her up all day. Good thing she loves beeing cooped up in a cage at the PetSmart.

Anyway, be sure to check back in on Monday because I am taking part in Boo Mama's Annual Christmas Tour of Homes. Not that they are anything special, but I will give you a small peek into our Christmas decorations.

BooMamaChristmasTour

So I'm off to eat cookies and to party with my pals. See you back here on Monday!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Quick! Hide the cookies!

When B was a much younger boy, his mom had to hide food. Imagine, a house full of boys and she had to HIDE the food.

In fact, when things got really bad, she resorted to putting a lock on her chest freezer in the basement. (Being an English teacher, I realize that I'm bordering on misplaced modifier in the previous sentence, but GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER! That's my mother-in-law we're talking about.)

Back to business . . .

When I first came into the family and heard stories of all this food-hiding and freezer-locking, I have to admit, I was appalled. Having grown up in a household full of girls who ate just the right amount, no more and no less, and who actually ate slowly then sat around for the conversation after the meal, it was hard to get my brain around B's family's habits. It was a bit of culture shock for me.

After 23 years of living with this boy, however, I have grown to relate to my mother-in-law on a whole new level. The food level.

Last night I had a small plate of cookies sitting out on the counter which were left over from earlier in the day when a couple of ladies stopped by. This statement in itself would just leave B scratching his head. "Cookies . . . left over?" Does not compute.

Anyway, the cookies were sitting on the counter as B came through the door and, as is his custom, he ate one. Before dinner. Oh, don't get me started.

And then he asked, "Is this all you have of these? They're my favorite."

I slyly smiled and shook my head. "No, there are more."

"Where are they?"

"You think I'm telling you? Not a chance, Buddy!" O.K., those exact words probably didn't come out of my mouth, but something like that was implied.

Suddenly, the lightbulb went on in B's head. His eyes got wide, and he turned to look at me. "You're hiding food, aren't you?"

Ya think?!

We're having guests this weekend. OF COURSE I'm hiding food! And not just from B. We also have three daughters who love these cookies too.

And so, in honor of my beloved family who could easily find the cookies if they wanted to (hey, his mother is not the only woman in his life with a chest freezer), I'm giving you the recipe for our favorite Christmas cookies.

These are called Brun Brot, and they are a Swedish cookie which I learned how to make from my dear college roommate, Bonnie. Bonnie was a Swede-of-all-Swedes--too blonde for words. And, thanks to that lovely Swedish complexion, she looks the same today as she did in college.

Every so often Bonnie would grab a pound of butter and make these delicious yummys. I started making them a few years ago, and now my family begs me to make them every year at Christmas. They are so easy to make, I should do them more often than just at Christmas, but for some reason I don't. I want to keep them special.

A couple of weeks ago, when I made my "stash," I actually took pictures to help guide you through the process. So here we go . . .

Brun Brot (Swedish Cookies)

3 sticks of butter, softened
2 Tbs. Karo syrup (light or dark)
2 tsp. almond flavoring
1 C. sugar
1/2 C. brown sugar
3 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
Colored sugar

Mix all ingredients together except the colored sugar. (Bonnie says it works best if you do it by hand. I'm a bit funny when it comes to stuff like that, so I use a mixer. You do whatever you like.)

Place on a cookie sheet in 4-6 long ropes. Barely pat down the tops of the ropes and sprinkle with colored sugar.

Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes or until barely brown.

This is how they look when they come out of the oven.


After the ropes have been out of the oven for just a few minutes, cut them into strips. (Don't let them get too cool or they won't cut easily.)


Here's how they look when they're done.


Enjoy!

And hide them, quick!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Are YOU Second?

Well, I've been trying to get to the 'ole blog all day today, but with all the excitement in the Late Great State of Illinois, I was pretty much glued to the T.V. Well, that and a field trip and the usual running of kids everywhere. Then throw in some Christmas cookie baking and you have a full-fledged DAY.

But I really wanted to share this video with you. (Of course, it took me a while to figure out how to "embed" a video into my blog. I tell you, this blog really keeps me on my toes!)

Anyhoo . . .

As some of you know, our family got into American Idol last season. I even "suffered" through the reunion concert here in Chicago last summer just to see our favorite Idol, Jason Castro. Gotta love those dreads!



Anyway, my darling neice, Kira, who attends the same large university that Jason did down in Texas (go Aggies!), sent me this video via Facebook. I loved it so much, I wanted to share it with all of you. It takes a few minutes to watch, but it is so worth it.



And this is just the reason that I now adore Jason Castro even more.

"I Am Second" is a new internet project, and it's beautiful. You can find out more about the project, and you can watch several other stories by some famous and some not-so-famous people by clicking here.

Basically, the premise of "I Am Second" is this: If Jesus Christ is first in my life, then I am second.

And I suppose that if we took this idea a little further and counted the other people in our lives before ourselves, maybe this could become the "I Am Third . . . or Fourth . . . or Fifth" project. Wouldn't it be great if more of us lived our lives like that?

Monday, December 8, 2008

And the winner is . . .

I've been working all morning on a post, but I have to learn some new bloggy stuff first, and it's taking a while. SOOOO, I thought I'd go ahead and announce the winner of this weekend's giveaway.

Congratulations to Busymom who is the winner of my Cool Christmas Giveaway. She has won a $25 gift card to either Borders or Barnes & Noble (her choice).

If this was your first visit to my Life on the Wild Side, please come back for another visit sometime. I'd love to get to know you. And if you've been here before, please come back again . . . and leave me a comment next time! I love comments.

Thanks for playing, everyone!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cool Christmas Giveaway



Welcome to those of you who have popped over from Lysa TerKeurst's blog to participate in the Cool Christmas Giveaway. I'm so excited to participate in my very first giveaway. If you're new here, please feel free to look around and definitely stop back again sometime.

So here's the deal . . . we are big into books at our house. Most (ahem!) of us love to read, so I thought the most appropriate thing for me to give away would be books. So, I'm giving away a $25 gift certificate to either Borders or Barnes and Noble (you can choose) so you can get some good books and READ.

All you have to do is leave me a comment (along with your email address so I can get in touch with you if you win) telling me one of two things: either the best book you've read lately OR your favorite holiday movie. We've been talking about both topics lately around here, so I'd love your input as well. I'll choose the winner on Sunday night and post the name on Monday morning.

Thanks again for stopping by, and have a very Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Anything for ratings



Since I'm such the blogger now (yeah, right, I hardly think of myself that way), I thought it would be fun to participate in a couple of holiday bloggy things. (Good sentence, huh? You'd never know I used to be an English teacher.)

Anyway, tomorrow Lysa TerKeurst is hosting a Cool Christmas Giveaway, and I've decided to play. Primarily because I love Lysa, but also because this is just the time of year to give stuff away. So check back tomorrow to see what I've come up with. We'll both be surprised!

The second "bloggy thing" I'm going to participate in will happen on December 15 when Sophie at Boo Mama is hosting a virtual Christmas open house of sorts. So come back on the 15th to get a little glimpse of what the Wild household looks like at Christmas.

BooMamaChristmasTour

Jingle Jingle, everybody!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Strange Coincidences?

Sometimes things happen and you end up scratching your head thinking, "Hmmm, now was that a coincidence or what?!" I've started looking at these "coincidences" a little more deeply lately, and I'm beginning to think there is no such thing as a coincidence.

Here are a couple of examples:

Through this blog I became involved with Inspired Bliss and through Inspired Bliss I became acquainted a little bit with the other women who are writing devotionals. One gal, Michelle, sent me an email one day asking if my husband was related to a family her husband knew when he was growing up. Turns out, it WAS my husband's family. I learned from Michelle that my father-in-law taught Sunday School to her husband when he was young, and my brother-in-law (B's brother) had a great influence on Michelle's husband when he was in high school (still following me?). Michelle's husband is a pastor today. The little "coincidence" of my writing a devotional for a fairly random blog ended up being a nice encouragement in that I got to "meet" Michelle and hear about how my husband's family influenced her husband.

Today Michelle sent me a note on Twitter that said, "BTW Thanksgiving conversation revolved around the W's and your wedding. Apparently my in-laws were all there. :)" The coincidences continue, right? I just thought it was interesting that I would start writing for a website, meet this girl, and find out how closely involved her husband's and my husband's families were. I hope I have a chance to meet her someday. And there won't be anything coincidental about it.

The second "coincidence" happened just this morning as I was speaking to a group of women at our church. I had known for weeks that part of my talk would be centered around John 3:16, but I hadn't really mentioned that to anyone. Well, just before it was my turn to speak a group of 3-5 year olds got up to sing a few songs and to say the Bible verse they had been learning this semester. You guessed it . . . they recited John 3:16!

I must have sat there with my mouth hanging open. Was it a coincidence that those kids would recite John 3:16 just before I was to go up and speak on John 3:16? I think not. I really think there is no such thing as coincidence.

And I think God is very cool for doing that this morning.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Wanna win a computer or four?

Gear Live is giving away over $6,000 worth of computer products, including four, count 'em, FOUR laptops of various sorts. And here's the cool thing--they are asking whoever wins to give a part of their prize away. Believe me, this prize is so good you'll have plenty to share. Click here to find out more.

Who would you give part of your prize to?

Monday, December 1, 2008

First Snow

Talk about a rude awakening! Here's what I woke to this morning. I took these pictures at 7:00 a.m.--right after I took my two oldest to school.



All I can say is that it's a good thing it's beautiful out there or I might just think this came a tad too early this year.



And, yes, here's my one attempt at being artistic with a camera. I'm no photographer, that's for sure, but it wasn't hard to capture a pretty picture this morning.



Time to hunker down. Looks like it's going to be a LONG winter.

Friday, November 28, 2008

7 Quick Takes Friday

I tried it last week . . . and I liked it! So here we go again with another "Quick Takes" Friday. Hop on over to Conversion Diary to see the complete list of players.

-1-

If you don't have family in town for Thanksgiving, and if the rest of your family heads out of town, and if you need something to do for the holiday that does not involve sitting around your house feeling like losers, may I strongly suggest heading to the city for a few days. We got back this afternoon and feel like we've been on vacation, even though we were only gone for about 48 hours. I suppose we technically were on vacation, but going to Chicago, where we go pretty regularly and where my husband goes about once a week on average, doesn't usually count as vacation to us.

The main reason to head to the city, especially for Thanksgiving, is because nobody else is there. On Wednesday we just about had the place to ourselves. We walked everywhere except for dinner on Wednesday, and we did not have to deal with huge crowds at all. In fact, our hotel was practially deserted on Wednesday night. By Friday things had picked up significantly, but if you ever want to have the city to yourself, go on the day before Thanksgiving. Awesome.

-2-

Macy's will always be Marshall Field's to me. We were faithful Marshall Field's shoppers when I was a little girl, but unfortunately my girls will not have the same experience with Macy's. I'm just not as loyal to them because I don't think they've been loyal to me. The quality, and, frankly, the cache, just isn't the same as it used to be. I desperately miss Marshall Field's.

Nevertheless, we did traipse through the State Street store to see the magnificent Christmas tree in the Walnut Room. It was worth the trip because the tree was beautiful.


Sorry to say, I can't say the same for the windows which were freaky-weird.

-3-

A few years ago, when the City of Chicago built Millenium Park, they put in an ice skating rink. What a grand idea! The girls and I had a great time dodging little kids and tourists who had never seen ice before as the sun set over the city and the lights came on all around us. Despite some bumps and bruises, along with great doses of humiliation, we managed to create some especially sweet memories.


-4-

I'll admit it, sometimes when we take family outings, I don't prepare myself mentally before I go. Disaster in the making, let me tell you. So this time, as a bit of an experiment, I decided to prepare myself ahead of time. I spent some time in prayer before I left, asking God to help me be the bearer of good attitudes and not bad ones this week. I also determined ahead of time that these couple of days were not about me, but about the entire family having fun. Realizing that "if Mama ain't happy, nobody's happy," I decided ahead of time to just . . . be happy.

You know what? It works. It really works! These were a couple of the happiest days we have had together as a family. We all got along. We were all flexible. We enjoyed our time together. Now, maybe that's because we all needed a break and some fun times together, but I also think it had something to do with having a positive attitude on my part.

I should really try that more often. Like every day.

-5-


We attended the Thanksgiving Day Parade on State Street yesterday. Kind of a shabby second to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, but it was still kind of fun. B scored some tickets for the grandstand because his bank was one of the sponsors of the parade this year, so we were able to actually sit through the parade. Bonus!

But the biggest bonus of all was the weather--45 degrees and sunny. You just don't get a prettier Thanksgiving Day in Chicago. Ever. So we enjoyed our time outside all morning with about 5,000 other strangers in the grandstands getting all sorts of treats that were being handed out by the sponsors of the parade. (No, the bank did not hand out samples of money.)

The funniest part of this whole parade thing is that, even though we had sat through three hours of bands and shows and big balloons, we came home this afternoon and WATHCED IT AGAIN!! Why? Because we're vain, that's why. We wanted to see if we made it onto T.V. And we did. Kate and Abby even got a close-up! Because they were two of the most beautiful girls in the stands. They're famous now.

-6-

We hit Michigan Avenue at 9:00 this morning. I caught this gorgeous picture of one of my favorite sights in the city at an hour when the traffic had barely started and the sun was just hitting the sides of the buildings. I do love this city.


-7-

The holiday season has officially started, and one of our favorite parts of the season is watching our favorite Christmas movies. We have already watched "A Christmas Story," laughing all the way through and saying almost every line along with the actors. And we can't wait to watch even more. "Christmas with the Kranks," "While You Were Sleeping," "White Christmas," "Holiday Inn," and, of course, "It's a Wonderful Life" must be watched at some point throughout the holidays.

Tonight we watched "The Family Man" because it was being played on T.V. and we always love that movie. If you haven't seen it, be sure you watch it sometime this year. It's a movie about a self-centered, self-made man who dreams of what his life would have been like if he had married his college sweetheart. A couple of lines in that movie just get to me every time. Like when Jack, contemplating a big job in the city with lots more money, says to his wife, "We'll have a life everyone envies," and she tells him, "We already do." Or when his wife comes to him to say that if he needs to take the big job in the city she will uproot her kids and her dreams and move with him because "a family is more important than an address, and I choose us." Ahhhh. Yes.

After three wonderful days together as a family, I choose us too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankful Things


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, but since I may be unplugged for a couple of days, I wanted to leave a list of things I am so thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

1. My husband who does all he does out of love for his girls
2. My daughters who do their best in everything they put their mind to
3. My health
4. Our church
5. Our new pastor who's coming to our church soon
6. My family – all of them
7. My home
8. My car that seems to be on its last leg but still gets me around town
9. The opportunity to speak to the women of our church next week
10. Hawthorne School and all that entails
11. My neighborhood which is close to everything so that if my car should actually lose it, I could still walk and do my life
12. Thunder the Wonder Dog
13. Food Network
14. That I got to take the trip of a lifetime with Kate this year
15. My husband’s job and the fact that he still has one these days
16. Switzerland
17. Missionaries who do what I could never do
18. Action International and the people there who keep B grounded
19. My blog – the best creative outlet I’ve had in years
20. Good food
21. Trader Joe’s :)
22. That I got to travel a lot this year and that I was healthy enough to do it
23. Friends who challenge me to be a better person
24. Beauty all around me
25. The Greatest Gift of all - Jesus



You are my God, and I will give you thanks;
You are my God, and I will exalt you.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Psalm 118: 28-29

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In which we discuss my deep-seated psychological issues

Yesterday I left you guessing as to whether I really might have inherited that crafty gene. Well, last winter I made one last-ditched attempt to find out. You can judge for yourself.

First I have to tell you that there is a quilt store near my house that is one of the loveliest places ever. Not only is it one of the best quilt shops in the country, it is run by two of the nicest ladies you will ever meet. Beth and Docia are knowledgeable, hospitable, and oh-so-wonderful. They make you feel like you are the most special person who ever jingled the little bell on the door of their shop.

I found The Quilt Merchant quite by accident. I had received a post card from them in the mail, and since my mom was scheduled for a visit and is an avid quilter, I decided I’d take her there to check it out. I knew I’d be bored to tears, but I’d do anything to show my mom a good time and hopefully lure her back for another visit.

Needless to say, she fell in love. With the shop—and with Docia and Beth. Now, every time Mom comes to town, we have to stop in to say hello and to make a purchase or two. I actually think she looks forward to seeing them more than me!

Last fall, on one of Mom’s visits and one of our jaunts to the quilt shop, I did something really stupid. I got caught up in the mystique of the shop—the beautiful fabrics, the peaceful music, the promise hope of a completed project—and signed up for a beginners quilting class. I had had a long, hard fall and decided that this was just what I needed to pass the long, dreary days of winter.

As soon as I signed up I had second thoughts. What was I thinking? I don’t have the crafty gene. My sister has that, not me. I won’t be able to do this. This is WAY beyond my comfort level. And besides, everyone in the class will laugh at me. And my teacher . . . well, she’ll figure me out right away and kick me out of the class. Really, what was I thinking?

But I went to the first class and kind of enjoyed it. Actually, I was the youngest in the class by about 20 years, so that part made me feel good—just the incentive I needed to come back the following week. I sort of had an idea what the teacher was talking about, so I went home and did my homework which, that first week, was to cut out and sew one simple four-square quilt block.

I think I did the block six times before I got it right.

But I went back the second week, and the third, and the fourth. Every week our "homework" was to work on a different block for our sampler quilt, and I felt like I was getting the hang of the quilting thing. Truth be told, I was sort of enjoying it.

The class was eight weeks long, and by the time the final class came I had completed the top of my quilt—16 different blocks complete with sashing, cornerstones, and a border (I talk like I’m an old pro at this, but seriously, I had no idea what those terms meant before I took the class).

The class may have been finished, but my quilt wasn’t. I still had one final thing to do in order to finish my quilt—I had to contact a quilter and have her sew together the backing fabric with the quilt top that I had made.

You would think that would be the easy part, right? But did I make that call? No I did not. I think my deep-seated insecurity about my lack of ability made me put it off. I just couldn’t face the quilt-lady; I knew she would take one look at my quilt and laugh at me for not knowing what I was doing.

So, for the rest of the winter and throughout the spring and summer my quilt top sat in a pile next to my sewing machine (which, by the way, my mother purchased for my daughters to help them find their inner Martha. I call it a mercy machine.). From time to time my mom would ask about the quilt—if I’d finished it or not.

“Oh, you know, not really,” I’d answer evasively, growing more and more embarrassed as the weeks passed.

I intended to finish it. I really did. I guess at this point it’s time to bring in the psychologist to explain to me why I can’t seem to finish a project. What IS IT about me that makes me do that? Or more accurately, NOT do that? ARGH!

Well, last week, in the midst of projects and meetings and lots of homework for my kids and cooking for senior citizens, a package arrived. From my mother. Who lives in Arizona. It came on a day that was incredibly hectic for me and, as I was scrambling to throw together some last-minute snacks for my daughter’s last-minute small group that night, I tossed it into my bedroom to open later.

Much later.

Around 9:00 that night I finally got around to opening the package from my mom. I was putting Maggie to bed and suddenly remembered the package, so I took it into Maggie’s room to open with her.

Whatever Mom had sent to me was wrapped in some ivory fabric, and there was a note on top of it that read: “Shelly, Please don’t be upset that I finished this. It was tired of lying on the floor by the sewing machine! Let the world see this magnificent quilt. Love, Mom”

And inside the ivory fabric was tucked my quilt—all put together with fancy, scrolly quilting. It was . . . it is . . . beautiful.

As much as I wanted to cry when I pulled my quilt out of the box, all Maggie and I could do was laugh because we both knew, deep down, that that quilt would NEVER have gotten finished if Mom hadn’t come to my rescue.

‘How did she get it?’ you’re probably wondering. Well, Mom and Dad came for a visit in September. Apparently she stole it when she was here and took it home with her.

That’s the thing about my mom, she does stuff like that that makes you feel great and humbled and happy and embarrassed all at the same time. She’s wonderful, my mom is.

And so, to honor her request, I am letting the world see my magnificent quilt.




Thank you, Mom. I love you.


Monday, November 24, 2008

As if I needed another reason to get therapy . . .

Blatantly obvious, I know, but isn’t it funny how parents give their children all sorts of traits? For instance, my oldest daughter looked so much like me when she was a baby that a complete stranger stopped me in the grocery store one day, peeked inside the baby carrier attached to the grocery cart, and exclaimed, “My goodness, does that child have a father?!”

Yes indeedy, she does, in fact, have a father.

Sometimes these traits are physical in nature, but sometimes we pass on talents and abilities to our children. Thankfully my girls have risen above my own inadequacies, conquering musical instruments and math with greater ease than I ever did.

As for me, I got a few traits from my parents. Some say I have my mother’s smile. Others think I have her hips. Whatever.

One thing I definitely did NOT get from my mother was what I call the “crafty gene.” From the time I was born, I can remember my mom stitching, sewing, and painting; seems she always had some sort of project going. Our kitchen table was a testament to her painting prowess. By the time I left for college the table was covered with little paint smudges and splotches, so much so that most of the time Mom kept a tablecloth on it so people couldn’t see how destroyed it was underneath. But I liked the table that way. It always reminded me of my mother’s many talents.

Unfortunately, those talents did not transfer to me. Not that we didn’t try. Oh boy, did we try.

When I was growing up, I was active in our local 4-H club. The Wauponsee Handy Anns, we were called—the name makes me chuckle still today. Even back then, when I thought of that name, I thought of the old doll, Raggedy Ann, and I imagined a group of girls, all dressed up with white pantaloons and striped socks and big red shoes sitting around discussing the latest method of boiling an egg to perfection.

Anyway, when I was in 4th grade I took sewing in 4-H because that’s what girls were supposed to do. Part of my final project, which I would then model at the 4-H fair, was a skirt. Elastic waist, simple hem. I remember that I chose purple fabric, which should have been my first clue that this project was going to be a disaster because I have never liked (and still do not like) the color purple.

Making that skirt nearly killed my mom and me and any hope we would have for a relationship in the future. I was so unskilled at the sewing machine that we very nearly came to blows, and I know that more than a few unseemly words were thrown around.

I eventually managed to turn out a final purple project. One that was crooked along the hem and too tight around the middle, but I modeled it at the fair, I did.

And then I took it off, wadded it up, threw it in the back of my closet, and never looked at it again.

By eighth grade I had decided that the whole “domestic goddess” thing was not in my future, so I took up cattle raising. That year I got a blue ribbon on my Herford heifer, Charlie (don’t ask why I gave a boy’s name to a heifer—I was na├»ve for a farm girl). I happily led Charlie around the show ring and felt more like myself than I ever did sitting behind a sewing machine. I should have learned my lesson right then and there.

Now, my older sister DID get the crafty gene. In fact, so crafty was she that she majored in home economics in college. Don’t even get me started on the guilt that induced in me. I don’t think there’s enough therapy to go around to cure me of that one.

I tried to keep up, I really tried. Over the years I tried cross stitching, embroidery, rug hooking. I don’t think I ever finished a project. As the projects piled up, so did the guilt. I knew that I would never measure up to my mom’s or my sister’s abilities.

And then one day, when my girls were young, as I was not enjoying and not finishing yet another craft project, it dawned on me. This is not who I am! I don’t enjoy sewing. I’m not good at it. I can’t seem to finish anything. It’s just not my area of giftedness, and by golly, that’s O.K.

I’m good at other things. Like reading. Now that’s a skill I’ve mastered and one I enjoy immensely. I tend to finish books, unlike all those craft projects that were stashed under my bed.

Unfortunately, a mom like me can’t really help her daughters become crafty if she isn’t crafty herself. I used to lay in bed at night worrying about this. How would my daughters discover their inner Martha Stewart if I couldn’t help them find her?

I shouldn’t have worried though, because in stepped Grandma. She taught my older two girls how to thread a sewing machine (something I still don’t do very well, mainly because I have fat fingers) and how to sew simple projects. Eventually, she taught them how to do larger sewing projects, like making a quilt. They are both great at it, and have turned out some beautiful work. Maggie tells me it’s her turn to learn now. (We’ll have to work on that, Mom.)

The point is, all is not lost! My girls might just have inherited the crafty gene. It just seems to have skipped a generation.

Or did it? Maybe it was in me all along. . . .

Stay tuned tomorrow to find out.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

7 Quick Takes (Saturday)

Jen writes one of the most thoughtful blogs I read. She's a former athiest turned believer, and she has done a wonderful job of defending that conversion. Anyway, she has started a 7 Quick Takes Friday which I thought sounded like fun, but I was too busy yesterday to play. So here's my Saturday version. Hope that's o.k. Jen!

1. I claim to be a good cook, but yesterday could have completely ruined my reputation. Starting at 8:30 a.m. with six huge, frozen turkeys, and a day that could have easily been a disaster, my friends and I managed to pull off a Thanksgiving feast for 120 senior citizens at our church. This is not a testimony to my cooking skills; it is, rather, a testimony to the power of prayer.

2. I was told this week that I was a "cool" mom because I'm on Facebook. My reply was that I am not at all cool, just in the loop. I told my teenagers that if they wanted to have a Facebook account that I had to be their new BFF. I guess they wanted the account enough to let me be their friend (in cyber-life, not real life).

That said, I'm having fun with the whole Facebook thing. I actually do enjoy keeping up with people I normally wouldn't. Kind of like getting little Christmas card blurbs all year long.

3. There are some advantages to having another driver in the house. After grocery shopping one day last week, then coming home and unloading my groceries, I realized that I had somehow forgotten to get garlic. I tried to borrow some from a neighbor, but she wasn't home. Teenage driver spoke up and said, "I'll go get some!" Hooray for teenage drivers!

4. We hear about the price of food these days--outrageous, right? Well, after said teenage driver got home from the grocery store with a bulb of garlic, she and I were both a little confused. I had given her $3 because I had no idea how much a bulb of garlic would cost. She went through the self-service line to pay, and the total came to $.02. Could that possibly have been right? (Bless her heart, she put the receipt and the $2.98 change on the counter.)

So all week long we've been laughing about the $.02 garlic. But then it dawned on me . . . with the economy the way it is and money being tight for everyone, maybe we should all eat more garlic.

5. Sitting in the line of cars as high school gets out is always instructive. This week I noticed (not for the first time) that boys wear baggy jeans and girls wear tight jeans. Something is amiss here.

And by the way, to mothers who have teenage boys who wear their jeans around their butt to let their boxers show, here's a little tip: teenage girls do not think that's attractive AT ALL. Almost every day, as we drive away from school, we see this "look." My girls gag and roll their eyes and say, "Why doesn't someone tell them that they look ridiculous?!" Well, I'm telling you now.

6. We're having a non-traditional Thanksgiving this year complete with a hotel room, a hot tub, and Italian food. It's going to be great fun, and we're all looking forward to it. I'll post about it next week.

But the main thing about Thanksgiving this year is that we will be together. Last year I had just returned home from a 12-day hospital stay that included a pretty serious surgery. I spent Thanksgiving alone on the couch while my family went to relatives. We were all pretty sad about it. This year, on the other hand, we're celebrating . . . big time.

7. A very special package arrived in the mail this week. I am humbled, embarrassed, and overfull with emotion because of it. I'll fill you in in a couple of days.

In the meantime, enjoy your weekend! Ours will be filled with lots of dog-walking, basketball games, and rest.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lessons I Learned in Park City

I have to take a break from our great London/Paris adventure this week to tell you about my weekend in Park City, UT. Well, actually, I can’t tell you much, due to the pact that my friends and I made that we wouldn’t share the details unless, of course, I wanted to go to an early grave or face sudden and sure disfigurement.

But I did learn a few things which I will share.

1. Olympic ski jumpers – you know the ones that start up really high and then stretch out like they’re taking a nap in the air? – start learning their sport at age five. I ask you, what mother in her right mind lets her five-year-old start jumping off mountains? I wouldn’t even let my kids jump off the couch because the one time I did that, Maggie ended up in the hospital on Christmas Eve. Goodness!

2. If you put grilled chicken on a focaccia bun, along with some arugula and blue cheese and then grill it in a Panini press, you will have an object of my undying love. I ate this for lunch on Friday and craved it for the rest of the weekend. Windy Ridge Bakery—don’t miss it if you’re ever in Park City.

3. Those carved bears that you see everywhere that are so-cute-you-just-can’t-even-pass-one-up? . . . Each has its own personality. I think these bears pick their owner, kind of like the magic wands in the Harry Potter books. Just remember, if you have a really big house, you need a really big bear to make a statement.

4. There’s a Mexican restaurant which shall remain nameless (mainly because I don’t remember the name of it) that has a bathroom you should never, ever enter. Ever. Just trust me on this one.

5. Hanging out with skinny women all weekend doesn’t do much for one’s self-esteem. I think I need some serious therapy after this weekend. ‘Nuff said.

There was one more lesson that I learned this weekend, and I think it was worth the price of the entire trip for me. I learned that I’ve done my job.

I’ll explain.

When my first daughter was born, I sat holding her just minutes after her birth, and the strangest thought occurred to me. I told B, “From here on out, my job is to teach her to not need me.”

I know, you’re probably thinking I’m nuts. Here I’ve just given birth and the natural thing to do would be to hold your child close and never let her go. And it wasn’t like I didn’t love my daughter immediately. I did. For sure.

But I had this incredible, overwhelming sense that in order for her to be a happy, healthy grown-up person, I would have to teach her to be independent of me.

And so I’ve spent the past 17 years teaching her—and my other two daughters—to do as much as they can for themselves. They start with making their beds, progress to making their own lunches, and move on to doing some of their own laundry. With a whole lot of other responsibilities thrown in for good measure.

None of this is because I want to pass off my duties to them, like I’m lazy or something, but because I want them to be confident young women who can do things for themselves.

Enough of the parenting philosophy for today. Let’s get to the point.

So this weekend when I was away, I called home a few times. I mean, my friends were calling home, getting calls from home, and texting home all weekend. I thought I should probably join in the fun. So I called home a couple of times to see what was going on.

Not much, apparently. No crises. No food issues. No traumas. Nothing.

On Saturday night, B had to leave the girls at home to go to a work event in the city, so I thought I’d just call and check up on the girls to see how they were getting along. Here’s how the conversation went:

“Hi Kate, it’s Mom.”

“Oh, hi Mom! How are you?”

“I’m fine. I just wanted to check up on you guys to see how you’re doing.”

“We’re fine. Abby’s practicing her violin, Maggie’s upstairs, and I’m watching T.V. We had pizza for dinner. We’re really fine.”

“Oh . . . well . . . that’s good. Sounds like everything’s under control.”

“Yeah, we’re fine.”

“O.K. then. If you don’t need anything . . .”

“Mom?”

“Yeah?”

“You really miss us, don’t you? You don’t have to miss us, Mom. We’re fine. Just have a good time.”

And then we hung up. A quick, two-minute phone call. I just sat there, thinking, and suddenly I realized that they really don’t need me much. I’ve done my job.

I just sat there, in the display window of the Ann Taylor outlet store, and very nearly cried as this realization hit me. The thing that I’ve wanted for my girls is coming true—they don’t need me. They can stay home alone for a while, make their own dinner, find things to do, and even have fun . . . all without me.

Well, I may be doing my job, but I hope I’ll never be finished. I hope with all my heart that even when they are grown, and even if they move far away, that they will still need me. For something.

Even if it’s just to make that phone call that says, “I miss you.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I have a confession to make

I live a charmed life. Not much of a confession if you know me--you already know I live a pretty sweet life.

Good kids. Great husband. Super-duper doggie. And I get to stay home and take care of them all.

Actually, that wasn't the confession. The confession is that the "charm-ed-ness" is coming into full play this weekend when I head to Park City, UT with some girlfriends. Not that I need any more pampering AT ALL, but I will partake in some delicious food consumption, some hot-tubbing in the snow, and some pediculous toe polishing.

So I'll hopefully be back on Monday. Unless I stay in the hot tub.

For the love of coffee . . .

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Why not give it a try? And while you're at it, leave me a comment letting me know if you've taken them up on their offer or not. That would make my day!



P.S. Thanks, Robin, for the head's up!