Thursday, March 31, 2011

5 Minutes for Mom Ultimate Blog Party

Ultimate Blog Party 2011

It might be April Fool's Day, but this is no joke. It really IS a party with about 2,000 bloggers linking up at 5 Minutes for Mom. So glad you've joined me.

Come on in! Take a look around. And by all means, make yourself at home. Kick your shoes off if you want to--I always do. Here in this little corner of the cyber world it's all about being yourself, being real, and chilling together for a few minutes.

What do I write about? Faith, family, and food, mostly. With a bit of travel thrown in for good measure.

Faith. First and foremost I hope you'll see that I'm all about Jesus. I hope He shines through the pages of this blog, whether He's mentioned in name or not . . . He's here. A couple of my favorite faith posts are Generosity and In Which I Apologize to my Dad.

Family. The title of my blog is a play on our last name, but it also has come to symbolize what we're about. Yes, it's a crazy, wild life with three teenage girls, but it's an adventure full of fun. I write about parenting quite a bit because I'm passionate about doing this better. A couple of my favorite parenting posts are Dabbling? and a series I did last year called Intentional Parenting. Oh, and last week I wrote a post titled How Your Daughter Dresses Matters that got quite the reaction. Yea!

Food. I love food! I love to cook it and I love to eat it. I'm passionate about making great meals that are simple yet delicious, so every Friday I'll give you one of our family's favorite recipes in my Fabulous Friday Food post. A couple of the most popular Fabulous Friday Food posts have been my Homemade Spaghetti Sauce and Honey Whole Wheat Bread.

Travel. This is where I have FUN!! I love to explore new parts of the world and I've had lots of adventures over the years. I'm grateful for an understanding husband who puts up with my wanderlust. Over the past few years I've written about taking two of my daughters to England on separate occasions and about a family missions trip to Switzerland. But we stay in the States as well. Tuesday is usually my travel day to write about travel.

I have had so much fun meeting new blogging friends over the past three years, but there is always room for more. Please FOLLOW me and join in on my everyday adventures!

Now for the good stuff. Because I'm greedy and because I'm lonely over here and because I really want you to follow me, I'm giving away a $25 gift card to Anthropologie (one of my favorite places!) to one lucky commenter . . . BUT ONLY IF I REACH 150 FOLLOWERS! So here's where you come in. If you don't already follow me, DO IT (and leave a comment letting me know)! I think you'll be glad you did. If you DO already follow me (and I thank you for that!), Tweet my challenge, or put in on Facebook, or pass the word around however you do it. Then come back and leave me a comment letting me know you did that. (One comment per person, please.)

I'll announce the winner of a random drawing from the comments on Thursday, April 7.

Thanks for playing--and for following!


She was always eager.

An eager learner, we called her. One of those “Oooh! Oooh! Pick me!” kind of kids in the classroom.

Eager to be the first to experience, to see, to know . . . anything.

Eager to love—always free to share hugs and affection with those she loves.

Eager to run ahead.

Eager to work hard.

Eager to please us, her parents.

Eager to be a great sister.

Eager to be goofy.

Eager to be a friend.

Eager to be born.

Nineteen years ago today Kate eagerly arrived . . . three weeks early.

We love you, Kate!

Happy birthday!


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What To Do When Your Vacation Doesn't Quite Go as Planned

They say there are two situations we can't control: death and taxes.

This week I've been reminded that there is one more: the weather.

As I write, I'm bundled up in a sweatshirt--the same sweatshirt I slept in last night. My feet are freezing because I've gone through every pair of socks I brought (guess we'll have to resort to wearing dirty socks for the rest of the week!). And I'm listening to thunder roll in the distance.

Ah, yes, the Spring Break beach vacation.

Here is our little troupe on the beach yesterday. Note the jackets, hats, and long pants. At least is wasn't raining, which is more than I can say for the other days on our trip.

To say that this vacation has gone South (figuratively speaking) would be an understatement. The weather just hasn't cooperated. Winter has decided to give it one last go here in the Southeast.

Bless its little old frosty heart.

Now, the weather and me, we're on a love/hate basis for sure. When the weather cooperates, it feels like all's right with the world to me, but when the weather is gloomy, so am I. It's just the way I'm wired. I've worked out some strategies over the years to cope with our nasty Chicago winters, but I've also realized that this is a part of my DNA. I'm wired to need sunshine. And I know many people who are just like me.

But what do you do when things (like the weather) go terribly awry on your vacation? It does happen. People get into car accidents. Kids get sick. All while on vacation.

So this week I've been listening to a running commentary in my head saying things like this:

Get over it, it's only one week out of your life.

Deal with it, it's spring.

Shape up! Your kids are watching!

For the most part the little pep talks have been working, but I've needed to remember a few more things this week that I thought I'd share . . . just in case you ever find yourself bundled up on the beach, dodging raindrops and scrambling to find just one more jacket to wear.

Keep a proper perspective. If it helps, remind yourself that it really IS only one week of your life. It's not the end of the world. Things could be much worse--like being in 28 degree weather at home.

Remind yourself that the point of your vacation isn't (necessarily) to get a tan. The point is to be together as a family. And when you're stuck in a townhome in the rain, you are definitely together. Rejoice in your togetherness.

Try a new--indoor--activity. Sure, it may not be what you have planned, but check out the local bowling alley or movie theater. Find a local museum to learn more about the area. Go shopping. Just get out and DO something rather than sitting around moaning about the weather.

Remember that this will add to your family memory bank. Just like all those road trips we've taken over the years, this week of dodging raindrops and adding layers of clothing will be something to look back on and laugh.

Which brings me to my last point . . . LAUGH! There's nothing you can do about the weather so you might as well laugh about it. You might as well make happy family memories. You might as well have fun. So laugh and enjoy being together.

We're looking on the bright side--the weekend is supposed to be gorgeous. At least we'll have good weather for driving back home!

Spill it. Do you have a vacation disaster to share? Come on! Make me feel better!

This post is linked to Amanda's Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now and Amy's Finer Things Friday.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Whatever Happened to the Road Trip?

"Mom," our youngest came to me just before Spring Break. "Everyone at school keeps asking me if we're flying." Friends and teachers alike just couldn't believe that we would actually get in the car for the 15 hour trip to our Spring Break destination.

The same thing happened at Christmas when my husband's co-workers were incredulous that we would actually attempt to drive 900 miles to get to Dallas where our family lives. He said that more than once people asked him, "You're flying, right?"


This family drives most places, and I think we've become somewhat of a rarity. Don't get me wrong--we're not opposed to airplanes. They come in handy sometimes. In fact, I've been on a plane six times already this year for various reasons.

But when you have a family of five, airplane travel becomes very expensive. And we figure, if we can make the trip in a day (or sometimes a day-and-a-half), we might as well drive. It's better than staying home! So from the time our girls were very young, we just got used to packing up our car and hitting the road . . . Jack. *tee hee*

And you know what? We've had a great time doing it. All three of our girls seem to like a good old-fashioned road trip. And B and I love it too.

We've made some really happy memories along the way. Who could forget packing up our car in a driving rainstorm at the end of a vacation? Some great bonding there! Or the time (it may have even been the same trip) one daughter sat quietly in the back seat of the van eating the entire contents of her Easter basket, only to have us pull over just in the nick of time? Good times!

Seriously, though, we have more jokes, more memories, more family lore from road trips than from anything else we've done together as a family. Road trips bond you together like nothing else.

We've seen some amazing parts of the country. If we had flown on this trip, we never would have enjoyed the beauty of the Smoky Mountains in their twisty-turny loveliness. We also would never have enjoyed the beauty of Yellowstone if we had just flown over it. And who could forget the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota which we stopped to see on our way out West one year? You just don't get to see that . . . interesting sight . . . from an airplane!

Our country is huge and wide and diverse and beautiful. You just can't get a sense of its grandeur unless you travel its roads.

Even the hard times bring you closer. I'm not gonna lie . . . not every moment of a road trip is spectacular family bonding time. We fight. We yell. We cry. We forget about it. And then there was the Great Vomiting Incident of 2005 that I've already mentioned--more than once did that happen! Sure, there are tense moments, but in the end, even those moments become part of the fabric of our family. A patchwork quilt that has sewn us together in some rich and wonderful ways.

Even now, we will often sit around the table and reminisce, laughing mostly, about various events that our family has experienced--and usually these events have something to do with a road trip. I have a feeling that even when our girls are older and have families of their own, we'll still be laughing about Ted, the bison, who very nearly got into our car out at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. It just wouldn't have been the same in a rented car.

And best of all, if we didn't take road trips, we'd never get great pictures like this!

So tell me, are you a road trip family or a flying family? Why or why not?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Good Reads

Well, it's sure been an eventful week full of really great blog posts. Here are some of my favorites from this week.

Donald Miller wrote a fantastic piece titled "How NOT to Read the Bible." This resonated with me so much because it's very similar to some of what I learned at the Women of the Word seminar a few weeks back. (I know, I know, I promised a post about that. It's coming one of these days. Just trying to keep you all on your toes.)

Speaking of Women of the Word . . . the Gospel Coalition blog gave a nice recap of that seminar, written by my friend, Kathleen Nielson. I'll give mine over here . . . soon.

This post over at Life . . . {your way} gave some really helpful and practical tips for simplifying your life. Tips like "just stay home" might seem a little obvious, but they really do bear repeating. For those of us who don't always get it the first time around.

And then there's this place that my mom found--The Vintage Rose. Her stuff is just so beautiful. Only problem? She's in Tasmania. Free whatnot to whoever can tell me where Tasmania is.

And then there was the WSJ article titled "Why Do We Let Girls Dress Like That?" which caused all kinds of internet ruckus and mayhem. My own post, "How Your Daughter Dresses Matters," brought more traffic to this little corner of the internet than this little corner has ever seen before. I guess a lot more people than just me feel pretty passionate about this topic.

Finally, have you seen the video about Denver, the guilty dog? Oh my goodness, if you haven't seen it yet, please watch it. I think I've seen it about 4,372 times so far and I never get tired of it.

How about you? What was one of your favorite posts this week? Feel free to link up in the comments.

Have a great weekend, everybody!


Friday, March 25, 2011

Fabulous Friday Food - Shepherd's Pie

Happy Friday! If you're new around here, I should probably clue you in to something . . . I love to cook. And most Fridays (I won't say "every" Friday because that just doesn't happen for some reason) I will give you a recipe. Usually it's something I've made that week, but it's always something my family loves. And approves.

This week things have turned a little colder. Drat! We thought we were coming out of the dreaded, dreary, Chicago winter, but it seems that winter wants to take one last whack at us over the next few days.

You know what I say to winter?

Bring it!

Because I'm not going to deal with you any more. It's Spring Break for my kids, so we are outta here!

Still, for those of you suffering with colder-than-usual temperatures, here's a cold-weather comfort food type of recipe for you that I've been making for years. Julia requested it a couple of weeks ago, so I thought this would be a good time to share it with you.

And what do you know? The weather cooperated.

(Sorry about that.)

Now, one more thing. I just met a new bloggy friend this week whom I already love. She is sweet. She is sincere. She and I, I can tell, have a lot in common, not the least is that she lives in a market town (a market town!) about 12 miles outside of Oxford, England. Which is where I fell in love with that country.

So, Sarah, if you're reading this, forgive me. This is probably an Americanized version of the Shepherd's Pie you grew up with. Shepherd's Pie in England is so much better, but we do what we can over here. We're Cretans, we are. I hope we can still be friends.

Without further adeiu . . . Shepherd's Pie.

First, you'll need some mashed potatoes. For Heaven's sake, boil up some water and plunk down the potatoes. Make the mashed potatoes for REAL. None of that boxed stuff. Ugh.

You'll need about 4 cups of REAL mashed potatoes.

Next, the best start to some of my favorite recipes. Ground beef and onions. What could be better?

Well, O.K., maybe ground beef and onions and WINE because, well, wine makes everything better. But I have never tried it with ground beef and onions. I'm not about to start now, so skip the wine this time.

But just this once.

Brown it all up and drain off the yucky stuff. Gross. And give it a good dose of salt and pepper.

Then add 1 cup of beef broth.

And a couple cups of frozen peas and carrots. Don't be too picky about the measurements--this is comfort food, not precise, picky food.

Bring all that to a simmer. Put a lid on it and forget about it for about five minutes.

While that's simmering away (and your potatoes are cooking for your REAL mashed potatoes), make a slurry of flour and worchestershire sauce. A couple tablespoons of each will do just fine. Or more, if you're like me and like a little more sauce.

Pour that over the meat and vegetables and let that simmer for a few minutes. Taste it to make sure you have enough salt and pepper.

Place it in a pretty baking dish . . .

. . . and top it with REAL mashed potatoes.

Bake it at 450 degrees F. for 15-20 minutes.

When it's done, it will be browned and bubbly.

You'll be so tempted to dig right in, but don't do that yet or you'll burn your mouth. Just trust me on this one.

So there you have it, easy-peasy Shepherd's Pie. For when winter just won't go down without a fight.

Now tell me, what do you like to eat when you need some comfort? Or when winter rears its ugly head?

This post is being linked to Food on Fridays and Finer Things Friday.


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Thursday, March 24, 2011

How Your Daughter Dresses Matters

Added 10.13.16
Friends, this post has unexpectedly gotten a lot of attention lately. In fact, a little too much attention for my taste. Earlier this week several people (OK, maybe a few more than several) read this post and left comments that were a little hard to stomach. That's not what I'm about here, so I took the post down for a while.

After much deliberation, prayer, and consultation with people I love and respect, I decided to put the post back up and I have written a further clarification here. Please read this post too. It shares a bit more of my heart, five years later.

Yes, this is perhaps a little controversial and yes, you might have thoughts. But here's what I'm going to say about those thoughts--I will be very picky about the comments I choose to share here, if any. I will not share comments that are disparaging to me or anyone else in any way. I will not share comments that are inflammatory or unkind. 

We need a kinder world, a kinder place to be with one another. Let's be that here. Thanks!

Moms of daughters, listen up. There’s something you need to hear, and you may not like it. You may think it weird or prudish or snobby. Whatever. You need to hear this.

How your daughter dresses matters.

I’ve been passionate about this topic for a long time, since I have three daughters and we’ve had to cross this bridge a time or twenty over the years. At times it’s been a painful crossing, but in the end it’s been worth it to actually address the topic of appropriate dress and modesty.

Why does it matter?

Because how a girl dresses reflects an image of herself to the world, especially to boys.

Remember elementary school? It was easy to tell the tomboys from the girly-girls by the way they dressed. Tomboys wore t-shirts and sweats every day; girly-girls wore dresses and frilly tops.

Somewhere around junior high, though, another image gets added in there, and it’s not necessarily the image you might want of your junior high daughter. You know what I mean. Back in my day they were the “fast” girls. We might have called them worse.

Earlier this week, WSJ online asked a really important question: why would a mother encourage her daughter to dress like that? The article is graphic and disturbing in places and just plain sad, overall. But I think it’s important and worth a look, especially if you have daughters.

The author says she posed the question of why moms would let their daughters dress like that to a friend. Here’s the response she got:
"It isn't that different from when we were kids," she said. "The girls in the sexy clothes are the fast girls. They'll have Facebook pictures of themselves opening a bottle of Champagne, like Paris Hilton. And sometimes the moms and dads are out there contributing to it, shopping with them, throwing them parties at clubs. It's almost like they're saying, 'Look how hot my daughter is.'"
And then the author asks the most important question: “But why?”

Why indeed? Who really wants their daughter to act like Paris Hilton anyway? And who really wants their daughter to look “hot”?

Here’s what another mom said:
“We somehow survived our own teen and college years (except for those who didn't), and now, with the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don't know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily.”
Can you hear the regret in her voice? They don’t know how to teach their sons and daughters to not give away their bodies? I guess they feel it’s a double-standard if they’ve done these things, but is it a double-standard to tell your kids you made a huge mistake and you don’t want them to replicate your mistakes?

Or is it helping and teaching your kids? Loving them so much that you don’t want them to feel the shame and despair you did? Having the hard conversation because you want something better for your daughter?

I loved this quote from the end of the article:
"We wouldn't dream of dropping our daughters off at college and saying: 'Study hard and floss every night, honey—and for heaven's sake, get laid!' But that's essentially what we're saying by allowing them to dress the way they do while they're still living under our own roofs."
Think about that. If, as mothers (or fathers!), we’re encouraging our daughters to dress inappropriately, that’s basically what we’re saying. At the very least we’re saying, “Here’s my daughter. She’s on display. Take a good, long, hard look at her.”

Ugh. The thought of anyone looking at any of my daughters inappropriately just makes my skin crawl.

I work with junior high girls at church, and here’s what I tell them: "Dressing a certain way attracts a certain kind of guy. I doubt very seriously that the kind of guy you want to attract is the kind of guy you’re dressing for when you dress like that. Besides, you are above that. You are better than that. You deserve better than that. So dress for the guy you deserve."

It’s tough as moms out there today. To encourage your daughter to dress modestly takes courage for both you and your daughter. Because she will be different—at school, with her friends, even (sadly) at church. She might get ridiculed. She might even get ostracized.

But isn’t she worth it?

Believe me, it’s tough to even find cute clothes to wear that are appropriate. Probably 80% of what you see in stores today is NOT appropriate, so you have to be creative and diligent to find clothes that honor your girl and won’t bring her down. But you can do it and it’s worth the effort.

And here’s why. Read this quote from a college guy who read the WSJ article and decided to leave a comment:
"As a male college student, I can say point blank, that most girls start to [sic] early and do too much. I go to a southern california school, so it might be a more extreme case, but still, the behavior referred to in this article is bad no matter how you spin it. We guys laugh at it and pat ourselves on the back for how many of these young girls we use and degrade, and how they don't seem to mind, but there's not a single one of us who doesn't know something is blatantly wrong with the picture."
This just makes me want to cry for our daughters who dress to attract that kind of guy. Even the guys know it’s wrong!

Moms, I just want to encourage you today to see your daughter as the precious gift she is and to help her see herself that way too. It is my prayer that we can encourage our daughters to reflect the image that God has of her—one that loves her completely and loves her enough to give up His life for her.

She’s that important. She’s that special. Let’s help her to reflect that image to the world.

Again, I would love it if you would read my follow-up post here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Three “S’s” of Spiritual Growth

You probably don’t have this problem. I’m sure you don’t. Because most of the time I’m fairly certain that just about every Christian in the world is more spiritual than I am.

Seriously. I sit in church and compare myself to the mom down the row with the perfect husband and the perfect children who sit so perfectly and who are all dressed so perfectly. She’s so perfect I can’t even stand myself sitting near her.

I’m sure she has perfect quiet times and never raises her voice to her children (let alone her husband!) and all is right with the Lord. And her. Because she’s perfect.

But me? I sometimes wonder how God picked me to follow Him because I just don’t seem to get it right so often. And sometimes I really wonder whether I’m really growing, spiritually speaking, because I just feel so . . . unspiritual.

It’s a conundrum.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Wondering what to do when I feel like I’m not growing as much as I should. And I’ve realized that there are a couple of things that really help.

Study. The times I’ve really grown the most are the times I’ve really dug into God’s word. Studied it. Pondered it. Let it seep down into my bones.

I’ve been in a Bible study at my church for many years now, but for a lot of years (especially when my kids were younger) I was kind of sporadic about attending. I often felt like I wasn’t good enough to be there, or that I didn’t know enough about the Bible. Sometimes it was just easier to stay home. Or to go to work.

(Hey, I’m being brutally honest here. Don’t judge.)

But when I finally decided to get serious about studying the Bible and to learn more about who God says He is through His word, I’ve realized that I actually like Him. I’ve even grown to love Him more.

And the best way I’ve found to get to know God is to study what He has to say to me, personally, in the Bible. Now I actually help other women study the Bible, and I’ve found that I love studying it more than ever.

Serve. You’re probably wondering how serving others can make me grow spiritually, but it goes something like this: when I give love, I receive love. The more I receive, the more I want to give. And so on . . . and so on . . . and so on.

Kind of like the Breck commercial.

So when I’m loving on the junior high girls and I see them “get it” about God or I hear them ask amazing questions about their faith, it encourages me to keep going. Or when I do mundane tasks for the missionaries I serve, like buying a new vacuum for their house, I see how much it is needed and the respite it gives them, and I want to love them more.

We touch lives when we serve, and for me, doing this causes me to love God more.

Did you notice how each of these things, study and service, are not at all about me? Study focuses on God, and service focuses on others. There’s nothing about “me” in any of it.

And yet, when I do these things I am the beneficiary. My spiritual life grows.

Chances are, when I am missing one of these two elements of spiritual growth, I become the third “S”: Stagnant. Usually when my faith is out of whack, when I’m feeling a little funky about following Jesus, it’s because I’m not studying or serving . . . or both. My faith has become all about me—what I’m getting out of it—and that’s just plain selfish. (Hey! There’s another “S”!)

How about you? How do you get out of a spiritual rut? What have you found that helps you grow?


Monday, March 21, 2011

Gratitude Journal

Happy Monday! I hope you're enjoying your first full day of Spring . . . and feeling grateful for it. I know I am!

121. Sweet baby-friends who come to my house.

122. And her mama.

123. Meeting bloggy friend, Glenda!

124. All the things Glenda and I had in common.

125. Studying the book of John this year in Bible study and walking slowly to the cross in the weeks before Easter.

126. Talking through really important stuff with junior high girls each week.

127. Having the energy to spend time with those junior high girls each week!

128. Coffee with Amy and sharing excitement together over travel opportunities.

129. WELCOMING B HOME after he had been gone for a week.

130. Laughter in church--true joy.

131. The first day of Spring!!!

So tell me, what are you thankful for today? Just tell me one thing in the comments section--I'd love to hear from you!

Linking up with Ann today. Go to her blog, A Holy Experience, for more lists of gratitude.


Guest Posting at MODsquad today!

I'm over at the MODsquad blog today. I hope you'll join me there!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lookie Who I Met!!

I have to say that every time my blog-life has intersected with my real life, I have been pleased.

As in "pleased to meetcha!" I have met some truly wonderful people over the past couple of years that I have been blogging.

But this time. Oh, this time I was better-than-pleased. I was giddy with excitement to meet Glenda on Tuesday.

Glenda started popping up in the comments section of my blog sometime in the past year. I clicked over to her place and loved the green color (my favorite!) and whimsy of her blog so I started following her. I loved reading about her life in Seattle.

Fast-forward a few months, and suddenly Glenda was moving to Chicago. I knew in my heart that we would meet someday, and Tuesday was my someday.

Glenda's husband had some meetings out here where I live, so she came along with him. He dropped her off at my house where we visited over coffee for a while, then we went to my favorite restaurant here in town where we talked non-stop for about two hours more.

The time just flew! Glenda and I actually have connections in a couple different spheres of our lives and we figured out that we had a few people in common. Such a small world! So Glenda and I met and ate and talked and talked and talked.

I'm sure it won't be the last of our Chicago get-togethers.

Thanks for a fun day, my "new" friend!


P.S. If you haven't "met" Glenda yet, pop over to her blog and say hello. You will find a warm welcome there!

Travel Tuesday Thursday - New York City, Part 2

Welcome back to New York! You can find the first part of my New York trip report here.

Day 3 of our New York City Adventure began all the way at the south end of Manhattan at the Statten Island Ferry.

I had read about the ferry--how it gives you a free (catch that? FREE!) 30 minute ride across the Hudson River to, where else?, Statten Island.

I think it's the best way to catch a glimpse of Lady Liberty (for free) . . .

. . . and some pretty good views of the Manhattan skyline.

It was cold and windy that day, but the trip was fun.

After the ferry boat ride we walked down Broadway to Wall Street.

And on to Trinity Church, most famous (in our household anyway) for the part it played in the movie "National Treasure." We joked about asking if we could just take a quick peek inside their vault, but the guy at the door didn't look like he would think that was funny at all. Their noon service was just starting, and he asked us to take a seat. Or head over to the room to our right to have ashes put on our foreheads (it just happened to be Ash Wednesday when we were there). The girls' eyes got as big as saucers at the thought of that, so we turned around and headed out.

The glimpse we got of the church, though, was absolutely beautiful. Every afternoon at 2:00 p.m. they offer a free tour which would be very nice, I think. Next time.

Next time I also want to take time to stroll through the graveyard that surrounds Trinity Church. This marker dates back to 1750. Can you believe that?!

Standing in that neighborhood, you just can't help but think of what it looked like on September 11. All of that chaos. All of that ash. It must have been amazing to be there.

Speaking of September 11, our next stop was Ground Zero. There's not a lot to see there yet . . . a huge hole in the ground and the beginnings of a couple of buildings . . . but I thought it was really important for the girls to see the site.

Right across the street from Ground Zero is a fire station--the first to respond, I'm sure--and on the side of the station now is this copper frieze, depicting scenes from that terrible day.

"Dedicated to those who fell, and to those who carry on."

"May we never forget."


Next stop was Chinatown--the girls' request. We hopped in a cab and got dropped off near Canal Street, a paradise for purveyors of cheap, stolen, gaudy handbags. And t-shirts. And sunglasses. And magnets.

And whatever other I ♥ NY paraphernalia you'd want to buy.

It's insanity down there. And I think I may have been just a little insane to take three beautiful girls down Canal Street, but thank goodness we were safe.

These pigs, however, are another story. Somewhere in Chinatown some pork is being roasted . . . and boiled . . . and fried. I should know--we had some in our dim sum. For lunch.

Here's a crazy sight--this is a parking garage on a street in Soho. Apparently they move the cars around on a platform to get them in and out. I don't know about you, but I was mesmerized by this sight.

After lunch we spent several hours walking through SoHo and Greenwich Village, shopping some, gawking mostly. By the end of the afternoon our feet hurt and we were exhausted, so we ducked into a small French cafe in Greenwich Village to warm up. As we were walking out, one of the girls in our group recognized someone famous--an actor who had been on Gilmore Girls for a while and had a fairly big part in one of my personal favorites, "Sydney White." Unfortunately for us (but fortunately for him!), we decided against our better judgements to NOT run back inside the cafe and ask for his picture.

I totally would have done it. They held me back.

After a rest in our hotel, we ended our evening at a sushi place the girls found. They had to find it because I was going to have no part in tracking down sushi. True confessions time . . . I had never eaten sushi before. It scared me. I thought I wouldn't like it. But the girls all convinced me that I just had to try the right kinds of sushi.

And you know what? They were right! I ended up loving the sushi we had at The Loop restaurant. Because, as you can see: "It's Japanese!"

I realize this is getting kind of long and maybe kind of boring if you have no interest at all in New York City (but then, why are you still reading?), so I will end my report with Day 4. The day we were heading home anyway.

The girls had one thing at the top of their list of things to do in NYC and that was to visit the Today Show. Thankfully, not that many people want to stand outside for hours in the chilly, nearly-raining, March weather, so we had a front-row stand (not seat--we stood). We got to shake Al Roker's hand (he's a very nice, very funny man), wave at Matt Lauer (apparently Matt had better places to be than outside with us that morning), and meet Meredith Viera.

Can I just say that Meredith Viera was a completely pleasant surprise? She was so nice! We politely asked if she would take a picture with the girls and she politely said yes. And after the picture she turned to them, asked them where they were from (we told her they were all on Spring Break from Wheaton College), and she took about five minutes to talk to them about college, ask questions about what they were studying, and generally showed sincere interest in all of them.

I think that was one of the highlights of our trip.

In the end, I'd say the trip was a huge success. Every minute was so much fun, and I felt it was such a privilege to spend that much time with my daughter and her friends. I know I will never forget it. I hope they won't either.