Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas 2010

At least once in a lifetime, everyone should have the kind of Christmas we had this year.

Grandparents are here, the kids sang at Christmas Eve service, there is a possibility of a white Christmas, and our family grew by four feet.

We decided this year to try to keep the "stuff" to a minimum...and try to focus on making memories. When we came home from church after Christmas Eve service, a box was wiggling and whining under the tree.

I can't wait to watch the video that Monte took... It as the kind of moment I wish I could have frozen as I couldn't watch all the kids' expressions at once. The kids welcomed our new goldendoodle puppy...Abigail Christmas Savage (Abby) with shouts, shrieks, and tears.

Monte and I welcomed her at midnight, three and six o'clock anticipated. It's crazy... we know it. But I know how fast the moments fly by...and how quickly life can change. It was a once in a lifetime Christmas. We hope you had one too.

Merry Christmas ...and may God bless you with the heart of a child this new year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Program

It just isn't Christmas (at least by Methodist standards) until you've done the Christmas program. There must be a Mary, Joseph, wise men, angels and shepherds. And, if you ARE Methodist, you know there must also be food. It has been my children's experience that church=donuts and that Christmas programs=potluck. It's as certain as sunrise.

I am thankful that we have landed in a church here that believes as we do... in the Christmas play. And the potluck. And in teaching the children (and reminding us) what Christmas is all about.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sometimes Christmas Comes Early...

Dear Emma, Grayson, Claire and Cooper,

I know there is a lot of hype surrounding Christmas... and not all of it is good. The shopping, the cleaning, the cooking... it can distract us from the real reason behind the season. No matter what the politically correct world we live in tries to tell you - it is about Jesus. His birth and His love.

In that spirit, Christmas came early for me this year. I'm telling you about it because I hope you make the time to do this - at least once - in your life. More often if you can. You see, it's addicting. It's Christmas.

You all have more than you need. In that, you are blessed. But you don't need it all. So I cleaned house. You didn't even notice it - that tells me I could probably do it again. And should.

I took games, toys, puzzles, and clothes - all in remarkably good shape and put it in bags - disguised as trash. I put it in my car and drove it to one of the daycares I service in Durham. The teachers knew I was coming - I had asked if I could donate some things to some kids I had noticed wear the same clothing day after day. They graciously agreed to let us help.

When I pulled up wearing my Santa hat and unloaded the bags, the teachers let the kids watch. It was a "joyful noise" as only God-led African-American southern women could do (Yes, I asked them if I could say that). I went to see a kiddo for speech while the teachers and kids sorted things out. I hadn't brought in that much ... but when I got back to the classroom 40 minutes later, it was apparent some things had changed. New toys were playing explored, clothes were being tried on, and the kids were excited about a little bit of something new in their day. And the teachers were grateful.
You see, that's my point. It doesn't have to be a lot. Or new. But doing something for someone else CHANGES things. It may give someone something they didn't have before. I guarentee it will give you something even better. The feeling I get every time I compliment a little girl on her "new dress" that immediately brings to mind you wearing it... takes my breath away.

You might disagree with this next statement because of your ages. But I can tell you with absolute certainty... if Santa didn't bring another present this year, Christmas still came to our house...just a little early.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Girl Scout Thin Mint Recipe

Dear Friends,
It is only because I love you (and I can no longer make them in knee deep snow with Mary Jo in Wisconsin) that I am imparting to you my GSTM recipe. I regret I no longer have the original... but it was no good anyway. Savage kids, if you save any of my recipes, save this one.

Ingredients - Ghiradelli melting and candymaking chocolate- Sam's is the best place to get this... only available in 2.5 lb blocks at Christmastime. Do NOT get the cheap waxy melting chocolate. It is not worth the effort. Peppermint extract. Get two if you can find them as they sell out this time of year. Ritz crackers. Circles... not snowflake. The corners break off. Low-salt variety is the best but reg is fine too.

Melt choc. slowly in a double boiler. I use a smaller pan inside a big pan filled with water. Do not allow water to boil and stir frequently as you don't want it to scorch. Break 2.5 block into smaller pieces and melt that way. When choc. pot is 3/4 full, take off heat and add 3-4 tsp ppmt extract. Do the taste test. I like mine minty as I find some of the extract evaporates in the heat. Stir well. Put in cracker horizonatally...flip with fork so both sides are covered and take out (with fork) and place on wax paper on cookie sheet. Use wax paper so cookies don't stick. When you have a sheetful, put in freezer or outside for 10-15 minutes until almost (or) frozen. Not only are they easier to deal with when frozen, but they taste better this way... as well GSTM connieseurs know.

Make a bunch and freeze them. They make excellent ice cream sandwiches for summer and I have been known to use some crushed as ice cream topping. If there are any left over that is...

If you make them and love them, let me know. If you don't love them, it must be operator error!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Proud of You Guys ....

Dear Emma, Grayson, and Claire,

We've been here in North Carolina almost six months now. I know how hard it was for you to leave. I know where part of your heart still is. I realize your school was comfortable and familiar and that you knew what was expected of you.

But I want you to know how proud I am of you. You have risen to the occasion on so many levels. You have stretched and grown in ways I hadn't expected. You are stronger than you know.

I am especially proud of your efforts at school. All of you are gifted differently ... and I am happy to see you utilizing them. While grades are important ... equally as important are the character traits described by your teachers. Academics are only a (small) part of who makes you who you are. A kind and giving spirit will always give you more happiness than straight A's.

Thank you for believing in yourselves and in us as a family. We know we've rocked your world a few times. Thank you for rocking ours.

Mom and Dad

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Break From Regularly Scheduled Programming ...

to bring you this conversation I had with Emma this morning. It was a totally typical morning.. cereal bowls, messes made by toddler, morning chores and the "litany" of things to get accomplished today. Emma stopped me and said "Mom, when you are a grownup, who decides what things get done first?"

I said, "I do." And kept going. Faster, as the clocked ticked closer to the time I needed everyone out the door for school.

"So ... God doesn't tell you? I thought He told you everything." ( Note ... this is in response to the "hard questions" as they come up. My "go-to" answer is always God. This is not in reference to my superior praying skills or Bible reading. Not even close.)

I stopped. No good answer there. Because He does tell me what to do first. I just don't always listen. Dishes before Prayer? Girl Scouts (or any other after school activity) before filling my Operation Christmas Child Shoe Box ... still sitting there from Sunday?

I searched her face for sarcasm. She's 9. It happens. There was none. She was simply curious. How does a grownup choose what to do first? How to fill their day? How to spend their money?

I searched my heart for the answers I knew where there. God does tell me. I just don't always listen. So that's what I told her.

On that note ... while I am completely "out there" ... there is a little girl orphaned in China with a heart defect. I got an email about her months ago and prayed she would find her family. She hasn't yet. If you are reading this and this stirs something in your soul, let me know and I can get you her information.

Thanks to Emma, this is getting out there instead of the Halloween decorations getting put away. I guess that's what God wanted me to do first.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Halloween 2010

Belated Boos to everyone from the south - where we wore our flip flops on Halloween!

We started the day missing old "haunts" from the midwest ... but rallied in time to trick or treat in the neighborhood. It didn't take Cooper long to figure out what that was all about ... and he was out and about far longer than we anticipated! His candy bag weighed as much as he does ... apparently because nobody could resist the 2 yr old elephant charm.

Emma was a hippie, Grayson was a ghoul, Claire dressed as a "good witch" and Cooper wore the elephant costume yet again. Old habits die hard. It will be difficult to retire that costume as it has been worn many years with love. Chocolate covered blessings to you all ...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Outer Banks Birthday ...

So ... I am tardy with this post and Claire turned six years old ...two weeks ago today. What can I say? At least I am consistent.
Six years and two weeks ago, our third beautiful baby was born. Everything was expected to be routine. Until it wasn't. I remember my mommy-sense kicking in and hearing her cry - differently than the others. Weaker. Less enthusiastic. I remember my doctor talking to me ... faster and very verbosely than the others. It was our third delivery together - and I knew him pretty well. The nurses didn't immediately tell me her apgar scores. Again - I knew something was different. But I had seen her - and knew she was beautiful. And crying. And alive. So... I prayed. We prayed. And I watched as my husband followed our daughter down to the NICU.

As I recovered, I remembered hearing snippets of conversation .... revolving around a possible heart issue. I vividly recall my "deal" with God. You know the ones I'm talking about. They start with "Dear God, if you will only ________, then I promise to _______." I began to bargain. I knew what I wanted from Him ... but I didn't know what to offer in return. So I promised to love her. Every day. With all my heart. And that she would know Him. Every day. With all her heart. So ... she needed her heart. A healed one.

She was in the NICU for 8 hours. One of the shortest stays on record. A lifetime to us. Her heart was pronounced perfect by specialists. So I had a bargain to uphold. We have loved this child every day of her six year two week old life. She knows the love her God, her family, and her friends have for her. And I am so glad we got to celebrate this birthday with her on the beach. In the rain. Touring lighthouses. Ghostcrabbing. Eating donuts. Swimming in hot-tubs. Happy 6th birthday Claire. We have many more to celebrate.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Outter Banks - Part Two

On the way home we asked the kids their favorite parts of the trip. As anticipated, the beach came in first. It was closely followed by Duck donuts (made to order and still warm) and the newly adopted hermit crabs (which provided a lot of entertainment on rainy days). I guess when you are 6, 7, and 9 - that is an appropriate appreciation of things.

For me, the lighthouses still hold a sort of magical power. They must. We drove close to 2 hours one way just to see and climb Hatteras. In the rain. The kids skimmed over the history but were excited to climb over 200 steps to share in the view the lighthouse keepers held for many years. I admit, I was happy to corral Cooper at the bottom and take some pictures.

We climbed Currituck and Hatteras. Bodie Island was under construction so we just drove past. We so wanted to get to Ocracoke Island ... but the ferry was not running due to weather conditions. Just as well. It is a trip not to be rushed. Next time.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Outer Banks Trip ... Part One

I have long loved the Outer Banks. It is natural, beautiful, and has plenty of history. Since we are now so much closer, we thought the kids should see it. It was also timely as Emma's social studies class is studying the lighthouses. What better way to study them?
We rented a beach house in Corolla. Good friends Janet and Tony drove all the way from Illinois to join us. We were just coming off a tremedous vacation in Fort Wayne and were hoping the beach would distract the kids (and me) from missing our friends.

We wanted to see the wild horses (only a mile or two up the road) but weather prohibited it this time. In fact, weather threatened to prohibit most of the planned events as tropical storm Nicole rolled through. But ... we did it all anyway. We swam, we beached it (when it wasn't raining ... and even when it was), we collected shells, we hot tubbed, and we ghost crabbed with a delightful family from a neighboring state. We saw lighthouses, ate Duck Donuts (legendary), researched area wildlife and history, rocked in Nags Head Hammocks, adopted hermit crabs and flew a kite. We searched for wild horses and passed the spot where the Wright brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk. We had really yummy fish tacos too.

Best of all, we enjoyed the company of some lifelong friends as well as each other. As we left, the kids were asking when we could come back again ... and bring more friends. Soon I hope.

It is soul stirring to see the kids falling in love with the ocean. It never fails to take my breath away or to quiet my racing mind. I am glad they feel small in the midst of it. I am thankful they realize its Creator and theirs. I am ecstatic they always choose it instead of an amusement park.

I haven't told them they have only seen half of the Outer Banks. I'll just keep that part a secret for now...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sometimes God Uses Shoes ...

A while ago, I heard a great sermon about God using who and what He can to "get His point across." It was far more eloquent than that ... but I got the gist ... and it stuck. He drove the point home today.

All four kids were home this morning. We had a deposit slip in hand and shoes were on. I wasn't dressed yet but I was going to do that after all the kids were in the car. We were headed to the bank. It was 10:18. Then Cooper had a two year old "moment." It was over which shoes he was willing to wear. Silly. Trivial. Frustrating.

I let it play out. When it was over I looked at the clock it was 10:30. Takes four minutes to get to the bank ...should I go? Nope. Still wasn't dressed. I have to go in ... and take all the kids... no driveup at our bank. It is inside a grocery store. Not today.

The bank was robbed at exactly 10:30 this morning.

God uses what He can. Today, He used shoes. And a two year boy.

Thank You God.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Journey vs. the Destination ...

The kids were asking for an "outing" today. We went to the bank, the pool, and the grocery store. I thought we accomplished said outing. In my mind, it was successful. No blood and not much whining. Apparently, it wasn't much "fun."

So... after some thought, I found a nearby park we hadn't visited. I researched it online, texted a friend to get her opinion, and mapquested the route. We finished dinner early and headed to the park. It was gorgeous ... with a lake, trails, and a cool tower you could climb. We saw deer and even met an (honest to goodness) Park Ranger and he pointed out various wildlife. I almost broke an arm patting myself on the back for what a fine job I had done planning this.

On the way home I glanced at the cemetery near our subdivision. I always do. The kids and I used to "walk the cemetery" in the last two communities where we've lived... but we hadn't done it in a while. I asked them if they would like to stop. Absolutely.

The trip there was unplanned. The destination ... a bit unconventional. But I can't tell you how much I got out of my kids while we were there. Education at its best. We did math (figuring out how long a person lived), reading (lots of names), social studies (who is likely related to who), a lot of talk about respect (cemetery etiquette) and God.

Emma and Grayson were particularly drawn to the grave of a six year girl. It had a light. It was getting dark and Claire pointed out it was likely " her nightlight." Gulp. Yes, I agreed. Wasn't it nice she has one? Then Claire surprised me. "She doesn't need one ..." she said. "She's in heaven."

Emma looked at me with the understanding of a soul beyond her nine years. She didn't even argue when I told all of them (with a huge lump in my throat) ... "But I'll bet it makes her parents feel better."

I don't doubt they will remember the park. But I'm so glad for those moments in life when God reminds us that the journey is often so much more than the destination.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Kind of Time Share ....

I decided to win some "Mother of the Year Points" from Claire by volunteering to keep Lucky the class guinea pig for a portion of track out. I felt pretty sure that I would immediately feel validated in my litany of "THIS is why we would NEVER have a guinea pig...." and that the kids would concur.

I thought a guinea pig would smell (not a bit), keep us awake all night (haven't even heard the little guy), and be not at all fun (turns out he is rather charming). He is really people oriented, makes little noises when you talk to him, and takes vegetables from your hand rather daintily.

And did I mention ... he is not at all fazed by our occasionally boisterous household? This must seem tranquil after being surrounded by a classroom of Kindergarteners.

At the end of four days, the kids may be sad to see him go. If they are, there are two or three trackouts left. We may be able to book the same timeshare for December!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Museum of Natural Sciences

We are blessed to be living in an area rich with culture. There are museums and other opportunities to learn outside the classroom everywhere we look. Today we took some time to venture over to just one of the museums in Raleigh. There were dinosaurs, waterfalls, live animals, movies about indigenous animals to NC, and a fantastic discovery room where the kids could do hands-on learning.

Did I mention some of the dinosaurs were life-sized? And equipped with sound effects? Yep... that made Cooper do some of his own sound effects. They sounded alot like crying.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Weddy Doe Mom" .....

"Tum on Mom!" Yep, Cooper was "weddy" for his first day of preschool today. Armed with his Diego backpack (thank you Auntie Janet) and a snack, he practically ran to the van.

Once he got there, he thought I would be staying ... just like at meet the teacher day. Guess I forgot to mention that I had mommy things to do. The lip came out and the eyes teared up ... and I had that mommy guilt brewing in my stomach. Momentarily. Fortunately, I had an appt and couldn't linger. Kiss and hug and off I went.

He cried. He settled down. He played, made a craft, went outside and had a snack. He crashed in the car before we made it out of the driveway. What more could I want from a preschool for two year olds?

Besides, how cute does he look standing outside with that backpack on? Seriously.

Friday, September 3, 2010

All Hail the FLOBEE!!!

I've occasionally been accused of being "thrifty." Some would say cheap. Not with all things ... but I try to watch what I can. When we took the move to this area, that skill had to be exercised a bit more regularly as the cost of living is quite a bit higher than the midwest.

So, when I heard that TWO of my neighbors had (and regularly used) the Flobee for cutting their kids' hair ... my ears perked up and the mental calculations of savings started in my head.

When one of those neighbors offered to actually cut the boys' hair using it, I jumped at the chance. After all, what boy wouldn't get a huge KICK out of getting their hair cut with an attachment hooked on to the vaccuum cleaner? Win-win.

The boys went first. I wasn't nervous for them. The neighbor and his son looked pretty good ... and they use it religiously. Then ... you know where this is going ... the GIRLS wanted to use it. You know, my girls with the CURLY hair ... the day before school pictures no less.

I had a bit of a dilemma. I so want to be the kind of parent who lets their kids take adventures - especially the safe kind - like hair. But .. the tiniest bit of me was a wee bit nervous with a vaccuum attachment stuck to the side of Claire's head. Again, my neighbor exuded confidence.

We went for it. All four kids got really good haircuts. The day before pictures. With no appts. For free. And all the hair was sucked into the vaccuum. Claire even wrote about it in Writers Workshop. How often do kids care enough about haircuts to write about them? But it makes me wonder what the teacher thinks of me... as Claire just wrote about the vaccuum part - conveniently forgetting about the "Flobee" part.

I just checked on line. You can still buy them. If you aren't lucky enough to have TWO neighbors that already have them =) A huge thanks to R and R for letting us barge in and take up their evening. The check is in the mail.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Terrible Twos....

I admit it. I had forgotten. It has been a while since Claire was two ... and well, she was either easier... or I was so busy with the others that I overlooked some of it.

There is a connection to this boy of mine that is unearthly. It is a powerful and unyielding love that would move mountains. But then, it wouldn't have to. Because he would have already done it. After he threw his cup down the vent, dumped out the dog's water dish, jammed a cheese slice into the VCR player (yep... we still own one), and climbed up onto the kitchen counter. Sigh.

He is busy. He is whiny. He is verbal. He is boundary-pushing. He is HARD. He is two.

Again, there is nothing in the world I wouldn't do for him. But that doesn't mean he's easy. Or that he doesn't wear me out. As my friend Marci said (so wisely) ... "Welcome to the land of the two year old boy... it's been a while since you visited." Indeed. I'm here now ... and afraid I've lost the directions.

There are currently four things that save his life on a daily basis... his nap, moments when he dons a tiara (or other fashion accessory left lying around) and flashes a killer smile, his father coming home from work, and the bond between brothers. Seeing Grayson interact with Cooper tells me all will be well. The bats, the balls, and the bruises is all part of it. Cooper will survive this ... and I will too. I just have to remind Monte to screw down the rest of the air vents.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Claire can tie her shoes ...

and her roller skates!!! Independently. Whoo-hoo!!!

I will take a time out from my celebratory dance to admit to something. I bribed her. Yes I did.

Not only her .. but her older siblings as well. You see, Claire is a bit of a middle child. I apologize if you don't believe in that whole "birth order" thing ... but I've lived it ... and around here ... it's the gospel.

The middle child in Claire manifests itself in a little bit of a confidence problem and a little bit in the "just tell me what to do so I don't have to exert a lot of effort in thinking about it" phenomena. She also really loves to do things on her own time schedule ... which is a bit more of a problem now that an ENTIRE day of Kindergarten fills her dance card five days per week.

Other kids in the class have begun to tie their shoes. She has to ask one of her sibs (or me) to tie her roller skates ... worn every day. It was starting to irk her .. but not enough to really do much about it.

Hence the bribery. She has asked for a pillow pet forever. For. Ever. We bargained. Tie your shoes ... get a pillow pet. Deal signed. Pinky sworn.

We tried. We cried. We gave up.

I realized I had to bring in the big guns. Emma and Grayson. I tried appealing to their Christian sides. Jesus would most certainly want them to help their sister. That worked. For a day.

So I bribed them. Don't judge me. Whoever succeedes in helping their sister tie her shoes ALSO gets a pillow pet. Or the cash it would cost. Minus shipping and handling (yep... Emma asked).

In three short days ... she has learned. It's not fast ... it's not yet automatic. But I no longer have to do it. To me, that's worth a few pillow pets. And you should see my middle child smile.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Muscadines Ya'll!

I'll be you didn't know that scuppernongs are the state fruit of North Carolina. We didn't either.

But there is a lot of talk about grapes down here .. and people have been talking about "pick your own" season for a while now. It started last weekend. You know, when it was 98 in the shade.

I love a good wine -- I mean... grape -- so off we went. We even drug our poor houseguests with us. Friends who sweat together stay together.

The scenery was beautiful. The grapes were tasty. We quickly realized none of us had been taught how to determine ripeness of different grape varieties. No matter, the kids were picking every last one - ripe or not.

We've eaten grapes every day since Saturday. We're going again - once the enamel on my teeth grows back.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thank you Tim and Lori!!!

The other day we got an Edible Arrangment. Quite honestly, it shocked us a bit. For us? Really? Check the names ...again. Anniversary? Nope. Birthday ... um ... Cooper's ... but it seemed doubtful any of his toddler friends would be savvy enough to order this up. What could be the occasional for such a yummy treat?

Turns out, it was a surprise house-warming present from my cousin and his lovely girlfriend. (In fact, the handsome devil is pictured in the last post. He's the guy on the right.) The "bouquet" consisted of chocolate covered fruit. ON STICKS! What could be better to a group of kids... and their parents?

The timing was perfect. We had houseguests from Indiana staying with us ...and they have a toddler who loves "choc-it" ... and I had no dessert planned. It was sooo much fun!

A big thank you to Tim and Lori... you made our day!