Friday, December 31, 2010

2010...I Did What??

Today's post is going up a little late...but for a very good reason. We were out running errands and trying to get the last of the 2010 to-do list done before it becomes the 2011 still-not-done list. Had some success, had some disappointment (why was everyone in town at Kohl's today???) Had to brave Walmart (eeek!) and barely made it out with my new contacts and all of my fingers and toes intact. There's nothing like a Walmart parking lot to make you appreciate your guardian angel.

Anyway, in the midst of the NASCAR-esque dodging and weaving, I was thinking back over the year and I was a little shocked by everything that 2010 brought our family. It started out with Major Dad deployed to Afghanistan and our first days as homeschoolers. So it basically started out for me with a potent combination of abject terror and blissful ignorance. And amazingly it is ending with real joy and peace.

Major Dad returned home safely and while our current long distance family life isn't ideal, we have found a way to make it work. And our homeschooling has become not only a great fit for our family, it has become a true blessing to me and I think to the kids as well. Ella is learning so much and Jack is so smart it kinda freaks me out. We have found an incredible support system in other homeschooling families and I even caught myself looking through 4th grade curriculum the other day and really getting excited about next year...and we're only half way through this school year!

I am truly humbled and in awe of the way God has led our family and blessed us in ways I could never have imagined. It hasn't been easy, but God has been faithful through it all. Isaiah 26:12 says, "Lord, You establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished You have done for us."

Lord, thank you for all that You have done for my family. I can't wait for 2011 because I know You're already there and that You have even better things in store for us.

Happy New Year, dear friends.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Scary Banshee Mom

My darling Ella is a figure skater and she loves it. In my long ago youthful days, I was also a figure skater and I still love it. Now figure skating, like most sports, has its fair share of stage mom syndrome. You know what I mean...the well meaning mom that yells a little too much "encouragement" and takes everything way too seriously. The one that turns every practice session into one long awkward moment. When this mom sits down all the other moms quietly slide a little further down the bleachers to avoid being sucked into her banshee mom vortex of terror. Yeah, that one. Well, I've seen it from both sides of the ice...and it isn't pretty.

So I work really hard to avoid being "that mom." And while I personally have a *slightly* overly developed competitive nature, I always tell Ella that the only thing that counts is doing her best, having fun and all that other stuff they write about in the "How To Not Emotionally Damage Your Children" articles.

And I think I'm doing a pretty good job. But I feel my inner banshee mom trying to break out of the tiny box I keep her locked in. Ella just finished a session of group lessons and she didn't pass the test to move on to the next level. She was so disappointed. She handled it with great maturity and I was really proud of her, but it just stinks. She only missed one skill. Actually only half of a skill because it's a turn she has to do on both feet. She can do one but not the other. And now she has to repeat the entire level...for one skill. One skill! Wait, deep breath, count to 5, go to a happy place where little elves make cookies. Ok, better now.

Even though I know Ella didn't do the turn well enough to pass, my protective mommy instinct is revving into the red zone. Especially when she turns her big blue eyes up at me and says, "Mommy, everyone passed but me. Am I not good at skating?" Yep, that cracking sound you hear is my heart breaking.

I know that failure is a part of life and that sometimes it's the best teacher. But it hurts so much to see my children sad. And as much as I want to jump in and try to fix it, I know that I can't. Ella didn't pass. It wasn't unfair, it wasn't a conspiracy, it's just a disappointment. And I know that she'll pass next time and that in 10 years it won't matter at all.

But it matters now.

And it still stinks.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year's Resolute-ness

It's that time again. A time for looking back over the past year with hopefully more smiles than tears. And it's a time to make those big, lifestyle change decision we affectionately (or resentfully) call New Year's resolutions.


Confession time...I'm not good at New Year's resolutions. Not good at making them, even worse at keeping them. So this year I've decided that instead of making a resolution, I'm going to be resolute. Resolute in my faith, resolute in following the Lord, resolute in my peace (oh, there's a big one) no matter what. I looked up the word and here are some of the definitions I found.

Resolute: firm or determined; unwavering; firm in purpose or belief; steadfast.

So as I was searching and pondering the meaning of "resolute" I started to think of Isaiah 52:12 which says, "for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard."

That's a great passage for the New Year because it reminds us that God never leads us to a place that He has not already been. Wherever we go according to His will, He has already prepared the way for us. He goes before us and His glory remains with us to be our shield as we follow. No matter how difficult things may be, God has already been through it first and He has made a way. We just need to trust Him and be resolute in following him.

So friends, whatever the New Year will bring, whatever happiness or sadness will come, we can step into it with confidence and joyful expectation because God has gone before us. There is no uncharted territory, no unknown land, because God is already there.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Tweeting for the Technologically Impaired

Ok, I admit it, I'm not a technologically talented person. I'm not a fan of gadgets, widgets, code or pretty much anything that requires me to speak computer. It's not my thing. I like old fashioned books and handwritten letters that come in the mail. I make my daughter use pencils and write in notebooks. I use pencils and write in notebooks. I do love email and I even learned to use Facebook last year (yes, last year). But that's where my technology evolution stopped. It's who I am...a throwback to the the pre-tweet age.

But, yesterday, I took a brave, bold belly flop into the techno pool. Yes it hurt, yes I'm paying for the long night and lack of sleep today, but I think I have earned my social media merit badge.

Perhaps you have noticed the changes (again) to the look of the blog. Like it? You may also have noticed that you can now follow me on Twitter or Facebook...or both if you're a little obsessed (which I appreciate). Because the blog now has both a Twitter page and a Facebook page. And I did it all by myself. No help from the computer genius I married. I edited code (ok, I did a cut and paste job, but it still counts), moved gadgets, created pages, uploaded pictures...all by my technology-phobic self. Gotta say, I'm pretty feeling pretty darn proud.

Unless I manage to burn down the internet with a misplaced forward slash. In which was totally my husband's fault.

Christmas Aftershock

Is anyone else completely exhausted? Or is it just me? Because I need a 3 hour massage and about 18 hours of sleep. Seriously. I totally get why bears hibernate through the winter. One, to avoid going out in the bone numbing cold and two, to recover from the holidays.

We had a wonderfully awesome Christmas here. The kids had a blast and we were so lucky to have my mom stay with us. Somehow, even though I had all the gifts wrapped and ready to go before lunch on Christmas Eve (that's a big deal for me by the way) I was still up until after midnight. There wasn't even anything to assemble. I'm not sure how it happened, but there you go.

Then wham...Christmas morning. In our house Christmas morning sounded something like this.

Door creaks open.

Child gasps.

Footsteps race across the house.

Our bedroom door flies open.

Biggest child launches herself with a flying squirrel leap onto our bed and screams,


To which I said, "is your brother awake?"

Biggest child does some sort of Russian gymnastic dismount from the bed and races to her brother's room.

Muffled and intense sibling discussion.

Smaller footsteps race across the house.

Smallest child tries to jump on the bed. Falls. Tries again. Falls. Grabs onto Major Dad's leg and pulls himself up (possibly pulling out leg hair as well).


To which Major Dad says, "well we're not opening presents until Grandma is up."

Both children disappear in a puff of pajama colored smoke.

Footsteps race down the stairs to jump on poor unsuspecting Grandma's bed.

And it was a fun day. A wrapped present that barked (a toy dog, not a wrapped puppy I promise), a remote control helicopter that I'm pretty sure is stalking me and Turducken for dinner (thank you Grandma Lisa for sending it!).

What? You've never heard of a Turducken? Neither had I until I married a man from New Orleans. It's a duck stuffed inside a chicken then stuffed inside a turkey. So when you slice it, you get a Neapolitan of meat. Yes, Turducken, when one plucked and stuffed bird on a platter just isn't enough. In fact, isn't there some song about the three dead birds of Christmas? No? Hmmm....I really must be tired.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Great Gift Bag Rebellion

Today as I was wrapping gifts (not at the last minute...its still daylight) I was suddenly confronted by the single most controversial element of the Christmas season. Not the whole "It's not politically correct to say Merry Christmas while you're Christmas shopping in a major retail store decorated in red and green and advertising huge price cuts just in time for the holiday still officially known as Christmas" debate.

And not even the whole "how dare you put up a Nativity scene on your private property to celebrate a fundamental truth of your faith in this land of religious freedom and democracy because someone might see the display and be offended by such an obvious act of religious intolerance that they'll sue you, the city and the people who made the plastic baby Jesus sculpture."

No, my friends, I'm taking about an even more controversial issue. One that threatens the very heart of our Christmas traditions and festivities...the skyrocketing use of gift bags. That's right, the gift bag. It's the gift bag that is singularly at fault for the commercialization of Christmas...and the Zhu Zhu Pets riots...and basically the entire downfall of Western Civilization. Yes, every possible down side to Christmas is due to the insipid and sneaky rise of the gift bag to the pinnacle of present presentation.

See, I remember spending hours before Christmas trying to perfect the slide the scissors down the paper technique that my mom could do, defying the basics of geometry to smoothe snowflake bedecked paper around round corners, desperately trying to figure out the secret to wrapping ribbon around the package evenly and then debating the best location to place a big bow on top the whole thing. Only to see the carefully and lovingly created masterpieces of Christmas joy be shredded to microscopic pieces the next morning. And then gathering the wreckage into giant trash bags (saving the bows of course) and using the empty cardboard tubes as swords or telescopes.

But no more. Now the gift bag rules the wrapping roost. With its simple and time saving character rolls of colored paper don't stand a chance. The ease of dropping in a gift, stuffing with tissue paper and slapping on a gift tag has defeated the skill and precision of sliding scissors and precisely folded edges. No forced creativity to deal with an odd shaped box, no contortions to hold the paper in place while using your teeth to peal off a piece of tape, no frustration when an unruly gift pokes a hole through the wrapping. And no tornado of destruction on Christmas morning.

Those smug little gift bags are neat and easy, no stress, no challenge...and they're reusable. It's anarchy, I tell you!

So this Christmas, just say no to easy. Say no to the quick clean-up. Curl the curly ribbon...wrap a basket ball in an entire roll of wrapping paper and hold it all together with enough tape to put the space shuttle back in orbit! Wear your paper cuts with pride, my friends...and don't pay any attention to those gift bags under my tree.

Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I Won't Be Home For Christmas

If you are married to a Marine, love a soldier, cuddle a sailor, hold hands with an airman, even if you just know someone who serves our country in the military then you might want to grab a tissue...just giving you fair warning. See how I look out for you guys.

So, here's a video I found on YouTube. It's a tribute to our military men and women who selflessly serve this nation, who give up spending Christmas with their families in order to keep other families safe. And, it's a tribute to the families who wait and hope and pray. Merry Christmas...and thank you.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Isn't About Giving

Whoa there, what did that title say? Yep, you read it right...and nope, I'm not in a Grinch-y mood. But I have been entertaining deep and profound thoughts on the meaning of Christmas.

Let's start with the (hopefully) obvious, Christmas is about Jesus Christ. It's not about gifts or family or peace on earth...even though those are all good things. Christmas is about the birth of Savior of the world. Does Jesus bring joy and peace and incalculable gifts? Absolutely. But I still say Christmas isn't about giving. Or how about this...Christmas isn't only about giving.

Christmas should also be about receiving. God gave the gift of His only Son on Christmas. He gave us a Savior. He gave us His life. So, in this Christmas season, are we truly receiving those gifts? Or are we simply acknowledging their existence without any true, heart deep recognition of the beauty of the gifts we have been given? It's like someone handing us a beautifully wrapped gift that we never open. Did we receive the gift? Sort of. We looked at it, acknowledged it, probably even thanked the person who gave it to us. But if we don't open it we miss the whole point.

Have we become so wrapped up in our giving, that we have neglected the Father's giving? I love the generosity and thoughtfulness that fill Christmas. It's wonderful that people want to give gifts and bless others during this season. I have gifts that are wrapped and waiting for my family and I can't wait to see them open each one. But I don't want to be so concerned with what I'm giving or what I'm doing that I forget, or worse, take for granted what God has given me.

Lord, help me to truly receive the gift of Jesus Christ into my heart and to be grateful everyday that You loved me so much that You gave Your own Son for me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I'm Melting.....

No this isn't another chocolate post. It's too cold out here for the chocolate to melt. Have I mentioned lately that I hate the cold? No? Well, I guess that post will be coming soon. Anyhooo...

It is my Merciless Mommy heart that's melting. This same Mommy who refuses to allow snow days (see above...I hate the cold) has granted my children a two week Christmas Break. What??? I know, shocked the stuffin' out of me too. Even Ella looked at me like I had lost my mind.

We had planned for them to have next week off because Major Dad has the whole week off from work and my Mom will be visiting. But I intended to make them work this week. Including Christmas Eve...I know what a Grinch, right? And my sweet children were blissfully unaware that pretty much every other kid in the US has this week off too.

Well, I finally decided that working on Christmas Eve was too mean, even for me. So I gave them the week off. Yeah, yeah I'm going all soft and squishy. But it was worth it to see Ella do her little happy dance in the kitchen. And then Jack, who didn't know why he was happy, joined in too.

And the Merciless Mommy's heart grew three sizes that day and all the Who's down in Homeschool Who-ville rejoiced in their goofy Who ways.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I Never Thought I'd Say This...

but I may be sick of chocolate. *Gasp* Temporarily, of course.

You see, it's Christmas and as is my usual tradition I have been up to my elbows in making a ridiculous amount of chocolate filled, chocolate coated, chocolate covered, chocolate dipped and, well, just chocolate goodies. Yep, I have gone wildly Willy Wonka. And my helpful Oompa-Loompas, also known as Ella and Jack are desperate to sample everything. Which is really a terrifying thought...small children hyped up on dark chocolate. I'm not actually sure how loud they can scream, but I'm pretty sure a few of my homemade dark chocolate truffles would solve that mystery.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon I was filling chocolate shells with the most amazing dark chocolate raspberry ganache filling. And I mean it's crazy good. Believe it or not it started out as a goof-up. I intended to make a firm ganache and dip the centers in chocolate, but I had a double boiler catastrophe. I don't have a real double boiler so I was improvising with a large pot and a glass mixing bowl. Well, apparently I miscalculated the sizes and the bowl slipped inside the pan and stuck. Really stuck. Drat.

So quick thinking candy maker that I am, I scooped out as much of the chocolate as I could, added it to the raspberry mixture and thought I managed to save the batch. Alas, I did not. I didn't rescue enough chocolate to make the ganache firm enough to dip. But, it tasted sooooooo good there was no way I could toss it out. So, again with my candy making brilliance...or desperation, whatever, I decided to make chocolate shells and use the too soft ganache as a filling. And it is AWESOME! I'm already trying to figure out how much of the chocolate I lost so I can recreate the goof-up. Which makes my goof-up not a goof-up, but in fact a flash of genius. Ha ha!

But in the process of sampling the utter chocolate bliss (for quality control purposes of course), making and filling the bite-size yummies and basically smelling, handling and occasionally wearing chocolate for most of the day...yep, I may have reached my chocolate limit. Which is eye opening, because truthfully I didn't think that was possible.

So you know...too much of a good thing is...uh...bad. And when life hands you lemons ganache. Well, you get the whole moral of the story thing, right?

Oh, and if I show up at your house Christmas Eve with a present...try to act surprised. :)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The State of the Union

Not the whole union of course...just my tiny corner of it. I'm thinking that before I can jump in with new information I need to fill all of you, my faithful readers, in on what you may have missed during the past 9 months. (9 months? Seriously? Dude, time flies when you get old.)

So, the best news, hubby came home safely from Afghanistan. Woohoo! And the Marine Corps in their infinite wisdom also promoted him. Double woohoo! The downside, he is still stationed at Camp Lejeune (pronounced Lejerrrrrrne for you civilians...not kidding, that's the way they say it, there was a memo and everything...also not kidding). And since the kids and I are still in the house-we-can't-sell-because-the-market-tanked, we only get to see Captain Daddy, now Major Dad, on the weekends. It's a bummer, but at least no one is shooting at him. Of course with Major Dad, you can never be sure. :) (Love you honey...big kiss!)

Running a close second in the awesome news category, when Ella was visiting her grandparents in the Promise Land (aka California) over the summer, my Dad gave her a standardized academic test and (drum roll please) she totally kicked fill in the bubble butt! She averaged a grade and a half improvement over the previous year. (picture me doing a happy homeschool groove) Oh yeah, un-huh, that's right, I'm the teacher. I have to say that was a huge relief. There was still a part of me that was secretly worried that I was a rotten teacher and that I was actually making my children dumber.

(In case you're visiting with us I should warn you, I tend to over share.)

So, great test scores = personal victory for mommy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Dog Ate My Blog

"Knock, knock..."

(peering timidly around the corner)

"Anybody here?"

(crickets chirping in the distance)

Ahem. Soooooo...been a while, huh? You're looking good. Have you been working out? How 'bout them...uh...sports team that you root for?

Ok, I know, I know. A blogger should blog. Hence the er part of blogger. (hanging my head in shame...really, I's kinda pitiful) I'm sorry. I have a whole list of excuses, some of which I will share, but I hope you, my faithful readers will forgive me.

Unless it's been so long that you're looking at this blog title with a polite, but slightly confused smile, trying to figure out who I am and if you should know me. Kind of like a high school reunion. It's ok, just smile and nod and sip your punch, eventually the dj will play something we all know and it will be just like old times.

So 9 months of blogging silence summed up in one grammatically incorrect sentence...husband came home from combat (all fingers, toes and other body parts accounted for, Praise the Lord!), finished homeschooling 2nd grade, frantic summer family fun, adopted a dog and started homeschooling 3rd grade and preschool. Toss in a few meltdowns, a lot of chocolate and you get the picture.

And now, back by popular demand...the blog resumes! Well, maybe not popular demand. Pretty much just a few really sweet, and persistent friends (I'm looking at you, Shelly & Nora!) But how about that last post, huh? "Waiting like David." Get it? Waiting...cause you know, I made you wait for so long. It was accidental irony...the best kind. Ha ha! Oh, right, only funny to me. Sorry.

So leave a comment (how do you like the new look?), say a prayer, tune in tomorrow and pass it on to your friends.