Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Billy Mays -- Big City Slider

When I was a kid, I loved to sing commercial jingles. While Gannon hasn't picked up that habit yet, this has become his favorite commercial. Not about dinosaurs, or cars, or trains.....Nope, not my Gannon! Give him a commercial with Billy Mays about a Big City Slider. They air this commercial every day on Nickelodeon before The Backyardigans come on, so he gets to see it almost every day.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My latest read..

I haven't posted in a while, but life just hasn't been very different lately, so there hasn't been much to report! I did recently finish reading a new book, The Shack. I think it's kind of a recent trendy type of book, and I hadn't really been dying to read it or anything, but I found myself at the bookstore with a gift card, so I went for it. I also bought Tales of the Beetle Bard by J.K. Rowling, which was good.

My first misgiving about reading The Shack was that it confronts my very worst fear--losing a child. Usually when I think about the possibility of losing one of my children in any way, I wind up in the fetal position sucking my thumb for a week. Okay, not quite, but close! I know I'm not the only mother out there who has this as one of the top fears around. I'm pretty comfortable with my own mortality, but I am NOT okay with the thought of losing one of my children. Sooo--this book happens to have a 6 1/2-year-old girl as the victim of a kidnapping and murder...HELLOO?????? My own sweet Melody is 6 1/2. Not a good start to the book. However, I decided to keep going and see if it had anything to offer beyond this tragedy. I'm glad I kept reading, because the book actually opened up my mind to some different ways to view God as the Trinity. I don't know if what the book proposes is even close to true (how are we to know for sure?), but it is quite intriguing to ponder the possibilities. Since reading it, I have been able to tackle certain situations with a lot more calmness and serenity than I would have previously. It's good stuff. The information in The Shack took some of my perceptions of God and the Holy Spirit and trampled them into the ground. I recommend that if you do choose to read it, that you do so with an open mind.

Happy Reading!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Striving for Stewardship

In an attempt to become better stewards this year, Jamie and I have decided to make some changes in how we approach certain events. Since it is only January 9th, and the kids have already been invited to several birthday parties, we have decided to tackle this head-on. I'm not going to get on my full birthday party soap box, because I do have one. However, I will say that as the kids get invited to more and more birthday parties as they get older (it's inevitable, right?), I have gradually become more mindful of how our money is being spent.

On to our plan for the year: we've decided that in lieu of giving birthday gifts, we are going to donate the money we would have spent on the gift to a charity. This isn't an entirely new concept for us..we asked people for Gannon's first birthday to donate to charity instead of giving gifts..after all, what does a 1-year-old really need besides clean diapers?? Right now there are many organizations that are struggling due to the nation's economic crisis, and there are lots of families suffering as well. I know of a few, but for the most part, most of the families whose birthdays we're invited to are holding steady so far. I feel that a better use of our money could go to those who really need it. Is buying another toy helping anyone? It makes the child temporarily happy, but other than that it more than likely ends up in the pile of toys they already have at home (I'm speaking from personal experience with this one..). I've even found myself lately standing in the toy aisles of Target just trying to find something that the birthday child might not have already! We are surrounded by very blessed people! Jamie and I want to be better stewards of our money (and our time..time spent searching for that perfect gift!), and one way that we think we can do that is by increasing our charitable giving. We also want to be good role models for our children in the area of giving, and we think this might be another step in the never ending process of teaching them how to give. We've been teaching them about tithing at church, but we've never really sat them down and talked about giving to charity. I'm expecting some resistance from Melody, simply due to the fact that she loves to give gifts. I'm not sure she'll see giving to charity in quite the same light as handing over a wrapped toy that she got to pick out for her friend. She is a kid, after all, and she enjoys getting and giving wrapped gifts just like the next kid. I'll let ya know how it goes...

Okay, so our college group of friends has 12 children. That is a minimum of 10 parties, adding other parties from kids at school or church for both kids. Let's say we get 20 party invites this year. If I budget $10-20 per gift that I would usually spend, then that will be around $100-200 each year that will be going to charity instead. Nothing to make a dent in any organizations budget, for sure, but I am trying to stay focused on the aspect of giving rather than the actual dollar amount being sent. I'm probably going to do this for our relatives, too, so add those as well. Not bad!

All in all, I feel very good about our decision, and I hope that our kids can somehow grasp the concept in their concrete thinking brains. I'm sure there will be LOTS of handmade, colored notes from Melody going to the birthday parties this year. We're looking forward to it!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Where have all the home improvement projects gone?

Okay, so it's the new year, and I'm already bored with it. Isn't that just plain sad? Today I realized that some of my blase attitude is stemming from a lack of a project! I get very bored with the same old, same old routine of just cleaning the house. I need something new and fun! I need a home improvement project. Jamie will be oh so thrilled.

My last couple of projects included de-wallpapering the office, then painting the office. Then I painted Melody's room. That leaves only 2 rooms left to paint: the kitchen and the dining room. Now, the dining room walls have wallpaper, and after tackling the wallpaper in the small office, I declared that I was hiring someone to take down the gross stuff in the dining room. That room is probably twice as big as the office. We don't have a formal dining set, so I'd like to get it done before we purchase anything. You know, less furniture to move.

But I think I need a big project. We need all new interior doors, and our middle floor (we live in a split-level, so the middle floor encompasses the foyer, kitchen, dining room, and office) needs new flooring. It has vinyl flooring that looks like faux hardwoods. Yuck. Although it is fairly new (installed prior to us purchasing the house 2 years ago), it's already starting to peel up and frankly I just don't love it. So, those are the 2 big projects I'd like to tackle, but unfortunately those also require a good bit of money! Ah well, guess we'll start saving..

Okay, so since I'm being so utterly discontent for the moment, I'd also like to say that I've already been thinking about Christmas 2009. You got it. Here it is, January 7th, 2009, and I'm already planning 12 months from now. Jamie and I, for the past several years, have gotten each other one big gift for Christmas. It's usually something big ticket that we both want/need, and that we usually wouldn't just run out and buy. Two years ago it was a will. Yes, you read that right....a Living Will and Testament. Those things aren't cheap, and frankly, it just needed to be done. This past Christmas it was more of a family gift, but we broke down and got a Wii. A little more exciting than a Will, perhaps, if you're looking at it from an entertainment perspective. Anyway, I think for Christmas '09 I want to get a home security system. One that works! Those people that know my deepest, darkest secrets know that I have some residual PTSD as a result of my home intruder encounter from a couple of years ago, so you know where I'm coming from with the home security idea. The good news is that we actually have some sort of system already installed in our home, but it's not activated and I don't even know how long it's been here. Hopefully, it's not as old as our mammoth furnace that took it's first shaky breath when the house was erected 20+ years ago. Then my frugal self would have to break down and buy a whole new system, and I just don't know if I could handle that. But, I have 12 months to figure it out!

Okay, so instead of wondering what everyone's resolutions are: what are some PROJECTS--home or otherwise--that you are undertaking this year?

Monday, January 5, 2009

And lately...

I just finished reading the book by Kate Gosselin about her life and the life of her family. She's the one with the show on TLC called "Jon and Kate Plus 8". I haven't followed the show very closely until recently, and was interested enough to request the book for Christmas. It was quite short, and therefore a quick read. If you don't know anything about this family, basically the husband/wife, mom/dad are Jon and Kate. They had a set of twins, then became pregnant with sextuplets, bringing their grand total of kids to 8! Pretty amazing. Anyway, they have their own TV reality series detailing their lives and how they handle being the parents of two sets of multiples. Their website is here. I really liked the book, albeit short, because it allowed Kate the opportunity to expand upon how her faith in God helped get her through her difficult pregnancy and then her daily struggles with sextuplets. If you watch the show, she'll mention her faith from time to time, but the TV series doesn't really provide her the chance to really get across the depth of her faith. So, I give it a thumbs up (You know, because I'm suddenly a book critic!).

In other news, school started back today!!! My children were happy to go back, and they seemed to adjust to getting up early again with not very much difficulty. We'll see how wiped they are when they get home this afternoon! I would like to say that I have sat around enjoying the peace and aloneness with bon-bons or something, but instead, I took the opportunity to go get the van washed and vacuumed, ran a few errands, and now I'm home doing dishes and laundry. Fun stuff, huh?? But, I'm doing it all without 1,000 interruptions so I can't complain! We had a GREAT break and I am so thankful we had such a wonderful time together as a family. I love making memories.

Speaking of memories, I took a trip down memory lane this past week when our family went on a hike with my parents up on Monte Sano. We've done this before, and we generally try to limit the hike to no more than 1/2 mile or so, due to Gannon's short legs. However, as we set off on our 1/2 mile hike, my Dad mentioned that if we followed the trail, it would lead us back to the parking lot in a little over a mile. Melody began jumping and begging to go the whole way, and since she was well-outfitted with her new trekking poles, I said sure. So, Jamie, Gannon and my Mom turned around and headed back to the car while my Dad, Melody and I continued on the trail. I have to say, Melody did awesome! She really looked like a natural hiker out there and kept pace almost the entire way. As I was bringing up the rear, as I like to do most often, I was reminded of all the hikes I took with my Dad and Grandpa when I was a kid, probably close to Mel's age and older. It is so easy to connect with nature and family when you're out on a trail with nothing in sight but tall trees and a leaf-strewn trail. I always, always feel God's presence when I'm hiking. I truly desire to be able to pass that on to my kids. I was reminded of this poem by Robert Frost (I had to memorize this when I was a Sunday School, of all places!).

Here's Melody taking a little break
Once we got back home and we were telling Jamie and Mom about how well Mel had done, Mom said that Gannon hikes just like her: he looks at his feet the whole time, and therefore has a tendency to just wander right off the trail! He apparently ran into several bushes and had a near miss with a tree! Gannon has always loved finding a hiking stick on every hike we go on, so Papa's Christmas gift for the kids this year was perfect--trekking poles! Now we'll just have to work on keeping Gannon on the path, or maybe he will be the traveller in Robert Frost's great poem and always take the road less travelled!

I've always been hit or miss with New Year's Resolutions. The only resolution I made that I actually had success with was my final year of college..I made the resolution to clean up my nasty language. I had a foul mouth (can you believe that???), and so I made a very conscious effort to eliminate some of the horrible things that came from my mouth. This year will bring about many new changes for our country, and so my only resolution is to remain positive. I plan on doing this by remembering the verse from Proverbs 3:5-6 which says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."

Have a blessed New Year!