Monday, March 31, 2008

What a Way to End March...

Today was such a glorious day - it totally energized me. I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor tiles (can you say GRIMY!), I mowed, fertilized, and reseeded-some-more the lawns, put away all of the laundry, and even pressed the self-clean button on the oven. Amazing what some sunshine and a good mood can do for productivity.

I'm pleased to report that I feel like we have Brayden back - Hallelujiah. Of course, he heads back to school tomorrow, so I'm sure the sourness will be back to some extent. We've taught him this spring break that pestering Mikayla is a form of bullying and will not be tolerated - that reminder seems to be helping. Today, they grabbed some tennis rackets, went into the nearby cul-de-sac and played bounce-tennis together. A beautiful thing...... Mikayla, this spring break, has demonstrated that every toy we've ever bought for her has been worth its money. She has pulled out every box and bin - from Stablemates, to Little Ponies, to Barbies, to Playmobile, to Polly Pockets. Brayden has never been much of a "toy-player" so this sort of thing is very rewarding to me. (Not to mention makes me feel a lot better about buying her these things!). I love the imagination and creativity - particularly as much of the time it involved Ellie.

And speaking of, we ended up spending a full seven days with that Schilling crew. Loved it, loved it, loved it - despite the - fact that my living room looked like this for the second half of the week..... (Gotta say, so far, I am NOT impressed with this new camera - glad John has a super-awesome one, so this one doesn't need to be used all that much)
Glad I took a picture, however, of this living room arrangement - as we'll have the three cousins this next weekend too as Michele and Michael will be taking off to help with a high school church retreat.

Here's to an April full of gorgeous days like today!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Observations of 2006

Sorry I haven't been doing much posting. Michele's been down with the kids and we've done very little of anything noteworthy. Currently, Michele is delaying her departure, waiting for Traig to wake up. The poor kid seems to have a migraine (he threw up earlier) and was very scared of being in a car for the hour and a half drive back.

I've been busy working on my 2006 "Blurb" book. Blurb is the online company I work through to compile my posts and pictures in to a hardbound scrapbook of sorts. I never mentioned this on my blog, but I had it nearly completed (we're talking perhaps two posts left in December) when my computer crashed. I have no idea if the two issues are related (as I'd been having problems with the Booksmart Application shutting down on me repeatedly), but long story short - I lost the whole thing. Two very skilled (and nice) technician representatives worked on recovering it, but it was just gone - file corrupted. So frustrating, that was hours and hours of work. However, I didn't let it destroy me too much as it is entirely re-doable - it's simply a matter of re-importing the blog posts and pictures all over again - and then cutting and pasting them to fit on each page.

Right now, I'm approaching 200 pages - and am in the middle of December. So, I'm very close. It's "glitched" on me a couple of times which has had me very nervous (I don't think it was intended to have that many pictures in it), so I've been trying that much harder to just get it completed and done - and purchased and printed. I can't wait. The difference between this book and the one I did in 2005 will be huge. Bigger, much better picture and text lay-out, etc. That explains a bit why I'm not so creative in my new blogging.

So, since I have recently reviewed all of my posts and pictures of 2006 - TWICE - I've come up with a couple of observations of that year.

1. It was a very good year. We did some outrageously fun things, many that were captured by camera. I feel very blessed.
2. Working on the book is very parallel to living my life - I didn't enjoy the months of Jan-March at all, but it gets progressively better and better after that.
3. Ellie steals the show on many picture-taking occasions - and often it involves her eating something or playing with the food that she should be eating.
4. Natalia is beautiful. There is no denying that. However, her beauty is often downplayed by her inability - or unwillingness - to smile for the camera. Can't tell you how many pictures are in that book that have you thinking..... "If it weren't for Nati...."
5. Brayden needed a good haircut from about July though the end of the year. It's no wonder that we take him to a real salon for his haircuts. He has very think hair that needs to be thinned out for it to look good. I'm glad we now have a system that works for him.
6. We all look better with great tans......

But, there'll be none of that right now. It's a wonderful Oregon spring break - one in which you aren't sure if it's the plum blossoms floating down or snow flurries. Crazy stuff. Enjoy the remainder of it everyone!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I Dare You Not to Laugh

After cracking up with the Whites and John, then Michael and Michele, then with Lisa, Jodi, and Susan this afternoon, I felt compelled to share the laughter (actually Jodi told me I should.....- thanks Literarygirl and great visiting with you!!!!) I'm not a Youtube member, so I can't upload it, but here's the link-

Just so you know, I'm a big Carrie Underwood fan, and something tells me she would love this as well. Enjoy! (By the way, everything this guy has on Youtube is hilarious - so have fun surfing.....)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mega Sports Camp

Today was the last day of Mega Sports Camp - sponsored by a local church and held at Traig and Nati's elementary school. The 3 oldest kids attended for basketball and soccer skills - as well as lessons in faith. For the second year in a row, they had a fantastic time (and so did their moms who had a break from them in the mornings).

The second two pictures show Brayden and then Traig brought up front in front of the 90 or so kids. When the pastor asked for a brave volunteer, some how I just knew that he would end up picking Brayden (like father, like son- somehow he WOULD end up getting chosen). The lesson was about sacrifice, so the pastor offered Brayden a $5 Dairy Queen gift card. He then asked if Brayden would be willing to "sacrifice" and give it away. Albeit reluctantly, Brayden agreed, and eventually offered the card to his cousin Traig. However, I think he tried to pull a fast one by offering the card envelope but not the card itself, but when the pastor humorously called him on it - it came off looking like an accident. Hmmmmm, he's not quite a saint, that's for sure. At the end of it all, though, Brayden was awarded a $10 DQ gift card for his willingness to give the original away. (Not so sure he deserved it....) It was a special way to end the camp - if we're around next year, Mikayla will get a chance at it. Yeah for Mega Sports Camp!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Oh Deer!

Shortly after waking up this morning, I sat with the computer in the living room and saw movement outside the windows. Sure enough, there was a deer walking right outside the wall. I carefully called Mikayla and Michele in, then looked out the other windows and saw a total of four - apparently that's the family of deer that live around here.

Interesting that in the two homes Michele have lived in that have been very "suburbia" - with sidewalks and all - there have been deer that have visited often - and yet, the house they lived at with the wide expanse of field space, trees, and pond - NEVER had deer.

Anyway, it was a fun experience to have all of the kids see them, watch them, and basically eat breakfast with them. Love starting the morning like that.....

Monday, March 24, 2008

Finally, Some Good News

I really want to be careful with this post, because I do not in any way want a political debate to begin. There's a whole lot of negatives out there, about everyone - every candidate that's running for office, and pretty much every action taken by the current administration, I don't want to stir the pot over any it.....

With that in mind, it was a very pleasant surprise for me to pick up the Register Guard - Eugene's daily paper, and read the Commentary section and discover that the story had a positive spin. I believe the Register Guard does a good job representing the probable majority of Eugene citizens' sentiments, which aren't necessarily mine - so seeing this article was a bit of a jolt for me.

The article was written by a journalist who traveled to Iraq on his own dime, under his own plans all with the purpose to determine if there really is any good coming out of all the bad that we are constantly hearing is taking place over there. His journey took him to Kurdistan, the northern region and what he found there was astonishing to him.

The Iraqi Kurds have created freedom and liberty in their region. They have opened their territory to anyone who wishes to enter - of any nationality or religion, but our fiercely protective of security - requiring background checks prior to entry. They consider America - and even our current president (gasp!) a hero (this is the sentiment expressed by the paper - not my words) - for giving them their freedom. Here's a quote from "Fawsi" a Saddam-era police officer when asked "What do you think of American and coalition efforts in Iraq?"

His response: "Tell you what I think? Allow me to put it this way. Now I can go where I want to, see who I want to, speak openly about who or what I want to. I can even speak in a public place about the distaste I have for the government, and I no longer have to worry about whether I, or any members of my family, will be murdered by my president. We are freed from the weight of Saddam Hussein and his ghoulish henchmen, yes! I am free; free from Saddam telling me how to live.... and free from him telling me how I can die"

Wow - that's pretty profound. The whole article was, in fact. The reporter's name is Marc Knutson - I'm sure you can find the entirety of the article online if you are interested.

It impacted me in a number of ways. I think the biggest I wish to express right now is just how great it is that we even have the opportunity to argue our views and have the debates we do here in America. I recently read a forwarded email that had a different kind of monologue written by Jay Leno. I think it is a little harsh to want to share here, but needless to say, I respect the man a thousand times more after reading it. He pretty much talked about how grateful we should be for having the place to live in that we do.

Long live freedom - what a blessed thing it is.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, my friends!

In about a half hour, the kids and I are headed up to Michele's where we'll spend the next three days. The kids are killing the time right now by looking for any remaining Easter eggs hidden under the couches and registering their new Webkinz duck and german shepherd - "Quackers and Angus" respectively. Those kids just can't get enough of the Webkinz.....

We attended FBC's service this morning. While I've heard feedback that it was a little lacking in the "warmth" that I've seen in services in the past, personally, I enjoyed the very apologetics approach of John Vawter's message. I appreciated how cut and dry he made the argument for Jesus' resurrection - for who He really was, and the illogic for making Him out to be anybody but who He proclaimed Himself to be. I think Dr. Vawter has been an exceptional interim pastor - divinely placed in our church "for such a time as this". We really are a church right now that is a bit wounded, in a big part because of the loss of Pastor Hodge and the anxiety everyone feels with who will be head pastor in the future and how much of our current staff with remain in place when that happens. In addition, everyone is still very much reeling from news that was shared last weekend regarding the confession of a member of our staff. It couldn't have been handled any better, but simply the discovery of the situation was very, very difficult for a lot of people. (I will probably post again on this one - I have seen some of the best in people and worst emerge from the fallout of this, and am not sure I can let it go without commenting on it).

Afterwards, we hurried home, Grandma Liupakka and Daddy hid eggs while I occupied the kids in the bedroom, and then headed to McGrath's for brunch. I was surprised when we got there that there were not more people, I thought others would have the same idea as us - but then, we figured out - McGrath's doesn't serve brunch anymore - haven't since 2005! That's the only reason why I've liked McGrath's in the past - I'm not much of a seafood person. Given that I was ready to enjoy some savory belgian waffles or french toast (I am done with Atkins as of this morning) - it was quite a disappointment for myself (and the kids - I think Grandma and daddy were just fine with it). Oh well, the Mahi mahi was healthier for me.......

So, that's it for the great Easter excitement around here. I hope you had a blessed holiday - I'll post more when I get a chance from the Schilling lodge......

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Easter Post

It's been one of those weeks where lots of things and thoughts have coincided and come full circle. Painful events, inspiring stories, deep thoughts on how they all connect. And, then, it is the week that culminates with the one holiday Christians claim as the event that changed everything - Easter.

I have to admit, Easter has never been a big planned-out holiday for me. Outside of the Easter baskets, I have no traditions that I follow through with - so very much UNlike Christmas. As I think about it, I'm glad. There are no traditions to keep from focussing on what it really is all about.

I have been re-reading a book that has a huge revelation that comes at the end, that I never saw coming the first time around. The book is a bit allegorical, so I should have known, but long story short, a character that is unorthodox, bucks the system, is generally disregarded for having heretical thoughts, pretty much a character that you just aren't sure you can believe is "the good guy" - turns out to be the one to sacrifice for the good of all in the end. He becomes Jesus in this story. As I'm reading it the second time around, I can not believe that I never saw it coming the first time- that I didn't connect the dots much earlier on in the story to recognize Him for who He really was. But, then again, why would I presume myself to be that much smarter than everyone else was 2000 years ago?

Back then, very few saw Him for who really was either. Some people turned to Him to solve their problems, to perform miracles. Others dared to ask His advice, but of those, only a handful were willing to follow it (Him). No one saw the big picture, and even Jesus asked in the last moments that God would choose another way. But, it was the way God set it out to be.

I think that most people who believe in an afterlife, generally accept the notion that there is a God who created it - and us, for that matter. With that in mind, sometimes I wonder why people think that God would then not have any plan for who would spend that afterlife with Him. If I did the creating, I know I would want a plan. But, I get the feeling that people don't like that idea - it's too limiting. But, here's the deal - the way I see it - God originally planned for all of His creation to enjoy it forever. But, in making His creation, He knew that He could never demand this desire to spend time with Him - this "relationship" - so free will became a part of it. And, with free will came the choice to do wrong - and there you go, that dreaded un-politically correct word "sin". The core of my beliefs rests in the fact that we chose this path - not God. In His pre-ordained vision, He of course, "saw it coming", but with free will in the picture - that's what we get. And there you go, a world that is full of pain, division, and full of people exerting their choices in every fashion imaginable.

Here's the deal, I don't want to spend eternity in this world, not the way it looks now. And yet, if everyone is meant to be able to go on to an afterlife, without having a "change of heart or attitude"- that's right back to where we're at now. I want to spend an afterlife in the world God created before we messed it all up. Before Satan got a hold of it, and us, and deceived us all into believing that we're better off all by ourselves. That we don't need or want a Creator, a God in our lives.

Here's some other lies I think Satan's put out there:

- Why would I want to spend eternity in Heaven anyway? It sounds incredibly boring and lifeless.... - I can relate to this one, but why wouldn't I be tempted to believe this, I imagine it has to be top on the list for Satan to have us misunderstand. He certainly doesn't want us longing for such a place. However, I have to come back to this vast world and everything we have in it - and who created it all? The water-colored sunrise, the roaring waterfalls, rain forests so vast and dense there's wildlife within them we've never even discovered, the miracle of a brand new baby, the body's ability to reach the pinnacle of physical intimacy - the God-given passions and desires to laugh, to smile, to feel so deeply we cry.... If He can do all this for this world, how much more amazing will Heaven be? He created us - He knows us - Heaven will not be a let-down! And, though it's so hard to fathom - the love behind all this creation will be the One we are spending it with - a love so deep, so strong, so unconditional, it's just too hard to comprehend. Pretty much for me, I imagine the greatest joy I ever experienced here on Earth - that moment that life could never get better than this - and then I imagine it being even better than that - and lasting------

- That the only ones meant for Heaven will be the ones who follow all the rules - and judge everyone else for all of the ways they've messed up. - I think that is the OPPOSITE of what it will be like. If a person thinks they have it all together, better than everyone else, then I believe they are the most messed up of us all. Jesus was constantly attacked by the Pharisees, recorded time and time again in the New Testament, the Pharisees that believed they were superior to everyone else, because they supposedly followed all of the Laws - and hence looked down on all, including Jesus. They were responsible for his death. They couldn't handle the idea that God wanted ALL to come to Him, not just the law-following Jews. And yet, Jesus' message was aimed to everyone, all who were crippled, outcast, and scorned. He spent time with what society viewed as the bottom of the barrel. It's those with a humble heart that God wants - not those who perceive themselves as the best.

- Why would I want to spend time in an afterlife, if it's filled with the "bottom of the barrel"? - Once again, I think it comes back to who of us can say we are better than anyone else? Only God knows our hearts. Yes, I struggle with the idea of a Ted Bundy who can make a "last breath" confession of faith, but I don't think any of us can grasp the possession Satan can have on a heart - and in the total opposite what can happen when Jesus fills and restores a heart to what God hoped for all along. I think only the creator, God, is capable of seeing what kind of hearts we have. In addition, what if I did believe there are some who are too far gone for God to accept? This is not my belief, first, because I believe the promises of the Bible, but second, what kind of world would this be without that hope? All deserve hope.

- Who says that there is sin in the first place? Are there really any absolutes in this world? - Now, this one, while a popular belief, just doesn't hold water for me. The whole idea of no absolutes is an absolute in and of itself! If one says there is no sin, perhaps no creator - just a constant evolution of humanity - why are things getting worse? Evolution demands that things improve and the best and strongest move on, but, it appears to me - our very own acts (that I would label "sin") would eliminate that very theory.

- Based on what I know about Christians - and all of the awful acts that they've done throughout history (as well as now) - why would I ever want to be a part of that group? - That's easy - it's not about the "Christians" - it's about what God first desired - and what Jesus brought to reality. Being a Christian does not mean you become perfect - and simply having that label doesn't necessarily mean that one is truly following Jesus. But, if being a Christian means we ARE followers of Jesus - look at Him, not us - we're the flawed followers - He's the true leader. Look at Him, read about Him, if you want to really get what it's all about. Remember, Jesus didn't hang out with what would have been labeled the "God followers" at the time because they had completely distorted the truth. Don't lose out on the gift of Jesus because of poor examples of "followers" here on earth (and throughout history).

- Why does it all have to be through Jesus? Why so limiting? - That is the operative question, now isn't it? Here's my take, though - Why not? When I grew up, I had a huge fear of both God and Heaven. I was so worried I wouldn't make the right choices, I would mess up and not confess those sins in time before I got struck by a bus! But most significantly, I would pick the wrong "religion", denomination, or church that would keep me from getting to Heaven in the first place. So many people believe that, no wonder the world is disillusioned against Christianity in general! I may be a member of First Baptist Church but I would really prefer not to be labeled in that way. Even labeled as a Christian leads most people to believing I am judgmental and rigid. if you are going to go anywhere with a label - the only thing that accurately defines me is that I aim to follow Jesus. I recognize that I've screwed up, I'm not the person God first desired for His creation - but through Jesus, that's how God sees me.

As hard as it is for us to grasp - because we chose our own path, we destroyed our opportunity to commune with God. He's perfect, we're not. And, once again, it comes back to our own choices - and the ultimate desire to restore us back to what He ultimately desired for us to experience. An eternal relationship with Him. So, the only way to fix the problem is to use that free will of ours to make another choice - a choice to bridge that gap by accepting that sacrifice Jesus made for us. To my knowledge, no other belief system offers such an answer to such a problem. Instead, it's all about the good that you may or may not be able to accomplish to try to get there on your own. When you think about it - any loving parent, while desiring for their children to do good works and be successful, would so much rather have a relationship with them - able to talk to them, meet with them, love on them - rather than see them go off on their own to try to prove something. As it is with God, He just wants our fellowship - a fellowship that can be achieved by coming to Jesus, the One who who sacrificed for us.

It is that very sacrifice that we honor and, yes, celebrate, on Easter. Part God, part man, saying, 'I'm doing this for you - for my beloved, for my children - I will take on all of those choices you have made from the past, the present, and the future - all of those choices that have separated you from Me (God) - because I love you that much'.

I know, such a long post. And, quite a bit of preaching from me. But, I haven't always "got" this holiday. Ultimately, I'll never fully grasp it until eternity - which I now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I'll be a part of in Heaven. However, now that I have a bit of an understanding, I just can't help sharing what I've figured out. Just like that book I'm re-reading - the message is so simple, but yet, so hard to grasp. I just don't want anyone to miss out because they are caught up in beliefs that are quite literally designed by the devil. The last thing Satan would ever want is for you to realize that it really is that simple - or for you to grasp the depth of love that Easter really represents.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Can This Really Be My Daughter?

Before we left to take Mikayla to kindergarten this morning, I suggested that Mikayla straighten up her room.

I left to do some other stuff and when I walked down the hall, Mikayla was hurriedly finishing up the final touches of making her bed. I wanted to just love and love on her - man, acts of service speak volumes to me.

Later on, when she was in the bathroom, she asked, "Mommy, can you remind me to clean my room more often? That was really fun, I want to do that more!". Woah, there's a request, I can't deny..... You got it, Mikayla!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What a Nice Weekend.....

I will definitely say this is one of the best overall weekends I've had in lots and lots of weeks. I think a big part of it was that we were out of our house - and, on top of that, not spending money (which is always nice to be able to do!). John took some amazing pictures of our brief stay at Eagle Rock Lodge (we arrived at 8pm and checked out at about 10am), so I'm excited to share those. He is so loving his camera and the whole hobby of digital photography - where I relax by putting around on my computer or reading a book, John is loving life when he's capturing the ideal shot or doctoring it up on Photoshop. It's a great thing.

I really can't say enough about the hospitality of Eagle Rock Lodge. The owners, Randy and Debbie, are Christians and I remember specific conversations we had with them nearly two years ago. It was good to see them again, and as we were their only non-relative guests - it was good to spend time with their extended family at breakfast too. The pictures show the room's fireplace, the exterior view of the lodge as taken from the river, and the room where everyone gathers for breakfast. The morning was made even more special by snow mixed in with the rain - a view of the mountains showed we just missed it elevation-wise.

The rest of the weekend was spent at Michele and Michael's. The kids had so much non-stop fun the entire time - running everywhere throughout the house. We basically moved back and forth from the kitchen to the couches in the living room - with the blessed pitstop on my part for the much-awaited jetted tub. That was my favorite feature of their old house - and the ambience of this house makes this one even better. Oh..... the bliss. I'm so happy for them to have their home, and I'm happy for us too to have such an awesome place to stay when we visit. So, undeniably cozy.

Finally, John and I had a great time watching two really fun movies this weekend. We watched DAN IN REAL LIFE cozied up with the laptop at Eagle Rock. I am really changing my tune about favorite actors to include Steve Carrell towards the top of the list. And, I've only seen a few episodes of THE OFFICE - (not for not wanting to, we just never started watching it and haven't made it a priority). I just think he is a class act and such and entertaining and endearing actor. Loved the movie. At Michele and Michael's, we watched SYDNEY WHITE with Amanda Bynes. I get a kick out of her, too. Yes, the movie was cheesy, but it's just the sort of movie John and I love to watch on a Sunday afternoon - I loved all of the Snow White gimmicks. Thumbs up for us. Finally, as I'm typing, John and I are enjoying episode two of TV Land Channel's "High School Reunion". No, it's not quality tv, necessarily, but as it is a reunion setting for adults who graduated in 1987 (same year as John), it's pretty fun.

So, that's it for us - how about the rest of you - how was your weekend?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hodgepodge Friday

So, it's been 18 days since I've had sugar. I'm actually surprised at myself for making it this long. However, today, I am taking a break - I woke up and took in the blissful taste or Russian Tea and returned to my old favorite of real old-fashioned oatmeal with blueberries and brown sugar. The funny thing is, last night in bed it actually sounded better than it really was.

As for the Atkins thing, I will be returning to it after a 24 hour respite. Tonight we will be going to PF Chang's and I know that the menu choice that I will be making is not carb-free, so I figured I'd take a day off so that I wouldn't end up absorbing all of the fats from an Atkins diet today. After dinner, John and I will be spending the night at Eagle Rock Lodge up the McKenzie - an adorable bed and breakfast that we once did after riding horses. It was another "auction-win" item and I am appreciating the fact that we saved the two that we bid on for this time of year as get-aways seem to be so important to my emotional state right now vs. other times of the year.

I will be returning to the Atkins diet following this little adventure. While I haven't seen the scales report dramatic weight loss (at all) - I have seen the measuring tape report changes around my waist that I am very happy about. I feel different, and it is my stomach area that I struggle with most. I am the classic carb-overeater and the very person they talk about on commercials like "Relacore" where you store it all up right around the middle. If nothing else, I'm teaching my body that it can exist without constant carb input, and trying to break some of the habit. In addition, the science behind Atkins reports that the weight doesn't really start coming off until you reach a point of "ketosis" - in which your body starts utilizing the stored fat as energy vs. what you put in your mouth on any given day. I have just reached that point within the last two days (it takes a couple of weeks, and yes, there are ways of checking) - so, I'm eager to return to that place and see what the body can really do. All in all, John and I have found quite a routine to the whole thing and it isn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Like I said, the experiment within itself of just teaching myself to eat when I'm hungry and not just when I desire to have something has been interesting. Eating has become more methodical for me and not necessarily as indulgent. With that being said, I have found ways of eating things that I really enjoy the taste of - which has why this has become quite tolerable.

OK, enough about that boring topic - more than you all wanted or needed to know, I'm sure. I was thinking last night as I was cuddling with both Mikayla and Brayden, what is one thing you do for your kids that you wish they (or someone else) would do for you?

Happy weekend everyone - after the lodge, we are headed up to the Schilling Lodge to spend Saturday night (where the kids will be already) so it may be a bit before I post again.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Hearty Recommendation

....Green Bags - as is the ones that are under the "AS SEEN ON TV" sections of stores. They are meant to filter out the gases that fruits and vegetables create that ends up causing them to rot or mold. And, they work. Best case of proof - I accidentally left some strawberries in the back of the produce bin - they were in the Green Bag - a week later - still good - no mold. The kids ate them all up at dinner. I don't know about you, but strawberries, especially, are very frustrating for me because they go bad so fast - and we can only eat them so quickly. Same with grapes....

These bags run $14.99 normally, but both Fred Meyer and Bed, Bath, and Beyond have them on sale for $9.99 for 20 bags. They are re-usable, I have yet to throw one away. I'd say for the cost of produce you end up having to throw out - they are well worth the price!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hang in There, Brayden

It's getting very close to a break from school and around here that is obvious based on the attitude of my son. Brayden does NOT love school. In fact, yesterday, he more or less cursed the person who ever invented the idea (it was a time of extreme frustration on his part- and no, he did not use curse words...) He is a very capable student (something I've addressed before), but does not enjoy exerting his focus to schoolwork and learning (unless it's done without him knowing it). He does, however, love the social aspect of school - combine that with the tension we both feel in homework together, makes homeschool out of the question in both of our minds. (I should never say "never" - at this point - it doesn't seem like a feasible option).

Brayden is attempting to culminate a 6+ week animal report/project. He chose the gray wolf, an animal he's fascinated with - and we had surprisingly smooth success with the fact gathering and even rough draft composing (done one paragraph at a time with mom - I'm hoping he's getting the idea of sentence structure now). However, the tears come flowing when the illustration aspect begins. Brayden is adamant that HE CAN'T DRAW. And, when a 9 (close enough) boy believes he CAN'T do something, it is very hard to convince them otherwise. Personally, I don't remember having to do nearly the amount of drawing and illustrations that Gilham has required over the years, I feel sorry for the kid. We literally scoured the internet for step by step drawing websites, I have bought him a couple of books - have drawn numerous samples for him to model after - but, oh, is it painful. Yesterday afternoon was full of so much tension, angst, and tears - and a bit of strong words - it was very, very disheartening. But, the project is 98% complete - outside of one more paragraph that's already been typed that needs to printed out at school and pasted in - and that is a miracle.

In general, the longer Brayden spends in an extended school stretch the more his stress and anxiety level increase. He is a kid who definitely needs his breaks. I feel like we are in the home stretch as spring break is a week and half a way - and then we leave for Hawaii a week after he's back - and then I think he can make it through June. He gets more and more caught up with how he fits in socially (he was even telling me where he thinks he fits in popularity-wise (a sports-ability basis) and it was fascinating to see who he believed he was "behind" - suffice it to say, I was okay with the number he gave, but alarmed that it was even a concern to him). He is also doing push-ups at night and other exercises so he can get a "six-pack" like his friend (who doesn't have a 6-pack, but whatever). I told him that genetics are against him - strong abdominal muscles are difficult to find in this family, but he'll probably be blessed for life with a relatively small bottom..... =)

With all that said, though - you can still see Brayden's fervent need for Mom and Dad and the security and love we provide. There's been a lot of requests for hugs and last week Brayden made it clear to me and Mikayla that he doesn't ever intend to move out. I suggested that might be a problem for his future wife, but he simply said he might just not get married, then. At this stage in the game, I'm so okay with that.

So, for now, we are all counting down the next 9 days until school is out for over a week. We can all sleep-in again, breathe again, and discover our "old Brayden re-emerging" all over again.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Family Work Day

Yesterday, the Rileys finally got their rear-ends off the couches (it's been numerous "sick weekends") - and headed outside to tackle spring chores. When I went in toward the evening, I noticed the temperature reading 63.5 - now, that's what I'm calling March! (However, the forecast shows nothing that pretty in the near future.....)

John went to work on the garage, that still had Christmas wrap bins on the floor, with the eventual goal of having the boat ready to pull out at a moment's notice for anyone crazy enough to accompany him for some frigid spring watersports....(notice I say "him" and not us.... it's gotta reach at least 70 for me to think about it!) I went to work on the lawns - or what's left of them. Apparently, we have some little insect that has had a feast on the sod we placed three years ago in our backyard. So, it's been an ongoing attempt to smother the lawn with the insect killer, grass seed, moss-killing fertilizer, and mulch to get the seed growing. Throw in some weed killer for all of the surrounding bark, and yes, I feel like I did my part to add to the environmental quality of our neighborhood! I also realized that a leaf blower (with the sucking bag attachment) needs to be on my fall wish list. Too much time picking up tiny leaves that ended up rotting on our front lawn.

As is often the case, when work happens outside, the inside suffers dramatically. Particularly when random things from the garage get piled inside the door. Today, waking up an hour early (time change) and seeing the disaster that is my kitchen, I walked over to the garage - looked into the sparkling room, and smiled that at least one part of our house is mess free. It's going to be quite a Monday for me.....

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Double Winners

Last night, thanks to the generosity of Mom and Dad watching the kids, John and I headed over to Mark and Amy's to join about 25 other people for a night of food, Bunko, and poker. The idea was that we would all "mix and eat" for a while at Amy's, then the guys would stay at their house for poker, while the gals moved the party right next door to Shannon's house for Bunko. While it took probably a little longer to get the games started (we are a very talky group) - the idea worked like a charm.

However, once we isolated the gals, getting Bunko started and going took a little longer too. ("Have you been to that new home store, "Real Deals" in west Eugene - oh, you really should go - let's go tomorrow.....") But, eventually, we divided into three tables and started rolling the dice. We got a little stalled rolling for 3's, though - apparently the head table was a little sidetracked. My partner and I each rolled a bunko on that round (very rare for me) so our score was around 105 when they finally rang the bell indicating they had reached 21 and it was time to rotate. Yes, a bunch of very off-track ladies.....

Despite having to limit my eating to the artichoke dip and low-carb tortilla wedges I brought, which was a bit of torture in itself looking at the brownies, smores, and other sugar-laden morsels - I had a FABULOUS time. It's funny how you know yourself and realize "I'm ready for a group event" and totally get into all of the socializing, where other times - like when I was at Black Butte, found myself holed-up internally. To make it even better, I won the roll-off for most Bunkos and scored $15, while John, the true underdog of Poker came home with $60 (we invested $15 into the night). Now, that's what I call a successful night out with the friends......

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

This Just Doesn't Work for Me....

What follows is a typical conclusion to various forwarded emails that have appeared in my in-box. It often concludes a genuinely encouraging message meant to uplift and inspire - but then I get this guilt-trip "threat" telling me that IF I DON'T FOLLOW DIRECTIONS JUST AS THEY ARE GIVEN I will have bad luck, demonstrate my general apathy for the world, or prove I don't have any friends. Just so you know, I am so past guilt trips and threats - so, I gotta say, this just doesn't work for me........




Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Mikayla's Special Play"Date"

Yesterday, Mikayla had a very special friend come over. Her dear, "Nathan B." (that gets talked about incessantly at this house). After making them lunch, I decided to just go in the bedrooms and hang up clothes and let them interact just as they are comfortable interacting at kindergarten. (Otherwise, I think I'd be questioning Mikayla's comments and mannerisms as to whether or not they were bothering Nathan). The two had a great time. They did a lot of giggling, played Pokemon cards, played a bit on the Wii, and played with the Webkinz (it was a yucky, rainy day outside). I found myself very much liking Nathan and seeing why Mikayla thinks he's fun - together they just kind of go with the flow and make everything fun. I'm pleased my daughter is already exhibiting excellent taste and discernment......

Monday, March 03, 2008

Duck Football Clinic

Recently, we received an email inviting all Kidsports participants to attend a special football clinic hosted by a number of prominent Duck football players. Given that it was free, the Duck players are very popular and the email was widespread, I had a sneaky suspicion that it could turn out to be pretty chaotic. Fortunately, John volunteered to not only take Brayden, but also stay with him and take photos, so I didn't need to be any part of the chaos. Lucky, lucky me - here's a shot of the HUGE group of kids......

In addition to the huge mass of kids, it was also very, very cold. There was a cold, misty fog that made it feel so damp....BRRRR! But, that didn't stop the enthusiasm -

Jonathon Stewart, a running back who was just ranked third in the NFL "Combine" pre-draft performance assessments was a special guest as well as quarterback, Dennis Dixon, everyone's favorite player of the 2007 season. Thrown in Jaison Williams, and Bryan Paisinger - as well as other very fun players - and it was a rockin', albeit a little disorganized event.

Brayden was able to snag autographs from the first two above-mentioned players, however, they were both a bit worn out, as evidenced by the lack of smiles. However, the shots of them in action show a whole lot more personality. Finally - check out the pic that John doctored of 5 pictures in one, showing the progression of Brayden successfully receiving Dennis Dixon's pass. (Note the telltale sign of concentration/aggression on Brayden - the tongue sticking out. Sadly, he gets that from both mom and dad.....)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Back in My Day....

I've been continuing to meet with my college friend, Lindsay - and it's been so much fun. Every time we meet I find myself taken back in time - either to the days at WOSC (now known as WOU), or my post college days working with the college department at First B. with Corey (CCF). Oh, yeah, of course, I'm reminded of my "pre-dating" days with John too.....

It has had me thinking, however, of all of the differences of life for a college student now, and what life was like back in my day. Back in my day is only 13 years further back than Lindsay (I began college in the fall of 1990 and graduated in 1994). Here are some of the things that are around these days that I never had "way back then".

(keep in mind, some of these things existed, but they didn't exist on my radar in Monmouth, OR)

- cell phones
- text messaging
- a lap top (yes, of course computers existed, but not of the laptop variety - I was proud of my Brother Word Processor)
- email (oh what a difference this could have made in my long distance relationships!)
- IM'ing
- DVD (it was VCR only, baby - and I do remember the first CD I bought as I transitioned out of cassette tapes)
- remote car door unlock
- GPS systems
- Pilates
- DVR's or TIVO
- PS2 or Wii's
- i-pods/MP3 players
- i-tunes
- blogs
- myspace
- google or internet (as far as I was concerned)
- digital cameras
- tvs in vehicles (my hubby used to work for one of the companies that helped develop those!)
- Starbucks
- straightening irons (hair)
- debit cards (ATM yes, but not able to use them in stores)
- reality tv!

I think I could keep going and going, but it seems like I've already got a long enough list. Anything more that you can think to add?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Move-In Day

Yeah Michael, Michele, Traig, Natalia, and Ellison!!!!! Today, they are spending the night in their new house - yes, it is now home.

We headed up there to do what we could to help unload and organize, but I felt like I was very inefficient. It was one of those days where Michele really needed at least 4 clones of herself to be able to direct people. At least one, upstairs, directing how she wanted the kids' clothes placed in the compartmentalized closets, one downstairs in the kitchen giving directions as to where spices or tupperware should be located, one, at Michael's side constantly - to offer support and provide decision insight, and one where the loading was happening back at the "trailer property". Throw in a clone to help pick out the random bath mat or Febreeze scent at Walmart - yeah, she was stretched a little thin.

But, the beds are constructed, at this point, the linens are on, they have access to their clothes, have a running fridge, and food - so, as far as moving in is concerned - they are good to go.