Sunday, November 30, 2008

Countdown to Christmas Challenge

Alrighty, I've never partaken in a blog challenge (at least not officially), and have certainly never set forth a challenge of my own - but I'd like to offer one now.

One of my favorite traditions during the holidays is our "Countdown Calendar". Some years can be more challenging than others in coming up with activities, but now that both kids are reading, able to be semi-crafty, and capable of handling public events with a certain amount of respectable behavior, it's getting easier. The kids are so excited, and I'm pleased with myself for thinking of printing out two copies of each activity so they can both can read them on their own, as already the "who gets to read the first one" has become an issue. In light of this fun countdown, I'd like to suggest that you conduct your own in a different random sort of format. Here's the gist:

Each day up until Christmas, make it a point to intentionally make someone smile. It can come in any form you want it to, and be directed to anyone you want it to (I'm not big on rules), but as I've made it clear in previous posts, I'm generally pretty giddy this time of year and would like to spread the smiles.

Be creative, have fun - feel free to post your efforts (I'm going to try to detail the precious day's effort at the end of each post) or keep it anonymous. (However, I'd love to hear some good ideas, so please don't be bashful in an effort to be humble...).

Hard on ideas? Here's a few I just read in my Gooseberry Patch cookbook:

- send a handwritten note to someone who has made a difference in your life (I think you can trust that a smile happened upon delivery...)
- drop a coin in an expired meter
- secretly leave gifts for a special family
- run an errand for a friend, neighbor, or new mom
- deliver cookies to your local fire department
- shovel the snow from your neighbor's driveway (I wish.....!!!!)
- hold the door open for someone else, or give him your place in line

This idea came about for me last weekend when I was at Toys R Us. A gentleman who was with his family tentatively approached me because he was worried his asking for help would slow down my shopping. I wasn't in a hurry, and I was very pleased to offer some assistance. He explained they were up from the Coos Bay area shopping and wondered where they would find a "Bed, Bath, and Beyond" (or similar store) nearby. I gave directions to the location that isn't far away at all, and he was abundantly thankful. As I walked out to my car, I realized I had several 20% off coupons in my car, that had yet to expire, so I waited for them to leave the store (they were behind me in line) and gave them over (as I had no need for that many). You could tell it seriously touched them, however I think it brought me much more joy than them. Hence the idea, that I hope to really keep forefront in my mind as I remember what would most honor Jesus' birthday during this holiday season....

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Oh Michael, I'm SO Sorry!

I can't even tell you how excited Michael has been for this Civil War game and for the success of his Oregon State Beaver team. For those of you who aren't up to speed, if Oregon State beats out Oregon on their home field today at the Civil War, they are Rose Bowl bound. That is huge. It's been since the mid-sixties that that has happened. The Ducks' fate is pretty much secure win or lose - I think we are headed (no matter what) to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. One would think we should just roll over, then, and let them have the win, huh? Something tells me that that is NOT the message Coach Bellotti is drilling into his players right now. And, for those sentimental readers, let us not forget 2005 when the Beavers took the Ducks out of the Rose Bowl with their meaningless victory- oh, we have been on the other end, my friends, many times!

But, that doesn't mean I'm not conflicted today. Honestly, it's kind of a win-win either way for me. Ideally, we would beat the Beavers, and then USC would lose to UCLA next Saturday, and therefore USC, OSU, and UofO would all share the Pac 10 title and the Beavers would still go to the Rose Bowl. However, that scenario is highly unlikely as UCLA frankly stinks this year (since I'm not a "Ricky" fan at all, this brings me great satisfaction) and has little or no chance to defeat USC. Also, it causes the Schillings anxiety for another week, and of course, leaves their fate in another team's hands.

No matter the outcome of it all, one thing's for sure - the excitement over this Civil War is bigger than it's been in a very long time. Traditionally, (for 10 years), whoever is hosting the event wins, but last year, those Beavs came into our stadium and beat us. Once again, another reason why our team isn't going to forfeit the game so the Beavs could skip on down to Pasadena.... Michael has been spending a lot of his free time devouring any website that mentions the Beavers and their rankings for the week and mention of them by prestigious sports writers. To say he's been psyched for going to this game with John today is a serious understatement.

Which makes hearing him get violently ill last night (the room I slept in was right above his room) all the more heart-breaking. Yes, that stomach thing that he's been avoiding like the plague (literally) for the last three weeks - taking vinegar each day (it's supposed to make it harder for the bug to survive), and being so careful around each of us and his own family to not catch it. But, it was hosting his own extended family at their house on Thanksgiving that was his demise. Last night, he found out that three of the family members that were there on Thursday came down with this thing, and sure enough, he was about 6 hours behind.

When I heard him, I started thinking about Plan B scenarios (yes, always the planner). The obvious thought is to let Michele go with John, or Travis and John, or whatever. But, why not turn this into something they could benefit from? And so that's why John has been working on selling these tickets on Craigslist since about 6am. Personally, I'm rooting for a certain Christmas present they've been talking about getting, but couldn't afford - but, of course, if the tickets sell, whatever they choose to spend the money on is their choice. I don't think they'll be able to get to the Rose Bowl on the profits, but sadly that would be the only thing that would make this sacrifice worthwhile for Michael.

So, if you are interested in going to the game, check out Craigslist - the tickets are posted. (And, we put Michael's sad story on there as well for hopeful selling impact). And, if you would pray for Michael to start feeling better, that would be great. At the very least, it would be wonderful for him to be able to watch the game from his bedroom without physically feeling absolutely miserable. As for who to root for, I'll leave that one up to you... =)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

The warm-fuzzies of thankfulness were NOT lost on me when the official day of Thanksgiving ended. Nope, not all. Because at two in the morning I was already finding something new to be thankful for:
Oh yes, that same product that saved the comfort of my second pregnancy came to the rescue yet again this morning. I can't imagine why such a product would be necessary... I mean, it wouldn't be the gooey breakfast we had, or three course dinner, or perhaps the pumpkin pie would it? Actually, the real culprit was the large tub of half-buttered popcorn I took in at the theater. I can be such a pig when I let go of the reins even just a little.... And, yup, this morning I was paying for it.

Now you might be thinking that it was this indigestion that woke me up at such an insane hour, but nah- it was my cell phone alarm, alerting me that I had merely a half hour before we needed to hit the road to meet Mom at Kohls at 4am. Ironically, just before I snapped this picture, John returned "home" (at Michele's). Two ships passing in the night - so crazy. He and Travis had a blast at the outlets, scored some huge deals (most of which I'm not at liberty to know about), and intend to repeat the tradition every year. Good for them - it was a nice prologue to the fun we hoped to have.

So, John positioned us so you can see the Schillings' huge clock behind us - indicating we were about five minutes late from leaving on time....

I'm not sure if I've ever formulated into words, but this year it became murkingly-clear (due to my sleep deprived mind), that the whole fun of this experience comes primarily from the "punch-drunk" mindset of the three of us ladies. We giggle over everything, find joy in our insane effeciency, and laugh at the fact that we're ready for lunch at 9:15 in the morning. This year, we were seriously moving at a "lounge" pace by 10, practically complete in all of the errands we had wanted to run. I regret not snapping a picture of Mom today, but trust me, she was right there with us- often in the position of "wingman" by holding our place in line with the cart while we ran for more booty.

By 12:30, Mom parted ways with us, and to be honest I was asleep in the shotgun position of Michele's van by the time Mom had unloaded all of her stuff and moved it into her car. (We had left Mom's car at the mall and rode around together). Michele had suggested I nap in the car while she went back into Target in pursuit of some items she had ignored earlier (because the lines were moving so fast, we didn't have time to dawdle) - as well as garland for her staircase. She mentioned she might need to stop off at Michaels' (craftstore) as well - I made it clear I didn't care as long as I had my blanket and didn't need to go in with her. Sure enough, by the time she was done with both stores, I'd napped for about an hour and a half. I have to wonder how many people walked by the vehicle and laughed at me. That was new one for me on a Black Friday.

In contrast to some of the stories that hit national news today, our experience was a ton of fun. This was the most orderly year on record in terms of crowd control, and we ran into a lot more friendliness than grumpies from people. It was a really, really, really great day, but I am happy to be back at Michele's settled in for about 48 hours now of nothing on the docket (except one heckuva Civil War game tomorrow on tv at 4....). The jacuzzi tub in Michele's master bath was heavenly about an hour ago, and my pillow is beckoning...

Thanksgiving

Happy Day After Thanksgiving everyone! I'll use our pictures to detail the day. The second pic shows Mikayla full of smiles while we were in line at Starbucks - on our way to the Festival of Trees. Unfortunately, the family had a less-than-smiling morning (in contrast to our expectations), due to: not winning at the same time as the rest of the family at Macy's Day Bingo (Mikayla),not being responsible for ones' own mess (Brayden), and a little "discussion" between John and I - always a nice thing when 3 out of 4 of the family members are in tears before 10am! On the other hand, to be able to model a heated arguement in front of the kids, and then communication, clarifiation and resolution in front of them as well, - well, I don't think that's such a bad thing for them to see. (Not to mention for them to grasp now that not every day that we build up to be perfect will always live up to our expecations....) All this said, we loved the smiles that started to shine once we left the house...

Here Brayden is hanging out with his stuffed-bear buddy at the Festival.

Getting Brayden to go talk to Santa took a little coaxing. We persuaded him that he was doing it for Mikayla and he could just stand by the big guy. However, as he stood next to him, Santa told him to take a seat on his lap, and I was pleased that Brayden obliged and went alont with it all. It was kind of a cute interaction - Brayden is apparently demonstrating with his hand signal that all he wants for Christmas is peace on Earth. =)

The nice thing about Sweetwaters is that it is situated right along the Willamette River. John took aobut 50 pictures trying to capture this shot...

I'm not so sure Mom is going to be so pleased with this picture of her, but I loved Dad's expression. After the year he's had, Mom is going to have to deal with it in order to show that awesome smile on Dad's face!

A nice little close-up of Mikayla and I. I know I've mentioned this before, but we were even laughing with her that all she wants for Christmas is to LOSE her two front teeth! (They're getting looser....) And, clearly, that blonde hair came straight from me! (Ha-ha...)

Ah, another Mom and child - a sweet shot of John and his Mom-

Recognizing that my children are so much better behaved in a restaurant if they are kept captivated, I went online and printed out some fun Thanksgiving activity and coloring sheets. They were a huge hit, the kids were as exceptional as they've ever been...

Oh, that coloring has improved so much over the years-

Mikayla's giving that angelic look like, "Me, cause a problem? Wherever would you get that idea?". Actually, she only got semi-hyper when it came to eating the bread-rolls - she was a little obsessed with them.

Following dinner, we headed across the street to the Valley River Center mall and watched "Madagascar 2". It was good movie, apparently Brayden really enjoyed it. I think some of the appeal was lost as you already knew what to expect from the characters. I'd say it'd make a great Dollar Theater movie choice - or DVD rental... John chose to use his time wisely to get a nice nap so that he'd be able to survive his midnight shopping adventure. Hey, whatever works.

Mom and Dad came by the house to pick up Sydney for the weekend after that, and allow Mom and I (as well as our reluctant husbands) to puruse the ads and map out our strategy for today's adventures. This picture shows her reaction after hearing the suggested time for when we should begin... (Not really, but I thought it was a fun caption...) Really, she was enjoying the pumpkin pie.

Mikayla loves pumpkin pie as well - she was quite animated about it all-

John took off soon after with Travis for their outlet shopping, and I took my time around the house packing up as we'll be pretty much gone all weekend (outside of the short return time after shopping today to dump off our bounty). On the way up to Michele's house, the kids watched "Elf" for the first time this season - and it was such a joy to hear Brayden's constant laughter. That has to be one of his all-time favorite movies. At the end, Brayden said, "you know, that movie just never gets old...". Too fun - man, do I have a lot to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

While every other Thanksgiving has to be traded off with Michael's side of the family, in terms of the Schillings participation with us; almost always, Michele has made it a habit to come down just to hang out during the first part of this week. (Dallas school district has conferences this week and therefore no school). Traditionally, because of all of the anticipation, that has resulted in this being one of my favorite weeks of the entire year.

Generally, that means some goodies are made - often pumpkin pie is part of the equation. I found this ad about a month ago and tried to find an image online, but had to settle for a picture I took. While the names may be different, I think you get the idea - and it definitely applies to our family. Particularly my mom. =) She has such a funny story relating to her, pumpkin pie, and the use of Ambien....I'm sure you get the idea!


Tomorrow, we'll wake up and watch the "Macy's Day Parade" (and play Parade Bingo which Dave introduced to us last year...), head over to the Festival of Trees, have dinner (lunch) at the Sweetwaters restaurant there with my parents and John's mom, and then watch "Madagascar 2". It should all be a lot of fun, but will require a fair amount of organization as immediately following that, we'll head up to Michele's and prepare for John's midnight shopping adventures with Travis at the Woodburn outlets and Michele and I's likely 2am departure from her house to return back to Eugene to shop with my mom.

If this all sounds terribly unpleasant to you, I have to say, "to each their own". I've been thinking a lot about that this week as I have heard various opinions given and feelings expressed pertaining to preferences regarding: Christmas music (and when it should begin), Black Friday (and whether or not to participate), the amount of presents given, how to celebrate Thanksgiving (and whether or not a restaurant is acceptable), and of course, the ongoing "involve Santa or not"... I've done a lot of listening and not a lot of talking because I'm a little concerned at the response. (You get up how early? You begin listening to Christmas music when? Your kids still believe in Santa?) Maybe concerned is the wrong word, more like - I don't want to hear the disapproval. I have a huge Pollyanna Perspective when it comes to the holiday season and folks cutting on it and why it's all so commercialized or celebrated for the wrong reasons kind of takes some of the joy out of the experience for me. So, I'm learning to not expect others to enjoy the same things as me, but rather wish for others the sort of holiday traditions that brings them the greatest amounts of joy.

By the way, Kris =) , I'm not talking about you! On the contrary, our conversation yesterday demonstrated exactly what I'm saying - what is comfortable and joy-producing for one family may end up being the exact opposite for another. At least I know I won't be fighting you for the 70% off item at Kohls (when the store just has 5 in stock!) at 4 in the morning!

So, to everyone I wish HAPPY THANKSGIVING - how ever that may look for each reader. I wish you joy, wonderful memories, and meaningful conversations that bring folks closer. Most of all, I wish that everyone finds themselves much to be thankful for... how blessed we are.


P.S. - I got this in an email today from the above mentioned, Kris - HAD to share it!

Thanksgiving Divorce

A man in Phoenix calls his son in New York the day before Thanksgiving and says,"I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.

"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams.

“We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the father says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her."

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like heck they're getting divorced," she shouts, "I'll take care of this."

She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at her father, "You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Okay," he says, "they're coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Floor Wars

Just call me Simon Cowell (or probably more appropriately one of the names of the "Dancing with Stars" judges, but since I don't know their names...)... Yesterday I got to be an honorary judge for the Trinity House (a former sorority house that houses collegiate ladies who attend FBC) as they had a "Dance Off" as part of their on-going floor wars (2nd floor vs. 3rd floor).

I was looking forward to every part of it except the timing - the event didn't begin until 9:30...ahhh! That's an hour after I usually go to bed! Not to mention I was trying every tool in my arsenal to fight off a nasty headache from about 3pm on.... But, God is faithful, by the time I arrived at the Trinity House, the headache was gone.

My fellow judges were Toni (who cooks for the ladies), Amy, and the house "mom", Mary Ann. Fortunately, when it came time to deliberation, we all saw eye to eye - a very fun group of gals.

The performances were actually very impressive, especially considering the inside knowledge I had that they really didn't begin until this weekend to work on them. The first group (3rd floor), began with a ballet number to the accompaniment of Amy Grant Christmas music (which earned them points by me right off the bat) and then turned into a hip hop number after a scene in which one of the girls sits on "Santa's" lap and is challenged to "mix it up". Very fun - they also did a bit of sucking up to the judges at the end.


I was sweating it a bit, because my girl, Kara, was in the 2nd floor group and I thought, "I hope they are good, because 3rd floor set the bar pretty high". We were not disappointed. The performance began with ribbon twirling - to "Joyful, Joyful" - the "Sister Act 2" version! Um, don't even know if I can count how many times I've seen that movie....love it! Their performance followed closely to the final performance act within the movie.




While we were impressed with 3rd floor's creative and original storyline, the award ended up going to 2nd floor for their more "complete" performance. I felt good crushing half the houses feelings knowing that the group that put more time into practicing actually won.

I left the house with a huge ol' smile on my face thinking about what an amazing place that house is and how blessed those ladies are to have each other and all of the bonding activities that they do. I'm really not sure I could deal with that much "chick-drama" that would inevitably be part of the mix, but I'm very happy to be an "honorary" guest any time.
(special thanks to Kaela Lee for all the pictures pulled from Facebook....)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Heart-Wrenching

I'm so proud of my church right now. Our new pastor has stretched the comfort zone of this congregation and I'm so pleased with the direction he is going. Yesterday I saw him lifting his hands in worship and thought, yep, this is good... =)

Yesterday we had a special service dedicated to the tweens, middle-schoolers, and high schoolers. The pastors in charge of each of those groups talked about what our youth are facing, what their needs are, and what each of us can do to make a difference. It was very educational. However, what really hit home was the drama at the very end. I'm linking the same drama performed during the summer at Camp Harlow, but let me just say, to see it live was even more profoundly powerful. If you have five minutes today, take the time to check this out...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gettin' to Know You - Christmas Version

I got this in an email and thought it would be fun to put on my blog. I'd love it if anyone who wants to would cut and paste it and post on theirs - or leave in comments, as to your answers...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Mostly wrapping paper (I resented gift bags as a kid as I loved to tear off the paper!)
2. Real tree or Artificial? Real, from a farm – some kind of Noble
3. Why are you willing to answer these questions? So my friends will really get to know me
4. When do you take the tree down? Depends on the circumstances, this year, probably on the 4th as I think we’ll have the Riley-side Christmas on the 3rd
5. Do you like eggnog? Nope
6. Favorite gift received as a child? A brand new yellow canopy bedroom set (yes, that one really challenged our grasp of how Santa could have fit that all on his sleigh!)
7. Hardest person to buy for? My dad
8. Easiest person to buy for? My kids (they like “Stuff”!)
9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes
10. Do you send your card by mail or e-mail? Mail
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? A faux-fur trimmed coat that John bought for me at the last minute on one of our first Christmas’ – it turned into a “learning experience” that him taking time ahead to really look for me was a present in itself (and, no, he didn’t enjoy the sleeping bag I bought him either….!)
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? New version of “Miracle on 24th Street”
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Generally in September
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes, sorry.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Lots of cookies
16. Lights on the tree? Lots !
17. Favorite Christmas song? I pick a new favorite one every Christmas, last year it was “Mary’s Boy Child” – however, Amy Grant’s version of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” will always be a favorite
18.Travel at Christmas or stay home? Childhood home for Christmas (Mom and Dad’s)
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? Yes!
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? One gift Christmas Eve and the rest is Christmas day
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Getting so carried away with all of the “to-do’s” that we lose sight of the real reason we’re celebrating
23. Favorite ornament theme or color? “Homespun” – reds, creams, white lights, raffia
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Honey-baked ham (or homemade version)
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Lots of amazing memories, joy, a recognition of the magnitude of this amazing gift God gave us at this time of year

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Boys' Night Out

This weekend, John and I split up the kids - I took Mikayla up to Michele's to hang with Nati and Ellie and John kept Brayden home (it worked out nice as Traig had a sleepover anyway). John and Brayden will be taking those crazy college boys out on the boat again today (yes, they have very good wet suits) and Brayden wanted to be there with them all (he'll be dressed in snow clothes...). Mikayla and I will return home in time for church on Sunday.

So, last night, John took him out on the town. They started out at Red Robin, stopped off at an arcade, went to the Dollar Theater to see "Journey to the Center of the Earth", went out for ice cream, then ended the evening at Travis and Stephanie's. John sent me some pictures from his cell phone to illustrate how much fun they were having. Brayden must have felt like HE was at the center of the earth!

John did share a story about how pleased he was with a choice Brayden made at the beginning of the evening. Brayden was given two quarters to play on the "crane game" where you try to get a stuffed animal. Apparently Brayden was very successful and snagged a really cool penguin on a surfboard. He was very pleased. However, when he walked into the lobby, he saw the "Toys for Tots" contribution bin and decided to put it in there. He told Daddy that some of those kids have barely anything, and this stuffed animal would be played with a lot more by them than him. Every now and then we see these snippets of his character come out, and man, does it make me thankful.

The only downfall to the whole evening was Mikayla finding out about it. (THEY got to go to Red Robin?!!) She had a blast with her cousins, so it wasn't really a big deal at all, but something tells me that I owe her...



Friday, November 21, 2008

Stone Soup

As I eluded to in the previous post, today was a special day for Mikayla's first grade class in which they had their "Stone Soup" celebration.

If you are familiar with the story (or stories as you see here):

Each person contributes a vegetable or spice or something to help make a vegetable stew. However, in the beginning of the stories, no one wants to help, it is their curiosity of visitors making a soup out of stones that eventually gets them to contribute. In the end, they are all so pleased with their concoction, that they put together a grand celebration to eat it all.

For today, I got to be more of a "helper" than a guest, the best part was reading the story aloud to the class while the teacher finished up a few details. I LOVE doing that.

However, John got to be Mikayla's "guest of honor". I couldn't decide which of these two pictures I liked the best, so I put them both up.



For those that know my eating habits (and how Mikayla is a lot like me), this should come as no surprise that this was Mikayla's assessment of the taste of the soup. Fortunately, Ms. Beitz taught the kids proper responses when they are offered food they don't like. Hopefully, we'll see some of those positive manners this next week...


Finally, here's a picture of Mikayla showing us one of the actual rocks that went into the soup. This one was a "petrified rock" - don't worry it was boiled a long time to make it safe, but it goes to prove that yes, indeed, it really was "Stone Soup" we were eating...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Morning Email to Michele

I just got done sending a sad, but accurate email to Michele about how my night went - I actually thought it would make a decent blog post (at least for posterity sake in terms of laughing at it all). It was written to Michele, so keep that in mind in terms of "voice"...

Michele,

Last night was a fun one - let me tell you about it.

Up until the point I talked to you, it had been a good day. John got home, had his (only so-so) enchiladas and we watched and thoroughly enjoyed CHUCK. Man, LOVE that show. I was a little bothered by the giant size house fly buzzing around my head, but no biggie.

My stomach felt a little off (shouldn't have eaten those bar-b-q chicken pieces of Mikayla), so I had Russian Tea and nothing else, but after CHUCK decided to have some Ritz crackers to settle things. Halfway through BIGGEST LOSER, my stomach is aching, and since everyone is sleep deprived, I beg John to send us all to bed at 8 and watch the second half tomorrow. He reluctantly agreed.

By this time, my stomach is feeling worse - I couldn't find relief. Then I hear BUZZZZZZZ - that stupid fly is in our room and I'm so incapacitated I can't fight it off. LOVELY.

Minutes - then an hour pass and I'm fighting that head battle of "do I throw up and find relief, or try to fight it off and go to sleep". This wouldn't be much of a story if I chose the latter - so yup, there's me at the porcelain throne again. Tasting things like bar-b-q chicken and Russian tea on the way up is SO NASTY. But, yes I did feel better and managed to clean the underside of our toilet seat as I had a nice look of just how gross it's looking these days.

SO, I go back to bed, feeling better, but not quite asleep. You'd think since I was awake since 3:30 yesterday morning it wouldn't have been a problem.... Then, I hear noises in the living room. Yes, that would be our mouse-friend, don't think I've mentioned that - John saw him this week when he went out to the living room when he was unable to sleep. We think he enters and exits through the hole in the wall for the cable feed behind the lone chair in our living room. (Which would explain why Bogey finds that area so interesting) That's where it sounded. Okay, I know it's a little cute mouse, but that's just freaky to listen to. I went and drug Sydney out of her peaceful slumber and made her go in the dark living room. Yes, her ears perked a bit when she heard the scratching, but she just wanted to go back to sleep. YEAH, me too, dog.

Then, I decide to bring Syd in the bedroom - she should at least keep it from getting on my bed if she's at my side- listen to a few more unsettling sounds, and then, OH CRUD, it dawns on me that John had sent an email alert yesterday, reminding us to call MARRIOTT at 6am on the 20th (TODAY) to reserve our unit for next year for prime trade-off value. I thought it was the actual morning of Thanksgiving, but knew I couldn't screw this up, so, yup, I got up, turned on the lights in advance - and looked it up. You got it - call promptly at 6am on the 20th. Lovely, I guess I'll be setting that alarm for 5ish as I'll need to review what I'm actually doing before I call. [This is an essential thing for us to secure in order to someday get to Disneyworld in 2010]

Did I mention the frequent ear-thumping through all of this - (and yes, what has me awake before my alarm?!).

Let me just say, GOOD TIMES! My stomach is still not happy - that chicken really was a huge step backwards, but I don't anticipate any more upheavals.

Alrighty, I hope you slept better than me. I really need to get some stuff done today (house cleaned and labels) before the STONE SOUP which I think I might be passing on partaking in. You have a good one - gotta research my Marriott!

Love you!
Steph

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nineteen Things I'm Thankful For

I'm realizing that my recent posts have been less "uplifting" and more about "upchucking", so given today is the 19th day of the month, I thought I'd come up with nineteen things I'm thankful for. They will appear in no particular order and will range from mundane to meaningful - so, here goes:

1. The ability to eat and keep down food. Also, the way God designed us to heal and fight off nasties - truly remarkable.

2. "Amazing Race", "Chuck", and "Biggest Losers" - three shows John and I watch faithfully together and enjoy as our own cheap date nights.

3. A brilliant fall, and the change of seasons. While I might complain a lot in the winter and spring, I really do love Oregon and it's diversity of seasons. I can't imagine looking forward to Christmas when it's sunny and 80 degrees everyday.

4. The gal I meet with, Kara - and our connections with all of our church's college group. It's only been a short time we've all been involved, but already I see it being such a bigger blessing than I'd imagined.

5. That we can rejoice knowing Grandpa Pat is in Heaven. Mikayla talked last night about being sad about him not being around this Christmas and I pointed out to her that especially because we were not super close with him, it releases us to be even happier for him that this is his happiest Christmas ever (incomparably so), and that should help us to not be sad.

6. Friends that look after me and offer their support when I'm in need. Fortunately, through this round of illness, our family wasn't lacking in any major way, but I'm glad to know that when a time arrives (as it has in the past), I've got people in my court.

7. The thoughtfulness of a family we barely know, that gifted John last night with a full enchilada meal at the end-of-season football party, just because John has taken pictures at every game and posted hundreds of them on Flickr for other families to download. John was very touched.

8. My daughter - and the ways she reminds me of me. Yesterday she scoured her room to find presents for every member of the family and already has them wrapped and gift-tagged. Our house is full of pictures of Christmas trees and stockings that she has colored, as well as calendars that she has created to countdown until Christmas.

9. My son - and his random expressions of encouragement. Just when I'm entirely exasperated by his obliviousness, he'll say things like, "Wow, mom, it looks like you've got a lot on your plate" (as I'm preparing dinner, helping him with homework, and talking to John on his way home from work). Or, "Just in case I never said it, thank you for the ESPN game in my bedroom" (something we got on mega-clearance a couple of years ago). The other night he asked if we'd be doing the "Countdown Activity Calendar" again. When I said, "yes", he asked, "Will it be as fun as last year?" Oh, does that kid know the key to motivate me...

10. The school that my kids attend and how I feel safe that they are there - and the outstanding leadership of the new principal - I anticipate great things are around the corner for that school...

11. My dad's health and recovery from his heart issues - a huge praise!

12. The nifty ways that I've been able to purchase Christmas presents this year that have saved me quite a bit of money. From turning in "Coke Rewards" that I've been saving for well over a year, to turning in video games the kids no longer play with for credit for new games - and not to mention the buy one get one free offers - it's allowed me to stretch the limited budget quite a bit.

13. For a husband that loves me so much just the way I am. He told me today that his college guy told him last night that many of the college kids are watching us as role models for marriage - what a high honor, and I'm thankful that what we represent to them is truly what we are, and not an act.

14. For the ways I've seen God unfold his blessings on Michele's family. There was a time when the advice they were given by virtually everyone was "throw in the towel" - in terms of financial issues - and yet, God has been so faithful. Often not in the ways we would have guessed, or as quickly as we'd have wanted, but their testimony is now that much stronger. Two days ago, news arrived that relieved them of a major burden/concern that they'd had for a while. What a huge early Christmas present!

15. For my dog. I love Sydney - even when she totally aggravates me. Today we take her into Mikayla's classroom for show and tell - she'll be needing a bath...

16. For amazing Christmas music that fills my soul with praise and remembrance for the real reason this holiday was created.

17. For a neighbor that I carpool with, so I only have to drive the kids to school in the morning every other week.

18. For the Christmas adventures and plans we have ahead, and how they fill me with kid-like anticipation and excitement.

19. For the grace of God to give me the security that nothing will ever separate me from His love.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

And I quote, "Gosh, Michele, why didn't I get your strain of this stomach bug [where you have no desire to eat for three days because of fatigue and intestinal issues] - I just got a few cramps and that was it". Of course, this was said (yesterday), because Michele was really not eating and had lost (even more) weight.

So, what do you know, but when I wake up, I'm thinking, "Hmm, things aren't quite feeling right". Still I made my oatmeal and Russian tea, but halfway through I'm wondering if I'm going to make it through the workout I'd planned to do before heading over to Nancy's for a ladies' day. Within ten minutes, the workout was definitely off the schedule, and my plan for Nancy's was reduced to just watching the DVD we'd planned to watch together for an hour. Within a half hour, I was wondering how I was going to muster the ability to drive the kids to the school less than a mile away.

It's been a rather pathetic day. Fortunately no throwing up, but plenty of action on the other end (sorry, TMI!). Curled up on my side with a heating pad, I feel semi-human, but any time I'm needed to get up, man, am I wiped out. I'm so thankful that John resolved some of my I-tunes issues so I was able to watch from my computer many of the episodes of shows I've previously recorded. Just wearing my glasses to watch the tv across the room was too uncomfortable.

I'm feeling a touch better, and giving sugar-free jello a try. Hope that's not too big of a mistake. This isn't the first time I've regretted wishing for something I shouldn't have, but perhaps one of the more stupid times!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Football Games and Future Babysitters

Today is a very cozy, fog-banked-in, November day. In 15 minutes, Oregon State will be taking on California in their pursuit of the Rose Bowl bid (good luck, you have to get past the Ducks at the Civil war....!), and then at 2:30, we'll leave for the Oregon game. Michael, Michele, and the kids came last night, and the two adults took off this morning for their game and a tailgater with Randy and Nancy. Shortly after two, Mom and Dad will arrive to watch all five kids as we head off to Autzen. I'm wondering if the fog will clear or not, which will determine just how many layers of clothing I'll be adding to my body. Truthfully, I'm hoping for a big win for both teams - it really is great when they both are doing well - this could end up being one of more exciting Civil War games we've seen in a while, potentially with a lot on the line for both teams.

Last night, we had a special treat. Stephie brought her 13 month old niece, Abby over. I've never actually met Abby, though I've heard a lot about her, and I'm not just saying it for Auntie Stephie's sake; she is a delight! She was a little overwhelmed with all of the attention from a ton of kids, adults, and a big ol' dog in her face at the very beginning, but she quickly settled in and took advantage of all the attention. She seemed to most enjoy the attention of Brayden and Traig, who had her giggling on numerous occasions. And, as for Mikayla and Ellie, we got to see the future of two very good babysitters. Enjoy the pictures of lots of kiss attempts by Abby, and all of the smiles of the evening.





Friday, November 14, 2008

Has It Really Come This Far?!

Heather and Bonnie - this one's for you-

This was in the Letters to the Editor section of our newspaper today. I'll type it as it appeared and then offer a bit of my opinion at the bottom-

Take Care with Holiday Wishes

Now that the world is amazed and pleased at our expressions of acceptance and diversity, let's continue it during the next month and a half.

For many people in Eugene, there is no holiday in December that they celebrate. So don't wish a random someone "Happy Holidays" on your holiday. You don't wish someone "Happy Birthday" on your birthday. And you'd be befuddled if an immigrant from Vietnam or an American Indian gave you a celebratory greeting during their most sacred time of year.

So, think of the other person; someone who doesn't want to ignore you but has no connection to your holiday and consequently is put in an awkward spot. What should they say? "Thank you?" "Same to you?" Neither of those replies makes sense.

So be logical, sensitive and broadminded. And enjoy your holiday.

M.H.
Eugene


Hmmmmm, sorry folks, but I can only take so much political-correctness. To me, this is yet another example of the minority expecting the majority to bend to their desires so that no possible person could ever be offended.

I've been listening to the AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF SANTA CLAUS during my work-outs and enjoying this book quite a bit. It's really giving me a review and education of world history as the story begins when St. Nicholas was born about 300 years after Jesus, and takes us to present day. Of course, it is fiction, but the author throws in so many facts along the way, you realize you are learning quite a bit. Most significant in this case is why the holidays were set at the time they were - mostly, in an effort to make the darkest time of the year more bright, joyful, and celebratory. Of course, as a Christian, there is a much deeper meaning, but even the choice of the date for Jesus' birth is often thought to not actually be during the winter.

Along the way, though, some Puritans (particularly the Mayflower settlers in America) chose to boycott all holidays so that nothing would take higher precedence than the Sabbath. Interesting how one far extreme is now looking a bit like the other far extreme in this circumstance.

If this "letter to the editor" author had limited his caution to making your holiday wishes be just that - broad enough to include all holidays, I would have understood his point. But, to ignore that 99% of the population is celebrating something seems very narrow-minded in itself. If someone told me, "Happy Birthday" or "Happy (Insert any holiday I don't recognize)", I would be pleased, not offended. The "Happy or Merry" greeting is an extension of thoughtfulness towards someone else that I find very friendly, and connecting in this world that is often way too cold to each other. One year, John wished a sales clerk at our local mall "Merry Christmas" at around 4pm on Christmas Eve. She said, "Thank you, you're the first person that has said that to me all day". HOW SAD!!!

Let it not come down to the fact that we are so concerned about stepping on each others' toes that we avoid interaction all together- And with that said - "HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!"

(P.S. - Interesting that this letter comes up now and not during Independence Day or Thanksgiving in which many people could be offended because they are not American citizens. Or even during Halloween - a holiday that many people choose not to celebrate. Would you guess it might just be because spirituality is a part of it- and somehow that is so offensive?????)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Ultimate "Tool Time" Power Tool

Today, I took on the leaves. This is the first year it's ever really been an issue. In years past, we've recognized that a leaf blower would have been nice - and indeed, we did purchase one this year. However, due to the best autumn I've ever experienced in terms of brilliant leaves - which means they all stayed on the trees looking gorgeous up until now...well, our lawn was not green, but rather an orangy-yellow.

So, I had John put together the "Man-tool" last night, and went to town with an extra long extension cord this afternoon. The leaves were already wet because of the recent storms that have come through, but even so, this thing made them fly. I can't imagine what would have been the case with dry leaves. As a result, trying to urge these leaves into a pile without sending more going in the wrong direction was a bit of challenge for me. Honestly, at one point, while I was trying to get them all maneuvered next the curb of our street (next week the city of Eugene will pick them up), I was honestly concerned that someone would be watching me from their front window with a video camera, ready to make $10,000 at my expense on America's Funniest Home Videos. At least, by the time I moved on to the backyard, I knew no one was watching me - and was able to send all the leaves into the narrow fenced in area that we grow our pumpkins in. I figure a thick layer of decaying leaves might be just the thing that soil needs to create record-breaking jack-o-lanterns next year.

I can see how this chore could be difficult for a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder. There's always one leaf that flies the wrong direction - and an attempt to corral it, will undoubtedly send more leaves askew as well. Fortunately, this is not an area where I'm a perfectionist, even so, it took me a couple of hours to finish. That is, until the next storm comes, and sends the rest of the leaves to the ground...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sicky Family Update

I ended up keeping Mikayla home. It's only first grade - I don't think she feel like she'll "never catch up" if I keep her home another day - better safe than sorry.

While I was typing the last post, Michele emailed to say that both Ellie and Traig had thrown up already this morning... Woah! This is one potent little stomach bug - we were very careful to not have them share food, etc. And, fast... I'm very glad we didn't interact with any of Mikayla or Brayden's other friends over this four day weekend, and if this thing is spreading this much, I guess I'm glad my kids have already had it. (Clearly, Brayden had to pick it up from someone, so I wonder what the absentee rate on his class has been...). The verdict is still out on Nati, she was still asleep when Michele emailed - she's keeping her home as well for good measure.

So, my wisdom for the day - if you know that someone has had this kind of bug - STAY CLEAR!

One Word Answers

Another rather uninspired day of blogging, so I'm stealing a Meme from Bonnie. I'm about to wake up the kids to see if Mikayla feels up to school today. Poor thing, she hasn't been able to eat any significant without throwing up for three days. On Monday and Tuesday it was just once each day, after believing she could eat more... but still. She seemed to be perking up last night, so I'm feeling hopeful.

These are supposed to be one word responses, I kind of lost my success when describing my favorite foods...

1. Where is your cell phone? Counter
2. Your significant other? Godly
3. Your hair? Help!
4. Your mother? Gifted
5. Your Father? Wise
6. Your favorite thing? Computer
7. Your dream last night? School
8. Your favorite drink? RussianTea
9. Your dream/goal? Contentment
10. The room you're in? Kitchen
11. Your fear? Loss
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Home
13. Where were you last night? Mall
14. What you're not? Fake
15. Muffins? CranberryOrange
16. One of your wish list items? I-Fit
17. Where you grew up? Oregon
18. The last thing you did? Breakfast
19. What are you wearing? Pink (work-out clothes, had to point that out...)
20. Your TV? News
21. Your Pets? Retriever
22. Your Computer? Friend
23.Your life? Blessed
24. Your mood? Hopeful
25. Missing someone? Yes
26. Your car? Hairy
27. Something you're not wearing? Earrings
28. Favorite Store? Target
29. Your summer? Eventful
30. Your favorite color? Red
31. When is the last time you laughed? Yesterday
32. Last time you cried? Christmasmusic
33. FOUR PLACES I GO OVER AND OVER: Target, ESTC (work-out), Costco, Walmart
34. FOUR OF MY FAVORITE FOODS: Lucky Charms, Ice Cream, Baked Beans, Cobbler
35. FOUR PLACES I WOULD RATHER BE RIGHT NOW: Maui, Sunriver, Michele's, Scottsdale

Monday, November 10, 2008

I Blame It on Michele...

Why I am lacking in compassion- I don't know, it's not that she's deserving the blame, but I certainly can't blame Mom and Dad. They did nothing to contribute to this, but as far back as I can remember, Michele and I were "tough cookies". It must have been something we just agreed to, or twistedly believed we'd be praised about, but we did our very best to hide any excessive shows of pain or suffering.

Maybe it WAS a bit of Mom and Dad's fault, because they did pass on the stories of our bravery, perhaps giving us more reason to believe that it was a very good thing to shield our emotions for physical pain. One time, when I was 8 or 9, I tried to roller skate on gravel. Good idea, huh?! Anyway, that gravel ended up embedded in my knee, and Dad had to remove it with tweezers. Did I cry? Nope, just sucked it up and endured it. Likewise, Michele probably broke a growth-plate in her arm falling from a beam she was swinging on, but convinced Mom and Dad that a doctor's visit wasn't necessary due to her bravery.

The worst example of this occurred the summer before my senior year. I was playing summer softball and had the opportunity to "steal second". I made my slide, but unfortunately, but my cleat stuck in the dirt, and the rest of my body kept going. Three bones were broken surrounding my ankle joint, it was very painful. My coach happened to be my high school health teacher, so I actually "talked back" when she tried to divert me from really knowing what she was thinking as she looked over the injury - suggesting that "I knew what she was doing, you taught me these techniques when we deal with someone potentially going into shock!". That was the extent of my mouthiness- but school was out for the summer, I figured she wasn't going to knock my grade.

I ended up going to the hospital in my mom and dad's car, (horrified by the thought of an ambulance) and the experience was brutal. The X-Ray technician was horrendous, manuvering my ankle this way and that, and then making comments when he saw the film that indicated something was very wrong, but refusing to elaborate.

The doctors ended up positioning the foot as comfortable as possible through the night with surgery planned for the next morning. (They would either reset it and I'd have a cast up to my thigh, or have to put pins in, and then I'd have a cast up to my knee, wherever the cast was when I woke up from anasthesia would determine the outcome). That night was so awful. I sent my parents home thinking there was no reason I needed to be babied. I also never asked for painkillers, thinking those were for sissies. By about 5:30 am, I was calling my parents in agony, asking them to come, and finally broke down and asked the nurse for medication. They were shocked I had not asked earlier. I can't even tell you how excited I was to be "put under" so that I wouldn't hurt anymore.

Long story short, no pins were needed, I had a "honkin' cast" and it was not a pleasant summer. I did recover faster than expected, though.

Michele and I had to work through this bravery complex with the arrival of our first children. Mom had managed "twins" with just a little "Staedol" that is used just to take the edge off, - no epidural or anything. Surely, we could each manage one child. But, as we all know, every delivery is different, and I am thankful that Michele had succumbed to pain meds with her first child and could direct John to encouraging me to agree to them with Brayden as his labor went excruciatingly long (obviously, a HUGE difference in the deliveries of my two kids). I think that experience finally taught me that medicines can be a very good thing when taken appropriately. And, enduring pain just for the sake of being brave, doesn't help anyone, especially a family that needs my attention and energy.

So, all of this very long-winded post, was inspired by my inability to relate to my daughter who does not deal with suffering as I did as a child. She is not so much a whiner, but rather a steady communicator about her ills - and wants my company 24-7. I know that she is borderline manipulative about her time with me, so I am a touch de-sensitized, particularly compared to John who is more apt to jump to her every need. But, really, I blame Michele, and our idiotic ideas about suffering, that has contributed to my lack of compassion for my sick family members. Maybe admitting all this will be the first steps towards recovery and being the Mom that heeds her sick family members every whiny whim!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

And, Mikayla's in the Lead...

Currently, Mikayla appears to be beating her brother out in the "upchuck" contest. I think she is at #6. However, in terms of mess, Brayden had her way beat out.

At least this thing is quick-rebounding. For as "quiet as a mouse" as Brayden was on Friday, he was pretty much bouncing off the walls yesterday. I suspect Mikayla will be very lethargic today and then rearing to go again. John and I have both felt a little bit of this stomach crud, but nothing to the extent as the kids (John, a little worse off than me- though my cough and hoaseness give me the lead in outward sympathy).

Nothing compares to the great "Flu Fandango" of Christmas 2005, though - so this is small stuff. We had a very cozy day yesterday, having opted to give away our tickets, stay out of the rain, and watch football from home. Mikayla and I escaped to Target in the morning, (I was suffering some serious cabin fever). As dangerous as that place is, oh, it is so therapeutic!

Today Michele comes down with the kids and they'll stay through Tuesday evening. Despite this latest turn of events with Mikayla, I think the tide is turning...

I'm just now (11am) posting this picture of what Mikayla looks like right now - after about 10 "episodes" she finally fell asleep for an extended period of time, probably going on 3 hours. Praise God! Hopefully, she'll wake up without feeling the need to walk around with a bucket...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Six Random Things

I went to read one of my bookmarked blogs "Blessed" written by my new blog friend "Joanne" and imagine my surprise to see that I'd been tagged! So, here are the rules, and what follows are the best random things I can come up with right now.

1) Link to the person who tagged you.
2) Post the rules on your blog (copy and paste 1-6).
3) Write 6 random things about yourself (see below).
4) Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them.
5) Let each person know they have been tagged and leave
a comment on their blog.
6) Let the tagger know when your
entry is up.

1.) Both my husband and I are fraternal twins. No, our siblings are not married to each other, but we are both the "Baby A's" of the twinset. Everybody always asks if we have twins, supposedly fraternal twins aren't a genetic thing, and when you think through the science, by the time his "genetic code" enters into the equation I've either dropped two eggs or not.... (perhaps that is TMI!) However, there is question as to whether Michele and I are really fraternal (we guess identical), but no guess as to whether Jeff and John are (very different in personality and appearance).

2.) I detail the happenings of every day and can probably show proof of what occured on any given day since high school. Whether I went to Walmart, exercised, or watched a special movie, - you'll find it in countless saved Daytimers....

3.) My husband and I did NOT kiss (each other) before we got married. No, not even a peck. It made for quite the "You may now kiss the bride" celebration (to the tune of "O Happy Day" being played by our friends). If you want to know why or if I think that is such a good idea, feel free to ask me sometime.

4.) I'm rarely ever enamored by expensive shoes, jewelry, or handbags. I have a size 10 to 10 1/2 shoe, so if it looks really cute in a normal size, chances are, it won't look cute on my big-foot. I tend to lose my jewelry, and need too functional of a purse for constant switching around. Oh, and speaking of shoe-sizes, my husband wears the same shoe size as me, so I get to take-over any of his old athletic shoes (Nikes) - as he DOES like shoes.

5.) I gave birth to my daughter in water - in a portable hot tub set up for that purpose in the hospital. I had never planned to do that, but the doctor talked me into it and it was an AMAZING experience (and very fast, literally only about 35 TOTAL minutes of pain). It's probably one of my proudest accomplishments in life.

6.) To the probable disgust of many, November 1st marks the day I can begin to listen to Christmas music and the children to watch (okay, and me too) Christmas movies. I LOVE THIS TIME OF YEAR, and frequently have nightmares that it is suddenly the night of Christmas Eve and I have done nothing to prepare or celebrate the season.

I think I'm a little late in sending this off to people, so if you've already done this, sorry.
Here's the people I'm linking:

Colie
"Seasons Change"
Heather "You Have My Word"
Bonnie "Things No One Tells You"
Dawn "Five Princesses and a Baseball Player"
Hollie "Stuff I Love"
Amy "Family o' Foxes"

Have fun!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Enough Already!

How long is November? Just 30 days? That's good, one less day than normal... 'cuz so far this month has offered day after day of disappointment, challenge, or loss. Maybe it's just the first week that will be like that, one can only hope.

The "straw that broke the camels' back" came around 10:30 when Brayden began throwing up last night. At first, because he complained of his throat hurting, I figured he was just getting what Mikayla had first, and I have now practically lost my voice from - a nasally, respiratory thing. But, when the first episode recurred four more times over the next four hours, well, I think there's more to it than gagging on a bit of mucus build-up.... (sorry, TMI). Hmmm, well, how are we going to work a sick kiddo in to my busy Friday schedule? John began reciting from the Bible at one point, "Consider it pure joy my friends when we experience trials....." hmmm, I'm still a ways off from feeling the joy.

But, as inspired as I am by Bonnie's efforts at 30 Days of Thankfulness, I'd like to add a few things that I've found myself thankful for in these "trials of many kinds".

- Brayden was an amazing sport about being sick. He could have handled it a lot differently, and yet he was very sweet. That makes a big difference when it comes to a dad and mom's willingness to help out.

- Speaking of Dad, he handled the worst of it last night. He was the first one on the scene and took care of the initial clean-up. What a guy.

- Mom worked on me on Wednesday and yesterday was the first day without even turning to Advil in a while. I think my muscles did a little tensing up after last night, but I am so thankful for her gifts and talents in helping to get my body back to a state where it doesn't hurt so much.

- The men (in particular) in John's life who have really stepped up to encourage him this week. There have been a couple of guys, especially, who have really touched his heart with their support and it's meant a ton to him.

- After the indulgence of the Halloween festivities, I set out to really try hard this week in eating restrictively and working out. I've even done a daily food journal. The scales were kind this morning, (I haven't weighed in a long time) and that feels like quite an accomplishment.

I'm sure I'll come up with more. Of course, I'm most thankful that things aren't worse, that we are blessed in many ways with an amazing family and friends. But, here's to hoping November makes a turn for the better...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Guest Post by Stephietoo

Stephie's request to do a guest post came at a great time as I'm feeling less than inspired this week with my own writing. However, her story is very inspiring so here goes:


Travis left on Tuesday for Las Vegas to attend the SEMA show (Specialty Equipment Market Association), which represents the automotive specialty and performance parts industry. He won't be gone long; returning Friday evening, but I still don't like it when he is away during the nights. I get kind of lonely without him, as does Bogey. He will sit at the garage door and cry for Travis and when I let him in the garage to check things out, he sits where Travis' car should be and cries. Poor baby!

After Travis' plane took off on Tuesday, these arrived at my work:

And, this is what the card said:
I must say, I have the BEST husband in the whole wide world! Thank you so much, Travis, for showing me that you love me and that you will miss me by sending me flowers. Hurry home honey, I miss you, Bogey misses you, and we both love you very much! Love, Stephie

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hanging Heads

When I walked towards the stadium where Brayden was to play his football game on Sunday, two other teams were walking out. They had just played their play-off game, and I found myself wondering if I could tell who won based entirely on body language. The blue team didn't give much away, there weren't a ton of smiles, they were just chatting with their parents or each other, but almost every single red player had his head hung down. They walked as if defeated. I never did verify my guesses, but it seemed pretty obvious.

It got me wondering if I would be able to detect who's a republican and who's a democrat based on body language today. I know this election meant a whole lot to a whole lot of people and I imagine there will be some on Cloud Nine today and others very stressed out. I have to say that I'm very pleased that the passions surrounding this election brought record numbers to the polls. This country can't afford to be apathetic, and having an election where people cared says something about the strength of our country.

I'm also very pleased that the ads will stop, the conspiracy theories and investigations will be a little less outspoken. Perhaps in this very left-leaning community, there might even be less negativism in the letters to the editor as much of the decision-making in D.C. will be made by Democrats!

Monday, November 03, 2008

In a Better Place

At 6:36 pm, Patrick Joseph Riley went to be with the Lord. He had all three of his sons by his side, two of his daughter-in-laws were able to say their good-byes, and 2 of his 4 grandchildren were also able to bid him farewell. I took the kids home at around 5, they were absolutely exceptional during the 2 and a half hours they were there, doing their homework without complaint, quietly playing their DS games (with headphones) and staying subdued and respectful. They really seemed to grasp the whole scenario - in so many ways, they drive me crazy with how silly they can be - and self-centered, and then, times like today I realize when it comes to the big picture situations, they really do get it.

After we left, the nurse commented that he seemed to be hanging on for some reason. It dawned on the boys to call Pat's brother, Mike, who lives in another state. They put John's cell phone up to Pat's ear and encouraged Mike to talk to him. Before that phone call even ended, Pat passed on. As I spoke to John just now, I remarked that when I said my good-bye to him with Mikayla, his eyelid seemed to scrunch tighter, as if acknowledging me. They say hearing is the last to go, and I believe his case is yet another example that he knew enough, to recognize when he finally achieved the closure he desired and could go on to finally be with Jesus.

Pat

I'm typing from John's iPhone at the bedside of John's dad, Pat. We are being told he is going through the final stages of dying - he appears to be unconscious, is running a high fever, and gasping for breath within his oxygen mask. It's very heartbreaking, but we are confident he will soon be experiencing a peace and love so beyond anything he ever experienced here on Earth, as Pat long ago comitted his heart to Christ. Please pray for this final time for him, as well as strength for our (John's) family as Pat's relationship with them has not been easy.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Tough Loss

No, I'm not referring to the Duck loss, but that was a sad one too. I'm referring to Brayden's football team's first play-off game in their single elimination tournament to see who competes at Autzen. Given that they only lost one game during their season play, I think we all had expectations that the kids would make it through the play-offs - or at least through the first couple. But this first team we played was a doozy - lots of big and tall players that were up 13-0 on us by the first half. The second half, we turned around and scored two touchdowns, but missed both of our point-after attempts, leaving the game-ending score at 13-12. We were actually making a drive down the field, when one of our throws was intercepted, so it was an especially painful ending.

There were lots of boys with tears. Lots of parents with heavy hearts. It's been a season of many ups and downs for our family and I'm encouraged that Brayden has stuck with it and stayed predominately positive through the season. A week ago, he was awarded "Player of the Day" honors during a Friday night practice and that was especially gratifying to him as he got to be one of the four team captains that walked out on to the field and dealt with the coin toss. This week he made a significant tackle and was very pleased with himself.

Next year, there will be a new coach for the team that Brayden will play on, as this team's coach will move up with his son, who's outgrown this level. Hopefully, Brayden will have done a bit of growing too, both physically and emotionally so that he can step foot on the field feeling like a significantly contributing veteran player. We're very proud of him for doing as much growing as he's already done this year.

As I put up some of the pictures John took of the games this year (he started a Flickr account in order to have them available to the whole team - he's literally taken thousands of pictures of this team....), know that Brayden is #9. In one picture you'll see some good looking college kids - the one holding up 9 fingers is John's college buddy, Aaron - the guy he's been meeting with this year and last - and who rounded up all of his buddies to go wakeboarding in those frigid temps. It totally made Brayden's day to have those guys show up just for him. Also, special thanks to Mom and Dad, Leona, and Travis and Stephanie who've shown up for so many of the games as well. What a great support network that little guy has....




Saturday, November 01, 2008

Stephie Update

Right before we started Trick or Treating, Stephie shared the good news with me that her CAT scan came back positive. While that may sound like a bad thing, they were actually hoping for the CAT scan to detect something, which would mean calcification is evident, vs. the more worrisome "bleed scenario".

While there isn't a whole lot more information now on what all of that calcification means, or what its effects have already been regarding her sleep cycle, the doctor is not overly concerned. He would like Stephie to continue to monitor her headaches for the next month, and if they continue (or get worse), to then see a neurologist for his recommendations on scenarios for relief.

Thank you for all of prayers and support!