Saturday, February 28, 2009


Stephie, Mikayla, Ellie, Nati, Leona, and I spent a big chunk of the day today at the State Fairgrounds. We were there to watch my niece, Ali, perform in an All-Star Cheerleading competition. There were A LOT of performers - in fact, just in the division that Ali was competing in, there were 65 sets of performances. Ali's group was #38 out of those 65, so, we got to wait a while. (It didn't help that the event was poorly organized and already 45 minutes behind pace once we arrived). But, it was very special to see so many focused, enthusiastic kids - demonstrating such extraordinary talent.

This is a close-up of Ali - taken right before they went out to the mat - I was so delighted that she saw us as we never were able to locate her mom, Mary Beth, or sister, Andie. At least Ali knew we showed up!

This is where the girls spent about a third of the time we were there. They enjoyed getting high fives from the cheerleaders as they went by. Incidentally, the reason we had Nati and Ellie is that the Schilling kids are ours for the second half of this weekend - Michael and Michele are enjoying a much-needed overnight get-away.....

Ali's team - the group huddle....

Ali is in the forefront in the back row.....

Without a major zoom lens, I wasn't able to really grab some awesome shots - but I thought this one, catching the girl mid-air, was pretty cool.
I'll have to add a post-script once I find out how Ali's team ended up placing - as we had to leave immediately following her performance so that we could go get Traig and Baxter and take all of the kids home. No matter what the awards say, we know Ali is a star!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Not Sure What Simon Would Say.....

But we were all "thumbs up". On Friday night, Travis, Stephie, the kids, John, and I all attended CCF's (Collegiate Christian Fellowship - the college group we hang out with from our church) Third Annual Talent Show. It was a hoot, and in this economy, a wonderful way to entertain ourselves for a mere $2 each. Mikayla was bummed that she couldn't compete in her dazzling (and obsessive) jump roping talents, but they did reserve the evening for college-aged performers.

This group of guys were hilarious - they were playing "Rock Band" and according to Travis and Stephanie, doing an amazing job - Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" made the performance even more entertaining.....

This is Abby and Mary Ann, aka "The Cougars" - who were the emcees of the show. Very funny.

The guy that looks like Grizzly Adams is Reid, and the other gentleman is Andrew. Despite their sketchy appearances they are two TOTAL CLASS ACTS. In fact, my gal, Kara, gets to claim Andrew as hers. Recently, all three of them returned with a handful of others from a mission trip to New Orleans. They sacrificed half of their holiday break to go help those in need. So impressive - almost as impressive as the balancing act that these guys did with the big beach ball.

This little dude CRACKED US UP. He, and his slightly older brother, were running all over the place without shirts and had very little sense of personal space or stranger concern. This guy came over to our table and sat right down, helping himself to the plate of goodies Brayden had just got for himself from the refreshment table. Brayden's expression says it all, "What's the deal, dude?"

This group was awesome - they did a performance based on "The Newsies".

Just so you know, this guy was in the middle of a backward flip in the air.

Finally, an overhead view of the program (the event took place in the lobby of our First Baptist Church). These performers were doing a repeat of the "Joyful, Joyful" act from "Sister Act 2" that they first debuted when I was acting as a judge for the womens' Trinity House dance-off.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Go Worship Leaders!

I'm being very careful to not post this until after West Coast results of American Idol. But if you haven't watched it, but are planning on it, don't read any further.

I'm just giddy because out of the 6 finalists - HALF of them are worship leaders! Is that nuts or what? I had heard yesterday on K-LOVE that Kris Allen from group 2 was also a worship leader (in addition to the two guys picked last week - I knew one of them was, but K-LOVE verified the other one was too). So, last night we rooted for Kris and he did a great job with "Man In the Mirror" - and what do you know - but HE'S IN! Can you imagine the camaraderie among those guys in the emerging Top 12? So, incredibly cool...... America has done a good job in their voting...... (And it makes me wonder who deserves to be among the Top 12 from our church!)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The PC Term is "Guest Teacher"....

.....And that was me today! Yup, first day of subbing. Not bad since my name only got put in the system on Tuesday. I have a feeling it was luck, though, I think I checked the computerized system (I'm obsessed) at just the right time.

Anyway, today I was the guest music teacher. Mmmm hmmm, that's right - me and music. Qualified, oh no way! But, it was in the elementary, so I laid in bed last night thinking about the lyrics to fun camp songs just in case I had to find a way to fill time......

Fortunately, that wasn't necessary. I'm sure the teacher I subbed for was tortured over having to have a sub for the 4 hours that I covered as it only contained 3 half hour classes! Bummer for her, praises for me. Therefore, I spent a lot of time cutting out "Cat in the Hat" pictures for her, and those classes I did have were pretty good. They were 4th and 5th graders, who, according to lesson plans, got to pick the groups of four they wanted to be with. That meant: 1) there was lots of drama over who got to be in each group and 2) all of the rowdy boys grouped together. By the third class, I had a much better handle on the management aspect, but even class #1 was tolerable.

So, I survived. And, I'll still be obsessively looking for those assignments. As most subs, er, I mean "guest teachers" would tell you, it is so much easier working for a job that you already knowing is coming, vs. waking up to the phone call, wondering and waiting.....

Monday, February 23, 2009

From Neutral to Nascar

That was the best I could come up with a title for this post. I'm basically saying this day started so lazy, so relaxed, and by the time I'm writing this, I feel like we had to hit 100 mph, and woah, I sure wasn't ready for it.

As for the start of the day, after taking Mikayla to school, I just hung out with my Brayden. We started out playing Bolt on the PS2 - and then moved on to the Lego Star Wars game. In this game, two people get to play simultaneously. We were moving through the "Empire Strikes Back" storyline, me playing as Princess Leia and Brayden as Han Solo - what a hoot! Sometimes, you get stuck in rooms where you don't know what to do next, and I found myself killing time while Brayden tried to figure it out, by taking out C3PO - leaving him without an arm or a leg - or randomly slapping Han Solo. We were both laughing so hard, it was a priceless moment together.

Then, the time came where we had to head to the school to pick up Mikayla, drop off Brayden's class' fundraiser stuff, and then pick up the work that he had missed and had as homework. That's when the day changed. SO MUCH WORK! Not to mention, the teacher making the realization as I was standing there, that he hadn't even done a couple of assignments he was supposed to have finished last week (incomplete journal entries). All this stuff, it all involved WRITING! Let me tell you, that's not an easy task for my boy. Sure, he likes the idea of creative writing, but getting the thoughts from his head then on to paper, in a well-formulated thought pattern.....a very difficult thing for this guy!

Case in point, once we got home, he sat there with that Journal Entry assignment (he's supposed to pretend to be a character on the Oregon Trail and journal what his experiences and feelings are) - and it took an hour to get two sentences written. This is without the tv on, Mikayla in the other room, as much stripped away to keep him from being distracted. I finally allowed him to dictate his ideas to me while I "transcribed" so that he could "keep up with his thoughts" without forgetting all of the train of thought by the time he reached the second word in the sentence. Of course, he had to rewrite it all on his own (and even just recopying the words took a LONG time). He's seriously been at work on some aspect of his homework for about 4 hours at this point.

This writing thing, my gosh, so tough to teach! I feel like, on one hand, I'm totally enabling, but then, on the other hand, I'm modeling the right way to write. Long story short, since grades are kind of a moot point (and his teacher never returns anything to us to let us actually know how he did on stuff....), I figure it's better to err on the side of over-helping when it comes to writing. It's not like math where, if a parent steps in too much, they never learn the concept. You don't just all of a sudden have a light bulb flash on when it comes to writing. Sentence length, remembering punctuation and capitals, topic sentences, adding your own "voice" - like I said, not easy. And, especially not easy when you have a child that struggles with his attentiveness.

So, there you go. The day ended much differently than it began. We're all about to head to bed, and Brayden is still finishing a different part of the Oregon Trail work (deciding which of the 92 items and how much of each he'll take on his wagon). Health-wise, Brayden is doing better, but needed some more medicine this afternoon as I think it was all too much and he was getting warm again. I think it's sad that I'm sending him off to school tomorrow (at least for the morning) so that we don't end up with him even further behind - and we're only in 4th grade. Because, really, I just want to be Princess Leia again......

Introducing Celila

Early Saturday morning, a new member of the Alexander family arrived. Her name is Celila, and she is a 6 year old Lipizzan mare. It's really a neat story of how Mom acquired her, and was able to find Jubilee (the white horse in which all of the pictures of the kids' riding were taken with) a home with someone who was more compatible with her. Yes, horses have personalities, just like people - and when you are training and partnering to achieve goals in Dressage, "liking" each other is important. Jubilee could be a bit of snot with Mom. Jubilee very much loved all of the attention she got from the kids though, probably because she was being treated as the Princess she felt like she deserved to be. However, Mom was getting a little tired of her "royal" attitude.

As beautiful as Celila is, she is not done growing and changing. As is true for Lipizzans, she was born dark, and over time is becoming more and more white. She's never been ridden or trained, as she was born at a location where breeding was the priority. (She's already been a mom). Mom is a little frustrated at the idea of starting from scratch, but I believe it will be an extraordinary opportunity as they work together and Celila learns all of her skills just from Mom.

Mom thought that the attention we all gave her yesterday was probably more than she's really ever received. Me, being the foolishly fearless person around horses that I am, willingly got in the paddock to love on her. You could tell from some of her ear posturing that she was a little concerned, but in no way threatening. I think she's a real sweetie - and very photogenic!

And, let us not forget Holly. She's a beauty too - and very special to Mom's heart. At 15, she'll quickly put Celila into her right place, and probably let her in on just how lucky Celila is to be part of Mom's family........

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Back from Urgent Care

Two and a half hours later, my poor little man was finally able to exit our local hospital's Urgent Care facility. Long story short, while I was out grocery shopping, Brayden really started wheezing and John felt like he should head on over. Fortunately, Michele was still down, so both John and I could focus on our little buddy and Mikayla could play at home.

As I suspected, Brayden has some sort of chest virus - nothing Antibiotics would fix. His oxygen level is fine, so he's just wheezing through some chest muck. He left with a temporary inhaler should he experience that breathing struggle again.

Because Brayden had missed his "next dose" of Advil, by the time he saw the Triage nurse, he was up to 104 degrees. Fortunately, that prompted them to dose him immediately with Tylenol. By the time he got back to the real doc, he'd perked up considerably.

So, everyone's home now. Brayden will for sure be home from school tomorrow and now I won't have to take him to his normal pediatrician. Based on the amount of people in the lobby, it was clear there's a whole lot of other sickies out there! It sure makes us thankful for the health we do have.......

Our Sick Little Boy

Brayden is fighting a pretty intense respiratory bug right now. We first noticed it in the middle of the night (following Friday) as he was having intense nightmares and sweating tremendously - not to mention running a fever. We went ahead and let him go to his basketball game, as he seemed to be feeling better (compliments of Advil), but as it turned out, I took him home after the second half so he could just "lay down"..... Poor guy. You know he's feeling cruddy when he asks to leave a sport he enjoys and all of his favorite buddies.

It's one of those scenarios that as long as he has a fever-reducer in him, he's doing "okay" - but declines in a hurry after about 4 hours. He's wheezing as he breathes now, has a terribly "croupy" cough and has all but lost his voice. I'm anticipating a no-school day for Brayden tomorrow....not to mention, a likely visit to the doctor. I'm also giving him Mucinex, hoping that will keep things from getting too terrible in his lungs and make his coughs more productive.

It's been a while since we've seen Brayden deal with this kind of "sick". More recently, it's been a stomach bug that's taken the whole family out - or the occasional run-of-the-mill head colds that don't put a stop to daily activities. And, I know this sounds awful, but there is something incredibly tender, endearing, and cuddly that happens when Brayden gets sick. All of my mothering instincts go into overdrive, because he's a "brave little soldier" who doesn't whine at all, and it makes me just want to take care of him. Some of his best character qualities seem to shine even brighter when he's under the weather. Honestly, when he was a really little guy, one of my favorite time periods with him was the week following his tonsil removal. He was more subdued, super sweet, braver than expected - just really special to hang out with.

So, while I pray Brayden gets better - and nothing becomes too serious - I am savoring this reprieve from the normal crazy routine we get lost in. Last night, Brayden cuddled with me on our monster bean bag as we watched HSM3 on DVD. The evening was made even more cozy as Michele and the kids were down - and the Whites were over. Just the sort of night I've been longing for..... Throw in Monday's "Chuck" episode and laughing with a DVR'd "Wipeout" and it was a very entertaining television evening.

Hope your family is able to avoid the "creeping crud", but if not, I hope you are able to see some sort of ray of light through it all.....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Our American Idol Choice

John and I just got around to watching the conclusion of American Idol this week. We didn't realize it, but we actually missed the final performance from Tuesday night - not aware that it was our favorite guy, Danny Gokey that performed.

So, to hear his performance AFTER it was announced he made it to the TOP 12 made it even more special. He sang Mariah Carey's "Hero" - and did a phenomenal job. We then went back and watched his original performance from Tuesday night and saw all of the judges giving him such positive feedback.

Yup, that guy's our hero. Upon further investigation, we found out he works for Faith Builders International Church as a music director (looks like a great church from their Statement of Faith). As has been repeatedly mentioned, his wife died just four weeks prior to his first audition, and his best friend, Jamar, (who also attends the church with him) made it to the Top 54. Apparently, his wife died during surgery for a heart condition - and he never got to say good-bye to her.

John and I not only love his sound, but also his whole character. Sometimes, on this show, you get a feel from the very beginning about who you want to root for all the way through. (Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, both Davids....yup, all of our early picks-) This one is our guy. It was also nice to see Michael Sarver, the oil driller, and Alexis Grace, who did not have her past story highlighted through the previous shows (which I think is very unfair) go through. I think John and I would have stopped watching had Tatiana beat out Danny at the end!

Here's a YouTube link of Danny's performance, if this doesn't show it, undoubtedly, there will be some video on there that will showcase him.

How about you? Any early pics?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


This came in the mail last week. Of course, I knew it was coming - I had to pay for it, afterall.... But, its arrival officially took out any and all barricades left to keep me from being in a position to start earning a paycheck of my own.

For those who live in other states, Oregon requires that you have a degree in education in order to substitute. I have that, but not all of the furthering education to take on my own classroom at this point. Which is fine, I have absolutely NO DESIRE to do that......

As it is, I'm only opening myself up to work during the mornings and I sincerely doubt that it will amount to much more than one morning per week. (Talk about part time!). We'll see; by only committing to the mornings it doesn't take any time away from the kids. Our school starts early enough for me to be able to drop them off and still get to the assignment beginning at 8, and ending by 12 has me home before they are, even on early release. But, by restricting myself just to morning calls only, I wonder how often I'll get called at all.

Am I excited about all this? - Nope, actually a little scared and nervous. I think the fact that Michele puts in about 30 hours every week doing this makes me realize I'm capable. It's funny; it's the pace of the elementary school environment that intimidates me, and the kids in the middle school that intimidate me. However, it will be kind of wild to go back now that my kids are deep in the public school realm themselves. (BTW: I'll make myself available to grades K-8, and will not be working in the same district as where my kids go to school....I'll stick to the schools I am familiar with, where I used to work - and even went to school myself).

As for the reasons why I'm making this "return" - well, it was something that was on my heart since last year - thinking it might not be a bad idea once the kids are both in full-time school. With the economy being what it is, well, putting a little extra money aside is always smart. (Particularly if we want to get to Disneyworld next year and splurge while we're there...). Plus, I hope that I can be a "good day" for kids when I come in. Sub days are always "unique" days for kiddos, and if I can turn them into special days, (and still get the job done) - well, that would mean I'm doing a good thing (though, I guess, it would technically just be special mornings.....).

So, don't hold your breath for my first "sub-report", it might take a while. But, tomorrow, I'll take this certificate in and sign myself up - here goes nothing!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Our Kind of Get-Away

We just returned from Applebee's and Cold Stone Creamery. Through the compliments of gift cards and coupons, this has turned out to be a very inexpensive adventure. Most of our eating has been done in the room with food we've brought from home that we can keep in the fridge and microwave. (Gotta love that John is in love with Lean Cuisine Paninis right now....).

After 2 and a half days together in tight proximity to one another, the family has really bonded. I know it sounds very odd and makes little sense - why we would leave a house with plenty to offer, to hunker down into a very ordinary hotel space without that much to offer - but, it is very cozy for our family. Everybody hangs out on the king size bed - or perhaps in the couch area within eyesight, and we all do "our thing". John and Brayden have discovered a dirt bike racing game off the internet, I finished reading Ted Dekker's THE KISS (good, but not his best) - and while I was reading, Mikayla asked that I pull out big words and see if she could pronounce them. (Unbelievable how that girl has taken off with her reading.....). Earlier, the boys played football in the pool (we had it to ourselves), while Mikayla and I worked out in the adjacent workout room. All pretty exciting stuff, eh? But, it's the sort of thing that draws us all close, has us uttering the words "Cozy" and "I love you" over and over. Pretty much the only tension is just how hyper the kids can get, conspiring in their giggles and silliness, which, in itself, can be a hard one to be too upset about.

I want to put a special shout-out to a dear friend that moved away to Arizona a couple of years ago that I found out reads my blog. I wrote on your blog, my friend - but know that we are thinking of you and missing you!

Hope you all enjoy your extended weekend tomorrow, if you get the chance - Gotta go - the new season of "Amazing Race" is just about to start!

A couple of pictures to add:

Ever since our trip to Hawaii, Brayden has requested that any time our family goes on vacation, that he and Daddy would get to take a special walk together. That happened this morning - it wasn't a long walk - just across the street to the park, and it didn't last long - it was mighty cold!

And, here's a shot of the kids watching the snow fall out the hotel window:

Finally, a couple of I-Phone shots taken while we were eating at Applebees:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentines Day!

Greetings everyone!

We're in the high desert of Oregon now where it's currently snowing outside and everything's blanketed white. It's gorgeous and all is practically perfect. We're all snuggled in our little hotel room, the kids already playing with their Valentines' treat.

What keeps it from hitting the "perfection" level? Hmmm, that would be my stress about leaving the Marriott gift certificates home!!! Can you believe it? I wrote so many lists this week, I can't believe that MOST IMPORTANT THING did not make it to any of them!

So, we're in a bit of a standstill right now- trying to decide if we need to make the 6 hour (5 hour if snow and traffic aren't part of the mix) round trip back home to retrieve the "golden tickets". We have some friends back home that we think might be heading this direction so we've been trying to get a hold of them to see if they might be able to swing by our house and grab them on their way out of town.

For someone who prides herself on planning get-aways and being pretty organized in this area of life - I'm feeling awfully humbled!

P.S. - I think we might have found a solution - Jodi's dear friend, Jaylene is heading over the pass today and she kindly agreed to break into our house to retrieve our certificates! We'll forever be in her debt!!!


Here's a picture of our sleepy-eyed kiddos, tearing into their Valentines' treats:

And this is the front and back of the VERY precious Valentine Brayden made for me, all on his own initiative, that just blessed my heart so much. Nearly 10 years old, and he still wants me as his Valentine, sigh...... (Mikayla's card accidentally got left at home, hmmm, I can't believe she'd forget something so important.....!!! - she's nothing like her mommy, huh?!)

P.S.S. - Huge thanks to Brian, Jaylene, Jodi, and Travis who all worked together to get our certificates to us! And, for the record, "Paul Blart, Mall Cop" is a pretty fun little flick!

NOW, All is well!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I Got Nothin'...

Somehow, last night, some little elf got into the house and put a vice grip on my head! At least that's what it felt like when I woke up! Thank God for Advil and Cold Medicines. I was just telling Linda that after dealing repeatedly with tension headaches, to have a headache of another nature (i.e. - head cold) felt so strange......

Our family is headed to Bend this weekend. We are staying three nights in a hotel (courtesy of some gift certificates we have) - and just having our own little family retreat. I envision lots of tv viewing, game playing, swimming in the indoor pool, and perhaps going to see "Paul Blart, Mall Cop" at the movie theater on Valentines about romantic!! I really can't wait - I am so excited to escape for a while, just the four of us. In the meantime, I just have to get to Friday.

So, since I have nothing inspiring to write - or am simply not inspired to write anything inspiring, I'll throw these two questions out, just for fun.

1. What is your current favorite breakfast cereal - particularly, the sugary, sweet kind if you ever indulge in such things.....

(I love all dry cereals - it's the hardest part of doing any Atkins diet for me. I think if milk were involved I'd have to say, "Honey Smacks" - and without milk - "Lucky Charms" - I eat all the non-marshmallow pieces first, and then indulge in the crunchy marshmallow goodness)

2. What was your favorite cartoon as a child?

("Superfriends"!!! We recently found a VCR long-play tape from where I recorded about 8 hours of vintage "Superfriends" off of the Boomerang channel about 5 years ago. It's been a kick watching them as Mikayla falls asleep - love those "Wonder Twins" - Zan and Jana, and their space monkey, Gleek. Can't tell you how many times between Michele AND John that the words "Wonder Twin powers activate" have been said with the fists reaching out to each other..... I guess it's a twin thing.....)

Monday, February 09, 2009

What a Treat!

My original plans for Saturday were to strip and wax the kitchen floor and sort and put away about 7 loads of laundry. So you can imagine my total disappointment when we were given 4 tickets to the 12:30 Duck basketball game and realized we would be otherwise occupied as a family during that time I had intended to devote to slave labor..... MAN! What a rough life I live.

The seats were exceptional - and despite the Ducks' poor record this year - they delivered a very entertaining and competitive first half against Arizona. It was made even more special as Nike's Phil Knight was in attendance, along with Ahmad Rashad, Dennis Dixon, and Dave Frohmayer (who sat just two rows down from us!) in order to celebrate the ground-breaking of the new Arena. Pretty cool.

On Sunday morning, as John was looking at the paper's write-up, he noticed that we were in the sports' section front page picture. You see the two basketball players and as you look to the background, there we are - standing against the wall! We were actually preparing to leave a minute early......glad we weren't caught in motion walking out!

Special thanks to the special folks who gave us the tickets - for a very special family treat!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Sphere of Influence

After having spent a couple of months with the presence of Facebook in our lives, it's got me thinking. How many of the decisions I've made have been influenced or motivated by the folks I've chosen to keep company with: my community, my circle of friends - my "sphere of influence"? Last night, in bed, I started accumulating a list of things that could possibly be different if I were around different friends.....

1. How we handle our finances; i.e. credit card debt, envelope plans, college savings, extravagant vacations?
2. Would we be homeschooling, or having our children attend private schools?
3. TV viewing: at all, reality shows, soap operas, evening dramas, late night comedy?
4. Extra curricular activities for our kids- participation in certain sports, AWANAS, boy/girl scouts, at all?
5. Reading material: Christian nonfiction only, Christian fiction, anything else - or even gossip magazines?
6. The responsible consumption of alcohol- never or done with appropriate moderation?
7. Movie viewing: G, PG, PG13, and what you allow your children to see?
8. The specific denomination and style of the church we choose to attend?
9. Involvement (or not) in Bible studies or ministry activities?
10. Clothing, hair, and make-up: Keeping up with styles, professional hair colorings, etc?

I know there's a ton more, I believe I had quite a list going in bed last night, but it really was a fascinating thought process I was on. If I lived in Dallas, in Michele's community, what might be different? If I lived down in Medford, near some of my friends from college, what might be different?

It does make me ever so thankful for the wonderful and positive company that we do keep. And, makes me ever-mindful to make sure that when it comes time for deep decision making, John and I are doing it based on what we believe God has in mind for us and not based on whatever "everyone else" is doing......

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A Total 180

This is the third year Brayden has played basketball. I think he began when he was in first grade - skipped second grade, and then has played for the last two years. His coach is Mike - that would be "Growinwithit" Linda's next door neighbor and Kyle's dad. Mike is an exceptional coach, absolutely encouraging to the kids, with a high value placed on sportsmanship. We feel very blessed to have him. After the first game, Mike asked John if he would be willing to be "Assistant Coach". Originally Mike intended to rotate through the dads for that position, but after that game, Mike felt like he and John worked well together, so John's had that job ever since. It's neat to see John take on this role, and of course, gives Brayden a lot of pride - and bonds he and his daddy even more.

The title refers to Brayden's demonstration of skills from last year to this year. We weren't even sure it was something Brayden wanted to do again this year - he enjoyed last year, but didn't show that much proficiency or interest. But, it gave him something to do, and with Mike coaching, it was hard to resist. As it turned out, several of his closest friends are also on the team - particularly Mark and Amy's son, Andrew. Because they attend different schools and have different sports interests, it's been a while since they've been on a team together. So, even before the first game, we all felt great about our decision. And then, we watched Brayden play and thought, "Wow - that's our boy?!" He's playing with focus. He's hustling. He's competitive and aggressive (not obnoxious though). It's actually impressive - and so exciting.... So, while he still could use some "ball control" improvement, we are mighty proud parents of how far he's come.

Here's the team - this game was at 8:30 this morning - and you can tell that all the boys weren't quite prepared...they still look half asleep!

When Brayden was going for a shot, he got fouled. Here's his shot - and the result! Way to go, dude!

Here's Andrew's shot - midair - that did count for two points!

A little dribbling action by our boy-

The game ended with the ball just released by one of the boys on the other team as the buzzer sounded. The score WAS 28-28, but unbelievably, that ball soared through the air and swished through the net. While our loss was a bummer, I bet that boy will remember his heroic effort for the rest of his life!

Friday, February 06, 2009

And the Winner Is......

Michele actually pulled the name out of the pot from all of the folks who participated in the Caption Contest - the winner is..........BONNIE! (Didn't you win Heather's giveaway too?) I'm sending your prize in the mail today......

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Why I Don't Do "Trainers"

Several of my friends are currently involved in a Boot Camp right now. This is the third of four weeks and I'm so proud of them for all of their hard work. This is the same boot camp John did, however, it's been modified to just meet once a day instead of twice - and is set in the middle of the day to work out best for "Stay-at-Home" moms.

I've been encouraged on a number of occasions to participate in one of the versions of these camps - especially this one. But, my answer is an adamant "No - it's not for me"*. And, I truly believe that. It's not that I think I couldn't do it, it's more of what it would take for me to do it. Not only physically, but emotionally. I think I would constantly be beating myself up that I wasn't able or willing to run faster, didn't study hard enough for the written tests, or pull myself up enough repetitions in the sit-ups. I'd like to think otherwise, but I know I would be continuously scanning my "competition" - wishing them well with my lips, but constantly wondering if I had enough in me to run faster, lift more, or test higher. I can say all of this with quite a bit of certainty because that's what high school was like. And, more than likely, why I still have weekly dreams of not measuring up.

And, along with that - if there is a standard set before me - an expectation - I will generally try to prove that I can achieve it, but unfortunately do it with a great deal of resentment - and thus, false motives. If a coach yells at me, wanting more, you can bet I'd deliver, but it would kill me that I hadn't been able to deliver prior to her asking, thus not being good enough.

So, I can guarantee, if I were to work with a trainer, I'd be in better physical shape than I am now. But, emotionally - very doubtful.

As you can guess, the motivation of this post has nothing to do with exercise. I recently went through a circumstance with someone where it was suggested I "could have been doing more" in the past. I won't go into details, and trust me when I say that this person has a tremendous love for me and only wants what is best. But, hearing that - Oh man, it put me in a tailspin. "How dare they suggest that?" "Who do they think they are?" "Did I ask for them to be my ______ "trainer"?" Bottom line, I will learn SO much better if a person walks their life in demonstration of success..... whether that be their exercise regime and the way they feel about their body and health, whether that be the kind of family unit they have and how their children/husband responds to them, whether that be the way they walk their Christian walk - or serve others..... than I will ever learn if someone orders me to "task". Sure, that diet, work-out, Quiet Time, or whatever else might happen - but at what cost?

This all makes me so thankful for the discovery of God's abundant grace that I really came to realize in college. I grew up with a Grandma that I got the opportunity to spend a lot of time with. Grandpa was around too, but Grandma did a lot more of the talking.....! Although she was a very strong Christian she did not do a very good job sharing the concept of grace. She loved me unconditionally (almost in a smothering way), but always wanted more-of and for me. If there's any adult scarring I have in my life, that occurred as a child - I would have to say this would be it. I don't handle well folks who ask for more than I'm willing to give of my own volition. I get very defensive when folks point out my faults. And, I ache inside when I feel like I've let folks down - and they tell me that. (Who doesn't?).

The change that happened when I realized God loves me through grace completely transformed my view of my Heavenly Father. You mean, it doesn't matter how much I do, how many people I witness to, how often I'm in my Bible, how often I screw matter what - if I've invited Him into my heart and accepted His gift.....I'm GUARANTEED a place in Heaven?! That is SO NOT the message I understood growing up. I realized I instantly wanted to give even more of myself to Jesus - to serve Him even more - to spend time with Him even more..... NOT BECAUSE I HAD TO, but because I WANTED TO. What a concept!

So, to pull it full circle - I'm so glad I have a Heavenly Father that I can turn to as my ultimate "Trainer". His Holy Spirit does a fantastic job nudging me when I'm not where I'm supposed to be, reminding me of God's love, but not letting me be content unless I'm striving for where He wants me to be. With God as my "Trainer" - I no longer feel like the bar is so high, I'll never reach it, or I will always fall no matter how many times I jump for it. I also know that what my "Trainer" wants for me is SO UNIQUE, SO PERSONAL, that there is no way I can look around to others and make comparisons. He knows me INSIDE AND OUT and therefore knows exactly the precise place he has for me - in ministry, as a wife, as a mother, or through any other role. If my place doesn't look like everyone else's - as long as I'm confident I'm in God's place - I'm okay with that.

So, now, if only I can take that confidence to beat down all of those old belief systems....sigh. But until I get there.... I don't do "trainers".**

* If you ever hear of me signing up for some kind of boot camp and think I've become a hypocrite - I'm not ruling all of these sorts of things out - I'm just not a big fan of the way this one is structured - there's always a "winner declared" - points that are recorded, and this trainer is a little "strong" in his personalities and opinions....not for me.

**I'm also not saying that there's not a place for teachers, mentors, pastors, Bible Study leaders, etc. in my life - I'm just saying that they won't be invited to act as my "Holy Spirit".


Of course, I laid in bed thinking about this last night (wrote it yesterday) - and ON THE FLIPSIDE......... Challenge is a wonderful thing! Just knowing these ladies are doing great things for their bodies is making me want to do the same for me..... and the comradarie that they are all feeling as they go through this together - I'd be loving that!

So, don't get me wrong, here - in general - to be encouraged, held accountable, motivated, even corrected, challenged, etc..... ALL GOOD STUFF........... (I hope this post makes sense, don't be surprised if it ends up deleted!)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Facebook 25 Random Things

While my name isn't officially on our Facebook account, John is pretty content to let me share his. So when he got tagged by a friend of mine to do the 25 Random Things - I took the bait. I officially tag anyone of you out here in blogland who has a Facebook account to do that on your Facebook page (or on your blog). Incidentally, I assume you'd find John on Facebook by typing in John Riley or John Joseph Riley - and look for Eugene. You can also find him in the Friends of CCF group that has a Eugene listing. Please come on over and "Request Friendship" and I'll make sure it happens!

Here they are:
1. I am a twin who is married to a twin. We are both the Baby A’s (firstborns), both “technically” fraternal (though my sister and I question the results) – and no, our twins are not married to each other. They both married their spouses about three years before we married each other.
2. I have never “sucked helium” out of a balloon. Although I’m sure it’s safe, the idea scares me…..
3. I can’t stand the texture/taste of a wooden spoon or popsickle sticks. Watching someone lick one repetitively is like fingernails on a chalkboard for me.
4. I have very dry hair. The only reason I ever really need to wash it is because of “product build-up”. I can’t remember a time it’s ever felt greasy.
5. I have incredibly slow growing hair. If I decide to go for a short haircut, I can count on it being at least two years before I can reverse that decision.
6. I have a callous on my thumb (called a tendon callous) that makes my right thumb extra wide. It’s not a problem unless I’m bowling, because I like a very light ball and there aren’t many made that have large thumb holes!
7. I am very influenced by sunshine – particularly after Jan. 1st . Prior to Christmas, I’m okay with the grey-ish weather – it kind of adds to the coziness, but after the new year my attitude can swerve 180 degrees based on sunshine.
8. I really do enjoy horses – and love trail rides. I grew up with them as a constant in my life. However, I have been bucked off, kicked, stepped on, bitten in the neck, and rolled over by a horse (each of these by a different horse- and as for the last one, I was on the back behind my dad and the horse lost her footing on a hillside. Dad jumped off, but I held on, thus being rolled over by the horse).
9. I once had a cockroach crawl down my face while on a Mexico mission trip (while laying down to sleep). I haven’t been back to Mexico since!
10. I have a picture taken of myself with members of the Masai tribe of Kenya – taken on the beach in Mombasa, Kenya. I’m quite proud of that picture and the courage that experience required in my life.
11. I gave birth to my daughter in a portable hot tub set up in our hospital room. Labor pain didn’t begin until my water was broke, at midnight – and 35 minutes later Mikayla arrived. Yes, 35 minutes total of pain. Brayden was about 11 hours and 35 minutes…..and required an Intrethecal!
12. My twin sister and I will often call with the same thoughts on our mind – and often finish each other’s thoughts after one word of the sentence has been uttered.
13. Despite the chlorine and overall potential for nastiness – I am much more at ease swimming in a pool than the ocean or a lake.
14. However, because I was in love, I once jumped into a lake/bayou in Louisiana – we were in the center of this huge body of water, but it still felt like bath water in temperature. And yes, along the sides of this lake there did live crocodiles.
15. One of my biggest dreams is to swim with dolphins. I hope to accomplish this goal in 2010 at Discovery Cove in Orlando.
16. One of the first reasons I was attracted to John after my previous break-up was because of his empathy. I had just been engaged and my fiancĂ© broke it off – he shared that that had happened to him, twice!
17. I rarely eat vegetables. I don’t enjoy them very much and count on a daily multivitamin to supply my needs. Even if they are very low in calories, I consider it a waste of my “joy of eating” to have to eat veggies.
18. I was once the “Head Cook” for the cafeteria in Canyon Village, Yellowstone. That is where I learned the best way to cook bacon is on a large cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven….
19. Michele and I were obsessed with being teachers as little kids. We had class lists, lunch lists, field trip permission slips, etc…. While I found some delight in my stint as a classroom teacher, it never lived up to those expectations as a child.
20. I broke my leg in three places by my ankle in the summer before my senior year. I did it while sliding into second place while playing softball. (I was safe!) I spent the summer in a cast up to my thigh – and had to learn how to walk all over again. For some reason, I’ve never enjoyed softball since then…
21. John and I did not kiss until the words “You may now kiss the bride” were declared. I’m proud of our self-control and for the reasons we chose to do this, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.
22. With that considered, the moment when that happened; “O Happy Day” was being sung by some of our favorite people, and the whole congregation/wedding party burst into applause and “whoops” - that moment was probably the best moment of my life.
23. When I was 18 months old, I contracted a virus that caused epiglotittis, which cut off my ability to breathe. As a result, I had to have an emergency tracheotomy. That scar on my neck sits right next to the scar from the horse bite. It’s no wonder that I like turtlenecks….
24. Probably the best day out of all last summer was the day I hiked 10 miles with my sister. We spent the whole way back praying. To be in nature, observant of the glory of God all around us, and intimately praying with someone who I hold back nothing from – it was amazing.
25. My greatest achievement in life was asking Jesus Christ into my heart. He is my source of strength, of hope, and I pray that my life would be a reflection of His glory.

Superbowl Parties, Monster Beanbags, and Awards...

I'm loving the involvement in coming up with captions. For the record, that wasn't my Pepsi, and while Amy can't remember why on Earth she'd have that look (or hasn't admitted it!), I suspect it might have been a moment when she was feeling her "pretty good" headache that night, or worried about not getting the video recorder to work because she knew Dave was going to sing and couldn't get her's downloaded in time to free up space.

I seriously have about 6 posts floating around in this head of mine, but not the motivation to sit down and pen them.....(or should I see "keyboard" them).... So, I'll start with the stuff that has to do with why I keep this blog - the family history of experiences - and go from there.

Here's the crew that assembled on Sunday to watch the Superbowl. Bad quality of picture, but I like how it showed the ONLY person who was rooting for the Steelers (actually, because of Dennis Dixon, I was too....) - (Lisa Q. was seated in the corner out of photo range)

And, here are the "others" who don't have quite as much interest in football......

I think I've eluded to issues we had with testosterone-driven dogs marking on one of our beanbags lately. If not, let's just say Baxter the puppy had an accident, Bogey the Beagle felt the need to clarify the beanbag was his territory, and then Mackie the terrier had to override him. We did our best to clean them, but these bean bags are beyond the "take the filling out and wash them stage" - they've been stitched up so many times, but they are just so comfy it's been hard to say good-bye. Not to mention how expensive good, big, beanbags are. But, with all of the "marking" John and I felt like it was time. We nearly purchased at Overstock, finding a good deal, but recognizing they might not be as big as our current denim ones. However, on a whim, I checked out Target online, and what do you know, but they have chocolate covered microfiber "foam-piece" filled beanbags for a relatively reasonable price. In addition, they had an extra 15% off homegoods, and I had an additional 10% off that - that all helped to cover the very expensive shipping and handling.

Unfortunately, they arrived the day after the Superbowl - and I could tell when the UPS guy brought them in on a trolley, why it cost so much. We unwrapped them, and they were like a sponge, as you jostled up the foam pieces, they kept growing and growing and growing - taking over our entire living room!

So, we got a little more than we bargained for! You can see the one surviving denim beanbag in the background, which now looks so puny (it is officially Syd's beanbag now). But, for all of their obnoxiousness - oh how comfortable - and dare I say the word, but COZY!!!!

Finally, I want to say an official thank-you to "Linda" for the award she gave me yesterday for "saying it like it is".


It had me thinking how much more valuable the award is coming from her, as I consider her one of the most authentic blog-writers I read. Actually, authenticity is a HUGE character quality I admire, so I'm generally attracted to consistently reading blogs from those people who say it like it is.... Thanks to all of you for blessing my life. And, for the record, if I don't post these awards it's only because I wonder how putting extra stuff on my blog might affect the ultimate goal of "blurbing" the blog into its keepsake book at the end of the year. More on that in another post.....

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Create a Caption Contest

I'll be writing more of an "update" post later on, but in the meantime, I wanted to put this out there and see if anyone would be willing to have some fun with me. This is a picture of me (terrible shot) and my (former?!) friend, Amy. Actually, she's seen the picture - which was taken without any set-up - neither of us knew it was being taken, she thinks it's hilarious. So, feel free to throw out a "caption" to the picture in the comments - those friends of both of us that read this often but don't comment (aka "lurkers"!) - it would be great if you "came out of the closet" and added to the fun. Remember, you don't have to log on to add a comment, you can just sign in under anonymous and then sign your name at the end so we know who wrote it. If I get some "takers", I'll throw the names in a drawing and randomly pick someone for "something fun" I'll send in the mail.

Alright, here's the pic in all its glory: