Monday, February 27, 2012

An Extra Day

Who doesn't wish for more hours in a day?  I would guess Moms especially mutter this, as they juggle caring for their children, keeping up with the house, and especially for those with an added ball in the air who work outside the home.  Life is busy.  We all long for more extra day.

But what would you do with that extra 24 hours?  How would it best be spent, if only it magically appeared?  Maybe it would be nice to have an extra day just for be pampered, to relax, to rejuvenate.  As someone who longs for energy most every day, I could certainly daydream of many me-centered activities.  Unless you've preplanned the upcoming extra day (aka Leap Day) though you may have few options to prepare something for yourself, like a day off.

So, how can you make the most of it?  As you might guess, this happy little blog would suggest something JOY-centered.  Perhaps you can make a donation to a charity, adopt a pet, invite someone to church, call a friend who's had a difficult time, the opportunites are endless!

For me, JOY often involves doing something for others.  Seeing someone smile, or making their day, returns to me tenfold.  And that's how I choose to spend my "extra day" this year.  It will be random, in the moment, acts of kindness.   But I'm opening myself up now to seek them out, to look a bit harder for them, and hopefully for a few needs to find me.

Our family has set aside time each year to remember our son, Austin, on his angelversary in this same way.  This past year we moved from one day to an entire month.  Those RAK days for him were amazing, and with each act, we could feel him shining down on us.  We know the world can use kindness each and every day though... maybe even a little more on an extra day.

At the end of this extra day, I plan to do something special for my family too (thinking cap on).  Because, in the end, we all wish for just a little more time with the ones we love.  Just one more day to say I love you.  I for one am pretty grateful at the thought of an "extra day" on the calendar with them this 2012.

What's on your schedule Wednesday?  Share your thoughts, ideas, and inspirations for how you plan to spend your extra day....

Friday, February 24, 2012

Faithful Friday: Joy & Peace

70 degrees in February!  I should note that I do not live in a warm winter climate.  In fact, many snowbirds in Kentucky flee to warmer states this time of year to avoid the cold weather.  Seeing the sunshine, opening my windows, noticing buds on my front yard trees, and hearing the cheerful singing of the birds outside has brought be great joy this week.  Even with sickness and some difficulty within my extended family, I've remained in positive spirits.  Nature just has a way of doing that for me.

I've mentioned before how much more I appreciated a sunset, landscape, and even trees after my wreck.  There's something about a near death experience that brings that out of a person.  Combined with the loss of my son, nature has been a constant connection to God for me.  Being among it and recognizing it's beauty makes me feel closer to my Creator.  Feeling the sun on my face, the beauty of a budding flower, or the scent of fresh grass can make my soul smile.

Nature is what I turned to many times throughout this grief journey.  Even on winter days, unlike the spring-like ones we've had of late, I can find hope.  As a dear friend wrote one snowy morning, "God can paint a beautiful picture just using one color."  I can appreciate the seasons of this Earth, just like the seasons of our life.  There are days of growth and days of loss...uplifting moments in new life and the sorrow as others end.  Throughout the valleys and mountains of each year, there is a continued promise I cling to.  I know that no matter what pain this life may bring, joy is always around the corner.  Joy is our ultimate destination!

No matter the difficulties you may be facing this week, I challenge you to get outside and enjoy your surroundings.  No matter the weather, you can find joy and peace among nature.  Challenge yourself to choose to find the beauty in today.  Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Veggie Love

Can a vegetable really bring you joy?  I think so!  In fact, I've written about my favorite controversial veggie before - The Tomato!  I know, some of you are shaking your head thinking, "But that's a fruit!"  I disagree.  In fact, the Oxford Dictionary explains it like this:  a tomato is technically the fruit of the tomato plant, but it's used as a vegetable in cooking.  Let's just agree to disagree and enjoy it either way.  While the tomato is my fave, there is a recent contender quickly edging it out. 

While I'll never give up the juicy goodness a fresh, ripe tomato can bring, I've found a leafy green that is lately getting much love.  Browsing recipes online, which I do a few times a month while menu planning, I discovered kale chips.  This piqued my interest, as salt is a crave-weakness of mine and I'm always looking for healthy alternatives to chips or a crunchy snack.  Learning that a serving came in under 50 calories was enough to send me to the grocery.

The produce selection was looking a little droopy that day so I opted for the giant bag of precut/triple washed kale.  Thinking to myself, "I'll never eat this much kale but I'm not buying wilted veggies," I loaded it into my cart.  Once home and ready for a snack, I gave it try.  Shut the front door it was good!  Like really, really good.  Can't eat just one kind of good.  Lick your fingers clean good.  Yum-O! 

  With my giant bag I knew I had to be more creative though than chips if I were going to eat it before it too joined the droop club.  One night, I sauteed it with a little garlic as a side dish.  Very yummy.  I added it in small pieces to salad.  I dropped it into soup.  This morning, I added it to scrambled eggs.  It wasn't poke & eggs (a grandparent dish I love) but it was good.  I think it just needed a little more cooking time.  Hey - I'm learning!  ...Did you see I paired it with the lovely tomato though?

Except for the sauteed dish, I've also managed to sneak it into my family's bellies.  They normally run screaming with an introduction to any leafy green, but I've learned if it's not the star, they'll accept it.  (I've sneaked spinach into lasagna and soup.  We love raw spinach in salads.)  They would never try the eggs because it's too visible, but Noah surprise me last night by trying (and LIKING) the chips. 

Taking advantage of this beautiful non-February like weather, we grilled out for dinner.  Trying to keep with our healthy trend and because now I just prefer them, we made turkey burgers and dogs.  While they wanted tator tots, I decided to stay healthiest by making up a batch of kale chips for myself.  I had each of them close their eyes and taste.  Tina peeked beforehand and wouldn't have admitted she liked it, even if she did.  Tim tolerated it.  Noah went back for more.  And another.  Before he left my plate, he took three or four bites.  I was a happy Mom.

And, just so you know.  Kale is back on my list for the next grocery trip. 
I'm a little panicky because that giant bag is nearly gone!

How do you sneak vegetables into your cooking?  Or, what's your favorite veggie recipe?  I want to hear from you!

Posted also on: Living Well Wednesday

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

75 year old Sis

Don't you just love it when a chance meeting with someone brightens your whole day?  If you missed my post last week, it may be somewhat of a surprise how much I adore elderly people.  I was always my Grandparent's Girl and just seem to gravitate towards older folks.  I've been told I have an old soul and maybe that's why.  Or, perhaps it is just because they are so darn cute.  There's also a saying that babies and the elderly are the closest souls to God, and if so, I can understand why I'd be drawn to such sweet spirits.

Today I was blessed with meeting a lovely woman, 75 years young, while in line to checkout.  First, she tried to let me ahead of her, even though my four items were more than her one.  I politely declined and we chatted a bit, as she eyed the Bible in my hands.

"Do you have a coupon for that?" she asked, stepping out of line to search through her purse.  I explained that I did not but that it was on sale, however I appreciated her offer.  She kept insisting, handing me over a paper for 33% off.  Noticing it was a President's Day sale, I mentioned that it might be expired, as that holiday was yesterday.  She lightly gasped, giggled, and proceeded to rip it in pieces. 

At that very moment the cashier informed her it was in fact still good to use.  We both stood there mouths open.  I apologized, feeling horrible for her loss of a coupon.  She laughed it off, telling the clerk she was just trying to help a Sister in Christ.  When the lady behind the counter confirmed that my Bible was on sale but that she could've used it for her candle, she threw her hands up and with a shrug said, "Oh well, it wasn't meant to be," with the most positive attitude. 

Still feeling bad about causing such a scene, all because I can't keep my days straight, I asked if she could still use it - even though it was literally in pieces floating around in her purse.  Thankfully the cashier was in a good mood and a nice lady, who took the time to tape it back together for her.  By this point, my new "sister" was feeling guilty for holding up the line and began to scramble and get her things together, nearly leaving her glasses on the counter.  I stopped her.  She nearly hugged me and thanked me for being so nice. 

The whole interaction was probably less than five minutes but I left the store smiling and have continued to smile throughout my afternoon, each time I think of her.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone were this kind?  If all strangers treated you like you family?  Knowing this isn't the case, I'm going to work even harder at making every chance meeting just a little more special.  Who knows, I might meet more brothers and sisters I didn't know I had!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Handyman

We enjoyed about a 7 hour date yesterday.  Beat that Saint Valentine!  While romantic, candlelit dinners are nice.  Crowded restaurants and overpriced entrees are not.  We opted for a more casual date this year, a few days late, and the only expectations being quality time.  We shopped.  We saw a movie in the middle of the day and had popcorn for lunch.  We shopped and lingered some more.  We ate appetizers for dinner.  And we topped it off without a yummy stop at the frozen yogurt shop.

After that phenomenal "Day Date" with my hubby, we came home with a few building projects for the kid's bathrooms.  We've quickly discovered that teenagers need lots of space.  In fact, I think my son has about as many products as his cousin.  A shower gel for every day of the week.  A shampoo for this mood.  Gel for this hairstyle.  Add that collection to a typical girl's and you can imagine the potential disaster we have in their bathroom. 

The other day, while one of htem was showering, a knocked over bottle was like missle-dominoes.  I didn't know if someone fell, the shower caved in, or what.  We realized it was time for some organization.  And of course that O-word always brings me joy!  Finding a stacking shower caddy and a bathroom cabinet, the bathroom mission was on.

Though Tim started assembling the units, Noah soon jumped in to help.  After unexpected company arrived, Noah found himself the head foreman.  I was instantly impressed at how my little (yes, I'm laughing as I write that word) 12 year old took the lead.  He didn't miss a beat and worked the screwdriver like a pro.  As he streched out underneath the cabinet to tighten the screws above, I couldn't believe how big he was. 

While I visibly see his growth everyday - buying size 12 shoes for him the weekend before sure helped confirm that - I am always taken aback when I see how big he's becoming in other areas.  It was like looking at a man, not a 12 year old boy.  It was a little hard for a momma who spent the evening a couple days ago pouring through his baby books.  He needed a picture from when he was little, in preparation for his upcoming (gulp) 6th grade graduation.  Just as I was then, zooming back ten to twelve years of our lives and realizing just how much he has grown, I found myself very teary-eyed. 

I was grateful that he was so busy assembling that he didn't notice.  Quickly wiping my eyes with my shirt sleeve, I continued being his assistant.  As we moved the units into the bathroom, I was again thankful for the busyness of reigning in all their products so I didn't have to reflect on how my baby boy is really now a young man.  And growing even more with every minute.  But it brings me joy to watch the process...and savor each moment.

my baby then
my big guy now

Friday, February 17, 2012

Faithful Friday: Actions & Words

The phrase "actions speak louder than words" can be hard to swallow for a writer.  I happen to think words can be pretty powerful, but I get the point.  When I hear this, I think of the person who is all talk and no action.  Someone who may be well-spoken and seems to always know what to say but never follows through.  And, I'm sure we all know someone we love who is like this too. 

Each time we're failed by them, their words seem to flow in just the right way, to say all the things we want to hear, but in the end they still can't deliver.  For someone who puts a lot of weight on promises, people like that don't sit well with me.  It kind of explains the other phrase, "I'll believe it when I see it."

Luckily, I do not have this type of relationship with my husband.  I know if he promises me something, he's committed - big or small.  And I know I can always trust him to be honest with me - good or bad.  Of course, it doesn't count when his memory fails him, like forgetting to bring home toilet paper!  Over the years, I've just learned where reminders are necessary and use them as needed.

I've been on a high all week from a small but very meaningful "action" Tim did for me.  This was, of course, Valentine's week, a time when many women pine for large bouquets of roses or boxes of chocolates.  That's not me and Tim knows that.  He knows I'd rather have fresh cut flowers than any other type; and I prefer them for no reason at all, not because a major holiday indicates a purchase.  Although I'd never turn down chocolate, I'd be just as happy knowing he waited until after the holiday to catch them 1/2 off.  He knows my love language is quality time, not gifts, and so we've had plans all month for a date this weekend.

So, that's all I expected.  Nothing more.  He'd already surprised me the week prior with a gift card on my pillow for a facial.  He gave it to me before Valentine's so I couldn't use the "no gifts" rule we'd agreed to.  Plus, he said, he wanted me to get pampered on my time, not the spa's.  ( was amazing - big brownie points he earned there!)  Because of this illegal gift, I truly expected nothing on the big day.   And on V-day, nothing came.  Just as expected.  Which, I was completely ok with.

The next morning, I walked into the kitchen to find an envelope on the table.  I have to admit I was a little grumpy sitting down, as Tim had let me sleep in, but Noah was insistent on me helping with his hair and seeing them off to school.  Since I had to get up soon anyway, I obliged.  Seeing the card on the table, I chuckled, thinking maybe Tim forgot to give it to me yesterday or was again bending the rules by not actually giving me anything on that day.  Instead, I found a sweet message (yes, there were words) but it was his actions and the thought that made it so special.

It said, "This card is late for a reason.  I love you every day, not just on Valentine's."  And I read it, admittedly teary-eyed, because it was so unexpected.  The card wouldn't have had half the impact if he'd given it hours earlier.  He planned it that way and that action meant the world to me.  I've found myself opening it, not just for the catchy tune inside, but to read again the simple but heart-felt message all week.

In the end, I'm not sure I've done a good job relating this Friday's scripture with my story but I did have a point and a purpose.  I guess in the end that one sentence, though used with words, had such meaning because I knew the truth behind them and because of the way he showed it. 

Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth
- 1 John 3:18

Ponder on that this week....  How can you show those you love them without words?  What actions can you do that speak volumes?

PS - If you read Tuesday's post, you may have been curious about what surprise I'd planned for Tim on Tuesday.  Honoring the no gift rule, I had a message sent to him showing him my love.

In this case, a picture speaks a thousand words.....

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mr. Can Man

Have you ever smiled at a stranger and wondered what impact it might have?  Waved at someone you didn't know, just because, or hoping to brighten their day?  Myself I'm more of a smiler than a waver, unless it is in response.  I'll wave back but I don't know that I've ever waved first to a stranger.  And then, maybe I have but never thought much about it.

I shared a brief encounter with a sweet elderly man today on my drive for work.  It was such a chance meeting, as I was on an unfamiliar road and certainly not one I'd planned today.  His interaction with me however instantly lifted my spirits and brought me immense joy.

Heading to a nearby city via the parkway, I noticed a wreck stretched across both lanes ahead of me.  Being from a family of firefighters, it looked like a lengthy wait, so I took the exit which luckily was right before the stop.  A mixture of gut, my smart phone, and a quick call to hubby led me down a winding, two lane road. 

About ten minutes in, I was already glad for the choice, as instead of the standard scenery I'm used to, it was a change of pace.  Quaint houses, rolling hills, and cattails tall as trees greeted me with each passing mile.  At one point, I even stopped my car to capture a picture of the breathtaking landscape.  My IPhone couldn't do it justice.  For as far as my eyes could see it was just this span of fields.  I loved how the rows of power lines interrupted the flow, pole by pole by pole.  Again, my camera couldn't capture it - as no equipment will ever compare to the beauty our eyes can see, but I wanted to share.

A few miles later I noticed a truck off the side of the road, and to the right, that sweet old man.  He glanced up and instantly smiled, sending me a "Grandpa hug" right through my windshield.  His frail arm raised to wave, I waved back happily and almost giggling.  Immediately I was reminded of my Grandpa and how he too walked the sides of roads in search of aluminum cans.  The rest of my drive was filled with tender memories of my Grandpa, who I love and miss dearly.

I'm sure that man probably acknowledges every vehicle that passes him along his route but I'm sure glad he smiled at me today.  I sent him prayers for safety in return with hopes that his day would also be blessed because he surely blessed mine.

Joy is not truly Joy, unless it is shared.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Secret Revealed...

If you were listening to 96STO on Valentine's Day, some twenty odd years ago, you'll remember that the DJ had asked for listeners to call in with the nicknames they call their sweetheart.  So many of the common ones were heard - honey, sugar, baby and so forth.  One name that day stood out.  One name became the conversation piece for the entire day on the radio, and everywhere else for that matter.  At least, I recall it being said a zillion times in my high school hall.

Nobody knew then it was actually my affectionate pet name for my boyfriend, Tim.  (Yes, the same Tim that is my now husband.)  He married me, even with the silly nickname I gave him.  And I still sneak it in every now and again to remind him of the funny day our secret sweet word became very, very public.

Although I went to school angry that morning, hearing the word throughout the day made me smile.  It reminded me of Tim.  And with every overheard convo in the halls and classrooms, I giggled inside because nobody knew it was me.  I was famous and yet unknown.  Plus, I knew how much all the hype would embarrass Tim, even though nobody would know why his face alternated in shades of red throughout the day.

I was mad because it was all my sister's fault.  She was the one who called in to the radio station, making fun of my love name.  I tried to attack her in the hall when she grabbed the phone, stretching the already sprung cord to the limit in an attempt to escape.  Over my screams and threats to return embarrassment in ways she could never imagine, I'm not even sure how the DJ heard the word.  But, he did.  Moments later it was on the air, the echo of my evil sister's laughter a side dish to the torture.  With a look that promised retaliation, I huffed out the door and onto the bus, giving her the cold shoulder the entire trip.

Much to my sister's dismay, my afternoon bus ride was more enjoyable for me than her.  With each continued glorification of the nickname from the seats around us, I smiled inside and out.  She tried to interrupt and let the cat out of the bag that I was actually the creator of the name, but of course, nobody believed her.  Especially when I shrugged it off and used all those drama class acting skills to prove it.  (Thank you, Mrs. Elmore!) 

I decided earlier in the day it was more fun not to reveal who it was.  The mystery made it cooler.  Through the years, it has remained our little secret.  A word I can whisper that is sure to evoke a response from Tim.  A guaranteed laugh or chuckle.  But I decided today is all about love and surprises and what better way to celebrate than to share this happy little nickname with the world.  Who knows, some young girl may be looking for just the right word to describe the cuteness, the excitement, and everything she feels for her love.  Plus, after the surprise I have planned for Tim on this Valentine's Day, letting this secret out will pale in comparison.  ...Let's just say "Scooterbug" won't hold a banana to the giant-gram he has coming to visit him at work today! 

You'll just have to stay tuned to that story.  I promise not to make you wait 20 years!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Night at the Movies

Have I said before how much I love movies?  I especially love a good tear-jerker, underdog story.  "Real Steel" was a movie I actually was willing to pay big bucks to see in the theatre.  I say "big" because the cost of a movie ticket, a coke, and bucket of popcorn at anyplace other than Sticky Floors is unreal these days.  It's rare that we shell out dough for a movie in a large cinema, even though I do love going.

Tonight I was in the mood for a movie.  We'd had a great family day, doing a little shopping and eating out.  Both the kiddos were on a high, finding just the right outfits to look 'super cool' and 'too cute' for their upcoming dances this week.  And those outings pretty much cancelled out any chances of seeing a movie on a big screen.  So, I improvised.

We swung into our local theatre, grabbed a $4 mega bucket of popcorn and headed to the video store.  I'd noticed on the way out of town this morning that "Real Steel" was in so it was easy to decide what to pick up.  Luckily they had a copy left and Tim quickly grabbed it for our viewing pleasure.  Once home, we slid into our pjs, turned up the fireplace, turned down the lights, and entered our own personal theatre.  Surround sound (check), Blue Ray on the flat screen (check), furniture scooted super close together (check). 

I don't know why shifting the couches around makes a difference but it does.  Seconds later, we are lazily and very comfortably enjoying the movie.  It's the best of both worlds.  The seats are much nicer, the price is way cheaper, but the effect is the same.  Best of all, there's a pause button when we needed to visit the concession, I mean kitchen, for a snack.  A family of sock feet stacked up on the coffee table, laps full of dogs and blankets, and being swept away in the kind of Saturday night!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Faithful Friday: Train up a Child

Among my sweetest memories as a Mom are the moments I've spent sharing God with my children.  From teaching them their first prayer, to reading Bible stories, to toting them Sunday school, those snapshots remain vivid in my head as well as my heart.  Of course the most precious of all being the times in which they came forward in church and took their first steps as Christians.  Watching my boys get baptized and knowing the decisions they each prayerfully made, will always be my proudest and most joyful moments as a mom.

We raise our children with so many hopes and dreams.  We train them to be good people, giving them building blocks for what they may face in life.  We teach them right from wrong, discipline when behavior deems necessary, and say constant prayers for God's hands to guide them. 

In the end, we can only "teach" so much.  As they mature, more and more those decisions and daily life choices are all on them.  We continue to hope that our foundation helps them along the way, as well as the examples we show in our own lives.  With teenagers I find it is gentle prodding, soft suggestions, and even finding the fun in faith that keep our kids on the right path. 

As soon as Noah handed me his Kindle (to beat a level in angry birds), I used the opportunity to find and download some books and apps I thought he'd enjoy.  Of course, the first book I got for him was the Bible.  It pleased me to see him use it at church a couple of Sundays ago.  However, when we were discussing scriptures later and he asked my favorite, I realized the version he had was much older.

I'd downloaded an "Old English" version which didn't really put the Bible in words he would easily understand.  On the search for a better option, I shared with him the app I use on my own phone.  With his Kindle, it allows him to pick from several translations and has some very useful additions.  He was excited to see that it would read to him with a click of his pen, that he could highlight favorite scriptures and even take notes.  I was thrilled to see him interacting with the best book he'll ever read.

This app also included a daily devotion, written especially for teens.  It even allows for sharing on social networks like Facebook.  Yet another proud moment happened the night he read his first devotion and eagerly clicked to share it with his friends.  He then set an alarm so that each night his Kindle would remind him to read.  And so far, he has every night.  I know because a happy little message on Facebook appears as he shares it again with his friends.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
 - Proverbs 22:6

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Kicked out of Bed

Last night was a first.  I kicked Tim out of the bed.  Well, actually I pushed him out.  In the middle of the night.  In all our years together, we've never slept apart while under the same roof.  Even when I was confined to a hospital bed, he slept on the couch beside me.  He refused to sleep in our bed without me.  He may have changed his mind after last night.  In fact, I may find myself sleeping on the couch!

The night before a pain in my back woke me from my sleep.  I tossed, I turned, in an attempt to find a more comfortable position, but it remained.  The pain was there to greet me yesterday morning and, being the good friend it was, stayed throughout the day.  By the afternoon I was at the chiropractor, hoping for much needed relief.  When I left the pain was reduced but still present.

Coming home, I tried the recliner, ice, stretches and being very, very still.  Defeated, I opted for the bed.  Unfortunately there wasn't a flat position of comfort either.  When Tim arrived home, he talked me into taking a pain pill.  Truly, at that point no twisting of my arm was necessary.  I just needed to know he was home to care for the kids once I conked out. 

Sometime in the middle of the night, I decided to reposition myself and was attempting to use him as a brace.  This coincided with him sitting on the side of the bed.  I'm not sure if he was about to leave or returning from the restroom but his plans were quickly changed.  With what I'm sure he'd describe as a hefty push, he was flying off the side and landing with a solid THUMP! on the floor.  Our responses were not equal.

With a grumpy, still half asleep raise of his voice, he questioned what on earth I was doing.  I answered with uproarious laughter.  Sensing that he didn't find the humor and afraid I'd wake myself fully, I muffled it.  When the alarm sounded hours later I was reminded of the event and let the laughter return.  In fact, I laughed until I cried.  Until I was gasping for air.  Until I started coughing.  Until I was laughing because I was laughing.  Uncontrollable, belly shaking, side splitting, tears streaming laughter.  Oddly, he still didn't join me with the same gusto.  But secretly, underneath his sore behind, I know he chuckled inside!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mii Monday

Leftovers were inevitable last night.  After my SOUPer bowl Sunday crockpot fest, we all knew what we'd be eating again for dinner.  Thankfully, Mom "invited" her crew over to share in the bounty.  The extra players also worked out perfectly for Noah's plans, a Wii tournament.

A few nights ago he asked if we could not watch TV (how many teenagers say that?) and instead play the Wii as a family.  Of course, he asked this at 9:45 pm so I suggested we make it a Mii Monday.  For any of you who've never played the Wii, you create little characters, reminiscent of electronic weebles, to represent yourself.  These characters are known as Miis (pronounced "me") and you see them on the screen playing whatever game you choose.

After corralling all phones and other electronic devices to the coffee table so we could focus on family, we opted for the sports game.  Surprisingly Mom was ready to go and challenged Noah to bowling.  Aside from nearly doing a head flip after stepping on her pant leg, she did very well.  For her first time  playing, he only beat her by 5 points.  This was a shocker to the gamer he is! 

At first I made the rule that the winner picked the next player and the player picked the game.  After three challenges by all different competitors, Noah was still standing.  I then added the rule that you couldn't play more than three rounds in a row.  He didn't like that rule but finally relinquished his remote.

We laughed and played, broke a sweat or two, giggled some more, and had a wonderful family evening.  Mom and crew left and Tim jumped in to play.  He and Noah competed in baseball, nearly knocking down the ceiling fan in the process. 

Tim's Mii

Tim's "me"

Side note:  Tim's Mii cracks me up every time because it looks just like him.  I found a similar version online to show you.....

They then moved to golf, which in my opinion even on a Wii is B-o-r-i-n-g!  I finally pulled Tim away, only because I had a steaming bowl of soup to bribe him with.  This left Noah and Tina to wrap up the night, taking in a few more games. 

Other than using the tv to play the game, it wasn't used for anything else.  By the time we finished jumping, swooshing, ducking, whacking and laughing, we were happily wore out and ready for bed.  It was a great alternative to vegging out in front of the tv and I think something we need to incorporate at least once a week.  Maybe I'll show you our other Miis someday!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Faithful Friday: Great Joy

Today's Faithful Friday comes from a portion of Philemon 1:7 - "Your love has given me great joy and encouragement..."  It is a verse that reminds me of my niece, Tina.  And being that this is her birthday fest, she's certainly on my mind!

Tina has been with us for more than six months but already feels such a part of our family.  I guess it was an easy transition, considering she spent a lot of time here anyway.  She and Noah, being only one year apart, have always been extremely close.  And because they've both suffered loss, though in different forms, being together has been good for them.

As I wrote earlier this year, her arrival was unexpected, unplanned, and didn't come without struggles or adjustments.  To say it's been all roses wouldn't be telling the truth.  But as I shared in that post, her arrival came at God's perfect timing and I can see now how her being here has helped us heal.  As well, I know we have helped her.

There's been heartache and hiccups, moving out of our comfort zone, sharing, and learning along the way.  But there's also been sweet smiles, hugs, laughter, more laughter and great joy.  Tina is a bright, talented, wonderful child and I feel blessed to share my home with her.  She makes us laugh every day.  When I see Noah and her take off walking or riding bikes or hear them giggling in one of their rooms, it warms my heart.  When I get to share in her excitement at an accomplishment at school or trying something new, I smile inside.  Seeing her experience these teenage milestones with us has been joyful and rewarding beyond our expectations.

But she also brings us encouragement.  Wise beyond her years from the life she's faced already, she brings such a new perspective to things.  A great listener, even when you aren't trying for her to here, she always has a finger on the pulse of our family.  She watches the interactions we each have and comments on things we do well...and sometimes those we could use work on.  She's a sounding board for Noah, especially when it comes to girls.  She's another female voice in a house full of testosterone.  And she's the softer side I often look for when wanting a woman's opinion.  She pushes us to be more - for her - and for the strength of our family.

Looking back, I would've never imagined that she'd be here with us day to day.  Now, I don't know if I could imagine our home without her.  As the minutes count down to her festivities this weekend, I hope that with every plan, every surprise, and each birthday wish she feels the joy and encouragement return to her that she greatly blesses our family with every day.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sweet Deep Sleep

Today is Groundhog's Day.  When I think of this day though my first thoughts are not of the groundhog and his shadow, or lack there of.  Instead I'm reminded of the movie and the scene where Bill Murray's character wakes up to the annoying radio DJ's voice, slams the alarm with his arm, and starts the same day all over again. 

I certainly can relate to the annoying alarm clock, although knowing how much I dislike them, my hubby puts it on his side.  Some mornings, I have to admit, I don't even hear it go off.  Tim awakes so easily, he quickly snoozes it, allowing me another ten minutes of blissful sleep.

I haven't always been such a deep sleeper.  Motherhood prevents that.  When your children are babies, and even toddlers, you seem to constantly be in a state of half consciousness.  I don't believe I ever fully went to sleep those first few years, always on edge and ready to pounce out of bed at their first whimper.  As they grew older though and needed me less at night, my sleeping became deeper.  This also only happens because my husband is just the opposite.  A feather could fall two rooms away and he's awake.  The good thing is, being a lifetime firefighter, he can drift right back to sleep.  I'm not so lucky.

Overtime I've developed the ability to put myself in such a deep sleep, Tim can leave for a fire run and I won't know it.  I do this because if I and when I do fully wake up, I'm up for good.  If he's on a run, I am up to worry and pray for his safe return.  If something else awakens me, it's nearly impossible to go back to sleep.  I toss, I turn, and then reluctantly retreat to the living room.  From there I'll read, write, catch up on tv or whatever else is necessary hoping sleepiness returns, provided there is even enough time to do so.  Often, it just means a very early day for me, and thus, the coffee pot becomes my friend.

I'm not sure how I taught myself to become a deep sleeper but it is a neat trick.  I don't do anything special.  No eye masks or headphones.  No white noise or sleeping aids.  Nor did I line my bedroom walls with empty egg cartons like we did in grade school.  (Funny side note.... our school was one giant circle with no real walls, just bookcases. You could toss paper airplanes across the top of them into another class.  As such, teachers would line their bookshelves with empty egg cartons we brought in to act as a bit of a sound barrier.  It worked!)  For me, I think it's just survival mode.  My body needs sleep.  It knows I must go way, way down to stay there and so I just do. 

Tim laughs because even though I go into this deep sleep, I can still often carry on conversations.  Sometimes I am just acting out my dream, but other times, he can get me to cross over and talk to him.  He'll softly prod me with questions, giggle-whispering from whatever random answers I may give.  Noah pokes fun too, as sometimes if he comes in mid-night, I'll answer whatever he needs but have no knowledge in the morning.  Future roommates I may have someday - don't use this information against me!

This post may seem a little random but it was on my mind, a result from GH day and hearing from a friend who was having trouble sleeping a new neighborhood.  As such, this story was shared.  Perhaps, if anything, it'll provide good bedtime reading and bore you into a sweet deep sleep!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Let Them Eat Cake!

Exactly two weeks after Christmas is my birthday.  Eleven days later is Noah's.  Two weeks from that, Tina's.  So for six glorious weeks we are surrounded by birthday cake.  And with our birthday-fests, lasting days as they do, cakes are in no short supply!  This week begins our last scrumptious days with the frosted delightful desserts. 

My all-time favorite is red velvet but only if it is made from scratch, super moist, with a note of deep, dark chocolate, and perfectly tart cream cheese frosting.  A few years ago Tim surprised me with one he'd ordered from a friend of a friend.  It was A-mazing!

Noah's favorite is classic.  White cake, vanilla icing.  He actually scoffed that I ordered 1/2 of his sheet cake this year in chocolate (because that's the favored kind of the family).  Not that he had any room to complain considering we also had a cookie cake and ginormous cupcakes from GiGi's his birthday week!  Tina's fave, I have discovered, is strawberry.  Tonight, her actual birthday (#13), we're having strawberry shortcake.  What she doesn't know is that I've also ordered a from-scratch-strawberry cake complete with strawberry filling and strawberry cream cheese icing.  I can't wait for Sunday's party!

All this cake thinking and ordering reminded me of our birthdays growing up.  For us, Mom always made our cakes.  Mine was normally vanilla.  I love chocolate but in a "teenage phase" I thought it cool to be pro-vanilla.  I distinctly remember my 13th birthday cake like it was just yesterday.  It was pink and maybe it was strawberry inside too.  I just remember the pretty pink frosting, pastel candles and candy letters.  Sorting through photos, my memory was pretty spot on!

I also remember posing for a photo, even though I couldn't find it.  That photo is actually why I remember the cake.  Mom had pencil curled my hair for my birthday and I was wearing a soft pink sweater that matched the icing.  I normally hate any photo of me but I remember this one being cute because I actually posed.  ....of course it would be the one I can't locate!

What I'm glad I do have though are the memories of those simple, close family birthday memories complete with homemade cake and icing.  And, I'm thankful I took the time a few years back to scrapbook all those family recipes to keep for generations to come, many in the actual handwriting of the cook.
From my family scrapbook cookbook

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