Monday, April 29, 2013

Hammer Time

Grandpa bought hammers (or "barns," as Clay calls them) for each of the boys while we were in Austin on Saturday. And, today, they discovered an unused pallet out beside the trash cans. It was quite possibly the best day ever for three* little boys! They spent the better part of the day hammering on that pallet. And, best of all, I didn't have to get on to them, because it truly didn't matter if they smashed it up. Finally, their desire to destroy was not at odds with my desire to keep all of our property intact! I will definitely be on the lookout for another pallet (or a dozen) to have around for when this one gives up the ghost!

*Weston isn't pictured, because he slipped off before I got my camera out, but rest assured, he did his fair share of hammer swinging.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Eclectic Trip to Austin

We ventured into the big city today, and it was quite an eclectic trip. We began with a stop at Pottery Barn, so Jeff and I could take a closer look at a bed frame I saw and liked online. Then, we stopped by Tuesday Morning. From there, we located one of the few remaining Souper Salad restaurants in the area and stopped for some lunch. After that, we visited the Saxet gun show, an eclectic experience all it's own. From there, we made our afternoon Sonic stop, and I stepped out an ordered something other than my usual. My kids are dying to try the new peanut butter and bacon shake there, but we decided today wasn't going to be that day. Our next stop was Half-Price Books, where we acquired all the Star Wars movies, some required reading books for Ruth's CC Challenge class next year, and some fun reading for all. Then, there was a fabric store/thrift store/hardware store stop. And, we ended the day at the Hill Country Galleria, where we stopped for dinner at Iron Cactus. We also had an unplanned visit to Dick's Sporting Goods while we were at the Galleria to get Max a whole new set of wearable clothes after he slipped in a mud puddle and was covered head-to-toe in some very stinky mud.

I know you are all now feeling like I just made you look at a hundred pictures of my newborn, but, what can I say?! We don't get out much, so this qualifies as high entertainment. Plus, I thought a blog post about our fun day in Austin was better than no blog post at all. Having now been subjected to it, you may choose to disagree.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A little chair repair

Recently a tiny terrorist toddler got his hands on an ink pen and went to work redesigning some of the surfaces of our home. One of the places hardest hit was Dad's Chair. This chair is just about the same age as Ruth, and it's been through some stuff, but the pen marks just really wrecked the appearance for me. My first attempt at cleaning up left an even more noticeable eyesore. Jeff told me to call a professional upholstery cleaner. But, unwilling to part with the cash that would require, my brain began to churn and I remembered something that completely justified all those hours brief moments I've spent pinning stuff on Pinterst. I had pinned a step-by-step tutorial from this blog on cleaning mircofiber furniture (which, if I'm honest, I figured I'd never get around to trying, like most of my pins). But the ink everywhere and water ring on the arm were driving me nuts, so I didn't think it could hurt anything to give it a shot. And, wasn't I pleasantly surprised that it not only got the ink out, it also got some of the other icky off! It doesn't look brand new, but it does look a heck of a lot better. And, I think with another round of scrubbing, the look will be further improved. It couldn't have been simpler. All I needed was rubbing alcohol, a spray bottle, a scrubby sponge and a bristle brush.

pen marks all over the seat
(this is only a small portion of the markings)

my first attempt at clean-up just made things worse

no pen marks and no water marks

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

24 weeks gone in a flash

Today was our last CC class day for this school year, which is absolutely unbelievable to me! It seems like just yesterday I was trembling in my boots, wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew with this director gig. But, it has been an amazing year! I have thoroughly enjoyed watching our students and parents grow in friendships and knowledge. And I have relished being in a leadership position within this wonderful community, which has stretched me in some very good ways! I just can't believe we've come to the end of our 24 weeks. It went by so incredibly quickly! My kids and I are already looking forward to the next school year!

In the afternoon Essentials class, the kids read a big research paper they wrote during the year, dressed up as characters from Ancient History. Ruth was Cleopatra. After they read, we had snacks and the kids got to "shop" for prizes. It was a very fun way to end the year!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Immeasurably More

Yesterday morning, my dad had a pretty severe heart attack while on a business trip in Amarillo. This morning, we hopped up and hit the road for Amarillo so we could spend a few days with my parents. On the way, we had some car trouble and ended up leaving our van at the Honda dealership in Burleson, renting another van and going ahead with the trip as planned. This is not a complainer post, though. What I want to convey is that in the midst of some difficulty, we have received blessings above and beyond what we could have even thought to pray for.

First of all, my dad drove to Amarillo by himself and stayed in a hotel room by himself, but he had his heart attack in the lobby of the hotel, where someone was immediately able to start CPR on him, which certainly saved his life.

For us, this happened at a time when our schedules were relatively free of any pressing matters, which made it easy for us to come, and also gave us an opportunity to stop by my parents house to pick up a few things for them.

While we were at their house, the trash truck came, which allowed us to take their garbage cans back to the house so they don't remain at the street while my parents are away.

When our engine light started flashing and we realized there was a pretty serious problem with the van, we pulled off the freeway to try to look up a nearby mechanic. That exit dumped us right at the entrance to the Honda dealership, so we pulled right on in to the service center.

Once inside the building, we realized we were actually at "Honda Wonderland." There was a top-notch playroom, a spacious waiting area, a complete Starbucksesque coffee bar, and a gift shop. And as if that wasn't enough, they were having a special event on site, and they had bouncy houses set up and were dishing up free hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and bottled water. Our kids thought we were on a special vacation!

When the diagnostics were done on the van and we knew we would have to leave it, we started looking around for a rental vehicle that could accommodate all of us. There were none to be found. Then, randomly another person working at the dealership mentioned that someone had just turned in a mini van. It was reserved for us, and someone from Enterprise was sent to pick us up. I went to the car rental place, which was only about 3 miles away and very easy to get to, while Jeff stayed at the carnival dealership with the kids.

I arrived at the rental place at 11:50 and discovered they closed for the day at 12. I also found out that the only reason there was a van available was that someone had cancelled their reservation at the last minute. Finally, the contract allowed for both Jeff and I to be drivers, rather than just me, like we thought it would be.

We were able to get everything transferred from our van to the rental and be on our way fairly quickly. And then, 3 out of the 4 children fell asleep. The other one followed suit a little later. And even when they were awake, they were very well-behaved, even without a DVD player to keep them entertained.

We arrived in Amarillo just a couple of hours later than originally expected, and we got a room at a hotel less than a mile from the hospital, with an indoor pool.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory...  for ever and ever! Amen." (Eph. 3:20)

Truly, "His strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor. 12:9).

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Testing. Testing.

Today was the first day of our yearly SAT-10 (grade-level) testing. It was Weston's first time to participate and my first time to proctor. The kids were totally calm, but I was a nervous wreck. Thankfully, the day went well and the kids felt good about their tests. Weston's comment was "it was a really long, but really fun day." I guess he'll be glad to know we get to do it again tomorrow!

After a fun morning of testing, Ruth spent the afternoon...testing. She is trying for a CC honor called Memory Masters, in which the students memorize the entire school year's worth of material and then prove their knowledge through four "proofs:" 2 parent proofs (or 1 parent and another adult, if one parent is also a tutor or director), 1 tutor proof and 1 director proof. For the first three proofs the student must go through every piece of material, which takes about an hour and a half to complete. The fourth proof is simply a spot check and takes about 20 minutes to complete. A few mistakes are allowed in the first proof, fewer in the second and none in the third and fourth. A child who completes all these steps is considered a "Memory Master" and is recognized and rewarded on the local CC campus at the End-of-Year celebration. This was Ruth's second proof, and she made it through without a single mistake! This year's memory work includes 161 events and people in a chronological timeline; the 44 U.S. presidents; 24 History sentences detailing events from Ancient History; 120 locations and geographic features in Africa, Europe and the "Old World;" 24 Science facts, including the classifications of living things and each continent's highest mountain; 5 Latin noun endings and their singular and plural declensions; English grammar facts, including 53 prepositions, 23 helping verbs and 12 linking verbs; Multiplication facts up to 15 x 15, common squares and cubes, and basic geometry formulas and unit conversions. That's over 400 pieces of memorized information! Her last two proofs will be within the next two weeks, and we feel fairly confident she will reach her goal of becoming a Memory Master. 

Regardless of the final outcome, we are so proud of both Ruth and Weston for all the hard work they have put in this year at home/school and at CC!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Airing my dirty laundry

Y'all. The last couple of weeks the laundry has totally gotten away from me. And, at this point, I'm not sure if I'll ever recover. I am able to get everything washed and dried just fine, but the folding and putting away keep getting shuffled to the bottom of the to-do list, while the bench and counter in the laundry room keep collecting the clean garments and linens, and the inhabitants of this house keep making early-morning hunting trips to that room. Frankly, I have no motivation to try to complete this unfulfilling chore. Clothes folded only end up unfolded in the first search for what to wear. Or scattered to the furthest reaches of bedrooms and bathrooms. Or dirty. Again. The level of Mt. Laundry has just about reached the level of my insanity, though, so something must be done. So, I'm clearing my schedule for tomorrow, and I'm going in. If I don't make it out alive, know that I did, in fact, die in vain. I'm thinking perhaps it's time to revamp the whole laundry system, so feel free to share your tried-and-true tips. Or, just chime in with your own story of laundry gone amuck. (Of course, I will recognize that these stories are completely fabricated just to make me feel better, because I KNOW none of you would ever let your laundry get out of hand!)

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Years ago, Ruth discovered some outfit in her closet that resembled an outfit in my closet. She was absolutely thrilled and couldn't wait for us to have a matching day. And, then, when the day came, she was even more thrilled. That's a quick way to a mom's heart, I can tell you. And, in a moment of prophetic clarity, I saw that those moments would be fleeting and that there would come a day when she would want to look like anyone but me. So, I decided right then and there that I would not force, but would completely embrace, every one of those opportunities until that sad day. That is why I own a pair of zebra-striped, cowboy-style rain boots. Oh, and because I'm cool. But, I digress. These days I feel like the dreaded fulfillment of the prophecy could be just around the corner, and I'm especially sensitive that every opportunity for us to go out all matchy-matchy could be the last. Which is why I put my non-island body into my island dress, even though it was too chilly to wear it to the ladies Bible study we were attending together this evening. And, why I had Jeff take our picture. I will definitely want to remember this sweet stage when it is no longer something to be grasped.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Rock Stars

Jeff and I were invited to a benefit gala for the Phoenix Center tonight. The theme was "Rockin' the Ages," and everyone was to dress like a rock star. Our goal was to go as rock stars we could more or less make out of what we had on hand. Jeff picked Roy Orbison, who, in addition to being fairly easy to replicate, also has a special place in Jeff's heart, since they both called Wink, TX home during their early years. I decided to go with Bonnie Raitt, who was a real-life friend of Roy's. Here's how we turned out:

And here's what we were going for:

Friday, April 05, 2013

Fun Mom

I hate to admit it, but I am not one of those "fun moms." I don't do crafty things with my kids or make homemade, nutritious and exciting after-school snacks. I don't have a constant stream of play dates lined up, and I don't sit around playing board games with them everyday. I do occasionally pin something fun-momish on Pintrest, but my follow-through isn't so great. But, every once in a great while, I channel the fun mom I wish I was and come up with something that will hopefully be enough to keep the kids out of therapy when they are adults. (And, during those moments, I'm extremely glad I spent time pinning ideas on Pintrest.) So, today was a fun mom day. And, by that, I mean I told Ruth and Max (but not Weston, because he's away for the weekend) we could make dessert, and then I let Ruth browse my Pintrest "Sweet Tooth" board and pick out something we already had all the ingredients for. But, she picked something fun, and I oversaw the project and suggested the really amazing make-your-own-ice-cream-in-a-Ziploc-bag part. So, I'm going to go ahead and take some fun mom credit. We made ice cream sandwiches, which consisted of chocolate cake waffles and the aforementioned Ziploc bag ice cream. If you're in need of your own fun mom ideas, here's what you do:

Mix up a chocolate cake mix (or any flavor), according to the package directions. (We added chocolate chips, because, hello, fun!) Then, pour reasonable scoopfuls into your waffle maker, and cook it until it's done. Then, freeze the waffles for a while to firm them up. Be sure to let your kids lick the chocolate off the spatula and bowl, for full fun-mom points.

For the ice cream, pour 1/2 cup of milk, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and 1 Tablespoon on sugar into a quart-sized Ziploc bag. (I actually quadrupled the recipe in the quart-sized bag to keep the bag usage to a minimum). Let most of the air out and put it into another quart-sized bag, again letting out most of the air. Then, put that whole package into a gallon-sized Ziploc, surround it with crushed ice, sprinkle in several tablespoons of salt, wrap it in a towel to keep your hands from freezing and shake the heck out of it. (This is the fun part!) After about 10 minutes, you'll have a nice little soft serve. You can stick it in the freezer for a while to make it firmer.

When you're ready, put some ice cream between two waffles and bask in your fun mom moment!

Flexing some serious ice cream muscle

Massaging the bag

Serious business

Enjoying the finished product

Reaping the benefits of Ruth and Max's labor

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


This is the sad story of one woman's struggles over the course of two millennia days, in which she was without her life-support purse. 

A woman's purse has long been a thing of mystery to men all over the world. "What's in there?" And, "Why does she need such a large vessel to hold all her things?" And, "Can I just put my               in there for her to carry around, since she's carrying it anyway?" These questions have all been posed in one way or another. And the answers are: "Everything she might need." "Because it is women, contrary to the Boy Scout motto, who are always prepared. She needs a large vessel, so that when someone sneezes she can hand them a tissue. Or so she can apply/reapply lipstick when necessary. Or so she can pull out a book to read while she waits for one of her offspring to do whatever it is he is doing." And, "Are you kidding me?!" The Purse also houses her keys and wallet and phone--things she absolutely cannot live without. 

Which is why, I was completely lost on Monday and Tuesday, after leaving my purse at my parents' house, in the midst of shuffling kids to the van, when we picked up Clay on Sunday. I realized the loss on Sunday night, when I was getting ready for bed, because I needed to set the alarm on my phone. That's when I started to feel like the breath was being sucked out of me. I tossed and turned all night, unable to get comfortable without this important appendage. I waited until 7:00 am on Monday to call my mom, unfortunately waking her, (Sorry, Mom!) to request an emergency transfer. She understood the urgency and could, no doubt, hear the life ebbing out of me, so she agreed to get The Purse overnighted to me. 

Meanwhile, my breathing became shallower and shallower, as I faced an outing later that afternoon. Jeff had a meeting and was unable to take over the chauffeur responsibilities.  Fortunately, he was able to provide some band-aids to stop the bleeding, by loaning me his van key and one of his credit cards, so I could get where I needed to go and purchase milk and bread necessary for the sustenance of my family. I was still without my ID and completely cut-off from the world, but there was nothing to be done about that. 

On Monday evening, the panic attacks became stronger, as I envisioned all the CC emergencies that must be cropping up. Through the miracle of modern Science and by a strange set of circumstances, we recently acquired a land line at our house, so I was able to check my voice mail and put my fears at bay.  But, I still didn't know what might be happening on the text front. And, then I was forced to face the lack of alarm once again. 

On Tuesday morning, I borrowed Jeff's van key once more and just enough cash to pay the CC nursery worker, which I stuffed in my mini purse, normally reserved for ridiculously fancy events that my kids are not invited to. Following my normal Tuesday routine, I made a stop at Sonic for fuel for my day, before reaching my final destination. I pressed the button and placed my order before realizing that no purse meant no wallet, and no wallet meant no money. Embarrassed and already starting to feeling the pangs of withdrawal, I was forced to cancel the order and kiss my lifeblood for the day good-bye, though I hesitated for a moment, wondering just how disappointed the babysitter would be to not be paid. 

Once at CC, I quickly realized that no purse meant no keys, and no keys meant I couldn't get into the supply closet where several necessities for the day were stored. Fortunately, the church had a spare key they were willing to loan me. 

When it was time for our general assembly to begin, one of the tutors had not arrived, and no purse meant no phone to check for voice mails, texts or emails about whether she was just running late or whether she was going to be absent. Fortunately, another tutor had heard from her, and knew she was just running late, which made all the difference for how the rest of my CC day went. 

Jeff had to physically come to the church at lunch time so that we could firm up our plan for the afternoon and evening. Because, you know, no purse meant no phone for texting and calling to take care of all the little details we need to take care of throughout a typical Tuesday just to keep our family running somewhat smoothly, and even more so on this Tuesday, which contained some atypical elements. 

But, then,  the Epic Hailstorm of 2013 changed some of the plans, and no purse meant no phone for updating statuses. Fortunately, a sweet friend loaned me her phone. 

I could not get home fast enough. And, yet, I could not speed. 'Cause, you know, no purse meant no ID, so a visit with a police officer was something I was anxious to avoid. 

I realize these are the epitome of first-world problems. I also realize that not so very many years ago, no one had a phone to carry around, and no one seemed the worse for it. But, I must admit, I have never loved FedEx or my mother more than when I saw that package sitting on my porch. Opening it was like sucking in pure oxygen, and it restored a life that had all but fizzled out. 

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Oh, hail!

This day was gray and drizzly from the outset, and the kids at CC were disappointed that I had to put the kibosh on an outside recess. But, about the time CC ended for the day, the grayness turned to an almost blackness, and the skies let loose the most impressive and terrifying hail storm I believe I have ever witnessed. Inside the church where we meet, the sound was deafening. And outside, the lawn turned solid white with the golfball-sized balls of ice, which soon became lakes. As the children pressed their faces to the front door to watch the spectacle, the hail claimed a window on the other side of the foyer. This sent several children into hysterics, and the adults quickly began moving the kids away from the windows and into the sanctuary.

When the worst of the storm had passed and the rain had subsided enough to allow us passage to our vehicles, we quickly loaded up our things and made hasty inspections for damage. No car was left undented. But one also revealed a cracked windshield. That one was mine. It's a low crack, on the driver's side. It's not detrimental for driving, but it's just crazy that it happened at all. And I can't tell you how funny it is to know that, for the first time in my history of car ownership, I had a nice, safe, hail-free place to park my vehicle at the house, and it hailed on the only day I had to be away from the house and have my van parked out in the elements! Good one, God!

Monday, April 01, 2013

Weekend in Dallas

Many months ago, we bought tickets to the Elite Eight Championship tournament in Arlington. We didn't include Clay in our little trip, because 1). he's a toddler, who hasn't shown great interest in watching basketball games (though he loves to play with balls of all kinds) and has absolutely no taste for sitting still for more than five minutes and 2). he had an invitation to spend a weekend alone with Nana and Papa, without the other kids. (The other kids also have an invitation for a solo weekend with the grandparents). So, we dropped Clay off on Friday afternoon and headed for the Big D.

After checking in to the hotel in Dallas and resting for a short while, we made our way to Cowboy Stadium in Arlington. We got parked and settled into our seats just in time to see Michigan and Kansas take to the court. The kids loved the mega-jumbotron and all the fun snacks. But they also really enjoyed picking a team to root for (since none of us were particularly loyal to any of the teams going in to it) and watching and learning about the game. We all decided to go for Kansas. It was a very close game and was very exciting, even going in to overtime. Weston kind of got caught up in the emotion of it all and was sad (to the point of real tears) that Kansas didn't win. We had to remind him that he had never even heard of Kansas before we started following the teams this year and that there was nothing on the line for him personally. We had a nice little break and a trip to the concession stand to assuage his feelings before the next game between Florida and Florida Gulf Coast began. We rooted for FGCU, since they were the underdog and gave a pretty impressive dunking display, especially in the first half. No one was particularly devastated by their loss, but that could have been because it was close to midnight, and we were all too tired to care much one way or the other.

Fortunately, we were all able to sleep in on Saturday morning. After a late breakfast, the kids changed into their swimsuits and spent the next four or five hours splashing and playing in the connected indoor and outdoor, shallow-enough-for-Max pools at the hotel, with a host of other kids who were in town for a big conference, while Jeff and I read and visited in relative dryness from the comfort of cushioned chairs. We even ordered pizza in for lunch, so that the fun wouldn't have to end too soon. When the kids were finally wrinkled beyond recognition, we decided to pursue other forms of entertainment. We found a theater that was still showing Life of Pi  and decided to take it in. It was an interesting and entertaining movie, which gave us some things to talk about afterward, as well. After the movie, we headed over to Magic Time Machine for dinner, where we were challenged to a battle of wits by our waiter, The Dread Pirate Roberts. Tired from the late night and all the swimming, the kids were ready for bed early.

On Sunday morning, there was time for more swimming, before the final game of the tournament. We came in thinking we would go for Florida, but got cold feet before the game started and switched to Michigan. (The boys actually switched back and forth throughout the game, probably to avoid getting overly attached to any one team and becoming too emotionally invested, as had happened on Friday) We were certainly glad we made the switch! Michigan was clearly the better team on the court yesterday, and we predict they may be even more of a force to be reckoned within the next few years, since two of their star players were only freshmen.

We had a great time at the tournament and doing some things that we can't easily do with Clay in tow. But, we were glad to be reunited with our Little Bitty, and he was glad to be reunited with Max. I took only one picture the whole weekend and then I left my camera at my parents' house when we picked up Clay, so I guess I'll add that later. Here's hoping you all had a wonderful weekend, as well!