Tuesday, March 31, 2009


...the arrival of two adorable kittens. The proud momma is our sweet kitty, Zoe. Baby Black was born around 5:00 p.m. with Baby Gray arriving at around 5:20. We're still waiting on Baby #3. I can feel it in Zoe's belly. We're hoping it comes soon, and that it is alive and healthy like the other two.

What I've Learned

Wow...Tuesday came fast for me this week! It's time for another installment of What I've Learned. I'm all linked in to the weekly What I've Learned Carnival at Musings of A Housewife. It's really fun to read what other people have learned, too. Here's my little learning list.

1. Do not try to seed your lawn in Arkansas in March, April, or May. For a California native, this is the perfect time to plant a lawn. When we seeded our lawn 10 days ago, we forgot to factor in the one thing that is certain about Arkansas weather: it is entirely unpredictable. I think my husband shed some real tears as his lawn seed waved goodbye on it's journey to the storm drain during the severe thunderstorm on Thursday. Maybe the Arkansas River will benefit from the seed...
What I Learned: Next year buy sod.

2. Matt and I took the DISC personality profile test this week as an assignment from Life Change. We've both taken it before, but it has been 4 years. It was remarkable to take it again, and to look at our results. The last time we took it was a few months before we moved here. Everything in our lives was topsy turvy. Taking the test now that we've been solidly settled for a while made a big difference. Reading the analysis of my personality was amazing...it explains a lot about me and the way I function in certain situations. Discussing my profile with Matt and looking at his profile in relationship to mine gave us a lot of stuff to think about. Email me if you want more info about this very cool test.
What I learned: I'm a Beaver (high C) off the charts.

3. I had another portrait session yesterday. This time I was photographing our friends the Morrises. They are sweet couple who works up at LifeChange with us. Their son, daughter-in-law, and new grandson are in town this week, and they wanted family photos. So I made the drive out to the Old Mill, which is my favorite photo location, and is one of the most beautiful spots in Central Arkansas. It's totally worth the drive to shoot there.
What I Learned: Photography is not just a hobby for me--it's a passion. I need to keep developing it and pursuing it.
Here are a few of my favorite photos from the session.

Daddy B, Mommy J, and Baby C. Sweet family.

Auntie S loves Baby C.

A tender moment

The whole family

You can tell who is the center of attention in this family!

I just love this one.

Grampy L and Grandma S, very much in love. My favorite shot of the day.

Monday, March 30, 2009

French Toast Resapy

All throughout this school year, I have had trouble trying to get Snapper to write. She loves spelling, and writes dictated sentences beautifully. But when it comes to trying to get her to write a composition of any sort, she digs in her feet, crosses her arms, and balks. Snapper hates writing. I've tried all sorts of differnt types of writing assignments, ranging from story writing, poetry, reports, letters, and even simple journals about her life. She has not liked any of it. Then today, I decided to have her write her own recipe. Bingo! For the first time this school year, Snapper's eyes lit up with excitement at the prospect of writing. Here is her original, uncorrected "resapy."

French Toast Resapy

First, you put a gallan of milk in a big bowl. Then you put three eggs in the bowl. Then you put one shake of sinamin in the bowl. Then you mix the stuff together. Then you poor the stuff on a lofe of bread. Put a pan on a hot stove and put the bread on the pan. Set the timer for one hour. Serve the toast on a plate with butter and serrup.

Remind me to have dinner plans with friends on the night Snapper is cooking French Toast. Ha ha!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Little Whine and Cheese

It is a beautiful Sunday morning. The kids slept for 13 hours last night, which I'm hoping will help Mr. Pepper recover more quickly. He puked on Wednesday, and has had a fever ever since. He's still funtioning pretty well, so I'm not worried. It's a fever virus, I'm sure. I'll take him to the doctor tomorrow if he still has a fever.

It seems like I've missed more church in the last 3 months than I have in the last 3 years. Between traveling and illness, I've not spent very many Sundays at church. It makes me sad. I soak up those weekly times of worship, of hearing a fresh batch of truth, and of time with the "family" we have here in Arkansas. Our church is our family. I have never met a more loving, caring, and generous group of believers in my life! They totally step in a fill the gap, and I love them.

I suppose I should be thankful I get to go to church at all. Thankful for usually healthy kids. Thankful that Pepper's illness is not serious. Really, I am thankful. But every now and then, a girl just needs to whine...even if just for a minute. That brings me to the quote of the week, courtesy of Mr. Pepper:

"But Mommy, I just WANT to whine!"

Okay, I'm done.

Now for the cheese. Cheese, especially cheddar, is my favorite food. Therefore, the word "cheese" in this blog does not mean cheesy, in the traditional sense of the word cheesy. Instead, "cheese" means: yummy, tasty, delicious. My son is yummy, tasty, and delicious. He's so cute I could eat him up. Here's his "cheese" moment for today.

On Friday, Matt sliced open his thumb with a steak knife. It's a really ugly cut, but not quite bad enough to require stitches. He is keeping it carefully protected with a large bandaid. This morning, Pepper cut his finger. It's not a bad cut--just bad enough to require a bandaid. Matt and Snapper had already left for church at this point. But Pepper was so proud of his Dora the Explorer bandaid, that he ran to the front window, stuck his little hand through the blinds and yelled in his biggest Pepper voice (which is pretty big), "Daaaaaaa-Deeeeee! I have a bandaid TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

How cute is that? Cheese, I think!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Face Value

Snapper and Pepper are two very expressive kiddos. I can read their little faces like books, whether they're trying to be expressive or not. I captured a few moments today. They were too funny not to share.

Snapper is too much ham. She sees the camera and can't look away. Li'l Miss Drama as always! I couldn't get any candids of her funny expressions. But she had fun making silly faces for the camera. She's in a silly phase recently, so I suppose these photos are appropriate, even if they're totally posed.

Unlike Snapper, Pepper has no great love for the camera. I managed to snap this shot while Pepper was watching Snapper clown around for the camera.

Once he saw the camera pointed at him, though, he turned on me and flashed me his famous "Evil Eye." To do justice to him, I must mention that he has an ugly fever/stomach virus. What sicko in their right mind would want their picture taken? I had to laugh, though. This expression is SUCH a classic Pepper face! Isn't he cute when he's mad?

Commercial Impact

Yesterday Snapper got the latest issue of My Big Backyard in the mail. In case you didn't know, My Big Backyard is a great nature magazine for little kiddos. There was an article about how different animals clean themselves. Snapper got all excited about the picture of the lizard licking its eyeball. Here's our heated discussion.

Snapper: "Mommy! The Geico can lick its eye!"
Me: "Do you mean Gecko?"
S: "No, Mommy, it's GEICO."
Me: "Sweetie, it's a Gecko."
S: (in frustration...with a bit of sass) "No, Mother, it's GEICO. I saw it on tv."

I laughed. And laughed. And laughed.
I wonder what other strange ideas commercials are planting in my daughter's head! We don't watch very much tv at all, so apparently it doesn't take much!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Works for Me!

Since today is Wednesday, I'll follow in the tradition of another one of my favorite blogs, We Are That Family. Today I post a parenting tip that has been invaluable to me over the last 4 years. My friend Lori is having the same dilemma with her 4-year-old daughter that I have long had with Snapper. Sweet and adorable as our little girls are, they are sadly lacking in fashion sense. If I allow Snapper to choose her own outfits, she ends up looking like the poster child for TLC's hit show, What Not to Wear. The problem is that little girls want autonomy. They want to choose their own clothes. As mommies, we want to foster that growing independence...but still have our kiddos look presenatable. Here is the brilliant solution!

Step 1: Go to the store and buy a couple of boxes of 2-gallon Ziploc bags. Don't scrimp and buy Brand X. Buy the tried-and-true, sturdy bags.

Step 2: Empty your child's drawers and match all his/her clothing into coordinating outfits.

Step 3: Put an outfit (complete with socks and undies) into a bag. Seal the bag.

Step 4: Place the bags of warm-day outfits into one dresser drawer, and the bags of cold-day outfits into another dresser drawer. Have a third drawer for sweats and comfy "at home only" clothes.

Problem solved! When your child wants to get dressed, they can choose whichever bagged outfit they want from the drawer that matches the weather. The one rule is that they cannot mix and match from different bags. This gives the child the choice in what they wear; but you, Mommy, are ultimately in control.

It also guarantees clean undies every day! Can't beat that!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What I've Learned

I've decided that since so many other bloggers post a weekly blog about what they've learned that week (to read them, visit Musings of A Housewife), I will start doing the same thing. Tuesday is a quiet day for me, so without further ado, here are the things I have learned this week.

1. Grad school is a fantastic way to snap the mind out of the daily grind. However, I do not recommend taking a grad school course on a one-week fast track plan, particularly when that course involves the reading and study of, and testing on, the whole Old Testament. I learned a TON in that class, and loved every bit of it. But I about killed myself and alienated my husband and kids in the process.

2. I learned that tulips are my new favorite flower. After the monotony of winter in the mid-south, those brilliant blooms are food for the soul. There's nothing like rich color to lift the spirit! Here's one of the pics I took on Saturday that didn't make it into my Toolips blog.

3. Every mom can read the seriousness of a situation by the sound of her child's cry. There's the hungry cry. There's the tired cry. There's the whiny cry. There's the scared cry. There's the angry cry. There's the hurt cry. Then there's the REALLY HURT cry. I'd never heard that one before today. Today I learned that my daughter can issue a cry that makes every hair on my body stand up, and propels my feet into jet action. Geesh, I didn't know I could still run that fast! Snapper took a fall at the park today. The fall itself wasn't bad, but how she landed was. By the time I got to her, picked her up and carried her to the picnic table to look at her ankle, it had already swelled up. We were at the doctor's office 15 minutes later and the poor little ankle was bulging out of the shoe. It looked like it had grape jelly under the skin. A quick xray and exam determined that it is not broken (praise the Lord!), but it is badly sprained. The tricky part will be keeping my very active 6-year-old off her feet for the next week.

4. I was reminded (not really new learning...) that age 2 1/2, while challenging, is also delightful. I love Pepper's emerging ability to communicate and express himself...in words! My little Pepper was so concerned for Snapper when she fell. While I was examining her ankle, he kept trying to kiss it. At the doctor's office, he hollered down the hallway, "Huwwy up, doctuh, my sit-ter (sister) gots a twisted!" When the doctor was examining the ankle, Snapper was softly crying. Pepper slapped the doctor's hand and said, "No, doctuh! Don't hurt my sit-ter!" The doctor explained that he wasn't trying to hurt Snapper, just trying to figure out what was wrong. Then Pepper said, "You go get my sit-ter a bandaid wight now!" The doctor obviously enjoyed Pepper's concern, and complimented him on how much he loves and cares for his "sit-ter." So stinkin' cute!

What did you learn this week? Leave me a comment and share one thing.

Two Senior Moments

While we were at the garden on Saturday, each of my children said something funny. Both were in regard to an elderly person.

Snapper was first.

We are walking along the path, admiring the tulips, when Snapper notices a group of senior citizens walking toward us. Without missing a beat she hollers at the top of her lungs, "LOOK OUT FOR THOSE OLD PEOPLE!"

The "old" people apparently got a kick out of that, because they all laughed heartily. They weren't the only ones who heard Snapper, though. About 30 feet down the path, two women were sitting on a bench. As we passed them, one of them said, laughing, "Look out for us! We're old too!" They proceded to comment on how cute Snapper is, and how funny, and how adorable. I'm sure glad everyone else thought that was funny and cute and adorable, because I'm still trying to convince myself that it was. Oh fine, I guess it was. Ha ha!

Not 10 minutes later, we pass another group of senior citizens. One man was walking with the assistance of a cane. Pepper walks up to him and says, "You must be a shepherd!" Now THAT is funny! The "shepherd" thought so, too.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Snapper's "Toolips"

Ah, Spring makes me happy! Even though the sky was spitting little drops on Saturday morning, we met up with our friends Larry and Erin and drove down to Hot Springs, AR. Garvan Woodland Gardens, a spectacular botanical garden, planted 90,000 tulips this year and they peaked last weekend! We had a blast with our friends, and soaked up the amazing patchwork of color at the gardens. Here are my favorite pictures from the day.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Food...Umm, UMM!!!!

Yesterday and today can be summed up in one word: Food!

Soul Food: Today I completed my Old Testament Suervey course. It was an intense week of study (20 hours of class, plus reading the Old Testament, plus making flashcards and studying for the exam). But it was rich! Everything I learned will be digesting over the course of the next few weeks. Right now my head is so packed that I'm finding hard to focus on anything. The exam was brutal--150 questions covering the Old Testament, minus a few books. No study guide. Ugh! I thought I studied pretty well, but was still unprepared for the exam. It was HARD! I have no clue how I did. I still have 2 papers to write in the next 8 days.

Emotional Food: Tonight will be a fun, fun night! I'm scrapbooking from 6-midnight with some gal-pals from church, and my scrapbooking buddy, Taya. There is little else in life that I enjoy more than putting my precious family photos together to create a work of art! Oh yes, it will be fun!

Love Food: My hubby is the sweetest and best of men. He knew the tremendous pressure I was under this week, and completely cleaned the house for me. He also finished the tile project in the living room and bathroom. He also seeded both the front and back yards. He also cut down 2 trees in our back yard so our plants will grow better. He also quizzed me last night to help me prepare for the test today. He also made me a special treat while I was studying yesterday. He took Tostitos Scoops, filled each one with cheese, and baked them. Then he filled them the rest of the way with sour cream and salsa. My own plate of nacho bites! Doesn't he rock? Oh yeah, AND he took care of the kids all week so I could go to class and study. My man is THE man!

Body Food: Snapper's best friend, V, recently had a fundraiser for her school. She sold cookie dough, and a few other food-related items. I bought a crock pot cookbook, because I am in need of some new crock pot recipes. I tried one last night, and it was added to that elite category of recipes that my entire family scores a 10! Without further ado, here it is.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
(serves 6)

1. Place 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the crock pot.

2. Combine in a bowl and mix together:
1 can chopped, mild green chilies
2 cloves minced garlic
1 diced yellow onion
2 cans (15 ounces each) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup chicken broth
2 tsp. ground cumin

3. Pour mixture over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours, or on high for 3 hours or until chicken is tender.

4. Remove chicken from crock pot. Use 2 forks to shred the meat. Then, return the meat to the crock pot. Add 1 tsp. salt. Add chicken broth if necessary

Just before serving, add:
4 corn tortilla, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

Serve in soup bowls, topping each serving with grated cheddar cheese, a slice of avocado (if desired), and a dallop of sour cream.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Savoring Wednesday: The Final Edition

It has been one week since the event that turned life into a roller coaster. One week since I determined to intentionally savor something about each day, and then report on it here in my blog. Today will be my last daily savor post.

Today I savored:


Okay, don't get too excited. I'm not pregnant. Ha ha! I bet I made you look twice, though!

Seriously though, I am loving watching our cat, Zoe, go through the final stages of her pregnancy. To make a long story short, we got Zoe a year ago. The woman who gave her to us assured us she had been fixed. We decided Zoe would be an indoor cat, primarily to avoid having fleas in the house. But Zoe had other ideas. Finally, after 10 months of trying to talk her out of her desire to go outside, we gave up. She has been a much happier cat since we have allowed her to go outside for a while every day. Back around Christmas, we had a scare...thought she might be pregnant. But nothing came of it, and we figured she was fixed. But then a couple of weeks ago, we noticed some changes in our kitty. She all of a sudden became very mellow. She "puts the kids to bed" at night. Yes, she climbs into bed with each of them for a few moments, grooming Pepper's hair and massaging Snapper with her paws. It has become this little nightly routine, and it's pretty cute. We also noticed that Zoe's belly was looking rounder, and her nipples had gotten larger and pinker. Then day before yesterday, I was rubbing Zoe's belly and felt a distinct lump. I had Deb Deb and Matt check to make sure I wasn't imagining things. Sure enough, they felt the lump too. And this evening, I was able to see other lumps...they were moving around! So off and on all evening, I have put my hand on Zoe's mommy-tummy, and enjoyed the movement of the kittens. Tonight Zoe has started nesting. I found her in a box on the top shelf of my closet. I found her in the laundry pile in my bathroom closet. I found her behind the big, comfy chair in the living room. I found her in a basket in the laundry room. So as I sit here writing, Matt is setting up a box for her in the downstairs bathroom. Who knows...maybe we'll wake up to kittens! It's going to be fun to watch them grow, but I am already dreading the day we have to send them to their new homes.

2. Zoe and her kittens, no matter how special and wonderful they are, pale in comparison to this:
Our friend Rocky who lost his daughter Nikki in a car wreck this week told us tonight that 4 of Nikki's friends gave their lives to Jesus at the memorial service yesterday.

I will never understand why Nikki's life ended at such a young age. I will never like what happened. My heart will continue to grieve for Nikki's family. But what this has reminded me of is that God always sees the big picture. He is all-powerful and all-good, and He can take the most painful, ugly situations and work in them to accomplish amazing things. What Satan intended for evil, God intended for good. What a comfort for Nikki's parents and sister to know that something beautiful and lasting has come out of their loss--life change for 4 precious kids. Though life is hard and life often hurts, I am sitting this evening and savoring the goodness of God, and the peace that comes from knowing Him.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Savoring Monday and a Reminder

Reminder first: On Friday, March 20th (that's this Friday), my blog address will be changing. This is to protect the privacy of my family. Make sure you make note of the new address, because the current one will take you nowhere starting on Saturday.


When I graduated from college 7 years ago, I sat in the passenger seat of my Daddy's car and cried as we drove away from the campus, closing the door on my college years. I'm not saying I loved every minute of my years in school. There were plenty of classes I did not enjoy, boring professors, hideous group projects, and pointless papers. But most of the time, I loved school. The best part about those years was the mental stimulation. As I studied, listened, discussed, debated, researched, and wrote, I felt alive. There's nothing like the thrill of learning something new, something exciting, something you can apply to real life. That summarizes my college experience.

After graduation, teaching elementary school offered more of that mental stimulation, primarily in figuring out a variety of ways to meet my students' different learning styles. I loved teaching, loved my kids.

When we moved here to Arkansas, I became a full-time, stay-at-home mom. I love this job! It is a continual challenge to meet the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of my children. It is a challenge to keep life--and our budget--in balance. And I still haven't figured how to keep my house even somewhat tidy, meals planned and healthy, children bathed and content, husband happy and loved, and myself sane.

As much as I love being at home, I have missed the deeper thinking that was part of daily life for me 4 years ago. I have wanted to get back into the learner mentality, but I didn't know when. When the opportunity presented itself for me to begin graduate studies with a great seminary without having to go out of town, I jumped on it. My class is every morning for a week, and takes place up at the office. Hooray for our employer who brings professors in from time to time to teach classes for the enrichment of our staff!

I savored all 4 hours of class this morning. I love learning new things, especially since the topic is foundational for my life. My goal is to take one class each quarter over the next 4 years. It will keep my mind fresh, help me avoid becoming stagnant in my primary role of wife and mom, and will deepen my relationship the Lord. Yup, that's a lot to savor!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Savoring Monday: In Honor of Nikki Rose

I am so exhausted I can barely see straight to type this, so I'll keep it brief. Here are my savory moments for today.

1. First day of grad school. Yup, I'm taking my first class toward a Master of Arts in Christian Education. I'm super excited, because I've wanted to do this for a long time. The class: Old Testament Survey. I have an awesome prof, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the class...even writing the papers!

2. My Honey is home! We picked him up from the airport at 2:00 this afternoon. Oh, is it good to have him back!

3. My precious children. Tonight I was honored to photograph the funeral of Nikki, our friends Rocky and Kristi's 17-year-old daughter who was killed in a car wreck last week. Their extended family lives in California, and they wanted pictures of the funeral to take back home to California with them later this week. It was an open casket viewing, and Rocky and Kristi wanted pictures of every aspect of the evening. I experienced such a broad range of emotions tonight as I snapped 380 pictures. I felt like a trespasser into people's grief, yet I shared the grief myself. The emotions were so intense that by the time I got home, I had such a bad stomachache that I could hardly stand up. Watching our sweet friends mourn for their child broke my heart again, and reawakened in me how thankful I am for my own, precious children, and how much I love them. I held them both extra long tonight.

Here is a picture I took of a rose from one of the funeral flower arrangements, in memory of Nikki Rose.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Savoring Sunday

Wye Mountain is a secluded spot about 30 minutes west of Little Rock. There's a tiny Methodist church on the mountain. The church sits on 10 acres, 7 of which are covered with daffodils. During the peak of the daffodil bloom season, the church hosts a daffodil festival. You can make the trek up the mountain and play in the daffodil field free of charge. They even have a u-pick section roped off in the field. Daffodils are $1 per dozen. Every spring since Pepper was born, we have taken a day and gone up to Wye Mountain as a family to play in the flowers and to take pictures. It is a beautiful piece of Arkansas, a great, inexpensive way to enjoy time as a family. The daffodil bloom peak landed on this weekend. We had planned to go up as a family, along with Deb-Deb and her boyfriend, Ryan. Today is Deb's 19th birthday, and we thought a picnic in the daffodils would be a fun birthday celebration. Well, Matt is still in Colorado. So there will be no Wye Mountain picture of our family this year. But I got some fantastic shots of Deb-Deb and Ryan, as well as a bunch of Snapper and Pepper. We took sandwiches and cupcakes with us, and enjoyed them while sitting in the grass, surrounded by daffodils. I even brought a candle and matches so we could sing and Deb could make her birthday wish. It was a special time, and I savored every moment. Here are my favorite pictures from today. Enjoy!

Visit www.moblyng.com to make your own!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Savoring Saturday

Ah yes, a good day! Finally! It is so nice to have a solid, good day! It was also a fairly ordinary day, filled with catching up the everything I couldn't do when I was sick...like 8 loads of laundry, grocery shopping, general tidying up, etc. I did take the time to savor 4 specific things today. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Grocery shopping without children! This sweet delight was made possible by my friend Julia, to whom I am deeply grateful. I pushed a normal cart through the store, not one of the bulky, blue, 2-seater, mom-carts. I did not have to walk down the dead center of the aisle, because no little hands were grabbing at the shelves! I took my time and saved more money than usual. I even stopped at Sonic for a cherry limeade! It was lovely.

2. Making Debbie's birthday cupcakes with Snapper. Actually, Snapper made the cupcakes all by herself, with only a little bit of coaching from me! I savored the expressions on her face as I taught her how to separate the egg white from the egg yolk. How I wish I'd had the camera there to capture the looks of fascination and disgust as the egg whites slimed her fingers! It was priceless.

3. Spending 2 1/2 hours visiting with Julia in her living room when I went down to pick up the kids. There is not much in this world that is sweeter than a good chat with a like-minded friend. We are just getting to know each other, and I was delighted to find out how much we have in common. It will be fun to watch this friendship grow.

4. My muddy 2-year-old. Julia's husband has prepared a spot in their back yard for a garden. It is the perfect mudhole right now, and apparently was magnetic to Pepper. Oh, how I laughed when we went out to check on the kids, and found Pepper soaked and muddy from head to toe! I'm the kind of mom who likes to let my kids get good and dirty from time to time. I am savoring Pepper's little-boy ventures, and all the cuteness that comes as a result.

Candid 6=Embarrassed 29

Okay. I wasn't going to post this for the world to see. It is dreadfully embarrassing. But it is also really, really funny, and it illustrates the gaps in my 6-year-old daughter's vocabulary. It also reminds me of her innocence. I could not resist any longer. Heck, I'll even link to the Life Is Funny carnival! So blush a little, and enjoy a good laugh at my expense. Before you read on, take a good look at this cute, little face. Keep it in mind as you read.

When we were in North Carolina last month, we went to the Hendrick Motorsports Facility. My favorite NASCAR driver, Jimmie Johnson, races for the Hendrick Team. So going to the museum, visiting the shop where they work on Jimmie's cars, and seeing a few of his cars were great fun for me, as well as for Snapper, who is my little race-watching- buddy. At the register in the gift store, they had a bucket of lug nuts from Jimmie's car on sale for $1 each. For those of you who know me, I am dreadfully cheap. I love a good bargain. This seemed like it might be a good bargain. However, I just could not bring myself to spend $1 for a lug nut, even one that was from my racing hero's car. When we found one in the parking lot, though, believe me...I jumped on that bargain! That yellow, scuffed lug nut has a place of honor on my keychain.

Before I describe the event that has risen high on my "most embarrassing moments" chart, let me set the vocabulary record straight. Snapper has long struggled with the word "nipple." Okay, I've said it. Now we can move on. In the last few years, many objects have been wrongfully dubbed a nipple by Snapper, including:

A pimple ("Look, Mommy, you have a big nipple on your chin!")
Thanks, dear...
A bug bite ("I think that bug gave me a big nipple when he bit me.")
Impressive bug!
A nickel ("Can I have a nipple so I can buy some candy?")
Would it fit in the quarter slot?
Hives ("Mommy, I have nipples all over my body!)
I don't think Benadryl will solve that problem...
Dimples ("Pepper has 2 nipples on his booty!")
Let's form our own freak show! We could go on the road and make our fortunes!
Many times I have tried to explain to my vocab-challenged girl what a nipple is! Apparently, I just haven't gotten through to her.

The day after we got home, we went to the office with Matt. Snapper was animatedly describing the events of our trip to one of Matt's male co-workers. We'll just call him Fred. Here's how the conversation went.

Snapper: "We got to go to the NASCAR museum while we were in North Carolina!
Fred: "Really? How fun! What did you see?"
S: "We saw Jimmie and Jeff's race cars! And guess what? My mommy found one of Jimmie Johnson's nipples in the parking lot! She put it on her keychain!"
Me: "SNAPPER!!!"
F: Chuckles and looks at me with raised eyebrows

At this point I felt the red flames beginning to climb into my cheeks.

S: Dramatically smacks hand across forehead and says, "No, no, no, wait! That's not right! It wasn't a nipple. It was one of Jimmie Johnson's nuts! It's on her keychain. She'll show you if you ask!"
Me: (more insistently...not looking at Fred) "SNAPPER!"
F: Full-on grinning and looking at me expectantly

Heat is radiating off my neck and face now. Oh, how embarrassing!

S: "No, no, no, wait! That's not right either." (furrows brow in concentration) "Ah ha! I know! It was one of Jimmie Johnson's lug nuts. Silly me!"

What more can I say?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Savoring Friday

It is 10:30 p.m. Friday is officially over for me. Tomorrow has a full to-do list, so I'll post my savor moments now. Today started a bit rough when I sent my hubby to Colorado early this morning. The day improved as it progressed. It was much easier to find those moments to savor today. I have a few to report.

1. For Valentine's Day, I bought Snapper a latchhook rug kit, her first. We spent an hour on the couch together while I taught her how to do the work on it. She really enjoyed it, and I loved the quiet, cooperative time with my daughter.

2. Once a month I play Bunko with a group of my friends. Tonight was Bunko night for March, and I savored each moment of conversation and laughter with my sweet friends. The yummy breakfast for dinner was awesome, too!

3. Definitely the highlight of the day for me...
Stop reading here if you are squeamish about bodily functions.
HOWEVER, if you are a mom, you will probably want to press ahead for a good laugh.

Next week I'm taking my first grad school course. It's a graduate level Old Testament Survey class. I'm really excited! I've had to do a lot of reading over the past few weeks. So this morning, I was sitting on the couch reading my Bible. Snapper was playing on the Wii. Pepper was contentedly emptying my tupperware cabinet, and pretending that the wooden spoon and plastic turkey baster were drumsticks or hammers or something else that makes a satisfying, loud noise. I got so engrossed in 2 Kings that I failed to notice when the banging stopped. Apparently I missed the sound of the pantry door being opened, too.

After a while--who knows how long--the quiet got too loud. For those of you who know my son, you know that quiet is NEVER good, except maybe when he's sleeping. I jumped up and headed into the kitchen to check on Mr. Devious. Here is what I saw. Look closely!

There he sat in the midst of a pile of candy wrappers, lollipops in his hands, contentedly chowing down on candy from our candy bowl. I grabbed the camera and snapped the picture. What you don't see in this picture are the 10 candy wrappers he was sitting on. Or the gum wrappers beside the fridge. Or the other handful of candy wrappers on the floor to the right of the trash can. I counted: 22 empty candy wrappers and a brand-new package of gum (I don't know how he got the plastic off of it!)...Gone.

I scolded him firmly (thus the silly, half-angry expression on his face), disciplined him, washed him, fed him some good, solid food, and put him down for an early nap. I removed the candy bowl to a higher shelf and went about my day. 3 hours later, Pepper quietly emerged from his bed and snuck back into the kitchen. On finding the candy bowl moved higher in the pantry, he pulled a chair over to the pantry, and feasted again. This time, he only managed 8 pieces before I found him. This time I figured I would let the candy provide its own punishment. I was not disappointed!

On the way to Bunko tonight, Pepper whined and complained over and over about his tummy hurting. I calmly explained to him that his tummy hurt from eating too much candy. I reiterated that Mommy knows what is best for Pepper, and that is why I don't let him eat lots of candy. When we arrived at my friend's house (ironically, her name is Candy), I lifted Pepper out of his carseat and discovered that his tummyache had worked its way through. I did not know the magnitude of the explosion until I got him inside and onto the changing table.

Oh, how glad I am that I had put Pepper's padded training pants on over his diaper (to help his pants stay up) before we left the house! Can we say diarrhea!?! I peeled back his diaper and confirmed that Pepper had eaten:
A pack of pink Orbit gum
Several Gobstoppers, swallowed whole (thanking God he didn't choke...I didn't even know we had those!)
Three different colors of Airheads
Laffy Taffy
And something with peanuts in it

It was a regular candy store in Pepper's pants! I have never seen such colorful poop! I laughed and gagged and scolded him again before scrubbing that boy, and gingerly removing the "candy pants" to the outside trash can.

Yes, I even savored that! Not the diaper, of course, but the antics of my innovative, determined, sweet-toothed, 2 1/2-year-old. Oh, how I love that boy, mischief and all.

Savoring Thursday

So on Wednesday, I made the commitment to be intentional about savoring each day this week. I want to share with you how I did on Thursday.

Yesterday was a miserable day, not springlike at all! We had a high of 33, and a mix of sleet, freezing rain, and ice all day. The ground was warm enough that the roads were fine. So at lunch time, I bundled up the kids and took them out to lunch. It was a soup kind of day, and I was in a soup kind of mood. So soup it was. We went to McAlister's, an awesome deli restaurant, that has the most delicious soups. To make it even better, they serve the soup in bread bowls. I had broccoli cheddar soup, and the kids had made-from-scratch chicken noodle soup. It was so yummy, and warmed me all the way through. I savored that soup, and the chance to just go do something fun with my kids.

It ended up not being as fun as I would have liked because my children were mean and cantankerous all afternoon. But I sat there and savored it anyway! The soup was so good, and my children are healthy and perky enough to say nasty things to me and to each other. I'd rather have that than sick, lethargic children. Ha ha!!!

Hopefully my savoring will be more productive and thorough today!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Somebody Wake Me Up...

It is Thursday evening. I want it to be next Tuesday morning.

This week started out on a sour note with a case of the flu in the middle of the night on Saturday. Sunday got no better, for reasons I do not need to discuss in a blog. On Tuesday morning there was an emergency meeting called at work, in which leadership announced that there would be 25 layoffs on Thursday. Great. Just what everyone wants to hear. Wednesday morning kicked off with the call that our co-worker Rocky's daughter has been killed in a car wreck. That pretty much ruined yesterday. All day long a cloud hung over me, and the tears kept coming. Today, Thursday, was layoff day. My heart is breaking for our friends who lost their jobs today. Matt came home from work early today to pack. He's covering the Colorado Springs event for Rocky this weekend, and he flies out tomorrow. He will be gone until Monday afternoon. I'm glad he can help out our friend. It is just hard to let him go when I'm feeling so fragile inside.

Snapper and Pepper have had a rough day today. I think they sense the gloom in the air. More then once today I have wanted to lock them in their rooms and pull out my hair in frustration. But of course, I would never do that. Pulling out my hair hurts too much. Ha ha! Really though, all day I have tried to function, but have not been able to get pass that dreadful weight of a sense of impending doom. The layoffs hit hard, but I knew that wasn't what was making me feel so horrible. I jumped every time the phone rang, and found my heart racing at strange times. I kept wondering if maybe I was having some sort of panic attack.

And then came the call. The one I'd been dreading without knowing why. Brian and Carol have been our best friends here in Arkansas ever since about 6 months after we moved here. A few weeks back, Brian got a promotion and they moved with their 3 girls (and pregnant Carol) to Tennessee. Brian called tonight to tell us that Carol is in the process of losing the baby. She is 20 weeks along, and is having to go through labor and deliver the baby. Everything was fine at her last doctor's appointment a couple of weeks ago, so they have no clue why she is miscarrying. We're all praying that the doctors will be able to figure out what happened, that there will be closure for their family.

I thought I was out of tears.
I thought we had hit the bottom.
Is it really only Thursday?
I want it to be Tuesday so the sun will be shining and Matt's trip will be over and Nikki's funeral will be done and so we'll know what happened with my sweet friend and her baby.
Somebody wake me up, please.
This nightmare has gone on long enough.

Snapper and Pepper

This blog thing has really taken off! I'm starting to get more traffic through here, frequently getting comments from people I don't know. To protect our family's identity, I am taking some big steps.

1. I will be changing the address of my blog. I want to give you plenty of time to make the switch.

On March 20th I will be changing my address to: http://www.lifeartist48.blogspot.com

2. I have removed my children's names and replaced them with Snapper and Pepper. Snapper and Pepper are the nicknames my parents have for the kids. My girl was named Snapper when she was just 2, and was staying with my parents while Matt and I were at job training in Florida. My boy was named Pepper on this last trip. He calls my dad Pepper, and my parents call my boy Pepper. Quite cute, really.

3. I will be substituting "LifeChange" for the name of where we work. After all, that's what it is all about!

So make those changes to your blogrolls and feeds! Thanks for following!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Gray Morning and A Memory

It is a dreary morning. Cold. Gray. Drizzly. It matches my heart perfectly. Matt woke me up about 45 minutes ago with the news that our friends Rocky and Kristi lost their 17-year-old daughter, Nikki, in a car accident last night. Rocky is on Matt's team at work, and our team is like our family. I sat there in bed and produced a thunderstorm of my own, torrential downpours and all. 7 1/2 years ago I was the one who got that dreaded late-night call informing me that my Grampa had been killed in a car wreck. He fell asleep at the wheel on the interstate between San Jose and Sacramento. Died instantly as his open convertible flipped several times.

So my heart is breaking this morning for Rocky and Kristi, and their other daughter, Cheri. If you'd take a moment to pray for them, I'd really appreciate it. I know they would, too. Rocky is currently in Las Vegas promoting the upcoming LifeChange event. He's trying to get an earlier flight home. Please pray that he can get home as quickly as possible.

When I finished my "What I've Learned" post yesterday, I concluded with a phrase that has been key in my life: Savor The Moment. Now seems like an appropriate time to tell the story behind that phrase.

When I was 12 years old, my parents flew me to Casper, Wyoming to go visit my friend Betsy and her family. I also stopped over with friend Kathryn and her family in Denver for a few days. I was gone for 12 days in all, and I got dreadfully homesick. I was so homesick, in fact, that I could not enjoy my time with Betsy. After a few miserable days, I called my mom and begged her to change my flight so I could come home right then. She said no, and introduced me to a phrase that has impacted the rest of my life.

Savor the Moment.

So many, many times in the 18 years since then, I have caught myself wishing away time. Or hurrying through an activity or task. Or getting so caught up in the details that I have missed the opportunity to find something special in the big picture. As I have gotten older, I find myself returning to my mom's advice more and more. I've realized the brevity of life, and I'm becoming more focused on savoring each moment God gives me. That is why I've become such an avid photographer. That is why I take pains to record our lives in my scrapbooks. That is why I blog about the "unimportant" details of a perfect Saturday afternoon, or sharpie art by my son. Life is happening all around me all the time, and there is so much to enjoy. So much that could easily pass by without notice.

And you never know when a slick spot on a wet roadway...or an undiagnosed heart condition...or some crazy person with a gun, might use one moment to change life as you know it forever.

My fire is rekindled. Today I will be intentional about making a memory with my children. I will stop and Savor this day. I will blog each day this next week about how I Savored the Moments God gave me. I challenge you to Savor your Moments, too.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What I've Learned This Week

My friend Lori does an amazing job with her blog. If you are looking for a wonderful, new blog to follow, I suggest checking out her blog. This morning she posted a really fun entry on what she has learned this week. It was too good of an idea to pass up, so I've handily lifted from her! Turns out she got the idea from another great blog, Musings of a Housewife, which is hosting a What I Have Learned This Week carnival. Check it out!

The last week has been an eventful week for our family. While life is always a learning curve for me, I have learned more in the last seven days than usual. I thought I'd share a few of those things.

1. Spend the extra money on the good tools. I have refinished several pieces of furniture in the past, and have hated it every time. So tackling the kitchen cabinets was a huge mountain for me to climb. This time, though, we invested a little bit of extra money in a good detail sander and some high quality paint and varnish remover. The job, while time-consuming, has not been difficult! Worth the money!
Skil 10,000 Orbits per Minute Orbital Power Sander

Motsenbocker's Liftoff Paint and Varnish Remover

2. Listen to your body. Intestinal distress in the middle of the night on Saturday was followed by a fever and body aches on Sunday. I knew I had the flu. I could have let it go, but I had a gut-level feeling I should go to the doctor. It paid off. I have influenza-b, a strain of the flu treatable with a medication. My doctor prescribed this medication to cut my sick time in half (would have been 10-14 days without the meds)!!! He also gave me a prescription for Matt to help him avoid getting sick, as well as an anti-nausea med to help my stomach. Hooray for the doctor!

3. Just hide the Sharpies. If you missed my earlier post on Pepper's sharpie art, it's worth going back a few days in my archive to see the pictures. Lesson learned: Just hide the Sharpies already!

4. Forever stamps are forever. Postage rates are going up again at the end of April. The Post Office currently has "forever" stamps that can be purchased at the current postage rate, but but can be used indefinitely without having to add extra stamps. Buy a bunch now while they are available and save yourself some money in the long-term.

5. Formal activities are overrated. Last fall Snapper participated in children's theater at church. The Christmas musical they put on was adorable and I was so proud of my little "star." (Yes, she played the role of a star...the twinkling kind). On Saturday morning I informed her that children's theater was starting up again on Sunday. She informed me that she doesn't want to be in children's theater--that she'd much rather stay home and play with Pepper. Wow! That was a surprise! She proved her point by playing outside contentedly with Snapper all day Saturday. Are all the dance, sports, and music lessons for our little ones really all they're cracked up to be?

Snapper "stars" with friend V in our church children's Christmas musical

6. Savor the moment. This lesson has become a major theme in my life. Someday I'll blog about where this phrase started in my life. But for now, I'll reflect on how I relearned it this week. Our new living room paint demanded some fresh photos for the walls. So I went on a several-hour-long search through my photo archives looking for just the right pictures to print and hang. When I opened the March 2008 file, I was stunned to see how different Pepper looked just a year ago. He was still a baby. When I look at him now, I see a little boy. I was reminded to savor each moment. That evening, I grabbed him, wrapped him in his "mimi" (brown fleece and satin blanket), and held him close for about 15 minutes, smothering him with kisses, and memorizing the feel of his 2 1/2-year-old body in my arms. To my delight, he didn't protest at all the affection. Oh, how time flies! Never forget to savor the moment!

Pepper, 1 1/2

Pepper, 2 1/2

Have you learned any lessons this week? Comment and share! I'd love to hear from you.

Forsythia Diaries, Chapter 2

The second and final chapter. I missed most of the mid-range progress of our bush while we were in North Carolina. And then I accidentally deleted last week's pictures of the bush. Sigh. Oh well! Here is the fully bloomed-out forsythia bush! Spring is just about here. Isn't it beautiful?

Since I'm celebrating spring, I had to add a couple of other pictures, too. This gorgeous flowering tree is a Bradford Pear. It is in the front yard of the neighbor across the street and 3 houses down. I love that tree! The daffodils are around my mailbox. We'll be going to a daffodil field this weekend, as well as to a botanical garden. So anticipate lots of springy pictures next week!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bliss In A Bite

I haven't posted any recipes for a while, primarily because I haven't found any really good, new ones. While we were in California, my cousin Missy made some incredible chicken, and I had to have the recipe for it. Since then I have passed this amazing, simple recipe on to several friends and other cousins, all of whom have loved it as much as I have. It's even a Weight Watchers recipe, for those of you who are minding your food intake. It's 3 points per serving of chicken, and 0 points if you're on the core plan. So without further ado, here's the most amazing crockpot recipe I have ever had.

Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken

Place in the crockpot:

8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup salsa (you choose the type)
1 package taco seasoning (go for the low sodium kind)

Cook on high for 5 hours.

After removing the chicken from the crockpot, add sour cream to the juices in the crockpot. I use 1 cup of lite or fat free sour cream. This makes a delicious sauce to pour over the chicken if you so desire.

There are several ways to serve the chicken.
1. Serve the chicken breasts whole with Mexican rice and refried beans.
2. Shred the chicken (it practically falls apart!) and serve with salad fixings, using the sace in lieu of dressing.
3. Shred the chicken and serve with tortilla, taco shells, and taco fixings.

If you make this recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know how you like it!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Just What I Needed!

While we were on the road the last 2 months, I really missed our daily routine and the comfort of home. Now that we've been home for a few weeks and are back in the routine, I began to feel just a tiny bit restless--ready for some good fun. This was a weekend of good fun.

Friday night the staff ladies of our church hosted a lock-in for the church ladies. Good food. Good friends. Well-planned activities. Laughter in great abundance. Sweet conversations. Hardly any sleep...and totally worth it! I have not laughed that much in a very long time. When I first arrived, I was hit by a wave of sadness and lonliness for my Arkansas best bud Carol who moved to Tennessee last month. But that lonliness soon passed, and I had the most fantastic evening. Thanks, staff ladies! We need to do that more often!

I crawled into my bed at home at 7:45 on Saturday morning and enjoyed some dozing and cuddling with my sweet hubby for an hour before getting up to face the day. The kids slept until 8:30, then joined us in our bed for a while. I soak up those Saturday morning cuddles with them. I remember cuddling in bed with my parents, and it is a memory that makes me feel all warm inside. I hope in years to come that Snapper and Pepper have those same warm memories. Once we were up and at 'em, it was project time. The weather was a balmy 74 degrees with a light breeze. I opened the garage door, cranked up my new 90's playlist on my iPod, and spent just about the whole day priming my kitchen cabinet doors. Matt stationed himself on the front porch with his tile saw, and cut all the tile for the living room entryway, fireplace hearth, and downstairs bathroom. Snapper and Pepper played together beautifully all day. Their activities included: Jumping on the trampoline, building cities in our two sandboxes, digging in the dirt, playing Star Wars (stick light sabers), doing gymnastics on our new tumbling mat, decorating our driveway with sidewalk chalk, riding bikes and scooters in the cul-de-sac (yes, Snapper actually rode her bike ALL BY HERSELF), and eating pickles on the front porch. I only had to break up one argument all day. I think that's a record!

When it got dark, we closed up shop. Matt completed the entryway and hearth tile! He ran out of tile before he could finish the bathroom. I finished priming all 19 cabinet doors. All that's left for me is the final coat of paint, putting on the new hardware, and hanging the doors back up. We brought the kids in, and saw for the first time how absolutely FILTHY they were. I don't think I have ever seen Snapper that dirty! And wouldn't you know it, Matt had them in the tub before I could get pictures of them! We put in some bubble bath and ran the jets to create a mountain of bubbles. They were so cute with only their faces poking out of the middle of the mound! And wouldn't you know it, the battery on my camera was dead! Stink! You'll just have to use your imagination to picture them. Seriously though, it was adorable.

Matt made dinner (steaks with savory mushroom sauce and garlic couscous) while I scrubbed the kids. I finally got the sharpie art off Pepper's arms and face. Hee hee! When the bubbles finally dissolved, I was horrified at the BLACK water and the layer of silt at the bottom of the tub. Oh gross! So I put Snapper in the shower, drained and rinsed the tub, and washed Jackson again.

After bundling the clean, sweet-smelling kids into their jammies, we all enjoyed a tasty dinner together. We played tennis on the Wii for a while before tucking two tired kids into bed. Then Matt and I played on the Wii for another 2 hours before we finally crashed. It was an almost perfect day. The only thing that would have made it perfect was if the ice cream man would have come down our street. We heard him in our neighborhood all afternoon, saw him on the next street over, and had our money all ready. What better way to celebrate the first warm day of the year than to buy ice cream from the ice cream man (is this magical for anyone else?)! But alas, he decided not to come down our street. Snapper was so sad. She sat on the front steps and watched for him through her binoculars for a half an hour. Sad!

So I had to blog about our weekend because it is a weekend I want preserved forever in my memory...just a good ol' special, fun day. I'm home from church this morning. Something I ate yesterday does not like my guts today. And Pepper has a lovely seal cough...he always gets croup when there's a major shift in the weather pattern. We're looking forward to a relaxing afternoon--garlic artichoke parmesan dip and a good NASCAR race. Ah yes, my restlessness is gone. This weekend is just what I needed!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Inspired by Stef

This morning my friend Stef posted a very sweet blog telling about how her kids (2 and 4) love to do crafts and art projects each day. She put up the sweetest pictures. First, her blog transported me back to wonderful childhood afternoons spent making colleges out of pictures cut from magazines, fingerpainting with pudding, and creating feasts of playdough food. Second, her blog inspired me to post pictures of the amazing, incredible, delightful artwork Pepper did yesterday. I think he has a real future in art, don't you?

Yes, that is Sharpie art.
Yes, he did eat (chew and swallow) almost a whole pack of gum...which made me thankful he is potty trained when that whole pack of gum made its grand appearance today!
Yes, he did eat 2 of Snapper's new chapsticks. I think they helped the gum come out easier...
I always believed that Terrific Two was more accurate than Terrible Two, but the last few days have sorely tested that belief system.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Just for Fun

As I march along through my domestic life, I discover, from time to time, products that perform exceptionally well, along with others that don't and are a waste of money. I thought it might be fun to share a few with you...kind an Emily's Stamp of Approval, or Disapproval.

Thumbs up to: Motsenbocker's Liftoff, a fantastic, easy-to-use paint and varnish remover. It is inexpensive ($8.79 at Lowe's) and works amazingly well.

Thumbs down to: Swiffer mop and Swiffer cleaning fluid. The cleaning fluid leaves horrible streaks on Pergo flooring. I did not realize how much dirt the Swiffer mop missed until I mopped with a traditional sponge mop and some Simple Green. So much less expensive than trying to maintain the Swiffer!

Thumbs up to
: Simple Green. This environmentally friendly, all-purpose cleaner is non-toxic--a must when you have a curious 2-year-old in the house. It also smells really good.

Thumbs down to: The NASCAR Racing game for the Nintendo Wii. Just not fun, and a waste of money.

Thumbs up to: Burlington Coat Factory's selection of Easter clothing for children. They have a huge selection of beautiful dresses for little girls, and handsome little outfits for boys.

Thumbs up to: Jennie-O turkey. Jennie-O's wide variety of turkey products offer healthier alternatives to red meat. I use ground turkey as a tasty substitution for ground beef. Turkey sausage is delicious, and has much less fat than pork sausage.

Thumbs up to
: Reef flip flops. Yes, they are worth the extra money. Reefs are comfy, offer decent arch support, and last for a long time.

Thumbs down to: Walmart's brand of diapers. They increase laundry volume, which rapidly eats up what you save by purchasing this brand.

Thumbs up to: Walmart's 1-hour photo processing. The quality is superb, the cost is reasonable. You can upload and edit your pictures from the comfort of your home. You can even convert them to black and white!

Thumbs up to: The Romalda Spalding Method for language arts. While Spalding requires more planning than many other curriculums, the rewards are great. Snapper's understanding of phonics and spelling is miles beyond what mine was at age 6.

Thumbs up to: Whole Foods' bulk hummus mix. At $3.79 per pound, you can't beat the price. Just add olive oil and water, and you have a nutritious, delicious snack. One pound of hummus mix makes 6 cups of prepared hummus. You can't beat that! Serve with flatbread, pita chips, and carrot and celery sticks.

Thumbs down to: Hobby Lobby's textured scrapbook paper. It is difficult to write on, resists adhesive, and will not be smoothly cut by the Cricut (personal electronic die cut maching).

Thumbs up to: www.allrecipes.com. This website has provided many delicious recipes for my family. There are thousands of recipes, most of which you can print for free. Create your own recipe box. Share your favorite recipes. Rate recipes you have tried. Get creative and spice up your menu! Many of the recipes include nutrition information, too! Best of all, membership is absolutely FREE!

Thumbs up to: BeautiControl's Bath Minerals. Oh, how good it smells! It makes your skin so soft, too! Kind of pricy, but totally worth it.

Thumbs up to: Hampton Inn. If you are going to be on the road and are looking for a moderately priced hotel, Hampton Inn is the way to go. Both Hampton Inns we have stayed in have been spotlessly clean (even the comforter smelled like bleach!), tastefully decorated, very comfortable, and they provide you with a full, complimentary breakfast. Lots of delicious food to choose from.

Thumbs down to: Home Depot. Don't go in there expecting service. Yes, they often have good prices. But you won't get much more than that. This has been my general experience in several different Home Depot stores across the country.

Thumbs up to: Lowe's. They will tell you how to install Pergo flooring in the most inexpensive way that does not sacrifice quality. They will mix paint to find just the right color match for you. They'll also tell you the best and most efficient way to go about refinishing cabinets. They will not try to sell you the most expensive product if a product of equal quality is available at lower cost. Lowe's rocks!

Thumbs up to
: Your own bed. It beats other beds hands-down. That said, I think I'll go find my bed and pay it an extended visit.

Thoughts About My Mommy

Got this little survey off of Facebook. It was too cute not to share. I will start a game of tag with it. I'm tagging Trish, Stefanie, Lori A, and Stephanie H.

This is a cute idea. Copy this note, ask your child the questions and write them down exactly how they respond. Tag me back if you have done this, I'd love to hear the answers.

On a few of these questions (7, 10, 15), she obviously didn't really understand the question. Ha ha! I love kids!

1. What is something mom always says to you?

2. What makes mom happy?
Kisses and hugs

3. What makes mom sad?
When I disobey

4. How does your mom make you laugh?
She tickles me

5. What was your mom like as a child?
That's tricky...she was beautiful

6. How old is your mom?

7. How tall is your mom?
60 pounds

8. What is her favorite thing to do?
Scrapbook and take pictures

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?
Cleans the house

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
She will be a dancer

11. What is your mom really good at?

12. What is your mom not very good at?

13. What does your mom do for her job?
Raise children

14. What is your mom's favorite food?

15. What makes you proud of your mom?
When she lets me play on the Wii

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
Daisy Duck

17. What do you and your mom do together?
Go out to Larry's Pizza and do schoolwork

18. How are you and your mom the same?
Our nails are the same color

19. How are you and your mom different?
I have blue eyes, Mom has brown eyes

20. How do you know your mom loves you?
She kisses me

21. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?
To a friend's house

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Renovations and Aliens

The home improvements are moving along nicely. The living room paint, a wonderful, warm tan, is mostly up. Matt will be finishing it tonight. Next to the living room paint, the dining room looks horrible...almost green. So the paint guy at Lowe's mixed up a lighter version of the living room paint for our dining room. I've made good headway on the cabinets. The main cabinet bodies are stipped, sanded, and primed. The cabinet doors are stripped and sanded, and priming is on the agenda for tomorrow. Still a ways to go, but we're moving along.

The home projects are not our biggest projets, though. The biggest projets in our home are son and daughter. Someone snuck in last night and fed them something that replaced their sweetness with the grumps. Oh wait, I know! Maybe it was an alien invasion and something else is now inhabiting the bodies of my babies. Wow, what a day it has been! It has been one of those days that makes me question whether anything I do as a mom is making a difference. For that sake of destroying the reputations of my little sweeties, I won't go into detail. Just know this: I can't tell you the last time I was so happy to put those children in their beds at naptime. And I am praying that whatever stole my kids in the night last night will bring my kids back tonight.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Extreme Home Makeover

Well, it's actually not that extreme, but it sure feels extreme to me! As of today, we have lived in Little Rock for three years. In those three years, we have done a lot to improve our home and increase its value. Tax return time has allowed us some extra money to work with, and each year we put some of that money toward things that need doing around the house. When we first moved in, it was new paint for the bedrooms, kitchen, and dining room, window treatments, and Pergo flooring for the kitchen and dining room. In 2007 it was some front yard landscaping. In 2008 we did some more landscaping, painted the hallway, stairwell, and bathrooms, and put in new baseboards and chair rail in the kitchen and dining room. Little by little we have been making modifications.

This year was a particularly large tax return. We were able to pay off a large chunk of debt, which was really exciting. We also decided to do a few bigger things in the house that have been screaming for attention since we moved in.

1. Kitchen cabinets. They are nice oak, but the clear finish is peeling off, leaving the cabinets looking grimy and old. Rather than fork out thousands for new cabinets, I have undertaken the daunting task of refinishing the cabinets...by myself! For you who haven't seen it, my kitchen is huge--one of the main reasons we bought this house. It has lots of cabinets and storage space, which means lots of work to refinish. I spent 6 hours yesterday and 4 hours today stripping the old finish off the cabinets, washing them, and drying them. Tomorrow I will prime them, and the rest of the week I'll work on painting them. I've decided on a nice, off white to go with the wainscoting and trim. It will brighten up the kitchen considerably, and get rid of the dated look of the old finish. Add new hardware and we'll have "new" cabinets for about $100!

2. Paint the living room. We're pretty sure the living room paint--a boring, dingy, off white--is the original paint, which makes it 13 years old. It is all scuffed and dirty. We would have painted it long before now, but have not because of the 18-foot ceiling. Matt spent his whole afternoon, and I spent much of mine, painting. The living room looks so much nicer painted a warm tan! We should be finishing off the painting in the next few days.

3. Entryway, downstairs bathroom and fireplace hearth. Scarred, chipped, cracked parquet flooring is on our tiny (4 ft. x 4 ft.) entryway. There's no place to take off shoes when you come in the door. This has resulted in badly stained carpet just a few feet inside the door. The downstairs bathroom floor is ancient linoleum that has tears in it, and is curling away at the seams. The fireplace hearth is cracked, white, faux marble. All of the above are coming out and being replaced by a very nice tile. Matt is doing the work himself, and it is coming together nicely. He's extending the entrway further into the living room so there will actually be a place to take off shoes when you come inside. A shoe rack will help solve our shoe storage problem, too.

4. Snapper's room. When we moved here, we painted Snapper's room two shades of pink. It was adorable and she loved it. When Matt's sister Debbie moved in with us last summer, we moved Snapper into the guest room (more storage space) and put Deb in Whit's old room. The guest room is white wainscoting on the bottom and a deep blue on top. It worked beautifully with a few pieces of white furniture and very little clutter. It looks horrible with Snapper's pink and brown bedding, and all the kids' toys. The room feels dark and small. Therefore, our final project for this year is to pain the upper half of Snapper's room. It will be a nice, light tan. I'm also painting her bunkbed white and getting a few organizational items to help all the more.

5. Carpet. A fantastic sale at Lowe's is allowing our dollars to stretch far enough to put new carpet in the living room and stairs. The 13-year-old, very light tan (almost white) carpet is so stained and filthy that I have a huge area rug in the middle to hide the worst spots. Steam cleaning helps it look better, but within a few weeks the stains rise again and look even worse against the clean rest of the carpet. Hooray for new carpet! It will be installed next week!!!

So really, it isn't and extreme makeover. But it will seem extreme to us. It is tough living here with the house torn apart, but I know it will be worth it. Once we're done, I'll post pictures of my "new" house!