31 October 2008

Happy Halloween!

Figured I better get this posted before midnight. Otherwise the blog would have forever said "Saturday, November 1" and that would have bothered me.

Here's my trick-or-treaters.

Matthew didn't ever ask me about a costume this year, so I suggested a Halloween t-shirt as his "costume" instead. He took to that idea right away. Caleb was the blue Power Ranger this year; he'll get something new for next Halloween.

Jon took the boys to our church's Fall Festival tonight. I was planning to go also, but by the end of the afternoon I really needed some time to myself. So I asked if he would mind going alone and he didn't. Yay! I was a bit sad that I couldn't get any pictures of the festivities as it all sounded really fun but the time alone was worth it.

Now if I can just keep my hands out of the candy.
Happy Halloween!

30 October 2008

Oh, how I missed you!

I recieved a crockpot for a bridal shower gift in 1995. I didn't use it a whole lot for the first several years of our marriage, but I discovered a porkchop recipe one day that was for the crock and I was hooked. A few Christmases ago, my mother-in-law even bought me a crockpot cookbook; it has dog-eared, well-worn pages now.

Fast forward to getting home from vacation in June. I'd thrown some bone-in chops in the crockpot at 7:30am; at 6:30pm they still weren't done. And they weren't frozen that morning either. So, I cry a tear or two, we call a time of death, and we toss the crock in the trash. *sob*

Well, then comes summer. And while there were a few days this summer that I wished that I had my crockpot, most of the summer I hardly gave my loss a thought.

Sometime yesterday Matthew casually mentions to me that he thought that they (himself, Jon and Caleb) should have gotten me a crockpot for my birthday, but that Jon 'poo-pooed' the suggestion, telling Matthew that a "crockpot is not a birthday gift".

So I mention this conversation to Jon last night and the long and the short of it is that if I want a new crockpot I should go get one.

This morning we did just that.

Oh my goodness. Rival Crock-Pot Smart Pot. This is a COMPLETE upgrade from my former friend. It's like being friends with the freshman class president and then getting invited to Senior Prom by the captain of the football team. WOW! It even has a 'warm' feature that kicks in as soon as the food is done.

We're having chili for dinner tonight, which I regularly make on the stovetop. But mark my words: by the end of the next week, we will have a crockpot dinner and I'll tell you all about it.

And now I can get started on making recipes from the crockpot blog! Yippee!!

28 October 2008

Thankful Tuesday!

It's that time again! And with the short school week, my days are mixed up and I almost missed it!

Today, I am thankful for:

1. Jon being so willing to help the boys out with their pumpkins last night. It was quite a bit of work for him and he didn't complain!

2. The smell of cinnamon/sugar pumpkin seeds that are roasting in the oven.

3. Our short school week due to Teacher's Convention.

4. Heat. It's getting very chilly at night and if you've ever awaken in a house with no heat, you understand.

5. God's protection and provision!

6. My friend, Stephanie. She called to check on me this morning and I really needed it. Talking to her was just the thing to help me get some perspective!

Give Thanks!


Pumpkin carving for Halloween isn't something we did when I was a kid. And we haven't done it at all since M went to kindergarten. That year, his class took the trip to the pumpkin patch and he *really* wanted to carve a pumpkin. So we did. J even carved one for C, who was around 8 months old at that time. I have some really sweet pictures of the two boys with their finished pumpkins from that Halloween that I couldn't for the life of me locate last night. Maybe they are with my missing earrings. Anyway, I digress.

C was definitely more excited to do this. To start. His excitement waned a bit looking at the "slimy, disgusting guts". J pretty much took over from there.

J is carving while C watches.

C decided that he wanted to carve the eyebrow.

The finished product! Thanks, Daddy!

M wanted to do his himself. He did scoop out the guts and scrape the inside on his own. He even transfered the pattern on his own. But as soon as he went to his Dad for help getting the cutting started, something in J took over and he cut the whole thing. Whatever.

M discovered this pattern to be tougher than he thought.

Dad is both the gut scooper and the carver, I guess.

M proudly displaying his pumpkin!

And finally, the finished pumpkins!

All I did was dig through the bowl of gunk for all the seeds. Speaking of which, I need to go get them roasting now. Yum!

Happy Halloween!

24 October 2008

Whadda get?

Take a rainy day, add early release for the boys and what do you get? The need to keep them from fighting all afternoon.

So what do we do then? We bake cookies. And not just any cookie, but Grandma Jill's chocolate chip cookies!

Here's M using the mixer:

And then adding flour:

C adding the chips after I mixed in all the flour by hand:

Then scooping the dough onto the sheet:

And here's a pic of some of the finished product cooling on the counter.

While not a perfect activity, it kept them busy for about 45 minutes. And now we get to enjoy cookies too!

23 October 2008

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!

First off, they don't read my blog, or at least I don't *think* they do. And that is okay.

I just wanted to pay homage to their marriage. Thirty seven years today* and that is getting to be a rarity.

They met in 1970 as high school juniors on a youth group hayride. It was actually a blind date set up by a mutual friend. He tells everyone that he knew he wanted to be with her right from the start. He could take her out once a week and then something dawned on him. If he went to church, he could see her. And if he joined the choir, he could see her then too. (He's so sweet.)

He played baseball in high school and even though they went to different schools, she was at the baseball games cheering him on.

(The little boy is my Dad's cousin, Robbie. He was about 4 at the time and is in just about every reception pic.)

They graduated high school in June of 1972 and were married that October. And the rest, they say, is history. I came along in '74, my sister in '78 and our brother in '84.

What they have together is amazing. Sure, they fight sometimes; nobody's perfect. But one thing that I learned from them is that you never give up on someone you love. If you value your marriage, you'll do the work that it takes to make it something special. It's not an easy ride, and there is no magic pill, but if you work at it, it can be an incredible experience. And how lucky we are, my sibs and I, to be able to have grown up with that Godly example of marriage.

It means everything to me.

originally published Oct 23, 2008 *updated for 2009

21 October 2008

Thankful Tuesday!

I'd like to start a new "tradition" and post my 'thankful things' on Tuesday. This is a special Tuesday anyway, so it seems more than appropriate.

Here goes......

Today I am thankful for:

1. Thirteen years of marriage today. While it hasn't been all sun and roses, it has made us stronger as individuals and as a team!

2. The traits of our 12 year old son that allowed him to be Safety Patrol Captain this year.

3. Our six year old's thirst for learning and love of school. I know that won't last forever. :)

4. My sister. One poster on a message board that I frequent was sad earlier this week for not having a close relationship with her sister. I am thankful that I do.

5. The sunshine. Soon comes the cold, dreary Wisconsin winters and it won't make an appearance nearly as often.

6. My parents' marriage. Thirty six years this week! What a blessing that is to me!

Give thanks!

19 October 2008

"I don't have time!"

Have you ever said that? I have. To my husband, my kids, my co-workers; it seems that there are never enough hours in the day.

This morning in church, Pastor Bill told the story of a little boy who wanted to buy time with his dad. It made me very teary. It made me wonder if my boys had ever felt that way. I pray they haven't and never do.

Then he pointed out that isn't it a great thing that our Heavenly Father isn't too busy for us. That when we go to Him in prayer He doesn't say, "Come back later, I don't have time."

He desires relationship with us if we call ourselves His children. He beckons us to make time for Him, and He has all the time in the world for us!

That is a great thing!

16 October 2008

*That* made it all worth it!

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not that crazy about other people's children. When I got the supervisor job at my boys' school, the first thing my brother said to me was, "That's a great job for you, Jen. They'll let you intimidate little kids and give you a whistle." He calls me a 'drill sargent mom' so he was only half kidding.

The other supervisors and I joke that by this point in the school year, you know two types of kids by name; the really good ones and the really naughty ones. And it's true.

One of the particularly good ones I'll call R. She's a kindergartener and has red hair and blue eyes and looks a lot like my youngest neice. Her particular table is one that I help on a daily basis; C had that teacher last year and I do what I can to ease her load. R and I have never had any particularly bonding moments other than the fact that I help her get her milk open. She's on the shy side, but she will say "Good Morning" and "Hello" if I address her first.

There's a point to this.....hang on.

Parent/teacher conferences were held today and since we live so close to the school, we walked. We had just left the building and rounded the corner when who do I see coming but R. And when she spots me, she comes running and gives me a giant hug. I hugged her in return, of course, and told her to have a good conference. Then I turned to J and with a lump in my throat say, "That's the reason that I kept this job."

To have maybe been a bright spot for sweet R, and in return, she is a bright spot for me.

That makes all the other stuff TOTALLY worth it.

15 October 2008

Focus on Thankfulness.

Today seems like one of those days where it could turn on a dime and have me looking at all the negative, so I'm gonna go the other way.

Today I am thankful for:

The rain.
Peace and quiet.
My husband.
His job in these tough times.
Our marriage, celebrating 13 years next week!
Our boys. They keep me on my toes.
My Lord and Savior, Jesus.
My job, that gives me a chance to 'be Jesus' to some kids who may really need it.
My car. It's a beast, but dependable.
My closet full of things to wear.
My shelter from the cold and rain.
My family, who love me even when I don't deserve it.
My friends who make me laugh.
The fridge in the kitchen being stocked full of good food.
The heritage of the Church of the Nazarene.
Ice Cream.
Automatic washing machines. Imagine having to do all that wash by hand!
The successful surgery and recovery of my friend, Janet.
The freedom to worship when we choose.
Fall colors. Isn't God's design AMAZING!!?!

Have a blessed and thankful day!!

13 October 2008

I'm back!

Or at least back doing something that I enjoy. And btw, I know that I already was here for today, but I was so excited that I really couldn't wait for tomorrow.

First, a little back story. When the "stamping" craze started, I had a neighbor, Lisa, that got sucked in. She had a party and I bought a multi-colored ink pad, two stamps and some note cards. I really thought that I wasn't going to get into it; boy, was I wrong.

Fast forward a bit and I am so into it that the Christmas before C is born, I make all our Christmas cards. Now, I didn't think to start early, no. I waited until about a week after Turkey day and then worked feverishly to get all 50 done in time to send out. Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, I got burned out so bad that I hadn't opened my supplies since. We're talking about SIX years.

Today I decided that I wanted to get back into it and got out my supplies. Again, I don't need to tell you, but I will anyway.....some of the ink pads were very dry and therefore useless. As I'm looking over my supplies in dispair, J comes home.

J: "You busy?"

Me: "Nope. I wanna be, but my supplies are uninspiring."

J: "Well, there's money in the checkbook and Hobby Lobby isn't far. Go get some new supplies."

Me: *shocked and amazed* "Okay. I promise to not spend more than $50."

God, how I love Hobby Lobby. If I hadn't been leaving the house only an hour before the boys' arrival from school, I'd still be there. That place is all ready for CHRISTMAS! Yippee!! My absolute favorite holiday!! And the best part? All the "Stuff" that I was looking for was 30% off!! Double Yippee!!

I completely behaved, spent just over $20 and here is a pic of my work.

I figure if I create one or two a day, I can have them all created in the next 3 weeks or so. That should even give me a few for people that I forgot to have on my list.

Maybe tomorrow while I work, I'll play Christmas music.

Retreat Reflections.

We had an amazing time. Our leaders, who we know personally, had once again outdone themselves and the whole weekend was fun and relaxing and refreshing.

How nice it was to get to reconnect with friends that we have made in other churches. To share some struggles, but joys too, and to know that they understand.

Sunday School yesterday was lead by my favorite teacher, Jon. Once again, he really gets to the heart of a passage and helps us apply it to our lives. Yesterday was particularly 'toe-stepping' for my friend Rhonda and myself.

In Exodus chapter 16, the Israelites are grumbling against Moses for bringing them out of Egypt and into the desert. And in their grumbling, their memories of life in Egypt get distorted; they start to forget that it was a terrible experience. And they are angry with Moses and figure that it's his fault that they are all in the desert to starve to death. To which Moses replies ' You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.'

My Mom always said that as a little girl I wasn't a complainer. So when I did complain, she knew that it was for a reason. I think that I have found myself complaining more and more over the years, when I really should be grateful for all that I have. So it isn't new stuff and all of that, but it's something. And God provided it for me and I need to have a spirit of thanksgiving, not a complaining spirit. The Lord can't use a critical, complaining spirit and I want Him to use me.

Thankfulness, not grumbling. That was my lesson for the weekend.

Oh and J scored some major points over the weekend. I got my favorite auction piece for a price of $170.00!! Now, I just need to remember that when Christmas rolls around.

10 October 2008

The weekend we look forward to....

almost more than any other is upon us. Wisconsin District Church of the Nazarene lay retreat!!

We never went before last year. We had a great time with some friends, met some new people and had the bonus of time without the boys. And as soon as we left, we started making plans to go back.

Well, some things have changed in the last year and one of those was that we no longer attend the church in Green Bay. We had several reasons for making the change, but the top two were that we needed to be somewhere that M could get involved with a youth group AND that the expense of making two 80 mile trips a week was wreaking havoc on our family budget.

We started attending a community church about 15 minutes from our home and we really like it so far. Taking 15 minute trips to church versus 40 minute trips added up very quickly. And M looks forward to youth group on Wednesday nights almost as the highlight of his week.

But we left so many friends back at the other church. Friends that are like family to us. So, it was an easy decision to make to register for retreat; we would get to spend some time reconnecting with old friends and get some time alone with each other that we really need.

The weather this year is going to be exceptional and that will mean that we probably take our 2nd annual hike up the forbidden trail at the state park during free time on Saturday. It's a memory that we made last year that we still like to talk about.

And as far as what God has in store for us at retreat? That's always unexpected and exciting and I can't wait.

Now for the packing.....

08 October 2008

It mattered to him.

For weeks now, I've been heading outside with the boys at 7:50 am. The bus comes at 7:55 and they like to be early. I stand on the porch, and they run to the "stop" which is around 50 feet away, I guess.

This week, as soon as the bus rounds the corner, I come inside. It's fall, FINALLY, and to say that the mornings are a bit chilly is an understatement. So even in a sweatshirt and slippers, I feel the need to come inside as soon as I can.

So this morning, I'm doing my thing by standing on the porch, and C yells something in my direction. I didn't really hear him or understand, so I'm thinking 'Man, this better be important.' Instead of grumbling, I say "Come here." He runs to me and once he gets to me he says "Mom, I want to wave to you." "What?!?" "I want to wave to you. You know, when I get on the bus." Of course I feel immediately guilty and mutter 'Okay'.

That's what I do. I stand on the porch the extra 90 seconds or so, and as the bus drives away, I look up and C is frantically waving. And I wave back, with a smile on my face.

Because in his little first grade mind, that was important. And I'm glad I didn't miss it.

06 October 2008

When it comes down to it.

I recently got back in touch with a girl that I was fairly close to in high school. I managed to find her through a friend of a friend of a friend on one of the social networking sites. We got to pick up right where we left off and I got caught up on her life and she's caught up on mine. I always wondered how she made out after she left to live with her brother just after the start of our senior year of high school. Say what you want about those sites, but in this case, they are a very good thing.

Imagine my surprise when logging on this morning; I find an update that she is in a hospital. I guess she had a CAT scan on Saturday and a tumor in her head was discovered. Now I don't know any details of what lead to the CAT scan, but this is very scary. Right now they are doing more tests to try and get as good a treatment as they can in place for an excellent prognosis.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. She's my age, with a young daughter and a husband and now dealing with this.

I said a prayer for her and her husband and daughter as I was getting ready for work this morning; that the God who sees all and knows all would comfort her and just be with her in every step of this whole process.

Which brings to mind; how would I feel if I were in her place? Would I be sad that I hadn't spent enough time telling my boys that I love them? Would I accept that it meant the end of my life, or have the courage to fight to do what ever it took to stay alive? I want to think that I would fight, but I'd be scared to death. And maybe I'd have some regrets about how I used the time that I was given. And I don't want to look back on my life at any point, whether I live another year or another 60 years, and have regrets about the management of my time here on earth.

I pray that my friend gets a hopeful prognosis and that all the fear that she feels right now can soon be a thing of the past. That she can spend many more years with her husband and beautiful little girl doing the things that she loves.

Hug your babies tightly tonight.

Life is too damn short to take even one breath for granted.

01 October 2008

It's good to get together.

Maybe I need to post this because it's fresh in my heart; maybe because I'm trying to avoid my workout. Anyway.....

I had the opportunity last night to get together with two of my very dearest friends. We met at a restaurant just blocks away from my house, ate pie and talked and giggled. We probably disturbed other tables around us quite a bit, but we didn't get any dirty looks or anything.

It's good to laugh. It releases endorphins that are great for your body. And it's fun. And the opportunity to just focus on something else for a time can't be beat with a stick either.

I developed a raging headache about 2 hours before we were supposed to meet and got real serious with an Excedrin Migraine and a huge bottle of water. Thank goodness that did the trick; I would have hated to have to cancel.

I just feel very blessed to have friends that care enough about me to drag me out of the house and make me laugh. I never regret getting together.

Thanks, girls!