Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Strange Encounter

I was at Wal-Mart (shocker, I know!) a few days ago and had a strange encounter with a woman in the clothing department.  An attractive, middle-aged lady walked up to me and in a British accent asked if I could do her a favor.  I inquired as to what she needed and she wanted me to look inside the back of her pants, pull out her underwear, and tell her the size that was printed on the back tag.

I was in such a state of shock that I found myself doing what she asked, as if in a trance.  When I mumbled, "Size 7", she was so appreciative and exclaimed, "Thank you so much!  It is important to get the correct fit, you know!"  

Perhaps this is acceptable behavior in England....I don't know because I've never been there.  And true, it is important to get the correct fit on your underwear.  But, is it worth asking a total stranger to dig around in your pants to find your size?  I think not.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom!

Dear Mom,

I am so excited to spend this birthday with you!  How wonderful it is to celebrate your full life and be thankful for the times we are together.  God has been gracious to keep you 60 years in His hand through both joys and sorrows.  

I love that you raised me in the knowledge of the Lord.  I love that you stayed at home with me and taught me.  I love that you sheltered and protected me from the world, but yet allowed me independence to experience new things.  

I love that you showed me how to be a good wife and mother.  I love that you taught me how to entertain and welcome people into my home.  I love that you taught me how to sew.  I love that you are still mentoring me in my own journey as a parent.  

I love going shopping with you!  I love the thrill of discovering a great bargain (hello Pier One $1.17 wooden salad bowl!) with you!  I love planning meals and cooking a feast for our loved ones with you.  

I love that you bravely survived breast cancer.  I love that you humbly care for and serve your family when they are ill or in need.  I love that you are an example of putting others first.

Thank you for all that you have shown me and given me over the years.  I hope that we have many, many more birthdays to come!

I love you mom!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Little Breather....

I'm going to take it slow for the next few days and enjoy the Christmas break with my family.  There are so many topics and stories floating around in my head, but I'm going to hold them captive until I have time to myself.  We are happily busy cooking, shopping, playing games, and just hanging out together.  Last night we enjoyed several games of Rummikub and some delicious homemade Chai Tea.  

We also made the final plans for Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.  For Christmas Eve we're planning a cajun jambalaya dish.  For Christmas Day, we're going with a mid-morning brunch theme this year instead of our traditional homemade pizza.  I think many of us were ready for a change.  So, it was fun to brainstorm a brunch menu and write out our grocery list.

This morning we made a double batch of Christmas Biscotti to give to mom's hairdresser for Christmas.  The beauty salon that she frequents is straight out of Steel Magnolias.  She graciously fit me in for a trim this afternoon, so I'm looking forward to both the haircut and the entertainment! 

I'm trying to keep my thoughts organized until I can post on more interesting topics in the future.  In the meantime, though, I'm taking advantage of family time!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Birthday Party!

Grace had a fabulous time at her birthday party today!  She was so excited to play with her friends and open presents!  This is a picture of her birthday cake that we decorated last night.  It wasn't perfect, but Grace loved it!  This morning when she woke up, I showed it to her and she just sat on a chair and stared at it in awe for several minutes.  Score!

I scheduled the party from 11-1 so we could eat lunch, play, then go home to naptime.  We ate hot dogs, chips, and fruit for lunch.  Then, we played Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey.  Hopefully I didn't traumatize too many children with the blindfold (a first for several).  Then, it was pinata time!  Todd hung it up from a crossbeam on the ceiling and we let the kids hit it with a baseball bat.  The girls were so cute....most of them barely tapped it.  Then the boys got up there and gave it a good beating.  Todd ended up having to break it open for them, then they all scrambled to pick up the candy and prizes.  

We sang "Happy Birthday", ate cake and ice cream, then opened presents.  At first Grace didn't realize that she got to keep the presents she opened.  She thought that since it was "from Will" that she had to give it back to Will, etc.  Towards the end she started to understand then was so excited to see Todd loading her presents in our car to go home.  She didn't want to go to naptime when we got home knowing her toys were waiting to be opened.  As I type, she is still not asleep after being in bed for over at hour.  I'll let her get up soon and explore her new things.

When the party was over, all the moms helped us get the fellowship hall cleaned up.  It was so sweet to look around and see my friends sweeping and wiping tables down.  How precious our friends are here at my parent's home!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart

Dear Grace,

Happy Birthday sweetheart!  Four years ago today your daddy and I were so happy to welcome you into this world.  How blessed we felt to have a child of our own after so many years!  I remember the amazing feeling of holding your tiny body in my arms and being utterly amazed that you were born.  What a miracle.  Having you in my arms was such an answer to prayer.

Every year is such a blessing.  I loved the first few months of total dependence on mommy to provide your needs.  I loved it when you slowly started exploring your environment and gaining some independence.  I loved hearing your first words.

I loved watching you learn to walk, and run, and jump.  I loved taking you to the zoo for the first time.  I loved hearing your vocabulary develop.  I loved watching you transition from toddler to preschooler.

For the past two years, I have loved being at home with you.  I love that I get to be the one to teach you and experience things with you.  I love cooking with you.  I love watching musicals with you.  I love reading books with you.  I love doing puzzles and playing games with you.

I love that our conversations are starting to become more meaningful as you get older.  I love your curiosity and reasoning.  I even love your misbehavior, because I get to teach you about the forgiveness that is found in our loving Saviour.  

How thankful I am to be celebrating your fourth birthday.  May we have many more together.

I love you Grace Elizabeth!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

We Made It!

Well, we arrived safely on our 9-hour trip to my parents home! A little later than we planned, but all in one piece. How thankful we are that God protected us from all the crazy drivers we encountered. The roads were packed and everyone was in a hurry.  Are blinkers going out of style?  It seems like people just don't use them anymore....

Grace was so excited to see Mimi and Granddaddy today. She ran around all evening, playing with all the toys and books. Of course, the highlight of the night was Grace exclaiming "Come get me!" and trying to outrun Granddaddy as he chased her around the house. She went to bed a happy girl. Her bedtime prayer was:

"Dear God. God bless Mommy and Daddy and Mimi and Granddaddy. Please help me to not say 'stupid' because that's a BAD word. In Jesus name, Amen."

I'm not quite sure what brought on that prayer....we haven't had to talk about that word in a long time. Funny what comes to their little minds.

Grace's birthday is tomorrow, and I spent the evening putting together some goody bags for her birthday party on Monday. It's hard to believe our baby is turning four. Time just flies, and we're treasuring every year!

Tomorrow afternoon I will decorate her birthday cake.  Mom already baked the layers, so I'll just need to assemble/ice/decorate.  We're going with a Minnie Mouse theme this year.  I've been stressing a little bit about decorating the cake, so Todd asked me this morning why I didn't just buy one at Wal-Mart?  I can't stand the thought of buying a bakery cake after I spent all summer (and about $300) taking Wilton cake decorating classes a couple of years ago.  I had visions of starting a cake decorating business.  I quickly found out that the amount of time/energy/stress that goes into making a special cake for someone isn't really worth the money.    So, I've just enjoyed making cakes for a few friends/family and haven't really advertised myself.  I'm feeling a little out of practice now, but we'll see what happens tomorrow!  If it's not too terrible, I'll post a picture....

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mad Dash

Grace is over her recent illness and our guests left to drive back to Tennessee this morning. I was looking forward to a relaxing day just cleaning house and getting things packed for our trip to my parent's house this weekend.

Late last night, the following conversation took place:

Todd: "So, will you be ready when I get home tomorrow?"

Me: "Ready for what?"

Todd: "Ready to leave."

Me: "Where?"

Todd: "To your parents house."

Me: "Um, I thought we were leaving sometime Saturday."

Todd: "I thought we would leave after I get home from work Friday and drive overnight."

Me: Thinking, "Oh, boy. So much for sleeping tonight."
Saying: "Sure, honey. Whatever you think is best."

Needless to say, I'll be madly dashing around today writing lists, washing clothes, packing, checking, and re-checking lists before we (hopefully) get out the door by 6:00.

Hey, mom and dad, we'll see you around 4:00 in the morning! Ho Ho Ho! We'll be as quiet as possible and try to not wake you up......

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How To Get Kids To Eat Anything

In honor of Works-For-Me Wednesday, I'm sharing about a trick to get kids to eat anything that you put on the table. It's actually more of a philosophy:

Let them get in the kitchen with you and help prepare the meals!

I've written before and testified about how this has helped Grace to eat more vegetables. Every night that we have a salad at dinner, I let Grace stand on a kitchen chair and share my cutting board. I give her a dull bread knife and let her "cut" her own lettuce, carrots, onions, broccoli, bell peppers, etc. At first, she just proudly told everyone how she made her own salad. Then, after a few times she started tasting her creation. Now, she eats it all. I let her "help" me cook the evening meal almost every night. As a result, she is excited about tasting what she helped prepare.

I usually don't make her taste everything on her plate. I have found that it is not worth the negative feeling that it creates in her towards the particular food that I am "making" her eat. If I introduce a new food, I put it on her plate and then hubby and I talk about how delicious it is. If she doesn't try it the first time, then she usually will the second or third time the food is introduced, especially if I have her help me prepare it.

This isn't a quick fix, but it works in the long run! As a result of effort and patience (and fun!) in the kitchen, Grace will usually eat whatever I choose to put on the table. And be proud of her contribution to the cooking!

Now if I can just make it seem fun to do the dishes.........

For more Works-For-Me Wednesday tips, visit Rocks In My Dryer.

A Lovely Morning at Grace In The Home.......

(This post is not for people with weak stomachs or gag reflexes).

Okay, don't say I didn't warn you.

Grace woke up this morning fussier than normal. She said her stomach hurt, so I pacified her by giving her a gummy vitamin to "feel better." Then it started. We're in the kitchen and I'm scrambling eggs for my mother-in-law. I heard the gagging and reacted just in time to put Grace over the trash can as she threw up. I got her cleaned up and it happened again. Round 2. I got her cleaned up again and gathered the trashbag to put it outside because we really don't like the smell of puke in the morning. Before I could put a fresh bag in the garbage can she started on Round 3. I managed to pick her up and place her over the garbage disposal. At this point, I started fighting my own gag reflex.

I glanced over at mom-in-law to find her quietly pushing away her plate of breakfast.

I decided to get Grace out of the kitchen, so I made a bed for her on the couch. Guess what? Round 4. I picked her up and carried her upstairs to get changed and cleaned up. Mom-in-law graciously cleaned and disinfected the couch. We came back downstairs and put Grace on a clean couch.

I got the kitchen cleaned up just in time for Round 5.

I'll bet my guests can't wait to see what I'm cooking up for lunch!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Safe Arrival

My husband's mom and aunt arrived early this morning. What was supposed to be a 14-hour drive from Tennessee turned into 17-hour jaunt that included an extensive tour of the D/FW metroplex. Due to a wintry mix, a truck overturned on I-20 and re-routed traffic off of the interstate. They ended up on I-35E, I-635, I-30, Hwy 360, I-35W, and back on I-20. Going over icy bridges and overpasses. At a crawl.

Needless to say, they are exhausted. After quick greetings and a hurried unloading of the car, we sent them off to bed for a few hours of shut-eye.

Now the challenge is to keep two pre-schoolers quiet so they can sleep!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

This week, we have family coming to visit for several days. That makes menu planning much more fun! Also, this is the last menu plan I'll post for a couple of weeks because we're going home for the holidays. So, I get to eat my mom's fabulous cooking! I can't wait to get in the kitchen and cook with her. I pray that one day Grace will have the same special memories of cooking with me.

Monday - Leftovers

Tuesday - Sirloin Steaks, Mashed Potatoes, Lemon Broccoli

Wednesday - Spaghetti with Meatsauce, Garlic Sticks, Green Salad

Thursday - Restaurant

Friday - Leftovers or Pizza?

Saturday - Over the river and through the woods, to grandparent's house we go....

Sunday - Mom's cooking!

This week, I'm including one of our favorite veggie recipes. This is Todd's and Grace's favorite!

Pan-Roasted Lemon Broccoli

3 T water
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
2 T oil
2 broccoli heads, separate into stems (julienned) and florets
4 T butter
2 t. minced garlic
1 1/2 t. lemon juice

Heat oil. Add stems in even layer - 2 min. Add florets - 2 min. Add water, salt, and pepper - cover and steam 2 min. Uncover and cook 2 min. Remove from pan. Melt butter over medium heat and cook 1 1/2 min. Add garlic - 1 min. Add lemon juice and broccoli. Stir and serve.

Christmas Program

Todd and I had a wonderful time at our church's Christmas program this evening. Todd played percussion in the orchestra, and I sang in the choir. Our guest musician for the evening was Wintley Phipps, Baritone. Wow. If God had a voice, this would be it. Check out this video on You Tube. (The video is 8 minutes long, but you can fast-forward it to minute 5:20 to watch him sing "Amazing Grace" in Carnegie Hall).

We sang lots of traditional carols and three songs from the modern oratorio Savior. Wintley also sang several selections including "It Is Well", "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands", and "The Lord's Prayer." What a blessing it was to listen to his incredible musicianship. He has a way of singing that is focused on the words and the message of the lyrics. His musical arrangements were beautiful and very worshipful.

I love the opportunity to be part of the music ministry in our church. I love that our music minister doesn't shy away from difficult or challenging music. I love that the focus is not on our "performance", but on leading a worship experience in our congregation. I love that we often take time to discuss the theology behind the words that we are singing. I love the friendships I have formed in rehearsals. And, I love singing praises to God.

How wonderful to think that the beauty of the music tonight was but a small taste of the heavenly choirs that we will hear for eternity!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Creepy Encounter

Today I ran to the grocery store to grab a couple of things that I forgot to put on my Wal-Mart list earlier this week. As I was loading my bag in the back of my car, a man approached me from behind. He surprised me suddenly and asked for some money.

After my heart started beating again, my first response was "Leave me alone!" He kept bugging me and telling me that I had no Christmas spirit. Perhaps that is true in this case, and I didn't mean to be rude, but I don't really enjoy strange men coming up to me in parking lots.

This is the third time a man has approached me while I was loading my purchases in my car this month and asked for money. Once at Wal-Mart, once at Target, and once at Albertson's today.

Call me crazy, but I think it is totally inappropriate for a man to approach a lone woman in this way. Any man that was truly in need with good intentions would not do this. Thankfully God has protected me all three times and no harm has come to me or Grace, but it has made me become a little paranoid about parking lots.

Todd was pretty upset when I got home and told him that it had happened again. He said that from now on I should call the police on my cell phone. Even if the person is harmless, it is inappropriate and should be reported.

Has anyone else had encounters like this? How did you handle it?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Memories

A while back I asked my mom what she thought my favorite Christmas present was from my childhood. She immediately responded: stereo. Yep, that's right.

It was Christmas morning in 1987, and my brothers and I could hear the faint strains of music coming from the den. We were so excited to see what was under the tree, and I was curious about the music. I still remember the thrill I felt when I saw that beautiful double deck tape player/record player combo. Mom and Dad had set it all up and found a local FM radio station that was playing Christmas music. I was so excited that our family had a real stereo, and it took about ten minutes before I realized that it was MINE! It could go in my room! Wow, that was really special. Thanks, mom and dad.

I'd love to hear about a special Christmas present that you remember from your childhood. If there is anybody out there who has been reading my posts but doesn't usually comment, this is your opportunity! Leave a comment with your favorite present and why it was special. I look forward to reading sweet memories!

Favorite Things

Grace's favorite toy of the moment is a hot pink, large button calculator from the Dollar Tree Store. She carries it around with her everywhere and laughs hysterically when I enter crazy number combinations. It's really good practice to reinforce her numbers, and we can even work on simple addition and subtraction.

Many of our favorite toys come from local dollar stores. It's nice that at this age, she is just as entertained with a sheet of stickers as she would be with an expensive electronic toy. While we have a few electonic toys, she usually prefers to play with the cheap hands-on things like: Play-Dough, letter blocks, tea sets, dolls, and art supplies. If I really want to make her day, I blow up a balloon and watch her play with it for hours. Or, get out the bubble blower. That's always a hit!

Her favorite "expensive" toy is a Mickey Mouse cash register from The Disney Store. She loves to go shopping "at Wal-Mart" and scan all her items, pretend to add them up, then swipe the credit card. Todd has even taught her to speak into the microphone and say "Attention Wal-Mart shoppers! There is a sale today on ______!" It's the cutest thing.

I guess the point of this post is to say that at this age, imaginative and creative play is very important. They really don't need the latest and most expensive electronic gadget in order to have fun. (That's what teenagers want). So, I'll enjoy shopping for toys at the Dollar Store as long as I can!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A New Low

Today during lunch I noticed that Grace was putting the ketchup from her hot dog onto her kiwi/strawberry yogurt. And, in all seriousness, she was eating it and saying, "Ummmm....yummy." This "eat ketchup on everything" is really an interesting phase she is going through. I'm starting to think she would be satisfied if I gave her a bottle of ketchup for Christmas! Heinz, of course.

Santa....Is He Real In Your Family?

I thought I'd start out this post with a cute pic of my brother with Santa in Iraq. Love you, Jon!

I also want to take a moment to say that the opinions expressed in this post are just that, opinions. I mean no condemnation or bad will to other parents who choose to take a contradictory viewpoint. This is just the path that my husband and I have chosen to take for our family.

We treat Santa like any other fictional character. Notice I said fictional. We don't tell Grace that Santa is real. We don't write letters to Santa. We don't try to make her believe that if she is a good little girl, then St. Nick will bring her presents on Christmas Day. When we see Santa at the mall, we tell her that someone is dressed up and pretending to be Santa.

That said, we don't necessarily shun all things Santa, either. I have a couple of Santa ornaments on the tree that people have given me over the years. I have a hand-painted Santa sitting on my fireplace mantle. Grace has a Santa book that she likes to read over and over....I've even taken a few pictures with Santa through the years.

We have chosen to take this path for three main reasons:

1. We want Christmas to be focused on Jesus. When Grace thinks of Christmas, we want the nativity story to come first to her mind, not Santa Claus. We have lots of Christmas books that tell the story of Jesus's birth. We talk about why we celebrate Christmas.....to show joy for God's precious gift, the coming of our Savior! While we participate in many traditions of the season (Christmas tree, presents, decorations), we are constantly verbalizing the "reason for the season."

2. We don't want to lie to Grace. I know that many people don't consider the Santa fantasy a lie, but we can't help but feel uncomfortable with it. How will she feel when she finds out one day that mommy and daddy spent so much effort building up something that turned out to be untrue? It's an issue of trust. We want Grace to know that we are honest and truthful with her in all areas.

3. And this leads me to my third reason....Grace's perception of God. This might be a stretch for some people, but in the mind of a child I believe that this is valid. I have heard and read testimonies of many people who admitted that when they found out their parents had been lying to them about Santa Claus, they wondered if God was a lie, too? Is God real? We would rather err on the side of caution in this area as we have no desire to be a stumbling block on Grace's spiritual journey.

So, for these reasons we have decided to not let Santa play a major role in our holiday celebration. To Grace, Santa is just another fictional character like Mickey Mouse or Cinderella.

I realize that our stance on Santa might become more difficult as Grace gets older. I certainly do not want her to ruin another child's Santa fantasy. We want to respect the choices that other families make in this area. So, we will enforce that she is not allowed to argue with others about the "realness" of Santa and she is not to purposefully tell someone that believes in Santa that he is not real.

Above all, we want to keep our celebration of Christmas honorable to God. I love the Christmas season so much that I often find myself focusing too much on the decorations, parties, baking, and shopping. I want Grace to see that all of my preparations during this time of the year highlight the birth of Jesus. So, I am praying that God will guard my heart to keep things simple and focused.

I realize that the topic of Santa can quickly become a controversial topic, especially in the blogworld. Even if you hold a different viewpoint than me, I invite anyone who reads this post to respectfully comment on your family's approach to Santa during the holiday season. Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Works For Me: Christmas Organizer Notebook

In honor of Works-For-Me Wednesday, I will share about my Christmas Organizer Notebook.

I bought a small, simple, purse-sized notebook at the Dollar Store. Throughout the year, every time I find a great price on a present, I buy it and write it down in my notebook. Lately, I've been also writing down where I hide it in my house because, well, you know........Anyway, by the time November hits, I'm usually about 80% done with my Christmas shopping. And, I've spread the cost out over the year so it doesn't all hit at once!

I've done this for three years now, so I can look back in my notebook and see what I bought for Aunt Matilda back in 2006 (no duplicate gifts!). Recently, I started writing down birthday gifts as well.

For more Works-For-Me tips, visit Rocks In My Dryer.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ketchup....The New Apple Juice

Today Grace and I ran some errands. Our last stop was Wal-Mart. We were on the food storage aisle and I was contemplating whether I wanted round or square Ziplock storage containers when I heard Grace say, "Oops." I whipped around and discovered that she had unscrewed the ketchup lid, pried off the freshness seal (that I can never get off), and proceeded to DRINK the bottle of ketchup. That's right. Drink.

She had ketchup all over her mouth, running down her chin, and on her dress. The check-out lady had a good laugh when I explained to her why I wanted to purchase a bottle of ketchup that was 1/3 gone.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Congratulations to Janelle, the winner of my Avon giveaway! Janelle will be receiving a tube of Avon Anew Clinical Professional Stretch Mark Smoother!

I appreciate everyone who entered and left comments with ideas for a homemade Christmas gift!

I Knew It Was Too Quiet.....

This morning, I was upstairs in the laundry room while Grace and her friend Caleb were playing in her room. I was giving myself kuddos for folding a load while it was still warm out of the dryer (to eliminate ironing) when I realized it was too quiet. Then I heard hushed whispering. I used my super-sleuth detective mommy skills to sneak over to the bedroom door.

I caught Caleb with a bottle of lotion upside down, ready to squeeze on Grace's dresser. Grace was holding her thermometer (a big no-no). As I glanced around the room, I noticed lotion on almost every major surface, including Candy Land. I enjoyed that first moment of utter fear on their faces when their handiwork was discovered. You'll be proud to know that I stayed calm, but it was a challenge. We discussed that not only was it a sin to play with things that they knew were forbidden, but they did it deceitfully by being as quiet as possible. I gave them a roll of paper towels and told them to clean up the mess.

Caleb started wiping up the mess and exclaimed, "Oh my goodness! Christmas is ruined!" (I guess he thought he was permanently on the naughty list.) I assured him that I forgave him and it was over. To which he responded, "I forgive you, too, JoJo!"

Later, at lunch, Caleb asked for mustard to put on his orange slices. I decided to call his bluff and squeezed some mustard on his plate. To his credit, he thoroughly saturated every orange slice in mustard before gleefully popping them in his mouth. Not to be outdone, Grace asked for ketchup for her orange slices. She, too, gave each slice a healthy dip into the ketchup before eating. I'm not sure which was grosser, the mustard or the ketchup.......

Menu Plan Monday

Monday - Crockpot Chicken Casserole, Green Beans

Tuesday - Leftovers

Wednesday - Dinner at church

Thursday - Macaroni and Beef, Green Peas

Friday - Leftovers

Saturday - Texas Potroast, Mashed Potatoes, Green Salad

Sunday - French Dip Sammies (leftover from potroast)

This week, I'm including my favorite pot roast recipe. It couldn't possibly be any easier, and the flavor is better than slow roasting in the oven for hours. It makes the most delicious au jus sauce which I always use for dipping french dip sammies the next day!

Texas Pot Roast

3-4 lb. beef roast
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 small jar picante sauce (I like Pace Medium)
1 12 oz. can Coke (Diet does NOT work)

Place roast in crockpot. Sprinkle with onion soup mix. Cover with picante sauce and Coke. Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


We enjoyed our evening out tonight at a local church to attend the Sing-A-Long Messiah performance. We decided at the last minute to keep Grace with us the entire program instead of utilizing the childcare. I brought along a bag of tricks (coloring book, crayons, lollipop, and book) to help make it through the evening.

Grace did pretty well overall. We sat up in the top row of the balcony to minimize disturbing others. She only made one noise loud enough to cause people to turn around and look at us, and we only left once to visit the restroom. That's success in my book. She really enjoyed the music and actually tried to sing along with us during the full chorus pieces. (She didn't quite understand why she couldn't sing during the solo pieces, too).

The orchestra was the best that I have heard in a while. Truly, the New York Philharmonic couldn't have done any better. I realize that there is not much on Earth that can compare with the glory of Heaven, but I can't help but think that God enjoyed the beautiful music tonight.

When we got in the car to go home after the concert, Grace started singing "Ha-yay-yu-yah!" (translation: Hallelujah!) It was precious to hear her sweet voice try to imitate the Hallelujah Chorus. We are definitely making this a family tradition every year during the holiday season!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Faculty Party

I didn't post yesterday because it was such a busy day! Actually, it seems like every day in December is incredibly busy. The month just seems to fly by every year with parties, rehearsals, concerts, and traveling. This year I made a conscious effort to reduce our commitments...I even said "no" to a couple of parties. I just don't like every evening being taken up with activities. I'd much rather stay home and enjoy our time together as a family.

I haven't posted about it lately, but Todd is really enjoying his new job. The main benefit is more time at home with us. We get to eat dinner together as a family most nights of the week, and this is something we were rarely able to do when he was a band director. He is much less stressed, and he seems to be enjoying his career now more than ever before. Naturally, being a principal is not without challenges, but the problems are easier to deal with due to the school's great faculty and supportive parents (for the most part). He really enjoys his administrative team, and is so thankful to work with people who truly have a love for education.

Back to my busy day yesterday....I spent the morning straightening up the house and doing a couple loads of laundry. I ran to Wal-Mart to pick up a couple of things that I needed for the evening's activities. We ate a quick lunch then I put Grace down for a nap. During her naptime, I sewed a roman shade for a dear friend who wanted a nice window treatment for her new guest bathroom remodel. Then, I put the finishing touches on a fresh batch of biscotti cookies that I made for a friend. Grace woke up, and I parked her in front of the TV (yes, I do this on occasion) while I hurriedly got ready for Todd's Faculty Christmas Party.

Todd got home from work early, then we packed up Grace and headed out to the babysitter's house. We recently made some new friends in our Sunday School class, and they graciously agreed to watch Grace during our party tonight. They have three sweet teenaged daughters, and last time Grace was around them, they had a grand time together.

Todd and I enjoyed our evening out together. It was nice to be on a real date! It was also great to meet all the people that he works with for the first time. I can finally put some faces to the people that he comes home talking about! They are really sweet folk, down-to-earth and easy to talk with. Everyone made me feel very welcome, and many people thanked me for sharing my husband with them.

When we picked up Grace, she was all smiles. She gleefully grabbed my leg and exclaimed, "Mama! I was sweet and I didn't cry AT ALL!" This is quite amazing considering it was after 10:00 p.m., and she usually goes to bed by 8:00. Our friends had gotten out their beautiful train kit and set it up to go all around their family room and Christmas tree. Grace was mesmerized and wanted to show it to us when we arrived to pick her up.

All in all, it was a great day, and we went home to bed tired, but happy. Unfortunately, Todd had to get up early this morning to attend a Christmas program orchestra rehearsal at our church. Grace and I are about to get ready and go hang the new roman shade in my friend's house. Then, I'm headed to Kohl's to spend a $10 gift certificate on something fabulous, I'm sure!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tantrums: What To Do?

Every parent of a preschooler has seen their child throw a tantrum. There's a lot of advice out there in the psychological community about how to avoid tantrums and how to deal with them when they happen. I was reading a very popular parenting website today and came across this following suggestion:

Frustration is also a big tantrum-trigger. If you know your preschooler is going to insist on visiting the pet store when you go to the mall, make sure you have time to do it, or think twice about the trip.

Okay, who's the parent here? Since when should we let our 3-yr-old dictate our shopping agenda? This kind of attitude is one reason why kids have tantrums in the first place. When we plan our activities around what we think our child will like, or what we think will make them stay happy, we are teaching them that the most important thing in the world is what THEY want. That's not parenting. That's furthering their self-centeredness and selfishness.

Our job as parents is not to constantly entertain and satisfy every desire of our children's hearts. Sometimes our kids have to just stand in line calmly at the post office. Or wait patiently while mom has a conversation with a friend. Or turn off the TV and spend quiet time with a book. Or wait 30 minutes for dinner time without whining for something to eat. It builds character. It builds a submissive spirit. It also builds an empathy towards other people's needs.

When our kids do throw tantrums because they don't get their way, it's important to deal with them calmly and quickly. I don't believe in ignoring. My experience both personally and professionally has shown me that in most cases when I choose to ignore tantrums, the child will magnify the negative behaviors until I can't help but do something. (And by that time, I'm a lot madder and the kid is a lot more upset).

The Bible verse that we discuss when Grace is fussing is Phillippians 2:14-15:

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure children of God..."

When Grace first starts fussing or arguing, I will remind her of God's command to do everything without complaining. If she continues, we administer biblical discipline.

What we have found is that over time (and a lot of loving discipline), Grace is gaining more and more self-control. Especially as she matures, we find that often it just takes a reminder and she can turn around her behavior. Of course, there are days that I'm ready to pull my hair out because she chooses to be unusually fussy. But we get through them, and most of the time her behavior gets remarkably better over the next few days because we do our best to be consistent during the hard times.

Regardless of where we are or what we are doing, it's important to avoid giving into our kid's whining. They need to know that we are in charge and that throwing a fit will only result in discipline. It's a challenge because sometimes it's just easier to give them the lollipop they are begging for in the checkout lane! However, in the long run, we're setting ourselves up for many more battles if we constantly give in to their whims.

Just in Case You Need A Laugh.....

Check out the following link. I promise it is good for a laugh!

We got elfed!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Nice Surprise

Today I ran an errand at my local craft store. Grace was really sweet and obedient, and she even conversed nicely with an older lady in the checkout lane. I normally don't "reward" her for good behavior, but she did so well that I took her to McDonald's to get a happy meal and climb on the playground.

While there we found a nice surprise. Our pastor's wife was there with her granddaughter spending some time on the playground. I got to enjoy a special time of fellowship with this sweet lady while Grace enjoyed playing with her friend from church. What a nice treat it was to share female adult conversation, especially with someone who has successfully raised two beautiful daughters.

There aren't many drawbacks to being a stay-at-home mom, but occasionally I get lonely for adult conversation. Today I was thankful for an encouraging word from someone that I really admire.

Christmas Biscotti and a Giveaway!

This giveaway is now closed

In honor of Works-For-Me Wednesday, I am sharing a recipe for one of my favorite homemade gifts: Christmas Biscotti. These are always a hit during the holiday season, and they come out absolutely beautiful! Wrap a few in a clear holiday baking bag with a colorful ribbon for a delicious and thoughtful gift! Here's the recipe:

Christmas Biscotti

2 large eggs
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 c. shredded sweetened coconut
1 c. Christmas M&Ms (neatly chop each M&M into 1/4ths)
1 3/4 c. chopped peppermint bark

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Beat together the eggs, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla until creamy. Gently stir in flour, coconut and M&Ms. Transfer dough to a silpat or parchment covered baking sheet and shape into a rough log, about fourteen inches long (and about 2 1/2 inches wide and 3/4 inches thick). Smooth the top with a wet dough scraper. Bake the dough for about 25 minutes, until just turning golden. Remove from oven and let cool, up to 25 minutes.

Five minutes before slicing, mist lightly but thoroughly with a spray water bottle. (This makes slicing the biscotti easier.). Reduce oven temp to 325-degrees, wait another five minutes, then cut into 1/2-3/4-inch slices. Try to cut straight up and down, so they don't fall over during their second session. Set the biscotti upright on a covered baking sheet, and bake for about 25 minutes, until very golden. Remove, and place on a rack for cooling. These will crisp as they cool.

Dip half of each finished, cooled biscotti in the melted peppermint bark. Place on a rack over parchment or wax paper and allow chocolate to set before serving. These can be stored at room temp for about two weeks; for longer storage, wrap airtight, and freeze.

For more Works-For-Me tips, visit Rocks In My Dryer.

Now for the giveaway part! I am giving one of my readers an item from my online Avon store: the Avon Anew Clinical Professional Stretch Mark Smoother. This is the at-home answer to a dermatologist's laser - that over time, reduces the appearance of stretch marks by up to 50%!

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment with your idea for a great homemade or handcrafted Christmas present! If you are not a blogger, please leave a way for me to contact you via e-mail. A winner will be randomly chosen on Monday, Dec. 8th. I'll allow 48 hours for the winner to respond to my e-mail before choosing another winner.

Right now, I am offering Free Shipping on orders over $15! Just use the coupon code "REP815" at checkout. (Direct delivery only). Visit my Avon store for great gift ideas!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Maybe I'm Glad I Didn't Get the Flu Shot

I admit that I have never been one to research vaccines. I have always trusted Grace's pediatrician and just went along with the recommended shots. However, I have never given her the flu shot. She is allergic to eggs, and the viruses used in the flu shots are grown in eggs. There is a lot of contradictory data out there, but in general, people with egg allergies should carefully consider the risks and benefits before receiving the flu shot. (See the Centers for Disease Control for more info.)

However, today I learned that there is another danger in many flu shots. Mercury. There are some 2008-2009 flu shots that are manufactured without mercury, but many are not. See this site to get a list of mercury-free flu shots.

Handel's Messiah

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is getting to sing and listen to Handel's Messiah. Actually, I listen to it year-round, but I get to hear it even more during December. It's really strange that I never seem to get tired of it. I have sung it countless times in different church choirs and university choirs, and every year I go to at least two performances in the community, but it never gets old.

I even (gasp!) like Handel's Young Messiah (with the exception of a couple of songs I fast-forward because it is just too jazzy). If you aren't aware, The Young Messiah is a compliation of popular songs from the original Messiah, sung and orchestrated by contemporary Christian musicians. Yes, there's even a drumset. I'm not sure what Handel would think, but I can't help but enjoy it on occasion!

This Sunday evening, one of the local churches is hosting a Sing-A-Long performance of the Messiah. Guests are invited to bring their musical scores and sing along during the parts where the full choir sings. It is always an amazing time of worship through beautiful music.

If you have never heard a live performance of Handel's Messiah, I would encourage you to find a local church or choral group who is presenting the Messiah and make an effort to attend the concert with your family. I can't help but think that one day I will hear choirs of angels singing the Hallelujah chorus in heaven!

Monday, December 1, 2008

How Cool Is That?

Yesterday I wrote a post about a new company called BabyPlays. It is a brilliant idea for anyone looking for gift ideas for young children. Meredith Viera of The Today Show recently reported on this new online business.

Somehow Lori Pope, the CEO and founder of Babyplays, came across my post and wrote a sweet comment. How cool is that?

Teacher's Gifts

I read a recent post about gift ideas for the teachers in our children's life. The basic theme of the article was that teachers really don't need elaborate, expensive gifts or apple-themed "To Teach Is To Touch A Life Forever" gifts. The most memorable and special gifts are inexpensive homemade items and personal notes of appreciation.

As a teacher/counselor for 10 years, I can tell you that the running joke on my campus was a contest to see which teacher could collect the most coffee mugs? And, who could produce the most cliche apple-themed gifts? (I won one year for the coffee mugs). Honestly, the gifts that have meant the most over the years were hand-written notes from parents and students describing something specific for which they were appreciative. You know, teachers get a lot of criticism and complaints throughout the year. There are mean and unreasonable parents out there! It is really special to read a sweet note and realize that many people appreciate our commitment to teach and mentor children.

When I was growing up, my mom was the master at giving good teacher's gifts. She never spent a lot of money, but she spent a lot of time creating beautiful, handmade items to give. One of my former teachers told me 20 years later (!) that she still used the beautiful apron that my mom sewed for her when I was in 6th grade.

I will say that the most memorable gift I received as a counselor was not handmade or handwritten. One of my "frequent flyer" 6th grade girls brought me a collection of Bath & Body Works lotions and creams in different scents. She walked in my office, opened her backpack, and started lining the bottles up on my desk. She told me that she was so grateful for my help that semester and that she would never forget me. While I thought the gift was given in a slightly odd manner, I was truly appreciative and assured her that her gift was very thoughtful and I would look forward to using them. As soon as she walked out the door, I enjoyed opening the bottles and smelling the latest scents of the season. Unfortunately, a couple of days later, her father called to tell me that she had SHOPLIFTED the items from the mall. Even though I had already used some of the lotions, I offered to give them back. He wouldn't hear of it and said that he was making his daughter work to make restitution for the theft. I must say that a part of me was strangely honored to know that my student was willing to shoplift to give me a nice gift!