Monday, December 28, 2009

Remember me?

I almost feel like I need to start over and reintroduce myself! I have been absent from the computer for so long. I was expecting to be a little sporadic in the posting since it is the holidays, after all, but I was not expecting what happened around here.

I have so many posts in my head. I keep thinking of catchy titles for posts and the perfect photo to illustrate whatever silly point I am making. But I have just not been up to it. So I want to give y'all an explanation and then I plan to catch up in order with all of the fun things I want to share, OK? I just reread the explanation, and it is not a fun read, but I just wanted to get the scoop out there. Many friends and family have been asking what happened, so this is it. It may not be pretty or even well written, but it is the story!

I have had this thing for a while. It started in October of 2006. It is where I wrench something and pull my ribs on the right side. It has been painful and at times debilitating. But I hate to complain, and I hate to go to the doctor, so I have just lived with it. I would rest, take ibuprofen, lay on a heating pad, and in a day or so, I would feel better. We all attributed it to the fact that I always had a baby on my hip. Or that I am overdoing it and lifting things that I should not. Plus, in my capacity as an Internet doctor, I had researched this type of strain. And I found that once you injure yourself like this, it is likely to happen over and over. Mystery solved, right?

So I had little flare-ups from time to time. Sometimes it would get pretty bad, and about the time I was ready to say, "OK, I am going to the doctor!" The pain would subside. And I had no other symptoms, so I was all good.

Well, during the week of December 14, it hurt a little bit. But I was so busy with schools and Christmas, and church. And then the night of December 18, Daddy had a party at his house for some work people. The kids and I were there, of course. And at one point, I had to carry a barefooted Spencer a long way. After I did that, I was hurting a little. And then when I woke up Saturday morning, I was in awful pain. So of course, I thought, well, I carried Spence and just over did it again. And I rested. But I did not get better. I did not sleep at all. Then Sunday, at church, I could not even stand up straight. I was in a lot of pain and it was starting to focus on one spot, just under my ribs in the front. I went home, to bed, and rested. I still could not sleep because I just could not get comfortable.

Monday, it was still hurting, but it was Christmas week! I had so much to do! So I got up and tried to do some cleaning. Cleaned the bathrooms, did some laundry. (I could not lift it or bend over to pick it up, so the babies were my little helpers!) I cooked supper and tried to ignore it. After supper, I went to bed and could not sleep. I tried to sleep downstairs in my chair, but I couldn't. I paced, I cried, I was nauseated. Finally, at like 4:00 AM, I called Momma. Now, this may seem odd. David was home. Daddy was 1 mile away. But I did not want to make the decision. I called Momma so that she could say, honey, go to the hospital. Which, she did. Plus, we all like to talk to Momma when we are sick, right?? David got dressed, Daddy came to sit with the kids, and off we went.

At the ER, they were awesome! I could not even sit because I was hurting so bad. They got me fluids and drugs!! The morphine did not even help. After an ultrasound, some blood work, and some dilaudid, they told me that it was gallstones. OK. I can handle that. So then she said, we are admitting you for at least a few days. WHAT?! It was December 22nd! I had so much to do! But I also was in no condition to do it, so I of course, was admitted.

The nurses were awesome at keeping me comfortable. They could tell by my face if I was in pain again. They did not let me eat or drink anything. I got a few hours or clear liquids once my surgery was scheduled for the next day. I met the surgeon, and he was so nice.

Momma hit to road to come and help. Every one's Christmas plans were changed. I was most sad about that.

I had lots of visitors from friends, David, the kids, and Daddy. That made it a little more fun. Jess and Spence bought me stuffed animals to keep me company. And I don't allow them to say the word, "hate," but Jessa asked if she could say, "I hate it when Mommy is sick." I said, absolutely!

David and Daddy took turns with the kids so that David could be with me sometimes. The surgery was scheduled for 2 PM on December 23rd. It was supposed to last an hour, maybe two. He was planning to perform a Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy. (Why do we call it a gallbladder?) The surgery took more than 3 hours because I was in bad shape, but he also managed to still do it Laparoscopically. He said I was in the top 5 of the worst gallbladders of the year. I was pretty honored. He said it was really, really sick, and that I must have been suffering for quite sometime. Well, as it turns out I was, I just did not know it.

So they let me come home on Christmas Eve. I was so glad to be home, but I did not feel much like Christmas. I felt the worst on was Christmas Day. I was so sore and so tired. But I managed to sit up and open gifts and watch the kiddos! Each day I have felt a little better. And I am so glad that I now know the cause of my mystery pain all these years!

My poor Momma has worked herself to death trying to keep up my plans. She cooked all that I had planned on cooking and she even helped the kids make cookies for Santa. And Momma and Daddy have had the kids at their house several nights so that I could rest. And the timing was bad, but if it had been any other time, David might have been on the other side of the world, so I guess things work out.

So that was Christmas at our house. . .
Hope yours was less eventful and less painful!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A man of many hats

Yep, that is my Spencer.
He does not just enjoy picking out his own clothes these days.

Oh, no.
He can accessorize.

Check him out:

The boy loves his hats.
it takes more than
a hat
to create
the look
he desires.

He knows what he likes.
You gotta admire than about him.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dear Laundry,

Hello, old foe. I just wanted to take a minute to discuss something with you today. As you know, we have long had a love/hate relationship. I mean, I love not being naked and also not smelling bad. This means, I have to wash you, fold you, hang you, and put you away. But I also loathe you. I know that sounds harsh, but I think you are aware of my feelings. I am pretty sure that this comes from the fact that you are NEVER finished. I mean, even as you are washed and dried and seemingly finished, I am wearing clothes that will all too soon be in the hamper. You just never let me relax. You never give me a break. I also think that you have made friends with the kids so that they can help you in your quest to become insurmountable. I mean how else can I explain their changing clothes 3 times in one day?? And I am convinced that when you are alone, in the dark of the hamper, you are somehow reproducing. I have never managed to catch you in the act, but be warned. I am watching.

Now under normal circumstances, I have accepted all of these things. This is part of life with a family who lives a normal, non-nudist life. But right now, I am very distressed with you. See, I am thinking that you may not know what time of year this is. Maybe you do not have a calendar, maybe you are not paying attention to the commercials, or the carols, or the decorations. I am giving you the benefit of the doubt, really I am. So in case you are living under a rock or OK, in a hamper, or let's face it strewn all over the house on the floor, it is December.
Do you know what that means?
It means it is the Christmas Season.
It is the most wonderful time of the year -
And we are busier than EVER!

I mean, we have parties and concerts. We have to shop and box and wrap things. We have to bake and cook. There is so much going on. At the end of the day, we are all exhausted. There is hardly time to do anything. And we are so busy we are almost never home, which makes it impossible to actually wash you. See what I mean? So can you help me out? Instead of creating more dirty, could you create more clean?

I mean, these pile are simply unacceptable.

It is so discouraging.

I have so many other things I need to do.
Frankly, things that I would rather do.

No offense.

And I do not even have a chute to help me out.
You know my friend Tara, she has a laundry chute.
I am so jealous.
How awesome that must be.
Without this amazing convenience,
I, well,
I have, um,


Somehow, it is not quite the same,

Oh, and sometimes, I do have a minute to do a load: I wash, dry, and fold you.
And then you just sit there.

Can't you pitch in a little?
In the spirit of the season?
I am begging you.

Friday, December 18, 2009

More blessed to give

This is one message that is hard for children to understand. Children are pretty selfish by nature. Momma once pointed that out to me, and it really is true. I am trying to raise Jess and Spence to want to give, not just get. And Christmas is as good a time as any, right?

Last year, we did a Toys for Tots day. And I was super proud of their ability to choose things to donate that they really liked. This was not just their typical behavior of only wanting to donate toys that are broken beyond repair or missing important parts. I was so proud.

This year, we may not have time for a day like that. But we are still giving. And I hope that the example of seeing the adults in their life giving whenever possible will also help instill a generous spirit in my sweet ones.

Here are some things we have done this year:

We had the opportunity to "adopt" 2 angels from church. We got a 13 year old girl and a 14 year old girl. Momma and I had lots of fun picking things out for them, although I realized I am not very trendy! I also felt old saying things like, "I don't even know what the kids are wearing these days." Yikes! We were only allowed to spend $40 and we had to wrap it all in 2 boxes per child. We had to be frugal and careful and also add a lot. I am not a huge fan of math. . . But we managed to do a pretty good job and after I crammed a book, an outfit, and pj's all in one box, we made it. The other box had shoes and socks. Anyway. The gifts turned out beautifully and of course, I delivered them to church in such a hurry that I did not take pictures. Oops.

We also got to pick a tag off the tree at Spencer's school. Their tree splits up the needs and only has about 1 item per tag. So everyone can do a little bit. That was a great idea, so Spencer and I found a puzzle and a pair of pajamas that will hopefully make someone very happy! And once they were wrapped, we even got to put it under the tree ourselves.

I also love what Borders is doing. Our Borders is giving people the chance to buy a book for be donated to foster children in our area. How cool! So we picked out a Curious George to donate. It was so easy! And we were glad to help!

One of the most basic things that I do is to never pass up a Salvation Army bell ringer. I have a tender place in my heart for the Salvation Army. Maybe it is because my Poppy and his Kiwanis cronies ring the bell to help out. But I always remember Momma letting us put the cash in the bucket. So now, my kids are the ones who are putting the money in. And this is one thing that I do not make them take turns. If they are both with me, they each get at least a dollar to put in. And have you noticed how high tech they are now? You can even text a donation!

Also Jessa's school is collecting toys and games for a children's hospital in St. Louis. What a great idea! They sent home a list of items that they would like to have. So we bought 3 puzzles with varying themes and age levels to give to the hospital. I love that the schools are trying to reinforce the idea of giving.

The kids have also helped me pick out gifts for all of their teachers and the bus driver. And they are having fun helping me stuff goodie bags for the mail man, the UPS man, the FedEx man, and even the garbage men. I love to let people know how much they are appreciated, you know?

I am also stealing my Daddy's idea and baking small pound cakes in Christmas loaf pans to give to special people. It only takes a little time to give someone something delicious and homemade! I distributed 9 yesterday, and they were even still warm. . .

And as I am typing this, I am thinking I may have to make time for another Toys for Tots outing. I mean, these commercials alone make me love this organization.

So I am really enjoying giving this Christmas. And I am am hoping that somewhere in the heads and hearts of my children that it is sinking in. It really is more blessed to give than receive. And to be perfectly honest, my favorite part of Christmas and opening gifts is watching the faces of the people that I bought for. Or hearing positive feedback. I love to give people perfect gifts, whether they are those less fortunate or teachers, parents, husband, and children.

I hope that you are enjoying GIVING this season, too!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Elf of the Shelf

Seriously. This is one of the many things that we discover in life that makes me say to myself, "Why didn't I think of that??"

So I heard about this last year, but we did not get one. We had enough going on trying to move and counting down til David got home from Iraq. But Momma and I talked about it and she decided she wanted to get the kids one for this year.

I started a little tradition last year. Whatever night we put up the tree, they have some presents to kick off the season. I always love for them to have matching jommies for every holiday. And of course Christmas shirts and socks are a must. And this year I added a few new Christmas books to read before bed. Since Momma was still here, she had the shirts she always gives them ready and The Elf on the Shelf.

For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, it is a small elf dressed in felt with a plastic head. He has a cute grin in his face. And the way it works is that he comes to your house at the beginning of the Christmas season and just sits and observes. The kids can talk to him, but they are not supposed to touch him. They named him Charlie and now he is "ours." Each night after we go to sleep, Charlie flies back to the North Pole to check in with Santa and report on how the kids are behaving. Then every morning when we all wake up, he is in a new spot to watch and listen for another day.

They even have a website. The kids LOVE this, too. They are computer fools, so they were all over it. The only part that is somewhat disturbing is the song that plays on the website. "The Elf on the Shelf is watching you, everything you say or do. . ." It plays it over and over and is strangely Orwellian. You know, The elf, Big Brother, The Man, whatever.

That aside, this baby is a hit! They are so cute looking for him. They always go to his last spot to check and see if he moved. Then they head out to find him. They get so excited when they discover his new location. They tell him welcome back! Spencer said to me on about day 3, very seriously, "Mommy, he really is magic."
Here is Charlie with the kids on his first night:

Here are a couple of his locations so far:

And Spencer's class has one, too. He was the first one in his class to notice it, so the whole class is calling theirs Charlie, too!! Spencer thinks Charlie is following him to school. And he is convinced that I gave our book to his teacher. So funny!

And every time they start to act ugly, one or the other of them will remind all of us that Charlie is listening. And the funniest is when they are being nice, they want Charlie to notice their good behavior, too. Think he can stay year round??
P.S. So I have many funny stories to share and pictures to post, but I am crazy busy. From school functions to church concerts to the polar express with the USO, we have not had a free minute. And toss in not one but 2 children with yucky sinus infections and well, we are running a tad behind. I will be a good blogger again soon! And I am trying hard to not get stressed. It will all get done. And whatever does not get done will be OK. Christmas is about lots more than the packages and the cookies. And I am trying to stop and enjoy the moments. The kids and I have been flying solo a LOT - David has not been home for more than 1 night in weeks. BUT we are doing OK, drinking homemade hot chocolate, eating peppermint Hershey kisses, and counting the days until David starts leave. . . (8, if you're counting, too)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The blessing

Saying the blessing before supper every night is our habit, our routine. It always has been part of the routine, since I was little. And even though Lucas and I have always gotten along incredibly well, we were normal children who bickered. One thing we argued about each night was who was going to say the blessing. Momma's solution was simple. Each year, right after Christmas, she would sit down with the next year's calendar and write in the bottom corner of each and every day, either "D" or "L." So every night, when we sat down to supper, we would consult the calendar, ie the law to determine who would say the blessing. In case you were wondering, our childhood blessing was "God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hands, we are fed. Thank you Lord for daily bread. Amen." (prounounced AH-men) This worked well because if we were not home or we did not eat together, you did not have to keep up with it. And sometimes you missed your turn, but the calendar was the ultimate ruling authority. You did not question the calendar. Bickering ceased. (well, about the blessing anyway)
My children have said several blessings. Each church preschool we attend has a different blessing. I think that is sort of cute because Jessa actually classifies her many preschools not only by who her teacher was, but also what blessing they said. I must admit, my favorite was the one they learned in Hinesville. It is a song. And when they sing it, my heart just melts.

Recently they have started bickering about who will say the blessing. In the past, Spencer was too shy and always allowed Jessa to say it. I am thrilled that Spencer wants to have a turn now, but I also get indigestion when they start the meal with an argument. I also remind them that Jesus does not like them arguing about something that He asked them to do. Although, in the heat of battle, they cannot even hear me!

So I am thinking that on my trusty 2010 calendar, I may have some small lettters ("J" or "S") on my calendar for each day.

BUT before I do that, I must share with you what happens on my favorite nights. The nights that I sit at the table with tears streaming down my cheeks. The nights that they agree to say it together. Their sweet voices. Their precious song. The special words.
Well, I'll let you hear it for yourself:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

And now the rest of the decorations

As promised, here are the rest of the decorations.

The stockings hung on the console table with care. . .
Notice the stockings - Jessa and Spencer helped write the names this year.
And I love the new frame stocking holders - we had them before, but they broke. . .

This is the front of the house from the outside. I LOVE the icicle lights!
The front window - you can see the pretty white tree lights through the window. I just love simple white lights!
Here is one of our tiny trees in the yard. We did not light them, but the kids hung some big red, white, and blue balls on them. They look so nice, I think.
This is the porch window. The candles are on the inside of all of the windows. This is the first year I have had them, but I have always wanted them. One of my favorite things about Christmas growing up was the candles that Momma used to put in our windows. I used to love going to sleep with the light coming from behind the shade. I am so happy to have them now!
We have lots of crafty items inside.
Some made by my awesome, crafty aunt:

And some were given to us by my crafty aunt:

One year, Momma gave us this "Westie Tree."
Isn't it precious! You may not can tell, but the garland is linked sausages. And all the Westies crawling all over it just melt my heart!

I have two favorite Christmas images:

1) The Lion and the Lamb

I even have the movie.
2) Santa and the Christ Child or the Kneeling Santa

So I am always on the lookout for decor or ornaments depicting these awesome stories.
Sometimes, I get lucky and find one ornament with all my favorites:

I love Christmas!
I love the special decorations, the traditions, the lights, the songs, the joy, the spirit of the season.
Hope you enjoyed a view into our holiday decorating.
And I think the kiddos do, too!


Friday, December 4, 2009

O Christmas Tree

I know that lots of people love Christmas. And other people do not. I mean, I think just about everyone likes the idea of Christmas and holidays and giving and family fun. But lots of people get so caught up in the stress of it all that they don't appreciate just how awesome it all is.
Luckily, when you have children, you have the opportunity to look at it all through their eyes. That makes all the difference! And I can remember being younger and everything being fun and magical and exciting. So I have always sort of reverted to those feelings around Christmas. And watching my children makes it even easier (and more socially acceptable). I want to listen to nothing but Christmas music in the car (thank you Sirius for 2 stations!!). I want to look at the tree with its lights on from the time I get up until the time I go to bed. I want to find perfect presents for people I love. I want to bake cookies. And of course, children are always on board, right?

The day after Thanksgiving, in my opinion is the BEST day to decorate. I am not a big bargain shopper. For real, I would rather skip a bargain if it meant being up and out at 3 AM with crazy, sleep deprived bargain hunters. I really do most of my shopping online now anyway. So it is the day after the big meal. You have leftovers in the fridge, so there is no need to plan what to eat OR to go out. You can sleep late and stay in your pj's and leisurely take the day to decorate.

Now, even though we have done this almost every year, sometimes you should still remind your husband of these plans. In David's defense, we do not always put up a tree at our house. Like if we are between houses or gone the whole time or something. Plus, David has missed a few Christmases. Last year, we decorated right after Thanksgiving at Momma and Daddy's, but David was in Iraq. Although, the year before we actually decorated on Thanksgiving afternoon, so see, you would think he was thinking like I was. Well, um, no. He was planning to sit on his booty all day on the couch, eating cold turkey, and watching football games. Oops. Well, we compromised, and he did lots of things during half times.

Anyway, the kids were PUMPED! And each year they "get it" more, know what I mean? Now they both know that it is Jesus's birthday. (Jessa has even said prayers where she reminds Jesus that His birthday is coming up.) And they both understand about fragile decorations and not messing with the tree too much. It is SO nice!! And they both have their very own Little People Nativities that provide hours of fun.

So the focus of all of our decorations is THE TREE! David got our awesome pre-lit, artificial tree up first thing. I am (a) allergic to real trees, and (b) don't even really like them that much. I like my perfectly proportioned, straight, not flammable, not messy tree. And pre-lit - what a great idea. The Daddys always do the beads, too. That is something that having long arms and height can really help you with, you know?? And my sweet baby boy kept saying, "Daddy, that tree sure looks pretty," the whole time David was putting it up and straightening out all the branches. So precious.

Then it was ornament time. Aw yeah! I am anal about packing all of my ornaments in original boxes. Because with the moving that we do, I want them safe. So I found a spot and sat down with a large Rubbermaid full of ornament boxes and started unpacking them. The kids were beside themselves. I would unpack one, put a hook on it and then they took turns putting them on the tree. The best part is that we were a regular Hallmark commercial, the ones that make me cry every time. They wanted to hear the story behind each ornament. I told them about the Christmas that David was supposed to still be in Macedonia until after Christmas, so I was in GA. And how at the last minute, he came home. And we unknowingly, at 2 PXs, in two different countries bought each other the same "I'll be home for Christmas" ornament. I told them about their first Christmas ornaments, and even showed them mine from 1975! We hung Florida Gator Ornaments and soldier ornaments. They loved hanging all the cool wooden ones we got while we were in Germany. We retold the story of Santa and the Christ child when and the Lion and the Lamb, as we hung these special ornaments. We laughed at the one from last Christmas celebrating the "1st Christmas" in our new house at Ft. Stewart, if we only knew. . . And we saw Dunken's first Christmas one that started out as a black puppy, but David spent days in secret painting like 12 coats on it to make it a white puppy. And the most special ones, the ones that they have started making themselves at school and church through the years. We now have our own glittery Popsicle sticks and Rudolphs with red puff noses. All the the hodge podge of ornaments from each year tell the story of our lives, the story of our family. And the kids were hanging on my every word as I retold the stories that they have heard before. The same stories that we will tell every year until they know them all by heart. The stories that they will someday tell to their children as they unpack all the ornaments from their past. I remember putting up the tree with my family as a child, the memories, the ornament stories. And I hope and pray that their hearts will be full and they will smile as they think of all the memories of their Christmases growing up, they way I do.
So here is our tree:

I just love it.
It is so perfect.
So special.
So us.
I cannot stop looking at it!

In case I did not make it clear, , I LOVE CHRISTMAS!
More decoration posts to come. . .

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pet names

Have you ever seen the "buddies" movies? You know Snow Buddies, and Space Buddies, and now Santa Buddies? Well, I have been in the room/car when they were playing on more than one occasion, but I have never really watched them from start to finish. That is my disclaimer if I really screw up any details in this post, K?

Last Christmas, both kids asked Santa for Snow Buddies, and they got it. They had seen the commercial for years, and Jessa even has a Husky stuffed dog who is named "Snow Buddy." They enjoyed the movie pretty much and later, for another occasion, they got Space Buddies. The premise is that there are these 5 adorable Golden Retriever puppies who are thrown into wacky situations. You know, ending up in Alaska to fulfill some kid's wish about having a sled dog team or accidentally getting launched into space and meeting up with a Russian space dog named "Sputnik." Oh, and the dogs talk. I mean, to each other, the people cannot hear them. And the names are all special, besides Sputnik (who speaks with an adorable Russian accent), the husky is named "Shasta." Let's not forget the buddies, they are "Budha," Rosebud," "Budderball," "B-Dawg," and "Mudbud." (OH MY GOSH! OK, so I have heard their names 1, 000 times, but only now as I looked on the DVD cover at the names to make sure I had them right did I realize that they all have something like "bud" in the name. I am slow.) So you with me? Charming, silly movies just right for the kiddos.

Well, Bay went out of town the other week. Actually David was out of town, too, so we were totally man-less for a few days. When Bay leaves, we get to keep Miss Abby at our house. The kids LOVE this. Stewart does not. I mean with 3 dogs, they are practically a pack.

Well, one morning while Abby was here and Jessa was at school, Spencer and I were in the kitchen. I realized that I had not fed the dogs their breakfast (they get dry food in the morning). So I said to my best helper boy Spencer, we need to get those dogs in here for their breakfast. And my clever boy said, "Want to know their names?" And I was puzzled because I thought I knew them already. But I played along, "OK, son, what are their names?" Well, the little brown girl dog, her name is Ash-uh-ley (that is how he pronounces Ashley)." And the white dogs are named "Snowball and Tastebud." I thought I would cry I was giggling so hard. TASTEBUD? Really? I can only assume that is a shout out to Rosebud from the classic Buddies films.

So besides the names being pretty original and silly, we have the added problem that the dogs do not know that they have new names. Almost every day, we have to call the kids different names. They change their names all the time. (For the record: Jessa is usually Shelby Marx, Shelby Macurdigascar or Chloe and Spencer is either Toby or Stewart) But that concept is somewhat hard to explain to 3 dogs who know their names very well. Plus, dogs are not huge into the whole play pretend, imagination thing, you know?

So I start to fix 3 bowls of dry food for 3 sweet terriers. And I without thinking, I tell Spencer to call Abby, Dunken, and Max. Spencer gets upset with me and scolds me because those are not the names of our dogs. So he calls out, "Ash-uh-ley, Snowball, Tastebud! Breakfast!" And not surprisingly, nothing happens. No hungry dogs. No collars jingling. Nothing. Crickets. So he says again, louder, "Ash-uh-ley!!! Snowball!!! Tastebud!!!" Still nothing. So I try to help by saying, "Abby, Ashely, Max, Snowball, Dunken, Tastebud!" He gives me a look like I am the dumbest woman ever. "MO-UHM! Their names are Ash-uh-ley, Snowball, and Tastebud." (picture a look that is usually reserved for 13 year old girls on his face as he says this).

Eventually, he lost interest, and I was able to get the confused and very hungry dogs to eat their breakfast.