Saturday, January 31, 2009

Birthday Thoughts

O.k. Anita, it's my turn. It's my birthday today. I've learned a lot within this month about my attitude towards my birthday. I think it's time to change my perspective. So, to quote from Dr. Seuss:

"If we didn't have birthdays, you wouldn't be you.
If you'd never been born, well then what would you do?
If you'd never been born, well then what would you be?
You might be a fish! Or a toad in a tree!
You might be a doorknob! Or three baked potatoes!
You might be a bag full of hard green tomatoes.
Or worse than all that...Why, you might be a WASN'T!
A Wasn't has no fun at all. No, he doesn't.
A Wasn't just isn't. He just isn't present.
But ARE YOU! And, now isn't that pleasant!"

So today I am going to enjoy my birthday. I am going to count my blessings. I am going to appreciate becoming a year older and wiser. I am thankful I am reaching a stage of my life where I can appreciate the unique way I am made and continue to learn how I am supposed to use the strengths given to me. I am claiming this verse from the Bible today:

Psalm 139:14 (New International Version)

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Today, I am not going to be a WASN'T! I am going to be PRESENT and appreciate this gift of another day I've been given. And as a birthday present to me, I want YOU to do the same!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Black and Gold Day at School

The kids showing off their new Steelers shirts and their excitement for the upcoming BIG GAME!!!!!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Play is a child's work

Two things you should know about me: I LOVE a clean floor and I am a firm believer that play is incredibly important to the healthy development of a child's brain. So it occurred to me yesterday that these two things haven't meshed very well in our house and I have had to ease up on my clean floor fixation for the sake of my children's well-being. Ann-Marie is our child who is at the height of imaginative play right now. I remember when Evan was five and we had dinosaurs all over the house. Ann-Marie's preferred toys are Littlest Pet Shop, My Little Pony, and Kitty/Puppy/Horsie in my pockets. She is not a doll girl, although she has some; she is all about her animals. So I went around the house yesterday capturing her long-term play. My compromise to clean floors? I ask her to clean up about once a week so I can least I know the floor is clean underneath the constant play going on. The picture above is taken in our home office which is located in our basement. Her horse and animal pocket toys are having some sort of town meeting there.
Above and below are pictures of her bedroom floor. Another meeting of the minds is happening among her Littlest Pet Shop pets (we counted 36 of them this weekend, so it is quite a meeting!) Below is her pony castle and the ponies are having a party, of course. I think the ponies are napping....parties are hard work!
I always seem to have some sort of eyes on me....I feel like I'm being watched at all times. My reason is below....Ann-Marie has spies throughout the house making sure Mommy is behaving herself (i.e. not getting into her treat bag!)
Here are my thoughts, you can take them or leave them. Play is a child's work. Early school-age children especially need long-term play (meaning sometimes days on end) to work out some of their more complex and creative thoughts. I have had to let go of many of my demands for a clean and clutter free house to allow my children to develop their own creativity and unique personalities. I'm still working on it. There are days where it drives me crazy, but I try to think about 10 years in the future when the little toys will be boxed away with their childhoods. So in the meantime, I am tiptoeing around the play and encouraging long periods of creative play and I encourage all parents of young children to do the same.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dinner conversations

Dinnertime, (or Supper, if you're from the mid-west), can be a stressful time when you have young children. It has just occurred to me that our dinnertime has recently gotten a lot more enjoyable. Even a year ago, when Alec was two, we spent most of dinner dodging food and gently (or not so gently) reminding children to use their utensils and good manners. We still have to remind for manners and such (and it's gotten much gentler) but the food dodging and fighting for kids to remain at the dinner table for conversation has gotten so much more enjoyable since Alec has turned three. (I hope this is encouragement for those of you out there with younger children!)

Now that we have two children in public school, we use our dinner time to extract information from them about their days. I recently shared one of our (sneaky) ways to get the kids talking during dinner. It's a game called "Two Truths and a Lie." Now, we do not promote lying in our household, which makes this game even more fun for Evan and Ann-Marie. It is their chance to try to lie to their parents without getting into trouble. Each child comes up with three facts about their day, two of which are true and one is not. The parents then have to figure out which is the non-truth, which opens up some very interesting conversations.

Sometimes it is a struggle for our weekend dinners, as we tend to spend the majority of the weekend together, so our game doesn't work. On Sunday night, we came up with "Silly Questions" to play at the dinner table, and even Alec participated. I came up with two questions and we all had to answer. These questions really opened my eyes to what my kids were thinking about, which at this age changes constantly. Following is our dinner conversation:

Paula: If you could be any animal you wanted to, what would you be and why?
Evan: A cheetah, so I could run really far and really fast.
Ann-Marie: A horse (she has always had a thing for horses!) because they run fast too.
Darrell: A whale, so I can swim to the bottom of the sea and see what's down there.
Alec: An alligator!
Paula: A hawk, so I can fly somewhere cool!
Evan: I also want to be a Sea Cucumber, because they walk on the bottom of the sea!

Paula: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Evan: An NFL football player (he is really into the Steelers right now, for obvious reasons!)
Ann-Marie: A veterinarian (this was news to me, but she's really been into playing with her littlest pet shop animals and her my little ponies - she used a whole box of kleenexes the other day bandaging up all her little animals!)
Darrell: A lawyer - because I like to argue (that brought lots of laughing to the table)
Alec: An alligator!

So there's a peek into our dinner time!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A peek into our mess

On Monday night, National Fire Repair came to our house at 9:30 p.m. to start the drying out process of our indoor flood. They ripped out the padding and set dryers and humidifiers throughout the family room and the garage and they have been in place since. We will be hearing the constant whirring of industrial sized fans for at least three days....which explains the constant headache I have been experiencing. But thank God they are here for water repair and fire repair! Here are some pictures of our house during this time.....
Below is a storage closet off of the family room...the baseboards had to be taken out for the carpet to be taken up.

The above picture and below picture shows some of the ice that formed from the water escaping from inside the house to outside the house. It looks pretty cool actually.
Hopefully we'll have an update about the status of our living area next week! I really do miss that space!

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Best Laid Plans.....

This weekend we planned on going to Maryland to visit our close family friends for two January birthdays. Elijah, above, turned three and Rebekah, turns 6, at the end of the month. The plan was to drive to Maryland on Friday, celebrate Elijah's birthday on Saturday, go to church and relax on Sunday (also sneaking in the Steeler's game, of course), and have Rebekah's birthday party on Monday at Chuck E Cheese's, then drive home in the afternoon. The pictures I posted are of Elijah's birthday party only,
Above, Chris and Jessica (the fabulous parents) are master Geotrax track builders!Even though their son, Caleb, is turning five and Evan is turning eight, they really enjoy each other's company and look forward to seeing each other!

I couldn't resist a picture of Alec enjoying Elijah's birthday cake.

Now, for the rest of the story.........

Friday turned out to be a no-school day due to temperatures in the negative degree range. We took full advantage of that and got an early start to Maryland, putting us there before dinner. Saturday turned out to be a wonderful day for an indoor three-year-old Thomas the Tank Engine birthday. Sunday started out nice; with church, a wonderful roasted chicken, and Paula and Jessica getting out without children for some friend-time. However, when we pulled back into Jessica's house, Darrell met us at the door with a pinched face saying, "My Dad called!" which could only mean someone had died or a disaster had occured. It happened to be a disaster, at our house! Apparently, when Darrell's sister checked on our house on Sunday afternoon, she found it to be FLOODED! There was water pouring out of our bathroom on the main floor which is right off of our family room. Two inches of water stood on our family room carpet, with the rest pouring through the floor into our garage. After a quick discussion and decisions, our friends graciously offered to have us leave our children in Maryland with them so we could go deal with the mess and the second birthday party could go on. We drove the 4 1/2 hours home and found that Darrell's dad, brother-in-law and sister had cleaned up most of the mess, leaving us with a wet/dry vac and very little to do (THANK YOU!!!!!!). So today (Monday) I spent the afternoon driving halfway back to Maryland to retrieve the children (Thank you, Chris, for spending half of your day bringing them halfway back to me!). Now we're seeing what insurance covers and if we will need new carpeting in the family room.

Now here's the cool part, the part where I get to tell you where I saw God's protection and provision in the unfortunate circumstances of this weekend:
  • We NEVER have anyone check on our house if we're leaving for a long weekend. Darrell's sister just happened to have our keys from checking on our house when we were gone to Iowa for Christmas, so we had asked her to bring the Sunday papers in for us. If she hadn't have checked on our house on Sunday, the water would have went on for 24 more hours and we would have walked in on it tonight after a long drive and a SURPRISE waiting!
  • We have loving, caring relatives close by that have a wet/dry vac and love us enough to clean up our mess!
  • We have wonderful friends who willingly sacrifice their time to help us out by keeping our kids, which brings the total count of kids in their care to six under the age of eight!
  • We made, essentially, two trips to Maryland this weekend in winter weather with no problems....however.....
  • Jessica had to turn around on I-70 because it was closed and she had to go home and have her husband, Chris, find a different way, which added more time to the traveling today....BUT now we find out that there was a 40 car pile up with at least two deaths which closed the THANK GOD they were running late today and weren't in the midst of the pile-up.
  • Rebekah got to have her party with Ann-Marie in attendance!
  • Evan got to watch his Steeler's game, although it was in the midst of Raven's fans....and the Steeler's won! Evan is SOOOOOOO excited that they are going to the Super Bowl.
So ending this long, drawn out post....two more items of interest. We have now had three indoor floods in the past four years - summer of 2006 our basement completely flooded in our rental in Silver Spring, Maryland; spring of 2007, Darrell's dad's basement flooded while we were living there and we had most of our electronic equipment (i.e. computer) in the basement; and now beginning of 2009, hose breaking.

And a side note, Squid the Beta fish also died while we were in Maryland. We thought that the fish dying might upset the children even more than the house flooding, so while I was picking them up today, Darrell found another Squid replacement. Let's just hope they don't notice this one is a darker pink than the last one.......

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What do you mean by COLD?

I couldn't resist this post after a couple of things happened. Last night, I called my dad and step-mom in Iowa so they could explain to Evan how cold it is in Iowa right now. My step-mom explained wind chill to Evan, explaining that with the wind it would get to 40 - 45 BELOW zero today. Then my sister sent me this e-mail, which I thought was cute, so I'm posting it not only for my Iowa family and friends, but for my Pittsburgh friends who think we have it bad. (Of course, my Alaska, Minnesota and North Dakota friends will laugh at this and say "You have NO idea of what cold is!"

On the sixth day, God turned to the Archangel Gabriel and said: 'Today I am going to create a land called Iowa.
It will be a land of outstanding natural beauty. It shall have tall majestic landscapes full of buffalo, tall grass, and hawks, beautiful skies, forests full of elk and deer, rich farmland.' God continued, 'I shall make the land rich in resources so as to make the inhabitants prosper, I shall call these inhabitants, Hawkeyes, and they shall be known as a most friendly people.'
But, Lord,' asked Gabriel, 'don't you think you are being too generous to these Iowans?'
'Not really,' replied God 'just wait and see the winters I am going to give them.'

So cold! It's all about where you live! But here in western PA, we'll enjoy our two hour delays for temperatures in the single digits, thank you very much!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's in the whisper.....

This is something that I shared with my MOPS group this morning. I meant it to be a small encouragement for the moms there, but it has grown into a little more.....and a challenge from our MOPS mentor to blog it (with promises of links to other blogs????) Anyway, it all started out early, early this morning as I read my friend's blog: Her blog was about how it is her birthday today and how disappointing birthdays can become as we grow older. I really related to that, because I have disliked my birthday for a long time. My birthday comes in January also, and I like to blame it on winter doldrums, but it is more likely because my sweet 16th birthday came a little over two months after my mom's sudden death. That kind of took the sweet out of the celebration.

Now here's where my mind goes.....BIG days equal BIG expectations, right? As moms, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make those wonderful days for our families. But let's be realistic.....who actually feels romantic ON Valentine's Day? Which one of us feels like Super Mom on Mother's Day? And how many Christmas days have been soured by the flu or other unexpected incidents?

Here's the message: Let's start looking for God in the small things. I have been challenged in these past years to stop putting so much pressure on the BIG days and BIG things, and start being more grateful for the small things. I don't think that God speaks to us in the big things most of the time. I think we need a change in perspective to truly enjoy the life we've been given. So I thought of some small things that I have been thankful for, small things in which God has spoken to me:
  1. Beautiful sunrises/sunsets
  2. a spontaneous "thank you" from any member of my immediate family
  3. an "accident-free" day from my newly potty trained toddler
  4. an encouraging phone call from a friend

Here's a Bible verse that my MOPS mentor shared to complement my thoughts:

"The Lord said, 'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.'
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, 'What are you doing here Elijah?"
-1 Kings 19:11-13

What are your "whispers?"

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Snow fun

Lots of snow and nowhere to we played in it for most of the day!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Snow quote

I read this quote yesterday and have been thinking about it, especially since we're seeing the first (measurable) snowfall of the New Year (here in western PA anyway, we saw lots of the white stuff in IA).

"When it snows, you have two choices: shovel or make snow angels." Anonymous

My nature is to shovel, but I'm trying to become more of a snow angel about you?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Things that make you go hmmmmmm.....

Alec, our famous non-sleeper, has a habit of coming into our bedroom most nights somewhere around the 3:00 a.m. hour. We finally gave into this habit and put a sleeping bag on our floor and have him pretty well-trained to crash there and not climb into bed with us. Now that he is potty-trained during the day, I have noticed how amazing his, ummmm, holding power is (not sure of how to put that.) I began wondering if his bladder was waking him up at night. So last night when Alec made his appearance at 3 a.m., I hauled my tired body out of bed and took him to the bathroom where he promptly did his duty. This morning he woke up dry!

That's the good news but there's a dilemma. Evan, who is almost eight, is still not dry during the night. So how do we praise Alec in his overnight dryness, without putting a dink in Evan's self-esteem, as he is a true DEEP sleeper? Any comments are welcome.........

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My New Year's prayer for you

I have posted a lot of pictures of this past week, mostly for me to remember this time, but also to share with you my hope for my family and friends this year. This Christmas surprise was the best gift my sisters and I could have ever gotten my Dad. It is a gift of love and forgiveness and renewal of relationships. It is a confirmation of how God uses brokenness to make beautiful new beginnings. It is proof that pain and loss can bloom into fullness of love. It is my hope that for those of you who know our family story, that you can believe that God is using whatever brokenness that is in your life for future good. I could have never looked forward ten years ago and believed that I would have gone to such lengths to show my love for my dad. But at this time in my life, that is one of the desires of my heart; to not only encourage a loving relationship between my dad and myself, but also to allow my children to create special memories with their Grandpa and Amma.

So, my prayer to you is to concentrate on those gifts this year that will be most meaningful....relationships, time, experiences....for you and your family and those you love. Try putting aside the differences, the past pains and allow God to form a new reality in your family and your relationships this year. You may be surprised at what happens..........

Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve

We spent New Year's Eve at the West Union Bowling Alley....well, only from 4 - 6 p.m. They had a family bowling special complete with a family-friendly New Year's eve celebration where we counted down at 6 p.m. That's my kind of New Year's Eve! Alec got to bowl for the first time!
My cousin Steve and one of his foster children (we're praying that they will legally become part of our family this year!)

My uncle Kent, Uncle Lyle, Aunt Sue and Aunt Pat (two of my mom's three other sisters....I saw Aunt Jill, her youngest sister, earlier in the week).
Dad and Mary, looking quite festive....
and a GREAT shot of my kids celebrating!

The BEST Christmas gifts.....

The time spent between Christmas and New Year's this year held some of the best presents of all:

time with Grandpa and Amma.....

time with Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma (who had a birthday while we were there!).....

time with cousins......
and second and third cousins as well as great-aunts and great-uncles.....

Just being together.......

And FUN!

Making a Christmas wish come true

Be careful what you ask for; it may very well come true! My dad in Iowa learned that lesson this Christmas. When he was out visiting my sister in Colorado after she had her second baby in the fall, he was asked what he wanted for Christmas. He replied, "For all three of my girls and their families to be at one place at one time." Well, we made that happen for him as a Christmas surprise! The day after Christmas my family in PA climbed on an airplane at 6 a.m.; were delayed a little in Chicago for some ice issues: landed in Moline, IL and picked up our rental car; met my sister and her family at the I-80 truck stop in Iowa; met my other sister and her family in Independence, IA at Wal-mart; battled fog for the remainder of the 3o minute drive; convened in the Fun Factory restaurant in Hawkeye and successfully surprised my dad after my step-mom convinced him he needed to go to that restaurant! So he walked into a room full of my family from PA, my next younger sister and her family from Belle Plaine, Iowa, and my youngest sister and her family from Colorado Springs, Colorado. HE HAD NO IDEA!!!!!!!

Meeting the newest member of the family, Nathan!Waiting to surprise Grandpa......
and there he is! Not a great shot but the look on his face was priceless!

And thanks to my step-mom's hard work and planning on her side, this all worked out successfully! Thanks Mary!

Christmas 2008

We had a very nice Christmas day. The kids received some really nice presents!
Ann-Marie was the hardest person to buy for this year, which was unusual. The problem was she would tell us what her friends wanted, but those were things we knew she wouldn't enjoy for a very long time. I think we hit a winner with the karoake machine! We've heard some beautiful singing ever since!
Christmas night dinner at Darrell's brother's house, complete with Pap-pap Santa:

And all the cousins were present! What a nice time.