I can't bear to take the tree down.

Maybe it's that we're never ready right after Thanksgiving for the tree, so ours goes up later. Maybe it's that I don't like to let Christmas go. Maybe I'm just lazy. I think it's the middle one (I am lazy - I just don't think that's my issue with the tree). Our tree is still up. I easily want to leave it up for another week. January is bleak enough, must we take down the festive tree?

Plus, the girls are home all day with Christmas break and it seems like a shame to take it down. We're not even done celebrating Christmases yet.

Speaking of Christmas break, my children are crazy. Today they've been wearing swimsuits, and trying on all my shoes. Mostly just the heels. Then they built forts with the kitchen table, and they're still wandering around in swimsuits.

I think maybe we might need to get out of the house a little bit.


Hunkered down

That's how we spent Christmas. Hunkered down. Natalie ended up with a bladder infection (Happy Holidays!), so we spent the days before Christmas running around to the clinic and pharmacy. Also, preparing for the Great Christmas Blizzard of Oh-Nine.

In the end it just rained here. But that led to ice, slush and who knows what else, since we didn't actually go outside. Captain America worked from home on Christmas Eve because of the ice. So we all stayed in Thursday and Friday. The girls wore jammies for a good 72 hours or more. Clean jammies every day. But if Natalie's home, she's wearing jammies. Even if it's just for an hour.

It was a very relaxing Christmas. The girls were definitely feeling the spirit. It was lovely. They were really excited about the gifts they were giving, especially each other, which was nice. So much "I hope you like it!" and "This is my favorite!" followed by Hallmark-style hugs. Just lovely.

And then it was Saturday. And we'd been cooped up together since Wednesday afternoon. So we decided a little chaos would be nice and we went to walk around the mall. And Natalie cried that her legs were tired. Before we even got in from the parking lot.

By Sunday afternoon, I think Captain America was counting the minutes til he could go back to work.

No school til January 4! How exciting! I am already planning some errands for as soon as he gets home from work today. ALONE. Santa brought Caribou gift cards, and I know how to use them.


It's true.

I had the opportunity (or rather, I made an opportunity where there probably shouldn't have been one) to see a Sara Groves concert last week. It was sweet Sara Groves perfection, and it was completely worth the 4 1/2 hour drive. One way.

Christmas is coming (what?). I have a tendency to get so caught up in the hype, that I'm often afraid I'll miss it. Two things can bring me easily back. Linus and Toby.

1. Linus
Is there a better moment in holiday television than when Linus explains the Christmas story?

2. Toby
There's a song of Sara Groves that's been following me since I got the cd LAST Christmas. And especially this year I am sort of soaking in it. It's called It's True. It's one of those songs where a kid talks in the intro, and I am SO not a fan of those generally speaking. That said, she has her middle child, Toby, say something at the beginning and the end that is essential Christmas to me. He did it at the concert as well, and I couldn't help but tear up. So I want to share it with you. The way it's worded just makes everything clear for me.

Mary, you're going to have a baby.
A little boy. You will call him Jesus.
"Wait, God was sending a baby to rescue the world?
But it's too wonderful!" Mary said.
"How could it be true?"
"Is anything too wonderful for God?" Gabriel said.
So Mary trusted God, more than what her eyes could see.

That same night, in amongst the other stars,
suddenly a bright new star appeared.
Of all the stars in the dark vaulted heavens,
this one shown clear.
It blazed in the night, and made the other stars look pale beside it.
God put it there when his baby son was born,
to be like a spotlight shining on him.
Lighting up the darkness.
Showing people the way to Him.
You see, God was like a new dad.
He couldn't keep the good news to himself.
He'd been waiting all these long years for this moment.
And now--
He wanted to tell everyone.

Honestly. That's just it for me. First, Mary trusting God more than what her eyes can see. Sometimes we all have to do that. And then thinking of that night, and God being like a new dad who can't wait to tell people. Most expectant parents have 9 months to wait, and it seems like forever. But I believe God always knew that night was coming. Can you imagine? He'd been waiting for that night since the beginning of time. And not just for the birth of His son, but for the chance to be with us. To rescue us. Rotten, broken, pretenders like us. All of us. Rescuing us in every way.

It's not a fairytale. It's not a story or folklore. It is real and true. The implications are true. The blessing is true. And The Gift is true.


So this is Winter

We had a snow day yesterday, after a good old-fashioned blizzard. The airport reports 17.5" of snow was dumped on us in around 24 hours. Today the high is 6 degrees.

Captain America hitched a ride down to work from someone up the street (a coworker - he didn't actually just stand on the street with this thumb out). This meant by afternoon our driveway still hadn't been touched. Watching the wind swirl snow around outside, I had zero desire to do anything to it.

And then the doorbell rang. My rescuers. Two 10 yr old boys. If they were even 10. They offered to shovel our sidewalk & driveway for $2 each. Apparently I looked surprised. "You look shocked. $3? $4?" I told them I'd give them each $5. DEAL.

Meanwhile the girls were still inside in jammies. I had big crafting plans for yesterday, but they had to clean their room first. Which meant we ended up with about 20 minutes at the end of the day to make ornaments. Every time they go to clean their room they get sidetracked playing. I'm not good about keeping them on task when they're being quiet and occupied. I kind of stop caring what the task is, and just enjoy the silence.

So it turned out as I should have expected. Instead of spending the day making ornaments and baking cookies and ending up reading by the fire with mugs of hot cocoa, it was more like, "Did you clean your room yet? Then no." But they managed the day without killing each other. Or me killing them. Success!


Lo, these many seasons

Up North we have something called Seasons. I think in places like San Diego, you just have one, WarmandPleasant. And in the south it might be more like two - Hot and Less Hot. We have an abundance of seasons up here.

June - August: Summer
September - October: Fall
November: Pre-winter
December - February: Real Winter
March - April: Less Winter
May: Spring (with potential for Less Winter)

This requires a lot of clothing options. Which means, we have a variety of coats and jackets. Light. Light with a hood. Light and water resistant. Warmer, for transition. Warmer with a hood in case of rain/snow mix. Wool. Down parka.

I'll try to hold off on the down & wool coats for a little while longer. You wear them for so long up here that you get really sick of them come March. And once it hits 35 or so again after Real Winter, I'll put away the wool for the warmer transition jacket.

Also, I change out my closet every few months. Apparently this week it is time for the change to Real Winter clothes. After summer, I pull out some Fall clothes. Light sweaters and such. But now that it's getting colder, I need to get out the really warm sweaters. And it's time to pack away short sleeves for the season. Their time has passed. The house we're renting isn't really conducive to such behavior. There's extremely limited storage. Which means I'm going to have to take everything out of the little crawl space to find the Real Winter clothes. So for now, I'm just layering the best I can. And I'm cold.

I seem to forget about the Real Winter clothes that are packed away every year. So when it gets colder, I rush out to buy warmer sweaters. And then I open the box of warm sweaters and discover I have no less than five that are gray. And at least two of those look suspiciously alike, and are both some sort of cheap cashmere blend.

I'm doing my best to resist the call of the warm sweater in the stores, until I've dug up the warm sweater tote. It's just that the combination of cabin fever from staying home with The Sickie and the cooler temps and living closer to things like Old Navy make me want to run out and buy this sweater in every color they have.

So which do you think I'll do first? Break down & buy a sweater, or put up the Christmas tree? Tough call.


Remember when I was thankful?

I mean, I'm still thankful. But we went out of town for Thanksgiving and I totally imagined myself sitting in front of my parents' fireplace with a mug of cocoa blogging my thankful heart out. Not so much on that one. If for no other reason than my laptop has given up being portable. I must remain plugged in at all times. Which somewhat defeats the laptop purpose.

Dear Economy:
Please pick up, so I can buy a new laptop.

Then we came home. And Natalie immediately contracted the plague. You see, my Natalie is a delicate flower. If she's off her sleeping schedule (HELLO, spending the night at alternating grandparent houses and All The Excitement), I can nearly guarantee you she will get sick. Yesterday I took her in to the doctor who said, "Looks like H1N1, but let's do a throat culture for those little red bumps in the back of her throat." Sure enough, Mini-Me has strep. She's definitely perking up though, because today she has become the Demanding Sickie. "MOOOOM! I SAID I wanted some YOJ!!!!" As you wish, Your Highness.

I'd like to clarify my thankfulness of my problems. It's not that I'm saying, "Yippee! I have problems!" I mean, we've been having an impressive ordeal with selling our house, and it has stressed me out here and there. But I'm so thankful that these are my problems, and not something horribly worse. So many people are going through way worse situations. I need to keep things in perspective. So really, my problems are hardly worth whining about. I wish that actually stopped me.

I'm planning to keep being thankful even though Thanksgiving is done, and I challenge you to do the same. I won't be posting it as much, but I'm going to keep a little journal of it for myself. Because nothing puts a kabosh on stress like reminding myself how good I've got it. Or a good chai. And, I'll be honest, maybe a glass of wine.

I leave you with this sad little face, post-doctor's office. Please remember that today she is fever-free and barking out commands like she runs the place.


A Week of Thanksgiving - Day 5

Today I am choosing to be thankful for my problems. It could be worse.

That's all I've got.


A week of Thanksgiving! Day 4

Our pastor has been talking about thankfulness, and instead of focusing on one day a year, changing it to ThanksLiving. Always having an attitude of thankfulness. Part of the scripture he used today was from Colossians 2:6-7:

6So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

I'm finding it's easier to focus on Him when I'm constantly reflecting on what I've been given. Not just material things. But the people in my life, the gorgeous surroundings, words, music -- it's all a gift.

So today I am thankful for:

  • Our church, which felt like home the day we walked in. I'm thankful for the people in it, and their vision and mission.
  • Good friends, that I can talk to or see after forever and just pick up where we left off.
  • Girl Scout cookies.
  • Hot chocolate.
  • Wisconsin cheese.
  • Everything this week holds.


A Week of Thanksgiving - Day 3

I bet you thought I was going to forget. Because I almost did.

I had a lovely day at the spa today. I had a gift card from Christmas, so I headed off for a super relaxing spa retreat. I'm a person that enjoys entertainment. I like to watch tv. Or listen to music. Or read. And I like to multitask. So just sitting in a quiet room drinking tea while I waited for my massage & facial was really good for me.

I took some time to be think about more things I'm thankful for. Such as:

  • Quiet
  • Tea
  • Nice smells (including the smell of pine trees in the fall)
  • A husband who easily handles the kids so I can do things like go to the spa
  • Driving. I love going for a drive - even if it's an hour.
  • Quiet


A week of Thanksgiving! Day 2

There is much to be thankful for today. And I'm going to focus on those things. And not the things that are attempting to make me insane.


I am thankful:

  • That this time tomorrow I will be in the middle of 50 minutes of facial, after I'm done with 50 minutes of a massage (courtesy of a gift card from last Christmas).
  • For mild temps even as we approach the end of November.
  • That I won a Zhu Zhu pet set on a blog a while ago, so we're covered for Christmas (although if you know my children, you know that I need to find one more Zhu Zhu pet. Have you seen the hysteria over the Zhu Zhu pets? If I put this set on ebay, I could make enough to fund our entire Christmas).
  • That I ended up getting to sit on the couch with Natalie for over an hour last night reading books (She's a big fan of the Llama Llama books right now).
  • For the chance to help some college kids out with some green bean casserole today.
  • That God has always provided, and He will continue to do so, out of His infinite wisdom. And that His plan is always better and more complete than mine.
I must remember this strategy for the next time life is creeping up on me. Making a thankful list does wonders for ye olde attitude.


A week of Thanksgiving! Day 1

And by using that title, I nearly ensure I will not remember or sit down to post every day for a week.

So here are my "thankful fors" for today (in no particular order):

  • Healthy family
  • A warm place to live, complete with maintenance people (ahhh, renting...)
  • A Starbucks on my way from school to the grocery store, by way of Target.
  • Diet Ginger Ale (delightful)
  • A new cookbook
  • Good friends
  • Music
This week I'm also thinking a lot about the people who are going to have a tough Thanksgiving. Maybe they won't have much to eat or feel that there isn't much to be thankful for this year. Maybe they've lost someone special this year and nothing will feel right. Some will be very lonely, whether or not they are surrounded by people. I pray everyone will know how deeply God cares for them, even if it doesn't seem like it.

Here are the lyrics to a song by Chris Tomlin that I've been listening to a lot this week:

Come Home Running

Oh heart of mine, why must you stray?
From one so fair you run away
And one more time you have to pay
The heaviness of needless shame

Oh heart of mine, come back home
You've been too long out on your own
And He's been there all along
Watching for you down the road

So come home running
His arms are open wide
His name is Jesus
He understands
He is the answer
You are looking for
So come home running
Just as you are

Oh child of God so dearly loved
And ransomed by the Savior's blood
And called by name, Daughter and Son
Wrapped in the robe of righteousness


Reclaim Thanksgiving!

I love me some Christmas, and some Christmas music, but it's always so sad how Thanksgiving gets overlooked.

Wanna Reclaim Thanksgiving with me? Here are a few ways I'm doing that - let me know if you have more:

1. Blog about what you're thankful for
2. Rework every Facebook status into something you're thankful for
3. Follow me on Twitter! I'm tweeting what I'm thankful for using #reclaimthanksgiving
4. Start a thankful list - you might be surprised how quickly it will grow
5. Let people know - if you're very thankful for something someone did for you, thankful for their friendship, or just thankful they're in your life - tell them

If you try it just until Thanksgiving Day, I can't even tell you how it will impact your perspective. I've found I'm thinking of all the little things I'm grateful for, and less about things that aren't going well. I'm able to focus on all the blessings in my life, instead of the junk. It's less about me. And I like it.

I'd love to hear some things you're thankful for, too!



Yesterday (November 14 if you're wondering), I took the girls to the mall to look for a couple of things. When we walked in through Barnes and Noble, there was Christmas music playing. When we got inside the mall, we saw Santa has already taken residency.

Love Christmas. Feel bad for Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. I love the idea of focusing on all the good things in our lives, and giving thanks to the One who provided it all.

One of my favorite Thanksgiving things is at our church back home. It's got a fancy name like the "Harvest Festival of Praise." I still call it the Thanksgiving Eve service. We've actually been going since before we had moved there, and it's always been one of our favorite things. It's a service with mostly music. Some kids, some families, some hymns. The saw*. Lots of pie afterward. What I love about it is that it helps me to slow down and refocus. Instead of thinking of all the things I have to do, I'm reminded why we're doing it.

I'm excited that we're able to go again this year even though we've moved. I feel incredibly blessed and thankful this year. And I think it's time to reclaim Thanksgiving. It's time to focus on what we've been given, and not take any of it for granted. I'm going to keep a list for myself and keep adding to it. Well beyond Thanksgiving.

Our pastor this morning talked about living with an attitude of gratitude. ThanksLiving. I love that idea. And I know when I am able to focus on all the things I'm thankful for, everything looks better. His scripture was in Luke 17, when Jesus healed the ten lepers, and only one came back to thank Him. I pray that I would not be so full of myself, that I would run off without a second thought. I pray that I would be thankful in everything, so that the only thing I could think of would be going back to the One who has blessed me. To shout His praise the whole way there. To fall at His feet. I pray that my faith will make me well.

*Edited to add: Burt actually plays a hymn of some sort on the saw every year (no Saw movies). It's quite impressive - and a favorite of a lot of the kids (and me). It's not Thanksgiving for me until Burt plays the saw.


In which I quote Friends yet again

So a couple of weeks ago we had a game night with our small group. Only a few of us could make it, and Captain America stayed home with a cougher so I could go be among the grownups. We played the game Loaded Questions. One of the questions was something about "what kind of pattern is never appropriate on bedsheets?" or something. I tried to think. Puppies? Perfectly good on kid sheets. Sports teams? Again with the kid sheets. Huh. Seems there's something that's going to always work. What's a symbol that wouldn't work? Peace signs? That'd be kind of a tween sheet set. Swastikas. I mean really, never a good idea. And how weird would that be on sheets?

This past week we did a make up game night, since so many people missed the previous week. We started talking about the sheet question from last week, and before my answer is mentioned Captain America pipes up with something about Nazi Germany.

See?? He's my lobster! (I don't know if you've seen that episode of Friends. I try not to think about how often I still bring back a quote or an episode thought from a show that's been off the air forever. If you need a refresher (if you care), click here. I'll wait.)

I laughed so hard I had tears. Honestly, what are the chances he'd think of the same thing? Clearly, we are perfect for each other, what with our mutual disdain for swastika covered bedding.


They get it from me, I guess

When I get a cold, there's a good chance I'm going to have a serious coughing fit. A couple of times. I remember several times in school, I'd cough so hard that I'd have to just leave the room because I couldn't stop long enough to ask the teacher to go to the nurse's office. I'd cough like crazy. Til my eyes watered. Til I nearly gagged. No amount of water or cough drops could make it pass. I just had to cough it out. I still get those sometimes (often with horrible timing - like during church). I have even coughed so hard that I seemed to sprain my tongue.

And guess what? My girls are coughers. When they get a cold, they cough. Not the smoker's hack. Not the baby seal. Just as if they've swallowed water the wrong way. They'll cough all day. No fevers. Nothing else. A little sniffle means a lot of coughing. Natalie stayed home Wednesday, and Ella's coughing day is today. They'll do it 3 or 4 times in a school year. They'll cough a bit, and then one day they'll just cough non-stop. Usually when it's at the tail-end. So the terrible coughing day is when they're actually getting better.

But since it's just a cough, and they don't feel particularly sick otherwise, they're kind of high maintenance sickies. Not interested in laying on the couch all day. ENTERTAIN ME. Natalie's a little easier than Ella, because she's willing to watch more movies & relax. Ella's gonna last through almost one movie. And then she'll feel done with being sick. It's hard keeping them home from school, when they don't feel terrible or have fevers. But I do it more because it's such a distraction. And I suppose they're coughing out a bunch of cold germs.

So today I won't really get anything done. And I'll think a lot about that gingerbread latte I was going to try after dropping Ella off. Or the walk I was going to take since it's already 50 & sunny. I will miss my few hours of peace. But I still feel grateful. Grateful I work from home, so it doesn't throw my day off that much. Grateful it is just a cold. Grateful I'm familiar with their colds now, and I know what to expect. And so very grateful just to have them for another day. Our friend Patty just lost her 4 month old grandson in his sleep. This life does not make promises or guarantees. So today I will be thankful to listen to the coughing.


My brilliant costume plan

This year I decided we would not buy Halloween costumes. We have a huge Rubbermaid tote of dress up clothes. It would be so fun for the girls to pick something out, and to have choices available for the different Halloween festivities. Sunday we went Trick or Treating at the mall. This week they have Halloween parties at school. And then of course, Halloween. Won't that be fun?

Am I new? Hi, my name is Sarah, and I have apparently not met my own children. Also, I like to reinvent the wheel. With a less effective wheel.

The girls were fine with the whole thing. Yes! We love these costumes! You're the best mom ever! (I maybe just heard that last one in my head)

Sunday they did Trick or Treating at the mall. Ella went as a pirate (a costume I purchased for around 75¢ at the Target 90% off clearance last year). Natalie was Batgirl (Ella's costume from last year). Great. Fun.

Today is Natalie's school party. She gave me strict instructions that she was not to wear anything too scary or have any weapons. She told me that. "No weapons." I think all of our costume options fit in the safe category. So last week she said she would be Batgirl. Last night she said no, she did NOT want to be Batgirl. She wants to wear her monkey costume (you know - the one that was slightly too small last year, now way too small - the one I gave to her cousin without telling her?). Sorry. It was too small and now it's gone. Tears. Wailing. I start looking at the clock to see if I still have time to run to Target with her for a new costume. Because shopping cures all.

Fine. She will be a pirate. She tried on the whole costume. She felt good about it right down to her eye patch. We laid it all out for morning.

Then she woke up this morning. Yay! Today's party day! Won't it be fun for you to wake up and get dressed for your party! As a pirate! No. No it won't. She looked at me like I was stupid. She wants the monkey costume. It's still too small (at least 2 sizes). And gone.

7:05 a.m. Natalie wants to be a monkey.
7:08 a.m. Natalie wants to be a dancer with a tutu (but she will NOT wear leggings!)
7:12 a.m. Natalie wants to be a dancer with jazz pants
7:14 a.m. Natalie tells me Ben is going to wear his pjs.
7:17 a.m. Natalie wants to be Batgirl (you know, the ORIGINAL CHOICE FROM LAST WEEK).
7:20 a.m. Natalie refuses black leggings under the costume, insisting that shorts will be fine. Even though it is 30 degrees out right now. "I like to be cold!"
7:25 a.m. Natalie finally agrees to wear jeans under the Batgirl costume. But she wants light jeans. Not dark jeans. Not those. Those. And she would like socks that go over her ankles. Not plain white. No characters.

And that, my friends, is why you get a new costume every year. Because then it's just what you are. Because you are excited for your New Costume.

I have a very, VERY long 14 years ahead of me.


Ella blogs #1

Yesterday I had Ella write a story for some homework, and I thought perhaps she could use ye olde blog to share it. The only rule was I wouldn't tell her how to spell anything. Which nearly killed her with her spelling compulsiveness. She chose to write about cats. She has even provided an illustration. Enjoy.

Cats, are the thing I no and thay ned woder and food and ned thaer har brusht. and nap. and play. Greta is are cat and we love, her and she is nise to. and I like to play with her to.


Their other lives

Last night we had parent/teacher conferences. It's a fascinating thing to me, because it reminds me that my children have their own little lives going on that I don't know a whole lot about.

First we went to Natalie's room, where she got to show Ella all of the pets. Natalie's room is a bit of a menagerie. There are two fish tanks. One for grown up fish and one for babies. There's a frog named Charlotte in a tank. And there's a giant cage with three degus named Benny, Tico and Diego. I'll wait here while you click here to find out what on earth a degu is.

Natalie's teacher told us she is shy. But not so shy that she won't participate. She just doesn't often initiate play. And lately she has started talking more. None of that was very surprising. I guess they're working on Natalie standing up for herself. Which seems strange, given her actions around home. But when she's at school, if someone else wants to play with something she just gives it to them. If someone hurts her feelings she leaves and hides out in a corner so no one can see her upset. So her teacher said she's working on that with her. That it's ok to take your own turn. And that it's ok to tell someone you didn't like what they said or did.

Ella was kind of a different kid in her conference. While she's usually pretty boisterous, she was very quiet. She's a good reader. She likes to do her math independently. She's chatty (what??), but she's able to focus when she's supposed to focus. She is apparently VERY hung up on spelling. They've started working on hearing the sounds in words, and they are only expected to write the sounds. Ella's teacher said after they do those exercises, Ella will ask if she got all the spellings right. And she will tell her, "You got all the sounds, great job." And Ella will say, "But did I get the spellings right?" Perhaps we should start grooming her for spelling bees.

It was fun after the conference, to read Ella's homework book with her. After hearing her teacher talk about her reading, Ella tried harder than usual to sound words out. And she did a great job.

So it was a fascinating glimpse into the lives they're leading away from home. Captain America and I feel like they have the right teachers for them, which is a relief after moving to a place where we didn't know the teachers or the school.

Thank you for praying for our friend, Tony. He is cancer-free. His lungs are healing. He is home.


There went October.

Next week is the end of October. How, exactly, did that come about?

To celebrate, or to mourn, here is another miscellaneous collection of thoughts.

I spent last weekend at Women of Faith having Sister Retreat. I think I've been to 4 or 5 and this was the best one. We had a good time, and have made Grand Plans for the next one we attend.

A couple nights ago Natalie told me if I helped her clean their room the next day, she'd give me one of her pennies. I didn't fall for it.

Ella has added a crew to her busy recess schedule. She is now on a spy crew, and a vampire crew. I am choosing to believe it's more about Halloween than Twilight. I asked her what vampires do. "I don't know." Ok then.

I got my hair cut. I'm sure it will take some time for the relationship to develop, but I enjoyed her. I still miss Jen, but I don't think I'll shop around. New Hair Person seems like a keeper.

What I enjoyed most about the Winnie the Pooh series is the capitalization. I like to capitalize Important Things in the style of A.A. Milne whenever possible.

It's Halloween next week. I'm not sure what we'll have here. They've been digging through the dress up box changing their minds as they go.

I finished Donald Miller's new book, A Million Miles. I really enjoyed it and I recommend it. It's basically thinking of your life as more of a story.

To get in the mood for Halloween, I've been enjoying Beck's Halloween stories over at Frog and Toad. Start here. It's a delightfully creepy twist on children's stories. I'm totally buying the Max & Ruby one as truth.


Miscellaneous Monday

It's 7:30 pm on Monday night. I'm the only person in Wisconsin and Minnesota NOT watching the Vikings/Packers game. Or I'm one of the very few. Captain America went to a sports bar right after work to try and secure seats with some friends. I'm going to find something incredibly girly to watch just to protest.

I just took the girls to the mall for a while. It was incredibly slow there, what with all the football going on. Pre-game. Pre-pre-game. It would have been nicer, if Natalie hadn't been so tired. CARRY me!

Highlight from our evening: Over ice cream with the girls, we're talking about fire safety. It's one of our favorite topics. Which leads to Ella saying, "Mama? You can replace babies. If you lose one, you can just have another one." Not quite, honey.

It's getting chilly & rainy. It was mid-50s, and yet Ella insisted on wearing flip flops. With her jeans, long sleeved shirt and puffy vest.

I noticed today that whenever Natalie wears her new stylish boots, she rolls up her jeans so you can see more of them. That's my girl. It's all about the shoes.

I ate another Tagalongs blizzard. And I wish I hadn't.

I'm so depressed over losing my amazing and wonderful hair stylist by moving, that I'm in complete denial. I haven't had a haircut since June. And it shows. It's not pretty. But maybe if I never cut it, I won't have to come to terms with it. I miss you, Jen.

Would you please pray for Tony? His lung is collapsed, and apparently if it doesn't heal it may need to be removed. Pray for complete healing and restoration of his health, and for strength for his family -- it's been a long year.


I even confuse myself.

I don't like beans. Never have. They are pasty. The flavor is not worth the pastiness. I will never be caught eating baked beans. Just, no. And I don't like bell peppers either. Never have. I can manage them in salsa, but prefer not to think about it.

So can you explain to me my new obsession with roasted red pepper hummus? A big bowl of smushed chickpeas (also known as garbanzo BEANS)? Flavored with red peppers. With small chunks of red pepper. And not a little.

I tried it one day and liked it. Last night I bought some at SAM'S CLUB. I am the only one in my house who will eat it. And now I have it in a Sam's Club sized portion.

What on earth? It's just so good.

In other news, the other day Ella was telling me about her Spy Crew. Apparently she's gathered some girls together at recess to be on her Spy Crew. Her words, not mine. She's all nonchalant about it too. "Oh, she's on my Spy Crew." Sounds like the boys have a Spy Crew as well, and I think they battle their spy-ness at recess.

Sayings and swaps from Natalie:
"Yeah, she wants to be my friend."
"It's a special day!"
"on this day" = today (I almost hope she never grows out of this one. So cute.)
"on the next day" = tomorrow


Back to School Shopping, One More Time

In August when I did the back to school shopping, I really only did what the girls needed right away. So yesterday I found myself in the dressing rooms with Ella again in search of pants. Since today she was going to be standing at the bus stop in 50 something degrees with gale force winds. She literally had one pair of fleece pants that fit her, and the rest have been put in her sister's drawer.

We started at Target, because I enjoy buying pants for $7 when who knows what is going to happen to them. Especially on the playground. Ella has been to the school nurse no less than five times already this year, often for wound cleanup and bandaids. I've been having a terrible time figuring out her size, so I grabbed five pairs of pants and we headed to the dressing room. It went like this:

Ella: "Where are the boys' dressing rooms?"
Me: "On the other hallway."
Ella: "Ok, good."
Ella: "Where is the button to press when you need help?"
Me:"Honey, this is Target. They have the button at the Gap. Get your shoes & pants off, and start with this pair of jeans."
Ella: "Is the door locked?"
Me: "Yes, the door is locked."
After trying on two pairs of jeans, Ella says, "Mom? I think I'm getting comfortable with this. It took three times in a dressing room, but now I feel better."

She tried on all five pairs, and lo and behold I bought her the same size I did last year. Her other jeans in that brand and size have apparently shrunk like crazy because Natalie is wearing them now. Perhaps this is what comes of buying $7 pairs of jeans?

Then we stopped in the shoe aisle. Because, have you missed our shoe trouble this year? I have purchased and returned at LEAST four pairs of shoes. Yesterday she tried on a pair and said, "Mom! I love these! I think God put these here for me so we could get them! They're my size!" Yes, honey, Mommy firmly believes that sometimes God puts shoes in the store just for us...

Next stop: Old Navy.
Not that you're keeping track, and why would you? But the last time we went Ella would not leave the store without this vest. Lucky for her it's finally cold enough to wear it this week. I picked out more jeans for her to try, and a couple of shirts. And then Ella saw these in purple. "Oh Mommy! Can I get these? Please!! I promise I'll wear them!" She tried on a pair and we carried them around for a while. Then we had to go to the dressing room.

E: "Um, Mom? Are you sure the door is locked?"
M: "Yes, Ella. When you close the door it locks. Try these jeans on."
E: "But how do you KNOW it's locked?"
M: "It is. Every time you close it, it's locked. Here we go, take your shoes off."
E: "I'm not as comfortable with this. I liked it better when the bench was on the side, not in the back."
M: "Ok, well, let's just try these on quickly and be done."
E: "Do they have a button if we need a different size?"
M: "No, honey. We'll just ask the nice girl by the door if we need something."

To my dismay she did not like the super cute skinny jeans that she could have tucked into her new boots. They felt funny. But she did have a good lesson in denim cuts, and now knows her skinny leg from her bootcut from her flare.

On our way up to the counter I noticed the sneaky Old Navy people had put racks of clearance right in the middle for all to see. I nabbed $12 worth of clothes. Which got me a short sleeved sweater, a long sleeved dress and a pair of denim capris. The capris were $1.98. Have you ever even heard of such a thing? One pair. My size.

Maybe God put those capris there just for me...


The conclusion. Sort of. But not really.

Remember last year, when my friend Tony got cancer and I was thrown into a hideous spiral of funk?


Praise God, the cancer is gone. They just found out this week that there are no cancer cells. Unfortunately Tony likes to get pneumonia. There's an infection in his lung, and it's collapsed. So please keep him and his family in your prayers. I can't imagine how wonderful it would feel for them to put all of this behind them, and for him to feel well again. Even throughout the treatments, he kept singing on the worship team and wrote some amazing new songs (yeah, I've only heard one, but I'm pretty confident the rest are good too). It's time for a new cd, I think.

God is really, really BIG. Every time I drive around surrounded by the bluffs, sometimes draped in fog, I can't help but think it. All the different landscapes He's created. The magnitude of what He can do. And to think that He holds each of us close to His heart and truly cares about each of us, whether we see it or not.


Hack, hack

Oh dear friends, it has been a long week.

Mid-week last week Ella started to sniffle. Her throat hurt. I chalked it up to allergies or a cold, because there was no fever involved. She was still pretty perky, so I sent her off to school on Thursday. Right after I got Natalie off on the school bus at 8, I got a call from school to pick Ella up. She had apparently thrown up on the bus. Poor baby. So I ran over to get her. She looked like she felt pretty yucky, so I grabbed her backpack and said, "So you threw up on the bus, huh?"

Blank look. "No."

So what it boils down to, is a few girls brought her into the office saying she'd thrown up on the bus, I don't think she actually did because she says she didn't. She kept saying she "got sick" on the bus, and I'm betting she said that and they assumed she'd thrown up. Really she just started to feel junkie. I'm not positive, but that's my guess.

Bottom line is Thursday Ella was home sick. She laid down & watched a movie for about an hour or so. Then she popped up. "Mom? What can I do? Can I make a craft I've never made before? Can I fingerpaint?" So much for sickness.

That night Natalie woke up crying. And she didn't stop much til morning. "My fwoat sows." Same cold thing Ella had. Only it kept Natalie up almost the whole night. I think I probably got about 3 one hour naps in over the course of the night. Called her in sick Friday, and sent Ella back. She was pretty ok by mid-morning as well. Despite her lack of sleep. And mine.

The hack-y sisters have been going for a few days now. Bored out of their minds. Hack, hack. "Chase us!" Hack, hack.

They seem to be on an upswing. I sent them both back to school today. Me? My fwoat sows.


Just put me back together when the day is over.

Hi. My children nearly destroyed me today. First my head, then my heart.

We didn't even make it home from the bus stop before Natalie broke down crying that she needed to be carried. Then they started fighting. First Ella threw a fit that she wanted to play chutes & ladders, and Natalie wouldn't play with her. Their job after school today was to clean the kitchen floor. They cried over who got to use the broom vac. Crying. Crying. More crying.

Natalie has been going through an unpleasant phase. She's been thinking of all kinds of horrible things. Last week she said, "Mama, you know what would be bad? What if I got hit by a car." Tonight she was getting her jammies on, and she said, "Mama, I just thought of something bad..." and she started bawling. "I thought of what if there was a fire, and I didn't hear the fire alarm, and my leg caught on fire, and the doctor had to cut it off..." WHAT?? Where does that even come from? She was beside herself. Completely scared that this was really going to happen.

I want to promise her that nothing will ever happen to her. That she will always be safe. She will never be hurt. But we're in the world. Where bad things can happen. So I can't do that. We have a fire safety talk, and we talk about how it's not very likely that we will even have a fire at all. And then her sister tells her that when she starts thinking of bad things, she just tries to think of something fun until she forgets about it, and then my older-than-her-years six-year-old starts engaging Natalie in conversation. "Natalie, tell me about school today. Did you say you're getting a frog tomorrow?"

We lay in their beds, and I rub Natalie's back and they tell each other about their days and who their friends are, and Ella keeps asking Natalie questions to keep her mind off of fires, and I forget all about the part where they fought for the title of biggest fit thrower.


Possibly the most boring post ever

We're now two weeks into the school year here, and the girls are loving it. It's such a relief! I assumed after the first year of preschool that Natalie just didn't like school. I figured she was a such a homebody, she just didn't want to go. For whatever reason, she just loves it this year (all two weeks of it - certainly it could change). She's got stories to tell and songs to sing.

How is it that my time sans kids is on hyperspeed? Yesterday it was as if five minutes passed between getting them loaded on the bus and getting Natalie back home again. Today I got an oil change, ran to two stores, and hustled home because I had to beat Natalie's bus. I think part of my problem is that I don't feel awake before 9. I think I'm having a tougher time adjusting to the school schedule than the girls are.

Have I mentioned our house is still for sale? Yeah. It is.

I survived the fantasy football weekend. I ended up playing auctioneer again. But then I went to Caribou, and felt pretty good about life again. And I broke 100 in my annual bowling trip. Sunday Captain America and I flitted from restaurant to restaurant, at one point literally walking out of Applebee's where we met a friend and into Big Bowl to meet his parents with the girls. I was full til around Tuesday.

I'd write more, but I already feel badly for making you read what you have. Poor things.


Are you ready for some FOOTBALL???

Yeah. Me neither.

But Captain America is. Boy howdy.

This Labor Day weekend marks the 14th year of his fantasy football league. I don't know if you can understand how serious this league is, but I'll try to help out.

Their league was created in college, and this is Captain America's 3 year with them. It's been a part of our entire marriage. Every Labor Day weekend, every year, including the year it was on our honeymoon (in Captain America's defense, I was also in the league that year. And only that year). They started drafting on someone's living room floor with notebooks and magazines. Let me give you the rundown of a fantasy football weekend now.

People start arriving in the Twin Cities. Some drive, some fly. They come from as close as down the street, and as far as San Diego and Virginia. We start gathering & catching up at the hotel, where they have rented a conference room. A few people stay at the hotel (including us), some live reasonably close by. We may go out to dinner, depending on schedules. League members may make a traditional late night trip to Perkins to talk about how they think the auction will go.

Owners start wandering in and catching up. Instead of notebooks, there are a lot of laptops. The auction starts midmorning. There may be a speech from last year's winner, and he (or she, although they're back to all guys this year) will be presented with his winnings. Which is a glass mug with the team name and year engraved. No cash. Just the mug, and the honor of tapping the keg. The keg of 1919 rootbeer -- a tradition from their first years of play. They're all about tradition.

Then team owners will go around the room with a life update. Perhaps pictures of the kids, if there are some. Any rule changes will be discussed. Keepers declared. Announcements made. And then it begins. You have 100 pretend dollars. Players are tossed out (Eli Manning for $15, etc), people bid back and forth, and you have to fill your roster with the $100. So at all times, you're paying attention to the positions you need, the amount of money you have left, and your highest bid potential (at all times you can only bid what you have left, minus $1 for every other position you still need to fill. I think.) Owners have a call-out spot order, and they take turns calling out players for bidding. It's a little bit more of a challenge than a draft, but it seems like everyone has a shot, not just the person with the #1 draft pick. There is an auctioneer, and usually one more extra person keeping track of everyone's numbers.

Break for lunch. Usually ordering pizza.
More auctioning.

When the auction is FINALLY over, they all sit around and talk about how awful their teams are. How badly it went. How they CAN'T BELIEVE FAVRE WENT FOR $50 or whatever. What was he thinking? Then we all go bowling. And then out to dinner. And then back to the conference room to play cards or something into the wee hours.

Those of us who are still around sometimes catch brunch. Then we say our goodbyes and head home. If I'm lucky I squeeze in a little shopping.

Why do I know so much? You're looking at the auctioneer. Well. Not actually LOOKING. And I'm not always the auctioneer if I can help it. But sometimes there's a slice of cheesecake in it for me. Otherwise I'm out shopping with the other spouses/significant others.

Can I tell you something sad? Do you promise not to tell Captain America? You know how I mentioned that we went to the draft on our honeymoon? That means every single year I'm there for my anniversary. Or close to it. Even our 10th, last year was on the Friday of auction weekend. Well this year with Labor Day so late, our anniversary was the weekend before. Ok. Shhhh...but it almost didn't even seem like our anniversary. Not a word, people (Jersey? That means you.)!

*edit * Stellar proofer, Jersey, HAS commented to say I was wrong on how many years. It's the 15th year, and Captain America's 14th. Thanks for reading, and we'll miss you this year.


Third Day of School, Third Day of School!

Yeah, that doesn't have the same ring at all.

But it IS the third day of school. Natalie's still having a great time. She loves her bus ride home. She's telling me a lot more of what she's been doing and about her classmates. Apparently one boy is "allewgic" to milk. So he has orange juice at snack. FYI. She even sang me a song they've been doing.

Can I just say, Natalie cracks me up? I mean, both my girls do. But Natalie's stuff always comes out of nowhere. Yesterday we're waiting for Ella's bus. For half an hour. We went 10 minutes early, and it was 20 minutes late. After about 20 minutes Natalie looks at me and says, "Mama? This is lame." And it was.

Ella seems to be doing well too. Today was her first day to ride the bus to school in the morning, and, yeah, I'm THAT mom. When I dropped Natalie off later I checked to see Ella, to make sure she made it ok. She was waiting outside with all the kids, right by her new BFF Torii. Torry. Torrie. Tori. I don't know. T sits across from her in their group. Anyway, she was cold. I don't know how I'm supposed to dress her when it's in the 50s when she gets on the bus, and 77 when she gets off.

In any case, Ella's enjoying first grade. She's been catching up with the pastor's daughter at recess to play, although they're not in the same class, and I love that she's making friends. (Did I mention I think we've found a church?)

Me? Oh the sweet silence...

Although today the welcome lady came. It's not a Welcome Wagon anymore. It's a Welcome Celebration or something. ANYWAY. Girlfriend brought me bags of coupons and gift cards. So count me in! She has moved 17 times in 22 years. SEVENTEEN. Army family - good guess.

Shout out to Patty, who is having a Peaceful Fall...what's that like? That's alright. I'm determined to find something to love about every age & stage. And I know by the time my fall is quiet and peaceful, I'll have earned it. And I bet I'll miss these little birds very much.


First Day of School!

Can you even say, "First day of school" without hearing Nemo saying it? Just me? Fine.

As I sit here staring at the clock, waiting for bus time, I thought I could use a distraction. But not so much of one that I forget about the bus. Hi, my name is Sarah, and I have issues concerning letting go of my children.

Last year we lived across the street from school. And still, our neighbor worked at school and walked Ella home everyday. Now Ella has hit the big time. She woke up this morning totally psyched for school. I mean, she broke into the first grader song. She did everything she was supposed to do to get ready for school. Quickly. She marched right into her class, ready to go.

We had Natalie's day of orientation. Learned of the severe peanut allergies in her class (man, my heart goes out to those suffering from epi-pen worthy allergies). Tried out the playground. Read the Kissing Hand. Met the families who just moved here from New Mexico and Guatemala (guess I'll calm down now). They were so cute. "How will we know when it's time for snowpants?" We all had a good chuckle and gave an "oh, you'll know alright." But the very nice woman next to Mrs. Guatemala gave her the real story, and I tried to help out Mrs. New Mexico. Then Natalie got to test out the bus, and meet her bus driver who will bring her home from school.

So we came home. We had lunch. AND THEN I HIT THE PANIC BUTTON.

Ella has never been a bus rider. And I only found out yesterday that her stop is actually 2 blocks down and half a block over from here. I was under the impression she'd be dropped off at our house, because Natalie will be on the preschool bus. What if she gets off too early? What if she doesn't get off? What if she walks the wrong way? {whimper, whimper, fetal position}

And my sister has reminded me, that even when I don't know where Ella is or what she is doing, God does. I've programmed the bus company's number into my phone. The rest is not up to me. Millions of kids ride the bus every day, and are just fine. I'll go where she's supposed to be, and we'll walk home for the first week, so she can learn the route and practice more.

Ella got off the bus where they said she would. And then the bus made 2 stops closer to our house. She was the only one who got dropped off there. Gonna figure that one out.


From 6 to 13 in a matter of weeks

How does this happen? How does my 6 yr old suddenly turn 13?

Right now she's stomping around upstairs (quite impressive stomping if I do say so...) because I won't let her fingerpaint right now. I told her she & Natalie can watch a movie while I get some work done, but they have to agree on which one. I've heard her saying things like:
"If you don't watch this one, I'll never watch a movie with you again!"
"I'm not watching any of your movies!"

She's always been a negotiator. But lately some of the negotiating has taken on a sort of hostile tone. I'm hoping it's just time for school to start.

I mean, wherever has she learned this drama? {said while whistling and looking around to avoid eye contact} Certainly not from ME.

Our other favorite phrase this week is "NO FAIR." Ella got a new backpack, NO FAIR. Natalie got a stuffed green lizard, NO FAIR. I want to fingerpaint, NO FAIR. Natalie got to play computer, NO FAIR. Ella got to play computer, NO FAIR. Ella got to print two things, NO FAIR.

And now I've heard another of my favorites, "I'm gonna tell!!!" Followed by a scream, and some tears.

Natalie: "You don't like me!"
Ella: "Yes I do! I like you!"
Natalie: "You're tricking!"

I'm just going to mentally go back to lunch, when Ella wanted to sit by Natalie because, "Next week I'll miss her when I'm having lunch at school."


Have I mentioned I love fall?

I just looked at the 10 day forecast, and was shocked to see that it looked like fall. And then I noticed it's August 27. So a 10 day forecast could very reasonably look like fall right about now.

I have said before how much I like fall. This year is particularly fall-ish for me. I've always felt like fall is more of a new beginning than New Year's, what with all the new school supplies and such. And now that we've moved to an entirely new place, I feel like we're just settled in enough now to start with the new here.

The girls start school next Tuesday, and I think we're all going to enjoy being on some sort of schedule again. The girls seem to have had entirely too much togetherness this summer. Which usually ends in Natalie trying to tell Ella something, Ella doesn't listen, Natalie screams at the top of her lungs and Ella walks away. It's fun times.

The onset of fall makes me want to eat better. Drink more water. Read more. Exercise. Burn candles. Bake with pumpkin (which my sister can attest I am well-stocked to do). Dye my hair. Cook in the crock pot.

Not necessarily in that order.


Back to School Shopping, Take 2

In light of all the school pictures today, we had another round of shopping yesterday afternoon. Good times.

Ella is a challenge to dress. I think I've been through this with you. Hard to find clothes that fit her. Harder to find dress shoes that fit her. I just wanted some little ballet flats. Her heel slips out of every stinking pair. So we were searching for the elusive fitting shoes.

Natalie is a challenge to dress. I've been through this as well. There is no point in choosing something without her because she will find a reason not to like it. A strange reason. The Mini-Fashionista was only made happy by Gap. She found a shirt she liked, but she didn't like the matching skirt. It's too short (well, it was - c'mon Gap). She doesn't like capris across the board apparently. She wanted shorts. The shorts were too short. She finally found a pair of denim bermuda shorts that she liked because they had a scarf belt.

At one point - I kid you not - we were in a shoe store and they both spotted a pair of shoes. The conversation went as follows:

Natalie: "Are those Rhinos?"
Ella: "Yeah! Cool!"
Natalie: "Cool!"
Ella: "They'll make us jump higher and run faster!"

Seriously. My children are marketing sponges. Thanks again, iCarly and Nickelodeon.


Back to School Shopping, Take 1

Last week we turned in the girls' school papers to get set for school this year. Got Ella's information packet last Friday, and HEY! She's got registration & pictures this Tuesday! (So does Natalie, apparently, which I just found out 2 minutes ago).

So yesterday afternoon I took Ella out in search of the elusive School Picture Outfit. The SPO, if you will. We went to Old Navy first. I picked out a few things, and then we headed off to the dressing room. Because Ella is crazy skinny. And I can't get clothes that fit her. And the adjustable waist is no longer her friend, because the buttons apparently bother her. Good stuff.

So we get into the dressing room for her first time. Ok, try this on. "Did you lock the door?" Yes. "Ummm...I'm not comfortable with this. What if someone comes in?" No one is coming in. "Could I change in the bathroom?" No. So she finally gave in, but I had to hold the next clothes ready to drop on her head the moment she got her other clothes off. Little Miss Modest.

Meanwhile, she fell in love with this puffy vest. "Can I get it? Can I get it please? I really want it!" Where will you wear it? "School. Stores. {shrugs} Everywhere." Alrighty then. Looks like Ella's going to be rockin' the puffy vest this fall. I couldn't help it. She's never shown much interest in clothes or accessories. I did manage to talk her out of wearing it home, since it was 85 degrees out.

Off to look for shoes. None of which fit her feet. NONE. Nada. I tried at least 4 stores. Not happening. She was so excited when she saw all the racks. "Do they have Skechers?" I'm sorry, what? My 6 yr old knows shoe brands? Imagine her sheer joy when we went to Kohls, and not only did they have Skechers, they had these! "MOM. These are SO COOL." And * gasp * ! They had these. I had a 6 yr old drooling over shoes.

But you know what? I don't really have time to blog right now. Because I just found out that Natalie ALSO has school pictures TOMORROW. And oh my sweet goodness we are unprepared. I need to rally the troops.


It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life...

And I'm feeling...good.

Oh bloggy peeps, I'm feeling so much better. This spring our small group watched a DVD series by Chip Ingram called "God as He Longs for You to See Him." I'm sure the book is just as good. In one of the sections he talks about God's wisdom. How we don't understand things God may do because we can't possibly know everything God knows. That He knows not only everything that is, but every single thing that COULD be. He quotes one of his seminary professors who said, “Students, the wisdom of God tells us that God will bring about the best possible results, by the best possible means, for the most possible people, for the longest possible time.” (read his blog on it here if you're feeling the need)

And I'll tell you what. When we saw that part, I tucked that away. I knew I was going to be needing it. A lot. I didn't know why, but I knew I'd need it. Since then I've pulled it out here & there. Yesterday it took me a while to find it. But I did.

There could be a million reasons why it was best for our house not to sell right now. Maybe their offer was going to be too far below our asking price anyway. Maybe they were going to end up having trouble with financing. Maybe the closing would have been a bear. Maybe we would have then ended up buying the wrong house for us. Who knows. But I believe God is good. And I trust His wisdom.

I'm going to be honest here. It's been easy for me to say that God has a plan for all of this. But I've been clinging to some fear (an increasing amount of fear) about what we may need to go through to get there. I want everything tied up quickly & neatly with a pretty bow. I don't want to go through any garbage on the way. I don't want to pay rent & mortgage for a year. But I'm going to remember that IF we do -- IF that is something that we need to go through, there is a very good reason. One that we couldn't ever put together, because we don't know all the possibilities.

So today is a new day. And I'm just going to think about today. And attempting school supply shopping with the million other Wisconsinites that will doubtlessly be out today. And figuring out what Ticonderoga pencils are. I think that's enough. Don't you?


Today was suckish.

About a week ago the girls and I were in the car and Natalie announced her hat was "suckish." I'm sorry, what? Investigation led to the discovery that it's something said on iCarly. A lot. And although the girls will not be allowed to say it, I'm feeling it right now. How's that for a double standard?

Because I'm the mom, that's why!

This morning I mentioned to the girls that we should be praying for a friend of ours because she seems to be having a baby today. Natalie says, "I want to know how babies get out of mommies' tummies." Of course you do. Cue dreaded discussion.

Then we got word from the realtor. Couple, who has looked at our house FOUR TIMES does not want to put in an offer. Ouch. I really, really meant not to get my hopes up. But I think I still did.

Meanwhile, Ella & Natalie have started playing some kind of game where Ella hides 3 pens, and then she says "go" and they race to find them. And she wins. BECAUSE SHE HID THEM. So Natalie starts crying. And I say, "Give them to your sister, it is her turn to hide them." And Ella starts to take off. And I say, "GIVE THEM TO YOUR SISTER NOW." And she's running down the stairs, so I grab her hand quickly and she's wrestling away from me and oh my goodness how has this happened??? So we're on the stairs. I finally have to let go of her and pray she doesn't fall down the stairs. She doesn't. I'm floored. Ella is not one for blatant defiance of that magnitude. She usually feels the responsibility of a firstborn. NOT TODAY. So I send her to her room & then I follow for a stern talking to. During which she starts to smile/laugh.

Remember a few posts ago? When I was all, "Oh the girls are so great and we're bonding and isn't it all sunshine & roses?" HA.

So basically, today has been suckish. But it is miracle treat day at Dairy Queen, and since it's for the kids & all I plan to participate. Only I think I'll have a medium instead of a small.

But God is good and God is wise, and at some point I will look back and say, "thank goodness it happened that way." Because that's the way it always is.


Play-Doh, you have done me wrong.

I remember playing with Play-Doh when I was little. I had a few cans. I tried to mold something. I wasn't very good at it. I didn't have the fun factory or anything. No barber shops. No restaurant sets. I didn't want the colors to mix. But I loved it.

So when I had kids I thought of all the fun we'd have with Play-Doh. We'd have the fun factory, yes we would. They would sit quietly for hours and play elaborate Play-Doh schemes. We'd play all the time.

* ahem *

I hate Play-Doh. The girls have the fun factory. They have Dora adventure sets. They have a craft kit. But never fail -- NEVER FAIL -- every single time we take out the Play-Doh, instead of molding it into something or using the numerous accessories, they just pull it apart into tiny bits. Tiny, tiny bits. Which end up all over the floor. And all over the table. They make lines of tiny bits. And hills of tiny bits. And families of tiny bits. And it takes forever to clean it all up in a manner in which it will not be spread tiny bit by tiny bit all over the floor in the house.

They've been asking for Play-Doh again. So I pulled it out today. "If you play Play-Doh, will you tear it into tiny bits?" No, Mommy! "Will you play with it without making tiny pieces?" Yes, Mommy! And the sun sparkled off of their halos.

Ha. HA!!

I went downstairs to call our clinic for Natalie's immunization records for school. Went back up stairs. Anyone wanna guess? Bueller?

Yeah. Good call. Tiny bits of Play-Doh. All over the floor. The counter. Do you know how fast Play-Doh dries out when you make tiny bits all the time? Pretty fast, FYI. I just spent a half hour reconstituting Play-Doh. Play-Doh which is all a strange shade of green/blue.

Play-Doh? The dream of you, and the reality of you are vastly different things.


Waiting for the phone to ring

Our house hasn't been on the market for very long in the scheme of things, but we're still ready for it to be sold. I mean, it's fun paying a mortgage and rent plus some double utilities and all, but it'd still be nice to be done with that part.

After 8 or so showings, we've got a couple with some interest. Tonight they had their third showing, and our house is apparently in their top 3. So I'm trying not to get my hopes up since we've still got a good shot at nothing. But it would be really, REALLY fun to have the phone ring with an offer. Or, maybe they just left a check on the counter tonight.

In other news, I have decided to eat my way through the cheese case at the grocery store. Trying all the Wisconsin cheeses I can. You know, except for things like pepperjack. And you can bet that if our house sells, I'll be eating that cheese with a nice glass of something bubbly.


Random things from Wisconsin

• I have a hard time buying national brands of cheese here in Wisconsin. It seems weird. Why buy a brand that I have no clue where it came from, when there's all those Wisconsin brands next to it? And I'm totally drawn to all the crazy cheeses in the giant cheese case like havarti with black olives. I'll bet that's some good cheese.

• I felt like the country mouse visiting the big city last night at the grocery store. I kept wanting to say things like, "Oh my stars would you look at that!" The variety! The new products! The prices! THE CHEESE! There's a sushi counter. A salad bar. There's a small post office. And they're adding an express care clinic & pharmacy. It's across the street from Panera.

• We have a lot of stuff. Still so much unpacking to do.

• I can't master the speed limits here. Streets that I'm used to being marked 40 are 25. It's hard to drive 25 sometimes. But I will learn, what with all the hiding cops.

• It's strange to move. You have to find all new things. For example, today I have to go find a post office. I'm still working on the best grocery store for me. At least gas station brand is easy. Apparently Kwik Trip is headquartered here. Kwik Trip here is like Starbucks in Seattle. One on every corner. It's taken me a while to locate the free wifi (which was the deciding factor on allegiance to Starbucks or Caribou - Starbucks, I may love your chai, but Caribou has tea fusion coolers and loves me back with the wifi).

• Wisconsin has done some funky things with road names. One road might be an alternate to I-90, one highway in one section, then a different highway farther north. The same road. And all the county roads are letters. County road JJ. Or County road OS.

• There's a beautiful stretch of highway leaving La Crosse that takes you past some Amish farms. Imagine Ella's surprise to hear that they CHOOSE to live without TV. It was beyond foreign to her.

• Just because we're living in a duplex now, it doesn't mean Ella has found her "inside voice." Natalie is still a homebody. And yet, they're also more adaptable than we've probably been.


The girls

One of the unforeseen perks of moving up & away from everything is I feel like my girls and I have gotten closer. We've spent more time together, and done some exploring. It seems I've had an extra measure of patience and compassion with them, which could only be a gift from God. They have been such troopers during this whole process, and have just been cracking me up.

When we first walked into our new place and it was completely empty, Natalie said, "This is refreshing." I thought that was fantastic, so lately everything has been "refreshing" or "delightful."

Ella yesterday decided she wanted to try the children's programming at the church we were visiting. "Because, Mama, then I can make new friends. Just like the song. {singing} 'Make new friends, but keep the old, the other's silver and the other's gold.' The new friends are silver, and your old friends are gold." No need to worry about that one.

Through some sort of quick and sneaky chain of events, we'll be attending the church's Vacation Bible School Monday to Thursday night this week. I will be a helper. At the church I don't know. With all the strangers. The girls saw they were doing Crocodile Dock which they'd been excited to go to at our home church. But they start at age 5, so Natalie couldn't go. Although they have a special preschool program for the kids of helpers. Just call me a gator guide, I guess.

Maybe I'll pick up some silver, who knows.


We're here!

I live in Wisconsin now. Instead of wild rice soups, it's beer cheese. Mmmmm... cheese...

I spent two weeks knocking myself out packing and not sleeping while Captain America started his job and got the lay of the land. Our rental is much smaller than our house, so the packing required an awful lot of piles for Goodwill.

Saturday our families and some friends from a small group at church came to load us up. After 1 1/2 hours the loading was done, and there was just cleaning left. And throwing cardamom and rice cereal (I think the shallow cupboards of our new place will be good for me). You can read more about that here. My dad hit the road with our truck, and Captain America and I followed a bit later in separate cars.

Sunday some friends and Captain America's cousin came over to help us unload. That was also pretty quick. Except for the dryer. I made 4 trips to Menards. My dad climbed over the washer and slid in behind the dryer more than once. He had to replace the cord because it was a 3 pronged cord and a 4 pronged receptacle. He had to try a few venting options to get the washer & dryer to fit in the closet and still be able to open the dryer door. Eventually, it was done. My mom brought the girls down and picked up dad and off they went.

It's been a busy week with work, and when I have a few minutes I try to locate our clothes. Or the box that has envelopes in it. Unpack some books. We're also trying our best to be tourists in our new town. But why wouldn't you when it looks like this.

It's still week one, so we're in the honeymoon phase with our new town. But I do love it. I'm sure things will come up that will be less than stellar. No place is perfect. But it just feels like where we're supposed to be right now.

I've spent a lot of time crying. We left a lot. Families. Friends. Church. Home. It was hard to leave. But it's also good to be here. If that makes sense. Sometimes you don't even know you need a fresh start until you're getting one. I like where this one is going.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who helped us here & there. Couldn't have done it without you!


What I've learned

I hate moving.


Brace yourselves...

I don't really care about Diet Dr. Pepper anymore. I don't know what happened. Out of nowhere I'm just more interested in plain old Diet Coke (or Coke Zero, preferably). Thus ending years of an obsession. I know. I don't know what to tell you. The end of an era.

Also, I'm becoming fragile under the stress. I was getting worried about Carly not having any parents, and living with Spencer. Was iCarly another show where the parents are mysteriously absent, or does she really not have parents? Today I caught the tail end of an episode the girls were watching where Carly is going to have to go live with Grandpa instead. Of course, in the end, Grandpa sees that Spencer is a good caregiver and Carly is allowed to live with him. And I got misty. Watching iCarly. On Nickelodeon.


I'm an accident waiting to happen.

I'm starting to feel like I attract accidents. There was the near accident with the school bus. And now the accidents have come out in full force.

This weekend we went down to our new place to scope it out. Great news! I only need to eliminate a basement-worth of stuff!! Anyway, I discovered I had boatloads of work to do on Sunday afternoon, so we hightailed it for home instead of staying til morning. Cue the longest trip ever. First off, with two small children a 4 1/2 hour drive is no longer 4 1/2 hours. We need potty breaks. Snacks. Dinner. And then, I came up on this. Some guy felt the need to u-turn through the median (you know, right in front of the sign that says not to), and clipped a tanker full of gasoline. Nine hours later I rolled through, and it was just opening up. I still had to sit and wait for over an hour to drive a mile.

I was totally with the people leaving comments on the article about how he should be cited and what an idiot, etc. Then I found out he was 87 and from Missouri. Now all I can think about is my great uncle. At one point when he was older he ended up going the wrong way on a freeway in the Twin Cities. He hopped the median to get back the right way, ended up on the shoulder and stopped his car. If I remember correctly, the police had to drive him home he was so shaken. And I think that was the last time he drove. Maybe this guy was an idiot -- I don't really know. And maybe he missed his exit and got so scared and flustered he had to turn around RIGHT NOW.

Today I was on my way to the bigger Lake Wobegon, and I witnessed a 3-car accident on the highway. Three cars were in front of me, and a car attempted to turn across our lane. While the first two cars were in it. As it started to turn I automatically took my foot off the gas because I could see it was going to be an accident and I would need to pull over. Glass flew, cars spun, plastic chunks of car scattered about the road. I called 911, but stayed in the car because I had Natalie with me and there were other people already stopping and helping. I stayed and waited til they had most of the people out, and I could catch the attention of a Sheriff's deputy near the edge to leave my name & number. Word on the street (small town -- I'm Facebook friends with the aunt of one of the drivers) is that everyone is okay.

I'm done with all these accidents and reminders of the brevity of life now, thank you.

And now I have some packing to do.


My house doesn't like me anymore.

We have lived in this house for 8 years. I think our house is trying to kick me out.

A few weeks ago I went to take a shower, and when I reached down to fix the bath mat I hit my head on the towel bar. So badly that I wonder if I had a mild concussion. I felt weird all day.

Yesterday I was moving some boxes for Goodwill out to the van and hit my hand on the door frame. I hit it in just the right spot close to my wrist and it literally felt like the bones in my hand separated and then popped back together.

Today I stepped into the shower (the shower which hadn't injured me in 8 years until a few weeks ago), and hit my shoulder on the soap holder thing. So hard my whole arm still hurts, two hours later. And I have a red puffy line across my shoulder.

This isn't really my house's fault, but this morning the city office called to let me know they're turning off the water for an undetermined amount of time while they fix a water main leak in our neighborhood.

I get it, House. And I'm working on it. But if you don't get your Housey act together, no one will buy you.



A couple of weeks ago we headed to La Crosse to check out the housing situation. We stayed at a very cute north woodsy hotel. The girls had a night of Pool FUN! Then we spent an entire day driving about with the realtor looking at houses. To celebrate the girls being precious angels all day (really -- it had to have been divine intervention -- the realtor couldn't stop talking about how wonderful they were), we took them out for a stuffed animal that night. There was much excitement over the new furry friends.

So much excitement, that when we got home and unpacked the next day, I realized Meow Meow was not with us. After digging through all of our stuff and scouring the van, the only place he could be was back at the hotel. Four and a half hours away. Meow Meow. The one Ella has slept with almost every night since she was a tiny tiny baby. And I felt like a horrible mother. I always make sure we have the irreplaceables with us. Meow Meow is always on the list. And I didn't this time. I may have cried, but I'm not saying for sure.

Ella was concerned that Meow Meow was gone forever. But I assured her I would call the hotel. It took a couple of days to get a hold of someone in housekeeping. When I did, she was very nice. "Oh I understand! My 16 yr old daughter still has her blankie sitting on her bed." There are times in your life when you are sensible. And there are times in your life where it all goes out the window. I gave a random person in housekeeping my credit card info to mail Meow Meow back at whatever mystery cost it took. Lecture me later, people, it's MEOW MEOW.

And here he is, back where he belongs.
Welcome home, dearest Meow Meow, welcome home.

(Oh, and if you need a hotel in La Crosse, I have one I can recommend. She even called a couple days later to make sure Meow Meow had made it home safely.)


Zithromax, I love you

Here, for all the world to see, I pledge my love to Zithromax.

A month or so ago Natalie had a bladder infection. She started out on sulfa-something-or-another. Then we switched to Zithromax because she wasn't getting better and BAM. All good.

Yesterday Ella was fine. Last night she mentioned something about her head hurting. Overnight she cooked up quite a fever, and said her throat hurt. This morning, she still looked pretty tough and her throat hurt something awful. She was whispering. ELLA. WHISPERING. Ella. Honestly, I'm not sure I've ever heard her talk so quietly. And that's how I knew it was serious.

Thankfully, we have same day Saturday morning appointments here in Lake Wobegon, so we didn't have to use the ER. She had the throat culture right away -- poor thing. Sure enough it came up positive for strep. And then the doctor described her throat as "angry."

She looks tough today. Not hungry. Throat hurts. Tired. But Zithromax, I know you will come through. By tomorrow she'll be bouncing off the walls. And back to her normal volume.


I like cheese.

Cheddar, provolone, havarti, muenster, mozzarella, farmers, gouda, blue, feta... I love cheese. So we're moving to Wisconsin.

Ok, that's not exactly how it happened, but it's a lovely bonus.

Captain America got himself a new job in a new company, and we are loading up & moving to La Crosse. We'd never been there til last November, when we went for a wedding. As we drove down through the bluffs to cross the Mississippi river, our jaws dropped. There was just a bit of burgundy color left on some of the trees, and it was possibly one of the most beautiful things I'd seen.

Now, less than a year later, we're going to live there. It's exciting & intimidating to be moving. We are not nomads in any way. I've lived 28 of 31 years here in Lake Wobegon. We've lived here together for 10 years, almost exactly. We've lived in this house for eight years. That's some serious roots. We are going from our little Lake Wobegon, population 2500, to an area of 80,000 or more.

But we have asked for neon signs that this is the right thing, and we have received them over and over again. Only God could have orchestrated these details in this way. It's such a relief to be able to do this with confidence. We've built a life here. Our families, friends, church, the school -- it will all be hard to leave. Have I mentioned I love Facebook? And email? And blogging? It's also interesting to wonder what's next and really not have a clue.

I'll keep you posted on the ride. So far all I know is Captain America starts the new job July 7. We can't get into our duplex til July 10. Our house is on the market and who knows how long that will take. So, yeah. I'm not really sure yet. But I am oddly not worried about it.

Hey, there visitors from 5 Minutes for Faith! I am so excited to have a devotion published there today. I've been on a bit of a hiatus from my blog while all of this went down, but now I'm excited to share the journey! Thanks for stopping by!


Remember me?

So, we're moving to Wisconsin. How's that for random?

I'll have more later, but in the meantime I need to sell a house, find a place to live, and keep up with my regular work which is rather plentiful these days.

Oh, and I have a 6 yr old. She'd tell you all about it. Like she did to the Fed Ex guy today. All about how old she is, what we're doing today, in what order, we're moving, where, etc. Maybe she should get her own blog.


The zoo purge

Over the weekend I had the girls gather up all of their stuffed animals. I mean every last fuzzy little one.
No wonder floor sightings in their room had become so rare. There are no pillows on this couch. Only stuffed animals. No dolls. No other toys. Only stuffed animals. And two little girls.

I went through all of them, and pulled out the ones that were "special." The zebra Captain America bought for Ella at the Bellagio before she was born, etc. Precious Meow-Meow, Ella's sleeping companion. Natalie's VISA (Very Important Stuffed Animal) Curious George.

That yielded one small laundry basketful. Then we let each girl go through them and choose 10 a piece, very carefully. There was much trading going on. Finally, we loaded up almost 3 garbage bags full of stuffed animals.

I'm not one to throw things away. They'll probably go to Goodwill, unless you can tell me something else to do with them.


I'm ready, I'm ready

So last week we had the Big Kindergarten Graduation. So cute. They marched in wearing their graduation caps with crayon tassel, and said what they want to be when they grow up. Ella said she wants to be an explorer. Which doesn't surprise me. They sang some songs.

I was doing great by the way. Ella had her entourage (parents, sister, two sets of grandparents, one uncle and two aunts). She kept looking up at all of us and waving. All the time.

And then they sang the first grader song. (You know the Fast Food song? "A Pizza Hut, A Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut"? It's set to that, if you'd like to sing in your head)

A first grader A first grader Can't wait, Can't wait To be a first grader A first grader A first grader Can't wait, Can't wait To be a first grader I'm ready, I'm ready Can't wait, Can't wait To be a first grader

I'm not sure what happens after that. Because I had stopped listening with the "I'm ready, I'm ready." I realized I had blinked and her entire kindergarten year had just flown by. She's not only going to be a first grader, she's completely ready to be one. It was SO fast.

They moved their crayon tassels, and then paraded around through the aisles before heading back to their classrooms. Ella, of course, waved the whole way. To everyone.

Here is a picture of Ella and I outside both of our kindergarten rooms.

I give you...Ella, First Grader.


It's foggy

Or at least it is in my head. So sleepy, and yet I feel used to it. Natalie's had a fever on (no meds) and off (with meds) since Friday night. Not sure if she got really run down, has a funky bug or if we're the proud winners of another bladder infection, but we're finding out at 11:15.

When one of my girls is sick, I don't sleep. I sleep a little, but I never let go into a deep sleep. I'm trying to hear if they so much as whimper. I'm up checking the forehead. I'm counting the hours til we can do another round of ibuprofen/tylenol.

This morning around 4:45 or 5 we started musical beds. Natalie came in and plopped her hot potato self in between us. I got up for the thermometer and checked the temp. And I got up and got her some medicine. Then I got up and got her some water. Then I got up and got a cool washcloth. Then I laid there watching her for a while til Ella came in. At which time Captain America left for Ella's bed. A little while later it was clear Natalie did not plan on sleeping, so she and I headed for the living room. And sent Captain America back to bed with Ella.

Basically, I could use a nap.

Hey, remember when Ella graduated from kindergarten? That was awesome.

I survived the program and will maybe give it its own post tomorrow, after I've hopefully had some sleep.



Today I've been stuck on milestones. Firsts and lasts. Marked and unmarked. Big and small.

Ella graduates from kindergarten tonight (although she has school for another week). They're having a big ceremony in the gym. If it's like the other I've seen there, there will be a mortarboard with crayon tassel. Ella will say what she wants to be when she grows up. They will sing a song about being first graders.

Natalie stopped sucking her thumb (knock on wood). On Mother's Day I painted her fingernails. She said she was going to try not to suck her thumb, since it had polish on it. She still hasn't. I've wondered for a couple of years how we were ever going to get to this point and what it would take. We've tried this method before with no luck. But now it's been the last time (I hope). If I didn't remember sitting down with both girls on Mother's Day after going out to eat and painting their nails, I'd have no memory of when it actually was.

Captain America and I have discussed this before. The firsts and lasts that you don't think about or don't realize they're happening. The very last diaper change. First ice cream cones. The first time they chew gum. The last bottle. The last sippy cup. The first time Ella walked to school most of the way alone.

All these little things of parenting. Moments that aren't planned but just happen. No pomp & circumstance. But they're often equally exciting as the things that come with celebration.

I'm proud of both girls. Ella for thriving in school. Natalie for quitting the thumb. And I can't wait to see what's next, that perhaps months later we'll notice they've started or stopped.


Dearest Cabin-ers: Part II

In case there is any confusion, I really do love you, Cabin Friends. I do.

You remind me that it's summer. It's been a long nasty winter here, and while it's still early in the season, your arrival marks the beginning of summer.

You remind me that I get to live in a place where people vacation. I live at the Cabin. I think that's incredibly cool, and I'm lucky to do it. Sometimes when I take a walk in the summer (when it's below 85 and I'm not headed for heatstroke), I almost feel like I'm on vacation myself.

Also, it's fun to see some new people around after 9 months of winter. There are strangers in town! Only some of you are regulars so you're not really strangers, but you know what I mean. And our snowbirds come home for the summer. It's so nice to have them back (shout out to the AZ & FL peeps)!

I'm also happy to have our Cabin Friends here because tourism is a chunk of our local economy. So really, please, enjoy. Order a pizza. Get some ice cream. Rent a movie. Do some shopping.

You know how you can do something a million times, and it loses its luster? And then maybe you invite someone new along and suddenly it's a brand new adventure? You get to experience it through their eyes, which reminds you how fun it is. That's summer at the Cabin. It's fun to watch new people enjoy the place I've lived in for most of my life.

Welcome, welcome back. I look forward to bumping into you. Just try to leave me a bag of chips. I'll try to leave you a parking space close to the door, because you are our guest. And if you need any rhubarb, let me know.