Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year-End Countdown: #1

This one was originally posted in April and is the all-time most popular post from my blog.  I hope this blog will serve as a kind of memoir for my kids some day and this post is definitely reflective of that!  I hope you enjoy it and thanks, again, for following!!!

Lessons I Want to Teach My Daughters

I recently finished reading a book written by Alexandra Stoddard called "Things I Want My Daughters To Know."    I originally picked up the book because, having three daughters, I feel a huge responsibility to teach them everything they need to know to become successful women since I am their primary female role model.  I will take any advice or help I can get!  In the book, Stoddard lists about 55 "life lessons" she hopes to have imparted to her two daughters.  Some of the pearls I agreed with; some I did not.  However, it got my "wheels turning" as I thought about all the lessons I want to teach my own daughters.  So - you guessed it - I came up with a list.  (Not to worry - there are nowhere near 55 items on my list.)  Here are the top 18 things I hope my daughters will learn from me as they grow and mature into beautiful women, professionals, wives, and mothers.

18 Lessons I Want My Daughters to Learn - A message to my girls

1)  Appreciate your history.  Unlike the good ol' portrayal of the stork with a baby in a sack, you were not just randomly dropped on this earth.  You came from somewhere; you came from someone.  Be proud of that and cherish it. Professional acquaintances come and go.  Friends come and go.  Family is constant.  That doesn't mean there won't be disagreements or differences, but family is family - you are tied to them forever.  Appreciate them.  Love them.  Stay connected to them.  Always.  When everyone else disappears, they will still be there.

2)  Be a Lady.  This one is about how you present yourself to others.  (And it is not just a Southern thing - at least it shouldn't be!)  You never know who is taking notice of you.  Therefore, always present yourself in a way that is appropriate.  There is no need to wear super tight and/or very revealing clothes or a lot of artificial make-up.  Don't take part in gossip or ridiculing others.  You shouldn't compromise who you are in an effort to "fit in."  Don't do something you know is wrong just because "everyone else does it."  All of this sends the message that you do not respect yourself.  If you do not respect yourself, neither will anyone else!

3)  Be Confident in Yourself.  This is one with which I struggle to be a good role model.  I worry about my weight, my clothes, my housekeeping and my cooking skills.  I often lose sight of what it says in Psalm 139:13-16 - ". . You knit me together in my mother's womb. . . I am fearfully and wonderfully made. . "  As the old saying goes, "God don't make no junk!!"  I was made by God; you were made by God.  Therefore, we are perfect.  Your curly hair, your freckles, your crazy energy, your wittiness, your laugh - everything about you is wonderful and perfect.  Never doubt the beauty God has created in you!

4)  Do What Makes You Happy.  If you want to play sports, play sports.  If you want to play music, play music.  If you want to be a doctor, study hard and be a doctor.  If you want to be a teacher, give it your all and be a great teacher.  Do what makes YOU happy - not what all your friends are doing; not what will earn you the biggest salary.  Friends and money are worthless if you are miserable.  Do what makes YOU happy; what brings you joy.  You will receive rewards much greater than money or fame.

5)  Be Financially Responsible.  Money is never constant.  Sometimes you will have more; sometimes you will have less.  Often, it takes a long time to recover from mistakes you make with your money.  As they say, money is a necessary evil - you must have some of it to survive in this world.  While money does not buy happiness, mismanagement of your finances can lead to stress and strife.  Learn to create a budget and stick to it - regardless of how much money you have (or don't have).  Learn the difference between what you want and what you need.  You will save yourself lots of turmoil and worry if you learn how to be responsible with your finances.

6)  Keep Order in Your Life.  As you probably know, I am a little fanatic when it comes to organization.  There is a reason for that.  I have learned that keeping order in my life makes things easier in the long run.  It is easier to run out the door in a hurry if you know where to find your shoes and your purse.  It is easier to pack for an unexpected trip if most of your laundry is clean.  It is easier to entertain unexpected guests if you have a clean house and a stocked pantry.  It is easier to get children to bed if you follow a predictable schedule.  Keeping order to begin with will keep you from stressing and scrambling later.

7)  Laugh.  This is something your father has taught me a lot about.  When you laugh, you can't help but feel good.  Some of my best memories of your childhoods, so far, are of times when we laughed together or times when you made me laugh until I cried.  Laughter will help you get through the tough times, too.  Bill Cosby said, "You can turn painful situations around through laughter.  If you can find humor in anything then you can survive it."  Keep laughter in your life - it is good for your soul!

8)  Don't Forget to Take Care of Yourself.  As womenwe are often expected to take care of others.  That is impossible if you don't first take care of yourself.  Once in a while, buy yourself something new even if you don't really need it; get a manicure; take a nap.  Never feel guilty for taking a moment to "recharge your own batteries." 

9)  Follow Through.  Finish what you start and keep your commitments.  What's the point of reading a book if you skip the last chapter??  Finish the book.  Finish the project.  You may discover it's an activity that you do not want to do again, but finish anyway.  When you tell people you will do something, you must follow through and keep your commitment - someone is counting on you; don't let them down.  If you do, they will learn that you cannot be trusted.  Only under extreme or emergency circumstances is it ever acceptable to break your promises.

10)  Do Not Wish Your Life Away.  While you are a child, enjoy the lack of responsibilities; enjoy the carefree nature of things.  Don't spend it wishing to grow up faster.  When you are young and single, travel; enjoy spending time with friends; enjoy being independent and free.  There is no need to spend your time fretting about when you will meet "Mr. Right" or when your life will become bigger and better.  It will happen - be patient.  Take time to enjoy being a wife - just a wife.  Your time as a mother will come.  When you are a mother, enjoy your children.  Don't wish for them to grow up faster - it will happen soon enough.  Each stage of your life is a unique gift.  Be wise enough to recognize the beauty of each stage and enjoy it while you can - it will not last.

11)   Be Strong.  Be brave.  As much as I would like to, I cannot shelter you from bad things in life.  You will experience failure.  You will experience loss and sorrow.  You will experience disappointment.  When you do, it is o.k. to cry.  It is necessary to grieve.  However, you cannot let the bad times define you.  Be strong and be brave.  Face the obstacles head-on.  Learn from the tough times and find a way to move forward.  When you come out on the other side, you will be proud of yourself and you will appreciate the beauty of the good times even more.

12)  Know your limitations.  Superman is a mythical character.  No man (or woman) can do everything.  You have God-given talents.  You also have God-given limitations.  This is why one of my favorite prayers is the Serenity Prayer.  It says "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."  If you are not artistically inclined, you can change that by learning new skills, but do not expect to paint a masterpiece right out of the gates.  If you are only 5'3", do not expect to be the star center on the girl's basketball team.  You cannot change your height.   You should most definitely expect greatness from yourself and set high goals, but sometimes you must be realistic and adjust your goals to fit your skills, talents, and physical abilities.  Everyone has a certain amount of time and energy as well.  Do not commit to so many things that you end up running out of time or energy before you are able to complete the tasks.  Also remember that there is no shame in asking for help.  It is not a sign of weakness.  On the contrary, it shows that you are self-aware and realistic.

13)  Learn to Cook.  It doesn't have to be gourmet and it is not necessary to do it every day, but being able to prepare a meal for yourself, your guests, your family, or a friend experiencing hard times will give you a sense of accomplishment and pride.  By preparing meals yourself, you can be more healthy and more frugal.  You can experiment with tastes and textures.  You can adjust recipes to your own personal liking (or the liking of those you are serving).  Food is everywhere in our lives.  Learn to enjoy the creative opportunities it offers.

14)  Proofread!  There are few things I can think of more frustrating that turning in a paper, sending an email, or posting a blog only to realize later that you made very basic mistakes.  It is also quite annoying to receive a letter or an email and see that the person who sent it didn't take the time or put forth the effort to write it properly.  It shows laziness and apathy.  Proofreading is simple and doesn't take much time, so do it.  Then, do it again.  The more important the document you are writing, the more times you should proofread it or have someone else proofread it.

15)  Learn Proper Grammar.  Learn when to use I or me; when to use he/she vs. him/her; the difference between there, their, and they're; the difference between your and you're; the difference between it's and its.  Don't end sentences with a preposition (i.e. Where is he at? = nails on chalkboard).  Don't start sentences with conjunctions like but, or, and (these words are meant to join things, not begin things).  The rules of grammar are not terribly complicated and will eventually become natural if you practice them regularly.   Using proper grammar (and spelling) is an indication that you have paid attention to details.  It shows that you are intelligent and educated.  (If you are ever unsure ask Memaw!!)

16)  Present Solutions, Not Just Problems.  There is nothing wrong with speaking up when there are problems that need to be addressed whether it is in your job, in your home, or in your relationships.  However, do not just complain and whine.  State what you see as a problem and then present a solution.  Your solution may not be utilized in the end, but being able to present one shows that you have carefully considered the situation.  It proves to others that you are not just complaining, but that you are trying to help solve the problem.  Your "complaints" will get more attention and respect if you can be helpful in reaching a resolution.

17)  Surround yourself with good people.  You cannot choose your family, but if they bring you joy and peace, embrace them.  Turn to them in times of need or anxiety - big or small - and they will give you the insight and comfort that you need.  You can choose your friends, so choose wisely.  Surround yourself with positive, supportive, intelligent, morally ethical people with whom you share a mutual respect.  Choose friends who see your beauty (inside and out) and who make you a better, happier person by bringing you joy, laughter, insight, and peace.  (Remember, too, that your eventual husband should be your absolute best friend.  If he is not a good friend he will not be a good husband.  He should bring you joy and peace as well as romance and love!)

18)  Stand up for your beliefs.  If you are liberal, be liberal.  If you are conservative, be conservative.  Once you have chosen a stance, stick with it.  Don't be wishy washy and change your opinion to please someone else or to avoid confrontation.  That shows others that your are weak and easily influenced.  No matter which side you take on any issue, be educated and be able to intelligently defend your position.  Don't be afraid to speak out - in an intelligent, ethical manner - to defend your cause.  If you are educated about the topic and can express your thoughts clearly, people will respect your opinion even if they disagree.

As I read back over these, it is painfully evident that I am not perfect.  Although I try, I don't do all these things all the time.  However, I think I do them more often than not.  Some of these pearls I have learned the hard way.  Some I am thankful to have learned from my parents.  Some I have learned form others or just from experience.  I know there are things you will eventually add to your own list of "Life's Rules," but I hope this gives you a good start and a solid foundation.  Above all else, remember that you are loved more than you will ever know - by me, by your Daddy, by your family, and by God.  I pray that love will give you the strength and courage to be the best person you can be - always.  

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Year-End Countdown: #2

Continuing the year end countdown - Here is the second most popular post from my blog in 2011.  It was originally posted in February.  I will post #1 tomorrow!!  Any guesses??

Change of Plans

Today, my youngest, Emily, noticed my wedding and engagement rings.  She asked me where I got them.  Of course, I told her that Daddy gave them to me.  Naturally, she said "Why?"  Somehow in this conversation, she asked if I "wore a pretty dress" (talking about the actual wedding).  This past August, Emily was actually one of the flower girls in my brother-in-law's wedding, so she understands the concept of a wedding. However, I realized that she had probably never seen pictures from our wedding - at least not since she has gained this new understanding of what a wedding is.  So, I got our wedding album and looked through it with her.

As I looked at it with her, I was thinking about how things have changed.  Everyone in our wedding party looked so young.  The flower girls are now teenagers.  Two of David's brothers were teenagers then and they are both married themselves now.

She asked me "Where was I?"  I told her that "she was with God waiting to be born," but I was really thinking, "Where was she in our "plan"???  The fact is, even though I planned to have kids, I never thought I would have 3 girls.  I never thought about how difficult raising kids would be.  In the June Cleaver-ish picture I had in my mind, the house was always clean; a perfect dinner was on the table at 6:00 sharp; the kids never had temper tantrums or back-talked;  and we never worried about money.

I have certainly gotten a healthy dose of reality over the past 12 years.  The facts are more like this:
the house is never completely clean; there is no such thing as a "perfect" dinner when you are facing picky eaters (and even if there was, it wouldn't be ready at 6:00 on the dot); the kids have temper tantrums and back-talk and fight with each other and get moody and get mad and complain and- well, you get the picture; there is never enough money when you are raising kids- even if you pay off a debt or get an extra check, there is always something else to spend that money on.

See - PERFECT! ;)

No matter how cliche it sounds, though, I would go back to that wedding day and do it all over again.  If I knew then what I know now,  I would change a few things along the way.  But, I wouldn't change the end result for anything in the world.  After we looked at the pictures, Emily gave me a kiss on the cheek and we baked some cookies.  They probably didn't taste like June Cleaver's, but I still think they were perfect~!

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year-End Countdown: #3

I originally wrote this post on May 9 in honor of Mother's Day.  It is still one of my favorites!


I had a great Mother's Day.  I woke up to find a kitchen counter full of cards, drawings, and a beautiful, very special bracelet.  Later, I spent a relaxing afternoon not doing much of anything and the children actually weren't fighting!!!

In between the morning gifts and the afternoon down-time, we went to church and I did something I would normally NEVER do - I sang.  I stood on the steps at the front of the sanctuary, in front of the whole congregation and sang.

Now there are two things you should know about me.  1) I love music.  2) I have not one ounce of musical talent.  I took piano lessons for years and it just never came naturally to me.  The only time I usually sing is when I am alone in the car (which is not very often!).

However, both my older girls are in the children's choir and the children's choir director at our church (who, by the way, is probably the most fabulous children's choir director on the planet!) actually composed a Mother's Day song and asked the moms of the choir children to sing with them.  Fortunately, all of us moms who would not normally sing were accompanied by the women from the adult choir and the song was BEAUTIFUL!  There were tears from many people in the pews.

For me, the song was a reminder of what Mother's Day is all about in a couple different ways.  Of course, the words of the song were elegant and poignant.  But, what really got me was all the moms who totally stepped out of their comfort zone to support their kids - the moms who, like me, don't sing.  On this day, though, they came to the front of the church and stood with the choirs and did just that - they sang.  That is what being a mom is all about - doing whatever it takes to be there for your kids.

When you are a mom, you do things you never thought you would do.  For example:

  • I never thought I would worry so much about everything.
  • I never thought I would get excited about someone else using the "potty."
  • I never thought I would be so happy to feel the excruciating pain of labor.
  • I never thought I would yell out loud at someone else's softball game.
  • I never thought I would care so much about another person's outfit, menu, hairstyle, or clean underwear.
  • I never thought I would dedicate an entire room of my house to toy storage.
  • I never thought I would be so thankful for Dora/Mickey Mouse/Imagination Movers/etc. "On Demand."
  • I never thought I would stay up all night to attend to another person's needs without any regard for my own well-being.
  • I never thought I wold drive across town at 8:30 on a Saturday night in the pouring rain to deliver a rescued baby bunny to a wildlife professional.
  • I never thought I would save cherish cut off locks of hair or fallen out baby teeth.
  • I never thought I would stand up and sing in front of an entire church congregation.
I have done all those things and then some in the past eight years, though, because that's what mothers do.  We give everything we have - and some things we didn't even know we had - to our kids.  And, when it is important to our kids, we sing!!!  We hope our sacrifices make them better people. We hope they are appreciative.  But, really, hugs and kisses are the only "thank you's" we need.  

Thanks to my mom for all the sacrifices you have made for me.  Thanks to my wonderful husband for giving me the opportunity to be a mother.  Most of all, thanks to my three beautiful girls for teaching me to "sing"!  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Year-End Countdown #4

Continued from Yesterday - Here is the fourth most popular post from my blog in 2011.  It was originally posted on August 11 in honor of my "baby" Emily's fourth birthday!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this week is a birthday blitz in our house.  In my last post, I reminisced about the day Rachel was born nine years ago.  Now, I am taking a moment to remember when Emily was born - 4 years ago today.

I will always be indebted to Emily because, through her birth, I became a legend.  Only for a day or two and only in a very small circle of people, but still, a legend.  You see, Emily was obviously born in August and August is pretty hot, humid, and torturous here in North Carolina (even if you are not hugely pregnant and responsible for two other children who were, at the time, 2 and teetering on 5).  I was terribly uncomfortable and, really,  just plain miserable.  I was more than ready to have my third and final child. So, once again, we headed to the hospital one Saturday morning to be induced four days past my due date.  My labor was fairly easy (thank you sweet epidural) and quick.  At 5:05 pm, Emily was born.

Immediately, the medical staff and my husband started commenting on how big she was.  To me, she just looked like a beautiful newborn baby girl, especially since my other two were not small potatoes either.  My husband went with her to the nursery where they weighed and bathed her.  When he returned to the delivery room where the nurses were still working with me, he had a smirk on his face and said to everyone, "Guess how much she weighs."  Some guesses were made, mostly in the 9 pound range.  Everyone was amazed when he announced the answer: 10 pounds 2 ounces!  Yep  - 10.2 pounds - that is not a typo!

She was the biggest baby anyone remembers being born on either side of my family.  As far as I know, none of my friends have had a baby that big.  In fact, she was the biggest baby the nurses remembered being born at that hospital in quite some time.  The next day, a nurse actually came into my hospital room and asked to check my incision, assuming I'd had a C-section.  She couldn't believe I hadn't.  One or two others came in just to take a peek at the baby that had everyone talking.  Friends and family went on and on about her size.  And I, the mother who gave birth to her, became a legend (albeit briefly and mostly in my own mind!).

 Emily came home from the hospital in size 1 diapers and size 3-6 month clothes.  The first thing I had to do was remove all the tiny newborn clothes I had so carefully placed in her nursery furniture drawers and replace them with larger items.  Here we are four years later and Emily is still too big for her britches!!!  She has a huge personality that commands attention.  She is the baby of the family - she knows it and uses it to her advantage whenever possible.  She keeps us on our toes and makes us laugh.  She gives out hugs and kisses like they are going out of style.  I am certain that her size at birth was simply an indication from above that she is destined for big things in her life.  I look forward to seeing what is in her future; I just hope it doesn't all go by as fast as the last four years have gone!

We love you so much, Emily!!  Happy Happy 4th Birthday!!!!


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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Year-End Countdown

Christmas has come and gone.  Now it is time to start looking toward the end of this year and the beginning of the next.  All around, people are counting down - the top videos of the year, songs, weddings, etc.  I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and use this week to look back by re-posting the year's five most popular entries from my blog.  I also want to use this as an opportunity to say THANKS to all of you who read my blog regularly, leave comments, and just support my blog and me in general.  You will never know how much I appreciate it!!!!

To kick things off, here is the #5 most popular blog post from 2011.  It is one of my recipe posts and, ironically, what I am planning to fix for supper at our house tonight.  It is cold and rainy here in NC today, so this will be a perfect way to end the day and warm our bodies.  I hope you enjoy it, too!!!

This is so easy and so yummy!!!

Easiest Chicken and Dumplings EVER

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts; cut into pieces
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cans (or about 2 1/2 cups) chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can refrigerated biscuits (I use Pillsbury Grands homestyle buttermilk 8 count - DO NOT use the layered biscuits) 

Place chicken pieces in crock pot.  Top with soup, broth, salt & pepper, and stir.  Cook on low 6 hours or on high 4 hours.  About 30 minutes before serving, cut biscuits into 4-6 pieces each.  (Turn crock pot up to high, if necessary.)  Drop dough pieces into crock pot; replace lid.  Let dough cook for about 30 minutes - stir occasionally, pushing dough pieces down into liquid.  **The liquid will seem rather runny at first, but the starch from the dough will thicken it as the dough pieces cook.  Voila!!

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Witherspoon Christmas Poem

'Twas the week before Christmas at the Witherspoon house,
There's quite a bit stirrin'
(Hopefully, not a mouse!)

The stockings are hung
 and the Christmas tree glows,
Santa even sent the kids videos!

The shopping is done
and the presents are wrapped;
DW and I could really use a nap!

But there are 3 days 'til Christmas
and I think I can do it.
(Just wish I had elves to help me get through it!)

There's a house to be cleaned; 
carols to be sung; 
and another handprint wreath that needs to be hung.

There are houses of gingerbread
that we still have to make;
and lots of cookies we still have to bake.

Christmas Eve will see red and green dresses at church.
Oh wait!  
We have to go to "play" practice first!

3 days to go and I think I can do it;
Soon Christmas will be done 
and I'll say "I lived through it!"

But through the hustle and bustle of this December,
I hope everyone will take a breath
and remember

The REAL reason for the season is 
not all the gifts we bought at the mall,
but the gift God gave us - the Greatest Gift Of All!

The sweet baby boy born long, long ago
under a star that shone down
on the world below.

The meaning of his birth cannot get lost
as we hurry and scurry
and count up the gift that we got.

There are 3 days 'til Christmas 
and I would just like to say
I hope all of you have a very merry holiday!!!!

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Cards

When I posted about our Disney Highlights, I mentioned that we got a great picture for this year's Christmas card.  I thought I would also share some of my favorite Christmas cards from past years, too.

This was the first time we did a picture card because it was the first time we had a cute kiddo to put in a picture!  This was the card we sent in 2002 when Rachel was about 4 months old.

This is one of my most favorite cards!  It is the card we sent in 2006.  Rachel was 4 and Megan had just turned 2.
I posted about this Silly Picture last year.  I still think it will always be one of our best cards!!

And here it is. . . . 

This year's card!  Of course, we got this picture while we were at Disney World and who doesn't smile at Disney World?!?!  Easiest Christmas card picture ever!!!  ;-)

Merry Christmas everyone!!!

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

We're Still Laughing

Yesterday, I posted about how my hubby and I were celebrating our "Lucky 13" anniversary.  Well, I'm still lucky, but the day didn't turn out quite like I had planned.

Admittedly, I don't remember our first anniversary very vividly.  It would have been on a Sunday (since we got married on a Saturday) and I know we had recently moved into our first home.  I do remember taking from the freezer the top layer of our wedding cake that had been so carefully wrapped and so carefully moved from our apartment to our first home, taking one bite, and spitting it out because it was freezer burned and tasted terrible.  We had a good laugh over that!

Yesterday, on our 13th anniversary, we were reminded how different life is these days.  It was a Monday (which is rarely a good thing), but started off routinely enough getting everyone up and off to school.  After  Bible study with a great group of women, we got to see our little one perform some Christmas music with other 4 and 5 year olds from her preschool (so sweet!).  At lunchtime, the day was going pretty well, but it was all downhill from there!

I picked up my two oldest from school that afternoon and also brought home a 4th grade boy who is my oldest daughter's science fair partner.  My suspicions that there was more to their "relationship" than a science fair project were quickly confirmed (or else it is a very funny science fair project because there sure was a LOT of giggling going on).  In the midst of her science fair project research session/4th grade date, I had to give my girls some bad news.  My in-laws, who live right behind us, had to have their dog put to sleep.  Since Lady lived so close and spent a lot of time in our yard, my girls loved her like she was one of ours.  You can imagine how they took the news (especially the animal-loving, vegetarian 9 year old who had her "science fair partner" over for a date work session).

After all that drama, my hubby had to leave for a meeting at church that, of course, ran long.  I finally managed to get some resemblance of a meal on the table much later than our normal routine and then hurried through baths and to bedtime.  Our rushed and already behind schedule bedtime routine was interrupted by crying from Rachel's room.  What now??  I went to check on her and was informed by my hubby that her two pet frogs were belly up!  Eventually, Rachel cried herself to sleep.

So, for this anniversary, instead of romantic gifts, we got three dead pets and our 9 yr. old's first date (kind of).  Instead of pulling year-old, freezer burned cake out of the freezer, we fished two dead frogs out of their tank and found an appropriate box for their funeral.  My how things have changed in thirteen years!!!

There's one thing that hasn't changed, though - we're still laughing!!!  Sometimes, there is just nothing else to do!

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Lucky 13

Around here,  we "Spoons" tend to celebrate things in clusters.  In August we have the Birthday Blitz, in which we celebrate the birthdays of David, Rachel, and Emily.    In December, we have the Birthday/Anniversary/Christmas Bonanza.  Last friday, we celebrated Megan's Birthday.  Today David and I celebrate 13 years of matrimony.

Superstition says 13 is an unlucky number, but I would have to disagree.  In fact, I consider myself extremely lucky to have been married to my best friend for the past 13 years.  I know that sounds terribly cliche and mushy (which DW hates), but it is the simple truth.  DW is my best friend.  He is the one I turn to for advice, comfort, laughter, and just plain old conversation.

There have been a few bumps in the road over the past thirteen years.  For example, we moved 3 times in 5 years.  We have lost loved ones.  With three kids, finances are never easy.  Of course, just the act of parenting creates stress and frustration.  But through everything, our marriage has always been strong.  Although we don't see eye-to-eye on everything, we don't fight.  We communicate and compromise.

When I was getting ready to write this, I looked up some quotes about marriage and found these two that, I think, pretty much summarize our relationship:

"Don't marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you cannot live without."   - James C. Dobson 

"In a time when there is nothing more certain than change, the commitment of two people to one another has become difficult and rare.  Yet, by its scarcity, the beauty and value of the exchange have only been enhanced."   - Robert Sexton

DW - I love you!  We have had a wonderful thirteen years and I look forward to traveling through life with you for the next lucky thirteen and many more!!

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Moments Like These. . .

This morning my two older ones got into a screaming match over the T.V.  and the remote control.  I promptly ended it by taking away the kids' T.V. privileges for the rest of the day.  In an attempt to otherwise entertain themselves, I found Rachel and Emily doing this:

They set up this little tea party on the dining room floor and even included some of Emily's stuffed animals.  

I love moments like these; moments when the girls are actually playing together.  I love it when the older one "humors" the little one and the little one is sooooo happy to have her biggest sister's attention.  They may be few and far between and it may take a fight or two to realize them.  That's why they are so precious.  That's why I love moments like these.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Happy Birthday Megan!

Seven years ago today, my hubby and I made our way to the OB/GYN office for one of those routine end-of-pregnancy checkups.  Since I had just had this same appointment a week earlier and hadn't had any contractions at all, I was really hoping to skip the most uncomfortable part of the check up.  However, since I was already past my due date (by one day) the doctor wanted to do the whole shebang.  DW tried to lighten the mood by joking that maybe I would already be at 6 or 7 centimeters, which of course, we all laughed off as impossible.  The doctor did the exam and was eerily silent.  I honestly had a brief moment of panic thinking that something must be horribly wrong.  She casually walked over to the sink, de-gloved, washed her hands, and slowly turned to face us.  Then, she looked at my husband and asked "Are you psychic or something?"  Turns out I actually was dilated to about 6 centimeters.  The doctor instructed us to report to the hospital within an hour.  We made a quick trip home to grab my hospital bag and make sure our oldest was situated with my in-laws.  Then, following doctor's orders, we headed for the hospital.  (Still no contractions, mind you.)  Upon arrival, we found out that I had progressed even further.  They put me in a room and after three hours of what barely even felt like labor (thank you, epidural), we had our second beautiful baby girl; our sweet Megan Julia.

Just like the other two, Megan's arrival was a clue to her future personality.  She is full of surprises and completely unpredictable.  She is also a whirlwind of energy.  In fact, her energy sometimes frustrates and exhausts me.  However, I am indebted to one of her former teachers for keeping it in perspective for me.  When Megan was in PreK, her teacher had scheduled routine conferences.  I have always known that Megan is super smart, so I wasn't worried about that part of the conference.  I was worried, though, about her behavior because she never sits still and rarely stops talking.  I walked in, bracing myself for what I was about to hear.  Instead, her teacher greeted me with a smile and said, "I just love Megan!  She is so joyful!"  Joyful??  I had never thought of it that way, but she was right.  Megan is joyful.  She is excited about learning and always ready to try something new.  (Thanks Ms. M-J!!)  And, while her energy drives me bonkers occasionally, I also envy it.  If I had even half of her energy, I would get so much more accomplished!

We love you , Megan!  We love your energy, your quirks, your silliness, and your joyful spirit!  We wish you a happy, happy birthday today and many more in the future!!

Garrulous (I had to look this one up, but it is perfect!)
Never still

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Rachel to the Rescue

Earlier today, I was feeling rather Scrooge-ish.  There are only 20 days left until Christmas and I am way behind on my shopping.  One reason, as I wrote in a previous post, is that I had a really difficult time developing a Christmas list this year.  (Actually, it is still not totally complete.)  The second reason is time - there just never seems to be enough of it.

This morning, though, I found a window of time and decided to make a run to Toys R Us.  Now, I despise the chaos that is Toys R Us during the Christmas shopping season.  Every year I vow to never go back and every year I end up going back anyway.  This year might just really be the last.  Really.  Seriously.  I mean it.

You see, I went in for 3 specific items.  The first one was listed online before Thanksgiving for $23.99.  Being the super savvy shopper that I am (haha), I decided to wait until cyber Monday to order it online.  On Cyber Monday, it was marked up to $39.99, not on sale, AND out of stock.  The second item I was planning to buy was advertised in one of the store flyers before Thanksgiving for $39.99.  On Cyber Monday, I discovered that it is only available in the store and today I discovered that it now costs $49.99.  Refusing to give into the pricing game, I went to plan B and began searching for an item I had originally seen at Target for $12.99.  Would Toys R Us have the same item??  Yep!  I could have taken it home for a mere $25.99, but I refused again.  I left Toys R Us in a huff with ONE extremely overpriced toy and thinking about how Toys R Us (and many other stores, I'm sure) is NOT representing the true spirit of Christmas.

But then I had a thought that changed my huffy, scrooge-ish attitude.  Do you know who does have the real Christmas spirit??  My amazing Rachel.  She has not asked for one single Christmas present this year (Believe me, I've asked).  Instead, she is much more focused on giving to others.  She has agonized over how she could get a gift for everyone she loves and, over the weekend, came up with a wonderful, creative idea that everyone is sure to love.  There's even more, though.

A couple weekends ago, out of the blue, she said, "I think our whole school should collect toys for underprivileged kids."  When she gets an idea, there is no stopping that girl.  With a little help from us, she emailed her principal, made flyers, made announcements at school, and put collection boxes in all the classrooms.  So far, the school has collected about 30 toys and there are about two more weeks until her deadline.  We are going to take all the toys to a local news station that works with the Salvation Army to collect and distribute toys to children who need them.

Rachel has this naturally giving, compassionate spirit that is a gift from God and continuously amazes me.  From becoming a vegetarian to her plans for changing the world, she embodies what Christmas is really about.  So, for the next twenty days (and hopefully all the time) I am making a choice to see Christmas through her spirit.  My kids and relatives will get gifts (but they won't come from Toys R Us), and I will spend most of my energy focusing on the things that really matter.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Venting Leads to Revelation. . . And a clean playroom

Yesterday, I used my blog to vent a little and posted about how My Kids Are Slobs.  Well, today I have had a couple of revelations I wanted to share.

For starters, a friend of mine (who is also a fabulous mom) posted a story on Facebook yesterday about some words of wisdom she had received from her 5 year old daughter.  My friend (I'll call her A) made a very general request to which her daughter complied.  Her daughter didn't do it the way A would have done it, though.  Through her daughter's words, A realized that she couldn't be upset because her request was so general and the end result still worked.  (Thanks, A - you're awesome!)

The same principle applies to my kids and their chores.  I cannot expect specific result if I don't make specific requests.  Just saying "clean the playroom" or "clean your room" is not enough because, obviously, their version of clean is not the same as my version of clean.  I have to give specifics; put the books on the shelf, sort the art supplies, etc.

Here is my second revelation.  After my kids finished their chores, my oldest asked "Why do we have to do chores anyway?"  This, of course, made me realize that I had never explained the logic behind my nifty little chore chart, so I seized the opportunity and gave her the following reasons:
  1. Keeping our house clean shows that we are thankful for what we have and that we take pride in it.  For example, if you don't take care of a toy, it will probably get lost or broken.  We are very fortunate to have a nice house and nice things, so we should take care of them.
  2. Keeping things cleaned up keeps us organized.  If you need a specific toy or want a particular outfit, it is much easier to find if it is in the proper place - not on the floor covered by other toys or in a pile of laundry three feet high.
  3. It shows respect for your father and me.  We work hard to provide you with nice things and maintain a comfortable house.  When you do the chores we ask you to, it shows that you appreciate what we do and that you are willing to help out.
Want to see the end result of all these revelations?????

Cue the sparkly lights and the hallelujah chorus!

Let me finish by clarifying something, though.  Please do not get the impression that today's chores were done by happy children who whistled and skipped about as they cheerfully cleaned up.  There was plenty of complaining, whining, eye-rolling, and even some yelling.   My hope is, though, that we ALL learned a few lessons and that, if we ALL continue to practice what we have learned, it will get easier.  Maybe.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

My Kids Are Slobs

I try not to use this blog to "vent" too often, because I figure nobody wants to read that and I want this blog to be full of happy memories for my girls.  However, sometimes, venting is what I need to do.  Maybe, when my girls are reading this twenty years form now, they will have a little sympathy for all they put me through! ;-)

So here goes. . . .

MY KIDS ARE SLOBS!!!  I really don't think I'm asking that much of them.  They are 9, 7 (almost), and 4 and I don't think asking them to pick up their trash and do a few little chores around the house is unreasonable.  Apparently, they disagree.  After a lot of nagging and frustration, I finally came up with this adorable little chore chart in an effort to combat the messes.   I hoped the chart would accomplish a couple things: 1) I hoped by putting the chores on a schedule would keep me from having to nag my kids all the time.  2)  I also hoped the girls would realize that, by doing the chores regularly before they piled up and got out of hand, it really wasn't that difficult.  Basically, they get a happy face for doing their chore each day (cleaning playroom, putting away laundry, cleaning their room, wiping down their bathroom, and a day that says "help mom" so I can ask them to do whatever I need).  If they don't complete their task or if I find they have left a dirty bowl or trash behind, they get a strike.  Three strikes = an extra chore.

Well, so far, it has failed miserably.  Here's an example.  Today the chore was to clean up the playroom.  My oldest had an orthodontist appointment, so there was a limited amount of time.  I told the girls they had twenty minutes to get it done.  This was the result:

Remember - all this was AFTER they "cleaned up."  I don't want to be a nag, but I also don't want to continually clean up after my little litterbugs.  I want them to learn to take some pride in their home and to take some responsibility.  Am I expecting too much??  Is there a better way to teach them??

O.K.  I have finished venting.  Thanks for "listening" and I welcome your comments/suggestions! :)

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Disney Highlights

Two weeks ago, we returned from our first family trip to Disney!  (I say first, because we will definitely go again sometime - we just have to wait for our feet and our wallets to recover!)  I did an immense amount research and planning for this trip and it really paid off!  We had a wonderful and completely exhausting time!  Here are some of the highlights:

The girls' first flight!  They were all a little nervous, but ended up loving it!

Thanks to my hubby's travel points, we got a sweet suite at the Hilton for about 1/2 price!  Our balcony overlooked this pond where the girls liked to watch the ducks and cranes.

Lots of smiles and quality family time!

Fun rides, more smiles, and family time!

The girls actually got along with each other for the better part of  FIVE WHOLE DAYS!!!!  

Christmas Lights!!  Lots and Lots of Christmas lights!!

The Chocolate Volcano from Rainforest Cafe!  (Almost made up for the mediocre yet expensive meal!)

Character sightings!!  We were disappointed that we didn't see any princesses up close, but we sure got everyone else - Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Daisy, Chip and Dale, and some more!

Rachel finally admitted the Disney was FUN!!!!  (Although, she still won't admit that it was better than school.)

One more highlight - we got our Christmas card picture!  You will have to wait for that one, though! ;-)

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