Monday, June 29, 2009

Top 10 books on CD

One of the things I love most about summer is reading books together with my kids. When their brains are free of all of the requirements of school work and I don't have to worry about helping with homework, it seems we have more space to soak up the words on a page. Or on a CD.

The boys read from actual books... with pages... nearly everyday. A1, who is going into third grade, is really into King Arthur right now. And M2, who is going into first grade, is reading some great first readers like Mouse Soup and Little Bear.

But we also borrow stacks of audio books from our local library. I love these unabridged books on CD for several reasons. We get the benefits of a read-aloud, but I don't have to do the reading. It's fun to just absorb the words along with the kids. Often the person who reads the book has a great voice that fits the style of the book.

When I need a break, I can ask the children to go in one of their rooms together and listen to a book. It's better than watching TV!

But most of all, we can listen to books while we are in the van. It's amazing how much reading we can do on a trip to the pool and back or on our way to the library.

Our minivan seems to have a sign on the door that says, "Begin arguing now." When I open the electric door, the three kids jump in and immediately begin fighting over who will sit where. Or they get into an intense debate on which super hero is the most powerful. Or they start fighting over a red crayon or a blue marker.

I turn on the audio books and ... they have to... shhhhh....

Oh, it's beautiful.

I asked my 8-year-old to help me rank some of our favorite audio books we have listened to in the last year. It was not easy because even #10 is a big favorite. We have listened to many others that didn't make the list.

Here's our Top 10... or 11... or 12...

10. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. This is a thought-provoking story of what it would be like to have everlasting life in a world where everyone else grows old and dies. And maybe it seems like it would be cool to be 18 forever. But what if you were frozen at one age, never to grow a day older?

9. The Giants and the Joneses by Julia Donaldson. This is a really cute story about a brother and two sisters who are captured by a girl giant and taken to live as pets in giant land.

8. The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli. We just finished this one as part of our studies of medieval times we will be doing this year in third grade. A little boy shows courage, determination and true character despite his physical limitations. Plus, it's a book about knights and castles. What boy or girl doesn't love that?

7. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. A stuffed bunny rabbit gets lost from the little girl who loves him and begins an amazing journey from one owner to another. The stuffed animal learns a lot about love and appreciation through his travels. The ending had me crying with happy tears. We also listened to The Tale of Despereaux by the same author, which we loved, as well.

6. Shiloh by Phyliss Naylor. A boy, his dog, a mean neighbor and a lesson on doing the right thing. Great story.

5. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. My kids had not seen the movie or heard this story before and they found it fascinating. I'm trying to mainly list books that aren't classics, but how can I resist? I have to sneak in a few other classics favorites here: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum and Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.

4. Drift House by Dale Peck. We were all captivated by this book about a mysterious house and its powers to travel to a world that is not encumbered by time. This is another thought-provoking story about what the world would be like if time did not exist.

3. The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden. This is such a sweet story about a cricket who helps his owner by playing concerts for people in New York.

2. Poppy by Avi, along with the all of the subsequent books, Ragweed, Poppy's Return, Poppy and Ereth and Poppy and Rye. Poppy is a mouse who faces danger to stand up for the rights of her family against the bigger creatures in the woods.

1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. We actually own the full seven-book series on CD, which isn't just read, but performed with various characters. The kids have listened to all of the books dozens of times, but never get enough.

I also realized we forgot one of our favorites when we created the list, so I'll just have to cheat and put it here: The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall.

I think I loved all of these books as much as my children. So, if you are looking for a good family-friendly read, check out the audio books in the kids' section of the library.

Now, please tell me... What are your favorite books for children (either in print or on CD) and what is your favorite book that you are reading this summer? I have a few on hold at the library, but I'm always looking for suggestions.

For even more great Top Ten lists, click on over to Oh Amanda's blog!

Don't miss a post. Subscribe in a reader!

so much to say...

You might be assuming right now that the reason I haven't updated my blog in, oh, about 32 hours is because either a.) I have nothing to write about, or b.) we selected our vacation destination and have left town.

The real answer is c.) I have so darned MANY topics swirling around in my brain I can't decide which one to write about first.

I mean, I've been dying to report to you all about how my affiliation with BlogHer has far exceeded my expectations. I just need to read through my 11-page contract to determine if it's OK to mention that I have already made way more than the 32 cents a weeks I was projecting.

I also want to tell you about the staring contests that we have here on a daily basis and why they are of serious importance in our household. In fact, this might have to be my next post.

Then, there's my effort to go through this cluttered abode we lovingly call home and throw away huge bags of garbage on a daily basis. I am hoping that I will uncover an extra bedroom I did not know existed. At the least, I have to find a spot somewhere in our three-bedroom house for one more child.

Oh, and then there's the space I must uncover for the most unbelievable homeschooling hotspot in northern Illinois. (Please keep in mind that I have a lot of experience in direct sales. And rule No. 1 is that when someone asks how your business is going, you reply, "Unbelievable!" because good or bad, that answer is always true. So, there you go. Now, you also are ready for a career in direct sales.)

And I can't even believe that I haven't mentioned yet the elaborate techniques I have developed to avoid being hit in the head by the birds that scream at me during my morning walks. They can taunt me, but I won't be swayed. I am going to keep walking until my joints start to separate and I can't make it more than a quarter mile without a bathroom break.

Plus I have book reviews, give-aways and travel updates to reveal.

So, let me ask you, dear bloggy people, which of these UNBELIEVABLE topics do you think I should address first? Or maybe you have an issue of your own you would like to discuss? Please let me know, because, really, it's not all about me here.

Don't miss a post. Subscribe in a reader!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Vacation all I ever wanted, Vacation got to get away...

A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law asked us if the kids could come and stay with them for a few days in Cincinnati. The plan was to meet half way, and she would take the kids to her house for four days.

Well, since my husband and I get away by ourselves about once every 12 years or less, we decided to seize the opportunity to run like the wind in the opposite direction and watch movies and eat prime rib for four days in a row.

Since we settled on a date for the kid exchange, Kent and I have been spending every evening studying a map of the United States and searching the Internet for the best place to go for three nights somewhere between Chicago and Cincinnati.

My high school buddy and Main Street dragging co-pilot, Lynn, gave us the awesome idea to go to French Lick, Indiana. It's perfect in many ways. Great location. Looks amazing and plenty of things to do.

But then we started admitting to ourselves that we didn't plan a big family vacation this summer to save some money. So, maybe spending $250 a night at a resort wasn't our best option. We also are meeting some family in southern Indiana only a few weeks later so we would be visiting many of the same destinations then.

We started looking at Plan B. We could drop off the kids around Lafayette, Indiana, and then drive straight north to the beachy towns of southern Michigan. We love going to St. Joseph, Michigan, in the summer, but haven't explored the towns north of there. We could hang out on the beach, shop, and visit the fruit farms and chocolate shops.

Then we found out that we might need to drive the kids closer to Cincinnati than we first thought. So, the drive back north might be a little long.

Now, we're looking into Plan C. Nashville.

I have always wanted to go to Nashville. It seems like we could find tons of fun places to visit. Our only hesitation is that it is about 8 hours total from Chicago, so a little farther than we had planned for our three-night, four-day getaway.

What would you do? Has anyone visited any of these places? Do you have strong feelings that one is SO worth the drive or the extra expense that we shouldn't miss our chance to visit?

Or do you know of any other hot spots in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky or Tennessee (yes... Cincinnati is on the border of lots of states) that we should consider? The location has to be great for a girl whose mind runs at about 110 mph and wants to visit some interesting places, but whose body (due advanced maternal age) moves at about 2 mph.

I know you are probably busy planning your own summer get-aways, but I would love to hear any input!

Don't miss a post. Subscribe in a reader!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Showin' how funky strong is your fight, it doesn't matter who's wrong or right

I was 14 years old the evening I waited impatiently until 10:30 p.m. for Friday Night Videos to finally come on TV. Like so many of my friends, sitting in their own homes on that Friday night, I wasn't going to miss the World Premiere Video of Michael Jackson's Thriller.

It could be that my memories are blending together, but it seems that we had to wait through dozens of lesser songs and even more commercials before they finally aired the much-hyped video, featuring the pop icon singing in a cemetery among his entourage of dancing mummies.

It's one of those shared experiences in life that draws us together. Even if we didn't know each other then, those of us born within a certain span of years remember where we were, what we were doing and how we felt during that time of our lives.

We can recall those growing up years when our parents wouldn't possibly spring for cable so we could watch videos on MTV. We can still recite every word of Thriller or Beat It. And what good child of the 80s wasn't mesmerized by Michael's moon walk during his performance of Billie Jean?

I've been thinking a lot today about Michael Jackson and why so many people from my generation are so sad that his life ended so unexpectedly and so early.

It definitely feels like a part of our childhood or teen-age years officially ended with the death of the pop superstar who provided the soundtrack for our growing-up years.

I'm also mourning the fact that such an amazingly talented person is no longer with us on the planet. I loved Michael even when it wasn't cool to listen to his music anymore. I also loved Janet, and remember the brother and sister as the background music of my teen years dragging Main in my Camaro.

But I think I also feel some guilt about Michael's passing. Maybe I didn't appreciate him enough. Like so many others, I couldn't bear to look at his ever-disappearing nose or his gloved hand or his lightening skin as he seemed to descend into a whirlpool of craziness.

I wanted to look away when he was accused of molestation and he started hanging around with a monkey. Even then, it seemed the Michael we loved had been taken from us.

Perhaps I feel a little responsible that we, the American public, seem to create such monsters from our child stars. Why do they feel we will only love them if they remain young and beautiful and produce chart-topping hits.

Why did Michael, like Farah Fawcett, feel he had to go to such extreme measure to try to maintain his physical appearance? Can't wrinkles and grey hair be more beautiful than faces distorted by plastic surgery?

I guess I want today's teens and young adults to appreciate "our" Michael for who he was before all of that. I'm sure the Brittney Spears-Miley Cyrus loving generation will download a record number of copies of the Thriller album and recognize his greatness, possibly giving Michael the comeback he was seeking.

If only we could give him what he never seemed to have: happiness.

From an outsider's perspective, Michael's life seemed so tormented. I wish we could take that sweet, cute little boy belting out ABC 123 and put him in a bottle to preserve forever. Instead, with his personal amusement park and reclusive lifestyle, he seemed to live his life trying to regain the childhood he probably never had.

Michael seemed to truly desire to dispense happiness and joy to people during his public performances. And even amid all of the negative publicity, you wanted to believe he was still that sweet little boy inside.

I guess the hardest thing about saying good-bye to Michael, as well as Farrah, is simply the realization that they were mere mortals... despite their talent, their beauty, their outward perfection. We looked to them to entertain us, to dazzle us, to make us feel good inside.

But they lived in human bodies. With hearts that fail. That can't escape cancer. And like every other person on the planet, their human achievements couldn't save them.

I'll miss you, Michael. Thanks for the memories!

Don't miss a post. Subscribe in a reader!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

when i grow up i want to be just like my 4-year-old daughter

For the past two weeks, my kids have had swimming lessons four days a week at the local pool.

I have been amazed each day to watch my 4-year-old daughter in action. Oh, she’s good at swimming. But I’m more impressed by my little social butterfly’s ability to make friends.

When it’s time to get in the pool, she scans the area for another girl who seems to be within two years of her age or two feet of her size. She approaches the girl and asks her if she would like to learn how to “dive” in the pool like she does. Or maybe the girl would like to learn how to do an underwater somersault. Perhaps they could toss rings under water and swim down to reach them, she suggests.

After about 15 minutes, my daughter reports back to me that she has made a new friend and she lets me know the girl’s name. Another 15 minutes pass, and she comes over to let me know the new girl has invited her to her birthday party. Or maybe we could schedule a playdate.

I’ve noticed that my daughter always finds out the child’s name and then shouts greetings to her from wherever we are in the pool. “Hi, Abby!”, “Hello, Olivia!”, "See you later, Emma!"

After two weeks of watching my daughter meet new friends, the boys and I have started to feel like she is the princess sitting on top of a parade float while we are the people who walk alongside. She smiles and waves and calls out to her adoring fans as we make our way through the different parts of the aquatic park. She seems to have met half of the girls her age.

Watching my daughter has really made me think about how I interact with people in these settings.

I love to hang out with friends at the pool, and I can chat all day with someone I know. But on days when we haven’t arranged to meet friends, I usually sit quietly by myself. I hide behind a book or just sit in the water.

Why don’t I ever strike up a conversation with another mom I don't know? This week, I decided to give it a try. I have been scanning the pool for someone who looks like she might like to talk to a complete stranger. But then I start prejudging.

“She looks so perfect,” I think. “She’ll think I’m weird.”

“She looks like she has a million friends.”

“I don’t think she would want to talk to me.”

I have gathered up my nerve a few times to ask a question. “How old is your daughter?” Or, “Is this your sand bucket?” But then the conversation seems to end. I give up and decide it’s easier to be quiet and read a book.

Well, I had composed this post in my mind a few days ago, and I was going to end it here. I was planning to finish with a funny line about how I hope I can be just like my 4-year-old when I grow up.

But I have been trying the past two weeks to strike up a conversation with another mom from my daughter’s swimming class. This little girl has become one of my daughter’s many new “best friends” from our pool time.

We always say our "hellos", but she usually is busy with her younger son. She just didn’t seem like she really wanted to chat.

All week, I have had this nagging feeling that I should talk to her. “I BET you have more in common than you would ever guess!” this little voice kept telling me.

Today, the other mom asked me if my two boys, who are 8 and 6, are twins.

“No,” I laughed. “But a lot of people do ask me that.”

We started talking about our daughters. Then about schools in the area. Our conversation turned to talk of private school and Christian school and home schooling. She even attended the same home schooling conference I did a few weeks ago!

We couldn’t believe how much we had in common as we talked furiously throughout the 35-minute class.

We even got into a discussion about churches, and I found out that she really wants to attend church, but hasn’t found a good fit for her family. So, I invited her to stop by our church. And she said she WOULD! She actually seemed super excited.

Well, I wanted to ask her to be my best friend... And invite her to dinner... And maybe a movie... And then maybe her whole family could come for dinner... And who knows, maybe we could go camping together... And, and, and... maybe she could even come to my next birthday party... =]

But I decided I better not skip too far ahead with the first new friend I’ve made at the pool this summer.

I’m definitely not on par with my 4-year-old just yet. But I’m glad I listened to that small nagging voice and stepped outside of my comfort zone today.

How about you? Do you find it easy to meet new people? Or would you rather dive into a book than a conversation?

Don't miss a post. Subscribe in a reader!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

WFMW: my shopping list

I've been having fun submitting posts lately to Works For Me Wednesday, sponsored by We are THAT Family! I also get great ideas from the other posts over on Kristen's blog.

Today, the tip that works for me is sooooo simple! It's my printable grocery shopping list.

I made up a list of everything I buy at the grocery store on a regular basis. I organized it by section of the store in the order that I walk through the store. I keep several of these printed out and I hang them with a magnet on the side of my fridge.

Each week, I can go through the list and highlight or circle whatever I need that week. It also helps my husband if he ends up being the grocery shopper because the list is organized so he can find things.

The shopping list is part of my everydayMOM planner. And, by the way, I will be seeking your input on the colors and format of my 2010 planner very soon!

If you would like me to e-mail you a free copy of my shopping list along with a blank copy you can fill in with your own list, just leave me a comment with your e-mail... or leave me a comment and then send me your e-mail: emilyneal at comcast dot net.

Do you have a tip that makes grocery shopping easier?? I would love to hear about any system that works for you!

Check out my past WFMW posts:
making laundry less of a chore
creating chore charts for kids

Don't miss a post. Subscribe in a reader!

Monday, June 22, 2009

top 10 reasons I like camping

I hope I didn't keep you hanging on the edge of your seats with anticipation wondering IF we survived the tornado, IF the firefighters really did chop down the door to Room 101 and IF we really did enjoy our hot cocoa.

For those who read my post yesterday, here is the rest of the story.

We weren't sure whether it was really necessary to abandon our campsite to avoid the impending storm. But my in-laws had already reserved their room at the brand new Holiday Inn Express right down the road, so it made perfect sense to wait out the storm there.

The weather reports now were calling for possible tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in the area until 2 a.m. So, we conceded to the weather and reserved our own room.

I was ashamed of myself for how quickly I could forget about our little blue tent and our firepit just a few miles away. The air conditioning in the hotel lobby felt unusually crisp and cool. A waterfall separating the lobby from the neat and clean breakfast area started lulling me with its soothing sounds.

Maybe my 8-year-old has been telling me too many stories of Greek mythology, but the hotel goddesses seemed to be taunting me: "king-sized beds," "fluffy pillows," "hot showers," "continental breakfast," "HDTV."

"NOoooooo," I screamed silently, trying to focus instead on our tent so alone and afraid all by itself in the middle of the pouring rain. I might even have questioned for a minute or two why I had EVER thought camping was a good idea when the Holiday Inn Corporation had created such a clean environment in which to spend the night. We didn't even need bug spray.

What was I thinking?!? Wasn't THIS the American Dream?

But the next morning, we went back to our camp site and found that our beautiful blue tent had survived the pounding rain and wind. And once I was no where near the Siren Song of scrambled eggs and granite counter tops, I remembered that I do like camping after all.

Heck. The Holiday Inn really is over-rated. Who needs a king-sized bed with stark white sheets and a hot shower when she can rest in a sleeping bag and eat hot dogs for dinner?

So, here are my top 10 reasons I like camping:

1. Spur-of-the-moment trips. We aren't rugged campers. We usually stay at a KOA campground with a pool. And showers. So, we can visit new areas on the cheap without totally roughing it.

2. No phone. No voice mail. No mail.
And e-mail only if I want it. (A lot of camp sites have Wi-Fi.)

3. Hiking and enjoying the outdoors.
We try to pick camping locations that are near a state park, forest or beach.

4. Watching my kids explore the campground like it is a great new adventure. We have had the chance to travel to lots of destinations, ranging from Super 8s to luxury hotels. Camping gives our family another perspective on travel and the chance to create some great family memories.

5. Sleeping on the air mattress in our tent.
Honest. I think it's cozy.

6. Listening to the birds chirp in the early morning.

7. Making S'mores by the campfire.

8. Sitting around the fire doing nothing.

9. Catching fireflies.

10. Waking up in the morning after a big storm and seeing the sun shine again.
It's a great reminder that "His mercies are new every morning."

So, what about you? What's your favorite part about camping? Do you love it? Or would you do anything to avoid it? I really want to know!

I'm linking up to oh amanda's Top Ten Tuesday today. For more great Top Ten's, check out her blog!

Don't miss a post. Subscribe in a reader!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

tornadoes and fires and hot cocoa... oh my!

Since we started our family camping adventures three years ago, we have developed a teeny tiny bit of a history of camping in the rain. Often heavy rain. With thunder.

And that is why we carefully checked the weather report before making up our minds to go camping this weekend. The weather in our area said we should expect clear skies all weekend. We also checked to the north, south and east for the best conditions.

We finally decided that heading southeast into Indiana would be our best bet. By the time we made our reservations on Thursday, the weather report had shifted slightly and was now calling for a 30 percent chance of rain in that area.

Now 30 percent? Does that mean that a.) it will rain 30 percent of the time? Or does it mean that b.) if it does rain, it will be with 30 percent of the intensity of a heavy storm? Or does it mean c.) that it most likely won't rain, but if it does, it's going to rain like there's no tomorrow?

We took it to mean we had a 70 percent chance that it wouldn't rain.

In fact, the answer was c. Or better still, the answer was d.) The weather man has no clue what he's talking about. The sky is going to open up and pour buckets of water and if you are even thinking of going camping you better reconsider because you have zero chance of survival.

Fortunately, we didn't know about option d.

The kids and I were so anxious to begin our camping adventure that we decided to head out early on Friday instead of waiting all day for Kent to finish his day at work.

The children and I made it to the campground by mid-afternoon and immediately got to work setting up our tent. This was a joyous and happy experience during which everyone worked together and cooperated like seasoned Eagle Scout graduates, merrily humming "Hi Ho, Hi Ho" in perfect harmony. Or, at least, that's how I am choosing to remember it.

If you had been standing nearby, you might have heard just an occasional outburst along the lines of:

"No one in this family is going to be Count Douku until we put this tent up. Now put your light saber back in the car!"

By the time my prego self and the three little Jedi had improved our team-working skills and set up the tent, Kent's parents had arrived. They live about three hours south of where we were camping and decided to join us for the weekend. They had already set up their camp site a mile north at the brand new Holiday Inn Express.

I tried to look calm and happy as I wiped the sweat from my forehead.

Thankfully, Kent's parents helped entertain the children after the long car ride and tent building experience by taking them down to the KOA pool while I continued to work on setting up the camp. I got out the Coleman stove and starting making my world famous pasta with Ragu sauce for dinner.

While I was draining the pasta by propping the burning hot pan on the side of a tree root, trying not to dump all 16 ounces on the ground, we got a call from my husband.

I should mention at this point that my husband is like a mix of Dale Earnhardt and a Storm Chaser when it comes to his driving skills. He doesn't let anything slow him down. He doesn't stop for tornadoes, sleet, hail, blizzards, high winds or sun glare.

Until now.

He called to let us know he had pulled over 30 miles west of us because the hail and high winds were so severe that he couldn't see the road.

Kent? Pulled over? 30 miles? Are you sure it wasn't a prank caller?

The skies overhead were indeed cloudy. So I slopped the pasta on the plates, encouraging the children to eat quickly as I grabbed all of the supplies I had just unloaded and threw them back into the minivan.

I grabbed my plate of pasta and we headed for the Holiday Inn Express, just as it started to rain.

By the time we got inside, the rain was coming in sheets.

Thankfully, my husband made it to the hotel before the tornado sirens started to sound. We rode the elevator down to the first floor and took our places sitting in the hallway along with all of the other hotel guests and former campers.

After a while, the boredom set in. People went from watching the weather on the big flat screen TV, to walking outside to look for funnel clouds to sitting on the floor in the hallway.

That's when a piercing sound started ringing through the hallways. The fire alarm.

I was trying to remember what they had taught us in grade school:

Fire alarm: go outside.
Tornado drill: sit in the hallway with hands over your head.

But what about tornado siren outside and fire alarm inside? What then?

We all decided the fire alarm must have been caused by the electricity in the air, and the tornado siren finally stopped. So, we all went outside to watch as the fire trucks arrived. Now, the show was getting good.

We found some front-row seats on the big cushy couch in the hotel lobby and gawked as two, then four, then six, then eight firefighters, all dressed like they had come to extinguish a blazing inferno paraded into the Holiday Inn. They all wore oxygen tanks on the backs of their heavy grey suits. And several carried very large axes.

"I NEED THE KEY TO ROOM 101!" the young hotel clerk informed her co-worker. She seemed to be just as anxious as we all were that they were going to USE those axes despite the lack of any sign whatsoever of smoke, heat or flame.

After about 15 minutes, we started getting tired of spying on the firefighters, so we thought we should take advantage of the fully-stocked continental breakfast area and make some hot chocolate. I had some packets of hot cocoa in the car, but it was raining sheets, so my husband didn't want to run out and get them.

My ever-so-helpful mother-in-law immediately sprang into action, asking the hotel clerk to unlock the supply cabinets and get us some hot chocolate mix. The clerk was a little pre-occupied what with all of the sirens, emergency workers, storm clouds, and the guests milling about, but she acted like she could see the urgency in our request. After several inquiries, she finally informed us that she didn't have the key for that particular cabinet. Whatever.

So, we went to the car and got our own hot chocolate. I had dispensed it into the cups when I realized the hot water machine was empty. Now what? I wasn't about to go bug that clerk again. Never fear.

My husband took a cup and made several trips back and forth down the hallway, dodging firefighters and their axes, avoiding families with crying babies and bringing us ice to put in the water-heating machine. Let me tell you. That thing can turn ice into boiling hot water in a matter of minutes.

And that brings me to the moral of the story. If you are ever caught in a tornado or a fire and you need some hot chocolate to calm your nerves, make sure you stay in a hotel with one of those super fast water-heating machines. Otherwise, you could be in trouble.

Don't miss a post. Subscribe in a reader!

Friday, June 19, 2009

so unimportant

Yea! Sarah tagged me... or did she? She tagged "anyone" named Emily, so that includes me! =]

The Rules:
* List Six Unimportant Things That Make You Happy
* Mention and link to the person who tagged you
* Tag six of your favorite bloggers to play along

1. Being included.
2. Sleeping all night. (I wrote this at 4 a.m.... insomnia.)
3. Drinking hot tea with sugar.
4. Comments on my blog. (No pressure! =])
5. Cute clothes that fit.
6. A kitchen stocked with groceries.

Let's see, I'm going to tag these non-bloggers to write their six unimportant things in the comments field: Lynn, Laurel, Michele, Amy and YOU.


A Musing Mom
Marsha and

Don't miss a post. Subscribe in a reader!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

random thursday thoughts

1. I just want you all to know that I go through each day with the same thoughts in my head:

I'm not going to update my blog today. Nope. Won't do it. I'm not gonna do it. Seriously. How much of your rambling can people really read? Today, I will keep all of my thoughts safely confined inside my head. Not gonna let 'em out. No. I. will. not. They are staying in the head.

Well... maybe I could write down just one thing. Only three paragraphs, though. Not another 1,200 word post. Nope. Gonna be short. Keeping it all inside today. Quiet. Shhh.

I think you can guess who keeps winning this battle.

2. Ummm. So, thank you for coming by. I was just wondering who you are. I see people on my stats everyday who never say a peep. Just wanted to say, "Hi!". I wish you ALL had a blog so I could read the random thoughts going through your head.

3. We're getting used to our new life here in Seattle. I might have only mentioned it 52 times, but it has rained here everyday for two dozen or more days. (Not scientific fact, just based on observation.) We're starting to actually like it.

We have gone to the pool everyday this week, despite the thunderstorms, 74 degree temps and black skies. We were cracking up yesterday. The sky was thick with dark clouds, but it wasn't supposed to rain. The pool was PACKED! The water is heated to about... I don't know... 80 degrees, so it was warmer in the water than outside.

People didn't care. They were pouring into the pool. It was like everyone had just given up on waiting for a sunny day and they were going swimming anyway.

Oh, I'm sorry. I don't REALLY live in Seattle. Because I guess it hasn't rained for 29 DAYS in Seattle! Nope. This is the Midwest. And we are used to crazy weather. We are used to snow storms. Traffic jams. Ice storms. Tornadoes. And we don't care if it rains for 24 days in a row. We're going to the pool!

4. Actually, I think I'm going to miss the cool, rainy days when they finally go away next week. We've been getting lots done indoors and reading tons of books. Our most recent favorite is "A Cricket in Times Square."

5. The kids went with me to my doctor's appointment this week so they could hear the baby's heartbeat. They were squealing and giggling with delight... Speaking of the kids, I have to write down the story of their reaction when we told them we were having a baby. It was priceless.

6. I'm trying not to write about being pregnant every second. But on Thursdays, I get to mark off another week. This week, I hit #15. The cravings aren't as bad. I still want to eat Mexican food almost everyday, but I think that was the case before. Now, it's more a matter of: "If I don't get some guacamole in the next 20 minutes, someone's gonna pay!"

Thank you to the ladies who went out to dinner with me last night. Just finished my leftovers. Yum! I also would like some PF Chang's, so give me a call if you are looking to go out to dinner. =]

7. And speaking of dinner, I'm going to make lasagna. Mmmmm. It's going to be so good.

8. Finally, my tummy is starting to puff out. It's hard to tell if you don't know me that well. Here's the pic. As you can see, I carry most of my baby weight in my arms and legs. It's kind of a new "cool" thing in pregnancy. Maybe it only affects those of us in, um, our advanced maternal age.

I know what you're going to say about the tummy... "You can't even see it."

Trust me. It's there. Here's a close-up.

See? If nothing else, we can consider that the "before" shot.

9. Now... should I hit publish? Hmmmm. Oh, what the heck.

Related posts you might like:
the midwife
advanced maternal age

Don't miss a post. Subscribe in a reader!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

WFMW: making laundry less of a chore

With five people in our family, it seems like laundry is pretty much the story of my life.

We have been using this system at our house the past few years so everyone can help make the process easier.

1. We have six BROWN laundry baskets, one for each person in the family and one for towels. Everyone in the family puts his or her laundry in his or her brown basket each day.

2. When a basket is full, I throw it in the washing machine. Shhhh.... Sometimes I don't even sort out the whites. Or, if I do sort, I wash that person's colors, then the whites in a row.

3. That way, all of that person's clean clothes can go together in his or her WHITE laundry basket. This way, I don't have to sort laundry on either end.

4. I try to wash, dry, fold and put away one basket of laundry each day. But, let's face it. It usually doesn't happen that way. At least each person in the family can find clean clothes -- in his or her WHITE basket!

5. This system also makes it easier for the kids to help put away the laundry. They can take their baskets and sort the underwear, socks, shorts, t-shirts and PJs. Even really young children can make a pile of underwear and at least put those away.

6. If all of my white baskets are all full of clean clothes, it forces me to catch up on folding the laundry. Otherwise, I won't have anywhere to put the next batch of clean clothes!

Hey, it's an easy system. But it Works for Me! Check out more great tips at Works for Me Wednesday.

Do you have any suggestions for making laundry easier at your house?

Related posts you might like:

paying for compliments

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

dad at the pool

I am figuring that over the 12 weeks of summer, I will take my children to the pool at least 24 times.

During that time, I would estimate that my time spent in the water will be approximately a 50:50 ratio to time spent sitting by the side in a lounge chair. I am starting to plan my time in the lounge chair with great anticipation.

I have seen the other moms sitting there year after year, and I have wondered how they got there. And how they were able to sit there so peacefully.

Now, I'm starting to understand.

This is the first summer that all three of my children, at the ages of 8, 6 and 4, have grown tall enough to keep their heads above water in the main section of the public swimming pool.

I carried them at the pool when they were babies. I sat with them in the zero depth area. I waited patiently while they attended swimming lessons. I cooked them meals and gave them glasses of milk to help them grow. And finally, they can swim safely while I lounge by the side of the pool.

Don't worry. I still watch them. But I no longer have to stay within an arm's length at all times.

I feel that I have earned my spot in the chair.

My husband on the other hand only gets to go to the pool with us about five times during the summer. It's not his fault. He has a long commute, and the pool just isn't as fun when the sun is setting.

But his ratio of time spent in the pool to time spent sitting by the side of the pool is about 100:0. As soon as he arrives, he pulls off his shirt and jumps into the middle of the splashing children.

The children descend upon him like he is a piece of watermelon in the middle of an ant colony. They hang on his back and his arms. They crawl all over him.

He tosses them in the air. They squeal. They ride his back as he dives under the water.

When I get in the pool, the children also react with glee. They smile. They laugh.

And they even cooperate when I initiate one of my super fun Mom pool activities.

"Who wants to practice their back float?!" I ask enthusiastically.

Or, "I have an idea! Let's practice the 'blast off' that you learned in swimming class!"

Fortunately, they aren't old enough yet to be completely annoyed or embarrassed by me. And they are happy I am wet. So, they play along.

I was thinking tonight as I watched my husband play with the children in the pool that I could step up my efforts to be more fun in the water.

But then I did the math. And I figured that over the course of the summer, I probably clock just as many minutes of time in the water playing with the kids. I just need to spread mine out. I don't want to overdo it all in one pool trip. Nope. I need a little break to sit back in my lounge chair.

And besides, if I was more fun in the pool, it wouldn't be fair to my husband. The kids wouldn't be half as excited when he jumps in!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

not as cute as i used to be

Dear Bloggy Readers,

I have to apologize for the decline in cuteness on my blog today. I'm also a bit fatter than I used to be. And then I added horizontal stripes on both sides. That is certainly not helping to slim the look of my expanding blog.

I'm trying to come up with a good explanation.

Basically, I can't hide it. I decided to run that ad you see on the side. Why? I figured if someone wants to pay me to do what I'm doing anyway that I should at least give it a try and see what happens. (Please. Please. Don't hate me and leave forever. Please?!?)

So, I had to do some re-arranging to make room. I miss my old layout, so I'm sure this will only be one in a series of re-designs before it's done.

Back to the ad thing. I noticed all the cool bloggers were doing it, and I've had a life-long struggle with wanting to be part of the in crowd. So, a few months ago I clicked on the BlogHer site to see how the whole thing worked. They said they weren't accepting new applicants to run ads, but they would put me on a waiting list. (Whew! That made that an easy decision.)

Well, last week, they sent me an e-mail saying they had moved me off the waiting list and onto the list of real live bloggers who run ads on their sites.

At first I thought it was a hoax because they used the word "wonderful" to describe me. But since my love language is words of affirmation, I wrote back and said I would run as many ads as they wanted as long as they kept sending me compliments. (I'm quite positive I'm the ONLY blogger in the world who has ever received such a wonderful e-mail personally signed, "the BlogHer Ad Team").

The good thing is that their ads aren't triggered by keywords in one's posts. So, at least I won't be tempted to give my children the pseudonyms "Dorito", "iPhone", and "Coke" to get more desirable ads to pop up. Oh, you laugh. But these are just the type of ridiculous thoughts that keep me awake at night.

And besides, I have a real business plan here. I'm thinking I could probably earn at least 32 cents a week with that ad from all the traffic I get here on a daily basis. And by the end of the year, that comes up to $16.64.

Hey, we could probably go out for ice cream with that kind of income! And these days... a little ice cream is just what I need to add to my real-life expanding waist line.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

sharing our secrets

Wow! I just had such a cool morning that I wanted to try to share a little of it here.

My friend, Lara, and I are about to finish up our first year of co-leading the women's ministry at our church. This was the first year that our small church has had a specific, organized effort aimed just at women, so we pretty much had an open path to decide what to do.

We have planned several events throughout this first year, but this morning's was really amazing in so many ways.

In our church, as in so many other places, a lot of families are facing tough times. People have been out of work for a year or more. We have lots and lots of new moms trying to figure out how to balance their time and spending. Plus, who HASN'T been affected by the slump in the economy.

So, we decided to put together a very practical mini conference on ideas to not only survive, but to thrive, in these tough economic times.

It was really amazing, actually to see how it all came together. Because it was so obvious that GOD really was working behind the scenes.

I mean it even started with our theme. We came up with the acronym SOS for Sharing Our Secrets since we would have six different women speak on their passion in this area.

As women, of course we love a theme. And we couldn't believe how by this morning, we were able to incorporate nautical terms into the names of each talk: "Help! I'm Sinking!", "We're All in the Same Boat", "Not Getting Caught in the Undertow" (those were just a few).

We came up with cute life preserver stickers for our folders and nametags and even found paper in matching colors with a lighthouse background.

Even better, with a workshop on this particular topic, we were determined to make it free. And it was amazing how we were able to pull everything together for basically NO expense. The women in attendance contributed a yummy spread of breakfast foods, and we used our own computers and printers to add the design elements to spruce up our handouts. We could tell that God had a hand in even the tiny details of taking this event from blah to cool and cute!

Our six speakers covered a variety of topics, all related to the theme. But they all came from different perspectives, varying stages in life and had a unique story to tell.

I was struck by each one. Kara talked about how her small group has been convicted to share what they have with each other. Their stuff. Their extra groceries. Their time. And even their talents (like being able to build a fence or style hair!).

Cheryl shared how she has been convicted to stop spending money on herself for an entire year. It was amazing to hear how God has provided for her specific needs in this area in ways she would have never expected.

Lara is our resident grocery shopping expert. She gave us amazing tips on how she combines coupons and the sales at grocery stores to come away with a shopping cart full of food that is nearly free. Wow!

Emily S. shared her mom's secrets of stretching food to make lots of meals from one type of meat and how to use ammonia, vinegar and baking soda to clean almost anything.

And Julie told us some amazing stories about how her family had been blessed by "giving dangerously" even when times were tough. As the mother of a son with some serious medical needs, she also has learned to humbly receive help from others, which is probably just as difficult as giving!

I came away from the morning with a new perspective on how I use my resources. Just because I have enough money to buy myself something, doesn't mean I should. And just because I can get my groceries for a decent price at Meijer might not mean I'm being the wisest steward of my money if I could become more of a "stealth" shopper. I need to think more about sharing. And giving. And shopping to help others, not just myself.

I have lots of thoughts swirling in my head, so I will be thinking about how to apply just one to my life right away. If you attended this morning, I would love to hear your reaction.

And if you didn't, let me know your thoughts in this area of spending, sharing and giving!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

s'mores galore

We got together with some friends today to celebrate another cold, rainy June day in the midwest. I decided to cook my oldest son's favorites for our lunch.

These are two simple recipes that my kids and most of their friends love! (My friend's kids were actually asking me to give their mom the recipe, so here you go!)

Bow tie pasta with chicken and bacon

Da-da-da... None other than:

Bow tie pasta (one box)
Chicken (two cooked chicken breasts, cut into small pieces)
Bacon (one pound, cooked cripsy, cut into small pieces)

I toss this together with olive oil and serve it just like that for the kids.

Then, for the adults, I add basil, chopped tomatoes and top with Parmesan cheese (feta would probably be really good, too!).

For dessert, S'mores Galore:

Oops! I forgot to take a picture until we had eaten half of them.

This is a great way to make S'mores without a fire. I love taking these to cook-outs in the summer. And everyone seems to love them!

20 whole graham crackers
6 Hershey bars
16 ounce bag of mini marshmallows
6 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons milk

Arrange about 12 graham crackers in a single layer on a large bar pan. Toast in the oven for 2 minutes at 350 degrees.

Combine three cups of marshmallows, three tablespoons butter and three tablespoons milk. (Isn't that easy to remember? 3-3-3.) Microwave for one minute. Stir until smooth.

Now add... guess how many?... yup! THREE Hershey bars. Mix until melted.

Spread the chocolatey goo on top of the graham crackers.

Melt another 3 tablespoons of butter. Coarsely chop about eight more graham crackers and toss with the butter. Add the remainder of a 16-ounce bag of marshmallows. Coarsely chop three more Hershey bars. Toss it all together.

Spread mixture on top of chocolatey goo. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 350.


Now go try it! You can thank me later.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

the midwife

When I was pregnant with our first child nine years ago, I assumed that anyone who had completed at least one year of medical school could probably deliver a baby.

I mean you see it all the time on TV. People have babies in the subway, in taxi cabs, on the sidewalk, in the woods. Some stranger who is walking by stops to help, and Mom and baby are fine.

So, I opened the book of HMO docs and randomly chose the female OB with the most normal-sounding name. I was really happy when at 41 weeks they sent me to the hospital, and I found out that my favorite of the four doctors who were part of that practice was the one on call.

But 24 hours later, I would wake up from a drug-induced sleep to the startling reality that delivering a baby isn't as simple as it sounds. Sometimes things go wrong. And sometimes, once things start going wrong, everything seems to go wrong.

I found out that delivering a baby can be highly risky to a mom and her newborn. The baby doesn't always want to move down that dark tunnel called the birth canal. And then it's no longer a matter of catching a baby, it's a surgical procedure.

And I found out that not all anesthesiologists are created equal, either. Most are probably trained to make sure the patient is completely numb BEFORE the doctor starts a C-Section. And I found out that it's even possibly to slice vital organs while performing what sounds like a simple surgery.

So, when God blessed us with our second child, I no longer cared about nice sounding names, pretty maternity suites that served cookies before bed or the gender of my doctor. Nope. A friend recommended her doctor who she described as "nearly a plastic surgeon" when it came to performing C-sections.

Thankfully, this older male doctor came equipped with a delightful sidekick. A midwife.

Doris, the midwife, was perfect in every way. She listened when a hormonal prego woman suddenly burst into tears. She would hold your hands and pray for you at each visit. She was there every step of the way, even if your baby was coming out "the sunroof", as she described it.

Doris was a cute, blonde, runner in her mid 30s when I met her. She didn't get married herself and have her first child until she was close to 40. And over the years, I have thought many times about some of the last words she said to me after I had my third child, my daughter, at the age of 36.

Doris asked me if we planned to have any more children. "I'm just too old," I said. Even then, I was labeled as "high-risk" and sent for Level 2 ultrasounds to make sure everything was going OK.

"You are not even CLOSE to being too old," Doris reassured me. In fact, Doris reassured me about everything all of the time.

"You can do it."

"It's going to be fine."

Those are the kind of words you expected to hear from Doris.

In the years since I had my daughter, Doris got married and moved away and started her own family. The older doctor who delivered my second son retired and was replaced by a younger doctor. And he hired a new midwife, who I will call B.

This younger doctor doesn't have the best bedside manner. I always feel nervous when I talk to him. I don't know why.

But for my third C-section, he cut an incision and sewed it up so beautifully that four years later, my scar is nearly invisible. What he lacks in personality, he makes up for in skill with a sharp instrument and sewing utensils. And I learned the hard way, that when you are having a C-section, a good surgeon is far more important than a nice personality.

So, when I found out I was pregnant, I called his office to make an appointment with B, the midwife. I told the receptionist I thought I was pregnant and gave her my birthdate: 4-21-69.

I assumed she would sound some sort of alarm and request that I come in for an exam immediately. Surely, she would put it all together that I was only a few weeks short of 40 and see the urgency in my case.

"B is in your local office on Tuesdays. Her next opening is in two weeks. How about April 21st?"

You want me to wait two weeks? April 21st? I gave it a moment's thought. I really didn't want to wait THREE weeks until the following Tuesday. My 40th birthday. How ironic.

Couldn't I come in just one day earlier. When I was still in my 30s?

So, there I sat in the waiting room for my 5 p.m. appointment on my 40th birthday.

I tried to keep my head low so the pregnant women sitting elbow-to-elbow in the crowded waiting room wouldn't notice me.

I don't know what I was thinking. I guess I was afraid that someone would see my fine lines and wrinkles and make an announcement to the packed room.

"What is SHE doing here?"

I buried my nose in my book, but I couldn't get myself to read a single word.

Finally, the nurse called me back. "Um. We don't have an exam room available yet, but since you have been a patient here for such a long time, we wanted you to come on back and give us a urine sample. You can just wait back here until the next room opens up."

Whew! I escaped the waiting room!

Finally, it was my turn in the exam room. And B came in to chat.

"Well, happy birthday!" she exclaimed.

My eyes were full of tears. I know it must be hard to understand. I'm so grateful to be pregnant. I know other people struggle with infertility. Or they don't get married until later in life. And they would trade spots with me in a heartbeat.

It wasn't that I was sad. Or upset. In fact, I was overcome with awe and wonder.

But at that early stage I was really struggling with fears about how I would handle being pregnant, how I would make it through a fourth C-section and all of the negative things I had read about "advanced maternal age".

I was really needing Doris more than anyone at that moment. I was wondering if they could give me her phone number. I kept replaying that conversation we had four years ago.

I started telling B what was on my mind.

"Let's just not worry about all of that," said B. She's a very nice woman, a few years younger than I am. She's attractive and likable and seems to do a good job. But she's definitely NOT Doris.

"Let's just take this a day at a time. Let's just focus on today. Your birthday. You don't need to look too far ahead. Let's not worry about the birth or what it's going to be like to have a baby."

Why not? I was thinking.

"Let's just make sure the baby is viable."


Oh, I get it. I smiled and nodded. OK, sure. Let's just make sure.

I was cracking up on the inside. Oh, how Doris never in a million years would have said those words.

I'm just so happy that I know who is in control. It's not me. And it's not B. And He will get me through whatever comes my way.

And I really don't have to worry. And I CAN think ahead. And I can plan. And I can even listen to her make such comments and just laugh inside. And I can even do it without Doris. She was a big help, but I suddenly realized she wasn't the one who gives peace.

As I left the exam room, my chart must have exchanged hands a few more times.

"Happy birthday!" said another nurse.

"Happy birthday!" exclaimed the receptionist who made my next appointment.

It was a happy birthday. And it's been a happy 14 weeks so far.

get your suits, kids! we're going to the pool if they are open or not!

We are having the best summer EVER!

The kids have been out of school for 10 days now and it has rained at least a little EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. every day. I didn't check any meteorological reports, but I'm pretty sure it has been every day.

Except the two days the kids were out of town. And I was at a conference where I had to sit indoors for 10 hours straight. It was beautiful and sunny those two days.

Today, we are making protest signs and climbing the fence at the pool. This is what the signs will say:

"We don't care if it's 60 degrees!"
"We are coming in!"
"Lightning won't hurt us!"
"We are swimming!"

If you have any better ideas for our signs, please let us know because:


Oh, we have tried all the little things that we had on our list to do during those moments of downtime. I already told you how my nutso kids love doing their chores. I just realized it's because that's the most exciting thing they have to do all day long!

It's either that or math facts. They are begging me to start home schooling NOW! They think reading history is fun. THIS IS NOT RIGHT!

Oh. We have had play dates. But this involves not three, but five or six kids running up and down the stair for hours, trying to find hiding places in my closets for another round of hide-n-seek. Just like they do IN THE WINTER.

Yesterday, I took them to Wal-Mart and bought them an eight-pack of water guns. I have never purchased a gun for my children in their sweet, short lives. I thought at least they could take them outside in the bitter cold and get wet. We are lucky to hit 60 degrees in these parts.

Well, when the rain started to really pour, we were just bored of putting on rain boots and playing outside in the puddles. Come on. It's fun the first five days, but it's SUMMER!

I let them watch the same movie TWICE (OK, it was only a 45-minute movie) and then I insisted they needed at least an hour on the Wii. Yes, me! The complete anti-TV, anti-video game mom. I'm losing it people.

Tracking how much Acidophilus and Omega-3 that I give them at each meal was fun at first. But I. AM. BORED. I'm bored. Bored. Bored. Bored.

We made our dumb list of fun things to do this summer. And NOT ONE was an indoor activity.

So, please, please, please. If you live in Alaska, please tell me what you do for fun when a hot day is considered 72 degrees with only light rain.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

paying for compliments {how-to instructions}

"Mom, I like you because you are creative, funny and beautiful."


I will admit that many times I come up with parenting ideas that sound life-changing, but I am only able to implement them for two days before I get lazy and give up.


"Mom, I like you because you play games with me, and you are nice."


But this one idea has stuck. And let me tell you, it brightens my morning on a regular basis.


"Mom, I like you because you are smart."


I created chore charts for my kids. One of their chores is to give each member of the family a compliment. They also have to hug their mom and dad.


"Mom, I like you because... because... I love you mom."


They each get paid 5 cents per chore. And it's worth every penny.

Here's how I made the chore charts for my kids.
You'll need:

12x12 cardstock

cute printer paper (I bought mine at Jo-Ann's Fabrics)

Self-seal laminating sheets

Print out the words and grid for your chore chart on the decorative paper. Cut the cardstock to the size of the laminating sheets. Center the decorative paper on the cardstock and glue to hold in place.

Use the self-laminating sheets to hold it all together. Put magnet strips on the back if you want to place the chore chart on your refrigerator.

Our charts have the child's name at the top: "Emily's Chores" with clip art of a stick figure to represent that child.

Currently, our chores are:
Clean room
Make bed
Laundry in basket
Set table
(Clear) Dishes from table
Pick up outside
Pick up towels
Hug Mom and Dad
Give compliments
Plus one empty space for an extra chore that rotates each week. These include: Bathroom cleaner, Laundry helper and Kitchen helper.

I have used other chore charts in the past, but I like making my own because I can create new ones if I want to update the chores to fit our family.

Kids can use a dry erase marker to mark off the chores they have completed. I pay them 5 cents per chore at the end of the week. I think the most they could earn is $3 if they did every chore every day.

I started asking my kids to do their chores when they were about 3, but they were really able to do them on their own when they were 4. Would you believe that my kids actually race to do their chores each morning? They even compete to set the table first so they can mark off that chore.

I also have used the same template to make similar charts for homework or other projects.

Do you have a tip that gets your week off to a great start, brings peace to the household or is just an awesome idea? Please share! I would love to hear your ideas to make your home a happier place.


This idea works for me! For more great ideas, check out Works for Me Wednesday over at We are THAT Family.

Monday, June 8, 2009

pioneer-less woman

While I was off learning how to be a home school mom this weekend, my husband decided to take the kids to visit his relatives in southern Illinois.

Being the extremely supportive bloggy husband that he is, he had the excellent idea that maybe if he took a bunch of photos of cows while visiting his grandparent's farm, that it would significantly increase my blog traffic.

He's no blogging dummy. He reads Pioneer Woman. And he knows what a few hundred cow photos will do for readership.

So, we thought that if I just interjected some "photos from the ranch" (or at least the small family farm) into my regular writing, it might help.

I'm thinking that my traffic will probably jump at least a thousand fold when you see these photos. (Or, if not, that hopefully none of my current readers will unsubscribe, like someone did a few weeks ago, sending me into a depression for several days.)

So, here is the story of our life.

My name is Em. Welcome to my frontier.

You see, I grew up in a small town in southern Illinois where we spent our weekends dragging Main and hanging out at McDonald's, the only fast food restaurant in town. It was a perfect life, but as I grew older, I went away to college with the hopes of never living there again.

Years later, I started dating a boy from high school. We fell in love. Got married. And moved to the suburbs of Chicago to live our dream. (Actually, we promised to stay there for one year, just until my husband could get a little experience at his job, and then we would run for our lives toward a state with mountains or forests or at least a couple of big hills.) Eleven years later, we are still here.

We now live on a quaint .25 acre plot of land that is identical in size and shape to thousands of neighbors to the north, south, east and west.

We have never had any pets, of any make, shape or model. This is a wonderful tradition that I hope to pass down to future generations.

We do, however, spend a lot of time chasing rabbits away from our flowers and running for cover when we hear the sound of birds. The trees in our subdivision recently grew large enough to attract a squirrel. The kids reacted by saying, "What's that, Mommy?"

We drive a mini-van, which was manufactured by an American car company that is now bankrupt. This probably means we have no chance of getting it serviced in the future when it has one of its tantrums during which the electrical system goes haywire for no apparent reason.

My husband commutes 40 miles to work each day. It's a lovely drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic, which typically takes three hours round trip.

We live in a three-bedroom home, into which we are trying to determine how we will squeeze a family of six and space for home schooling.

My husband is working on a remarkable addition to our swing set, which involved a lot of power tools and many boards and screws. But that's OK. Because we can walk less than .5 miles to two different community parks in either direction.

And yes. My daughter does try to take that pink blankie with her everywhere she goes. I see from the photos that she was quite successful on this trip. Just try to get away with that if you lived on a farm full-time.

(All of these photos were taken on a Canon point-and-shoot camera and not edited in PhotoShop. I do, however, have a copy of PhotoShop and use it on occasion, if that helps in any way.)

Let me just apologize, in advance, to my regular readers if it took a little longer for this page to load due to the dramatic surge in traffic that I'm sure this post will create. A few cows can go a long way.

Related Posts with Thumbnails