Friday, July 31, 2009

Here comes the rain again

Our summer with no big vacation plans has turned out to be our summer with one mini vacation after another.

We were home from the camping trip in Michigan just long enough to wash six loads of dirty -- and I mean ground-in dirt, sand, creek sludge and lake water DIRTY -- laundry before we were off for a trip to meet up with CapableDad's family in southern Indiana.

We planned this trip about six months ago when we realized we would be celebrating 270 years of milestone birthdays this year. We have a 90+(50*2)+(40*2). That is cause for a family get-together!

I had the bright idea to add on a trip to Holiday World to our weekend get-away. In case you haven't heard of this world-famous amusement park, second only to Disney World, it is a holiday-themed wonderland in the middle of absolutely NO WHERE at the southern edge of Indiana.

I learned during our journey that just because two destinations are in the same state, it doesn't mean they are necessarily en route to one another. It seems there are no really good highways from Chicago to Santa Claus, Indiana, (where ELSE would you find a place called HOLIDAY world?) and the amusement park is actually about three hours from the lodge we are renting with family.

Oh well. Fortunately, my husband's family likes to have fun. And they never complain about little things like driving hundreds of miles unnecessarily. Or about rain.

This has pretty much been the summer of rain. It rained on our first camping trip. Rained on about half our trips to the pool. We have had cooler temps and more rain than any July in the history of the universe in Chicago. (I made that up, of course.) It's a good thing we didn't plan a trip to Seattle this summer, because we would have been stuck in our normal Chicago temps of 90 to 100 degrees everyday.

And honestly, I'm starting to enjoy life in our new Seattle climate here in the midwest.

Back to Holiday World. I love this place for several reasons. They have a lot of rides for the smallest of riders. Little flying airplanes. Bumper boats. Carousels. Trains. The smallest roller coasters you can imagine. A tiny canoe ride.

The park has plenty of big rides and big roller coasters for adults, too. Plus a huge waterpark. And the best part is that throughout the park, they have drink Oasis stations with self-serve fountain drinks that are free. All you can drink for free, all day. Our kids, who usually don't get to drink pop (or soda, depending on where you are from) were enjoying a Root Beer high all day!

It turns out, the little kid rides were great for our two older boys, who are 8 and 6. They are a little timid when it comes to moving quickly through the air and dropping suddenly.

But our daughter, who is 4, could have spent her whole day on the biggest waterslides in the park. Once she got a taste of her first plunge around a spiraling flume and into the giant "toilet" as she described one ride, she couldn't get enough.

About every two hours, a dark raincloud would open up and drench us for about 20 minutes. We finally accepted the fact that as long as we were already wearing swimsuits and wet from water rides, it really didn't matter if we were pelted with rain.

We were quite amazed, however, during the final storm, which was at the end of the day. The rain was coming down in sheets so thick we could barely see the trees in front of us. But off in the distance, we could see that people were still filling the largest roller coaster and braving not only the big descents, but doing so while being completely drenched.

Once the storm stopped, we made our way to the parking lot. The only way across a big road to the car was to walk through an underground tunnel. The drain had backed up, and the tunnel was now full of knee-deep dirty rain water.

The park staff were working furiously to open the drains and got the water to only ankle level after a short wait. Still, people were demanding that the park workers help them climb a 6-foot fence to cross the busy highway.

Because, you know. If you have already spent a whole day at a water park, and your clothes are already drenched from rain, you definitely would NOT want to get your feet wet!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The one in which God opens up the sky

We just spent the last four days camping at a state park along the coast of Michigan. I think that makes it sound really exotic to say the campground was "along the coast", don't you? I'm not even sure if that is the correct term to use when you are talking about Lake Michigan, but let's put it this way: The campground was right by Lake Michigan.

My friend, A Musing Mom, and her A Musing Family have spent one week every July for the past five years camping at this same state park. They have to reserve their campsite six months in advance, so we figured it must be a really cool place. This year, we decided to jump on board and find out just how much better a real-life Michigan state park campsite is compared to our usual camping time spent at The KOA, which requires exactly one hour of lead time to make a reservation.

The campground was great, and I do have quite a bit to say about our camping experience. There is so much to write about: the beach, a creek, a really big lake, tall trees, campfires, bike riding, an air mattress that wouldn't hold air, a prego woman's struggles with finding a bathroom in the middle of the night and a rock star shower stall that I managed to snag four -- count them FOUR -- times in a row.

But before I can write about all of that, I need to just document the most incredible display of God averting a storm and opening the sky to make a statement that I think I have ever seen in my life.

A Musing Mom and I have pretty much the same view on camping. It's great to get away and enjoy the outdoors. But the perfect vacation might include a little more shopping, pampering, meals prepared by someone else and maybe even a Broadway show.

Let's face it. A girl can only handle so much dirt.

Thankfully for me, A Musing likes to plan little get-aways from the campground to add a little culture to the camping experience. This year, she found out the Christian music group, Avalon, would be performing a free concert at a weekly Sunday evening show, called Worship on the Waterfront, in the nearest little town.

We convinced our combined six children and hubbies to put on their best cargo shorts and the least dirty shirts they could find and trek into the quaint little waterfront town to enjoy a concert by a real-live group that is famous enough to get a bunch of songs on the radio.

Personally, I love a concert, even if the singers aren't good enough to get themselves on the radio. So I was excited to go and could only hope the audience was going to stand up, wave their arms and do a little woo-hoo-ing.

I've never been good at estimating crowd size, but a LOT of people piled into the big outdoor grandstand for the show overlooking the lake. Maybe hundreds, but not thousands. Anyway, a bunch of us were all squeezed tightly onto the metal bleachers waiting for the beautiful people to come on stage and sing with their beautiful voices.

(Here's Avalon after the show.)

It had been kind of a gloomy day at the campground, but in town the weather was beautiful. By the time the concert started, the sky was still bright and sunny, but off to the right of us, it was black. And when I say black, I am talking black. And we could see the streaks coming down from the black clouds, which could only mean it was raining. really. really. hard.

As Avalon came on stage and performed their first few songs, those clouds were coming toward us.

Can I just be honest here and say it had been a pretty blue day for me already? It was the one-year anniversary of the day our friend, Leslie, had ended her 10-month battle with cancer and went home to heaven, leaving behind her husband and now 3-year-old son. I had been thinking about Leslie all day, as well as some of my own struggles that seem to be dominating my crazy spinning brain lately.

Anyway, looking at those clouds, I had a few thoughts.

First, this was really going to dampen our fun. And I was kind of hoping for a little joy at that moment, rather than drenched clothing.

Next, we were going to have to figure out what to do when the sky opened up and dumped water on our six children.

Would people run out of the grand stand, causing each other to slip as they tried to bolt for the gate? Or would this nice crowd be so considerate they might not even move in an effort to be as courteous as possible to everyone around them?

We were sitting on metal bleachers. Might the lightning strike the bleachers, sending a rush of electricity that would kill all of us in an instant? I always ponder what the headline would say in an instance like that: "500 people killed by lightning at Christian concert".

But wait! The floor of the bleachers was wood. If we kept our feet down, would that somehow ground us and keep us from getting electrocuted? Hmmm. Should I tell all the children to keep their feet down just in case?

Just as the storm was about to pass over us, Avalon asked the audience to join them in singing a hymn: "In Christ Alone". The way the stage was positioned, I don't think the group could see that we were about to be swallowed by a black cloud and torrential rain.

They told us to sing, so we sang.

Behind the stage, was the lake, and on the other side was a hill. At the top of the hill, directly in our line of view someone had planted a tall cross.

(This is a photo of the cross taken a bit later.)

As we sang, the black clouds rolled behind that cross. A circle opened in the sky and the sun beamed through the opening, lighting up the cross like a spotlight. Then the black clouds separated and rolled away. The sky turned blue, and the storm was gone.

Gone. Not even a drop of rain.

I can't even sum up the emotion of that moment. It was like the sun was bursting through not only the clouds in the sky, but the heaviness in my heart.

I haven't had many moments in my life before that when I felt God was saying in such a visible way, "I am here. I am in control."

Yep. In control. He is there for me in my struggles. He was there when Leslie died. He is there at a concert on the waterfront. He controls the weather. He is bigger than all of life's problems.

I think the words of the song we were singing say it best:

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev'ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow'r of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Half-way through!

I just looked at the little pregnancy calculator widget on my Google homepage and realized that I am exactly half-way done! Isn't that hard to believe? Today marks week 20: 140 days down, and 140 days to go.

Now that all of the nausea is over, I have felt so good that I STILL often forget I'm pregnant!

I usually wake up in the morning and go through the same groggy thought process.

"Something is different... what is it? ... what is it? ... I know there's something..."

Then I feel a little flip in my tummy. This is the most amazing reminder. I'm usually starting to come out of my coma at this point, and it hits me.

"THAT was a person! THAT was the teeny tiny foot of a 10-once person who actually lives inside my body!"

I usually lay there for a few more minutes just to be sure.


"She turned over! I felt her bottom brushing against the inside of my tummy. Crazy!" I think.

And then I realize it's not just ANY baby. It's my daughter! It's a little girl who will probably resemble my other children and who hears the sound of my heartbeat and knows the sound of my voice and will immediately recognize my scent as the smell of her mother!

My disbelief is compounded by the fact that my stomach STILL does not look big enough to house a baby with a beating heart, pumping lungs, kicking legs and a fully-formed head, complete with eyelashes. I might even have my doubts if I had not seen her for myself when the doctor did the ultrasound.

With all of my pregnancies, I seem to carry the baby in such a way that my stomach doesn't stick straight out until the very end. I just sort of get thick all over. So, I get tons of comments throughout the day about how I don't look pregnant.

And that's fine. It's really a compliment, and I'm thankful that it's going so well. But it also causes me to spend a ridiculous amount of time analyzing the size of my stomach.

The movement helps ease any fears I might have. I treasure every flip, kick, turn and punch. It's one of the rare times in life that I get to be part of a miracle. The amazing miracle of a 10-inch baby who lives inside my tummy.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Psalm 139: 13-14

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As easy as riding a bike

We've spent a lot of time the past two days teaching my two youngest children how to ride their bikes without training wheels.

We should have taught my 6-year-old last summer, or even the summer before. But he wasn't interested. And when he isn't interested, he can't be convinced otherwise. It's pretty much a losing battle.

Earlier this week, the kids were visiting another family and realized their 4-year-old had mastered his two-wheeler. Suddenly, our 6-year-old and 4-year-old were ready to give it a try.

The 6-year-old picked it up almost immediately. His only problem is that he likes to chat. And look around. And enjoy nature. And talk about his day. And discuss the world's problems. And look at mailboxes. And trees. And cars.

His lack of focus tends to cause him to swerve. He usually makes it past a few driveways and then ends up bumping into a bush or riding into the grass. We finally put him in the middle of the street and gave him a specific target on which to focus.

"Do not look at ANYTHING other than that yellow fire hydrant!" we instructed.

My daughter has a different issue. She loves the fact that her 8-year-old brother is so kind and patient that he will hold onto her seat and run down the sidewalk pushing her. The second he lets go, she takes her feet off the pedals and swerves to a stop.

She simply doesn't believe she can keep going unless he is holding on to her seat. Her bike-riding struggles are completely in her head.

It can get frustrating. As a parent, I know they can do it. I know what is holding them back. And I so want them to overcome their fears and their distractions so they can be successful. I can see how close they are. And yet, they cry out:

"I CAN'T do it! I just CAN'T!"

Watching them attempt to ride their bikes up and down the sidewalk these past few days, I have realized that I am just like them.

In a few areas of my life, I have checked out mentally because I'm not interested. Like my son, no amount of convincing is going to make a difference.

In other areas, I am so distracted. My mind has been swirling with serious thoughts, ideas, suggestions, but I can't seem to make sense of anything. I have a half dozen blog posts waiting to be finished, but I can't think of the words to write. Friends from other areas of my life are excitedly telling me about their plans and goals. I listen intently, but my brain can't seem to really absorb what they are saying.

And like my daughter, there are areas of my life where I'm just doubting myself.

I want to be like my son yesterday when he fell down on his bike and skinned his knee. He started screaming at me: "It's all your fault! You TOLD me to ride on the sidewalk! You TOLD me to do it!"

But who can I scream at?

My husband took the kids off to a big parking lot for a couple of hours last night. When they came home, both my son and daughter walked in the house and said, "Mommy, I have successfully completed my bicycle training."


Yep. They learned how to start and stop on their own and ride successfully in straight lines and circles. But how?

"Well, the parking lot was just so big and wide open. We didn't have to worry about bumping into anything."

And you know what? I guess that's where I am right now, too. Just riding around in circles in the parking lot. I'm not really accustomed to zooming around without a destination. And I know it's not a permanent condition, but it's where I need to be right now.

It's really not so bad. Just riding around in circles. Not going anywhere. Just enjoying the ride.

How about you? Have you successfully completed your bicycle training? Or are you distracted? Lacking in confidence? Or just enjoying the ride?

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Top-secret confessions

An interesting thing has happened since the worlds of my 40-year-old pregnancy and my blog collided.

You would not believe how many women have secretly confided in me that either:

a. They have a child-shaped longing in their heart that won't go away, but their husband isn't on board with the plan.
b. Even though they are of advanced maternal age, they would like to have another baby.
c. They would secretly love to unexpectedly get pregnant.
d. They really want to wear cowboy boots but don't have enough nerve.

So, I would like to dispel a few myths about advanced maternal age, as well as propose a new idea that I believe will sweep the nation.

I realize I'm only 20 weeks into this process, but this honestly has been the easiest pregnancy I have had.

With my first pregnancy, I was commuting into the city everyday, walking several miles to and from the train station, working long hours, stressed out and had no hope of taking a nap.

With the second pregnancy, I had a 1-year-old boy running around who was not the slightest bit happy with the idea of his world being invaded by another baby who might want some of his mother's attention.

And with the third, I had two little boys, 3 and 1, who still wore diapers, needed help getting in car seats, had to have scheduled naps and had very strong negative opinions about using the potty.

Now, I have three children who can actually help empty the dishwasher, fold the laundry and clean the toilet. They can't wait to start reading books to the baby, learn how to change diapers and help push the stroller. And the best part? They love nothing more than for their mom to take a nap because this idea holds the hope that they might get to watch TV!

So, with that reassurance, I think it's time for all of the 40-year-olds out there who secretly want another child to come out of the closet. I know that some of you are close to sending someone off to college. You might even be enjoying long weekends away with your husband because your children are old enough to babysit for themselves. Maybe you are entering a new phase where all of your children are off at school all day and you can finally focus on your own interests.

But come on! Isn't all of that a little over-rated?!?

Just think of a cute, cuddly little baby with soft skin who smells like baby powder. Think of the tiny clothes, the first words, first crawls, first steps.

Besides, if more people would just join me in this, we could start a whole PRODUCT LINE! We could make a special line of wrinkle remover for pregos. We could start our own exclusive playgroups for moms over 40! What about a healthy line of food for old pregnant people who are watching their cholesterol?

This could be a GROUND FLOOR opportunity! Don't you want to get on board NOW before this idea takes off??

Come on, Ladies! Who's with me?

Anyone? Anyone?


Anyone? ... Bueller? ... Hello?

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Oh, boy! Oh, girl! Oh, my! Oh, wow!

When my daughter was about 2 years old, she used to roam around the house, looking for something. Then she would walk up to me, shrug her shoulders, raise her hands and ask, "Where my sista?"

Oh, my sweet girl. She did this so many times, and it broke my heart every time.

I am blessed with two wonderful sisters, and I couldn't imagine my daughter going through her entire life without one of God's greatest gifts. A sister.

Well, today was the big day. It was the day the whole family has been anticipating for 20 weeks. My ultrasound. Oh... if this is news to you, you better go here real quick and get caught up. Don't worry. I'll wait.

Everyone in the family has had a very strong hunch that we were having a girl.

"Alayna HAS to have a sister!" even the boys would say.

But what if it wasn't?

"God knows exactly what baby our family needs and he is going to give it to us," I told the kids -- and myself -- 100 times.

I could barely sleep last night with anticipation. When the ultrasound tech gave us the news, I couldn't hold back my tears.

It's amazing enough that my 40-year-old body is the home to a growing, thriving baby! But how much more can God bless us that the heart, the lungs, the brain, the spine, the bones all appear to be perfect?!

And, it's a girl.

A G-I-R-L!


Of course, we all would have loved a boy just as much. With all three of my other children, I truly did not even have a preference going into the 20-week ultrasound. But I am so thankful to be able to give Alayna a sister.

She even spread out her fingers to give us a wave. I'm already having proud mommy moments since the doctor said it's rare for a baby to do that in utero.

And then she posed to show us her footprints:

I am so amazed. So blessed. So thankful. So happy. Thank you, God, for such an amazing gift!

Now, there's a new question coming out of my daughter's mouth:

"When will my sister come out?"

If you liked this post, you also will like:
the gift of motherhood
If you read nothing else, you might want to read this one
advanced maternal age
the midwife

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

books, movies and CDs

Oh my! It's amazing what a little respiratory illness has done to me over the last eight days. The coughing and lack of sleep have zapped all of the energy out of my prego old lady body. I guess it's good preparation for what is to come. =]

So now I have about five million posts swirling in my head, and I'm hoping to stay awake long enough to write a few of them between 10 loads of dirty laundry.

Fortunately, it's summer so I have been spending several hours a day sitting by the pool while my kids play. And that has given me some extra time to read. I was wondering what everyone else is reading this summer and what you recommend.

I recently finished The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. This book touches on racial issues, tragedy, love, the bond between women, not to mention bee farming, which happens to be of huge interest to my husband. (That is the topic of another post.)

I cried my eyes out from start to finish reading this book, but it was worth it. Fortunately, I read a lot of it while sitting in the whirlpool tub in the Smoky Mountains so the tears just streamed right into the water. That saved me a lot of clean-up.

I also just finished Daisy Chain by Mary E. DeMuth. This book was suspenseful enough that I was able to finish it in just a couple of days. I would definitely recommend it, but the book is a little predictable and the characters are a bit shallow, especially coming right after the Bee book.

I didn't realize when I started it that it was the first in a trilogy. So, I felt like the ending was a little cheap. It basically forces you to get the next book. So, I plan to rebel by reading something else first. That will really show them, huh?

The kids and I also are in the midst of listening to about five books on CD. Our favorite is Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O'Brien. I thought I remembered reading this as a kid, but the story seems completely new to me. We can't wait to get in the car on our way back and forth to the pool to find out what happens next.

We also recently listened to Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes. It was good summer listening. Not my favorite, but a good mystery for kids.

I'm hoping to check out some of the recommendations you all gave me a few weeks ago. If you missed those, be sure to read the comments of this post for some great ideas for children's books.

Finally, I am way behind the times when it comes to watching movies. But I recently rented three movies that I thought were decent: Marley and Me, New in Town and Seven Pounds. I absolutely loved Seven Pounds and the fact that more than halfway through the movie, the viewer still has no idea what the movie is about.

I actually watched this movie twice right in a row. The second time was even better because I could put all of the pieces together. I even watched all of the special features that came on the DVD. If you have seen this movie, tell me what you thought.

I would love to hear your recommendations on books, movies and children's books. Please give me some ideas in the comment section!

I'm trying to avoid starting on an antibiotic, if possible, so I could have a few more days of low energy. And that just means more time sitting by the pool reading a book. Hey, it could be worse!

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When I think of you...

I have to take a minute today to say Happy Birthday to Lynn... my bestest friend from high school, my most faithful blog reader and an all-around wonderful person!

I've been trying to think of something profound to say. But all I can think of are all the things in life that remind me of you.

So, in the words of Miss Janet... "When I think of you..."

long walks nearly every evening
Diet Coke at McDonald's
walking to my house for lunch
working at Big John's
our "diet" lunches of a donut from Big John's and an apple
sitting on your front porch
dragging Main in the Camaro or the blue egg (what was her name?)
laying out at the lake
proms, homecomings and football games
lots of boyfriends who shall remain nameless
driving by a few of their houses and shouting our true feelings when things didn't go so well
remember the puppy we named Crucial? I still remember his little smashed body on the driveway
of course, there was Sinead and Janet and Prince blaring in the background, probably on cassette tape

I can't believe we're 40! Could it be?

Dance. Sing. Jump for joy. Celebrate! Eat chocolate. Demand pampering. And have the best birthday ever!

Happy Birthday, Girl!

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Does that come with a cup holder?

I've had a little is-sue the past week or so.

I have been coughing. And coughing. And coughing. I keep thinking it's going to get better. But it doesn't.

Actually, I usually feel pretty good during the day. Except for the fact that I'm so tired from coughing the entire night.

I have found one thing that helps, though. Ice chips. I get up in the middle of the night and get a cup of crushed ice. I lay in bed, holding the ice and eating it until I stop coughing.

The only problem with this plan is that I'm afraid I will fall asleep and spill the ice all over myself. And that is going to be worse than the coughing.

So, last night, I was thinking that what I need is a bedside cup holder. I'm picturing one of those clip-on cup holders that used to be sold for a car. Remember those? You would clip them on the side of the window.

I'm pretty sure my parents had one in their big red station wagon with the faux wood paneling on the side.

That must have been before cars came equipped with cup holders. Of course, cars also didn't have seat belts in the back seats. Or even back seats, for that matter. We would just sit in the very back of the station wagon or lie down and take a nap.

The hanging cup holder worked great unless it was full of a red slurpie and someone slammed the door shut. That wasn't so great.

Just think. Maybe the bedside cup holder will lead to as many inventions as the carside cup holder. I mean, think about it! Now, cars always come with cup holders. Not to mention seat belts. And seats. And air bags. And cruise control.

It might turn out that even people who don't have bronchitis, pneumonia or even croup will start wanting cups of ice in their bedside cup holders.

Then, I realized that maybe most people with respiratory illnesses just place their cups of crushed ice on the night stand. And, I'm sorry to report that because we have lived with the same hand-me-down furniture for longer than I can admit, we don't have a night stand.

So, actually, what we need is new bedroom furniture.

Well, I was afraid that you all might start to worry about me since I haven't posted for so long. Hopefully, this post will ease your mind that I am completely fine. And not a bit delirious from lack of sleep.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

the cowboy boot salesman

One of our favorite memories of our recent trip to the Smoky Mountains was the evening we were resting on a bench in downtown Gatlinburg when a group of teenagers walked up and started setting up to perform a free bluegrass concert.

The five band members were all between the ages of 15 and 17. But their musical ability was incredible. As I watched the 15-year-old red-headed Abby play the fiddle, I wondered what it would be like to be so talented at such a young age. Was she born into the world a musical prodigy or was it just the outpouring of 10 years of practice and hard work?

I started daydreaming again about my secret desire to be a rock star (or at least a bluegrass singer) when my eyes started focusing on the girls' footwear. I think my chances of becoming a famous banjo player are a little limited at this point in life, but hey, I could at least think about buying some cowboy boots.

A few hours later, we were walking down the strip when we spied the huge cowboy boot store across the street.

"Let's go look around, just for fun," my husband and I both agreed.

As soon as I saw the pricetags I was determined that we were only window-shopping. This was not my typical $29.99 shoe binge at Kohl's.

Maybe we were just giddy with the joy of not having our children hanging on our hips begging for their own cowboy boots, but soon both my husband and I were searching the shelves for a size 8 for me to try. The minute I plopped down on the bench to try on a pair of cowboy boots "just for fun" I heard his voice.

"There's a pair of socks right there beside ya," said the smiling middle-aged man. "You're gonna need those!"

Right. Right. Well, I guess you have to have socks even if you are only trying on the boots for kicks.

I think I mumbled something about how "I'm just looking" and attempted to give him the ol' Midwestern cold shoulder.

But soon this friendly creature with the laughing face was running around the store searching for styles and sizes that would work for me.

I have enough experience in sales to know exactly what he was doing. He was treating me like someone who was going to buy a pair of cowboy boots. And if he had any doubts, he wasn't letting them show.

Despite all my efforts at staying mentally focused, his confidence was starting to wear off on me. Now, I was starting to see myself as someone who was going to buy a pair of cowboy boots.

A little later, as I was checking my reflection with a light brown suede boot on the right foot and a darker boot on the left, another customer walked up to see my selection.

"Those both look good," he said. "That is going to be a tough decision."

Huh? Now I look good in cowboy boots? Maybe it was my general lack of self-esteem in my expanding prego body. Or maybe it was the fact that it was very humid and it was a horrible hair day. But I floated across the store on his words.

I'm not only a person who is going to buy a pair of cowboy boots, I'm a person who looks good in a pair of cowboy boots.

Finally, I was starting to accept my new identity. My smiling salesman had handed and sorted and run up and down stairs to find boots for me to try, when he offered to leave us alone to talk about it. He left me in the capable hands of his two female assistants. And they offered the one last straw that he had not given me.

I was debating between two pairs. One was about a third more expensive than the other. It was also clearly more comfortable. More durable. Higher quality.

"But you don't understand," I tried to explain. "I live in Chicago. This is purely a fashion statement for me. I don't need the best brand you sell."

The saleswoman did not miss a beat. "It doesn't matter if you live in Chicago or Tennessee. You need boots that are going to be comfortable. You can wear these boots for 10 hours straight and they are going to feel great. And see that tread on the bottom? If you wear these other boots, you are going to step out on the icy sidewalk and fall on your butt. See these? You will be able to walk in any weather."

She gave me just what I wanted deep inside: She told me what to do. She gave me a reason to spend more money.

Now, I was not only a person who was going to buy a pair of cowboy boots and a person who looked good in cowboy boots, I was a person who deserved boots that are comfortable and won't make me fall down on the icy sidewalk.

Well, of course I'm going to get the more expensive pair. Who do I look like? Some city slicker from Chicago?

My boot-buying experience reminded me of a lesson that is not only important in sales, but in life. People will act the way they are treated.

In many cases, people will actually become the person they have been told they are.

I can think of so many instances in which someone has treated me in a negative way and I have reacted by being a negative person. I have actually started thinking of myself as unlovable or untalented or stupid, because that is how someone had treated me. I'm sure I've done the same thing to someone else.

On the other hand, I can think of people who gained self-confidence and ability because I treated them like the person they should be rather than the person they were at the moment. I believed in them before they believed in themselves.

I've been having a bit of buyer's remorse over the cowboy boots that now sit in my closet with no where to go this summer. But I'm grateful for the experience. When I look at those boots, I hope they will always remind me to treat people with love and respect and to assume the best of them.

Who knows? Maybe I can encourage someone else to believe the best about herself.


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Monday, July 6, 2009

"It's sooooooo quiet"

We said that so many times over the last few days.

"Shhhh. Listen... it's soooooo quiet."

That was really what we were needing. Complete silence. It was deafening. And we realized we hadn't heard that sound for a long time. The sound of nothing.

We kept going back and forth and around and around on where we should go for our little four-day get-away with no kids. Wednesday morning, I jumped out of bed at 6 a.m. ready to make our reservations for French Lick, Indiana.

"Let me just check one more thing..."

I looked at the mileage from our drop-off point near Cincinnati to Gatlinburg, Tenn. Hmmmm. It's five hours to Cincinnati and another five hours to Gatlinburg.

Then, I checked our favorite rental cabins in the mountains. They were 30 percent off for last-minute weekend travelers. Done.

So, we made our reservations five hours before we left, we drove 10 hours total in the minivan. And we took along our hiking shoes and laptops. (It just wouldn't be vacation if we couldn't use the Wi-Fi in the cabin to look up movie times and restaurant menus. =] )

My brain pretty much dissolved into a pile of goo the first day we were there. Why do I have to go so far away to completely relax?

I have always loved Gatlinburg. Oh, yes. It's a completely over-run tourist destination now. But it brings back great memories of family vacations as a kid.

I love the smell of the mountains in the morning. I love hiking and going into town to get fudge. And I love the sound of running water in the many streams and rivers that run through the mountains.

But I also realized that what makes the Smokies a favorite vacation spot for us is really the cabins that we rent in the mountains.

We relaxed here:

And ate breakfast here:

And hung out here:

And here:

And we looked at this:

And we listened to the sounds. Of nothing. Which is just what we needed.

OK... back to reality... so I have a question for you... What is your favorite vacation destination and why?

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

more clues...

I can't believe it's the 4th of July!

We are still in this strange and wonderful place where it doesn't matter what day it is. Or what time it is. We can go wherever we want. And stay as long as we like. And no one needs us.

Thanks for your guesses on where we went. I loved reading them! I know you are all busy with July 4th cook-outs and celebrations, but just for fun, here are a few more clues about where we are.

Kent and I had so much fun yesterday.

We laughed a hundred times about how everyone here lined up their lawn chairs 24 hours in advance of the midnight July 4 parade, proudly the first in the nation.

We rode this:

and looked at this:

and we ate at restaurants where we had normal conversations. And ordered weird items off the menu:

Actually, only I ordered weird items, like the bacon, lettuce, fried green tomato sandwich.

It wasn't that great, but what the heck. I like to be daring.

We bought candy:

I ate most of it.

We listened to free blue grass concerts:

These teen-agers were amazing. They were all between 15 and 17 years old. The older folks in the back just showed up for a few minutes to play along.

And we shopped. We stopped in a cowboy boot store "just for fun". A few hours later, we came out with a pair of cowboy boots. Guess who they were for?

I mean, if a girl is going to get her first pair of real cowboy boots, shouldn't she go with bright green?

So, what do you think? Any more guesses about our location?

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

where in the world?

A few days ago, I mentioned that my husband and I were planning to get away for a few days without our kids.

So, what do you think we finally decided?

1. Did we choose:
a. the beach
b. the forest
c. the mountains
d. a city
e. a historical site

2. Did we make up our minds where to go:
a. still haven't decided
b. as we were driving
c. one hour before it was time to leave
d. five hours before it was time to leave
e. five days before it was time to leave

3. Did we opt for:
a. staying in Chicago and visiting all of the sites
b. a place that was two hours away
c. five hours away
d. 10 hours away
e. 20 hours away

4. How would we get there:
a. in the Honda Civic
b. in the minivan
c. by airplane
d. by train
e. by ferry

5. What would we take along:
a. just the clothes we were wearing
b. our mountain bikes
c. our swim suits
d. our hiking shoes
e. our laptops

Where in the world do you think we went?! Or have we even left yet?!?

If you are brave, leave your guesses in the comments section! I can't wait to hear your answers!

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