Friday, February 25, 2011

Funniest. Thing. Ever.

I couldn't fall asleep last night because I was laughing so hard. Then I woke up in the middle of the night giggling.

This video a friend made is so. stinking. funny.

It's funny on its own. It's funnier if you know a little bit of the background, so here goes.

A guy on our Creative Team at church made the video. The video is a reminder to Jeremiah, the worship director at our church. Jeremiah is an incredibly talented musician, but he sometimes forgets stuff.

There's another guy named J who is a talented videographer. On the day of the blizzard, J spent the entire day making a documentary about how to get unstuck if your car gets stuck. Like J, the docudrama was totally sarcastic and had lots of "Step One," "Step Two," "Step Three" frames. I don't think J has installed a toilet in his real car, but it doesn't sound like a bad idea when you really think about it.

Then there's B, the maker of the video. We call him "utility knife" because he can figure out a way to do anything. Like make a life-size Lego guy for a set prop and then secretly make his head rotate so that in the middle of the sermon, Lego guy starts moving his head around.

I was honored to get a cameo in the video. One day when I was doing announcements, my mic didn't work. Jeremiah had to press a button on the box, which was attached to the back of my pants. Then he had to press the button again. I tried not to move. I can't believe I really was sticking my butt out that far.

It's possible that Jeremiah would get distracted by pizza or his guitar when he's supposed to remember something. But, let's face it. It would be hard not to stop for love. Or shiny lights.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In case you were worried I spend too much time on house work

The kids came home from a playdate this afternoon and as soon as they walked in the front door, the 10-year-old started discussing the messy condition of our home.

"I think I know how the "X" family keeps their house so clean," he said, in a tone that suggested he had just solved a great mystery.

"We were playing downstairs, and I happened to look up the stairs for a moment," he continued.

For a second, I thought for sure he was going to reveal our friends had hired a cleaning service. Could it be?

"I noticed that Mrs. X was moving around upstairs, and she seemed to be... you know..." he said, "cleaning up."

A-HA! By golly, that's it!

The secret has been revealed! Now, I understand! So, it seems that the way OTHER people keep their houses clean is that the MOM actually spends her spare time CLEANING!

If only I had thought of this sooner!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Oh, the irony

February for most people means the worst part of winter is almost over. People start dreaming of spring as they hear birds chirping in the morning and enjoy slightly more hours of daylight.

That used to be true for me.

But for the past two years, my focus has changed. February has become the time I make a spreadsheet listing all of the open house dates and enrollment deadlines for the private schools in the area. This is the time I start daydreaming about dropping my kids off at 8:15. I wonder what it would be like for them to run into school with their friends, meet new teachers and eat lunch in the cafeteria.

Those deadlines are now quickly approaching, so this morning I decided we should do a test run at one of the schools that is most appealing to me. I wanted to see what kind of traffic problems we might encounter. What would the drop-off line really be like? Am I totally underestimating the toll it might take on our family to get up and out the door on time?

I packed up all of our schoolwork and we were out the door right on schedule. Even with snow-covered streets and a traffic pile-up due to construction, the drive wasn't any worse than I thought it might be.

In fact, I was filled with so much hope that I was confident I could even improve on my timing on the way home, despite a wrong turn and a detour.

Oh, yeah. I was cruising. I was making record speed. The baby was hungry. She was down to her last cracker. We were seven minutes from home. We could get there before her whining turned to an all-out screaming fit.

I saw the cop.

He saw me.

I turned off the timer.

When the officer came around to greet me, I couldn't decide if I was more nervous about the fact I was driving 50 in a 35 mph zone or the fact that all four of my children where strapped in their seats at 9 a.m. With the bill that was in the Senate last week to require Illinois residents to register their home-schooled children with the state, I suddenly felt like I had a neon sign above my head, flashing the words, "Unregistered Home Schoolers On Board."

"So, where were you headed this morning?"

I didn't even have time to think about telling him anything but the truth.

"Well, we home school. And we were looking at a school we are considering for the fall."

My explanation didn't seem to phase him. I was kind of hoping he would peek his head in and see our fabulous math curriculum and how diligently the kids were working.

"So, sort of like a tour, huh?"

"Yes. Sort of."

When the officer came back a few minutes later, he actually looked like he felt a little guilty. The poor home school mom. The four kids. The hungry baby. The tour of the school that would probably now never be a possibility because clearly this woman isn't fit to be on the roads at 8 a.m.

He was explaining how he didn't need to keep my license and I could do all the paperwork online and it really wasn't going to be so bad, when I interrupted him.

"Do you think this is a sign from God that school isn't going to work out?" I asked.

"It doesn't seem like a very good omen, does it?" he replied.

Now, I'm just waiting for the truant officer to show up. Maybe he will take a look at our curriculum.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

What a difference a lens makes

When my husband and I were first married, he would always surprise me with the most amazing gifts on holidays. He would go into my favorite clothing store and find a saleswoman who looked to be about my size and tell her to pick out an outfit for me.

For my birthday or Christmas, he would present me with a sweater with a skirt and tights or a cute top and pants. It would be totally stylish and fit me perfectly. He's not afraid to buy me a pair of boots. Or pick out a purse — with great success! One word for that guy: Keeper.

In the years since, he has only gotten better at buying me gifts. He must keep a secret notebook to jot down all the clues of things I would like. Oh, wait! I guess when I talk about them all the time, it's really not that big of an investigative project.

He knows I would be horribly disappointed if he fell for one of those jewelry story ads and presented me with a diamond pendant or an anniversary necklace. In addition to my love of clothing, I'm also an electronics kind of gal. The way to my heart is through computer equipment and electronic gadgets. He surprised me with a new computer the day I gave birth to our third child. He has presented me with iPods and an iPad I would have never purchased for myself.

And now, add to my list of loves... camera accessories.

Before Christmas, my camera-loving friend and I attended a free photography class. We learned about shutter speed and ISO and blah-blah-blah and a few other things I can't remember. But the main thing we learned from Mr. Veteran Photographer was that our cameras have a really stinky lens. And we should buy a new one ASAP.

Well... the day before Valentine's Day, I asked CapableDad if he would be OK if we just ignored the Hallmark Holiday. I really didn't want him to fill the pressure to spend money on chocolate or flowers, and he kindly agreed.

But early in the afternoon, I found a little pink box sitting by my computer. It was the lens.

I will admit, I was a little skeptical about how much difference it would really make. Because despite what Mr. Veteran Photographer told us, I love my camera and think it takes awesome photos. I was putting off thinking anymore about the lens, because, quite frankly, I was still a little miffed at how critical he was about my camera.

But that new lens?

Wow! Talk about seeing into the soul. It makes me feel like I was blind and now I can see. It's supposed to improve your portrait-taking ability, and I'm a believer.

I'm still getting the hang of how to use it, and I know some of these photos are over exposed. But check out those eyes!

What a difference a lens makes! I'm looking forward to really learning how to use it.

So, tell me.... What kind of gifts make your day? 


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The tunnel of doom

Last week I was getting my hair cut, and the salon where I go was hosting a free skin-care clinic.

Unsuspecting women would come into the spa, probably hoping for a nice free facial and maybe some advice on make-up. Instead, they would be ushered over to what could only be described as The Tunnel of Doom.

This was a big box-shaped contraption with a curtain on one side and some sort of view finder on the other. The Tunnel might not have been so bad if it was hidden in the back of the spa or, better yet, locked inside a private room.

But instead, it was pretty much in the center of the salon, and it was operated by two very perky women with perfect skin, white labcoats and surprisingly loud voices. They would greet the victims clients with a series of questions that would lead them to reveal their innermost feelings about their skin.

"So, how would YOU describe your skin?" one of the ladies would ask.

I had my head buried as deeply as possible in a magazine, hoping that neither of the women would happen to glance over at me with my head full of foils. I was trying to keep my eyes and smile frozen in a position that might create the fewest number of wrinkles just in case they happened to look my way. And I was trying to think what the appropriate answer would be to the question.

"How would YOU describe your skin?"

I think the first woman gave the only correct answer. "Combination." I mean, really? WHAT else CAN you say?!?

But then, it was time for The Tunnel. The poor woman went underneath the curtain, and the perky labcoat lady on the other side would shout out her incredible findings like she had just discovered the cure for Alzheimer's. Her high-pitched voice screeched through the lulling spa music with commands to help her further her investigation:

"Oh, wow! That ring of red dots on your cheek looks like it might be eczema!"

"Could you move over a little, I want to examine that yellow patch on your chin now?"

"Could I see that oily place on your left cheek?"

I was squirming in fear that they might spot me and force me to go under the curtain. I didn't hear the woman scream out in pain, but I could only imagine that she was hoping a secret trap door would open in the floor and she would go flying out into the street through a hidden chute.

She couldn't be so lucky.

Apparently, once released from The Tunnel of Doom, it was time for therapy.

"How many kids do you have?"

"Five? Oh, my. Well, I know it is hard to think of yourself. You are always giving to the kids, right?"

"Now how many are girls?"

"You know your girls are watching you. They see how you treat yourself. Do you want them to grow up to put everyone else first in their lives?" ("Like you," she did NOT add.)

"How many fruits and vegetables are you eating each day?"

And FINALLY, we are getting to the point of this post.

Because right then, that perky lady with the red hair said something that almost made my head turn in her direction.

"You know that 80 percent of your hydration comes from the inside."

Eighty percent?

That got me thinking. So perhaps instead of spending hundreds of dollars every year on skin care products that don't seem to be doing a lick to stop my 40-ness from spreading across my face, into my laughlines and all the way out my crow's feet, I should just drink more good old fashioned almost-free water.

Then, she told the lady that she needs to eat eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day. I mentioned this to my wonderful hair stylist when she came back from cleaning the hair dye off of her hands. I told her eating that many servings of fruit and veggies seemed less probable than getting my boys to wear clean clothes everyday.

But being the kind, helpful, soft-voiced person that she is, she gave me two life-changing words: V-8 Fusion. (I suppose that's actually one initial, a number and a word, but whatever.)

So, now, I'm on a mission to eat five (not eight) servings of fruits and veggies each day and drink eight glasses of water. The V-8 Fusion has one serving of fruit and one serving of vegetables in one 8-ounce glass, which is almost half of my goal. I'm finding that now that I stopped drinking sugar... yes, three weeks and still going strong... that I easily eat the other three servings without even trying.

I guess The Tunnel of Doom wasn't all bad after all. For me, anyway.

What about you? Do you find it a challenge to eat your fruit and veggies each day? Do you have a good strategy to drink eight glasses of water? I would love to hear about it!


Friday, February 4, 2011

In front of the tree

For the past five weeks, I've taken a photo of my four kids in front of the same tree in front of our house.

I don't try to make them pose or wear matching outfits. In fact, I don't even try to clean up what is behind them in the photo. I just want it to be a reflection of our lives and a way to see how things change over the course of a year.

Today's photo was funny.

Our "post-blizzard" photo included one child in the tree, a snow tunnel underneath it and a few random snow boarders in the background! Let's see... Is that tree getting shorter? Are the kids getting taller? Or is the ground rising?

Check out how we've changed the past five weeks!


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Snowed in

As I've mentioned, we are studying life in Alaska as part of a class I'm teaching this semester about the Iditarod race. I really have no concept of what it would be like to live in a town that is so covered in snow the only way in or out is by snowmobile or dog-sled team. I can't imagine not being able to go anywhere, only receiving mail once a month or trying to survive temps of minus 40 degrees.

But this week, we are getting just a glimpse of what that would be like.

Tuesday night, the blizzard dumped about 20 inches of snow in this area. The incredible winds blew the snow into large drifts that covered bushes, created awesome sledding hills and sloped up almost to the top of the 6-foot fence.

For the kids, it was like someone dumped the largest sandbox you can imagine right in our yard. (Thankfully, though, this "sandbox" will eventually melt and clean itself up!) The weather people say we haven't had a storm like this since 1967. That means it's the biggest one of my lifetime.

I'm so thankful for my older three kids that they got to enjoy it when they were at the perfect age to spend days building snow forts, tunnels and sledding hills. Yesterday was a day they will probably remember for the rest of their lives. And the snow will provide a playground that will help us get through the dreary month of February with a little more excitement.

Our city is typically known for its snow-plowing efficiency. So I was surprised to go out at 7 a.m. and see the street completely covered in about 18 inches of soft, smooth, untouched snow. It was another hour before the snowplow slowly made its way down our side street and uncovered a single lane right down the middle of the street. It took a half hour to plow what normally might take a few minutes.

All day long, I was enjoying the early morning proclamation on the news that "all streets" in our county were "closed." I was feeling very Alaskan that if we wanted to go somewhere we would need to walk. Unfortunately, we don't have a snowmobile OR a dog-sled team.

That meant we would all be forced to find contentment entertaining ourselves at our own home. We could only arrange playdates with friends in walking distance. There was no pressure to invite someone over, run an errand or pack up everyone to go "do something fun." Who would need that anyway with so much fun dropped from the sky right on top of our yard?

By about 5 p.m. when I was missing an ingredient for dinner, my husband burst my fantasy by offering to go to the store.

"What?!" I asked. "I thought we weren't supposed to drive anywhere!"

"It's fine now," he answered. "They cleared the streets."


Personally, I spent most of the day checking Facebook and dreaming of what food to eat next. I couldn't imagine how different my seclusion would have been without being able to check on all of my friends and their adventures and watching as they uploaded new photos.

I guess the harsh conditions flipped a switch similar to when you don't eat enough for a few days and your body goes into "starvation mode." But this was the opposite. Apparently, I thought it was time to hibernate because I was preoccupied with mashed potatoes and chocolate lava cake. I didn't have access to either, and I adamantly refused my husband's offers to go to the grocery store in favor of prolonging my dream that we were stranded at home.

Today, we are supposed to experience another extreme of Alaskan life: negative 40 wind chills. I have a feeling we will have to abandon the snow for a while and pull out some board games and movies to get through today.

By the weekend, I suspect I will be done with my Alaskan adventure. I will be ready for a shopping mall, a Starbucks and a nice meal cooked at a restaurant!

How about you? Have you been trapped by the blizzard? Was was the best part for you?


Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Last night was scary. The snow was coming down in a sheet. The wind was blowing about 50 p.m., causing the snow to swirl in every direction.

The light pole in front of our house was shaking in the wind. And then the lightning would electrify the entire sky.

But this morning? This is the kind of day that makes everyone feel like a kid.

Who could resist a tramp through THIS when you open the front door?

These are the bushes in front of our house.

The drifts are waist high in front of the house.

Where did the skating rink go?

The back yard. Wow.

Boys seem to have an irrepressible desire to shovel.

I guess we won't be driving anywhere real soon.

Nature gave us a snow hill in the front yard!

Hey! Send a snow plow!

Fun times.

We are thankful for a warm house, a full fridge and SNOW!


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

One month down...

I know it seems silly to write about anything OTHER than the winter storm that is about to paralyze America, but I decided to take this moment during the calm to distract you with other topics. Actually, I was driving home last night from a meeting during the prelude to Snowmageddon, and I decided I better stop mocking the weather reports. When the weather people say a blizzard is coming, I think they are serious.

But while we wait, here's some other news.

Despite my very indecisive start, I'm quite happy that I have completed the first month of my New Year's resolution!

I have taken a photo and blogged about it every day so far of 2011. (Click here to check it out.) It's not meant to be one of those projects to capture a single gorgeous image for 365 days straight, although I totally admire the many people who are doing that. Instead, I'm just trying to remember one moment from each day of the year.

Here are a few of my observations about my endeavor:

1. When I think of our days as a whole, I often think we lead a fairly boring life. However, when I look back at each moment, I feel immensely blessed.

2. It can be a challenge to find something to photograph. We often do the same things every day or every week. (Do I really want to take a photo of my daughter's gymnastics class EVERY Wednesday?) It forces me to look for one little thing that I would want to remember from each day.

3. It's not a completely accurate account of our lives. Of course, I don't take pictures of the kids arguing or someone lying on the couch with a fever and runny nose. Many days, the "highlight" of the day isn't something I want to photograph either because it involves other people. I don't want to make people worry they will "end up on the blog" or cause other people to feel left out if we got together with friends.

4. I'm still trying to decide if it was a good idea to post the photos on a totally separate blog. I like the fact that I'm not overwhelming my regular readers with every little detail of our lives. And yet, I feel like I'm omitting some fun stuff from this blog because I posted it over there. I'm still working through that one.

5. I'm glad that I decided to take my own challenge. I'm not putting a ton of pressure on myself, but it's always in the back of my mind that I need to "find my photo of the day."

So, today, I wanted to invite you to check out what we've been up to in January. (You can see the looooong list of links for January on the right-hand side of my other blog.) I don't expect people to want to read about us in this much detail on a daily basis. But feel free to become a follower or subscribe, if you are interested.

Let me know what you think! And tell me how things are going with you. Have you been sticking to your new year's goals so far this year?

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