Monday, July 28, 2008

Not So Smart Meter

Alif takes care of all the bills around here, so when he handed me our gas & electricity bill and said, "We need to do something about our electricity bill," I wondered what was going on. He looked tense, to say the least. In the moments between his handing it to me and my looking at the bill, I thought, "Uh-oh, I'm going to have to turn the air down." It's hot, friends. I do not want to turn the air down.

Then I looked at the bill. It was nearly $600. $600. Oh ~ my ~ gosh. We cannot afford $600 in gas and electricity. I mean, no way. We can't. I told him I'd figure it out and he left to run errands, which is his way of unwinding. I felt defensive but also stressed out. I put the bill on my desk and thought I would just handle it in the morning.

Then, by the grace of God, I remembered to pray about it. I prayed that it was a mistake. After I prayed I had the courage to call the gas & electricity company. And would you know that it WAS a mistake?? So much for the Smart Meter they installed a few months ago! Our actual usage was the same as it was last month. What a huge relief!!

That enormous bill did give me pause, though: how much electricity do we use unnecessarily? We run our ceiling fans all day and night - do we need to do that? Can I bump the air up a couple degrees and "suffer" through feeling a little bit warm? Can I remember to flip off the lights I'm not using a little more often?

It also gave me more compassion for those who have air conditioner but simply can't afford to run it. There are some extremely hot days where I live - so hot that every so often someone dies from it. I can't imagine watching my kids truly suffer through the heat with no way to cool them down. I'm thankful for the provision God has given us but I'm also thankful for the super-high-bill scare.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Week in Pictures

Graham scaling a tree at the park today

We really enjoyed the splash park. I especially enjoyed watching Malachi get dumped with a huge bucket of water.

He doesn't seem to have minded it either.

Canaan's first new dipe in quite a while - a dice print from Berry Imperfect Designs.
Look how much he's thinning out!

I was sure Canaan would LOVE the splash park since he can't get enough of the swimming pool, but all that water shooting up, down and sideways out of the blue was not his idea of a good time.

Caris & Ellie love playing dog. It's SO awesome when they play together
because it's just one less time Lynette & I have to be "puppy owners".

I wrote to Five Blessed Bows and asked them to make some velcro-on shirtbands for Caris to wear with her soccer uniform and they sent these *for free*. How cool is FBB and how cute are these on her uniform??

Do you remember holding hands with your friends when you were a little girl? Can I admit that when Caris was born I looked forward to those days for her? Here she is with one of her BFFs Emma. I love that they hold hands and love each other so much!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Works For Me: Bible Read-Through Group

Remember last week I mentioned starting an online Bible read-through group? Here I am, back with more details! If you finish reading this and you have more questions, PLEASE feel free to comment and I will post a follow-up with all the things I'm sure to forget about here.


Now first of all, the idea of the Bible read-through group is to read through the Bible and put some focus into what God's saying to us as we read. Hearing one person's input might spark something cool in someone else's heart - plus, knowing that you have someplace to report each week is a good motivator to stay on track.

I know some of us are part of Bible study groups. That is awesome and please don't even think about quitting to take part in this group. We're not going to go at a super-fast pace. It is a good idea to be involved in some specific study as well as just reading through to see what God might want to say without the topical or expositorial (is that the right word? you know, verse by verse?) study.

I think I shared here a while back that my son Malachi has always loved the Bible. Watching him faithfully read inspired me to once and for all read through the entire Bible too. I've probably read most of it many times over the years but I'd never just read all the way through. I'd tried, but every time I'd get to about Leviticus or Numbers I'd just fizzle out.

This time I decided to start in the New Testament. I figured that having "the end" fresh in my mind might make all the Old Testament stuff more meaningful. It did, friends! I finished the New Testament fairly quickly and it was like a running start into the Old Testament. Right now I am in Numbers and boy, some nights it does feel like a chore getting through all the names, instructions written the same way over and over, laws, etc. Even so though, I am so glad to be reading it. Almost every night I feel like God is truly speaking something to me through what I'm reading, and day by day there are blessings that come from this reading.

I'm learning more simply by reading in context. Some of my lifelong favorite verses have taken on such a whole deeper meaning just by reading them and understanding what was going on culturally or where I am timeline-wise. It's been cool is what I'm saying.

SO - my proposition is that we start in Matthew. Each week I will post the reading assignment for the upcoming week. It won't be a lot. One chapter a day most days, maybe combining a couple of shorter chapters on others. Just plan to read it all by the next week. If you want to set aside a little time and read it all at once on the day of, that's totally fine too. In fact, that is probably what I will do since I am planning on one topical Bible study this fall as well as continuing through my own personal read-through.

As you read, keep a journal handy. Keep these three questions in mind as you read:
1) What did you learn new this week from what you read?
2) What challenged you?
3) What did you love?

Pray that the Holy Spirit will enable you to understand what you're reading. It really helps. But most of all, just relax. Settle in and don't give yourself a bunch of pressure. Just read and enjoy. This isn't the only time you'll get to do this. That is what I remind myself of when I get frustrated or confused or - ahem - bored.

When you come back next week, be ready with a post of your own, answering those three questions. Put your post in Mister Linky so we can all stop by and see what God said to you about what you read! By the way, please feel free to join in ANY time, if you happen along this read-through group. I plan to just keep going through the Bible and sharing like this, so there's no right or wrong time to join in. And if you miss a week, that's ok, just jump in the next week.

Let's all try it out, shall we? Grab the (very basic LOL) graphic up there if you'd like to. Write a post on your blog and introduce yourself to the rest of us. Then we'll know that you're on board and we'll pray for you as you read this week!

Here it is, friends. Our first official read-through assignment. Meet us back here next Wednesday having read Matthew 1-10. I can't WAIT to see what wonderful insights you'll have, or even just to hear you say that you read it!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

There goes the neighborhood.

Is this . . . advertising? Or what? Do I even want to know?
Seriously though, when we were driving through my neighborhood I showed this sign to my Mom and she thought someone has put it up as a joke. She said, "Well, eventually the police will take it down . . . " I was like, "No, the city put the signs up. They're all up and down the street." LOL!
This is the best part, though. Originally they all said BUMP. Then they came back through like a week later and changed all the Bs to Hs. OMGosh. Could I have laughed any harder? For reals.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I'm sure you've all seen the video of The Last Lecture by now. Well, my Dad got me the book. Several months ago. I just couldn't bring myself to read it. I expected to finish the book and feel sad and depressed, and I just haven't been able to face that.

Last week I finally got around to reading it. It's just a little book. Quick and easy to read, and surprisingly uplifting. There were definitely parts that brought tears to my eyes, but when I got to the end I felt something very different from the depression I expected.

You might expect this guy to teach you something about how to live life - you know, *really* live it. After all, he's facing an untimely death and leaving little children and a wife behind. It's not the timing most of us would choose. What I took away though was just sheer inspiration.

Ever since September 3, 2007, I have been living at least part of every day as if I am dying. Doesn't that sound bizarre? It does to me and I've lived it. That was the day my heart went into an arrhythmia and scared me out of my wits. That and a couple other events around that time sent me into some bad, bad anxiety. Panic attacks, generalized anxiety, the whole shebang. It was a horrible and awful few months there, and my counselor assured me that what I was feeling was quite normal. I haven't had a single problem with arrhythmia since that day and would to God that I never will again. Besides being very overweight, I have no health problems.

Then you look at this guy. Randy Pausch is going to die. The type of cancer he has is mean and nasty and he probably has a very short time left. He is unlikely to see his kids grow up or honestly even have another birthday. And yet he lives. This guy seriously makes the most out of every day. He does whatever he has the strength to do - bike riding, weight lifting, obviously playing with his kids etc. I'm living and breathing and acting like a dying person. He's dying and acting like he's got years of good health left.

In church today I was really enjoying worship. You know how sometimes the songs the worship team has chosen are just dead on? That's how it was for me today. Every song was like it was chosen for my own private worship session.

I glanced over and there was a lady in the first row sitting between two people who looked like they were maybe her grown children. Everyone else was standing, and this lady sat looking beautiful in a silky dress draping gracefully from her thin shoulders. The sleeves trembled as the lady shifted uncontrollably. Back and forth, front and back. She clasped her hands as if in an effort to stop the tremors, but they raged on. Her arms wouldn't rest. And yet she worshiped. In the front row.

I have so much to learn.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Big Plans

I've always wanted Alif & I to have a master bedroom that's a sanctuary. We love and adore our children, but long after they are all grown and living in their own homes we'll be together, and I want to nourish that relationship with a special place all our own. Even if it does include babies who like to wake up in the middle of the night and nurse and cuddle. ;-)

At our old house, our bedroom was actually a den in the back of the house. It had three doorways. One to the hallway, one to the back yard, and one to the laundry room/kitchen, and that one had no door. When we had company over, everyone would have to walk through our room to get to the back yard. It was not private. Also, it had brown wooden floors, brown wooden paneled walls and brown furniture. My friend Erin drew up a home decorating book for me and she said, "For your room I envision a cozy log cabin feel." HA! She was very, very creative!

When we moved to our new home last year and had our own room, upstairs, WITH a teensy little bathroom, I felt like I was in hog heaven! It just felt so secluded and private and luxurious! I still love it, but it's . . . blah. It has the same light taupe walls we painted the whole house, gorgeous white crown and base moulding, a pretty ceiling fan and hardwood floors. It's nice, it just has no style.

Well, that's all about to change, babuy!! I can't WAIT to put my mark on it. I'm aiming for elegant, romantic, glamorous, but with our "we're casual people around here" touch.

I love, love, love this light taupe coverlet and shams, but everyone who reviewed it said that it's much lighter in person than in the picture. Wah! Any ideas? I don't want an ivory coverlet, I want a taupe one.

Pretty frames - going to use these to do my own version of the project you see below, as reported today by The Nester.

My colors will be different - taupe, white, ivory, black and apple green is what I'm thinking.

I think this table lamp from Ikea is so cute - and at 8.99 each, very doable!

I like bamboo shades and some sort of curtains but I don't know what yet on that.

Any other ideas from you decorating-genius types?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why is rear-facing important?

I have turned all of my babies to forward face in their car seats at a year (well, a bit past a year with Caris - 14 months I think). Canaan is 17.5 months and he is still rear-facing. I have a seat now that goes up to a higher weight and length rear-facing, and in the past few years I have learned that children are safest rear-facing as long as possible. I've heard about this video lots of times but I thought it contained a sob story about someone's child dying and so I never felt up to watching it. I finally watched it tonight and it doesn't have anything sad except for slow-motion videos of crash tests with a child-sized dummy both forward and rear-facing. Take a few minutes to watch this if you have babies or toddlers, would you? No judgment or anything on my part but it's good to be informed and make your decision from there.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Works for Me

It's Works for Me Wednesday again over at Rocks In My Dryer!

When I went to visit my sister in Scotland, one of the activities that left the biggest impression on me was joining in with her Bible read-through groups. At the time she was part of two of them, and the format was so doable.

I tend to think of ideas. Big ones. And then never actually DO them. This seemed DOable. The groups were four people each. They met once a week for an hour. During the week they'd each read an assigned section of the Bible, and then when they'd meet back up they would discuss. SO cool.

I swore up and down that when I got home I would start up a Bible read-through group of my own. Then I found out I was pregnant with Canaan. And I got sick. And life got in the way. I'm not meaning to make excuses, it's just that I never made it happen.

Last night in bed I had a thought - would YOU be interested in being in a Bible read-through group with me? You, me and Mr. Linky - we could go places! Maybe we don't have the time or the gumption to meet once a week over coffee. Maybe it's too much work to round up one or twelve kids and gather in someone's home. Even though those options do sound wonderful. But we can meet here, can't we? In our jammies? With our hair in a mess and children eating scrambled eggs at the table?

So that's my Works for Me. I'm officially starting a Bible read-through group. Details next week.

Negative never sounded so good!

The doctor's office called yesterday and Canaan is NOT allergic to peanuts! Praise the Lord! I was talking to my step-sister and I actually think he had Fifth Disease. She heard me describing what Canaan's rash was like and she spoke up and said it sounded exactly like what her son had when he was about Canaan's age.

I'm so relieved! Kind of a huge bummer that the urgent care doctor was wrong ($40 co-pay, ca-CHING!) and so was our primary doctor ($40 co-pay ca-CHING!). Urgent care said it was definitely an allergic reaction and primary doctor said heat rash. Boo. Hiss.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Not Back to School Day Tradition

When I was growing up, I loved back to school stuff. Note that I did not say that I loved back to school. I loved the fresh pencils and crayons, the new glue, the new outfits and lunch boxes and backpacks. I still love all of this! Each summer, Alif & I stock up at all the awesome sales - lots of new colored pencils, markers, notebooks etc.

One of my message boards was asking about school shopping since our kids are going to be Kindergarteners this fall. It got me to thinking - what special thing could I do for my kids to signify a new school year? As of now I usually just put all the fresh new supplies into our communal art area for everyone to use.

But! I have come up with a new idea!

On the first day of public school each year, my kids and I join up with a few other families and celebrate Not Back to School Day with a visit to the local museum. This year I'm going to add something special. On the second day of the official school year, my kids will wake up to wrapped gifts. Each child will receive a pencil box with personal supplies that will be used only for schoolwork. Pencils, pens, colored pencils, glue sticks - all the things we regularly use for our seat work.

Think they'll find this as exciting as I do? What new-school-year traditions do you have?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ready or not, here sleepytime comes

Poor Canaan. I nursed him as usual tonight and carried him gently up the stairs. Laid him down in his nice cozy crib and - he wailed. The second he felt his toe touch the sheet he let loose. I patted his back - "it's okaaaaay, it's okaaaaay . . . night night, baby . . . "

I walked out and wanted to cry. It's SO unnatural to walk away from a crying baby. They're *designed* to cry when they need us. My arms are here for him.

But I need sleep. And so does he. When he wakes several times in the night, as he has done the last two nights, he takes very long afternoon naps. Which means he is totally missing out on the fun.

I came downstairs and e-mailed my sister - probably something completely incoherent - and then went up to cuddle him. As I lifted him out of his bed, he pointed with his whole hand at his bed, like it was a horrible offender. I had a flashback to all the times he's happily pointed out all the cute little bears on his sheet and wondered if they'd gone awry tonight and caused him stress.

I put him on Caris' bed with her and ran to my room for a solid blue sheet. Why are his sheets in my room? Because I stink at washing, folding and putting away all the laundry, that's why. I recently turned every stitch of the boys' laundry over to them so maybe that will help.

After I ripped off the monster-bear sheets I nursed mister again. And I laid him down again. Only this time, halfway through the lay-down he stiffened and cried. Loudly. My resolve was melting. I can't take it. I hate hearing him cry.

I came downstairs and pumped while watching Nashville Star. Felt very proud of the mama of 5 boys who recently lost 70 pounds and is gorgeous and can SO sing. And guess what? When I shut off the pump I realized there was a sound of NO crying.

Wouldn't you think I would be like, YAY! Well, I kind of was but mostly I had the almost irresistible urge to run up those stairs, gather my most sweetest of baby boys and take him right into my bed with me. That would make completely perfect sense, right??

I know. It's why I'm here writing to you, to avoid my neurosis.

And in other news, while I was - hmm, I don't actually know where - my dog stole a Granny Smith apple from my counter and devoured it on the living room area rug. I totally craved Granny Smith apples when I was pregnant with Caris. Let's hope nothing strange is going on with Moxy.

It's not sleepytime

As I mentioned recently, Canaan started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks old. However, Alif & I have a low tolerance for hearing him cry and a high tolerance for sharing our bed with him. He can sleep through the night, and does several nights a week. The other nights he is with us, and I'm mostly fine with that. I'm tired some days if he wakes several times to nurse, like he did last night, but usually he just nurses once and sleeps the rest of the night.

A couple nights ago I put him to bed and he cried. I felt like crying too because I was just so exhausted and ready for bed myself. I got into my own bed, opened my Bible and tried to read. I told myself I'd give him five minutes to settle in and go to sleep and if he didn't then I'd bring him to bed with me. I really wanted to read though. The minutes ticked by very . . . very . . . slowly. I couldn't concentrate on my reading. At minute four I heard Alif coming up the stairs. He went in and got Canaan and headed back downstairs.

I got to focus on my reading for a while, until I heard them coming back up the stairs. It seemed much too soon, and sure enough, Canaan cried when Alif laid him back down. I have to admit I thought it was kind of funny. Alif took baby downstairs and fell asleep on the couch with him until 3:00 am, then brought him back to bed, I nursed him, and we all slept until about 7:00.

The next day Alif was playing with Canaan and said, "Dude. You have a sleeping disorder or something."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I miss my Grandma, and God loves me anyway.

My Mom and I had a big day yesterday. We drove down to the UCLA Revlon Breast Center to be part of their amazing breast clinic. We got good news and good answers and it was just all around such a cool experience.

On our way home my sweet Mom treated me to a wonderful dinner at Claim Jumper. How great was it to just sit with my Mom and enjoy a delicious meal? SO great!

As we left we thought we'd better visit the ladies' room. I was doin' my lady thang when I heard a little-girl voice sounding slightly worried: "Grandma? Where are you?" The Grandma's response came - a wobbly, gravelly voice, but strong and sure: "I'm right here by the door."

Tears sprung to my eyes. I know that voice. That Grandma voice has brought me so much comfort over the years. So much pure love. What I wouldn't give to hear it again.

I started to wash my hands, smiling a little even with tears in my eyes, and out came the girl. She was about four, wearing a pink leotard, a dress-up ballet skirt and plastic pink heels. Her blonde hair was uncombed.

That little thing was bossy. Have you ever seen the commercial where the little girl is all, "I don't like chicken. I don't think I like broccoli." Now you've got a picture of this girl's attitude.

"That water is too hot, Grandma."

"Now it's too cold."

"Get me some soap, Grandma."

And as the patient Grandma tried to get some paper towels: "I can do that my-self!"

I sighed. Poor Grandma.

And then - ohh. I AM that little girl. I am a daughter of the kindest, most adoring, most wonderful King, and boy how I whine. How I demand. How I act in the most unreasonable ways! And yet He loves me. He forgives me time and again, moment by moment, day after day.

The Grandma left the bathroom and a little grandson ran right into her arms. She kissed his tousled blond hair and hugged him tightly. What a picture of God's grace.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:20

Monday, July 07, 2008

What's Your Personality Type?

I hate personality tests. I go into them with hope each and every time, thinking that maybe THIS will be the test that will really nail me. I'll read the description and go, "Oh YEAH, that's SO ME!" And every time, that doesn't happen. I don't know how to answer the questions. The choices are either all wrong or all right or too cut & dry. So there you have it - I fail personality tests. Here are my results anyway.

You Are An ENFP

The Inspirer

You love being around people, and you are deeply committed to your friends.

You are also unconventional, irreverent, and unimpressed by authority and rules.

Incredibly perceptive, you can usually sense if someone has hidden motives.

You use lots of colorful language and expressions. You're quite the storyteller!

In love, you are quite the charmer. And you are definitely willing to risk your heart.

You often don't follow through with your flirting or professed feelings. And you do break a lot of hearts.

At work, you are driven but not a workaholic. You just always seem to enjoy what you do.

You would make an excellent entrepreneur, politician, or journalist.

How you see yourself: compassionate, unselfish, and understanding

When other people don't get you, they see you as: gushy, emotional, and unfocused

Saturday, July 05, 2008

I'm not really wordless.

Canaan likes to eat his toes. He also likes to be barefoot all the time,
which makes the toe-eating a little gross, but still funny and cute.

Graham made a Lego guy to match exactly what he looks like, down to the outfit and a head that has glasses on it. Graham's glasses got a little stomped and need to be repaired so he hasn't been wearing them for the past couple of weeks.

Anyone who likes Webkinz and has gone to the Trading Room
in the Clubhouse will understand this picture.

The kids, Alif's aunt and I went to a local farm and picked some blueberries & blackberries,
but before we picked we checked out the animals. (Graham, Sister and Caris)

and stopped for a picture in these funny hand chairs.
(Graham, Sister, Canaan, Caris, Malachi)

Canaan brought this pillow into the kitchen and laid down right next to the stove. Maybe he needed a feeling of comfort in the kitchen after burning his hand on that same stove last week? He still says, "hot" when he looks at the stove, and about 10 times a day he holds his hand out and says, "Ouuuuuuchyyyy, ouchyyyy".

My kids have jobs while I take my shower. One unloads the dishwasher, one babysits Canaan (in my bedroom) and the other occupies him/herself by playing on the computer. This day I came out of the shower and Caris had set Canaan up all cozy in a laundry basket in my closet with some blankets and pillows and a stuffed monkey, and she was "reading" to him. SO sweet.

Graham looks excited about our VBS performance!

Malachi, me and Caris right after our (ok, their) performance

Caris took the camera outside and came back with these pictures of Moxy. Hilarious.

I wonder if he wishes we had a pool so he wouldn't have to cool off in his water bowl.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Moses Speaks

I'm still plugging away at my Bible read-through. I'm not on any certain program or time line or anything; I just started with the New Testament and kept on reading. (Did I sound like Forrest Gump just then? Read Emily, read!)

I'm in Leviticus now - nearly through it, actually, and well, it's been more of a discipline than a passion in this book. It's interesting reading about the specific laws God gave Moses for the Israelites and sometimes even fascinating. I know that it all serves a bigger purpose than actually making sure the offerings weren't deformed and such, but still, so much of this was wiped from our consciences by Jesus' ultimate sacrifice that I have to admit, I don't read spell-bound or anything.

Also, I read at night before bed so sometimes I'm quite tired as I read. But guess what happened? Last night, for the first time in a while, I slept all night! Woo hoo! I woke up this morning feeling refreshed (thank you Lord) and thought I would spend some quiet time with my Lord before getting up.

And something jumped out at me! Really jumped out. All through Leviticus God says to Moses, "Speak to the people and tell them . . . " Well! Remember not too long before, Moses didn't even want to TAKE this job, he was so afraid of speaking. Some say he might have had an actual speech problem, others say maybe he was just a nervous nellie about public speaking. Either way, he didn't want to do it.

God was sweet as always and provided Aaron to help Moses, and that's the last I remember hearing about that. Until now - over and over God tells Moses to speak to the people. What an encouragement this was to me today! God believes in us! He encourages us over and over to be who He has called us to be, and he guides us every step of the way. He holds our hands when we need it, gives us specific direction when we need that. And He never, ever gives up on us!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Works For Me: The Five-Ingredients-Or-Less Edition

This week's Works For Me Wednesday is such a GREAT idea: we're all sharing recipes that contain 5 or fewer ingredients! I haven't ever participated in WFMW but this is the perfect week to do so, because I have a recipe that's at least 3 generations old and is a big family favorite.

Cranberry Chicken

Chicken (I like boneless skinless breasts but you can use whatever you like, enough to feed your family)
Dry onion soup/dip mix
French dressing (I've also used Catalina and it's fine)
Whole cranberry sauce - I like 2 cans

Mix last 3 ingredients and pour over chicken. I like to do this for about 6-8 hours in the crockpot but you could also bake it in the oven. Serve over rice. YUM!