Saturday, February 28, 2009

We have had such a great time here in Philadelphia. I have a few observations that I want to share:

1. I was totally surprised at the number of homes here in town that still have their Christmas decorations. There were lots...not just 1-2, but more like 10+ homes that had lights still and they were lit. PSSST... y'all, it's gonna be March tomorrow.

2. Speaking of y'all, we actually had someone ask us, "Where are yous from?" I almost swallowed my gum when I heard that, except that I wasn't chewing any.

3. I ate the first Philly Cheese Steak of my life at Talk of the Town, a local hole in the wall. I did not know that folks had such convictions about them. The debate centers around the cheese. There are basically three camps: the American Camp, the Provolone camp, and the Whiz camp. We had Provolone because we had heard that we did not want anyone to "Whiz" on our sandwich.

4. I need to brush up on my American History. This trip certainly gave me a boost, but there are tons of things that I have forgotten. I was trying to tell my boys about what I had learned but they were underwhelmed since it was not new to them. I guess they have learned a lot from Liberty Kids.... maybe I need to tune in with them! Here I am at Independence Hall in the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed:

5. Martha Washington was a great cook! I had her Turkey Pot Pie today at City Tavern today and saw one of George Washington's favorite places to hold secret meetings. They even painted the room George's favorite color. Here it is below:

6. Everyone has a little Rocky Balboa inside that has to come out on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. You feel a deep need to jog the stairs, humming "Eye of the Tiger", and raise your arms in victory once you reach the top. Now in my case, my hands were raised because I was glad that I made it to the top alive and I was trying to get as much oxygen to my lungs as quickly as possible. Not really, but I did count that run and the run to get back onto our to bus as my cardio for the day.

I just had to reach out and grab that Eye of the Tiger!!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Have I got a story for you!

Mon: Free Groceries!

Tues: Enjoying great seats at the Rockets game with access to the suite for yummy food and drinks!

Thursday: Jaunting off to Philadelphia for the weekend!

I really could get used to this.

It is a far cry from my regular life of laundress, maid, and Disciplinarian Extraordinaire. (By the way, my spell check does not like me to use the word Extraordinaire, but it is just a testimony to my perseverance that I keep using it anyway...)

I am sitting in the airport trying to look nonchalant while typing. I honestly think that the only thing that separates me from the business travelers around me is that my laptop is PINK! Well, that, and my purse is purple and my carry-on is pink, purple and green. Corporate America ain't got nuthin' on me!

Speaking of carry-on luggage, let me tell you that I would never do well as a criminal or terrorist. My blood pressure surges and my pulse races every time I go through those security checks. All this while I am trying to maintain my law-abiding citizen status. Imagine what I would go through if I decided to go to the Dark Side?!?

I love an airport, though. I love the possibilities of all the places that I could go. I love to think about where all the people are going, where they have been and what they did there. I wonder as I watch people: What is their story?

Where is the silver-haired gentleman to my right going? Perhaps to reunite with his wife after a week away on business.
Is that hand-holding, smiling young couple about to begin their honeymoon?
Are the two older ladies in those spiffy hats walking with such fervor because they are going on a much awaited girls' weekend?

That's a pretty romantic view of an airport, isn't it? Life isn't always as pretty as imagine it. I do know one thing: There is a God who knows our story. All of it. The pretty parts and the ugly parts and he still desires a relationship with us so much that He sent His son into the world to pave the way.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Guess what I got to do?!?

I am totally on cloud 9 today!
I got to go to the grocery store!!

Wait, don't think I'm crazy.
This really is cool! I bought the groceries and someone else paid for them! Yup, you heard correctly! HEB gave me $150 in groceries today! Told you that it was cool.

I have been applying for various market research surveys for a few years now, desperately trying to qualify so that I could share my much valued opinion with others and make a little pocket change while doing it. (Until now, I have never been called back to participate in one of the surveys, but I didn't take it personally, nor did I let it stop me from sharing my opinion with others.) My lucky day finally came when S from HEB called and asked me to do a comparison shop with her.

S told me that all I would need to do is to fill out a few forms, have my picture taken, and then do my regular grocery shopping while she follows me around scanning in the items with her handy dandy machine. Then, HEB would pay for up to $150 of my grocery bill.

Be still my beating heart!
Free money is one of my love languages,
and I am in love with S from HEB.

After I make my getaway with my free groceries, S will take the list of items that I purchased and go to a competitor's store and buy the exact same things. Hopefully, for HEB and my newly budding career in show business (did I tell you they took my picture?), HEB prices will turn out to be lower.

Details, details... Let's keep our eyes on the big picture: Free groceries and they might use my photo in advertising !!

I have not dressed up for grocery shopping since my first child was a newborn and getting out to go to the grocery store was the highlight of my week. Today, however, I had full make up since this was my big debut. I even wore a pretty pink scarf just to look the part. (I don't know what part, but a scarf just seemed to be necessary. )

Shopping was fun. Checking out was even more fun. I could get used to the lime light.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Here's a new one for Hallmark: Brother's Day!

Three years ago, my boys were feeling left out on the whole breakfast in bed traditions that we do for Mother's and Father's Days around here so they invented a new holiday: Brother's Day. Then, they informed us that we observe Brother's Day on the last Sunday in February by the parents serving the kids breakfast in bed.

In an effort to promote family unity, J and I decided that we would encourage Brother's Day and plan some fun brotherly activities to do as well. This morning we made a yummy breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, strawberries and strawberry milk:

When we walk into their room, the tradition is that they are in the same bed "sleeping" and totally unaware that they are about to be honored as brothers.

They look totally unaware, don't they?

Let the celebration begin!

Fancy, Fancy!!

After church, they got to pick the restaurant for lunch and chose Fuddrucker's. As we were walking in to the restaurant, Little Brother said, "Caleb, let's hold hands." At first, Big Brother balked at the idea, but when Little Brother replied, "Let's do it because today is Brother's Day", he agreed and they walked hand in hand through the parking lot. (warms a mother's heart, let me tell you!)

In honor of Brother's Day, they also got a chocolate milkshake. (almost anything goes on BD!)

We talk a lot in our family about how other friends may come and go, but our brother is our best friend for life. It is our prayer as parents that C and J will grow to adulthood and still be great friends.

Maybe, just maybe, one Sunday in February far in the future, they will feel the need to find their brother and share a milkshake.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:

10 If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!

11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?

12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bet you did not know...

that I am an expert in chinchillas. Well, not so much an expert, but knowledgeable about them in a "present this information to 6 year olds" sort of way.

I had the pleasure of sharing my new found "love" of chinchillas to 4 different 1st grade classes at Jonathan's school on Friday. And truly, it was a pleasure.

To prepare for this adventure, I attended a 3 hour training session given by the district's science center. I did it back in October or something like that and since I have slept a time or two since then, I didn't really remember anything that I had learned. To top it off, I could not recall where I had placed the handout with all of the information either.

Ever the procrastinator, I decided between episodes of Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice on Thursday night that I should look for the handout and study up on chinchillas before making a fool of myself in front of Jonathan, his classmates, and his teachers. As usual, I had put the handout in a very safe place, but just not a very logical one. Nevertheless, I found it and proceeded to brush up on my chinchilla knowledge during commercial breaks (which were pretty short considering that I was fast forwarding through the commercials.)

The info came back to me so on Friday morning, we had a bit of role reversal as I had Caleb quiz me over the handout. He took a little too much pleasure in pointing out my mistakes, I think. Finally with all that cramming, I was ready to wow those 6 year olds with my knowledge!! (With all my cramming, I am having flashbacks to my college days! )

After drop off at school, I went to pick up the chinchilla, Willow. I told my friend as I was driving back that I have 3 BIG FEARS when I do these Live Animal Demos:
  1. I fear that I will come down with an unforeseeable, instantaneous case of Turret's syndrome and curse words will spew out of my mouth uncontrollably while I am teaching and those kids will learn a little bit more than they bargained for.
  2. I fear that I will accidentally let the animal escape and have to run through the school chasing the scurrying creature yelling, "Stop that chinchilla!" with my hair flying and sweat dripping from my brow.
And this is the big one, folks:

3. I live in real fear that the poor defenseless animal will go to that big chinchilla farm in the sky while I am on duty and I will have to take its lifeless body back and explain what happened on my watch.

Anyhoo, this is not a post about facing fears, but I just wanted to let y'all know that I did face some Friday in the form of Willow the Chinchilla.

Willow was a real cutie pie and we made a great pair. He did all the right things at the right time and none of the wrong ones at the right time. (No pooping on me, no escaping, and Thank You, Jesus, no dying on my watch! )

The kids had a great time and so did I! They were such good listeners and it really fed the teacher side of me to do this. I think that I did a great job of imparting chinchilla facts in an engaging manner. The pictures look like I did the whole presentation with my eyes closed, but I promise, I was awake and entertaining!

Just look at the passion on my face as I explain the bathing habits of the chinchilla:

We had only one small glitch: Right in the middle of my presentation, the school had a FIRE DRILL. Let me tell you, my training as a teacher certainly kicked in then. I hopped up and we all marched out of that building as fast as we could (in a safe and orderly manner, mind you!) It was a good thing for Willow that this was only a drill since I totally left his chinchilla self in the library in his cage. Had this been a real fire, #3 on the Fear List would have taken place and it would not have been pretty.

Thankfully, it was only a drill, so Willow lives to take dirt baths another day. Yep, that's what chinchillas do, they take dirt baths. (remember, I know a lot about these guys?)

After school, I was driving the boys to swim team and I overheard Jonathan say something to Caleb about the little doggy thing that I brought to school today to show his classmates.

I could not believe my ears! DOGGY Thing? Oh Jonathan, where did I go wrong???

Oh well, Maybe somebody else's kid learned something.

Here's one of me, Jonathan and "the doggy thingy"

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

In February 2008, I topped the scales at my highest weight ever. Even when 9 months pregnant, I had weighed less. I felt very unhealthy and my knee hurt almost nonstop. I was up to 12 advil a day with very little relief.

I half heartedly started working with a trainer at the YMCA and was able to lose 15 pounds. In April, I changed trainers and my plan of attack. Since then I have lost an additional 55 pounds for a grand total of 70 off in one year.

I have learned a lot during this process...
  1. I actually enjoy working out once I get going.
  2. I am stronger than I thought I was both physically and mentally.
  3. My family will not fall apart if I put myself first in order to get a workout.
  4. I will not fall apart if I push myself physically... well, if I do fall apart, I can pull it back together and be stronger for it.
  5. It helps to have accountability and support.
  6. Working out is a part of life, not an interruption.
  7. When someone compliments you, you can just say "Thank you."
  8. It is ok to be afraid of something, but it is not ok to let that fear control what you do: Be afraid, but do it anyway.
  9. Humility is NOT overrated.
  10. Everyone has some sort of "body issue", not just me.
  11. Muscles are very sexy and good for a marriage.
  12. Hearing your boy children say, "Mom, you look so strong" can make you smile.
  13. When you are hungry, ground turkey breast is delicious!
  14. Planning is important, vital, and necessary.
  15. Sometimes you mess up. If you fall down 6 times, you just get up 7. No one is perfect.
I couldn't decide if I wanted to post pictures, but I think that I will.... so here goes. Here's me before at Jonathan's Valentine Party in 2008.

And here I am with Caleb at his Valentine's Party in 2009

When I saw this one on the screen after it was taken, I thought, "Where is the rest of me?"

Then, I remembered that I had left it at the gym.

There you go!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

We may never see them again... or they may never see IT again.

Ok, so it happened. We caved. We bought the boys a Wii for Christmas. I really do not like video games for the kids but the Wii was the one thing that they really really wanted so we gave in. In its defense, we have 4 controllers so we can all play at one time and it really is more active than the other systems. We have enjoyed it (and we have even thought about the possibility of going out on a dinner date while the boys play it. They would never even know we had left.)

But, oh, what a slippery slope we were on!

Caleb decided to save up all his birthday money and Target gift cards and pool it with Jonathan's money so that they could buy a handheld game, Nintendo DS. Oh no, not more!!

Honestly, I have been holding them off since December for this purchase with phrases like:

" I think that the bank is closed right now so we can't get your money."
" Remember that once you spend your money it is all gone and you can'tget anything else with it."
and my personal favorite:

" Why don't you get a piece of candy instead?" (any port in a storm, baby!)

Anyway, Caleb was really done with all of my stalling techiniques so we put all his $ in a ziploc and we headed to the bank and Target yesterday. Warning sounds were going off in my head when I could not peel him away from the Video Game display at Target long enought for him to complete his purchase. But the child had amassed a fortune of 129.00 and who was I to stop him from spending it? (well, I could have, but I didn't.)

So now we have a DS in the house. Let the brain mushiness begin. So long to reading a story, writing, pretending, and face to face communication. Ok, so maybe I am being dramatic, but I do have serious reservations about this whole thing. I decided that what the world meant for "evil" I would use for good and required them to put away their laundry, pick up their toys, take a bath, and get dressed in pj's before they could play the dreaded DS.

This just in: (and seriously, I did not make this stuff up!) I had to take a break in the middle of this very post about the DS in order to break up a fight between my boys about said DS. Now the object of strife is taken away until Saturday.

....and to that my dear friends, I say, "There you go!"