Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Living on an Ant Hill

Caution...These photos can be very disturbing!  They disturb me GREATLY!!  We now realize we don't live in a house, we live on an ant hill.  We decided if you can't beat 'um, join 'um, so we invited our new neighbors over for dinner.  We served a Terro product that they're CRAZY about!!  I plated up the delish dinner on handy little cardboard plates provided by Terro.  Just about immediately our little neighbors called out to their friends that dinner was served.  Little did we know they had so many friends and cousins.  Oh my word!!!  We spent countless hours watching them devour the dinner.  I even had to fix up some more on many occasions.  We served dessert and that too was gobbled up.  We hope they share this recipe and meal with their Queen.  I hope she LOVES it!!

The Joy of Giving

Almost yearly my sweetheart signs up to "Adopt-a-Family" through his workplace.  It's always a big deal for us (especially him) to shop, wrap, and deliver to a family who is in need.  Here's how it works:  Nominated families are screened and then employees are given information about them that would assist in the buying process.  This year in my sweetheart's unit participants were grouped (about 4-5 people) and then they each donated money (whatever they chose to give).  The money was pooled and DH (Dear Hub) brought it home and we did the shopping.

Our family was a husband, wife, a daughter, age 7 and a little boy, age 3.  We tried to make the money stretch as far as we could.  I really enjoy the shopping part. Big Surprise?  The kids and I headed out to the mall and start looking for great sales of quality clothing.  We were able to buy an outfit (2 for the little girl) for each member, a couple toys for the kids, and a $100 grocery gift card for their family.  We were really happy with our purchases.

As the day got closer for delivery, life began to get a little crazy.  That always seems to happen when a blessing is on its way.  The day we were supposed to deliver I took the kids on a field trip to the Queen Mary.  While we were gone, Hub was at work and afterward he rushed home to wrap the gifts.  We met up at home.  I was at the point where I didn't really want to go.  Our house looked disasterous and needed SERIOUS cleaning, we were getting ready to head out of town for a soccer tournament, laundry needed to be done for that, etc.  The endless list of household responsibilites was hanging over my head, but we decided it was best to do the delivery as a family.

Here's a note my sweetheart sent out regarding our visit...

"To all-

I just wanted to give a little update for the family we adopted this year.
We finished all the shopping for the family and wrapped the gifts for delivery a week ago Friday. We were able to purchase shoes, some basic clothes and a couple toys for each of the kids. We then set aside a $100 gift card for food purchases for the holidays. With a little help from a translator, we contacted the family and confirmed the location and drop-off time.

We wrapped all the presents and loaded my whole family up in the car for the delivery. We arrived at their apartment a little before 3pm. We met Mom and daughter. The whole family lives in a small, older 1 bedroom apartment and all their furniture is salvaged from the demolition work her husband does for income. Mom spoke very good English and we stayed and spoke with her for over half an hour. She was a great host – she offered us bottled water while we were there and spent the entire day cleaning and getting ready for our arrival. Their daughter was very shy and quiet but near the end of our time was starting to talk and relax. Her mother was very proud of her little girl as she is one of the best students in her class.  Mom thanked us multiple times for our kindness. She confessed that the auto insurance was due this month (a vehicle her husband needs for work) and they had no idea how they were going to make this payment along with their other bills – let alone buy gifts for Christmas.

For my family it was a highlight of the Christmas spirit and season and your donation was very much appreciated by a family in real need.

Thanks again to all of you for participating."
Like he said, they lived in a SMALL (like 300 sq. ft. at the most) one bedroom apartment.  The parents and little boy slept in the one bedroom and the little seven year old girl slept on a futon in what was the living room.  On cold nights dad would sleep in the living room and little girl slept with mom so she wouldn't get cold.
Mom shared with us how they planned to celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe that night.  Mom had made rice and milk for ALL the guests who were coming that night.  She was really excited.  It reminded me of some of our experiences we had while we lived in the Azores when I was growing up.  I wanted to stay and celebrate with them, even though I don't know anything about the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Mom was supposed to pick up her son at 3:30 and twice her friend called to say, "Let's Go," but she just kept putting her off so she could sit and visit with us a bit longer.  After about a 1/2 hour visit we had to go and Mom needed to pick up her little guy.
In that 1/2 hour my heart was FILLED!  I wished we had more to give them.  The joy that we experienced on the ride home was inexplicable.  We were all filled!  It seemed like we were so much more appreciative than we were when we arrived.  We were not as bogged down by what wasn't done, but focused on what was right in our lives.  Somehow, our perspective was shifted ever so slightly and suddenly that we had hearts of thankfulness and gratitude that we didn't have when we walked into that little apartment.
I don't know if we'll see that little mom again.  I hope so.  God used her in a season of frantic, busy discontent and replaced it with gladness and joy.  Thank you!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Little Things in Life

Can I just say I'm SO thankful for all the men and women who dutifully serve our wonderful country in the Armed Forces?  Just think all over the world US men and women are serving, away from home, doing their day-to-day jobs, but ultimately protecting our country and our freedom.

Today as I was packaging up some items sold on ebay I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at the recipient's name and address and found out he was a SSGT in Avionics at an FPO somewhere possibly in Europe.  So cool!  My dad was in Avionics when I was growing up and suddenly I felt a kinship to this young man.  I know it sounds weird, but I felt like that.  I wrote him a note on the packing slip thanking him for his service and wishing him a Merry Christmas.  What I really wanted to suddenly do is send him a care package.  But then I thought that might be even more weird.

So instead of sending this young man a care package, I posted an inquiry on Facebook asking "friends" if they knew of someone serving in Iraq or Afghanistan to whom we could send a package.  Now I'm checking my status constantly to see if anyone posts.

I hope an opportunity arises to let someone know they are thought of and appreciated.  I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

B.M.I. Schmee. M. I

Yesterday we went in for the routine well-chiled checks.  Our kids have been amazingly healthy, so I thought we'd just go in for the routine, run-of-the-mill check weight, height, what color is your hair now check-up.  The appointment was pretty much that, except for ONE little thing that gnawed at me all day.  B.M.I.

At the appointment, after checking the kids' weight and height we went to the examination room.  The doctor examined each child one by one.  But at one point she leaned over to me and said something like, "See this number? (It was on the bottom corner of the height/weight chart). I'm not concerned about it, but we'll watch it to make sure it remains within 'the range'."  WHAT??  My brain was trying to wrap itself around what she just said.  Did she just say that one of our kids, who eats healthy, well-balanced meals, plays year-round sports, with a perfect little body is on the "fat watch list?"  Maybe I was just over-reacting and the BMI is not really what I thought it was.  So I went home and did what I do best.  Research.

What I discovered when I got home bothered me even more.  Perhaps I'm the only one who thinks the government is over-reaching in so many areas of our lives.  I may be the only one who thinks government tracking of our weight and height is not a good thing.  But, I'm sure there are many others who feel the same. 

So what is BMI?  According to Wikipedia, "The body mass index (BMI), or Quetelet index, is a heuristic measure of body weight based on a person's weight and height. Though it does not actually measure the percentage of body fat, it is used to estimate a healthy body weight based on a person's height, assuming an average body composition."  What I also found is a portion of the “stimulus” bill requires doctors and hospitals to track everyone’s BMI electronically and report it to the federal government beginning in 2014.  Really?  And furthermore I read some schools have been recording a child's BMI on their report card.  Seems out of the school's responsibility to me.  Can you imagine the report card?  "Look honey, Jimmy got an A in English, a B in Math, and what's this?  Oh no, he's got a C in BMI"

From what I read there are many issues with relying on BMI.  One is that it doesn't consider lean body mass, so a very lean, muscular person will/can show up as overweight.  Also, a very tall slender person may also have a BMI that is over the limit.  A friend commented that guys in the army, whom she knew, didn't "pass" their BMI tests because it showed they were "overweight" yet they measured only about 10% body fat.

I completely recognize there is a weight issue in America that needs to be addressed, but having the government tracking us with inaccurate tests doesn't seem to be the answer. 

Well, off to another "check-up" appointment.  Let's hope the dentist doesn't have any wacky surprises for us.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Finding Flik

Over my last twelve years of Motherhood, I can almost guarantee I've seen just about every "big" Disney, Pixar, or similar kid movie.  Some of them have been sweet and funny.  Some have positive life or character building lessons.  Some have been filled with inappropriate suggestive humor.  And some have been real yawners.

One of my favorites was A Bug's Life by Disney/Pixar.  I'm not sure if it's one of my favorites because I watched that movie the most times, or if the message of the Little Guy/Underdog overcoming life's challenges spoke to my heart.  Regardless of the reason, I found it quite amusing and entertaining.  I grew attached to that group of ants.  We even had a Flik toy in the house.  We cheered for the "Bugs" when they defeated the mean, overpowering Grasshoppers.  Back in the day, our oldest even befriended a grasshopper.  Dear Grass-Hopper lived with us for a short while, until he died while we went on a vacation.  The death of Grass-Hopper was one of the saddest childhood days for our oldest.  I can say it was the only time I was asked by one of our kids to organize and perform a funeral service.  We had a headstone and a burial plot for 'ole Grass-Hopper.  It felt a little cheesy, but it soothed the sting of death for our then, little guy.

Despite my fond memories of A Bug's Life, I've not grown any fonder of real bugs.  Over the last year and a half, I've found four black widows in and around our house.  And over the last two to three months we've been invaded by little determined ants!  Those Buggers!  Every morning I wake up and in a "Where's Waldo" fashion, I seek out the latest invasion.  They've appeared in our kitchen, all over the cat food, in our living room, in the master bedroom closet, in the master bathroom, in the kids' bathroom, you get the idea...they're everywhere.

Thankfully, we have a neighbor who's an exterminator.  He's really a bedbug expert, but he offered to spray around the exterior perimeter of the house.  Wonderful!  No longer are ants coming in the house, but those who are already here continue to BUG me!  They've decreased in numbers, but the few scouts are still found here and there.  I'll be so glad when I no longer awake to find a trail to a lone Cheerio that was left on the floor under the kids' chairs.

Oh no, just in...as I'm typing one of the kids just says to me from his room, "Mom, I think the ants have found our room...get the vacuum up here!!"  Ugh!  I guess we found our Waldo for the day.  Back to work.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Letting Go of The Stuff

Letting go of MY STUFF is REALLY hard!  It makes me want to cry!  I love beautiful dishes, stunning displays, and a well-decorated home.  But sometimes all the stuff can be just too much. 

When I was growing up, my family never had a set of China and for some reason having a "Special" set of dishes was something I always wanted.  I remember going to friends' homes where the family buffet displayed china and glassware.  It looked so beautiful to my budding inner Martha Stewart.  When I grew up, I hoped to one day to have a set of china to entertain family and friends during holidays and celebrations.

When my sweetheart and I got engaged, we (more like I) picked out a sweet, feminine Noritake China pattern.  When we got married, we received many pieces, but all in all, it was only service for five.  Over the past 18 years of marriage we've never completed the set.  Consequently, we have only used it a handful of times on an anniversary, or if it was only our immediate family, we'd use it on Thanksgiving.

These days, that sweet, light pink floral with a silver lining just doesn't seem to fit our current style.  In our life with three active children, stoneware seems to be the more practical choice.  Furthermore, space is now limited and storage of another incomplete set of dishes just doesn't seem practical.  Rather than storing the incomplete set, I'd like to pay off some debt and save for something more useful to our family.  So, with apprehension and hesitation, I listed my wedding china on ebay.  I'm not sure if it's the right thing to do or not.

The wedding china might move out, but I'll definitely keep the man and the kids.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Too Cheap to Buy, so we BAKE!

Today we went to Starbuck's to take advantage of a holiday special- buy one pound of Christmas blend coffee, get the 2nd for free.  GREAT DEAL for Coffee Girlie!  (Note, they're having 12 Days of Christmas specials daily.  This could be a perfect time for some Christmas shopping for a coffee lover or just gifts for oneself.  I'm guilty of the latter).

Just about every time we go Starbuck's, my daughter, with drool hanging from her lips, eyes the lemon pound cake.  My response every time is..."I'm not going to buy that.  We can make it at home."  I can be such an ogre sometimes, or maybe I'm just REALLY cheap.  I just find it very hard to spend $2 on a slice of pound cake when we have all the ingredients and the know how at home to bake it ourselves.

So today after errands, sports practices, and dinner, my girlie and I set out to bake Lemon Lemon Loaf from one of my recent cookbook purchases BAKED.  It looked super yummy in the photo and had lots of eggs, butter and sour cream.  I think this treat might be dangerously good, but did I mention I'm supposed to stay away from gluten and sugar.  Bummer!  That's a whole other blog.
Anyway, the Lemon Lemon Loaf turned out beautiful.  Ours was more like a Lemon Orange Loaf since we didn't have lemons and had to use the zest of oranges instead.  The recipe made two loaves, so we're set for a special holiday snack with a yummy cup of warmed eggnog.  My girlie was happy with the baking and the finished product.  Everyone was able to enjoy a slice (I even tried a bite).  I think I saved at least $10 baking at home.  Maybe my savings will make up for the extra purchases.

On Blogging

If I had my way, and an unlimited amount of time in each day, I'd wake each morning, read while enjoying a GREAT cup (or three) of coffee, work out, prepare FABULOUS homeschooling experiences for our kids, cook a delicious dinner that would make my husband exclaim, "Honey, You're the best cook in the west!", list many items on ebay and blog daily.  In a perfect world that is.

Just about every day I think, "I'd like to blog this...,"  but don't do it.

Yesterday I was reading The Pioneer Woman's blog and one of her recommendations on blogging is to blog often.  "Often" is one paragraph, one photo or a whole commentary.  Just do it often. 

Blog on!