Friday, July 23, 2010

Lovin' Summer

We have been really busy trying to squeeze in a dozen activities this week before Joel goes back to work on Monday (boo for going back to work!however, happy for the paycheck!) and also before some of Josie's friends start school.

Monday- We went to the pool. We have discovered a love of the post pool. It was the second time we had been there in less than a week! We invited some friends to join us and had a great time enjoying splashing, "swimming" (the kids love paddling around in their life vests) and going down the water slides.

Tuesday- We visited the Denver Zoo with some different friends. We had never been there before. We were worried it might rain but Josie prayed and it didn't! So cute.:) They have a great elephant exhibit. Carson loved the animals, it was sweet. Josie had her final ice-skating lesson for this session. She passed Snowplow Sam One with flying colors and is eager to start her next class.

Wednesday-We finally did some grocery shopping (big news to us!) and caught our first SkySox game. Carson sat perfectly still and watched the first 4 innings-completely enraptured! It was adorable. They both enjoyed dancing to the fun music and they made it up on the big screen twice. The home team lost (badly- 2 to 8) but it was still fun. I was really impressed with how well the kids behaved.

Thursday- This was a big day for me! I climbed the Incline with some friends. We had some time constraints, so we only went up half way and came down the trail. If you are not familiar with the Incline it is a mile-long set of "stairs", made of railroad ties, leading up a mountain. I use the word stairs loosely because they are not evenly spaced, placed or sized. It is one of the toughest workouts I have ever done! I am ready to go back and tackle the whole thing, though, even the 4.3 mile trail back down. It was amazing! Joel took the kids back to the pool, which they thought was great. The pool also encourages napping, so I think that is great!Then Josie had a party at church so Joel and I spent some quality time with Carson. That was fun, we don't get too much one on one with him. I also was able to score some great deals at Gymboree with some Gymbucks I had been hoarding since late May. I heart new Gymboree!

Friday- We are going to the "Spray Park" today with the friends we accompanied to the zoo. We went once last year and the kids really enjoyed all the different nozzles and water features. We are going to picnic and soak up the sun. Next week it is back to routine so we have to squeeze in all the fun we can!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Happy "Helpers"

My proud little bed-maker; didn't she do a nice job?

I walked into the bathroom the other night before bed. I was greeted by: toothpaste on the sink, two toothbrushes in the floor, uncapped toothpaste tube, crushed Dixie cups and various other odd and assorted pieces of stuff. My first thought was: "Wow, I'm so impressed that Josie helped Carson to brush his teeth." That was when I realized that I am not quite such a failure as a mother as I sometimes think I am. I was not necessarily grateful that I had to pick up and wipe off all that stuff, but I wasn't frustrated by it.

Trust me, there are plenty of things about my children that make me consider joining the circus. Anyone who has ever had a 2 year-old, or a 4 year-old (and especially those of us who have had both-or bless you-more!) know what I am talking about. There are definitely moments when I reach that banshee decibel and I am sure my neighbors do not appreciate it. However, I have to say that honestly, I have more positive thoughts about my children than negative ones. I really try to look at the bright side, and try to figure out their motivations. That is what led to the thought about the bathroom diaster. I know Josie loves to help Carson and I could tell by the disarray this was the cause. Joel had put the kids to bed, and while he is more conscious of messes than a lot of men I know, he must not have realized he needed to help the kids brush their teeth.

I think that is really one of the signs of a good mom-recognizing the underlying intentions of our children. When Jocelyn makes a HUGE mess in her room but I remember that she spent a whole hour entertaining her brother I try to make sure that I thank her for that, rather than just ranting about the clutter. This is not to say that the times when she drags out everything she owns in a 30 minute period just because she is bored that I do not make sure that she is the one doing the majority of the cleaning. But when I know that she is not the only offender (and she was helping me by keeping him sidetracked) I try to be a little more understanding.

I laugh when Josie "helps" me by lining up all my shoes outside my closet, or when she puts the laundry away-all together in the same drawer. I think it is cute when Carson "helps" clean up his dirty dishes-by putting them in the trash! Maybe not so cute when I realize I am missing half of my matching Ikea bowls, but I didn't complain too much about replacing them. I take a ton of photos of my kids and definitely when they do something that I realize may be exasperating, or just not helpful, now but I will probably think is funny later. Like when Carson got into a bowl of Hershey's kisses and tried to eat them with the wrapper on. Or when he put dirty laundry from the floor into the dryer. I realize that they are just trying to help me. Such as the times when Jocelyn puts away the upstairs basket (I keep it at the bottom of the stairs and put things that need to the other level in it to take care of later) and I can't find my shirt because she put it in my sock drawer. Or when both of them clean any of the mirrors and/or windows with baby wipes. Talk about streaks!

I definitely am not a perfect mother, but I think it shows great progress -for me- that I don't demand constant perfection from my kids. I really try to focus on how they try to please me-that is really the heart of obedience. There are certainly times, more than I can count, that they have intentionally disobeyed. That merits discipline, sometimes calmly and patiently administered, other times not so kindly. But I am certain that any wise mother would tell you to seek to understand your child's motivations. Also, I try to remind myself that if they have done something they thought was helpful that isn't, then I can take that opportunity to show them the right way. If they have done something to the best of their ability (such as when Jocelyn makes my bed) I praise their effort anyway. They will both hone their skills as they grow older. Taking a picture of my bed, with my beaming 4 year-old on it, so pleased with herself, will be a wonderful memory when she is making her own bed in her own house.

I also wrote this post as a reminder to myself to take more joy in the things that may not seem so joy-inspiring. I don't think everything has to be a "I'm so thankful that my child has arms so he/she can make all these messes." But I don't think it hurts to think, "Look at that helpful spirit or newfound ability", when they maybe pull all the books of the shelf while "dusting'. I want my children to learn to be self-reliant, helpful, cheerful and independent. Those character traits aren't developed overnight, so at times I need to remember certain messes are just stepping stones-and to keep the cleaning wipes handy!

Monday, July 12, 2010

So Fun, It's Almost Criminal!

Joel and I have had the opportunity to celebrate only a few of his birthdays together. He has been deployed to Iraq for two and in California training for one. Due to various other occurrences (and excuses) I have never thrown him a "real" birthday party. His big 3-0 was last year and since he was still deployed, I tried to make it special but I wanted to make up for it this year. My mom had thrown a great party for my sister, Katy in February for her 18th birthday. She let me in on a little of the planning and I thought it sounded like so much fun I decided to copy it! (Remember me saying I steal all my best ideas? Yep, don't ever tell me about something fun you've done because I truly believe imitation is the highest form of flattery!)

The idea was, a Josie kept saying over and over, a "murder mystery dinner party". The concept is simple: you use a kit that has 8 character parts, invite the guests, assign the parts and while dining you trade information that allows you to discern who "killed" an imaginary guest (not one of the people you invited). Execution is an entirely different story!

I am definitely NOT spiritually gifted with hospitality. I am such an obsessive perfectionist that it is not usually enjoyable for me to have people over. I realized earlier this year that was not an attitude that pleased the Lord. Refusing to have people over unless my house could pass a white-glove test (ummm, which is *never*) did not honor Him. I decided to try to be more open. I felt that having a party for Joel would be a good place to start.

We have several couples that we absolutely LOVE spending time with so I felt like they would make for the perfect guest list. The scripts were written for 4 guys and 4 girls so it worked out great. Also, our group is pretty low-key so I thought having a more formal seated dinner would be a nice change of pace. I had a great time purchasing matching plates, napkins, etc. and everyone got a kick out of the fake silverware and plastic wineglasses-complete with wine charms! Candles and flowers completed the setting and we even opened up several bottles of bubbly-sparkling cider that is.:)

Everyone came in costume-although the setting was modern, so that made it easier. We exchanged introductions of our characters and enjoyed all four scenes. We split those up between: appetizers/"cocktails", salad course, main course, and dessert. I made my Aunt Rachel Dawn's famous cheese dip and had some other finger foods (or actually cocktail toothpick foods, per Joel's request) and also homemade manicotti and from-scratch key lime pie. As someone who does not usually brag about her culinary skills I was pretty pleased with myself! I didn't take a ton of photos, because I was not only the hostess I was a character. I allowed all the guests to chose their characters and Joel and I took the remaining two. I ended up being the "murderer"! That gave me even more work to do.

Everything turned out great. I was bummed that I didn't get a photo of any of the food, or more of the guests. We had a terrific time, though and I think someone in our group will host another one sometime soon. I just hope I get a better part this time. I think all in all it was a successful weekend-Joel's actual birthday was on Friday and he went to the movies with a friend and then we had dinner at a teppan-yaki grill. We finished the night with iced coffee and gifts! Lots of new clothes for him, as well as a new video game and season of his new favorite show "Leverage". Josie's special gift was the Lego set. Then we partied on Saturday! I think we made some wonderful memories and I don't have to plan another party now until he turns 40...:)

The birthday "boy".

The table before the party.

The place settings. I folded the napkins all by myself!:)

Joel relaxing before the pary. No stress there!

The finished product. I love floating candles and flowers!

All the party guests. Except me, I am always behind the camera!

He may or may not have rearranged his candles to suit his liking.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Carpet Cleaning Conundrum-Solved!

I hate the carpet in our house. It attracts...EVERYTHING! We are not slobs, although I wouldn't lie and say I am a perfect housekeeper, either. However, the carpet in our house torments me on a daily basis. Silly things, like the spot in the upstairs landing (you can't really properly refer to it as a hallway, but I haven't come up with another name for it, so landing it is) where Carson spilled almost an entire bottle of shampoo, nag at me every time I pass them. Since this is not our "forever" home, I try to take care of it for the next occupants, but I also feel like it is a little futile to invest tons of our money in upkeep.

I was torn, since we really don't have a firm grasp right now on what the future holds, as to what to do about the carpet. I wanted it to look decent, but when we buy a house it will NOT have carpet if I have anything to say about it. I love tile, wood, I would even deal with linoleum, but I would really rather not have carpet. I have had both, and I have to say, I prefer the pitfalls of hard flooring vs. the evils of carpet. But, since I can't replace this, I had to have a solution. I thought about hiring it done, but since 5/6ths of our house is carpeted and we have carpeted stairs, it would be expensive. Also, we had a couple of spots (like the aforementioned shampoo) that I knew would require a little extra TLC. I didn't want tacked on charges for things like that. I thought about buying a steam cleaner, but unless we got a really nice one, I didn't think it would be able to do the job. Plus, if our next house doesn't have carpet then it wouldn't be worth it.

So, that left me with renting a carpet cleaner. I had heard both pros and cons. They worked well, they didn't work well, they were cheaper, they cost as much as hiring a professional. I really didn't want to deal with someone from the outside, so I finally decided we would tackle it ourselves. Except I waited until after Joel had ankle surgery! Since we are having a party to celebrate his birthday this weekend, I thought I better just go ahead and bite the bullet. I went this morning and rented a Rug Doctor. The shoppette three blocks from our house has them.

Well, needless to say, I am not sure why I waited so long! I am not completely finished (it is a LOT of work) but I am definitely going to end up with a cleaner carpet. I pretty much removed all the shampoo (that alone took almost 30 minutes) and my stairs look great! Why am I such a procrastinator? I am thankful that even though it is very labor intensive it is not difficult. There is a lot of filling and dumping of the tank (at least every room) but other than that it hasn't been anything besides pushing either the entire machine or the upholstery attachment back and forth. I think I am covered in cleaner from head to toe, too. But I found some coupons online and with the extra upholstery attachment, stain pre-treatment, de-foamer, and cleaning fluid it was less than $45. I thought that was pretty cheap, less than 1/2 of what it would have cost for a light professional cleaning. I am feeling so good I think I might even tackle the sofa!

Not sure why I felt the need to post this, kind of boring. I guess I am just excited that I finally found a solution to my problem. Yay for clean carpet-now if we can just keep it that way for a little while!:)

P.S. I have to thank my sister, Robyn, for finally persuading me to try doing it myself. I steal all my best ideas from her.:)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What's In A Name?

Because all of Joel's troubles with his lower limbs (he had extensive ankle surgery just last week on his left leg-a recovery time of 4-6 months, soon to be followed by the same procedure on his right leg) are not enough for one family, I have been having some problems with my right foot and left ankle. I finally made an appointment to be seen, hoping the final result would be a referral to a podiatrist. I was seen today and had to have x-rays done as well. That means my paperwork was handed to: the desk clerk, the nurse, the doctor, the x-ray clerk and the x-ray tech. That resulted in, as usual, a lot of questions about my name.

Ever since I was younger (I almost said "little"-ha!) I have answered many questions about my highly unusual first name. Little-yep, many of my loyal readers are familiar with it (okay, many might be pushing it, but I am guessing 4 out of the 5 of you already knew that!), but my first name is more commonly used as an adjective. It's a family thing, a family from the South, as I told the tech today. When they hear it most people say, "Little?", normally followed by, "I asked for your first name, not your last name." Me-"That is my first name." That leads to, "Little? Your first name is Little?" and pick one:

"That is so cute!"
"I know someone named ___________(fill in the blank with any variety of weird words)."
"Where did that come from?"
"Was it because you were tiny when you were born?"

Me (thinking to myself):
"Not really"
"Wow, that makes Little sound normal."
"Why do you care?"
"That is the dumbest response ever-and no, I was 8 chunky pounds!"

However, even though my name requires more explanation than most, I still love it. It really sets me apart and it makes for a great conversation starter. I have been dealing with very surly customer service people, receptionists, etc. and once they hear my name they have to ask about it and suddenly they are a little friendlier. Even as a child, I didn't really mind the questions (I actually had a harder time explaining Clarissa, my middle name). But I am always proud to share that it is a family name, handed down from my grandmother to my mother, to me. And now to my daughter. It makes me feel unique. I guess it should make me feel weird, but it doesn't. It makes me feel loved to know that I am part of a select group, and it strongly identifies me with my family. Of course, it is not what I go by. That would be a "little" confusing-get it? But I proudly sign it to all my credit cards, have it on my driver's license and it is even embossed on my Bible.It is on all my legal paperwork. I am not ashamed to share my story with everyone.

Yep, you know it is coming-the normal tie-in. I can't help but think that it is so funny that I am never afraid to talk about my name, or my family. I don't mind taking the time to explain it to someone because it is who I am. I may get a little annoyed when someone makes fun of it, or doesn't really understand, but it doesn't keep me from using it. Yet, when it comes to the most important part of my identity-the Christian part- I sometimes try to hide it, or make it seem less important. Kind of like if I switched my first and middle name-you know, Clare L., instead of Little Clare. I use "friendlier" words like God, instead of Christ. I gloss over it-"yep, I'm a Christian, how about the weather?", instead of taking the time to go into detail about what that really means to me. I don't always proudly display it-and I am not talking about t-shirts and bumper stickers! I have a much better Family name, one that is even more special and unique than my given name. I should be much more proud of that. I am set apart, grafted into the greatest Family line of all. So I want to take the same pride and courage in explaining my Father's name as I do my own-because I know He is the thing in my life that I am the most proud of being a part.

By the way, just in case you were wondering, my x-rays were fine and I did get a referral to podiatry. Joel is doing well, not loving being on crutches for the next 5weeks, but the surgery was definitely necessary. He is off for the next month, which will be nice, incapacitated or not!


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