Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Ice" Day

A bit of freezing rain and ice arrived in Little Rock yesterday afternoon just in time for my Christmas party at work. About half of the folks headed for home early while the rest of us enjoyed a quick meal and then joined the masses in traffic. Living close to work definitely has its advantages.

Today we were blessed with an unexpected day off of school and work! Nothing makes you feel more like a kid again than a day off of work because of weather.

We've been staying busy decorating cards and cookies. I'm so enjoying the day that I didn't even freak when I dropped the bowl of egg yolk and food coloring that we were using to paint on cookies. My favorite pajama pants and demin shirt however did not survive quite as well.

While taking pictures of the days activities I also took a few pictures of our decorations to share.

This is our tree. At last count we had over 200 bear ornaments.
This is the shelf in the living room. The stereo components and video games add a particularly festive touch!

This is our mantel. I'm sure the boys love having teddy bear stockings. Santa still fills them though.

Finally, the mistletoe. Needs no explanation :)
Simply Stated: Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tis the Season!

I love the Christmas season. Last night was Caroline's Christmas Choir Concert and it was outstanding. I'd post a picture but after almost 20 years of parenting the camera rarely makes it to these events. Oh, but the memories will live on in my mind. Plus 20 years from now we'll have the liberty to embellish stories while those with video cameras and digital pictures can not. MY kids will have been the stars in every production. AHA!

Back to Christmas. We got the house decorated last weekend...almost. As usual, there are a few loose ends that I need to finish. One of the best moments came when we put a new ornament on the tree. It looks like this:

Finally, our family of six. (Yes, we should have done this last year but better late then never).

And the old ornament has been given a proper burial.

Simply stated: Six is my favorite number!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I love listening to Maria tell a story. The combination of being six and not having a complete grasp of English lends itself to some pretty entertaining story telling. For instance...

(Note: if you are offended by stories about "tooting", read no further.)

Several weeks ago our precious girl had an ear ache which required treatment with antibiotic. Unfortunately the antibiotic didn't set very well in her digestive tract and she started having some problems. Gas to be quite blunt.

Since the day we brought Maria home she has been able to clear a room with one of her toots. I remember standing in line with her at a store and she kept tooting. And it was obvious. So let me ask you. If you are the cashier and there was a plus-sized woman at your register accompanied by a petite child who are you going to assume is causing the offensive odor? I finally leaned down to Maria and whispered in her ear that she could not let loose one more toot until we left the store.

Fast forward to several weeks ago when she was on her antibiotic. I walked into her classroom on Wednesday night at church and the smell just about knocked me over. I knew immediately that it was Maria. Obviously we have fully and completely bonded to each other. I scanned the room and she was nowhere to be found so I headed to the bathroom where sure enough Maria was taking care of business. I asked her if she had pooped and she grinned and asked how I had known. I told her because she had stunk up the joint. She giggled.

The next day when I picked her up at school I asked her how her tummy felt. She said "a little good" and went on to explain that she had tooted in class and all the children started grossing out. At which point she claimed it and apologized! Oh, honey girl, that's taking honesty a bit too far. I tried to explain that in a room full of people you don't really need to admit to tooting. Does that make me a bad person?

The next day I picked her up and asked the same question. Yes, she had tooted. Yes, the class had groaned in disgust. No, she didn't admit to it. I asked her if she was tooting on person. And here's the best part...

"Oh, no Mommy. I just couldn't wait any longer. So I relaxed and let the spray go!"

Simply stated: What more can I say?

An update of sorts

Hard to believe it's been almost a month since my last post. For as long as I can remember I have always had an over abundance of words and ideas. Many of which are not worthy of sharing, but they were there nonetheless. But working with the public for eight to nine hours a day seems to exceed my allotted words for the day. Consequently, when evening comes and I might find a few moment to blog, there are no words left. Just an overwhelming need to be quiet.

I'm sure that the men in my life are loving this because they have always been a do I say this nicely?...challenged by my need to talk incessantly. Truth be told, since beginning my job I will often think of something I need to talk with Don about and I won't have the words or energy to start the conversation. Who knew that the woman who was once described as opening her eyes and mouth simultaneously each morning could be silenced?

Today is a different kind of day. I'm home sick. It seems I've had a perpetual cough and cold for about 4 weeks now and just yesterday started getting congested, again, and running a fever. I'm gonna act like a grown up and go to the doctor's at 2:15. Hopefully I'll leave with some antibiotic.

So while Maria is watching Noggin, after all it is "preschool on TV", I thought I'd write a quick post. A lot has happened.

The Election. I hate election years because it divides my extended family like no other event. For the most part none of us talks politics but everyone knows where the other stands and the tension it creates is not good. I don't presume to know who's the best candidate for our country. Truly, I think we are subjected to a lot of rhetoric during the campaigns and the issues get lost in a bunch of polictical mumbo-jumbo. My Dad says that "figures lie and liars figure." I think this is true for most politicians. What is most important is that I voted and I did so with a clear conscience and no hidden agenda. Bottom-line. My God is bigger than any election or president. In Him I will trust.

The Twilight Zone. Caroline just finished working on her first play at her new school. Even though she's only in middle school she tried out for a part in the high school play and she earned herself two small parts in two different episodes. The play was a compilation of 6 Twilight Zone episodes and was really fun to watch...twice. The schedule of practices, school, homework, and church activities just about did Caroline in but she prevailed and did a great job. Try outs for the spring musical "The Music Man" starts in a couple of weeks. Even though musicals are Caroline's favorite she says she's not ready for another production.

Downsizing. The unemployment woes hit close to home last week. Don's company had lay-offs and Don was the last one hired so there was a brief moment of worry. Fortunately, his company took into consideration his years of working for Haagen-Dazs before our hiatus for ministry and he was spared. It was a wake up call and a reality check for me that instead of complaining about jobs or having to work that we need to be grateful that we are both employed.

Grammy and Gram: Don's mom (Grammy) has been very sick and has been in and out of the hospital for several month's. I won't write much because they are a private family (unlike me who was born without the ability to self-censor) but it has been a very difficult time for her. I'm so glad that we made the decision months ago to spend Thanksgiving with them in Seattle.

Gram (my grandmother) fell and broke her hip on Monday and had surgery yesterday. She's 86 years old and hasn't rallied well from the surgery. Although the family was warned about this we still hate to see her suffer. It's hard being so faraway from family at times like this. Please pray for Grammy and Gram.

Simply stated: I need to go blow my nose.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Interesting Reading

When I'm not checking out patients or falling out of chairs at work, one will often find me reading the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or DSM as we in the biz will call it). For those of you unfamiliar with the DSM it is a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) that includes all currently recognized mental health disorders.

So what began as an earnest attempt to educate myself on the issues that many of our patients deal with has turned into a quest to diagnose myself. And everyone else around me.

For example, I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have sleep terror disorder. The DSM describes this as night terrors, also known as pavor nocturnus, characterized by extreme terror and a temporary inability to regain full consciousness. The subject (me) wakes abruptly from slow-wave sleep, with waking usually accompanied by gasping, moaning, or screaming. It is often impossible to fully awaken the person, and after the episode the subject normally settles back to sleep without waking. Thereby leaving that subject's spouse to scrape himself off of the ceiling.

For any of you who have had the misfortune of spending a night under the same roof as me, you know this to be all too true.

For those of you who have had the extreme misfortune of sharing a bed with me, I am truly sorry.

While often comical, my night terrors have proven to be dangerous as well. My "episodes" have inflicted countless bruises, nasty scrapes and even one round of stitches. My children have become immune to the sound of mom's pounding footsteps running down the hallway in the middle of the night. Even the blood curdling screams are no longer cause for alarm.

Not so much for poor Don. I don't think one ever grows accustomed to being woken from a dead sleep by a screaming lunatic next to you.

There is no cure. No telethon. No awareness campaign.

Anti-anxiety meds are the only treatment. And, until Don is at the point of slipping a Klonopin in my late night diet coke, I don't see that happening.

Simply stated: Do you think it's a coincidence that my co-workers took my manual away yesterday?

P.S. I believe that mental illness and mental disorders are no laughing matter. I'm a strong proponent of therapy and medication for people suffering with a variety of mental disorders and illnesses. I also can't pass up an opportunity to use self-depricating humor to get a cheap laugh. Maybe some more diagnosing is needed.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What does it say about a person?

Hypothetically speaking. What does it say about a person's wardrobe when their daughter sees her ironing a shirt and then inquires as to why she's getting dressed up.

Or again, hypothetically speaking, when the other daughter asks why mommy is so "fancy" simply for wearing some $10.00 costume jewelry from Kohl's.

Simply Stated: A "person" might get a complex.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Once a klutz...always a klutz.

I've made it six weeks at my new job without revealing my clumsy side. I haven't fallen, tripped, run into a wall, or broken anything. Until today.

Since the very first day that I pulled my chair up to my desk, I've known that today's display of my lack of grace was inevitable. You see I have a chair. With wheels. And this chair with wheels resides on a piece of smooth and slick plastic. Now, to most people this would not be cause for concern. I, unfortunately, am not most people. And today I made the worst kind of mistake. I tried to sit down. While carrying on a conversation. At the same time.

Do you see where this is going? Let me describe the scene for you.

My boss, Paula's, office is across the hallway from my window. I was perched over my desk having an uneventful converstion with Paula when in a moment of reckless abandon I decided to sit down. Without bothering to grab the handles of the chair my rear end merely grazed the edge of the seat thereby propelling the chair across the room leaving only gravity between me and the floor. I knew what was happening but by vain efforts to grab at something proved pointless. I landed on butt/back, the momentum of the fall causing my legs to skyrocket heavenward. I'm sure the bruises will be evident by tomorrow.

It seemed as though I was falling in slow motion. Through the window I could see the panicked look on Paula's face as I disappeared from view. When I sat up I was surrounded by all of my co-workers in the front office, Paula, and one of our doctors. The chorus of gasps, "oh my gosh's," and "is she ok's" quickly turned to giggles once everyone realized that my convulsions were caused by embarrased laughter rather than a serious head injury.

Someone said she'd thought I fainted. Why didn't I think of that?

Simply stated: Nothing to see here folks.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Wedding Etiquette Survey

Last weekend we attended the wedding of a young couple at our church. It was a beautiful ceremony and we were honored to be included in their special day.

At the reception I was searching for the gift table to place our card. A good friend of mine was curious why I would be giving a gift at the wedding since I had already brought a gift to the bride-to-be's shower. I must have looked a little confused by her question. She went on to explain that they only buy one gift even if invited to both functions.

My this a southern thing? I asked my friend from California who agreed with our east coast ways. I asked another Arkansas friend who confirmed that they, too, only purchase one gift. Please, please, please post your responses as to what your customs dictate. I'm really curious about this one.

Another thing about southern weddings is that people don't use RSVP cards. this a southern thing or just a new trend in weddings?

And while we're on the topic of north vs. south, I feel as though I've marked some right of passage into southern-womanhood as I've used Ro-tel in our last two meals and neither entree included cheese dip.

We also drink sweet tea on a regular basis.

I must admit as well that I've used the word "buggy" referring to a shopping cart and the work "sack" in place of the more northern alternative bag. Y'all are rubbing off on me.

Simply stated: I best be fixin' to get ready for community group.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth

Caroline has instructed me that I "have to sit down and post something this weekend." Plus,
I figured I'd better write something just to break the dry spell and get the momentum moving again. Truth be told, my eyes keep closing as I try and type. I'm just so doggone tired.

All is well, however, just a new kind of busy. And oh, how I cherish our weekends like never before. As a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) the weekends held nothing new. Just more of the same laundry and housework. Now sleeping in until 8:00 a.m. as opposed to 5:30 a.m. on weekdays seems positively luxurious. I also appreciate being able to take control of my schedule over the weekend instead of having every waking moment being dictated by the next task. If I want to stop and watch football with the be it.

I apologize for the lack of humorous posts. Hopefully something funny will happen soon. You'll be the first know. In the meantime I do have a few bathrooms to clean since company is coming tomorrow.

One cute thing: As Maria continues to grow in her knowledge of matters of faith, she got a bit confused regarding the relationship between God and Jesus. At one point she said "oh, I thought Jesus was God's last name." I explained that God and Jesus are kind of a holy team that created us and takes care of us. (It will be awhile before we introduce the trinity concept). That night as she prayed she concluded by saying "I just love you guys" in referring to God and Jesus. I laughed silently. I'm sure God and Jesus smiled.

Simply stated: Thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Irony of it All

This week I've been frustrated to the point of tears during phone conversations with both the speech therapy teacher and ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers at Maria's school. Apparently Maria doesn't qualify for either of these services. Say what?!?

I pleaded her case and gave example upon example of the areas that we see at home that you would never detect in a cursory, 15-minute evaluation. The best I could get was a "we'll keep an eye on her." I did almost snap when the ESL teacher told me that in her 33 years of teaching experience she saw no need for services. I replied that having sent 3 other kindergarteners to school prior to Maria, I did see reasons to be concerned. Does mother's intuition trump classroom experience?

With as much courtesy as I could muster I thanked her for her time and told her I was sure that she hadn't heard the last of us.

I won't say much more because I try to only criticize myself or the wasps on my blog. Suffice to say that our public school system would rather be reactive than proactive. Makes no sense to me.

And now for the irony. Yesterday Maria came bounding into the kitchen and for the first time seemed genuinely excited about something that she had learned at school. As we sat eye to eye for her to share with me her newly acquired knowledge she exclaimed...

"I learned my Spanish!"

Simply stated: OMG!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Free to a good home

Middle-aged mixed breed dog (old mutt).

House-trained (except when he decides to pee on your brand new laminate floor.)

Great disposition (except when cornered under a countertop avoiding being put in his crate for peeing on brand new laminate flooring at which point he tries to bite the hand that's dragging him from his hiding place.)

Well-behaved (except when he escapes the confines of the kitchen when no one is home because someone leaves the gate open during which time he proceeds to pull food and trash out of every accessible trash can, drag stuffed animals from room to room, jump on the furniture as is evident by the pounce marks on the cushions, and eats underwear--these are just the things I know about.)

In good health (except for the chronic anal gland infections and epilepsy requiring twice a day doses of medication).

Only slightly neurotic exhibiting symptoms such as nail biting, leg chewing (his own) and chronic floor licking.

Simply Stated: Any takers?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Put on your party hats...

and join the angels rejoicing in heaven! We have a new little sister in Christ...Maria Fernanda.

Maria has been asking to be baptized since vacation Bible school but I've been putting her off. My concern was that she didn't really understand what baptism symbolized and was more excited about going for a swim at church.

Over that past couple of months we have had many opportunities to talk about Jesus. During this time she has developed a keen sensitivity to matters of right and wrong and is quick to show remorse for her wrong doingings.

On our way out of church this afternoon she ran up to our pastor for the umpteenth time and asked when she could be baptized. I told Maria before we talked to Brother Allan again that we needed to really talk about asking Jesus into her heart. I told her to remind me when we got home. I thought that would be it for a while.


We had just returned from a Sam's Club run and I hadn't even had time to find a place for the 50 lb. tub of animal crackers when she asked me if we could talk. And so we did.

Using the pamphlet "Do you want to belong to God's family?" we talked about sin, separation from God, hell (the bad place), the crucifixion and resurrection, God's gift of eternal life and how to accept His Gift. And she really got it. She prayed a sweet and sincere prayer asking God to forgive her and help her do right so that she can live with Him forever in heaven.

All those years of praying for Maria to join our family and now she is part of God's family too.

Simply stated: I have no greater joy.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I'm a Dot Com

I have the coolest kids. And cool kids give cool birthday gifts.

Alex bought me the domain name For now it simply links you to my blog at blogspot but the possibilities are endless. He says tech support comes with the gift.

Unfortunately Alex gave me the gift very subtly and I'm not so good at subtle. He sent me an email on my birthday including the link to my new website. I just thought it was a happy birthday email and didn't notice the .com at the end of my simplystatedstacie. It wasn't until lunch today that I discovered the gift within the email. And that's only because Maria asked Alex where his present for Mommy was. Sorry Alex. I LOVE my gift.

Zak ordered me my very own MP3 player. I can't wait to get it. He says tech support comes with the gift.

My teens are going to pull me into the 21st century despite my own ineptitude with technology.

Alex also took Caroline and Maria to Kohl's to pick out gifts for me.

Caroline bought me a bath set with one of my favorite scents. I also received a gift card. I see shopping in my future.

Maria (with Alex's help) picked me out a really nice necklace. It reminds me of something that Betty Rubble might wear. It's really cute.

And Don had roses sent to work on Thursday. The note that accompanied the cards made me cry. I don't have his permission to post what he wrote but if you ask me I'll tell you.

Simply stated: I love birthdays!

There's a yellow ball in the sky...

Oh, it's the sun! I didn't recognize you.

Simply stated: Welcome back, you've been missed.

Friday, September 5, 2008

I'm in a "place." I've been here before.

The last time I was in this place was 4 years ago when our beloved student pastors announced that they were leaving our church. I mourned as if someone was dying. As I sifted through my emotions as to why their departure was so difficult I realized there was more to my grief than the loss of wonderful mentors. What I realized was that I had inadvertently relinquished all responsibility for the spiritual health of my teens to this couple. It was comforting to know that "professionals" were overseeing their Christian walk.

I was scared spitless to resume the task although I never should have let go of it in the first place. So I "manned up" to the task and together with Don we've done our best to guide our boys through the rapids of adolescence. And although our efforts were less than perfect, I believe that God has honored our intentions.

I've been feeling a similar loss since we left ministry with FamilyLife. For months I've been soul searching to unearth the reason for this unsettled feeling. I think I know.

Somewhere along the journey I had allowed being "in" ministry to define me as a follower of Jesus. With it's absence came what can best be described as a bit of an identity crisis. My purpose seemed less important. Less godly.

But God isn't allowing me to stay in this place. Over the recent days He has used sermons, devotionals, and a wise and precious friend to remind me that I can still make each day God-honoring and purposeful. Rather than being "in" ministry I need to be about "doing" ministry in every area of my life. It's time for me to take back the responsibility for impacting the world around me instead of just wearing the nametag. I can now see the innumerable opportunities in my home, neighborhood, church and workplace to be about God's business. For the first time in a long time, I'm excited.

Simply Stated: Bring it!

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Creative mojo.

If found please return to: Simply Stated Stacie

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Taste of the Good Life

You know when you've experienced the best of the best, it becomes difficult to settle for less? Kind of like eating the store-brand of Pop Tarts. This pretty much summarizes my transition back into the working world. Like a store brand "toaster pastry" you can certainly choke one down if you have to but it would definitely not be your first choice. Especially not when you've been able to eat all you can care to eat of the real thing for the last year.

This is not to say that this past week has been bad. Everyone has gotten where they need to be on time, most have adjusted to being back to school and work without complaint and we are actually eating better because meals are being planned in advance instead of waiting until late afternoon to decide "what's for dinner?" The main reason for the physical success of our transition has been that everyone has stepped up.

Alex is completely independent and needs no prodding or even a wake up call to get to class on time or complete his homework. He handles his own money and the purchasing of school supplies and books without a reminder. He is motivated and disciplined to make his education priority 1.

Zack has taken on the important role of chauffeur. He gets Caroline to and from school each day and picks Maria up from extended day at her school so she doesn't have to stay more than an hour or so. He has even begun taking our neighbor to school two mornings a week. This has been a huge help.

Caroline has stepped in to take care of Maria when neither Mom or Dad are home in the late afternoon. She'll get Maria in and out of the tub (I don't even want to know why she is so dirty every day after school) and then they'll usually settle in for a little bit of the Disney channel while Caroline gets her homework started.

And then there's our family All-Star...Don. He has stepped up in a way that most men never would. He has taken on...drum roll shopping and Sam's club. I know you are jealous. And he's done this in pure Don fashion. With organization and a spread sheet. Yup. Our grocery list is now organized by aisle to make shopping as quick and efficient as possible. I just have to plan the meals and make the list. Then *poof*! I come home to a kitchen full of groceries.

Don has also Don the majority of the dishes when he's home and even "took one for the team" by allowing our smelly dog into his pristine car for a ride to the vet. Y'all, if you only knew how much Don deplores the smell of dog and the trail of dog hair.

Don is truly a servant-leader in action. If it weren't for him I think you'd find me rolled up into the fetal position, rocking back and forth, back and forth. Instead I even have a few minutes to blog. I am a blessed woman.

So you may be asking yourself "what's all the whining about in that first paragraph?" Because everyone's doing MY job. Truth be told (even though I may have played the martyr at times) I found great satisfaction in meeting every one of my families' needs. Now they're doing just fine or even better without my help. Ok, maybe it is a pride issue.

I also enjoyed being with my girls 24/7 and being in complete control of our schedule. We could do what we wanted and come and go as we pleased. We played...a lot. Now it's work/school, dinner/dishes, homework/bedtime. Every. Single. Day. The ironic thing is that my girls are really happy and routine is good. It just seems I've had to say goodbye to one of the best years of my mommy career. And goodbyes are difficult.

This is not to say that our new "normal" is so bad or that it wasn't time to rejoin the real world. Maybe it's good that everyone share the load for a change. Maybe we'll really appreciate the hours that we share together every day.

Simply stated: Maybe we're all growing up.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

When good eggs go bad...

We awoke Sunday morning to a more relaxed pace than the rest of this week. Even Saturday saw Caroline and I leaving the house before 7:30 a.m. for a conference at church. But on Sunday no one even opened their eyes until a few minutes after 7:00. By 7:30 it was time to start getting up and getting ready for Sunday school with plenty of time for leisurely showers and unrushed breakfasts. So when Maria asked for eggs for breakfast I was happy to oblige.

Before I continue I should probably tell you that I think eggs are disgusting. Once and a while I will take a bite if it's smothered with cheese. Other than that I obstain from egg consumption. And the idea of cooking and smelling eggs first thing in the morning is equally unappealing. Maria however, LOVES egg. In order to meet her dietary requests and not gag in process I've begun cooking her scrambled eggs in the microwave. Quick, easy, and relatively odor free. It's worked really well. For months. Until today.

Half way through the cooking process (about 1 minute and a half) we heard a horrendous explosion. Maria and I both stopped, looked at each other, and ran to the microwave where we discovered this...

Can I get an OMG from y'all?

Since I had the time to clean it up, I was able to laugh at the absurdity of the exploded mess. Maria found it harder to find the humor in the situation since she was now foregoing her "cheesey eggs" for a bowl of cold Rice Krispies. Once I took the picture it became a little funnier to her as well.

As I cleaned up the egg shrapnel I kept thinking to myself, "Thank you Lord that this hadn't happened on a week morning." I think that would have pushed me right over the proverbial edge.

Don and I took turns cleaning it up in between getting ready (now at a rushed pace). Apparently it smelled really bad too. Mercifully, I've had a cold all week and couldn't smell it. Caroline would pull her shirt over her nose every time she entered the kitchen. Don turned on the exhaust fan on the stovetop. Maria thought is smelled delightful. Go figure.

Maria and I did managed to make it to Sunday school only a few minutes late (Don and Caroline bailed on us left early since Don was teaching this morning). I was actually pretty proud of myself for not freaking out. What good would that do, right?

Simply stated: No use crying over exploded eggs.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

First day of work...

Simply stated: too tired to blog.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Maria's First Day of School

Here she is. Our precious girl on her first day of school (Maria would add "ever in my whole life!")
Here she is in the classroom. She loves the shelf with all of the books.

Last night at bedtime Maria was getting a little nervous about school. So we came up with this little reminder. On her right hand is a heart to remind her that she is always in Mommy's heart and that I love her. On the left hand is a cross. This reminds her that Jesus gives her the power to be brave (thank you vacation Bible school for this slogan!)

When I left her in her classroom she got a little teary for just a second. I left quickly and she seemed fine. I know she'll have a great day.

The house is mucho quiet this morning. I've got tons to do before I start my job tomorrow so I'd better not fritter it away on my blog.

Simply stated: Nothing like sending your fourth child to kindergarten to make a girl feel old.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Guest Blogger

Since many of you are far more interested in hearing about Caroline's first day of school than from me, I've asked her to be my guest blogger. Welcome Caroline...

Hey! My first day of school was pretty good. First period was History. I hate History. I'm just not good at memorizing all those facts, but I think my teacher will make it pretty fun. I have Art next and one of my best friends is in that same class. I have Choir with another one of my friends and I think that will be good too. Bibical World View (or Bible for short) will be really fun! Then, lunch- The best part of the day. Why? I get to talk with my friends, of course! Lunch was followed by English and Pre-Algebra. Those are my favorite subjects and my favorite teachers. My english teachers has a shy side to her but she can be really outgoing at times. My math teacher reminds me of my Fourth grade teacher. She is really cool, too. I don't know how to describe her but she is pretty awesome! Then, science (I HATE Science for the same reason I hate History). The teachers name is Ms. Wade. She is one of those teachers that acts like she doesn't want to be there. Exampe:
Ms. Wade: "Is this 7th period?" (the last period of the day)
Class: "Yes"
Ms. Wade "Oh, thank goodness.(SIGH)"
And for some reason she talks REALLY loud! Now halfway through science my nose itched so I rubbed it and I looked at my finger and there was blood on it! I rasied my hand and told Ms. Wade that my nose was bleeding. She let me go to the bathroom. I was on my way to the nurses office (and I wasn't sure where it was) when the middleschool principal walks out of her office. She asks what was wrong I told her I had a nose bleed. She asks me if I was going to the nurses offices and I said yes. I asked her where it was and she said it was in the elementary. So she came to the bathroom with me and help me clean it up. Then, I headed back to Science. I also had a headache at this time so I was really ready to go home. My locker was also a mess. Originally, I was going to stay a couple minutes after school to put paper and dividers in my binders and get more organized. But I wanted to go home and there were too many people in the middle school TRAILER!!! Yup, no permanent building. So I headed up to the highschool where I finally found Zack and we headed out to the car. We went to staples and I now have all the things for my binders so I can get organized tomorrow!

All in all I had a very good day. The good outweighed the bad and I think I am looking forward to tomorrow. (Except, I have P.E.! :( ) -Caroline

Simply Stated: There you have it.

A Tale of Two First Days

School started back today for both Zak and Caroline.

While Caroline was busy reviewing her schedule and packing her backpack, Zak was putting the finishing touches on the newly painted rims on his jeep.

While Caroline and I checked and re-checked her school supply list to make sure we had purchased everything, Zak took my charge card and handled back-to-school shopping on his own this year.

Caroline was nervous about the day. Zak could best be desribed as ambivalent.

Zak drove himself to school and parked in the lot reserved for seniors while Caroline nervously exited the comforts of my car as the new kid at the middle school.

Now I wait at home to hear about their experiences, praying that God will meet each of them today.

Simply stated: It's way too quiet here.

It all started innocently enough

I was just going to vacuum the threshold to Zak's room. After all, it does directly intersect with my parts of the house. Just a few feet, I reminded myself. No one would have to know about it. But there it was. Just a little further inside the room. Taunting me. One of those plastic thingamabobbers that affixes the tags on to new clothing. Once I saw it there, I just couldn't leave it. That would be wrong.

Call it a compulsion but I just had to vacuum it up. This of course led to another piece of lint and another, and a trail of fruit snack wrappers and a few errant socks. Before I knew it I had picked up and vacuumed his entire room!

What is wrong with me I ask you? only gets worse, friends.

Because, then I...dusted. I couldn't help it. Do you hear my cry for help?

Then I sewed a button on a pair of his shorts and started packing his lunch for his first day of school.

At least Zak appreciated my efforts. He arrived home talking on his cell phone. I walked into his room, made a sweeping gesture with my arms, and mouthed the words "do you see how clean your room is?" I got a thumbs up. Next I presented him with the newly buttonized pair of shorts. He mouthed the words "thank you" accompanied by a big grin.

I don't know. Maybe I was absent the day God handed out common sense and boundaries. Maybe I'm just that much of a control freak. Or quite possibly, I just like doing nice things for my teens who are needing me less and less every day. What's done is done.

Oh, and Alex, I'm coming your way next.

Simply stated: Somethings never change.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Just when you thought you couldn't love someone more...

IT happens. The perfect blend of timing, activity, and attitudes. With it comes an overwhelming sense of love and gratitude. It doesn't happen often and can never be recreated. It is precious.

It happened for Caroline and I this past Thursday and Friday as we celebrated her entrance into middle school and adolescence with a special trip to Branson, Missouri. We talked, laughed, shopped, had pedicures, saw a show, ate at fun restaurants, hugged, talked, and laughed some more. It was totally indulgent but it was also an investment in our relationship and in her future.
We were diligent as well to complete her Passport to Purity. While the conversations were not always easy or comfortable it was so worthwhile. At times I would have preferred to shut our workbooks and turn off the CD in favor of more shopping. But we stayed the course and I'm so glad that we did.
Here are a few pictures of our trip:

Working on one of our projects.

Midnight snack.

My sweet girl on deck of the Branson Belle.

Celebration dinner on the Showboat Branson Belle.

As a result of our time together, I feel that Caroline is better equipped to face the challenges that await her. I, on the other hand, am more in love with my sweet girl. I saw glimpses into the young woman that God has destined her to be and it is a thing of beauty.

On Wednesday Caroline will return to school after being home with me for the past year. She is ready and I know that she will blossom. I will miss her terribly. If I could I would sit with each of her teachers and the staff at LRCA and I would tell them the following:

I'm sending my heart to sit in your class each day. It comes in the form of a precious 12-year-old girl. Please do not take the responsibility of educating her lightly. She is coming to your school with a sense of excitement and carefree expectancy. Please make sure she stays that way. I'm trusting you to look out for her best interest while she is in your care. You will be blessed to have her in your class.

And one more thing. If you hurt her I will hunt you down and take you out. Just kidding. Actually, I'm not.

Simpy stated: I am blessed.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

New Doo..New Job

Today started with a trip to the salon (a.k.a. my friend Charla) for a new haircut. One of these days I'll need to write any entire post about Charla's salon. Let's just say I lower the average age of the clientele by about half each time I go. Makes me feel like a kid again.

Here's the new doo. A bit shorter than I wanted it but definitely the shape I was going for.

Armed with all of the confidence that a sassy new haircut brings, I headed to my job interview. And...drum roll please...I got the job. Yay me!

I've got two weeks to get all of our ducks in a row.

Simply stated: Gotta go!

Monday, August 4, 2008

I surrender!

The yellow jackets can have the little pool. I just sprayed myself in the eye with wasp and hornet spray trying to once again rid the pool of bees. I killed six in the process but I value my eyesight far more than a dip in the pool.

Simply stated: Waving the proverbial white flag.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Can you smell it?

It's the scent of change. And it's in the wind.

Our summer of late mornings and lazy afternoons will soon be replaced by the routine of school and work...for everyone. Including me. I'm not sure where I'll be working but I know it will be a daily weekday occurrence.

And, (speaking in a whisper) I think I'm starting to get a little excited about the possibility. Is that really awful? I've been "just a mom" for so long now, I've begun to forget about the capable professional that I once was.

Don't get me wrong. I have Loved (note the capital "L") every minute of being home with my children these past five years that we've lived in Little Rock. This past year of intentionally sowing into the lives of both Caroline and Maria has been precious beyond words. A gift. A luxury. A blessing.

But I've also missed working. It seems that both finances and my need to not spend countless hours at home vacuuming while waiting to pick up the children from school are steering me in a new direction. Surprisingly, what started as a need to work to make ends meet has involved into something more. It's hard to put into words the emotion that the possibility has stirred within me. Excitement...anticipation...potential...fear...all rolled into a big ball of "I think I want this."

So, I have a job interview on Tuesday for an Office Representative position with an established Christian counseling clinic. It sounds like something I'd really like to do with potential for ministering to hurting people. It's also a full-time job which would result in a lot of change for our family. But if we've learned anything in the past 10 years or so, it's that change can be good.

There are also some other possibilities floating out there which could bring about the dreaded need to make a choice. None of the options are perfect. Perfect doesn't exist. If the choices present themselves the way I think they might I will need to weigh the needs and wants of our family, our finance, my fulfillment. Not an easy task I tell you. Not easy at all.

Simply stated: We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tha Language of Adoption

As we near the one year anniversary of the day Maria joined our family, I’ve been reflecting on how our family has changed. There are the obvious changes such as going from three children to four or progressing backwards from the youngest being eleven to a youngest of five. While the adjustments were challenging at times, we had experienced similar transitions as each of our biological children joined our family.

More profound yet subtle has been the change in our language. Not from English to Spanish. Rather this last year, like no other time in the life of our family, has taught us to be thoughtful and intentional about the words that we use.

We learned this first by necessity. Adopting an older, non-English speaking child initially required that we change our language to use simple words. This is hard for me. I like words, big words, and lots of them. Despite this, we adjusted our language to choose rudimentary words whose sole purpose was merely to communicate the necessities of day to day life. In no time Maria’s vocabulary and understanding increased to where conversation was no longer cumbersome.

At this stage we began to relax and revert to less intentional word choices. It was then when we learned that sarcasm, colloquialisms, and teasing are not appreciated by a child new to both our family and our language. Maria’s literal interpretations, although comical at times, were more often than not a cause of great distress for her. We adjusted our word choices once again to avoid confusing or potentially hurtful language. This is challenging for a family that practically drips with sarcasm. A year later this is still a major need for Maria’s continuing adjustment into our family. While we don’t always do this perfectly, we do our best.

We learned quickly as well that even when a conversation did not directly involve Maria, her need to understand what was going on was vital to her emotional well-being. Quick-witted bantering at the dinner table or spontaneous laughter would often trigger her insecurities. If Maria didn’t understand what was being said she would immediately assume that she was the topic of conversation or the cause of the laughter. As a result she would become distraught and withdrawn. And so we slowed down our dialog allowing ample time for repetition and explanations.

We have also acquired new language. Most notable is the use of the word adopt in all its various forms. I struggle a bit with the need to continue using the word. Not that I would for one minute want to avoid the topic or gloss over the facts of how Maria joined our family. I just thought we’d be done with the word by now. After all, one year after our older children each joined our family I wasn’t still recounting their birthing stories. I want it to be the same for Maria. But adoption is different. Not inferior, just different. I’ve begun to understand that by keeping Maria’s adoption story at the forefront, we are in a sense making it the new normal. By using adoptive language in an intentional and positive way, we are affirming Maria and the journey that brought her to us. Her story is what makes her who she is and what completed our family. It’s a story that did, and always will, include adoption.

Some words are difficult. For me the phrases “your first parents” or “your first mommy” are challenging. I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that these words are brutal to my mother’s heart. I want to be the only mommy that Maria has ever had. And, although I’m the first and only one to fill this role in her life, I cannot pretend that another woman did not give her the gift of life. It’s an issue I’m working on. I hope that one day these words will flow from my mouth with grace and ease, bringing healing and comfort to Maria’s heart. Meanwhile, it is my challenge to mention her first parents with some degree of regularity, my words always seasoned with compassion and gratitude for the gift of our daughter.

There are also the sweetest of words. Maria has begun to earnestly appreciate the gift that is a family and she verbalizes this frequently. Mercifully, most six-year-olds have never gone without a family and therefore can not fathom life apart from one. Maria can. Almost daily she will mention how wonderful it is to be part of family and how happy she is to be with us. Her expressions of joy and gratitude are often accompanied by emotional tears. What a blessing it is to be the recipient of her heartfelt sentiments.

This past year has conditioned us to be ever mindful that words are powerful. We are a better family because of it. We have learned that the language of adoption is quite simply adjusting how and what we say to most thoughtfully communicate. It’s using words to intentionally build one another up and convey a sense of belonging. It’s the language of love. Of family.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More "little pool" adventures

It is stinkin' hot here in Little Rock. Heat index today of 103. And it's dry. I can't remember the last time we saw any significant rain. The sky will spit on us every once and a while. Just enough to turn the dust on the car into mud spots.

Because it's so hot and dry, a community of yellow jackets has discovered the "little pool" and made it their personal watering hole. Once again the Arkansas wildlife had taken over the little pool. Until today when Maria's friend came over with a bathing suit and towel prepared to swim. Always the accommodating hostess, and not wanting to disappoint our guest, it was time to reclaim the little pool.

I ventured out to get a good feel for the situation. 4 or 5 bees were lounging around the pool blissfully lapping at the water. They seemed totally unphased by the carcasses of their dead bee friends floating between the top of the water and dip in the pool cover. These dudes are either really dumb or really crappy friends.

I mustered up enough instestinal fortitude to pull off the pool cover thus causing quite a ruckus among the lounging bees. I was a bit afraid until my eyes were drawn to the bottom of the pool revealing the watery grave for about 15 more bees. Aha, so they're just plain dumb and haven't figured out that the little pool is a death trap.

I called Don out to witness the carnage. Then together, armed with a Tupperware strainer, a can of wasp spray, and a fly swatter we waged war on the yellow jackets, dead and alive. While I was busy scooping and hurling the dead bodies, Don was using the fly swatter to send the live ones sailing back into the yard. This went on for what seemed like an eternity but given the temperature and relative humity it was probably only 1o minutes. The little pool was deemed safe for human occupants.

Until the girls got into the pool. And the bees returned.

For the next hour I stood guard with the fly swatter and wasp spray (admittedly some of time was spent watching from inside, but it's REALLY hot). Nobody was getting stung on my watch. Thankfully it wasn't too long before Maria's friend was ready to get out and come inside.

A side note: In preparation for writing this post I thought I'd take a picture of the little pool. As if to prove my point, when I approached the pool with camera in hand, a couple of yellow jackets stopped by for happy hour. One was floating on the water, one was already water-logged enough to be resting at the bottom of the pool and another hopped in while I watched. Can you say euthanasia? Sure I could have rescued him but after a long day of battle I felt justified in holding him under water assisted by my Tupperware strainer. By the way, a bee can hold it's breath for a surprisingly long time. I have pictures. Wanna see?

The "little pool."

Don't do it...

I warned you!

I have a feeling this problem isn't going away anytime soon. I think I've pushed my luck enough for one summer. Tomorrow we'll go to Wild River Country instead of the little pool.

Simply stated: Once again I've angered the bee community. We might have to move.

Monday, July 28, 2008

It is well...with my soul...

I've been in a bit of a funk this past week. I'm not sure why. Just lots of niggling issues that need to be resolved. I'd almost feel better about my lack of peace if there was something major going on. At least then my melancholy would be justifable. (That looks even more ludicrous on screen than it sounded running through my head). But, by the grace of God, it's just a me issue.

Even in the midst of my self-induced, self-centered pity party, God showed up on Sunday and opened my eyes to my blessings.

As worship began, I did a mental headcount of my family and their whereabouts. Don was sitting to my left having just returned at midnight from a week long trip. Caroline was on my right, pen and bulletin at the ready to take sermon notes. Maria had decided to stay in Children's Worship and I cheered her decision to be independent and spread her wings. Alex was positioned at the back of the worship center in the sound booth running the video and powerpoint for the service. Zack was upfront on stage playing drums with the worship band. As I finished roll call a blanket of peace and gratitude settled over me, almost bringing me to tears. My whole family, present and accounted for, serving and worshiping.

Simply stated: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 3 John 4

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Words you don't want to hear...

"Mommy, come quick! This is not good." (It sounds so much cuter with her hispanic accent!)

I could tell by the pitch of Maria's voice and the fact that her pants were not pulled up all the way, that this could be a potential plumbing crisis. I was relieved to see that the bathroom was not flooded. Instead the little spindle that holds the toilet paper was floating in the toilet. And the water in the bowl...was yellow. To flush or not to flush? That is the question.

It's important for you to understand how our family works. Don handles all toilet emergencies at our house. Yesiree, he's one lucky man. Unfortunately for me, he's in Chicago this week. And, big surprise here, I don't like sticking my hands in toilet water. Especially toilet water with pee in it.

Case in point. When our kiddos were potty-training, I would throw their soiled underwear away rather than stick my hands into the toilet to rinse them out.

In my defense, I did try to remove a #2 from a pair of training pants...once. I gingerly held the offending article of clothing by it's waist band and slushed it around in the water while flushing at the same time. This method didn't work very well as the force of the flush tore the undies from my tentative grip and sucked them to wherever it is that toilet water goes. I called Don and asked him if our septic system could digest a pair of size 2 underoos. I heard him roll his eyes through the phone.

Tonight I had no choice. I was going in. Using only two fingers, I quickly and somewhat frantically pulled out the spindle. A little gagging ensued. With the speed and agility of an olympic athlete I rushed the infected spindle to the sink where I rinsed it, and my hands, with half a bottle of soap and scolding hot water.

Poor Maria was positively distraught that she had caused Mommy another encounter with the toilet. I think she's still a bit scarred from the stool sample episode.

Truth be told she was only trying to do what the semi-adult members of our household had been too lazy to do for themselves. Namely, put a new roll on the holder. I will never understand the aversion to replacing the empty roll with a full one. I guess the last person to benefit from actually having paper on the roll figures the absence of paper is the next person's problem. Such a thoughtful family.

As we were leaving the bathroom Maria said with all the sincerity and remorse that she could muster, "Mommy, I'm so sorry I had to let you touch my pee."

It's o.k., darlin' girl. That's what mommies are for. Apparently this now qualifies me as the "best mommy in the whole world."

Simply stated: Is it me or does my hand smell like pee?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Now Showing: Many the Miles...The Movie

Please silence your cell phones and enjoy the show.

Simply stated: And a good time was had by all.


Simply stated: A picture is worth a thousand words.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Best Friends

You know there is too much wildlife around your house when you can recognize, name, and become emotionally attached to the various creatures.

Recently, two little toads have taken up residence in the retaining wall by our front walkway. Most days, all day, you'll see them sitting side by side doing whatever it is that toads do. Maria will stop each time we leave the house, squat down and oh and ah over them.

This morning however, Maria was feeling a bit blue when we left to run errands. Lately, she's really been missing her best friend from Guatemala and this morning was no exception. As much as she loves her new family and new life here in Arkansas, she has experienced a deep and profound loss. One that I can't fix, as hard as I try.

So as we walked out the door and spotted the toads I told Maria that I had a great name for them...Nayeli and Maria...because they're best friends. And here they are:

Simply stated: Everyone needs a really good friend to just hang with.

Alex's Run in with the Law.

Got your attention, didn't I?

First things first though. The second phase of the floor project is almost done. It's a beautiful thing! I'll post pictures when all of the finishing touches are done. However, between work on Friday and Saturday and putting the house back together, there hasn't been a whole lot of time for blogging.

So, I'm diverting you over to Alex's blog. He had a much more interesting day than the rest of us yesterday. I wish y'all could hear Alex tell the story in person. We were are all laughing. You know the kind of laugh with tears and snorts. Just click here to read more:

Simply stated: I hope you enjoy hearing from Alex.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What were we thinking?

The flooring in our home has long been a source of frustration and discontent for both Don and I. The combination of hardward, poorly installed ceramic tile, vinyl, and carpet (often a mixture of two or more in the same room!) not only made the house look smaller and made arranging furniture difficult, it is just...plain...ugly. We carpeted downstairs earlier this year and the results were amazing. But like most home improvements, this only served to spotlight how horrendous the rest of the house looked. But now, due to the untimely yet profitable demise of our brick mailbox, which met the wrong end of a trash truck, we finally have some money to put towards redoing the floors.

It all started with a trip to Home Depot (or the Orange Store as Maria calls it) and a pallet of discontinued wood laminate flooring for 99 cents a sq. foot. We crunched the numbers and we had enough money. So early Saturday morning as I shuffled off to Hobby Lobby, Don and Zack began tearing out the ceramic tile in the dining room. I know many of you cringe at the idea of tearing out ceramic tile because it is the hot choice for flooring these days. Not when it's butt ugly. Not when the grout is 1/4" wide in some area and 1/2" wide in other. Certainly not when it cuts a path right through the middle of your living room. The demolition took most of the day and involved multiple trips to the orange store. It also resulted in a thick layer of dust throughout the entire upstairs living area. Upon my return from Hobby Lobby at 9:30 p.m., we spent the next 3 hours dusting. I even had to dust the loaf of bread sitting on the kitchen counter.

By Wednesday afternoon (keep in mind Don has a real job to do while chipping away at our flooring project) the dining room was done, minus the toe molding. It is a true masterpiece.

My window of opportunity for actually enjoying the floors was slammed shut that very same afternoon when Zack, his friend Joel, and Alex began moving the furniture from the living room into the dining room to begin phase two. I guess everyone hates that old floor and wants it out of here. Truth be told, the boys are hoping for a new TV once the renovation is done. Let me know if you want to come climb our money tree in the backyard. Anyway, my dining room now looks like this...

It's almost more than a person can take. As a result the girls and I found reasons to be gone from the house today while more demolition took place. Don gets smarter with every home improvement project and this time he put up plastic to help with the dust. This is what my entry way looks like...

The demolition is almost complete in the living room. Don also tore out the built-in cabinets that were dated and hindered furniture placement. Now the living room, and Don, look like this...

Poor thing. He's so tired. This is a BIG project. Hopefully floor installation will begin tomorrow. If there's a "fun" part to this project, that's it. Don says we'll have to wait awhile to do the hallways. Maybe it will be like child birth. With time he'll forget the pain and want to do it again. Or maybe not.

Simple stated: What were we thinking?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Men vs. Women

The Chalupka girls were in a bit of a quandary today. After a busy afternoon of shopping for birthday gifts for some cousins, clothes for back to school, and a few groceries for tonight's dinner (enchiladas), Maria was practically bursting at the seams to get into "the little pool." This is how she refers to our 8' x 3' wading pool complete with an inflatable rim and an actual pump system. You know the type. You probably own one. These blue orbs have surfaced all over suburbia like a mutant strain of crabgrass heralding "we are a family with small children who can't afford a real pool."

While Maria was busy getting ready to take the plunge, Caroline was wading in the pool inspecting the debris that had settled to the bottom. The leaves and sticks, while an eyesore, were not enough to curb her enthusiasm for swimming. The large spiders sprawled out on the bottom, looking very much alive and menacing to our arachniphobic eyes, were a bit more problematic. Before Maria could dip even a single toe into the pool, Caroline was out and dried off, declaring that the pool was unsafe until the spiders could be properly disposed of. I'm quite sure that if she'd had access to a roll of yellow crime scene tape, she would have officially quarantined off the entire pool area. I couldn't disagree with her. This was, of course, more than even the most easy going of six-year-olds could handle and Maria promptly burst into tears.

In my younger and more rigid days of mothering, I probably would have told her to just suck it up. Life's rough, kid. Time and experience, however, have taught me that it's o.k. to be sensitive to a child's disappointments. This doesn't make you less of a disciplinarian. It just makes you a little more human. So we filled the tub with cool water and in she went swimming, bathing suit and all. She didn't play for long, but it was enough.

All that remained was to devise a plan to remove our uninvited pool guests. This off course had to be a strictly hands-off method which did not require me to actually get into the pool or spend an extended amount of time the middle of summer. No ideas were forthcoming. Out of desperation, I asked Don a question that I'm now embarrassed to repeat. But, I'll tell you anyway. I asked him if we could use the shop vac to vacuum the bottom of the pool. It is, after all, a wet/dry vac. I'm sure it took every bit of restraint in his weary body not to say something to the effect of "are you an idiot?" But he didn't. He just shook his head and said no. Then he left the room.

Meanwhile, Alex had caught wind of the continuing spiders in the pool crisis. And, seeing as he has a soft spot for crying little sisters, he quietly slipped outside. He returned several minutes later and, in true Alex fashion, matter-of-factly informed me that the spiders were gone. Amazed and in awe, I inquired how he had performed this feat of wonder. He stared at me dumfounded, coincidently the very same look his dad had given me only moments earlier, and stated "uh, with a stick and my hands." Continuing my dimwitted line of questioning, I then asked him if the spiders were still alive. He just shook his head and said no. Then he left the room.

There you have it friends. Just one of the many examples demonstrating the difference between men and women.

Simply stated: I think using the pool cover is a good idea from here on out.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Major Bummer

I didn't get the job I had been hoping for at LRCA (where two of my crew will attend school this fall). I had turned the outcome of my application and my interview for yearbook advisor position over to God months ago. After all He knows what's best for me and my family. I had even talked myself into thinking maybe I wouldn't take the job if it was offered. Well it wasn't and rejection hurts. Zack (who is a major player on the yearbook staff) cheered me up a bit by saying that the new person better be good or he would quit. Thanks for being on my side, son.

It's crunch time for career planning. Do I stay at Hobby Lobby and increase my hours? On the upside of this job it does offer some flexibility with little stress. It does, however, require working one evening and every other Saturday in addition to school hours. Or do I find something else? The downside to this is that no one's offering me anything. Maybe a reality check is in order. I think I'm facing a little mid-life crisis here. Perhaps some shopping therapy is in order. But that will have to wait cause right now I need to get ready for work. *sigh*

Simply stated: What do I want to be when I grow up?

Thursday, July 10, 2008


We've made it home. And with 2,800 miles of driving time, I've had plenty of opportunities to ponder the world around me. And, since I was born woefully lacking any ability to self-censor my thoughts before they become public, I will now share my epiphanies with you.

First, the amount by which a person knowingly and willfully exceeds the posted speed limit is directly proportionate to the proximity to ones home. I tried to be responsible about my lead foot (maybe that's where that extra 50 lbs. hangs out) and only drive 5 miles above the speed limit. This was not hard to do since Caroline regularly inspected my speedometer. At one point she proudly proclaimed "Wow, Mom you're actually going the speed limit." My rate of speed is one of those do as I say, not as I do issues. I'm not proud, but I'm nothing if not honest. Anyway, my speed limit plus 5 method was sufficiently fast until home was within a few hundred miles. I won't detail numbers as it might incriminate me, but I will tell you that I made the 6-hour trip from Nashville to Little Rock in 5 hours and 20 minutes.

And speaking of driving, people need to move out of the passing lane on our highways and interstates. I will admit to a touch of road rage when caught behind slow people in the "fast" lane. I tried to keep my name calling to minimum using words such as "moron" and "idiot." Then I came up with the Move Over song, sung to the tune of "Ten in the Bed." It was a crowd favorite among my passengers.

And speaking of songs, you can never have too many CD's on a roadtrip. My CD case never made it from the Suburban to the Pilot. I think it's in the "bag of junk from the old car to sort through and see what goes in the new car" that's stashed in the laundry room. This left us with Sarah Bareilles and High School Musical II. Now, I will admit to being a closet HSM fan. In fact, I love all sorts of show tunes. But even the best of soundtracks start sounding like nails on a chalkboard after five continuous hours. I needed something to keep me awake. We got smart on the way home and picked up the WOW 2007 CD and the soundtrack to Camp Rock. Which, in my humble opinion, is not nearly as good as HSM!

And while we're on the topic of staying awake, the human jaw was not designed to chew gum for 12 straight hours. It's seems I'm genetically wired to be sleepy (chronic anemia doesn't help), and anytime I sit for more than 30 minutes without moving I begin to doze off. Note: sleepiness is not to be confused with laziness. They are two very different syndromes. Anyways, for obvious reasons this is a problem when being the sole driver on a long road trip. Chewing gum, however, provided just enough movement to keep my eyes open. Not sure how the two actions work together but I never fell asleep at the wheel. I just can't move my jaws.

Staying with the tired theme, why is it that long car rides will suck every last bit of energy from an adult while at the same time acting as some form of energy drink for the kids. Each night I'd drag myself up to the check-in desk at the hotel looking every bit the part of the exhausted traveler. Behind me the girls would hop, skip, and jump into the lobby squealing "when can we go to the pool, can we go to the pool now, can we, can we, huh, huh?

There is no clever segue for this next observation. Toots never go undetected when traveling with a six-year old.

Speaking of old farts (please forgive me, I couldn't resist)...Grandparents rock! They have an uncanny ability to turn even the most mundane of tasks into an unforgettable adventure. My children's lives are truly enriched by their relationships with their grandparents.

Sitting with sisters and talking about every and anything is some of the best times a girl can have. It doesn't hurt when the waitress spills coke all over one either! I hope that my girls will enjoy each other as adults as much as my sisters and I enjoy each other.

That's it for now. I'll end on a sweet and pleasant note rather than one dripping with sarcasm. Needless to say it was a great trip but it sure is good to be home.

Simply stated: Many the Miles...the end.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Many the Miles #4

Today is our last day before starting the many miles home. The girls have taken a walk with my dad (Pop) to go see the fish hatchery. I'm starting some laundry and pulling together the parts and pieces of our visit and shoving them placing them neatly into our suitcases. We will be spending our last day trying to catch up with most of my sisters who are spread across Maryland and Pennsylvania, and, like most busy moms have crazy schedules.

We'll be treating ourselves to a Rita's Italian Water Ice of those special east coast treats that we can't find in Arkansas. I will also be trying frantically to figure out what's wrong with our in-car DVD system which has failed us this last leg of the trip. We NEED it for our 10 hour drive tomorrow.

The idea of 18 hours of driving to get home is far from appealing at this point. What is appealing is home itself. Hugs and kisses from Don. Grunts from my boys. Sleeping in my own bed. Driving on familiar streets. Sitting in our recliner. Going to our church. Oh, I could go on and on. These are the things that motivate me to get my girls back in the car.

We've had a wonderful visit. Mimi and Pop have done their very best to spoil my girls which is evidenced by the fact Maria wants to pick up our life in Arkansas (house, friends, church, etc.) and place them right next door Mimi's house. It's one of those hard lessons that all of us girls have learned or been retaught this trip. The joy of visiting with family and friends is, for a brief time, replaced by thoughts of missing them again. After we dropped off Caroline's friend I asked her if the fun of spending time together was worth the pain of having to say goodbye again. Even through her tears she was able to answer, "Yes." All and all we've had a very fun and successful trip. But...

Simply stated: there really is no place like home.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Horses and Buggies

Good bye birds and bees...hello horse and buggies!

I knew our trip would provide some humorous content for blogging. Our drive yesterday provided some great material.

We were riding through the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside enjoying horse and buggy sightings when the obvious question was asked, "Why don't they drive cars?" I explained that the Amish prefer to live a simple life without modern conveniences that might draw them away from God. Caroline thought the idea was absurd.

We then engaged in a sweet conversation about our relationship with Jesus, our Savior and God, our Creator. My six-year-old niece informed me that parents created their children. I really should learn to keep my mouth shut but I decided to take the conversation a little deeper. Big mistake.

I told Hailey that God created the very first people and that they, indeed, then had children of their own.

"Hey, Aunt Stacie, how DO mommies and daddies make their babies?" Well, umm, cough, sputter, umm "That's a really good question, Hailey. And God has a wonderful plan for how babies are made and I know your mommy wants to tell you that story." I thought that would be enough and was busy congratulating myself with imaginary high fives for having successfully avoided a real answer when the conversation continued...

"Hey, Aunt Stacie, how do babies eat?" This led to a discussion about, belly buttons, umbilical cords, and a natural segue into breast feeding. This elicitied an empassioned "o, yuck" from Maria. And then, of course...

"Hey, Aunt Stacie, how do babies poop and pee in their mommy's tummy?" which required another gently worded answer and another "o, yuck" from Maria.

At this point the big girls were snickering and I had begun to glisten with nervous sweat. A quick inventory through my arsenal of parenting tricks led me straight to the fine art of distraction. Food and a pit stop!

Once back on the road, the conversation was a distant memory (I hope for my sister's sake) for my younger passengers, replaced by mouthfuls of chocolate chip cookies. Myself, well, I'm a little scarred yet a little smarter by the whole exchange.

Simply stated: Nothing is simply stated when you're talking to an inquisitive six-year-old.

Many the Miles #3

Newville, PA

Woo hoo! We made it to Dad and Mom's and sane. We arrived last night around 6:30 p.m after an uneventful four-hour drive from the beach in Delaware. What a wonderful two days we had being spoiled by Aunt Karen and Abby, watching Maria enjoy new experiences, and listening to Caroline and Jenna go on and on about absolutely nothing.

Maria's favorite part of our visit was looking for seashells with Aunt Abby and playing in the sand at the beach. The waves were big and the water cold so she wasn't really impressed by the ocean itself. Caroline experienced a nasty wipe-out while standing in the surf. Unfortunatley this happened within our first 5 minutes on the beach. She spent the better part of the next two hours trying to discreetly dislodge rocks from her swimsuit and nursing her bruised and scraped leg. Caroline did, however, enjoy the boardwalk on Wednesday evening. Shopping, rides, and games. Could there be a better setting for sharing with your best friend? I've got lots of wonderful photos but I have no way to show them now. I think we'll do a slide show when we get home.

So far we've seen two of my four sisters. We'll see sister three today and four tomorrow. Lots of family fun to come. I'm really missing my men today and wishing they were here, especially my main man. Once the sisters and cousins arrive I'll get distracted and won't be so homesick. Maria is watching a movie by herself. I think she's enjoying a little downtime after the constant whirlwind of activity. Caroline and Jenna continue to carry on about absolutely nothing! Remember those days of hanging with your best friend with life was care-free and everthing was hysterical?

Simply stated: More updates later.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Many the Miles...Day 2

We've completed day two and about 950 miles of our journey. So far so good. I mean really good. Everyone is getting along well and working very hard to be helpful and accommodating to each other's needs. There was one moment shortly into this mornings drive when Maria declared "I feel like I'm going to throw up." (Insert horror movie theme music here). We quickly threw a plastic bag at her and made quick work of getting her some breakfast. I think two hours of driving up and down winding mountain roads on an empty stomach was more than she could take. Those of us who are blessed to never get car sick forget that others might not be quite as hardy.

We are staying the night here in Wilson, NC where we are impatiently waiting for our good friends, the Roberts, to bring Caroline her partner in crime for the remainder of the trip. We'll have dinner together and then an early night because the beach awaits us tomorrow. Maria has never seen the beach and I can't wait to introduce them.

We've navigated the trip pretty well so far especially since my car has a Donstar system. Not Onstar but DONstar. At the push of the speed dial on my cell phone, Don has been at the ready with his laptop to make sure we are where we are supposed to be. The directions off the highway to both hotels have been a little off so Donstar to the rescue. I love modern technology.

I've listened to several movies during our two days, although I've now figured out how to work my sound system so I can listen to music separately from the girls' movie. Before I discovered this nifty trick I listened to Madagascar and Black Beauty. Some lines just seem funnier when they're merely listened to and not accompanied by pictures. Lines such as "If you have poo, throw it now" or "what's a little bite on the butt among friends". My favorite though is "Do I need to come down there and put the whoopin' on all y'all." I can already hear myself using that line at home!

I've enjoyed my blogging break but my back is to the girls in a hotel at in the middle of nowhere. Probably not the best parenting. I'll blog-in with you later.

Simply stated: So far so good.

Friday, June 27, 2008

My Bizarre Commute Home

I had a "business meeting" tonight at the Hob-Lob. The meeting time, 8:30 - 10:00 p.m., would normally provide for a quick commute home. The short 3-mile drive should have been uneventful and brief given the time of night. I didn't, however, calculate into my estimated commute time the topless, drunk women on the street corner near our house. As I sat at the stop sign, my options racing through my mind, she stumbled into the street. There was seemingly no other option. I had to do something before she got herself killed.

I rolled down my window a few inches and asked if she needed help. Duh. She said she needed a ride to her house just a few streets away. She volunteered that her boyfriend had done something but stopped short of making any accusations that she might later regret. I thought to myself...she's wearing jean shorts, a bra, and a bath armed and dangerous can she be? I sent up a quick prayer for protection and invited her to get in. I think my blood alcohol level spiked just by breathing in what she exhaled upon taking up residence in the seat beside me. I placed a quick call to Don letting him know what was going on and subtly asked him to stay on the line while we drove the mile or two to her house.

I asked her if home was safe and if she needed me to call the police. She answered yes and no, respectively. I asked her if she'd been drinking. Duh. I asked if she was sober enough to take care of herself to which she assured me she was. She then went on to state that she just needed to get home and get her car keys so she could go pick up her friend. WHAT?!?!?! I reminded her that she was drunk and could not drive anywhere and asked if I could pick up her friend. She, of course, told me no and that she wouldn't drive anywhere.

I asked her who was at home. No one. If by no one she meant several stumbling people milling around the outside of the house, then she would be correct. One half-dressed gentleman came out to the street when we pulled up. I quickly locked my door. He stood staring vacantly through the driver's side window until my passenger was able to muster enough balance to get out of the car. Once she shut the door I drove off, not nearly as quickly as I would have like to.

After all of the adrenaline started to make its retreat from my bloodstream, my next thought was I need to do more. What if she got in her car and drove somewhere? What if her boyfriend came back to finish what he started? When I got home I called the non-emergency number for the police. I told the communications officer what had happened. He asked numerous questions about descriptions and locations, seemingly nonplussed by the fact that a half-naked women was wondering around out in the middle of nowhere. Without missing a beat he asked if she was wearing a bra, as if this is a question he asks everyday. This struck me both as absurd and tragic. He asked if I wanted an officer to go to the address. I don't know, I replied, I just thought someone should know what was going on. He said he would send a car out to check on it.

I don't know why our paths crossed tonight. It was a "sobering" reminder of what alcohol can do to a person. In my overactive imagination, I like to think that I was able to do some small part in averting tragedy...either hers or someone elses. Maybe I just gave a drunk a ride home. I'll never know.

Simply stated: I did what I thought Jesus would do. I hope it was enough.

Many the Miles

The post-it-notes that have adorned Maria's headboard for the past week as a visual countdown to our roadtrip reveal only one night to go. I have mixed emotions as I contemplate and prepare for our sojourn. I've never driven this far without Don. I have often wondered if I could make it back east on my own. Here's my chance. I'm excited and scared spitless all at the same time.

Our girls only trip will encompass 12 days and 2,800 miles. Our pilgrimage will take us into Tennesse where we will spend our first night after 8 hours of driving. We will continue on to North Carolina where we will pick up Caroline's bestfriend, Jenna. At this point my co-pilot will transform into a giggling tweener. I wonder if Maria can read a map?

The next morning we will head out bright and early to drive to my Aunt Karen and Abby's house in Delaware where we will sleep in clean beds and shower in pristine bathrooms. The thought of their home after having stayed two night in hotels makes me positively giddy. We, along with my six-year-old niece, Hailey, will enjoy their hospitality and the beach for two days before heading to Pennsylvania where we will hang out with Dad and Mom, the sisters and cousins. The trip from Delaware to Pennsylvania, although comparatively short to the other legs of our journey, will consist of me, and only me, accompanied by 4 little girls. Whose idea was this trip?

After 6 days with Mimi and Pop, the sisters and cousins, it will be time to begin the long road home. Our trip home will take us through Virginia and back through Tennesse for one last night at the Marriott. Then home sweet home.

How do I plan to drive these many miles with just me and my girls?

10. With my new Sarah Bareilles CD blasting our trip theme song, Many the Miles. Caroline has mandated that we can only play the song once an hour.

9. With Lots of DVDs. Our Honda Pilot has a built in DVD player of which I plan to take full advantage. The children's minds may be mush and I may lose a few precious years of sanity but everyone should arrive alive.

8. With my cell phone at the ready for those moments when I'm feeling sleepy or lonely. My mom has already instructed me to call her and check in several times each day.

7. With a box full of coloring books, toys, CDs and whatever else Maria thinks she'll need to stay busy.

6. With another box full of snacks.

5. With a 3-ring binder of maps and our itinerary meticulously prepared by Don. It will be like having Don right there in the car, minus the cracking of pistachio nuts. And minus someone else to drive. And without his innate sense of direction. And sense of adventure. Ok, it's not like he'll be with us at all. I wish he were going.

4. By restricting fluid for all members of our travel party. We may arrive at our destinations a bit dehydrated but you know I have issues with public bathrooms. Maria said yesterday that she wished we could have a potty right there in the car so we didn't have to use other bathrooms. She really is my child!

3. With a cooler full of Diet Coke. #4 doesn't apply to me. I'm driving and I need caffeine. I will not give in to whimpering pleas for liquids.

2. With pure determination to make it back east so that I can spend precious hours visiting with my family. I'm really hoping that this will be a trip that Caroline (and maybe Maria but she's so young) will remember for years to come.

1. With lots of prayer. I don't think I could have made this trip 10 years ago. But I am confident in my God who holds my future in the palm of His hands. Whatever happens does not take Him by surprise. That is very comforting.

So tomorrow we leave. I'd like to tell you that I'll be blogging along the way, but I don't have a laptop. How sad is that? I'll try and post when I'm somewhere with a computer. If you think of us this week feel free to say a prayer.

Simply Stated: Are we there yet?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The boys are away... the girls will play. Don is in Minneapolis on business. Zack is on his second of back-to-back mission trips. Alex is making himself scarce by either working, housesitting, or honing his hacker skills. Yes, my friends, be very afraid.

So the estrogen-packing members of our family have been left to entertain ourselves. We've done so by crafting, shopping, and a free movie thrown in to break up the monotony.

Our first project involved using strips of fabric to decorate flip-flops (1/2 price at Hob-Lob this week) to make weird funky footwear. These will be our summer "house shoes" since we don't wear our street shoes in the house. And yes, big surprise here, I have great issue with wearing shoes in the house that have ever set foot outside. Have you ever taken a moment to look at the ground and actually see what you walk on? Just thinking about it makes we want to throw-up a little. Gotta move on.

Next we made a new and super summery flower arrangement for the bedside table in the girls' room. The flowers were on clearance at Hobby-Lobby and every time somebody came through my line to buy them, I thought of my girls. I just had to bring some home. And, oh, how I love a good sale.

Speaking of good sales...I got this fabulous skirt at Kohl's for $4.80 (regularly $48.00)! Caroline and I both agreed that I couldn't afford not to buy it. I know however, that Don will not agree with our flawed logic. But, hey, he's not here! Unfortunately for my debit card, I don't have a top to go with this skirt which will require...more shopping. Tomorrow is another day.


Our free movie was Shrek III. I'm glad it was free because it wasn't worth the price of gas to drive to the theater. Now I'm far from prudish and I can laugh at "potty" humor with the best of 'em. This movie, however, was over the top including portraying one of the step-sisters from Cinderella as a cross-dresser. 'Nuf said.

I think we're in for the evening, although the dog does need food. If he get's too hungry, I'll give him a bowl of cereal. If it's good enough for Maria's dinner it's good enough for Shorty!

Simply stated: I love summer!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ouch, my aching ego!

How is it that Don and I both gave up careers for ministry and Don was able to pick up where his career left off while I'm schlepping fun-foam and wiggly eyes for a living? Why is it that his career wardrobe includes grown up clothes and a brief case while mine is accessorized by a blue smock and a feather-duster?

Don't get me wrong. Hobby Lobby is, bar none, one of my favorite stores. In fact, the girls and I will be trolling the aisles today for some great sales. For those of you who have never experienced a Hob-Lob, it's like the Mecca of the crafting community. I'm not sure how many square feet of retail space it fills, but it's some where between the size of a grocery store and a Home Depot. I know this because I have walked it from one end to the other many a nights frantically trying to find a home for an item that a customer had carelessly and randomly tossed aside because they changed their mind and were too darn lazy to put it back. No bitterness here! I was once that customer. After all, don't they pay "people" to put those things away? I am that person. I have now repented of my thoughtless retail ways. In fact, I've caught myself restocking (or "recovering" as we say in the retail biz) in stores that I don't even work in!

But I digress. Our store is loaded with crafting supplies, home accents, candles, sewing notions, florals, and all sorts of "must-haves" for crafters, home decorators, I don't actually mind the work or the people that I work with. It's just a bit humbling. Most of my "colleagues" and managers are much younger and more knowledgeable about store procedures than I am. I'll often find myself asking an associate the age of my sons what they would like me to do or how I should process a transaction. What a gal won't do to make her car payment.

And then there are the customers. Most of whom are very nice. After all, shopping at our store is for the most part fun and stress-free. Except for the vacant-eyed and weary parents who come into our store the day before a school project is due, paying out obscene amounts of money to make sure little Johnny or Susie get an "A" on the project that they waited until the last minute to start. In general, our customers are courteous and amicable. There's just that look that they give me. Or maybe it's the look that my ego perceives they are giving me. The look that says, perhaps you should have gone to college and gotten a real job for a woman your age.

If I had my way, my name tag would read:
"Welcome to Hobby Lobby. My name is Stacie. I have a college degree. I had a career. I've got skills. I have a portfolio filled with my graphic design pieces and letters of gratitude from employers and satisfied customers. I gladly gave it up for ministry and motherhood. I have no regrets. So quit looking at me like I'm a loser and swipe your credit card."

Simply stated: Thank you for shopping at Hobby Lobby and have a nice evening.