Friday, March 31, 2006

On the Road Again

We'd like to announce a new member of our family. We are the proud owners of a 2006 Gray Toyota Sienna minivan. After 3 hours at the Toyota Dealership where we purchased our other minivan (a mere 9 months ago), we ended up with the exact same van as before, down to the paint color. The good news is that after *much* negotiation, we spent $1500 less than nine months ago.

The experience does beg a question. What's more annoying in this world than buying a car from a car dealership? The first dealership experience we ever had was awesome - we bought a Saturn. There was no dickering, per their policy. They were helpful, friendly, and even threw us a party when we took our car home. If the Saturn minivan got better reviews, we would be there in an instant. We were seriously spoiled by a "different kind of car company."

Every other dealership operates in approximately the same annoying way. The salesperson assigned to you gives the appearance of having absolutely no power. Every decision needs to be approved by their manager, in some secret little room far far away. Every time they leave to "run something by their manager" they are gone for 20 minutes. When you ask for a reduction in price, they come back with what you didn't ask for... an ambiguous monthly payment amount instead of the total price, or a list of prices for a different model that you aren't even interested in. Their "absolute bottom line" is never as far as they're willing to go --- they can always "do you a favor" and give up some commission (a bargaining ploy, I'm sure). The whole experience of the dealership is like sitting in the dentist chair for me.

Once you agree to buy, the finance person spends 30 minutes trying to sell you every kind of ridiculous insurance under the sun. Like life insurance, in case of Mark's death, so that I can keep his vehicle. But, if Mark is dead, I won't need his car. Wouldn't I just sell it?? At a dealership a few years ago, the finance guy was feeding us a line about how some stupid insurance would only cost 35 cents a day, and I piped up with, "and for the price of a cup of coffee, I could feed starving children in Africa." At least Mark laughed.

Despite the agony of the experience, we did make it through and should be back to two automobiles today. Which is good, because we are tired of getting kicked in the back by two active toddlers stuck in a sardine tin called a Saturn SL1.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Our Young Care for Their Own

Tonight, for the second night in a row, Ethan has been traumatized by a music video that plays right after our TIVOed version of The Wiggles. It is Dan Zanes, "Hello hello." It is by all accounts a seemingly harmless song about endless possibilities and being a welcoming spirit. It's warm and fuzzy.

Last night, all was fine for Ethan until a scene appeared showing three doors, each opening in turn to reveal a lion, a bird and an elephant (all waving kindly to one another, mind you). Ethan burst into tears and between sobs gasped, "raar" - "lion." Now, our home is no stranger to lions of all types, since Abby has an obsession with them. Ethan has never been afraid of any of the big cats before. To be honest, the lion in this video is actually rather cute and is even smiling. But something about it didn't sit right with Ethan.

Tonight, as soon as the video started, Ethan broke into sobs and started shaking. We stopped the video immediately, but Ethan needed cuddling and the reassurance of his big sister.

Abby plopped down next to him. "Don't worry, Ethan. It's OK." But Ethan was still upset. So Abby, in her infinite wisdom, disappeared into the toy room. She reappeared with her largest stuffed lion in tow. Holding him up to Ethan, she said, "Raaar!" And then she surprised us all. She made the lion kiss Ethan all over the face. "See, Ethan. Lion nice."

I'm in awe of Abby's deep love and concern for her brother. I can definitely learn a thing or two from my daughter.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Variety Show Pics

We had a blast at the Variety Show! We were a big hit (especially last night), and there was a lot of hooting and hollering for 8 sexy moms. Man, I felt like a woman! ;)

Here we are! I'm the 3rd from the left in the back row.

Again, I'm 3rd from the left.

For the end of our last performance, we added "Mom" tattoos and stripped our jackets off for the crowd. I think our husbands enjoyed it, at least! ;)
Notice how much makeup we have on for the "stage"... I think I was wearing more makeup last night than I have in total for the last 5 years!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Digging My Way Out

I am holding out hope that I am at the end of my seriously bad month. I am trying hard to improve my attitude and get back to "happy." I finally am starting to see the sun through the clouds (both figuratively and literally - our weather is getting "springy-er".)

Yesterday, I found out that our van is considered "totalled." Apparently, $15,000 in damage (yikes!) is too much to repair. We find out the van's exact value next week, and then we can close out the existing auto loan and start over. Back to the drawing board... I guess we'll start with Toyota and see what kind of deal they can give us (hmm. 2 vans in less than a year. cha-ching!) Our loaner car has to be returned today (it's only a benefit to us as long as our van is being worked on, and since the van is totalled, bye bye loaner). I guess we'll be living as a one-car household for awhile.

Last night was the dress rehearsal for the Variety Show. It was fun. The 8 of us moms are definitely the youngest people in the show. I think the average age must be around 65. There are some funny acts in the show, especially the last act of the night which I will not reveal for those who will be seeing it. I think we're one of the few "serious" acts, but we don't feel very serious at all! We've had a good time together. Oh, and we were the "lushes" of the dress rehearsal - we all drank beer (or in my case, a wine cooler) to get ready for the performance. We were definitely loosened up!

All-in-all, things are looking up around these parts.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Lemons and Lemonade

When I was in the 5th grade, I had a starring role in our school's end-of-the-year play. The play was about Cabbage Patch Kids (this was the mid-eighties). And I played a villain, Lavender McDade. One of my solos went like this:
I'm Lavender, Lavender McDade.
Say welcome to the star of this evil escapade.
Everyone needs a lemon in their lemonade.
Well it's me, Lavender, Lavender McDade.
Sometimes, when you've had a really crappy month, like when your friends' baby passes away on the same day as your Grandma, and you crash up your brand new van, it's difficult to see the lemonade beyond the lemons. Like today, for instance.

Mark started a new job today. A few months ago, he realized that there were some personnel changes going on at work that would make his job much more difficult and stressful. For a variety of reasons, he started looking to see what jobs were available in our area, and he found the perfect job for him. Apparently, the company thought he was the perfect man for the job, because he is now starting this new job doing work that he loves. The pay is great, the benefits are great, the work is great, his co-workers seem great. There's just one problem. He has to actually go in to work.

Mark has been working from home for the past year. The four of us have LOVED it. It's given us a lot of flexibility with our schedules. We've eaten three meals together every day. Mark has been able to see the kids more often than ever before. And besides all of those great things, Mark has been even more productive than when he worked in an office. When it came to making the decision to take this new job, it was almost like "working from home" was on one side of the scale and "all the other great benefits of the new company" was on the other. It was a hard decision to make. In the end, "all the other great benefits of the new company" won out and the new job was accepted.

We have been mourning the loss of Mark/Daddy at home for three weeks now, counting down each day until the dreaded 22nd. And today was the day. We all got ready this morning, and instead of Daddy heading upstairs until later in the morning when he would come down for a snack, we said goodbye to Daddy until dinner time.

This new job is definitely "lemonade" for Mark. Overall, we believe he will be happy and will find the work challenging and rewarding. But all good things cannot be perfect, and we're sacrificing Mark working from home (our "lemon" in this story). I guess we're all going to need to get used to its bitter taste, and learn to appreciate it for the lemonade it produces. And I do love lemonade.

Monday, March 20, 2006

All Shook Up

Yes, I'm All Shook Up, and not in the fun, Elvis Presley-ish way, but the oh-my-gosh-what-just-happened way. Friday did not go according to plan... no sirree.

The morning was crazily hectic, with 4 of us getting ready for my Grandma's funeral and me getting ready for my scrapbooking trip (did I print off enough pictures?) Just before 10:00, we left for the church (actually, we left to stop at the store to get pantyhose and then to go to the church). We decided to take separate cars, so that I could leave for my weekend right from the funeral luncheon. I drove the van with the kids, and Mark drove the itty bitty Saturn.

We stopped at the store and Mark ran in for the pantyhose. When we left the store, Mark went out of the parking lot one way and I went out another. I pulled into the left-turn lane at a major intersection and started to look around for Mark's car to see where he was. I honestly don't know what I was thinking, but I started to turn left while checking out where Mark's car was and a car coming toward me hit the front of my van. I would guess the car was going about 45 mph.

I didn't see it coming except for the last second before impact, and my airbag went off so quickly. When the van stopped moving, I quickly turned it off and checked the kids (who were both crying). They were physically fine, but scared. I got out of the van and waved to Mark's car (still stuck at the light), which was such a relief to him. He didn't actually see the accident happen, but saw that it was our van, and just about had a heart attack until he knew we were OK.

There were two women and a baby in the other car, and the baby and one of the women seemed to be fine. The other went off in an ambulance, but it seemed like it was just for observation or as a precaution (the ambulance flashers weren't even on).

My sisters came and took the kids to the church for us while Mark and I waited for the police officers and the tow truck. The whole front end of the van was crunched up and radiator fluid was pouring out onto the street. I was in shock - It took me about 20 minutes to notice that the temperature was really cold, and that I wasn't wearing my glasses (they had flown off my face when the airbag went off, I guess). Finally, the tow truck came and hauled our 9-month-old van away (sigh). And the officer gave me a citation for failing to yield the right of way. We drove to the church and made it to the funeral with 5 minutes to spare. Once we arrived, everyone was so relieved that I was OK. Incidentally, the funeral was very beautiful and special.

Today, 3 days later, I have a very swollen and bruised knee that hit the dashboard in the impact. I have a scrape going from my shoulder to my chest from the seatbelt. My hip bones are sore from the strain of the lapbelt during the crash. My right ankle is very swollen and tender (I'm guessing I sprained it on the gas pedal?) My ribcage is sore, and it hurts to breath deeply or laugh. Overall, it feels like I did some very strenuous exercise yesterday and I'm feeling out of shape. Thank God for seatbelts and airbags! The kids are just fine, thankfully. I'm so glad that we're all OK.


[Mark and my mom insisted that I go on my scrapbooking weekend anyway, even though I felt like I should stay home. My parents lent Mark their van for the weekend (thank you so much!!) and I took the itty bitty Saturn to go and scrapbook. It was a nice weekend away, and I got 31 pages done (my record is 40 pages in a weekend, but 31 is not too shabby).]

Friday, March 17, 2006

One Week

Next Friday and Saturday nights I will be dancing in the Variety Show (and my dad is also performing, he is singing in the chorus). The details, if you are local and want to attend:

Friday, March 24: Show begins at 8:00 p.m. at [my church*] - show is FREE (donations appreciated). If you are interested there is a soup supper at 6:00 p.m. followed by the Stations of the Cross at 7:00 p.m., just preceding the Variety show at 8.

Saturday, March 25: This night is reserved for parishioners who are attending the Appreciation Dinner. The evening begins at 6:00 p.m.

The show lasts about 1 hour 15 minutes. Should be a fun evening!

*If you need directions to my church, please e-mail me.


Today is my Grandma's funeral. Immediately following the luncheon, I will be going out of town for a scrapbooking weekend. My kids are both sick (and Mark is totally exhausted). Wish him luck on his weekend without me!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

100 Things About Me (Continued)

51. I come up with really good, probing and interesting questions when I'm in small groups.
52.When I dream about conflict, I am always the hero.
53. When Ethan was about 6 months old, he started having separation anxiety and was very upset if I left him. He was also a poor sleeper. So Mark became the only one of us to comfort him in the night because he would never let me leave the room and go back to sleep. Now, most of the time, I don't even wake up if he cries. It makes me feel a bit guilty.
54. I applied for Survivor: Africa. In one day, Mark created an awesome 3 minute video (very professional), I applied for a passport, I completed the lengthy application and I sent it all off to CBS. I never got a call.
55. I would have tried out for American Idol, but I was always too old. I'm under no impression that I would have come close to winning. It would have been for fun.
56. I sometimes fantasize about what my try-out song would have been.
57. I've been in love with three men. The first broke my heart. I broke the heart of the second. And I married the third.
58. I don't fold my underwear. It's wadded up in a drawer. I figure, "why bother?"
59. I do fold Mark's underwear. Boxers get really wrinkly if they're wadded up.
60. I have tried matchmaking only once in my life, with two good friends of ours. It failed miserably. I vowed never to do that again.
61. The best way to die would be in my sleep. And to be discovered by my husband, not my kids.
62. The worst way to die would be drowning.
63. When I was a kid, and other kids would dunk me in the pool, I would almost have panic attacks. It was the meanest thing anyone could do.
64. I am planning on planning my own funeral service.
65. Upon my death, I've always wanted to donate my body to a university for education. I even completed the research on how to do it so everyone who needed to know would be ready. Once I had kids, I realized that I wanted my body to be buried so my kids could have closure. I scrapped the idea of donation - at least until my kids are grown. I'm still not sure how I feel about being referred to as "the cadaver."
66. I try not to take myself too seriously. Sometimes I fail. But most of the time, I think I'm very funny. I crack myself up.
67. Even after 2-1/2 years, I love to pick out my kids' clothes in the morning. So far, even my strong-willed daughter doesn't have objection.
68. Most of my prayers are prayers of thanksgiving. They are very specific.
69. When I pray for help or guidance for myself, I try to be very general. ["God, please give me what I need." "Lord, help me to bow to Your will." "Jesus, I don't know how to get through this. Please help."]
70. When I pray for help or guidance for others, I usually imagine their faces in my mind and ask, "Please give them what they need."
71. I love to see the changing leaves in the autumn.
72. I don't like cola.
73. Last night, I told my scrapbooking group that my new phrase was going to be, "oh, pickles!"
74. I love my scrapbooking group. I look forward to it every week. I'm really glad it's held at my house.
75. I'm probably going to look like an idiot dancing for the variety show. I don't mind too much. I've had a lot of fun learning the routine and practicing with the 7 other moms.
76. I feel like an imbecile when people around me speak like a theology book. My brain often shuts down as a defense mechanism. I think faith should be simple enough for a child to understand, but rich enough for a fairly intelligent adult to explore and deepen.
77. My 3 big sisters all moved out of my childhood home in the same year. I missed them terribly. The house became very quiet. I was 10.
78. I don't want any of my kids to be separated from their siblings by 10 years. In my ideal world [haha], I would like our 3rd child to be born near Abby's 3rd birthday. Ethan will be 2-1/4 at the time.
79. People sometimes ask if having Abby and Ethan so close in age is like having twins. I wouldn't really know. I've never had twins.
80. I consider myself an adoption advocate of sorts. I am always trying to educate others about the process, about the use of non-offensive language, about the sadness and the joy. I am no expert on the subject, but the little bit I know I want to share.
81. I love to sleep.
82. Mark and I talk. A lot. Even after all these years, we still find new and interesting things to say to each other. I'm very proud of my behavior in my marriage.
83. I once had a college professor ask me out. He was 8 years old than I was. It made me feel weird. I definitely said no.
84. When Mark and I are in the process of making an important decision, we usually don't tell anyone else about it. When the decision has been made, we let everyone know the outcome. I guess we don't want to appear indecisive.
85. I really enjoy reading blogs and writing in this blog. It's fun.
86. I like to surround myself with people who have a good work ethic and a positive attitude.
87. I think sarcasm is funny.
88. I often ponder pointless things, like why is our pinky toenail so thick and short? What's it's purpose?
89. I often discuss these pointless things with Mark.
90. I am terrible at drawing.
91. My handwriting looks just like my sister Becky's. It didn't start that way - it just evolved. That is so weird. How does that happen? Note to self: this is something I need to discuss with Mark.
92. I like to say "note to self" in common conversation.
93. I sincerely mean it when I say, "I love you."
94. Despite all my complaining, Abby and Ethan mean the world to me. Just thinking about them can make me cry.
95. I cry a lot [in a good way]. I've inherited the "cry-gene" from my mom. My mother-in-law has it too. Just seeing either of them crying from across the room can make me cry.
96. I hate raw onions. My husband could eat a raw onion like an apple. But then he knows he won't get any kisses.
97. I'm a good photographer. I learned my techniques from my mom [thanks, mom!]
98. I put on my socks after I put on my pants.
99. I can't tell a joke to save my life. But my Dad is good for that, so I don't have to.
100. I trust Mark without reservation.

100 Things About Me

I've seen this on other blogs, and found it interesting to read. So here are the first 50 of "100 Things About Me."

1. I love cheese. I could eat it for every meal. My cholesterol is borderline, and I'm pretty certain cheese is the culprit.
2. I've only moved 5 times in my life, and all of them in the last 10 years.
3. My current buzz-words are "sweet" and "awesome." I can't believe I have gone back to 1987.
4. I have a birthmark on my butt. It's a raspberry mark, but it's faded to a light brown now (I think).
5. I love to sing. Loudly. If I want to make myself happy, I play Martina McBride's "So Magical" very very very loudly in the car or at home and sing my lungs out.
6. I hate exercise for the sake of exercise.
7. I have never really been on a diet. I did make lifestyle changes once that resulted in 15 pounds shed.
8. I need to make lifestyle changes now.
9. I have pretty high self esteem. I don't lack confidence most of the time.
10. I won't poop in public bathrooms, unless it's a real emergency.
11. I didn't have very close relationships with my grandparents before they passed away.
12. I want to create a different reality for my kids and their grandparents.
13. I had a boss once that said, "thank you for asking" when I would ask about his family. I loved the politeness of that, and I try to do the same.
14. I love to keep in touch with friends and family.
15. I'm terrible about keeping in touch with friends and family.
16. My favorite book of all time is "Of Mice and Men."
17. My hair and nails grow very quickly.
18. I am ashamed that I have so much frustration about Abby's behavior. She and I are like oil and water sometimes. It's hard for me to be the bigger person.
19. I think I have significant hearing loss in my right ear as a result of several ear infections I have had in the last 2 years. I am afraid to have it tested in case it's true.
20. I consider myself the luckiest wife alive to be married to Mark. He is an incredibly giving and supportive husband, and a very involved dad.
21. I become surly with Mark when we have too much time together. I need space.
22. I take a bath almost every night. I take a shower about every other day, as the kids' schedule allows.
23. I don't wear makeup. I haven't worn makeup day-to-day since college. I don't miss it.
24. When I was about 10, I had a short haircut. An older man mistook me for a boy when my dad was filling up the car at a gas station.
25. I love that Ethan prefers me to everyone else. It makes me feel good.
26. I am in the midst of a mini-depression. I haven't been very happy lately, and I can't figure out why.
27. The terrible two's suck.
28. The terrific two's are amazing.
29. I am high strung. Right now, I am clenching my jaw because I can hear one of the dogs walking across [scratching] the hardwood floor downstairs and it's driving me crazy.
30. I once started listening to a classic rock radio station to impress a guy. It didn't work. And I hate classic rock.
31. I once started listening to alternative music to impress a guy. We got married. And I like alternative music.
32. Often, I sleep in the clothes I wore that day. I don't want to get another outfit dirty.
33. The things that drive me crazy about my mom are often the things that drive me crazy about me.
34. I love to eat breakfast foods, any time of the day.
35. I will eat cereal for dessert sometimes.
36. I have ordered oatmeal at restaurants. It makes Mark shake his head - he always tells me I could have had that at home for a fraction of the cost.
37. Sometimes I can't stop myself from laughing during a solemn part of Mass.
38. I want to take my kids camping, but I don't remember how to do anything camping-related.
39. I am an OK cook. I am an OK cleaner. I am not a very domestic wife and mother.
40. My kids have never eaten any homemade cookies baked by me.
41. I love Twizzlers strawberry licorice. I can eat a whole bag of it at the theater before the movie even starts.
42. I like fun and funky socks.
43. When I was in elementary school, I could read at a higher level than any other kid in my grade.
44. When I was in 7th grade, and trying to be different while everyone else was trying to blend in, several different girls (at least 3) threatened to beat me up or actually pushed me at school.
45. I survived it, and didn't become a shrinking violet because of it.
46. I think the kids of people my age are usually over-extended with activity. I think dinner together as a family should be a priority.
47. I make a point not to judge the parenting decisions of other moms.
48. I think moms should support each other. I know I need support.
49. I love warm weather, but not too hot. I have a 5 degree window of comfort (about 69 to 74 degrees is great).
50. My favorite type of pie is pumpkin.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Thank goodness for forty degrees

Today, I was so grateful to God for the semi-warm weather. Abby and Ethan have been going insane with too much indoor time. Their little toddler bodies need to RUN, and our house is just not equipped. They are forced to get out their energy in other ways, like mess-making...

We do have this jumping platform --->
(it's made out of diaper boxes) - but there have been so many days of frigid weather that it has been worn thin by all of the activity. I have been *this* close to calling up Gymboree Play and Music and signing up for a session of ridiculously over-priced toddler-mommy exercise. But today, the weather was so mild, that right after naps we got OUT. Walked down 4 houses to our local playground. Rode the swings, poked at the wet sand in the sandbox with sticks, tromped through the last of the snowdrifts, breathed in the fresh air. It's amazing how a little thing like that can improve your mood. And how fresh air can renew the spirit.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Growing Pains

My kids are very different from each other. It's funny how every parent notices how different their kids are (even if they come from the same gene pool). Of course, like all siblings, Abby and Ethan do have many similarities. But sometimes the differences are rather pronounced, like in their growing patterns.

Ethan is a steady grower, in all ways. He grows in weight and height at a regular rate. He learns new things at a steady pace, multi-tasking between different types of skills and knowledges. Intellectually, he builds upon his knowledge every day. His routines are pretty much the same, day to day.

Abby, on the other hand, defines "growth spurt." She will suddenly shoot up an inch (or a pound), and the pants that were just worn yesterday are now "floods." She will appear to be "stuck" at a stage of development, and then will suddenly demonstrate 10 new skills at once. There are always cues that a new spurt is about to happen. If it is physical, she will suddenly become ravenous for a couple days, followed by a couple days of extra sleep. If it is intellectual, it affects her sleep patterns. For about a year and a half now, Abby has been going through periods where she will wake in the night. And when I say "wake," I mean that she is wide awake, ready to play. In the darkness of her room, she chatters incessantly to her stuffed animals, "reads" books to herself, and ocassionally calls out to her brother, all the while Mark and I are glancing bleary-eyed at the alarm clocks next to our bed. Is it really only 2 a.m.? For the last 2 or 3 weeks, we have had many a night like this. We knew what question to ask: what amazing new things will Abby start doing?

Abby's verbal skills have taken off this last week. Her pronunciation is not the best (she is only 2-1/2 now), but she is stringing together so many thoughts that it makes our heads spin. She can carry on a full conversation with 2 and 3 word sentences, which she was nowhere near doing just 2 months ago. Today, on the way home from church, Abby made up her first story for us, complete with crisis, climax and denouement. *Smile* I'm so proud. If anyone knows a good publisher, let me know. ;)

"The Puppy and the Snake" by Abigail

As told by Abby: "Story, puppy and snake. 'Ikes! puppy! Oh no! Snake scary*! Don' worry, puppy. Snake home. Good story**."

Translation: "This is a story about a puppy and a snake. Yikes, puppy! Oh no! That snake is scary! But don't worry, puppy. The snake goes home. This was a good story."

*"Scary" is always pronounced "scaaaaary" with doom in her voice - absolutely hilarious.
**We always mention "good story" at the end of a book. Our little mimic strikes again!

A little escape

It has been such a draining week already, I just want to escape for a little while. Come with me to the land of the silly...

Spaghetti again?

I am Ethan from the planet Scrubbrush. I come in peace.


Come'on, gimme a little kiss...