Archive for November, 2008
There’s a saying that goes something along the lines of, “If you do something three times, it becomes a habit.”Â Well, apparently in our family, doing something twice makes it a “tradition.”
Therefore, I bring you the Great Gingerbread-House-Building of 2008 in all it’s blog-worthy glory.
Now, before you get all impressed and start the super-mom comparisons, let me assure you: I do NOT bake my own gingerbread house.Â I do not make the frosting.Â I do not purchase the candy or sketch designs or any of those things.Â I am smart.Â I buy a KIT.Â I learned my lesson after the Great Gingerbread-House-Building-Debaucle of 2006, otherwise known as “The Gingerbread House that Wasn’t.”
We began by grading the site and gathering all our building materials.
We made sure the foundation was level and flat, and then began framing.
With the walls securely in place, it was time to add the roof.
Next we added some unique architectural details to the facade.
After that, we added shingles and decorated the roof.
At that point, we had worked the maximum time allowed by union regulations, not to mention the town’s noise ordinance, so we were forced to quit for the day.Â We resumed the next day, right where we left off.Â Our first order of business was installing the windows and making sure they were hung and sealed properly.
We finished by pouring the flatwork, planting the upgraded landscaping package, and completing the final walk-through before move-in.
The proud architectural and building team posed for pictures at the dedication ceremony.
Our little gingerbread people couldn’t have been happier with their new house.Â I hear they’ve already been busy hanging pictures and putting dishes in their cupboards.
This was the post I would have written last Sunday, if I’d taken the time to write a post.Â So, since I’m not technically savvy enough to figure out how to change the date on my blog, just pretend it’s last Sunday.
My husband is truly the best husband ever.Â He treats me like a princess.Â Just last week, while he was in Houston for his doctor’s visit at M.D. Anderson, he bought me jewelry!Â Two pieces, actually: an engraved bracelet and a pin.Â A matching set! They are so pretty, and I wear them every day.Â In fact, I’ve made a promise to Matt to wear them every day until the glorious day we hear the news that he is in full remission and cancer-free! You wanna see? Read the rest of this entry »
One of the greatest things about living in Fairview is the way we’re “Keeping it Country”: quiet, close-knit neighborhoods; glimpses of wildlife including bobcats, coyotes, hawks, falcons, rabbits and armadillos; dark sky ordinances to allow the night sky to shine in all its celestial glory; two-lane highways for easy country cruisin’; and a GREAT BIG NEW SHOPPING MALL less than a mile away!!
Okay, so it’s not your typical “shopping mall.”Â It’s more of a “town center,” which is fancy-speak for “OUTDOOR shopping mall.”Â The mall is actually in two phases: The Village at Allen which is across the street from The Village at Fairview.Â Yep, nothing says we’re “Keeping it Country” like a 6-lane divided highway, 8-story office tower, multi-story hotel, and mega-plex movie theater selling tickets at $35 a pop.
Tonight was the first major public event at The Village at Allen: the arrival of the Santa of all Santas, or as we like to call him, The Big Guy.Â We have visited this Santa every year since Trey was a baby, and we have chronicled our children’s growth through their Santa pictures.Â So of course, we couldn’t wait to welcome him to his new mall home right around the corner from us.
There were several pre-Santa activities, including face painting, balloon art, and arts and crafts.Â Our children had their pictures taken with Mrs. Claus and on a real sleigh.Â There were live reindeer as apparently Donner and Blitzen have decided to begin their winter in balmy north Texas rather than waiting around at the North Pole until called upon for duty.Â The Christian radio station was doing a live remote broadcast with raffles and giveaways, and there were performances by the Allen Symphony Chorus and Orchestra as well as a vocalist from Austin.Â We sauntered around The Grove, which promises to be a prominent feature of The Village, and allowed our children to run around and explore in the kids’ play before we bumped into two friends from our days at PCBC.Â Our kids hit it off so well we ended up hanging around with them for the rest of the evening, until it was time for The Big Guy to make his appearance.
Since we have no snow, and it would be difficult to get a sleigh to operate on concrete, Santa was ushered in by way of a City of Allen Fire Truck.Â He managed to wind his way through the crowds to the stage, where he promptly flipped the switch and turned on the 35-foot-tall Christmas tree to the delight of many in the crowd.
We didn’t stay to have our pictures taken with The Big Guy – heck he’s so close we can drop in any time for a visit.Â But it was fun to be there for his inaugural visit to our neck of the woods.Â We’ll make sure we’re extra good since he’s so close by.Â Instead, we capped off our special night by building our first fire of the season and roasting marshmallows for s’mores.
All in all, it was a great way to kick off our holiday season….even if it is before Thanksgiving.
Trey and Crisana pose in a real sleigh!
Of course, Dad had to get in on the picture!
Apparently, Donner and Blitzen were hungry and tired after a long day of photo-opping,
so we weren’t able to get a very good picture of them.
With Mrs. Claus.Â She was the REAL deal!
The Great North Pole electric switch.Â Only Santa could make it work!
The Big Guy himself!
As a child, I often dreamed of being a Girl Scout.Â We’d walk into the Sears & Roebuck Department Store and I’d see the mannequins dressed as a Girl Scout and a Brownie, and instantly I’d be filled with desire.Â The desire to be that girl…the one in the little brown skirt with the brown-and-white blouse and brown vest, wearing the cute little brown beret and the darling brown knee socks with tassels.Â Besides knowing I’d totally rock the look, I thought Girl Scouts were COOL.Â I would have arrived.Â And besides, we all know that Girl Scouts make the best cookies in the world.Â I wanted to be part of that.
Alas, my dreams of being a Brownie were never fulfilled.Â I have had to live my whole life without ever learning the Girl Scout promise or selling even one box of delicious Thin Mints…until now.
Yeah, sure, my chance has passed.Â Now I get to live vicariously through my daughter!
You cannot imagine the joy that filled my heart when my daughter first announced (at age 3 and yes, totally unsolicited) that she couldn’t wait to be a Girl Scout!Â Technically, I think she said she couldn’t wait to be a Cub Scout after being a part of Treys’ Tiger Den activities, but I knew what she really meant.Â I have waited three long years She has waited three long years for this moment to arrive, and on Tuesday my her dreams were fulfilled as she officially became a Daisy Girl Scout!
Since Matt was in Houston that night, I asked Grandma to come be my “date” for the evening, and she was more than happy to oblige!Â At the ceremony, each girl was given a Daisy wreath to wear:
The girls then showed us the meaning of the Daisy Petals they will be earning over the next year or two as they each placed a petal on the board:
The girls recited the Girl Scout promise.Â I proudly recited it along with them…a lifelong dream fulfilled!
Next, each girl was presented with her Daisy Pin, which was pinned on backwards.Â As with the Bobcat Badge in Cub Scouts, the pin cannot be turned forward until Crisana has done a Daisy “Good Deed”.Â They shook hands with the special Girl Scout handshake and received a certificate to commemorate the special event:
Crisana receives her pin from her Troop leader…
Then shakes her hand using the Girl Scout Handshake.
Could she be any prouder?Â I don’t think so!
Fall is definitely here.Â The nights have become downright chilly.Â Our children must don jackets or sweatshirts before heading out to meet the bus in the morning.Â Our friendly “ghostly howl” around the front door is back as the winds have turned northerly and swirl around the entryway.Â We’re even seeing evidence of FALL COLOR around the pond, with trees showing shades of red, orange, and yellow leaves instead of the usual paper-sack brown we’ve grown so accustomed to (though the color ’round these here parts can’t hold a candle to the glory of a New England fall).
To keep our thin-skinned bodies from becoming overly chilled by the dropping temps, we find ourselves pulling out the thicker blankets, the flannel pj’s, the warm and cozy socks, the chunky sweaters.Â This year, Matt has received a special gift of a chemo quilt – which is more of a fleecy warm blanket than an actual quilt.Â And that quilt provides the touchstone for today’s threads of gratitude.
As I admire the blanket’s craftsmanship and design, I am reminded to be grateful for the person who – unknown to me – carefully and lovingly sewed it together, dedicating its use for someone undergoing treatment for a serious illness.
As I feel its softness, I am reminded to be grateful for “softness”…for the compassion and tenderness of friends and family, for those who step in to help and meet needs whether I ask for it or not…for those who – on the spur of the moment – drop in with dinner (you know who you are!!!) or invite the kids for a playdate.
As I wrap myself in its warmth, I am reminded to be grateful for “warmth”…for the fellowship of our church, for the times of laughter and celebration with friends, for the joy of milestones achieved in my childrens’ lives, and for those who share life with us, making our journey warmer along the way.
As I snuggle down into its coziness, I am reminded to be grateful for comfort…for the God who is concerned with me – even the little details of my life – and desires to share my ups and downs with me, for the way He cares for us in our grief, for the hope that we have of being reunited with those who have gone before us.
As I sleep peacefully underneath the blanket, I am reminded to be grateful for rest…for times of renewing and refreshing, for moments that seem to linger in my memory and the joy I have in remembering them, for family time and building those memories together.
Ah, yes, the fleecy blanket.Â A simple thing reminding me to be grateful for the simple things.Â May this season of Thanksgiving be an opportunity for us all to reflect on the simple blessings in our lives.
Sand bars…Aren’t those little treats made with blue jello topped with a thin layer of cool whip and sprinkled with graham crackers on top?
Or is that something I just made up that sounds really yummy?
It’s official.Â I’ve plateaued.Â Or, in “Beach-speak”, I’ve hit the sand bar.Â No net weight loss to speak of over the past month, although I’ve managed to yo-yo up and down about 4 lbs.
I’m not really sure what the true problem is.Â I don’t know if it’s a misunderstanding of the diet and how it applies to real life.Â I don’t know if it’s a matter of my body adjusting to the new way of eating.Â I don’t know if it’s a lack of exercise.Â I don’t know if I’m sneaking in bad carbs without knowing it.Â I don’t know if I’m unwittingly sabotaging my own weight loss with portion control.
The truth, I’m sure, is a mixture of all of the above.Â I’m being convicted this week of my lack of self-control in so many areas of my life – and how I need to regain a sense of discipline and order in those areas.Â I need to stop making excuses and focus on the goal ahead.
This time next week, I WILL report a net loss.Â It may only be a pound, but that will bring me one pound closer to my goal!
Today McGowen held their annual Thanksgiving Feast at school.Â Of course, the kindergarten lunch was crowded with parents and grandparents all there to share in their little one’s special school lunch.Â By third grade, the crowd had thinned out somewhat.Â Grandma came and shared in lunch with both Trey and Crisana and Matt was able to join us for Trey’s lunch.Â We had a great time together and enjoyed a brief – but memorable – meal.
As we shared turkey and stuffing and made plans for our own family Thanksgiving celebration, I realized just how special Thanksgiving will be this year…and how much I truly have to be grateful for.Â Just little snippets of everyday life that remind me I am blessed beyond measure…
- for two long-lost friends who – out of the blue – called me “just to say hi” this week…
- for a special email from my brother that brought tears to my eyes…
- for a piano students’ mother who dropped by with a frozen pizza kit for a night when I’ve “just had one of those days and can’t deal with dinner”…
- for a neighbor who is giving Matt a chemo quilt…
- for friends who ask how I’m doing and really mean it…
- for friends who don’t ask how I’m doing, because they know I need to think about something else…
- for complete strangers who have offered support and encouragement, because they’ve been through this, too…
- for Girls’ Night Out and Bunco and OTGAT get-togethers where I can refresh my spirit through my dear friends…
- for silly Cub Scout skits and nature hikes with my son…
- for people who I don’t even know that are praying for us in churches across the country…
- for God’s perfect timing…His provision…His sovreignty…His complete trustworthiness…His complete peace.
I don’t need to be stuffed with turkey and all the trimmings to feel full this Thanksgiving season.Â I’m already stuffed, full of blessings and overflowing with gratefulness.
Although I was never good at math, I do understand exponents.Â And I do understand that CUBe is 3-way fun for Scouts and their families!
The Saturday before we left for our vacation, we attended what has become an annual Cub Scout event for us.Â CUBe stands for “CUB experience” and it’s a great opportunity to get out as a family and enjoy doing lots of different kinds of activities.
This year’s theme was “Cub Olympians” and many of the packs created games or activities that tied in to the Olympic games, whether summer or winter.Â Due to time constraints, we skipped the lines for bb’s and archery and instead spent our time making the rounds to the other events.Â The weather was gorgeous and we brought a picnic lunch which we enjoyed at the pavilion.Â We managed to see most of the boys from our den and quite a few others we recognized from the neighborhood or from our pack.
And then headed over to the obstacle course (which was fashioned after the biathlon in the Olympics.Â Very clever!)Â First, Crisana took her turn…
And then Trey took his:
After that, it was off to have a snack under the trees.
Next up was the rock painting.Â Each child chose a smooth river rock and attempted to paint a snake design on it.Â Our designs didn’t end up looking much like snakes, but boy did our kids have fun painting.
Next up was the paper airplane station.Â There were many different “models” of airplane to choose from.Â They decorated their planes and then sent them on a test flight.Â Trey’s was quite good at doing loop-the-loops.Â Crisana’s was quite good at flying straight into the ground.
WeÂ headed down the hill to the Lifesaving station, where Trey got to practice his lifeguard skills once again.
At this point, it was nearing lunchtime.Â I took the kids to one more booth – which turned out to be a form of broomstick hockey – before Matt took over and I headed to the car to get our cooler.
Matt was able to take them to get their faces painted, hammer some nails, and practice knot-tying while I was gone.
Crisana chose a puppy dog for her face paint…
…while Trey earned his “Bear” stripes.
After lunch, it was off to woodworking, where the project was making a stand to display a pinewood derby car.Â The project was for scouts only, so Crisana helped me take the cooler back to the car while Matt helped Trey sand his pieces of wood…
We were nearing the end of our day of fun, but we couldn’t leave yet.Â We stopped at a mock archery game where Crisana showed off her skills.
We closed out our day with a visit to the bottle rocket launcher site.Â We had brought our own bottles this year to be sure we had the chance to launch.Â Matt, ever the engineer, helped create designs that were aerodynamic yet aesthetically pleasing.Â It’s always so much fun to watch the bottles take off and see where they end up landing.
Our day of 3-way fun ended up being one of our best yet.Â I might even say it was Fun to the nth power!
Recently our lives have resembled hurricane season.Â Storms building, gathering strength, traveling full-tilt toward landfall, only to wreak havoc and leave us battered and shaken, trying to rebuild and shore up our strength before the next storm strikes.
As a result, my focus has not been on my diet the way it should be.Â And the scale shows it.Â I had recorded a 3-lb. gain during our vacation, mostly on the last 3 days of our trip.Â Last week, with some renewed effort, I was able to lose about half that, which still puts me 1.5-lbs. over my lowest point.
This week we have a lull…a brief respite before the next storm hits.
A full week with no doctor’s appointments…no medical tests…no consultations…no procedures. A week where we can live life almost normally, where we can put cancer out of our minds and pretend it doesn’t exist, that this whole experience isn’t real.
A full week where Matt can go to work every day, and come home at night. A week where we can settle in to our normal routine and do the things we normally did before cancer came in and took over.
A full week where we can be together as a family, doing what we WANT to do rather than what we HAVE to do.
Hopefully this week will allow me the renewed focus and dedication I need to get back on track.
This weekend is the annual Pack 303 Family Campout at Erwin Park.Â We always try to go once the weather is cooler.Â I think we achieved that.Â With an overnight low predicted to be in the upper 30′s, I’d say it’s cooled down just a bit.Â I’m still trying to be excited about sleeping outside with the possibility of frost on the ground.
This year, we have an agenda with several activities planned for the campout.Â Activities other than last year’s famous “Let the kids run around with a football until only one is left standing” or the perennial favorite “It’s dinnertime, do you know where your children are?” parental scavenger hunt.Â One of this year’s activities is a Cub Scout dessert bake-off.Â Many of the Webelos scouts will be utilizing the Scout tradition of dutch-oven cooking to create sweet treats for us to enjoy.
Trey, however, is not a Webelos scout yet, so we did our dessert-creating at home.Â In a kitchen.Â Where it was clean, and warm, and we had utensils and could wash our hands.
I gave Trey several options of what he wanted to make.Â Believe it or not, Trey already has a repertoire of two dessert recipes of his own.Â So I offered him the choices of his famous Golden Brownies (eerily similar to Mom’s well-loved Chocolate Chip Blondies) or Puddle Jumpers (chocolate cookies with M&M’s), or something new.Â Much to his mother’s delight, he chose something new.Â So last night we created “Gobbler Goodies!”
Sure they didn’t come out as picture-perfect as the cookbook, but they are cute, nonetheless.Â And in the right light, with your head turned just so and your eyes squinted just a bit, they really do kind of resemble turkeys…a little bit.Â But the important thing is we had a blast doing this together.Â Crisana helped me measure out the marshmallows and rice krispies.Â Trey took his turns at stirring the marshmallows as they melted.Â They loved rubbing butter on their hands and shaping the treats into balls.Â And they thought – as I often have – that chocolate frosting makes the best “glue” EVER.
Here are a few pictures of our creations.Â I have posted directions on how to make them below the fold.