Saturday, December 30

Back in the Saddle

We skidded into our NY driveway at 10pm, a mere 11.5 hours after hauling out of the NC one at 10:30am. We included a precious few pit stops into our journey, and the wee ones were real troopers. We did indulge in a little Bojangles for lunch along with some much-missed Cheerwine a couple of quick combination fuel/bathroom/food stops and that was about it. Brainy Boy suffered through it by watching the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy that Uncle lent him and Little Chic used her new Nintendo DS to diligently train her new NintenDog who had graduated puppy training by day's end. I passed the time by doing some admiring of my new laptop until motion sickness set in and then did a little snoozing in a less than comfortable position. Hero Guy fared best by having total control of the steering wheel (and thus the radio and temperature gauge) and we all pulled in with surprisingly good attitudes.

HyperDog was thrilled to see her family back although she did enjoy a bit of a vacation herself, visiting with neighbors for the nights and spending the days back at home annoying MonsterPaw without restriction. Now MonsterPaw is another story, not quite sure if she is mad at us for returning and disturbing her peace, or mad at us for leaving in the first place and giving us the cold shoulder for punishment. As I type this very first post from my brand new laptop (perched comfy against my pillow rather than hovering over my desktop) MonsterPaw is not in her usual place at the foot of the bed.

Hopefully by year's end, all will be back to normal.

Monday, December 25

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa,
Will Dasher lead the slay next year? Do you have a magic watch that can stop time or slow it down? Tell dasher hese my favrite. Do you know Tiana M or Erin S? My brother doesn't beleave.

a bealver,
Little Chic

PS. I hope you like your cokies. I left a carot for each reindeer and 1 for you. My favrite animal is a cat. My favrite color is blue.

Dear Little Chic,
I'm fine if Dasher leads next year. I'll tell Dasher, don't worry. Want to know a secret? Dasher's my favorite too. Of course I've got a magic watch. Actually I've got two of them in case one breaks. Tiana and Erin? Yes, I know who they are. Are they friends of yours? I know your brother doesn't believe. That's his choice, I guess. Don't you worry. I love your cookies. Also my reindeer love carrots. My favorite animal is the reindeer obviously, and my favorite color is green. Let me take this time to complement you on your cat. It's so well-behaved. It always walks up and lets me pet her. Her name's Bobcat, right? And your dog's so affectionate and always jumps on me. Her name's Max, right? I love having girls like you in the world, always so nice. I've never had to give you coal.

Your good friend,
Santa Claus

(Santa was helped this year, by his scribe, 10-year-old Brainy Boy who offered to do the honors. Below, you can see "Santa" enjoying this year's selection of cookies and carrots.)

The Nativity

I wrote this script for our live nativity at church, trying to capture the thoughts of what the various characters might have been thinking as they experienced Jesus' birth. It's a story that we've all heard a million times, and I find that 2000 years later, many people think of the Christmas story as a fable or a folk tale. Sometimes it's difficult to really grasp the fact that this story really happened, and it happened to regular, ordinary people like you and me. Our nativity on Christmas Eve attempted to bring the story back to life and help each of us connect ourselves with the people that were around during the time when the event actually happened.

I wrote the script on request--it's definitely out of my comfort zone to do dramatic writing for a public audience like this was, but hopefully it will make the meaning of Christmas more personal for you as well.

Mary’s Reflections
I am but a girl who intended to marry a man and eventually start a family together with him. I was anticipating my life plans as any ordinary young woman does, when an angel of the Lord brought me a message that I would become the mother to a child who would be like no other. I am willing to participate in this wonderful event, but the price has been difficult to pay. I was stricken with fear and anxiety about the reaction I would get from those around me when I related this unlikely story. I am not fit to be the mother of a king, and certainly not the mother of the Messiah who has been expected since ancient times. This is an honor that I know I do not deserve. I experienced doubt and disappointment from my parents even though I have kept myself pure. I was nearly abandoned by my beloved Joseph even though I have always been honest with him.

In his kindness, God gave me comfort when I visited my cousin and her own unborn child gave a sign that the Messiah was in our presence. In that moment, I realized that I would be able to bear this burden and that I am not alone. I also felt validated when Joseph received his own message from the Lord and decided to partner with me to parent this child. As the arrival of my little one draws near, I am fearful of what is to come. I yearn for my child to grow up happy, healthy and strong. I want a safe, comfortable life for him rather than the one of sorrow and pain that he will have. I am heartbroken over the fact that many will deny that He is the One sent from above, and they will scoff at the sacrifice He makes for mankind. I can only do my best to fulfill the promise I made to the angel of the Lord - that I would indeed be the best mother I can with the strength that comes from relying on God.

Joseph’s Ponderings
From the time I was a young boy, I have had plans for my life that included marrying a girl from my village and setting up shop as a local carpenter. I intended to raise a family with sons and daughters and to be a man of honor and respect among my friends and neighbors. It will be difficult to accomplish these things with the arrival of this child that is coming. I am taken for a fool because I have stayed loyal to Mary even when she declared that she was having a baby that is not mine. Although I doubted the story at first, I received a personal visit from the Lord, brought by an angel from the heavens. Imagine the pressure of knowing that you will be responsible for rearing this little child in an environment that nurtures and develops the plan that God has for Him. I am a tradesman – not a rich man, not an educated man. I will not be able to give this baby a life of privilege. I cannot teach this child important things about the world. I can only offer myself, my heart, my example of what a Godly man of strength and honor should be. I don’t know if that’s enough - especially with the opinions and advice of those around me who will be sharing how they think the Messiah should be raised. But God gave this job to me and I have to believe that He did that because He will be working through me.

Wiseman’s Musings
The day I saw the Star was a day that changed my perspective on life forever. I study the heavens and I learn things that are only revealed from above. I have been waiting especially for something that has not come to pass until now An ancient prophesy about the arrival of a new king has been passed down for generations, and many have thought it just a tale. Suddenly the sign has arrived and I believe it will be proven true. I am a man who has important things to accomplish, a family to provide for and I do it on my own. I am a man of influence, an advisor to the king, a respected thinker, a man of significant material possessions. I am able to succeed in my world without the help of anyone. But as I was conducting the business of my life, the very stars that I read every day finally proclaimed the arrival of a Jewish king who will rule the world.

I must admit that the sign given in the heavens is surely sent by a God who is bigger than any god I’ve known before. Although I am a man of importance in my world, I am taking precious time from my busy schedule to accomplish something much greater than anything on my own agenda. I am seeking the truth. With this message from the stars, I am also beginning to understand that I do nothing on my own, that everything I have is a gift from above, and I have needs that I can’t meet through my own strength. With this Jewish king comes the promise of hope for our world.

Shepherd’s Thoughts
I am a man simple man, one who is looked down upon by society. I lead a lonely, solitary life among the animals and no one envies my lifestyle. Because of the responsibilities I have in tending my flocks, I’m not able to participate in many of the customary practices of my people, even important rituals like observing the Sabbath by attending the Temple. For this reason, no one wants to associate with me and I am considered unclean. I am held in such disrespect that I am not permitted to testify in a court of law – not only is my lifestyle undesirable, so is my character. But the God Most High, Creator of the Universe has seen me in my humble state and has granted me the privilege of sharing firsthand in the joyous news of the birth of the Messiah. The heavens burst open with a throng of angels announcing the arrival of the child who will bring to pass God’s master plan for the world. God saw through my outward appearance into the heart of my soul and found that He could fulfill part of His purpose through me.

Sunday, December 24

Christmas Eve

From our family to yours - Wishing you a Christmas Eve filled with the Spirit of the only reason we have to celebrate--the arrival of the Messiah, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 22

Quote of the Day

Said in a high-pitched fakey, sugar-sweet voice "O, have I just died and gone to Heaven?" Said by little Chic during our excursion to get her Christmas dress as she finds just exactly what she wants.

You have no idea just how far from my own personality that is...Don't know where she gets all that drama. Must be from her dad.

Pic is from her school class Christmas party today.

Thursday, December 21

Caught In The Act

MonsterPaw is trying her best to figure out where Santa hid that catnip she asked for! She denies it, saying that she is only trying to help wrap presents, but we all know the truth...

Unexpected Company

It's always a little strange to have 'vacationers' at home during the school year. Those would be the people who aren't usually keeping me company during the daytime school hours (like Hero Guy when he is on vacation from work, or the kids when they are on holiday breaks). The hardest part about it is that the regular routine gets interrupted and I get all discombobulated.

This morning I attempted to keep on schedule, sitting on my bed having quiet time reading my Bible after the kids were gone to school. It's especially difficult to stay focused when Hero Guy is home, because, well--here's an example. While I was minding my business, Hero Guy was entertaining himself by putzing around the house enjoying a day off work. He disappeared into the bathroom where he keeps his handy-dandy binoculars (for spying on deer out the back window) and proceeded to peer off our top balcony at some unfortunate woman who was having car trouble on the road in front of our house.

At my suggestion that he go help her figure out what was wrong, he replied that he was 'letting her gain a sense of accomplishment by figuring it out herself." I suspect he didn't want to change out of his PJs that early, and after I scowled at him, he traipsed off to help her. He got there just in time for her to gun her motor and take off. I'm sure the poor thing is feeling very accomplished at the moment--she's probably thanking her lucky stars for getting out of there before the weirdo with binoculars showed up to help her.

Wednesday, December 20

Who Knows Why?

Why is it that every female head of household that I know, is running frantically like a hen being chased by a wolf as the days whittle down to the BIG ONE?

Why is it that the children of those same females are gleefully pronuncing, "Christmas is in only five days!!" as if their moms are calm and organized with everything done?

And why is it that the male partners of those females (be they husbands, boyfriends, dads or brothers) are saying "What stress? What needs to be done? I'm not stressed, why are you stressed?" ??

As of now, if it doesn't get done, it's not getting done, and I'm committed to being OKAY with it. Well, that is except for the remainder of the shopping to do tomorrow, the school classroom party on Friday, the wrapping on Saturday, the singing at two services in church on Sunday....all except for that.

Tuesday, December 19

Happy Anniversary To Us, Every One.

I realized after reading a post from my own personal Cupid (the high school pal who was a cousin to my own Hero Guy and introduced the two of us) that it's been a year since a group of family and friends started blogging to keep up to date with one another. Before that, I didn't even know what a blog was. Anyway, Cupid posted a hilarious summary of some of the crazy stuff you find in your email box. It is especially funny to me, because I'm such a skeptic (I prefer the term, "realist") that I don't believe even the stuff that turns out to be true per Snopes! So here's to plagiarism...


SUMMARY OF MY LAST YEAR ON THE COMPUTER

I must send my thanks to whoever sent me the one about rat poop in the glue on envelopes because I now have to use a wet towel with every envelope that needs sealing.

Also, now I have to scrub the top of every can I open for the same reason.

I no longer have any savings because I gave it to a sick girl (Penny Brown) who is about to die in the hospital for the 1,387,258 the time.

I no longer have any money at all, but that will change once I receive the $15,000 that Bill Gates/Microsoft and AOL are sending me for participating in their special e-mail program.

I no longer worry about my soul because I have 363,214 angels looking out for me, and St. Theresa's novena has granted my every wish.

I no longer eat KFC because their chickens are actually horrible mutant freaks with no eyes or feathers.

I no longer use cancer-causing deodorants even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day

Thanks to you, I have learned that my prayers only get answered if I forward an email to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes.

Because of your concern I no longer drink Coca Cola because it can remove toilet stains.

I no longer can buy gasoline without taking a man along to watch the car so a serial killer won't crawl in my back seat when I'm pumping gas.

I no longer drink Pepsi or Dr. Pepper since the people who make these products are atheists who refuse to put "Under God" on their cans.

I no longer use Saran wrap in the microwave because it causes cancer.

And thanks for letting me know I can't boil a cup water in the microwave anymore because it will blow up in my face...disfiguring me for life.

I no longer check the coin return on pay phones because I could be stuck with a needle infected with AIDS.

I no longer go to shopping malls because someone will drug me with a perfume sample and rob me.

I no longer receive packages from UPS or FedEx since they are actually Al Qaeda in disguise.

I no longer shop at Target since they are French and don't support our American troops or the Salvation Army.

I no longer answer the phone because someone will ask me to dial a number for which I will get a phone bill with calls to Jamaica , Uganda , Singapore , and Uzbekistan .

I no longer have any sneakers -- but that will change once I receive my free replacement pair from Nike .

I no longer buy expensive cookies from Neiman Marcus since I now have their recipe.

Thanks to you, I can't use anyone's toilet but mine because a big brown African spider is lurking under the seat to cause me instant death when it bites my posterior.

Thank you too for all the endless advice Andy Rooney has given us. I can live a better life now because he's told us how to fix everything.

And thanks to your great advice, I can't ever pick up $5.00 I dropped in the parking lot because it probably was placed there by a sex molester waiting underneath my car to grab my leg.

Oh, and I can no longer drive my car because I can't buy gas from certain gas companies!

If you don't send this e-mail to at least 144,000 people in the next 70 minutes, a large dove with diarrhea will land on your head at 5:00 PM this afternoon and the fleas from 12 camels will infest your back, causing you to grow a hairy hump. I know this will occur because it actually happened to a friend of my next door neighbor's ex-mother-in-law's second husband's cousin's beautician...

Have a wonderful day....

OH! by the way:

A South American scientist from Argentina , after a lengthy study, has discovered that people with insufficient brain activity read their e-mail with their hand on the mouse.

Don't bother taking it off now, it's too late.

Monday, December 18

Music IQ

I come from a fairly musical family and we all enjoy singing, some of us playing an instrument, and generally surrounding ourselves with tunes most of the time. In an effort to keep the passion alive, I have immersed my kids in musical experiences, taking them to Kindermusik as tots, having them join Kid's Choir at church and I've even suggested taking instrument lessons themselves. Little Chic has fully embraced this idea since she pretty much has a song and a jig going inside her brain 24/7. Brainy Boy, on the other hand, loves to hear music, likes to sing, but does it all in his own time. The discipline associated with going to choir practice or playing an instrument does not interest him at all. Now, I'm not the type of parent to force my interests on others, so this year since Brainy Boy is 10 and in 5th grade, I allowed him to opt out of the children's choir at church, and he is no longer required to be in chorus at school. He does still have a general music class, but that's about all the structure his notes get.

Occasionally I will indulge myself in a little prodding, and tonight at dinner I mentioned that if Brainy Boy had joined chorus or had taken lessons on an instrument this year, he would have been performing in the 5th grade chorus and band concert tomorrow night. I knew this would just confirm his decision about not joining, since he never likes the concerts. I decided to try a little psychology on him stating "You know, research shows that taking music lessons increases your math IQ." It took him about a millisecond to respond - "Yeah, well BestBud takes TWO instruments and he still has failing grades." So much for that string of logic.

Sunday, December 17

Benefits of Being Short

Most kids want to grow up, and Little Chic especially yearns to "get bigger". I tell her there are benefits to being small, short, little or whatever you want to call the kid-state. Only a 9 year old can get away with having best girlfriend come to spend the night, don bathing suits and take a dip in the jacuzzi tub.

Saturday, December 16

New Life

This video is one of the most profoundly simple explanations I've ever seen about what it means to have New Life. Thanks to old High School buddy for turning me on to it.

Whewwww, Campaign Over

Just in the nick of time, the 2006 Weblog awards came to a close. I was feeling quite chipper for the first half of voting, as I remained strongly in the #5 position. It became much less satisfying to see my stats as the days dragged on seeing myself slip to #6, then #7 and at one point, #8. Luckily the votes were tallied and I tied for 8th,9th,10th with 2 other bloggers (that's face-saving speak for "tied for last place"). The judges were kind enough to place my name in the first of the losing spots, so that I can trick myself into believing I wasn't the least popular. But were it not for all you friendly types who check my goings on every day, I wouldn't have even been in the running. So thank you for the 144 clicks of affirmation that you all gave me for the past 10 days, admitting to the world that you humor me by reading my ramblings.

My consolation prize is that I get to keep that snazzy little button forever. I probably won't even take it out, well, ever!

Friday, December 15

Holiday Hassle

The hustle and bustle at this time of year is infamous. I, like every other person in modern-day America, promise that I am going to shop online, am going to get my errands and mailing done early, and am going to sit back and relax throughout the season approaching Christmas. Of course I never do, and today was no different.

I headed to the Post Office with arms overloaded at 8am this morning, praising myself for beating the mad Monday rush (the 18th of course will be heralded as the busiest mailing day of the year). I had a dilemma about how to get my too-many packages into the building and up to the counter. Should I even attempt to carry them all at once? (even half the load was near impossible). Should I take in half, and speak to the nice counter woman explaining that I have another load and could I please deposit half the load in a safe spot while I run to the van for the second armload? Should I carry half inside, deposit it in line to hold my place and then dash back out to get the other half and meet my 'party' of packages where I left them? Would people think I expected them to guard my stuff? Would somebody assume that I was trying to budge the line when I returned with my second load? Would somebody take one of my packages??!

My decision was complicated by the fact that when I entered the building, absolutely no one would make eye contact (neither the customers nor the postal worker) so I couldn't nicely ask any favors. I decided all this thinking was using entirely too much energy, so I brought in half my load, stood in line for 20 minutes, made my way to the counter, paid my $34 in shipping and returned to my van for the second load and got back in line for another 20 minutes and paid a second bill of $28 and went on my way.

The whole time I was in line, I assessed whether I had made the right choice. I'm pretty sure I did considering that there were 3 counter people at the the Post Office, one helping customers and the other two intently watching her. Of course, once I was at the counter for the second time, the charm turned on and previously oblivious counter woman acted shocked that I was in line a second time, but she didn't suggest how I could have done it differently. Go figure!

Wednesday, December 13

Getting Even

Apparently Hero Guy was more perturbed than I realized about me not letting him wear his cowboy hat to the country music concert we went to Saturday night. This medic outfit is what he was wearing when he showed up at church on Sunday evening for Little Chic's children's choir performance!

Oh, ok--the truth. He was on medic duty. But you have to admit, the first story sounded better.

Tuesday, December 12

Learning from Experience

Life brings with it lots of experience and if you pay attention, you can learn some really good lessons. Some of the stuff I'd forgotten and have been reminded of this week:

1) "Uh-huh" does not qualify as a "yes" from your kids. More than likely it means "I'm watching Sponge Bob and something (I have no idea what) is making a really annoying noise, but saying "uh-huh" makes it stop."
2) If your computer never crashes, it will - Just as you finish entering all the numbers in that new budgeting program you're trying out.
3) If your husband never drives your vehicle, he will suddenly need to - But only when you have been shopping with the kids who have been eating in your car all day. This will elicit a comment about how terrible it is that you allow your car to be a pigpen ALL the time.
4) You can't go by the calorie counter on those high-tech treadmills. One day, a 3.5 mile run will burn 500 calories, and the next day, at the exact same pace, it will only burn 350.
5) If you're in a hurry before PTA meeting, a meal can be made up of entirely white food--like pasta alfredo with garlic bread - and you won't even feel bad about it. You'll say to yourself "At least it's not take out".

No need to thank me for sharing these tidbits before you have to learn them on your own the hard way.

Monday, December 11

Project Overload

School projects were never my thing. I dreaded the Science Fair. I hated the bug collection. I actually tolerated research projects and book reports but only because I liked reading and enjoyed digging for information. But attach a display or something that you had to build to the requirements and I was out. I'd put the thing off until the very last minute and then try to scramble the entire family into panic mode to bail me out. Now Hero Guy, on the other hand, adores projects and loves fiddling with all the details. He helps plan and construct to the point that I have to slap his hands lest our wee ones not get proper credit for doing enough work.

As luck would have it, our project days are not over. I now have 2 kids of school age and both get projects from their regular classes as well as the enrichment program they are in. I got the glad tidings today that Little Chic will have a longhouse project due on January 3. The teacher has kindly given 'ample' time to complete the project, which for me means before Christmas since we will be traveling out of state for the entire holiday week off.

Why is this a problem? Well, for #1- what is a longhouse? For #2, if I had all my Christmas shopping done, I might be in the mood for a little project supply hunting, but since it's not, I'm not. For #3, if I think a 4th grader can totally construct a detailed replica of an ancient Indian abode (accurate details inside and out) on her own, then my kid will be the only one in the class showing up with a 4th-grade project rather than a heavily-adult-assisted masterpiece. The #4 problem is that Hero Guy is not available to be the guilty party in taking-over-the-kid's-project duty, so it is left to me.

If you see me tomorrow, amid the gifts in the cart, I'll surely have some twig material, faux fur and fake leather and I can't even use it for package embellishments.

Saturday, December 9

Redneck Heaven

My sis has always said that Hero Guy was born wishing he were a redneck. He has quite an eclectic taste in music and although he does like classic rock, contemporary Christian and mellow worship music, he's really a country music fan. I think he likes it not so much for the way it sounds, but because there is a costume that is associated with that genre. Although country & western has never been my favorite, Hero Guy has chiseled away at my resistance and tonight we are going to see Little Big Town, a group that I've actually come to enjoy. I was looking forward to the evening until Hero Guy started asking me what I'm going to wear. This was an immediate red flag because he never thinks about his attire unless we are walking out the door and I tell him that neither his C*ville Fire Department T-shirt nor his medic suit are appropriate choices for the holiday party we've been invited to. And he certainly doesn't think about what I'm wearing, especially whether or not we coordinate.

Upon further questioning, my worst fears were realized. He IS wearing his cowboy boots and the rodeo shirt to the concert (the same shirt that he's rescued from the Salvation Army donation bag several times). I've quietly hidden the cowboy hat that he's so proud of, but no doubt he'll make us late tonight when he's hauling out the closet looking for it. The reason he was asking about my clothes is that he was hoping I'd be wearing something to coordinate. Yeah...um...that would be absolutely NOT.

Everyone thinks that I'm married to a good ol' country boy who lives in a log house, volunteers with the local fire department, obsessively hunts with a bow and a firearm and wears that cowboy getup every time a rodeo comes into town. But it's actually just a clever scheme on our part to cover up the sophistication that comes with being a senior avionics engineering manager. You gotta be stealth, ya know?

Friday, December 8

Mind Over Matter

While getting ready to say bedtime prayers Wednesday night, Brainy Boy (10 years old) informed me that he has the ability to control his own dreams. "So how does that work?", I asked. He looked at me like this was something I should totally know already, he nonchalantly explained, "I just use reverse psychology on my subliminal characters." I expressed my doubt reminding him "If that were so, you wouldn't need to come into our bedroom at night when you have a scary dream. You could just write your dream in a different way that wouldn't scare you." Disgusted with my question of his logic he told me "Ma, I only came into your bed back when I was still at the mercy of my brain power."

So there you have it.

Thursday, December 7

Remember the Little People

Note To The Masses:
I realize that I am a peon in the scheme of humanity. I also realize that my wit quotient is about a paragraph long - maybe two on good days. I further realize that I live in small town America and some might find my life, well, mundane. That's why placing in the TOP 10 for BEST DIARIST in the 2006 Weblog Awards is a big deal to me.

So here it is. If you are so inclined, you can vote for me once a day until December 15. If you're curious, it will even tell you how badly I'm being outvoted. If you don't see this topic ever mentioned again, it will be safe to assume that I didn't win. Seriously, considering that I started this blog a year ago just for fun and subsequently got hooked, it's pretty amazing that I'm even included in the line up. And life goes on.

Wednesday, December 6

Little Ol' Me

The 2006 Weblog Awards

Who Knew?
The category I'm nominated in is Best Diarist. Apparently voting starts on Thursday, but since I have no idea how it all works, I can't give you much direction on how best to help catapult me to fame. So just go to the Weblog Awards site tomorrow and figure out how to vote. For Me. For Best Diarist. I'll mention your name in my speech. Heehee.

Tuesday, December 5

Bright Lights, Big City

The trip to the Big Apple was exciting as could be expected. 5:30 am came much earlier than expected being the morning glory I am not. I did chug an extra cup of coffee and that helped sustain me till we arrived for our 11am show. The Rockettes were pretty unbelievable and the live nativity at the closing scene was indescribable. It brought lots of the audience to tears. Some of the highlights were the Macy's famous Christmas window display, the gaggle of people waiting sale of the Wii at the Toys R Us in Times Square (the store that has a ferris wheel inside) and of course, the tree in the Rockefeller Center which was the #1 thing on my "To See" list.

Notably, I did very little shopping, and spent less than $50 (not counting the show tickets and the bus fare) which I have to say, I'm feeling quite smug about. But the hubub and atmosphere was worth the 4.5 hour drive and I'll probably be making the trek every Christmas from now on. The deli we found for lunch was also worth the drive but we'll have to see if I'm ever able to find it again. In the spirit of the season, we tracked down a street vendor selling roasted chestnuts which were a lot mushier than I remember them being. Not the favorite delicacy of the day, although I did eat about six of them before I decided this.

The only regret I had was not taking Little Chic along although she would have been the only minor in the group and she would have had to miss a day of school. But next year, she'll more than likely have one illegal absence from school in early December.

Hero Guy fared quite well playing Mr. Mom, only getting the kiddos to school 3 minutes late, locking them out of the house in 30-degree temps for about five minutes when they beat him home from school, and taking them to dinner and shopping rather than getting their homework done at a reasonable time. As a bonus, he got them to bed an hour late so they were still up to see me arrive home at 10pm! Believe me, the wee ones were in fine form when it was time to get up for school this morning.

In any event, we all fared well, I enjoyed my day, they enjoyed their prizes and now the Christmas season seems officially underway.

Saturday, December 2

I Think I'm Falling In Love

Over the years, Hero Guy and I have 'shared' responsibility in keeping our financial books in order--he likes to be the one officially in charge, but the fact that his work schedule is very unreliable and I have an irresistible urge for controlling things, we volley back and forth for the responsibility depending on what's going on in our lives. The problem is that when 2 people each think the other is doing the job, it rarely gets done well.

Thus, I recently volunteered for the task of coordinating Financial Peace University for our church (only because coordinating involves pushing the "Play" button on the DVD player) so I have been doing most of the entering, tracking and analyzing of our spending so I feel a bit more put together when the class begins on January 10. I volunteered for this job because I really see finances as being a huge stress in many of the married couples I know, and I could really use some organization help and motivation in this area as well.

In prep of the upcoming class, I've been very conscientious over the last 3 months to carefully track our spending. Over the past 17.5 years together, we've used a variety of systems to do this. I prefer the hands-on, non-practical method of using paper envelopes. I like to look inside, see how much money I have to spend and when the envelop is empty, I know I can't spend anymore. It's pretty easy to figure why that method is a bit cumbersome, getting the bills in the correct denominations for each envelope, having the cash with you at all times, etc.

Hero Guy prefers a computer program like Quicken. It's is basically a ledger style computing system which tracks your budget as you enter transactions. I don't like this program because I can't tell when I've overspent in a category without running a report and when I'm running to Walmart, I'm not inclined to report anything until I'm good and ready.

I also tried for a while to use a very inexpensive (approx $30) shareware type of program called "Budget" which is a virtual envelope system that shows a series of labeled envelopes on your computer screen and you move money in and out of them as you spend or deposit. I did like this program because I could open it, look right in each envelope and tell if I was going to have to "borrow" from another category in order to buy what I wanted, but it was a bit unsophisticated in it's ability to provide enough analysis for Hero Guy's liking. The advantage to this system is you are allowed to download and try it for 200 transactions (which lasted me about a month) before you buy it.

Enter my new love, Mvelopes. Now I am saying this prematurely as I just downloaded my 30-day free trial last night. But after spending about half an hour setting it all up, I think I'm in love. I had heard about this product developed by Crown Financial Ministries before, but had never looked at it. It combines the perfect mix of ledger-style Quicken and virtual envelopes so you can easily see how much you have spent in each category of your spending plan. The best part???? It "calls" your bank account and automatically enters every transaction that passes through your account. Now I only set it up to track my checking account. You can track everything--savings, credit cards, etc., but I need to start slow. I get a 30-day trial and then I have to make the big decision. This is the biggest disadvantage of this program - there is a monthly service fee (depending on the plan you choose, it's as low as $10 per month). The biggest benefit over other budgeting software is that it tracks your money before you spend it, rather than after the fact as all the other popular software does. Another perk is that you get free online chat help with support staff so as I try it out this month, I may decide that it's a good investment since balancing my checkbook is a task I truly hate, and Hero Guy just doesn't have the time to be consistent. OK, OK, I admit there is a bit of pleasure that comes with being the boss of the 'books'. But still, it's a big pain in my neck.

Friday, December 1

Whirlwind

I'm thinking that the 60 mph winds and possible tornados today will not deal kindly with the garland and bows I strung on my porch yesterday. And I did such a nice job too, using that handy staple gun on my own. This is notable because I don't think I've ever put up garland and bows before, so I'm bummed.

I am cheering myself up by thinking about the bus trip I am taking to NYC on Monday. It will be my first time ever to see the city at Christmas. I'm happy now!