Tuesday, February 27

All American

I went to have a chipped fingernail fixed at the nail salon I frequent and I was greeted by Vietnamese Nail Salon owner who has been away for six weeks to visit his family in his home country. His wife, who is slightly older than I am, stayed here to attend the salon, and keep the home front with her mother-in-law and four children. As luck would have it, we got over a foot of snow while he was away and not only did she do all the shoveling at her house, she also cleared the shop parking lot by hand.

It was really touching to hear about his adventures, his time with his family and the two days he spent on a mountain top building a monument to his father. His most exciting moment was upon returning when he learned that he has been selected to receive a US citizenship rather than having to take the customary course. He says one of the best parts is that now he doesn't have to pay the $400 to change his name to "Mickey. Like the Mouse," he informs anybody who asks.

Monday, February 26

Life or Something Like It

Sometimes as life is moving along I find that I'm going with the flow of daily To-Dos and my blog has gotten hung up on a stray branch somewhere back upstream. Around these parts things are pleasant as ever, warming up a bit which is more to my liking. It's a sad state when I'm telling the kids they don't need to bundle as warmly as usual since it's currently 29 degrees outside. I took them to school in a sweatshirt this morning and was quite comfortable without a jacket. I resumed my daily 4-mile run today after a hiatus of longer than I'll admit even to myself. I say it's only been a couple of weeks but my backslidden fitness level begs to differ.

I actually do have a reason for my lack of blog activity. Not only were the kids home from school all last week (which always causes me to volley for computer time) but we also hosted Auntie who came to visit from DC. She brought various and sundry wares from Southern Living at Home and we had ourselves a nice little party at which I earned myself some free stuff for my house. It was especially enjoyable because Little Chic discovered that she loves to play the hostess and first assistant to the home party consultant. She got familiar with all the items and gladly played "Vanna White" as Auntie demonstrated the various treasures.

Brainy Boy, who generally doesn't care for such shenanigans, got into the spirit of things and offered to serve as butler to welcome and take the coats of the guests. He took the role very seriously with no coaching from me, and he kept asking if anybody needed drink or food refills. I suspect that he was enjoying the fringe benefit of tasting the French Iced Coffee I made, but we were all impressed nonetheless.

Since the rest of the week is fairly normal, I'm sure I'll be back tomorrow. By normal I mean: Tues- finish root canal, Wed- go with friend to an appointment and lead Financial Peace University, Thurs- Buy snacks for 3rd through 5th grade testing, Fri- Distribute snacks to classrooms and sing at church convention in town. There you have it - just the normal stuff.

Thursday, February 22

Not A Cat, Not Yet a Hedgehog

Good friend and her husband work at a hardwoods company that ships lumber all over the world. Recently a load reached China where the Customs officials found a baby something-or-other that had accidentally found its way into the shipping container. It had spent a long 60 days inside the sealed container with a bunch of chopped down, chemically treated trees.

Upon discovering this little guy, panic set in about what diseases it may have brought with it as well as some alarm at wondering if the critter may have been intentionally included with the shipment. The worry was intensified by the fact that nobody at the shipping yard had a clue as to what type of creature this was.

Following is some pretty hilarious, if not cryptic, messaging that was sent back to the States along with a camera phone shot of the little guy in an attempt to figure out what it was...

Dear Sirs,

Its said one of the select inspect load has been found one alive. Looks like Cat/HEDGEHOG alive animal run out from the container. And now, the terrified inspector now report to Custom senior and now all 4 loads were pick out for further investigation and group discussion. Will keep you advised the further information and also asking for pictures proof if they could.

This is see a blue moon case and we have no idea. I suppose it went wrong way in the container while we are loading and for sure not who did it on purpose. A smuggler will not exporting one raccoon for “small potato”.

Yours Faithfully

林映慧 谨致

It turns out that after the beast tests negative for any type of communicable disease, it will be making its new home in the local zoo over there.

Tuesday, February 20

Tooth & Nail

Today brought all sorts of surprises, from the pain-free, second-installment of my root canal (which cost significantly less than expected) to the notice that pricey shoe orthotics are not going to be adequate for Brainy Boy's severely flat feet.

More than likely, he will be undergoing an implant procedure in his feet to provide support for his nonexistent arches. The hope is to eliminate the constant knee and ankle pain he has been suffering. It will prove to be a thrill I'm sure, as the procedure is quite short, but is followed by 2 weeks of casts on both legs. He's going to love that, since it will probably get him out of many a shower.

We will try to schedule it for Good Friday so he has 9 school-free days following the surgery. The bummer is that the doctor only does afternoon surgeries, so he'll be food & drink deprived from midnight the night before. Lucky for us, he's quite a trooper as long as his X-Box is involved in the distraction. Another smile-inducing item was that the orthotics we ordered cost only $475 rather than the anticipated $600 and we don't have to pay for the replacements after the surgery is done!

Sunday, February 18

Questions of the Day

#1 - HyperDog has had a sore hip or knee for a few weeks, and whines to get up in her favorite chair. When I come over to help her, she hops right up. Why is that?!

#2 - Muh Main Man has been an enthusiastic onlooker as I've set up our Mvelopes budget tracking system, cheering me all along the way - not wanting to bother with it himself. Now that I've got it nicely arranged, he's decided to 'enhance' it a bit. Why is that?!

#3 - Little Chic was so exhausted during church tonight that she fell sound asleep and wanted to leave immediately when it was over. Once we got home, she was still raring to go at 10pm. Why is that?!

#4 - Brainy Boy is a germ-a-phobe when it comes to eating after people, touching gross things, etc. But he would skip his shower every single day if I'd let him. Why is that?!

#5 - My tooth has stopped hurting after 1/3 of my root canal was performed. I still have to go for two more sessions. Why is that?!

Friday, February 16

Books!

The fourth graders at Little Chic's school had a special visitor on Thursday night with our state Senator, Tom Libous. Senator Libous founded a reading incentive program several years ago called "Books"and he visits one New Yorks school a year to visit and promote participation.

Since our family is a reading-type family anyway, this was big news and we hauled down to the cafeteria for a catered dinner (served by our own fourth grade teachers and the school principal). After dinner we got to meet and greet Senator Libous after he had a circle-time chat with the kids. It was probably the first 'celebrity' that Little Chic and Brainy Boy have met and I discovered that Little Chic is a natural-born groupie. She's a lot like her dad in that way!

Thursday, February 15

Casualties of the Snowstorm

We were thrilled with the foot of snow we got on Valentine's Day, but our mailbox didn't survive the enthusiastic job the snowplow did. Hero Muh Main Man attempted to prop it up for the mail carrier to access but it didn't work out so well. Although not visible in the picture, the snowbank is now to the door of the mailbox and it is totally out of reach from the driveway. As a result, we didn't get mail today or yesterday and my phone call to the post office went as such:

ME: I'm calling to let you know that my mailbox was knocked over by the snowplow and the bank is too high for us to put in a new mailbox and the ground is too frozen to put in a new stake. I am just calling to make sure that you have the mail that wasn't delivered for the last two days.

THEM: We have your mail and you have a couple of choices 1) forward your mail to another address, 2) put a hold on your mail and come pick it up here no more than once a week, or 3) rent a post office box for a year for $25 and get your mail the post office.

ME: None of those options work for me. I'd just like to come every day or so and pick up my mail that you can't deliver and I'll replace the mailbox as soon as the snow clears a bit.

THEM: That's not in our policy. They begin to repeat the 3 options they've already given me.

ME: What happens to the mail if you can't deliver it?

THEM: We bring it back to the post office and hold it for ten days. If it's not picked up, we return it to the sender.

ME: So if you can't deliver my mail, I can come pick it up within 10 days?

THEM: Yes.

ME: If I come pick it up but the next day you still can't deliver, what happens to that mail?

THEM: We hold it for ten days.

ME: So I can come pick it up again?

THEM: Yes.

ME: So then why can't I just tell you that this is what I'd like to do.

THEM: It's not within our policy.

Well guess what? It's within MY policy.

Wednesday, February 14

The Day of Luv

On this day especially, it's fun to celebrate all the loves in your life. As far back as I can remember, the goal was always to have somebody special on Valentine's day, if for nothing more than to be able to spend $4 on one of those fancy cards. My Valentine's Days have evolved drastically since I first got the guts to admit I was in love with 12-year-old Darrin Christ back when I was in sixth grade and at this stage of life, the challenge is finding a new and creative way to express that feeling to the guy I live with every day.

These days, not only does Valentine's include my One & Only, but it also provides ample training ground for Brainy Boy and Little Chic on how to adequately provide a tangible token to their special someones one day in the far-off future. They don't mind these lessons at all, being that they both scored one of the oversized Hershey kisses that come out at this time of year (Brainy Boy's from Mom and Little Chic's from Dad).

This year, in addition to a nice dinner out and a sweet, heartfelt card, I wanted to do something extra special for Hero Guy. I considered getting him a new hunting gadget or perhaps having his truck detailed, but considering that we are participating in the Financial Peace University, I didn't want to put the pressure on him to reciprocate, thus emptying our Gifts envelope in one fell swoop.

I've decided to go with a goal that I've had for a while - thus ending his self-imposed boycott on my blog. Hero Guy has proclaimed since the beginning that he thought keeping a blog was a bit self-indulgent, perhaps slightly presumptive that someone else would want to read about our life. Other than the extremely rare cases when I insist on him reading, like here or here or more rare cases, when he is urging me to post big news like this he just flat out doesn't visit Thinks By Me. Can you imagine?! Upon lots of whining, inquiring and nagging it has become clear that the reason Hero Guy doesn't read about us is that he doesn't ..... well .... he doesn't like the moniker I've given him. Apparently he likes to play the hero, but he doesn't like to be called the hero.

So for our Valentine's Day this year as we're nearing our 18th year of wedded bliss, I'm renaming my guy, the one I love, the best husband and dad to her kids that a girl could have. Hero Guy is trying to convince me to rename him "Earl" but I absolutely refuse to be married to the guy that the Dixie Chicks sing about killing. We've compromised though. From now on, I dub thee "Muh Main Man".

Tuesday, February 13

Sad, Sad Day

It was sickening to learn some sad news this afternoon when I arrived at school to pick up Little Chic after volleyball practice. A classmate of Brainy Boy's lost her dad in THIS brutal attack yesterday evening.

I know the classmate quite well, am acquainted with her mom, and have met her dad a couple of times. He was the same age as Hero Guy. What a reminder to appreciate those you love. I just can't imagine knowing that my 10 year old would grow up without his dad.

But for the grace of God, there go I.

Sunday, February 11

Kids Praise & Talent

Our church had its annual Kids Praise & Talent Nite and Little Chic did a bang up job singing a song called "Angels Watching Over Me." She is always so much fun to hear as she loves to sing and she really works hard getting ready.

Brainy Boy decided to write a poem after much encouragement prodding and he came up with the following. I was pretty impressed, if I do say so myself:

PRAISES:
I love the Lord and I will sing praises to Him for everything.
I love Him more every day and I will follow Him all the way.
He's strong and helps me say "No" to sin, and I will do everything in Him.
He asks me to help Him stop people from doing sin and purify them within.

God is true, great and good and I will love Him like I should.
He speaks to me when I pray and He guides me through the day.
Follow in His footsteps and you will live in a place that's grand.
He died for me to give me life and to take away toil and strife.

I love You, God, through day and night, for God gives me a glorious light.
I pray You'll hold me in Your arms and keep me away from death and harm.
In the end, all I'll say is "Keep me close both night and day."

Saturday, February 10

It Baffles Me

Do you ever have something that you just can't figure out? Something that just doesn't add up or make sense no matter how much you think about it?

Every Friday, I buy a pack of 14 Dixie Grab 'N Go disposable coffee cups with lids. Now I am the only one who uses these cups (for my coffee) and I use a lid every single time (I buy them 'cause I like the travel-cup style and I don't have to keep track of them-before Dixie, I was notorious for leaving my travel mugs everywhere). Every Friday when I bring the new package home, I have at least one extra lid left from the week before. Sometimes there are 2 extra. Once I had 3 extra. Now, how can this be? Each week I throw away the extras and start fresh, determined to end the next week with the same number of lids as cups.

Today again, I had 1 cup left with 3 lids. What's up with that? I cleverly figured out that they must provide a couple of extra lids in the package for those clueless people who accidentally put 2 lids on their cups. So I counted. 14 cups. 14 lids. I suppose I could use a little tally sheet or something to keep track, but that's not nearly as fun as being baffled!

Friday, February 9

Destination Imagination

We have started one of the most interesting, but also most intense parts of our school year. Both kids are joining their school's Destination Imagination team. This is an activity similar to Odyssey of the Mind and it basically takes teams of kids and teaches them to do higher order thinking and problem solving using creativity and teamwork.

Brainy Boy was the only one to participate this last year, but now a fourth grader, Little Chic has realized that this is sort of a "club" and she is all in to it. The bonus for her is that they have lots of meetings, usually two a week, sometimes an extra on Saturday. That's the drawback part of it for Brainy Boy - he just lives for competition day.

They have a team of 8 and they have chosen one of several challenges - CSI:DI. The focus is on Theater Arts (playwriting, technical design, construction) as well as the innovation and design process, investigative techniques, deductive reasoning and teamwork.

Their team has to develop and present an original story about the investigation of a case, the supporting evidence and the resolution of the case. They have to include a colorful character and shadowy character in the story. The have to use innovative methods to produce a theatrical CSI effect by using color, shadow and/or illumination. They have to design and build a gadget that uses one or more of the properties of visible light coming from or into the gadget to reveal or analyze at least one piece of physical evidence. Last they have to create two side trips and intehrate them into the presentation.

On competition day they have to complete the presentation (including set up) in eight minutes. The total value of materials may not exceed $150. The kicker - On competition day, every team member and the adult team manager have to sign a Declaration of Independence stating that NO adult help was given, NO adult ideas were given and NO adult contribution of any type was provided. That is none, nada, nothing. They are allowed to have a person come in and teach them things (like how to use a woodworking tool or about the properties of visible light in general) but then they have to apply what they learned on their own. They can't even have a suggestion of any type for the entire period of time they prepare.

Competition day is April 20. I've decided that it's just better for me not to hang around. It drove me nuts keeping my mouth shut last year. After all, the kids are only 9 and 10 years old!

Wednesday, February 7

Hands Off, Buster!

For the last two weeks I've had an increasing stiff neck, sometimes to the point of it giving me a headache. I've attributed it to various things, perhaps a migraine (medicine didn't help), sleeping wrong (switching pillows didn't work), my toothache (the root canal didn't help) and all sorts of other things like the increased time I've been spending on transcription. I've tried pain medicine, Ben-Gay, soaked in the hot tub and even resorted to making an appointment with the chiropractor though I can't get in for 10 more days.

Today as I was adjusting my computer chair yet again, using another cushion to prop myself a bit more comfortably, I realized that my arm rests have been majorly lowered and somehow I didn't notice it until now. Apparently some short people of the kid variety thought that my chair wasn't as comfortable as they'd like, and they took to making it more ergonomically acceptable for themselves. Grrrrr.

Tuesday, February 6

Hobby Switcheroo

After getting the first 1/3 of my root canal this morning, I ditched a fav hobby (blogging) for a new one that I've been wanting to dabble in, thanks to my digital scrapbooking hero, Coffeequeen. While lounging on the sofa getting personal tutoring, I enjoyed a jumbo muffin and homemade soup complements of my hostess. I'm feeling a bit of pressure to become at least familiar with the basic techniques because my sis is ripping layout after gorgeous layout. Anyway, here's a sample of my progress today.

If you vaguely remember me posting a layout a few months back, it's true, I did. However, I did that totally by punching keys, clicking, dragging and not reading directions, really not knowing how I got the result. Thus I haven't been able to duplicate the results since. Until today. With help. One on one help at that.

I can assure you that I will be spending just as much time hunched over this computer, probably more now that I've gone and gotten myself yet another keyboard-and-mouse-based habit.

Monday, February 5

Extra Support Needed

Hero Guy and I have reached a new level of supportive spouse with one another. We tend to generally be the self-sufficient types, not requiring a lot of ooohing and aaaaahing from one another in order to feel good about ourselves. We dish out the compliments to one another on a regular basis, but if one forgets to tell the other that they look lovely today, nobody gets very upset about that around here. We do, however, put undue pressure on ourselves, both being first-born, overachiever, Type A personalities. One of those areas of strict enforcement is with the daily weigh in that we subject ourselves to. We do it each and every day without fail and the expression on the face tells whether the trips to the gym are working sufficiently.

This morning, Hero Guy got up and decided that after the Super Bowl snacks from Sunday night, he was going to spare himself the scowl and just skip the weight check. Since I only watched the Super Bowl for benefit of the loaded potato skins and ice cream, I decided this was a great idea for myself as well. As we left the each left the house, I commented on how dashing he looked in his pinstripe pants and red shirt/tie combo. He returned the favor and assured me that the shape I'm in is the shape he likes.

If you are driving in our neighborhood and see two tubs rolling down the sidewalk, don't be surprised. It's just us. You'll even see us patting one another on the back commenting on how being portly and circle-shaped actually complements our girlish figures.

Saturday, February 3

She's a Jolly Clever One

Little Chic has just been full of the funniest quips in the last couple days, which is actually a little out of character for her. A couple of her outstanding qualities are her compassion and generosity, but I think she's been hanging with her brother a bit more than usual because she's been keeping me laughing the last couple of days.

We made a quick stop into Target today to see if we could find another one of the "rare" Littlest Pet Shop toys that she's been looking for and we scored again. It always amazes me how we are always finding the "most rare" ones. We must be extra lucky or something.

On the way out of the store, I pointed out that she'd pretty much depleted her spending money, and I commented that I hoped she was happy with what she'd bought. She came back with "Mom, I'm as happy as a farmer that gets a six-legged cow." I had to look at her face to figure out whether or not that was a good thing - it was.

Before we reached home, she had disassembled all the packaging and finally gotten the little buggers out of the wrapper with the much-needed help of some nail clippers. The result was a mess of plastic, paper and rubber bands all over the car seat. Realizing I wouldn't let her come in the house till all the trash was picked up, she said "I really wish I had a Danny Tanner around here. He'd clean up this mess for me." It just so happens that Danny Tanner is the clean-freak dad on the TV show Full House that Little Chic loves to watch. I really wish I had one of him around here too. I could use a little neat-freakishness.

Friday, February 2

Quote of the Day

"You know the best part about being a kid? Nobody thinks you have a lot of money!" As quoted by Little Chic as she strutted into Walmart with her cherry-motif purse, carrying $18 from her 'spending envelope'.

She was with me for my weekly grocery trip since there was no school, and she was on a mission to get a coveted fox from the littlest Pet Shop series that she collects. Lucky for us all, she found what she was looking for.

Thursday, February 1

Rough Start, Banner Finish

The day is in danger for sure when one wakes up and realizes the 'dream' they've been having for the last 45 minutes was actually them hitting the snooze button until they are dangerously late. This is bad enough when one is in charge of their own schedule - but when they have power over others as well.....let me tell you, it's not pretty.

I woke with a start, realized that I had surpassed my usual 30 minutes of hitting the snooze and I was 20 minutes late getting the kids up. (Hero Guy adamantly argues that hitting the snooze over and over does NOT give the feeling of sleeping in, but I totally disagree). I dashed downstairs to disclose the news that cold cereal would have to do and that would only work if it was shoveled in at record speed (no applause for a hot breakfast--they usually have toasted waffles and/or instant oatmeal--their choice, not mine). We hurled ourselves out the door somehow on time, and I screeched into the school parking lot right behind the buses.

Just as I got back home, I learned that Hero Guy was still in bed from a bout of food that didn't agree with him yesterday (something he got at work, not from me!). I settled in to get my day started with my usual routine and the phone rang - caller ID said "school". Turns out that in our rush, Little Chic had forgotten her viola and needed it within the hour. Not willing to totally humiliate myself and show up inside the school building sans shower (they really can't tell whether you've had one or not through the car window when you're dropping kids off) I took a quick one and headed back out the door.

The day did get better from there. Hero Guy recovered enough to go to work, I ditched the transcription for a while and headed to the Christian bookstore, and when I got home and finally sat down to work, realized that I've typed in four days what I normally do in two weeks (I usually only work 3 hours a day or so). To top it off, the kiddos and I laughed our fool heads off while we watched the American Idol that we taped last night.

Tomorrow will be off to a much calmer start, I'm sure. There is no school due to Superintendent's Day, so I can legitimately sleep in if I want. Little Chic is firmly insisting that she is sure they are off school for Groundhog's Day since that is a national holiday, after all. Whatever the reason, count me in for a long weekend.