Sunday, January 31, 2010

forest the bear

I've written before about my friend, Julie.

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But I haven't really written before about Julie's sister, Marie.

Except to say that Marie had written me a Christmas card in 2005, that I received at the same time as Julie's Christmas card. In her card, Marie had asked for me to call her, which I did. But she wasn't home - and when she called me back - I wasn't home. When we finally connected on Christmas Eve, I was hoping that she was going to tell me that they were having a party for Julie on her birthday, January 4. But instead, Marie told me that her younger sister had passed away on December 8. Four years later, I still find it hard to believe that my good friend is gone.

Since that time, Marie and I have remained in touch.

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Because, as it turns out, one day she Google'd her sister's name and came directly to the post where I wrote about her. Every so often, Marie reads my blog and she has sent some very generous donations to all of the cancer fundraising events that I've participated in. But if I bumped in to her in a store, I don't think I'd know her. But I do know that I'd like her, because I can just tell that she is cut from the same genuinely good cloth as her sister.

And I adore her sister.

Now the point of this story is to tell you that in June of 2007, a few weeks before Henry arrived on the scene, I received a package from Marie. In that package was a beautiful stuffed bear that belonged to Julie. According to a note that Marie had placed in with the bear, Julie had named the bear "Forest" and he was one of her favorites.

It wasn't very long before Forest the bear became one of our favorites. William, in particular, has adopted Forest and he rarely lets him out of his grasp.

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Tonight, as I was tucking William (and Forest) in to bed, William asked me to tell him again the story of where Forest came from. Pulling the covers up under my little boy's chin, I stroked his cheek and said, "Forest was my dear friend Julie's bear. And when Julie went to heaven, Forest came to live with us."

William was quiet for a moment before he piped up, "Mom. Julie put her love in to Forest, and now, I can feel Julie's love come out of Forest and in to me." Then he smiled and cuddling his bear close he said, "Forest makes my heart happy."

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Which makes my heart happy.

And I hope it makes Marie's heart happy, too.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

perspective

Our dishwasher broke last night.

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For those keeping count, this would be the ... 12th time? ... in less than three years that our dishwasher has ceased working. (Kicking and cursing never helps.)

We often wonder why we don't just replace it - but then we remember we paid a large sum for an extended warranty and so all of the repairs are covered. Although at this point, we're beginning to think that it would be less heartache to pay for a replacement, then go without a dishwasher for several days at a time, once every few months.

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Since we rely upon the dishwasher more frequently than our washing machine - the misery of losing this critical appliance until next Thursday (when the repairman comes) is positively excruciating. But the kids think it's great. They are more than happy to wash the dishes.

There's something about soap and water and bubbles that brings them tremendous joy.

So until Thursday rolls around, I'm lowering my standards on what defines clean. The kids are having a great time and since I'm not the one washing dishes, I'm embracing the concept of having a great time, too.

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I mean, they're using soap and filtered water.

How bad can it really be?

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We'll just postpone our fancy dinner parties until next weekend.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

five year old fashion

The upside of five-years-old is that the children are fully capable of dressing themselves.

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The downside of five-years-old is that the children are fully capable of dressing themselves.

And usually, they insist upon it.

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Which inevitably means that whenever we step foot outside of our house, I feel compelled to explain to anyone who shoots me a funny look ...

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... That I had absolutely no part in accessorizing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

my awesome family

My awesome cousin, Regina, who happens to be a highly qualified ICU nurse, will be flying down from Boston to Haiti - any day now - to lend her medical expertise and compassionate heart to the victims of the earthquake.

She'll also lend her humor.

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And possibly teach those in her company some of her suave dance moves.

I'm certain that she will do a great job and I am so proud to be related to this incredible woman. Oh, and to add to the awesomeness factor? Regina will be doing the 3-Day walk with me later this year. Yup. You read it here.

(FYI: Regina. You're doing the 3-Day walk with me later this year. Hugs! Kisses!)

My awesome cousins, Margaret and Lisa, who happen to live in South Carolina and have dedicated themselves to homeschooling their children, have also dedicated themselves to keeping their father's memory alive. Because my Uncle Bill never gave up his hope for a cure to lung cancer - his daughters haven't either.

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A few years ago, Margaret worked tirelessly to have a license plate adopted by the South Carolina legislature, which would benefit lung cancer research. Now, Margaret and Lisa are trying to help spread the word about lung cancer research legislation that is currently before the U.S. House and Senate which will declare lung cancer as a public health priority.

I've written about my Uncle Bill before. As you may recall, he was an extremely healthy man who never smoked a day in his life. And yet, he was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Although the doctors only gave Uncle Bill three months to live, he made it almost five years because he was so strong in both body and spirit. It's not as unfathomable as I once thought, that someone who never smoked a day in their life would be struck by this horrific disease. Tomorrow, my boss will be flying to the funeral for his 60-year old cousin who died of lung cancer this past weekend after a diagnosis in October. Of 2009.

(He was also a nonsmoker.)

What I didn't know until just today is that over 60% of new patients are former smokers or people who never smoked at all. Moreover, one in five women that is diagnosed with lung cancer never smoked. According to the Lung Cancer Alliance website, there is currently a piece of legislation before both the U.S. House and Senate called the "Lung Cancer Mortality Reduction Act of 2009."

This critical piece of legislation "declares lung cancer a public health priority, authorizes the Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Defense and Veterans Affairs to combine their key assets and to develop a comprehensive and coordinated research program with a goal of cutting lung cancer's mortality in half by 2016. The first year of the five year bill would be funded at no less than $75 million. Additional sums are authorized as determined by these three agencies in the overall five year plan."

Wow. That sure seems like a lot of money.

But did I mention that lung cancer will kill:
  • More people than breast, prostate, colon, liver, kidney, and melanoma cancers combined;
  • Nearly twice as many women as breast cancer;
  • Over three times as many men as prostate cancer;
  • An average of 437 people a day?
Did I mention that??

So please consider signing the petition and sending a message to your congressmen and congresswomen, today. It's extremely easy to do and a wonderful opportunity to stretch your democratic muscle.

(Believe me, he would if he could.)

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(FYI: Margaret and Lisa. You're doing the 3-Day walk with me later this year. Hugs! Kisses!)

So here are people from my family - doing what they can to help the scores of people that have been devastated by the recent earthquake in Haiti, raising their voices to help spread the word about passing a critical pieces of legislation that will reduce the mortality rate of lung cancer patients by 50% over the next six years. That's some pretty incredible stuff. What else could I possibly tell you?

Well ... my husband he is an extraordinary man.

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Do you have any idea how difficult it is to juggle clumps of sand?

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It takes coordination, balance, dexterity and SPEED.

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Yet look how he does this so effortlessly.

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My husband is a man of many talents.

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And he is a man of very good looks.

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FYI: Charlie...

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Regina, Margaret, Lisa and I will be doing the 3-Day walk later this year...

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Which means I'll be gone for a few days...

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But I have every faith that you'll be TOTALLY fine...

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Hugs! Kisses!

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Me.

Monday, January 25, 2010

homeschool: my little bean, er, cheerio counters

Charlie had a dentist appointment this morning.

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So while my husband went off to have half of his face numbed up, I stayed home with the kids and we worked on math. As I was having them practice various exercises from their Kumon workbooks (pronounced "Ku-Mon" and not "COME ON you can do this!") I was struck with an idea for helping them to visualize and grasp number sequences.

Although there are a lot of great websites out there and lessons I could download, for the most part, I really wing it when it comes to teaching the children. Sure, I try to draw upon some of the things that they learned in Montessori, but because I don't have all of the supplies that a Montessori classroom has, I do my best to work with what I've got.

So today, I had in mind some kind of tool that allowed enough spaces for the children to count out a specific quantity and then visualize the numerical sequence using small objects. Small objects like ...say, dried beans.

But unfortunately, we're out of dried beans because our children poured them in the dirt with the hope that in the morning, we'd have a beanstalk. Leading up to the clouds. Where a giant with a goose that laid golden eggs would reside.

The thought of using coins crossed my bind - or buttons - but Henry, seeing that it solicits a response from me, has taken to shoving little objects in his mouth just to see my alarmed reaction.

So there I am thinking and thinking.

What could I use?

And then it came to me.

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Relying upon my handy mini-muffin tins, and a bowl of Cheerios, I had the children count out the number of muffin indents. Then, I had them place the appropriate number of Cheerios in each indent.

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One had one.

Two had two.

Three had three.

Four had four.

Still with me?

All the way up to ... twenty four had twenty four.

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I also taught them that twenty four is divisible by two, three, four, six, eight and twelve.

"Huh? Diviso what?"

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Just kidding.

(They ate all the Cheerios before we made it that far.)

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A fun activity that teaches and yet satisfies a hearty five-year-old ...

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And two-year-old appetite?

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In my book, that's a win win!

soul food: truly, madly, deeply stuck (commitment)

I genuinely believe that Charlie and I have a very good marriage.

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The reason for that is largely because I hit the jackpot in the husband department. After almost twenty years together ... and over 15 years of marital bliss ... Charlie gets me and for the most part, I get him. We go together like peas and carrots. We compliment each other well because we have learned how to draw upon each others strengths and ignore support each others weaknesses.

(Not that there are very many. At least not with me.)

Like most things in life, our marriage has had it's shares of highs and lows. But by and large, we've had more highs than lows. And there is no question in my mind or heart - this is the man I intend to spend the rest of my life with. Don't think for a minute I don't realize just how lucky I am. Oh yeah, baby!!

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Now there are so many good people I know who have had their marriages end in divorce. It is my most sincere hope that this post does not open any wounds for them, but instead - strengthens their next relationship. Not if, but when that next relationship happens. Because after witnessing my 76-year old mother marry a wonderful 85-year old man, I have seen firsthand that love is, indeed, as perennial as the grass.

So. Last night. We attended a church service and because it has become commonplace for me to download my notes following a particularly thought provoking sermon, I'm going to share what I considered the highlights of the service, here.

Are you ready for this profound message?

Marriage is a lot like a cell phone.

In the beginning, you loved your phone because it was so cool.

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Maybe your phone was cute. Or sexy. In a technological kind of way.

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But after a while, what you once thought was cool is now old and outdated. Perhaps you're noticing other people's phones and wanting what they have? There is no doubt that whatever it was that initially attracted you to your phone is now dwindling. What once sizzled now barely fizzles because it is so deadly familiar.

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Come on, who wants to be stuck with an old phone when you can get an upgrade? The time is ripe to get rid of the old (bag) phone and replace your model!

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The problem is, in no time flat, that awesome NEW model will be outdated, too.

Because it's impossible to keep up with technology.

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There was a little boy who was taking music lessons and his class was putting on a performance. The child knew all the words to all of the songs. He knew when it was his turn to sing and when it wasn't. He knew everything that he was supposed to do. But when the light was on him, he just stood there. His parents spoke to him and asked why did he not sing when it was his turn? And he very simply said, "I didn't want to."

He didn't want to be engaged in the performance and so he wasn't.

It wasn't about his inability to perform - it was about his attitude.

Changing your attitude is like changing your vision on life. Much like a new prescription for your eyes, can help you to see better, so a renewed commitment to embracing a better attitude in your marriage (and life) can help you to see things differently in your world.

Our minister spoke of his neighbor whose fence fell down in the recent rain storms. Much like his fence fell down last winter. And the winter before. And the winter before. And every year, the neighbor does a patch job. He pulls the fence up and hammers on some two by fours to keep it stable. But sure enough, the next rainstorm will inevitably knock the fence down again.

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Are you satisfied with the easy fix, while knowing full well the next storm will cause damage?

Or are you willing to make the commitment to do the hard work. To dig down, pour some concrete, and spend the time and energy required to make the structure stronger?

Do you want to maintain or thrive?

If you feel like your marriage is stuck, there are four commitments that will help to get your marriage UNSTUCK.

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Those four commitments are:

1) Commit to a long-term GROWING marriage.

Growing is an action and an investment.

Every marriage, even the good marriages, need a routine tune up.

In your marriage, are you surviving - struggling - or thriving?

Your marriage shouldn't just survive, it should thrive.

But do you know how to make your marriage thrive?

Yes? Well aren't YOU fabulous. You're excused for the day.

No? You are not alone. Please, read on.

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2) Commit to SERVING your spouse.
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. (Roman 12:10)

...Live together in love as though you had only one mind and spirit between you ... None of you should think only of his own affairs, but consider other people's interests also. (Philippians 2:2,4)
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. (Oh damn. I've done that.) It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
The minister told a story that several years ago, his wife said to him, "It feels like you don't need me!" His first reaction was that she was correct. Of course he didn't need her. Why should he?! His father had died when he was a young boy and his mother went off to work. For the most part, he raised himself and in doing so, he learned to become fiercely independent and created a distance between himself and everyone around him.

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After a while, he didn't even consciously realize that there was a wall there. Until his wife pointed it out and slowly, but lovingly - and very deliberately - helped to break the wall down.

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To truly succeed in a marriage, you need:

A) Physical Intimacy - Hopefully, this doesn't require an explanation. If it does, read this.

B) Spiritual Intimacy - Help each other grow spiritually.

C) Mental Intimacy - Help each other problem solve.

And you also need to:

3) Commit to ENJOYING life together.
Enjoy life with your wife... (Ecclesiastes 9:9)

Enjoy life with your husband ... (Jen 1.24.10)
Marriage can become so routine and BORING. You absolutely need to enjoy the MOMENTS of life, together.

So, are YOU fun to be with?

Or are you uptight and tense?

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You must be deliberate in having fun. Every single week, carve out a day for you AND your spouse. Put it on the calendar. Write it in ink. Make this a top priority, each and every week.

Because if you do not make the time, the time will disappear.


In the book, "His Needs, Her Needs" Dr. Harley writes that the top five needs of a man are:

1) Sexual Fulfillment

2) Recreational Companionship (possibly redundant with #1, above?)

3) Attractive Spouse

4) Domestic Support (know how to run the house)

5) Admiration

And the top five needs of a woman are:

1) Affection

2) Conversation (feeling, not thinking)

3) Honesty

4) Financial Support

5) Family Commitment

Wow. Those sure are different lists, aren't they?

Do you know what the needs are of YOUR spouse?

Before you think, "Oh yeah. I know what their needs are, but what about my needs?!"

Just remember this:

Selfishness loses.

Giving wins.

If you want to win in a marriage - learn how to serve.

You might be surprised, shocked even - at how when you give love - you receive love.

And then some.

4) Commit to putting God (or, the light that shines within you!) FIRST.
.... If we are living in the light of God's presence... then we have wonderful fellowship and joy with each other.... (1 John 1:7)
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you... you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5)
... The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Let's think about that passage above...

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control.

Do you think any of those things would help you feel better about yourself - your marriage - your life? Would any of those things help you to feel less stuck in circumstances that you believe are completely outside of your control?

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The closer you grow to God the more these fruits will be produced naturally.

Are you currently locked in to any bad habits that need to be changed?

Do you frequently withdraw from your spouse to do your own thing?

Do you go to bed at two different times?

Do you bicker and fight over the same topics?

Do you nag?

Do you spend quality time with each other during the week?

Do you routinely hug your spouse and tell them that you love and appreciate them?

Did you know that if you were to have sex 2-3 times a week, you would decrease your risk of heart disease by 45% and men would decrease their risk of heart attack by 50%?

Who thinks it's important to be healthy and live a long time?

OK then. I think that's a fairly succinct way of wrapping up this post.

Because my mother does read my blog, after all.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

our life is one giant comedy of errors

The children went to bed almost three hours past their bed time last night.

Because .... we were planning to go to Costco.

But first, we had to go to the Post Office to mail off several packages (including three boxes of Joe-Joe's to Jenny, Maija and Jody - they're on their way!) that had been sitting around for two weeks and ABSOLUTELY had to be mailed out yesterday. And in the midst of standing in line, we realized that the children had basketball.

In five minutes.

Ten minutes across town.

So we finished up at the Post Office and bolted to basketball, arriving twenty minutes late.

On the way, there was much "discussion" about how awful it is that we can't keep anything straight. It's like we're living in a total fog. Sure, we've got things written on calendars in bright colored markers - but we need to set alarms on our phones and computers and maybe even consider paying a service that will call us with the gentle reminder, "Hi, before you leave the house today, you might want to make sure you're wearing pants."

Charlie goes in to basketball with the triplets - and because it was dumping rain and there was only twenty minutes left of class - I stayed in the car with Henry.

As I was fishing around for a book to read him, I noticed my cell phone was in my pocket.

I pull it out and see that for the past 10 minutes and 22 seconds, I've been on a call. But I haven't really been on a call. Just my phone has. And for that entire span of time that Charlie and I were having a "discussion" our "chat" was being recorded on one of my consultant's voicemails, which happened to be the last number dialed.

AWESOME.

That should be fun come Monday morning. I'll probably get a concerned call. "Jenna? Did you leave a message on Friday night? Are you upset with us? Did you rant for ten minutes about how frustrated you are that we are always late for things? I'm terribly sorry. I thought things were going well. Do you have any suggestions for our improvement?"

Yes. Yes I do. I'd appreciate it if you would call me 30 minutes before any event and REMIND me that we need to be somewhere. What? You don't think it's part of your job responsibility to tell me that our five-year-olds have BASKETBALL on Friday night?

Well, you better think again.

Once Charlie and the kids emerge from basketball, we go to Costco. As soon as we arrive, we place an order for pizza because by this point, it's too late to cook anything at home. But since it's a rainy Friday night - the wait for our pizza is an hour.

We complete our shopping in 20 minutes and then for the next 40 minutes, we roam the aisles, trying to block out Henry who has started yelling, "But MOMMMMM!" for no apparent reason at all. Someone has to go potty. I take them. Ten minutes later, they have to go again. But this time, they loudly declare that NOW they have to go poop. So we go back to the restroom. Once they finish up their business, they look in the potty and announce, "Wow. Check that out! It looks like a BIG carrot!"

These kids are incredible. I mean for such little people, it continually amazes me, the uh, size of their output. Charlie and I have actually called each other in to the bathroom to stare in wonder at how someone so SMALL can put out something so BIG. My husband has shaken his head in disbelief and said, "We're grown adults and I don't think we could accomplish that."

The hour is finally up. We fetch our pizza and opt to eat it there. But we have no drinks. Or no extra cash. So Charlie tracks down an ATM while I settle the kids in. Everyone has a plate with one slice of pizza, that I sliced in half. Two of them promptly drop their slices on the floor.

Charlie returns with bottles of water. Children take sips of water and inevitably, water is spilled all over them, the table and bench seats. I'm making sure the pizza box isn't flung to the floor, or saturated, and Charlie jumps up to grab napkins. In doing so, he flips Henry's pizza out of his hands. Which also lands on the floor.

Henry cries out, "But DADDDDDDD!"

My husband stops. Slowly turns and looks at me.

"Jen. Please. Can we just go home, go to sleep and start this day again, tomorrow?"

We both agree. We pack up all of our children - pick up pizza off the floor - dispose of trash - and walk to the exit at Costco only to see that the heavens have opened and both rain and hail are pelting sideways.

So we wait until the storm passes.

And wait.

And wait.

Once home, we get the kids in their pajamas, brush their teeth and give everyone strict instructions that tomorrow, they are to sleep in until daddy and mommy are awake, dressed and breakfast is on the table.

Of course they don't listen.

Even though we put the triplets on the potty again before we went to bed last night, before the light of day has broken the horizon, we are awoken first by one child who wet the bed and felt compelled to turn on every light within 20 feet of their room while crying, "I'm WET!! I AM WET!" No surprise, that woke up Henry who came in to our bed and kicked us silly for the next hour. The sky is still dark, when I sense a third child in the bathroom. I hear a funny noise. What is that?

Running water? Dripping water? Rushing water?

I fly out of bed and down the hall where I see the river flowing towards me.

In the bathroom our child standing with a toilet brush and jabbing at a mass of toilet paper that is now flowing up and over the rim along with a good five gallons of water that are all over the floor. Am I dreaming? Is this a bad dream?

Before I can fully differentiate real from not, my child explains, "But MOMMMM! It was like there were two huge carrots."

Then they frowned, "Maybe the potty doesn't like carrots either?"

Friday, January 22, 2010

charlie's storm watch 2010

What you are about to read is a post written by Charlie. All of the pictures contained within the post were taken by Charlie. He says that if he's ever going to start posting his recipes here, he better figure out how blogging works. Amen! Says me. That only took four years!

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So, here we are in sunny San Diego, and what do we see?

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I thought that the roof was going to collapse and when we went to the front door we were greeted by this HUGE, LOUD hail storm.

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According to my super sophisticated meteorological system (the kids' Shamu popcorn bucket), it's rained about five inches this week. Five inches this week?! That's typically what we have in a year!

No kids. You can't wear snow boots. OR make a snowman.

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"The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house
All that cold, cold, wet day."


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We're a simple people. This is the most entertainment we have had in a long time.

Now, what should we cook today?