Sunday, December 30, 2007

Success!

I just finished super-gluing four damaged ornaments and I did not get one drop of superglue on my fingers or hands! They're drying, so I have to resist the urge to check on them right now. (See my original Superglue story for some laughs.)

In other news, today Amber and I were pretending we were friends getting together at Starbucks. We were "ordering" our drinks, and Amber said with confidence, "I'll have a Decaf Mocha with caffeine and coffee in it." Sometimes she's just too darn cute!

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Days After Christmas

Well, it's three days after Christmas and I only have two presents under the tree to give away (to a friend and a babysitter). Not bad. We had a wonderful Christmas; Eric's parents came to our house from Santa Barbara with almost the entire lunch, a simple chicken dinner. We opened gifts first, went on a walk around the neighborhood and then had lunch. After lunch, while Autumn took a nap, so did everyone else but me and Amber. We went outside to see the neighbor girls. One of my favorite things about Christmas day is going outside and seeing everyone playing with their gifts. The girls next door got new bikes and our neighbor across the street (the dad) got a radio controlled helicopter. It was fun watching him get the thing going in the air and then see it crash into the bushes! "It's not as easy as it looks," he yelled to me. I think some of the best gifts to give kids (and adults) are the ones that get them OUTSIDE of the house, like bikes and skateboards and surfboards and radio-controlled cars and jump ropes and sidewalk chalk. I gave Eric a bocce ball set and after everyone finished napping, we went to the park to play bocce ball. When it was too dark to see the ball, we went back to the house to eat leftovers from lunch. It was such a fun and mellow Christmas!

Yesterday I took the girls and my friend, Laurisa, and her little boy to Ventura to my favorite place to shop after Christmas: Target. The sales are awesome, and I saved so much money and didn't spend over $40. It was fun shopping with a good friend. The kids were so well-behaved. (Why can't they be like that when it's just them and me?) Amid the half-price Christmas stuff, the employees were setting out Valentine's Day decorations. That used to really annoy me, but now it doesn't bother me at all. I mean, how can I expect Target--a major corporation--to do anything but what they're designed to do: sell stuff!

Anyway, after spending hours in Target just taking our time (it was so nice to not have to rush), we went to McDonald's and then to Michael's so I could buy plain paper bags with handles to decorate for next year. I saw this idea where you take the front of old Christmas cards and glue them on plain brown or white paper bags and add pompoms or pipe cleaners for decoration. They make such cute Christmas gift bags.

While we were at Michael's, Amber and Wences had fun taking the marked-down ornaments off the rack and decorating one of the artificial trees with them. As we drove home, Autumn gave Wences a bloody nose when she stuck her finger up his nostril. Yikes! It was hard to keep from laughing about my shy little two-year-old giving an almost-6-year-old a bloody nose!

It was a fun Christmas season at the Hodge Lodge. I'd love to hear about yours!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

- Luke 2:1-20

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Lights, Cookies, Caroling!!!

We have had a lot of fun this Christmas just staying close to home. Here's a few things we've done lately, some new and old traditions!

LIGHTS: Every year--even before we had kids--we've gone driving around Ojai looking at Christmas lights. One year before the girls were born, Eric blindfolded me and took me on a drive. I had no idea where we were going. He drove down Burnham Road in Ojai, pulled over and untied my blindfold. I opened my eyes to see several houses decorated with lights. I will never forget that wonderful memory!

Speaking of not knowing where I was going, a few days ago--as we set out as a family to look at lights--I decided to drive the car so I wouldn't get a headache with all of the winding and sudden stops. I had a specific route in mind and asked Eric if he would just let me drive the car and not comment on my driving or where we were going. He obliged. We made our way down La Luna to Lomita to El Roblar and eventually to the most brightly decorated house in downtown Ojai (on Ventura St. near Grand). The girls loved getting out of the car and spending time looking at the display. Then we headed to Drown Street where there were two more big displays. Then back to Grand Avenue and down toward all of the houses behind Vons. I kept driving and driving and finally--rather timidly--Eric said, "So, where are we headed next?" I said, "To the houses behind Vons." He said, "Oh, because we just passed Gridley Road." For those out-of-towners, I was driving away--far away--from my destination. I said to Eric, "Why did you wait so long to tell me I was going the wrong way ?" He said, "Because you asked me to not say anything about your driving."

COOKIES: This year I decided to get out the cookie cutters (for something other than pretend play) for the first time since Amber was born. I have been somewhat intimidated by the thought of making cutout sugar cookies with the girls, and for good reason. But I could not avoid it any longer if I was going to start making Christmas memories with the girls in the kitchen. So we got out the cookbook, flour, sugar, eggs, baking soda, cream of tarter, vanilla and almond extracts and made the dough. Then we got out the rolling pins, cookie cutters and sprinkles and started to cut out shapes.

I was already exhausted from making the dough with two little girls, but I decided to press on. I put a handful of dough in front of each child and went to the kitchen to get more flour. I returned to the dining room just in time to see Autumn pour out the nonpareils sprinkles all over the table and floor! (Those little balls can bounce and travel far!) The rest of the time, you could hear me say things like, "Autumn, don't eat the dough!" And, "Amber, please wait for me to help you with that." And, "Autumn don't eat the dough!" And, "Oh Amber, I'm sorry your angel's head got cut off." And, "Autumn, don't eat the dough!" I'm convinced that cookie-making is a two-adult sport, at least in our household! I took lots and lots of pictures, just in case I never attempt this by myself again. In the end, Amber said, "Mommy that was SO MUCH fun!" I thought to myself, "You really think so? Even after all of the yelling and chaos?" Okay, maybe I will do this again next year. After all, I have 11 months to recuperate!

CAROLING: This morning we went Christmas caroling around Ojai with our church family. Some of us were on a horse-drawn carriage and some on bales of hay on a flatbed trailer. We drove through Ojai singing carols to those who were outside on a Sunday morning, and we stopped at a few nursing homes to sing to the residents (that was our main purpose). It was sheer joy to watch my girls and the other children go up to the seniors and hold their hands or give them a hug. It was even more joyous to see the delighted faces of the older ones in their wheelchairs. It was the most fun I've had at Christmastime in a long time!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Who are you, and what have you done with my children?

This evening, as I was chopping the lettuce for our dinner salads, my two girls kept coming up to the cutting board and grabbing pieces of lettuce. Once, Amber grabbed a handful! Then, when I was chopping the broccoli, they started stealing pieces of it, also. No, they weren't hiding it somewhere in the dining room. They were eating it! And coming back for more! Now, they usually eat their veggies at dinner, but not with such vigor and vim (don't you love those two words together?). Anyway, I just stared at them and then asked out loud, "Are you two for real?"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I will praise the Lord all my life

Yesterday was a bad day. I had received some very disappointing news. I was sad. Then I was mad. In the end I was just wiped out from all of the tears and emotions. The girls were both in rooms taking naps. Autumn was asleep in the girls' room and--definitely an act of God--Amber was actually sleeping in our room instead of just reading quietly. I got out my Bible.

Rule no. 1 when you are mad or sad: Read the Psalms. David had a hard life, and not always by choice. In every other psalm he writes about tragedy, betrayal, life-threatening situations and just really bad days. I started reading Psalm 136. "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever..." Then I read on until I got to Psalm 146. "Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life. I will sing praises to God as long as I live." Then I stopped. I just stared at those words and then said to myself over and over, "I will praise the Lord all my life." I am so sad, but I will praise the Lord all my life. I am so mad, but I will praise the Lord all my life. I seriously felt so much more at peace, and that doesn't always happen when I read the Psalms. But it did yesterday. Then I ate a bowl of mint chip ice cream with homemade chocolate fudge sauce.

Rule no. 2 when you are mad or sad: Don't eat a huge bowl of sugar! Especially when you are going to go work out in 30 minutes! Yeah, I was sick to my stomach! But I had all the more incentive to go work out. My babysitter arrived a half hour later and I headed to Curves.

Rule no. 3 when you are mad or sad: Go work out! I recently found out that working out for at least 20 minutes everyday releases endorphins in your body that are natural pain killers. So, I went to Curves and did my 30-minute workout and chatted with the ladies there and had a wonderful time! On the way back, I felt like a new woman. And all the way home, I kept saying, "I will praise the Lord all my life."

Big Girl Bed

Sunday night, Autumn (2) graduated to a big girl bed! We took down the crib and put up a twin daybed that friends of ours gave us. She has done fine at night and not gotten out of bed. And she did well Monday and Tuesday during her nap. But today, she has gotten out of bed four times already to play in the room. Yikes! Oh, I have to go, I hear her playing in there AGAIN! Enjoy the pictures!
P.S. So, after going in the bedroom about seven times to tell Autumn to get back up in bed, I just checked on her. She's asleep at the end of the bed with her feet hanging over the side of the bed, as if she was going to get out of bed again, but fell asleep in the process! I would have taken a picture, but I'm afraid I'll wake her!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I love Christmas! It's my most favorite time of the year. Here are some random reasons I love Christmas...

I love giving gifts (my most favorite thing to do at Christmas-time)! I also love writing our Christmas letter and sending our family photo! I love peppermint mochas and candy sprinkles that look like Christmas trees! I love wrapping presents while listening to Amy Grant's Christmas Album! I love decorating every inch of my house! I love "the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree" with my husband and two girls! I love unwrapping the ornaments and reminiscing about who gave me each one! I love wearing tacky Christmas earrings (gingerbread men and bells and angels) that I wouldn't dream of wearing any other time of the year! I love the almost-cold weather and scarves and hats and mittens and a fire in the fireplace! I love red and green together with a splash of gold! I love making a list and checking it twice! I love white elephant gift exchanges and parties! I love putting out my nativity scene and telling the real Christmas story to my children! I love hanging the stockings by the chimney with care! I love my dad's famous fudge and my mom's almond sour-cream bread! I love all 10 of my Christmas cds! I love baking pumpkin bread for all of my neighbors! I love my cheesy fiber-optic wreath! I love taking the girls out looking at Christmas lights! I love singing Christmas carols and church musicals and preschool performances! I love watching Amber open presents because she thoroughly enjoys it! I love Christmas!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Family Vacation 2007


It's been three weeks since we went on our vacation and I am finally sitting down to blog about it. Eric took the girls out for ice cream, and so I have a few minutes to myself.

We drove up the coast to Cambria, a little town (smaller than Ojai) in Central California. We've vacationed there as a family or just the two of us for the past eight or more years, I think. We always stay at our favorite place, Cambria Pines Lodge. It was a fabulous week of relaxation, refreshment and fun. Here are a few highlights of the fun, funny and interesting things that happened:

* We celebrated two birthdays on vacation: Eric turned 32 on Monday and Autumn turned two on Friday. On Eric's birthday, we met a guy at the jacuzzi who was also celebrating his birthday. On Autumn's birthday, we met a little boy at the playground who was also celebrating his birthday. What are the odds?

* Amber had her first sleepwalking incident (that we know of) on vacation. I woke up at 2:30 a.m. one morning to Amber yelling, "Mommy, Daddy, I need help! I don't know where I am!" She was in the bathroom. I led her back to bed and she was out in less than 30 seconds! I used to sleepwalk. One time I walked out the front door!

* We got to watch me on the Price Is Right on Wednesday in the hotel room. You could see me in the studio audience several times. (BTW, Did anyone tape it for me?)

* Amber & I went on a "mommy date." We had lunch and a mocha/hot chocolate and then got pedicures at this over-priced salon. Amber had a flower painted on each big toe. Good thing we took pictures of her feet because later that day, all of the polish came off all but one of the toes after Eric took Amber swimming! She had such a good attitude and said to me, "Well, at least we have a picture of my toes."

* In out hotel room, we watched Arizona upset #2 ranked Oregon in an awesome football game (32 to 24). It was one of the best games I've watched on T.V. in a long time (okay, so my team won, and so we don't have cable, but it was still one of the best games I've seen!) Go Wildcats!

* During vacation, a woman at the salon said Amber was going to be a reporter, and then a man at the pool said Amber was going to be the first female president. Does our daughter have a strong personality, or what?!

* We discovered that Eric is the "Squirrel Whisperer" as he fed two fat squirrels out of his hands and petted one of them, at the beach.

* We went hiking, saw deer outside our hotel door, watched the elephant seals fight for their mates at Piedras Blancas beach, saw Zebras at San Simeon and Amber got to hold a monarch butterfly in her hands for a long time (maybe she's the "Butterfly Whisperer").

It was an awesome vacation!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

God's Winged Creation

Just a few minutes ago, I walked outside to put mail in the mailbox and I walked into a flurry of activity. Dozens upon dozens of birds were congregating in my front yard. When I stepped onto the path, they scattered into nearby trees and bushes. I put my mail in the box, put the flag up and ever-so-slowly walked back to my front porch where I stood there--still as a statue--until the birds returned to their activities of pecking around in the grass for berries and seeds. I had never seen so many birds in my front yard! There were a few blue jays and some yellow-breasted finches and some sparrows. But the majority of the birds were little sparrow-like birds that were light brown all over, until they spread their wings. Then I discovered a bright yellow patch on their tails, under their wings. I could only see it when they flew. I thought of how marvelous God's creation is and how creative he was when he decided to give these little birds a hidden patch of brightness.

I also got to watch a hummingbird drink nectar from my neighbor's flowers. Now talk about creativity! I wonder what God was thinking when he designed the hummingbird to be able to fly backwards and hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping its wings 15–80 times per second and maintain its position while drinking nectar. And those tiny birds can fly! When it was startled, I saw that hummingbird take off across the street so fast I lost sight of it!

The last thing I saw before returning to the house was a turkey vulture soaring in the sky. Those birds may look ugly on the ground, but when they fly...when they soar, they are absolutely beautiful. After taking off at a fast pace, the turkey vulture just hung in the air, like a kite floating on the wind. It reminded me of my skydiving days. All I could think in my mind was, "Thank you, God, for creating birds!"

Reluctantly I walked back into the house because I guess I can't spend all day on my front porch (wouldn't that be nice!). I think the birds were happy that I left because right before I turned to go, one of those yellow-patched birds flew right into my face! (Okay, I get the hint!) Now they can go back to their foraging in peace. I can go back to my mommy and household duties with a little more peace, too, for I got to commune with God, even if for a few minutes, during an otherwise hectic day.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Nordhoff" the Red-Nosed Reindeer?

I think I've reached a record--more than two weeks without a post on my blog! We were on vacation for a week and then my parents visited from Arizona for a week. So, I am finally sitting down to post something. I don't have time to post about our vacation because Autumn just wandered in the office looking mischievous. So, here's a short one...

Yesterday and today we've been decorating the house for Christmas. This morning, Amber put on reindeer antlers and said, "Look, Daddy, I'm Nordhoff!"*

* For those out-of-towners reading my blog and thinking "What's so funny about that?" Nordhoff is the name of our local high school, and it's pronounced like Rudolf.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Price Is Right, Part 2

Finally, they are airing the Price Is Right episode that I was on (well, in the studio audience) back in early October. The episode will air at 10:00 a.m. this Wednesday, November 14 on CBS. We will be on vacation, so we will get to see it in our hotel room. If anyone wants to videotape it for us, that would be great! I'm sitting in the middle, toward the front with dark blue jeans, a white shirt and red sweater, waving my arms and screaming my head off! I'm sure you'll be able to see me.

Well, we're off on our family vacation to Cambria (central Calif. coast) for a week! Yay!!!!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Velcro

Just two posts ago, I blogged about superglue. Now I'm writing about Velcro. What's next, you ask? Let's see, masking tape. No, I'm not going to start writing tidbits about household adhesives. Actually, Eric said I should blog about this. You know you're a serious blogger when your spouse starts suggesting you write about daily occurrences.

So here goes...Today Eric bought Velcro. On his own. And used it. On his own. That's it. There's nothing more to write.

Seriously, though, I went outside to play with the girls today and there were three different sized plastic storage bins by the back door. At first, I thought that one of Eric's customers was getting rid of them and gave them to us. He sometimes brings home food and clothes and stuff for the girls, courtesy of his customers. So, I got all excited, thinking of how and where I was going to use these new treasures. I love organizing! Yeah, I know, it's a blessing, and a curse! I asked Eric where he got the bins and he said that he bought them. He bought them! What? Where? (the hardware store, if you must know.) Later, I went into the house to start dinner and when I came out, he had organized all of his scan tools and computers and accessories.

He plugged all of his scan tool cords and computer cords into one power strip, bound up all of the cords and placed it all in a bin. He cut a hole in the bin for an extension cord to pass through and--walla--all of his loose cords were neatly organized. Then he Velcroed (here's where the title comes in) his printer to the lid of the storage bin so it wouldn't slide around on the seat of his car, like it used to. Okay, I was IMPRESSED! Eric is not an organized person, by nature. But wait, there's more! He took me back into the house and showed me his "charging station." (He was so proud!) He plugged all of the chargers for his scan tools and computers into an extension cord and put them all in another storage bin. He cut a hole in the bin for the extension cord to go through and plugged it into an outlet under the craft table. Now all he has to do is open the bin and plug the chargers into the appropriate tools and charge them up, all the while keeping them tidy and away from the girls. Wow!

Well, there you have it...the Velcro story that Eric wanted me to post on my blog. Oh--by the way--even though I didn't get to use the storage bins, Eric let me keep the leftover Velcro. Yippee!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Cinderella

Music moves me. And there's a new song out by my favorite singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman, called Cinderella, that I think every young father should listen to. I cry every time I hear it. I just bought the whole CD, This Moment, and it's worth purchasing. There's a great song on the CD written especially for young mothers, called One Heartbeat, that also is a tear-jerker. To hear Cinderella, click SCC's link below, and let me know what you think.

http://www.stevencurtischapman.com/thismoment.htm

Friday, November 2, 2007

Superglue

I hate superglue! And "hate" is not too strong of a word to describe my feelings. Every time I use superglue it ends up all over my hands. But with two very rambunctious preschoolers who manage to find new ways to break things around the house (and they're girls!), I find myself grabbing the bottle to fix what I can before I throw it away.

My friend, Gina, knows all about my superglue woes. Last year I called her up in a tizzy because I had managed to glue my hand to the cardboard back of a picture frame that I was repairing. The hanging piece had fallen off and I was glueing it back on when the tube of superglue exploded from the bottom and squirted glue all over my left hand.

When I get superglue on my hands, it lasts for days because I guess I have tough skin. Fingernail polish remover with acetone doesn't work. Soaking my hands in soapy water works a little bit. But mostly it just has to wear off over several days.

The other night I was suffering from insomnia due to a concussion I received Monday when I accidentally slammed the car trunk hatch on my head. (That's another story altogether, and not as exciting.) So, after uploading pictures and blogging, I decided to repair a broken porcelain tea set of Amber's that Autumn accidentally (the verdict is still out) dropped on the floor. Amber had such a good attitude when Autumn dropped it, that I wanted to try to glue the pieces back together for her. So, at midnight, I got out the superglue. That was my first mistake!

First, I glued the broken plate. Success! Then I glued the handle back onto the teapot. Yes! No glue on my hands yet! Then I glued the teacup back together. I stood back to look at the repaired porcelain and smiled. I looked at my clean, superglue-free hands and beamed. I thought to myself, "Gina would be proud!" And then I looked at the tea set again. That was my second mistake! I noticed that the plate was sticking to the cardboard that I had placed it on, so I gently picked up the plate to move it to a new spot on the cardboard. The plate broke in two again and splotched superglue all over both my hands! I ran to the bathroom to try to wash it off. I new it wouldn't work, but I was desperate. I spent the next 30 minutes peeling glue off of my skin before retiring to bed at 1 a.m.

The glue is still on my skin. And that's why I hate superglue!

***

P.S. I managed to find a superglue I like the best. It comes in a nearly indestructible bottle, so at least the tube won't explode on me. It's in a green and gray bottle: Loctite Superglue Goof Proof (goof proof for everyone but me!).

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat!

Wow! This Halloween was packed-full of activities for us. Between birthdays and parties and trick-or-treating, we've been busy these past few weeks! Here's some snippets and pictures of our fun-filled holiday...

Train Ride to the Pumpkin Patch with Amber's preschool: I'm not sure who had more fun, me or the kids!

Pirates of the Caribbean: I threw myself a "Pirates of the Caribbean" costume party for my 38th birthday. Then, two days later we did the same thing for the Young Life teens at our house. I was Capt. Jack Sparrow and Eric was Will Turner. We really got into the theme of things and everyone had a great time!
Trick-or-treating and passing out candy: For the first time ever, Eric and I stayed home and passed out candy on Halloween. When we were first married, we lived on an apricot orchard in a guest house not visible to the public. Then we moved to another hidden guest house. Then we started going to the Harvest Festival at church. But this year we stayed home and I passed out candy while Eric took the girls around the neighborhood getting their own loot. It was so much fun! We had a lot of teens come to the house, which I love, and we got to know our neighbors a bit more. It was a lot of fun!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

October Happenings

Has it really been 1 1/2 weeks since I posted a blog?! I have been quite busy lately. It's probably been the most busy month I've seen in awhile, and it's not even over.

It's my birthday month, along with several other friends and family members, which has kept me busy wrapping gifts and mailing cards (I love birthdays...everybody's). And last week was the first Young Life event with the teen-agers...bowling night! (Eric and I are Young Life leaders now--I'll post about that soon.)

Then there's Halloween coming up...Amber & Autumn are going to be Tigger & Pooh. And preschool pictures are in a few days. Also, I've reintroduced myself to the world of print journalism. I've have two long articles (and one picture, of Eric) printed in our local newspaper, with my byline. The stories are features about what the Christian community is doing for people around them, locally and globally. I'm going to write another story next week, too. It's hard to get anything printed in the Ojai Valley News, so I was jazzed for awhile...still am.

Oh, and I can't forget last weekend...I scrapbooked for two whole days with my girlfriends! Eric watched the girls. It was awesome, and I almost completed an entire scrapbook! So, that's what I've been up to. What's new in your corner of the world?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Top Ten Things To Do Before I Die

One of my friends recently posted on her blog some things she wanted to accomplish in the next year, and some of them were steep! So that prompted me to post my list of things I want to do before I die. Some of them will most likely never be accomplished, like #4 , but they're staying on my list...who knows! I made this list 5 years ago in my journal. (By the way, when I die, I hope someone reads my journals.) Okay, so here it is...

Top Ten Things I Want To Do Before I Die (not necessarily in order):

1.) See a bear in the wild. (remember I'm a big city girl)
2.) Milk a real cow. (there's a story behind that one...maybe for another post)
3.) Learn to play the drums.
4.) Sing as a background singer for Steven Curtis Chapman or Michael W. Smith. (just once)
5.) Publish a book that I wrote. (I have self-published two poetry books, but that doesn't count.)
6.) Catch or spear a marlin.
7.) Meet either Chuck Swindoll or Janette Oke, my favorite authors. (Now I would probably change this one to something more exciting, like taking fencing lessons.)
8.) Get my pilot's licence.
9.) Fly in a helicopter. (I think I've flown in just about every other machine, except a blimp.)
10.) Go back to Belgium, or go to Scotland. (where my dad's heritage lies)

When I wrote this list, I had already started taking up skydiving, or it would have been on the list, too. I was tempted to put it on the list and then cross it out. He He!!

So, those of you who have blogs, I want to see your list on your blog. If you don't have a list, make one. It's fun and I've always been an advocate for dreaming, even if some of your dreams never come true.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Gardening?

I've often heard the phrases, "Life began in a garden" and "God is closest in a garden" and blah blah blah!

So, now you know how I feel about gardening. I have never been good at gardening. I have an extremely black thumb. All I have to do is look at some living green thing (I'm not talking about moldy cheese) and it shrivels up and dies. You don't believe me? Just last month my friend, Nadine, told me to take home her potted basil. She said it would go well with my tomatoes and she wanted me to have it. I refused. I told her that it would die in my care. But she insisted. I brought it home, and even watered it, and in two days...TWO DAYS...it was brown. Not a speck of green could be found on that plant. Then there's the times that Amber has brought home little plastic cups of who-knows-what, only to have them sprout up out of the soil and then wither as soon as they saw whose home they were in!

My father-in-law, on the other hand, is the Plant Whisperer. All he has to do is walk by a plant and it stands at attention and immediately produces fruit or veggies or flowers, even in the off-season. I'm not kidding. Papa is the reason our tomato plant is still alive and producing yummy tomatoes. The garden is his and Amber's garden. In the beginning, when they planted the tomatoes, I told him that I wanted nothing to do with it. I told him that it was not good for my self-esteem to see one more plant die on my watch.

So, why am I telling you this? Today I was fuming after yet another battle with my oldest to get her to eat her food. I called my friend, Gina, and she told me that a walk outside in the fresh air helps her calm down. So I decided to go outside and pick some fruit. I picked a few remaining tomatoes and some pomegranates and some beautiful roses. It did help, and I thought to myself, "Maybe there's something to this gardening thing. I think I understand what all those women are talking about when they wax eloquent about getting back to nature." I decided to pull a few vines away from the roses that they had wrapped themselves around. And then...OUCH...I stabbed myself on a thorn! Then another. Then my arms started to itch from rubbing against the scratchy vines. Then I started cursing those women who find gardening such a joy. "Oh, forget this!" I thought, and went inside to put the flowers in water. You see, I'm just not cut out to be a gardener. I never have been, and I never will be. And I'm okay with that. Now I need to go wash the scratchies off my arms!

P.S. I took a picture of what I gathered in the garden, before the flowers wither and the tomatoes go bad! I don't think I can sabotage pomegranates, but you never know!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Fire Safety

*** Okay, another one about Amber (you don't have to read them, you know!) I'm not sure where I'd get half my blogging material if it weren't for my girls! ***

So, the other day I was going through a fire safety book with Amber. Our conversation went like this:

Mommy: Amber, you are never to play with matches.
Amber: I know, Mommy, unless we're playing "Go Fish."
Mommy: No, Amber, you are NEVER to play with matches!
Amber (exasperated): I know, I know, Mommy, unless we're playing "Go Fish."
(Okay, so some of you have caught on by now, but I was still clueless.)
Mommy: NO, Amber, you are NEVER EVER to play with matches!!
Amber: Yes, but what if we're playing "Go Fish" and I get a match, then we're allowed, right?

She is too smart!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Price is Right

I left Ojai this morning at 9:30 and headed for Hollywood to be a contestant on the Price is Right. CBS invited the ladies from Curves in Ojai and Oak View to be a part of the studio audience and have a chance to be on stage with Drew Carey, the new host. Before I share with you my exciting adventure, I'll answer the question that is on all of your minds...no, my name was not picked. I did not hear those magical words, "Christine Hodge, Come on down. You're the next contestant on the Price is Right." I did not get to hug Drew Carey (thank goodness!). I did not win a new car and I did not win the Showcase Showdown. But I did have a blast!

We arrived at CBS Television City at noon, registered and then ate our sack lunches that we brought. Then we waited. First, we waited for a seat on the long, uncomfortable benches. Then we waited for the people with the red coats (pages) to bring us little pink papers to record our name and ss# (in case we win). Then we waited for the pages to bring us our nametags. Then we waited to be interviewed. Ah, now it's getting interesting.

Contestants on the Price is Right are not just randomly picked out of a hat. Anyone who wants to be on the show, must be interviewed. Well, it's not as glamorous as you'd think. This is how the interview process went...We lined up in groups of 12 and one of the producers asked us where we were from and what we did for a living. I said, "I'm a stay-at-home mom to two preschool girls and I work with teen-agers." Well, my job must not have been as exciting as the health inspector, train conductor, pediatric nurse and house manager who actually got to go on stage and try to win prizes. None of us in our group could figure out just how they choose the contestants. We thought they chose the most enthusiastic people, but in the interview process, there was never a chance to show your enthusiasm. The selection process is rigged, we just couldn't figure out how!

Once we were interviewed, we started the waiting process again. We waited in a long line to go through security and we waited on those hard benches again to go into the studio. While we were waiting, we had fun chatting with the people around us and commenting on everyone's names, since we all could see each-other's name tags. You had to use your full, legal birth name on your name tag. One big, biker-type man's name was Harmony.

Then, at almost 4:00 (four hours later) we were led into the studio where the fun really began! First of all, they do some major trick photography when they air the Price is Right because the studio is very small. It's smaller than my church sanctuary. Seriously. And the set looks like it's the same set they used more than 30 years ago, although I understand it's been revamped. The audience is less than 200 people. (I was number 96, btw) We got to sit in the middle and the camera was on us a lot, so I'm sure we'll be seen in the audience when the show is aired. And there were at least a dozen crew members on stage the whole time. It's amazing that you don't see them when the show is aired!

After a few instructions, they called out the first four contestants. One woman's name was Kay-Anne Pepper (like cayenne pepper). No wonder she was chosen! A guy two seats down from us was called and a guy (Freddie) directly behind us was called. He actually won $37,000 worth of total prizes, including the Showcase Showdown. When they call the names, the contestants only have to run a few feet down to the stage, yet they make it look so much longer when you see it on T.V. One guy was so excited, he tripped and fell on his way down, and we had to wait while the on-site EMT cleaned his scraped elbow. He ended up winning something.

The first item they bid on was an iphone. I would have won because my friend just bought one and I knew the price. I guessed $795 from my seat, and the total retail value was $798. I should've been on the show!

Drew Carey was very funny. He cracked jokes and made fun of the contestants when the cameras weren't rolling. It was like we got to see a free Drew Carey Show. He sang and almost danced. He was very entertaining. He makes a good host!

Even though the show is taped live, it isn't aired live, so they actually do things over if they're not good enough. They re-taped one of the contestants' husbands shouting out prices to her. They asked him to get all excited again and shout out numbers to her as they zoomed the cameras in on him. And the announcer had to re-announce products. It's all rigged! I wasn't surprised.

Well, I had a blast even if I didn't get on the show. On the way home, we drove down Hollywood Blvd. and I saw the stars on the sidewalk and the Pantages Theatre (from the moving car). We got home at 9:30 p.m. I am tired, but too wound up to go to sleep.

If you want to watch me in the audience, the show is #4081-K. Go to cbs.com and click the Price is Right to see the air date. It won't be available for a few days. If you do watch the show. I'm wearing red and white.

P.S. We couldn't take cameras into the studio, so all I have are a few pics I took from the car.

Monday, October 1, 2007

On Being a Mom

This post is not nearly as engaging as yesterday's, but here goes...

My youngest daughter is in the "tearing up books and magazines" stage. I do not like this stage in a toddler's life because I love the written word and treasure books. So, lately I feel like I should open a children's book repair business because I've gotten quite good at it.

Speaking of repairs, my oldest daughter came up to me the other day with her play watch that was damaged and said, "Mommy, can you fix my watch so I can sell time?" Oh, I wish she could sell time because these days I'd gladly buy some more!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

When Life Gives You Lemons

Disclaimer: I was planning on blogging about my daughter's lemonade stand anyway, but I certainly did not plan on telling the following story!

No doubt you've all heard the phrase "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Well today my daughter and I learned that very lesson...literally!

First, let me give you some background information. There are 1.2 billion people in the world who do not have access to clean water. About 5 million people die every year of water-related illnesses; one child dies every 15 seconds. The Christian women's group I attend is raising $10,600 to build two wells in Africa. That's a lot of money for the small group of 55 women, and they are raising the money in 11 weeks time!

I told my 4 1/2-year-old, Amber, what we were doing. She borrowed and idea from a friend of hers and decided she wanted to have a lemonade stand and donate the money to the well project. Last night we made three pitchers of lemonade: regular, strawberry and mint lemonade. Then she helped me make a sign and put stickers on plastic cups. I emailed all of our nearby friends to tell them that after church we were going to sell lemonade. I even made an announcement in our little church this morning.

As soon as church ended, Amber and I raced home to set up the lemonade stand. (Eric and Autumn drove a separate car to church so they could stay afterward to chat with people.) We got home and set up two kiddie tables and chairs. Then we placed three full pitchers of lemonade and a bucket of ice on one of the tables. I had taped the sign to a garment rack and rolled it onto the sidewalk next to the table. (Yes, there is a reason I'm including all of these details...bear with me.)

The sign kept falling over, so I had the brilliant idea to back the car up to the sign so the garment rack could lean against the car. I sent Amber to the front of the house so I could back up the car. I slowly backed it up until I felt it touch the sign. Then I got out of the car and heard Amber wailing. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with her until I looked at the sidewalk. There, all over the concrete and running down into the street, was three batches of cold lemonade! And the pitchers--well, let's just say that plastic does shatter and I'll be putting in a Pampered Chef order for three new pitchers! "What happened?" you may be asking. From what I can tell, the sign bumped my big chair that bumped the little table with the pitchers of lemonade.

Have you ever felt like you were in another world? Like, "this didn't just happen?" Well Amber was crying and I was crying and then Eric drove up. He got out of the car, looked at the mess, looked at us and basically told us to "get a grip." Our first customer had just arrived, also, and Eric told us that we'd better get in that kitchen and make some more lemonade. (Thank God--seriously--for level-headed husbands and daddys.) The three of us set to work on making two new pitchers of lemonade and our first customers--Jackie and Blossom--waited patiently until we were set up again and ready for business.

I told Jackie the story, and she said that when things like that happen in our lives, we have a choice to give up or get up and move on. She said she was glad we chose to "make more lemonade!" Amber's lemonade stand was a hit, by the way. We made $42.25! She's going to bring it to church on Wednesday.

Amber may not get a lot of life lessons out of today, but when she's older I'll remind her of the day she not only helped provide clean water to people in Africa, but she also "took the high road" and didn't wallow in her disappointment. Life handed her lemons and she made lemonade...literally!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Don't Give Up

By 9:30 this morning, my strong-willed daughter, Amber, had done everything possible in the way of disobedience and disrespect. (I'll spare you the ugly details.) After yet another time out, she was supposed to help me fold the laundry, but instead I heard her playing nicely with her little sister in their bedroom. I knew it wouldn't last long, so I decided to let her play and give myself a little break from her. I started folding the laundry, rather aggressively, when I heard Amber singing in their bedroom, "Don't give up. Don't give up. Don't give up if something goes wrong."

I thought, "Wow, God, you'll even use my stubborn little daughter to teach me a lesson in perseverance with her." Maybe things will get better today.

A few minutes later, Amber walked into the living room and said, with sincerity, "You started the laundry without me. Thank you, Mommy!" We folded the rest of the clothes and put them away. Then my sister-in-law, Amy, called from Canada and I got to talk to her for 30 minutes with few interruptions from my children. Wow! Maybe things will get better today!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Full Service

This morning, after I dropped Amber off at preschool, I noticed that my car was on empty, so I pulled into the nearest gas station, the 76 station across from Vons. I get my gasoline there occasionally when my car is on empty and I've just left the preschool. It is one of the few gas stations left in this area (maybe the only one) with a full service pump, but I always pull up to the self serve side. Every time I get out of my car, the very nice gentleman (I think I should ask him his name next time) is already over at my car and ready to pump my gas. I give him my money or run my credit card and he does the rest! He even washes my windows until they sparkle! All for the price of self serve! Now I know I could go into downtown Ojai or up to Oak View to get cheaper gasoline, but it's worth it to me to pay a few extra cents per gallon to not have top pump my own gasoline (not to mention that I might run out of gas by the time I reach Oak View!). And the gentleman always smiles these wide smiles that tell me that he really enjoys his job and likes to see me smile back and him and thank him through my clean, sparkling windows. Full service at self service prices...it's just unheard of these days.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Autumn's First Rain

Last Friday we experienced the first rain of the season. It was quite unusual because we hardly ever get rain this early in the fall. It was also the first time Autumn Brooke really experienced the rain (last year she was still a baby).

Earlier in the day, Eric had told Amber that it might rain that afternoon. She could hardly wait! Off and on all day, she would ask me, "Is it raining yet?" She was so eager to try out her new 99 cent umbrella (what a deal!). A few minutes before 4 p.m., the rain came, and it poured down fast. Everything was wet in just a few minutes. Amber was in her room playing, with the shade drawn, so I thought I'd surprise her. I got Autumn dressed in her rain coat and boots, and yelled down the hallway for Amber to put on jeans and socks. At first she protested, and then I told her to look out her window. We were out the door in seconds!

Amber was excited to show Autumn how to splash in the puddles. We all had a great walk in the rain! Autumn enjoyed it immensely, even though she couldn't figure out how to hold up the umbrella the whole time.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Football, Again!

Okay, so I think I like football more than I thought...high school and college football, that is. Some of my favorite movies are about football: Remember the Titans, We Are Marshall, Facing the Giants. And the sitcom, Coach, is one of my faves.

Today I was finishing up watching Facing the Giants (It's rare that I see a movie in it's entirety in one sitting, unless I'm at the theatres.) Anyway, Autumn and Amber were watching it with me, and I discovered that Autumn really likes football. I'll have to take her to the Nordhoff games. When the players would collide, Autumn would throw herself down on the floor, acting like she was tackled. And when the kicker scored a field goal, Autumn threw her sippy cup across the room. (She's got a good throw, too!)

I had to explain a few things to Amber, though...like the fact that the players are supposed to hit each other...and the coaches are supposed to yell a lot...and that the main goal of football is to win the game. Then she started asking me how the game is played. I started to explain it to her and got a few words out before I realized that I didn't even know how the game is played.

We finished watching the movie and I was crying and the actors in the movie were crying and then I had to explain to Amber and Autumn that it was a happy cry and that Mommy was okay. No matter how many times I watch the movie Facing the Giants I always cry my way through it. It's not the greatest movie, as far as Hollywood goes. Actually it was independently funded and filmed and the actors aren't even real actors. They're all members of this big church somewhere in the south. But it's still a great movie. If you can get past the first 45 minutes of bad acting, it draws you in and has an awesome message of faith that I think all of us need to hear every once in a while. The bonus features are cool, too, because they explain who the "actors" are: the football coach is a real coach. The announcer is a real announcer. The teachers are real teachers, etc. Anyway, it's worth viewing.

So, now that my eyes are puffy, I think I'll go see when the next Nordhoff home game is, because I think I really like football.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Autumn

I just love the fall season! (You thought I was going to post about my daughter, Autumn, didn't you?!)

Now I know it's not officially fall until September 23, but it just feels like fall today. It's a little more gloomy outside--not gloomy in a bad way, though. There's a small, cool breeze tickling the trees. I got to wear jeans today--my favorite article of clothing. And I got to dress my daughters in jeans. I just love jeans on little kids! As I was putting a hoodie on my 22-month-old, I just got all happy inside...like I was "one with the world" and it was going to be a great day!

Yes, fall is definitely my favorite time of the year, for several reasons. My woman's Bible study is in full swing after an extremely long summer break! The weather is cooler! I get to decorate the house with pumpkins and leaves and cute little scarecrows! I can finally light candles and fill the living room with the scent of pumpkin pie! My birthday in in the fall! So is Halloween and Thanksgiving and almost Christmas. (I decorate my house for Christmas at the end of November, so it technically fits into the fall category)!

I know this cold front is only temporary and it will be hot again next week, but while it lasts, I'm lovin' it!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Documentary of Eric

I get to post my first video on my blog...but it's not about me, or even my kids. Below is a link to a video, a documentary that our friend made of Eric and his mobile automotive business. Our friend, Greg, works at Brooks Institute of Photography and did this video for the students to see. I hope you enjoy it. It's only five minutes long.

While watching the video, I laughed when I saw Eric writing in his daytimer with one of my flower pens that I made. He's been using my flower pens for years. When I first approached him about using such a girly pen for such a manly job (there go the roles again--see previous blog), he said that he liked them because they are hard to lose, and his customers always comment on how nice they are.

As I continued to watch the video, I started to cry. I am so proud of my husband...his work ethic...his generosity...his Christ-like attitude. Well, you'll just have to watch the video to see what I'm talking about. Then let me know what you think.

http://www.zinkwazi.com/wp/2007/09/16/eric-hodge/

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Roles

The other day Amber was coloring in her coloring book and asked, "Is Elmo a boy or a girl?" I said, "A boy." She said,"But he has a flower and flowers are for girls."
Where did she learn that? We sure have clearly defined the roles of men and women.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Community

While our neighbor was painting our house a few months ago, his little daughter, Natalie, came over to watch him paint. My girls were asleep, so Natalie busied herself with the toys in the back yard and started riding Amber's bicycle. As I looked out the back window, I thought, "How cute. I'm glad she's riding the bike." Then Natalie zoomed around the corner and disappeared, and I thought, "Well, I hope she doesn't think she can keep Amber's bike!"

Yikes! Where did that though come from? It certainly isn't the mindset I want to have. Rather, I want to have a giving mindset and a heart that is open to sharing my things (really, God's things) with others. That really is where my heart is, so why do I sometimes slip back into the "mine" mentality? I think it's because I was (as we all were) born that way--with a selfish heart--and society has done a lot to reinforce that selfish thinking.

I am trying to combat my natural selfish tendency by reminding myself that everything I own is God's anyway and I need to share what I have with others. I want to live in community with those around me, especially my neighbors. Recently we hung up a tire/disc swing in the front yard and it was my desire to see everyone in the neighborhood use it, and to show my daughter, Amber, firsthand about community. The first people that walked by the swing while we were all out front, were complete strangers--a family out on an evening walk. But we invited them into our yard anyway. Eric pushed the little girl on the swing and we told them they could swing on it and play on the slide in our front yard anytime. I thought to my self, "Now this is community. This is what I long for in a world of "ours verses theirs."

The swing has brought us much closer to the two young families that live next door. Many evenings, the "girls" (as Amber calls them) come over after supper to take turns on the swing and play with Autumn on the slide. Eric and I spent hours outside one night just pushing the girls and playing the freeze game and having so much fun until it was too dark to see ourselves. It reminded me of the neighborhood I grew up in--a street that came alive with kids after supper time playing baseball, tag, marbles and riding big wheels. I think some neighborhoods have gotten away from that and I was so happy to "bring it back" to our street.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I Love Weddings!

Last night we attended another wedding! In the past few years we've gone to several weddings of former youth group students we worked with. It's so neat to see these young couples pledge their pure love to one another, and then see them later on down the road serving the Lord together. It's one of the few times we see the positive results of working with teen-agers. And it's very rewarding.
In a beautiful outdoor setting, we watched Tim & Nicki exchange vows. We've known Tim since he was in junior high; in fact he was one of the first students we worked with as new youth leaders more than 10 years ago! We've only known Nicki for a few years, but she stole our daughter's heart when she was Amber's preschool teacher last year. Amber just adores her Miss Nicki!

After the ceremony, we ate a delicious dinner of tri tip and barbecued chicken (I love Southern California weddings!) and danced and ate cake and had a wonderful time! I think it's funny that we have to go to a wedding to get in a good dance now and then. Our daughters couldn't wait to get out on the dance floor, and Autumn--our little Happy Feet--made us all laugh with her fancy footwork!
I love weddings!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Football?

I'm not really what you would call a football fan (okay, I'm not a football fan at all). But I do enjoy watching high school and college football, if you can call what I do at games "watching." I think I attended every single home game at the University of Arizona during the five years I attended school. I had season tickets every year, sometimes on the 50 yard line (I'm told that's a good spot to sit). And yet, I still know very little about the sport. I do know that the players have four chances to get a first down and that they must go 10 yards to achieve that. I know that you get six points for a touchdown and can score another one or three points...okay, I just lost myself. That's the extent of my football knowledge. So, what did I do at all those games, you ask? Well, I did what I'm very good at: talking. I talked to my friends Jennifer and Michele during every game, every year, for five years. I cheered when everyone else cheered and I stood up and jingled my keys when everyone else did (I think it was for each kickoff). And I loved every minute of it!

Tonight I went to the first home football game at Nordhoff High School in Ojai. Eric is out of town and I got a babysitter and met my friend, Danielle, and her family and we "watched" the game together. It was so much fun, first of all because I got to get in free and sit in the bleachers right beneath the announcer's box. Every time Nordhoff scored a touchdown, someone would throw candy into the stands, and I had the primo spot for catching it. I ate so many "extreme sour warheads" that I am sick! (I haven't eaten them in years!) It also was fun because I got to go down to the field after the game and meet Danielle's dad, the head coach. I felt so important (when in actuality, anyone probably could have gone down there). We scored four touchdowns (I think) and I didn't actually see one of them. Why? Because I was talking Danielle's ear off. I haven't had that much fun since...well, since Jennifer and Michele and I watched Arizona football together.

Oh, we won, by the way. I think the score was 30-14. But I wasn't paying attention.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Snippets

Since I didn’t blog at all last week, I thought I’d just offer you some snippets of life at the Hodge Lodge these past few days.

Not Too Hot to Trot: On the hottest day of the week last week (and perhaps the hottest day I’ve experienced in my 11 years in Ojai) I saw one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen. It was 110 degrees outside (in the shade) and the hottest part of the day. I just happened to look outside my kitchen window to see a woman power-walking. She was covered from head to toe in clothes. Long sweat pants and a long-sleeved fleese hoodie–with the hood on! I saw her again a few days later, wearing the same outfit! Maybe she was avoiding the spa and creating her own personal sauna. All I know is that looking at her made me feel even hotter than I already was!

Pop Goes the Goosebumps: Somehow, during the hot spell last week, Amber was cold for a brief moment. I said, "You have goosebumps." She said, "Mommy please don’t pop them!" (Thinking they were zits!)

Rules for the Road: We were leaving the house to take the girls to their babysitter, when Amber started telling her imaginary friends–Rhea and Gracie–the rules they had to keep while at the babysitter’s home. She said. "No fighting. No taking toys from the dog. No eating the turtle’s broccoli." I didn’t know they had a turtle?

Cooking with Christine: My good friend, Gina, and I had a blast preparing and assembling more than a dozen meals at Dream Dinners in Ventura. She wrote all about it in her blog:http://onceuponatimeisnow.blogspot.com/ Check it out for the full story, and more pictures.

The Harvest is Plentiful: Amber picked 55 cherry tomatoes from her tomato patch today. It’s her own garden she planted with her grandpa Hodge. She waters it and takes care of it all by herself (which is good, because I have an extremely black thumb and might sabotage the whole project with just one look).

Lights, Camera, Action: Eric’s friend Greg–who works at Brooks Institute of Photography–did a documentary today on Eric and his mobile mechanic business. This is the second time someone has done a documentary on Eric (Jeff Frazee did one a few years ago). No one has ever wanted to do a documentary on my life as a stay-at-home-mom. Hmmm...now that would be a story!!!

Go Fish!

Yikes! After my week-long fast, I just finished reading about 30 blog posts, and commenting on almost all of them. (I just love to "dialog," even if it is through cyberspace). It took me about an hour. And now I am ready to post some funny things that happened last week while we were playing a game as a family.

Last Wednesday evening, Eric, Amber and I were playing the Go Fish card game.
Eric said, "Christine, do you have a brown starfish?"
I said, "No."
Amber said, "I do," and held it up.

During another game, Eric asked Amber, "Do you have a, um," and then he paused.
Amber finished his sentence, "A blue marlin?"
Eric said, "Yes, Amber, do you have a blue marlin?"
Amber handed it over.
And she still wins almost every game!

Amber won another game (as usual) and she stood up and did a victory dance and said, "Ha ha ha ha ha!"
Eric said, "Amber, you shouldn't laugh when you win."
I said, "Why not? I do."
Everyone laughed.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Results of My Media Fast

My "media fast" ended last night, but the funny thing was that I thought it ended tonight. So, I am excited to post this blog, and read all my friend’s blogs on Google Reader today!

I picked perhaps the worst week in the entire year to do a media fast, as it was over 110 degrees each day in Ojai (one day it was 117 degrees in the shade outside our home!) Our swamp cooler just didn’t do its job last week, so our home stayed a hot 85+ degrees inside all day. All I wanted to do was watch a movie or go on the computer, in fact that’s about all a person could do. Housework was out of the question because any slight movement would raise my internal temperature. Going to the park or running errands was unheard of! But, I am a person who likes to finish what I started, so I plugged along with my media fast.

Instead of watching movies, in the evenings I read a book and magazines, scrapbooked and made Christmas cards. Eric read books (he didn’t do any crafts!)

The girls were great about not watching videos all week. My 4-year-old, Amber, was the one who surprised me the most. She only asked a few times to watch a video, and when I reminded her of our fast, she said, "Okay." I have to admit, with the house being so hot, I would have loved to stick the girls in front of a T.V. all day! But instead, we put together puzzles and did more involved crafts that we normally wouldn’t do (rubber stamping on cards, decorating picture frames, scrapbooking).

The hardest part of the fast for me was not being able to post blogs about my cute kids and family happenings. We played a game as a family one night and some funny things happened and I wanted to blog about it, but I wrote it down on a piece of paper to blog about later (tomorrow’s blog).

Surprisingly, I didn’t mind at all not being able to watch videos. The book I was reading was so captivating that I looked forward to reading it every night. I didn’t finish it, though, so I’ll have to discipline myself to watch a little less videos this week until I finish it.

However, when I realized last night that my fast was over, I was so excited to watch a movie! (I thought it was pathetic that I would be that excited.) I got a beverage for Eric and I and we sat down and watched "One Night With the King." I had never watched it before. It was so romantic!

Other things I wanted to do last week but couldn’t: Google a new store I heard about in Ventura. Print out a few pictures for my scrapbook. Look on Amazon for a book for my mother-in-law.

The funniest thing that happened as a result of my media fast: Just two days after I started the fast, Eric’s dad asked me to print out some pictures I had taken of him and his first yellowtail he speared. I really didn’t want to because of my fast, but he was in town and wanted to show them to a friend. So, I snuck into the office while the girls were in the living room playing. Amber walked in the office and caught me and said something like, "Hey mommy, you’re not supposed to be on the computer." I literally jumped. I felt like I had been caught and I had to explain to Amber that grandpa made me do it.

Well, my media fast is over, so you'll be hearing a lot more from me now. Yay!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Media Fast

I'm not going to be blogging for the next seven days. After spending the last several days on the computer much more than I should have, I decided to take the week off, and only check my email once each evening. Just email. No blogs. No uploading pictures. No Snapfish. No ebay. No Amazon. Just email once a day.

Then I thought to myself, "Why don't I take an entire media fast for seven days?" So, I decided to "turn the T.V. off" for a week. No Netflix videos in the evenings after the girls are in bed. Eric is going to join me in my media fast, too. And the girls are going to go a whole week without videos.

I'm going to read some of the many book I have in the house. I think I'll start with a novel by my favorite author, Janette Oke. Eric loves reading in the evenings, so it will be fun to read "together." As for the girls, they love to have me read to them, so that is what we will do instead of a video.

So, I'm signing off. I'll let you know how it went next week. I am so excited!

Monday, August 27, 2007

New Sheets

There is something wonderful about a new set of bed sheets. It almost helps you sleep better. We got "new" sheets from our friends, Jeff & Heidi. They were the sheets that didn't sell at the garage sale they had at our house, and so Heidi gave us a queen set and a few twin sheet sets. Yesterday was "change the sheets day" and I put the "new" sheets on all the beds. Amber's sheets are blue with the globe printed all over them. When it was time for bed and she went into her room and saw the sheets, she was so excited! When I told her they used to be Drew's sheets (her best friend) she was even more thrilled!

I put the "new" white sheets with light blue flowers on our bed and last night I really think I slept better! Everything felt so new and clean and it smelled like flowers in the spring and I could hear the flutter of a butterfly wing...

Okay, so I digress. Anyway, there's just something wonderful about new sheets and I had to share it with you. Nighty Night, Sleep Tight!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

More Kids Stuff

Soap Opera:
Tonight I learned that if I was ever to threaten my youngest child with, ".....or I'll wash out your mouth with soap," she wouldn't care. I told the girls to meet me in the bathroom so we could all brush our teeth. When I walked in the bathroom, Amber had her toothbrush in her hand and Autumn had little bits of dial soap in her hand, and more in her mouth! She was chewing the soap like it was gum! This is the same child that--at dinner tonight--ate chips with very hot salsa and asked for more!

Amber's boyfriend:
When Amber got home from her first day of pre-kindergarten Tuesday, she said that Drake--a boy in her class--asked her to sit next to him at lunch.
"He really did?" I asked.
Amber said, "Well, yeah, he told me to 'come over here and sit down.'"
"So, what did you do?" I asked.
"I went to sit next to him but Dillon took my spot, so I sat on the other side of Drake."

Amber's philosophy on sharing:
Regarding preschool, Amber said to me a few days ago, "If someone doesn't share with me, I'll just stomp off in a huff and play with someone else!"
I had to conceal my laughter as I tried to correct her thinking.
Amber's bad dream:
At breakfast, Amber told us that she had a bad dream. It went like this: "I dreamed that there was a lady carrying a big basket of walnuts and there was a man and the lady dropped her basket and the walnuts went everywhere and people ate them all up!"
Eric asked her, "So, what was the bad part of the dream?"
Amber said, "The walnuts got all eaten up!"
Now to Amber--a lover of food--that would be a bad dream!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

First Day of School

This morning I dropped off Amber at Noah's Ark Preschool for her first day of pre-kindergarten. She was so excited! Last night, at about 6:45 p.m.(90 minutes before her bedtime), she said she wanted to go to bed so she could sleep and then go to preschool.

With lunchbox in hand, Amber walked out the door and I was determined to not shed a tear. I drove her to school, passing up big yellow school buses, and fought back tears. I took her into her classroom, introduced her to Miss Debra and Miss Rory, and fought back tears. (On a side note, when we walked in to class, Autumn promptly sat down at one of the tables, thinking she was going to school, too!)
I gave Amber a hug and kiss good-bye and walked out, tear-free. I almost made it, too, except that I had to pass by the office to pay tuition. As I was casually chatting with the administrator...uh oh, my eyes welled up with tears.

What is it about the first day of school that gets to me--and a lot of moms? It's not that I'm going to miss Amber. (Oops, did I just say that out loud?) I think it's because we, as moms, get an overwhelming sense of the fact that another year has passed us by--a year that we can't re-live, even if we wanted to. It makes us aware of the fact that our little one is another year older, and growing up so fast that if we blink, we're likely to miss something.

So here I am, blogging about my 4 1/2-year-old while my 21-month-old is getting into mischief at my feet in the office. And one day soon, I'll be getting all teary-eyed over her first day of preschool. But when that time comes, I'll be crying several days before the first day of school even starts!

Fried Squirrel

Yesterday, we were without power in the house from about 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. We were in and out of the house all day, so it wasn't a big deal. But the times we were in the house, we were HOT! It made me appreciate our swamp cooler even more. I have no idea how I grew up in Phoenix, Ariz., except to say that I went from my air-conditioned home to my air-conditioned car to my air-conditioned job and back.

Anyway, at 6:30 p.m.(after eating a dinner of cold leftovers), we decided to go out for ice cream to cool off. On the way, we stopped by a neighbor's house, where the electric company was working on the problem. We asked our neighbor what had happened, and he told us that a squirrel was walking on the wires and crossed the wires, thus electrocuting his little varmint body and melting the lines that keep our entire neighborhood (two blocks long) in power.

Our neighbor said that the squirrel was lying dead in one of the other neighbors' back yard and proceeded to show us what the squirrel looked like. Eric wanted to take a picture of the squirrel for my blog, but I told him that is where I draw the line with picture-taking! (See, I don't take pictures of everything!)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Allergies and Monkeys

My daughter, Amber, knows that I am allergic to rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils and just about every dog breed (except the tiny, annoying-yet-cute, yappy dogs). That's why we used to own pet snakes...I'm not allergic to reptiles.

The other day, we were driving to Ventura and Amber said that she had a "great idea."

Amber: Mommy, instead of a dog or a cat, I've decided I want a monkey for a pet.

Mommy: Oh, I don't think we can get a monkey.

Amber (in an exasperated tone): Why? Who's allergic to monkeys?

I was laughing too hard to respond.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fast Food

Even though I love to cook (and was a Pampered Chef kitchen consultant for more than eight years), I just can't get excited about cooking dinner these days with a toddler and a pre-schooler underfoot. So, I've been trying to find ways to speed up the preparation and cooking process while keeping the meals nutritious. I like the idea of frozen meals, but dislike the additives and preservatives that are in most prepared foods.

Then my friend Lisa turned me on to a stir fry dish with tofu, and it was a hit. Tonight after dinner, I went to the kitchen to put away the leftovers, and there weren't any! I grilled Trader Joe's extra firm tofu (comes in a 2-pack for 99 cents!) Then I added Trader Joe's Pacific Shores Stir Fry Vegetables (frozen with no additives or preservatives and it costs a dollar and some change!) I cooked them in a little garlic oil, rice vinegar and soy sauce. To round out the meal, I steamed some white rice. It took me less than 30 minutes from start to finish and cost under $3.00 total to feed my family of four! I am so excited about this!


Another way I've done fast food the nutritious way is buying Trader Joe's frozen pizzas. (This isn't a free ad for TJs) Before trying their pizza, I had yet to find a store-bought frozen pizza that didn't taste like the cardboard box it came in. But I and my family have enjoyed TJs frozen pizzas (with no preservatives and no artificial colors or flavors). Our faves are the Three Cheese, which we added pineapples to once, the Pizza Margherita and the Spinach Pizza. Each pizza costs $3 to $5, and you need two pizzas for a family of four who really enjoys pizza, like we do (or one pizza and a nice salad).


Bon Appetite!

Lost Boys of Sudan

Tonight we watched an excellent documentary, Lost Boys of Sudan. (You can get it from Netflix.) The story follows two Sudanese refugees through their journey from Africa to the U.S. I must admit, it was hard to watch the movie while sitting in my comfortable recliner in our nice home. But I highly recommend viewing it. It was eye-opening and convicting and uplifting. It was not a downer. Let me know what you think of the documentary.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Lizards and Frogs and Skunks, Oh My!

Tonight--as happens quite often in the summer--I'm just sure there's a skunk walking around outside our house. I've never actually seen one, but I sure can smell it through the open windows. Tonight I smelled it coming through our swamp cooler.

What we have seen this summer are a lot of lizards. I know, everyone sees lizards in their backyard in Ojai, but we've found two baby lizards in our house! Amber found the first one. "Mommy, mommy, I see a lizard!" she said to me one day this week. At first I thought she was pretending, and then I thought she was just seeing things. But she insisted, and sure enough, under a blanket in the laundry room was a little baby lizard. I'd never seen one so tiny; it was about the size of a push pin. I thought we'd never catch it, but once we did, that little fella was quite tame. It crawled all over Amber's arm and didn't try to escape. Then we set it loose outside. (I would have taken a picture but our digital camera broke!)

A few days later, we found a second baby lizard in the track of the front window. We had an even harder time catching this one because he kept escaping inside the track. He also was quite tame once we caught him and took him outside. Now I'm wondering...where's the mama lizard that birthed these babies in our home?
As for the frogs, they live in the drain pipe in our outside patio sink. Oftentimes one of us will turn on the water to wash our hands and out will hop a little frog. Every time, it startles us and makes us jump back! Autumn and I had fun one day with the frog in the kiddie pool. Don't worry, he survived and is back at home in the pipe.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Oh, Mercy!

This morning, at 12:02 a.m., my bladder woke me up. It was unusual, because my bladder generally wakes me up around 5 a.m. I stumbled out of bed and into the hallway where I heard loud noises coming from the living room. It was only by God's mercy that I didn't run back into the bedroom, shut the door, wake Eric up and tell him someone is in the house and to get the baseball bat (especially since we don't even own a baseball bat).

I faintly recognized the sound in the living room. It was Michelangelo and The Difference--a hard rock/alternative band--singing "Give the Children Mercy" at volume 12 on our stereo. But why were they singing it at midnight?

This past Saturday, we helped our friends have a garage sale at our house. (The Yellow House Yard Sale) Being at our house, we got first pick of the goods, and we bought a CD player/stereo. I was so excited because this system played 3 Cd's, whereas our old stereo---that was broken--used to play only one CD. (Don't bother to mention the fact that I'm behind the times. Remember, I don't even own a cell phone, let alone an ipod.)

So, yesterday I eagerly set up the stereo and put in three Cd's: Third Day, Everybody Duck and Michelangelo and The Difference (MaTD). I must have had Phoenix on my mind when I selected the last two Cd's. Anyway, we enjoyed music in our home again. The girls danced, I cooked dinner, a bluebird started singing along outside, a little squirrel stopped climbing the tree to listen to the music, I saw a lizard dance a jig on a rock in the back yard, the world was in harmony...

Okay, so where was I? Oh yeah, the loud noise at midnight. Well, when I set up the stereo, I must have set the sleep/alarm clock thing for 12 a.m. The background noise probably woke me up, not my bladder. So, I turned the power off and unplugged the speakers, just in case, and went back to bed, only to be woken again at 6 a.m., this time by my bladder!

Well, I better go plug back in the speakers.

"What does POOR mean, mommy?"

That's the question my daughter, Amber, asked me two days ago as we sat on the couch looking through our most recent World Vision* newsletter. It was my fault for prompting the question when I pointed to a group of kids on one page and said, "Most of those kids only have one toy each. Some of them don't have any toys." My daughter's eyes widened. "Why, mommy?" she asked. "Because they're poor," I answered. "What does poor mean, mommy?" My tongue went numb.

How do you tell a 4-year-old who has everything she needs, and then some, what it means to be poor? I said, "Well, sweetie, being poor means that most of these kids don't have the money to buy toys. Most of them only have enough money to eat, and some of them don't even have enough money to buy food sometimes." Amber's eyes welled up with tears. "That makes me sad, mommy." I couldn't say anything, for my eyes were getting misty, too. We sat there in silence as I held and rocked my daughter who, at that moment, had a heart too big for her 4-year-old body.

"I'm still sad." Amber broke the silence a few moments later. I said, "But we help out two of these kids so they have food and...." She was still sad. I had an idea. "Why don't we color some pictures for our sponsored kids and their friends and mail it to them." She said, "Okay." Then I added, "And we can buy them a present at Christmas-time and send it to them." Her eyes lit up. "And how about me? Can we buy a Christmas present for me, too?" Amber said, her big heart shrinking a little. I started to explain the irony of her last statement and then stopped myself. Someday she would understand. Meanwhile, I was still proud of her compassionate heart, even if it only lasted a few minutes.

* www.worldvision.org

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Catalina Island!

Eric and I recently returned from a 4-day trip to Catalina Island--just the two of us! It was an awesome trip and a wonderful time of recreation (free diving) and relaxation (sleeping 10 hours each night). This was my fourth trip to Catalina, and I've decided that when the girls are older (teens) I want us to live in Avalon for a year. Eric likes the idea, too. It's just such a neat, little island. It has two newspapers--believe it or not-- that could use some good writers. And I'm sure all of those golf cars need repairs once in a while. We met a family there last week who vacation each year in Avalon. They have three teen-age daughters. The parents said they give their girls $20 each day and let them roam the island until supper-time while they sit on the beach and read books all day! The husband said, laughing, "They can't get into too much trouble. And there's no freeway, so where can they go?" So, that got me thinking about moving there for a year. It would take the first six months just to get used to the island (like where you can and can't park your golf car), and the next six months to just enjoy being there. Anyway, here's a few highlights of our trip:

* We spent several hours each day free diving (no tanks) and spearfishing. We dove at Ship Rock, Church Rock and Frog Rock. We drove by Seal Rock and Bird Rock (which is about 8,000 square feet and for sale for only $3 million).

* I "speared" my first yellowtail. Yes, there's a catch...Eric speared it, and barely got it. It was "hanging by a thread" and thrashing all over the place. So, he called me over and asked me to also spear it. I did, and I "stoned it" which means I speared it in a part of its spine that instantly killed it. And that's not easy to do. (I hope there are no fish-lover, animal rights activists reading this right now.) I was excited to have a part in landing that fish! It was, however, the only fish I speared. Eric speared a calico bass and five yellowtail, weighing 18 to 27 pounds.

* On one dive, I jumped in the water before Eric did. I looked below me through my mask and saw two 6 1/2-foot long sharks circling me (this is not a joke). I yelled at Eric, "Get me on the boat. Get me on the boat RIGHT NOW!!!!!" He hoisted me up on the boat in two seconds. I knew they weren't great white sharks, but I still didn't know what they were. Eric jumped in the water to check them out. They were soupfin sharks that only eat fish. So, I jumped back in the water and took some pictures of them with my underwater camera. Eric touched one, too! It was so cool!

* We slept on our little boat in Avalon Harbor each night. After diving each day, we went onto the island each afternoon for shopping and dinner and the best ice cream at Big Olafs!

* We played miniature golf at what is perhaps the hardest mini golf course I have ever played on. I won by 1 point (or stroke or whatever you call it). We saw "Ratatouille" one night in an old, Phantom of the Opera-style theatre. It was the neatest theatre I've ever been in, with painted walls and ceilings and a beautiful, plush lobby. I got my eyebrows waxed one afternoon at a spa.

* While we were diving one day, we saw a boat approach us and a guy waving at us. We were intrigued, and then discovered that it was our boat partner. What are the odds that our boat partner from Camarillo would be on his friend's boat diving at Catalina the same week we were, and that we'd run into him?

* We are blessed to have Catalina Island practically in our back yard. I just love the ocean and all of the sea creatures that God created. God is so creative. I am so glad He chose to share His creation with us. Thanks for letting me share this with you.

P.S. Our daughters had a blast with Eric's parents while we were gone, too. They went to the water park, took the trolley into town to go to the library, went on walks and picked neighbor's plums and made applesauce from scratch with apples from Papa's tree!