Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What I've learned...

Just this past week, I have learned the following:

1.) You can use Papa Gow's famous homemade fudge to bribe your kids to smile sweetly for the camera!

2.) It is possible to receive TOO MANY candy canes in December, causing you to resort to throwing some away! (I mean, you can't just keep passing them off to others, right?)

3.) You do win the contest for the most brittle and dry Christmas tree if the branches snap off and fall to the ground when you are on the other side of the room watching!

4.) It is easy and fun to IM, especially with your sister-in-law who lives in New Zealand. (Why didn't I do this before?)

5.) Coffee that is two-days old and still sitting in the pot should have gone down the drain, not into my coffee cup and thus into my stomach. Yuck!

6.) I'm not sure if I want my sister to see what I look like while I'm talking on the phone with her. (She got us a webcam for Christmas!)

and I saved the best for last...

7.) There is practically no limit to what my husband will do to eat a cookie. (Yesterday I walked into the bathroom to find a chocolate-chip cookie on the windowsill. It had to be two days old because that is when our neighbor brought them over. I showed it to Eric, who got excited and said, "I remember setting it there to eat after I used the bathroom. I must have forgotten about it." Then Eric took it out of my hands and started eating it.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hurting Heart

Wednesday afternoon I received devastating news that a good friend of mine died unexpectedly from carbon monoxide poisoning. Her name is Kelly (Nordyke) Murphy. When the fog in my head clears, I will try to write something about this amazing young woman whom I had the privilege of mentoring from when she was in 6th grade to her her high school graduation. But for now, I will share a small story about my 3-year-old, Autumn Brooke.

After receiving the sad news Wednesday, I was sitting on the couch crying when Autumn asked if I had an owie, if I was hurt anywhere. I told her that my heart was hurt and she immediately went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. She brought back a cold orange and put it over my heart and said, "That will make it feel better, mommy." And for a few moments, it did feel better.


Kelly and her husband, Joel. Summer 2005.
Teen Girls Bible Study in my home. Kelly is 4th from the right.

Forest Home Winter Jr. High Camp. Kelly is on the bottom left.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sardines

A few days ago in school, Amber had to read and write a list of words. She also had to say each word in a complete sentence that she though up on her own. For the first few words, she thought up standard sentences like "You are my mommy and I love you" for the word AND. Then we got to the word CAN and her sentence was, "I'm opening a can of sardines." It only got sillier from there. Here's the rest of the sentences she created:

PAN: I'm cooking sardines in the pan.
TAG: This tag says there's sardines in the can.
PAD: I am writing 'sardines' on a pad of paper.
HAD: I had to cook sardines for our dinner.
JAM: I'm putting jam on my sardines.
PAT: I gave the sardines a love pat.

With each sentence she created, she got giddier and giddier. I am glad she enjoys school so much!

??????????

We got this in our box of organic veggies Thursday. What is it and what can I do with it?

I'll even give a prize to the first person to identify it and another prize to the person who gives me the best recipe for it (Gina, you could still win one out of two).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Busy as a Bee


My daughter, Amber, was in the church Christmas musical last weekend. It was a fun musical, and she had a blast up there on stage singing and dancing and saying her one line. She did great! I've been taking her to practices since October, so I have memorized all of the songs and can't get them out of my head. One song in particular spoke to me during this busy Christmas season. It's called Prince of Peace and the lyrics are powerful. So I though I'd share them with you. Too bad you don't know the beat to the song so you could sing along...

There's lots of Christmas cards I know I need to send,
and more parties than I ever could attend.
It's so crowded at the stores; I can't do this anymore.
It's noisy and it's late; it's hurry up and wait,
and all we hear this time of year is Christmas cheer! Argh!
All we hear this time of year is Christmas cheer.
The gifts I try to buy are always out of stock.
To mail my packages, the line's around the block.
Mom, my chores will have to wait. Dad, again we're running late.
I'm cranky tired and cold; this season's getting old. (my favorite line)
I want to pout, or shall I shout? I'm Christmased out!
I want to pout, or shall I shout? I'm Christmased out! Wait!

My life shouldn't be this way, Lord Jesus.
This isn't why you came, Lord Jesus.
I want my life to change and find a better way.
I want the Prince of Peace to reign, to reign!

Prince of Peace, King of Kings,
Your steadfast love is all I need.
I will seek Your face and celebrate Your birth.
Prince of Peace reign in me; I'll let your spirit guide me,
For You came to bring me peace, peace on earth!
Prince of Peace, all I need, reign in me...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

You've got to be kidding me!

That's my phrase when things seem outrageous or when things go from bad to worse, as they did just now. I was in the kitchen making hot chocolate in a sauce pan on the stove and talking on the phone (mistake #1). I boiled the hot chocolate over and covered the stove and the underneath part, too! I cleaned it up, which took awhile, and then poured the remaining hot chocolate into a carafe. I poured it while the carafe was on the counter, not in the sink (mistake #2) and the hot chocolate missed the carafe and spilled all over the counter. I cleaned that up, filled up the carafe and got my second carafe down to fill it up. Then I discovered that there was only about a cup of hot chocolate left, instead of another carafe-full like I started with before all of the spills. So, I poured that into a cup and decided I would at least enjoy some chocolate. Well, as I reached over to get the dish rag to do some final cleaning, I knocked over the cup, leaving me with about a swallow-full of hot chocolate. Then I said my famous phrase "you've got to be kidding me!" and left the kitchen never to return (well, at least for a few minutes while I write this blog).

Monday, December 1, 2008

Guest Blogger Eric Tells a Fish Story

My hubby, Eric, wrote this little ditty and posted it on the spearboard. I thought it was a great story, and the title was so clever. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (F.Y.I. "bugs" are lobster.)

After Black Friday Comes Yellowtail Saturday

By Eric Hodge


My dad and the kids and I went out for a morning bug run to the Islands on Saturday. After getting some bugs and catching some rock fish, the water looked nicely clear (40-50 ft visibility) and maybe a little on the warm side, 61 degrees, for this time of year. I thought to myself, "Maybe the Yellowtail don't know it is after Thanksgiving. Maybe they don't know they should be down deep feeding on squid or in Mexico or wherever they go in the winter, but maybe they just are messed up in the head or something." Plus, I just needed to prove to myself that they were not where I would find them in the summer (near the surface and curious). Well, I was wrong. They were up and about and acting semi-friendly. I managed one 30 pounder, and ended up floundering on a couple other shots. All in all it was a great day on the ocean with the family.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Little Bunny Ears

Today Amber learned how to tie her shoes! Eric taught her and she learned in all of five minutes. It had been something we had been wanting to teach her for several months, but we just didn't make the time. Next up is riding her bike without training wheels. She's been ready for this for probably a year, but we live on a busy street corner and haven't taken the time (again) to go to a parking lot or the bike trail to teach her. That is on Eric's "to-do" list now. There are so many things we have to teach our children and so little time to do it. I am glad there isn't a rule book with a time-line for learning. I know how to tie my shoes. I know how to ride a bicycle without training wheels and I know how to read and write. I have no idea when I learned those things and it doesn't really matter. The important thing, I guess, is to keep teaching our kids, and hopefully to have fun while doing it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Do you really want an answer?

"Oh why is this stuff on the ground and I keep stepping on it?"
Amber said this tonight after stepping on an Eeyore action figure. I didn't even answer her. I just laughed!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fooled

I've been "took," and I brought you along for the ride!
Remember the blog I wrote about Annie's Homegrown products? Well, the bunny grahams are made with good ingredients, but I just discovered that the cheddar bunnies have MSG in them. It doesn't say "MSG" on the box, but monosodium glutamate hides behind more than a dozen other names. My friend in Phoenix did extensive research on MSG and has "cured" her son's tourettes syndrome by ridding his diet of that yucky flavor enhancer.

Since we returned from Phoenix in September, we have gotten rid of everything in our pantry with MSG--Campbell's soup, salad dressing, dry roasted peanuts. We literally threw them away. I won't go into the details of why MSG is so bad for you (if you want me to, ask and I'll email you) but the fact hat it can cause headaches, among other things, was enough for me to say "good-bye."

Here's a list of the other names for MSG:
monopotassium glutamate, glutamate, glutamic acid, gelatin, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP), autolyzed plant protein, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, textured protein, yeast extract, yeast food or nutrient, and autolyzed yeast.

At the end of the list, you'll see "yeast extract." Yep, that's what is in Annies cheddar bunnies. Bummer! I read labels all the time now when I'm shopping, except when I'm at Trader Joes. The manager said TJs is a "MSG-free zone." I hope he is telling me the truth. Other things I've learned is that MSG is not a preservative, it is a flavor enhancer. If something says "preservative free," it could still contain MSG. Also, if a product says anything but 100% organic (Annies says 80%) then it could still be loaded with "bad stuff."

If you had told me 10 years ago, even five years ago, that I'd be an organic, preservative-free, MSG-free police woman, I would have said you are nuts. Now it looks like I'm the one who is "nuts." It just proves what my sister's husband always says, "You live in California, the land of fruit and nuts!"

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fall Birthdays!

Last Sunday we celebrated four birthdays at Eric's parents home in Santa Barbara. Eric's cousin, Grace, had a birthday mid-October, mine was late-October, and Eric's and Autumn's birthdays are both in mid-November. (Autumn actually turns 3 on Sunday!) We had a small, family gathering at the Hodge Lodge #1, complete with dinner, cards, gifts and Eric's mom's famous homemade lemon chiffon cake! Yuuuummmmmy! The evening ended with Eric's dad giving Eric a much-needed haircut and trimming Autumn's bangs. Although I thoroughly enjoy planning and giving large birthdays parties, it was nice this year to just gather with family for a quiet evening.

The birthday family!

Autumn was so shy when we
sang "Happy Birthday" to her!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Taking over my job

A few minutes ago the girls and I were playing in their room. Amber was putting on one of her dress-up dresses and walked over to Autumn, bent down and said, "Autumn, would you please zip me up?" Autumn pulled up the zipper effortlessly and Amber said, "Thank you."

That used to be my job. I'm not sure if I should be sad for this rite of passage or happy that the sisters are helping each other out.

A True Friend

Sounds like a cheesy email poem about friendship, doesn't it? Well, it's nothing of the sort. It's true and it's a tribute to my good friend, Gina.

After going 2 1/2 days without a land line, (see the blog below) yesterday I logged onto the Internet to check my email and noticed that Gina had just emailed me. Hoping she was still online, I emailed her a request. I wanted her to call the phone company for me. Eric had called them two days before using his cell phone and they told him that a phone tech would be out sometime Tuesday afternoon. It was approaching the "afternoon" time and I wanted to make sure they were still coming, but I don't have a cell phone and the girls were asleep so I couldn't go to the neighbor's house to use their phone. I emailed Gina and asked her to call AT&T for me. I gave her the phone number and our account number and she emailed back that she would call. A few minutes later she emailed me again:

I'm on hold......

I emailed her back this reply:

You're an awesome friend. I'm gonna blog about you when this whole thing is over...a true friend waits on hold for another friend...a true friend waits on hold when it has nothing to do with her.

Several minutes later, Gina emailed me again:

They transferred me to the repair dept and they said that a tech has already been dispatched and should arrive shortly. Wahoo!!!

As soon as I replied to her email, there was a knock at my door and a not-so-happy phone tech was there, ready to fix the problem.

When I had phone service again 45 minutes later, Gina was the first person I called.

She said, "I thought I'd never see your name on caller id again!" and we talked for way-too long!

Gina, you are a true friend!

Monday, November 10, 2008

I can't hear you!

I have so much to blog about but no time or energy to do it, so I'll post this little ditty...

Our phone lines are down. They went down yesterday evening and we won't have phone service again until sometime tomorrow. We still have Internet, though, so I don't get it. Of course, I don't understand anything having to do with science and technology! Anyway, I don't own a cell phone and so I am really without communication. But it has been so nice. Besides the kids making noise, the house has been quiet and it's nice not having the phone ring. Too bad the lines didn't go down the last three days of elections. Now that would have been nice!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

That made my day!

I was looking through a Body Shop catalog just now, and Amber said, "Is that makeup?" I said, "Yes." Amber said, "You don't need makeup, you're pretty." I hugged her so tight.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Falling Back

One of the things I loved about growing up in Arizona is that we never ever had to change our clocks. Arizona is always on Daylight Savings Time and I think it's the smartest state in the union because of that. To say that I hate the whole changing the clocks thing is an understatement.

First of all, we have a bazillion clocks in the house. We received a lot of clocks for our wedding; it was the "multiple present" we received. So with those clocks and the oven, microwave, timer, car clocks, etc., I have to change 14 clocks.

Second, I am a little (okay, a lot) OCD, and so changing 14 clocks can be a frustration. Gina and Michele may recall a recent Monk episode where Adrian is in agony over changing the time. That's me. First I change the timer clock and then take that clock throughout the house, changing each of the other clocks to match the time on the timer clock. Yeah, I know, it's a sickness.

But above all else, the third reason I hate "falling back" is because I have kids. I have two little girls who share a room and who get up at 7:00 every morning like clockwork (pun intended). Ever since we changed our clocks, they have still been getting up at 7:00, only now it's really 6:00. Their bodies don't know that we "fell back" and they are up and raring to go before the sun has made a proper appearance. I know it's only been two days, but this happens every year and it goes on for weeks before they adjust. They know they are not allowed to get out of bed until their clock says 7:00 or later, and they know that they are not allowed to talk until then, too. But seriously, try to keep two girls from talking is almost impossible. While they try to quiet down and be silent for the next hour until their clock says 7:00, it just doesn't happen sometimes. And I can't go back to sleep once they are up; it's just how my body is.

So, there you have it....my gripe session...why I hate the changing of the clocks. Now I must go to bed because 6:00 comes too early.

Facebook

I think I joined Facebook just now. I created an account and uploaded a picture to my page. Now I don't know what to do. I am way confused. Help!

I really didn't want to join Facebook (sorry Lysa), but my sister-in-law (Eric's sister) in Canada just joined and it is a good way to keep in contact with her. So, I did it. I really don't have time for Facebook, and that is why I hadn't joined. However, I did it for Amy. But now I don't know what to do. I don't even know what Facebook is, really. Is there a "Facebook for Dummies" book?

I am just rambling.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween 2008

The night finally arrived...the night Amber had been looking forward to since summer when she decided what she wanted to be for Halloween...the night she had been especially looking forward to since last week when I showed her the Ariel costume I bought...the night was here...Halloween night! We got all dressed up and went to the Harvest Festival at church. Amber was Ariel, Eric was Prince Eric from "The Little Mermaid," Autumn was a Care Bear and I was Captain Jack Sparrow from "Pirates of the Caribbean" (for the second year in a row).

The Harvest Festival was a lot of fun. I got into a sword fight with little Riley Frisk, who was also dressed as a pirate. We were really dueling it up, and I probably would have beaten the 8-year-old if it hadn't been for some lady and her baby behind me. As we were fighting, I backed up and tripped over the stroller. I almost fell backward onto the baby! What in the world was that woman thinking--getting in the way of a sword fight, with a baby nonetheless! I think Riley paid her off to begin with. I mean, it's the only way he could beat a grown-up pirate, right? I have to admit, though, he is quite a good sword-fighter! Maybe all the taekwon-do classes he's been taking have finally paid off.

It was a fun night!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

40 Watts

It's the little things in life that make me happy. I'm pretty low-maintenance when it comes to things...gifts, entertainment, food, etc. People have often said that it doesn't take much to please me or get me excited about something. Today I got excited over a 40 watt appliance bulb. Eric and I were at the hardware store earlier and I finally bought a $1.99 light bulb for our oven. The oven never had a working light bulb. It was burned-out when we bought the house in 2001. And buying an appliance bulb is always the last thing I think of when I am shopping. But today I remembered. Today we bought the bulb and I just installed it ("installed" sounds much more technical than "screwed it in"). After installing it, I closed the oven door and turned on the light. Then I peeked through the glass and looked inside my semi-clean oven. (I am so glad I decided to clean it last week.) Then I turned it on and off and on and off again. I was giddy! I can't wait until Thanksgiving when I can peek at my turkey without opening the oven door! You know, I should have bought two or three light bulbs while I was at it. Hopefully I won't wait seven years to replace this one when it burns out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Autumn stuck a bead up her nose

Today I gave the girls some beads to play with outside. Autumn just came in the office and said, "Oh, Oh, Oh," and pointed to her nose. It was a normal-sized bead, half the size of a marble, and it fit nice and snug inside her nostril. It wasn't too hard to retrieve, though. After I got it out and proceeded to throw it away, she said, "No, no, I want it!" Yuck! I never thought my kids would do this, but I don't know why I am surprised. They've done more clever things than this.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Harvest at the Hodge Lodge

I love fall! It's just about my favorite time of the year. Technically Christmas is three days after fall ends, but the Christmas season is in the fall. So that makes fall "just about my favorite" season. I love dressing up for Halloween, I love making the huge Thanksgiving feast and entertaining guests and I love the Christmas season. Last week I decorated the house for harvest. I have two big boxes full of decorations. Here's some pictures for those of you you live too far away to stop in. The first picture is the shelf I gave Amber to decorate. She chose decorations that aren't fragile and she was very proud of her display. She said, "Mommy, you aren't going to rearrange these, are you?" I assured her that her shelf was safe. If you live close-by, come over for a mocha.

"Plink" goes another tooth!


I pulled out Amber's second loose tooth today, two Sundays after I pulled out her first tooth. This one was hanging by a thread. Amber put it in her tooth box and under her pillow when she went to bed. I just snuck in there and replaced the tooth with a dollar. Both times I've done this, I've been a little nervous, hoping she wouldn't wake up, even though I know she is a heavy sleeper. Both times I have been successful in the exchange.

Two weeks ago I put a dollar bill folded into what I thought looked like a crown, but Amber though it was a triangle. I guess I should get a book on origami. I also included a little gold euro coin. When she asked what it was, I told her it was a coin from Europe and she couldn't spend it, but it was probably meant for fun. She loved it because it was her new favorite color: gold. We decided that the Tooth Fairy might be from Paris. It has been so much fun to play along with the whole tooth fairy story.

I know some of my friends have strong opinions about this, but--heck--she's just a kid, and we're just having fun. She already knows the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus are not real; she discovered that a while ago. But this time she really thinks there's a Tooth Fairy. So we are having fun with the whole thing. When she's older and wiser, I think she will have fond memories of this time and not be sending me the bills for her psychiatrist.

Tonight I gave her another dollar, but this time I rolled up a coin from Somalia inside of the dill. I have no idea where I got it, but I know she will love it because it's silver and has an elephant on it. The only downside to this whole tooth fairy thing is that I don't get to see Amber's reaction when she wakes up in the morning and finds the money. She tells me all about it, though.

What am I going to do the next time? I'm glad there are no more loose teeth for the moment so I have time to find another foreign coin.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Irked!

Yesterday I was grateful, today I'm irked. (Is that a real word?) Just a few minutes ago I got so scared that my heart is still racing! Autumn is taking a nap, Amber is on the boat with Eric and I was sitting on the couch doing my Bible study when I heard a noise at the front of the house. I looked toward the door and saw the handle twisting this way and that. The door was locked, but it appeared that someone was trying to get in. I didn't hear a car drive up or anyone approach the house, so I was really scared. Even though it's only 2:00, my heart was pounding. The door knob continued to turn and I looked around the room for the closest, heaviest thing to defend myself. Then I saw a man walk away and toward the sidewalk. He put a bright yellow flier on both our cars and then on the flag of our mailbox before going to our neighbor's house. I opened the front door, retrieved the flier he put on the door knob and the other three fliers and came in the house, heat still racing, and called the number on the flier, a towing company in Ventura. I kindly (really) told the owner that I did not appreciate being scared, but more than that, it was a waste of paper to give me four fliers. He apologized and I said "thank you," and now I am sitting here fuming, taking my frustrations out on the keyboard. Some people clean when they're angry, I write! So, there you have it. I am a little less irked now. I will go back to reading my book.

P.S. Did anyone else in Ojai get multiple fliers? Just curious.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Grateful

Sometimes I remember to be grateful when something could have turned out worse than it was. Today was one of those times.

This afternoon I heard moaning coming from Autumn's bedroom. She generally wakes up groggy and cranky, so I wasn't too concerned. I walked into Autumn's bedroom and found her covered in dried blood. By covered in blood, I mean all over her face, both hands and arms, both legs (she wasn't wearing pants) and splotched on her t-shirt. It's amazing how calm a mom can become in a scary situation. I picked her up, grabbed the box of baby wipes (a multi-purpose item in our home), took her into the bathroom and locked the door. I locked the door because if Amber saw the blood, she would have gone ballistic, thus upsetting Autumn further. Eric was home so I asked him to join me in the bathroom to asses where the blood was coming from. It turned out to be a bloody nose. Eric went back to work and I set to the task of wiping off all of the blood. Autumn must have scratched her nose crazy because the blood under her fingernails was so bad I had to clip the nails. (Okay, maybe that was too graphic!)

Autumn is our little bleeder. When she gets cut, she bleeds more than the average child. But she doesn't have hemophilia or that other hard-to pronounce disease. She had extensive blood tests done when she was 10-months-old. She's just a bleeder, and today reminded me of that fact.

So after Autumn was all cleaned up and sitting down to the kiddie table with her afternoon snack, I thanked the Lord that it was just a nose-bleed and that she hadn't cut herself or ...(fill in the blank). I thanked the Lord for one more day with my two precious daughters. I am very grateful.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bye Bye Fishies, Hello Bunnies!

We recently made the switch from Goldfish crackers (a staple in the girls snack diet) to Annie's Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies. While I like to give the girls apples and veggies for their afternoon snacks, sometimes I like to have food I can grab in a hurry, or take with us on the go. But I was growing tired of all the additives and preservatives found in so many snack foods. Then I stumbled upon Annie's products at Target. I was first attracted to the cute orange and purple boxes with the bunny on the front. Then I read on the box "Made with Organic Wheat...Zero Grams Trans Fat...All-Natural...No Additives or Preservatives...Excellent Source of Calcium..."

Was it too good to be true? I read the ingredients--which I have been doing more lately in an attempt to rid our home of MSG--and found that I could pronounce everything on the label. Wow! Annie's only sells four products: mac & cheese, toasted O cereal, cheddar bunnies and honey grahams. We've tried the last two and they are yummy! The ingredients in the Bunny Honey Grahams is: organic wheat flour, organic evaporated can juice, expeller pressed vegetable oil, honey, organic corn flour, organic graham flour, calcium carbonate, sea salt, natural flavor and baking soda.

That sold me right there. Evaporated cane juice is so much better for our bodies than sugar and that dreadful high fructose corn syrup! Annie's also has a game on the back of the box and suggestions for using the box after it's empty, so it doesn't end up in a landfill. Of course, you can always recycle it, but I thought the ideas were clever. Anyway, you can find Annie's products ($2.39 a box) at the new Target in the mall--at the back of the food section, in the corner, second aisle over from the wall, on the right hand side, near the crackers (just in case you were wondering).

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Here Comes the Tooth Fairy!

After church today, Amber lost one of her loose teeth. It didn't fall out; I pulled it out. Eric was out playing soccer and Autumn was taking a nap. Amber told me that her tooth was very loose and I checked it. I said that I could pull it out if she wanted. We are going to the church picnic later and I really didn't want the tooth falling out there and getting lost. So, I got a napkin and started to yank. Then I had second thoughts. I really didn't think I could do it. I knew it didn't hurt Amber because she was smiling away, but I still was hesitant to pull it out. I cringed and gave it a gentle tug and out it came. Amber was so excited. She didn't even care about the blood. I gave Amber a special porcelain tooth box that Eric and I bought for her years ago. Now she can't wait until tonight when she puts the tooth under her pillow.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Whaz Up?

There just doesn't seem to be a lot of things to blog about lately. We've been doing things, but we haven't been that busy, which is a nice change of pace...

That being written, this post is for my friend Jenny who always reads my blog to stay caught up on our lives (even though she lives around the corner and we daily wave at each other as I drive the girls somewhere and she's out walking her dog.) We were just at her house this morning at her garage sale. We picked up a backpack, t-shirts and a bunch of coffee mugs for $6. The mugs will come in handy, as Eric drinks green tea every morning and the cups seem to get left in his truck for weeks before I see them again!

So Jenny, here's what we've been up to: Homeschooling is going well. We are almost done with the alphabet (letter sounds and writing). Next up is vowels, vocabulary development, grammar and reading. We joined a homeschool group and met at the park a few weeks ago. I really enjoyed the time spend with the moms while the kids played nearby. I was the newest member. I didn't really know anyone, and in a few minutes, the women all made me feel like I'd been a part of the group for years! Amber was adorable, as she asked each child, "Are you homeschooled, too?" There were a ton of kids and my girls had a great time. We meet about three times each month.

Besides homeschooling, we've been attending leader meetings for Young Life, and last night we had our first event to kick-off the school year. It was a pre-football game rally with games and ice cream and tons of candy. We handed out fliers for the first Young Life Club, which is Monday. We'll have Club (similar to a youth group night) every other Monday evening at a different leader's home.

I've gotten my fill of coffee lately, as I've been meeting with other women on Tuesdays or Thursdays for a cup of joe and conversation. Amber has tagged along with me for these outings, and she has been so good just sitting there enjoying a cookie and coloring while I chat with a friend. I just decided that I would have to take her with me if I want to meet a friend for coffee, since it's almost impossible to find a babysitter during the morning. We usually finish school at 10:00, so if any of you locals want to meet for coffee or come over to our house for a homemade mocha on Tuesdays or Thursdays, just give me a call. I have to pick up Autumn from preschool by 12:15.

Besides homeschooling, Young Life and coffee, I've been doing crafts with the girls (which is nothing new). But today the girls and I made Christmas presents for Autumn's teachers and our babysitters. Yes, you read the word "Christmas." Hey, it's never too early to start marking things off of your Christmas list. This year we are going to continue to make a lot of gifts, trying hard to not feed into the already declining economy. Oh, and I started making my Christmas cards last week, too!

So, that's the latest scoop here at the Hodge Lodge. I was simply elated that it rained today and the temperature dropped so many degrees. It's beginning to look a lot like fall. I hope it stays that way. I love this time of year!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Road Trip to Arizona

I am finally unpacked. The last of the clothes are washed. Eric is at a football game with the girls tonight and I am finally getting a chance to blog about my awesome trip to Phoenix for my 20-year high school reunion. It was one of the best times we've ever had visiting Arizona. Hmmm...where do I begin?

Free ride, almost:
We took the veggie car to Arizona. We have an old Mercedes turbo diesel that runs on 100% vegetable oil. Eric has a filtering system in the garage and we get our veggie oil from a few restaurants in town. He filled the car with veg. and then filled several gas cans with extra oil so we would have enough fuel for the return home. The cans took up half of the trunk of the car, so you can imagine how cramped we were. Every inch of the car was packed with something, including the floors in the back seat. It's a good thing the girls have short legs! We would have had enough oil to make it back to Ojai, but we did so much driving around once we got to the Phoenix area. The name of the game in the Valley of the Sun is that you have to drive great distances to get anywhere. We drove 400 miles just in the valley during the week we were there. So, we did have to buy some gas, but the entire trip cost us a mere $55.

Arizona sunrises and sunsets:
We left at 2:30 a.m. September 17, and headed for Arizona. We had it all planned out: we would get the girls out of bed and put them in their car seats and they would sleep until dawn and by then we'd be more than half-way to Phoenix. Well, our evil plan did not work. The girls stayed awake for the entire trip. Of course, I had not packed anything for them to play with because I thought they'd be asleep. They were such troopers. They never complained. Our girls have always been very good travelers. We crossed the border into Arizona just about the same time the sun peeked it's head over the mountains. Arizona has the most brilliant sunrises and sunsets. I enjoyed taking pictures out my window. The girls really enjoyed seeing all of the cactus.
High School Reunion:
The purpose of the road trip was to attend my high school reunion. It was a two-night event. Friday night was a casual mixer and Saturday night was a dinner with dancing and entertainment from our alumnus Travis Thurman. He does stand-up comedy. My favorite part was when he impersonated some of the popular 80s singers. I love 80s music! It was fun dancing to the 80s and also just sitting and listening to the tunes while others danced. Eric got right out there on the dance floor and started cracking me up with his moves. I said to my friend, "He's so brave. He's not even embarrassed." she said, "Of course not, he doesn't know anyone here." That made sense. I had a wonderful time at the reunion, reconnecting with friends I hadn't seen since the last reunion 10 years ago. It was wonderful to see my best friend from high school, Carolyn, and get all caught up on each other's lives. She said to me, "Chris, I really want to thank you for what you said to me in high school. It changed the course of my whole life. You planted the seeds way back in high school. I am so grateful." She was talking about the times I shared with her my relationship with Jesus and invited her to church. She became a Christian years after high school. She said the same thing to me at the last reunion, but I am still touched by her kind words. It was great to see Taj and Lysa and Jennifer, too. Lysa practically planned the whole reunion, although she'd tell you otherwise. She has got to be the sweetest class of '88 alumnus. She did her best to make everyone feel so welcome; giving out great big hugs to everyone who walked through the door. There were about 80 people who attended the reunion, out of 575 graduates. Yes, I attended a large high school. Eric was impressed with the school spirit he saw at the reunion. The class of '88 had a lot of "Bruin pride."

Family and friends:
We took advantage of the week and saw as many people as we could. We visited with my sister-in-law, Johanna, and her daughter Angie; my brother Tim and wife Alisa; our friend Roger, who was in our wedding; our friend Michele and family--she was my college roommate and bridesmaid; and our friend Rebekah. Of course, we spent a lot of time with my parents. Because their house in Sun City is so small (but oh so cute), we stayed at our friend Nancy's house about 20 minutes away. Almost every morning we went swimming in her pool. Then we headed on over to my parents home to spend the day just relaxing. It was too darn hot to go outside, so we spent the days indoors reading and doing crafts. The girls loved their daily craft time with Nana! I loved the opportunity to do--well--nothing. That's what vacation is all about! Each evening was spent at a different friend's house or at the reunion.

My old stompin' grounds:
While we were in Phoenix, we visited the first house I lived in and also the house I lived in when I attended high school. We also drove by my junior high and high school and took pictures. Since my parents moved out of the west side many years ago, I haven't been back there to have a look. While some things have changed, it still looks like the place where I grew up. It was a nice trip down memory lane. Eric was surprised to see bars (iron fences) around the schools where I grew up. Living in Santa Barbara, he had never experienced closed campuses. I guess I never gave it a second thought. We also stopped by the newspaper I was a reporter for: The Daily News-Sun. I chatted with my former editor. It was fun to see my old desk, and even more fun to think that I no longer have to work 60 hours a week!

Home again, home again:
We left at 5 a.m. September 23 and crossed the border into California before 8 a.m. Once again, the girls never slept! For lunch, we stopped in Cabazon, home of the world's largest dinosaur "statue." Amber loved the dinosaurs! At 1:45 p.m., we pulled into our driveway in Ojai, just as the gas light came on! We traveled 1,330 miles total, and it was worth every mile!

Cars have feelings, too!

Every once in a while, Eric will repair a car in our garage. Today he left an SUV in the garage to finish later, and went to another job. As Autumn was eating her afternoon snack just now, she looked out the back door and said, "The car is sad."

"Why is the car sad?" I asked.

Autumn replied, "It misses daddy."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Necklace

Hi everyone! We're back from our road trip to Arizona. It was wonderful! I'll have to blog about it tomorrow (or the next day or whenever I get out from under unpacking). Meanwhile, I wanted to share a story that I wrote in my journal while we were in Phoenix. I wrote it right after it happened. It is totally true, not one of those email urban legends. (And please don't make it become one.) Oh, Lisa H. and Debbie, you've been forewarned: you might want to get out a box of tissue.

***

The Necklace
By Christine A. Hodge

"I like your necklace, Aunt Johanna," my 5-year-old daughter, Amber, said as she touched the gold balls attached to the chain.

Johanna, my brother's wife, smiled and fingered the necklace herself.
"This necklace is very special," she said. "I received it for my birthday this year from your Uncle Steve."

My eyebrows scrunched together and I shot Johanna a quizzical look. You see, my brother Steve suddenly passed away in February, six months before his wife's birthday.

"You haven't heard the story?" Johanna asked when she saw my puzzled expression. She then went on to tell me what became one of the greatest love stories I have ever heard.

Almost two decades before Steve and Johanna even met, my brother lived with our sister, Deborah, in Colorado. One day he brought home a gold necklace he had purchased and gave it to Deborah.

"Here, keep this for me until I find my soul mate and then give it back to me and I'll give it to her," Steve said.

It took my brother a long time to find, fall in love with and marry his soul mate, Johanna. By then, my sister had tucked the necklace away, out of sight and memory.

Last month, right before Johanna's birthday, my sister happened upon the necklace and remembered what Steve had told her so many years ago. She put the gold necklace in a box with an attached note of explanation and mailed it to Johanna in time for her birthday.

My brother loved his wife dearly. Although he had passed away months earlier, he still managed to give her one last birthday present; a memory she will cherish forever.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Memory Lane

Next week my family and I are driving to Phoenix for my 20th High School Reunion. I am so excited! To prepare for my reunion, I wanted to look through my old yearbooks. They were in storage and so I had Eric and his dad lift the three very heavy plastic bins from the very high shelf in the garage. As you can imagine, I rarely look through these bins and so I was eager to go through them. Eric was taking the girls on an overnight boat trip, so I seized the opportunity to look through my memories without little ones wanting to get their little hands into my stuff. My family left in the morning, and so at noon I decided to look for my yearbooks. It wasn't hard to find them. What was hard was resisting the urge to look at and read everything in those three boxes. At 5:00 p.m., I realized I hadn't eaten lunch and that I'd better put the lids on the boxes and put a frozen pizza in the oven.

If it weren't for my hunger pains, I probably would have been sitting on the living room floor, surrounded by memorabilia for the next 24 hours. In the boxes were my Star Wars action figures, my Strawberry Shortcake dolls (which I plan on giving my girls next year), poems and stories I had written when I was in grade school, every newspaper article I have ever written, old books, my Grandma Gow's poems, the negatives from our wedding, my first piggy bank, records (you know, the big round kind that play music), tax receipts, Eric's coin collection (the only thing in the boxes belonging to him!), the ring bearer pillow from our wedding, our first wine bottle, and a few stuffed animals. I know all of this because I wrote down what was in each box for future reference.

I threw away a few things, gave away a few things and kept out a few of my small toys that I plan on putting in the girls' stocking this Christmas (money-saver). I also gave Amber my Dancerella doll that still works (she loves it!) and I gave Autumn my Drowsy doll (that doesn't work). Amber really appreciated the fact that these were my toys as a child and she been telling everyone about it!

Perhaps the neatest thing I found in those boxes was a small essay I wrote when I was 13 years old. Here's what it says:

I see myself at age 30 single, a journalist working for the Arizona Republic" on the Leisure section. I will be living in an apartment with my friend Rhonda. I will be dating, babysitting little kids and trying to get the whole family (5 brothers, 1 sister, Mom and Dad) together for a dinner at Mom's house. I will also be writing a book to publish about my family and our funny situations, sort of like an auto-biography. That's how I see myself.

Well, at age 30 I was already married for almost 4 years. I was not living with Rhonda Babel (although she was in our wedding). I had already worked for a daily newspaper in Arizona and I did leisure articles now and then. I think the whole family was together at my parent's house for Christmas the year I was 30, and we definitely ate my mom's famous Mexican feast. I have not even begun to write an autobiography, and I don't think I ever will. (I'm leaning toward children's literature, if ever I get the chance to write again.)

I am so glad I am not single, and I have no regrets for the fact that I am currently not employed at a newspaper. I am living out a dream that you could say I never dreamed, a reality that is far better than any dreams or goals I had. Nonetheless, it was fun taking a long walk down that proverbial "Memory Lane." Thanks for walking with me.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

This Day Just Keeps Getting Better & Better!

Before we went to church this morning, my 5-year-old daughter, Amber, gave her heart to Jesus. I was in the bathroom getting ready for church and she was talking to Eric in the living room. She said, "Daddy, how old were you when you got your first loose tooth?" He said, "About 5 or 6." The she asked, "How old were you when you told Jesus that you were sorry for all of the bad things you did?" He said he was about her age. She said, "Can I do that right now. I want to do that right now." She asked Jesus to forgive her and come into her life and she said she would follow Him.

This morning God answered my biggest prayer for Amber. My #1 prayer for my girls is that they would fall in love with Jesus at a young age. I was overjoyed and overwhelmed with gratefulness to the Lord!

Today is the first Sunday of the month and that is the Sunday our church partakes in communion. Amber said to me, "Mommy, you said when I give my life to Jesus, I can eat the bread and wine (grape juice)." It was so neat that Amber got to be a part of communion on the same day she made her decision to follow Jesus!

The second neat thing that happened today was that a college student whom I used to mentor came back to church today. I hadn't seen her all summer and so last night I called her to tell her that I missed her and invited her back to church. She came and brought her boyfriend this morning. That was awesome! God is awesome!

The third really cool thing happened after church. One of the college students and a fellow Young Life leader asked to talk to me. She said she really looks up to me and wants to spend more time with me. I was blown away! I love young people and I really like this young person!

The final thing that made my great day even greater was that Eric took the girls to the store, brought home three bags of groceries and started cooking up a storm in the kitchen! He used some white sea bass he speared and made a killer red chowder! It was award-winning! Eating that yummy chowder was the perfect way to end a wonderful day!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Another tooth on the loose!

Now Amber has two loose teeth, both on the bottom, right in front!

Loose Tooth!

Earlier I was on the phone when Amber, my 5-year-old, came to me in a fright.

"Mommy, there's something wrong with my tooth!" she said.
I immediately knew what was going on and I explained to her that she had a loose tooth. I told her that it was a normal occurrence with all little kids and then I told her about the Tooth Fairy.

Mommy: When your tooth falls out, I will give you a special box to put it in and you put the tooth under your pillow. In the middle of the night the Tooth Fairy will take the tooth and replace it with money...

Amber: Is the Tooth Fairy a girl or a boy?

Mommy: Little girls have girl Tooth Fairies and little boys have boy Tooth Fairies.

Amber: How can the Tooth Fairy lift my pillow when she is so small?

Mommy: The Tooth Fairy is very strong!

Amber: But how can she lift my pillow if my head is on it?

Mommy: The Tooth Fairy is very stealthy (had to explain that to her). She can get your tooth without you even knowing it! Besides, you're a heavy sleeper; you'll never know she was even there.

We had this conversation on the fly, as we were getting ready to leave the house. I didn't really have time to think about my answers, so I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with such quick responses. Hours went by and Amber brought up the subject again. She's a smart one!

Amber: Mommy, how will the Tooth Fairy know when my tooth is under my pillow?

Mommy: I have to go to the bathroom (which I did). I'll answer that question when I get back. (That gave me time to come up with a clever answer)...
Well, the Tooth Fairy has very good hearing. She can hear when little girls teeth fall out all over the world. When a tooth falls out, it makes a tiny "plink" noise. You can't hear it, but the Tooth Fairy can hear it, and then she knows to come to your house that night and look under your pillow. (I was feeling pretty smug about my answer!)

Amber: But how does she know where we live?

Mommy: The Tooth Fairy is very smart. She can follow that sound to your house.

Amber: Oh, she's very sneaky!

The conversation has ended for now, and I'm exhausted!

***

P.S. I am just tickled about this whole loose tooth thing. My little girl is getting bigger. Sniff. Sniff.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

VCR Bites the Dust!

The other day I put a library video in our VCR and all we saw was snow. It wasn't a winter movie! Today I put a video we have in the VCR and got he same thing. Then I put in another and--yes--our VCR id officially broken. We've only had it for less than five years. It's built in to our TV monitor, so if we replaced the VCR, we'd have to replace the whole thing.

Okay all you techy people out there, and even those of you who aren't so technically savvy, I have a few questions and I want your opinion.

1.) I did an inventory on my VHS video library. I have about two dozen videos. The girls have about the same amount. So, is it worth it to buy a new TV/VCR or try to fix our VCR, or would it be better to just replace our favorite VHS videos with used DVDs (Blockbuster and Amazon have pretty good prices on previously viewed DVDs)?

2.) Is there a way to transfer VHS videos to DVDs? (And do any of you have the equipment to do that?)

3.) Do you think that eventually no one will own VCRs anyway? I hate the thought of not being able to watch our wedding video or my skydiving videos that are on VHS. What will people do to watch old VHS videos?

Okee dokee! That's all my questions. Thanks!

Have a great Wednesday night!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

40 Years!


To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do us part.

After church today, we drove to Santa Barbara to help Eric's parents celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary! Forty years ago today, Robert and Myrna Hodge were married in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. Forty years ago this October 13, another special couple were married in St. Louis, Missouri: my parents, George and Vivian Gow. Forty years. Forty years. Forty years. Just let that sink in for a minute...........

Forty years is a long time! It's a long time to stick by someone when sometimes they don't seem worthy of being stuck by. Forty years is a long time to sacrifice your desires for the sake of another person, or just to simple think of someone besides yourself. Forty years is a long time to stand beside someone who is not always pleasant, not always loving and not always in the best of health.

Eric and I have been married 12 years, and although we have had to make sacrifices for each other, we have not had to live out the "in sickness and in health" part of the vows we recited to each other on our wedding day. Both my parents and Eric's parents have put that vow to the test. My mother and mother-in-law are both breast cancer survivors. I have watched my dad, as well as Eric's dad, persevere through the dark days of their wife's cancer. Those men were by their wife's side in the hospital. They were by their side in the chemo room. They were by their side at home. And they were by their side when things did not look hopeful.

On the reverse, I have watched my mom and mother-in-law stick by their husbands through major surgeries and minor illnesses. "In sickness and in health" are not trite words to these couples. The are reality.

In the past few years I have seen couples divorce for a number of reasons, and it breaks my heart. But then I look at my parents and Eric's parents who have vowed to never ever let that sacred bond of marriage be broken, and I have hope. And I rejoice. And I celebrate.

Congratulations Mr. & Mrs. Robert Hodge and Mr. & Mrs. George Gow!

"So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." Matthew 19:6

George & Vivian

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ten Random Things About Me

I saw this in a friend's blog last year and have wanted to do this...

Ten random things you may not know about me:

1.) I was an extra in the 1980s movie, American Anthem. (If you look really, really, really, really, really, really hard, you can see me in the stadium crowd.)
2.) I'm a direct descendant of Geronimo. (A few of you knew that already.)
3.) I was in the 1996 swimsuit issue of Glamour Magazine. (I was NOT in a swimsuit, though. I was in an article with Eric about our upcoming wedding.)
4.) When I was 2-years-old (I think), I had stitches inside and outside my mouth for climbing up the back of a folding step-ladder. It folded on my mouth! I still have a faint scar.
5.) While we're talking about scars, I still have a pinhead-sized rock in my right knee from when I fell down the stairs at church as a child. (I was an active kid!)
6.) I can't whistle.
7.) I have an ugly toe. (Just one.)
8.) I met and had my picture taken with presidential candidate Sen. John McCain when I was in high school.
9.) I played intramural soccer for my dorm in college. I played right fullback. We were pretty good.
10.) In college, I completed line dance lessons and became a Dry Gulch Dancer, participating in line dance competitions at bars and county fairs. After college, I taught senior citizens how to line dance at a retirement home. One of the ladies wanted to call our group, "The End of the Line."

Okay, so I won't tag any of my blogger friends, but I'd love read your random facts when you get the time to blog.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

First Day of School for Everyone!











Today was Autumn's first day of preschool, Amber's first day of kindergarten and my first day as a homeschool teacher! We all survived, and we all had a good day!

We started the day with a hearty breakfast (eggs & toast) and left at 8:00 a.m. to take Autumn to Noah's Ark Preschool. She attended six months last year, but this was her first day in a new class with new teachers, Miss Susi and Miss Megan. She did fine, and was happy when her good friend, Stella, walked in. Autumn didn't cry when I left and I didn't cry, either!

We returned home and straightened up the house until 9:00 and then started school. We are using Sing, Spell, Read & Write curriculum. We started with the Raceway song and the A to Z Phonics song, and then hit the books to work on writing her first and last name and the letter of the day: A. Amber practiced writing A in uppercase (which she has obviously mastered by now, her name beginning with A) and lowercase. Then she did a cut & paste page that helps refine her skill in using scissors. Then we played Sound-O Bingo (I sound out the letter and she finds it on her score card) and a letter pairs game similar to Go Fish. Then we sing the A to Z Phonics song again, and the day is over, before 11:00 a.m.!
We will work on one letter each day and then after 26 days, we will go to the second workbook, which focuses on vowels, vocabulary development, reading, grammar and manuscript writing. We are all very excited about this program! The only downside to homeschooling: I can't get the A to Z Phonics song out of my head!
P.S. We also joined a homeschool group, Sun Valley Educators, that does special events and field trips. Amber is also going to do gymnastics on Fridays for her sport. When Autumn isn't in preschool (M, W, F) she will color in a book and just learn right alongside Amber.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Another Dead Rat!

Believe it or not, we came home tonight after running some evening errands, and I walked into the house and said to Eric, "The smell is back!" We went around to the side of the house and there it was--another rat keeled over in the dirt right below the swamp cooler! Eric's theory: Our neighbor has put out rat poisoning, and the rats are dying and trying to find one last gulp of water, so they make their way to the swamp cooler, hoping to catch a drip of condensation and -- too late -- they take their last breath! What's your theory?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fire Drill

My 5-year-old, Amber, is the self-appointed Fire Drill Instructor for our church. When she was 2 years old, she pulled the fire drill in the sanctuary, setting off the alarm. Well, she did it again today. After church--when there were a few dozen people left talking in the sanctuary--Amber saw the thingy on the wall that you pull in case of a fire. I was standing nearby talking to Lea when I saw Amber's hand go for the lever. She asked, "Mommy, what's this?" not waiting for an answer. I yelled, "Amber, don't touch..." Too late! The alarm went off. I tried to push the lever back up, but all I did was make it look like I had set off the alarm because all eyes were on me and my hand at the scene of the crime. I stepped away from the alarm, pointed my fingers at my daughter and said, "She did it! I didn't do it! She did it!" Yes, I really ratted out my daughter in front of everyone. She didn't care. And it didn't matter anyway because no one "believed" me. They said they didn't see anyone near the lever except me. Jeez! I'm still getting blamed for things I didn't do! (Oh wait, I'm the youngest child in my family; I was never blamed for anything!)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The 1980s

I love the 80s! I loved the styles, the hair and especially the music. So I was way too excited when my friend Melissa invited me to an 80s girls night in. It was a blast listening to 80s music and looking at yearbooks and photos of my friends when they were in high school. Even though I didn't grow up in Ojai and I didn't know any of these gals when I was a teen-ager, it was fun looking through their yearbooks and reading all of the cheesy things people wrote inside. It was fun watching Laurisa and Debbie do the moonwalk, sprinkler and roger rabbit (no, we didn't breakdance)! It was fun saying things like, "Do you remember when..."

Here's some pictures of now...and then. I won the contest for the best 80s hair back then. Incidentally, I am going to my 20th high school reunion in Phoenix next month. Yay! I love the 80s!
Me, Melissa & Laurisa
My high school press pass. It took me an hour in
the bathroom and a lot of hairspray to achieve that look!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Three Dead Rats

THREE DEAD RATS
(sung to the tune of "Three Blind Mice")

Three Dead Rats,
Three Dead Rats,
Oh How They Stink,
Oh How They Stink,
Eric Had To Bag Them All Up,
Christine Was Very Grateful,
Now The House Smells Good Again,
Three Dead Rats,
Three Dead Rats.

Yes, Eric just bagged up three dead rats that had been causing quite a stink in our house. Now before you get too grossed out, the rats were not in the house. They laid their bodies to rest outside, right below the swamp cooler! Earlier today, I turned on the cooler, loaded up the kids in the car and went off to Amber's very long doctor's appointment. Hours later, I returned to the house, walked inside and--yuck--what is that smell?!

At first, I thought it was just a bad musty smell from the rain last night. So when Eric came home, I asked him to spray some car freshener into the cooler vent. That's when he discovered not one, not two, but three dead rats below the cooler. In a matter of minutes, the smell was gone. I am very grateful! I didn't ask Eric what he did with the rats. I don't want to know.

Thunder & Lightning

This morning I woke up at 2:15 to the sound of thunder. I opened my eyes to see lightning casting shadows in our bedroom. I got up and wandered into the living room, pulled back the shades, sat on the couch and looked out the window at the lightning dancing across the sky. In that moment, I was instantly a kid again.

Growing up in Phoenix, Arizona, I vividly remember evenings of leaning over the back of the couch, looking out our big front window at lightning storms. We had thunder and lightning storms for days and weeks every year. It was a part of my childhood I fondly remember. I was never afraid of the booming thunder or flashes of light. It was as natural to me as a Goliath beetle is to a kid who grows up in the jungles of Africa. (Okay Heidi, I know that's a weak analogy.)

A few minutes later, Eric joined me in the living room and was fascinated with the storm.
"This is so cool," he said. "We never get this in Ojai!"

"We used to get these storms all the time in Phoenix," I told him as he walked out onto the front porch to get a better look at the lightning.

We sat on the couch and watched the storm together. The rain really started to pour and the power went off and on a few times. We saw lights on in our neighbor's house across the street. I guess we weren't the only ones watching the light show. It was awesome!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Catalina Island Trip

It's been almost a week since Eric and I returned from our vacation to Catalina Island and I'm just now sitting down to the computer to blog about it. When we returned, I hit the ground running with unpacking, laundry, housework, getting ready to homeschool and just spending time with my girls. Then I got a cold and that set me back further. So finally, here's some highlights of our trip...

Just The Two Of Us:
August 4-8, Eric and I got to go to Catalina Island on our 22-foot boat. This is the second year we've been able to do this by ourselves. This year, our daughters were watched by Eric's parents for 2 1/2 days and our friends, The Pedersons, for 2 1/2 days. We left Monday morning, trailering the boat to Los Angeles and launching it out of Cabrillo Harbor. It's only an hour boat ride to Catalina from there. We stayed there until Friday morning when we returned to L.A. and back to Ojai.

Eat, Sleep & Spearfish:
We lived on the boat while at Catalina, tied to a mooring buoy in Avalon Harbor. Each morning we woke up around 7:30, ate breakfast on the boat (yogurt & granola), drove the boat to a dive spot near the island, suited up and jumped in the water with our spear guns, no scuba tanks. We free-dived for a few hours, ate lunch on the boat (sandwiches) and dove a bit more before getting out of our wet suits and into regular clothes. After changing clothes, we'd pull the anchor and drive the boat back to the harbor, grab our backpack and hop into the little avon inflatable boat and Eric would row us on over to the dingy dock where we'd tie up and then spend the rest of the afternoon and evening in Avalon. We'd shop, eat ice cream at Big Olafs, read a book at the park and go out for a nice dinner at our favorite restaurant on the island, The Landing. We ate there almost every night.

Entertainment On The Island:
The first night we saw the new Mummy movie at the one-room theatre they have on Avalon. It was a good, entertaining movie. I like Brendan Fraser because he's not a big hot-shot movie star. He's funny. We also played miniature golf twice at the run-down but challenging course on the island. Eric won both times. (I recall winning last year, though, but who's keeping track?) It was so funny when we arrived at the golf course the second day to play another game and were right behind the same mother and daughter (Trish & Sierra) that we were behind the day before. They were such nice people and we practically played both games with them. It was fun to connect with strangers that way.

It's a Small World on Avalon:
We weren't on the island more than a few minutes the first day when we ran into the Dalto family, friends of ours from Ojai. Which Dalto, you may be asking? The entire family: Andy, Aaron, Brian, Tony, etc., etc. Tony told us that his grandparents have been coming to Avalon the first week in August every year for 100 years! Tony and his family have been coming for more than 25 years. The reunion includes 100 to 200 people each year! We ran into one or more of the Daltos every day we were on the island. We also saw our friends, Bob & Patty Howell. And in the harbor, we saw Eric's dive buddy from Santa Barbara, Brian Coreak. The world just kept getting smaller and smaller. We also saw former L.A. Lakers' star Vlade Divac. A few people were asking for his autograph as he walked around Avalon. Man is he tall!

We'll Deal With That Later:
One night, as Eric was rowing us back to the boat, one of the oars broke on the inflatable. A nice, but somewhat crabby man, in a much larger inflatable with a motor offered to tow us back to our boat. Here's the funny story: He sees us in our little boat by the dingy dock and asks, "Are you coming or going" because he wanted to tie up at the dock. I said, "We're going, but our oar broke." He said, "Come on, don't say that." I said, "It's true." He said, "Here, I'll take you back to your boat," and he starts to rig up an elaborate way to tie our lines together. Eric says, "Our boat is not that far away, I'll just hang on to your boat with my hands." So the man starts taking us to our boat. But we can tell he's in a hurry and he starts to drive his boat faster and our boat starts to fill with water. Eric says to him, "Sir, our boat is filling with water." With a wave of his hand, the man says, "We'll deal with that later." Eric thought, "Like when we're at the bottom of the ocean!" and he let go of the guy's boat. The man finally caught a clue and slowed down, and we arrived safely--and wet--at our boat!

The Ones That Got Away--And Didn't:
From the boat, we saw flying fish, a marlin, seals and dolphins. While diving we saw many different fish and Eric saw a black sea bass. In the end, Eric shot two yellowtail and I missed two yellowtail! Eric said it was a big deal that I even got a shot off, but I was pretty disappointed to not land anything. Oh well, there's always next year. I did have a great time with my sweetheart and a relaxing, rejuvenating week.

(Where are the pictures? Eric's camera broke before we even took one picture!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Earthquake!

I just felt an earthquake! Yes, it's true. About 10 minutes ago, I was sitting at my computer (like I am now) and emailing a friend when I felt my chair and body move. I thought Autumn had sneaked into the office and was shaking my chair, so I turned to say hello to her and there was no one in the room. "Freaky," I thought and returned to my typing. Then a few minutes later my friend Laurisa called and asked if I'd felt the earthquake. Then Eric called and said that he was contracting at an auto shop in Ventura and the lifts inside the bays started shaking. Yep, it was an earthquake. It's probably too early to go online and find out where the epicenter was. Hey you Ojai residents, who else felt the quake?

P.S. I guess it isn't too early to read about the earthquake. Here's the story.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Confession Is Good For The Family

Eric and I have been attending a class at church called Parenting: The Early Years. Pastor Richie taught the classes, using a video series by doctors Less & Leslie Parrott. The class was not about "how to parent," rather it focused on character traits that parents should emulate to their kids. We learned so much during the four weeks that our heads are still spinning!

The greatest thing we've gleaned from the class, so far, came in the form of a "wake-up call" about how we were unjustly blaming Amber for (fill in the blank) every time her little sister cried or fussed. Yes, in the past Amber was the cause of many of her sister's discomforts. She used to pick on her. But it only lasted a short time and we had since become so accustomed to blaming Amber that it became a bad habit. A habit that--we learned from Pastor Richie--could in the long run cause Amber to resent us, and even worse--resent her little sister.

After watching one of the videos, we learned that we need to not only change our ways but also sit Amber down and apologize to her, explaining that we were wrong and that we were going to do things differently from now on. Ouch! It hurt just to think about that confession. Admitting you are wrong to a child is not easy. However, it is the right and godly thing to do. So we sat down with Amber Sunday and told her we were sorry. We told her that from now on we would not assume that she was causing Autumn grief, but instead we would ask Autumn why she was crying and assess what happened, etc., etc. Do you know what? It wasn't that hard to apologize to Amber. She was a sweetheart. She respectfully agreed with us and then forgave us.

That was Sunday. It is Wednesday evening. Eric and I have stuck to our plan. When Autumn cries or fusses, we ask her what is wrong, letting Amber off the hook she was never meant to be on in the first place. Not coincidentally, the past four days have been four of the best days I've had with my daughters in a long time. Amber has been overly helpful to me. She has played well with her sister and there has been a lot less drama in the house! I feel rested and blessed and full of joy. We have laughed more in the past few days than in a long time. Tonight in particular, as I was getting them ready for bed, we laughed so hard I almost couldn't change Autumn's diaper! I will not discredit the link between our confession and the change in atmosphere at the Hodge Lodge. Confession is good for the soul, but also good for the family!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Crosswords & Door Signs

I just finished solving the Longest Crossword Book In The World. Really! At least that's the name of it. This crossword puzzle book is 20-feet-long and has more than 2100 clues. I bought it awhile back and finished it yesterday. It was fun! It folds like an accordion into the normal size of a book. I've always enjoyed crosswords, but this one has been my favorite. I think I'll log onto Amazon.com and see if I can find another edition. Mine was the blue edition and I bought it while on vacation.

In other news, Amber made her first door sign. She colored this over-sized coloring book page, tore it out and was wondering where she should put it. We decided the door of the room she shares with Autumn would be the perfect place. Then she asked me how to spell "Kids Allowed" and wrote it at the top. I have no idea where she came up with that, but I thought it was just too cute. I'm glad she didn't put "Kids Only." Ha Ha!