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!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Santa Barbara Limo Ride!

Yesterday we felt like celebrities as we were driven around Santa Barbara in a limousine! Eric's parents live in Santa Barbara, right across the street from a couple (Spencer & Hueguette) who own a limousine service. They have three limos, and every once in a great while, they give Eric's folks ride in one. Recently Eric's dad, Bob, helped Spencer with a project and he in turn offered Bob a limo ride.

Meanwhile Eric's 8-year-old niece is visiting from Canada (Eric's parents flew to Edmonton and flew back to Santa Barbara with Sarah). So yesterday it was arranged for Sarah and the rest of the Hodges to take a tour of Santa Barbara in Spencer's brand new limo! So Grandpa & Grandma, Sarah, Auntie Christine, Amber & Autumn Hodge all crawled inside the limo for a ride on the town! (Sadly, Eric had to stay in Ojai and work). Hueguette was the chauffeur and she took us down State Street first. It was so much fun watching the shoppers gawk at the limo. We really felt like stars. Sarah said, "We're really important, aren't we?!" Bob put it all in perspective, though, by answering, "Yes, we are very important. But then, so is everyone else. We are all important!" I just love his godly perspective on things!

From State Street we went to Stearn's Wharf and we dropped off right in front of the ice cream parlour. I have to admit, it is rather fun stepping (actually crawling) out of a limo in front of dozens of people. Bob treated all of us to ice cream and Autumn had her hands full with a bubble-gun cone she shared with Amber. I bought Eric some of his favorite candy (jordan almonds) in the candy store next door. I had to bring the working man a treat for staying behind while we had fun!

After ice cream we were driven around downtown, although I had no idea where we were from inside the limo. (Actually I wouldn't have a clue if I were driving myself; I've never gotten used to Santa Barbara.) The three girls had more fun looking out the window at the pedestrians and then turning their attention to Hueguette, our chauffeur. On the ride home, they had their heads poked throught the window that separates the driver from the passengers. Hueguette didn't mind. She talked with them and pointed out funny people, dogs and cool buildings as she drove. Autumn got so excited that she tried to crawl through the window and join Hueguette.

We had a blast and it will be a memory I hope the girls never forget. But if they do, I have a few dozen pictures to remind them.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My "Nightmare!"

The other morning I woke up in a fright! I woke up Eric, too, and he asked me what was wrong. I said, "I had a nightmare!"

My nightmare: I was making Thanksgiving dinner and the side dishes were so small. I prepared carrots and when I dished them into the pretty serving bowl, there turned out to be only enough carrots for one or two people. The same was true of the greens and other side dishes. It was horrible!

You see, every other year I host Thanksgiving for us, Eric's parents and whomever else wants to come (the more, the merrier, I say). I do the whole dinner myself. I really like it that way. So, running out of food on Thanksgiving day would be a nightmare for me. I just can't figure out why I was dreaming about the big feast in the middle of the summer. Maybe I went to be hungry the night before!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Swappin' It!

Once again, today I headed off to the church for one of my favorite days of the year (seriously): The Summer Clothing Swap. Twice a year my friend Retha organizes this fun day where you can bring your clothes, toys and small household items and "exchange" them for things you want. I never miss this day because one of my mottos is: "If it's free, it's for me!"

Actually I have other motivations for going. Lately I've been seriously rethinking my spending habits and I am trying to buy less new items and more thrift store and garage sale items. This swap is a great way to avoid spending hard-earned money on things that are going to become used the minute we get them home anyway. You should see some of the cool things I've gotten at the swap over the years.

This year, I came home with as much stuff as I brought, but one bag was just for Eric. He requested that I get him a lot of T-shirts. I also got some nice shirts for me, a pair of capris, two pair of designer shoes, some cool jewelry and two puzzles for the girls.

Before arriving this morning, I grabbed a bagel and coffee at the Coffee Connection. Then I headed over to the church at 8:15 and only planned on staying for two hours at the max. But as I headed toward my car, I saw Erin walk up with bags in her hands. I just had to stay to see what she brought and I was so glad I did. That's when I got all the cool shirts for me! Then I headed toward the car again and another friend walked up, making me do a u-turn. Then the Pettit's came. I tried to leave a fourth time but the Litonjuas pulled into the parking lot with bags an bags of things. I admit it, I'm a scavenger! The dumpster-diving, free-finding ways of my father and father-in-law have rubbed off on me!

I ended up leaving after being there three hours, and I had a blast talking with Tina, Kim and Retha (they hosted the event) and everyone else who walked in and out! Let's see, how many months until the Fall Swap?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tim Who?

Today we got a postcard in the mail from "Hill Billy Tim." It said: Howdy Eric. Greetings from the Loony Toons East. See you guys next week.

I looked at the hand-written return address. It was a P.O. Box in St. David, AZ. "That's funny," I thought. "I didn't know there was a city or town named St. David in Arizona." I called my dad in Arizona, and he told me he's never heard of the place, either. I Googled it and there is--in fact--a St. David in Arizona. It's about two hours from civilization and has an episcopal church and a monastery. We don't know anyone in that part of the country.

Still stumped, Eric asked me where the card was postmarked. It was stamped, Cleveland, Ohio. We don't know a soul in Ohio, either. Well, I hope "Tim" is not planning on staying with us when he visits next week, since we haven't the foggiest idea who he is!

I think some jokester, or monk, has way too much time on his hands.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Organic by Force!

Some people are born organic. Some people have organic thrust upon them. I am one of those people.
I love the idea of eating mainly organic food, but the sticker price is way too high for me. My black thumb and our no-sun backyard means that growing our own food is out of the question. So, my organic dreams have been just that. Recently, however, that changed when Eric started trading the fish he spears for fresh produce from two of his friends who grow their own organic gardens. Now about twice a week, we get more fruit and veggies than we can consume. I’ve given a lot of it away to neighbors and friends (next time you need a zucchini, call me first before going to the store).
I have to admit, it is fun eating organic. I just feel like I am more healthy. And it has forced me to become quite creative with my cooking. At first it was an educational experience; I didn’t even know what I had in the boxes that Eric brought home. I’ve logged onto Wikipedia a few times. Once I called my friend, Lisa Hester, to help me identify what I had in my fridge. "Okay, it looks like celery but it’s dark pink." "Rhubarb." "It smells like anise but is long and ..." "Fennel." "It has the top of a carrot but it’s short and squatty." "Beets." "So, what can I do with rhubarb, fennel and beets?" Lisa gave me some great ideas and web sites. I ended up cooking the beets and other veggies with chicken and sprinkled fennel on top." I haven’t used the rhubarb yet. The most interesting and very yummy veggies we’ve received are white sweet potatoes, purple sweet potatoes, and orange and brown carrots.
The top three veggies that we’ve been bombarded with are carrots, zucchini and yellow squash. We’ve eaten them raw, oven-cooked, in stir fry and once I made a yummy vegetable soup. Amber has gotten tired of seeing zucchini on her plate every single night! Even so, I still had an over-abundance of zucchini and carrots. I decided to shred them and make zucchini-carrot bread and muffins. I made four batches, two batches with just zucchini because Autumn is allergic to carrots. Still, I had shredded zucchini and carrots left over, so I put them in the freezer to bake another time. Trading food has not only forced me to "go organic," but it has stretched our grocery dollar and added some "spice" to my cooking.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Itchy!

I go an entire week at camp and only get one mosquito bite. I go out at dusk and play with my kids in my front yard and get bit up. Tonight I counted 14 mosquito bites!

Swim Lessons

The girls just completed their first week of swim lessons. They are in the same class at Nordhoff. This is Amber's second time in this class and Autumn's first swim class. Autumn did not like the class on Monday, but Tuesday it got better and by today, she was loving learning how to swim. The girls' swim teachers, Danielle and James, are our former youth group students, so it's neat to see them teach our children. We have one more week of lessons. I think this time Amber will "graduate" and go on to a more advanced class, but Autumn will need more basic lessons. But at least she isn't crying like day one!