Thursday, December 31, 2009

Spanish

Spanish is a beautiful language! I love the sound of it as it flows from my neighbor Rosa's lips. I just wish I knew what she was saying.

Tonight we were invited over for a New Year's Eve gathering. We ate homemade enchiladas (authentic Mexican-style) that Sylvia cooked right in front of us. We ate posole and tamales made just hours ago. We drank punch with pear slices and a splash of tequila. The girls ran around with the dozens of cousins that were there. We felt a part of the family, as we always do when we are invited over to one of their parties. Their family is huge, but they always have room for us.

I was mesmerized by the way Sylvia cooked with such ease. I watched her as she made countless enchiladas and I asked her where she learned to cook. She said she learned from her mother and she is trying to pass on the cooking lessons to her daughters. I figured if I watched her long enough, I would learn some cooking lessons, as well. If only she would pass on her mother's mole sauce recipe...

We sat around the bonfire and I listened as they all spoke the beautiful language. I laughed, even though I had no idea what I was laughing about. I spoke the few Spanish words I knew, and I used a lot of sign language. It was fun.

Eric brought fireworks (little sparklers) and we set them off in the driveway. The kids all screamed with delight. Autumn cried, but she got over it quickly. Then they played hide-n-seek until it was way past their bedtime.

I love living in community with my neighbors. I love how each neighbor has something to contribute to the others. Even now as I type this, I can hear the festivities still going on next door, and I feel so blessed that God has put us here in this house, in this neighborhood, in this city.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I'm so confused!

This morning I went to a memorial for a dear friend/former neighbor of mine (Ruben Duarte) who passed away Christmas morning. While I have been to several memorials over the past few years, my girls have never been to one, so they don't know what goes on at such events. As I was leaving the house, Amber said, "Bye mommy. I hope you have a good time at the memorial." I informed her that I probably would not have a good time and told her that memorials are sad occasions. She amended her farewell and said, "Okay, well I hope you have a sad time at the memorial." I then told her that was not a proper thing to say, either. In frustration she blurted out, "Well, I just don't know what to say!" Children are so precious.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Call me crazy!

Call me crazy, but I have this urge to totally re-do my office (without spending money). We just returned from a trip to Arizona where we stayed with a friend, Nancy. One of her guest rooms is adorable, and functional. Seeing it got the wheels spinning in my head. I already knew of a few things I could do right away to make the office more functional and less cluttered-looking. My office is anything from cluttered, since I have the OCD gene, but the walls are cluttered and I have the girls artwork (which is rapidly growing) here there and everywhere. Some pieces are pinned to the bulletin board, others are taped to the wall, others are barely hanging on the wall. Add to that the fact that my girls just received some wonderful art supplies for Christmas from relatives in Arizona. I want to utilize my office space to put the art supplies in a more accessible place for them. (Right now their crayons, coloring books, paper, etc., is all in boxes in the closet, hard for them to reach.

So, call me crazy, but I want to start re-organizing now. As in, today. As in, Christmas Eve. As in, the day (almost night) before Christmas. It seems logical to me. After all, I've been ready for Christmas for weeks. I just got back from a trip and am almost done unpacking. We're going to Eric's parents house tomorrow for Christmas, so I don't have to cook. Why not start a major room redo? I'll let you know how it goes. I'm going to start moving things around.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Four Forever


Tonight I asked my 4-year-old, Autumn, if she could stop growing. I asked her if she could stay 4 forever. She said yes. Of course, I don't want her to really stop growing, but she is just so adorable at this age.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dance

When my oldest daughter, Amber, is happy, she smiles. When her little sister, Autumn, is happy, it shows from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet. To say that she jumps for joy would be an understatement. Autumn has always been our little expressive one, from her many facial expressions to the way she dances around the house to how she jumps on the couch, her bed, anything that has a bounce. She's kind-of like Tigger from the Winnie the Pooh movies.

So last night when we took a family trip to Trader Joe's in Ventura, her enthusiasm should not have surprised me. In the two or three blocks it took to get to the main road, we passed by a few houses with their Christmas lights already up and shinning. With every house she saw, Autumn got more and more animated with excitement. It's a good thing she was belted into the car or she may have jumped through the moon roof.

"Oooh, look at this one, sissy," she said as she pointed to a lit-up house.

"Oh, I love that one!"

"Oh, that one is my favorite!"

"Sissy, look out my window. Look at that house!"

"Oooh, there's Santa!"

"Oh my goodness, that one is my favorite!"

"Thank you, daddy, for showing us the lights!"

We were just driving to the store. Next week we will officially take the girls out to look at Christmas lights. Just think how excited she will be that night!

Autumn's enthusiasm for just about anything got me to thinking about my own life. Am I full of joy? Do I simply smile or do I jump up and down with delight, even if only in my heart?

The Bible tells us that David danced before the Lord. He threw off his outer clothing and, in reckless abandon, he danced. He danced at the risk of being ridiculed, mocked and misunderstood. He was joyful and he let it show.

Now I'm not suggesting we go dancing around in public in our underwear. But I'm wondering if we adults--if I--should throw caution to the wind more often and take real delight in things, even ordinary things. I tried to do that this morning on my walk. I tried to delight in the fall leaves on the ground, in the wreaths hung on the doors of my neighbor's houses, in the fact that I am breathing. Who knows, maybe tomorrow on my walk I'll even lift my hands in joy. And hopefully, my 4-year-old's zest for life will rub off on me and I'll even learn to dance.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Craziness?

I haven't been blogging much because of my headaches, but I thought this was cute. It happened a few weeks ago and I wrote it down on a little piece of paper and am just now getting around to blogging about it...

Amber, who is 6, "helps out" in the toddler room on Wednesdays during the ladies Bible study. A few weeks ago we got in the car after Bible study and I had a CD playing in the car. Autumn asked me to turn it up and after cranking up the dial, Amber said, "I don't want music on right now. All the kids were really crazy today and I want to settle down from all the craziness."

This is not the first time she has mentioned the toddler room being a little out of control. I just had to laugh!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To Blog or Not to Blog?

That is the question.

I'm thinking of quitting the blog thing. And if I do quit, it will be cold turkey. None of this blog posting once every three months or whatever. I won't erase my blog, but I might just stop posting stories & pictures.

The reason I am thinking of this is that out of my last 7 blog entries I have received zero comments. I'm not complaining, I'm just wondering if it's worth it--writing stories & posting pics if people aren't even checking in anymore. I do know three people who read my blog and don't comment, but two of those people live in Ojai and I see them every Sunday, so it's not like they don't know what I'm up to. The other person is my mom, and I talk to her at least once a week on the phone.

The only downside of not blogging is that this has become like a journal. I rarely write in my journal anymore because I post things on here. And, I do love writing things for other people to read, but once again, if people aren't reading...

I blame Facebook. Oh yes I do. It's just like every other technological advance; something else suffers. Before email came along, I actually corresponded with friends the good old-fashioned way--snail mail. I am still sad that people email instead of writing letters or cards. Some people even send Christmas cards by email. Oh just shoot me if I ever succumb to that! Anyway, after email there was blogging and then came Facebook (maybe not in that order). Once Facebook really took off, people started posting less on their blogs and people started reading less and commenting less on other blogs. Sometimes I wish I'd never joined the Facebook world. Even if I didn't though, the inevitable would happen.

Gosh, I sound like the world's going to end, don't I? It's not that bad, of course, but it is sad to see the blogging craze die down. Hey, maybe that's why it did. Maybe it was just a passing craze.

Anyway, for those of you who are still reading this and can take a few moments to comment, what do you think?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Husband of the Year

Sunday night Eric slept in the living room. It's not what you think...

Early Sunday morning I woke up with a horrible headache and took
some headache medicine on an empty stomach (yeah, bad idea, but I was in too much pain to think straight.) Anyway, I had a bad reaction to the medicine--and it didn't even work on my headache--so I was in bed all day Sunday, trying to fall asleep so I wouldn't feel the pain. Long story short, after hours of being awake--watching Netflix on Eric's laptop, writing in my notebook, just lying there--I finally was asleep at 8:30 p.m.

The next morning I awoke and the headache was gone, but so was something else. I looked over to find the other half of the bed empty. Later, Eric told me that he slept all night in the living room by the fireplace. He said he was cold. He only had two little dinky blankets to cover up with. I asked why he didn't get the thicker, bigger blankets and he said they were in our room. I said that he could have come in and gotten them because I wasn't using them. He said, "You had finally fallen asleep after trying all day. I did not want to wake you by coming in the room."

Not only did he take care of me all day Sunday, but my sweet husband froze his toes for me. He definitely gets the "Husband of the Year" award.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween at the Hodge Lodge

For Halloween this year, Amber was a China girl and Autumn was Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Amber really wanted to wear the dress that our friend brought back from China. With a bun in her hair, a lot of hairspray and my pretty chopsticks, she pulled off the look rather well. Autumn wore the Dorothy outfit her sister wore two years ago. Autumn looked more like Dorothy than Amber did because of her darker hair. They were so cute as they left the house with Daddy to go pilfer the neighborhoods! Long before the big night, this morning Amber and Autumn dressed up all of their stuffed animals for Halloween. They even dressed up a few Little Pet Shop animals with ponytail holders and hair clips. I have two very creative little girls. Whew! I am exhausted from the mad make-up/wardrobe dash to get them out the door. Happy Halloween!

The Big 40!

My last day of being 39...

The day I turned 40...

Three reasons I am glad to turn another year older...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My brain is about to explode!

All day long, Amber had asked me deep questions. Here are a few that I can remember:

How did the men who wrote the Bible know what to write?

What does faithful mean?

What does loyalty mean?

How did (young life teen) become a foster child?

She asked me a math question, too, but since math is my weakness, I can't even remember the question.

She asked more than just these, and I attempted to answer each one to the best of my knowledge. When I was putting her to bed, she asked me one more question about my age and my mom, etc. I was so tired that I said--in a sweet tone, "Amber, you've asked so many question today that I just can't answer one more, sweetie."

She said, "But they've all been good questions." I agreed with her and kissed her good-night.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Remembering a Great Aunt

Dortha June Smith
October 5, 1911 - October 19, 2009



Early Monday morning I heard the phone ring. It was my mom, and I knew immediately why she was calling. My beloved Aunt June had passed away, at the age of 98. She was my great aunt, in both meanings of the word "great."

Aunt June was my mom's mother's sister, but she helped raised my mom, so she was so much more than an aunt. She lived in Farmington, Missouri for most of her adult life. Though my family moved from St. Louis to Phoenix when I was 2 years old, we still went back to Missouri to visit from time to time. I have fond memories of going to my aunt's little home. Most of my memories, though, revolve around Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. Aunt June had a clear glass bowl on top of her refrigerator, filled with single sized Reeses (not the little bite-sized ones). When we would come over to visit, she would get it down and give us one peanut butter cup. It became a tradition, and to this day my all-time favorite candy bar is Reeses. It's all Aunt June's fault.

Aunt June was a strong woman. She married a military man in 1941, and less than 19 years later, she became a widow. She remained unmarried for the next 49 years until her death. She also outlived 10 brothers and sisters. She was an aunt of five generations.

I also remember Aunt June for her spunk. She was feisty. She knew what she wanted and could not be deterred. A few years ago, when her health began to slightly fail, she was upset because she was no longer allowed to push her wheelchair-bound friends to chapel on Sunday mornings at the retirement home in which she lived.

Aunt June loved God with all of her heart. Now she gets to see him face to face.

A Week in the Life of a Young Life Volunteer

Wow! It has been a crazy Young Life week for me! Some weeks are quiet, while others are bursting with teen activity. Here's a synopsis of what my week was like:

Sunday, October 11: Young Life Banquet-- a fund raising dinner that I and several other teens waited tables at. We all had a great time serving and laughing together.

Monday, October 12: Young Life Club (every other week outreach event), where I led songs and met several new students. We had great conversations while driving the students home after Club.

Tuesday, October 13: I stood up a Young Life teen. Yep, I forgot that I was going to take her out to lunch for her birthday and I literally left her standing in the rain.

Wednesday, October 14: (Noon) The teen forgave me and gave me a second chance. I picked her up in the rain, and we went out to a new Italian restaurant to celebrate.

Wednesday, October 14 (3:30 p.m.): I took another Young Life teen out to coffee for her birthday where we had a great conversation and I was blessed to see how this young lady is serving God with all of her heart.

Monday, October 19: Young Life Campaigners (ever other week Bible Study for teen leaders) was at our home. Three new people came. I led the Bible Study out of John 2:12-16, talking about Jesus' compassion for the oppressed and those being taken advantage of. We had a great discussion. Then the girls made jewelry while the guys went on a night-time beach swim. Brrrrr.

So that is what has been going on with Young Life in the Ojai Valley. We continue to see more and more new students showing up at both Club & Campaigners. We are growing. And more students are being introduced to Jesus. It's awesome!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Breakfast In Bed

I guess the novelty hasn't worn off, after all. This morning I woke up to a little 6-year-old beauty who brought me breakfast in bed. It was cheerios. With milk. Amber told me that she also got breakfast for her and her sister. "And I didn't spill anything," she said. Sometimes I wonder, "How did I become so blessed with this adorable, sweet family?" I know there are trying times (like right now when they are in the living room fighting over a stupid toy). But then there are times like this morning. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The novelty has worn off

Last week I emerged from my bedroom to find that breakfast had already been made--by Amber Shea! It was just cereal, but she put the milk in, too, and didn't spill anything as she carried each bowl from the counter to the table. She said, "Mommy, I made breakfast for you. I can make breakfast from now on so you don't have to."

She went on to say, "Can I make dinner tonight?" Well of course! And she made PB&Js that night. She made Southwest Salad the next night (with lettuce, black beans, corn & tortilla chips). It was delicious! Really.

Monday she made breakfast again--Cheerios with bananas she sliced and added. Yummy. This morning she made breakfast again. It was only jelly on bread, but it was breakfast, and it was on the table by the time I was dressed. She didn't know how to use the toaster oven, but I'll be showing her that next.

So last week she said she wanted to make dinner for us again this week. I suggested burritos and the plan was for her to make them tonight. At 5:00 this evening I said, "Amber, you should start making dinner now." She was really into whatever she was playing with and replied, "Can you make it?" I said, "But you wanted to make dinner tonight." She said, "How about I tell you what I want in the burritos. I want beans, corn and shredded cheddar cheese. You can make them, mom, but at least I told you the ingredients."

After recovering from my laughter, I convinced her to follow through with her dinner plans. I set out all of the ingredients for her and stepped aside. Amber laid out the tortillas and filled each one so fast I thought the beans were going to fly. The cheese actually did end up in more places than the tortillas. She barely rolled up each burrito before she was back to the living room and her play time. I had to call her back to the kitchen to clean up her mess and put away the step stool.

The burritos were delicious. But I think the cooking novelty has worn off. For now. It will return. I'll make sure of that. I was really enjoying my time away from the kitchen.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Amber's Song

Amber makes up songs almost daily. Below is the one she was singing in the bathtub today. I think it was so cute because she heard what she said and changed her tune (pun intended).


I'm flying high up in the sky

Then I fall and then I die

When I say I died, I didn't really die

I just got hurt.....



...and on the song went.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Small Town High School Football

Tonight was the first home game for Nordhoff, our city's only public high school. Eric and the girls and I went to the game and we had a great time! The couple in front of us were saints because Autumn must have kicked each of them at least 100 times, as she played musical chairs. First she sat next to Eric, then she sat next to me, then she stood on the bleachers, then she sat on my lap, then Eric's lap, then she tried to lay down, then she started the whole process all over again. The couple kept telling us that they didn't mind, and finally they said, "Stop worrying. We have 12 grandkids. We've had much worse happen to us."

During the game, Amber kept asking me questions about football. Those of you who know me well are probably laughing right now. I know nothing about football. First Amber asked about the players on the sidelines and told me that they must get bored just standing there the whole game. I told her that some of them get to play.

"See those guys on the field right now. They're the offensive people or group or team or something. When the other team has the ball, then the defensive people or group or whatever you call them go out on the field to play."

She asked me what the white lines on the field were for and I told her that I think there are five yards in between each line (am I right?)

Every time I said that "we had the ball" or that "we scored," Amber would say, "Mommy, WE don't have the ball, THEY do, pointing to the players on the field." I tried to explain that "we" means our team, not us personally, and "they" means the opposing team. I know I got that one right.

The funniest thing that happened was when Amber asked why we were so anxious when the other team had scored and was now down by only two points. I explained to her, loudly I might add, that "they were going for a 3-point conversion." I was so proud of myself for knowing that, until the kind man in front of me said, "Actually, it's a 2-point conversion."

Autumn also asked me questions all night, but most of them were about the our opponents, the Pirates. She kept asking where the Pirates were. I kept telling her that they were the guys with the white and orange uniforms on the field. Then it dawned on me why she was so confused, so I said, "The Pirates are football players, not pirates like what mommy dressed up for on Halloween." She was still confused, so I said, "The pirates are wearing white, with orange helmets. They aren't wearing eye patches and carrying swords." I don't know if she ever really understood.

It was a very fun evening, and we won: 14 to 12. Yay!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hard Day

Amber is a helper in the toddler room on Wednesday mornings during the women's Bible study I attend. She reads to the little ones and helps the teachers give out the snacks. She loves younger kids. Today as we drove home in the car, I asked her about her morning.

Amber let out a big sigh and said, "It was a hard day today. We had three spills at the snack table. It was very noisy when I read my book. Suzie hit another kid. And we had to put away the balls because Johnny threw one at his brother."



* Names were changed to protect the innocent.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Kid Funnies

My daughters have been saying some cute things lately. I thought I should write them down before I forget.

I was talking with Amber about the seasons and temperatures in Phoenix, where I grew up. I told her that it was sometimes warm in the winter, hot in the fall and hot in the spring. Without skipping a beat, she said, "And in the summer it is HOT, HOT, HOT!"

I was lying on the couch one day with a headache and Amber was repeating the same phrase over and over, something about her dolls. I said, "Amber, would you please stop saying that." She asked why and I told her that it was annoying to repeat something over and over. Then she said, "It's annoying to repeat things. It's annoying to repeat things. It's annoying to repeat things. It's annoying to repeat things." I really don't think she was doing it on purpose or to be funny; she was just zoning out. But I had to start laughing at that point!

We had house guests last week, a family of six. As we got ready for church last Sunday, Autumn came into the bathroom and asked me, "Can the other mommy fix my hair this morning?"

The girls and I were playing "Mother May I?" and Amber was the "mother." She decided to be funny and said, "Autumn, take 3 steps back." Autumn returned the humor when she turned around and took 3 backward steps, toward Amber. I laughed, but Amber didn't think it was very funny!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Error!

I was commenting on my friend, Becky's, blog and I got this error:

You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down.

It's a little weird to receive criticism from an inanimate object .

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Man

Yeah, my man is a stud!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lazy Days of Summer

We decided to "take the summer off" this year. That decision resulted in a wonderful summer of extended play time with my girls, more family time, less travel and less appointments or events on the calendar (which meant less miles on the car). The only two major things we did was: 1.) Eric & I went to Catalina Island for our annual 5 days without the kids. 2.) Eric & I were leaders at a Young Life camp called Woodleaf. (My sister flew in from Colorado to watch the girls for us). Other than that, we just had a kick-back summer (isn't that the way it's supposed to be?). I read 6 1/2 books (skimmed one) and we entertained the neighbor kids a ton. Here's a slide show of our lazy summer. We...
...played with neighborhood children and saw a lot of Pete (a Young Life teen)...

...had a few tea parties...
...celebrated Father's Day...

...did water aerobics 4 days a week (Christine, that is)...

...celebrated 4th of July...

...had Gourmet Group at our home...



...made lots of crafts...

...did a babysitting swap with the Gonzalez girls...

...watched our garden grow...

...went to a nearby alpaca ranch...

...celebrated each other at Catalina Island...

...found 2 frogs in our bathroom...

...found 3 lizards in our house...

...saw cousin Sarah (Eric's niece) when she visited from Canada...

...had fun with Auntie Deborah (Christine's sister)...

...went to the Sierra Nevada Mts. to hang out with teen-agers...

...made scrapbooks with the neighbor girls...

...had McKayla stay the night.
It was a wonderful summer!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Funny Story from Guest Blogger, Eric Hodge

My husband, Eric, wrote this after his recent boat trip to Cortez Bank--an off-shore sea mount 120 miles off the Southern California coast.

***

Okay Guys,I have a confession to make,I really don't take James out on the boat because he is a nice guy or a good friend or even a good diver, It is really because of the FOOD!

As many of you know, James is a private chef and brings along some of the most amazing food, and I just happen to never bring enough out when we go out together. It all starts with the really good smoked turkey sandwiches with some high dollar sharp cheddar. I start giving them wayward glances, hoping that James will ask if I want some. When he finally asks, I make one that is way bigger than his normal sized one. Then out comes this chicken in some crazy herb stuff-- no more looks here, I just go straight to asking for some, thinking that after the huge sandwich I made, he might never offer me anything again. I know there was some other stuff that I can't even remember, but I do remember begging and groveling for some.

Then after a long day of diving he brakes out what I have been waiting all trip for: the cookie bars with chocolate chips, walnuts and sun-dried cherries! I then resort to the very lowest of of all forms of food gathering, I start to sneak and steal, waiting until he is totally exhausted and sleeping in the cabin before I start on the cookie bars. I then realize that the bars are almost gone. He wakes up, goes to the cookie container and opens it with a gasp. I look away with a "What? Me?" kind of look. Like there was anyone else 120 miles out in the ocean that is going to take the cookies.

After all this, I think James knows my plan anyway. I guess it just comes down to the fact that I have the boat and he has the amazing food. We both need each other.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Young Life's Woodleaf 2009

The week of August 3, Eric and I took Young Life teen-agers to Woodleaf, a camp in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, near Sacramento. It was a week of fun and excitement and exhaustion, a week of reflection and growth. (If you want to know the whole story, let me know and I'll email you the long version I typed for my family.) Woodleaf is what I am now dubbing the "camp of many clothing changes." I decided to keep a tally of how many times I changed my clothes in one day and it was FOUR to FIVE times EVERY DAY! We'd wear one thing to breakfast, and then change into athletic clothes for games and then change into free time clothes, (which usually meant a swimsuit), then change into clothes for our adventure of the day (ropes course or sand rails, etc.) and then into night time clothes, which every few days meant dressing up in a themed outfit. We were life guards one day, sported athletic apparel another day, dressed in 1980s outfits one night, and twice we had to wear "clothes we would never wear again" for the muddy games! We rode the zip line, kayaked in the lake, did the ropes course, climbed the Tower and drove sand rails around a muddy track! You can see now why I love being a Young Life leader--I get to dress up in fun costumes and participate in thrilling adventures. Here's just a few of the 122 pictures I took. Enjoy!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Amber's first day of school

Amber is officially a first-grader! Yesterday Amber told me that she wanted to start school today. I wasn't going to officially start until August 25, the day Autumn returns to preschool, but since Amber was so enthusiastic, I decided to go for it. She really wanted to do math, her favorite subject, so I got out some fun addition flash cards. She already knows a lot of the answers, but it was an easy way to ease back into things on such short notice. Then I started teaching her how to tell time, which was going to be the first thing I did with her this school. year. She had a fun time with the clock. While Amber was in school, Autumn looked at alphabet flash cards and played with Legos. It was a fun and stress-free first day of school.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Getting back into the swing of things...

It's been four days since we returned from Woodleaf. The first day was spent taking my sister to the airport and buying necessities like pull-ups & toilet paper from Target. The next two days were spent playing with my girls while doing laundry, more than normal because everything including shoes and backpacks had to be washed (Woodleaf dirt is the worst). Today is "computer catch-up day." I've done all of the Facebook stuff (ignoring almost all of the invites and gifts people sent me--sorry). Then I read all of my friend's blogs--not commenting on them because that would take too much time--sorry. I've uploaded, deleted and enhanced pictures from camp and from the time spent with my sister before camp. And now I am sending out a quick blog before having a late lunch with my girls. There's so much to blog about, but I will have to do that later. I just wanted to send out a quick "hello" to everyone...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

My Summer Reading List

I have been having a wonderful, relaxing summer, and it's not even over yet! I have already read 5 1/2 books, and I'm reading one more for the next book club. I'm not bragging, it's just that I've never read so much in one small time frame since college (and that wasn't pleasure reading). I have really enjoyed slowing down and doing something I used to find pleasure in. Now I find myself looking forward to the next book.

The books I've read are:

The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen (for the summer book club I joined)-- I highly recommend it for an enjoyable, relaxing read, 400+ pages.

Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers by Shane Clairborne & Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove-- I highly recommend it. It's a reflective book based on the premise that we shouldn't just pray and then sit back and do nothing; we should be about God's kingdom so that we are "the answer to our own prayers."

Hidden Treasures-- a little 200-pager, a romance read that is very predictable. Don't waste your time.

The Noticer by Andy Andrews (for the summer book club)-- I highly recommend it. It's a shorter book that is easy to read in just a few sittings. It's supposedly non-fiction and enjoyable and insightful.

Sisterchicks on the Loose by Robin Jones Gunn--I read this book from start to almost finish while Eric and I were at Catalina Island. It's very enjoyable and a fun read that will have you laughing out loud at times.

Have a New Kid by Friday by Dr. Kevin Leman (I skimmed through this book)-- This one was NOT a pleasure book, but it had some good ideas for me to implement into my parenting style. It wasn't the best book I've read on parenting, though.

Friday, July 17, 2009

And there was great wailing at the Hodge Lodge today

My girls fought all morning with two of their friends.
I took away each of their favorite stuffed animals for 24 hours.
Now they are in "nap" time in two separate rooms.
One is crying hysterically, yelling "Pinky, I want Pinky!"
The other is crying softly, saying, "Not Heart! Why did you take away Heart?!"
I think the punishment is working.
But we'll see when they spend 2 1/2 days with those same friends, starting Sunday.
Pray people, pray.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Imaginary Friends have jobs, too!

We were eating breakfast one morning last week and Amber said to me, "Mom, you know what? My imaginary friend, Galey, makes plastic. That's her job. And my imaginary friend, Lee, is the shaper. Galey gives the plastic to Lee and she makes shapes out of it."

Autumn told me that her imaginary friend, Tiger, makes spoons, and she held up her cereal spoon.

Then Amber remembered her third imaginary friend, Gastle, and told me that she digs holes for Lake Casitas. She said, "Gastle made the Lazy River. And she's only 15."

Have you ever heard of imaginary friends having jobs? And such creative ones, at that!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rainbow Fish

Amber got a beta fish yesterday at a birthday party. I didn't know a girl could have so much fun with a fish. She named it "Rainbow Hodge," but she is still trying to come up with a proper middle name.

She has had so much fun with that fish in the two short days she has had him (or her). Last night she spent an hour just watching him and "playing" with him. She said, "Mom, I'm going to tease him. I'm going to put my finger up to the bowl and then take it away. That's okay to tease a fish, mom. Don't worry, I wouldn't tease a person, though."

Today it got even cuter when Amber asked me to babysit her fish while she went out back to play. She said, "If you hear a 'bubble, bubble, bubble,' then that means he's crying and could you sing him a lullaby."

Later, as I was in the kitchen baking, Amber gave me a "play-by-play" of what Rainbow was doing. "He opened his mouth really wide, mom." "Oh, he's swimming to the bottom, mom." "Oh, I think he's tired, mom." "He likes me playing with him, mom." And my favorite: "Mom, my fish kissed me. Not out of the water. I put my lips to the bowl to give him as kiss and he came over and kissed where my lips were!"

Amber has even read a book to Rainbow! Just think if we had a dog...

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Queen Who Cleans

The Queen Who Cleans Toilets and Other Things

I'm watching my friend's two girls today as a part of a babysitting swap, and they decided to role-play "castle" characters all afternoon. Taylor decided she wanted to be the servant. Alex & Amber & Autumn are the princesses. I am the Queen. Taylor has been serving us tea for hours. Alex & Amber have been doing each other's hair in the Beauty Parlour. Autumn has been taking her Royal Nap. What has the Queen been doing? Laundry, with small breaks for tea and hair styling. Dishes, with another break for more tea. And cleaning the bathrooms. While I was bent over the toilet, cleaning, Taylor brought in another cup of tea for the Queen and set it by the sink. I told her I would have my tea as soon as I washed my royal hands. I'm pretty sure I'm the only Queen who cleans her own bathrooms and does her own laundry. But with a servant bringing me tea, breaking up the dull-drum of cleaning, it has made the chores seem to go by much faster. And when one of the princesses spilled her royal water all over the tile floor, Taylor refused to let the Queen clean it up and grabbed a towel and sopped up the water. Being a Queen on cleaning day is working out quite nicely!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Creative Crafting

I really enjoy making crafts with my girls. What I do not enjoy is how impatient they get as I set up the craft table with all the supplies. Then I am spent before we even start making the craft. So about a year ago I had the brilliant idea to set up the craft table ahead of time while they are out of sight and then surprise them with "craft time." This has worked wonderfully.

Yesterday my good friend, Lea, gave me four cardboard shoeboxes and I was so excited. She also gave me the shoes that were inside them, but I think I was more thrilled with the boxes! Oh the possibilities! (I may have a shoebox fetish.) Today I had another one of those "light bulbs" appear over my head. I am planning to make a lot of crafts with my girls over the summer, and so I decided that I am going to fill each shoebox with the supplies needed for each craft. For example, string and beads and scissors and wire and clasps will all go into one box to make necklaces. Stamps and ink pads and cut paper and glue sticks will go into another box for card-making. Within minutes I will have four "craft kits" ready to go for those days when the girls say, "Mom, can we do a craft?" Well, I'm going to go fill some boxes!

Last summer: My girls (plus 3) displaying their purses made with Kleenix boxes and ribbon, and their journals covered with paper placemats.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Thank You, Kind Sir!

I had to return something to Target today and decided the girls could spend $3 each out of their piggy banks. They had a fun time looking at the toys and deciding which one they wanted to buy on their limited budget. I got a few groceries and we headed for the check-out lanes. So far it was a really nice, stress-free trip to the mega-store. However, my temperature always rises when I get to the cashier. There's usually someone behind me who is in a rush and that makes me nervous because I have to juggle putting the goods on the conveyor belt, answering my kids nagging questions, giving the cashier my reusable bags and making sure the kiddos don't wander away. Today my stress lever rose even higher because I knew my girls would want to purchase their toys with their own money they brought in their wallets. I like to let them do this because it teaches them about saving and spending and tax, etc. A gentleman got in line behind us and I said to him--in a worn-out voice, "Sir, you may want to get in another line because we are going to be here awhile. We are making three separate purchases." He smiled at me and said, "I'm not in a hurry. Take your time." Then he proceeded to open up the folding beach chair he was going to purchase and plopped it down on the floor and asked Autumn if she wanted to sit in the chair and rest while she waited. I was extremely grateful--not only for his patience, but for his sense of humor and light-heartedness. I don't even know if I properly thanked him for his kindness because at that moment all of the quarters that Amber put in her wallet spilled out into the bottom of my big purse as I was trying to hand her her wallet. Yeah, it was crazy, but I was so thankful that God put the right person behind me in line.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Rainy Day in June

It rained today. Autumn loved it. She ran outside and twirled around and around in the droplets. Amber went outside, too, but she acted like it was too cold. Who would've thought it would rain mid-June. I love it, though!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

To make you smile

I saw some funny quotes on scrapbook stickers yesterday. I had to share some of the funny ones, just to bring a smile to your day. The first one is my favorite. Enjoy! (BTW, they're not copyrighted, so I can do this. That's for the lawyers out there!)

I hate housework. You make the beds, wash the dishes and 6 months later you have to do it all over again. (Joan Rivers)

(the rest are anonymous)

I only have a kitchen because it came with the house.

"Normal" is just a setting on the dryer.

Dull women have immaculate houses.

I child-proofed the house, but they're still getting in.

Cooking by appointment only.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

School's Out for Amber!

Today was the last day of homeschooling for Amber. Next week Autumn will finish preschool and then we will officially start the summer here at the Hodge Lodge--a summer of mostly relaxation. Yay!
There were so many cute things Amber did and said during the last school year, but I will share two funny things that I wrote down...
Back in March, Amber was doing her vocabulary word hunt through the house. I write the words on index cards and then hide them all over the living room. When she finds a word, she has to say it and then say the word in a sentence. I got the idea from another homeschool mom, Lisa. Sometimes Amber finds two words and tries to use them in the same sentence. This particular day, she found four words right in a row, and saved them to use in one sentence (Jim, dig, fib, wig). Her sentence turned out to be more of a short poem. Here's what she came up with on her own:

Jim is a pirate
He likes to dig
He told a fib
while he stole a wig.

A few weeks ago, I was giving Amber a spelling test (which is her favorite thing to do at school). I say the word, sound it out and say it in a sentence. The word was "win" and my sentence was "I am going to win the race." Amber said, "Mom, I have a question...How does someone know they are going to win a race?" Ha ha, she got me there. I guess I am just a little bit optimistic--and competitive. Nothing gets by Amber.

I hope as the school year winds down, you and your family will have a fun and relaxing summer. After all, isn't that what summer break is for?

Working in her workbook

Taking her last test

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

13 Years!


We went out to dinner for our 13th anniversary tonight. When we told our waitress we've been married 13 years, she said, "Did you get married at age 10? You look so young!" Then on our way out, the hostess said to Eric, "You sure robbed the cradle when you got married." Since I'm 6 yrs older than Eric, I was pretty jazzed! So, of course, Suzanne's Cuisine is now our favorite restaurant! : )
Also, when we were sharing a martini, waiting for our dinner, a lady at the next table smiled at me. I smiled back. Then she came over and gave us a twenty dollar bill and said, "Your drink is on me. I think you two are so sweet and I'm living vicariously through you. Happy anniversary." Wow--that was so sweet! It was a wonderful anniversary!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Now that's something you don't see every day!

It's laundry day. I just pulled out the lint screen to empty it, and among the lint was a dead, black cricket! And it was all intact, no missing limbs! Of course it was clean, too, and all ready for a proper burial in the trash can.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I just can't help myself

An hour ago, Amber asked me to pop some popcorn for a snack. I said I would do it in a few minutes, after I got my scrapbook out of the closet for Scrapbook Day tomorrow. I opened the craft closet, saw Amber's new sewing box that needed to be organized. I worked on that and then I saw some things that I never repaired that I decided to throw away. Then I saw some random craft supplies that needed to be put in a better place. THEN I got to the back of the closet where my empty scrapbooks are kept. (I usually get them on clearance and then stock up.) I noticed that they were all out of sorts and so I just had to rearrange them. A few minutes ago, Amber said, "Mom, could you please make the popcorn, I haven't had my snack yet." Talk about patience! I popped the popcorn and explained to Amber that I just couldn't help myself. I got sucked into the fun task of organization. You'd think I'd run out of things to organize, but I just can't help myself. I love it! Now back to the closet--I still never chose what scrapbook to use for tomorrow!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bleach?

Okay, some of you won't get this, so I have to set it up...When Eric spears a fish, he BLEEDS the fish in the ocean and then brings it on deck. Amber has seen him do this dozens of times.

So a few days ago Amber made fishing poles for us from straws and yarn--all her idea. We were on the couch (the boat) pretending to fish in the carpet (the ocean) and she caught a fish. She brought it up to the couch and said, "Now I'm going to bleach the fish," and proceeded to pretend to cut open her catch. I laughed and laughed.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Funky Town!

(Don't worry, I have Eric's permission to show this picture.)

This afternoon, Amber, Autumn and Nathalie--one of the neighbor girls--were playing in the bedroom and Amber came out dressed in her usual eclectic style. Eric said she was "funky" and decided to get in on the act, as well as the rest of the girls. I just had to take pictures. Now they are presently listening to "Funky Town" on the computer and dancing in the living room. If only you could see that!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sisters?

Laura Ingalls:

Marcia Brady:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Woodleaf Volunteer Vacation


My family and I spent the middle two weeks of April in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, on what we called a "volunteer vacation." We stayed at Woodleaf, a Young Life camp about an hour from Yuba City. Eric helped the camp mechanic fix camp vehicles and staff cars. In return, we got free lodging and most of our meals free. It was an awesome two weeks!

Woodleaf was an old gold rush town, established in the early 1850s. Some of the original buildings are still standing and in use. Now Woodleaf is a camp for teen-agers. It is gorgeous and so full of history. There was a photo opportunity around every corner.

We stayed in a two-bedroom cabin with a little kitchen. "Roadhouse," the name of the cabin, was near the auto shop and dining hall. Eric spent his days at the shop while I took care of the girls. They have a great work ethic at Woodleaf. Most of the employees start the day at 7:30, take a break at 10:00, eat lunch at noon, take another break at 2:00 and end the day at 4:00.
My typical day with the girls consisted of breakfast, homeschooling, long walks, lunch with Eric at the cabin, nap/quiet time, more exploring or craft time and then spending the rest of the afternoon/evening with Eric. Almost every day after work, Eric took one or both girls to the lake to fish. They caught (and released) several large-mouth bass those weeks. Eric also taught his new friend, Jonathan, how to fish, fillet and cook the bass that were plentiful in the lake. Every morning the girls and I would go on long (1 to 2 hour) walks all over Woodleaf. We’d set out in a different direction each day–around camp, around the lake, across the road and around the other lake, to the old abandoned horse stables, through the forest. No matter which way we went, there was always something new and beautiful to see!
It was very peaceful up in the mountains, and quiet in our cabin (well, except for the sounds of two little girls playing, fighting, crying, whining, laughing). There was no cell phone reception, and in the cabin there was no cable/VCR/DVD player, no radio/ipod–there wasn’t even an alarm clock! It was very nice!
Up at Woodleaf, we had all four seasons in two weeks. It was 31 when we got there. The next day it was in the 40s. The next day it snowed! Two days later it was in the 70s. The next week it was in the 90s. Then two days after that it was in the 50s and then it rained! I am not exaggerating. It was delightful to watch Amber catch snowflakes in her mouth. It was the first time Amber had seen snow fall. Poor Autumn was asleep. It only snowed for 20 minutes.
Amber celebrated her 6th birthday while we were at Woodleaf. We had a "Fancy Nancy" party and invited all of the famlies that lived on camp. The turnout was great; we had 20 people in attendance and celebrated on the porch of our cabin. It really touched my heart that people who had only met us a few days before, would come to Amber’s party. It meant a lot to Amber, too!
The hospitality that we received from the families that lived on camp was amazing! It far exceeded my expectations. I had brought food to cook, but only had to prepare an evening meal twice during the two weeks. We got to eat in the dining hall on the weekends when the kitchen was in service and during the week, families asked us one-by-one to join them for dinner. We even did a babysitting swap with a family, so we (and they) could go out on a date. Our girls were invited several times to play with other little kids on camp, too.
One day as we walked around the lake with another family, we accidentally caught a little perch, the size of a goldfish. I named it Frisbee because he swam into a frisbee that I was rescuing out of the lake. We brought it back to the cabin and kepi it in a bowl–our first pet as a family. After a week, it died. Amber cried for 30 minutes, all the while Autumn kept consoling her with, "I’m sorry Sissy that the fish died." It was precious!
Early in the first week, Eric fixed Jonathan’s Honda Mini Trail 70. He said we could use it while we were there. Eric took the girls on rides around camp after work a lot and I enjoyed riding it on my own.
One of the most fun things we did during our time at Woodleaf was go through the Lost & Found items that had accumulated for a year. The staff let us join them and their families as they looked through all of the loot. We could take as much as we wanted. The teens sure do leave behind some nice stuff! Eric got a whole box-full of t-shirts and zipper sweatshirts, tennis shoes, brand new/expensive flip flops, hats and socks. The girls got purses and jewelry and sunglasses. I got a shirt, pajamas, shoes, a hat and a beach towel. But more than all of the stuff that we got, we enjoyed the fun conversation as we tried to pick out clothes for each other and we laughed together at the crazy sayings on some of the shirts. It was a lot of fun!
I could go on and on about the two weeks we spent at Woodleaf; I filled up pages and pages in my journal. It was a fun, relaxing break from the craziness of life. We helped out a ministry we are in love with. We met people whom we will be friends with forever. And we were blessed!
The "Roadhouse" is the cabin we stayed in.

A walk in the woods.

Self portrait in the woods.


Motorcycle ride--don't worry, she wore a helmet.