Thursday, December 31, 2009

Oh, what fun!


Getting things ready around here for our annual New Year's Eve party. Just a small gathering this year ... keeps things more enjoyable.

On the healthy menu ... pizza dippers with ranch, turkey pasta with grapes, taco dip, sausage balls, veggie tray, hummus with pita chips, and we are setting up our chocolate fountain with pineapple, strawberries, pretzel rods and angel food cake. Yum.

I got The Game of Things to play ... wow, that makes me sound really old. Has anyone ever played that game? It sounds like it should be a good laugh. Yup -- spending part of my evening playing a game! Ha.

Some of our friends are spending the night so they can enjoy themselves tonight. That means Kyle and I get a sleep over with the kids ... oh, what fun! Ha.

No ... really ... I want everyone to stay because that means more fun for me!

I hope you all have a great New Year's Eve celebration ... no matter where you are. Many wishes for a happy, healthy and blessed new year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Stuff 'N Nonsense

Zhu Zhu Update ---> After I emailed the buyer with my sincere apology and explanation of what happened, I got a message from her through ebay asking why she had not heard from me. WTF. I told her that I had emailed her on December 23 and forwarded that email to her. She was completely rude to me and told me she hadn't checked her email, that she had only checked her messages through ebay. All this despite the fact that I again told her I felt horrible for what was a true oversight. I told her I had hoped she would be a little more understanding and that I hoped she had a BLESSED new year.

In other words I was trying to bite my lip.

Honestly, I just hate that everyone is so quick to see the worst in people. Good grief ... it was a fricken honest mistake. I understand that she is upset that she didn't have the gift by Christmas ... they ended up being for her grandkids -- she is a Grandma. Had this happened to me and had I received an honest explanation from the seller, I would have understood!

I would have panicked ... but I would have understood!

I guess that is what it comes down to for me ... I'm so sick of negative people. Good grief -- HAVE A BLESSED NEW YEAR.


On to a more positive note --->

Good news!

We found out yesterday that our therapy center has hired a new speech therapist. She is coming from our local school system ... not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. The speech therapists in our school system seem to have a different approach to speech therapy than our last speech therapist did.

We shall see.

Prior to the departure of our beloved speech therapist, she sent us this note ...

Payton and Nika have been wonderful girls to work with. Their growth since I first saw them has been absolutely fantastic. You both have been so active in therapy and with implementing activities! I truly appreciated being a part of your team.


Remember Kristen? Her sister -- Kim Van Meter -- is a published harlequin romance author and journalist. She has a column in The Oakdale Leader ... and for her last column, she wrote about the many blessings that Kristen, Scott and Ethan have received this holiday season.

Stuff ‘N Nonsense - The Spirit of Christmas
By Kim Van Meter
Staff Reporter

Miles away in a different time zone, where snow buries the yards and Old Man Winter takes up residence for a wintry season, the true spirit of Christmas blossomed in the bosoms of total strangers to the benefit of those close to me — my sister, nephew and brother-in-law.

First, I have to give a little back story. I’m the oldest of four siblings. One of my sisters — the second oldest — moved her family to North Carolina in order to send my nephew, Ethan, to a special school for children with Down Syndrome. This was a huge shock to the family as we are all California-born and bred and the thought of uprooting was something we couldn’t understand. But my sister Kristen had become a voracious advocate, not only for Ethan but for every child with special needs and she wanted to do the best by her son, even if it meant selling their home and starting a whole new life away from everyone and everything they’d ever known.

Two weeks after they’d arrived in North Carolina, Ethan was diagnosed with leukemia. Separated from family, alone and scared, my sister did what she always does when faced with adversity — she persevered.

Again and again.

My nephew went through three years of chemotherapy where his hair fell out and caused awful sores to erupt in his mouth that bled constantly, severe reflux, and aspiration. Most recently he was diagnosed with autism, a sensory processing disorder, and Tethered Cord Syndrome.

At 8 years old, Ethan is nonverbal and only recently started to walk, thanks to the discovery of the tethered cord (another instance where “Mama Bear” Kristen went after and found the cause of her son’s issue) so up until now, she has had to carry him on her hip even though he weighs as much as the average second grader. Oh, and did I mention that my sister has rheumatoid arthritis? Yeah. And there’s more.

At one time my sister was in banking. She loved her job and she was good at it. But Ethan’s medical needs swamped her available vacation time, sick and personal days. She could no longer hold a job. Her husband, Scott, became their sole support.

A month ago he lost his job.

Chalk another one up to the tanking economy.

They were barely making it before and now…the outlook is grim.

Kristen broke down in tears. They were going to lose their house.

It’s been years since my sister could afford Christmas. Frankly, with the daily struggle to care for Ethan and juggle his mounting medical bills, it was the least of their worries.

But this Christmas my sister and her family were blessed.

First, their church delivered a fully decorated Christmas tree right to their door.

Second, a friend wrote a compelling blog post about my sister and their plight. Presents started to arrive for the whole family, which were delivered last week to tears of gratitude.

And I realized, this was the true spirit of Christmas. Not the presents specifically, but the outpouring of support and love from strangers who opened their hearts and their wallets to help a family who is being beaten down by life through no fault of their own.

I wish I had the resources to smooth the road my sister is traveling but I don’t. I can only send what I can and offer my shoulder to cry upon. I can listen and share her tears but I can’t take away the pain, frustration and despair.

If only I could.

My sister personifies grace under pressure. She’s kind, generous, and stubbornly loyal. She’s the kind of person who takes what life has given her without complaint and then goes after the positive like the Mama Bear she is. She doesn’t accept defeat. She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t allow anyone else to, either. Yet, when she said in a tear-choked voice, “I can’t take any more…” I nearly lost it for her. There’s only so much one can take. And my sister had reached her limit.

I’m so humbled and grateful a group of strangers did what I could not — and not only gave her a Christmas to remember but buoyed her belief that life is good and there are unseen blessings out there, waiting to add joy to our lives, if even only briefly.

So here’s a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has given selflessly this season. Let us all pay it forward with acts of kindness. It matters and it counts. Sometimes more than we know…

Sidenote: I encourage everyone to read the blog post on my sister and see the pictures. They’ll bring tears to your eyes. Click here for the link.


How many times have you made a New Year's resolution to exercise and lose weight? Umm ... I have ... several times.

And here I sit ... not exercising and weighing probably the most I have ever weighed.


For reasons I'll explain later, I have totally been inspired to start running. As in training to run a 5K, or a 10-miler, or a marathon. Ha -- riiight.

*snaps self out of it*

Must be positive. I hate running. Seriously -- hate it. My husband tells me I don't even know how to run. Whatever -- he can kiss my arse.

But I want to love running. I want to have that sense of pride that you get when you finish a 5K. I want to be a part of the camaraderie.

Thus ... January 1, 2010, marks the beginning of Operation Couch to 5K. I have been fitted with running shoes and I am ready to start training.

Care to join me? You have three days to give yourself a pep talk, get your gear and get ready ... because we are going to do this!

Monday, December 28, 2009

I love me some Christmas cards

I have always been a big card person. Birthday cards. Anniversary cards. Christmas cards. I love them all.

It took my husband a few years to figure this out ... but now we are good to go. Ahem.

The other day I was moving some older pictures off of my laptop and onto my external drive ... and I came across our old Christmas cards.

2005 ...

2006 ... I loved this card ... and still do.

2007 ...
xmas card 2007-1

2008 ...

2009 ...
xmas card

I have a metal thingamajig that holds all of the Christmas cards we get each year. I love having them compiled in one place and the kids love looking at them.


Are you a card person ... or am I just really high maintenance? Don't answer the last part of that question.

The City

Last night we decided to go into the city* with some long time friends of ours ... all of our kids have been cooped up over the holidays and itching to play together.

*The city is what Mason has always called any large city with big buildings ... New York City, Washington, DC ... any of them. Technically makes sense, I suppose. But rather than say, "Are we going to DC?" ... he will say, "Are we going to the city?"

We went to ESPN Zone for games and dinner ... the kids love that place.

Mason and his best friend, Alex. They have known each other since they were a year old.

Dinner was quite an experience ... if you are someone who enjoys waiting 30 minutes for your drink to show up, then I recommend this dining experience for you. Ha.

After dinner we went over to the White House to see the National Christmas tree. Earlier in the night, I realized I forgot to put the battery back in camera ... so pictures courtesy of my camera phone it was. I hate when that happens.


Isn't it beautiful?
Just imagine how much more beautiful it would be if the picture was clear. Ha.

Surrounding the large tree are smaller Christmas trees ... one for each state and U.S. territory. And off to the side is a giant yule log* and a manger scene.


*The yule log was not lit ... although they clearly had tried, evidence of the fuel smell. I'm guessing the logs were too wet after all the snow and rain we have had. It was a shame, since I heard it is a pretty amazing yule log fire. The fire pit was about 10 feet in diameter ... you can only imagine how large the fire would be.

We love hanging out with our friends, The Zampinos. We each have three kids that are all the same age and the same sex. We met them years ago when the boys were in daycare together. Now ... our kids* are literally obsessed with each other.

*Girls and boys alike.

The middle girls ... Payton and Hannah ... held hands the entire night ... it was so cute. The thing that I love the most is that Hannah could care less that Payton has Down syndrome. Hannah talks to Payton, explains things to her and Payton says, "Yeah?"

The girls walking through the parking garage ... holding hands.
The youngest pipsqueaks are also hanging tight in this picture.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

... and to all a goodnight!

I love Christmas Eve and the traditions that come with it.

Every year we have dinner at my mom's and then attend the Service of Lessons and Carols at church ... and this year was no different. The kids were so good and Chicky sang along in her own version of each Christmas carol ... so cute.


After church we took the kids through a local festival of lights. We always let them get out of their car seats and join us in the front of the car while we slowly drive through the festival ... they love it!








And then once we got home, the kids Mason tracked Santa on the computer ...



... put oatmeal and glitter reindeer food outside for Santa's reindeer ... and left milk and cookies for Santa.


Just before bed, they opened their Christmas pajamas from the tooth fairy. She comes every Christmas Eve, teeth or no teeth ...




Once the kids were all nestled in their beds ... Santa's helpers were up until 4 a.m. wrapping presents -- because they had lost their heads.

Shh ... looks like Santa has been here!


Merry Christmas to all ... and to all a goodnight!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Oh bleepity bleep bleep bleep!

The hot ticket item for kids this year seems to be Zhu Zhu Hamsters. Up until a couple months ago, I had never heard of them. In fact, when a friend posted on facebook that she was looking for a Zhu Zhu Hamster ... I really wondered how she was going to have a live hamster shipped to her!

Then I googled them ... and found out they are just a toy. Ha.

It is in my nature -- I guess -- to have the hot ticket item. You gotta play the game, right?

So in my search for Zhu Zhu Hamsters this holiday season, I ended up with two 3-pack hamster sets ... but I only needed one. I listed them on ebay and sold them since I had no other use for them.

The buyer paid. I marked the item as shipped. Done deal.

Until today.

Today I got an email from the buyer asking what day I shipped the item. I checked in my shipping account ... but I didn't see that buyer's shipment.

Crap. What in the heck?!

I racked my brain trying to figure out if I did indeed ship those hamsters or not. They were not sitting on the counter where they had been, so they must have gone out.


But where is my proof of shipment? And why is it that my brain cannot think?!

I figured I better check my hiding spot to make sure I didn't stick them in there on accident. After all ... I had just gathered up some of gifts to stash in there. Did I accidentally grab both 3-packs of hamsters?

Sure enough ... two sets of 3-pack hamsters sitting right there in front of my eyes.

Oh bleepity bleep bleep bleep!

What am I going to do?! I'm positive this buyer needs these hamsters for Christmas ... they are the hot ticket item! And tomorrow is Christmas Eve! What in the world am I going to do -- she is going to be soo mad at me!

So I sent her this email ...

Umm ... hi. I am so sorry. I'm gonna be honest here and tell you how much of an airhead I clearly am. I thought for sure I had sent this, but after receiving your email and not being able to find your shipment in my shipping
account, I just looked where I have my kids gifts and there they sat.

*smacks forehead*

I had two sets, one of which I kept for my kids and the other I sold to you. When I was shipping everything out, I must have grabbed these thinking they were the ones I needed to put away ... and instead they were yours. :(


Ugh. I have a feeling you are going to tell me you needed these for Christmas, but I'm really hoping that is not what you are going to say so I will feel a teeny bit better. Please let me know so I can figure this out. :(

I have not heard back from the buyer yet. I am so nervous she is going to yell at me. Seriously ... am I the only one who has a brain of mush?

I think I need to refill my Gingko ... now.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas -- 4 more days!

xmas card

He had the biggest grin ever.

A few weeks back, the kids and I got a package together to send the troops for Thanksgiving. It was part of a massive effort headed up by my friend, Michelle, to get Thanksgiving dinner to her husband and the rest of the troops where he is stationed in Afghanistan.

Michelle got some pictures from Joe of the Thanksgiving day effort ...


It really gives you an idea of what roughing it means ... don't you think?

And seeing them all lined up ... taking part in this feast while serving our country ... it just warms my heart to no end.


Thank you so much to Joe for taking time out to do this ...


I cried when I saw it ... and Mason had the biggest grin ever.

Then he said, "Remember how you had to help me make the stars, because I didn't know how?"

And ... "I got to stay up late that night!"

Yes son
, you did get to stay up late that night so we could get our package packed and you could finish your drawing. Ahh, the things that kids remember.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snowflakes keep fallin' on my head ...

It's a blizzard out there. The sixth largest in the history of this area ... or so they say.

I think so far we have about 2 feet of snow that has fallen. However, the drifting is so bad, that in some places it is 3-4 feet deep ... maybe more. Our deck chairs were almost buried at noon today (sans drifting) ... and it hasn't stopped snowing since.


Kyle built a snow fort for the kids ... using his pile of shoveled snow in the driveway. Mason was so excited!


And although we were a little more prepared for snow than last time ... we still were not completely there. Thus ... Payton wore her brother's old hat to give her some chin coverage ...


... and Mason wore my size 9 Columbia boots.


And Nika ... well, she just smiled in her thrown-together-unmatching digs.


If I didn't know better ... I'd think Payton was a cute little boy, wearing that hat.


Speaking of ... does she not look just like Mason?! Talk about looking like a boy! Oh, my poor sweet girl.



Nika ... yep, she is still smiling.


I -- Bethany -- hereby vow to never procrastinate buying boots and snowpants ever again.

I'm so sorry children. We may not get another snow storm for 18 years ... but by golly, we will be prepared!

My baby girl -- Payton ... contemplated revenge.


Darn you for making me wear this hat! But ain't I cute?


Shocker. Baby girl still smiling.


Ha. I can't help but look at her and smile. She cracks me up.

And even though she is smiling in all these pictures ... our little Russian princess was really less than thrilled with the snow. I'm pretty sure she never got the chance to play in the snow in Russia.


So exciting ... maybe we will finally have a white Christmas this year! That never happens around here.


A prayer. And thanks.

Remember Polly?

This sweet, little girl had the first of her brain surgeries yesterday after being diagnosed with Moyamoya Disease not long ago. She is recovering nicely, but seriously ... it is breaking my heart that she has to go through this.

Please hop on over to her mom's blog to show her some love.

Continuing to pray for you, Polly!


It is snowing. And I'm pretty sure it isn't supposed to stop anytime soon.

One problem ... Kyle and I are supposed to go to the Vikings vs. Panthers football game Sunday night in North Carolina.

I wonder if we will be able to get out of town?

They are talking many, many, many inches of snow. And people here freeze when it comes to snow.

Sigh. They better clear the dang roads! Hello ... do they not realize my husband needs his Brett Favre fix ... IRL!? For those of you saying, "What in the heck is IRL?!!" That stands for IN REAL LIFE peeps.



Thank you again to everyone who contributed for Zhora. Lisa also wanted to thank you ...

I wanted to thank everyone for their overwhelming generosity!! This giveaway was a huge success and hopefully Zhora is one step closer to finding his forever family. A huge thank you to Bethany as well for hosting this on her blog!! Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday!!!

By the way ... this picture shows just how much Zhora and Daniel (Lisa's son) really do look alike! Crazy, eh?

And yes, I totally ganked this picture from my friend, Kristen ... shhh, don't tell her. Ha.

PS ... I will have the pictures from the drawing posted on that post soon ... got my laptop back!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thank you. Oh ... and the winners!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

With the help of many of you, Lisa was able to fundraise $1,050 for Zhora! Amazing. I am praying that this sweet boy is that much closer to finding his forever family.

Moving on to the drawing for the iPod Touch and the quilt ...


Vanna White Nika and I just sat down to do the drawing for Lisa.

Hello Vanna ... I mean Nika.


Drum roll please ...

The winner of the quilt is ---> Raymond and Kim Robinson

And ...

The winner of the iPod Touch is --->


Debbie Bosman!

Yes, that is my mother. Lucky duck. Since this is Lisa's contest, I did not exclude anyone but myself from the drawing. As much as I wanted to include myself, I decided not to since I was doing the drawing for Lisa. So ... everyone else was fair game.

Think she'll let me borrow it? Yeah right. I just called her to tell her she won and she offered me her crappy, old, scratched up iPod. Ha.