Saturday, November 28, 2015

Second-tier birthday wishes

I asked Noah if he wanted to go with me on a trip to deliver cupcakes for our friend's birthday.  He's deep into his Minecraft, so he said no.  I said, "Do you just want me to give her your best wishes?"  He said, "No, just give her my second-tier wishes.  I'm saving the best ones in case I need them later." 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Decorating for Christmas

Tonight we had soup and turned on Christmas music and did our annual post-Thanksgiving decorating.
 Mike and Noah dragged the tree up from the basement.
 Noah got a fire going.
 Noah hung the cross on the porch. This is the only decoration we've ever put on the outside of our house, and it's the one we've had the longest, even longer than we've had the kids.  It's my favorite Christmas decoration. A simple cross. That's what it's all about.
 Sarah putting the star on top of the tree,
 and hanging the stockings.
 Setting up the nativity scene.

 Noah's broken truck parts that have graced our tree for about 10-12 years now. He's always happy to see them again.

 Shadow got in the empty tree bin and chewed on what he could find.
 Marty is always in the spirit.
Shiloh presided from the new perch this year.

Black Friday

Sarah loves to shop. I don't. Black Friday really excites her.  It scares me.  Last year I took her to Walmart in Morton on Black Friday and gave her a little taste of the craziness (I wouldn't even think of going to Peoria).  Instead of scaring her, it thrilled her enough to beg to go again this year.  I took her to Kmart in Morton this time, which was still a challenge for me, but not as bad as Walmart. 
 She was so excited to check out after waiting in line for 30 minutes.
She conquered it, and she's wearing her new shirt to prove it.
 Noah pretended to conquer it, but in reality...
This is what he and Mike were doing while we were shopping.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


 We made a Happy Thanksgiving banner.
 This is the first year that I haven't cooked the turkey.  We bought a hickory smoked turkey from Yordy Farms. It was the tastiest bird I've ever eaten.
 Noah peeled almost ten pounds of potatoes in fifteen minutes. He's been peeling the Thanksgiving potatoes since he was about three years old.
 My dad carving the bird in his new man apron.

There we all are, enjoying the all the delicious food.
 After the meal, the men talked to their dads,

 the women washed dishes,
 the boys got crazy in the basement,
 and Aunt Amy spent some girl time with Sarah.
 The weather was perfect, so Jeff & Amy and Mom & I went for a walk. When we got back, it was time to transition into the next holiday: Noah's birthday.

 It was a really nice Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Chicken ranch wraps

 This is one of our current favorites.  I marinate chicken breasts, bake and slice them, put them on a wrap with cheese, and heat it in the microwave for 15 seconds.
 Then add toppings of choice.  Sarah eats hers with just ranch dressing.  The rest of us like them fully loaded: lettuce, tomato, green onion, cucumber, garlic salt, pepper. Bacon would be delicious,but I didn't have any.
Wrap it up and eat. Cheap, easy, good, healthy.

Noah's birthday

Noah turned 14 today.  This is the first time he's woken up to snow on his birthday.  It was the first snow of the season, and it was coming down softly in big flakes all morning.  He got up early and opened his presents.  Sarah gave him gum and a Google Play gift card.  She also wrote him a sweet letter with the timeline of his life: past, present, and future.  He opened the box that Aunt Kathy and Uncle Matt had sent and was happy to find headphones and putty.

Then he went on a treasure hunt and found money all over the house.  The clues took him up and down the stairs and in and out of the garage several times. Each clue had a few dollars with it. He's saving money to buy computer parts to build his own computer.  He went to Eli's for coffee and came home to play Minecraft with his friends.

I made lunch and salted caramel lava cakes. We sang to him, and he blew out his one candle. Nana & Papa came over in the afternoon and brought him a card and money. Then we went to Pekin for a night of fun.
 Gondola at Avanti's. The server heard us talking about his birthday and brought him a piece of cake!
 We reserved laser tag at Sunset Lanes, but they messed up the reservation so he and Mike got to bowl a free game while we waited. Sarah and I went to the arcade.
Laser tag was fun and tiring.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Growing up

I was talking to Noah about his birthday and what he really wants.  He said, "I don't really care about cake and presents and parties and balloons and all that.  All I really want is just love and attention.  I think that's what everybody wants."

Scary Reindeer

When Noah was little, he used to sing, "Feliz Navidaddy" instead of Feliz Navidad.  He would always want to call Daddy and sing it to him, since he thought it was his own special Christmas song.  So every time we heard it on the radio, we would stop what we were doing, call Daddy, and sing and dance wildly.  He remembered it every year and got Sarah in on the action when she came along.  Somehow we're STILL doing this every year. 

Yesterday I had the TV on the station that plays Christmas music.  Sarah and I were listening while we were playing a game.  Feliz Navidad came on, and she ran to the basement to get Mike and Noah, yelling that our song was on. They ran upstairs, and I cranked up the volume, and we danced around the bedroom.  Then I turned off the TV, and we all went back to our regular lives.

I had recorded the news and sat down to watch it a little after 11:00 p.m.  When I turned on the TV, it was still on the Christmas station, and it was still super loud, so "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" came blasting through the house.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mike loves Janel

An advertisement arrived in the mail last week, trying to guilt Mike into buying me a customized piece of jewelry declaring his love for me. 
 I thought it was funny, so I cut it out and put it on the fridge.

Then I cut out all the examples of this imaginary piece of jewelry that I'll never own (and wouldn't want to) and gave them to Mike. He looked at me like, "What am I supposed to do with these little scraps?" so I told him something like, "Put those somewhere where I'll find them."  I thought they would find their way to the garbage can.  

Several days went by, and I never gave them another thought.  I hadn't given exercise any thought either, so I went downstairs to do an exercise video.  I was dreading it, as always, but when I went to hit the power button, there was this:
It made me so ridiculously happy that I squealed and cried.

Today I took the kids to church for a funeral.  On the way back home, it was raining, and I was feeling tired and sad.  As I turned onto our street, I reached up to get ready to push the garage door opener button, and there was another little picture of the jewelry.  I said to the kids (as I drove right past our driveway), "Aw, look! Your daddy loves me!"  I showed it to them, and Sarah said, "Where did he get that?"  I told her that I had cut them out and given them to him with instructions to give them to me.  I told her something I hope she'll remember when she gets older: "Sometimes men need a little help knowing how to love us."  

A couple hours later, it was quiet time, and I opened my book to read.  Next to my bookmark was this:

Later I was making soup for dinner. I opened the cabinet where I keep the spices and found this:
Each time I found one, I felt so loved!  Not only did he not throw them away, he took the time to think about where to hide them so that I would be sure to find them at different times.

Snowman cookies

Sarah and I made snowmen out of cookie dough.
They were cute in their raw state, but
after baking, they looked like creepy alien coneheads.

Noah's funneral

The kids have been to two funerals in less than a week.  We didn't really attend the second one, just worked at the post-funeral lunch. 
Noah hauled the 22-pound bags of ice, which was a big help.  He's always said that he doesn't want to have a funeral when he dies. He wants to have what he calls a "funneral".  He imagines his friends and family getting together to play games, have a water slide and a cookout (he always emphasizes that he wants lots of food at the funneral), and just have a good time celebrating and remembering him. He wants it to be a happy occasion with no tears. I tell him that he's telling the wrong person, because I don't intend to be the one arranging his funneral. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Whole family homeschool day

Mike took the day off today, for reasons unknown to me, but I'm sure glad he did.  We modified our school schedule accordingly.  We were behind a week on our astronomy class, so the first order of business was to get caught up on that.  I love this class! I think it's my favorite of all time.  It's just amazing and fascinating to me to learn about the stars and the stories people tell about them.  
There's Mike, expounding upon how unfathomably huge the universe is.  One thing we learned about is our local supercluster of galaxies.  It's called Laniakea, which is a Hawaiian word meaning, "immeasurable heavens".  I like that word. After hearing about the vastness of the known universe, Sarah said, "Ok, my brain just broke."(By the way, Mike is wearing a hat in the house because it's cold in here.  We're holding out for Thanksgiving before we turn on the furnace).
Then we had a P.E. break. Some of us walked, while others jogged, and some did a combination, but we all ended up back at home for a garbage pickup and a stretch. We picked up garbage that has been blowing around, since yesterday (garbage day) was very windy.  We found an empty box of cat litter in the neighbors' yard (they don't have cats) and an empty Dominoes box right on our front porch (we don't have Dominoes pizza delivered).
Mike helped each student individually with math corrections.  I really appreciated that, because it's the most frustrating part of my job.  We did a little spelling and watched a cat chase a fly all around the school room.  It's been a nice day.  I wish Mike could be here with us every day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mini heart attack

I told Sarah that she was my favorite girl in the whole world, which prompted this disturbing conversation:
S: More than Mary, the mother of Jesus?
M: Yes.
S: But if we didn't have Mary, we wouldn't have Jesus, and without Jesus, we'd be lost!
M: God would have used some other girl to birth Jesus. It could have been you!
S: No, it couldn't be me.
M: Why not?
S: Because I'm not a virgin.
M: WHAT?!?!
S: Wait...isn't a virgin an unbarren person?
M: What do you mean by unbarren?
S: Someone who can birth babies.
M: That's called fertile. A virgin is someone who has never had sex before.
S: Oh, right. Well then, I guess God could have chosen me.
She flounced away at that point, leaving me to recover.

I punched a Marine--Happy Veteran's Day!

When I was in grade school, there was a little punk kid who kept bullying me on the bus.  I asked him repeatedly to stop. He didn't. On and on it went for days, maybe weeks, until I couldn't take it anymore.  I told the bus driver about it and asked for permission to punch him in the face. She granted her permission. I went up to the jerk and told him if he didn't leave me alone, I was going to punch him in the face. He jeered at me. I punched him in the mouth so hard that his teeth cut my skin and made my hand bleed.  He never bothered me again. Later I found out that he went on to become a Marine. I thought of this out of the blue today, on Veteran's Day.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Locked myself out. Again.

Van full of groceries. Just need to run in to Gym Corner to pick up Sarah. It's cold out, but I'll be quick, so no need to put on my jacket.  Go in, get Sarah, come back out, pull the door handle on the van...why isn't it opening? I didn't lock it.  I peer through the window. Yep. I locked it. And there are the keys, dangling from the ignition. No problem. I've done this before (OK, I do it at least monthly).  All I have to do is reach underneath and get the magnetic key holder with my extra key inside it and we'll be back in business. I get on my knees, reach under, feel nothing but smooth chassis where my key holder always is.  Panic. It must have fallen off somehow after all these years of faithful service.

I flop down on the hard asphalt and remember that Mike was the last one to replace the extra key.  I call him. He says he moved it to a "little crevice that is just perfect for it."  It's not perfect for ME, because it's not my usual spot.  I feel around. I can't find it.  Now I'm lying flat on my back, feeling all over the whole greasy, grimy underbelly of the van in the dark. I don't feel it anywhere, and I can't see a thing.  I shinny and gyrate myself along until I'm completely underneath the van. Sarah turns her phone into a flashlight and slides it under to me.   I'm cold, hungry, annoyed, and I can't find it. I know my jacket is right above me, all warm and cozy inside the van, as I should be. I mumble to myself something about "...if I ever find it, I might shove it up his perfect little crevice.."

I twist myself around to look from the other direction and finally locate it. I wiggle my way out, and I go to stand up. But I've been lying on cold, hard asphalt for a long time in various contorted positions, and I'm old and stiff, so I promptly fall right over backwards like a drunkard.

When we finally get home, Sarah tells Mike what I said about his crevice. How is it that she can hear me mumbling to myself from underneath a vehicle, but she can't hear me when I speak plainly right next to her?

Thursday, November 5, 2015


We're working through a devotional series about the attributes of God.  This morning, we were talking about God's omnipotence. 
Me: When we use our power, we get tired and have to rest and eat to replenish our energy. God's power is not like that. That reminds me of an Andrew Wommack story.
Sarah: No, please. Don't.
Me: You don't want to hear it?
S: I don't mind hearing about God, but I don't want to hear about Andrew Wommack. And it will go on and on...

M: It's a story that Andrew Wommack tells about God, and it's not long.
S: Oh all right.
M: There was a man who came to Andrew Wommack for prayer. Andrew asked him what ailments he had, and the guy went on and on about everything that plagued him from head to toe. Then he said the most bothersome was his back, so if Andrew could just pray for his back, that would be good enough.  Andrew said, "Yes, we wouldn't want to ask God to heal all your problems, because the lights in heaven might dim!" He was making the point that God is powerful enough to do anything, even more than we can think to ask. 
S: The lights in heaven wouldn't dim. They'd probably get brighter when God gets all that glory!
I'm glad I told that story, because her perspective added to it.  Noah added some good thoughts too, but I've already forgotten them.  If I don't write this stuff down right away, it slips away...


I'm taking a shower, enjoying the peace. Suddenly I hear a voice from right on the other side of the shower curtain.
Sarah: What are you doing, Mom?
Me: Showering.
Sarah: I know, but at what part of the process are you right now?
Me: I'm washing my left arm, if you must know.
Sarah: Oh.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Over the edge

Me: Do you know some people who talk so little that you can't even get to know them?
Sarah: Yes.
M: And you know some people who talk way too much?
S: Yes.
M: It's a fine art to be able to achieve that balance.
S: I'm right on the edge of talking too much.
M: Yes, you are.
S: Sometimes I've fallen over the edge.
M: Yes, many times. But being aware of it is the first step to overcoming it.
S: [silence]

Birthday request

Overheard this morning:
Sarah: Noah, what do you want for your birthday?
Noah: I'm not sure. Can I get back to you?
Sarah: Ok, but if you don't get back to me in the next two days, I'm getting you pink Strawberry Shortcake underwear.

Wildlife Praire Park

 Perfect fall day.  Aunt Linda's birthday.  So I scrapped the plan to sit in school all day and took it on the road again.  We took lunch to Aunt Linda and went to Wildlife Prairie Park. At the wolf enclosure, we howled at the wolves and read the sign about how body language is important to them. The above picture shows the kids in wolf submission posture.
 It was a great time to see the animals!  Almost all of them were visible.  I guess they didn't want to miss out on the beautiful weather either. Above is one of the coyotes, napping in the sun.
 The bobcats were walking around their habitat and came very close to us. Every other time I've been there (and I've been there a lot, since I grew up nearby and used to work there), the bobcats are either hiding or sleeping in the trees.  This is the first time I've seen them active, and it was great to watch! Seeing all the big cats was Noah's favorite part.
 Feeding the pony. Sarah's favorite part.
 The pigeons were my favorite. They were flapping around making a nice breeze. There were a lot of them in their enclosure, and they were making their peaceful cooing noises.  I could have stayed there all day and just listened to them flapping and cooing.

We slid down the Gollywhopper several times.