Monday, December 29, 2008

Pennington Christmas Letter 08


Merry Christmas everyone. Owen Crawford here to tell y’all about this past year at the Pennington house. Let’s see, where do I start? Every year begins with January, and it was cold, but not too much snow for us to play in. Blake and I are both hoping to build a snowman this winter, and maybe go ice skating on our new pond. Oh wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

On Easter, Mom, Blake and I went to Nana & Papa’s in Augusta, GA, and stayed a really long time. Mommy spent a lot of time with her Dad, but Blake and I couldn’t go because he was sick. Then one day (April 15) Mommy was really sad and she told us that Granddad went to Heaven. Daddy showed up the next day, which was cool because we hadn’t seen him in ages. We spent a few more days in Georgia visiting with more family (like Grandma), and even saw our cousin Josh get married. Mommy and Daddy went to say “goodbye” to Grandad before we headed back home to Maryland five weeks after we left.

Mommy was still very sad for a while. Daddy and her friends planned a surprise 30th birthday party to cheer her up, but the biggest surprise came around May 5th when Mommy found out she was going to have another baby. Guess what? Blake and I are going to have a little sister. Right now she is in Mommy’s belly, but we’re thinking she’ll come out and play soon. Daddy keeps telling us that we used to be in Mommy’s belly, but that can’t be. You can’t eat animal crackers or grapes in there, and I don’t think I’d ever live anywhere without snacks. We all know that Blake wouldn’t. Mommy says we’re eating her out of house and home, which brings me to my next point.

We moved. We sold our old house and moved to “Owen’s new house” in Catonsville. It’s a pretty cool house with lots of space for us to play. Right now, Blake and I have our own rooms, but Blake’s moving in with me to make room for Madison. Mommy and Daddy sleep upstairs, and Mat sleeps downstairs. No, Mat is not my imaginary friend. He is Clare’s (Mommy’s friend) fiancĂ© and is renting a room from us until they get married. Mat lets us play games on his computer and makes us homemade Mac & Cheese, so he’s pretty cool. Oh, did I mention that we have a fish pond in the fenced-in back yard?

In other news, Mommy started Grace Adventures Day Camp at our church, and the first summer was awesome. I know, because we were there. Next year, I get to actually be a camper. Cool, huh? Daddy’s still testing alcohol and getting paid to do it. He also kayaks, but doesn’t combine the two. He took me canoeing once, but since I freaked out in the water, Mommy and Daddy thought it would be fun if I learned how to swim. I’ve been taking lessons for months now, and am quite good if I say so myself. I also started going to school a couple days a week, and I get to swim everyday. Blake’s taking swim lessons too, but he’s not as good as me.

I’m sure I left out a whole bunch of stuff, but you can keep up with us by following Mommy’s blog at http://www.hillsofchaos.blogspot.com/. All of us here at the Pennington house, including Reese the dog, hope y’all have a very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year.
THE END

So Much to Update, So Little...Energy

I know. I know. I've been a slacker the last week or so and I'm sure you're all sitting on the edge of your seats just a wondering about what has been going on in this Pennington household. Believe me when I say that I had all good intentions of updating my blog every day, but simply lack the motivation to do so. I actually have several post ideas floating around in my head. In fact they take up quite a bit of thinking space and I really do need to get them out. Eventually I will, but for now I feel the need to vent.

Christmas came and went. I'm guessing Santa forgot to bring me what I asked for...a brand new baby girl. I know what you're thinking, "Hills, you're only 37 weeks." I get it, but for those of you who don't live in my body, you have no idea how painfully uncomfortable I've been for the last few weeks. It's been down right miserable, and it takes everything in me to not resort to downright complaining (and most of the time I fail). At my last appointment, not much had changed. I'm still at 2 cm and 75% effaced and my cervix is very anterior (whatever that means). She's still at 0 station, which is good that she hasn't changed her mind and retreated. That was on Friday. Since that appointment I've had braxton hicks contractions on and off. Here's the deal though...they start everyday around dinner time and get stronger and stronger until they just stop sometime in middle of the night. Each night, they seem more like the onset of real labor leaving me confused and eventually discouraged (not to mention exhausted).

Today I'm taking the boys to the mall. I can walk around a bit, do a little after Christmas shopping, and they have a fabulous play area where the boys can expend some energy. Plus it passes the time, and maybe just maybe when the contractions start tonight, they will end with a slimy baby in my arms.

On a different note, Christmas was good. We started out the day here at home opening presents and enjoying each other's company. It was a particularly painful day for me, but I endure it and Neil was able to endure me. Owen is finally starting to catch on to the idea of Santa Claus, though he still won't go near him. It was fun to watch him open presents and actually get excited about what he got. Blake still doesn't get it, but has a great time tearing the paper off the presents.

As Owen emptied his stocking, he found a Pez dispenser and inherently knew it was candy. Of course Neil, being the good dad that he is, put it together for him and showed him how to use it. Literally within seconds, Owen was shoving pieces of candy into his mouth. He shoveled through both packs of candy and was trying to open Blake's dispenser before we knew it. My child, the candy freak.

Blake was enthralled by his tool box which was surprising to me. It's hard to shop for a 18 month old who has an older brother. They basically play with the same stuff, but we wanted him to have something to open for himself (whether it becomes a community toy or not). Since Santa brought the tool box, it was laying out for him when he walked in the room (Santa doesn't wrap presents...what's the point?). He went straight for it and played with it for several minutes before he even noticed the other toys lying around. Even this morning he was seen tramping around the house tool box in hand.

All right folks time to head out to the mall in hopes to encourage a certain little girl to grace us with her presence. I promised more blog postings in the days to come, complete with the year's best Christmas presents, a train garden or two, the Pennington Christmas letter, pictures, and more. Until then, happy laboring (at least for me).

Friday, December 19, 2008

What's Worse? You Decide!

So we all know the pressure I feel to get this baby out of my belly. We all know because I make it very clear, and now I think I've made it so clear to Madison that she feels even more pressure to get out...making it more uncomfortable for me, and so the cycle continues. Anyways that's not why I'm writing today, nope, not at all. I'm writing because I not only have to deal with the constant pain and pressure, I now get the pleasure of not one, but two, sick children. And of course it's not a simple virus that we find a new home in a couple days, it's a strange stomach virus that seems to be quite punctual, at least with Owen.

So here's the deal. For the last three nights around 2 am, Owen awakes and within moments is spewing the contents of his belly all over the place. Sound fun to you? Me either. The stench alone is enough to send me over the edge. In fact one whiff and I spent most of last night trying to prevent myself from the same fate getting virtually no rest. Doctor seems to think it's a virus so we'll ride it out for a few more days and hope it resolves itself. But I have to say I've never seen a more punctual virus.

Blake, on the other hand, has a classic case of diarrhea and not the fun kind (not like there is a fun kind, but if there were, this would not be it). He seems to be doing much better today, so I'm hoping the worst is over.

I'm pretty sure Madison is doing good, though I'm at that stage where I constantly feel like I have to go pee, but then I go and it's nothing but a slight trickle. Honestly it's what I felt the day I went into labor with Owen. Of course it could just be a trick. I'll probably still be pregnant on January 15 (her actual due date). You'll all just have to wait and see, just like me.

I would covet your prayers. It's not fun having sick kids or being uncomfortably pregnant, and it's certainly not fun when you combine those two together. So please pray for us, and for Neil too. I'm sure he does not think it's much fun to clean up the chunky mess Owen leaves behind in the wee hours of the morning.

On a lighter note, a tradition my friend Jen started with Owen continues tomorrow morning. Prenatal pedicures! Jen, of course, can't go with me since she lives in TX now, so Katy (also 36 weeks pregnant) and Clare (newly engaged) will be joining me. And the men folk are taking the kids to the Science Center. Yay for girl time. We all need that sometimes, unless you're a guy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Pain is Not in Vain

I realize that being around me at this stage of my pregnancy may not be as invigorating as it would normally be. After all, I do tend to groan, whimper, and wince a lot due to the intense pains running through my pelvis and abdomen. But luckily for my sanity, and the sanity of those around me (especially those who live with me), it's not all in vain.

Today, Blake and I ventured back to the Doc for my weekly check-up. Last week, as I said in my last post, I was 1 cm dilated and not effaced at all. Also, Madison was sitting at -1 station (just above my pelvis). I half expected to walk into today with no change at all, cause that would be my luck (not that I believe in luck). But thankfully that was not the case. As I sit here typing, Madison is at 0 Station (head between the pelvic bones, which can't be comfortable for her). I'm 2 cm dilated and 75% effaced. What does that mean? It could mean she comes very soon, like today, or it could mean that she comes via Cesarean one week past her due date. No one knows. Well, that's not true exactly. God knows, but he's not letting me in on his little secret. I'm still hoping for her arrival before the end of the year. And if I continue to progress that could very well be the case.

We will just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I am going to try and enjoy the Holiday season that is quickly passing me by. I miss my family and it feels so weird not planning a trip south for the week after Christmas. I am glad to have my aunt & cousin close by. We'll spend Christmas Day with them in northern VA (barring any, non-Jesus Christmas babies). But in talking with my sister today, I realized just how much I miss all the hustle and bustle, and down right chaos of being with family at Christmas.

I have been enjoying the various events here and there that remind me of season. Yesterday Owen had his very first school Christmas party. He had so much fun and was so wore out from all the hoop-la that he took a 3 hour nap. I tell ya though, I can't figure out what his deal is with Santa Claus. He talks about his non-stop and how he wants a new train, but as soon as he sees him, he curls up inside his shell like a tortoise and won't come out. And it's not like this is new. The first year I took him to see Santa in the mall, he flipped out. Granted he was only 4 months at the time, but if you at all knew Owen at this stage, then you would know that he never discriminated when it came to hanging out with different people, except Santa of course. Every year I try and get him into that big, red lap, and I've never been successful. Honestly, I feel like I'm torturing the poor child. So, when Santa arrived at his school party, Owen runs to me and permanently attaches himself to my leg. Of course when he sees that Santa is giving out candy canes (by the way, how come Santa at the mall gives out nothing now and still expects you to dish out dough for the stupid picture?), he decides he wants one. I, being the torturous mom that I am, told him he had to at least ask politely for the candy cane. Eventually, Owen smiled at Santa and nodded toward the basket of red and white striped candies. Baby steps, people, baby steps! My friend Amy took a picture of all this. I'll post it once she sends it to me. Fun times!

Hopefully Madison will arrive safe and sound here in Penningtonville soon. When she does, be sure you'll hear all about it. Until then, be on the look out, either in your mailbox or here of the blog, for the much anticipated annual Pennington Christmas Letter. It should be arriving by week's end.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

C-ville in My Rear View Mirror


I'm hoping that today's news is a sign of what is to come, an obedient and pleasing child. I've been telling Madison for weeks that she needs to go ahead and turn around. Though she might be a little slow to obey, she has, for now, complied with my request. As of this morning, Madison is head down and raring to go. In fact, I'm actually 1 cm. dilated, which really can mean nothing. I was 3 cm. dilated with Blake for 2 weeks before he decided to grace us with his presence.

I'm still hoping for an end of the year baby, but since I'm hoping for selfish reasons (tax deductions), I'm really sure I can ask you guys to pray for that. Comfort wise, yeah, not so much comfort here. I noticed a change in her position a couple days ago, and with it came increased pressure (and the necessity to pee more often) and increased pain (which could be what is leading to the dilation). With Blake I just wanted him to come when my mom was visiting so we walked a million miles and did everything we could think of to get him out, but he took his precious time. With Madison, I just want to stand up and not cringe or yelp. For that reason, I'd really like her to just come whenever she's ready and not a second longer. Of course, house wise I'm not ready. There are presents to wrap, beds to buy (for the boys), rooms to clean (which I hope I can get a cleaning lady to do), and a ton of other things I can't pin down at the moment. So you guys can pray I get that nesting sensation a little early this time. It's not fun to look around and watch your "to-do" list grow and know you don't have the energy to do anything about it.

That's the update of the day. Kudos to Madison for turning on her own, and giving us the best chance at avoiding a C-section. As much as I was liking the idea of knowing exactly when she was coming, the recovery time with two kids was overwhelming me. So thank you God for her turn.

First Things First...

For once I actually have several things to write about, but I thought it best to go in order. Let's start with my first ever trip to the ER with one of my children. First of all, we should really all take a moment and be thankful that we've made it 3 1/2 years before something like this happened. Lord knows with my boys, we could easily be part of some sort of Frequently Injured Club.

So on to the story at hand. Monday night seemed like it would be a normal evening at the Pennington house. I made spaghetti. Clare and Reese came over to visit. We ate spaghetti. We took some fun Christmassy pics for our Christmas Letter. I cleaned up the kitchen, then got Blake ready for bed. We would have been fine had I not had to go in search for his blanket, but Blake needs his blanket to sleep so in search we went. We found the blanket downstairs, and attempted to reenter Blake's room so he could go night night. Only Owen had been playing with his train set in Blake's room and there were tracks scattered across the floor. I did see them. I'm not blind, but being that my peripheral vision is thrown off my the expanse of my belly, my judgement of space was a bit compromised. My heel hit a track and down we went. Luckily my feet went first landing me on my butt. However, Blake had the disadvantage of my momentum to bring him crashing head first into the hardwood floor below.

Now, my boys bump their heads quite often. In fact, both have taken full-out tumbles down the stairs, but never has one of them shown signs of a true head injury. But Blake had an odd response to the fall, at least for him. It took a moment for him to cry, and then his wailing subsided rather quickly and we were having a very difficult time keeping him awake. Naturally, this behavior concerned me as it did his doctor when he told me to get my butt to the ER (not in those words).

Luckily all was fine. Blake suffered a mild concussion, but is doing quite marvelously today. During his hospital stay, which surprisingly only lasted a couple hours (despite the horror stories) he had to get a CT scan (and was quite the trooper). Once that came back clear, we were free to go.

All that adventure in one night, while I'm 8 1/2 months pregnant, and Blake was still suffering from an ear infection, was enough to send us both into a deep sleep. Kudos to St. Agnes hospital for not making that night miserable. And of course we're all thankful that he's his normal self today. It certainly could have gone in another direction. Kids really are quite resilient, yet at the same time so fragile.

By the way, out of the 50 or so pictures that Clare took, we were able to pin down a couple good ones. Some of you will be receiving said pics along with our Christmas letter within the week. And some of you will be fortunate enough to read it here. It simply depends on if I have or can find your mailing address by Friday. I seem to have lost my list.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Eat Your Veggies, Jonah!


My boys love Veggie Tales, end of story. Walmart has "Jonah: A Veggietales Movie" for $4.96 with free site to store shipping. Yes, you'll have to venture into your local Wally World to pick it up, but for a great gift or stocking stuffer, it might just be worth it.
Not to mention this is the 2-Disc Collector's Edition. Now I can't say for sure what exactly that means or why it makes it so special, but for $5 who cares. Maybe it will be worth money someday as a collector's piece (you know, when we're flying around in air cars and watching TV holographically), but for now, I suggest just enjoying the movie with your family.
I have to disclose that I am passing on this deal as well. Again, for the third time today, I have been forced to restrain myself. Not that I couldn't spare the $5, but more because Christmas shouldn't be about showering my kids with gifts. I have to stop somewhere. So feel free to buy the boys one while you're at it, Mom, Cathy or Becca.

"TAG"...You're IT!


Ha, I bet you thought I was going to actually write something meaningful and deep...NOPE! I know several of you out there are all over this new TAG system from Leap Frog. Well you can get the books for $9.99 each or less at the Leap Frog site.


If you spend $50, use code HT8EC for an extra 15% off. Shipping is FREE with $50 order.

Don't need 5 books, go in with a friend or two, save some dough, and make your chillin's happy.

By the way, I did jump on this TAG bandwagon, thanks to reccomendations from both Amy and Michelle. I bought the system, a book, and a few accessories on Amazon last week for like $45. I can't remember if I posted it here or not, but it was a smokin' deal. I'm not sure yet if I'll give this to Owen for Christmas. He might just have to wait until his birthday. We'll see. I really think I overdid Christmas this year. There were just so many great things at such fab prices. I couldn't pass it up. That's the problem with being such a good shopper; sometimes you don't knwo when to stop. Oh well, at least it will be fun watching them open their presents.

Deal or Two of the Day

Deal #1:

So I just stocked the stockings for super cheap. Miles Kimball, a normally cheesy overpriced trinket store, has a shlew of fun stocking stuffers for the little ones. In the Kimball Klearance section, you'll find stuffed teddies for .79 and Hatchin Grow Dino or Turtles for .99, Bubble Horns for $1.00, A fun Christmas toy train (perfect for a mini tree) for 2.99, A My First Christmas Library for $3.49 (12 board books), Coloring Mats for .99, and more. Search the Christmas Section for even more deals on decor, embellishments, and ornaments (great for present toppers).

They were having a problem earlier with their credit card processing, so I had to call in my order, but it was quick and painless. Go through ebates.com for a 3% discount. Oh and enter source code 10618000004 for $1 shipping. If you have to do your order over the phone, they'll take the shipping code as well.

Deal #2:

I didn't take advantage of this one, but only because I am so done with Christmas Shopping. In fact, I may have gone a little overboard with all the fab deals out there. If you like Build-A-Bear, you're going to love this one:

Build-A-Bear has the cutest Christmas Moose & Moosette on sale for $12 each. Plus you get a free storybook when you buy one of each. Plus, you get free shipping when you spend $25...PLUS you can use additional coupon codes.

Use code: 093259 for $10 off $50 (the Storybook counts towards the $50, so you can get an extra Moose or an accessory to your order).

Use code: 093217 for $5 off $20

Use code: Moose for Free Shipping on $25 (again the storybook counts towards the FS total, so you can get one of each moose animal and the storybook for $19 shipped using the $5 code and the FS code.

Now I said I didn't need this deal, but they are so cute. If anyone is still looking for a little something for me, I would not turn these adorable Moose down. Just a mild suggestion.

Happy Shopping Folks!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Muppet Christmas for $1


Amazon has The Muppets: A Green and Red Christmas album for $1. Now they're MP3s, but isn't that what everyone uses these days. Just download to your Ipod or computer and enjoy the sounds of the season...muppet style.


If I could figure how to play music on my blog, I'd hook you up with a preview...hhhmmm, maybe I'll check that out. If you came looking for an update on lil' Madison, just look a little south of here.


Happy Deal Shopping and Merry Christmas.

Heading Towards C-ville, or so it seems

Went to see Doc today. It seems that Madison prefers the head-up position, which I really can't blame her. I wouldn't want to stick my head way down there either. Who would?

As a result of my fun visit, I am not really any closer to having definitive answers. Dr. Feldman is going to attempt to schedule an aversion (manually turning lil' Madison) at 37 weeks (on or about Dec 22). However there may be a slight conflict with that plan, seeing as the hospital (or it might be the insurance company) may nick say the procedure due to my previous Cesarean. Good news is that all this wonderful pain I'm feeling is not causing me to dilate. Bad news, it looks like I may very well be heading for another C-section.

The game of "Wait and See" begins now. There are several possible scenarios that could happen, only one of which will, and only one person knows which one will win in the end (that would be God).

Scenario #1: I got into labor naturally between now and Dec 22 and end up with an emergency C-section. Yay...not so much.

Scenario #2: We attempt the Aversion, and during the fun-loving procedure, I go into labor = most likely a C-section, but could be natural depending on where they were in the procedure. Yay...not so much or so much?

Scenario #3: We do the aversion and it's successful = natural labor in her timing. Yay...so much!

Scenario #4: We do the aversion and it's not so successful = scheduled C-section (or maybe they just go ahead and take her...who knows?) Yay...not so much

Scenario #5: Someone is the higher-ups tells wonderful Dr. F that we can not in fact attempt the aversion. In which case, I blow a gasket and then schedule the C-section somewhere around 38-39 weeks. However, if I go into labor before said date, we go back to Scenario #1. Yay...not so much.

Scenario #6: She, being the good little daughter she is, turns on her own, and we have yet another happy, natural birth. Yay...let's go with this one. So peeps, I say VOTE for #6 in your nightly prayers.

I'm sure there a myriad of other possibilities, but those seem the most obvious or likely to me. As much as I don't want to end up with a C-section (been there, done that), my biggest concern is her safety (and maybe my recovery). I know that God is in control of this situation as much as he is in control of when my Kohl's package arrives. I'm just not so great with waiting. It's not fun...plus I'm in a great deal of pain which doesn't help matters much. So I'll play the game of "Wait and See." In the end, I will see Madison. She'll be here, crying, sleeping, eating, and she'll be fabulous. I mean, why wouldn't she be, she is my daughter.

In other news:

Blake had his 18 month check-up, and am happy to report that he has reached the 25% for weight and 32% for height. Yay, go Blake. We also found out he has an ear infection...in both ears. See what a great mom I am. Go ahead and grant me that "Mom for the Year" award. Sweet!

I got my hair cut...a little different, and in such a way that I can actually bring out my natural waviness. I have to say it looks cute. I'll take a picture (hopefully some day) and post it for you all to see. Towards the end of pregnancy, I think a lot of women go to the salon because it's something they can control. Can't change my body, but I can change my hair. Really, makes a difference.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Random Comment that will most likely not enrich anyone's life

Confession of the day: I watch a few chicky flicky, teeny bopper, guilty pleasure TV shows (like One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl (thanks to my lil' sis) and Privileged).

Anyways I just have to say that I was watching the previews for next week's Gossip Girl and the character Chuck Bass, played by Ed Westwick, looks super hot. Completely pointless, I know, but the thing is that this same character normally has this slicked back Norman Bates look that makes me want to cringe...just not sexy.

But the sad part about it all, the reason for the disheveled cutey patooty look, his dad's death. See how I am not at all enriching anyone's life by posting this blog. But it was on my mind, and I felt that in order to free myself from it, I needed to get it out.

There, I feel all better. Of course now my secret is out of the bag, I will probably berated by everyone I know...oh well. Who's brave enough to mess with a hormonal pregnant woman on her last nerve (and brain cell)?

Digital Picture Frame under $30.

I totally sent this link to my mom as a "strong hint." I've been wanting a digital photo frame for a while, but they're so expensive. Target has one with a 5.6" screen on sale for $27. If you buy two (or spend $50 total on other random crap) you get FREE SHIPPING.

You could pre-load the frame with pics of your kids/friends/family, and it would make a fabulous gift. This frame gets very decent reviews considering it's under $30.

Anyways that's my two cents of the day since I'm experiencing a mild case of writer's block. Oh, my overpriced oatmeal raisin cookies are done. Time for some warm gooey goodness and a glass of milk.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Now this is NO NONSENSE

I don't know about you, but I think everyone should have fresh undergarments for Christmas, especially stinky boys (and I have plenty of those). No Nonsense literally has 50% off EVERYTHING on their website, from socks to panties, pajamas to those little nylon thingys that barely cover your toes. Shipping is FREE with $35 order. Otherwise it's $5 flat.

I guess Cyber Monday is expanding into Tuesday. It might be a sucky year for the economy, but it's a great year for finding deals.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Reuseable Swim Diapers on the Cheap


Baby Center has a twin pack of reuseable swim diapers in two colors & all sizes available for $5.50 a pack plus FREE SHIPPING. I bought one set in the Bubble color for Madison and one in the Seablock for Blake. As much as we go swimming at the Y, I know these will come in handy.


Also if you go through ebates (link in my favorite links section), you get an extra 4% cash back. But if you got through Ebates, make sure you put me as your referal, hills4neil@msn.com. You get a $10 gift card for signing up and making a purchase and I get a fun little incentive as well.


Happy Shopping!

Free Breakfast or Lunch Sandwich at Einstein Brothers

Okay, so go here and sign up for their eclub. You will automatically be sent a coupon for a free sandwich. Now, anyone interested in joining me for breakfast on Friday morning at 9:45 in Ellicott City? Could be a fun way to catch up, enjoy each other's company, and do it for free. Or maybe we could do Saturday morning without kids all together. Oh, that sounds better. Anyone free Saturday morning?

Crocs Gone, Burts Bees IN...Score!

Burt's Bees has a Holiday Grab Bag with several extras and $2.95 shipping for $25. If you like Burt's Bees, you should jump on this while it's still available. When it's sold out, it's sold out.

Could be a gift or something fun for yourself, or break it up into several gifts (stocking stuffers).

If you order two, you get FREE SHIPPING, plus enter code HIVETHANKS for a set of lip glosses free.

This posting deals thing is kind of fun. Maybe I'll continue...atleast through this very special Cyber Monday.

SPECIAL DEAL: I just found a label maker at Staples for $9.99 (with no mail in rebates), plus FREE SHIPPING. Hope my Hubby is reading this...hint, hint!

Toddler Crocs for $4.50 shipped! & Old Navy Deals.

I don't normally do this, but since so many of my mom friends read this blog, I thought I'd post this deal.

Go to http://www.live.com/ and click on cashback at the top right corner. Search for Finish Line where you'll get an extra 10-12% back on your order. You will need to create an account, but it's so easy and so worth it.

Then once you're at Finish Line, search for Croc Endeavor. They only have Chocolate color available, but several sizes. They are $4.98 each. Shipping is FREE today. Enter promo code COMEBACK for extra 15% off.

While I'm at it: Today only...get 20% off your Old Navy Order plus Free Shipping with no minimum purchase required. I got some solid crew neck shirts for the boys for $3.18 each shipped.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Transverse Reactions

Since I haven't been that great at blogging, you may or may not know that we were planning on going South for Thanksgiving, following all the pretty little birds desperate to escape the freezing temps up here in Maryland. We WERE planning on going until my lovely Doc burst my bubble. I have to say though that I was sort of expecting it and a SORT OF relieved, not because I didn't want to see my family, but because I was absolutely the dreading the actual trip. Twelve hours in a car just didn't seem ideal to a woman with melons for feet and sharp pains in her (for lack of a better word) crotch.

So why did the Doc say No? Typically they recommend that women stop traveling long distances (by car or plane) between 26-29 weeks due to a risk of blood clots in the lower legs (car) or pre-term labor (plane). But given my history of early dilation and somewhat early delivery, there was no way I was getting an exception from him. End of conversation.

The rest of the visit was spent on her position. (Heart rate was good by the way...Owen was mesmerized by the sound). At the beginning of the exam she was breech and measuring a little small...probably more because of how freaking low her feet were at that very moment (and for the last month of so). By the end she was transverse (sideways across my belly). In all likely hood she should turn before delivery, but the farther I get along the harder that is. Right now she is still very mobile, as seen by the various abnormalities in my belly. In two weeks, I'll return and they'll do a sonogram to check her position. Any excuse for a sonogram is a good excuse to me. If she is still breech or transverse, then they will schedule an Aversion at 37 weeks. Basically two well trained doctors put their hands on my belly and attempt to turn Madision into the head-down position. Why wait until 37 weeks? Well Aversion has been known to actually induce labor, and at that point, it would be okay if it did. If for some reason the aversion fails or I end up going into labor before that points and she is in the wrong position, I will end up with another C-Section (which wouldn't be a big deal if I didn't have two other kids demanding my constant attention). Doc even gave me an entire lecture of what to do if my water breaks and she is transverse. Let's just say it doesn't sound like fun.

Moral of the story: Hillary is very sad that she's not going to get to see her Mom, grandparents, and her cousin's little baby on Thanksgiving Day. It's been 4 years since I've been with my family on any holiday. I'll also miss out on seeing Neil's family, Sherry & Alex, and our friends in NC, Rodg & Ang. However, not making the trip will most likely help with my comfort levels, we get to help out with the Metro Kids Thanksgiving Eve Dinner (in Inner City Baltimore), and we'll spend Thanksgiving Day with Jo and Jamie up in Philly (who are moving to NC in a few weeks). So there is bad news and good news, as life tends to bring. For now I have to go pay bills and take Owen swimming.

By the way, I was planning on going shopping on Black Friday with my mom and I was super excited until the bubble busted. Anyone want to go with me at 6 am in the morning?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Woe is Not Me.

It's uncomfortable, it is...pregnancy. Sometimes it's downright painful. Especially when you're in the third trimester. You can't stop at comfort though. You also have to add in the fatigue and swelling. Doc says to stay off my feet as much as possible, but really, how do you do that with the likes of Owen and Blake running around. Sure, I get a bit of time during naptime each day (assuming they take a nap) to sit in Neil's ugly recliner, prop my feet up, and relax. But it never seems like enough. I certainly don't feel rejuvenated. Enter the pity party. It's easy to complain, to moan, to shake my fist at the world. But then I think of my friend who is restricted to her bed/couch. She's 26 1/2 weeks pregnant and has been on bedrest for 6 1/2 weeks, and has a long way to go. Being with her today sort of put things in perspective for me. I might complain about wanting more rest, but what would I do if I were confined to a bed?

Let's take a poll of all people who know Hillary. Who here thinks I would go completely insane? Everyone? Really? Yeah, that's about what I expected. So today I'm lounging in Neil's (did I mention ugly) recliner working on camp stuff and praying for my friend, her sanity, and the safety of her baby.

I go to the Doc on Friday to find out if he's going to allow me to travel down South for Thanksgiving. I really want to see our family, especially since I'll actually be with my mom on Thanksgiving. It's been 4 years since I saw her on an actual holiday (besides my birthday). But I also don't want to risk going into labor in Warner Robins, GA. Wouldn't that be the kicker of the week? So I'm hoping the Doc tells me I'm closed up tight and good to go. If not, it looks like Neil and I might venture up to Jo and Jamie's for a fun holiday treat (which would be fun too since they're moving down to NC...and I might be a little jealous/bitter). Right now the plan is to go, but I'll let you know if things change.

Oh I hear the Fed Ex guy. I've been doing some Christmas shopping online this week...fabulous deals out there to snatch up. I'm actually almost done, which is refreshing. I think I'll head upstairs, grab my boxes, make some hot cocoa with extra marshmallows, and start dinner (Shake n' Bake baby).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Case Solved


It's not exactly your typical Sunday. Today is jam packed from start to finish. This is how it was supposed to go: I would head out to the grocery store early and by myself. Then I'd take the boys with me to church for my camp vision team meeting. While I was gone, Neil would hit the river kayaking with a few friends from his boating club. Then we'd meet up at Fusion tonight to help out in the nursery. We scheduled everything to the tee...except a sick baby. Blake has a fever and all your typical cold symptoms which puts a slight wrench in our day since we can't take a clearly sick child to church. Thankfully Mat volunteered to watch Blake in the overlap time. Yay for live in friends.


So what does this have to do with the case of the missing black box? Well, I'd glad you asked. I head out to the grocery store feeling naked and unprepared without my coupons. I decided to give Target a call, just in case. I pulled out a recent receipt and dialed. Side note: isn't it a little weird to get a recording when you're calling your local store? After being shifted from place to place, they gave me the bad news...no black box matching my description was found. Defeated and depressed, I parked in front of Safeway and was about to turn off the car when I realized I'd called the wrong Target. A glimmer of hope seeped into my soul. I shuffled through a few more receipts until I found one for the Columbia Target. Again I got a stupid recording, but it was all forgiven when the fantabulous lady at Guest Services said she had my box. "Great, I'll be there in 10 minutes." Of course, she probably was wondering why I would rush down there for a stupid box. I was starting to wonder that myself. Is there something seriously wrong with me that I can't just shop without coupons? Probably, and for that I have to blame my mom. Craziness aside, nothing was going to stop me from retrieving my little black box. Being that I was in a time crunch, I didn't get all my shopping done, but I did save an extra $7.50 on my $30 bill. See, it was all worth it.


Granted I didn't get much sleep last night, but I do have my black box back. (BTW, I didn't sleep because Blake was up most of the night, not because of my missing coupons). Now I hope to enjoy an hour or two of naptime (kids, not me) and then decide whether I'll be going to church tonight or not.




Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Case of the Missing Black Box

I know it's been a while, and please forgive me for my absence. In the wake of a very disappointing election (for which I can only hope America doesn't regret), I wasn't quite sure what to write about. It's funny how there is so much build up and then "pfflllluuufff", a big let down (kind of like a whoopee cushion deflating).




So I've spent the last week of in mourning. OK, not really. I've actually been quite busy planning an event for camp that went off with a bang this morning, and was fantabulous. We decided to host an event just for our campers and their friends to thank them for trusting us with their summers. With between 75-100 people there, I'd say most of our campers from last summer were in attendance and having a blast. "Fall into Camp" was a huge success. Yay!




But that's not the point of my post. What could have possibly driven me out of my blogging black hole? Yes, it's the case of the missing black box. What black box you ask? Let's just say that I don't leave home without my black box, at least not if I'm going shopping. Inside this box of wonder are hundreds of little scraps of paper alphabetized by product name and worth (at least to me) an infinite amount of money. If you know me at all, you have just gasped at the revelation of what I've lost...my coupon box. I know I had it on Tuesday when I was shopping for the camp event, but I haven't seen it since. I figured it was sitting innocently in the back of Neil's truck, but quite disappointed when he came back empty handed. Literally, it has vanished. The only thing I can think is that I left it in the cart at Target, but I just can't imagine how I could have done that. It really is an epidemic for me. Some people don't understand why I even bother. They should have been with me on Friday when I swung by the store to pick up a few items. All I could see were the items I could be getting for free with the coupons I couldn't find. It was depressing, and I couldn't even enjoy the fact that I was down a kid (Owen was at school).


Luckily Saturday comes every week, and with it comes the paper filled with coupons for me to clip. Normally, I'm excited to sit down and start cutting, but tonight it was tainted with a hint of sadness (mourning even). Tomorrow I'll swing by Target in hopes that some cart guy didn't throw away my little black box. Of course I can't even guarantee that it was in fact there that I lost my precious friend. Wow, I type the word "precious," and all of a sudden am catapulted into a scene from "Lord of the Rings." I think I can now sympathize with Gollum and his torturous loss. Now if they are gone forever there is only one thing to do...buy a new box, alphabet dividers, and start sorting the fresh cut coupons sitting next to me as I type. But when do you let go? Inevitably it is in that moment of weakness, when I've sorted the last General Mills coupon and am about to walk out the door on the way to the store, that my other black box will simply "show up." You know that's how it goes. It is the "oath of all things lost." Don't believe me? What happens the second you go out and buy a pair of sunglasses after you lost your old ones? Just ask my friend Clare...of course when she loses them, they are normally at my house with the rest of them, but that's not the point.
There...I feel much better now. I've vented, gotten it all off my chest. If anyone see my little black box, please send it home to me. I promise I'll throw a "prodigal box" party.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Just Get Out & Vote

I know I tend to have very strong political opinions. Just ask anyone who knows me. But I still believe in our right to vote, so whether or not you agree with me...get out there and vote. It's not that hard, and it is that important. Besides if you don't vote, you then have no right to complain about taxes, wars, or even potholes in the middle of the road. And even if your candidate loses, then you can say, "Don't blame me, I voted for ____." Just like I can do here in Maryland. Seriously, don't blame me that the governor is a complete failure, I voted for Ehrlich.

But don't be a dumb voter either. Don't vote for someone just because of the color of their skin or their party affiliation, and don't be a one issue voter either...like abortion. Educate yourself on the issues (and yes, at this point, it might require you to pull an all nighter). Know what your candidate stands for, and be realistic about the amount of political b.s. that will flow from their traps during the election. For instance, democrats don't cut taxes or support the military, and republicans tend to not have much of a backbone and allow the dems to run all over them.

Most of you won't remember this, if you are my age, but Clinton ran on cutting taxes in 1994, and we all know where that led...that's right, higher taxes (and he left the White House in shambles and the country in an actual recession). So let's be real about what comes out of Obama's mouth. It's all rubbish. No one seems to be concerning themselves with who he is as a person. Did you know that in his "acclaimed" book, he tells atleast three stories identical to those in Bill Ayres book? Yeah, and they just casually knew each other, right?

And let's just ask this question of the next possible Commander in Chief...could he infact get a federal security check? At least for that he would have to prove his citizenship, explain his associations, and divluge pertinent information about his past including drug use, schooling, and religious ties. I'm betting he couldn't even pass the poly, but that's just my opinion.

I realize it's too late to change minds, but since I don't get the opportunity to write very often, I'm sort of spewing it out of pent up frustration. I've been recovering from bronchitus, and I have to be at the election polling place at 5:45 in the morning to be a Chief Judge. I'm looking forward to it because I just love being at the center of it all (I know, shocking), but in a way I'm dreading it. I'm anticipating the tension, the partisanship, and the sensitivity. When I spoke to my democratic counterpart, I could hear the separation in her voice. "You can ask your team." Seriously, I thought we were all a team with one common purpose. At least that's how it was at my old polling place, but we'll just have to wait and see.

Off to make dinner and then to set up my polling place and meet my other judges. Wish me luck, and please get out and vote.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fair Warning

We officially have less than one week until the elections, and I have to say that much of what goes on in my mind lately revolves around this very important event. Needless to say, the outcome is that most of what I write this week will be politically motivated. Of course I will attempt to throw in regular stuff like Owen's first day of preschool tomorrow, but for the most part, it's all about November 4th.

I'll start with an interesting email forward I got today from my mother-in-law. If you know me, you know I don't forward anything. In fact, my mom gets extremely frustrated at me for not even reading what she forwards. But I found this far too enticing to pass it by, and I still stand by my decision to not pass on forwards, so here you go...

" Here is a creative approach to redistribution of wealth as offered by a reader of the local newspaper, the Eagle Tribune.


Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign the read "Vote Obama, I need the money." I laughed.

Once in the restaurant my server had on an "Obama 08" tie, again I laughed--just imagine the coincidence.

When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept. He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need--the homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10 and told him to thank the server inside as I decided he could use the money more. The homeless guy was grateful.

At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment I realized the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, but the waiter was pret ty angry that I gave away the money he did earn even though the actual recipient deserved money more.

I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application.

OR IS IT.........REDISTRIBUTION OF SOMEONE ELSE'S WEALTH IS A GREAT IDEA..............or just a fool’s political game!!"




Friday, October 17, 2008

Feeling Pretty "Spoiled"

Despite some pretty sad & humbling stuff going on in my life right now, I have to say that this particular morning, I am stoked about an opportunity that has come my way. Some of you have heard of Twitter. It's like a group text messaging system where you can "tweet" all your friends/followers at the same time, which now includes my sister. Anyways, I follow this TV spoiler site called Still Spoiled. A few days ago, they put out a tweet wondering if anyone knew any writers. Jokingly at first, I tweeted back, "I know me and I like to write." And to my surprise, they (well Ben really) got back with me. Seriously, me?

Now I don't talk much about my TV habits, mainly because I watch some shows that my teenage sister would more likely watch (but ironically doesn't), like One Tree Hill, Greek and the new CW show Privileged (which I love by the way). The other reason would center around the fact that I watch a lot of shows. Actually it's more like I stream a lot of shows on the Internet since I rarely get to watch them in prime time. I also happen to be addicted to spoiler sites, like stillspoiled.com & spoilerfix.com. So maybe it's a good fit for me to begin my writing career in the world of TV, plus I get early scoop on my favorite shows. (Disclaimer: I do like normal shows too like Heroes, Grey's Anatomy & Chuck. ) Since my dream is to one day write for a TV show, at least this will look good on my resume (that I don't have yet).


This morning Ben (who lives in New Zealand) offered me a trial for a couple weeks to see if it would work out. I'd be jumping on the couches right now, but then Owen would see me and think it was okay for him to do it, and I'm just not sure that is the example I want to be setting. Either way, I am super stoked about the opportunity, and wanted to share it with all of you.

Now if other areas (well really just one) of my life could iron themselves out, this might turn out to be one great day. This is definitely one of those prayer days, filled with praises and requests.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Really, it's not that hard to please me.

Depending on who you ask, everyone has their own favorite Halloween candy. Jo loves those peanut butter things that I can't remember the name of right now. Neil's favorite is...well, let's face it, he like anything with sugar in it. Clare loves Reese's, both the peanut butter cups and her daughter (who share the same name). And for Joyce it's all about the Milk Duds. But for me (& Katy), it's candy corn & peanuts. So today I go out...my sole mission, to get candy corn & diapers. I figure the best place to accomplish those tasks is good old Target. I go in, strap my little monsters into their "special" cart, and go off to find my items, and peruse the clearance racks of course. As I come up on the Halloween candy aisles, I begin my search for those delicious orange & yellow cone shaped candies. Hhhmm, that's weird, they are no where to be found. There were caramel flavored ones and chocolate flavored ones and the pumpkin shaped ones, but no plain old candy corn. So, I thought I'd ask someone. Maybe they have them stashed in another area of the store. In the very next aisle, there's a lady dressed in a red shirt, with a name tag that says "how may I help you?" I ask her where I can find candy corn. She says in broken English, and I'm not joking, "Um, I on da research team...dunno," then turns back to pricing packages of Dentyne gum. That was useless. I turn the corner to find another stock guy, so I ask him where I can find candy corn. He literally scratches his head and says, "I know we carry them, but I haven't seen any in a week or so."

Brief Pause: In the middle of all this, my husband calls equipped with a concerned voice. "What's wrong, Neil?" "Well, honey, it seems there is something horribly wrong with your blog. You finally post pics of the family, but there is not one of the dog." WHAT? I'm in the middle of a candy corn crisis, and he's worried about me posting a pic of the dog. I swear he is turning into his parents. But for those who care, here she is enjoying a little scratch and torture from Owen. But really, Neil, if you want me post more pics of Reese, then take more pics of her. This one was taken months ago in our old house, and it's the most recent one I could find. Now back to my story...

Am I really in Target, or have I somehow managed to wonder into Walmart without knowing it? You might be saying, "Hills, what's the big deal? Just go to another store." Okay, if you just thought that, you are clearly not pregnant with two toddlers in tote. That is so easier said than done.

Luckily, I managed to swipe up the last box of size 4 diapers, so my trip wasn't a complete waste. Now I'm home, the kids are fed and down for nap, and all I can think about is how I have plenty of peanuts and no candy corn. Such a sad day. If only I could have a tree like this one...

I'd be in heaven. Better yet, check out these sweet turkey treats. Aren't they cute?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Too Blah

I've decided my blog can be a bit blah at times, mainly lacking in things of the pictorial. So I thought I would dedicate an entire entry to the life and times of the Pennington family.

Let's start way back in August. This is us at the neighborhood picnic. It was a fabulous way for us to get acquainted with our new community. There were about a hundred people there, and a ton of kids for Owen and Blake to play with. Since then, I've attended the community association meeting and have volunteered to put together the newsletters. I'm working on my first one as we speak (or write).


Here is a pic of my friend, Katy & I (both preggo) in my new house. I'd post pics from moving day, but really, none of them are very good. I think Neil was in a close up mood. Okay, just so you know what I mean, here is an example: the stairwell leading from the basement (where we have our very own bar) to the main level. Seriously, I have 20 pics of the new house and not one of the front. I'll try and work on that.

So I didn't want you to think that I could just do photos. You all know how much Neil likes kayaking, and how much I love my husband. This is one of those videos that make me smile and screech all at the same time. I'm sure that he doesn't come down every drop as nicely as this. If you look closely, you'll see a blue blotch over by the rock on the right. Yep, that another guy's boat stuck up against the rock. Neil had to fish it out. So when you ask what Neil is up to and I say "kayaking," you'll know what I'm talking about.

video

So for the last couple years, our playgroup has gone to this farm nearby for a hayride, maze & pumpkin picking. Owen loved it. Blake could have cared less until it came to the hay itself. A few highlights of the day: Owen had a hard time picking a pumpkin because he thought they were too wet. Blake inadvertently had on two different shoes. I keep telling him to double check before leaving the house, but he just refused to listen. Owen finally decided on a medium sized pumpkin, then traded it for Blake's teeny tiny one. (never satisfied). Blake wasn't too keen on the pumpkin patch. He couldn't walk two steps without tripping over a vine, and he could care less about the pumpkins themselves. Owen thought the idea of a port-a-potty was "gross," but enjoyed washing his hands at the make shift sink.

Thanks to my friend, Amy, for sending me these pics. It seems that I can't ever remember to bring my camera when we go places. All this hay reminds me of Halloween, and how I still don't have a costume for Owen. He wants to be a Knight. Clare got him a shield at the Renn Faire, which he is super excited about. She also sent me to a website where I could make a costume for him, but that just sounds like work. Anyone know a real short knight who doesn't need his uniform on October 31. That would be super easy. Blake benefits from Owen's hand-me-downs, and has graciously agreed to be Superman. Isn't he nice.

It's time for me to take off for now. I have newsletters to write, camps to plan, a husband to satisfy (get your minds out of the gutter) and kids to raise. I wish I had all the time in the world to write, but I don't.

One more thing real quick. Check out the Like Hate Blog. Just do it. Don't ask questions, but I'd love to hear your feedback.


Monday, October 6, 2008

So How'd It Go, Hills?

I realize my last post was over 2 weeks ago. I think that is by far the longest I've gone without writing, and I always regret not writing. There were so many times during my trek down south that I wanted to write, but the circumstances just weren't conducive. So I thought I'd just write when I got back. It was almost as if the moment I hit my driveway at 3 am in the morning last Sunday that I was literally catapulted into real life and it hasn't slowed down since. Entering my third trimester of this pregnancy, I constantly find myself barely making it to 5 pm when my dear husband graces the front door of this home. And then it's time to make dinner, clean the kitchen, and get some laundry done. By 8 pm, my feet are swollen and weary, and all I want to do is plop down on my couch, prop up my feet, and veg a bit before I rest my body for the night.

That's great, Hills, but how was the trip? It was okay. The drive down was difficult, and not because of the demanding voices coming from the back seats. It was my dad's birthday, Sept 22. It's always those special occasions that get to you, right? Well, it got to me and of course it has to hit me as I'm driving down I-85 alone, pregnant with two toddlers. For a while I let myself dwell on Dad, still trying to get past those last few weeks, then I harnessed it all back in and focused on getting us safely to Augusta.

For the most part, the week seemed like a scheduled visit with family, almost like a typical holiday. I visited with Sherry, my step mom, my lil sister, and Neil's parents in Augusta before heading to Warner Robins to see my grandparents, my mom, my aunt, uncle, and cousin's wife and new daughter. It was good to see everyone. Heck, I even got to see my aunt's (who lives in VA) new husband as he was passing through town on his way back home. As I drove back to Augusta, I stopped briefly in Milledgeville when Neil and I went to college, met, and fell in love. I guess I was feeling nostalgic.

If you've ever traveled back roads in Georgia, you'll know that it's difficult to get cell service. I was in a dead zone for nearly an hour and a half. In that time period, I managed to rack up 6 voicemails and several missed calls, one of which was from my sister (who I was talking to when I lost coverage). When I called back, I found out that my dad's sisters and my own sister would not be able to make the internment due to the gas shortage. Now I have to be honest, with the exception of my sister, I have to say I wasn't all that sad. Actually I was relieved. Now I didn't have to deal with all the drama I wrote about in my last post. I was also relieved to hear that Sherry was still planning to move forward with the service, since I had traveled all this way and wouldn't really be able to come back. So Saturday came, and Sherry, Alex (my lil sis), and I made out way to Magnolia Cemetery, a place I'd been many times with my dad over the years. It's an ancient place, county owned, and completely sold out. But my dad spent so much time there, continuously exploring it's history, writing about it's people, and getting to know the caretaker. They made a place just for him underneath a young magnolia tree. Dad would have loved it. The service was short, simple, and sweet. Sherry's best friend's husband read from the Book of Prayer while Sherry placed the box in the ground. We said a prayer and that was it.

I think I needed the simplicity of it all. I miss my dad so much. Sherry and I both would talk about how much he would have loved the politics of today, and how pissed off he'd be at the stupidity of those dorks in Congress. And when I think about the drama in the family, I know he'd be pretty pissed about that as well. Of course, if he were still here, it wouldn't be happening now would it? I feel bad for Sherry and Alex because I know what it's like to be cast out, intentionally or not, from the same family. Now I find myself in a situation I am forced to deal with, to make a decision, to stay stagnant or move forward. Now that Dad is gone, I could walk away from his family, and I could almost guarantee they would most likely not even notice. Sure, from time to time, my name may arise in a conversation or two, wondering what became of me, but I seriously doubt anyone would actually pick up a phone to ask. Seriously, before those fateful few weeks I was in GA, I hasn't spoken to most of them in years, and if I did, it was because I went to visit or called. Granted I do get Christmas cards from two of my aunts each year, and on the rare occasion I make it down to Florida to see my mom, I make the effort to see my Aunt Cathy, the only aunt to attend my wedding 7 years ago. But other than that, I feel like a complete outsider to that family, so it would be easy to just walk away...but would it be best? When I was fifteen or so, I chose to spend Thanksgiving with my Dad's family which always happens at my Aunt Helen's house. I think at that time, they were still living in Macon. Soon after that, they moved to TN. Anyways, I went there every third week in November until Neil and I moved up here (and then it just didn't make sense). If I didn't go, I would never have seen any of them. It's still not feasible for us to travel to TN for Thanksgiving, with all the other families we have to visit, so I'm not sure exactly what the solution is. Do I make an effort to have a relationship with Dad's family? Of course I will, because that's what I do, that's who I am. It's who I've always been. The question is how, and that I don't have an answer to right now.

So it seems my trip was more about dealing with family then it was about Dad. And maybe that's the way it was supposed to be. I'm pretty sure it's about 21 years overdue, and I now realize I need to deal with this junk that has build up inside of me, for my own good, for my own peace.

It's time to get ready to go to the Y for Owen's swim lessons. The first two times we went, he literally sat on the edge of the pool and cried. He'd tell me each time how he didn't want to go swimming, then he switched gears, and now he loves it. Next week, I'll be signing him up for pre-school 2 days a week, and if budget allows, I'd like to keep him in swimming lessons for one more session. He's growing up so fast.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Long Trip...

Although this trip isn't nearly as long or turbulent as my last trip 5 months ago, it will still be both long and turbulent. I'm leaving tomorrow, with the boys, minus the husband, to drive down to Augusta, GA for the first time since my dad passed. Next Saturday, or this Saturday (depending on how you look at it), we will be burying my Dad's ashes in a plot in Magnolia Cemetery in Augusta.

I'm sure it will be a nice, simple service with a small crowd of family, but like my last departure, I have a few fears. One, I've done a good job of avoiding the topic as much as possible, surrounding myself with distractions, and I'm not sure it's going to be so easy being there. I was talking with Jo the other day on IM and she asked me if this trip will be good for me or just drudge up the past. My response? Both! Maybe drudging up the past is just what I need to bring some closure (as much as can be brought). Then again, maybe not. Who knows until I come out on the other side?

My second fear, and a valid one, is once again dealing with my family. I don't know if any of you remember this, but it was a fear when I left back in March and continues to be one now. Only this time, it's been perpetuated by my Dad's departure. Simply drama, and I'm not sure I'm in the mood for it. My aunt's will all be there for the service, as well as my sisters and my step-mom. All were at the memorial service, save one aunt. She chose not to come to what she described as a service not for people who loved Dad, but for people he barely knew. Well, I spent 4 weeks with these people he barely knew and all I can say is that they are wonderful strangers. I'm not going to air my family's dirty laundry, but let's just say that I'm not exactly looking forward to what may come (out of my mouth).

It is amazing to me how family members you rarely see can still have such an impact on your life. It seems like dysfunction is more the rule than the exception. We come to expect it, dread it, and regret it.

I'll keep you guys and myself updated through out what should be a fairly interesting and emotional week. I'm honestly looking forward to the process. The last trip brought me through a wild storm that left pieces of me lying all over the place, but I came out a stronger person because of the grace of God, and I happened to be carrying a little something extra (in my belly).
By the way, on a lighter note: Owen is fully potty trained (and tree, deck, and floor trained), but at least he's no longer pooping in his potty. Camp is on it's way to a second season with many new changes and exciting additions. Blake is climbing all over the place, loves the toilet (playing in it), the buttons on the TV, and anything in Mat's room (oh, did I tell you we have a tenant?). So Mat is Clare's boyfriend, soon to be fiance, soon to be husband who's staying in our basement and helping with our new mortgage until he goes off and gets hitched. He's great with the boys and even makes homemade Mac & Cheese. I'm thinking about trying to sabotage their relationship so we can keep him around longer.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Are We Living in a September 10th World?

I arrived at work right around 8:15, just as I normally did, placed my Starbucks cup on my desk and checked my voicemail. I set my new voice message, "Hi, You've reach Hillary Pennington, administrative assistant with All-American Recreation. Today is Tuesday, September 11, and I am in the office today. Please leave me a message and I will get back with you right away."

A few minutes later, life, as I had known it, changed. Our facilities guy came running down the stairs into our dungeon offices and told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in NYC. As I was the only person in my office, I dropped everything (literally) and rand up the short stair case to the facilities office. He was listening to the radio online, which was strictly prohibited by our IT department, but something told me that today they wouldn't care. Just as we begun to listen, we heard that a second plane hit another tower. Immediately I knew we were under attack. For several moments, we both stood silent, tears streaming down our cheeks. What do you say to that?

I rushed back to my desk to call Neil, my husband of one month. He was at school at Georgia Tech, and of course wouldn't answer his cell phone. I knew I'd have to wait for him to call me, so I grabbed my cell phone and head upstairs to the main offices. 120 people worked at Perimeter at that time, most of which had not even arrived at work. I wondered how many would hear about the attacks on the radio and head back home, but as I came out of the stairway into the main lobby, it was apparent I was the only one who knew. It was business as usual. I found Heidi at the front desk, and asked if she had heard about the planes that hit the World Trade Center. She grasped at a near by radio and tuned to a talk-radio channel. It seemed as though the world had stopped. There was no cable television at the church, which was quite surprising to me, but I'd never questioned it before. So a few of us huddled about the receptionist's desk listening intently for any new details. About the time, and I'm serious about this, I said aloud "Where will they hit next," the report came in that there was some sort of fire at the Pentagon. At this point, panic set in. What would stop them, whoever they were, from hitting Atlanta?

I didn't even notice the growing numbers of people gathering around us, hanging on every word that reporter said. Tony, our IT guy (yes, the one who wouldn't allow us to listen to radio online), told us he was gerry-rigging a TV so we could watch from the fellowship hall. It's amazing how quickly this all happened. I walked into the hall, the very hall I'd been married in the month before, just in time to see the first tower fall. How could I not cry? In that moment people died. I didn't know how many, but I knew it was inevitable. Moments later, the second tower came down, and in horror, I sat down on the floor and wept. And I wasn't alone. My colleagues, men and women, pastors and admins, moms and dads, stood, sat and knelt around me in utter and complete shock. As a staff we prayed, for hours it seemed, for the victims, the survivors, and yes, those responsible (whoever they were).

Never in my life had I seen such hatred clearly demonstrated, and my naivety was put to rest once and for all. In the days following the attacks, I began to see a country awakened with patriotic hearts, joining together for one cause...to put our land back together again, protect our people from further attack, and bring justice to the invaders. In those moments, I was thankful for George W. Bush, our commander in chief. I could not have imagined what it would have been like had Gore been our president. It was clear why Bush had won that race, no matter how tight it was.

Seven years and two and a half kids later, our country seems safe. We've avoided other attacks and have successfully fought our enemies on their territory and not ours. But it seems that it's so easy to forget what we went through. We're back to tearing each other apart, pointing fingers, concocting stories about 9/11 being an inside job (yeah, and the holocaust wasn't real either). Even in the midst of a tragedy like Hurricane Katrina, all we could do was place blame. It seemed like the comrodarity we saw seven years ago has dissappeared. And in this ever so important, and historic election (on both sides), as American's we're going for the juggular instead of reaching out our hands. And don't get me started with the church. There's a song I just love about the body of Christ that says "if we are the body, why aren't his arms reaching? Why aren't his hands healing? Why are words words teaching?" Are those not the truest statements?

I encourage us to remember, and not just one day a year, but daily remember why we're Americans, why we love freedom, and why we were attacked. Live in a post-September 11th world, where we see the threats that surround us and respond to them, where we strive to protect ourselves and our neighbors, where we're proud of the freedom we have and the sacrifice it took to provide it.

Where were you on 9/11 and how did that day change your life?

The Burden of Excellence

When planning for camp, I am one of the biggest advocates of excellence in our programming. We must strive for it in every area, because this is what will translate to our community and set us apart as a different kind of day camp. But my question is, how does this same excellence translate over into my home life? I'm reading a book right now called "The Excellent Wife" Notice how it's not entitled "The Perfect Wife." There is no such thing, and if there were, I'd probably be in a long line of women waiting to take her out.

So what is excellence? Webster's defines it as "very good for it's kind." Dictionary.com says it's possessing outstanding quality or superior merit. I like the "very good for it's kind" definition even though it uses a word that is very much overused...good! But the part I like is the "for it's kind." Now I am not suggesting that wives delve into a competition to be the better wife. Not at all. In fact, I think that the only opinions that matter are that of her husband, her kids, and her Lord. The reason a wife should strive for excellence is not to impress the other women at Mom's group. It's not even so she can impress her husband. It's so she can bring glory to her God.

I can tell, in my own marriage, the times when I am pitting Neil against myself, comparing his efforts to mine. "I watch the kids all day long, sometimes without a break (no nap days). When you get home, I simply ask for a bit of peace and quiet so I can get your dinner on the table and prepare for an evening of continuing to raise your kids." Now you have to imagine that as I'm saying those words, my hands are placed skillfully on my hips, head titled to the side (not sure why that happens) and my voice suddenly changes into this "I Love Lucy"esque high-pitched tone with a slight handful of nagging on top. It's quite the sight to see, and it accomplishes nothing.

On the other hand, when I take 15 minutes to straighten up the house before Neil arrives, go to the door to greet him (with the kids), and give him 10-15 minutes to wind down, put his clothes away, and possibly take a dump, Neil will emerge ready and willing to take on the kids for as long as I need. It's amazing to me how my attitude can make or break a situation, and yet more times then not, I'm standing at that door when he arrives, not to greet him, but to throw the kids at him and retreat to my room for a pity party from hell. Whoa is me, right?

I think being an excellent wife is more about attitude then actions. Sure, I could go through the motions, but what reward would it bring? My husband should be my first priority outside of my relationship with God. If he were, my attitude would stem from love instead of selfish pride. So in this first week of reading this book, I've realized some of my priorities need to change. But here's the kicker, I'm not sure I can change them, especially not in an instant. So I've been praying that God would change my heart, giving me a deep love for my husband and desire to be an excellent wife to my husband.

Oh and Poo Poo Update: Owen hasn't had an accident since he first went poo poo on the potty, and now he's refusing to wear a diaper at night and surprisingly staying dry. WOO HOO! Now off to the Zoo for some fun!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Proud Mama

When you live in a house full of boys, minus the dog and the baby in my belly, you learn to deal with the grossness of life. It all doubles when half those boys are under 4 and things like toots, pee, and poop become part of your daily routine. Then you have to add in potty training and the stubborn will of a 3 year old boy. What a train wreck. Peeing in the potty was easy, very few accidents after Owen figured out how much fun it was to stand, aim, and wiz. But poop, whoa! For some reason, Owen just did not want to "put his poopies in the potty." A couple of weeks ago, we did away with diapers except at night. I can't tell you how many pairs of dirty underwear I've washed since then. And let me tell you, it's disgusting. If we go a day without accident, it's due to the simple fact that Owen didn't poop at all that day. Sometimes, I would go through 5 pairs of underwear in a single afternoon. A very frustrating process indeed.

Then, yesterday, the miracle occurred...Owen poo pooed in the potty all by himself. In the midst of this training event, it's very difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but when it comes, it sure is bright and warm and welcoming. Now granted, it's been less than 24 hours since the blessed event occured, but I am proud to say we've had not one accident. And then comes the peace.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I Know I Said I Wouldn't, But

Here is a video when Sarah Palin speaks at her church in Wasilla, AK! This is a perspective we don't normally get to see in the mainstream media.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Challenging the Status Quo

It's in our nature to both be different and belong. There is a battle within ourselves to stand out and fit in all at the same time. We don't want to conform, but we also don't want to be excluded. I believe this to be one of the most perplexing oxy morons ever, yet it's nestled at the center of our very beings. I think this battle within ourselves, drives us to conflict and harmony, ideas that wouldn't seem to coexist. But let me tell you something I've learned about conflict. It's not pretty, but it can be beautiful. Don't worry, I'll explain.

When I first became a Christian, I was an 18 year old freshman in college, and the biggest conflict in my life at that moment (and for the last 9 years) was with my dad. Almost right away, God placed this very conflict at the forefront of my heart and my mind. Since he was an alumni from my school and a noted writer, my professor asked my Dad to come speak to my English class (which I eventually was dropped from and ironically caused me to lose the Hope Scholarship, but that's beside the point). The night before the scheduled event, I couldn't sleep. This internal battle of bitterness and fear was raging inside of me, and I did the only thing I knew to do at the time. I prayed out loud in the middle of my dorm room (luckily my roommate was gone for the evening or that might have seemed odd). I cried out in frustration and pain to a God I'd barely known for a few months, but I cried out all the same, and the answer I got was forgiveness. So I sat down and did what still comes most naturally to me, I wrote a letter. In this letter, I poured out my heart, nine years of confusion, anger, and pain. I vividly remember wiping the tears from the sheets leaving a crinkled surface. In this letter, I told him how much I missed being his daughter. In this letter, I scolded him for leaving his family to pursue another relationship. In this letter, I chose to forgive him and to begin a new chapter in our relationship where I would stop expecting him to be the dad he clearly was not capable of being. In this letter, I put the past behind and decided to sprint towards the future.

I didn't get much response, though I waited impatiently. After a month or so, I asked Dad if he had read the letter. He said he had, thanked me writing it, and told me he loved me. There was not recognition of wrong or apology for the pain his decisions had caused. At first I could feel the bitterness resurfacing, but I continued to remind myself that love and forgiveness are both choices, and that I had made a choice to love him for who he was and not for who I wanted or expected him to be.

The next twelve year were both difficult and rewarding. But the battle remained, as I believe it does in all relationships involving conflict. When there is pain, hurt, anger, misunderstanding, and the biggest culprit of all, missed expectations, there is always a choice to be made. You can take the difficult road, the one requiring sweat and hard labor, humility and sacrifice, or the easy road (which never proves to be as easy as it seems) requiring avoidance, burning bridges, and a commitment to destruction of the relationship, a road that most likely affects all relationships in one's life.

Most people feel it's easier to avoid conflict, but I'd like to challenge the status quot on this topic. I believe God uses conflict to draw people, even unlikely couplings, together. Because I was willing to enter into battle, I enjoyed a beautiful relationship with my Dad before he died, and not just in the days leading up to the inevitable, but in the 12 years when I chose to put the relationship before the conflict.

But God didn't stop with my Dad. He continued to put conflict in my path for me to make friends with. My BFF, Jo, is a perfect example. Around the same time I was dealing with my dad, I was dealing with Jo. When we first met, let's just say the sparks flew and not in a good way, but through our commitment, not to each other, but our walks with the Lord, he blessed me with the most rewarding friendship I've ever enjoyed. We've been through the thick of it together, the muck of life, and now we're reaping the benefits. But if I had listened to my nature 12 years ago, I would not only be living in regret about my dad, I would lost with my friend. I'm not done yet.

The year after I graduated college, I went to work for Camp All-American where I met a woman of character and strength. My boss, Tammy quickly became my mentor, and taught me about Jesus' way of dealing with conflict, a way I'd become accustomed to without even knowing it. In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus says,

"If your brother sins against you,[b] go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'[c] 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
18"I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be[d]bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.
19"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

Combining these statements with a passage in Ecclesiastes 4:12b, "A cord of three strands is not easily broken," I learned the beauty of conflict resolution. If we don't discuss the issues dividing our relationships, we miss out on the benefits of knowing and loving those people. I believe gossip is a symptom of a dying relationship, or a missed opportunity, or a conflict not resolved. Gossip leads us to slander those around us, most likely stemmed from some disagreement or misunderstanding. It's hurtful and painful and destructive, but worst of all, it denies both parties the opportunity for reconciliation, what Jesus so desired for his people.

I have to admit that I don't always practice what I preach, because my desire to be right, or noticed overpowers my desire to be reconciled...just ask my husband. But I'm thankful for the relationships in my life that I can look upon and know that without the beauty of conflict, they wouldn't exist. Sometimes a relationship that has been through fire is so much more sweeter than one without a grievance. I happen to find myself in the midst of a battle, one I am caught in the middle of, one where the participants have yet to figure out that they are in, a battle I'm afraid may end in bloodshed and not beauty. Of course I can see the potential, but can not force the hand of reconciliation. I can only encourage the parties involved to step into the ring on the same side and battle the true enemy who seeks to destroy.

I pray that we'll all challenge the status quot by getting in the fight, tearing down the walls, and seeking reconciliation.