Friday, August 29, 2008

Giddy & On My Way Out of Town

Before I head off to Philly for the night to see Jo, I thought I would chime in on my excitement (giddiness) over McCain's pick for VP. I am just in love with Sarah Palin, and boy would I have loved to have called me Dad the minute I heard the news. He would have joined me in a moment of screeching like a school girl (really, he would have). Nothing like a strong, conservative, gun-toting, oil-drilling, earth-loving mom to shake up the white house. I have to say that I was a little leery of who McCain would choose given his less than true conservative view points, but with this chic...he's right on.

Up to this point, I can honestly say I've been sulking. I certainly don't like Barack (and it has nothing to do with the color of his skin, but his tax raising, America-blaming politics that drives me insane) and I have not been a big time supporter of there really wasn't anything to get excited about. Of course I'm going to vote on November 4. To not vote would forfeit what millions have fought and died to give freedom (plus I couldn't complain about my government for the next 2-4 years). But I wasn't excited about voting, now I am.

I can't wait to learn more about Palin, who is the mother of 5 children, one of which is serving his country as we speak. Her youngest was born with down syndrome, and you know what she said about those silly pre-screening tests they do around the 5th month..."I look at him and see nothing but perfection." I've declined the test 3 times. However, I've asked two doctors why I should take it and they told me (seriously) that if it were to come out positive for one of these disorders, I could terminate the pregnancy before it was too late. Do people really do that? (besides Obama who apparently believes it's okay to kill a baby who actually survives a partial-birth abortion attempt). I could never imagine taking the life of one of my children at all, much less because they may have some sort of defect. So for that alone, I applaud her.

Now I must go off for the weekend and endure the pains of a moment of two away from my boys to hang out with my BFF in Philly. Don't think I'll get back to writing until Sunday, but we'll see. I might just get fired up enough to rant on some more.

Wish me luck on the drive up there. Combining giddiness with rush hour Friday traffic and the rain = not a happy sight.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Rainy Day Disaster Averted & Global Warming?!?

So the day went fairly well, no major disasters, minus the lack of nap time for a certain 15 month old mischievous little boy. There wasn't enough rain for a mud pit, so we had to go with an alternate plan. By 9 am, we were already at the Y for my morning workout. Not too much to say about that, except that I lifted weights (which is monitored by this Fitlinx system that is really cool ) for the first time in close to 2 months and I forgot my towel so I had to return home hot and sweaty and figure how to distract my monster's long enough to get clean. (pretty sure that was a run on sentence).

Katy and Ashleigh arrived shortly thereafter and off we went. Where you ask? To Chick-Fil-A of course. We were hungry and the kids can play while we chat. I would have joined a group going to Playwise, but didn't get the message until too late. Maybe next rainy day (thanks Amy for the invite). Back to the house for nap time (which didn't go as planned) and a chick flick (the Vegas one with Ashton).

Now I'm racking my brain to figure out what to make for din din with chicken breast, rice or pasta, and what ever else I find in my pantry. I really hate it when I slack on meal planning. It just throws off my whole week (by the way, Stacey...rule #1 to saving on your weekly grocery bill: meal planning).

Political Side Note: Two more articles to support my Global Warming Scandal (courtesy of Amy):,2933,333328,00.html

Also, I'm sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear who McCain picks. Do you think it's too late for Condi to change her mind? I'm not a gambling type, mainly because I would lose all my money trying to win, but I'm thinking it's gonna be Romney. What do you think?

A Rainy Day

It's been a while since we've had a full-out rainy day, a long while. Being that I'm not one of these super mom's who obviously foresees the rainy day coming weeks in advance and has all these amazing plans for the event, I'm stuck here trying to figure this whole thing out. Luckily I don't have to do it alone. Katy and I have decided to brave the day together. So what should we do?

Back in the day, pre-babies, I'd go to Blockbuster (because there was no such thing as a red box) and rent 2-3 chick flicks. Then I'd swing by the grocery store for a few appropriate rainy day snacks, diet coke, oreo cookies, and buttery popcorn. Finally I'd end up at home, curled up under a comfy throw with my snacks and the remote = day of fun! But something tells me my two boys and I don't have the same taste in fun, though I'm pretty sure they wouldn't complain about the oreos or the popcorn.

Of course you have to add an obvious lack of motivation to my dilemmas of the day. In the last few weeks, I feel like someone has literally sucked the life out of me, and that someone is the cute little girl growing inside of me. Don't get me wrong. I'm so excited about having a girl, seriously, but right now, I'd give anything for a moment without yawning. Enter rainy day into the equation, and I feel like the world's biggest slacker. Do you see how dire my situation is?

Here is what's on my agenda so far: Get to the gym by 9:00 then head to the bank to deposit money to pay my first new mortgage bill, and then off to meet Katy & Ashleigh for a fun day of ???

On a side note: we got our first BGE (electric & gas) bill and it was a little less than the Cranberry house. This excited me considering it was in the middle of the summer. Speaking of summer, I thought we were in the middle of some sort of global warming scandal. Yeah, I can totally tell. I'm burning up here in Maryland with the temps nearing 80 in August. It's a scorcher. Did you know that the 1970's brought concern of Global Cooling? Seriously google it! Plus, it seems that we've been in a cooling trend for the last ten or so years. I wonder if Al Gore (while flying his private jet) has read this article I get that it is just one article, but I'm simply convinced that this whole global warming scandal is just a way to line Al Gore's pockets, flood the world with liberal intolerance, and give Hollywood extremists a high horse to ride on. Wow, I didn't realize I was so passionate about it. Oh and if I'm going to blame anyone for the high gas and food prices, let's see...who's been sitting on their butts in congress doing nothing. That's right, all those people elected into office in 2006 giving the Democrats a majority who are doing what right now? Yep, vacationing. Our tax (& gas) dollars at work. Can't blame me though, I voted for the other guy! While I'm on a political rant, let me say how much it irks me that I'm considered a racist for not liking Barack. Let me just say that I didn't hear a single democrat claiming that back in '06 when Michael Steele was running for Senate in Maryland, a black conservative man whom I was proud to support. Do you know how the blacks in Maryland described him? An oreo, black on the outside and white on the inside...go figure!

Okay I'm done ranting for now, but I can't promise that as the election nears, I won't be a little more vocal. I'm pretty sure it will slip out from time to time. I am interested to see who McCain picks as his V.P. Feel free to add your ideas to the comments below. And don't forget the rainy day ideas, since that is the reason I started writing this post.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Potty Training & Poo Poo Baskets

No, I am not training Owen to poop in a basket. Yesterday we went to the Dollar Tree and Owen picked out several toys & prizes to put in his Poo Poo Basket. Then we came home, put the basket together, and made a cute little chart. I explained to Owen the Plan. Every time he goes pee pee in the potty he gets a little sticker for his chart. When he goes poo poo, he get s big "high flying" sticker and gets to pick a prize from the Poo Poo Basket. He's very excited and runs into the bathroom. I'm thinking, "this is it. We're done." He pulls down his pants, climbs on the toilet and pees in the potty.

"Owen, do you need to go poo poo too."

"No! All done."

So we go pick out a cute little sticker to start off his chart. Ten minutes later he poops in his pants. This is the story of my life lately, potty training. Seriously I have two boys and one of the way. I put up with a lot, but I believe these kids get together and conspire against mommy's around the world. They know this is the one thing they have complete control over, and they use it. Every mom gives her advice, and it's good advice because it worked for her, but let's face it; there is no Twelve Step program for potty training.

So if you've been wondering where I've been the last week or so, entertaining in-laws and immersed in bodily functions. Fun times!

Coming Full Circle...

I haven't written about my Dad in a while, and it's not because he's not on my mind. It's more because he's constantly on my mind, but life keeps intervening. Really, it's quite annoying. When I begin to think of my Dad, I push the thoughts out of my head and attempt to focus on the task at hand, like getting Owen to poo poo in the potty (still unsuccessful I might add.) While listening to 91.9, they'll frequently play some rendition of Be Thou My Vision to which my response is to quickly change the channel. If I'm unpacking a box and come across a picture, I'll allow a quick tear or two before I bury the picture in the stack and set that box aside to be gone through later. Let's just say that I normally have the chance to run and hide from my pain, and then I went to church on Sunday.

When I noticed the one word on the front of the bulletin, "Conflict," I didn't think much of it...another series on how we shouldn't go to bed angry or gossip about our friends. This should be good, and then T.J. introduced this video from North Point church in Alpharetta, GA. But this time it wouldn't be Andy Stanley, but some unknown girl speaking of some conflict she'd resolved in her life. You probably know where this is going at this point, but for those of you out there who need a little help...she was about to tell us about her father.

She began by telling us about what kind of man he was, his positive traits, something someone would say at a memorial service. I noticed the constant use of the word "was," and prepared myself for what was coming next. Her father was dead, died of cancer 3 1/2 years ago. Can you guess my reaction? Since I couldn't change the channel or leave the room, I allowed the tears to flow, and they didn't stop. She might as well have been telling my story with a few minor timeline and character changes, and she too had peace (though it came literally moments before he passed). Even through the pain, I was able to recognize the message. Now I realize that Tim's purpose in showing that video was to reveal a person in our lives we need to seek reconciliation with, but for me I sat there encouraged, grateful, relieved. My Dad is gone, for good gone, and that's hard enough to deal with. I'm so thankful that I'm not also stewing in regret, bitterness, and missed opportunities. I have peace, and am now inspired to write down my story...not so much for anyone else, but just for me, to see it come full circle.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Seven Years Ago Today...

Seven years ago today on a hot, August evening, a man waited at an adorned altar surrounded by his best friends and immediate family. As the auditorium door opened and "Come Thou Fount" began to play, a slew of women progressed down the aisle, but none of them were of this man's desire. And then, the music stopped, the door closed, then opened again, and new song old hymn entitled "Be Thou My Vision." And then he saw her, lavished in white, accompanied by another man very close to her heart. This woman was about the become his wife.

This is the scene that plays over and over again in my mind of my wedding day...that very moment before Neil and I became one, the very moment my singlehood ended. I never looked back, not even once. And today, two and a half kids later, I realize how much more of my being belongs to this man. I couldn't imagine my life without him.

Sure, there are times when I would personally like to ring his neck and leave him out to dry, but what good would that do. Then I would only be half-whole. Neil is the kind of man who lives out his character on a daily basis, in the details of his life. He uses the talents and gifts that God has given to the maximum potential. A few weeks ago he changed out the faucets in a complete stranger's house, just because she needed it. For three years, he mowed not only our grass, but also our next door neighbor's because Ned wasn't able. This is just the kind of man Neil is, one of strength and subtle mercy.

God grabbed a hold of Neil's heart during his first year in college, a couple years before I met either of them (God or Neil). For a few years there, we ran in the same circle yet never really noticed each other. Well, I never really noticed him. Not sure exactly how I managed to turn his head, but once I did, I was the center of his affections, the apple of his eye (cheesy...yes, but appropriate).

Neil has always been my biggest fan, supporting me in every adventure, though we could both agree i don't tend to be the adventuresome one. Perhaps "venture" would have been a better word there. He supported me when I decided to leave my full time job, not sure of what was ahead. Of course we found out later that God had parenthood in mind. He supported me when I decided to become a Pampered Chef consultant, two months after our first child was born. And he supported me when I decided to start a day camp at Grace, knowing the toll it would take on our family. This is the kind of man Neil is, one who doesn't have to be at the center of everything. He stands with humble strength and allows me to use my God-given talents and gifts to their fullest potential.

He's a father of two energetic boys, who test the limits moment by moment, and yet he's still here. Not much for the infant phase, like most men, but you should see him roll around on the floor with his boys. It's inspiring (not to roll around with them, but still). Actually what you should see if him talking Owen through peeing on the potty. His patience and praise speak to Owen's three year old spirit in ways that I just can't. This is the type of man Neil is, a man equipped to be a father, and does so with grace and maturity (long way from his chin stud and scruffy gotee).

Though far from perfect, my Neil never ceases to amaze me in his creativity (as unique as it may be), his randomness, and his desire to live a life worthy of the respect he deserves.

Happy Anniversary Neil! May the next seven years be as fabulous as the first seven.

Pink or Blue?

Actually if you know me at all, I prefer purple and green...YEP, it's a girl! Now, the guy didn't come right out and say it (due to stupid policies), but he did say that he didn't see anything. I didn't see anything either, and I certainly know what to look for. With Blake, I knew before she even pointed it out, but with this one, there was nothing there, and we looked at several angles. Mom was there, which was probably what swayed the guy to tell us in the first place. She did come all the way from Florida and stayed an extra day just to be at the ultrasound. I think she was glad she did.

So I'm off to Children's Place to take advantage of the Monster Sale, plus my 25% coupon. I'll blog later about my weekend, which included a wedding, a cruise, mom, and a debrief. Until then!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Owen's Three!

Today, August 6th, 2008 is Owen's third birthday. Amazing isn't it? Not that he made it to three, but that I did. I still can't believe that three years ago today, at this exact moment, I was trying desperately to avoid a C-section. Despite my failure in that area, I've had the precious opportunity to be a mom to not one fabulous child, but two (not to mention the one of the way).

I have to admit that though I knew his birthday was the 6th and I knew it was this week, it just didn't occur to me that it was TODAY. If I had, I would have planned it better, but God did that for me. Today just happened to be our Playgroup, so I just brought a cupcake cake, some balloons and some candles. It also just so happened that everyone on the evite list, and then some, decided to be there today, so it really was like the perfect birthday party. Owen may have had a bit too much sugar, as I still hear him playing in his room when he's supposed to be napping. But what's a birthday without too much sugar? Really! It's just once a year.

Lesson learned: I need to transition back into being a full-time mom. I'm not sure I've been that in a long while, probably since I went to Georgia. In all honesty, I think I've just been skating by for months. I'm slowly getting my bearings back, figuring out this new house, new location, and new routines. It's helps to be writing again. Glad to be back.

Part Two: From Vision into Reality

Four years ago I was working at Camp Sonshine in Silver Spring, and slowly getting acquainted with our new church, Grace Community. I had several issues with Camp Sonshine, mainly two things. One, I was working an average of 82 hours a week during the summer leaving me no time for my husband, and two, I never really saw their vision and mission lived out in the camp itself. To me, it seemed more like a regular camp that happened to have Christians working there. In December of 2004, I rendered my resignation ready to take on the world. A week later I found out I was pregnant with Owen. Shortly there after I went to work part time for the middle school ministry at Grace. All along I had this burning desire to start a day camp, maybe at Grace, but most likely wherever God took us next (preferably way down south in the land of cotton.) I even shared that vision with Shaun Smithson over a meal of bottomless fries at Red Robin. At the time, Grace was meeting in a warehouse with little to no land to speak of, but they had already purchased the property we now meet on. From the first time I saw that piece of land, I could see the kids playing in the fields, but surely God was going to take us home, so it must have been someone else's vision (I know, stupid thinking).

Then last summer everything changed. During a quiet time one day, I felt pressed to pursue the vision. As silly as I felt, I emailed Tim Siemens, a pastor at Grace, and told him my idea for this day camp at Grace. Within the hour, he responded, excited to hear more. We met in September and the rest is history.

Flash forward to July 7th, 2008, the first day of camp. I have to say that Michelle and I both were quite emotional. To see something come to fruition after 9 months of hard work and four years of dreams was more than even my words could explain. We had 38 kids, 8 staff, 7 servant team, and no nurse during the first week. Despite a few hiccups, the feedback from campers & parents was phenomenal. There are a million stories a could share with you, but I'm going to focus in on three.

Over the weekend between the first and second week, Michelle told me that we'd gotten a registration for a girl named Charlotte (Charley). Turns out she was invited to camp by a Grace family that was attending camp that week. Here's the kicker: they had just met Charley and her family two days before. So Charley comes, and despite a rough first day, has a great time at camp, so much so that she wanted to return for another week. But given the fact that her family had just relocated from Arizona the week before, finances were a little tight and she wasn't going to be able to come. Well, Charley was actually going into 7th grade, making her a little old for camp, so Michelle suggested we bring her back the next week on our Servant Team. We typically don't take 6th graders, but thought we could make an exception for Charley. At the parent assembly on Friday, Charley was visibly upset that it was the last day of camp. As her mom & sister, Chloe, arrived, we pulled them aside and asked if Charley (and Chloe if she wanted) could come back. Her mom was floored that we would take such an interest in her family. We told Charley right away and those tears of sorrow turned into tears of joy.

Charley and her sister Chloe finished out the summer with us, and found a new church home in the process. That's our vision right there. The family that invited them had no idea at the time that a simple invitation would be so fruitful. Charley and her family felt safe at camp, and because of that gave the church a shot. We couldn't have asked for a better story our first summer, but wait, there's more.

During our second week we had a little girl named Rebekah come to camp. We knew she came with a friend, but that's about it. A little over a week later, I received a note in my mailbox, actually a copy of the "let us know" sheet from morning service. On it Rebekah's mom praised camp profusely, and then I saw the box checked "new to Grace." See Rebekah's friend, Emily, had invited her to camp, and in the process, they decided to check out camp. Again, that's our vision played out in person, in lives.

Lastly I have to tell you about Karin, our camp nurse. Originally she signed up to work week two, half days, in exchange for her daughter, Victoria, coming to camp. After just a few days at camp, she decided to come back, and ended up spending the rest of the summer with us. She was just like one of us, even stayed with me until the last camper was gone each evening. And what a blessing she was when she brought Michelle and me a soda each day when she arrived. I believe God sent her to encourage and "heal" Michelle and me, and we hope she will be back next year as our official camp nurse.

Not really a story, but I feel obligated to tell you about our staff. From the moment we hired them until the last day (and beyond), it was clear that God called each of them to be there this summer. Several jumped in before camp and helped out as much as they could, as well as offering to be involved in the planning process for next year. Without a stellar staff camp could not have happened this summer. It's because of them that kids wanted to come back from week to week, and the kids that came all four weeks can't wait to come back next summer. God certainly knew what he was doing when he sent these 8 people to us. From Cree who coordinated assemblies & ran servant team (who is now in Austria for good) to Amy who managed to work all four weeks pregnant and with a 10 month old to Chris who despite his physical age blew us all away with his maturity and patience. From Nick who was challenged with two autistic children and never let it get him down to Meghan who saw a need and met it with grace and the heart of a servant to Thaise who cared for all the children with a gentle spirit and passion for the Lord. From Phil who was ready and willing to do anything and everything asked of him to Roya who worked another job outside of camp but never let on to her fatigue and allowed herself to be used. And then there was out support team: Matt who flourished as a worship leader and Ben who grew in this new experience. Then there was Blair and Aaron who caught the vision long before the summer and never ceased to amaze us with their acts of service. And all the volunteers who gave their time, energy and hearts to camp, even if only for a moment, helped make camp the success it is today.

There's so much more I could tell you, and maybe someday I will. God is continuing to work in and through camp, and I'm excited to say that we will be back next year. Thank you for all your prayers and support.

Oh and we officially own the house we live in. We closed last night at 5:00 pm. It was shocking how smoothly it went.

Monday, August 4, 2008

I'm Back...Did You Miss Me?

It's Monday morning. The boys slept until 7, and for the first time in 6 weeks, I am not on my way to camp. And what a few weeks has it been! Between being a camp director, selling and buying houses, being pregnant, and attemping to be a wife and a mom, I've felt like a juggler in a circus and not a very good one at that. My plan is to take each one of those "balls" and tell you all about what you've missed in the last few weeks. I'd thought I'd start with the drama-o-houses.

In Romeo & Juliet, the guy at the end (no, I did not brush up on my Shakepeare before using the analogy) says, "a curse on both your houses." Yep, I think that same guy must have overseen the process for the sell of our house on Cranberry. We never expected to be moving in the middle of camp. It was supposed to take 4-6 months to sell our house, so we thought it would be smart to get it on the market as soon as possible. Our goal was to be in the new house before the baby comes. Little did we know that we'd get a buyer in less than a month. People kept saying we were lucky, but since we don't believe in luck, I'm gonna go with God. This was God's way of telling us we were on the correct path, right? So shouldn't that mean that everything was going to go smoothly? No so much!

You all know about the "betrayal" that occured on the Glenmore house, but the God-story there is obvious. We love our new house and the people we bought it from. They have been so incredibly patient with us and all the blips in the road. Can you believe we haven't even closed on this house yet (tomorrow at 5:00 pm)?

We moved in the house on the 20th of July, one day before we were supposed to close on Cranberry, and two days before Hubner...or so we thought. An hour and a half before the scheduled close on Cranberry, we got the call. We weren't closing that day. After some deep investigation on the part of my realtor (and not the buyer's realtor) we found that there was some mistake made on the part of the underwriter on the buyer's loan. So signed a few papers and rescheduled for that Friday, the 25th. Again, the day of, we find out we're not closing, but this time the worm hole of incompetence widens. It turns out that their was some misappropriation (not in an illegal kind of way) of funds on the buyer's loan which increased the total amount of their loan. So we had to sign some more papers, fax them back and forth, and hope that some day we'll close. We were seriously wondering if this thing would ever happen, and we were already living in our new house. Then we find out that the buyer's have been given final approval for their loan, and have had it for a while. So really, we're just waiting on the underwriter and the lender. Come Wednesday (the 30th), we had a tentative double closing booked for Thursday, and things were looking good. And then Thursday came, and again we were waiting on the underwriter and again the incompetence grew. All she had to do was say "pay the loan." That's it! How hard is that? Why do you need 3 days (no, two weeks) to do that? Why? You can guess where this is going...we didn't close on Thursday either. So here we are on the last day of camp. Okay, I missed my great-grandmother's funeral five years ago so I wouldn't miss my last day of Camp All-American (given I was moving 12 hours away and I did go down for the wake, but still). Around 11:00 am, Steph (my fabulous realtor who I highly, highly recommend) calls with the good news. We were clear to close. So I say that I would prefer not to close between 3:00 and 4:00 because that is my last parent assembly and I didn't want to miss it. When she calls me back with the time, you can guess by now what it is going to be, right? Yep. 3:00! It was the only time they could do it and get it done that day. So, in tears, I leave camp at 2:30 to get to Bowie by 3:00. Now, do you know what I'm going to say next yet? You should. I did! We sat there, waiting, for two hours before we actually signed papers. Oops, I left out a slight detail...we were scheduled to close on Hubner at 7:00 that night. I could have stayed for the assembly, and we didn't end up closing on Hubner because the title company wired the money too late. Like I said, we'll close on Hubner on Tuesday at 5:00 pm.

Incompetence! That is how I would describe the people involved in the process. From the realtor to the lender to the underwriter to the title company, it's hard to say where it all started or who is most at fault, but I've never been so frustrated...and here's the thing, I had absolutely no control (shocking). So if you're buying or selling a house anytime soon, think twice before using Metropolitan Mortgage Group, Chase Bank, Millenium Title Company, or Zeny the realtor (don't know her last name).

Now on the other side of things, the process the buy this house, has been smooth sailing (with the exception of the Cranberry house). We went through Resource Mortgage Group. Frank & Rebecca over there have been awesome. They even called me a couple times just to see how I was doing. American Title Company in Ellicott City has been amazing as well...and so on top of things. I highly recommend them. And lastly, as far as realtors go, I say go for Stephanie Andrews. She went above and beyond over and over again. In fact, I wish I could have given the other realtor's commission to Steph. She did most of the work.

At the end of story, I still sold a house & will buy another house. Although currently, I own nothing, but I have a nice chunk of money out there is Mulah Land somewhere between two banks. We love this house. It just works for our family. Now I need to head off to cancel a gym membership, so I'll fill you in on camp another time soon (I promise). I've missed writing as much as you guys have missed reading.

Thanks for being patient with me.