Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Contest: Guess How Much, Get a Prize!

So, for Christmas, Neil bought me this device thingy that allows me to play my iPod in my antiquated minivan.  In order to install it, he had to remove what we thought was a broken stereo. The CD player hadn't worked for months.  We knew it was probably due to the children thinking the CD slot was a reverse ATM machine, but we were thinking more along the lines of a couple pennies.

Neil shook out all the change, and voila, our CD player actually works again, and I can play my iPod.  Double score!  Now, guess how much change he found in the radio?  The person closest without going over, wins the money! 

On your mark, get set, GO!!! Only guesses submitted in the comments of the blog count in the contest. 

(Disclaimer:  If I've already told you the amount, you are not eligible to play.  Sorry Mom!)

Merry Christmas from the Pennington's

Merry Christmas Y’all! My name’s Madison Riley, the newest addition to the Pennington clan, as of January 17th.  My arrival changed things up, but in a good way.  Mommy was getting a little bogged down with all the boy’s pent up energy.  Now that’s the important stuff, but since I’m obligated to tell you the rest, I will. 
So we go to this church called Fusion, which used to be a service at this other church but is now becoming a plant up where we live.  Mom had to give up her job at camp to do so, but apparently it was worth it, something about a community.  I don’t get what all the fuss is about yet, but I do like hanging out with the other babies in the nursery.  Owen and Blake talk about their friend Jesus a lot.  I think it’s a little weird that they sing songs about a guy I can’t see, but Mommy says I’ll get it someday.  I sure hope so.

What else?  We traveled to Georgia in June to celebrate my GG-Daddy & GG-Mommy’s 60th wedding anniversary.  It was cool to meet all these people for the first time, & I totally got to be the center of attention, especially to my Aunt Becca.  We also took a really long trip in August, and spent a week with Grandma and Grandpa at the beach Florida (a first for Blake and me).  Then we dropped off O and B at Nana and Papa’s and Daddy, Mommy, and I hung out in Charleston for a few days before heading up to spend time with their college buds in NC. We also went down to Georgia at Thanksgiving.  Every time we leave this place, we go there.  They say they miss their family, Zaxby’s, sweet tea and bean and corn casserole.  Weird, huh?
Owen’s  4 now and goes to school 4 days a week.  He’ll be going to Kindergarten in the Fall. Mommy fills up our social calendar with this mom’s group she started.  We think it was a rebound from camp, but it works well for all of us.  Blake’s definitely in the terrible two’s.  He’s clingy and whiny, but Mommy says he’s just too adorable to sell on the black market. Daddy’s trying to get him to go potty, so he doesn’t have to change his diaper anymore.  Since B got his stubbornness from Daddy, you can imagine how well that’s going. 

Mommy dove into the world of politics (also a rebound from camp), but really enjoys it.  I think it helps her keep an identity outside of mommyhood.  Now she is the Communications Director for a local county council campaign.  She also manages 4 blogs, which is no small feat, but given how much she loves to write, it’s a good fit.  Daddy keeps himself busy with projects around the house.  He single handedly chopped up firewood from a 100 foot tree they took down in our back yard.  After Christmas, he’ll be working with Papa on a play set in the backyard (thanks Nana & Papa).   He’s been out kayaking a few times as well.  He can’t wait to take O and B, and someday me too.  He tried to get them out once or twice, but they never really got off the shore.  I’m thinking I’m going to have to show those boys a thing or two as soon as I’m big enough to fit in a life jacket and hold onto a paddle.  
That’s about it, 2009 in a nutshell.  From our crazy family to yours, we hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a super cool New Year. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Year's Plans?

Originally, our plans were to hang out here at home, and anyone who'd like to join us, can come and attempt to make it to midnight with us.  However, my mother-in-law just offered to stay a day or so extra and watch the kids so we can go out.  Question now is, where would we go?  It's too late to get tickets anywhere, plus, it probably wouldn't be any fun unless we knew people. We've never been big on New Year's.  We're not big party-ers, and we certainly don't do well is large crowds so going downtown is out of the question. So, here's the question, what should Neil and I do for New Year's Eve?  Should we stick to the original plan or change it up and venture out?

Please post ideas in the comments below.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

It's official.  The weather lady says it's going to snow and it's going to be a big event.  Yada, yada, yada!  What excited me was what she said at the end of her segment.  Listen closely and pay attention to a very special date.  I might just be looking at my first ever White Christmas.  I know it's selfish, but I'm totally praying for it.  I've never woken up in my own house with snow on the ground, and I'm super excited about the possibility...even if it's only a 40% chance at this point.

I'll keep you guys posted!  Oh and for the record:  Since the Pennington's have moved to Maryland, we have never had a snow event as big as the one they are predicting for tomorrow.  This may turn out to be the wildest winter ever (at least for those of us born and raised in the South). 

Also, good to note, that the first snow fall of the season, for the last 6 years, has been on December 5th.  Guess when we moved to Maryland?  Yep, 6 years ago!  Hhmmmm, coincidence?  I think not!

The Conclusion to the Dilemma

Thank you all for your advice.  It's hard to be in a pickle and immediately know what to do.  So, here's what I ended up doing.  That very day when I posted my blog, I found a fantastic deal at JCPenny.com.  In their Wednesday deals, I found a well-rated play kitchen for $23 shipped.  Literally, I pounced on it.  The way I see it, if they like it, then maybe it was the best (and least expensive) choice.  If they don't, I can sell it (or donate it to my new church, as suggested by friend, Katy) for about what I paid for it.  Seemed like a good solution to me.  What do you think? 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Debating??? Need HELP!

It's my fault really.  I wanted the kids to have a Play Kitchen, and I planted the seed in Owen's head.  Now, when you ask him what he wants for Christmas, he says, without hesitation, "PLAY KITCHEN."  I started the hunt a few weeks ago, found a great deal at Walmart.  Bing was offering 20% cashback, the kitchen was on sale for $149, and shipped free to store; plus, I had $60 in giftcards given to the kids from their Aunt Heidi.  When I went to show Neil, he, of course, hesitated.  By the time I got him to agree to allow his boys to have a kitchen, the darn thing was out of stock, Bing cashback was back to 5%, and I still have the gift cards.

After a little research, I found that the manufacturer of said kitchen is out of stock, meaning, no one has it in stock, and won't until the end of January.  So here's my dilemma, do I settle for something else so Owen has something at Christmas?  Or do I wait until the end of January to buy the one I liked? 

See, I really wanted a wooden one.  Both Little Tikes & KidKraft make cute ones that aren't too girly (AKA pink).  Both are out of stock.  Ikea also makes one though it is simple and lacks adequate storage.  But it would work as well and is about the same price.  Of course I can't use the Walmart gift cards there, but I could always use them for something else and still let the kids know that the Kitchen is from their Aunts, one who gave them cash and the other who gave the gift cards. 

I'm open to suggestions, because I really don't know what to do.  Will it even matter in the end?  They'll have plenty to open up on Christmas.  They might even forget about the kitchen all together.  Okay, that will never happen, but maybe I could take a picture of it and tell them that it will be here soon.  ARGH, this is so frustrating.  Normally I could care less, but this one I have to take full responsibility for.  I started it and therefore, should finish it, right?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Madison the Ape

You guys have to see this.  I was dying laughing.  So last night, we're at church, and in all the hub-bub of getting ready for the Chili-Cook-Off, I just totally spaced on the diaper bag.  Of course, Madison decides to pee out of her diaper and all over her pants.  And since I had no extras, we just let her go pantsless.  Madison, the trendsetter.  Apparently, Grace has some pretty rough carpet, because this is how my daughter had to crawl due to the rug burn on her knees.  Why she didn't just decide to get up and walk is beyond me.  Enjoy!

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

This is my absolute favorite season.  Honestly, if I could just keep my house looking the way it does right now, with the decorated trees (5 in all), bright shades of red and green, adorable stuffed animals adding flare through out.  Yes, if only I could leave it just like this all year long, and not be accused of cat-lady syndrome or red-neck dysfunction, I'd totally do it.  In a heartbeat, I'd do it.  It's just so farm and fuzzy, welcoming and festive, from the music to the candles and the lights.  Even as I type this, I'm sitting in my living room lit only by the lights from the Christmas tree.

However, it begs the question, why can't the sentiment of Christmas last all year long.  How hard would it be to keep a tote or two of special "seasonal" decorations to interchange from time to time?  What about a playlist on my iPod that changes every couple of months, filled with songs that capture the mood of whatever season it happens to be.  And of course, I could change the lighting options within each room to adjust for the changes in the length of the day.  I could do all of these things, but it just sounds like so much work, especially after I just spent a week transforming my house into the winter wonderland it is today.  Maybe that's why I only do it once a year. 

Of course, in all this, I don't forget the "reason for the season," which does in fact amuse me that Christians make such a huge deal about the commercialism of it all.  But shouldn't my walk with the Christ be daily, not seasonal?  And didn't Christmas in fact find it's roots in a pagan holiday celebrating the winter solstice?  In fact, I hear Jesus wasn't even born in December.  Granted, it's a great time to remember the mere fact that God did come to Earth in the form on a baby.  God!  The Creator of the vast universe came here, humbling himself to the point of humanity, in order that I might have a relationship with him.  I get that. Don't get me wrong.  I just love all the rest of it too.  The Christmas cards, the shopping (especially the deals), the trees wrapped all pretty under the tree, the parties, the family & friends.  I love it all.

The kids are having a blast, enjoying the festivities throughout the city.  We've been visiting train gardens, making cookies with friends, watching a light show at the National Harbor (where they have a Peeps Store), crafting Christmas cards for Owen's classmates, taking pictures, and decorating the house (of course).  I even got all three of them to sit with Santa.  Owen's never even gotten close to the man.  Now that he thinks Santa brings him presents, he's all over him.  I guess the promise of a present, a play kitchen in fact, is enticement enough.  Though Madison continues to look on with caution, she too is quite taken with the jolly ole' fellow.

This week, we're gearing up for a Wrapping Party (come if you'd like), Owen's School Party, and our Bible Study party.  I just love parties!  I get to give out lots of gifts as well.

Before I go, I have to tell you about our Christmas Eve plans.  So Fusion, our new/old church, traditionally does an 11 pm service and since that will be our last night at Grace, they thought it best to stick with the original plan.  For some of us, as you can imagine, 11 pm doesn't work so well.  I'm hoping, at least, that all three of my kiddos will be in bed.  So a few of us families decided to do our own thing and it caught on.  So Christmas Eve, we'll be gathering at our house at 5 pm to sing a few Christmas Carols, read the Christmas Story, and just worship together.  It will be very family friendly, kids are welcome.  If you don't have anywhere else to go, come hang with us. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Couch Hangover

I admit it.  I had a little too much couch last night, and now I am paying the price.  Cranky, tired, and all kinked up.  Well, let's just say it's not how I envisioned starting off this day.  Actually I didn't exactly envision a slumber party on the couch either, but some things can not be avoided. 

So no, I didn't get in a fight with my husband sending me to my tortuous demise.  Believe it or not, I got kicked out of my bed by none other than my middle son.  I know, I know, Everybody knows how much I hate having kids in my bed, but this was a special circumstance.  See, I decided to stay up a little later than normal (which is sadly becoming the norm) to catch up on a couple of my shows.  I'm pretty sure the coffee I had around 4:00 in the afternoon was the culprit of that poor decision.  Anyways, around 11:30, Blake starting crying, only it sounded a bit off.  It didn't take me long to figure out that this was going to be a rough night.  As I reached down to tuck him in and calm him down, I immediately noticed the heat radiating from his head.  Yep, it was going to be one of those nights. About the time I got him calmed down and back to sleep, I heard Madison stirring.  "Ah, she'll go back to sleep," I thought.  And I made my way downstairs to turn off the lights and then head to bed.  Guess what?  She didn't quiet down and Blake was back to crying as well.  I managed to get them both calmed down and was making my way to the stairs when Blake started up again.   I'm at that point where all I want to do is close my eyes, and it was beginning to look like there would be no rest for the weary.  But that's my job, right? 

At this point, Blake had a pretty rough fever, and Madison was on the stir again.  So I did the only thing I could do at the time.  I picked him up and took him to Daddy in bed before heading back to deal with Madison.  By 1:30, there was silence in the house, minus the various levels of snoring coming from my three little bears.  Finally, I could get some sleep.  I head up stairs, throw on my sweats and start to climb in bed.  But there's a Blake sleeping soundly on my pillow. 

So, do you see now how I ended up cranky, tired, and all kinked up?  It's what I'm calling a couch hangover.  It should be a really fun day.  Just so you know, Blake woke up this morning with no fever, but we'll stay quarantined just in case. 

Wow, you'd think I would have written about the myriad of other things that I have happened since I last blogged, but that's what's on my mind.  Fair enough!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Living in the Rut

Still no mentor, but then again, sitting around hoping one will show up on my doorstep is probably not the best strategy.  What else is going on?  I think this is problem, why my personal blog falls to the wayside.  I spend so much of my time pouring myself into my other blogs, whether it's regarding politics or mommyhood.  I manage four blogs and one website, on top of organizing meetups for More than Moms, attending events for Team Whisler, and oh yeah, being a mom to three wonderful children.  Let's not forget the most important things, being a wife and a child of God.  Most of the time, I feel like a complete failure in all of these areas.  I'm sure it's just the enemy attacking my self-worth. Lucky for him, he certainly knows where my buttons are and wastes no time going for the jugular. I find myself getting in these ruts from time to time, where I turn myself inward and allow laziness and procrastination to overcome me.  Guess where I've been the last couple of weeks?  Yep, in said rut.  I have recognized a correlation between my spiritual life and these dips in my psyche. It's almost as if I've gone into hiding.  Does that sound silly?  Who am I hiding from? My family? My husband? My responsibilities? God himself?  I have no idea, but my best guess would be my Heavenly Father.  Why though?  Why would I run away from someone who knows me and still loves me without condition?  Don't look at me.  If I had the answer, I wouldn't be working it through it with you.

I have been proud of one area though.  Lately, my house is cleaned everyday.  If you know me, then you know how hard this is for me.  It's the one area of my life that is completely defeating.  I clean one area, move on to the next, then come back and find the first area a mess again.  But in the last couple of weeks, I've managed to make sure the house is neat and clean by the time Neil gets home. Granted, it might be 5 minutes before he walks in the door, but the point is that it's done, and it makes me a better wife (and by extension, mom).

If you think about it, pray that I can get back in the grove of things, especially in my relationship with God.  I don't like being ineffective and unproductive.  I could use the support.  Hope my next post comes sooner than two weeks.  That's just ridiculous, right? 

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Hallow's Eve

Whew, what a busy day, but such super fun as well.  It started off with the Fusion Fall Potluck at Patapsco Valley State Park.  We rented a pavilion, set up several activities for kids and adults, brought various dishes to share, and had an all around great time.  I'm pretty sure we may have just started a tradition.  Whether it will be a once a year affair or every other month, I'm definitely seeing potlucks as a part of our growing community.  With little to no budget, smorgasbord dining is the way to go. 

We borrowed the small moon bounce from Grace which the kids loved even more than the brand new playground beckoning in the background.  But the most fun of all, both for the kids and the parents, was the hay pile hide & seek, where we scattered tons of candy throughout a pile of hay.  On your mark, get set, go...and they were off, sifting through the hay to find whatever pieces of candy they could.  Given the amount of kids there versus the amount of candy, they all walked away with more than generous amounts of sweet yumminess.  They didn't even need to trick or treat, but of course, since Owen had been talking about it all week, we had to go.

Our neighborhood association decided to host a Safe & Spooktacular Halloween event.  We set up two tents on two corners in the neighborhood, decorated them with spooky lights and decor, added some music, cider, cookies, treat bags, and some beer & wine.  Voila, we had ourselves "the gathering place."  Neil and I took turns manning the booth while the better half took the boys trick or treating.  We actually met lots of our neighbors, even discovered that one had already had her baby (like two weeks ago, good one, Hillary).  One neighbor with a 9 week old little boy joined More than Moms and even came to Stroller Brigade with us this morning.  Two events, two successes.  Of course, by the end of the night, both Neil and I were 100% exhausted.  I was glad for the extra hour of sleep, at least in theory, since my kids woke up an hour early (or on time by their internal clocks).  Yep, I still hate daylight savings. 

All in all, I'd say it was a pretty stinking fantabulous Halloween, for both us and the kids.  Owen decided to be Spiderman...for like an entire week.  He literally wore the costume out.  In fact, come Sunday morning, it found itself to the trashcan.  Really, it crawled across the floor and climbed into the can all by itself.  Blake was a snake, not because he decided to be one, but because I found it at a yard sale for like $2.  It was funny, because his tail would drag along the ground behind him, and given the wet circumstances of the evening, it was nasty by the end, to say the least. Madison made for the cutest cow ever.  At first I thought she'd be a fairy since I found these cutsy mini-wings, but considering she spends most of her time on her back, I wasn't sure how to pull that off.  The cow costume was already in my arsenal and just happened to fit her, so "moo" it was.  Totally meant to stop by CFA for our free chicken of the day, but time just got away from us. 

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sometimes It Pays To Be Early

...And to have an Old Navy card for that point.  Here's the deal, literally speaking.  Old Navy does this thing called Stuff & Save for it's card members.  Normally, you save 20% off anything you can stuff into a bag.  Lately, they've even been giving you a free reuseable bag (how ecofriendly of them).  Well, this time, my stuff & save invite comes in the mail, only this time it's for 30% off.  I marked the date on my calendar that it started and put the card in my wallet.  I really didn't read much else or think anything about it.  My iPod alerted my Thursday night that the sale started the next day.  After browsing over my schedule for the day, I decided the best time to go would be before Owen's class Halloween party, basically right as it opened. 

As I walked in the store with 3 kids, I noticed a woman standing there waiting to greet me.  "Hhmm, that's odd," I thought, "I guess they're upping they're customer service tactics."  The the lady speaks, "Do you have an Old Navy card?"

"Yep, sure do," I replied, "I'm here to use my Stuff & Save."

"Well, you're #46. Here's your free bag & 50% off coupon."

50% off?  I felt like I just won the lottery.  Come the think of it, I vaguely remember reading that a certain number of people would get a higher percentage rate, but since I'm rarely able to to get any where when I want to, I just ignored it.  Turns out, trying to squeeze in a "quick" run to Old Navy with three kids was the best decision I made that day.  It sort of went down hill from there.

From that point, I felt like I was on Super Market Sweep.  I'm grabbing here and snatching there, shoving anything that would fit any of the 5 human beings in my house into the bag and moving on.  Then I saw it.  The sign said, "Extra 50% off all clearance."  Oh man, I had just walked into an oasis of good deals, plus I got to add my 50% off coupon to it.  Mostly I bought for the kids, $.50 shirts here, $.27 flip flops there.  It was seriously a paradise.  It didn't even bother me that my 4 year old was running around wreaking havoc through out the store.

All in all, I got over $500 worth of clothes & accessories for $100.  Not too shabby, huh?  Lesson learned, always be early!  Now if only I could convince my kids of this.   

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Job Description: Mentor

During my quiet time this morning, it dawned on me that I might be in need of a mentor. Way back in the day, when I was young and living in Georgia, I prayed for three years for a mentor.  It wasn't until right before we moved that I realized I already had one in my boss and friend, Tammy.  She taught me about being a woman of God in the real world, especially considering I was fresh out of college when I met her.  It was the first time in my spiritual life that I wasn't living in a bubble.  College was great, people constantly asking me about my relationship with God, evangelism being a central part of my daily life, and of course, having all the time in the world to pursue my passions.  Real life wasn't so generous, even working for a church, and this was before I had kids. 

Fast forward 6 years or so.  Now I have three kids, and three brand new ministries, new church plant, political campaign, and a mom's group.  Managing the laundry, keeping the kids clean and fed, and somehow managing to maintain a relationship with my husband are hard enough, but finding balance in all the other areas of my life is presenting quite the dilemma.  So I'm thinking it's time for a mentor, but where would I find one of those.  Perhaps there is someone already in my life willing to step into role, or maybe I need someone new, someone who might not be connected to everything else.  I don't have the answer, but this morning, I started praying for someone who is spritually more mature and ready to take me on. 

Of course, it's not only the new stuff that I feel I need a little help with, it's the baggage as well.  I realize I haven't found full closure with the camp thing yet either.  Lately, I've been avoiding God, not intentionally, but it's certainly an issue.  It's like I want to spend time with him, but something is causing me to look the other way.  Even though I know that it was time to move on and can easily see the bigger picture (He certainly made it clear enough), I'm still struggling with the emotion of it all.  I'm having a hard time letting go, and I know that there are still some difficult conversations yet to come.  Why is it harder to avoid issues sometimes then face them head on?  It's easier to bury myself in all things new instead of processing the pain, but without fully walking through the valley, I'll never reach the other side, right?  So I've decided to walk down this road.  I just don't want to do it alone.  Shocking, right? 

If you know of anyone up for the job, willing to take on a stubborn, highly independent basket of mush, such as myself, just let me know.  In the meantime, I covet your prayers. 

Friday, October 23, 2009

O's First School Field Trip

Beside the fact that I left the stroller at home and had to report to carrying Madison around all morning, I'd say Owen's first field trip was a raging success.  We all met up at Clark's Ellioak Farm for a day of animals, mazes, hay rides, and pumpkins. 

Blake was in a snit most of the morning, but Owen seemed to heartily enjoy himself, bouncing from animal to animal, engaging with his friends, and deciding every pumpkin in the patch was his absolute favorite. Madison enjoyed being passed from person to person.  Sometimes she reminds me so much of Owen as a baby, so I guess I know what to look forward to. 

We started out at the petting zoo.  Man, have you been to this place?  The goats pratically snap the food out of your hand.  They're like my kids at dinner time, like they've never been fed before.  We also saw sheep, who apparently don't like carrots, a miniature cow, pigs, donkeys, an emu, chickens, horses, and probably some more that I can't remember.

After the over eager animals, we loaded up on the tractor trailor and away we went on our hay ride, which was lacking hay, but whatever.  Regardless, Owen had a blast, sitting up at the front with his classmates, completely ignoring his mom.  I'm guessing it's a glimpse of what is to come.

The hayless tractor dropped us off at the "pumpkin patch," which was really quite a dissappointment.  Basically they had dropped a truckload of small pumpkins onto a field.  Larriland is a far better farm, just saying.  Blake & Owen spent about 2 seconds picking out a pumpkin and then the next five exchanging it one after another.  Finally, with Mommy's help, they narrowed it down.  While I went to put the pumpkins in the car and change Madison's very wet diaper, the boys joined the rest of the class in the Pine Tree Maze.  By the time I got back, there was no finding them in that thing, so I hung out with a couple other moms at the entrance. 

From there we crawled into the car and headed off to BJs.  Yes, it was lunch time, and yes, I must have been delusional to think that this was in any a way a good idea.  I figured I throw the boys in one of those car carts, get them a hot dog and some chips and they'd be good while I picked up some household necessities with my free 60 day membership.  The plan did work...for about 15 minutes.  Of course they decided to break down about two aisles from the checkout lane.  I felt so close to becoming the "walmart mom", it wasn't even funny.  Seriously!  But we made it out alive, got home, and stuck the kids in front of the TV while I unloaded the car.  Why are you judging me?  Like you've never done that.

All in all, it was a good day.  I can't believe my boy is old enough to even go on his first field trip.  I feel a song coming on..."memories, memories."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Case of the Missing Ipod Touch...Solved

Thankfully, I am writing this in an utterly blissful state.  I have a clean house, spic and span literally, and my Ipod in my hand (well laying beside me actually), but just 20 minutes ago, I was convinced it was gone forever.

Every morning at the Pennington house is a downward spiral into chaos (hence the name of the blog), and yesterday was no different; rushing around attempting to get all three kids ready, bags packed, lunches made, and myself put together enough to make it to the gym.  I thought, as I climbed into the van coffee in hand, that everything and everyone was along for the ride as well, including my brand new Ipod Touch (early Christmas present from my hubby).  Turns out when I reached into my coat pocket to pull out my Ipod, it wasn't there.  Oh well, I must have just left it at home.  Of course, as per usual, I fill my morning schedule will all sorts of stuff, and don't return until after lunch.  I get the kids down for a nap and go in seach for my missing item.  Time passes and I begin to realize this may not be as simple as I thought.  All the "usual suspects" seem to be Ipod-less.   Before I totally freak out, I decide to check with the boys.  However, it's a new toy, and they simply stare blankly at me.  I tried, "have you seen mommy's little computer?"  Blake pipes up, "upstairs."  So I follow him up to my room where he kindly points our the regular computer.  Duh, Hillary.  Time was running out, and I had to get ready for my first EVER campaign kick-off for Steve Whisler.  I had decided that Tuesday would consist of a top to bottom search of the house.  Dang it, I was determined to find it.

The event was awesome, by the way, but I'll post that to the PVRC blog later.  This post is about my beloved iPod.  I know it's retarded, but it's amazing how quickly it became an essential part of my life.  Anyways, this morning, I sprang up out of bed, made my coffee (keeping an ever watchful eye out for the missing object), had my quiet time, where I'm sad to say I actually prayed for God to help me find it, and got to work.  Literally, I worked from 8 am until Neil got home looking in every crack and crevice along the way.  Good news is that I also cleaned as I went.  I thought this would go over better with the hubby.  By the time Neil got home, I'd cleaned every room in the house and had managed to find some missing jewelry, an old checkbook, a lost croc of Blake's, and several random pieces to games we thought were lost causes...but no iPod.  This was not exactly the news I wanted to give Neil, but sadly it's all I could do.  Luckily for me, he was more focused on the cleanliness than the think, shiny, expensive piece of equipment that seemed to have vanished into thin air.

When we got home from Chick-fil-A, Neil joined the search.  We even missed watching NCIS.  He was combing the bedroom and I was down in the basement canvasing Mat's old room, the guest bedroom, and once again, the laundry room (praying I didn't somehow wash it). About 9 pm, Neil comes downstairs and says he's giving up.  Yeah, I'd basically given up myself.  I grabbed my computer and headed up the stairs to blog about my sad, missing iPod Touch.  As I approached the top of the stairs, I saw it, sitting there on the kitchen table, glaring up at me.  To myself I thought, "Please don't tell me that was sitting there the entire time."

"You FOUND IT?!?!  Where was it," as I rushed back down the stairs and through my arms around my mystery solving, dignity saving husband.  "Please don't say you found it somewhere stupid!"

"I found it somewhere stupid," said Neil.

"Where?  Come on, tell me!"

"I don't know, I kind of like this whole missing iPod thing.  I come home to a spotless house."

"Seriously, where did you find it?"

"In my coat pocket hanging in the closet."

WHAT?  How in the world did it end up there?  I haven't worn it recently.  The only thing we could gather is that Blake was playing with it, as Owen's story goes, and he must have put it the pocket before I hung it up this afternoon.  Weird.  Why didn't I think to check there when I was cleaning?  Either way, it's found and I am absolutely exstatic.

Time now to go write up a post about the Whisler Campaign Kick-Off.  I can't believe I literally blew off everything, my blogs, twitter, phone calls, email, tv shows...everything, just to find an iPod.  I think I might have a codependency habit.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Couldn't Resist: Thought Of My Dad

From a friend of my dads, William, who is fighting cancer and is ademantly opposed to Obamacare. Just so you know, if my dad were still around, he’d be ademantly opposed as well. I honestly could not imagine what his last weeks/days would have been under this plan. Would some panel of government paid hack doctors have told my stepmom and I to just say goodbye and been done with it? His battle would have looked much different and ended much earlier if the government was in charge of his care. It’s our duty to not only protect ourselves, but to protect our parents and grandparents from being told when and how they should die. My dad, David Foster, died with dignity, surrounded by people who loved him and supported him. His life, his battle continues today in the war on cancer. People still read his blog entries, and in them, they find hope, encouragement, and even humor that inspires them to keep fighting.

Now it’s our turn to fight. The Democrats are preparing a nuclear option that will literally stampede right over our opinions and desires. We need to let them know that the consequence of this action will be the end of their reign of power. Though I would love for that to happen, the end of the reign, not the nuclear option, I’m not willing to stake my kid’s and grandparents quality of life on it. Are you?

Monday, October 12, 2009

At The Center of It All

A little over a month ago, I was still sitting on the fence debating whether or not to dibble dabble in local politics.  Now, not only do I regularly and solely (for now) update the PVRC blog, I am also the Communications Director for the Whisler for County Council campaign.  I know, right?  Crazy!  Some people say that Christian's shouldn't be involved in politics, and to be honest, I think this is what kept me on the fence for so long.  Well that and the fact that 98% of my time was taken up by my roles as mom and camp director.  It's still weird to me how quickly it all changed, almost as if the hole left by camp was immediately in by other things, mostly More than Moms and politics. And I can't take credit for any of it, which is a good thing.  It was too fast and too specific to be any of my doing.  The last time I remember the tiles falling into place like this was when I started camp.  God has made it clear that he is all up in the stuff in my life.  Actually, I can barely keep up.

It hasn't been an easy road though.  When life is on fast forward, it takes me a while to figure out a schedule, a routine that fits our life.  And without structure, life is more like spaghetti junction (shout out to Atlanta) then a well oiled machine.  It's taken me time to figure out how to juggle these different roles.  There are so many of them.  My time with God has been sporatic at best, not because I don't want to, but more because I'm still figuring this all out.  This morning, I drug my butt out of bed at 6:00 am, got a shower, made my coffee, and spent time in the Word.  It felt so good, so refreshing.  I realized that in these new endeavors, time with God is a crucial necessity.  Satan wants me to be distracted, caught up in all the newness and excitement that I forget the why behind it all.  To that I say, "Get thee behind me Satan," at least for today.  Tomorrow will bring with it a whole new set of struggles. Heck, ten minutes from now will bring a whole new set of struggles.  But at least for now, my mind is centered on the prize, focused on the goal, on Him who has given me life, purpose, and direction.  "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 27:4

If you think about it, ask me if each day if I spent time with God.  Man, I miss those days back at Georgia College when I could run into a friend in SAGA (the Cafeteria) and they would ask about my quiet time.  What accountability! And if you happen to be praying and you think of me, could you pray for the different hats I wear, as a wife, a mom, a mom's group organizer, a communications director, a church planter, and a community association VP?  Just pray that at the center of all of that stands the One who created it all.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Team Building and Brainstorming

Thanks to my fantabulous husband, I was able to join most of our children's ministry team (missed you Betsy) at a small conference, put on by Group Publishing, in Nothern VA this weekend (sorry Aunt Marsha, I didn't have my car so I couldn't visit).  It was sad to leave Neil and the boys behind (okay, not so much), but I had to forge ahead and figure out this thing called children's ministry.

You might think that camp ministry is quite similar to children's and to some extent it is, but my role it in all is completely different.  At camp, we get to put the cheesiness aside and focus on the fun in life, knowing that Christ will shine through it.  Camp is more of an outreach ministry, where CM is primarily focused on believers.  But as a consultant, I'm enjoying the idea of not being required to have all the answers, to lead the vision, or even to make any decisions.  How great is it that my purpose is to give advice? I'm so good at that, whether people want it or not.  However, it doesn't stop there.  Amy, Clare, and Katy happen to be my some of my closest friends, and this ministry, overall, happens to directly affect my three beautiful children.  So, yeah, I have a little more invested, and I have to be careful how I give the advice considering I'd like to keep my frienships in the end. 

The conference was profitable, a good value for the buck.  Of course, the most important take-away for me, for a deeper bond in the team.  I'm starting to see that we're moving beyond friendship, into the arena of healthy working relationships.  Plus, we found a children's Bible that didn't skew the word of God. Score! And we made a final decision on interim curriculum, which is huge. Not only did we make a decision, but we each understood the why behind the decision.  All in all, we were on the same page.  How often can you say that about any new found team. 

Wouldn't you know, though, that I didn't take a single picture?  I'm really getting frustrated with myself.  I take my camera everywhere and rarely snap a shot.  Seriously!

Much will come of this time together, I just know it.  We have our normal team meeting this coming Tuesday, so you guys can pray for innovative ideas and solid decisions moving forward. 

Wow, I really do have a lot going on lately.  Between More than Moms, the Whisler Campaign (did I tell you guys that I'm going to be doing communications for the entire campaign? well, I'll wait till it's official and then I'll post something), Fusion Church Plant, and the neighborhood association (or and did I mention that I'm also a mom of three kids), I feel absolutely stretched in every which way and, at the same time, completely invigorated.  Sometimes I feel like I'm playing a game of "connect the dots."  I'm not sure what God is doing, but somehow, it's all connected.  Neil said to me the other night, "I can't wait to see where you'll be in 20 years."  I'm excited to look back and go, "Oh, that's what God was doing."  Glad you guys are along for the ride...totally wished I had pics from the conference. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Just Another Day

There's nothing really special about today, at least not particularly, but I'm just sitting her watching my kids, thinking "I should blog about this." So I pulled out my phone and went to work.

You see, Owen doesn't take naps anymore, but he does have a "rest time" in his room. When he emerges at 4 pm, I'm never quite sure what he'll look like. Today, he found a black marker and some snow boots, the combination of which sent me into flat out giggle. Side note: It doesn't matter where I hide markers, they always seem to find them. It's absolutely amazing.

Honestly, when he came down the stairs, I thought he was wearing pants.

This is just a better picture, but Owen certainly looks guilty of something.

While Owen's off exploring his artistic abilities, Blake is entering the world of potty training.  Yep, I'm officially losing it.  Good news, I'm one day closer to only having one in diapers.  Bad news, I'm about to be peed on A LOT.  Want to know what's even better? Blake has also entered the land of disobedience and defiance.  I'm not sure if this it the best time to convince him that what I want him to do is really the best thing.  For instance, I just had to go fish him out of the laundry room (literally while typing this). We played a game of cat & mouse until I finally caught him, and promptly punished his failure to respond.  Come to find out, he'd also peed in his underwear.  Oh yeah, we've started putting him in underwear to allow him to get the feel of them. Potty training is so defeating.

You can't see, but he's wearing underwear.  The novelty isn't lost on him. He is a boy.

Madison? What's Madison up to?  She's trying desperately to crawl, but get frustrated when she keeps moving backwards. But it doesn't stop her.  If she wants something, she'll get it. It might take her a while, but eventually she'll roll around enough to get there.

I know I do all my political blogging elsewhere but this is simply hilarous. I had to post it.

Now, I hope this works. Blogger doesn't make it easy to embed video. We'll see!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Say Cheese

It's a struggle getting out of the house with three kids anytime, but when you're actually trying to get somewhere...good luck.  Thankfully, my MIL was there to help.  I'm not sure I would have attempted this on my own.

A few weeks back, I found a coupon for a free portrait package at The Picture People and it just happened to expire on the 4th.  Since Owen's started back to school, it's been a little difficult to find the time to get there.  Well, there was this one time I carved out the entire day and ended up at Arundel Mills where they no longer have The Picture People.  Regardless, I finally found the time. I guess I didn't realize the importance of an appointment.  I tried to call a couple times, but it just rang, so I thought I'd just show up.  They were, however, gracious enough to fit us in.

Wouldn't you know that the minute it was their turn to strike a pose, the boys suddenly decided to catch stage fright? Madison, on the other hand, loved the camera.  She ate it up.  After about twenty minutes and 30 different shots, we were done and off to wait for our results.  Now I have to be honest, I bribed my kids.  I bought a couple chocolate dipper at H Mart and dangled them behind the camera to coax out a smile.  Shameless I know, but it was totally worth it.

Of course I had to snap a few pics of Owen and Blake enjoying their special treat.  Though a few of the professional pictures turned out good, sometimes I think the candids are just all around better.  But I got my free package and a couple sheets for the fam.  I'm sure my MIL enjoyed the whole experience as well.  All in all, I'd say it was a fun outing with lasting results (aka the pics).

Friday, October 2, 2009

Date with Mommy

Owen is certainly a growing boy. It used to be that I would choose to take the baby with me if I had to run out somewhere quickly, but now, it’s actually easier to take Owen. He’s a big boy, doesn’t need a stroller and can get in and out of the car “all by himself.” Sometimes the independence stage can be like pulling teeth, but lately, it’s been quite freeing for me as well.

Yesterday, I picked up Owen from school and we went down to Columbia Mall to see my eye doctor. Where were the other kiddos you ask? Thanks to my fabulous Mother-in-law, I’ve basically had a free pass all week long. So they were at home with her. Thanks Cathy. I told O if he was a good boy and behaved at the doctor then I’d take him for a special treat. Little did he know that the treat also entailed a fun lunch with Mommy’s friend, a quick and painless haircut, and a new stuffed friend.

Of course behaving at a doctor’s office is completely relative. Given the attention span of a 4 year old and the amount of time we had to wait, I give major props to him for not breaking anything. In all actuality, he did pretty well, mostly staying seated and almost not touching anything. Seriously, I can’t even keep Neil was playing with things in a doctor’s office. Once I got the all clear (from a previous viral infection in my eye), I grabbed my contacts and we were off to meet Anne for a late lunch. Okay, Owen got an apple pie and a diet coke. I know, worst mom ever, letting my kid drink soda, but it’s only on “special” occasions. I, on the other hand, was just as bad eating a Gyro wrap with fries and a sweet tea.

Then we went over to Master Cuts to see about getting Owen’s unruly hair cut. At first I was thinking I’d have to take him to Cartoon Cuts where they specialize in children and charge a fortune to do so. But I thought I’d try the cheaper option (by 50%) first and see what happened. The ladies there were great, and Owen did a stupendous job. Highly recommend the cheaper option. Bonus: I could see his face again, and what a cute face it is. Of course I did have to bribe him with Build-A-Bear. I know, I’m scoring big of the parenting factor, aren’t I?

Actually I had a coupon for Build-A-Bear, $5 off $10, which if you get the cheapest bear and no accessories, it only costs you about $5 for the whole experience and a new best friend. I did give Owen a choice of a bear, puppy, or bunny. “I already have a bear and a bunny, I want a puppy.” No problem. Now, O has a stuffed Koala at home named Charlie. We got him sometime last year with a similar deal. It’s amazing how much more they understand in such a short amount of time. Charlie wasn’t nearly as fun to make as the new puppy, only this time, Owen was more keenly aware of the millions of overpriced accessories available. I broke down and let him get a soccer outfit. More points lost.

When it came time to name his pup, he kept spelling out non-words. “L-W-E-N,” Owen said. “That’s not a name, or even a word. What name would you like you’re puppy to have?” “A-E-O.” “Still not a word, Owen. Try again.” This went on for a few minutes until finally Owen actually spelled a word that was also a name, “L-E-O.” And Leo was his name-o. It was fun because now he knows how to spell another name, other than his own. He even read it on the birth certificate. This time I get points. What a great experience for him, an apple pie, a haircut, and a new friend.

Lesson learned? I could totally go for the whole live-in nanny thing. Seriously! This week has been amazing. I’ve been blessed with individual, non-stressful time with each of my children. It’s amazing how my patience levels rise when I’m not completely surrounded by children all day long…and when I don’t have to change as many diapers.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Clare Got Married!

I was waiting until I could find a pic of Clare and myself before I posted to my blog, but there isn't one yet.  That's what I get for not taking my camera.  The point is that Clare and Mat got married, Mat moved out, and all I got was a huge bruise on my foot. Just kidding, I also got some good booze too.  Okay, okay and the opportunity to be part of something so amazing only God himself could pull it off.  Seriously.

I vividly remember chatting with Clare on the way back from Georgia (if you read my blog, you know what trip I am referring too, end of April 08).  She was telling me about this guy she'd met online.  Now I've always been quite skeptical on the online dating thing, but in this case, I'll let it pass.  Mat is such a great guy, and absolutely 100% in love with one of my best friends. 

Last August, Mat moved in with us and became a part of our family.  It's been weird not having him trample up and down the stairs the last couple of days.  Clare, of course, was already part of the family.  My kids call her Aunt Clare, even though it's against my husband's will. 

The wedding itself was beautiful, in all that it symbolized as well.  Of course about 5 seconds after I arrived, I stepped on a stilleto heel and severely bruised my foot...nothing a liitle ice, ibuprofen, and booze couldn't solve.  Actually wearing heels made it easier considering the bruise was in the arch of my foot. 

Mat didn't cry, but it didn't matter. I still couldn't hold back.  Thankfully, TJ broke the sappiness by tweeting a picture of the nuptuals from her unique perspective.  Really, it wouldn't be a Mat & Clare wedding without twitter.  But still, when Mat said his vows, not only to Clare, but to Reese too, I lost it...completely humbled by the display of grace at that altar.  God was moving in that place.(And Mat & Clare were moving in different ways a little later).

All in all, despite the mishap with my foot, it was a fantastic event.  I knew you all would like the pic.  As soon as I get a pic of the bride and myself, I'll post it here. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Much Needed Date

Yes, I went on a date tonight, with a charming man.  Of course he happens to be my husband, but everyone needs to date, especially after marriage.  I think it's so easy to forget that.  We get busy, especially with three kids pulling us in every which direction, and when we finally remember, we have to nail down a babysitter, come up with a plan, and spend the afternoon prepping the kids and the house to be gone.  And I wonder why we don't get out much.

But tonight, thanks to our wonderful friends, Joyce and Tim, we were able to escape.  And even if it was for just a couple of hours, it was worth it, refreshing, exciting.  I was reminded of why I married this man, why I devote my heart to him, why I spent the last 4 years of my life multiplying out our lives by having 3 beautiful children.  No matter how stressful and cluttered life gets, it's important to invest in the people around us, and for me, the most important relationship in my life (aside from my relationship with God) is my husband, Neil.

We spent our evening in Ellicott City, a quaint little town that sadly seems to shut down at like 5 pm.  In fact, we found ourselves dining at the EC Brewing Company.  Beer was good.  Food was okay, probably not a great value over all, but the conversation made up for it (oh and the beer was good).  Then we strolled up and down (literally) Frederick Ave window shopping (since the stores all close so stinkin' early...I said that already, didn't I?)  Actually we were in search of a place to have dessert.  Well, he wanted dessert, I wanted coffee.  We ended up at a little cafe called Bean Hollow where he got this chocolately croissant thing (as close to Baklava as he could get) and I got Cafe Au Lait, which I forgot to order decaf.  Yep, I'll pay for that later.

After dessert, we walked to the bridge, which crosses over the Patapsco River and talked about everything from life passions to parenthood to sex.  Neil might not be a man of many words, but he does listen. And lately I feel like my life has been on fast forward, it was nice to slow down for a bit and process, to connect the dots a bit.  One of the attributes that annoys me the most and yet draws me in all at the same time is Neil's wisdom.  It might take him forever to make a decision, as opposed to my split second reactions, but when he makes it, I can trust that it will be the absolute best decision for that situation.  Sometimes I get so focused on the annoying part, the waiting, that I forget to trust the process.

All in all, a good date, and one that was very much needed.

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Poor Atlanta, Home Wet Home

I had no idea that the flooding was this bad in Atlanta, and especially out in the areas where I grew up. It's almost surreal to look at the picture above and think, "I've driven on that interstate a million times."  I can't imagine it being underwater.  And what about all those cars just sitting there at the edge of this lake.  Did they just get out and walk home?

Honestly, I must be lost in some sort of alternate reality.  Literally I had no idea it was even raining there.  Heck, it's been beautiful here the last few days.  I guess I should call my sister in the morning just to make sure things are okay on her end.  From what I've seen, my family and friends are safe over there in Marietta, though I'm sure they're starting to question whether or not they should build an ark.

I'm praying for you guys.  And I'm telling my Maryland peeps to life you up as well (Did y'all here that?)    

I think tomorrow we might change our lesson a little and talk about Noah.  Owen loves Noah.  He wonders why we can't live on a boat.  Maybe I should suggest to Neil that we move back to Atlanta and buy a house boat.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

God, What are you doing?

A few months ago, my pastor, TJ, told me to pray, "God, what are you doing?"  As opposed to always asking why, this way I'm asking God to reveal His plan.

Sometimes I just have to sit back and watch.  What else can I do?  Right now, I feel like my life is on autopilot, or God-pilot.  I'm not sure even how to explain it.  If you had asked me two weeks ago if I would be where I am today, I would have thought you were crazy.  Then again, you might actually be crazy, so there you go.

Regardless, it's crazy.  Two weeks ago, or a little more than, I was a mom and a camp director.  I had very little time left over for anything else, including play group, politics or neighborhood associations.  When I "resigned" from camp, it was almost as if I was walking down a path in the woods and suddenly it opened up into a large, beautiful, open meadow, a clearing per say.  The box shattered into a million pieces.  Suddenly, I'm not sure what the future holds, but I'm absolutely positive that the Lord is all up in it.

First, there is More than Moms.  Wow did that take off?  I never realized there was such a need for an organized, community like group until I created it.  There are some hungry moms out there, and I am one of them.

Then there is politics, something I've struggled with for a long time.  Finally, I felt the freedom to throw in my hat (not that I actually wear one), and I've found the doors opening left and right.  I'm able to write, which is super fun, for the local Republican blog.  I'm planning events for candidates...okay, just one for now.

And now there is the neighborhood association.  I know, I know.  I said I would only do one, either politics or the association, but as long as it doesn't interfere in my priorities, why can't I do it all.  Wait a second, Hillary, I thought you were frustrated with the board.  I was, I am, but in a conversation with the seated president this afternoon, I found that I can actually have more of an impact on the neighborhood if I'm part of the board.  Plus, it helps that Susan asked me to run for Vice President (not that it's a competitive election or anything).  I talked it over with Neil and we decided it was a good idea.  You know I'm always full of ideas and this way, I actually have a forum to voice some of those ideas (and even the power to implement some).

Still not sure what God is doing, but I have a strong feeling that all of these things are connected.  One day I'll look back and go "ooooohhhh, now I get it."  Until then, I'm simply going to enjoy the ride.  It always makes me feel good to know that my God-given talents are being put to use.  I guess one could say I like to be used.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Leaning to One Side

I have to say I'm pretty stoked right now, and definitely leaning towards local politics versus the community association.  Why?  Well, I haven't met with our association president.  I will do that on Sunday, but nothing invigorates me more (save my family and my faith) then being able to have a direct impact on the world around me.  Two things I absolutely love to do; write and plan events (the programmer in me), and through the local Republican scene, I now get to do both.

I told you how I was asked to blog on the PVRC (Patapso Valley Republican Club) Blog.  Since Monday, I've popped out 10 or so posts and am loving every second.  Actually on Tuesday, we broke an all time site visit record.  Yay! I'd like to think they're coming to read my stuff, but really, I chalk it up to mere activity.  Regardless, I get to put my opinion out there as well as bring awareness to some issues going on in Catonville, Baltimore County, Maryland, and even on the national front.  I could so do this whole blogging thing full time.  Too bad people don't pay you for that.

Today, Steve Whisler, candidate for Baltimore County Council, asked me to help plan his "coming out" event.  On October 19, he's going to officially announce his candidacy and I have the unique privilege of helping to plan the event.  I'm so excited, I feel like I'm stumbling over my words.  Can you see why I'm leaning in this direction?

I'm not sure that the Oak Crest Association can top it.  I'm not sure what I can do there that will really make an impact.  But we'll see what comes out of my meeting on Sunday.  Maybe there is a way to stay involved with Oak Crest while turning my attention to More than Moms and local politics. I don't know, what do you think?

Buy Yourself a Big Tree

Thank you Steve Whisler, Candidate for Baltimore County Council, District 1, and Michelle Mazzocco of Catonsville Voices for the heads up. Maybe now we can replace the huge oak taken down this summer. Don't worry, it was dead! See!

Overstock of Big Trees from the County's Reforestation Nursery will be for sale on Saturday, September 26 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Oregon Ridge Park, Lodge Area (while supplies last). Big Trees are familiar native shade trees, such as oaks, ash and pine. They need more room to grow and take longer to mature, but they provide greater and longer-lasting benefits to homeowners when properly sited. Big Trees add value to your property, provide shade, soak up excess rain water, and provide habitat for forest birds. Trees are 1" caliper, or 3-7' in height; clearance prices range from $20 -$35. Sale is sponsored by DEPRM.  Read the attached Species List and flyer and bring your neighbors to the sale event!

Native Big Tree Species Descriptions and Habitat Requirements

Chestnut Oak

(Quercus Prinus) One of the most distinctive features of this beautiful oak is the vertical pattern of thick raised plates and deep furrows on the dark brown bark of the trunk, which becomes more prominent with age. The species, which can reach 80 to 90 ft. tall in the wild, thrives in dry, rocky soils, but also does quite well in ordinary garden soils with good drainage. This major forest tree is typically not offered outside the forest nursery trade.

Green Ash

(Fraxinus pennsylvanica) A graceful, fast growing (2-3 ft./yr) shade tree reaching a height of 50 to 60 feet. Leaves, dark green in summer, turn yellow in fall. Prefers moist bottomlands, stream banks, and sunny uplands. Once established, it tolerates high acidity, salt, drought, and sterile soils.

Northern Red Oak

(Quercus rubra) A handsome large (ht 60-80’ w 40-50’) symmetrical fast growing shade tree with heavy ascending branches and dense dark green foliage turning deep brilliant maroon-red in fall. A heavy crop of acorns produced every 2-5 years provides food for a variety of wildlife. Prefers deep moist well drained acid soils (loamy, sandy, rocky or clay) and slopes facing north or east, but tolerates a wide range of growing conditions. Transplants easily and should be pruned when dormant. With adequate space, it is a good choice for open space urban plantings. It is tolerant of pollution, soil compaction, and salt.

Pin Oak

(Quercus palustris) Moderate to fast growing, straight-trunked and symmetrical, this stately tree grows to 50-80’. Lustrous dark green leaves turn russet, bronze or scarlet in the fall. Prefers rich loamy, well drained soil, pH 5.5 to 6.6, and sun to part shade. Thrives in the small spaces typical of urban landscapes. Tolerates polluted environmental conditions.


(Cercis canadensis) Whether planted alone, in a clump or border, or a naturalized setting, redbud is a striking small tree (H: 20-30’ W: 25-35’). The trunk often divides close to the ground; branches ascend, gracefully spreading, and are lined with outstanding purple/pink blossoms for 2- 3 weeks in April. Heart-shaped leaves are green in summer, yellow in fall. Prefers sun-part shade and deep, moist, but well-drained soils.

River Birch

(Betula nigra) This attractive, multi-trunked tree can reach 50 to 75 ft. in height with a spread of 35 to 50 feet. It prefers moist acid fertile soils, bit will tolerate drier sites. Wedged shaped leaves are lustrous and medium/dark green with double-toothed edges. The paper-thin exfoliating bark adds great beauty and interest to the winter landscape.

Swamp White Oak

(Quercus bicolor) One of the fastest growing oaks, which can grow to 75 to 100 ft. tall in the wild, this species reaches about 75 ft tall with a 50 ft . wide spread in residential gardens. It does well in moist sandy loams, but also in silty clay loams with poor drainage. The species is resistant to urban pollution, drought, soil compaction, and road salt. This beautiful tree is hard to find in the retail nursery trade.

White Ash

(Fraxinus americana) Its height is usually 50-80 ft with a spread of similar proportions. Its growth rate is 1 to 2 feet per year. Leaf color is dark green above and paler beneath, in summer changing to yellow to deep purple and maroon colors in fall. Prefers deep, moist, well-drained soils but also withstands soils which are not excessively dry and rocky. It requires full sun for best growth.

White Oak

(Quercus alba) The Maryland state tree, White Oak is one of the most handsome and long-lived oaks in the region. It grows with a full, outspread canopy from between 50 to 80 feet in cultivation, but may reach 100 feet in height in the wild. Best growth occurs in full sun in deep, moist but well-drained, acid soils, but can also tolerate dry, upland soils. The largest known White Oak in America was 31 ft. in circumference and had a 1-acre area dedicated as the Wye oak State Park in Talbot County, here in Maryland, for its protection.

White Pine

(Pinus strobus) This fast growing evergreen with soft blue-green needle-like leaves, often reaches a height of 50-80 feet, with a crown width half its height. Prefers fertile soil.