Friday, November 29, 2013

Say goodnight, Gracie...

Once upon a time, a boy and a girl had been dating for around 7 months when the boy suggested they get a cat together. The girl, knowing this was a sign that he was in it for the long haul, said yes. So they found a kitten with enormous ears who was on the verge of being too big for anyone to choose and brought her back to his apartment. There she stayed on the back of the couch for her first night trying to avoid the big black dog named Casey, who would later become her very best friend. Later they would curl up and sleep together and she would even lick Casey's face affectionately. The boy and girl would often remark that the cat probably thought she was a dog. She came to them every time she was called and neither of them had seen a cat do that before. 

The cat moved from place to place with the boy as the couple dated, got married, and finally settled down in a permanent home. Through the moving and changing she continued to be the sweetest cat the world has ever known, although that time she got her head stuck in a mason jar would prove that she was not the smartest. Friends who frequently proclaimed that they were "not cat people," would then state that she was the only cat they had ever liked. She would like them back by softly curling up in their laps and sitting peacefully, just happy to be with them.

She saw her best friend, Casey, get sick and move on. She welcomed, somewhat annoyed, a new long eared puppy and then a few short weeks later, a new baby too. She rolled with it and then she welcomed two more babies. Not once did she hiss or bite. She continued to be sweet and gentle even when little faces got right up in hers. Then she went blind and even that did not sour her sweet disposition. She would tolerate a well-meaning little girl who would hoist her up and carry her around in an attempt "to help." Again, not a hiss or a bite.  As her sweet little body deteriorated more, she continued to be content just to be with her people and did not even seem annoyed when a shaggy new puppy decided to introduce herself. Even the puppy just seemed to know to be gentle with her.

So, after 16 years we say good-bye to our sweet girl, who we hope is being welcomed into her new home by a big black dog who likes to snuggle.  

We love you and we will miss you, Gracie.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Some changes...

I have been absent (even more than usual) from blogging because we have had some changes at our house recently.  Doug started a new job a few weeks ago, which has been exciting, and also an adjustment, for our family.  This job is a great fit for him and he has been really excited about it. He is working for a great company and taking this job did not require us to relocate.  Yay!  It also, so far, requires Doug to travel significantly less. Double yay! 

Like with all changes, though, this has required some adjustments and I think we've done really well with it all.  Doug is having to commute about 30 miles each way and we have lost the flexibility of him periodically working from home.  Luckily, to help with traffic and his commute time, Doug's boss is letting him adjust the hours of his workday.  This has made it possible for Doug to be home between 5:00 and 5:30 most evenings, which has never happened for us before.  Let me repeat- this has never happened for us before.  Either Doug was working from home or he was gone for days at a time on business, so this "traditional" work schedule is taking some getting used to.  

My main issue has been my night owl ways.  I have had to seriously adjust when I go to bed and when I wake up.  Doug is obviously getting up very early to be at work by 7 a.m. and since I am getting up when he wakes up or as he is leaving, we both have been getting to bed earlier.  This is probably a great side effect of this job change, but it is still taking some time to get used to it.  Even with the changes, we are so thankful that Doug found a job that he is enjoying with the added benefits of not having to move and less business travel.

Right before Doug started his new job, we had another change in our family.  My sister found a stray puppy (because if there is a stray dog or cat within a 2 mile radius of one of my family members it will find us) and we ended up bringing her home.  Her name is Radley and she has been a great addition to our family.  She had a little trouble with the house training-her poop spot of choice was in the boys' room, which they found disgusting AND fascinating-but things are getting better with that.  It actually amazes me that we have had so few issues integrating Radley into our family, considering we have no idea what her situation was before she came to us.  

Bonnie the Wonder Dog really loves the Amazing Radley.  It is great to see them run and play together.  Within a day it was as if they had always been together.  Bonnie is graciously tolerating a lot, just as she did when the children were little and climbing all over her constantly.  The kids all adore Radley because she will run and fetch and she is small enough to not knock them down if she plays rough. Even Doug adores her...

She is on the bed. You know he must love her.

And how can he not love her?  Just look at her...

Doggone it, Radley could not be any sweeter. (I cannot believe I made that pun either!) 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Yes, we love Halloween...

I have always loved Halloween. Maybe it is the costumes, or because it signals that my birthday is only hours away, or, more likely, it is the condoned and encouraged candy eating. Whatever the reasons, I have always loved Halloween and it is a holiday that we enjoy sharing with our kids...

What I find fascinating is how many Christian families don't celebrate Halloween anymore. Back in the day, the only Christian families that didn't dress up and trick-or-treat were Jehovah's Witnesses, but now it seems like more and more Christians, of all denominations, are opting out of this celebration. I am sure some families don't like how commercial or gory Halloween has become, but more and more Christian families don't participate in Halloween because they think it is glorifying evil or Satan. 

Halloween is and can be a celebration (like Easter) that actually celebrates Christ and his victory over death. Since the eighth century Christians have celebrated All Saints' Day on November 1st.  And for almost as long, Christians have also celebrated All Hallow's Eve, or Halloween. Most cultures and races throughout history have remembered their dead in special ways. Christians would remember Christ's victory over death on All Hallow's Eve. The festivities on this day were Christians' way of laughing at death and evil. Most of the "occult" parts of Halloween, like demons and ghosts, actually have their roots in Christian beliefs, not pagan ones. 

All families should celebrate holidays how they see fit and in a way that respects the values and beliefs that they hold dear. Our family tends to incorporate both secular and religious traditions into our holiday celebrations. But, just like some families don't have Santa as part of Christmas or The Easter Bunny as part of Easter, maybe take the evil out of Halloween.  Explain to your children the Christian origins of Halloween. Send them out to trick-or-treat with a blessing and a prayer.

I just hate to see anyone miss out on wearing a costume and eating candy! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Let's Get Organized...

I like to know where stuff is.  I like for everything to have a "home."  Our home may not always be clean, but it is tidy and that is good enough for me.  I feel like if I have clutter in my physical space then my mind and spirit are cluttered too.  There are many times that I wish I could change this aspect of myself, and although it has relaxed a bit since becoming a parent, it is still there.  This is the part of me that cannot go out of town without the dishwasher being empty (Why? I have no idea and that is just part of my charm.) and why when I return I must immediately put everything away and start doing laundry.  It is a lovely control issue.  Anyhoodle, enough about how I am crazy.  How can my crazypants-ness benefit you?  Here are a couple of ideas...

10.  The shoe rack.  It is right next to the door to the garage, which is the door we use 98% of the time.  Everyone puts them there when they take them off and they are right there when we need them.  No frantic shoe searches is glorious.

9. The family calendar.  It is attached to the side of the fridge and it is color coded.  This helps so much.  Everything goes on this bad boy.  

8. Coupon pouch.  This lives in my purse.  It is a photo envelope thingy (see what an expert I am) and I use it to keep store coupons, not grocery coupons because those live in an accordion file thingy in the car.  See, I might have a problem.

7. Homework supply basket.  I got tired of hunting down scissors and glue when Sam was in kinder, so I put a stapler, glue, tape, crayons, a pencil sharpener, scissors and erasers in a basket that I keep in the kitchen for homework time. 

6. Card caddy.  I love to send cards and I usually buy a couple months worth at a time.  This organizer, which I think I got forever ago as a promotional item at Hallmark, is a lifesaver.  It has tabs for each month and occasion.

5. Refrigerator lunch bins.  We are working on getting the boys to make their own lunches. (We are not quite there, but close!) and this set up helps them know what is what.  They put it in their bin, I give the stamp of approval and they can dump it all in their lunch box in the morning.  Organization + Responsibility = Happy Ellen.

4. Bulletin boards.  The kids mass produce art work.  We have a rotating display (some items get framed, just ask Sam) and that means I don't have to keep every single thing they bring home. 

3. Pencil boxes.  Staying with the art work theme is art supplies.  We have so, so, so, much.  So we have so, so, so, many pencil boxes.  Okay, we actually have 6, but it helps that they know where everything goes.  Easy clean up also makes me happy.

2. Magazine holders.  I have a few of these and none of them contain magazines.  This one holds a file folder for each of the kid's papers they bring home from school.  It also holds all the school/church/organization directories.  

1. Backpack-ville.  There is no real organization to this, but I make sure to keep the bottom of our coat closet cleared when school starts so the kids can put their back packs there.  They can get to them easily to put papers away and to grab them in the morning before we dash out the door.

What is your favorite organizational tip or trick?   

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The whole world is against me...

The whole world is against me.  And by the whole world I mean my children.  I know that probably sounds dramatic, but they are my world and ohmygoodness, I am going to lose my mind if they don't get it together. 

We are almost done with the second week of school and getting out the door for school each morning is about to do me in.  Last year when Joe and Viv were both in preschool it was no biggie if everyone was in their pajamas except for Sam because he was the only one of us who needed to be presentable at 8 a.m.  Now, Joe and Sam both have to be ready for school and that one added variable (Joe) has completely shattered reality at our house.  Add in the fact that I am trying to get Viv ready for the day, in case we want to run errands in between dropping off the boys and getting her to Pre-K, and it is like a living nightmare.  Again, maybe I am being dramatic...but really, no, I am not.

They can't get out of bed (yes, they can), they can't make their beds right (yes, they can), they can't find the top to the toothpaste (it is right there), they can't put their lotion on (yes, they can)...You get the picture.

This morning Sam actually pushed Joe while he was at the toilet peeing.  Sam thought it was hysterical.  I did not.  As if we didn't have urine everywhere to begin with, boys. Thanks a bunch.

So, I lectured them all in the car throughout the entire ride to school about how they need to be getting ready in the morning correctly and appropriately.  I reminded them that it is their job to take care of themselves and their belongings.  I told them there would be consequences if this continues. 

I am sure that really made an impression.


How do you motivate your kids in the morning?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Top 10 Tuesday

I have done my time listening to songs from Yo Gabba Gabba and The Backyardigans. I listened to the CD from VBS for two weeks straight this summer without complaining. (Doug cannot say the same.) And I will happily listen to the songs from the movie Brave, because they are beautiful, but typically I prefer to listen to non-kid music in the car. Thankfully, our kids usually ask to listen to the music on my phone in the car instead of a CD or the radio. 

Here are the top 10 kid requested songs, and yes, I am italicizing song titles because I started to google whether you do that or put them in quotes or underline them and then I realized I don't give a shizzle...

10. Closer to The Edge by 30 Seconds to Mars- They love the part where they get to shout, "No! No! No! No!" I love that the lead singer is Jordan Catalano

9. Three Little Birds by Bob Marley- It fills me with joy when they sing this all together.

8. Dog Days are Over by Florence and the Machine- This is referred to as "The Clapping Song," for obvious reasons.

7. Yellow Submarine by The Beatles- This is the most frequently requested Beatles song.  I prefer almost every other Beatles song, but it isn't Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, so I count my blessings.

6. Brass Monkey by Beastie Boys- Vivien says this is her favorite song, which makes me pretty proud.

5. Sympathy for the Devil by The Rolling Stones- This is affectionately referred to as the "WooHoo song." Also, this fills me with pride.

4. Shake Your Booty by KC and the Sunshine Band- They LOVE this song, which does not fill me with pride, but whatever...

3. Superstition by Stevie Wonder- This was declared our "summer song" by all 3 kiddos. Why? I have no idea, but I like this song. 

2. Paradise by Coldplay- They love the song and the video. Me too.

1. Beautiful Boy by John Lennon- I have been singing this (not well) to the boys at bedtime since they were babies and now they love to listen to it in the car as well. When Sam sang, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans" the other day I almost cried.

What are your kid's favorite non-kid songs?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Back to School Again...

The boys just finished their first week of school.  Third grade and Kindergarten.  Time sure does fly.  But, before I really get going, I would like to dedicate this post to Sonic and Redbox, without whom I would not be able to peacefully sit at this computer. Anyhoodle, the boys were delighted on their first day...

 And yes, occasionally I think it is unfair to all the other boys in the universe that our boys get to be this good looking.  

and our streak of getting the world's best teachers continues.  I am so incredibly grateful.  To know that they are loved, respected, and protected while they are learning means more to me than anything else. Other than the parking lot, I could not be any happier with their school.  That is a true blessing that not every parent has.  

Having the boys at school has given me the opportunity to actually miss them.  After spending so, so, so, so, so much time together over the summer it is nice to have some separation.  Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder and then you have the joy of being reunited.

This is happening every single day.  Adorable! 

After school everyone has been getting back into the routine and Joe has done his "homework" without any complaints.  I am eagerly waiting for that third grade homework to kick in.  (That was sarcasm, just in case you missed it.)

While the boys have been back at school, Vivien and I have had some good quality time together.  We ran some errands, played games, met up with friends, went to lunch and shopped with my mom, where this happened...

"This is my princess bed.  It is so soft.  Take my picture."

It is a true gift to have one on one time with Vivien.  Next week she will start Pre-K and before I know it all of my time with her will be gone.  I am enjoying it while I can or until she gets her own TV show or modeling contract, because this girl has personality to spare. 

Now for some back to school goals for myself:

1. Go to bed earlier.  This week has utterly exhausted me.  I probably need to go to bed around 5:30. 

2. Come up with some kind of motivational tool for Joe in the mornings.  If we are ever tardy, just know it is his fault.

3. Continue to work with the boys on making their own lunches.  I have said it before and I will say it again (and probably again after that) anything involving food, besides eating it, is horrible.  I don't want to shop for it, put it away, prepare it, etc... I am pretty sure that I die a little inside every time I make school lunches. And dinner.

4. Do not volunteer for anything else.  This probably sounds a little selfish, but Doug and I had a discussion the other night and we feel we are each already doing more than enough.  We do not want to lose joy by trying to do too much.  We, honestly, are probably already doing a little too much, so the foot has to come down now. *Thud* (I have really big feet.)

5. There is no number 5.  I mean, there probably is, but I am so tired I can't really even focus anymore.

Also, I have had this song stuck in my head all week.  Enjoy and have an awesome school year!