Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Blessing

We went to church on Christmas Eve for the children's service. Annalee was among the children who gathered at the alter, heard the story of Jesus and brought their stuffed animal pals to gather 'round the manger.

Here was the blessing during the service:

May Christ, the Son of God, be manifest in you, that your lives may be a light to the world; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you, and remain with you always.

Merry Christmas, friends.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Elves, a Horse and a Stick

We first asked Annalee what she wanted for Christmas back in early November. "A horse on a stick."

Whaaat? Oh, yes, I remember now. In August, on our way to northern Wisconsin, we stopped at a restaurant in the Dells that had a gift shop (of course it did). Annalee found a horse on a stick (you know, the kind you used to run around the yard playing like you were riding a horse?) and thought it was the coolest thing. We no sooner walked out of the restaurant and that horse was gone from my mind. But, obviously, that wasn't the case for Annalee.

A few days after we first asked her about gift ideas, we asked her again what she might like for Christmas. "A horse on a stick." 'Didn't you hear me the first time, mom?' was probably what she was thinking.

I cringed, as I did each time she would say this. I could just feel the walls getting banged into, the paint chipping, the drywall cracking. The walls that were freshly painted in September.

Weeks went by. Same question, same answer. Then, last week, Annalee came home from kindergarten with this:

Having trouble reading it? It says, 'Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is a Horse on a Stick.' There it was in black and white. There was no getting around this special request. You see, this note is for Santa. It needs to get set out with his milk and cookies on Christmas Eve.

So, I asked Annalee, "What if Santa doesn't bring a horse on a stick?"

Duh, mom. "Don't worry. The elves can make anything." Ahh, the mind of a five-year-old. So sweet, so innocent, so trusting.

And, me? Maybe I should ask Santa to bring some sheets of foam for the walls. 'Cause I know he's bringing that horse on a stick.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

By Six (Not Sure Why)

Laura sent this my way, and I thought it was interesting enough to post here. I just can't figure out why the subject was 'By Six.'

Six names you go by:
1. Jackie
2. Mommy
3. Jacqueline (pronounced Jack-wa-lyn). Paula, you're the only one who uses this, and I love you for it.
4. Jack (mildly offensive when used by people who hardly know me)
5. Sweetie
6. Auntie Jackie

Three things you are wearing right now:
1. Bunny slippers
2. Cayman Aggressor sweatshirt
3. Wedding band

Three things you want very badly at the moment:
1. For this movie to be over (Into the Wild - it's good, but it's gone on a little too long)
2. For the kitchen to be more clean than it is
3. To know that our referral from China will come sooner (like spring - or now) rather than later (July? August? 2010?)

Three people who will fill this out:
1. Mary Ann?
2. Denise?
3. Anyone?

Two things you did last night:
1. Made a birthday card for Denise
2. Watched Moonstruck (for the hundredth time, and I still love it like crazy!)

Two things you ate today:
1. Eggs
2. Chocolate

Two people you last talked to on the phone:
1. Mom
2. Ron

Two things you are going to do tonight:
1. Go to bed after the movie's over
2. Floss and brush my teeth

Your two favorite beverages:
1. Water
2. Pina colada (on the beach in Puerto Vallarta)

So, for those who are inclined, copy the above and paste it into your own e-mail and send it to a whole bunch of people, including me. Have fun!! and BE HONEST. Enjoy!

Color Inspiration #35

Wow. I can't believe I've missed five of Kristina Werner's color inspirations! The last one I did was #30. Time flies, especially when you have in-laws visiting.

Here's Kristina's challenge this week:

I knew before she even posted her color choices what kind of card I wanted to make, so that seemed to make the process go a little easier than it has for past challenges. Here's my card:

It's a birthday card for a very sweet, funny friend of mine. I'm hoping she doesn't read this before tomorrow. Otherwise, that might ruin the fun and surprise of opening the envelope!

The big excitement was that I figured out a feature that my little ol' HP pocket camera has on it. Only took two years to notice. And, just when I was convinced we needed a new one - a new one that would focus close up without having to use digital zoom! Well, turns out that my little silver buddy has micro and super micro photo options! So, I was able to take some close-up pics that actually worked and were in focus. I was too excited! Ron didn't know about the feature, either. So, then, I didn't feel like I was the total camera idiot. (Especially since I'm the one with the photography minor!)

The only thing with these pictures that I posted is that I don't have good color-correction software right now. So, the blue doesn't look like the Baja Breeze in the inspiration challenge, but it really is. Really.

Did I mention that I'm so loving the satin ribbon? So, so pretty. Don't you think? The ribbon is from the discontinued Theater ribbon set. Oh, and for those who are wondering, I used the stamp from SU's Touch of Nature and the rub-on from Chit Chat. I really should have bought at least two packs of Chit Chat when it was on sale!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Blokus Champ

I was rockin' last night at Blokus! If you don't know about Blokus, it's a strategy game of trying to get all 17 of your pieces on the board. You're defending territory and marking territory all at the same time. Very cool. Very fun.

So, we got out the game and taught Ron's dad and his lady friend (they were visiting from North Carolina for 10 days). The first game and even a little into the second game, we helped them out and showed them how to play better with their pieces. The third game, though, each player was on his own.

I'm excited to report that I was the three-time champion last night. Not only that, but I won one round with ZERO points, meaning I placed ALL MY PIECES on the board (lowest point total wins)! That was unheard of in our family. Until now. I really impressed Ron, which isn't always easy. The other two games I won with eight points and three points. Pretty cool, huh?

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Gigantic Ladybug

Is this an amazing looking cake? I made it! I couldn't believe it. Made me jump up and down and clap my hands with excitement (just like when I hung my new curtain panels recently in my living room - by myself!). Truly, though, this is the most fabulous looking cake I've ever made. Notice that I said 'most fabulous looking.'

I couldn't take the pictures without Annalee getting in on the act. Thankfully, she had a friend over on Saturday. Otherwise, I'm sure she would have been in my face trying to do the decorating herself.

So, just how did I come to make such a stunning cake, if I do say so myself? Charlotte and Wyatt, my twin niece and nephew, turned three last weekend. My sister, Gerri, had their birthday party on Saturday. Gerri was going to be stuck making two fancy cakes after showing both kids a cake magazine. Instead of them choosing one cake, they each picked a different one they wanted. So, being a good aunt (or good sister, I'm not sure which), I volunteered to make Charlotte's ladybug cake. I think at the time that Wyatt wanted a firetruck. And, that was way out of my league. Heck, I wasn't even sure the ladybug was close to my league as far as decorated cakes were concerned.

There's a first time for everything - and this was my first time doing anything more than smearing icing on two cake layers and maybe sprinkling them with coconut (coconut layer cake is my favorite (as long as it's gluten-free)). I googled ladybug cakes and found a picture that seemed manageable, though mine wouldn't look like it came out of a bakery like that one. Then Gerri supplied me with special red dye that didn't have flavor, black dye and a magazine that had the picture Charlotte saw and loved. I was feeling a little intimidated by then.

Given that I'm gluten-free AND I was going to be making one of the desserts, I figured I'd make one that I could enjoy. So, I headed over to Fruitful Yield and bought a Namaste yellow cake mix along with Cherrybrook (I think) white frosting. Why Namaste? Well, I've made their brownies before - and they were fabulous (I doctored them up a little, but they would have been fabulous without the doctoring). But, I can tell you, I wouldn't buy their cake mix again.

When we cut it open, it was dense...and brown. Ish. It was brownish, like a spice cake. So, Gerri asked me what I made, and I told her - a yellow cake (as Charlotte requested). But, this really was no yellow cake. Then, came the real test - the taste test. It failed. Miserably. Well, other eaters were not so critical. But, I was. I've eaten plenty of gluten-free cakes and desserts, and this one bombed. It bombed so bad in my mind, that the next day I told Gerri that she shouldn't feel bad about throwing out the leftovers - about half a cake. She laughed, almost nervously. I kind of think she already had thrown it out.

While Charlotte stuck with the ladybug idea (as if she had a choice after I volunteered to bake it), Wyatt decided he wanted a speedracer Mach 5 car, or something like that, instead of the firetruck. My amazing sister the baker came up with this car. Chocolate cake, chocolate filling. It was very well done - and loved by Wyatt. That's the most important thing, right?

Here are Annalee (far right), Wyatt and Charlotte (the birthday hats) and their friend (in the middle) checking out their cakes.

So, if anybody needs a ladybug cake, I'm your go-to gal. Maybe Annalee will want one for her sixth birthday. But, given her fixation with dinosaurs, I think I'll be decorating something on a bigger scale than ladybugs.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Luscious Yarns!

As soon as I turn off the computer, I'm going back to my most luscious yarns and work on my scarf.

I still can't believe it took me until last week to start working on this - I bought the yarn in early October when I finished my wrap. (While I get lots of compliments on the wrap, I think it looked better in my head. Why does that happen?)

So, with the wrap done, I went to the store in search of two yarns, pretty much like these, to make a duplicate of a scarf I designed and knit several years ago. Then, once I got these home, I had second thoughts about what I wanted to make. It got me to thinking that it's easier to pick a pattern and buy yarns to match. This knitting off the cuff can be difficult - at least for me. It's as if I just don't want to commit to the project. What if I could have knit something different? What if what I knit doesn't show off the yarn to the best it could? What if this...what if that? Too much doubt.

So, I finally bit the bullet. I'm knitting with the two yarns together (even that was a tough decision - knit them together or knit a couple rows with one and then the other...). I designed the scarf with two seed stitches on each edge with 9 stitches in the middle. It will be a checkerboard - 3 rows by 3 stitches of stockinette, 3x3 of reverse stockinette and 3x3 of stockinette. Then the reverse for three rows. I started with a ruffle - cast on 52 stitches, knit 2 together for two rows dropping the stitch count to 13. I'm contemplating putting a slit into the other end so that the scarf can just tuck through itself. It'll be a short one, to just wrap around my neck.

I love the colors - bright pistacchio and all those colors in the ribbon yarn. Stay tuned - I'll post some pics when it's done. For now, my luscious yarns are calling me.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Three-fer for April

My step-sister-in-law's birthday was last week. So, I made her a card. When I look at it, it makes me smile. It looks happy. Cheerful. I love those SU! rub-ons!

So, in anticipation of giving it to April, I asked Annalee to sign her name. I also gave her the option of decorating every side of it except the cover (it just bums me out too much when she assaults my card designs).

This is what she designed for her aunt:

Quite the little artist, eh?

Monday, December 1, 2008

School's Out for Snow (Well, Really It Was the Power)

When I drove through the U-shaped driveway to drop Annalee off at school this morning, I noticed that it seemed a little quiet. Traffic was light and I didn't see any kids around. But, with our three inches of snow, I didn't give it a second thought. Then, one of the aides came to the car (as they usually do to help the kids unload and get into the school), and she told us that there was no school today. Seems a power outage knocked out a boiler. So, even though the power had returned about an hour earlier, the school had no heat.

Annalee's first thought was that we were headed home to make a snowman. My first thought was, wow, I had a lot to do today that wasn't going to get done. So, we compromised. Annalee was a great sport. We hit the post office (woo, hoo - all my Christmas cards have been mailed - and it's only December 1!) and two grocery stores. I only had to ask Leelee a couple times to put her lips together so that I could think for a little bit while shopping.

Then, it was on to home for lunch and snow play. But, of course, to be able to go out in the snow, you have to work on getting all the clothing on so you can stay warm. Wool socks, snowpants, boots, scarf, hat, jacket, mittens. At one point, Annalee looked like a stuffed sausage. I tried hard to avoid her looking like the little brother in A Christmas Story. Finally, it was time to step out into the pristine whiteness.

I think I love playing out in the snow as much as my little girl. I couldn't help but remember the first day we had snow after we returned home with Annalee from China. Snow was totally foreign to her (as was so much at that time), but she just laughed and laughed. We walked around the yard and down the road and back that day. It was so sunny. The air was cold but with all our layers on, we were warm. What I remember most that day was feeling like this was just one of the many things I had waited to do as a mom. I was in my element. I was so excited to share the joy of the world with her, and snow was just the beginning.

Seems like that was just last year. Now, four years later, she still laughs and laughs in the snow. Her eyes light up with joy; her cheeks glow rosy. But, now, instead of looking to me to lead the way and guide her, she's telling me what we're going to do: "Fall down and make a snow angel, mommy!...Get up and run. Chase me!...I'm going to get you with a snowball!" (I got her first - oops!)

So, today we had our first snow angels of the season, and our first snowball fight. And, I learned that Leelee learned how to position herself, step and throw in gym class. How about that? She nailed the mailbox more times than I did. How sad for me - being a former softball pitcher and all. Guess I've got some practicing to do.

But, that'll have to wait 'til spring. For now, we'll just enjoy the snow.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008

After I finally began to notice the blessing at the end of our church service, I quickly realized that it doesn't change weekly but more like seasonally. So today, after several weeks of the same blessing, we have a new one. And, a lovely one it is:

Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So be swift to love. Make haste to be kind. And as we go, may the blessing, the peace, the love, and the joy of the Holy One Who is in the midst of us be among us and in our hearts this day and always.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Oh, Christmas Tree...

We put up the Christmas tree today. Yes, it's artificial. After being sick each Christmas and New Year's for several years running (allergies), we switched to the fakeroo three years ago.

We found the artificial tree at a nearby specialty shop. It's fully lit with a lot of white lights and looks pretty nice - for not being real. We only paid about $130 in an after-holiday clearance. So, maybe after two seasons, the tree doesn't owe us anything. But, I figured it would last at least five years.

Maybe I should have seen the writing on the wall last season when a small section of lights went out - and never came back on. Still, I had faith it would light up on command when it got plugged in this year. Oh, I was so wrong.

We put the first section into the stand, and half of it didn't light. OK, that half can go in the back. Second section, only one little branch was without lighting. Swing it around so it, too, is in the back. Third section...totally dead. Out comes the voltometer thingy. We're checking fuses, checking outlets, checking plugs. Everything else works - just not this section of the tree. Fourth section - the top - goes on. It, too, is dead. Wait, it lives, but just a little. One tiny section comes alive. At this point, I was fighting the urge to throw the whole thing out the front window and race to the nearest store to buy a new one. Ron talked me down; we decided to make the best of it for now. Up I went into the attic to look for the box of lights from our real-tree days. Down I came with five strings of lights. Colored lights. But, our fakeroo has white lights. I didn't care. This was our tree. We were decorating it together. It was going to be what it was going to be, and we would love it.

I did have some caveats, though. Annalee suggested we string the lights like garlands. I thought I was being a big enough sport having to light a tree that had dead white lights all over it using colored lights. But, garland-like stringing just was over the top. I proceeded to explain to Annalee (since Ron has known for years) that I'm a tree-lighting freak. The lights have to be on very precisely and have to be tucked into the tree so as to display light without really showing all those wires. Annalee pressed on for garland stringing. And, Ron finally talked her into giving up. Mommy was going to be in charge of getting those lights on.

I managed to scratch up my hands almost as much on this fake tree as I used to on the real trees while stringing lights. It made me realize that after two years of not having to do that, I really prefer the pre-lit tree. When it lights, of course. There is something magical about setting up a tree, lights and all, in minutes. Saves a lot of skin, and it gives us more time for all the other decorating.

When I told my mom about the lighting fiasco - and the use of the colored lights, her response reminded me of why I'm a lighting freak. "Why didn't you call us? We could have run over with some white lights for you." Well, mom, I'm trying really hard to let go of that urge to be a perfectionist. I could have easily driven to a store to get white lights, too. But, why bother? We had perfectly good lights in the attic. And, we have a very unusual looking tree that we can all be proud of decorating. Besides, it makes for a good story when friends come over and comment on the lights (or maybe they'll be too polite to mention them).

One good thing to come of all this. I realized that I prefer the colored lights, like we used to have. They're not as overpowering as the white lights, so we can actually see the ornaments AND the lights, not just the lights. So, you know what I'll be shopping for come Dec. 26.

BTW, Annalee decided it was 'exhausing' decorating a tree. I guess she's gaining a finer appreciation for what I do. That's so nice.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving will always hold a special place in my heart. Not just because it is Thanksgiving and I have a lifetime of memories and traditions to go with it. But, because it was four years ago, on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 25, 2004), that we returned from China with our beautiful daughter. We thought it was the coolest thing to come home on Thanksgiving, given all we had to be thankful for.

This was our baby's first Thanksgiving dinner. My mom had the food waiting for us when we arrived home from the airport. My folks left us at home to get settled and get some much-needed sleep - after a tastey meal of traditional Thanksgiving fare. If you can believe it, Annalee ate that whole plate of food!

This is our baby today: a beautiful, bright 5-1/2-year-old girl with an infectious smile and laugh. She is happy, healthy, inquisitive, interested, engaging and -- shall I say it again? -- happy.

Strangely, I think Leelee ate more on Thanksgiving four years ago than she did today.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008

Whenever we return to our seats after communion at church, I talk with Annalee about saying prayers and giving God thanks. This time around, I started our prayers with thanking God for our friends and our church community. I continued with other blessings we are thankful for. Before I could finish my sentence, Annalee whipped out what had been our regular prayer (which has since become more random) during dinner for several years. This is what she said:

'Thank you for the roof over our heads, the food that we eat and the love we have for each other.'

And, really, when it comes down to it, those are our true needs and our true blessings. Everything else we are blessed with is icing on the cake.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I Love TV!

I'm not too proud to say that I really like to watch TV. My usuals are Grey's Anatomy, Real Time with Bill Maher, What Not to Wear, Get Color! and Tim Gunn's Guide to Style (a new find on Bravo!). I am a little embarrassed to admit that I actually got sucked into the most bizarre program - the Real Housewives of Atlanta. I can't really believe that these women are real, even though this is one of those reality shows. Are there really such shallow, self-absorbed, narrow-minded, petty women like that? Thank God I don't know anyone like that in my real life.

As much as I love Grey's - and I twitter about it nearly every week - I do believe Jennifer is right when she says it has jumped the shark. What? I know; I didn't know what that meant either. I guess it goes back to Happy Days when Fonzie ski-jumped a shark. The show went down the tubes after that. This whole thing with the interns cutting and operating on themselves and Izzy hanging out with Denny again, it's just crazy. Let's get on with it, for crying out loud! BTW, I love seeing Denny and Izzy together. But, he's dead already. And, I know I can't be the only one who's so sick of Meredith.

Like you, Paula, I can't wait for Friday Night Lights, Big Love and Lost to come back on TV. In MHO, FNL is THE BEST show on TV.

Oh, let's not forget Rescue Me. That show is crazy funny. I can't wait for that to come back, too.

So, there you have it. I watch TV. I like it. Actually, 'we' watch TV. That's why it makes it to the Priceless Ones blog. Because Ron and I like watching TV together, and we like laughing - and even crying (just me) - over these shows. Especially that train wreck of a show, those not-so-real housewives in Atlanta.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Annalee's Blessings

For the past several weeks, we had yards of beautiful satin ribbons in wonderful shades of reds, oranges, greens and yellows overflowing baskets at our church. Everyone who was been at services and those of us who were on the retreat last weekend were invited to take a ribbon (or two or three) and write on it how our lives are blessed and how we share those blessings with others.

One weekend, Annalee took a ribbon and marker home with her. As we were driving home, she began writing (we spelled for her as necessary). These are the things she felt were her blessings:

Mommy and Daddy
Halloween (probably because she could spell it on her own)
Nana (one she knew how to spell), grandparents
everything (my favorite)
sun! (the exclamation point was hers)
cats! (ours passed last year, but I was touched she remembered them)
pumpkin pie (yummy)
Mommy cat (not sure where this came from or if she was just filling the space)

Putting the list here just doesn't do the conversation justice. There was thoughtfulness and joy and exclamation in Leelee's deliverance of these blessings. She was excited both to share her blessings and to be able to write them on her own on this ribbon.

Annalee's ribbon, along with many, many others (including ones from Ron and me) were woven into a spectacular, colorful, blessed altar cloth that was unveiled today. After the service we went up to the altar to admire it. I spotted Annalee's ribbon within seconds. Her large printed letters - some on top with others woven underneath - it was magical to see. I picked Annalee up to show her her ribbon as it sat on the 'cloth' top of the altar; she was so excited!

Seeing that festive cloth during church will always be a wonderful reminder of my daughter's thoughtfulness - and of our many, many blessings.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Weirdo-ness

In checking out blogs this morning while I sit on the couch coughing my brains out, I found this fun challenge from Laughing Daisies. So, I thought I'd give it a try. I'm also going to e-mail it to some friends, since the original idea from Danielle suggested that you tag seven friends.

I've actually had some practice at this back to 2004 when I first met Laura online and then on the phone before we prepared to travel to China together to adopt our daughters. I think I might have terrified her when I sent her an e-mail cluing her in on my idiosyncrasies early on in our friendship. I just figured I'd get it all out there. Knowing your weirdo-ness is half the battle to being less of a weirdo, isn't it?

While I don't remember everything I shared with Laura four years ago, I do remember No. 1. The rest I'm pulling off the top of my head, but I'm sure my friends have better weirdo things to say about me than I do. I'm certainly open to their comments.

Here are my seven:

1. I am a germ-freak. Not in the Howie Mandell way that I won't touch people or shake hands or anything. But, I spray Lysol on my keyboard and phone and chair when I know someone (anyone, well or not) has sat at my desk in the office. I wash ALL the linens after I've been sick. I use papertowel to open the door and exit public bathrooms. I get grossed out thinking about all the potential germs that Annalee or I pick up at school, on the playground, grocery store, etc. Then, out come the wipes or lotion. If there's a sink with soap and water, all the better. I don't drink from the wine at church; I don't even dip my host.

2. I cry when I pray. I don't know what it is, but when I think of what I have to be thankful for and when I ask God for something, I cry. I'm just moved to tears.

3. I LOVE buying craft supplies more than I enjoy making the crafts. It's taken me a long time to figure out that I actually like wallowing in the picking of the 'stuff' more than I am pleased with the outcome of what I create. Now that I've figured this out, I've really curbed my buying habits. I have fewer silk flowers to make pen bouquets and decorate decorative pillows (which I've never done anyway). I have reduced my yarn stash and try to buy yarns to knit a specific project. I've even stopped ordering stamping supplies (for a little while, at least) until I use up the accessories I have - and even use some of the stuff I've bought at all!

4. I love cleaning the kitchen after dinner. It's a true weirdo thing. I'm happy when the kitchen is clean, especially the kitchen sink. I can watch TV or Ron and Annalee through the cut-out in the wall between the kitchen and family room while doing my thing. Makes life good.

5. I have a large collection of plastic bins. They help me organize. Even when they're just sitting in the garage waiting to be filled, they make me feel better know they're there and available.

6. I'm a bit of a hypochondriac. Maybe this goes with No. 1. But, I think it has more to do with having worked for 19 years in health-care marketing. And, having had breast cancer 14 years ago. Either way, I usually think the worst when I get sick. Like today. I'm convinced I have either pneumonia or whooping cough. I'll see the doctor in an hour and find out the real deal.

7. I am a spreadsheet freak. Give me some choices and I'll give you a spreadsheet. I spreadsheet vacation options, stamping supply lists, stamping wish lists, mailing lists, Christmas lists, house construction projects. You name it. If it can be in a spreadsheet, I make it.

Even though the game calls for a list of seven, I'd be remiss if I didn't include this one last thought:

8. I go to the bathroom all the time. Sometimes it's a nervous thing and sometimes it's just because I drink a lot of water. But, when a bathroom presents itself, I use it. I don't think I've ever flown on a plane and not used the bathroom. Same for airports, bookstores, restaurants, department stores. You get the idea. It used to kill my mom and especially my grandma Rose when I would need to use a bathroom when we were out. God forbid we had to use a public facility. Poor grandma. She'd be mortified to know that I've passed this trait on to my daughter. See a bathroom; use it. That's my motto.

(Don't worry, friends. I know I have more weirdo-ness, but these top the list for today.)

Now, here are the rules for you:

1. Link to the person who tagged you and put the rules on your blog.

2. Share 7 weird or random facts about yourself.

3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and link to their blog.

4. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a note on their blog.

Last, but not least, are my seven tagged friends: Becky, Jennifer, Mary Ann, Laura, Denise, Lauren and Paula. I also tag YOU. Now get to it!

UPDATE: I saw my doctor. He did a chest X-ray, and everything is clear. Just a virus. Luck for me, he prescribed the good cough medicine for nighttime. You know, the one with codeine! Some solid sleep should work wonders.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lines of Life

I was cleaning out our picture files this evening and came across this photo. I took this picture in August while we were on vacation in northern Wisconsin. It's Leelee's five-and-a-half-year-old foot, or is it? Sometimes, when I study her feet and see all those lines of life, I can't help but wonder about reincarnation. They look like they've walked many miles and lived many years. More like the feet of an 80-year-old woman. But, to touch them is to touch the feet of a baby. Soft and sweet, and somehow, smooth.

I remember when my dad first noticed that Leelee's feet were so creased with life. He would tease her and ask her where she got those old feet. She'd just shrug it off and say 'They came that way, Grandpa.' No worries on her part. Her feet are her feet and they're perfectly fine. She couldn't be more right.

Color Inspiration #30

The colors for Kristina Werner's color inspiration are old olive, certainly celery, sahara sand and whisper white. This week, I decided to think about a design before she posted her color challenge. I think it made it a bit easier.

I have yet to take a good picture, though. This was the best of about 30 that I took in all different lighting. If anyone has some suggestions for taking one that actually looks as good as the card, please let me know!

I used SU's It's Snow Time and Nature's Secret stamp sets. The snowflakes are stamped in craft white and embossed with SU winter white EP. The primary image is stamped in olive and mounted with dimensionals. The larger ribbon is celery with the little one being olive. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday, Nov. 9, 2008

"Jackie, we recognize you as a member of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, and we receive you into the fellowship of this Communion. God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless, preserve and keep you."

This was the blessing I received this morning from Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Lee, Bishop of Chicago, as he held his hands on my head. The service was the culmination of eight weeks of coursework and discernment of my belief in God. I chose today to affirm my faith, reaffirm my baptismal vows and become a member of the Episcopal church. I couldn't feel happier or more fulfilled.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Night Prayer

I've been taking a class in preparation for being received into our Episcopal church. The ceremony will be this Sunday - the bishop of Chicago will preside. I am so excited to become a full-fledged Episcopalian, not just a participating member of our church.

During our evening class last Sunday, we ended with Compline, the offering of prayer late in the evening. This is often described as the 'goodnight prayer of the Church.'

I wanted to capture the closing part of the prayer here, because it always moves me.

Lord, it is night. The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done; let it be.

The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.

The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn. Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.

In your name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Color Inspiration #29

I really liked Kristina Werner's color challenge this week. But, in sitting down to create a card, I realized that this just isn't the way I create my cards. I don't start with the colors. I usually start with the stamps and/or a design in my head. Then, I look at my little word window punch combos of colors or the SU color wheel and decide what colors to use. So, I've been finding these color challenges almost painful. That said, I did find that I could really get into this one, once I got going. It's just that this approach takes me a lot longer to finish a card.

I normally don't say this, but the picture just doesn't do it justice. Unfortunately, I had some camera issues - the little digital seems to have forgotten how to focus and the Canon 10D (that we just had fixed) doesn't seem to focus the way it should either. All that, and then our main home computer drive died...


People Don't Have Black Skin, Mommy

I've tried to impart on Annalee the significance of voting for and, now, the election of Barack Obama, the first African-American man to be elected president of the United States. But, she doesn't see people as belonging to a 'race' or as different from one another because of skin color. In fact, she doesn't believe that people have black skin - or even yellow skin, as people might suggest she has.

I walked a fine line between trying to teach our daughter about something of enormous historical importance and about race relations in this country and throughout the world. I treaded gently. I didn't want to alter her view of the world and of people into something cynical or scary. I didn't need to open the trunk of our history and share the ugliness that has been and continues in this world around race.

If only the people of the world could learn something from the minds of kindergartners. These little people see life in full color - and only color - without prejudice or predisposition of attitude. The way we all should live.

This is a time of transformation. Whether it comes from our children or from our president-elect, the time is now. Change has come to America, and I'm so proud to be a part of it - and to share that with my child.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What a Day!

Oh, what an incredibly momentous day this has been! Earlier today, Ron, Annalee and I went to our polling place together to cast our votes. As Annalee stood with me in the booth, I showed her the names on the ballot. She diligently watched as I filled in that oval with the dark black marker. I spoke quietly to her as I read the ballot, but she let everyone know we were voting for Barack Obama. I teared up as I filled in that little oval - I had been waiting so long to do that.

For the last five hours, we've watched election coverage on TV and online. I was cautiously optimistic. I could feel excitement building as the waves of polls closed from east to west across the country. But, I wasn't prepared for the election to be called at the stroke of 10 p.m. when polling in California, Oregon and Washington closed and were called for Obama.

The day has finally come and the results are in. It doesn't get much better than this. I can't wait to share the news with Annalee tomorrow morning!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Double Vision

Halloween has been for me these past few years a fun day to be a kid with Annalee. I've been the Cat in the Hat to her Po and Cinderella's stepmother to her Cinderella (along with our Prince Charming).

Today, Annalee and I were each Snow White - something I had wished for as early as last Halloween. I kept my idea to myself and let my little one make her choice(s) by herself. She started out wanting to be a cheerleader, so I purchased that outfit. Then, we went to the store to get my outfit (Snow White) and a different cheerleader outfit that was, by then, on sale. While there Annalee decided to be Ariel, the little mermaid.

Before we paid for everything, I needed to try on my costume and make sure it would fit - and then lightening struck. There must have been something about my outfit that caught her interest; without my saying a word my secret wish came out of Annalee's mouth. "I'd like to be Snow White, too, mama." I swooned. My little dream was going to come true.

And, so it has.

I went to school today and marched in the class parade along side my little girl. Then, we trick 'r treated together. What a pair we made. Oh, how I love this - another day of motherhood glory!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Innards, Seeds and Slime, Oh My!

Nothing like waiting until the eleventh hour to carve pumpkins. But, we got them done tonight. I just love carving pumpkins! Leelee designed each pumpkin face. The one on her pumpkin has square eyes with little half-rounds for eyeballs - something she learned from her kindergarten teacher. When it came time for her to design the face on my pumpkin, she remembered that I like triangle eyes, so that's what I got on my pumpkin.

My dad, sister and I used to do all the carving when I was growing up. Mom just kind of hung around on the sidelines. At least that's what I remember. I don't think it was her thing, either, like it isn't Ron's thing. Ron's never really had any interest in pumpkin carving in all the years we dated and have been married. It's just not a thing for him. But, it is for me. I love carving pumpkins. Well, actually, I think it's the pumpkin seeds that I really love.

I eat the whole seed, shell and all. Salt can make or break a batch of pumpkin seeds. I haven't tried our baked pumpkin seeds from today, but I have my doubts about their success. I don't think I boiled them enough before baking. We'll see...

Polka Dots

Today I am wearing the sweater set that I wore nearly four years ago, the day our daughter was placed in my arms. She was crying - out of fear. I was crying - out of joy (or maybe fear?). Quite a pair we made. Ron was alongside us grinning from ear to ear just taking it all in.

When I look down at these colored polka dots, I can feel every emotion that I experienced on that day. Anticipation, relief, joy, excitement, exhaustion, love. Above all else, there was love. For my daughter. For my husband. For the red thread that brought us all together at that moment in time from opposite ends of the world.

We've experienced so much together in these past four years. But, I will never forget the details of that day. And, if I do (when I get really old - and maybe senile), I'll always have the DVD to watch and remind me...if I can remember where to find it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Color Inspiration #28

I really like the colors in Kristina Werner's Color Inspiration this week. And, check out this little coin purse from Anthropologie, where she found the inspiration.

So, now it's my turn....

I added a teeny bit of black, just because. It was in the original picture and it really made the colors pop. The stamp sets used are Artfully Asian and Symbols of Solitude. The paper is from Bali Breeze. I intend to give it to our friends as a sympathy card. They just had to put their dog, Haley, down. She was a sweet, old soul.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

When I think of this book, I'm immediately transported to my childhood home, lying on the love seat (it was so purple!) in the living room. The room itself is in total disarray while my parents are painting. I can't figure out why I wasn't helping. Maybe I was sick that Saturday or maybe my parents thought my reading a book was a great way to keep me occupied so they could paint. But if that was the case, where was my sister - five years my junior?

Thinking of the book also makes me think of my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Russell. I just adored her. She was strict and strong and scary most of the time. Then, there was the kind and thoughtful side of her, too. When she laughed, it was with her whole body and heart. It was Mrs. Russell who recommended I order A Tree Grows in Brooklyn book during one of our Scholastic book sales (along with Roget's Thesaurus - a favorite reference book that I still own!).

What's the story about? Well, I remember the basics - Francie is a young girl growing up in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. There's her dad, who drinks a lot, her mom, who seems distant to Francie, and her brother. It's a poignant tale of a girl coming of age. I've read it several times over the years, just not recently. It's that whole transport thing that happens to me when I've read the book - I'm there with Francie walking the streets of Brooklyn - that has made this a favorite for me. Not only that, but it also gives me the warm fuzzy memories of a simple time in sixth grade.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Time Traveler's Wife

It occurred to me that if I'm posting my favorite books that I should at least post something about the books and why I like them.

As for The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, I absolutely love this book. I've read it twice. It's one of those that just hangs with you. It's caught in the fibers of my being. It left it's mark on my soul. I'd read it more often, but there is such a sadness, almost a sense of mourning, in the story line that I can only read it about once every 18 months or so. At least, that's about how long it was after my first reading that it called to me again to be reread.

The story is of Henry, a time traveler, and Clare, the love of his life. The story is told in chapters. Clare's is told as the space-time continuum moves, while Henry's story is told at all different places on the space-time continuum. Clare first meets Henry when she is a little girl; his 'chrono displacement disorder' lands him into her life in a meadow near her family's home. He continues to visit her at different points in his life as she continues to grow older, all along the way to their first meeting in his life. He is 28 and she is 20 when they find each other without the chrono displacement - but Clare has already known Henry nearly her whole life. Sound confusing? It does to me, too, as I write this. But, the book makes wonderful sense.

Much of the storyline is told in Chicago and in nearby Michigan. It was fun to read a book and know all the places being described, especially the Grant Park parking garage. To say The Time Traveler's Wife is a page-turner is an understatement. For me, it was all I could do to pull myself away and rejoin my real life in bits and pieces until I finished the book.

I think it could make a fabulous movie. Did I hear that Hollywood is making a movie of the book or did I just dream it? Either way, I'm not certain the movie could live up to the visuals created in my head from my reading. One can only hope.

For now, I have told my daughter that when we pick out our next two cats, mommy gets to name them. A boy and a girl - named Henry and Clare.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008

This week's blessing:

Live without fear; your Creator has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Go in peace to follow the good road and may God's blessing be with you always.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Homework Fun

Leelee had her second 'crafty' homework project of kindergarten this week. We worked on it tonight, and once again I felt like I was in my glory as a parent. I usually get the feeling when we're baking, because I have a vivid memory of baking cookies with my mom when I was a toddler. But, today it came when we were crafting.

Today, my daughter and I were picking ribbon colors, cutting, designing and gluing. And, I was loving every minute of it. I think I'm more excited about her decorated bat (the nocturnal flying kind) than she is. I wonder if Leelee will remember this. I wonder what kind of feelings she'll have when she helps her child with her kindergarten homework. I wonder how her teacher will like the bat.

More Than a Feeling

You know how hearing a song can take you back to a time and place? Well, for me, a song can take me back to a feeling.

I was driving to work this morning when my progressive talk radio station went to a long commercial break. I switched to the CD player; a Van Morrison mix was loaded already. The first chords of Wild Night sounded. Not only was I instantly hanging out at my friends' former house outside Madison, Wis., but I felt different. I felt like I did when we spent weekends there listening to The Man and Tupelo Honey. But, the most intense feeling was the one of not being a parent, 'cause in my 'transport' I went to a time, a visit, before I was a mom.

It reminded me of that same feeling when I look at the picture of our travel group on the Great Wall outside Beijing. It was just a couple days before the adoption of our children would take place. While many in the group already were parents, we were not. But, looking at the lot of us, we looked different. We looked!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008

This week's blessing:

Live without fear; your Creator has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Go in peace to follow the good road and may God's blessing be with you always.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sunday Blessings

We've been attending our Episcopal church for almost four years. But, it's taken me until just the last month to identify my favorite part of the service. It's The Blessing that comes just before the recessional hymm and dismissal, and is delivered by our priest or the presiding priest.

I think The Blessing only recently struck me because the past several have spoken to me so vividly. They have gone to the heart of my concerns for the previous week or even that day and calmed my worries. They were as if God was telling me everything was ok.

I think I'll capture those blessings that lift my spirits and remind me I'm doing the best I can.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Asparagus Xylophone

I love the way you can practically see children's brains at work. They can be so transparent. It's fascinating to watch the wheels turning.

Annalee and I were breaking asparagus, preparing to roast it for dinner. As I finished getting the stalks arranged in the pan with seasonings and oil, she proceeded to play with the hard ends of the asparagus we had just broken off.

Next thing I know, she's created a xylophone of asparagus stubs, complete in graduated sizes from smallest to largest. Then the singing began as she "played" the instrument. I watched with fascination. She was oblivious to me, though I was standing so close that the hair on my arms brushed against her. She remained on the chair, working at the xylophone set on top of the kitchen counter for a few minutes more.

As suddenly as Annalee began playing music, she brought her symphony to an end. It was time to do handstands into 'bridges' onto the ottoman in the family room.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Voice, aka La Voce

Despite every desire of mine to sleep in or at least sleep until I choose to wake up, I can't help but smile deep inside when the first sweet notes of Annalee's voice drift down the hallway to our room and into my consciousness. La Voce (as we dubbed her and it from our favorite Denzel Washington movie, Man on Fire) often is the light-hearted, sweet sounds of singing, similar to the mermaid Ariel. We can't always identify the songs, or even the words. But, the happiness and joy of her disposition are as clear as the notes that carry her tune.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Now What?

So, now that I have this blog, I've been wondering...
  • Who am I writing this to/for?
  • Who will read it?
  • Why do this when I can't even find time to write in my journal?
  • What am I trying to accomplish?
I guess I already figured some of those questions out when I wrote my first post. I just can't figure out what approach to take when I write. Maybe once I can nail that down, I'll be able to start posting more info, thoughts, news. Cross your fingers that I figure it out soon.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

It's a Start

Well, I've finally created a blog. I intend for this to be a place to post information about our daughter, our journey to adopt our second child and a place to post my card creations to share with friends. Hang on - it might be a bumpy ride, at least as I get out of the gate and get going...