Sunday, February 17, 2008

Revenge of the Nerds meets Spaceballs

I know, every kid loves his or her own unique clothing combinations. But while some kids are passionate about a certain shirt or a specific style, Lilly is just about looking ridiculous. And she knows it.

It's deja vu all over again...

"Lilly, come down when you have your pajamas on!"

And then I usually add, "And don't forget to accessorize!"

(She does not love chunky jewelry yet, but I hope and pray that someday she will.)

Ta da:

The upside-down sticker and eye patch were lovely accents, but I still felt the outfit was unfinished.

We get very angry if she forgets key items like Darth Vader helmets and blasters:

In sixth or seventh grade, my favorite shirt style was one that involved tucking in the front but not the back. Nice. Ironically, I also spent many of my elementary years wearing my socks over leggings (and on a good day, they had stirrups on the bottom.)

Lilly has either been looking through my photo albums or has inherited my innate sense of ugly. I mean...our innate sense of ugly.

Friday, February 15, 2008

"Warning" "I've" "Overused" "Quotes"

Just so we're all clear, here's another photo of the Suburban:

Can you believe how the kids have aged since we last saw it? In case you've forgotten the whole car saga, we have been without The Vehicle That Is Very Much Ours since December 8th.

This is where I own up to the fact that it was ME who crashed it and the light post didn't jump out and use itself as a baseball bat to bash in the entire left side.

But still.

I didn't know it takes this kind of time to recraft what had better be an entirely new car plated with gold and platinum and more jewels than Solomon's temple.

At the risk of boring the vast and diverse reading audience, I've left out several twists and turns in this story the past few months. Brad and I just laugh with each other and add two weeks to any timetable the body shop gives us.

But today's little phone call from our "friend," "Jerry" seemed newsworthy enough.

The phone call started with an apology because the body shop wasn't going to be able to tow the Suburban to our very driveway this afternoon as promised.

No big deal.

Seriously, when they told us that earlier this week, we added the obligatory two week window to their quote and weren't expecting it back until early March.

But wait, I should back up.

The body shop had already towed the "completed" car to the location where we dropped it off. The very contientious employees immediately noticed that the door that was causing all this trouble STILL wasn't hung correctly.

They assessed this within 30 seconds of its arrival. These employees made this observation from inside the shop as it was parked far across the parking lot. Apparently the door hangers at the other location (the SUV is being shuttled back and forth for "quality" purposes...) didn't notice that it still looked like it had been in an accident even as they were up close and hopefully even touching it. And "fixing" it.


(And exhale.)

To add to that, they noticed the paint "experts" didn't bother to paint the inside of the door.

Of course I laughed when they told me that because the exact words from the paint guy were, "It looks absolutely beautiful!"

I suppose that was his first day on the job and his background is in watercolors.

And I was all, "You painted it the ORIGINAL COLOR, right?"

I was nervous because auto paint isn't really supposed to look good; it's supposed to look like it was never re-painted after a wreck. Images of a Ramone -esque paint job flashed in my head but I quickly blocked them out.

Ok, so after all this hoopla about the Suburban being returned to the original body shop (I have no reason to believe you are actually following me in this lengthy Car Drama, but just try), "Jerry" calls.

(Clears throat.)

"In the process of rehanging and aligning the door today, we accidentally banged it into something else in the shop and are going to have to redo the entire rear panel again."

"Thank you for the update, 'Jerry.'"

"@#$*(_ #$@*()!@** &&%!!@??)*"

"*#($) **()) #$%^^."

(Brad and I spoke forcefully in loud voices.)

This new "challenge" apparently involves taking off the trim on the entire left side, removing the door, running boards, and (get your oxygen tank ready) REPAINTING THE LEFT SIDE OF THE CAR. That, I believe, was (one) of our original problems.

(Deep sigh. Inhale slowly. Drink something hard.)

"Jerry" is "sorry" but we still won't have our Suburban until "Tuesday."


We Had an Agreement they Would NOT Grow Up

Valentine's Day 2004

Valentine's Day 2005

Valentine's Day 2007

I think I've been betrayed.

No pictures from 2008. They didn't sit still all day yesterday and were far more interested with eating candy and literally running into the walls than taking pictures.

Also they were excited from eating cookies, brownies, and cake for dinner. It just didn't feel loving to make them eat ravioli and green beans. Also, Brad and I took a quick vote and decided we wanted cookie dough, too.

Jackson used this very real and special holiday to inform me that he likes to be friendly to girls, but is holding off on plans to have a girlfriend until he is 11. Not that he has any idea what that means.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Martha Stewart's Good Things or The Best Walgreens Has to Offer

I'm providing a new free service on the blog (in contrast to all of my very pricey and exclusive blog services) in case you need to do some last minute Valentine's Day shopping.

Or in case you happen to be at the mall with a few extra bucks in your pocket.

Or just in case you like things that are cute.

Either way.

As usual, my mad photography skillz will contribute 1,000 words each.

This candle contains my new favorite scent in the entire world:
Vanilla coconut is a Bath & Body Works specialty that transports my nose to another place, while my body stays here and freezes limb by limb.

It takes a lot to displace Yankee Candle's Buttercream scent from my very prestigous Candle Smell Rankings, but alas, it's been done. It is really a special moment when I light this candle each day because it just smells so dang good. The house smells warm, even though it is actually one ice cube short of an igloo.

Moving on:

I know there is huge demand for teeny clocks out there, so it's hard to choose which one you might need. But this, I feel, is it.

Such a great balance of sophistication and bling. Just the perfect touch for a windowsill or decorative ledge.

Probably not so great for the garage workshop.


I can't even tell you what this soap dish does for me. After taking the time to deocrate the powder room, there is really no place for ugly plastic containers. Well of course there is, but this is just so much more interesting.

My grandma sent this in the mail a few days ago and I haven't stopped smiling since. It doesn't take much, does it?

Here I am demonstrating what it looks like with soap in it. In case you're unclear.

As an extra special Valentine's tip, Yardley is a very luxurioius British brand of soap that can be found at Walgreens for 99 cents. Get it while you can.

Monday, February 11, 2008

How Great Is Your Love

I had one of those mornings that was just tough. And it wasn't even dawn.

Sitting down with my cup of coffee, I started talking with God. Except I kept getting distracted. My to-do list, my day, and all kinds of tasks kept nagging at me.

Not to mention the fact that I felt like I was failing. At Everything. Again. Mother, wife, friend, ministry, discipline...and on. And on. And on.

I wanted to ask God for mercy in so many areas of life, but felt guilty for asking him yet again. I mean, really, could I be any needier? I know I could ask, but still...It was one of those days where I felt I just needed to BUCK UP and walk in the truth without pleading for reassurances from Christ.

To ask for God's comfort and support again felt ridiculous. How could I doubt his goodness and ask him to give me more than he already has?

Then I read this:

Psalm 108:1-4
My heart is steadfast, O God;
I will sing praises with all my soul.
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise You, O LORD, among the peoples;
I will sing of You among the nations.
Your merciful love is higher than the heavens;
and your truth reaches to the skies.

And I looked out the window to see a teeny, horizontal sliver of pink outlining the morning sky. Just a little bit of color...enough for me to say, "Jesus, thank you for literally showing me your mercy in the skies. I do best with literal, Jesus, and you know that."

Then I closed my eyes for another minute and read those verses and just sat there...praying, asking, and even singing for his mercy to fall on me again.

When I opened my eyes, I saw this:

And this:
That little tiny sliver of pink had grown and grown and filled the morning sky.
And I remembered...Your merciful love is higher than the heavens and your truth reaches the sky.
I have every reason to believe that sunrise was His reassurance that I can't need more love, truth, and mercy than he provides. He is downright abundant beyond my wildest dreams.

At which point I ran, got the camera, and started snapping photos while freezing to death in my pajamas on the back deck. The tears froze to my face, which was a nice bonus.

And it reminded me of this song by Mercy Me. If you haven't downloaded it yet, do it. And praise your heart out.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Let's Get Physical, Physical

Last Monday, something crazy came over me and I decided to attempt to become a group fitness instructor. Not a personal trainer, but the type of instructor who leads a bunch of middle-aged women through painful and awkward exercises in hopes that their clothes will magically get larger.

Really, I am all about where fitness and fashion intersect. I am mostly hoping to wear something like this:

I especially like the belt and the high-cut sides. As I always say, if you can't wear a shiny patent leather belt while you do some squats, when can you wear one?

I love this outfit, too. In fact, I think I already owned it when I was nine years-old, except they called it, "Get In Shape Girl."

I even get kind of jealous when I see some of the young darlings wearing their leg warmers today, but remember the fashion rule: If you wore the trend the first time around, do NOT wear it again.

Now this is probably my favorite, just in time for Valentine's Day:

Mostly, I appreciate Olivia's bandana that she careful rolled and tied around her head. Very functional. Just remember, it is better to look good than to feel good. Or something like that.

Back to my new I registered for this Primary Group Fitness Certification on Monday, hoping desperately to pass the written and practical tests on Friday.

No big deal, I foolishly thought. I've been going to group exercise classes for years and figured I could just wing it.

Then I received the study materials. ON WEDSNESDAY. Oh boy. The textbook was 503 pages and included a lot of muscles I'd never heard of. I was comfortable with "quadricep" but not so comfortable with the four muscles that make up the quad.

For example, rectus femoris did not sound like part of my thigh. I was thinking it belonged somewhere slightly to the north.

But now I know.

A college roommate instant messaged me during an intense study session last week, wondering if all this time cracking the books reminded me of our days back in college. At which point I kindly reminded her that I actually majored in Saturday Night Live Skits from the 80's...which did not require a textbook and had a lot of sight gags.

And the written test wasn't even the tip of the very large Iceberg of Exercise Knowledge.

There was a practical section for the test as well. Meaning I had to TEACH a group of people a cardio or strength technique.

Let me provide you with further context: Most people taking this certification were already group fitness teachers or just renewing their credentials. And have I EVER for one single second, taught a class? Um, no.

Between teaching first grade and attending group fitness classes, I thought I had it covered.

Not so much.

Fast forward to the certification testing on Friday: since I was a late registrant (to say the least), I was number 33 out of 33 people to demonstrate my strength "skills" and "techniques." (Apparently they use those terms loosely in the fitness world.)

I had determined ahead of time that I would teach the push-up because it's easy to modify and there is no choreography involved. I can't get tangled up on my own feet or miscount a grapevine-left-step-knee-KICK! when I am simply propelling my own body weight up and down. I came prepared with all of my alignment kinesology-babble and safety cues and a lovely two minute demo all planned.

Being #33, I had to participate in THIRTY TWO other demos before mine. To spell that out with absolute clarity, I was the "class member" doing various exercises while 32 people did their 2-minute segments.

Now for some higher math to show off my smarts: multiply 32 by 2 minutes and you have 64 minutes of cardio and strength exercise. Doing exercise for that long makes you TIRED.

To top it off, the two girls before me also decided to model pushups. That means that before my grand finale, I was pre-exhausting my poor pecs for FOUR minutes.

I am good to go with a few push-ups here and there, but I was shaking when it was finally my turn to teach this lovely segment. It's not really my common practice to repetitively do push-ups for six straight minutes. I am a Pillsbury Dough Boy Meets Soccer Mom--NOT a Marine. I briefly thought about calling an audible and switching to abs or lunges, but I didn't trust myself to remember what part of the kinetic chain needs to stay aligned during a those drills.

So there I was, in front of the class, exhausted and shaking, a novice teaching this strength skill to a room of certified instructors. Lovely. But somehow, I must have channed Mr. Incredible and my muscles didn't give out on me in my moment of "glory."

I distracted the judges with lots of jokes and smiling. I wanted them to think I was so obliviously happy to be there that they'd just feel BAD failing me.

But good news: I passed!

I'm debating what type of spandex/adult onesie/color coordinated gear in which to make my debut. Hopefully it will match my white high-top Reeboks. Glory.

I'm Just SURE You've Been Wondering

I finally got back on the internet this morning after a brief hiatus that seemed like forever. My apologies for not blogging, but I've been BUSY. With what, you ask?

Nothing exciting, but that will not stop me from filling you in with all the sordid details (and pictures!) at some point in the near future.

Let's just say I am...sore.

Perhaps the most traumatic discovery upon my return to "cyberspace" (didn't we all agree not to call it that anymore?) was that Pioneer Woman gave away Guitar Hero III for the Wii and I DIDN'T GET A CHANCE TO ENTER AND WIN!

Yes, a good friend of mine has it, but I can only invite myself over to her house so many times before she realizes I am just using her to get to her Guitar Hero. And truth be told, we really both need one so that we can rock out with some some face-melting guitar solos together.

Because that is what sophisticated women like ourselves do.

Just picture Susan and Sharon in "The Parent Trap" singing "Shook Me All Night Long" and you'll get a picture of what we look like.


I'm sorry if that last image make you unable to eat breakfast. But since nothing has ever come in between me and oatmeal cinnamon pancakes, I'm going to eat right now.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Big Baby Announcements

If you saw the title of today's blog and anxiously read down thinking, "OH MY LANDS ALIVE! Nicole must be pregnant!" then we must have never met in person.

Because if I was "announcing" a pregnancy, it would be less of an "announcement" and more of me curled up in a tiny ball in the darkest, coldest corner of my basement crying uncontrollably and freaking out and asking "Why?" so many times that you gave up trying to answer.

This post is actually in celebration of two of my favorite baby girls, one of which I haven't known very long. Because her existence on planet earth is only 5 days.

Meet Lainey Emersyn:

She is Zach and Lauren's little sister and a mighty cute one at that. I really was tempted to run out of the hospital with her and raise her as my own, but they had some kind of high-tech homing device on her leg so it probably wouldn't have worked out.

Also, a good friend's mom was Holly's nurse, and she would've put the kibash on the baby-borrowing altogether. Oh well, I will just settle for holding her anytime I am in her presence and babysitting as often as possible.

Then on Friday, I was hired as a nanny to watch one of my favorite babies in the world. EVER.

Her mother has apparently forgiven me for nearly choking Audrey on a french fry at 6 months old and scarring Payton for life when she had the misfortune of being with me for an unexpected gynecological exam at the doctor's office. (No time to explain, but just remember that desperate times call for desperate measures.)

Anyway, we all had a ball with Reese this weekend. She is easy-going and loves to eat, which makes me think we should try to adopt her.

My favorite things about Reese are that she is CUTE and NOT SLIM. Not to mention smiley with blue eyes that just won't quit.

Lilly got to play big sister (as opposed to just bossing people around because she can) and loved feeding Reesey Piecey:

It only looks like she is choking her. I hope.

This is Reese's attempt to look stoic after downing some sweet potatoes:

She pulled it off quite well, don't you think?

However, this is the reason I think I am done having babies that look like Jackson and Lilly:

That is not apple juice on her back.

Or on her legs. Or on her stomach. Or smeared every which way:

I had to use nearly a whole pack of wipes, at which point it dawned on me that I should have just put her in the tub. But my pursuit of cleanliness paid off despite the folds of human skin deep enough in which to lose a quarter.

Or massive amounts of poop, as it were. But we triumphed and got her into some jammies:

Per Reese's request, I handed over the cell phone so she could attempt to call China and make some arrangements for a play date with some international friends. Or maybe she just wants to eat them...I'm really not sure.

I had quite a bit of Super Bowl cookin' to do, so I enlisted a little helper. Her job was to hold the froggy straw and look sweet.

Reese's other job was to unroll the paper towels as many times as possible.
Mission accomplished!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Oh, the Joys of First-Born Birth Order Malfunctions

There are certain afflications that rise from being the oldest in the family. I am an oldest child, raised by two oldest children, and as I thought about it, MOST of my closest friends are first-born.

It appears that dysfunction craves the dysfunctional.

Anyway, my precious little (first-born) Jackson made me realize that in full force this week.

Since he's off track for THREE ENTIRE WEEKS immediately following TWO ENTIRE WEEKS off at Christmas break, I've been occasionally trying to mix-in some school work with all the Wii play. Because when I talk about "well-rounded" I don't just mean in the variety of Nintendo games we've mastered.

In my very official assessment, J needed some work on handwriting. My objective isn't to make it beautiful; I only want to get most of the letters going the right way most of the time.

No big deal.

Famous last words.

Being a retired/recovering teacher, I went right to the storage closet (read: I searched around for the better part of two weeks) to find my beloved sentence strips.

Jackson's handwriting is...fine. Let me say it this way: Right now, Lilly's is probably better. He is just plain disinterested. Give him a soccer ball or a Wii nunchuk and he's good to go. Crayons, paint, and pencils have absolutely never interested the lad.

But there does come a time when one must learn to write one's name. I'm not requiring cursive or anything fancy schmancy. Just a "J" that goes the right direction more often than not.

Also because (I'm saying this part for the benefit of doting relatives, so if you have children close in age to mine, just skip down below), I KNOW Jackson is smart. He's reading well-beyond his kindergarten years and adding huge words to his reading repetoire every day.

But the writing. Oh mercy, mercy me...the writing.

So, on the sentences strips, I wrote one word:

I know that is beautiful and might have intimidated him. But I learned how to write like that thanks to an entire college degree costing tens of thousands of dollars.

Handwriting was part of the curriculum every single day, so I can safely say I have in my arsenal some effective teaching strategies.

I modeled the handwriting and ran off to grab a quick shower because I smelled really bad.

A few minutes later, Jackson stood at the door of the bathroom with his eyes looking glassy and his bottom lip shaking.

From behind his back, he pulled out this paper and held it up to my face:

I about lost it in a puddle of shower water and tears.

Remember that problem I alluded to at the beginning? The big, ugly (and most likely hairy with one eye) beast of perfectionism. Here it was, rearing it's ugly head right in Jackson's face.

If my sweet baby couldn't do it perfectly (the first time, no less) he considered himself a failure. Gave up trying, threw in the towel, just couldn't take it anymore.

My heart broke and I gulped back a few tears myself. Even though perfectionism wasn't something I dealt with in regards to school work (as my parents will quickly affirm) there are so many other areas of life where I constantly have to remind myself that being perfect isn't possible.

And I am a lot older than Jackson to still be figuring that out.

Even when I know God doesn't ask for perfection, why do I still seek it? To glorify myself? To prove I can do anything?

Which is why I suppose the God who created me, despite knowing I would fail again and again, loves me anyway. But more than that, He has the grace to humble me and show me I am lacking what only He provides. He reminds me that above all, I desperately need him. He points out my imperfections through the Perfect One, as a reminder that he IS everything I am not.

And so much more.

A few hugs, tears, and a pep talk later, this is what Jackson came up with:

In his brokenness, I couldn't be more proud.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Wherein We Discuss Original Sin

Brad and Lilly were reading the Big Picture Bible the other day, starting right on page one. They were bantering back and forth about Eve's choice to take a bite of the apple.

(Don't get all picky on me that we don't know for sure if it was an apple or not, because maybe they didn't have apples in the Middle East, because the colorful illustrations clearly support my point of view.)

(And I believe the illustrator was an eye-witness.)

Lilly--always above reproach--mentioned that had she been in Eve's tricky spot, she wouldn't have eaten the fruit, thus saving humanity forever. Amen and No Way.

So Brad delicately explained some very intense theological concepts while Lilly dug in her heels and maintained her position.

"Lilly, we've talked about this. Considering your less-than-stellar track record in the short time I've known you, why on earth do you think you wouldn't have disobeyed God?"

"Because I'm too short to reach high enough to pick the fruit."

Point taken.

Harvard law school, here she comes.