Thursday, August 31, 2006

Help me, Prayer Warriors!

Okay, I'm posting today with one purpose, to request your prayers!! As I've talked with some of you about, I am going to need to get another job. Either some kind of day job to replace all the little part-time jobs I have, or another part-time job that works around Dan's schedule or allows me to take kids with me (yeah, right!!). And, of course, I've been praying constantly about this because Dan's opinion is that my only option is to waitress again. My opinion is that I want to do anything BUT waitress again!! I am too old for that! There are a lot of reasons I don't want to waitress, not the least of which are the missed weekend get-togethers with church friends, Nathan's soccer games on Friday nights, & a stressful job that I didn't enjoy (I don't care if I have the right personality for it & should be good at it!).

Well, I think I got the beginning of an answer to my prayer this morning. My supervisor at the Health Dept. asked me if I would be interested in increasing my 10 hours a week to 20 hours a week, & I said, "OH YEAH!!" But the catch is that it has to be approved with Richmond, the state health dept. or whatever. So I'm asking you to pray that this will work out! Having 20 hours a week with this job will allow me to A) take my kids with me when I'm working, B) make enough to cover what we were needing me to make (& more probably), and C) NOT WAITRESS!! And not find another job of any sort, just stick with what I already have. This is truly wonderful, & I am in awe of the way God surprises me. I was thinking He'd have to help me find another job, but He is (possibly) helping me to keep my current, much-loved job & just add more hours. The Lord truly does provide! My sister-in-law also emailed me today asking if I'd be able to help keep one of their children two days a week, which would help out even more. What a day!!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Not much to say today...

Hello everyone! I wanted to say thanks to all of you that read this. I was beginning to think that Tanya & my dad were the only ones who read this, until several of you started telling me that you also read it, you just don't leave comments. Thank you so much for letting me know you read it. It may be weird, but I would feel silly if I was writing for just two people--although they are the two people who've told me I should do it!

I wanted to be able to keep in touch with friends and family who were far away, but I am horrible about frequently writing (even occasionally writing). I wanted to document the things my kids were doing. I wanted to share funny stories because Tanya enjoys knowing her kids aren't the only ones doing crazy things. I wanted to occasionally encourage and uplift others.

And yes, I enjoy knowing I am entertaining people.

Hope you're having a beautiful Tuesday!

And yes, I realize most people don't put pictures of themselves on their blog. But one of my sons was the photographer & another was in it! So it's all good. I'm not as vain as you might first think.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Yard Sale Advice

We had a yard sale today. Not just me & Dan but . . . Deanne/Shane, Ena Carol/Fred, Vicki/Mike, Mike/Cindy (from Montana), Terri/Brian, Angela/Travis and Tanya/Jonathan. And our friends Dani, Travis & niece Olivia were our fantastic helpers. It was HUGE!! And so much fun. AND so much work!!!

I don't want to brag, but Dan & I made the most.

Okay, I did want to brag because we added up our money after everyone else left & didn't get the chance to tell anyone.

We had a bunch (& I mean a BUNCH) of big things like furniture & stoves, washers & dryers, that went for more money, & then we had plenty of small things too. Lots of baby equipment that goes quickly & baby clothes. Sorry, I don't know why you would want to know all that.

So, I know a little about yard sales now & I want to offer some advice in case you ever have a yard sale (please pay attention--these are really important tips to keep in mind when you plan your own):
1. Put your signs up the night before. That way all the people who don't read the paper for yard sale ads will know that they too can stop by at 6:15 with a flashlight to dig through your not-yet-set-up boxes of stuff in the dark.
2. BEFORE you set out your old coloring books (if you enjoyed coloring books during your college years as I did), check for notes you may have written about old loves (or about the current love of your life before he was actually your love). By the way, this is really important if you have a sister-in-law doing the yard sale with you who might find these notes, & you're worried she might tell the REST of your family about it.
3. Little boy clothes sell REALLY well (as do little girl clothes, I think, but I wouldn't really know for sure).
4. Big boy clothes (i.e., Jonathan's flowery or winnie-the-pooh ties) do NOT sell really well.
5. Women's clothing--well, I guess that depends. Some days you sell 5% of it, some days you sell 10% of it.
6. Toys are another big-seller. For some reason (& I know this because of the way Dan shops at yard sales) it doesn't really matter if you have all the pieces to go with the set. It doesn't even seem to matter if you get around to cleaning it or not. Oh, and another thing about toys, putting 10 cents on everything will help you get rid of everything.
7. Those of you with children, listen up: your kids WILL go through all the yard sale merchandise. They will go through sports equipment, toys, clothes that used to be theirs, movies, and kids' books. They will want it all--even if they had it in their room for the past 3 years & played with it only twice. So, here's the advice: give them 50 cents in the beginning to buy whatever they want. When they get tired of it, put their item back on the table. The catch, though, is that you'll have to keep doing that every 5 minutes unless you think of something more clever to do. Like, say, banishing them to the basement, for instance. You know, just a thought.
8. Ladies, this one's for you: when you put out old purses to sell, check the pockets. Heaven forbid you should forget to take out an old tube of chapstick, a pack of tissues or (ahem) a tampon. Even worse if the person who finds these things is a customer & her husband who want to tell you about it in front of all of your friends and proceed to joke about buying the purse for her middle-school granddaughter who won't be in need of any of these items any time soon. You will do well to heed my advice. (Sorry, Dad B. & Dad L., Tanya said if I didn't blog about it she would)
9. You might want to try to take down your signs as soon as the yard sale is over. Then again, you might not. You might be tired & lazy & leave the signs up & leave your stuff out for a while & you just might make $45 more after your yard sale is officially over. And you just might make $50 for your friend. And you just might have a few more customers that you can simply GIVE things to because you so desperately want to get rid of it all . . . Then again, you might not.
10. If your kids are around but pretty much fending for themselves (meaning you & your hubby are too busy to care what they're doing as long as they're still on the premises), hide the cowboy costumes. Thanks. (When I get the picture from Angela's camera, I'll update this & you'll see what I mean)

I know this is a really long post (sorry, I couldn't help myself--I know you're probably as surprised as Jonathan was to discover how verbose I am)--but I just wanted to update you on Dan's school situation. His second day was much much much much much much better than the first. It wasn't even near being a little bit louder or a little bit worse. And I know all your prayers made the difference. It was an amazing turn-around & I really appreciate your support. Dan's gonna make it after all! YIPPEE!!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My First Day as a School Mom

I'm sure you're all just DYING to know how my first day without Nathan was!! So here's the rundown:

Nathan woke up at 6:15, even though I wasn't planning to get up until 7. Then of course he was ready by 7 & asking every two minutes how much longer it was until the bus came.

FINALLY 8:15 arrived & we all trekked out the door & down the street. We met a mom down the road with a 5th grade girl (who was kind enough to agree to keep an eye on Nathan for me), & that helped keep me distracted from getting emotional while we waited for the bus. (She also told me that if I told the bus driver where we lived, she would stop the bus for Nathan there--but then how will I get a chance to talk to our new friends every morning?!) When the bus arrived, Nathan rushed on so fast I barely had a chance to say goodbye & just managed to get a picture before he disappeared completely. I got a nice shot of his new backpack anyway! (I'll send that one to you, Mom)

I had asked Jeremy yesterday what he wanted to do while Nathan was in school, & he had no trouble coming up with a list of activities. Here is Jeremy's schedule (I'm happy to say that it was completed well before lunchtime!):
1. Painting...check
2. Going to the playground...check
3. Drinking apple juice...check
4. Washing his hands (huh?)...check
5. Drinking chocolate milk...check

Here is what Derek added to the list:
1. Chasing after Snickers (after he let her out of the basement)
2. Drinking dirty paint water (thank goodness for Crayola non-toxic water paints!)
3. Picking apples

And what I added to the list:
1. Watering the plants
2. Sidewalk chalk (then driving over them with the Power Wheels--Jeremy's idea!--we now have a really pretty speckled driveway--at least until the next rain)
3. Painting our yard sale signs (follow the bright orange signs on Saturday to our house if you want to find a great place for LOTS of furniture & kid stuff!)
4. Picking cherry tomatoes in our neighbor's garden
5. Picking up all the rotten apples in our yard
6. Turning Jeremy's handwashing into a L-O-N-G bath for two
7. A nice, well-rounded lunch of star-shaped sandwiches, peanut butter crackers, cherry tomatoes, apples, & chocolate milk

Stay tuned for the details of Dan's & Nathan's first day of school!! I am off to enjoy some quiet time in the shower (as in my first shower of the day--yuck!)

Monday, August 21, 2006

My Little Guy's Growin' Up!!

Nathan, Jeremy, Derek & I went and visited Nathan's school tonight for the Meet the Teacher Open House thingy. That was so much fun! And I can't believe my firstborn is going to be in school this year! Craziness! It was so fun to see Nathan in his element. It really will be his element. He is a learnin' fool. I can't wait for him to take the world by storm.

Tonight when we met Nathan's teacher, Mrs. Linkous, I introduced them, & she said, "oh, is it Nathan? I wrote Nathaniel on everything. I can change that if you'd like." So we asked Nathan what he wanted to be called. "I'd like to be called Nathaniel, please." So cute!!

I am so worried about how Jeremy is going to take Nathan being gone at school that I am planning out some activities for us to do on Nathan's first day. Any ideas?

And, totally unrelated, how do you get ink off of clothes? Am I remembering correctly that you use hairspray? Or is it rubbing alcohol? HELP!!

((I guess I figured out the pictures, Tanya!))

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Confessions of a Closet Preacher

I have an apology to make. I realize that every time I post I feel like I have to turn a cute story or illustration into a life lesson for everyone out there. But I don't know WHY I do that! Maybe my passion would have been preaching if I had been born a boy! Imagine that! I would have followed in my grandfather's & dad's footsteps! "Steven Riley Bliss, Minister of the Gospel." That's what I was going to be named if I had been a boy (not the "Minister of the Gospel" part).

Anyway, I don't know why I can't just share a funny story about the kids and leave out the moral of the story. I'll try not to bore you with that so much in the future! My last story was actually an attempt to do that--just tell a story & nothing more--but then I thought it sounded like I was bragging about the kids (& my fabulous parenting skills), so I added more & the next thing I know it's just like all the other life lessons I felt the need to share. Well, we'll see how I do in the future.

Yesterday the boys & I visited Dan at his new school. It is the first time we've seen his classroom. Now here's a big surprise--it was the tidiest classroom you've EVER seen! It's definitely missing a few personal touches, though, so I think we're going to get him a plant or two & maybe some other fun things. (I'm not criticizing! HE said he thinks it's missing something) I don't know, the teacher across the hall from him has a snake--that would be hard to compete with! Ah, maybe Dan needs a rodent--hamster, gerbil or something.

What a fun afternoon! Several other teachers stopped in to meet the boys & me. We also went down the hall to the main office where we met a couple of secretaries & the assistant principal (& shared cookies with them). They were all very nice, & Dan was obviously really proud to introduce us. I am excited for him. He is going to love it at his school!

We of course went out & played on the neat playground for a while. One thing I have to say for dads--they are definitely more fun than moms! I could play with the boys & be crazy silly, but when Dan comes along, watch out! It's no competition! The boys just love to play with him! If it's a stereotype I don't know, but the generalization that children look to their dads for play & to their moms for nurturing definitely holds true in our family. ... I only resent that on occasion. :)

Have a nice (possibly rainy) Saturday.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Grocery Shopping Nightmares

I was pushing a cart of three rambunctious little ones earlier today, worn out before we even made it into the store. Wal-Mart is just too big! If you need more than just groceries, it takes you three times as long just to get to the other side of the store and get the shampoo you need, then trek back through the store to finish your grocery shopping. Whoops, forgot Dan needs new brown socks for school. Back to the middle of the store for socks. Back to the groceries. (And, by the way, I am in NO WAY complaining about Wal-Mart! A mother who frequently has to take her kids on errands with her but usually only has to go to one place for it all knows that Wal-Mart is truly a blessing!) I know that I have rarely witnessed behavior from my children while shopping that would cause deep embarrassment or would necessitate actually leaving the store. But most times that I do attempt to take all three by myself, I am frustrated and completely exhausted by the time we've made it halfway through--just from the effort of keeping them all in the cart and all reasonably quiet ("reasonably quiet" means not being heard from the shampoo aisle when we're in the sock aisle--that's all I'm asking!).

We were on our way to see the lobsters (usually saved for the end of the shopping trip) when an older gentleman who we had passed several times along the way stopped and this time commented that he was very impressed with how much love he could see us all having for each other and how well disciplined the children obviously were. I promise I'm not telling this story to brag. I am telling this story to encourage any other mothers who feel the same way I do when taking their children in public. It is worth it! It may be so tiring to keep on top of your children. You may feel like giving it a rest a few minutes & letting the kids get away with throwing their brother out of the cart or pulling another box of Scooby Doo Mac n Cheese off the shelf. I was at my wit's end with the kids, thinking they were among the top ten worst-behaved kids in the universe, when this gentleman (who had also kindly complimented the kids on their looks earlier in the day) took the time to let me know he thought the kids were WELL-behaved. I felt like arguing with him or asking if he was crazy! Fortunately, the spirit within me intervened and told me to hush. I took the compliment graciously & it lifted me up. It also made me realize that all the work that goes into parenting--all the frustrations and trials--no one sees that! They just see the end result--(hopefully) really well-behaved children who are polite and friendly to others (even strangers that you'd prefer them not talk to--that's a story for another day!). Don't worry that people all over the store are staring at you because you're talking sternly to your children every few seconds. They may notice that . . . and really appreciate that. We have to stay consistent, we have to demand their respect and attentive ear.

And when your kids are the ripe old age of 15, they'll still be listening.

These are just a few things I've learned and am still learning from my few years of experience, my very smart husband, and my own loving parents. :) Gotta give credit where credit is due!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

What's wrong with Dumbo?

Okay, here's a funny story about my two older boys. In the car on the way to Florida this past weekend, we had our moments of bickering. For the most part, they did well together, they just griped about the long hours in the car. But one memorable moment was when they were hurting each others' feelings by calling each other "Dumbo." I think they've seen the movie once. I know that when I was younger, I would not have appreciated being called that because I was sensitive about my ears being big. Well, not my boys. They weren't offended because of the big-ear thing. They weren't offended because of the elephant thing. And, no, they weren't offended because of the word "dumb" being part of "Dumbo." Wanna know what bothered them about being called "Dumbo"?? They thought Dumbo was a girl!!! Oh, my boys! They are their father's sons. He has done a good job of passing along the "Girls are stinky" sentiment. What am I going to do?!

You know you're pretty cool in my boys' eyes when they don't think you're "stinky" even though you're a girl. Jeremy was making a list of all his friends tonight, which he specifically said only included boys. The list read like this... "Nathan, Grant, Tyler, Colby, Abby,..." Yay for Abby! She made the list!

So here's a question for all of you. When you're raising your children, how do you instill a love of everyone--neighbors AND enemies--early on? How do you keep your kids from seeing skin color and gender? I like to think I'm a good example to my kids about showing the same treatment to people of all color, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc. But there's not all that many opportunities in our small town to interact with people with big differences. One thing I have enjoyed about working at the health department, however, is that there is a diverse culture there and the kids play with other kids and interact with other adults. I think it's good for them!

But maybe I'm making a problem out of nothing because I'm talking about it & am concerned about it.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Neighbors: Ready Soil to Plant In

As most of you know, several members of my extended family have also moved this summer. I was visiting my grandparents at their new home in Charlotte, NC, on Friday; & my grandfather & I took Derek for a walk around the neighborhood that evening. I was so amazed at the number of people my grandfather already knew, after having been there for a little over a week. I was amazed, yet not surprised. He is amazing like that. It doesn't take him long to get to know people, & I know he has really touched a lot of people throughout his life. People know he is someone they can go to & talk to about their problems. They can go to him for help or for advice (like advice on which of my plants are weeds & which are keepers, or for spiritual advice).

We also have met three of our neighbors in the new neighborhood, & I am excited about the prospect of talking to them in the future about my faith. We ought to be on fire to share our faith with everyone with whom we come in contact. We would push them out of the way of oncoming traffic, wouldn't we?! That is so difficult for some of us--being willing to put ourselves out there like that--making ourselves vulnerable to people. I encourage you to look at your neighbors in a different light (if you're not already looking at them this way): they are a mission field. They are soil, waiting for the seed to be planted. Whether or not they're the "good soil" is up to them, & God will do the watering when the time is ready. Talk to God today about giving you opportunities to help your neighbors, to talk to your neighbors, to reach out to your neighbors & share your faith.

I'll be praying for you too. :)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Attempting to Have a Good Attitude Even When Undertaking Annoying Chores

I have become the official mower of the household. That might change when Nathan "comes of age." I guess it all depends on whether or not we still have a riding mower at that point or not! Sorry, I'm getting off the subject. For now, I really enjoy mowing. It might take a little more concentration with a riding mower than it did with the push mower, but I can still spend some time thinking & praying while I'm making the lawn look pretty. After I mowed this past Sunday, I was walking around our yard watering flowers, weeding, planting a new tomato plant (thanks, Terri!) & really just checking out this beautiful place God has given us to live for the time-being. So far I have really enjoyed the mowing, weeding, raking, etc. I know, however, how quickly I get bored & lazy with something, & how easily I give up on something in favor of starting a new project. I am aware that in a few months or years, I may not feel so excited about the daily work that needs to be done in and around the house. I recalled a chapter in the book Purpose-Driven Life that encourages us to really appreciate what God has given us & what He does for us, & to have an attitude of sheer joy even when doing dumb little chores that we find much easier to resent. And I continued my "stroll around the house," asking God to help me to continue appreciating and enjoying the work that I need to do to make our house presentable. It is truly an offering to God to be good stewards, to take care of what we have on this earth. I am certainly not perfect, & I know that at times I will do my chores with a bad attitude, I will resent how much extra work comes with a bigger house (don't think for a second that I want to move back into our old house, though!!). But on Sunday afternoon, my heart felt so big & I was so grateful that God was helping me to realize what a gift I had been blessed with! Keep on praying & thanking God for what He's given you, have a spirit of gratitude WHILE you're doing menial chores--taking out the trash, even!--& He will bless you with a full heart, with a contented attitude. Our God is so good to us & He will help us to realize His goodness even more when we ask Him to!

By the way, Dan & I discovered a cool little thing...I enjoy mowing more than he does, & he enjoys doing the dishes more than I do. So we kinda switched!! I might be more excited about that than he is, but I think we agree that it's a good arrangement. Isn't it neat when things work out like that?! Maybe the wording should have been more like, "Dan doesn't hate doing the dishes as much as I do, & I don't hate mowing as much as he does." But then I guess that would be contrary to what my above little article was trying to encourage. Go figure!