Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pennies Add Up, A.K.A. Bribery

I shamelessly staged this photo.

Sometimes I bribe my children.  I prefer to call it an incentive, because that sounds better and I don't feel like a bad parent. 

Back when I was in fourth grade, I hated to read.  One day my dad went to a parent teacher conference, and Mrs. Ertel told him that I needed to improve my reading skills.  She suggested paying me a "penny a page" for a while, and then maybe I would like reading more.  My mom and dad were not sure what to think about that, but they gave it a try.  One day, after I had read almost every Beverly Cleary book ever written and probably several other books as well, I told my dad that he owed me $20.  He was kind of shocked, but he paid me, and after that I liked to read just for the fun of it and did it for free.  Now you would have to pay me to stop reading, but I'd probably just sneak books under my covers with a flashlight.

At any rate, I decided to use this method with my children during Kindergarten when they were emergent readers, and I pay them through the second grade.  They receive a penny a page or sometimes a penny a minute, depending on the book, and we keep a log.  I currently pay Jason about $5-6 per month. I happen to think it's a good investment even if it is bribery incentivizing (that's not even a word). 

I use incentives for the dentist, too.  A friend of mine once gave her son a Nintendo DS for not having any cavities, because she said it was cheaper than a dentist's bill for a filling.  Well, there's no way my kids are getting game systems out of me, but after Josh got a couple cavities, I started paying him and his brother $5 a piece when they visit the dentist and get a "no cavities" report.  It saves time, money, and pain, and I figure they are learning very good brushing and flossing skills through this incentive program.

Are you judging me yet?? I really wouldn't blame you.

It is the price I pay for having literate children with shiny white teeth.  Bless you, Mrs. Ertel, wherever you may be.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Maycation Edition

WIWW #27

pleated poppy

Memorial Day weekend, I had the great pleasure of hanging out with Denise's family.
They have a family cabin on Bass Lake.  It is just beautiful and breathtaking there.
They go every year for "Maycation."
We loved hanging out with Denise and getting to know her sweet family.
It was so fun and such a great blessing!
Thank you, Jones Family!!!

Dress: Nordstrom Rack; Necklace: F21 Clearance;
Tights: Target; Shoes: Payless forever ago

Denise specifically told me not to bring any clothes like this.
There are no fashion shows during Maycation.
She said I could even wear the same clothes every day and it would be okay.
So I did not bring any clothes like this, because I am good at following instructions.

Jacket: Billabong via; Jeans: Tommy Hilfiger via GW; 
Shoes: Sperrys

The first morning was pretty chilly and overcast.  I was glad I brought my jacket.  
I love this jacket.  I copied a friend of mine and got it on clearance a couple years back for only $29.
It has a cute little detachable faux fur collar.

I learned from Denise's mother-in-law that these shoes are deck shoes.
I have been calling them boat shoes.
I am going to have to stop doing that, because I want to be an official boat person
who knows correct boat lingo.

I like to go really fast in boats.  Denise does not.
She let me go fast, because she loves me and she is a good hostess.

Fedora: F21; Boyfriend Cardigan: Tommy Hilfiger;
Top: Marshalls; Necklace: Lisa Leonard

Denise and I called each other to coordinate matching sunglasses, necklaces, gray, and stripes.
No we actually didn't... seriously.
She's got my son singing the Maycation song... you know that old Go-go's "Vacation" song?
When did you teach him that, Denise??  He said he got it from you!

Patrick has two very distinct Maycation looks.
First, the "Old Scottish Man with Flip Flops and a Tweety Bird Fishing Pole Look"
Second, the "Laid Back Shades Look"

Be sure to vote for your favorite.

Somehow I have not a single photo of Denise's husband Michael.
That just means we have to get together again to fix that.
And because I need to practice Speed Scrabble so I can demolish him.

More Maycation photos to come in the near future.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Jungle Story

 Josh's random fact for the morning: 
"Giraffe's have the tallest stature in all of the jungle." 
Then he started laughing hysterically 
and said that if a lion came to eat a giraffe, 
the giraffe could swing it's head down and club
 the lion like it's golfing, and yell, 
 Then the lion would hit an elephant,
and the elephant and lion would both go 
tumbling into a waterhole.
My friend said that is SO not "hakuna matata."
I think it would make a lovely children's book.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

PTS... what?

Scaling the Mountain: Part 6

I sat in my doctor's office a couple of months ago.  I had been through a gamut of medical help, doctors, and treatments for all the strange things my body has been going through the past couple years.  I had improved in so many ways, both physically and mentally.  But there were still symptoms that just didn't respond to any treatments or resolve in any way.  I had had a headache... a single, ongoing headache for about 19 months.  I was still experiencing hypervigilant feelings.  A certain sound, atmosphere, or even a person would trigger a "fight or flight" response in my body that I couldn't control, and that would last for days.  My heart was still pounding.  Nightmares were still plaguing me.  I was still so fragile.  Outside of my immediate family and doctors and nurses, there were still only eight people I felt a sense of safety with... felt I could be myself with.  Something still wasn't right at all.

My doctor looked at me with gentle eyes.  I think you have a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he told me.

How can that be?  I haven't been fighting in Iraq.  I haven't been assaulted or witnessed a violent act.  I just didn't understand.  I thought that if I admitted to having PTSD, I would be diminishing the experiences and traumas of others.  But I couldn't deny that the symptoms lined up.

It doesn't just have to be a result of a single event, he informed me.  It can be a series of events or stresses over a period of time, he said, assuring me.  It could be a result of feeling trapped or helpless.

He agreed to give me some meds on one condition.  I would have to go to see a counselor and do some work with cognitive behavioral therapy.  It would be hard work, and it would probably take a while.

I am afraid to admit all this.  I feel afraid of what people will think... about this "label," about me taking meds.  I am embarrassed to admit how horribly I have been at coping with stress.  I am ashamed to admit that in past years, I took on a bunch of guilt that wasn't my own, and I let it rule me.  I was too frightened to ask for help back when I needed it.  I didn't want to be that honest.  I didn't want to hurt other people.  So I kept everything inside.

I feel like I let everyone down.  

Including myself.  

And especially God.

But God is taking me by His right hand, leading me again, onto yet another path of healing.  I am learning to walk with Him one step at a time, one obstacle after another.  I'm learning to breathe in His life again.  I'm choosing to cast my anxiety upon Him, and truly believe that He cares for me.  Some days I am dealing with the effects of something that triggered my mind and body, and I am trusting Him to walk me through.  Other days, He delivers me from symptoms, and I feel like me... no headache, no hypervigilance, no pounding heart or nightmares.  I am learning to walk in gratitude no matter how I feel.  When I am weak, I thank Him for His strength and faithfulness, and that I can grow in compassion.  When I am feeling stronger, I thank Him for joy that comes easily, fresh hope, and the ability to think clearly.

I am thankful for Him and for the help He has provided for me.  I am thankful for the family and friends who have stuck by me, encouraged me, and let me be me.  I'm thankful for wise counsel.  And I'm thankful for those little pills that are helping the dendrites in my neurological system to start flourishing again, while I'm doing the mental and spiritual work I need to do.

As hard as this has all been, 

I am thankful for this season 

and I am thankful for my life. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


WIWW #26

pleated poppy

I'm experimenting with some basic primary colors lately.
I tend to feel more comfortable in neutrals, but every now and then I'll branch out a bit.

 Cardigan: Marshalls; Denim Dress & Red Belt: Thrifted; Shoes: Nine West Outlet

I found this denim dress at Goodwill... new with tags.  That's always fun.
It's slightly big, so I'm trying to slightly shrink it.
The belt is genuine snakeskin.  I hate snakes, but I like to say GEN-U-INE with a Texan accent.
Sorry if my legs are blinding you... I'm shielding my eyes.
That's enough random for this outfit.
Moving along...

 Cardigan: Target; Top: Thrifted; Scarf, Jeans, & Boots: Gifts

Patrick calls this my Greek outfit... all the white and blue, you know.
On Mother's Day Eve, I wore this to a restaurant called The Wild Donkey.
They serve Greek food and Mexican food.
I ate Mexican food in my Greek outfit while being 1/4 French.
Does this mean anything to you? 
Me either.

Sweater: Marshalls; Blouse: Kmart; Necklace: Lisa Leonard

I cut my hair.
Well, I didn't cut it, my nice stylist cut it and massaged my scalp.
To me, this is short and daring summer hair.
Nobody else even noticed.
I'm such a huge risk-taker, aren't I?

That is all... except my boys and I were talking about half birthdays yesterday, 
and I realized my half birthday is today.
Both my birthday and half birthday fell on a Wednesday...
That seems weird.
Does that always happen?

These are the kinds of things I think about when I am up past midnight.
I should have gone to bed at ten.

Monday, May 14, 2012

All the Married Ladies...

Back when our biggest decisions were what color Wayfayers to wear and when we would buy a churro.

Patrick and I have been together for twenty-two years... at least on June 1st it will be, but I'm rounding up because it's my blog and I can.  We've been married for over 18 years.  In all that time, you would think we would know each other pretty well.  We do in a lot of ways, but there are still  new things we are learning about each other or relational aspects we are continuing to work on during any given day. 

On occasion,  we have had the privilege of taking couples through premarital counseling... sharing some of the wisdom we have gathered from the Bible, other couples,  books, and our own experiences.  Sometimes Patrick even gets the opportunity to become a California state deputy for the day and marry couples.  I like it when he does that, because he is really good at making weddings meaningful and personal, and he looks extremely handsome in a suit.

Anyway, you'd think we would have the marriage thing down after all this time, wouldn't you?  But we tell couples that we don't have all the answers, because we don't.  Sometimes we have answers, but we are still trying to figure out how to implement them smoothly.  Knowledge and practical application do not always coincide.

One of the areas we are still working on is joint decision making.  I think we process things differently.  It could be because he is a man and I am a woman.  It could be that he is more analytical, and that I "overthink" or think more intuitively.  It could be something he ate or my hormones.  It could be the moon, but I don't believe in astrology.  So many factors.

Sometimes, we come together on decisions so quickly and without even a hint of difficulty or tension.  For instance, when we bought our sweet van, it was smooth like butter and the whole transaction went down with all the ease of a Barcalounger.  (Sorry, it's Monday morning, and that is the best metaphor you are going to get.) 

Other times, things get a little wiggy.  For instance,  about a year ago, we finally decided to get rid of our 17 year old television set (someone actually paid $5 for it at the garage sale), and upgrade to the current millennium (I had to look that word up in the dictionary, because I think it should only have one "n," but apparently it doesn't.)  Patrick did a bunch of research on TV's and studied up on things like HD and plasma and things I have zero knowledge about.  He did research on Consumer Reports and found out how large a TV should be for our size living area.  Then I came in and started actually measuring things out one day with a measuring tape, and I imagined what a large, rectangular black object would look like on our wall.  I started panicking and imagining my living room looking like a bachelor pad.  Things were not smooth like butter anymore.  We might as well have been speaking two different languages, because there was no helpful communication going on at that point.

Over the years, we have come to find that the single biggest thing that helps our joint decision making process is getting Jesus in the middle.  Praying about decisions, letting Him guide our thought processes, and receiving His peace and wisdom.  I'm pretty sure we left Him out of the TV decision, which is one of the reasons it went so badly. We also have some history that we need to let Jesus come in and heal, but that is another story entirely, and I think I'll leave that between the three of us.

Right now, Josh's school situation for next year is looming in our minds.  That's a big one.  Josh + School = ????   Jesus is involved.  We are doing are best to communicate and make decisions one step at a time.  I am trying not to get overwhelmed and project too far into the future, and Patrick is trying to engage me in calm, logical conversations.  We are praying every night.

So how do you make joint decisions with your spouse?

Do you have a specific process that you engage in?

What helps you to communicate in the midst of problems or challenges?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

On Guard

"Snakes.  Why did it have to be snakes?"

My next door neighbor called on Friday.  She told me that she was on her way home, when she saw something slithering across the street.  To avoid hitting it, she swerved and turned into her driveway.  It was a nasty, legless snake (yes, I'm aware all snakes are legless).  Then she got worried about my boys, so she called to let me know that the snake was headed into either my yard or hers.  She said it was a big one.

Great.  Why couldn't she have just run over the horrible creature?  I think that counts as self defense.

I hate snakes.  I don't have a phobia or anything, but I really can't stand them.  I am fully aware they help with the rat and mouse population, but I don't trust them.  I always check the toilet to make sure there are no snakes waiting for an unsuspecting victim to attack.  Didn't that happen in Rikki Tikki Tavi?  A snake was in the bathroom or coming out of a toilet or something... or did I just make that up?

I told the boys that there may be a large snake somewhere in our yard and to keep their eyes peeled.  Now Josh is afraid to go into the garage, and  Jason is afraid to go out into the yard.

You don't have to be afraid and alter your whole life, I told them.  You just need to be aware of your surroundings.  Then Patrick told them that the snake would likely be more afraid of them than they were of it. (Maybe.)

This whole incident got me thinking about Satan and his snake-like ways.  He wants to scare us and get us to live out of fear.  But I want to be alert and wise to his devious ways.  I don't want to be afraid to step out in faith or afraid to live the life God has called me to live.

"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."  James 4:7

He needs to flee, because my God has the power to squish his venomous little head.  I have the power in Christ to cast aside fear, and to live out of love.  I can stand up to Satan and anything he is trying to steal, kill, or destroy, so he better run.  

And if he doesn't, I have a van, and I'm not afraid to use it.

(Update:  The guy up the street says it's a 4 foot garter snake and that he sees it all over the neighborhood while he is walking his dogs.  Hmmm.... I feel so much better now.)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

In 'n Out

You know that's right!!

Jason is ready to take your order.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Month One ~ Stewardship

Man year got off to a good start in April!  
Here are some of the highlights:

Josh's first task this year is to learn about stewardship.  He is learning that all that he has been given comes from the Lord, and his job is to be a good steward of the things he has.  Josh primarily focused on financial stewardship and giving, but also knows that his gifts and abilities come from the Lord, too.  He is growing in gratitude knowing these things, and is learning to think before spending impulsively.

During the month, Josh read the book of Luke.  He kept journal entries when he came across passages that pertained to stewardship, provision, giving, greed, etc.  He learned about what Jesus thought and taught about money, so that he has a solid foundation to build on.

Also, he is currently taking a class called Money Matters for Teens, which is being taught by our friend, Steve.  Steve is a Financial Adviser, and has been doing a great job teaching Josh and some of his classmates about handling their finances.  He has learned about saving, spending, debt, setting up and managing accounts, interest, writing faux checks, how to keep a ledger, budgeting, investing, and giving, to name a few topics. 

During this past week he went on a "daddy date" and set up a mock budget for what his future earnings and expenditures may look like.  He learned the difference between needs and wants, and he learned the cold hard truths about how expensive bills can be, and that it's important to live within his means.

Besides Josh's normal tithing and giving to others in need, we wanted him to have the opportunity to serve and give to his brother as well... out of his own spending money.  At first he was a little hesitant about this.  Then he took Jason out to yogurt, and said he was willing to allow him to buy up to $10 in yogurt and toppings!! How generous is that?  It was fun to see him paying for everything himself, and blessing his brother at the same time.

One day, Josh painted a "money tree."  We discussed 1 Timothy 6:10 

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs."  

Money in and of itself is not good or evil, but loving it can cause all sorts of misery.  He brainstormed the many sins that can be rooted in the love of money and pasted them on his tree.  A very good discussion came out of this one.

Although we had already established an envelope system for Josh's chore allowance (giving, saving, spending), the final feat of the month was learning about long term savings and opening up his own account at the credit union.  He decided to deposit $150 into long term savings.  When asked if he was saving for something, he replied, "Oh, the usual, like a car in my future." I was beside myself with joy as I watched him make decisions, fill out official paperwork, endorse a check, and converse with the credit union account adviser.  He later told me he felt like God had been preparing him the week before to be confident and to look right into the person's eyes while he conducted business.  God did prepare him, and he did a GREAT job!!

Finally, Josh wrote a resolve about his stewardship goals for the future.

"I resolve by the will of God to take the skills I have learned in this month of stewardship, and ponder these things in my time of financial need. I will remember what my teachers have said to me, financial, and more. I will pray to God for understanding of His word, in prayer, and in life. I will ask him to approve my choice in my future wife, purchases, and choices. I will ask Him to help direct me to Him, especially in times of need, when it would be easy to curse Him. He has given me many possessions, and I will ask Him for guidance in using them for Him. I will accept my role as a steward of all God's creation, and do my very best to use that role, not abuse it. Thereby, I accept the role he has bestowed upon me, for I hereby resolve to serve Him with what he has given me, in fine weather, or bad, sickness, or not, I devote the gift God has given me, back to Him, to serve Him, and bless Him with praise."

I had no idea this was going to come out of him... it made me cry!!  
I thank God for my boy and his willingness to learn.

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